Since stepping off the Sydney-Chicago flight on Wednesday night, there's been a lot of pancake and burrito-eating. Family reunions tend to be centred around food, and here that means the local diner. Or the favourite diner in the neighbouring suburb. Or the fast-food outlet trussed-up to look like a fancy family restaurant.
But when an order of vegetable omelet comes with hash browns, a side of blueberry pancakes and toast for Billie - in other words our family of three can split one meal that costs $US6.75 - why would you bother cooking?
Well, after a few days you just do. You crave fresh vegetables and fruit, cheese that's not melted and a salad that's not sweet. (Why, oh why, do Americans put sugar in everything?)
The balance of the not-particularly healthy ubiquitous diners and fast food outlets are farmers markets - such as Oak Park's 34-year-old one where we picked up affordable organic vegetables on Saturday - and the impressive Whole Foods Market franchise.
On my previous visit to Oak Park (an 'urban village' on Chicago's western fringe) I was taken to Whole Foods a few hours after landing. It blew my mind.
So on Healthy Monday, this organic/healthy/sustainable/fair trading/locally produced but MASSIVE and CHEAP supermarket was the main destination for Billie and I.
In Australia, I buy bits and pieces of organic food - milk, yoghurt, teas, breads etc but it's often too darn pricey. As usual, today I studied the price tags of every item before it made its way into Billie's stroller/shopping cart.
A dozen organic large free range eggs for $US3.99? Organic raspberries at $US.300 a punnet? A block of organic tofu for $US1.69? And apparently the big regular supermarket chains offer some organic lines even cheaper.
Oh, and fresh organic mozzarella for $US3.99 - several large pieces. So that became the protein in our vegetarian Healthy Monday Superior Salad tonight:
SPINACH, MOZZARELLA, ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH CRANBERRIES
Fresh baby spinach leaves, washed and picked
Three ripe tomatoes, quartered and then cut again
1 orange pepper/capsicum, cut into chunks
1 large round of mozzarella cheese, chopped in smallish pieces
Handful Brazil nuts, chopped in half
Handful dried cranberries
Bunch asparagus, chopped into thirds of quarters and then lightly steamed
Assemble all ingredients except dressing and asparagus. As soon as asparagus is cooked, add to salad, dress and serve. This is a light meal - serve with bread perhaps. Or corn chips, guacamole and salsa as we did (only because we had leftovers in the fridge).
Yes, this is not really a baby recipe, but Billie would love mozzarella given half a chance.
Sorry - no pics as using mother-in-law's computer...
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