Posts tagged ‘lunch’
Some of you may recall the School Lunch Links post I made on April 1. The gist of it is that school lunch offerings in this country are pretty awful and there’s legislation being worked on right now to change that.
Honestly, I’d kind of forgotten about it (something about trying to finish out the school year and plan my wedding at the same time…), but there is still stuff happening!
Christie left me a comment on that post today:
Completely agree! That is why I’m pushing people to sign the Child Nutrition Act reauthorizaation petition which asks Congress to remove junk food from schools. If you haven’t already, please sign! I’ve also created a Facebook group for it.
Well, you heard her. If you support the Child Nutrition Act, click the above link, sign the petition and get involved in improving the food provided to our youth.
If there one thing I have a hard time with it’s taking good photos of my food. I realize the image above looks like a bowl of mush. It is a bowl of mush. But it’s an incredibly delicious bowl of mush.
The recipe from Real Simple is called “Spicy Black Beans”; my future brother-in-law tweeted it to me over the weekend when I was begging for a good vegetarian recipe to make (have I mentioned I love Twitter lately?). I haven’t made anything with black beans before, but I figured it was worth a try. Oh, it totally was. Not only is it good but the recipe only requires 7 ingredients: sundried tomatoes, white onion, jalapeño, canned black beans, canned tomatoes (I used diced), salt and cilantro (which I left out, because I usually leave out salt and shockingly, our supermarket didn’t have any cilantro!) It’s pretty much a matter of chopping everything up and cooking it in a skillet. Super easy.
And super delicious. I was surprised how good it is, even though it’s pretty much a pile of mush. I will say, its not remotely spicy, despite the recipe title, but it is yummy. Doesn’t need salt, or cheese, or anything additional. Originally, I was going to try putting the beans on a wrap for lunch, but it’s a little too liquidy for that. On top of rice it is perfect, however.
Thank you, Kevin, for providing me with the best vegetarian meal I’ve made in weeks (months?). If you’re looking for something healthy, fast, delicious and easy, this is it.
Tellingly, I rarely see any teachers eating the school lunch. Seems strange that this needs to be said, but if it’s not good enough for us, why do we give it to our students? This isn’t just about a stale peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it’s about social justice.
As I mentioned before, the school lunch issue is a big one. I suspect that no educator reading the “Teacher, Revised” blog post would be surprised by its content (at least, I’m not), but it’s refreshing to see someone outside of education who has lots of “foodie” connections making themselves aware of the issue and sharing it on Twitter. The accompanying class blog, 510 Eats Well, features student comments and insight–why are we feeding our students so poorly? What sort of message and model does it give students when we feed them junk? I think Oatey is genius–way to involve students in the process of creating change to benefit them!
The blog mentions legislation proposed late last year, but I used THOMAS to see what else what happening on the school lunch front. The most exciting result was the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act of 2009. We need to “amend the Child Nutrition Act of 1966”? You think?! 1966?! The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor.
Add to my to do list: Compose a letter to the Committee members, further educate myself on this issue
11:43: All I’ve eaten this morning was half a granola bar (still too sweet, I haven’t changed my mind) and a hand full of walnuts. I want real lunch. Time to finish the fried rice started this morning.
11:44: Gather ingredients: oil, bell pepper (green; you should’ve seen the produce selection at the supermarket last night!), onion, the rice I cooked this morning (now plenty cooled) soy sauce.
11:47: Prep veggies. This always takes longer than I expect it to. I’m a slow dicer.
12:00 Holy crap, this onion is strong. Eyes are crazy watering. I usually don’t react to onions.
12:03: My nose starts running. Wow.
12:07: Done cutting that dumb onion, start cooking it in hot oil. Add the peppers after a couple minutes.
12:12: My Man calls; we discuss rice while I stir the vegetables.
12:22: Add the rice to the pan. Mark Bittman says (in the cookbook) to break up the rice chunks with one’s fingers. I burn myself doing so and switch to using a spatula.
12:30: It’s not very brown…let it sit for a few minutes.
12:34: Add the soy sauce–now it’s brown!
12:38: Finally sit down to lunch! It’s pretty good…I think the rice is cooked a little unevenly, but certainly edible. Definitely perfect for school lunch this week. Both parents try it and think it’s decent. Success!
This concludes the cooking portion of my weekend. Just kidding, I still have to make brownies or something for debate. *sigh*
Overall, I’m doing really well with my decision to not eat meat once a day, a decision which essentially cuts my meat consumption in half. It’s been a good choice I think: forces me to think about what I’m eating, requires that I shop and make myself lunch to bring to school. I’ve become acutely aware of which restaurants have decent vegetarian offerings on their menus. Its a good thing.
I’ve settled into a nice routine where I food shop and cook my lunch for the week on Sundays. Last Sunday I made Mushroom and Barley Soup from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Even though it was for lunches, I made my parents try it. My mom said she liked it better than the Tarascan soup I made (how is that possible? That soup’s great!). Dad was pretty grossed out; he doesn’t like mushrooms. Points to both of them for trying; I will spread the gospel of homemade food and vegetarian meals! The soup wasn’t the best thing I’d ever eaten, but it was pretty good and I was proud of myself for eating vegetarian (vegan, even), cooking my own food and sucessfully dealing with dried porcini mushrooms and barley, neither of which I’d done before.
