Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Independence Day, Southern Hemisphere Style (7 July 2007)

Another oldie but goodie. This post chronicles a memorable Fourth Feast that we had a couple of years ago, and highlights how really great a simple, seasonal, no-frills meal can be. As we celebrate the first day of Autumn with 88 degree temps here in Central Florida, it's nice to know that, if we wanted to, we could make this meal today and it would be just as delicious - and appropriate - as it was in July.

One note: I make a reference or two to Pampered Chef. At the time, I was a consultant with Pampered Chef; I'm not anymore. Great company with some great products (although I can now admit that some of them are just, you know, silly.) I didn't want to alter the posts in anyway, so I'm leaving the references. Any quality garlic press will get the job done, but I can attest that we use our PC one practically daily, and wash it in the dishwasher, and it continues to be a great products after 3 years.

This week's entry - July 4th! We wanted simple, simple, simple. If you know us, then you know that we are all about simplifying - especially during the hot - REALLY hot - days of Florida summers. We often lose our way while planning meals, though, and end up wearing ourselves out. But this time, we really managed to reign ourselves in.

The best way to eat well and to eat cheaply (it's surprising how often these two goals can converge) is to eat what is in season. This time of year, that certainly means raiding the garden! (Or, if like me, you don't have a single green digit, it means raiding the grocery store or market.)
We decided on a very simple menu - caipirinhas, grilled ribeyes with chimmichurri, potato salad, white bean salad. For dessert, peach buttermilk sherbet.

Jeremiah had a taste for steak on the grill, and because of the holiday, we found all kinds of options on sale. We chose boneless ribeyes, which are flavorful because of good marbleing, versatile, and won't break the bank. Another bonus - there were 4 of us, but since we are not linebackers, we decided to eat smaller portions, and split 3 steaks among the 4 of us - another $$$ saver (I mean, who needs a side of beef in these hot temps anyway?!) With the steaks, Jeremiah opted for a chimmichurri sauce, a piquant vinaigrette that includes lots of vinegar, parsley, and garlic, and a little red pepper just to give it a pop. If you are a die hard A-1 fan, PLEASE branch out and try this - holler if you'd like the recipe.

To round out the meal, we wanted, for the most part, to leave the oven off - turning it on this time of year makes it that much harder to keep the house comfortable. My mom made a very delicious, very traditional potato salad - I swear, this woman makes the best potato salad in the world...you can't imagine that it could be so much better, but somehow, it is. I made a white bean salad that we've had a few times, and we love it. So simple - canned cannellini beans, fresh basil, fresh tomatoes, s&p. Heat 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil over a medium flame, add 3 pressed garlic cloves (yes, I used the Pampered Chef garlic press, and yes, you need one if you like garlic), and gently let the garlic steep for 2-3 minutes, being careful NOT to let it brown (that would be icky.) Pour over the salad and toss. Can be left at room temperature for up to 4 hours. Jeremiah likes it cold; I like it room temp or slightly warm. DIVINE - and healthy! (By the way, we got the recipe from Martha Stewart Living, but we're kicking ourselves for not thinking of it first.) I love this recipe so much, that I'm making it for my PC shows in July and August.

You can't imagine how well everything went together - especially the potato salad and the steaks with the chimmichurri. The creaminess of the salad was the perfect foil to the vinegary-peppery sauce, which cut through the richness nicely.

Normally we would have a nice red wine with grilled steak, but this time of year, I find red wine hard to drink - it seems so heavy in the heat. So instead, we decided to try a cocktail that we had heard of - the Brazilian caipirinha. Caipirinhas are traditionally made with a cane liquor called cachaca, but in the spirit of the theme - keep it SIMPLE - we used what we had, which was rum. (We plan to find cachaca one of these days, because I am all about the authenticity of recipes.) The drinks were awesome - raw sugar muddled with limes, topped with rum and ice. Add some mint and some club soda and POOF! You'd have a mojito. But that's another entry. The caipirinhas definitely get a thumbs up in our household. We have a variation that we want to try with tangerine and ginger - I'll keep you posted.

Dessert - again, simple. I wanted to make cookies, or a sauce, or something! - but we stuck with a peach buttermilk sherbet recipe, again from Martha Stewart. We were concerned that we wouldn't find good peaches, having heard that this year's crop was all but decimated by bad weather conditions, but we found some great Georgia peaches, and offered our sincere thanks to God (I swear, peaches and white corn will be in Heaven - no doubt.) I lightened the recipe by using lowfat milk in place of whole milk with great results.

