Dinner @ 226 - Dinner for Three

Jason had to work late one night last week. I always simplify the menu a bit for when he's gone. If there's no one at the table to truly appreciate the depth of flavor in my Chana Masala, I'm not going to spend two hours making it. They totes eat it, but would they notice the squeeze of lemon or extra cilantro? No. They just know it tastes good, which is an excellent place to start.

Last week, it was just going to be the three of us for dinner and I thought it would be fun to let them decide. I often ask for their input but rarely do they get to decide the whole menu without resistance from Mama. So, I was imagining some gluttonous macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers, or fish sticks when I woke up and realized I was living with two pretty awesome kids. And then, we ate. This is what they chose.

Creamy Polenta and Roasted Shrimp and some steamed Haricot Vert with toasted almonds. Certainly not elaborate but just perfect for the three of us. I'm eating with them more often.


Dessert @ 226 - Banana Ice Cream

I find bananas to be one of nature's most perfect foods. Peel and eat for a midday snack. Slice and top your cereal or oatmeal for breakfast. Stir into cakes and quick breads for a celebration. Saute with brown sugar and butter for dessert. I mean, real talk, bananas can do just about anything. But, for a fruit that is so versatile, some people find the banana to be vile and even, offensive. One such person is my sister. On a recent trip to Boston for a sisterly (and new niece) visit, I asked her to buy a few breakfast bananas for me, while she went to the store to procure some other necessities. She winced and squished up her nose, like the thought of plucking them from their shelf in the produce section might just do her in. Really?

The world's second (First is mango. Crazy, no?) most popular fruit just got winced. I was shocked. I secretly can't wait for her to start feeding her baby mushed up bananas, because even a banana lover can become a temporary banana hater when pushing spoonfuls of light brown mush into a baby's mouth. And then quickly sliding fallen dollops off their onesies and from in between their neck rolls. Nauseating, I tell you.

Are you looking for a point? Okay, the point is banana lovers and banana haters alike need to try this ridiculously easy technique for ice cream that is totally B-A-N-A-N-A-S. Sorry, had to do it. It has one ingredient. You can't not try a recipe that has one ingredient and very few steps. Okay, it's super simple. Here we go.

1) Peel and slice some bananas. Use as many as you think your crew will eat. I usually do 1-2 per person. Ripeness is of no concern. I've used bruised and bound for banana bread. I've used perfectly ripe and even slightly green. You cannot screw this up. Obviously, the riper your bananas are, the sweeter. And sweet is good here - because, well, it's ice cream. And it's supposed to be sweet.

2) Put your banana slices on a Parchment Paper covered baking sheet, in one single layer. Find room in your freezer. Good luck.

4) After a few hours, retrieve your bananas. Slide them all into the bowl of your food processor. And whirl them around. It takes a moment, you might have to move them around with a spoon. Keep buzzing until their completely smooth. Don't get too crazy though. Your machine will get warm and begin to melt the bananas.

5) Once smooth, scoop into bowls and serve immediately.* If you've got your fancy pants on, top with caramel sauce, blueberries, honey, peanut butter or almonds. All of which I have tried. All of which are ridiculous. Yes, we make this a lot.

So, come on banana haters, ice cream lovers, dieters, calorie counters, lactose in-tolerators, gluten freers, veganizers...ummm, everyone. It's just bananas. But it tastes like a chilly bowl of what you would eat while sitting on a cloud in heaven. Yeah, it's that good.

*Leftovers get pretty hard in the freezer. Not inedible. But, not as good as the first time around.

Enjoy! Hopefully you're having a better hair day than our friend, Beckett. If not, he's here to assure you, the ice cream will taste just as good.


{{Forgetful Fridays}}

Hi lovelies. On Fridays, I'm going to try to post something that I don't want to forget. Something my kids did or made, that probably won't make the Official Baby Book or be kept in an organized file, to be unveiled when they turn eighteen. Meanwhile hundreds of crafts and finger paintings and awards and trophies come tumbling out into one gigantic mess. And, predictably, the only thing you'll want to see is your first snippet of hair, which I promptly threw away after your first haircut. Sorry kids, I have no soul. But listen, our house is hardly big enough for us. Add necessities and we're pretty cramped up here at 226. The last thing I want is filing cabinets of drawings. I keep things. Of course I do. But in a house where cake pans end up in trash cans and cell phones are found in play houses, it's hard to keep track of it ALL. I know I am not going to be successful at keeping everything and knowing where it is in fifteen years. If you knew me, you would know that I am just being honest. With myself.

