Friday, July 31, 2009

Recipe: Very Veggie Frittata

I like the simplicity of Mark Bittman's recipes. They're more suggestions than instructions to adhere to. I have How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, and it's great because it gives me all sorts of inspiration for cooking meatless meals. That said, I could easily add some meat to the recipe and make something else. The genius in his recipes is that he allows you to find your own way.

Case in point, the More-Vegetable-Than-Egg Frittata, or as I like to call it, the very veggie frittata. I've never been that interested in frittatas, primarily because they seem fussy to make. That said, despite liking eggs, I don't really care for omelettes and other egg dishes, so I've never been motivated to try. But his spin intrigued me. In experimenting with his "less animal-product-centric diet," he tried changing the proportion of eggs and vegetables and such in the frittata.
"I call it, for want of a better term, the more-vegetable-less-egg frittata, one in which the proportions of eggs and vegetables are reversed, and the veggies take center stage.

Instead of six eggs and a cup or two of vegetables, I use two or three eggs with three or four cups of vegetables. Think of it as a big vegetable pancake bound with just enough creamy-cooked eggs to hold the thing together."
It's genius.

It's quick, easy, healthy, and I can put anything in it. That last bit is important because it means that I can use up all the lovely vegetables that won't last much longer. That extra bell pepper, the unused string beans, the leftover boiled potatoes...SAVED!!

While cooking times vary depending on your ingredients, I've averaged about 20 minutes (8-10 minutes sauteing and cooking the vegetables and 12 cooking the frittata untouched). Dinner done in 20 minutes? Yup. Feel free to add a salad with all of that extra time you have on your hands ;-)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Around the Internet

Are We Farmers Market Failures - Hey, out there! Vote for your favorite farmers' market here. Show how much you love your farmers. And if you live in the Los Angeles area, definitely do this. We're not in the top 20, but we have some spectacular markets! The Santa Monica market on Wednesdays, anyone? Perhaps we're taking for granted how our wonderful weather allows us to have strawberries, tomatoes, avocados, and so many other foods for so many months of the year. But think about how lucky we are, and vote! Now, I'm off to slice up some sweet, juicy watermelon and tuck into some green, yellow, and red tomatoes...mmm...

Starbucks tests new names for stores - A sign of the times: Starbucks is experimenting with avoiding the use of their name in new stores. I never thought I'd see the day...

How to Take Better Baby Photos - Tips on taking better pictures of babies and kids. Some of this is over my head, but I think I still learned something.

Coolio: The Next Julia Child? - Do you even remember Coolio? Well, back when, he got all into food and starred in an online cooking show on My Damn Channel.

Risk of mad cow disease from farmed fish? - There is now concern that eating farmed fish who are fed byproducts rendered from cows might be at risk. So now, who's going to be protecting consumers from this? Because the USDA and the FDA can't handle what they have on their plates so far. And I think we all know how unlikely it is that any corporation or industry will self-regulate.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

MetaDaddy Gets Home

MetaDaddy gets back today, Saturday. I'm so, so, so looking forward to seeing him, as is MetaBoy. He's been antsy for a few days.

MetaDaddy will likely be glad to be home after 10 days of intense business travel and jet lag (15 hour time difference between here and China).

The way I figure it, when he gets back, he'll find:
  1. MetaGirl has grown (I'd swear she has)
  2. I'm now strong enough to pick up both kids...and possibly him. Michelle Obama arms!
  3. MetaBoy was 100% in diapers 10 days ago, but is now practically fully potty trained. I'd say he's successful 80-90% of his waking hours. He might be more successful if I wasn't so scared to move him from pull ups to underwear. I'm waiting for MetaDaddy to get back to make the full transition.
It's been all about survival these past 10 days. So close!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dining at The Yard with Kids

I cook for my family most least I do when MetaDaddy's home. This week has been more about surviving, so I'll take up any offer to eat out. But I still go to my usual farmers' markets because it's a treat I just don't want to give up. The fruit, vegetables, and's just all too perfect.

