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tammylc

eG Foodblog: tammylc - (and Liam)

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I'm Tammy.

This is Liam:

P3270011-vi.jpg

Some of you may remember my foodblog from October of 2003, when I was pregnant with Liam and eating every 2 hours to stave off morning sickness. Well, the little guy's not only been born (April 26, 2004), but is eating food of his own now, so it seemed like it would be a good time to blog again.

I know my teaser said "babyfood blog" but that will just be a small part of the week's activity. I will be blogging his meals as well as my own, but I'm taking advantage of my week of foodblogging to do some other fun stuff too. I don't do much cooking these days because I live in a cohousing community where we eat meals with our neighbors several nights a week. (I'll be posting more about that in just a little bit.) But I do make most of Liam's baby food myself, since it's cheaper and better tasting than the jarred stuff and I try to cook organic for him as much as possible. I'll share a recipe for baby food that - mixed with a little salt and lots of lemon juice - would make a lovely dip for pita chips. :-) Later in the week I'll be attending a cheese tasting at Zingerman's, a pretty famous deli/specialty foods store here in Ann Arbor, MI. And we'll seek answers to my weekly challenge of finding a restaurant that can accomodate 8 to 10 adults and an equal number of babies, most of whom need high chairs.

Liam started his day off with his favorite beverage - mama's milk, straight from the tap. I work 3 days a week and on those days (Monday-Wednesday) it can be a challenge to get out the door and to daycare and work on time. So Liam goes in his high chair and I give him some finger foods to snack on while I get his bottles and lunch food ready. We're pretty much creatures of habit at breakfast time, so today's breakfast was mostly the same as yesterday's - half a banana, half a piece of wheat toast, and 2 ounces of plain organic whole milk yogurt. He starts with the banana and toast, and then when I sit down to eat my breakfast I feed him the yogurt - he's not so good with spoons yet! But he ate really quickly today and I needed time to finish this post, so added a special bonus to his breakfast - Cheerios! (Well, Purely O's, the organic equivalent). Breakfast for me today is a bowl of frosted mini wheats with skim milk, which I'm eating while I'm posting this. Now it's off to work - I'll be back in a little while, looking for your advice on what I should cook for 30 or 40 of my neighbors on Sunday night.

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Really looking forward to your blog, Tammy. Childcare and blogging all at once? Talk about busy...

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So in my intro post I mentioned that I live in a cohousing community. Cohousing is a form of intentional community that combines private homes with lots of common spaces. We've been living here for about a year and a half now. One of the greatest things about cohousing is common meals, which are optional shared meals offered 5 nights a week (Sunday through Thursday). Teams of community members take turns cooking, and teams include a head cook and two assistants. The head cook does the menu planning and shopping, and the assistants just show up on the day of the meal to help. Menus are posted at least a few days in advance, and people sign up if they want to attend. Meal costs are split between everyone who signed up, and you get a bill at the end of the month. A typical month for me and my husband costs around $150.

Average attendance at meals is around 30-40 people, including children, teens and adults. Attendance varies based on the menu, the cook, and the day of the week. For the most part the cooks are good - some very good - but there are some who aren't especially inspired. Last night's meal of rice with broccoli, chicken and cheese was perfectly adequate from a nutritional perspective, but lacking a certain pizazz, for example... There's almost always a vegetarian option, and vegetarian meals are not uncommon. Organic produce and natural meats are encouraged, while at the same time there's pressure to keep meal costs low - a typical meal costs between $3-$6 per person, and people (especially familes) will start to complain or avoid certain cooks if they tend toward the higher end.

I've been cooking at least twice a month since our meal program started last year, and I've documented most of my meals here on eGullet. My meals tend to be very well attended and I've received lots of compliments on my cooking, so it's a very rewarding job! My next shift is this upcoming Sunday, and I'm feeling bad because I haven't posted my menu yet. But I thought I'd wait and solicit some suggestions from my foodblog readers. Left to my own devices, I'll probably do a variation of the Middle Eastern meal I describe in this post, but I'm interested in your suggestions and ideas for something else. I need to decide by the end of today so I can post my menu this evening.

So eGulleteers - what would you like to see me cook?

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Hi Tammy, thanks for blogging! Liam is adorable.

With regard to your big meal this weekend, perhaps you could incorporate ham into it as it is shortly after Easter you may be able to get a good deal from your butcher. Just a thought cost-wise.

Looking forward to your blog!

