Category Archives: food

Apricot breakfast muffins

I like to make breakfast muffins. I whip up a batch containing something relatively healthy, thus guaranteeing that nobody else will want to eat them, and then I stick them all in a ziploc bag in the freezer. In the morning I can pull one out and 20 seconds in the microwave later I’ve got something nice to eat with my coffee.

In the summer I made a batch of somewhat aggressively healthy zucchini-and-almond ones; more recently I was eating my old faithful (delicious) oatmeal streusel muffins; but today I pulled a bag of dried apricots off the shelf, looked up a basic recipe, and messed with it to good effect.

Apricot muffin

This is how my version looked:

  • 1 cup (160g) chopped dried apricots
  • 1 cup (120ml) boiling water
  • 1 cup (100g) wholewheat flour
  • 3/4 cup (75g) AP (white) flour
  • 1/4 cup (25g) wheatgerm
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (75g) brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (120ml) (in its liquid state)
  • a splash of orange juice (or some orange zest)
  • 1 cup (240ml) natural yogurt
  • 1/4 cup (50g) chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup (25g) chopped walnuts

Turn the oven to 400 F (200 C). Put the apricots, roughly chopped, into a small bowl and cover with the boiling water while you get on with everything else.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flours, wheatgerm, baking soda and salt. (You don’t have to have wheatgerm, and you can probably use all wholewheat flour if you want to.) I like to use a balloon whisk for this, but a spoon will work too.

Measure the sugar into a smaller bowl and mix with the egg, breaking up any lumps with a fork. Add the oil (you can use vegetable oil if you don’t have coconut) and the yogurt, as well as the orange juice or zest if you have it, and mix well.

Now mix the wet ingredients into the dry ones, but don’t overmix. Lumps are fine. Drain the apricots and add them, along with the walnuts and chocolate chips. Obviously, at this point the mix-ins are totally up to you, but this seemed like a good combination.

Scoop 12-15 muffins into waiting muffin cases (or greased muffin tins) and bake for 15 minutes.

Muffins in freezer bag

Oops, I just had one for my elevenses as well.

 

Adding this post to Simply Homemade’s breakfast linky. Go check out some other great healthy breakfast ideas. 

Avocados

Avocados remind me of my mother-in-law.

I had never tasted an avocado. I was nineteen, and in Ireland in nineteen-ninety-three, that was not as ridiculous as it might sound today, now that we’re all starting our little snowflakes off on their baby-led weaning journeys with a nice piece of avocado. They were still called avocado pears back then, probably.

I found myself at my boyfriend’s house taking part in an assembly line of very sophisticated starters consisting of half an avocado with crab mayonnaise in the dip left by the stone, for a grown-up dinner party. (By which I mean we were not invited.) I tried a little of the smooth green stuff. The taste was clean and yet perfumey, but it was the texture that was so different from anything I’d had before – slippery like soap, but softer. I wasn’t sure I liked it.

(Only a year or so later I was blithely making avocados into guacamole and slathering it on tortilla chips. The Tex-Mex revolution came to our shores with delightful, deep-fried-chimichanga, speed.)

My mother-in-law’s chocolate mousse was the stuff of legends, made from large bars of Cadbury’s Bourneville. She made braised red cabbage that had me snaffling extra helpings of a vegetable I thought I didn’t like out of the serving dish with my fingers in the kitchen. She showed me how to make mayonnaise by hand, drop by drop of olive oil in Italy, and how to grind tomatoes to garlicky gazpacho with a Mouli. She usually had some Prosecco to hand, to sparkle up any celebration.

I showed her how to steam broccoli in the microwave: she didn’t know about that. I always had strawberry jam in the fridge if she was coming to stay, and maybe some nice emmental; though she was always nothing less than delighted with whatever we had to eat, whether it was a home-roasted chicken or the excitement of a cinnamon bun in IKEA.

It’s just coming up to two years since she died. Our guest room goes mostly unused, and when we go to Ireland there’s something – someone – conspicuously missing. In our minds she’s still on a long trip to far-flung places. But we miss her voice on the answering machine on a Sunday afternoon, and the children’s memories of her are more inspired by photos than what they really remember.

