There are some things you just know as a child. For me I knew that I had to go to school, that my dog would hog my bed, and that from November to December half my life would be in the kitchen. To this day when the leaves turn, my fingers twitch because I still believe that I will be hand grinding cranberries, mashing bananas, crushing graham crackers for graham cracker crusts, and dipping my fingers into batter for the Dahlquist traditional (calorie free) snitch. I also knew that sometimes the holiday season would make my Dad upset. Growing up in the depression era, he was taught to never ask for anything he wanted and Christmas always makes him uncomfortable. However, I learned that the best way to make his eyes melt was to pester him for his famous fried sweet potatoes, pumpkin pancakes, fried fish, or the very best Wisconsin grilled cheese. My mom did most of the cooking, and often cooked out of necessity. My Dad cooked out of memory for his mother’s kitchen, and out of love.
Fast forward a few years, and Jesse (the boyfriend) is cooking on our third date. I had had this ploy before from other men, but never to these lengths. Furthermore, in the past I had I initiated the cooking date with a subtle “hey let’s cook something together!”. Jesse was the first person who ever asked, as if it would be a great honor, to cook for me. The evening of our date he chopped up peppers, shredded fresh ginger, grilled mushrooms in a special grill wok, and made the best fajitas I had ever tasted. Our first real body contact was because of that meal, a hand on the hip as he fed me freshly chopped mangoes that would be the topping on our dessert. I’ll stop there, but just so you know, Jesse considered the evening a resounding success. I did too.
They say that smell is the most memory evoking sense, and perhaps that is true. But I think cooking, the whole dish of sights and smells and tastes and touch, is the most memorable of all activities. My love of autumn, my love of family, and my love for Jesse can all be traced back to a kitchen full of activity and people who care for one another. I started cooking things from scratch in order to save money. Beans, rice, and now an attempt at polenta all come from the cheap availability of organic dried goods. Since I went on a budget, I’ve cut my grocery bill roughly in half, from over $400 a month (I eat a lot) to about $225. I’m not the only one to notice a change. The blog simplybeingmum did a weekly tracked experiment, and the author too found her grocery bill cut in half. If you are having trouble figuring out how to switch from processed food to scratch, her article is very well done. It includes meal planning, hand carrying your groceries, and how to properly research and write a well thought out grocery list. I highly recommend it!
The gains you make by cooking from scratch however, are not just budgetary. Before Jesse, I was never someone who thought too much about having a family of their own. Now as I learn to fry green tomatoes and bake sweet potato fries, I think about what cooking means for our future. What will my children remember from our kitchen down the road? What will I remember? What foods will my family wait for all year, like I did for mound bar cookies or Jack Daniels sweet potatoes? Cooking from scratch is not just about money, but about family. It gives you memories, and it also gives your family a culture and a rhythm of life. The kitchen table is a place to gather, think, and to remember. My children will never know their great grandmother Alice, but by God they will know her through Christmas cookies and freshly baked bread. They will learn to love each season for its unique flavors, from fried green tomatoes in the summer, to fresh baked applesauce in the fall. Cooking from scratch isn’t just about saving 50% of your grocery bill, it is a labor of love and if you do it well, a lasting legacy. So do yourself a favor, and ditch the processed foods. Fill your kitchen with flavor, and learn a new way to love.
This Week in Updates: New Training and SO MUCH BAKING TO DO!
So with my new triathlon training schedule, I am defiantly leaning out. I’ve lost about 3 pounds (so 1.5 a week) and I think it is mainly from my leg muscles. As you can see, they look a lot more like runner’s legs than they did before. I’m using the opportunity to make sure my form is the best it can be, and have actually gotten sore a few times from a measly squat weight of 20 pounds plus bar. Given, I’ doing much higher reps than I have in YEARS. Happily though, the swimming and maintaining an emphasis on my chin ups and dips is giving me some shoulders I didn’t have before. Would you look at that! Biceps are still there, though I have to bring my arms a little forward so that you can see them. We”ll see if we stay but I hope they will! I see no reason why I can’t increase my chin up sets so that I’m finally doing 3 sets of 10, as opposed to 8, 6, and 5 usually. Also, my swim cap is bad freaking ass. Just saying…. Notice the triathlon logo!
Grocery shopping was SO EXCITING this week! I can’t tell you exactly why because that would give away next week’s awesome recipe line up. Needless to say, I think I’m finally getting to the stage where my recipe repertoire is increasing enough that even at my low budget, I’m still able to make a really tasty line up for the week! Emphasis on the make though. I’m at work today and I have basically nothing but yogurt for lunch. All my food needs to be MADE.
This week in produce looks kind of sad. But that’s because I splurged on a $5 eggplant. I had a craving for it, AND guess what? I have about 10 tomatoes from my garden too. I have some left over ricotta cheese, so maybe you can do the math? I’m also on this organic canned sweet potato kick. Pretty freaking cheap, and the consistency is amazing for baking.
The Recipe: Gluten Free Sweet Potato “French Toast” bites
So this started out as a sweet potato bread, and morphed into something far more spectacular. I have never had french toast taste this good and be this healthy at the same time. Complete breakfast of champions: eggs, sweet potatoes, oatmeal and ricotta cheese. You can even make these into full sized slices if you want, but I love the tiny bite sized aspect.
Makes 4-5 servings.
2 cups mashed or pureed sweet potatoes
1 cup oatmeal
Pumpkin pie spice
1 cup ground flax seed
Combine eggs, flax seed, 3 tablespoons maple syrup, and sweet potatoes together. Blend the oatmeal in a blender until you get oatmeal flour. Add this in as well. Put into a well greased bread pan and cook at 300 degrees for one hour until a firm, and a fork can be stuck in and pulled out without any batter sticking to it. Let the loaf cool. It’ll have a custard like texture. Store the loaf until you want to use it for breakfast. When you 20 minutes out from breakfast (or lunch or dinner) cut the loaf into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Grease a baking pan and put the slices into it. Cook at 450 for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway through. Let top and bottom become lightly toasted. Take out from the oven and top with ricotta cheese, pumpkin pie spice, and maple syrup. Enjoy!