So there you have it! No amuse bouche, no fussing with cornsilk, no red white and blue cakes...but a memorable meal that made us thankful for our independence and summertime. And that's really what it's all about, right?

My Life in Food

I cut my teeth on blogging on My Space. Before I launched a "real" blog, I wanted to try my hand at it, see if I could be interesting and consistent. I had pretty good results, with lots of posts, a modest following, and some good comments.

As I'm still trying to feel my way here on Cooking By The Brooke, I thought I would migrate some of those older posts over here and share them.

Here's one originally published 7 July 2007, my kickoff date. It gives a little background on Jeremiah and me, as well as what I thought I would like to focus on. As the blog grew, it encompassed more than just cooking, but we'll stick to food here.

Enjoy - Brooke

So, here is my first attempt at blogging. I couldn't fathom sharing with the world my thoughts, feelings, blah, blah, blah...but I COULD fathom sharing about all the amazing foods that we make and eat. Jeremiah and I are total foodies...we actually met at Disney, where we were both working for the Mouse as culinary assistants. He made me laugh! We had a particularly long and stressful day one day, preparing for a a HUGE event, and we organized a nite out after at Orlando Ale House for anyone who wanted to join us. Turned out that no one wanted to join us! But that's okay - it was the beginning of our relationship. We found out that nite that we both wanted lots of the same things, but in particular, we were both passionate about good food - about crafting it, about seeking out great ingredients, and about showing those we love how much we love them by putting TLC into our dishes. We also both dreamed of having our own food-based business - maybe an artisan bakery (him) or creating wedding cakes and small scale catering (me.)

SO - here we are - 8 years later! I joke that our wedding cake was the center of our wedding - it cost more than twice as much as my dress...now, I ask you - is that sanity?!

I've decided to dedicate this space to our quest for great meals, both at home and in restaurants that we discover. Being a stay at home mom with a fledgling business, we have the extra challenge of eating well on a tight budget. I would like to post on the subject at least once weekly, and highlight something we've done during the week.

Happy Reading!

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Chopper Update

Today, my chopper met with a tragic end...the clear plastic collar cracked completely in two when the whole thing rolled off the counter and crashed to my tile floor. Amusingly, this happened while I was trying to pick up all the nuts strewn across my countertop, which occurred when the lid (or bottom, depending on your perspective) fell off, and pecans went everywhere. I could probably get a replacement part, but really, after writing a scathing critique of the chopper, I think not.

Sub-conscious tool maiming, or judgement from the gadget gods? You decide.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Why Knife Skills Are Important

I was making dinner the other nite, and I was oh so tired (growing a human has the tendency to zap my energy inexplicably on some days, and dinnertime seems to be the lowpoint.) I was making a beef chili recipe, and I needed onions for both the chili and the guacamole-ish garnish. At this point, so tired, and meal prep staring at me relentlessly, I used what brain power I had to dream up shortcuts, rather than just doing the prep work and moving on. How could I make this go faster so I could just sit down and go to sleep?

Ah, the chopper.

I know lots of people that use - and swear by - hand choppers. These are the handy little gizmos that have a blade and either a plunging action or a crank action that allows you to chop various types of food without using, you know, a knife. Think of them as manual food processors. The thought of eliminating or simplifying even one step drove me to my overflow tool drawer, the place where I keep gadgets that I use occasionally, but that don't have a permanent place in my kitchen. I assembled the pieces to the chopper, got out the cutting board used a knife to hunk off a piece of onion, and went to town.


What greeted me from my countertop looked less like minced onion and more like carnage. It was as though my recipe called for "one half an onion, mutilated."

So what? you say. So it's not pretty. It's not like Hubert Keller is coming to dinner, right? So who cares? I went on with my meal prep and tried to ignore the big and little ugly pieces of onion in my soup pot, the torn layers in my reserve bowl for garnish, and the extra dose of stinging I felt in my eyes.

Later, with dinner made, served, and digesting, I thought about my chopper, and my hasty decision to forego my perfectly adequate knife skills for a shortcut...and I decided that the shortcut, in terms of what I sacrificed in aesthetics, cooking quality, and flavor, had not been worth it. Allow me to explain, by suggesting three reasons NOT to reach for the food chopper, and instead, to focus a little practice on building knife skills and maintaining sharp knives in your kitchen.

