Quick Dinner No. 1

Extra curricular activities can really thwart family dinners. On those days we have late practices and games, I try to come up with dinners that take minutes and require little clean up. This is one of our favorites.

I put a large pot of water to poach eggs. (I use this technique.) While the water comes up to temperature, I wash, destem, and chop the kale. Then I place it in a sauté pan drizzled with oil and let it cook over medium-low heat. While the kale sautés, I poach the eggs. The brown rice is the Brown Rice Medley from Trader Joe’s, and I just toss that in the microwave. One day I will buy a rice cooker and make large batches of rice to eat during the week. Until then, this works.

Everything cooks at once, taking 16 minutes or so for a total of four plates. I stagger the eggs, but if you are brave enough to poach multiple eggs at once, you reduce your active time considerably. We place generous slices of avocado on top if they are available, too, because once must always guild the lily when opportunity strikes. The boys like to eat this plain, but I shake some hot sauce on top.

Vegans, you can skip the eggs and saute a can of beans (I like garbanzo) in the same pan you used for the kale.

Meeting Tarragon

I would like to experiment with seasoning in my cooking. For years I clung to basil. More recently, oregano. I’m on a fast track to parsley at this rate. There was once an episode of Chopped where one of the contestants used herbs and spices the way most people use salt. His meals came out layered like onions. Every bite was a new, but complementary, experience. He won. No surprise there.

I joked on Facebook that if this week got any worse I would have to make up events for Friday’s Happy, Happy post. I’ll say one thing about Tuesday, it’s the day I discovered tarragon tastes fantastic on shiitake mushrooms sautéed in butter and a few tablespoons of zinfandel.

The above is an Instagram photo of the lunch where I found tarragon. You can find this and many more exciting images by following me at @pancakesfries. I hear droid users can now use it now, too. Try it out! I really have fun over there. The kind of fun where you take pictures of your lunch or shoes or pets, so, keep your expectations in check.

Gardening, Food

Mikey had a swim party at the YMCA over the weekend. As we were walking out, I noticed a missed call from my neighbor across the street. She’s retired and in her 60s, and while we are friendly and talk whenever we cross paths, we aren’t in the habit of calling each other Sunday evenings.

I envisioned all sorts of tragedy, but decided to focus on fires, burglaries, and something with the dogs. I shored up my spine, ready to accept whatever she had to tell me and listened to her preliminary greetings with baited breath until she got down to it.

“Jules, would you like some red leaf lettuce and spinach? My crop just came in and I thought I’d share the bounty with you.”

I said yes, of course, but forgot to ask her is she was also growing chamomile in that garden of hers. I could use some.

There was a large bag of greens on our doorstep when we got home. I had a bowl for lunch the next day, and I will have another today. This, along with all the gardening magazines on the newsstands, reminded me that one of my life list goals was to start a garden. I don’t even know where to begin.

I saw my neighbor the next day and went over to thank her for the greens and ask for gardening help. She claims to be an amateur, but agreed to help me get started. I’m really excited. I can’t wait to be outside, under the sun, doing whatever it is people who garden do.

The greens I ate for lunch inspired me to cook dinner, something I feel like I haven’t done in far too long. With the boys sick so often, and then me sick last week, lately all we eat are cobbled together meals without flavor or nutrition. I made white bean chicken chili and scratch cornbread. It tasted great and everyone had seconds, except me. I saved myself for dessert, which came in the form of esophageal flambé. Delicious!

I haven’t been abstaining from flour and sugar for months, and I have the heartburn to prove it. I fell off the wagon December 26th and haven’t been able to get my groove back due to resistance and petulance. I see so many wonderful recipes, eating philosophies, and life experiences surrounded and celebrated by food that I find it difficult to commit to one way of eating for the long haul. Every good diet faction is headed by an even better spokesperson. They are convincing, every last one of them.

To eat differently is to single yourself out from the crowd. I know many people who thrive on the attention and live to tell the world they are raw vegan fruitarians allergic to coconuts, but that’s not me. I’m the introvert in the corner who can’t eat a spoonful of oatmeal without my chest turning into a smithy, but will lick the bowl clean if you tell me you made a double batch of Quaker Oats just for me. Hurting your feelings bothers me more than heartburn? I am weird.