My take on food is that if I buy something that's fresh and tasty, I'm better off doing as little as possible to it. Weiser Farms Cavaillon melons, Fitzerald Farms nectarines, Rutiz Farms Galante can I improve perfection?

When I see a restaurant that boasts of using farmers' market fresh produce, it makes me happy. I love seeing these wonderful ingredients incorporated into a clever ensemble by someone with much more culinary talent than myself. But I'm usually disappointed. I hear the word "farmers' market," but I don't see it on my plate. Grr.

Well...that brings me to a curious incident involving 3 things I mildly obsess about: the Santa Monica farmers' market, local restaurants, and Top Chef. And this is where I get sheepish. I'm generally just a reserved person. I keep to myself. As obvious by my wordy blog, I've got plenty to say, I just don't always say it in "real life."

So, I'm walking down the street in Santa Monica pushing MetaGirl in her stroller. I'm about to step off the curb onto the pedestrian street, but it's a tight squeeze since I'll be maneuvering through two parked trucks. As I'm managing, a tall someone comes walking through, and I decide it best to move...I didn't want a trampling incident. I look up (way up...he's tall), and I saw someone familiar. (This is where fame can be a pain in the butt.) "Oh!! That's CJ from Top Chef!" So, I ranted into the void that is Twitter, as one does.
To: CJ from Top Chef. Dude, I know you're tall, but really? Are you too tall to see some people, even if they have a stroller?
Then, I forgot about it. But a few days ago, I get a reply from...CJ! :-o
BigCeej: @MetaMommy I'm sorry. Come to my restaurant, The Yard. I'll cook for you.
After some hemming and hawing, I asked a friend who is similarly Top Chef aware if she'd like to join me and the wee twosome. She accepted, so we went. That's when I turned all shades of red. In the restaurant as I admitted to be the one, the only...MetaMommy. It's kind of a stupid name to admit to in "real life." I'm glad there were lots of other things to keep me distracted, like needy kids.

So we chatted for a bit, and he told us about his food. CJ, aka Chris Jacobsen, has recently taken over and has reworked the menu to feature fresh farmers' market food. He's minimizing freezer space, improving the look and ambiance of the dining room/bar, keeping prices reasonable, and generally changing the nature of what "pub food" is in Santa Monica. It doesn't have to be frozen or deep fried to be good with a drink.

We had a few small dishes. I'm not going to pretend I know food like some people know food. I don't have a refined palate, nor do I obsess about details. I just know if I like it or not, and I enjoyed the food. Though I was impressed by some of the lovely farmers' ingredients, like the Cavaillon melon (a super juicy, flavorful melon that looks like a cantaloupe, but puts it to shame...poor cantaloupe). I also know he shops from the farmers because...well, that's where we had our "run in." If he's shopping there, you know the food will be fresh and seasonal.

My personal favorite were the fish tacos, which I'm still craving. As my friend pointed out, it would be a lighter option if it was a soft taco, but it was still mighty tasty. And even closer to my heart is a restaurant's tolerance of young kids. Despite having 2 young kids in high chairs in a place that had previously been popularized as a bar with bar food, there were plenty of healthy options for them and I didn't feel like a nuisance for having my kids or stroller. The only way to survive eating out with young kids it to find a way to keep kids content, which is hard enough for parents without feeling challenged by staff. With us, all of the staff were great. And MetaGirl, always one to make herself known, got all sorts of wonderful attention.

Overall, it was a pleasant experience. It's 1/2 a block from the beach with a patio, allowing a nice beachy view. Fresh, seasonal food that isn't too fussy. Yes, it's a bar, but don't be put off by it. And a nice getaway for a quick bite or a full meal, even if you have kids. The Third Street Promenade is a couple of blocks away (on Third between Broadway and Wilshire), but I can't think of one restaurant I would recommend to anyone. It's the little places, like this one, that are off the Promenade that are worth visiting.

