Dinner @ 226 - Coconut Spinach & Chickpeas

Let's talk comfort food in Ohio, in January.

Let's talk hearty beans that cling to your bones in an effort to keep you full and warm and of course, happy.

Let's talk fragrant spices that leave your home smelling like an Indian Grocery. Except not in a B.O. sorta way.

Let's talk wilted greens that sink and float in a deep broth of spiced coconut milk and tomatoes.

Let's talk one-pan meals that leave time for important things like Cooties and fires and hugs.

Real talk, let's stop talking. You need to go make this for dinner. Tonight!

Coconut Spinach & Chickpeas
Serves 4-6

1 T Vegetable Oil
1 T Butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 T fresh ginger, grated
1 hefty pinch of red pepper flakes
1 t turmeric
1 t cardamom
1 heaping T cumin
1 t salt
1 14 oz. can chopped tomatoes
1 14 oz. can light coconut milk
1 lb. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
3 cups cooked chickpeas*
handful of golden raisins
handful of slivered almonds
handful of unsweetened coconut, toasted

Heat the vegetable oil and butter in a large, heavy pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook until floppy. Add the next 5 ingredients (the spices) while stirring. Toast the spices until they are very fragrant. Add the tomatoes and let simmer, uncovered for a good 5 minutes. Add coconut milk, spinach, and chickpeas. Make sure all the ingredients are incorporated and the mixture is uniform. Let simmer over medium low heat until the sauce thickens/reduces by about one-third. Stir occasionally so your dinner doesn't stick to your pan. Scatter raisins, almonds and coconut over top. Stir in before you serve (after you present...it just looks pretty, alright.)

Serve Coconut Spinach & Chickpeas over brown rice. I always serve plain yogurt, lemon wedges, cilantro, and thinly sliced red onions alongside.

*I cook dried beans for several hours (usually 6, but depends on the bean) in the slow cooker. No need to soak or rinse. It's more economical and efficient for us since we eat beans so frequently. If you're going the canned bean route, just use 2 cans for this recipe, rinsed.

Sweet Boy. Full Belly!

This is Reed's face every time I even think about taking a picture of her. Henceforth, she will not be appearing on this blog. We've severed her modeling contract, and are immediately changing the URL to flour & beckett.

In other news, she is looking for work as a Court Jester. Her full resume can be found on LinkedIn in the case that you are a member of a Royal Family. Relocation is preferable.


Breakfast @ 226 - Dreamy Oats while you Dream

We have a lazy Sunday routine. That's the way I like it. That's the way I designed it. Sunday is not a go-day. Sunday is a stay-day. Stay in your University of Cincinnati sweatpants day. Stay under your grey sheets surrounded by mounds of pillows day. Stay by the brick fireplace day. Stay under the warm brown wool blanket day. Stay snuggled with your peeps day. Stay in and watch football read while your husband watches seemingly endless hours of football day. Stay in and make black bean chili day. Stay in close proximity to readily available coffee day. Stay, like Lisa Loeb. Just don't go, and soak in the absolute coziness that is your home.

When the sky looks like this at almost every hour of the day, you need a stay day.

That's what we do, especially because it is our only day as FOUR. We juggle this crazy schedule of Jason working while I'm home, and the moment that he returns I grab my keys and leave for work. And we're on that merry-go-round from Monday through Saturday. So, not just by coincidence Sunday is our stay day.

The kids come in at about 7am, we let them crawl into bed. I go down and start the coffee and bagels while Jason starts their Sunday morning movie. We've found that it's much easier to leave the TV off throughout the week if they know they have at least one day where they get to watch a movie, without a fight. And, we no longer have a battle about watching television. Everyone knows it's a Sunday morning special, and there are rarely complaints or even requests. It makes movie morning a special event.

Rolling into our bed and getting snug under our comforter. Piling up the pillows while Netflix gears up a movie. This one was last week's flick and everyone loved it. I usually read, Jason usually picks up the house or goes back to sleep and the kids enjoy breakfast in bed and a movie. It really has become a huge treat for them, for everyone.

Adorable mug provided by my adorable sister-in-law. Thanks, Andrea!

Well, yesterday I came across some inspiration via the ever addicting and reliable Pinterest to make our lazy Sundays even more lazy. Could it be? Breakfast could be ready when I was rousted by the excited shouts of a little blonde boy? By the sly smile of a bed-headed little girl? To me, this was very good news. When I got home from work last night at about 11 p.m. I mixed up four ingredients. I was in bed by 11:20.

When we woke were awoken this morning, I went downstairs to brew some coffee like every other Sunday. Except this morning...magic. A warm bowl of pudding-y nourishing breakfast awaited. I stirred in two more ingredients, portioned into bowls and topped with some dried fruit. And, friends, Sunday was off to a very good start. Before my boyfriend Pharrell had even sung the intro song.