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How about Vietnamese spring rolls? You set out rice paper rounds and bowls of hot water (to soften them) and then guests get to decide what they'd like inside, choosing from rice noodles/vermicelli (cold, so you can cook them ahead of time), lots of different sorts of greens and vegetables (you can use both familiar and unfamiliar items), and various meats. Different sorts dipping sauces as well.

Fun, economical (because there's relatively little meat involved, and it's easily left out for vegetarians), and healthy.

For dessert, I'd tend to do something with a lot of dairy (assuming no vegans in the crowd) to get protein into the meal for the vegetarians.

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Hey Tammy!

Good to see a local mom! We're in Toledo, but are likely moving back to Ann Arbor (we moved away 5 years ago) as soon as we sell our house here. Are there multiple co-housing communities in Ann Arbor? I know a few people that live in one, and was wondering if it was indeed the same place...

Do you use a cookbook for the baby food? I relied on Super Baby Food quite a bit when Dylie was eating smooshed stuff - it was great. Regarding Sunday's meal, maybe some sort of Indian curry with flatbreads? I think that would go a long way, and with some very economical ingredients.

Where do you shop? I'm assuming Whole Foods is a bit pricy given the Co-Housing requirements, as is Zingerman's, of course. Do you shop at the Food Co-Op?

Welcome! I'm looking forward to this blog.

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That's an interesting suggestion about the spring rolls, Therese. I'm going to ponder that further - it's got a lot of potential. I'm thinking BBQ pork for the meat eaters and tofu for the veggies, along with all the other fillings. A nice spicy peanut sauce, for sure (I just made one for a Thai meal last week - easy and wonderful).

I usually like to serve family style meals rather than buffet - families in particular prefer sitting down and being able to serve at the table, rather than having to wait in a line and juggle food for multiple kids. But that said, "assemble your own..." meals are popular and lend themselves more to a buffet format. I made tortilla soup last month and it was incredibly popular - people liked being able to doctor their own soup with all the different garnishes.

Letting people soften their own rice paper rolls would take to long, I think - could they be soaked in advance?

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Danielle, there are two operating cohousing communities in Ann Arbor, plus one under construction. I live in Great Oak. Sunward is the original community and has been up and running for about 6 years.

I use the Super Baby Food book a little bit, and got some recipes from another book from a friend.

Re. economic concerns about meal planning - I appreciate you guys having my pocketbook in mind, but you'd be surprised how cheap it can be to feed this many people - the economies of scale are impressive. So don't necessarily restrict your ideas based on what's the cheapest. I typically can pull off an entirely organic meal for under $5/person. Some of the things I've done in the past include jambalaya, roast pork loin, pasta with italian sausage, ham and stuffed squash, moroccan stews, etc. Obviously I'm not going to do steak for everyone - I tend to treat meat as a condiment rather than the centerpiece - but *interesting* and good is my number one criteria for meal planning, and then I figure out how to make it work with my budget.

I mostly shop at Arbor Farms, which is a local natural foods supermarket. Think Whole Foods but cheaper. They often have organic produce for the same or less money than conventional equivalents. I'll splurge on selected items from Zingerman's, like good bread.

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Letting people soften their own rice paper rolls would take to long, I think - could they be soaked in advance?

Only briefly in advance. I don't think a "make your own" bar would work for Vietnamese Summer Rolls, mostly because they take practice to make without tearing the rice paper. However, they can be made a couple hours in advance and are incredibly inexpensive to make. Once all the ingredients are assembled, there could be an assembly line of the head cook & assistants to get them all done quickly. This is also a great item to use up leftover bits of meat, if there is anything leftover from a previous meal. Make a variety - they'd all have the noodles, herbs, pickled vegetables, the variety would come with the filling. If you have some leftover meats, some with grilled vegetables, and maybe grill some pork or chicken breasts for most the them.

Serve with pho soup and you've got a nice meal. Here's a link to my pictoral on making Summer Rolls.

Edit: The links aren't working in that linked post, the recipes were mostly adapted from Hot Salty Sour Sweet by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, or PM me for them.

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Hi Tammy,

Im reading with interest too because even though I live in Canada, I do spend a lot of time in Ann Arbor. I have friends that live in Chelsea and make the pilgramage out about 1x a month to eat at Zingerman's( of course). ( I saw that cheese tasting in the newsletter, but the timing was all wrong, as I'll be out there in 2 weeks. )

I also adore the Whole Foods and Trader Joe's( although I really miss my TJ's in Cali).

I've made those spring rolls many, many times. I usually make them in advance myself because I found I had to use very hot water in order to soften them.