In the effort of full disclosure, CJ did comp the meal (completely unnecessary, but very appreciated!). However, that was due to the above mentioned trampling incident. He was apologetic and really nice about it. And I'm pretty sure that I was more embarrassed about it than he was. After all, I'm the one who goes by MetaMommy ;-)

The Yard
119 Broadway (between Ocean and 2nd Street)
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 395-6037

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Missing MetaDaddy

It's funny the things you take for granted. I stay at home, and MetaDaddy goes to work. I'm at home with the kids all day, he's at work all day. Sometimes he has to leave very early (e.g., 6AM) for a meeting or a flight, and when he does, I think "poor guy" as he wakes me to give me a goodbye kiss -- I promptly nod off again. Other times, as I'm surrounded by cranky offspring while making dinner at 6PM, I think "lucky guy." Those days, I get annoyed when he's late. Regardless of the time, when he gets home, it's a treat for everyone. The kids get to hug the daddy they missed so much, I get a relief of parental pressure, and I think he gets to relax a little (as much as you can at home with kids prodding you).

So when he goes away on business, I think it's tough on everyone. It's tough on the kids because they know something's different, but they don't quite understand it. MetaGirl might be a little less aware given that she's 11 months, but there's definitely something amiss. And MetaBoy is constantly asking "where's daddy," to which I reply "he went to the office on an airplane and he'll be back soon." I don't know if that's the best thing to say, but he seems OK with it. He chimes in with "and he's going to bring me a present!" because that's what MetaDaddy told him at the airport as we were saying our goodbyes.

Obviously, it's tough on us, the parents. Him because he's traveling, dealing with airlines, coping with jet lag, tolerating food that can be hit or miss, and missing home. Me because there's no reprieve from the mayhem. They wake with me, spend all day with me, and I only have that short bit of time between their bed times and mine. I love them, but OMG! That's a lot of giggles, whines, smiles, complaints, hugs, pushes...tears.

It's funny how getting by day by day can help you take for granted the little things. Having MetaDaddy around is wonderful because we all love him so much. But it's more than that. He helps everyone function better. He teaches and shares things with the kids that I don't. His point of view gives the kids balance. He helps me from getting overwhelmed or taking on too much, for everyone's sake. He's the yin to my yang. The woo to my hoo. The melon to my proscuitto. Mmm...proscuitto...

6 days and counting.

Miss you!!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Free Ice Cream at Milk

I haven't tried it due to dietary constraints, but I hear Milk's ice cream is wonderful. One of these days, we'll all sit down for a taste.

But you all are in luck for this Sunday is National Ice Cream Day.

"Milk is doling out free scoops of its decadent, house-made flavors like banana dulce de leche, mint chocolate chip and strawberry. Just say the secret code phrase--"I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream"--for one scoop in a cone or a cup."

Milk, 7290 Beverly Blvd., Mid-City; 323-939-6455

Sunday July 19 from 8AM-11PM

Via Tasting Table LA

Monday, July 13, 2009

Around the Internet: Food

Quinoa Recipe - I struggle, occasionally, with the wet, heavy quality of cooked quinoa. This is a clever technique fixed that. Finally, I had light, fluffy quinoa that rivaled the texture of cous cous. It does take longer to make this way, so I find it's worth it if I won't be mixing it with something wet (e.g., a meal with a lot of sauce which will wet the grain again).

Hart High Student to Compete in National Cooking Competition - This 17 year old already has an impressive culinary resume. I'm so impressed to see that kind of dedication to anything, especially at that age.

Yes We Can Food - I'm so jealous. I wish we had something like this in L.A. Depending on the month, they make apricot jam, pickles, or tomatoes. Farm fresh food canned during their peak season. jealous.

A Martha Stewart Cartoon...For Kids - it a good thing?

An unexpected way to boost the economy - Breastfeeding can help bolster the economy by preventing illnesses in infants. Just doing our part to help ;-)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Blue Berries and Green Shopping

Fun stuff this weekend.

We went blueberry picking in Camarillo. Pickings were slim, but it was an interesting experience. A little too hot to be fun, but I like exposing MetaBoy to new food things. And this was definitely new. Blueberries grow on bushes? In the ground? From dirt? A pound of blueberries for $3.50! No, not organic, but I'll let it slide this time. I'll make plans to do this earlier in the season next time.