Dreamy Oats While you Dream - Ever so Slightly Adapted from This to be vegan and yield more. Because we're some eaters!

3 cups water
1 1/2 cups almond milk
3/4 cup steel cut oats
pinch of salt
1/3 cup almond butter
3-4 T honey (hopefully you have local, we didn't at the time)

Use a 4 cup glass measuring cup and mix up the first four ingredients. Your cup will almost runneth over. Just stir gently and all will be well. Carefully, without spilling like I obviously did, place the measuring cup in the slow cooker and fill a quarter of the way with water. Turn it on low and go pass outwash your face, brush your teeth and go to bed.

In the morning, stir in the remaining ingredients. It takes quite a bit of stirring to get the nut butter to dissolve but it will get there. Divy up into bowls and top with any of the following: dried fruit, nuts, extra drizzle of honey, fresh berries or other chopped fruit, little pour of cold milk...whatever suits you.

Notes: The nuttiness from the almond butter was one of my favorite elements. If you're not into that, any nut butter will work. I imagine any fruit puree would be delicious as well. Think pumpkin puree or apple sauce. A whole bevy of spices would be welcome here too. There was just something about the simplicity of these flavors that I really loved. Also, I'm pleased to announce that I just finished the leftovers while I typed this, reheated in the microwave and they were every bit as good as day one. And if you must know, yes, I lied to my kids this morning and told them it was all gone. Don't judge. I know you've done it with your good dark chocolate or your special flavor of Fage.

Overnight Oats Elsewhere:
Apple Pie Overnight Oats
Oatmeal with Apricots and Buttermilk
Spiced Overnight Oatmeal for a crowd
Overnight Pumpkin Spice Oats

Pomegranate Lime Juice from Trader Joe's. Totally Bomb. Get some.



Some things you should know about parenting.

2) If you're not careful, your Friday nights can end in Total Frustration. And I'm not talking about the bar calling "last call" before you get your final drink. Because seriously, where do they go?

1) Four year olds can be vicious. Watch out.


Holiday Snapshots

It's the unexpected things that make up the silliness and belly laughs of the holidays. These glasses I snagged from the craft store dollar bin might have been my smartest purchase of the holiday. These, and the whoopee cushion. Another reason why stockings are my favorite part.

Also, a demonstration of the goofs that make up the boys/men in my family. Keep me laughing muchachos! I love you for it.

Coming soon: a gift guide of my (the kids') favorite things they got for Christmas to help you shop for your grandkids/niece/nephew/cousin/child of your own next year.

Dinner @ 226 - Salmon Rice Bowls

Salmon. It's the powerhouse of fishes when it comes to nutrition. It's on almost every restaurant menu, regardless of the proximity to water. It comes frozen, fresh, sort of fresh, and even in a can. Some people praise it. I mean, it's worth praising. But, sheepishly I admit to you, I've never liked it.

I've tried it baked in parchment with lemon and capers. I liked everything but the fish. I've tried it grilled. I've had it in burger form, which was one of the more enjoyable experiences. I've had it smothered in vaguely Asian gelatinous sauces. To date, my favorite was to eat it was like this. Can of salmon + Mayonnaise + Sriracha + Cucumbers + Toast. I have it in the summer all the time. But, even I admit, it's not really how salmon should be consumed. Out of a can? Mixed with Mayonnaise and (the world's best) hot sauce? Sort of a cop-out.

I try it out in some form or another once every six months. Holding my breath as the pink flesh nears my lips, hoping that we have a winner. Always a massive fail. I had almost given up on this Must-Love-Salmon-Movement when I came across some trustworthy inspiration. I mean, the gal has a column in Bon Appetite, what's not to trust?

The actual recipe is in her cookbook, which I would love to have. But, having no reason to justify buying my kabillionth cookbook, I figured I'd just improvise. Twas a delightful improvisation.

Reed was sold because it was pink. Beckett likes anything that involves seaweed and fish. I loved every damn thing about it. Jason said it was the best salmon he's ever had. Folks, we have a winner! Finally.

Salmon Rice Bowls

2 cups Jasmine or Basmati Rice (really, whatever you have will be great)
Salmon, however much you think your family will eat
1 bunch of bok choy
Trader Joe's Roasted Seaweed Snacks
Black Sesame Seeds, toasted

For the Sauce:
3/4 c soy sauce (we use low-sodium)
2 T honey
1 T grated fresh ginger

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Make the sauce: Whisk the honey into the soy sauce in a baking dish (lasagna pan, casserole dish, brownie pan, whatevs) until it dissolves. Whisk in the ginger. Pour about 1/4+ cup into a container. Your merely protecting a little sauce from raw fish juice so that you can use it after the bake. Put you salmon filets in the baking dish. Let them marinate for 1 hour, flipping them in the middle, while you prepare the rest.

