Reboot? The Mom Food Project takes some new directions

News and updates from MomFoodLand.

I’m finding that my MomFood efforts have turned a bit of a corner since I got out of school and The Kid became an adult. First of all, I’ve already made most of my personal momfoods for the blog. Just did chopped liver, for instance. It’s one of my favorite foods of childhood, and one I hadn’t gotten right until now. It’s also one of the only things I missed when I was a vegetarian (the other thing was shellfish). I’m running out of my momfoods!

Food dates with the kid

Enter The Kid. She has always appreciated that I cook and serve her own personal Mom Foods, many of which are things I grew up on. Lately, though, she and I have started doing a Sunday cook-together date, and it’s really great. She picks the food she wants us to make, and finds us a recipe to follow. I shop on Friday night or Saturday (with her if she wants to go) and we cook on Sunday. One time, we made okonomiyaki. The kid REALLY likes Japanese food and culture.

I didn’t think to photograph our most recent effort until we were packing up the leftovers, but we made the korokke recipe from JapanCentre (SO delicious) and some cucumber salad. (The dressing for the salad is just rice vinegar, water, and a ton of both sugar and salt — all to taste.)

Japanese korokke

cucumber salad

She wants to start cooking foods from different cultures, and I am 100% down with that. I had recently started a YouTube playlist about that very thing, using the State Department’s list of countries as inspiration. I also found a free e-cookbook of 64 national dishes from around the world. This is going to be FUN.

The MomFood Delivery Service

Sundays are also the day I have started cooking and delivering dinner to my mom’s, so that she and my uncle can skip meal prep for a day or three (depending on how fast they eat it up). This blog started out being about the foods my mom cooked for me, but it’s come full circle, and now I cook my little heart out on Sundays trying to make foods she’ll love and eat, and that my uncle won’t turn his nose up at. He’s a total traditionalist, so dishes so far have been of the meat-and-starch variety: fish and chips, grilled chicken and mashed potatoes, etc.

Again, I’m bad with photos lately, but the crowning glory of this week’s meal was a gorgeous and fiddly (but I like fiddly sometimes) potato dish from Sarah Carey’s Everyday Food YouTube Channel. I got a great deal on a new mandoline and only cut myself once. I call that a win. I also roasted a huge rib-eye roast, which was a big hit. Here’s the video about making the potatoes.

Here’s my version, badly lit — it’s really just a photo I asked the kid to take while she was downstairs and text to me so I could see if it was time for it to come out yet (it wasn’t).

roasted potatoes

Getting out of our food rut

Doing all this cooking has made me want to make my own dinner table a little more exciting. We’re in a rut, food-wise. Part of that is due to my dietary guidelines, but part is just that we’ve been busy and falling back on old standards during my exceptionally busy summer.

In order to combat this, I’ve been setting aside some time every day to read the stash of food magazines that builds up around here; they’re castoffs from my uncle, and while I wouldn’t spend all that money on them, I love love love reading them. I asked James to brainstorm with me about the best way to actually use them as a resource. I could just read them for fun and vague ideas for things, as I have always done, but I wanted to actually make some of the best things in the magazines happen in our house, so we can stop eating the same thing all the time. I thought about scanning in the pages I liked best and making a PDF “cookbook” for myself. I thought about going back to my roots and making a binder like I had in cooking school, full of plastic sheet protectors, keeping pages in there for inspiration, and cooking from that like a cookbook.

But James had a better, funner idea. And don’t tell me “funner” isn’t a word. When I find a recipe that looks great, that looks like we’ll both like it, I’ll tear it out and put it into an envelope. On Fridays, I’ll pull out an envelope at random and add the ingredients to my shopping list, so I can make the dish on Saturday. This way, I don’t add an extra trip, and I don’t try to cook yet another dish on Sunday when I’m doing both the kid thing and the mom thing. Cool, right?

Anyway, I’m cooking a lot and posting almost not at all, and I plan for that to change, but because of server changes, my lack of design skills, and my love of shaking things up, that may mean a reboot of the site. I’m going to consult with my tech team (translation: post to Twitter and ask for advice) and start working on a new look and feel for this site.