I'm cooking a lunch for my partner's meeting on Friday and I decided to do a large taco salad. I'll present the plates with a bed of chopped lettuce and I'll let everyone assemble their own. I'm going to use ground turkey, roasted corn, black beans, chopped cucumber and red peppers, scallions, salsa, sour cream and avocado. Oh and of course taco chips. Hopefully, this will go over well.

Looking forward to reading more of your blog.........

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Danielle, there are two operating cohousing communities in Ann Arbor, plus one under construction.  I live in Great Oak.  Sunward is the original community and has been up and running for about 6 years.

I mostly shop at Arbor Farms, which is a local natural foods supermarket.  Think Whole Foods but cheaper.  They often have organic produce for the same or less money than conventional equivalents.  I'll splurge on selected items from Zingerman's, like good bread.

I think the people I know are in Sunward - that sounds familiar!

I had forgotten about Arbor Farms - I like that place. Good to know that the produce there is economical - we've moved to mostly organic at our house, so I am always searching for low-cost organic produce, and we already do most of our food shopping in Ann Arbor.

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Rachel - thanks for the link and the tips - I haven't had a chance to look yet, but I will this afternoon.

Danielle - Arbor Farms is even better now that they've moved a block down and taken over what was once a Farmer Jack. Much larger and much better selection than in their tiny old space, and it just gets better every time I visit.

Since calipoutine has mentioned Canada, I'll use that as an excuse to talk about my little mid morning snack, which was a bag of Kernel's Double Butter Popcorn. I'm originally from Canada and we went back this weekend to visit family for Easter. Kernel's is a gourmet popcorn shop that is a mall standby in Canada. I worked there back when I was a teenager, 15 years or so ago, and it's one of the foods of home that I always try to pick up when I visit. I ate my dill pickle popcorn while I was still over there, but we brought a big bag of Double Butter back with us and I've been bringing a bit of it to work each day this week as a little snack. (Double Butter is their name for a caramel corn made with all white sugar.) Mmm, mmm good. I've also stolen a couple of chocolates from the dish my coworker keeps by her doorway. I'm usually a chocolate snob, but Hershey's Special Dark is acceptable in a pinch, and the Hershey's milk chocolate nuggets with toffee and almonds is one of the few forms of milk chocolate I'll bother with. But it's all about the toffee, not the chocolate.

But I finished those snacks a couple of hours ago, and I'm getting peckish for lunch, so I'm going to go off to Zingerman's Bakehouse to pick something up. Back in a little bit.

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That's an interesting suggestion about the spring rolls, Therese.  I'm going to ponder that further - it's got a lot of potential.  I'm thinking BBQ pork for the meat eaters and tofu for the veggies, along with all the other fillings.  A nice spicy peanut sauce, for sure (I just made one for a Thai meal last week - easy and wonderful).

I usually like to serve family style meals rather than buffet - families in particular prefer sitting down and being able to serve at the table, rather than having to wait in a line and juggle food for multiple kids.  But that said, "assemble your own..." meals are popular and lend themselves more to a buffet format.  I made tortilla soup last month and it was incredibly popular - people liked being able to doctor their own soup with all the different garnishes.

Letting people soften their own rice paper rolls would take to long, I think - could they be soaked in advance?

I wouldn't soak them in advance, as they just get all floppy and tear, and I definitely wouldn't do it buffet style (I dislike buffets in general, and when kids are involved it's just not fun). It does work to have multiples of everything (including stacks of rice paper rounds and bowls of hot water) on the table, though. Maybe we use a particularly flimsy sort of rice paper, because I don't find that it takes very long to soften them, nor that it requires particularly hot water. For the inexperienced it helps to use two papers at a time, less likely to tear. They needn't be perfect little rolls, as everybody gets his/her own condiments for dipping (hoisin-type sauce with peanuts and fish sauce both nice).

[edit to add that my kids manage to make their own rolls, and have been doing so for several years]


Edited by therese (log)

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Lunch from Zingerman's Bakehouse: a calzone with pepperoni, portabello mushrooms, provolone and sicilian tomato sauce with anchovies. And an Odwalla Mango Tango fruit smoothie. I picked up a bag of Zapp's potato chips for later - Cajun Dill Gator-Tators to be precise.

The Bakehouse is located in an industrial park not far from where I work. It's where they make all the bread for all the different Zingerman's locations and other stores that sell their bread. But they have a little retail outlet with lunch food at a much more reasonable price than sandwiches at the deli, so it's a frequent stop. I took some pictures while I was there, so I'll write more about the Bakehouse and the entire Zingerman's Company of Businesses later tonight, when I can jazz things up with pictures.

