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I’ve had an intimate relationship this week with Justin and his peanut butter, and it’s not what you think.

If you’re unfamiliar with Justin, you’ve probably run into his products at Whole Foods – or these days, more appropriately – just about anywhere. He’s the creator of uniquely-flavored nut butters (honey peanut butter, vanilla almond butter, etc), the eponymous peanut butter squeeze pack, and those nightmarishly addictive dark chocolate-covered peanut butter cups.

As much as I like Justin and his products, let’s talk about why I’ve got a bone to pick with him.

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For those of you who are familiar with food allergies, it’s prickly business. Label reading becomes part of the daily routine, a necessary evil that keeps food allergic kids safe and free of full-body hives. And herein lies the problem – we expect brands to keep to a certain standard and not throw us for a loop.

A few months ago we got the good news that Lauren’s skin test suggested that she may be able to tolerate almonds. Now I know this may not sound like a big deal, but when you’ve had to avoid all forms of nuts and sesame seeds for your entire life, it’s pure joy to think that you might be able to eat an almond croissant. A granola bar. A candy-colored macaron.

And, maybe a little too selfishly, I was getting tired of using pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seed pesto…pumpkin seed dressing.…roasted pepitas…..soup garnish….brittle….Buehller….Buehller…..

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 purple_tritan_radish_FeedMeDearlyI’ve sung the song before. If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again. We’ve eaten black radishes, red radishes, pretty radishes, ugly radishes, radishes that look like watermelons and radishes that don’t. And now this – purple Tritan radishes. Up there on the vegetable beauty index with delicata squash and romanesco. These radishes have milder bite than your typical red radishes, which is probably why 2/3 of the kids went for it. As for me, I’m just patting myself on the back for having the persistence to try enough radishes for one of my kids to say, “you know what mom? radishes are great”. 

ME: Guys, who knows what these are?

LAUREN: Cabbage.

ME: No, it’s not cabbage. That’s a good guess though!

EMMA: Onion?

ME: What an amazing guess! But it’s not an onion. Does anyone want to smell one and see if it smells like something that you know?

SAM: Wait! Wait! I think I know what it is.

ME: What is it?

SAM: Um… Is it turnips?

ME: Oh my gosh, Sam! That is an amazing guess! How did you guess that?!

SAM: Um…um… I… I… looked straight at it and I knew.

LAUREN: Is it really turnips?

ME: It’s actually… it’s not turnips, but it looks just like the purple-tinged turnips that I’ve bought before and I don’t think we even tried those yet.

SAM: It’s turnips!

ME: No, they’re not turnips. Smell them – they smell kind of like a vegetable that you’ve tried before.

SAM: Cabbage?

ME: Nope. What do you think, Emma?

EMMA: YUMMY!

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Mondays are usually reserved for CSA posts, but out of town last week and with a failed attempt at arranging an alternative pick-up, I was left with no vegetable share.

Which was a blessing in disguise because, especially on weeks that involve travel, my share gives me cold sweats when I get back to a mound of vegetables only to pick up another mound a few days later. So I luxuriated in a week free of obligations, even ordered pepperoni pizza one night, and made the best of it. I was happily reunited with my Week #12 box on Saturday, so friends, you will be seeing a new CSA post in all of its glory up on the site next week.

Until then, let’s talk grains…

One of my first posts on the blog was about sad desk lunches and my efforts to end them. Sadly, I experienced my last desk lunch only weeks after I wrote the post, after deciding that an office environment was no longer for me. Or “happily” I should say, because it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I can’t put a price on the family time I’ve gained, and the happiness I’ve found from building a career on my own terms.  That being said, splurging on prescription sunglasses owns a close second place on the best-decisions-list because, well…vision is important too.

One of the best meals to make for portability (aka the desk job) is a grain salad. I make these salads with increasing frequency as the weather starts to chill because they’re a perfect vessel for whatever vegetables that you have on hand – light and summery to use up the last remaining crops from August, or rich and hearty for all of the beautiful squash and root vegetables that are about to hit the markets.

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RadishesI don’t know, maybe the kids were misbehaving or something.  Because radishes are kind of like punishment for a kid, not a fun vegetable to try together.  Maybe I was thinking that I’d find out that all of my kids really like spicy food and I could start making them blazing hot Thai curries for dinner rather than the plainer meals I tend to make.  However, it did end up being one of our more engaging mystery food challenges, until it wrapped up quickly at the end.

ME: “What does it look like?”

LAUREN: “I think it looks like…”

SAM: “A tomato.”

LAUREN: “A little tomato.”

SAM: “It looks like a small and smaller potato.”

ME: “What does it feel like?”

LAUREN: “Well it’s kind of smooth.”

ME: “What do you think like Sam?”

SAM: “Ya ya ya ya.”

ME: “Emma, what do you think?”

EMMA: “Mooth (smooth).”

ME: “What does it smell like?”

SAM: “Yuck.”

LAUREN: “I think it smells a little bit like apples.”

ME: “Cool.  Do you want me to cut into it so that I can show you the inside?”

LAUREN: “Not mine.”

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