One day everything will fall into place for me. I know it, and I’m not worried about it. Until then, I’ll keep eating my neighbor’s organic lettuce.

p.s. As a reader already observed, the second to last paragraph of this post has a lot in common with this post. It’s all interconnected, and I actually wrote a great deal more last night but edited it out. It sounded gloomy and morose, the opposite of what I wanted.


Una Picada

I didn’t have it in me to cook dinner on Saturday, so I made una picada instead. Every time we eat like this for dinner we  mumble in between bites of cheese and prosciutto and crackers that we should do this more often. I don’t know why we don’t.

A picada (pee-káh-dah) is something to nibble on before dinner or a main meal. More often than not, the picada becomes the meal and the meal becomes what distends your stomach and gives you indigestion. For my mom, the picada is as important as the meal. She passed that neurosis on to me, so it’s not unusual for me to have 5 or 6 plates of finger foods–not including nuts or cheese–set out before a celebratory dinner.

A typical picada for us will have salami, ham, prosciutto, a plate of cheeses, my mom’s blue cheese spread, hearts of palm with dressing, chips, empanadas, sandwiches de miga, and one or two bowls of nuts because even gluttons need omega-3s, antioxidants, protein, and fiber.

As you can see, Saturday night wasn’t so extravagant. I didn’t even bother to remove the meats, cheeses, and dips from their store packaging and onto my extensive picada serving plates, something I will hear about on my mother’s deathbed if fate is cruel and she sees this picture.  I admit, this is hardly fair representation for Argentina’s version of tapas. I’ll have to redeem myself by hosting, and then posting, a true picada. This was a pale, pathetic excuse for a picada. It was more of a pic…, or as my mother would say, “A tiny little drop in my ocean.”

Clementine and Date Yogurt Cups

Abstaining from flour and sugar doesn’t mean I abstain from desserts. It means I am opening myself up to new flavors and, overtime, tasting food clearly. Never was this more apparent than when I first went sugar and flour free two years ago. Tomatoes were impossibly sweet. Roasted bell peppers tasted like candy. I’m hoping to cleanse my palate to that extent again. It takes time. About a month or two, if I remember.

This is my favorite dessert, my only dessert right now. It’s a Greek yogurt cup of clementines, dates, flax seed, unsweetened coconut, and oil. The boys and I can eat this up morning, noon, and night. The Mister isn’t as big a fan. He can’t get past the texture of yogurt. It disgusts him.

As with most of my recipes, this isn’t much of a recipe. I layered this dessert for the photos, but you know when I make it for myself I dump everything into a bowl and mix it up with a spoon, right? And that all mixed up, it looks like something curdled? I just wanted to make sure.

This yogurt cup, as unattractive it may be in its natural state, fills you up. And while I was joking about layering it to look pretty, I’ve done it twice since then. I forgot flax seeds can be thickeners and binders. I made this yogurt cup in the afternoon and put it in the refrigerator for after dinner. By the time I got to it, the yogurt was impossibly thick. It was almost like ice cream, which is a-okay in my book. So, two things to consider: it can be a meal and tastes even better when you make it ahead of time.

Clementine and Date Yogurt Cups

This recipe is flour free and sugar free, though you can certainly add agave or honey if you are accustomed to sweeter desserts. Try it once plain. Although yogurt can be sour for some, dates are impossibly sweet. If you get a bite of date in every spoonful, you shouldn’t need a sweetener. If 2-4 dates aren’t enough, try more.

1 cup non fat Greek yogurt
1 cup peeled and sectioned clementines, about three
2-4 Medjool dates, chopped
1 tablespoon flax seed, ground or whole
1 tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tablespoon Udo’s Oil 3.6.9 Blend (optional, but if you don’t use the oil consider regular fat yogurt)

Dump everything in a bowl. Eat.

Or, if you’re feeling fancy, divide your ingredients by halves or thirds and layer it in pretty glass dishes. Store in refrigerator or eat.

Hi! I’m Jules.

I used to be an attorney, but it made me grumpy. Now I write about life, sweet and savory, as a wife and mother to two small boys. My knowledge of dinosaurs knows no bounds.

You can read more, including the meaning behind the name Pancakes and French Fries here. And, yes, I really am phenomenally indecisive.