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Okay, back to the matter at hand - Sunday's dinner. We've got a suggestion for summer rolls on the table... As much as I like the idea of letting people customize, for simplicity's sake I think I'd do as Rachel suggested and make up a variety in advance. Seems like it would be a pretty laid back prep - a bunch of time chopping, a little bit of time making sauces, and then some assembly.

I haven't talked about the timing for common meal. As I mentioned earlier, there's a head cook and two assistants. The assistants start at 4 pm the day of the meal, and dinner is served at 6:15. Depending on who's assisting, you might be able to make arrangements to have them start earlier, but usually if I need more time I just start earlier myself. Which makes doing long cooking meals less appealing. My Beef Burgundy was a huge hit, but I was alone browning beef chunks and chopping vegetables at 2 pm to allow enough time for the stew to stew...

But summer rolls sound like they'd lend themselves to the timeline alright. Are there any other suggestions? My original inclination was to repeat my Middle Eastern meal as referenced in the other post - hummus, tabouli, falafel, maybe lamb kabobs instead of chicken - but I like trying new things too.

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Great blog, Tammy! I'm looking forward to all those baby food recipes, please do post some pictures of Liam's meals! :smile:

My almost-14-month-old is such a picky eater, am always looking for new ways to get her interested in eating.

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Well, the little guy's not only been born (April 26, 2004),

Hey! That's my birthday! (well, not 2004 obviously. A couple of decades ago.. :biggrin: )

I'm always impressed by your posts about the dinner for 40. Looking forward to your week in blogland!

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But summer rolls sound like they'd lend themselves to the timeline alright.  Are there any other suggestions?

In keeping with the Vietnamese theme...I made pates chauds for the Spawn's French class last week. They were a big hit and they were very easy to make. I used the recipe found here: click

After looking at that link again, Vietnamese sandwiches would be nice too but they might be better as a summer meal since they're served cold.

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Okay, back to the matter at hand - Sunday's dinner.  We've got a suggestion for summer rolls on the table... As much as I like the idea of letting people customize, for simplicity's sake I think I'd do as Rachel suggested and make up a variety in advance.  Seems like it would be a pretty laid back prep - a bunch of time chopping, a little bit of time making sauces, and then some assembly. 

I haven't talked about the timing for common meal.  As I mentioned earlier, there's a head cook and two assistants.  The assistants start at 4 pm the day of the meal, and dinner is served at 6:15.  Depending on who's assisting, you might be able to make arrangements to have them start earlier, but usually if I need more time I just start earlier myself.  Which makes doing long cooking meals less appealing.  My Beef Burgundy was a huge hit, but I was alone browning beef chunks and chopping vegetables at 2 pm to allow enough time for the stew to stew...

But summer rolls sound like they'd lend themselves to the timeline alright.  Are there any other suggestions?  My original inclination was to repeat my Middle Eastern meal as referenced in the other post - hummus, tabouli, falafel, maybe lamb kabobs instead of chicken - but I like trying new things too.

Babaghannouj?

If you're willing to go Greek, there's also Greek salad and taramosalata (sp).

Soba

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Shanta - thanks for reminding me! I posted about my lunch, but not about Liam's!

Who knows what he actually ate, but what I sent for him was a 1/2 cup portion of a beef/tomato/potato stew that he really likes, a 1/2 cup of organic unsweetened applesauce, and a cube of pureed carrots.

A "cube," you say?

Well, as I said earlier, I make most of his food myself, when he's not eating table food, that is. I just blend things in my food processor, freeze them in ice cube trays, and pop the cubes out into a freezer bag for easy portioning later. One cube equals about one ounce of food. The beef stew I froze in larger 4 oz containers, since it's a good portion for lunch or dinner, and I was making a BIG recipe of it up and didn't want to deal with a million cubes.

We're getting a little short on cubes in the freezer, so I'm planning to go shopping and make up some more after he goes to bed tonight. At least, that's the plan.

Liam also gets expressed breastmilk in bottles at daycare, although over the last month he's dropped his consumption from about 13 ounces a day to 8 or less. Yesterday he only drank 4 ounces! I think what's happening is that - in addition to eating more solid food - he's just starting to walk and doesn't want to take the time to drink out of a bottle. But he's always happy to nurse - cuddle time with mom is worth taking a break for, I guess.

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Hey Tammy, what kind of a kitchen do you have to work with? Your community sounds interesting. :smile:

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But summer rolls sound like they'd lend themselves to the timeline alright.  Are there any other suggestions?