She will never not be missed.

Granny and Dash, 2011

November 2011

 

Cheeses

Actual conversation I just had with Dash, aged 7.75 tomorrow:

Him: Why do you get more popcorn than I do?

Me: Mine has parmesan on it. Cheese is good for you.

Him: I don’t like cheese. And I can say that even more than usual, because I’ve tried cheese.

Me: Really. When did you try cheese?

Him: Twice. One time at the park.

Me: Yes.

Him: And a second time in late 2013.

Me: Oh. That’s very specific.

Him: Yes, it was October or November. And I didn’t like it.

Me: Okay then.

There is nothing more to say.

Dash balances on a bollard

Fully documented non-cheese-eater

My little gastronomes


Welcome to the June 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting in Theory vs. in Reality
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants are sharing how their ideas and methods of parenting have changed.
***


“I’ll never cook a separate meal for my children,” I said, back in those innocent days when my firstborn was growing apace, nourished by nothing more than his mama’s milk, as I thought scornfully of other families I’d seen doing just that. “Why should they need different food? Children’s menus are an abomination. He’s going to be a little gastronome.”

I love food. I have a (fairly) healthy and varied diet. I enjoy vegetables, with broccoli right up there at the top of my list, and kale a new entrant not far behind. I enjoy cooking and baking, sweet and savoury. I like to make Indian food, Italian, Tex-Mex. I have eaten Korean and Ethiopian, Mongolian and French. I own a tagine, and I’ve used it too.

My children, I thought loftily, will not suffer as I did at the hands of their grandmother. My mother, a wonderful woman, was not a natural cook. She likes to say that some are born cooks, some achieve cookery, and some – like her – have cookery thrust upon them. She fed me and my father admirably for many years, with wholesome home-cooked food that was often not burned. But my parents come of meat-and-two-veg stock, where one veg is always a potato. “Meat” includes fish (on Fridays), but vegetarian meals are unheard of, unless you’re actually one of those odd people, a vegetarian. “What did the good Lord put animals on the earth for if not for us to eat?” she’ll ask you. I stopped getting into that argument a long time ago.

When I have children, I thought, I’ll cook nice food.

And now I do cook nice food. My husband can vouch for it. He’s a wonderful and appreciative audience. Our kids, however, not so much.

Baby feeding himself peas (maybe)
I don’t think a single pea went in, then or since.

I conveniently forgot that before my foodie-esque incarnation, I was a pretty fussy eater, and it had little or nothing to do with my mother’s cooking: I was just made that way. I still remember the first time I tasted a pea (and swallowed it whole so it would go quicker). I remember putting sugar on raw tomatoes in salads to make them more palatable. I remember picking the chunks of beef out of the sauce of the stew, carefully scraping off any vestige of onion or whatever else might have been there. I remember the day I finally tasted a burger, and I’m pretty sure I was in double digits by then.

My husband too, it turns out, was a picky eater. As number five of five, he probably didn’t encounter much pushback from his parents, who I’m sure had stopped noticing by then. If you didn’t eat it, one of your siblings picked up the slack pretty quickly.

So of course, genetically as well as karmically, we were quite likely to produce a couple of picky eaters between us.

I started out as well as I could with my children. I ate lots of vegetables in my pregnancies. (And a fair number of toasted waffles and chocolate milkshakes too.) I breastfed my kids exclusively for the first six months, and continued well (very well) into “extended” territory. I introduced fruits and vegetables early. I provided them with a variety of attractive options. I read Ellyn Satter.

If my second child had been my first, I would probably describe her as a picky eater. As it is, I’m delighted that she eats a broad range of things: pizza, pasta (one brand only), scrambled eggs (sometimes), cheese (-sticks), baked beans, sausages, chicken (but never in nugget form), apples, strawberries, broccoli, even. (Yay broccoli!) That’s about it, mind you. Nothing with a sauce, nothing mixed together, nothing differently made, at the moment. She’s four. I think that’s how they are.