This blog has always been a labor of love, and continues to be, though I’ve been neglecting it. It’s also always been ad-free, and will continue to be. I may put up a store in the future, but will never accept ads.

Anyway, that’s all the update I have for you this week. Hope to be coming at you a lot more often from now on.

And if you want to make me super-happy? Tell me in comments what awesome things you’ve been cooking for your family, or wanting to try.

Bucatini and sausage casserole

bucatini casserole

One of the dangers of cooking the way my mom does is that using up leftovers sometimes makes more leftovers, in an endless cycle. Over the years, I have had to break myself of some of her habits. There are things I don’t do that my mother does. Some of them are:

  • saving a small amount of vegetables from a dinner
  • saving any amount of food that we don’t like or won’t want as leftovers (most fish, for instance, just doesn’t keep well, in my view)
  • saving any leftovers in the fridge that don’t get eaten within three days

Don’t tell my mom that, okay? (Mom, you didn’t hear that, okay?)

One thing I do that mom does, and I have to keep it in check, is make a new dish out of the leftovers from something else. This casserole is a good example. A night or two ago, I made bucatini with a simple sauce of Italian sausage, mushrooms, and a jar of good tomato sauce. Contrary to my habit (and completely in line with my mom’s principles), I made more than we would eat, on purpose, because my kid was coming over to dinner, and I wanted her to have plenty of yummy food (and even to take some home if she wanted). What that ended up meaning was way too many leftovers.

bucatini casserole

We could easily have eaten that same pasta, just heated up, but I was in the mood to cook, so I tossed the pasta in a baking dish, mixed in some green olives (stuffed with anchovies, but any olives would have worked), topped it with some French-fried onions (bought at Ikea) and a shake of grated Parmesan cheese, and baked at 350F until the top was brown and the pasta was heated through (I’d say about 30-45 minutes). Essentially the same dish, but the crunchy topping made it feel like a new thing. Fortunately, we were hungry, and there’s none of this dish to try to figure out what to do with tomorrow.

Administrivia: New things are coming

Changes are coming at The Mom Food Project!

New stuff is on its way, but I won’t bore you with a long post about it. Let’s just say that this blog, after three years (!) could use a facelift. Beginning September 1st, here’s a little taste of what will be new around here:

1) Daily, themed posts (Meatless Monday, Family Dinner Sunday, etc.)

2) A visual redesign

3) Free e-cookbooks and a preview of the book I’m working on (named, surprisingly, “The Mom Food Project”)

4) A new store where you can buy my favorite cookbooks and kitchen oddities

What won’t change:

1) We’ll still be ad-free

2) We’ll still be kind of eclectic and all over the place

3) We’ll still occasionally curse like sailors

Day three and a promise

Day 3 of the cleanse brings a promise from me.

I promise to post about something else as soon as:

1) This cleanse thing is over; OR

2) I have a day where I forget to take photos; OR

3) I have a day in which I eat all stuff I’ve already posted about.

But in the meanwhile, here’s the food for day 3 of the cleanse.

Breakfast: Fried O’Brien potatoes, homemade ketchup, watermelon, and V-8


Lunch: Big salad with homemade sesame dressing (mixed up sesame oil, rice vinegar, agave nectar, grated fresh ginger, wheat-free tamari, and grated garlic to taste), topped with sesame salt; fresh cherries

Salad and cherries

Snacks: Nuts, seasoned seaweed, and Oh, so much fruit. More than I can show you here, but among the bounty was more watermelon. Also, white peaches so ripe it’s making my mouth water to tell you about them. And more cherries. And so on. Plus a latte made with decaf espresso and homemade soymilk. (The soymilk maker is still in the testing phase. I’m working on it.)

peaches, watermelon, and soy latte

Dinner: Tamale pie. The plan was for chili, but I was waffling on finding a good vegan, gluten-free cornbread, and James suggested I just make some more polenta, add olives to the chili, and make tamale pie. Those of you who’ve been around a while know that James is big on suggesting yummy and time-consuming things for me to make, so I was happy to oblige with this relatively quick and easy dish.