That was Sunday. Today is Friday. And despite the fact that I still have a serving left (Side note: how is it possible that no matter how closely I follow a recipe, even if I halve the recipe, I still end up with more servings than the recipe says I will?), I could not bear mushroom and barley soup for the fifth day in a row. Not when there was a serving of left over ravioli sitting in the fridge. Chicken ravoli.
So, I broke my own rule. Maybe I won’t eat meat for dinner (unlikely, if one of my parents cooks). I feel a little bad about it, but not much. The ravioli was darn good. I’m pretty sure ravioli, tomato sauce and 2 tangerines for dessert still doesn’t qualify as a “bad” meal. Sometimes, you just have to set your principles aside.
I’m making vegetable and barley soup for lunch for next week (I’m a soup addict). I think I’ll be more excited to eat it than I was the mushroom. At least, I hope.
When I began this blog, part of the intent was to learn more about food and the current issues surrounding it and develop my own opinions and use those opinions to influence my cooking and lifestyle. All that said, Relishments has largely degraded into a demonstration of how many ways there are to use oil, garlic, herbs and canned tomatoes to make lunch (which I did once again today, though I’ll spare you a post). It’s becoming apparent to me that I really need to look into this issue and develop a stance, both as someone who loves food, and as a teacher.
On February 19, Alice Waters and Katrina Heron published an op-ed piece in the NY Times called No Lunch Left Behind. They make a lot of good points, but as a high school educator, I don’t think their plan is going to have all the “magical” consequences they’re hoping for. I do agree that “without healthy food (and cooks and kitchens to prepare it), increased financing [of the current school lunch program] will only create a larger junk-food distribution system,” but I’m unsure if there’s enough locally grown, untreated, unfertilized, fresh foods to supply every child in America with the perfect lunch every day, as Waters and Heron envision.
The column also argues that healthy meals could be created for $5, but that does not include the “one-time investment in real kitchens”, providing students with the education they recommend or new training for cooking staff. I suspect a tab of far more than $27 billion dollars would result, especially in the first few years. I’m also not sure that the long term benefits and savings would be as far-reaching as Waters and Heron hope (though I’d love if they were right). I think school lunch programs can only do so much. The real issue is frequently at home; even if children are educated about good eating habits and given good food at lunch (which may or may not actually taste good), I believe that youth are more influenced by what they see and experience at home than at school; yes, “…parents should be able to rely on the government to contribute to their children’s physical well-being”, but the keyword is contribute.
Finally, I love Ezra Klein’s commentary on The Internet Food Association: “There are things we should do because they should be done. We’re the richest nation in the world. We can do better than feeding our children inventively presented corn syrup fresh from the microwave.” As much as I can be suspicious of Waters and Heron’s proposal, I’m sure that there are improvements that can and should be made to the school lunch program. Changing school lunches is not going to revolutionize American health, as the column seems to envision, but there’s no reason why America shouldn’t make changes where we’re able.
Mouthing Off, from Food and Wine
Alice Waters Proposes New School Lunch Program, from Serious Eats
Anthony Bourdain on Alice Waters, from The Food Section
Alice Waters’s Open Letter to the Obamas, from Gourmet
My apologies to those who are pretty sure I’ve made this recipe already…olive oil, garlic, canned tomatoes…I’m sure its starting to sound familiar to any frequent readers of my blog. Nevertheless, that’s the direction this recipe’s headed; I’m just warning you. However, it does satisfy my new promise to myself: vegetarian lunches.
This recipe is adapted from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook: 350 Essential Recipes for Inspired Everyday Eating by Jack Bishop. I borrowed the cookbook from the library, but may have to purchase soon because I really like it. It’s different from other vegetarian cookbooks I’ve used because none of the recipes include tofu, tempeh, or seitan, which I’m sure are all well and good, if you like them, but my foray into vegetarianism hasn’t quite gotten that bold. The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook is full of variations of normal sounding food made with normal sounding, generally ordinary and accessible ingredients.
Anyway, without further ado: Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Olives and Capers
Extra-virgin olive oil (about 3 tbsp.)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped*
1 3.8-ounce can sliced black olives
1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed
1 lb. spaghetti (I used whole wheat spaghetti)
Salt, to taste
*The original recipe lists canned whole tomatoes, chopped but if I make this recipe again I may use canned diced tomatoes because chopping the whole tomatoes was a rather messy experience. But its up to you.
- Cook spaghetti according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook over medium heat until the garlic is cooked, about 2 minutes
- Add the tomatoes, olives and capers to the skillet. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes soften and the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.
- Toss the spaghetti with the tomato sauce and mix well.
As you may be able to tell from the photo, my pasta turned into little one inch sized pieces by time I was done cooking it and then reheated it once (timing was a little off at my house). I don’t know why, perhaps because it’s whole wheat pasta? Or I overcooked the pasta? Anyone else ever have this experience?