Small girl with slice of pizza
Healthy meal. That’s not even chocolate milk.

Her big brother, though, is far worse, and subsists on a diet of peanut-butter sandwiches, breakfast cereal, milk, and crackers. He’s a self-proclaimed vegetarian, except that he won’t eat a vegetable. In the past few months we’ve had some steps forward with tiny bites of raw carrot, some apple, a few grapes: these are a big deal for my seven-year-old. (Yes, he’s seven. This has been going on a long time. Even as a baby, when they eat everything, he was resistant to tasting things.)

My son is healthy and growing. He’s rarely sick, and he’s right at the 50th percentile on the growth charts, where he’s been since he was about 9 months old. The doctor encourages him to eat some fruits and vegetables, but beyond that she’s not particularly worried about him.

I have, of course, spent many fruitless (hah) hours obsessing over his diet, coming up with plans and sticker charts, blogging, enquiring, self-flagellating, wheedling, putting my foot down, and generally worrying about all of this – but in the end, I had to accept that eating, like sleeping and pooping, is just one of those things you can’t make someone else do. I cook a nice dinner for the grownups every night, our daughter might eat some of it or something else reasonably decent, and the boy has another peanut butter sandwich.

The good food is in the house. He sees it, he smells it, (he gags and removes himself to the other room), he knows what it’s called. He sometimes even helps cook it. He has no interest in eating it, most of the time, though now and then he announces that he wants to taste, say, lettuce, and I give him a bit and he nibbles it and recoils in horror.

I have taken all my assumptions about how to get children to eat healthy food and tossed them overboard. My son is a smart kid, he loves school, he’s growing and healthy and fast and strong. He eats what he eats, and it sustains him. He’s a pain to take on vacation or out for a meal, but such is life. I have faith that he’ll get around to eating more variety some day, and we’ll let him get there and welcome him with open arms and a full plate when he does.

Just don’t tell my mother he’s a vegetarian. She won’t understand.

Boy eating sliced apple
Then he sat down and ate an entire apple, just like that.