Lest the internet blows up, they can hopefully find most of the things that made me melt or laugh right here. And they'll know, disorganized or not, I still loved every little thing! I totally encourage you to do the same, if you have a blog. Leave a link in the comments if you feel like joining in!

A sign of Fall. Buckeye necklaces for Mama.

Thanks, Reed. And Jason.


Dinner @ 226 - Lazy Day Bean Soup

As we enjoy the last few days of open windows and longer sunlit nights, I feel a shift. It happens this way every year. I feel myself move from fresh, raw ingredients and simple salad assemblies to steamy comforting bowls and heartier fare. Maybe its our natural instinct as humans. Maybe we need some extra insulation for the cold winter. Maybe it is my desire to keep my family full and warm as the nights turn cold. Whatever it is, I'm feeling it. And, I'm not fighting it.

It's a strange time, isn't it? The shift of seasons. We're having brainstorming sessions about Halloween costumes and planning and anticipating our favorite fall activities. Leaf jumping? Festival going? Pumpkin carving? Apple picking? Applesauce making? Though I resent fall because it puts a period at the end of summer, and summer will always be my season. Not only that but it is also undoubtedly followed by Winter, a hard season for everyone in this house. Even with these complaints, I admit, it is hard to not get into the spirit of things.

This is my introductory course for fall. We've had a few brisk evenings where this soup left everyone full and warm, not to mention smiling. I know we'll have many more nights of needing warmth but this is a good start. I made it entirely in the crock pot, which may sound like cheating to you? But, I promise it does not taste like any corners were cut. This soup is thick, without being heavy. It's wholesome and comforting but still healthy, in a not healthy-tasting way.

If you've never poured hot soup over stale bread cubes, you have to try it. I wish I didn't have to call it "stale" bread cubes because I know that does not sound appealing. But, trust me. Try it. You'll thank me for putting this little gem of an idea in your head.

Lazy Day Bean Soup
Note: This recipe may sound verbose because I'm not a master of writing recipes yet. So, don't be intimidated by the word count. Plus, the slow cooker does most of the work for you. Read through it first, it's really pretty simple and it will turn out a fine bowl of bean soup. Very fine, indeed.

In crock pot:
1 lb rinsed white beans (no need to soak)
2 bay leaves
1/2 an onion
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 stems fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (less is you are heat averse)

Put all of these ingredients in the crock pot. Add a 32 oz. box of vegetable stock (or homemade equivalent). Add water, filling the pot an inch from the top. Put a lid on it. Not to be confused with Put a Ring On It, which happens to be Beckett's favorite song.

Cook on low for 5-6 hours.

Fish out the bay leaves and herb stems and toss them. Fish out the softened garlic cloves and smash them into a past on a cutting board and return them to the pot. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup for less than 10 seconds. You want some of the clear broth to become thick and rich but you definitely still want some whole beans. Add 8-9oz. frozen spinach and recover.

Warm 2 T Olive Oil over medium heat. Throw in:

1 onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks trimmed and chopped

Saute until all vegetables are soft. Dump all the vegetables into the slow cooker, with the beans and spinach. Add salt to taste. I used about 2 teaspoons.

Cube up some stale bread. It can be yesterdays baguette or some leftover Italian loaf you threw into the freezer. Scatter onto a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and a hefty pinch of salt. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 8 minutes, until slightly golden and crusty.

Distribute bread into the bottom of bowls, fill bowls with soup and top with shaved Parmegiano Reggiano and a glug of your best olive oil, for richness.

And, drink up these last days of summer. Barefoot.


Breakfast @ 226 - Breakfast Pizza

Okay, I know what you're thinking. I'm going to make you get out of your Pottery Barn sheets and slip into your sweatpants two hours earlier than normal and make you trudge down your squeaky wood stairs to start some pizza dough for your beloveds. But, there is obviously something you do not know about me. I love sleep. Almost more than I love my beloveds.

Elaborate breakfasts are almost never on the menu. Jason's pancakes serve as our WOW breakfast for the kids. And, I often scurry into the kitchen with my pants on backwards and unwashed Sumo Wrestler like hair on top of my head, quickly throwing together a fruit syrup, just to say that I've contributed. I've honed my scone-making down to a 13 minute process, start-to-finish so that I don't have to get out of bed one minute earlier than normal to make an impressive pastry. There's occasional Purple Sweet Rice at our breakfast table, but more often than not I stick to food that takes fewer than three minutes to prepare if the clock reads any hour earlier than 9 a.m. I save my elaborate cookery for the PM hours, after I've been fueled with caffeine, and other harmless drugs.

So, now that you know this, you know that this breakfast pizza is simple as can be. The idea came to me when I saw leftover broccoli in the fridge. I opened the egg container and saw four sad ovals, begging to be thrown into a hot pan. Really, it took little forethought and next to no effort. The results? Uh, the kids thought they were eating pizza. For breakfast. How could that be bad?

