Dinner @ 226 - One Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf

This has to be a quick post because I have to go back to hunting down the camera battery that my daughter hid from me. Seriously, she thinks it's a game. And, really I just want to take pictures of the most amazing Moroccan Carrot & Chickpea Stew that I made and share it with you. But, how does she know that? She thinks she's playing a game. A really hilarious fucking game.

The Moroccan Stew needs to be shared. It's good. But, this one right here is good also. I make it once or twice a month. And to appear in repeat performances on my dinner table is to say that you played the part very well.

Incidentally, and completely unrelated, we found ourselves at the mall today. I never go there. It frightens me. Needless to say I had to pick something up at a store that is only located in the mall, with no online counterpart. I didn't know it existed but it does. There are three million trillion and ten reasons why I don't go to the mall. Reed gave me one more today. She strolled past the Abercrombie & Fitch storefront and a giant poster of a shirtless tween caught her eye. She turns back to me, with her little thumb pointed in the direction of the overpriced teen dream mecca and says, "super hot."

What? I looked around to make sure she wasn't talking about a misplaced stove top or fireplace facade for sale. "No, Mom, that boy! He's super hot." We peeled out and made way to our car where I explained to her that she is only FOUR years old. A fact that she had tragically forgotten.

Luckily we are back at our house now which is void of shirtless pictures of any kind. And we can focus on kale and finding camera batteries. Pilaf is a word that sort of turns me off. It's usually rice with some uninteresting steamed vegetables. It is extraordinarily depressing at restaurants, the neglected side dish that the chef threw together with 17 minutes till dinner hour.

Well, I say, rethink pilaf! This stuff, though it carries the name, is anything but boring. It has everything your mouth wants and instead of pilaf, we call it "dinner." Dinner with very few dishes.

One Pot Kale & Quinoa Pilaf - Serves 2-4 (I double it for a main course)
Adapted barely from here

2 cups salted water
1 cup quinoa
1 bunch lacinato kale (cut into strips)
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 scallions
1 T toasted walnut oil (I've also used good olive oil, different but now worse or better)
3 T toasted pine nuts (I use walnuts because pine nuts are so dang expensive)
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (I go back and forth between feta and goat cheese, and use whatever I have in the cheese drawer. Both are delicious in this.)

Bring the water to a boil in a covered pot. Use a big one if you are doubling the recipe. Add the quinoa and turn down the heat to a steady simmer, cover. Simmer the quinoa for 10 minutes, then add the kale and re-cover. Simmer the quinoa and kale for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let steam for about 5 more minutes.

In a serving bowl, combine the rest of the ingredient, reserving 1/2 the lemon juice. When the water has been absorbed into the quinoa and the kale is a lively green, dump it into your serving bowl with the waiting ingredients. Mix, and add salt and pepper to taste and the rest of the lemon juice.

I top this dish with some more feta or goat cheese and fresh parsley if I've got it. Really the only secret to this One-Dish-Wowza (whoa, I just got all kinds of Rachael Ray on you) is to mix it up while the quinoa is still hot. It absorbs all the flavors that way.

And just because I cannot wait for summer and sweaty blond hair:


Valentine's Mess

Our day has been full of:
glitter, felt, and neon pipe cleaners
crafted princess wands for 12 lucky preschoolers
lots of red (and pink)
flour and sprinkles
a hot glue lesson
MAIL! from much-missed family (thank you - love you)
impromptu painting projects which led to more messes
my very favorite old-school board game that i can't WAIT to play
a successful skype date with my sister and our Most Adorable niece/cousin
never quite making it out of our jammies
watching little spongey shapes grow in water
dad-made waffles
sweet treats from sweet neighbors
only one minor meltdown at the thought of not getting said sweet treat before lunch (i know, i'm a mean mama. somebody already told me.)
just a little bit of chocolate (but the very BEST kind)
very focused artists that hardly noticed the camera
oh, and more messes. obvi.

"happy valentiMes day" says Beckett.

I hope it's been a sweet one.

p.s. Are you making anything special for dinner? If so, please share. I haven't the slightest of inspiration.


Lunch @ 226 - Sesame Kale and Cabbage Slaw with Baked Tofu

Let's talk about 10 things that I once hated. I mean despised and would not let enter the tightly protected area that is my life.