***
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Know Better, Do Better. Except When I Don’t. — Jennifer from True Confessions of a Real Mommy was able to settle in her parenting choices before her children arrived, but that doesn’t mean she always lives up to them.
  • Judgments Made Before Motherhood — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks back on her views of parents she came in contact with before she became a mother and how much her worldview of parenting has changed!
  • A Bend in The Road — Lyndsay at ourfeministplayschool writes about how her visions of homeschooling her son during the elementary school years have changed drastically in the last year – because HE wants to go to school.
  • I Wish Children Came with Instruction Manuals — While Dionna at Code Name: Mama loves reading about parenting, she’s not found any one book that counts as an instruction manual. Every child is different, every family is different, every dynamic is different. No single parenting method or style is the be-all end-all. Still, wouldn’t it be nice if parenting were like troubleshooting?
  • The Mistakes I’ve Made — Kate at Here Now Brown Cow laments the choices she made with her first child and explains how ditching her preconceived ideas on parenting is helping her to grow a happy family.
  • I Only Expected to Love… — Kellie at Our Mindful Life went into parenting expecting to not have all the answers. It turns out, she was right!
  • They See Me Wearin’, They Hatin’ — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different contemplates putting her babywearing aspirations into practice, and discussed how she deals with “babywearing haters.”
  • Parenting Human BeingsErika Gebhardt lists her parenting “mistakes,” and the one concept that has revolutionized her parenting.
  • Doing it right: what I knew before I had kids… — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud, guest posting at Natural Parents Network realises that the number one game in town, when it comes to parenting, is judgement about doing it right. But “doing it right” looks different to everybody.
  • A synopsis of our reality as first time parents — Amanda at My Life in a Nut Shell summarizes the struggles she went through to get pregnant, and how her daughter’s high needs paved the way for her and her husband to become natural parents.
  • Theory to Reality? — Jorje compares her original pre-kid ideas (some from her own childhood) to her personal parenting realities on MommaJorje.com.
  • The Princess Paradigm — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen had planned to raise her daughter in a sparkly, princess-free home, but in turn has found herself embracing the glitz.
  • Healthy Eating With Kids: Ideal vs. Real — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs had definite ideas about what healthy eating was going to look like in her family before she had kids. Little did she realize that her kids would have something to say about it.
  • How to deal with unwanted parenting advice — Tat at Mum in Search thought that dealing with unwanted parenting advice would be a breeze. It turned out to be one of her biggest challenges as a new mum.
  • How I trained my 43 month old in 89 days! — Becky at Old New Legacy used to mock sticker charts, until they became her best friend in the process of potty training.
  • My Double Life: Scheduling with Twins — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot was banging her head against the wall trying to keep up with the plan she made during pregnancy, until she let her babies lead the way.
  • Parenting in the land of compromise — As a holistic health geek trying to take care of her health issues naturally, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama regrets that her needs sometimes get in the way of her children’s needs.
  • Practice Makes Good, Not Perfect — Rachael at The Variegated Life comes to see that through practice, she just might already be the parent she wants to be.
  • 3 Dangerous Myths about Parenting and Partnering: How to Free Yourself and Your Family — Sheila Pai at A Living Family shares in theory (blog) and reality (video) how she frees herself from 3 Dangerous Myths about Parenting and Partnering that can damage the connection, peace and love she seeks to nurture in her relationships with family and others.
  • 5 Things I Thought MY Children Would Never Do — Luschka at Diary of a First Child largely laughs at herself and her previous misconceptions about things her children would or wouldn’t do, or be allowed to do.
  • Policing politeness — Lauren at Hobo Mama rethinks a conviction she had about modeling vs. teaching her children about courtesy.
  • The Before and The After: Learning about Parenting — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work reminisces about the perspective she held as a young adult working with children (and parents) . . . before she became a mother.
  • Parenting Beliefs: Becoming the Parent You Want to Be — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how we can make a mindful decision to become the parent we want to be. Decisions we make affect who we will become.
  • The Great Breastfeeding Debacle — In Lisa at The Squishable Baby’s mind, breastfeeding would be easy.
  • What my daughter taught me about being a parentMrs Green asks, “Is it ever ok to lock your child in their bedroom?”
  • Sensory Box Fail! — Megan at The Boho Mama discovers that thoughtful sensory activities can sometimes lead to pasta in your bra and beans up your nose.
  • Montessori and My Children – Theory vs. Reality — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares her experiences with Montessori parenting and describes the results she sees in her now-adult children.
  • I Like The Mother I Am Now More Than The Mother I Intended To Be — Darcel at The Mahogany Way thought she would just give her kids the look and they would immediately fall in line.
  • How I Ended Up Like My Tiger Mom With Peaceful Parenting — Theek at The Laotian Commotion somehow ended up like her Tiger Mom, even though she purposely tried for the complete opposite as a peaceful parent.

Transatlantic subtleties: dessert v. pudding

This came up in my comments one day, but it deserves a disambiguation post of its own, so here you go.

Dessert is dessert wherever you are: something sweet that you eat after your main course. Breakfast does not get dessert, but my children still ask for it. Lunch should not get dessert but sometimes it does. Dinner, conversely, doesn’t always get dessert around here. Sometimes your chewy vitamin is dessert. You takes what you gets. If I was a good French mother, dessert would always be fruit. I’m neither good nor French.

I digress; dessert is easy, is my point – so long as you’re talking semantics rather than parenting.

Pudding is another matter entirely.

In Ireland (and the UK, I daresay), pudding mostly is a synonym for dessert. Thus: “What’s for pudding?”, “Where’s my pudding?”, and “I want pudding!”