Cook the rice according to package instructions. While the rice is cooking slice your bok choy into 1/2 inch strips. Add the bok choy to your rice and cover, about 5 minutes before it has finished cooking. Just let it sit on top and steam while the rice finishes cooking.

As the rice/bok choy mixture finishes, place your marinated salmon filets (skin side down) into the oven for about 6-8 minutes depending on the thickness of your fish.

Divy up the rice and bok choy into 4 bowls, top with cooked salmon filets, crumbled seaweed snacks (or Nori, if you're near a Japanese market), and toasted sesame seeds.

Serve the reserved marinade alongside for drizzling over your rice bowls.

I served this with a halved avocado, filled with Trader Joe's Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette, which I have shown my praise for before. It is my new favorite side. Delicious, I tell you!

We also had a homemade haircut. We have an ongoing battle at our house. Jason likes his hair tightly crew-cutted. I like his hair wild and flippy. And Becks totally doesn't care. I agreed to cut his bangs because they were clearly getting in the way.

Eh, He's stupid adorable either way.


Dinner @ 226 - So Fun Salad, Deconstructed

I'm going to go ahead and say it. This was an awesome idea. And it was mine, my idea. So, that means I'm awesome...right? Yes, I think it does. It most certainly does. The fact that I lose my car keys on a bi-daily basis shouldn't detract from my awesomeness. Neither should the fact that I liked loved this movies. I'm still awesome. Sort of.

Trudging through the doldrums of winter by braising and stewing can only keep a cook satisfied for so long. It was the middle of last week when I was craving something raw, something fresh and crispy. We almost always accompany our meals with a green salad but in the dead of Ohio winter, salads for dinner are a hard sell to even the most health conscious (ahem). But I couldn't take another simmered sauce or broiled lasagna. No matter how tasty, I knew we couldn't eat soup all winter long.

Inspiration came from Trader Joe's. They sell a prepackaged spinach salad with all these crave-able toppings. The dressing leaves a little to be desired but I could improve upon that, right? And improve I did.

Beckett found a baby spinach leaf. He couldn't bring himself to eat it.

Making it fun for the two babes short adults, I arranged all the toppings in the middle of the table with spoons and forks for digging in. I cut them loose to design their own salad and with everything on the table being somewhat healthy, they had total creative license to compose the salad of their dreams. It was a refreshing and delightful dinner time.

Beckett went heavy on the raw broccoli and bell peppers. Reed heaped up the tomatoes and chickpeas. They both made a serious dent in the blue cheese. I took a scoop of everything that was an option. And Jason's was gone before I could survey.

So Fun Spinach Salad, Deconstructed

You'll Need:

A big bowl of spinach leaves, washed and dried

You'll Want Some or All of the Following:

1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
raw broccoli florets
cooked quinoa (I usually have this in the fridge)
blue cheese, crumbled (goat cheese, Parm-Reg, or Manchego would also work)
hard boiled eggs, chopped
dried fruit of your choice (we used cranberries and cherries)
bell pepper, chopped
green onion, chopped
avocado, chopped
cooked & shelled edamame
olives of any kind
cherry tomatoes, rinsed and halved if you have the time
your favorite nuts, toasted (we used pepitas)

Now make a basic vinaigrette. I've been making our favorite vinaigrette for 3 or 4 years, so I don't measure. But, if you follow these proportions (1:3, vinegar:oil), you'll end up with something fairly divine. I use an old salsa jar to shake ours up. That way I'm not bothering with a dirty whisk. Herbs and shallots are optional in the dressing. If you have them, use them.

1/4 cup vinegar (red or white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, white or regular balsamic vinegar all work)
1 T Dijon Mustard (we like it tangy, reduce amount if you don't)
1 t honey
3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Safflower or Grapeseed Oils also work)
1/4 t salt
pinch black pepper

Shake dressing with lid tightly sealed. I let the kids do this part. You'll have more than you need but the dressing stores in the fridge for 2 weeks.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we did. Leave a comment if you come up with any additional toppings.


Lunch @ 226 - Spicy Sweet Potatoes

Behold. My new favorite way to eat sweet potatoes. Not that there is a bad way. Bake potato at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, until adequately squishy. I prick mine with a fork. Slice it open and pinch ends to create a well. Add a drizzle of olive oil, salt, sour cream, chili powder and a squeeze of lime. You can also rub the skin with chili powder before the bake. Some finely chopped red onion and cilantro leaves were added after the photo. It was awesome. Enjoy. P.S. Through some persistence, I learned how to make pictures bigger! Hells yeah.
Happy customers, all around.