Number one: Size matters. The very best chopper that you can buy (and mine is among the best of this type of tool) chops your food indiscriminately. Pieces of food will not be uniformly chopped, unless you chop them so fine that it ceases to matter. The chopper will inevitably not penetrate some of the onion skin, while liquefying other portions. Two reasons that this just won't do: in a raw dish, the last thing that most people want to do is bite down on a long, stringy piece of onion; in a cooked dish, pieces of food that are chopped in different sizes cook at different rates. You may very well cook all of the pieces of onion, save five or six, which will remain crunchy and sharp, and detract from the finished dish.

Number two: It's ugly. We're all learning more and more about food everyday. We're learning that, both from an aesthetic point of view, as well as a "healthy eating" point of view, we "eat" with our eyes as well as our mouths. Food should look pleasing. Pleasing equals uniform, square little pieces of onion, not hunks and shards that look like so much soft, crunchy broken pottery floating in your soup.

Number three: It doesn't taste...quite...right. Remember the comment about my eyes burning? The eye-burning gas that onions emit comes from sulfoxides, which are most potent when layers of the onion come in contact with one another during the chopping process. The best way to combat the discomfort is to use a sharp knife for your chopping. Alas, my chopper's whirlyblade wasn't equal to the task; the membranes mingled, and I was miserable until I made it to the sink to rinse my eyes. But what I didn't expect - and I admit - this might have just been the particular onion - was the bitter flavor that the onion had, especially in the avocado garnish. Whether it was the release of the onion juices, or the large-ish pieces, or the fact that I'm pregnant - I'm not sure, but the flavor of the onion was unpleasant. I suppose I should try and duplicate the experience to see if it was a one-time thing, or if the chopping method does indeed impact flavor. But I'm just not willing to sacrifice dinner for the sake of food science.

Please, invest some money in a good knife - santokus and chef's knives are my favorite go-to tools in the kitchen - and spend some time learning how to chop things. There are some great tips and videos on Food Network's website; likewise, just watch the pros, pay attention, and pick up some tips. Almost all of them (except maybe Rachael Ray) display good knife skills on their shows. Finally, if all else fails, give me a call, and we'll make dinner together. I'll teach you everything I know.

So save that chopper for the Christmas cookie nuts...or better yet, learn to cut up your food with a knife, the ultimate kitchen multitasker. You'll save money, time, frustration, and you'll have a great sense of accomplishment by learning to do it like a pro.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Raglan Road

If you're coming to Walt Disney World anytime soon, and you like to eat, you MUST try Raglan Road.

If you haven't been here for a while, you may be sad (or happy) to know that Pleasure Island, the nightclub hotspot at Downtown Disney, is undergoing changes. The nightclubs have been closed to make way for more restaurants and shopping...presumably because that's what market research shows that guests prefer. But the restaurants that previously existed at PI seem to have survived. Raglan Road, Disney's take on an authentic Irish pub, is one of them.

Now...before you get on your cultural and epicurean high horse, let's remember something: I'm a foodie. I am not sending you to a place that has Lucky Chicken Fingers or Blarney Stone Spinach Dip. So...a little background is in order to make a believer of you.

In addition to having amazing food (which we'll discuss in a moment), Raglan Road is just beautiful. Step into the restaurant, and you're transported from Orlando tourist hubbub to Ireland. One-of-a-kind fixtures are dark wood and leaded glass, and were designed and built in Ireland by Irish craftspeople. The space oozes charm and coziness...mere feet from where we sat during our last visit, there was a table with two comfy wingback chairs, positioned in front of a fireplace. From the front podium to the cupola that crowns the center of the room, to the beautiful bars, you will be amazed at the authenticity of your surroundings.

But the food...ah, the food. Under the direction of celebrity Irish chef Kevin Dundon, you'll enjoy modern twists on classics. There's plenty of cabbage and potato on the menu, but you won't feel a bit deprived for having consumed them. And the sausages. Mmmm....if you're up to it, YOU MUST try the Dalkey sausages with Dalkey mustard sauce. Enough to share with the entire table, these mild little bites are deep fried. Yes, the mind reels.

Other points of interest that you might enjoy: they make a beautifully modern Shepherd's Pie; Fish and Chips are delish, with large, light-as-air fries; Sod...the Stew is a lovely beef stew spiked with, of course, Guiness...and the kids mac and cheese is the BEST MAC AND CHEESE EVER...and I don't say that lightly, because I make some good mac and cheese. The Dublin cheese in the sauce makes all the difference here, though. I've told Jeremiah that we WILL be buying it.

You will be too full for dessert, so I'm not even going to discuss it.