However, it does have a couple of other specific uses:

steamed pudding – a dessert traditionally made with suet (animal shortening, like Crisco) that comes out cake-like but is eaten hot. It’s a more old-fashioned thing, and most people these days only encounter one at Christmas – Christmas pudding is a dense, dark, alcohol-soused mixture of raisins, sultanas, currants, mixed peel (and glace cherries if you’re into that sort of thing), just about held together by some fluffy stuff. It’s basically just another form of Christmas cake, but to be eaten warm with whipped cream and brandy butter. Variants might have amusing names like “spotted dick” or “pig’s bum“, as well as the more palatable-sounding treacle pudding.

blood pudding – in Ireland this is black or white pudding – definitely a savoury, not a dessert. It’s a sausage made with pigs’ blood that you might fry up a few coins of for breakfast with your rashers and egg. You either love it or hate it.

In the US, pudding is a specific type of dessert – a thick, viscous, sweet slurpy stuff that’s often vanilla or chocolate flavoured. The closest thing to it I might have encountered in Ireland is Angel Delight. Something between the texture of thick custard and slightly runny blancmange, maybe. You can mix it up from powder or buy it ready made in little individual pots, or probably even make it from scratch.

So we have learned that pudding is always dessert (except when it’s not) and dessert is not always pudding. Did I clear everything right up? Oh good.

Feast report

Today we went to the zoo. Surprisingly, quite a lot of people seemed to think Black Friday would be a good zoo day, but the weather was perfect as it so rarely is for the zoo, and we did well. We saw a cheetah and the lions, some distant gorillas and a sad orang-utan (do they ever look otherwise), the reptiles and some indolent sea lions. The absolute highlight, however, was the naked mole rats.

Thanks to this book, which we have from the library, the children had heard of naked mole rats. But when I told Dash we could see them at the zoo, he reacted as if I’d just told him the unicorns would be coming up on the left.

“Ha ha.”
“No, really. They’re in the small mammal house.”
“You’re just being silly.”
“I promise. They exist.”
“Really?”
etc.

When we finally got to the small mammals we had to charge past all the (many and various) tamarins, pausing briefly at the two-toed sloth (who looked like nothing so much as a black labrador poking his nose out from under a comatose afghan hound), to get to the perspex tubes (to simulate tunnels) of naked mole rats. They weren’t all that exciting in person, but the children were thrilled by their mere existence.

That’s a lion in the distance. Left of the tree. See?
*******

But that’s not why I’m here, and that’s not why you’re here either. You came for the food, didn’t you? Well, the food is what you’re getting. A report on yesterday, that is.

As we had no company for Thanksgiving, and we don’t particularly like turkey, and we don’t feel any weight of tradition on this culturally-not-ours day, I usually try to do something different. This year I saw a recipe for ribs, and the photo was so enticing that I decided to pull the slow-cooker out of the enforced retirement it’s been in since its disastrous maiden voyage in 2004.

I’m here to tell you that it was a roaring success, and I might have to use the crockpot more often than once every eight years now that I’ve discovered this.

To accompany, we had baked potatoes and lemony green beans, and a nice shiraz which is probably the wrong thing to go with ribs, but we’re not fussy.

Of course, I had to make a pie, even if I am anti-tradition. Apple, if you please. It was delish.

Pastry hearts. Because hearts symbolise Thanksgiving, right?

Then I was left with half an hour to spare and some extra pastry, so I took the half-can of pumpkin that was sitting in the fridge, looked up some recipes, and made mini pumpkin pies too. Mostly because Mabel had announced at her school feast on Tuesday that she loved pumpkin pie. She didn’t like mine, of course.

Splats of pumpkin
The jury’s still out on these, I admit.

I don’t think we’re having a turkey on Thursday

I spend a few days thinking about jeans and shoes and suddenly it’s Thanksgiving week and there’s no food in the house.

Ah well. Food comes and goes, you know, but boots are good for at least two years, I’d say. I have a pair of boots upstairs that I bought in 1999, actually. I wore them at least once last year. (I’d wear them more often if I had any call for 2.5-inch heels on a regular basis. But somehow I never feel that first-grade pickup is the right time. Or daylight, for that matter.)

The reason I’m suddenly getting all twitchy about how untrendy I am is, of course, that we’ll be going home to Dublin for three weeks at Christmas, and while not exactly the fashion capital of the western world, the stakes are a tiny bit higher than they are here. The season that’s in it gives rise to opportunities to dress up, for one thing, and people there do tend to dress up a bit more. I just want to look like I’m not totally submersed by my soccermom lifestyle, that’s all.