1) capers
2) dark greens
3) split pea soup
4) wrap dresses or sweaters
5) khakis or chinos
6) running for exercise (not to be confused with running for safety)
7) salmon
8) dirty fingernails
9) beets
10)tear drop shaped jewelry

As it turns out, our likes and dislikes aren't stagnant, which is exciting news. Some of these items are no longer on this list. Most of them remain. This necklace makes me severely uncomfortable. And I would not purchase a pair of khaki pants if I were promised a sprawling estate in Aruba with Ryan Gosling as my cabana boy.

The good news? I like all the foods I once detested. And I not only like it or happily eat it, I seek out ways to use them in our regular meal rotation.

So, I think what we've learned here is that if you keep an open mind about food and keep trying different foods in different applications, you're bound to find one you like. Your taste buds do eventually mature, if they're given the opportunity. Just like your parents said they would.

Working in a grocery store, I hear it a lot but it doesn't make me any less frustrated. Here's the scene. Little Johnny reaches for a nice big pineapple only to have his mother remove it from his fist and say, "no, honey. you don't like pineapple." This mentality perpetuates our kids' pickiness.

It's true, he may not have liked pineapple the first time he tried it. The flavor is shockingly sweet and overwhelmingly juicy and sometimes the texture is just a little bit stringy. His taste buds weren't ready. But that's not to say they never will be.

Let him smell it. Let him taste it. Even a tiny bite. Let him decide. Exposing your children to different tastes and textures is how you raise an explorative and, in turn, healthy eater. Do you know what pineapple does for Little Johnny? Don't deprive him of that.

I know we feel a little sense of control and possession as mamas by knowing what each of our children likes and doesn't. It's part of their identity. It's information that few people know. It's MamaMation. But, it doesn't mean we shouldn't embrace the likes and challenge the dislikes.

Again, taste buds are not stagnant. Say it with me!

Beckett liked this lunch so much, he needed 2 forks.

It took me twenty four years to like kale. But, mix it with some cabbage and a spicy vinaigrette. I'll call it lunch. Happily.

I'm still working on the aversion to exercise.

And I'm beginning to believe the khaki repugnance will travel with me forever. Maybe I'm not willing to embrace it, because it's so effing ugly I'm stubborn.

Don't have the same attitude towards food. Keep trying.

What? Reed actually smiled (sort of) in a picture? She may have sensed that her job security was in jeopardy. We've kept her on the team, but with some pretty strict amendments to her contract. Also, instead of checks, she now gets paid in kiwis. Tough break.

Sesame Kale & Cabbage Slaw with Baked Tofu
Serves 2-4, double it for a big, hearty dinner!

1/2 brick of tofu cut into 4 1/2 inch "planks"
a few drizzles of Tamari

1 T toasted sesame oil
4 T rice vinegar
2 T Tamari* (regular soy sauce also works)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T fresh grated ginger
a few drops of Sriracha, depending on who you're serving it to

1/2 small head of cabbage, finely shredded (you can also use pre shredded)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch Lacinato Kale (also called Italian kale...just not the curly stuff), carefully rinsed, deveined and cut into 1/2 inch strips
large handful of sesame seeds, toasted in a dry pan
3 scallions, sliced thin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and set your tofu "planks" on the baking sheet. Drizzle the Tamari over them, flip them so they are fully coated. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Flip with a spatula and bake for another 15-20.

While that's all happening whisk together the ingredients for your dressing. In a large bowl, collect your slaw ingredients. Reserve a few tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds. Pour the dressing over the slaw and mix until everything is equally slick. This slaw is great because it can sit anywhere from 1-4 hours and taste equally good as serving it right away.

Pile up a little slaw on a plate, scatter a few sesame seeds on top and serve with a "plank" of baked tofu. Or as Beckett says, "toe-food". Which makes perfect sense.

*Tamari is a thicker, fuller flavored Soy Sauce that you can find in most Supermarket's International Aisle.


The Boy Likes His Sushi

Beckett met sushi for the first time this weekend. Yes, he's been to sushi restaurants before but we always order him the cop-out Pad Thai because we don't want the "Eat Your Dinner" battle to take over our once/month restaurant experience. I'm sure our fellow diners appreciate this. The deafening sound of a three year old's whine can sometimes turn your stomach. Especially if they're not yours.

Reed loves seaweed salad and spicy tuna rolls. She always cleans her plate...err little wooden tray thingy.