Breakfast Pizza

2 Whole Wheat tortillas
olive oil spray
2 eggs
1 stalk broccoli, steamed and chopped (leftovers work well + more sleep for you!)
Parmigiano Reggiano (white cheddar or gruyere would work well, too)

Turn your oven to 350 degrees. Spray the tortillas with olive oil spray. Place them on a baking sheet, and put them in the oven for about 5-7 minutes. Keep an eye on these, they can burn in a second. You're looking for a little crisp and a little browning, like a faux pizza crust. While the tortillas are browning up, scramble your eggs. Do it whatever way you and your peeps like to eat them.* Make sure you stop a few seconds before they're fully cooked because the eggs will spend a little time in the oven, where they will cook a bit more. A little runny is good.

Retrieve your (undoubtedly perfectly browned) tortilla shells from the oven. Spray the tops again with a bit of olive oil. Scatter the eggs and broccoli evenly over the "pizzas." Finally, grate some Parm over the top of the pizzas. Use the bigger holes on your grater. In this application, if you grated the Parm to powder consistency - it would all but disappear once melted. Put the baking sheet back (with pizzas) into the oven for a few minutes. You're just warming the broccoli and melting the cheese at this point. No more than five minutes or you'll overcook those eggs! Finish the pizzas with a sprinkle of sea salt and a grind or two of pepper. Cut into wedges and serve with extra broccoli or fruit.

*I'm a strictly egg girl. I do not like adding cream, cream cheese or sour cream to my scrambled eggs. It may boost the texture but I think it dilutes the flavor. I mix up my eggs with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and scramble them in a hot pan with a little melted butter.

Finish your pizzas and force someone to take photos of you whilst you make goofy faces. If you don't know how to do this, Reed's an expert. Ask her.


You love your mama because...

I imagine most kids said things like, she gives me hugs or reads me an extra book. Or maybe that she gives me special treats or takes me to the park and pushes me on the swing. But, no. Reed loves me because I give her lipstick. Among a bunch of other reasons, I'm sure.

(2010 Preschool)


Breakfast @ 226 - Purple Sweet Rice

This is going to be a short post because we have two sick kids waking up for some snuggles periodically. Oh, when is the first day of preschool you ask? It's tomorrow. They have impeccable timing. Just perfect. I mean, not even the hint of a cough or trickle of a sniffle in over six months. But, wait...school starts tomorrow? Yup, bring on the illness.

It's sort of a sad sight to watch unfold. We have been talking up The First Day of School for over a month. We got backpacks and met our teachers. We said goodbye to pool season and hello to new friends. We even bought a first day of school themed book. And, they literally could not wait. But, wait they will. Poor things.

To combat these nasty sniffles and dry coughs we've been doing a whole lot of smoothies and there have been noticeable improvements. Our current favorite is mango, pineapple, banana, avocado, rice milk and a touch of honey. But, will it be enough?*

Sick or not we all have to eat breakfast. I rotate between the same reliable options, always trying to incorporate a decent amount of protein, eliminate sugars, and throw in a little fruit or vegetable. But, the constraints stifle my creativity and I usually go back to my trustworthy friend, Almond Butter Toast. But on mornings when my eyelids are pried open a little earlier by two sets of tiny hands, I brew the coffee extra strong and I'm just feeling the love? There's always purple rice! Plus, if you make enough, you can feast on the leftovers. I always do.

This is a recipe that I would never try if I read it on a blog. Luckily, I tasted it before I ever prepared it in my home. That's the beauty of working at an awesome grocery store. Creative people and their ideas around to inspire you all the time. I love it. All I know is that you should go against your instinct and make this. Some of the world's most satisfying foods are also the least photogenic. Agreed? But, wouldn't your 4 or 8 or 10 year old self think this bowl of violet hued rice was pretty cool? Mine would. Errrr, does.

Purple Sweet Rice
1 cup brown rice
1/2 can light coconut milk, or more
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup frozen (or fresh) pineapple
2 bananas, sliced
1-2 tablespoons agave sweetener
slivered almonds, for scattering on top

Prepare the rice according to package instructions. When it's nearly finished and all the water is just about absorbed, stir in coconut milk and all the fruit. You're looking for a creamy consistency, like wet oatmeal. Add more coconut milk if it looks dry. Taste and add a bit of sweetener. Depending on the sweetness of your berries and pineapple, you may not need much at all. Stir the whole mess together until the blue of the berries turns the milk purple and everything is incorporated, and the frozen fruit is heated through. Serve in a bowl with a few banana slices and almonds on top.

