Tonight’s menu: Gum and popsicles

It is 9:30 pm. For the last hour and a half, I have been sitting by the fire, reading the paper, reading emails, and sipping my favourite red wine. My kids went to bed happy and I have no dishes to do. Oh, well, I rinsed the pot of defrosted baked beans. Don’t know why I bothered with a bowl, I could have eaten right out of the pot.

I have been able to do this because tonight, I decided not to serve dinner. Well – correction – I served Gum as an appetizer (choice of 2 kinds; all-u-can-chew) and Popsicles as a main course. Interspersed between courses were such fun and stimulating activites as bike-ride-dog-walking, sunflower-planting-and-watering, board-game-“playing”, and our new favourite, “Choppy Chopperstein”.

Ben is away for a couple days, and I was able to manage all this entertainment after work, and serve dinner too!

Last night, I spent the better part of an hour in the kitchen after work, repeating the phrase, “I can’t (Frida/Elsie), I’m making dinner”. Perhaps 8 or 10 times. Also intervening as the girls checked off everything on the “don’t do it” list.

When dinner time rolled around (chicken & barley soup cause they have runny noses; isn’t that so maternal of me? I don’t even like chicken soup and I think it’s a myth that it makes you better), they didn’t eat it.

Not surprising. BUT very, very, very annoying. A complete waste of an hour, 8-10 repetitions of the same boring phrase, and numerous interventions. Boring mum, for naught. Add stress, frustration, a bit of yelling and…dishes.

So tonight? No dinner. BOOM!

True. They could have all the gum they wanted, and eventually out of irrepressible mother-guilt I asked them if they were at all hungry for a bowl of cereal or … a popsicle? (with yogurt in it, OK?) And I got to take them for the first outside bike ride of the season, help them sow 24 sunflower seeds, play a stupid farmer board game, have a round of Choppy Chopperstein, and then put happy kids to bed and come down and eat my warmed-up baked beans with red wine.

Look, I am not even exaggerating one bit here. They never, ever eat dinner. So why do we bother? It creates frustration, no fun at the table, stress, and time loss. Yes, it’s important, traditions, education bla bla. But right now, I am NOT STRESSED AT ALL and we had a super fun evening. It’s even super windy out, and – no stress. Win.

Dinner tomorrow night? I think we’re on to something here…. (so much faster shopping at the dep than at the store!!!)

PS stay tuned for a Choppy video…

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Beet the Bar Salad

I am sick. I have the flu, of all things. And boy, do I feel sorry for myself. I don’t even want to eat cake, and the few biscotti that have managed to evade me are still successfully hiding in the freezer. I must be really sick.

Yesterday, all I wanted was this lentil and sweet potato soup from the LCBO magazine, which I’ve been wanting to write about anyway, cause it’s a big hit around here.

I upped the ginger A LOT and doubled the recipe to freeze some for later. It’s so easy to make and so good – everyone raves about it.

But I also found a 10-pound bag of beets slumped sadly on the floor and decided to put it out of its misery. Also, P bought beets, so I told her I’d share a beet recipe. I’m kinda in love with beets too, for so many reasons, although I didn’t really need to deal with a 10-pound bag of them the other day. I am starting to plan my garden and beets will figure prominently there; red-and-white striped Chioggas did well last year, and I’d like to try some golden beets this year too.

But the other thing – really weird thing – is that a famous chef has stolen one of my recipes!!! I don’t know how, cause I haven’t noticed any famous chefs lurking around my kitchen, taking surreptitious notes. I’m sure I would have noticed. But how else do you explain the salad I ate at the Gite du Mont Albert, a 4-star hotel in the heart of the Parc de la Gaspésie – A beet and green apple salad with walnuts! OK, my recipe had pecans instead of walnuts, and I have to say, I think the pecans are better in this salad. I guess the chef didn’t want it to be so obvious that he had lifted my idea straight out of my head.

this is an approximation of the famous chef's version of my salad

So – beets. The thing about beets is, you have to learn to love them. They don’t just jump into your plate; there is a decent amount of work involved in preparing them. For this reason, I tend to cook up a lot of beets when I’m feeling inspired, so that I have some ready when I want to make something with them.

A couple ways to prepare them:

You can roast them, with the peel on, drizzled in a bit of oil, wrapped  in foil. It takes a while, up to an hour or even more for biggies, at 375 F. The peels are really easy to remove once the beets are cool enough to handle, and a paring knife will help you with any resilient beet skin. A step-by-step how-to can be found here if you feel like you need more detailed instruction than that.

Or you can boil them, peeled, but this removes a lot of their flavour. And peeling beets is a PITA*.  So go ahead and roast a whole bunch and then you can make things with beets all week long.

MY beet salad, made in December, 2010!

Beet & Green Apple Salad

with almond-butter vinaigrette

Created by me and STOLEN!!! by a famous chef

I first made this salad with wheat berries, which made it more of a hearty lunch-salad that I kept in the fridge and dipped into all week. You can omit the wheat berries and just go with the beets and apples if you want more of a refreshing side-salad. Barley I guess could work as a wheat-berry substitute, but try wheat berries – they’re lovely. If I could get farro here, I think that’d be even lovelier.

Ingredients

2 cups cooked wheat berries

1 granny smith apple, skin ON, chopped or sliced as your whimsy takes you

1 cup cooked, then grated or chopped beets

1/2 cup toasted pecans (pieces or halves, whatever’s training in your cupboard).

Vinaigrette: (makes about half a cup)

1 tablespoon almond butter

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (wine vinegar if you must, white  de préférence)

2-3 tbsp walnut oil (olive oil would be ok if you don’t have walnut)

1 tsp maple syrup

1/4 tsp powdered ginger (or very, very finely minced fresh ginger)

Water or apple juice to thin to desired consistency

Salt & pepper to taste.

1. In a small jar, combine the vinaigrette ingredients (all except the water or juice). Shake the jar and add water or apple juice to thin the vinaigrette to the desired consistency. Salt to taste.

2. Combine all the salad ingredients except the pecans and toss with the vinaigrette. If you are going to eat it later, save the pecans on the side or they’ll get soggy. Saving a bit of the vinaigrette will freshen it up too as the wheat berries will absorb a lot of the dressing as they sit around.

3. Serve with the pecans sprinkled over top.

Now, with those leftover beets, do you want a recipe for beet muffins????  Cause I got one.

*PITA =  Pain In The Ass