Oh - and entertainment! At regular intervals, a girl will come out and perform Irish dancing on a small, elevated stage, accompanied by live musicians. When she's not dancing, the band is playing traditional Irish music. But don't expect to enjoy the entertainment on Sundays when they take the nite off.

If you can't make it for a meal, sidle up the bar and have a pint. Or if they're booked, there's a handy counter service around the corner.

We have now enjoyed three special occasions at RR, and we've never been disappointed with service or food. So, if you're visiting from out of town and you're looking for an alternative to the endless burgers and turkey legs, give it a try. And if you're local, then consider checking it out for a special occasion...say, next Thursday nite.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Yum: Who says Yummy Food Can't Be Good Food? Part 2

Waaaayyy back on 17 April, I provided you with one of my favorite healthy breakfast recipes and teased you with a promise of a salad to come. And then I promptly fell off the face of the earth. Judging from the zero outcry that I received, I gather you weren't awaiting the salad with bated breath. But I'm gonna give it to you anyway.

This is my favorite lunch du jour. If you don't like bleu cheese or if you are expecting, you can substitute any kind of cheese you fancy. Happy munching!

2 cups baby arugula (substitute romaine if you're on a budget)
2 oz roasted deli turkey breast (try and stay away from smoked or honey roasted; they're good, but have more salt/sugar/additives than you need)
1 oz bleu cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons dried cranberries or raisins
1/4 avocado, sliced (optional)
2 tablespoons vinaigrette (recipe follows)
salt and pepper to taste (DON'T forget to season your salad. You can't believe what a difference it makes.)

Combine and savor.


Normally you make a vinaigrette with 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil. This is delicious, but in my opinion, less flavorful and more fattening than it needs to be. I typically use a 1:1 ratio, and add a touch of honey or sugar to balance the flavor. If you like more oil, however, by all means, use it.

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil (or a neutral flavored oil, like canola, if you don't like the taste of olive oil)
1/2 teaspooon dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon finely minced shallot*
a squeeze of lemon and a teaspoon of honey or sugar, according to taste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

*You can also add herbs that you like, such as parsley, chives, or basil, or you can use a dried herb or herb mix. I would use a tablespoon of fresh or a teaspoon of dried.

I'll borrow from Julia and Martha here, and suggest that you combine all ingredients in a screw-top jar. Shake. Measure 2-3 tablespoons over your salad, and refrigerate the rest. Much better than just about anything you can buy. And I promised...you may be surprised, but that WILL be enough dressing.

Enjoy and happy eating.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Yum: Who says healthy food can’t be yummy food? Part 1

Variety is the spice of life. But planning and routine are your best friends when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet.

I love variety in cooking, and I am passionate about enjoying a wide range of healthy foods. After all, the more interesting, colorful, and tasty you can make your meals, the more satisfied you will be with an adequate portion, and you’ll avoid overeating.

Still, for me, I’ve found that the best approach to healthy eating is to save variety for dinner, and to stick to one or two standard meals for breakfast and lunch. This takes the thinking out of meal preparation, and oftentimes during our busy days, that’s a nice feature. I’ll eat one or two things until I grow tired of them, and then I’ll come up with a new idea. (This also saves a ton of money at the store, because you can buy in bulk, rather than getting lots of different ingredients for 5 or 6 different meals.)

I’ve been eating two of my favorites for a while, and I thought I’d share with you. These are my takes on oatmeal and a salad packed with all kinds of protein.


Oh, you don’t think oatmeal and salad can be interesting AND healthy? Well, you’d be wrong. Well…maybe you aren’t completely wrong. Because there are LOTS of examples of these meals out there that don’t inspire rhapsody…I had a salad at a restaurant a couple of weeks ago that almost made me cry with boredom: romaine, some julienned peppers, orange wedges, some seared tuna (not terribly flavorful and the texture seemed like it may have been frozen) and a bland vinaigrette. There was nothing fabulous about it…no attention to flavor…no unifying ingredient that made all of these random foods mesh into one terrific eating experience. Okay…so maybe my standards are a little too high…but this mess tempted me to overeat about 5 minutes after I had finished. And I was full! But I was bored.

The key to making healthy food interesting is – you guessed it! – interesting ingredients! Do you love blueberries? Then put them in your plain yogurt, along with a little granola and a teensy bit of honey. Can’t get enough avocados? Try it on your hamburger, and you will NOT miss the mayo.

Here’s my take on oatmeal. I’ll post my salad in a day or two. Enjoy them just like I do, or use them as inspiration to try something new. Who says oatmeal has to come from a packet, and good salads can only be found at Panera?