[And then I thought: submersed isn’t a word, you idiot. It’s submerged, or immersed. But I looked it up and it is a word and it means just what I meant it to, so that’s nice.]

And when you only see people once a year, or there’s the chance you’ll be meeting up with people you haven’t seen for ten years, or meeting people you’ve only interacted with on the Internet, not to mention the fact that the tiny statistical probability of bumping into an ex-boyfriend is raised by at least 75% if I’m walking down Grafton Street rather than to first-grade pickup, you want to look at least reasonably not awful.

[Yes, I know I just changed from second person to first and back again in the same paragraph-long sentence. I did it on purpose. So I did.]

Anyway. Back to food. It is slowly dawning on me – these things take time to percolate through, as my friend Thrift Store Mama was just talking about today – that my fruit and vegetable intake is not really up to recommended standards. I always thought, if I thought anything about it, that I wasn’t great on fruits but my vegetables made up for it. It’s true that I do like vegetables, but it’s also true that breakfast and lunch are often quite vegetable-free meals for me. Breakfast is basically a free pass: I see it as an opportunity for guilt-free carbing. Lunch would have a vegetable if a vegetable happened along, but all too often it’s some riff on a ham and cheese sandwich, with maybe a crescent or two of apple that Mabel didn’t eat. So that leaves dinner, when I probably get in two servings of vegetables easily enough, but that’s still three away from even the most basic daily requirement.

This train of thought began when I read Jamie at Light and Momentary mention that she was aiming for nine servings of fruit and vegetables every day. Nine? How could anyone eat that much food, I wondered. Well, hey, apparently that’s my recommended daily intake. And here I was thinking I was failing at just five, when in fact I’m failing miserably at nine instead.

Oh well, I thought, I’ll just eat nine servings a day and I’ll be slender and full of energy in no time. And yet, thinking did not make it so. I think I had one and a half extra servings yesterday, and one today, and they all involved baby carrots and hummus, which are quite nice but not nine servings nice. (Also, I don’t think I’m meant to eat eight servings of carrots every day. I’d turn orange.)

The difficulty is that vegetables, and fruit for that matter, just don’t have that fluffy or crunchy or dough-like baked consistency that goes as well with a nice cup of tea as, say, muffins do. Or cookies. Or a piece of cake or a scone or a brownie. Nobody sits down for a cuppa and some broccoli florets. Or coffee and a carrot. (Stick of celery? Brr.) Even a quarter cup of raisins just don’t cut it with a hot beverage, unless they’re liberally surrounded by oatmeal and sugar and baked into some sort of, let’s say, cookie-type vehicle.

So far I’m batting about 50/50 on whether I think “Now I’ll have a cup of tea and something chocolate” or “Now I’ll eat a healthy snack,” but even if I add one serving a day for this week, it’s a start.

I think this is one for the “Best intentions” tag, don’t you? I probably need to start a “Went awry” tag too.

Seasonal produce

I am here to tell you that if you didn’t think you liked eggplant (or aubergine, because we’re fancy like that in Ireland) it’s because you were doing it wrong. Specifically, like me, you may have never bothered to salt and drain it, because who has time for that sort of thing? People who know how delicious it makes eggplant, that’s who. I just recently bothered, for the first time, to take my eggplant out a bit ahead of time – an hour is good, in the morning is great – slice it thickly, and spread the slices out on some kitchen paper. Then I shake salt all over them, both sides, top with more kitchen paper (paper towels, whatever you call ’em), and weigh it all down with a few hefty cookbooks. I just did it now while my waffle popped out of the toaster, and the butter still melted by the time I was done.

Later on, when you put the eggplant into whatever you want – this, perhaps, or just ratatouille, or vegetarian lasagne, which is what I’m planning today – it will turn out to be both chewy and creamy, and a most wonderful vehicle for the garlic that I exhort you to use liberally. If I was Nigella Lawson, the word unctuous would be bursting forth right about now, but I’m not, so I won’t go quite that far.