Tamale pie

I also added some olive oil and a fair bit of garlic and nutritional yeast to the polenta before pouring it over the chili (which I dished into the baking dish with a slotted spoon so it wouldn’t be too soupy). The chili is based on the Moosewood recipe that Susan V. adapts here, but I left out the bulgur and used some olive oil in the preparation.

So there it is. There’ll be more Mom Food when this is over. I promise!

21-day “Cleanse” menus

21 days of menus without gluten, animal products, alcohol, caffeine, or refined sugar

I’m doing a “cleanse” with some friends — really, just a few weeks of vegan (and gluten-free, in this case) eating, which is not unusual for me, but it usually makes me feel better, and I’ve been feeling a little puny lately. Anyway, I thought I’d write down the menus I’m using, for my reference, and others’. On this particular challenge, there are no animal products, gluten, alcohol (which I don’t drink), caffeine (which I rarely drink), or refined ugar. Not too tough for me, but it’ll be fun to be in a group with people new to this way of eating, so here goes:

The menus


Breakfasts will be one of the following, with lots of repeats. I’m boring at breakfast.

  • O’Brien potatoes, fried in olive oil or “fried” in water
  • Oatmeal with raisins, with or without agave syrup (I know not everyone counts honey as an animal product, but I do)
  • Cold cereal with homemade (unsweetened) soymilk or rice milk or nut milk (for rice/nut milk: 1 cup cooked brown rice or raw nuts or soaked nuts, 4 cups water; blend and strain if desired. Vanilla and sweeteners and salt are all optional; I skip them. Mom just gave me a soymilk maker, so I will see how that goes and let you know.)
  • Leftovers from another meal


Lunch will be a huge salad every day. Easiest for me to just plan it that way. I have tons of good salad dressing recipes that I will try to collect if anyone’s interested.


Dinners will come from this list, or from improvisation. I’m unlikely to do them in this order. I’m on furlough for the month of July, so I have all the time in the world to cook and shop for fresh produce. I may shoot from the hip more often than this, but I like being prepared. I also always add some kind of cooked or raw non-starchy vegetable with each meal, but I decide that based on what’s good at the market, so I mostly didn’t specify.

  1. Stir-fried tofu and veggies over brown rice
  2. Polenta with wild mushroom sauce
  3. Red, Gold, Black and Green chili (with TVP instead of bulgur)
  4. Curried chickpeas and kale with brown rice
  5. Thai black pepper and garlic tofu
  6. Vegan taco salad
  7. Split pea soup
  8. Black bean burgers with homemade salsa and guacamole
  9. Falafel, hummus, baba ganouj, and quinoa tabbouli (sub quinoa for bulgur wheat). I confess I always fry my falafel, not bake them.
  10. Stuffed grape leaves (no recipe here; I just stuff them with brown rice, tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, onions, salt, and whatever else strikes my fancy, then cook them in a pot)
  11. Roasted ratatouille over polenta
  12. Farmer’s pie (vegan shepherd’s pie), using chickpea gravy thickened with cornstarch instead of flour
  13. Thai red curry rice noodles with veggies and either tofu or chickpeas
  14. Red beans and rice
  15. Black bean tostadas
  16. Mashed potatoes and chickpea gravy thickened with cornstarch instead of flour
  17. What we call ‘summer feast’ around here: Good tomatoes with olive oil, fresh garlic, fresh basil, and salt; whatever fruit is in season (watermelon, peaches, whatever), and corn on the cob.
  18. Veggie and/or TVP tacos
  19. Corn and potato chowder (using homemade non-dairy milk)
  20. Barbecued tofu (homemade no-sugar barbecue sauce — tomato paste, a little mustard, onion sweated in a little oil, some water, some smoked paprika, and optional natural sweetener — frozen apple juice concentrate works well); poppyseed cole slaw; corn on the cob and/or baked potatoes
  21. Fried rice