Brooke’s Really Good and Deceptively Healthy Oatmeal.
My brother, Lee, thought this was just about the best oatmeal he’d ever tasted. Oatmeal is a terrific source of soluble fiber, which can aide in lowering cholesterol. Walnuts are a terrific source of protein and heart-healthy fats. Cinnamon regulates blood sugar. The Smart Balance spread lends some luxury to the dish, and adds a bit more healthy fat, which balances the dish and, along with the whole grain of the oatmeal, slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Cherries and sugar are just yummy, and adding the crunchy sugar on top is way more satisfying than adding lots of white or brown sugar and stirring it in. If you’re keeping track, the dish comes in at right about 350-400 calories.

1 cup water
½ cup old fashioned oats (substitute pin oats if you’d like and adjust the cooking time)
2 tablespoons dried cherries, roughly chopped (they’re pretty big, and this spreads them throughout the cereal without using too many)
2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
½ cinnamon
2 teaspoons turbinado sugar (Look for Sugar in the Raw)
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon Smart Balance spread
Skim milk to taste (I use between ¼ and ½ cup)

Combine water and cherries in a small saucepan over high heat; bring to a boil. Add oats; reduce heat to medium low and cook for five minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 2-5 minutes. Place in bowl and top with the remaining ingredients, nestling the spread in the middle to melt it. Serves one happy person.

Look for the salad next time.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wellness: The Great H2O Challenge

Don't believe Martha Stewart or Dr. Agatston when they say you don't need 8 glasses of water a day. Because you do. It aides in digestion and helps to rid your body of waste. It keeps your skin from drying out. Also, did you know that thirst often mimics the feeling of hunger? So when you're reaching for that snack, a bottle of water may be what your body really needs.

If you are anything like me, then you struggle to get it all in. Either you're drinking something else (party day on the boat, and rum punch seems like a good idea), your day gets away from you (crazy morning, you look at your watch, you've had nothing to drink since your coffee at 7:30am), or you're out and about, and the prospect of going to the bathroom 4 times an hour to get rid of all that water just doesn't appeal. I know and I totally get it. But for me, getting all that water is an absolute necessity.

Just over a year ago, while getting ready for a busy day, I had some of the most debilitating pain I've ever experienced. I had a kidney stone. And you know that old story about them being like childbirth? Totally true. (Except in this case, no cute anesthitest was standing by with a smile, offering to shoot pain medication into my spine.) I had several more attacks, spanning about six months, before I passed the wretched thing (I assume I passed it; it hasn't bothered me for sometime.)

If you have one of these, you will never, I repeat, NEVER neglect water consumption again.

Did you know that kidney stones are on the rise in children? And I'm not talking about that horrible instance of the melamine-in-the-baby-formula-in-China mess; I'm talking about right here, right now, in America. Pediatricians link the sharp rise of kidney stones in children to - you guessed - lack of water consumption, and way too much processed and fast food, which are both notoriously high in salt.

So why am I lecturing you on something that, if you have any sense, you already know? To make my blog longer, of course.

But seriously, I struggle with getting enough water, and I struggle with keeping track to make sure I get enough water. I had been trying to figure out how to remedy this, and I had decided to go buy 4 16 oz cute water bottles, fill them every morning, and when they were gone, I was done. Kind of like Deal a Meal. But then I saw a GREAT suggestion on Fine Living last nite (I sooo wish I could take credit.) Wear bangles, either 4 for 16 ounce servings, or 8 for 8 ounce servings. For every serving of water, move a bangle from one wrist to the other.

Not a bangle-wearer? Me neither. Doesn't really go with my Mommy Chic look I'm sporting most days. I use brown hair elastics. I don't know if they still exist, but those jelly bracelets that we use to wear would work, too (yes, I know they have "meaning" for teenagers. But I don't figure there's a lot of teenage readership in my audience...and if there is, hey, time to change the meaning.) Or, those "cause" bracelets would work...think Livestrong yellow. I'm sure you can find them in other colors.

So give it a try. And try to get that water in...and don't fool yourself if your drink of choice has caffeine, sugar, or alcohol. All of these substances are diuretics and DON'T COUNT.

Happy Drinking!

Monday, March 30, 2009

More About How This is Going to Work

This probably isn't necessary, but it's how I do things, so bear with me.

I tend to write about five main topics: food, God, wellness (fitness and balance), travel, and adventures in parenting. At first, I thought I'd divide these topics into separate blogs, but that seems like it would make things more complex than they need to be. So I've decided to post everything here, and to preface each post, so you know what you're getting into ahead of time.