The other thing I’ve been doing lately is massaging my kale. (I told Facebook about it and got a few entertainingly salacious comments. My work there is done.) From being a person who never even thought about kale to one who decided she didn’t like it, I have lately come down heavily in favour of the curly dark-green leaves. It started with this recipe for quinoa salad with kale and cranberries, which I ate for most of the summer. A little fiddly what with the roasting of the walnuts, but totally addictive. You can leave out the shallot (or even the onion) if that’s too much trouble, and you won’t miss it.

But then I got even lazier, and decided cooking the kale was too much trouble for a salad. And I remembered something a friend had said once, in my pre-kale-eating days (when I was offloading a bunch of donated kale onto her, actually, because I didn’t think I’d use it) about massaging kale. How ridiculous, I thought. Maybe you and your kale are on those sort of terms, but I prefer to keep mine at fork’s length, thank you. But about a week ago, I googled “massaged kale” and came up with all sorts of perfectly reasonable suggestions. Basically, you put your (washed and de-stemmed) leaves in a bowl with a shake of salt and a sprinkle of oil, and you work it with your hands until the fibres break down, turning this tough saute-only veg into a perfectly nice wilted salad leaf. (I have been told that you can also just leave it alone for an hour or so and the dressing will do the work on its own, but I like instant gratification.)

Then you can put a bit of what you fancy on top and call it salad. Some dried cranberries and a shake of roasted sunflower seeds with a drizzle of red wine vinegar or avocado and lemon juice are two versions I tried last week, but there are a ton of options. I think you need something a little sweet to counterbalance the leaves, but probably just a pinch of sugar or a drop of honey in your dressing would do the trick quite well.

Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out how to stop getting hungry again at 2pm when I’ve had a big bowl of kale salad for lunch at midday. When I find out, I’ll let you know, because otherwise it seems like an ideal way to counteract the effects of the muffins.

Thrifty

I really have to bake something, because I have a playdate coming over this afternoon and it is my God-given duty to provide my friend and her children with something unhealthy but not chocolate to reject/eat, and I spent the morning at the thrift store where I not only picked up some great clothes for Dash to wear some day when he fits size 7s and 8s – so in about five years, then, but I don’t care because I got him a very nice Hilfiger shirt for five bucks – but also became a VIP member and started a rewards card, so I think we can say I’m really hardcore now. Now that Mabel’s taking a nap, which will only be one hour and no more, I promise on my honour as a mother, I have blogging and baking to do both, at once and simultaneously together at the same time.

I seem to have decided, without actually noticing it happen, to start making all the recipes that I pinned to my Food board on Pinterest instead of just drooling over them, so suddenly I have roasted vegetable soup halfway made and am committed to making kale and quinoa salad with cranberries, of all things, for dinner, or lunch, or some meal when we will feel like eating healthy stuff and I’ll be all smug and also boosted in necessary vitamins and minerals and protein and not meat. (I should also mention that I made these sweet-potato and bean burgers the other night and they were quite delicious and I highly recommend them, and who knows, even your children might eat them, not that mine gave them a second glance but I’m sure that’s my own fault for doing something wrong at a very early stage in their vital development. Probably that time I dropped them on their heads. Stomachs. Whatever.)

The reason I went to the thrift store was because I had this wonderful idea. Like everyone else in the Western world who has children and lives within 500 miles of IKEA, we have a lot of colourful plasticware, and it’s starting to bug me. It doesn’t dry properly in the dishwasher, and the plates are getting all scratched from cutting crusts off sandwiches, and despite assuring you all that we had given up sippy cups about a year and a half ago, we haven’t really, though technically we have because we mostly use straw cups instead, but it comes to the same thing.

When we’re away from home and the kids have to use real crockery and proper glass glasses, nothing terrible happens except that I’m more careful about not letting them wander around with a drink in hand, which is probably a good thing. So I thought, inspired partly by my friend Mrs Quimby who once mentioned that she lets her girls use little thrift-store creamers (milk jugs, that is) to practice pouring, that I would acquire some cheap china and small chunky glasses, and let the kids use those instead of the plastic. They’ll think it’s exciting, I’ll think they’re getting civilized, it’s a win/win.