Afterwards, we stopped by the Camarillo Outlets for some deals.

I always take my shopping bag in my purse. It's small and folds up into nothing, so it's easy. And it means I'm always ready to refuse a shopping bag from stores. I did this when we bought a little something at Banana Republic, and they gave me 10% off. I got a 10% discount for using my own bag!! What a great surprise.

Good on Banana Republic for encouraging shoppers to do the right thing! I wonder if any other stores do this

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Living in a Discount Culture

This was an interesting segment about discount shopping on Marketplace. Ellen Ruppel Shell's latest book Cheap:the High Price of Discount Culture is her analysis of bargains in the U.S., which she says can end up costing consumers more than they think. For example, if instead of buying the boots you love you buy the most discounted pair which you never wear, did you save money? Personally, I find myself always repeating the question to myself "yes it's cheap, but will I use/wear it?" If not, I won't buy it. My argument is both about money and space. I can't afford space for stuff I won't use. I taught myself that lesson years ago, but it primarily stems from my Virgo nature. Practical, organized...boring ;-)

Another interesting comment was about "sales" and how prices are set:
"How many of us, for example, have ever paid full price for a mattress. There's an object, you know, it's always, quote, unquote, on sale. Well, it's really not on a sale. That's the real price of the mattress. The other mattresses in that department store have higher prices, but the merchant doesn't really expect to sell those mattresses. He rotates all his mattresses into the sale pile, and he expects to sell them at that sale price, which is actually the full price."
That information will forever change how I see sales. I'm tempted to buy the book, but like those never worn boots, will I ever get around to reading it?

Maybe if it's on sale ;-)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Heels for Babies? Seriously?!?

In case you're baby is too happy and comfortable, here's a product sure counteract that. Heelarious Shoes...

"Your little one will look fabulous in these soft crib shoes designed to look like high heels! Each pair of heelarious heels is packaged in a darling purse-shaped gift box, complete with a rhinestone closure. Red satin heel with leopard satin lining for infants size 0-6 months."


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Social Security Numbers Easily Guessed

An interesting new report shows how easy recent Social Security numbers have become to guess.
"It was far easier to predict SSNs for people born after 1988, when the Social Security Administration began an effort to ensure that U.S. newborns obtained their SSNs shortly after birth."
Yikes! This new study has me rethinking the safety of providing information on blogs. I intentionally don't provide any real names for such reasons. But it sounds like all thieves really need is a name, date of birth, and home town to come to a close approximation of a Social Security number.

So if you or your kids were born after 1988, it's that much more important that you safeguard such basic information.

Here's how the system works:
"The Social Security number's first three digits -- called the "area number" -- is issued according to the Zip code of the mailing address provided in the application form. The fourth and fifth digits -- known as the "group number" -- transition slowly, and often remain constant over several years for a given region. The last four digits are assigned sequentially.

As a result, SSNs assigned in the same state to applicants born on consecutive days are likely to contain the same first four or five digits, particularly in states with smaller populations and rates of birth.

As it happens, the researchers said, if you're trying to discover a living person's SSN, the best place to start is with a list of dead people -- particularly deceased people who were born around the time and place of your subject. The so-called "Death Master File," is a publicly available file which lists SSNs, names, dates of birth and death, and the states of all individuals who have applied for a number and whose deaths have been reported to the Social Security Administration."
While the study says that if you were born in a big state on a busy day you're probably still safe, I figure it's worth being cautious. Even if the Social Security Administration begins randomly assigning SSNs, that will only benefit future applicants. And as I understand it, even if your identity has been stolen, it's still incredibly hard (if possible) to get a new SSN.