But our boy is a bit more timid when it comes to unusual foods. He appreciates quantity, but sometimes shies away from variety. I mean, the kid didn't eat a piece of fruit until he was two years old.

Well people, we underestimated him.

Needless to say, Sushi and he got along very, very well. They even scheduled a second date.

Thank you to FUSIAN for cleaning up after our two ravenous children the super tasty sushi.

Do you feed your kids sushi?


Beckett's 3rd Birthday Bash

Yes, this post is a little late. Beckett's actual birthday is on November 28th and we had his party even earlier this year so that it wouldn't be wadded up and tossed aside in the crumples of the Holiday mess. Successful as that was, I haven't told you anything about it.

But, I think it's worthy of a short post and some pictures. Because if you have a creative and imaginative little guy (or girl) like I do, I think they'd love this party. It worked out better than I ever could have imagined.

We sent out an invitation that looked like this:

Beckett got to wear his famed pirate costume again.

Reed got to be a devil. It was like Halloween redux. They were both happy.

The antique trunk had a sign on it that read something like, "Drop your loot here and then walk the plank, you scurvy dog!"

Beckett got a personalized superhero cape!

I made a chocolate cake with pirate treasure and BONES on the top. Beckett just ate all the bones. And then the chocolate cake. I heard good, good things about the cake. Let me know if you're in need of a recipe, I'd love to share.

I made everyone who didn't dress up wear a mustache (or unibrow). Some people happily obliged.

My dad made a fair share of guests feel alarmingly uncomfortable with his portrayal of a character he created named, "Uncle Ralph." Uncle Ralph is not someone you want to know. He is somewhat inappropriate. And hilarious.

Below is a picture of "Monkey Business," which I thought was adorable. Shirt + Tie + Name tag that said "Hi My Name is Monkey Business" + Monkey slippers. Adorable.

We had THREE hillbillies, two knights, an elf, two cowgirls, one cowboy, one baby, a piglet, a Geisha and more. Beckett's expressions when seeing people he knew in costumes was hysterical.

We had two kinds of soup (Creamy Cauliflower & Butternut Squash Bisque) with various toppings and a small spinach salad bar. If it weren't for my poor planning habits, they could have been prepared a day (or two) in advance. Along with fruit, pretzels and onion dip, and popcorn.

I served coffee and hot cider, along with water. It was the first time I didn't have alcohol for the adults (it just wasn't in the budget) at one of my kids' birthdays. And, against all odds, this was the most fun I've had at one of my kids' birthdays. Besides Reed's Micheal Jackson party. That's hard to beat (it).

I used this tutorial for simple decorations that hung from the ceiling. (You can sort of see them in up in the corner of the picture when Nikki Manaj Katy Perry Jessie J I'm bringing in the cake. Super simple. Super cheap. Super cute.

I made a makeshift photobooth and had directions hanging to get goofy and make some memories. There were also signs that said "I <3 Beckett" and "3 years old, OMG!" This was a cute idea but a major fail. The signs were too small, the spot was too dark, the red curtain was too LOUD for the backdrop. But, whatevs, it was fun for those who participated. If anyone has any tips for a successful at home Photo Booth, please share!

Beckett got loads of fantastic dress-ups from some very generous and lovely friends. And while he threw them aside, hoping for "real toys" he uses them every. single. day. And they bring that kid some serious joy. And take him on some serious adventures. That is exactly what I was hoping for.

I know that winter birthdays are sometimes hard to plan. Without the ease of toddlers running around outside, the Birthday World loses its luster. And I lose my creativity. But, this party was every bit as fun as Reed's summer backyard fiestas.

Jason put vaseline in his hair. On purpose. He was totally committed to the Hillybilly look. He also trimmed the afro wig and used it as chest hair. After the first 10 comments from the first 10 guests, he buttoned up. He changed shortly after.

He also wore a onesie. A Carhartt's onesie.

Scooby Doo showed up.

There were lots of laughs. Like, my abs hurt.


Beckett rarely gets a day for himself. He lets his sister have the spotlight and gracefully falls into the background. His second birthday was overlooked. He doesn't remember his first. He is the sweetest of boys and absolutely deserved this day. His day.

He was in a world of amazement. And loved every minute.

P.S. Jason now wants me to dye my hair neon pink. Something tells me I would tire of it quickly. No?