Elissa is a mom of (almost) three who has lived in the D.C. area her whole life. On a mission to teach her kids that healthy foods are delicious, she is often testing her own sanity right along with the limits of her toddlers’ taste buds. With the help of motivated friends, and a nap-time obsession with food blogs and websites, she is attempting to move her family into the realm of local food while still maintaining the level of convenience of tearing open a pre-packaged snack. Every so often a new step is added to the plan, and growing food on the deck of a mostly shaded townhouse is the latest adventure. Elissa’s love of food is infectious, and she and her husband enjoy welcoming the kids into the kitchen to make cooking a family affair.
I know what I am supposed to be doing.
I am supposed to teach my kids that food comes from the earth, not the grocery store.
If they don’t like their vegetables, I am supposed to insist they eat them. Accepting new foods can take up to 15 tries, I am told, with some toddlers!
I am supposed to show them that food is hard earned, savored ,never to be taken for granted, never to be wasted.
I am supposed to compost (right?).
So why are there Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies (organic, but processed) smooshed and ground into every crevice of my car? Why don’t I have a family of worms in my yard feasting on the tossed out banana peels and apples (whole apples – apples that big eyes with small stomachs insisted they really, really, super needed)?
I know what I am supposed to do, so why can’t I just do it?!
The truth is (and please don’t tell my husband, Barbara Kingsolver, or Michael Pollan this) that I am just not perfect. There, I’ve said it.
My 2 kids (and soon to be 3) are my life’s work right now and I, like most of you, am incredibly busy. I am at home with my children, juggling a billion and one things while trying to mold them into environmentally and politically conscious people. Food is at the very root of our environmental and political philosophies, and so I strive to find ways to show our kids how our little family, in it’s little suburban townhouse, can make a difference. Our choices and methods aren’t always ‘perfect’, but I’ve decided that they don’t need to be. Our goal is to make steady changes that work for us with the hope for greater impact and sustainability.
For instance, recently, we started growing our own mushrooms. Seriously!
I first read about Back to the Roots (BTTR) while searching for vegan recipes online (my son has food allergies). BTTR was founded in 2009 as a 100% sustainable urban mushroom farm. Since then, they have expanded into an extraordinary company offering sustainable grow-at-home products!
This young, but innovative company, immediately peaked my interest for several reasons. First, two recent college graduates run it; second, they use reused coffee grounds to keep the product sustainable; third, and most importantly, I can use their kits with my kids in the privacy of my kitchen. Sign me up!
The kids had a great time tending to their mushroom garden – the results are so quick, that even toddlers (my 2 1/2 year old can’t make it through a doctor’s visit without tasting every tongue depressor he can get his hands on) don’t become impatient waiting. We used scissors and the kids ‘chopped’ their own mushrooms in preparation for a bruschetta we made using some homemade French bread (made by my husband – that’s why I married him), and local goat cheese. All local, kid friendly, and all made possible by a little box in our window.
While I’d love to start composting, it may have to wait for another day. I will take the ‘wins’ where I can grab them (or insert them) and will do my best not to rush the day when my kids are ‘too grown up’ to need/want snacks (of the Cheddar Bunny nature) during a 15-minute car ride.
Mushroom and Goat Cheese Crostini
1/2 Tbs. olive oil, plus more for brushing baguettes
1/2 Tbs. butter (if you would prefer not to use butter, do add a bit of flavor to the olive oil while heating it; some red pepper flakes, maybe?)
1 chopped scallion, greens only (I let the kids snip them up, they needn’t be perfectly sized)
8 oz. oyster mushrooms, chopped (kids can snip the tops, grown ups should do the tougher stems)
2 Tbs. sherry wine vinegar
8 thin slices of french baguette, brushed lightly with olive oil
2 oz. fresh goat cheese
Heat olive oil and butter in a small pan, over med-high heat, until butter bubbles. Add mushrooms and scallion, stir to coat with butter and oil. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking. The mushrooms should become brown, if they are not getting there, increase the heat a bit. The entire browning process should take no more than 5 or 6 minutes
Meanwhile, heat a grill pan and toast baguette slices, on both sides, until lightly brown. Spread goat cheese evenly amongst the slices. Remove to a platter
Once the mushrooms are brown, and the oil and butter are absorbed, deglaze the pan by adding in the sherry wine vinegar. Cook, stirring constantly, until vinegar evaporates, about 1 minute. Spoon mushroom mixture onto goat cheese topped toasts.