This is by far my favorite part of this blog…introducing you to other moms who talk about their experience with family meals. There is something so fascinating and inspiring about hearing about what people eat. This is a side note, but if like me, you are very interested in this topic, I strongly encourage you to check the work of Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio. They explore and document eating habits around the globe. I have had a a chance to read their earlier book called “What the world eats” and found it to be a true eye opener.
For our first interview, we meet with Penny. She’s an avid traveller and grows amazing succulents on her patio. She also is a true artist in the kitchen when it comes to create beautiful meals and if you take a look at her pictures, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I was simply blown away by the vibrancy and beauty of her dishes. When I asked what her secret was, she told me very matter of factly that “in Chinese cooking, a good dish requires three things. First, color. Second, smell. Third, taste.” I find very interesting that taste comes last but again, doesn’t enjoying a beautiful meal start with our eyes?
I’ve learned so much! Thanks Penny for being our first guest in this series and for sharing those beautiful dishes.
Hi Penny! Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a stay at home mom, live in Los Angeles and have one 4-year-old boy. I like to travel and eat good food.
How has juggling motherhood and meals been for you so far? Has the transition been easy or difficult?
For the first three years, most of the time, I cooked separate meals for my son and us. He didn’t eat meat, vegetables, pasta, etc. Most of the time, he only ate eggs, oatmeal, and yogurt. On top of those, I had to give him fruit pouches to make up for the vitamins he needed. When he was about three, he started eating more and more other foods. Now, he pretty much eats what we eat but he is very selective in eating vegetables and fresh fruits. I would say the transition is not easy.
Let’s break down meals and start with breakfast. What is it like at your house? Do you prepare breakfast for everyone? What does your family eat?
My husband goes to work early. He cook his breakfast. Mainly, it is eggs, yogurt, and cheese, occasionally, some bread. I cook for our son and myself.
There are 3 main things on our breakfast menu: Eggs+ Oatmeal+Yogurt, Eggs+pancake+Yogurt, Eggs+bread+yogurt.
Then we choose what we add: different type of nuts, raisins, avocado, butter, peanut butter.
We drink water.
How about lunch? What does your son like to find in his lunchbox? How about your lunch?
For my son’s lunch during school day, I prepare either a sandwich (eggs and avocado or peanut butter), pasta with olive oil and balsamic vinegar or a panini with mozzarella cheese. I add a fruit pouch and some water.
For my own lunch, I have either noodles, rice, pasta and lots of vegetables (green lettuce type, organic celery, daikon, organic peppers, zucchini, or tomatoes, etc…). For the protein, I have either eggs, shrimp or tofu (whatever I have in the refrigerator). Sometimes I’ll also have sandwich (peanut butter or avocado)
What’s the dinner situation? When do you start preparing it? Does everyone eat the same food?
I prepare dinner from 5.30 to 6.00pm. Everyone eats the same food and we usually eat together around 6.30 -7.oo pm or later.
I’m seriously impressed that you can prepare so beautiful dishes in so little time! When it comes to meal planning, how do you get organized? Do you have a set of recipes that you repeat every week? Do you improvise with what you have? Where do you look for recipes?
We always shop for certain foods. For protein, we have meat (beef, chicken, pork) and fish (salmon, cod, tilapia) and different kinds of cheese.
For vegetables: green lettuce type, avocado, organic celery, kabocha, organic peppers, zucchini, onion, organic carrots or tomatoes, etc…
For grains: rice, pasta, whole wheat (pita) bread and couscous.For grains: rice, pasta, whole wheat (pita) bread and couscous.
I have no recipes involved for daily cooking. I always improvise and use whatever I have.
I like that! How often do you go grocery shopping in a given week? Where do you go shopping?
I go 2-3 times a week. I shop at Trader Joe’s, Ralphs or Target
Once a month I do a special shopping in asian stores: Marukai (Japanese store) and 99 Ranch (Chinese store)
What is your weekly budget on groceries? How often do you eat out?
Our budget is about $150 to $200 per week. We eat out 1-2 times per month.
Do you have any tips that you would like to share? Do you have any foolproof kid friendly recipes? Do you have any rules or rituals when it comes to family meals?
Improvise your meal! For example: use pita bread to make mini pizza and put whatever toppings you like on it.
Our ritual is no highly processed food or frozen quick meals.
What is in your fridge right now? Can you give us a peak?
10. Bell peppers
12. Ground beef
Can you share your ten must have items that you always have in your fridge or your pantry
And finally, can you share some of your favorite recipes that your family loves?
1. Caprese salad (tomato, basil, mozzarella cheese drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar)
2. Ceviche (chopped onion, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, celery mixed with olive oil, fresh lime or lemon juice, basil, cilantro)
3. Seasoning salt baked on any type of meat (pork, ribs or chicken)
4. Couscous with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Thanks Penny! I really enjoyed reading about your routine. And those pictures really look amazing…