Secondly, I have a lot of posts from my time on Myspace that I'd like to migrate to this blog, but I realize that some of you have already read that stuff, and I don't want you to get bored. To that end, I'll try and follow a format where I'll post new stuff twice a week and old stuff once a week. Look for the posts to be (mostly) on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. But I TOTALLY reserve the right to publish more :-). This week, for instance, I'll probably have more as I move my recent Key West series out here. (And this little post doesn't count.)

Hey - it's my world. I make the rules.

Happy Reading!


Friday, March 27, 2009

Attack of the Picky Two-Year Old

Once upon a time, two foodies met and fell in love. They celebrated milestones in fabulous restaurants and cooked together. They planned their modest wedding around a sumptuous reception and towering wedding cake. They journeyed to Paris for their honeymoon and ate their way around the City of Lights (they also walked a lot, too.) And through it all, they dreamed of the future, a future full of little foodie children that would grow up loving food like they did. These children would never eat canned vegetables or cowboy stew (don't ask.) They would love their veggies and foods prepared in all the ways of the world, because their fabulous parents would expose them to wonderful things. And of course, after all of this amazing (and balanced) eating, the Foodie family would go out and be active and fit and trim and fabulous, and they would be happy and have clear skin.

And then, Elliette Savannah was born.

Elliette is our beautiful, enchanting girl, now 2 1/2 years old. And guess what? She's not a foodie.

We know she's ours. Jeremiah saw them pull her out, and she has my dad's eyes and her dad's chin. She can be grumpy and stubborn, too - further evidence that she's ours. But where food is concerned, we have serious doubts.

It all began when she was a baby. Commensurate with the rosy picture that I had of motherhood and foodie parenthood, I planned to breastfeed. It was a bonafide disaster. Since I'm a buxom girl, Elle had a heck of a time latching on, and my milk production never increased. At her 2 week check up when she hadn't gained back to her birth weight, her pediatrician said we needed to supplement with formula. I didn't see the point in banging my head (or what have you) against a wall when I was formula-feeding anyway, so I discontinued breastfeeding. The problem was, Elle wasn't crazy about the formula, and never really took all that she needed. It wasn't until I introduced whole milk that she really started drinking milk well.

So, jump forward to table food. Again, we had fantasies that she would "eat just what we ate." Perhaps mashed up or blended, perhaps a little less seasoned - but table food. No dice. We ended up buying all of the premade baby food that I swore I would never buy.

We introduced her to our favorites. First on the list - peaches! She hated them.

Jump forward to present. Elle is a finicky two year old. I can count the vegetables that she'll eat on one hand: broccoli (surprisingly), corn, pureed cauliflower (think fake mashed potatoes), sweet potato fries (baked or fried), tomato sauce. For fruits, there are bananas, strawberries, blueberries, grapes. She'll lick an apple, but she won't eat it. I'm serious. But there are also unpredictabilities about her favorites...for instance, she won't often eat a favorite two days in a row. Surprisingly, she loves things you wouldn't expect - last nite, she ate marinated flank steak. She also loves sausage of ANY kind. I ask you, what picky kid do you know eats bratwurst?

We've had to lower our expectations. We've had to expand our patience. This little person is teaching us some good - and hard - life lessons.

On the up side, Elle is not a big fan of chicken fingers or nuggets, and french fries don't get a lot of attention, either. She does like pepperoni pizza, and I'm okay with that. Our rule of thumb: keep exposing her to different things, and don't freak out when she doesn't like something.
So, the next time you are tempted to judge a family who brings their two-year old's meal with them, remember what you've read here.

I'm off to make cheesy eggs and toast for a hungry little person.

POSTSCRIPT - I originally published this blog in July 2007. but it remains one of my favorites. Elle is a happy, healthy, picky, opinionated four-year old now. I don't know where she gets it.

Welcome to By The Brooke!

So...after thinking, and procrastinating and thinking and procrastinating some more...I've finally done it...I've finally started a real blog! If you read my material regularly, you'll likely find lots of interesting stuff about one of my favorite pastimes, cooking. BUT, you'll get a regular dose of information about travelling, fitness, and spriritual stuff, with a hearty helping of plain old opinion on...whatever. I'm starting with blogs that I've previously published on MySpace, the forum I used to cut my teeth on blogging, to see if I could really sustain an interest in it. Here we go. Wheeeeeee! Happy reading!