I usually double the recipe so I don't have 1/2 a can of coconut sitting in my fridge, tempting me to pour it down my throat. Because I have a major love affair with coconut milk.

*A Triumph. They went to school, more on that later.



In case I lose all of your drawings. And, real talk, that's very likely.

In case you become a famous artist and your fans want to know how you got your start.

In case I forget how little your hands were and how much they had yet to experience.

In case you ever ask me if I let you play with permanent markers.

And, just because these little people you draw make me smile. And I never want to forget them.


The Potty

This is our second attempt at potty training our little boy. Reed was so easy. She got it within two days with very little incentive, gifts, prizes, charts, or any other hoopla. We just cheered for her when she went and and she was like, "oh, i got this." Because she did.

Beckett is different. He doesn't really "get it." He would sit in a dirty diaper for hours without being bothered. I am hoping he picks it up this time so, we've thrown in a little of the hoopla for him. Just a little.

Any ideas or suggestions are welcome.


Dinner @ 226 - Burger and Fries

Is craving a burger and fries odd for someone that gave up meat over nine months ago? For someone who also feels uncomfortable eating meals that offer no nutrition? Probably a little. But, it happened. And, when faced with this sort of conundrum, I know just who to turn to. My good friend Gwyneth Paltrow. What? Don't act surprised? We've been kicking it for ages. In fact, this whole phenomenon? Entirely my idea.* Like her or not, her black bean burgers sorta rock. Are you one of those foodies who is pissed that she was featured in the June issue of Bon Appetit? Get over it. She's super duper pretty and she can cook, aren't those qualifications enough to land you on the cover of a food magazine? I think, yes.

I really don't want grilling season to whiz by without telling you about these suckers. I know, it's almost gone already. Grilling in September? Is that okay? Aren't we supposed to be eating sweet potato casserole and pumpkin spice lattes. Well, I like to hold on to summer and in Ohio, it's not hard. While I sit here and type, it is 95 degrees outside. We have mounds of tomatoes coming in every day for the past month. I mean, summer is still happening here. For sure. Also, the truth is, these don't really work on the grill. I tried. But, the good part of the truth is they fit very nicely into a late summer cook-out menu. Whilst other people are eating burgers from the grill, you can finish these up in the skillet and not miss a thing. In fact, Jason ate these and I never heard so much as a word about the non-meatiness of the meal. And he is a burger man. Actually, he's a blue cheese burger man. He makes the best and sometimes I even miss them. But, that has absolutely nothing to do with this post. Nothing.

Back to the burgers. They're made with black beans and brown rice. Hello Health. Hello Protein. How are you guys doing? Thanks for playing so nicely together. Along with the other ingredients, I am willing to shout that these are the best homemade bean burgers. Immeasurably better than the store bought cardboard kind. But, we all knew that.

I believe that toppings are essential on veggie burgers. They're the stuff that makes a dance into a gala. A concert into an event. A march into a parade. So, don't hold back. Because you know you want to do more than just dance.

Black Bean Burgers adapted from this book

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion peeled and finely diced
2 garlic cloves minced
1 jalapeno seeded and finely diced (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 scant teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 14 oz can of drained and rinsed black beans(I used 1 can black beans, 1 can pinto beans simply because that is what I had on hand)
1 cup cooked brown rice
2 (plus) tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
3 or 4 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons of safflower or vegetable oil
4 (plus) whole wheat buns

Heat the oil and saute onion, garlic and cumin until soft and fragrant. Add salt, pepper, beans, rice and cook stirring for 2 minutes. Add cilantro and mash with potato masher to combine and get some cohesion, you want some texture. Let mixture cool so it is easy to handle, form 6-8 patties (depending on what size burgers you want), put in fridge for a few hours if you have time. Dust each side with flour heat in skillet until browned on each side. Serve with your favorite toppings.

We had:
thinly sliced red onion
lettuce leaves
horseradish (a must in my opinion)

Sweet Potato Fries
2 pounds sweet potatoes, washed really well
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt + pepper

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil, really simplifies clean-up. Slice the potatoes in half, length wise. Slice the halves into quarters and the quarters into eighths. All lengthwise until you have a rather skinny piece of sweet potato that resembles a fry. Or skinny wedge, whatever. Spread your potato slices on the prepared baking sheet, add oil and salt and pepper, and mix with your hands. Making sure that every "fry" is slick with oil. Spread the fries out in a single layer and put the baking sheet in the oven for about 25 minutes, tossing and turning with a spatula halfway through.



Is this what having a boy is all about? If so, I am secretly looking forward to it. Don't tell my mom.