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Volume 37 Issue 17, - Aug 16-22, 2007
now in our 37th season

Easy Summer Meals

by Maryjane Mojer

What is balance, anyway? I’m certainly not well balanced, and I strive to maintain my lack of equilibrium.  We hear so very much about the food pyramid, balancing meals, carbs, protein and the like.  I do understand the importance of maintaining a balanced diet, but when it comes to meals, and feeding more than just yourself, balance can be that difficult, seemingly unattainable missing piece. You may well have, and bless you if you do, the kind of house where everyone eats everything.  I have that kind of house now, but that wasn’t always the case. As adults, my children are good cooks and great eaters.  As children, well, not so much.

I was one of those new moms, twenty-five years ago, who was certain of many things.  I knew, for instance, that hot dogs would never be on my shopping list, let alone on my children’s plate.  Refined sugar?  No way!  I would use cloth diapers, nurse as long as we wanted to, make my own baby food, let my children determine their own schedules and provide games where everyone was a winner. The “No” word would be replaced with, “now, let’s think about that.”

 That big thud you just heard?  Reality setting in.  Nursing and cloth diapers were just fine. “No” was a word that was much faster than a discussion when a car was coming and my child was heading for the road, and as for games, everyone can’t always win and losing well is just as valuable.

Thirty hours into my planned natural childbirth was my first clue that having children did not necessarily follow a plan.  I also learned that so much more than my own determination and opinion played into my children’s nutrition.  This was, for me, one of the most eye-opening lessons.  Apart from constantly policing who was giving them what and when, I was driving myself (and them) crazy trying to make sure that everyone had their daily requirements.  The more I forced the issue, and pushed the pyramid, the less likely they were to eat what they needed, or, what I thought they needed. 

Once I started to relax and offer them more options, they started to eat more and to try more things. Grocery shopping became much more fun when I took them along and talked to them about food.  My youngest knew all the varieties of apples by sight.  (I didn’t and don’t, but he figured it out.)  I wore out three baby backpacks because it was so much easier and more fun to make dinner and do dishes with their company.  Instead of trying to balance meals, we would go with what we chose together.  Surprisingly, with a bit of help and a lot less obsessing, the balancing just seemed to happen.  It may not have been all in one meal, but for certain, all within a day.

As my kids have grown and moved out (and in, and out….and back in again) our meals have changed.  I want to keep food on hand that can feed the unexpected masses a good, easy meal and at the same time, not have the equivalent of a commercial kitchens larder in my very small kitchen.  My concept of a meal has changed.

On nights when it’s just my husband, my dad, and myself, a meal can be anything from toast and tea to a full dinner with starch, vegetable, and  meat. One of our favorite meals is to just graze…a bit of everything.  Cheese and crackers, stuffed cherry peppers, olives, spreads, cold sliced steak or chicken makes a wonderful, quick meal.  Other times, a wedge of chilled iceberg with a quick green goddess or blue cheese dressing, fresh sliced tomatoes, and steamed green beans and new potatoes.  Not necessarily what one would think of as a complete meal, but it works.

Bluefish pate, alongside quick crudite of celery sticks, carrots and slices of zucchini and yellow squash can be plenty on a day like today.  Add some whole grain crackers or the small, sturdy breadsticks and even a bread guy like my dad is happy.  Though, gone is his two-loaf a day habit, my dad still enjoys a piece or three in the evening.  A platter of cold salads from the deli counter and a loaf of good bread is a quick and easy buffet for a crowd of two or twenty.

Green Goddess Dressing

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup scallions
1 tablespoon chopped parsely
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
1/4 teaspoon chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon anchovy paste

Anchovy paste is one of those wonderful things that makes you wish you thought of it first.  It comes in a tube, just like toothpaste. It’s easy to use and a great staple to keep on hand.

Mix all of your ingredients together, chill well and toss with clean, torn lettuce, or pour over a wedge of iceberg.

Smoked Bluefish Pate

1 pound of smoked bluefish
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 ounces of butter, softened
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

This is a great recipe to mix in a mixer with a paddle attachment.  If you don’t have one, a food processor with a blade works fine, as does a wooden spoon.

Mix all of your ingredients together until well blended.  Top with chopped chives.  Chill and serve with crudite, crackers or good, dark bread.  Great accompaniments for fish pates are chopped red onion, capers, and finely minced hard boiled eggs…..and mustard but people do tend to look at me funny when I serve mustard with this.  What can I say, I’m a renegade.

Balance, in my humble opinion, is a work in progress.  Yes, watching what you eat is important, and moderation is key.  But eating what you like or what you crave can sometimes satisfy more than your hunger.

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