So I did, and we will see how it goes. I just hope I can figure out how to get the permanent-marker prices off the tumblers before we start using them.

Elephants

When you invite people over for food, it’s usually important to have something to eat in the house. Similarly, when you invite friends over for drinks, it’s customary to have more than just our usual milk, water, or fruit-and-vegetable juice available. And so it was that I went to the shops again this morning.

B and I, as many people do, spent our twenties expanding our tastes for drinks both fruity and hoppy (though not at the same time), well-chilled or mulled, spicy, bold, well-rounded, Russian, slammed, shot, bubbly, flaming, muddled, colour-changing, or with a slice of clove-studded orange floating in them. Whether it had a nice creamy head or came in a fancy glass, we were probably happy to try it.

Then we had a baby. First there was the ritual giving-up-of-alcohol-during-pregnancy for me. And then the cautious re-introduction of just a little alcohol while nursing. And then we moved from Texas to Maryland and somehow I felt as if we were moving trans-Atlantically and couldn’t take anything comestible with us, so I gave away our few bottles of spirits and we arrived here without so much as the makings of a gin-and-tonic to our name.

And thus, almost, we have stayed. We like a beer with dinner, we drink wine now and then, but hard liquor has not been a part of our lives recently. My aunt and uncle stayed with us before Dash turned two, and gifted us with a bottle of gin – for some reason – when they left. It has – I kid you not – sat unopened in the freezer ever since.

(B would like to point out that that’s not strictly true. We’ve only lived in this house for 18 months. Before that, it sat unopened in the freezer in our old house. And there was probably some period when it was in transit from one freezer to the other and therefore was in no freezer at all.)

My point still stands. We’re pathetic, that’s what. I had great intentions of having gins-and-tonic this summer, because what could be more refreshing, right? But then I was stuck looking for tonic water that didn’t have high-fructose corn syrup in it, because I couldn’t believe that was necessary. And when I finally found it, in the organic supermarket, I couldn’t believe it was that expensive, so I didn’t buy it. B eventually circumvented all this by going out one day a few months ago and just picking up a bottle of Schweppes, HFCS and all, and that has sat unopened in the fridge ever since.

So today we said, “Right. Let us have on hand this Christmas the makings of cosmopolitans. And maybe bellinis.”

I went to the supermarket that has alcohol. I needed more sugar for icing the Christmas cake anyway (more on that in a few days, I promise) and more bread for Dash’s interminable peanut-butter sandwiches (guess what he’s having for Christmas dinner?), and a bottle of wine for the day that will be in it, since we’ve already started into the one I got before. (Note to self: should stock up with more than one wine bottle at a time. Maybe need to throw a party so people will bring us wine.) I got a lime, for the cosmo’s. I got peach juice for the bellinis. We already have a bottle of prosecco in the fridge that needs to be used.

Then I realised the supermarket-with-alcohol doesn’t stock spirits. So I got back into the car and drove to the liquor shop. At least this isn’t Pennsylvania, where no supermarkets have any alcohol at all, and you can’t even buy beer and wine in the same establishment. And nothing on Sundays.

I picked up a bottle of Guinness to make beef-and-Guinness stew with for Christmas-Eve dinner. And a bottle of vodka for the cosmopolitans. I contemplated the Cointreau, but it was too expensive. (I have only just now looked at that link up there and discovered that’s meant to go in the cosmo too. I think we used to make them without.) Where’s duty-free when you need it? When will we ever be travelling light enough to think it’s a good idea to add a heavy glass bottle to our luggage on the way home from the airport?

I came home. We still need at least cranberry juice for the cosmo’s, and there are only two beers left in the fridge. Entertaining will have to wait for another trip to the supermarket. In the meantime, would anyone like a bellini? I think we’ll be having some with our bacon and pancakes on Christmas morning.

Mabel raiding someone else’s Christmas drinks stash two years ago