eat well: to...mato with love

The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thanks mom!
You don’t have to read the book Tomatoland to know that modern industrial farming practices have ruined the tomato. One can tell just by looking at or tasting the hard, flavorless and anemic distant cousins of what our grandparents called tomatoes. I have gotten to the point where I can’t even eat them—they repeat on me like raw onions. Yet I can devour homegrown or farmer’s market tomatoes like candy.

I don’t buy a lot of canned foods, preferring to cook with fresh, seasonal vegetables and dried beans, but during the winter months, canned tomatoes are pretty much a necessity if you cook with tomatoes and don’t want to buy the freakish things piled in the produce isle. Recently, however, David told me that I should stop buying tomatoes packaged in BPA lined cans. (Go here to find out why BPA’s are bad). And even though I know it’s impossible to live in a chemical free environment these days unless I move to, say, the moon, I like to eliminate as many chemicals as I can when new information becomes available.

Although baby bottles are now being made BPA free, most canned goods still have BPA linings. Even so, there are several companies who have made the switch or have never used BPA’s. Any tomato product in a jar is BPA free. San Marzano tomatoes (which many people believe to be the tastiest) have no BPA’s. Nor do Pomi tomatoes (which come in a box, not a can). Muir Glen has recently switched to BPA free cans. Look for a 2013 or 2014 expiration date since some cans are still on the shelves from before the switch. (When you open the Muir Glen can, if it is golden inside instead of white, it is BPA free).
Beans, rice, and chili from Eden Organics are BPA free but not their tomatoes. (For a list of other foods in BPA free cans look here.)
I decided to try a new recipe this week with my BPA free canned tomatoes. Inspired by last week’s Mardis Gras, I chose a traditional Cajun dish called Maque Choux. What intrigued me about this recipe is how easy it is. If you make it in summer, you can use all fresh ingredients, but it tastes absolutely delicious using canned tomatoes, frozen corn, and frozen okra which makes it a perfect winter throw together dinner. And although the vegetables are traditionally braised in bacon grease and often shrimp or sausage are added, the dish stands on its own as a delicious and satisfying vegetarian meal. I used hickory-smoked olive oil to give it a musky flavor, but you could use regular olive oil (and a little bit of liquid smoke if desired). Or grate some smoked cheddar or gouda on top.

Maque Choux
2 T hickory-smoked olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
½ t salt
1 T pressed garlic
1 fresh Anaheim chile, minced (or ½ chopped green bell pepper)
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
2 cups frozen sliced okra
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (BPA free, of course)
1 ½ cups black-eyed peas (frozen or canned)
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
¼ cup water
1 t salt-free meat seasoning (rub for steaks and chops)
1 t dried oregano
¼ t dried thyme
1/8 t ground black pepper
Chopped scallions

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Add the onions and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened, about 7 minutes.
2. Add the garlic, celery and chiles (or peppers) and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the corn, okra, tomatoes, black-eyed peas, water, and seasonings.
... Cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary.
3. Serve topped with scallions over rice or quinoa.
with quinoa and a side of squash
it's also delicious served solo




Liner Notes 2/27

After last week's confession, I made it my mission not only to get Archer to school on time but to get him to school EARLY. So. Wednesday morning, I got out of bed earlier, poised to leave the house fifteen minutes earlier than the day before. And we did it! 7:50am, we were bags packed, Gaga blasting, on our way. I was so proud! High five, everyone, this was happening! For the first time all year Archer wouldn't have to run to class.


Except. Five minutes into our drive, I realized that the car was out of gas. Of course it was. OF COURSE IT WAS! Here we were, early for once in our effing h-ing lives and my car was OUT of gas. And not "almost, you have a few miles so no worries" but actually and absolutely OUT out. As in zero miles to go on ye emptiest of tanks.


And to make matter worse, this wasn't even the first time this had happened. Oy, right? Last month I ALSO ran out of gas on the way to school. (ED: My Passat wagon may have been falling apart toward the end of her life but at least she warned me profusely when my gas tank was running low. That Passat honked and beeped and basically pulled its ass over to the nearest gas station the moment its tank went below twenty-five miles. My Odyssey? SAYS NOTHING. DOES NOTHING. Not even a beep! Not even a buzz!)

So. After seven years of driving a car with flashing lights and beeping warning signals, I'm not used to, you know, paying attention... apparently.

I know, okay? I know! You do not have to tell me! Hal's eyes might as well have rolled right out of his head for the amount of times he's yelled at me for NEVER getting gas. Meanwhile, dude fills up every other day, which I think is weird and annoying so we're totally even.

Anyway. None of this changes the fact that for the SECOND TIME in one month I was out of gas on the way to school.

The first time, I didn't take any chances. I pulled over immediately and Archer ended up fifteen minutes late, which is thirteen minutes later than usual and it was terrible because I had to walk him into class and get a tardy slip and oh, man. BAD.