Source: Researchers: Social Security Numbers Can Be Guessed

Monday, July 6, 2009

MetaGirl's Eating Habits

When I first started making baby food for MetaBoy, I was die hard. I followed all of the instructions to a T to assure flavor, food safety, proper tenderness and texture, etc. I wanted to make sure that his first foods served as a gateway to a lifetime of gustatory pleasures. OK, I might have overestimated the seriousness of those first foods, but I stand by my intentions. From 7 to 12 months of age, he was unintentionally vegan because I was so cautious with everything I made for him. He only drank water, and did so happily (my theory: you can't miss what you've never had, eg juice). He ate all sorts of fruit, except apple sauce (odd, but true). And he loved eating. So as long as I was shoveling food into his mouth, he was happy. He never demanded to take the reigns. He was just happy to be eating.

Oh, how I miss that.

MetaGirl could not be more different. She hated having food put into her mouth. She only wanted to use the spoon as a toy. At some point, she settled into a groove where she allowed us to feed her. And then, as suddenly as it started, it was over; the spoon was banned. She refused all food that approached her with a spoon. We tried the obvious spoon, the sneak attack spoon, the stealth spoon...she was too good. She shut us down every time.

So when she was about 9 months old, I changed strategies. I stopped making baby purees and started looking for soft finger foods. It turns out that her refusing the spoon didn't mean she was refusing food. She LOVES finger foods.

I started her out with soft foods cut into tiny pieces, and she gobbled it up. We've done avocado, tofu, bread, peas, peach, apricot, plum, melon, watermelon, banana, cooked vegetables (e.g., eggplant, zucchini, carrot), and any other soft foods I could find in the refrigerator, freezer, or on our plates. One twist I've taken is to make a lentil puree, freeze it in one ounce cubes (these are great!!), and defrost as needed (e.g., one for a meal). When I reheat it in the microwave, it dries out just enough so that I can easily roll it into a ball for baby handling. I've slowly made the pieces of food ever so slightly bigger, but they're still relatively tiny. I did recently give her half of a small apricot without the pit, and she ate the whole thing. It was a hilarious mess to behold. With her newly discovered independence, she now happily eats her meals with the family.

The take home lesson? All kids are different eaters, but that doesn't mean that eating is off the table (har har). If your baby isn't eating, try a different approach. It might take a while, but take cues from your baby, and just be mindful of food size and tenderness for choking hazards.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Busy Times

It feels like I haven't been here in ages! As I can see from the date of my prior post, my feeling is indeed accurate. That said, if you're ever wondering what I'm up to, just follow me on Twitter. I'm more likely to update there than here these days since it's easier to post 140 characters than a full blog post. I can be so wordy sometimes!!

We've been busy lately. MetaDaddy had to go away for a week on business, which left me to care for the kids...alone. OMG!!! I don't know how single parents do it. I had the two for one week without the stress of having to go to work, and I was run off my feet. Both are at such a different, yet demanding age.

MetaBoy is constantly learning, asking, playing, running, eating, drinking, taking, pushing, reaching, watching...and so on. He just never stops. Which is why I really love nap time and I hope he does, too...for at least another couple of years.

MetaGirl is a completely different challenge. She crawls, cruises, reaches, peaks, wiggles, climbs, escapes, chews, all the while grinning like a Cheshire cat. She is in constant need of attention, and beams with delight when she gets it. The flip side is that she scowls, and might even cry, if she doesn't get it. As for her eating habits, ugh. I could feed MetaBoy anything with a spoon. She will not eat anything off a spoon. In fact, I've had to come up with a completely new food regimen for her because everything I learned with MetaBoy is wasted on her.

Between meals, playing, non-overlapping naps (not by choice, I promise), and the rare errand, I hardly had time to sleep...much less play on my computer. Sad, but true :-(

This past and coming week are busy with other new and exciting things for MetaBoy. He is attending some fun classes and meeting new friends. As such, things are still busy and chaotic for everyone else. And then, MetaDaddy has to go away on business again for another week! Eek!!

At this rate, July is going to fly by. I find that bittersweet. On the one hand, it'll be nice to have stressful things out of the way. But on the other hand, I like savoring the little moments when MB takes me to the kitchen and insists that we dance. Or when MG looks up, sees me, and grins like someone's just made her day. You just don't want to let those little things get tangled and forgotten amongst the dry cleaning and groceries.