I've missed my blog in these last few months. I miss the elegant posts I used to have time to craft, not that every post was elegant, but there were some nicely written ones back in the day before Two Children. Now, it's all photos and quick updates, plus a word or two about Project Milk here and there. I was recently introduced to a friend's cooking blog, complete with gorgeous photos, mouth-watering recipes, and wonderfully simple writing, and I thought, "Hey, I used to do that. I used to take pictures of my food, and then I couldn't wait to post about it." I think it's partly lack of time, and partly lack of inspiration that keeps me from posting, since I've also had to let blog-reading fall by the wayside while I nurse a baby and find enriching experiences for an almost-three-year-old.

I began last week with a moratorium on French fries. It was necessary to take this step, because we had fries twice on Sunday, and later, in retrospect, I realized this was a clear sign that we needed some change. I've found myself very jealous of my friends' children who eat more variety of foods than Kent does, and after conversations with them about the many foods their kids are willing to try, I lament the fact that Kent always wants chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers, and PB&J. These things are fine in moderation, but they're not really the basis of a balanced diet, and it was starting to wear on me, even though I know most kids are picky at this stage, and it won't last forever. Then I remembered my role in all of this; I'm the one who puts food on his plate. There are kids all over the world who get by just fine without PB&J or chicken nuggets. Of course, I can't put Thai green curry and spring rolls in front of him and expect him to eat those yet, but there are ways to modify our diet a little to fit what I can reasonably assume he might be willing to try.

I tried to do a better job last week of planning out meals in advance, which makes my life easier on tough afternoons, and it has the added benefit of keeping us from going out so often, where we spend too much money and too much time convincing Kent to stay at the table. I told myself that I wasn't going to make him a PB&J or chicken nuggets instead of what we were eating, and he responded to this beautifully by trying a lot of foods I didn't think he'd try. Sure, he ate a lot of bread, and plain versions of things we were eating, but it was closer to a family meal each night. Sometimes I got stuck, like when we made our very favorite Indian dish, carrot red lentil soup and vegetable cashew samosas, but he did at least try those things. I hate being a food cop and don't think it's the best way to instill a healthy attitude toward food, so Jack and I praise the heck out of him when he tries something he doesn't think he'll like, and I silently hope he'll be more receptive to x-unknown food the next time it appears on his plate.

I'm not usually much of a meal planner and tend to be guided more by whimsy than practicality when it comes to deciding what to eat. But I think I'm happier when I plan things out — not for the whole week, but for a few days at a time, at least. Waiting until 3 p.m. to decide what to cook for dinner often results in dinner out, or something really lackluster that I threw together after a stressful, hasty trip to the store, and I feel so much better about my day when I know what I'll be cooking for dinner. I have peace of mind at having all the right groceries already (grocery shopping is harder than it used to be), and if I have some down time during the day, I can get chopping and other prep-work done early.

I need to let myself be guided more by seasonal and local produce as well, which ought to be easy in Louisiana with its ridiculously long growing season and year-round farmer's markets. Planning comes more easily to me when I'm staring down a bunch of fresh produce. A small example of the kind of eating/planning I wish I were doing more of: use of springtime strawberries. I've made several jars of delicious jam, and ice cream, which we've happily shared with friends. I've also made fruit puree and frozen it in cubes for when Dean is ready to eat yogurt sometime this fall. Kent ate fruit puree mixed with plain yogurt every day for almost a year, and I hope Dean takes to it so well. I can't wait to start making more baby food, since that was one aspect of Kent's babyhood that I thoroughly enjoyed. I would extend the strawberry thing further if I could think of more applications, besides sugaring the rest and then freezing them in their syrup like my grandmother always used to do. She'd just pull out a pint of strawberries for our ice cream or cereal, and there seemed to be an endless supply. I have no idea how many pints she made each year. My frozen corn from last summer almost got us through to this year's corn season, but I used the last of it a couple of weeks ago. Anyway, that's the idea. I wish I knew more about canning, but every time I try to learn, I feel like I'm in over my head, and most vegetables appeal to me much less if I'm pulling them out of a can than if they're fresh, or if they've been frozen or cooked in something else delicious.

I scored okra at our produce stand today, so I rearranged this week's meal plan so that we could have okra with red beans and grits tomorrow night. The beans are already soaking, and I can practically smell the simmering pot of rich flavors we'll encounter tomorrow night. Maybe Kent will even eat some of it. If our okra plants take off this summer, I'm going to force myself to try cooking it in some way besides frying it. It's high time I learned to make gumbo, I think.

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I have to plan food ahead to have anything good. Because I would make myself a grilled cheese every night and be perfectly happy :) I only recently began to be the dinner cook at our house and can hardly wait until our CSA kicks in and the market really gets in full swing up here.
I know to be grateful about E's eating everything now and that one day it will change. I really wonder what his chicken nuggets will be...
We have the same issues with Eli's eating. Last week, we made him try a grape - horrible, right?? Well, he tried so hard not to swallow it, that he gagged, and threw up a little. He was wearing his favorite Darth Vader shirt, and his first concern was that I clean up his shirt! No more grapes for a while, I guess.
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