That was not going to happen this time. Oh, hell no. We were GOING to be early to school. If I had to push my van up the hill to the stop and drop? SO. BE. IT.


"But Mom. It says zero. Again."

"Just a little fiction. Nothing to worry about..."

And thankfully, it was.

I drove about three miles on "zero" before dropping Archer successfully at school... two minutes before the first bell rang.

He ran anyway.

Moments later, Fable and I landed safely at the nearest gas station. Gas 'o meter still on "zero".
P.S., Now that I'm revealing the intimate details of my dashboard, I would like to point out to those who argue that "four children is environmentally irresponsible" that I have put less than 2k miles on my car in six months.

...Because nothing makes you want to walk, like packing four kids in and out of a minivan.
"Five friends" by: Fable

The other day, while Fable was in the kitchen drawing pictures, Archer ran to come get me.

"I have to show you something."

When I came into the room, Fable was beaming, holding up her picture.

"I drew a picture of you, Mommy!"

"Fable drew a picture of you dancing in Grand Central Station."
"... With seven legs!" Fable added. "And hair like Rapunzel."

I totally understand why my dad STILL has pictures I drew of him as a child in his office. I get it times a billion. Where else would I ever get to dance in Grand Central station with seven legs and hair like Rapunzel?

Girls who want to grow up to princesses? Here's your short cut:
Bo continues to maintain her A+ in intensity and Reverie continues to pursue a PHD in sun beams. Not that Bo isn't also a light Her giggle fits are unmatched by anyone in the history of life and when she's happy she's THRILLED, but her lows are loooow and when she's mad she's PISSED. Perhaps it's seeing them side by side that further exacerbates their differences. Maybe Archer and Fable were the same kind of opposites, like complementary colors, her sand to his sea. But they weren't babies at the same time so the contrast wasn't as so.
Reverie started grabbing at everything and everyone in the last few days which means I am pretty much going to be living in top buns and ponytails for the next year of my life AND the time has come to bust out the highchairs for some solid food feeding action which sounds like a real party, no? Food fights, here we come.
Last week Archer wrote a story about a child who is born on the moon and comes to earth to become a wizard.

At first I was like, "Oh, this is an autobiography. He's writing about himself! A wizard from the moon! My moonchild wizard wonderboy from space..."
And then.

I kept reading.

...right up to the part where the wizard blows up every car on earth and then, blows up... earth.

"Archer. Can you tell me about this story. It's kind of... violent?"

"Don't worry, Mom. Just a little fiction."
I spent the last few days sick in bed. Or as "sick in bed" as one can be with two babies to care for. Bo and I seem to be on the same wavelength when it comes to colds so the two of us spent the weekend coughing in harmony which was really quite the sound. The vicious cycle of cold season is arguably the most boring thing to write about and I suspect even more boring to read but part of why I started writing these posts is to celebrate the seemingly mundane, and even disgusting moments of family life because really, beyond the hacking of one's lungs into tissues with one's spawn, family colds are one of the few things that slow a family down... And sometimes after hustling all week long, it's kind of nice to spend a few days in the house, pajama-clad, vegetating guilt-free.
(Hal's version of vegetating.)
Over the weekend, Archer updated the family portrait that currently hangs above our bed with a "temporary" until we can buy a new canvas he can paint all over.
From left: Hal, Reverie, Fable (saying "yay") me, Boheme and Archer ... who is wearing glasses because "in a few years I'm probably going to need them."

Kids are the best, man. They're the best!
My four.
Every day all of this becomes easier. Every night the girls sleep a little longer and our mornings run a little smoother and at the end of each eve, I feel a little more alive. Myself. In the beginning, we were all in survival mode. But that has passed, thank god. Maybe it's because Bo is slowly able to manage without me or the girls are becoming more self sufficient, establishing a bond to each other that keeps them (Bo) from screaming to be held all the time.
Or maybe it's just what time does to the family dynamic. Like pressure building and building until finally a hole emerges. A hole for all of the guilt and worry and breathlessness to escape. Like cracking the car window to hawk a loogie instead of, you know, swallowing it.

"Gross, Mom!"

And they're right! It's totally gross. It's disgusting and awful and gross. But sometimes there's no other way but to clear the throat and spit.
... wiping the fog from the mirror, and everywhere else.


Rock, Paper

I'm pretty sure there is a secret handshake to the bookends among us, an indistinguishable call between engine and caboose. A wink and a wag between head and tail. He came first and she came last and it's all part of the plan they made when they were back behind the scenes.
Rock, paper, scissors, Archer's turn. And then Fable's. And then Boheme and Reverie tied and both got scissors at the same time. And then rock. And then paper. They tied so they both came through the curtain together, and then at the last moment, Bo picked paper and Revi picked rock and their birth order was decided. Six years and four months separate first from last. Three dozen inches. Thirty something pounds. Archer's the tallest and Revi's the smallest but lying down they're all the same height.