In keeping with the Vietnamese theme...I made pates chauds for the Spawn's French class last week. They were a big hit and they were very easy to make. I used the recipe found here: click

After looking at that link again, Vietnamese sandwiches would be nice too but they might be better as a summer meal since they're served cold.

Thanks for the link - I took a quick look but will investigate further later. It's the first week of spring here in Michigan, so warm weather food feels somehow appropriate!

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Soba - I loooove taramosalata. Yum. Baba Gannoush, not so much. But I'm not just cooking for me, and I have thought about it.

People like the falafel I made for that meal, but they were a lot of work and the part I'd least like to repeat. But I'm not sure people would consider just the hummus, etc as enough of a meal...

bleudauvergne - The common house kitchen is basically a slightly souped up home kitchen. I'll post pictures of it some day this week. We've got a six burner gas stove (but the burners are too close together to accomodate the big pots you need to cook for this many) and two electric wall ovens. One standard household size refrigerator, since food is generally purchased only a day or two in advance and isn't stored. A commercial Hobart dishwasher and two compartment stainless steel sink with sprayer. Lots of counter space for multiple people to work at. Not enough storage space (our planned pantry space got taken over by unexpected fire suppression infrastructure required by code).

I've use my range in my home twice, once when I planned too many things that needed to be cooked in the oven, and another time when I was assistant cooking for someone who'd planned too many things to cook on top of the stove. Or more accurately, didn't take into account how long it would take to fry slices of 10 eggplants...

There is a smallish household food processor, but it's not very good and I usually bring my food processor over if I need one. We're talking about buying a commercial size one, but it's not in the budget for this year. We've got two Kitchen Aid stand mixers. There are a variety of pretty good knives, although they don't get sharpened enough and I often bring my Global, just because I like it so much. I try to bring over my Chef's Choice Sharpener at least once a month. We've got a restaurant size rice cooker. And a whole lot of big pots.

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You could very easily build a meal on mezes alone:

Taramosalata (people might not like fish roe)

Hummus (you can offer more than one type, olive hummus or roasted red pepper hummus in addition to plain hummus)

Babaghannouj

Skordalia

and toasted pita triangles

then Greek salad, tabouleh, parsley salad

and either a mixed grill or lamb/chicken skewers, maybe some lemon potatoes.

Toss in some store-bought baklava or fresh fruit and you're set.

Soba

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People like the falafel I made for that meal, but they were a lot of work and the part I'd least like to repeat.

Did you fry the falafel or bake them in the mini-muffin tins, like we discussed in the Dinner for 40 thread? If in the mini-muffin tins, how did you put the batter in the tins? If you were using a spoon or two spoons and it made a mess, a better idea is to get a small disher (like an ice cream scoop). I use one that is about 1 inch in diameter, makes perfect little falafel balls and no mess on the muffin tray.

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      Recently, there was a thread about stir frying over charcoal, which immediately brought to mind memories of eating in Bangkok in July 2013.  At that time, I hadn't gotten into the habit of writing food blogs, and considering that I had some spare time this weekend (a rarity) I figured I would put some of those memories down on paper, so to speak.  Back then, neither my wife nor I were in the habit of taking tons of photos like we do nowadays, but I think I can cobble something together that would be interesting to folks reading it.
       
      In the spirit of memories, I'll first go back to 2006 when my wife and I took our honeymoon to Thailand (Krabi, Bangkok and Chiang Mai), Singapore and Hanoi.  That was our first time to Asia, and to be honest, I was a little nervous about it.  I was worried the language barrier would be too difficult to transcend, or that we'd have no idea where we were going.  So, to help mitigate my slight anxiety, I decided to book some guides for a few of the locations.  Our guides were great, but we realized that they really aren't necessary, and nowadays with internet access so much more prevalent, even less necessary.
       
      Prior to the trip, when emailing with our guide in Bangkok to finalize plans, I mentioned that we wanted to be continuously eating (local food, I thought was implied!)  When we got there, I realized the misunderstanding when she opened her trunk to show us many bags of chips and other snack foods.. whoops...  Anyway, once the misconception was cleared up, she took us to a noodle soup vendor:


      On the right is our guide, Tong, who is now a very famous and highly sought after guide in BKK.... at the time, we were among here first customers.  I had a chicken broth based noodle soup with fish ball, fish cake and pork meatball, and my wife had yen ta fo, which is odd because it is bright pink with seafood.  I have a lime juice, and my wife had a longan juice.
       
      This is what a lot of local food places look like:

       
       
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