Friday, August 21, 2009

Not Quite a Foodie

By Jennifer Haymore

(Today we welcome PensFatales friend Jennifer Haymore, author of A Hint of Wicked as well as Highland Obsession, written as Dawn Halliday. Jennifer's giving away a copy of A Hint of Wicked - be sure to post a comment for a chance to win!)

As much as I dream about being a food connoisseur, I am not a foodie. I have friends who grind their own wheat. I have other friends who can whip up a gourmet kid-friendly meal sans cookbook for their own family and ten guests without batting an eyelash. Some of my friends can taste the subtlest difference in a flavor of wine (and I know so little about wine, I cannot even say what kind of wine they can spot the differences in…).
Yes, I’m jealous. I wish I was at one with the universe of truly good food and drink. But frankly, give me a piece of bread and a slab of cheese, and I’m good. Add some avocado, and I’m in gourmet heaven.
Perhaps I should blame my parents. Not only were they vegetarians, but when I was growing up, my mom believed popcorn with a dash of Brewer’s yeast made a good dinner. Oh, she had her moments. We baked a few cakes in my forming years, and when she was feeling really ambitious, we’d make a loaf of bread. And we made cookies often. Still do, in fact. Sugar cookies with frosting. My kids have grown to equate their grandma to that kind of cookie. Result: I can bake a damn good cookie, but an actual meal? Uh…
I’ve sort of given up on my desire to be a gourmet. For now, I’m sticking with the labels “mom” and “writer.” Frankly, the last time I tried to cook something spectacular (a Moroccan lemon chicken dish with quinoa), it took an hour or two, and the result: I loved it, my husband thought it was okay, my kids thought it was spectacularly gross. So for now, while I try to meet my writing deadlines, I am keeping my focus on simple but healthy, easy meals that won’t result in whining children. Lots of fruit. As many veggies as I can get away with. And straightforward, easy-to-cook main dishes that everyone will eat.
But I’m always looking for new options. Our limited meal list does get old after a while, you know? What are some of your simple favorites?
Jennifer Haymore grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii, where she surfed, learned how to fly airplanes, raced bicycles, and developed a love for sailing. She was an avid reader and completely destroyed her eyesight by sneaking a flashlight under her covers and reading far into the nights — making her mother wonder why on earth she couldn’t get up for school in the mornings…
You can find Jennifer in Southern California trying to talk her husband into yet another trip to England, helping her three children with homework while brainstorming a new five-minute dinner menu, or crouched in a corner of the local bookstore writing her next novel.


Hard Boiled Mysti said...

Hi Jennifer!

Maybe it's a Big Island thing -- my mom was born there, and her interest in cooking food was quite perfunctory. I do love spicy food and rich flavors, but would much rather pay someone to do it right rather than spend all that time trying to learn to do it myself.

That said, we do have a few shortcuts at home -- marinading chicken breasts (make the marinade as simple as you like!), then baking them, a bit of pasta on the side (with a dash of Ken's Asian if you aren't in a Ragu mood), steaming up some veggies -- a dash of soy sauce makes everything taste better! We have to be careful with the salt-based sauces for health reasons, but we're now completely weaned off mac-n-cheese and Hamburger Helper (for health, not snooty reasons!)...

Garlic makes nearly everything taste better, and since it gives my husband a chance to play with knives, the whole thing works out.

But Southern California has a lot of not-too-expensive restaurants with lots of flavor, doesn't it? That whole Zone 0 area was rich with them in the 1990s, anyway. I hardly ever cooked the two years I lived in L.A. And not because I lived a mile or two away from Pinks :)

When I was single I could write a lot. Now married, it seems like something has to give to make time, and cooking/cleaning are the most frequent victim :)

L.G.C. Smith said...

Hi Jennifer, nice to meet you, and thanks for being our guest this week.

You asked for suggestions, so here goes. This is a really simple dinner, and despite the presence of green things, my 3 year-old niece will eat it. She makes a point to loudly object to the green things, but then she eats them anyway.

Quick Chicken and Green Stuff

In a frying pan, saute a medium diced onion in a little olive oil until soft. Add a clove of minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Push the onion to the side and turn up the heat. In the same pan, saute a pound of ground chicken or turkey. Or more. Quantities are flexible. Cook until the chicken isn't pink anymore.

Dump a bag of semi-thawed frozen spinach onto doubled paper towels and blot out the excess moisture. Put the spinach in the pan and stir into the cooked chicken. Mix everything well and heat through. Add salt to taste. If you want a gourmet touch, grate in a little fresh nutmeg. Serve over pasta or rice.

Lisa Hughey said...


Super easy recipe: marinate chicken breasts in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt & pepper for a few hours (equal parts oil/vinegar), remove from marinade, sprinkle with Herbs de Provence and grill or broil, at very end lay a slice of gorgonzola on top and melt. (leave cheese off for kids) it's heavenly and easy and tastes fabulous!

Scienceprincess said...

An easy and simple recipe for you:

cook zucchini and onion with olive oil until it suits your taste (we use 2-3 zucchini and one onion)
brown a pound of ground beef
make whole wheat pasta
mix pasta sauce into zucchini and add ground beef
It makes a tasty pasta dish -- simple and tasty.


Martha Flynn said...

Poach a chicken and chill it.
Serve with avocado/mango puree and some salt.

Jennifer Haymore said...

Oh my gosh! You guys are amazing!

It might be partially the Big Island, but I think it has a lot to do with the fact I was raised by a family of uninventive vegetarians! LOL. Steamed veggies and brown rice made up our meals 99% of the time. The other 1% was pasta dishes.

My kids like chicken, though, and I'm always looking for chicken recipes that don't make the chicken taste like rubber, so these are awesome. The flavor is seeping out of these recipes already, lol. I can't wait to try them!

Having been raised as a vegetarian, ground meat still kind of freaks me out, but I'm desperate for a change and so willing to try! Wish me luck. :)

Rachael Herron said...

Asparagus: drizzle with balsamic and oil and salt and pepper, cook at 400 for 10 minutes on foil-lined cookie sheet -- PERFECT. Crispy and just perfect. Yum. :)

kerribookwriter said...

You are too funny, Jen!

Well, my kids are so lucky but they don't even know it. Both my husband and I like to cook. Although, he ends up doing most of it and I'm the baker (breads, desserts, etc..). Of course, do the little mouths appreciate this? No! They'd rather have PB&J or cinnamon toast for dinner! LOL

Here's something simple and it sounds odd but it is totally easy and I think it is delish!

Take some boneless, skinless chicken breast strips and throw them in a crock pot. Drown them in a full bottle of store bought Italian Salad dressing. You can simmer on low all day or cook on high for about 4 hours. When you are ready to eat, just cook up a pot of white rice and serve the chicken (and sauce) over the rice. It serves well with English peas (from the can) and/or a salad.

It is beyond easy and everyone in my family loves it. If you don't tell people that it is salad dressing...they'll never know. The taste is delish!

robynl said...

we love this:
1 small bottle Catalina salad dressing
1 package Onion soup mix
1 can Cranberry sauce
4-5 Chicken breasts (I cook more than just browning)

Mix the first 3 ingredients together and put in a greased casserole dish. Brown chicken breasts on both sides and add to the sauce. Cover casserole and put in 350 oven for 40 minutes or so. Enjoy.

Annie said...

My favorites: noodles and cottage cheese (extra broad egg noodles/dumplings + 6 tbs butter or margarine and 1 pint of cottage cheese). Cook noodles and drain, toss with butter until melted, then add cottage cheese and reheat over low heat, stirring frequently. Yum! The ultimate comfort food.

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