What do you serve your family when they visit for Thanksgiving?
I’m not talking about the big meal. I’m sure you do the whole turkey and pie thing. (Or maybe you like to order takeout Chinese, who knows?)
I’m talking about the rest of the meals. When your out-of-town family comes to stay for more than just a few hours…how do you work out feeding them while you are also prepping for the main festivities?
Thanksgiving is next week.
It’s next week!
How did that happen?
My feelings about Thanksgiving have changed pretty significantly since I was a kid.
We recently spent two weeks in Ireland.
Ireland is gorgeous, in case you were wondering. Wildflowers are absolutely everywhere, peeking through the cracks in ancient stone walls and clumping along the sides of the roads. There are rock-bordered, green fields for miles, thanks to the soft, misty rain that falls almost every day.
We loved exploring traditional Irish farms and learning about the simplicity and resourcefulness of country life 100 years ago. We loved trying to pronounce the Irish language signs posted all around. We loved that a typical playground in Ireland has ziplines for kids and exercise equipment for parents. We loved the stunning, hazy mountains and cliffs that loomed over the Atlantic ocean. And don’t even get me started on how cool it is to find crumbling stone ruins everywhere you look.
Traveling with two preschoolers was basically the worst, and that’s all I’ll say about that. (Check out my oldest throwing a tantrum instead of looking at the camera. This is literally the best family photo from the whole trip. Just so you get a clear idea. I’m not exaggerating.) But if you are ever going to travel abroad with preschoolers, you should definitely do it in Ireland, because the people there are so kind and understanding and friendly. They actually love kids. And they do not give you irritated, patronizing looks when yours are screaming and losing their minds in public places.
Another great thing about Irish people is that they are unflinchingly generous. For example, when we were staying in Killarney, they served this rhubarb jam with breakfast, and Dave basically ate a pint of it over four days. (He must have genetically inherited his love of rhubarb, because rhubarb desserts were on almost every menu and in every bakery in Ireland. He tried all of them.) When I asked for the recipe, the kind proprietors of the inn immediately wrote down a copy for me!
So here we are. Thank you, Ireland, for your kindness and generosity, and thank you for the rhubarb jam.
Last week, I made these amazing beet burgers. Beets are lovely, aren’t they? I think beets are the most beautiful color in the whole world. But…I have to admit that I really hate to eat them plain. I’ve tried them in salads with goat cheese and soaked in butter and horseradish sauce. But my favorite beets are definitely those diced small and mixed well with other flavors.
As I was contemplating what to do with the lonely, leftover beet in my crisper, I suddenly remembered a batch of beet hummus Dave’s aunt had made at Christmas, and I immediately got excited.
This hummus is a little earthy and a little tangy, and full of gorgeous pink. Eat it with a huge handful of bright, raw vegetables and you will feel like you are on cloud nine.
I adore Indian food. I love the spices and the warmth. I love that Indian food is packed with things that are good for my body, and that it doesn’t taste like “health food.” Indian food is fantastic.
But I’ve got to admit that I don’t cook Indian food at home very often. True, I love going home and recreating every delicious food in my very own kitchen; but I just find that Indian food is always better when I order it out. (Or, ahem, when friends make it for me. Yeah, you know who you are.)
In the months since learning about Caitlin’s dairy intolerance, I’ve had to avoid eating a lot of my favorite things. Dairy is in almost everything! And since a lot of Indian food is cooked with ghee (clarified butter), I’ve been wary of ordering Indian food at a restaurant.
Enter glorious chana masala, a simple dish featuring chickpeas cooked in a rich, spicy tomato sauce full of grated ginger and pressed garlic. This version comes together very quickly, ready from start to finish in under an hour, thanks to the help of canned chickpeas. And it is delicious!
Here is what you get when your husband “helps” you write a blog post:
“I made the chips! The chips were many-colored, made of quite different root veggies. Including potatoes… potatoes… and…not potatoes. Salt is tasty. I want more of that.”
And with that brilliant introduction…
Do you know what mothers of newborns need?
(Aside from more sleep, looser clothing, and a cadre of friends who volunteer to bring them food for several weeks—thank you friends!!)
Mothers of newborns need meals that require almost no effort to put on the table. Things that basically cook themselves while we attempt to entertain rambunctious 2-year-olds and nurse our handsy infants for (seemingly) hours, simultaneously.
New moms, meet black bean ragout!
I have been making this simple black bean ragout for years…pretty much ever since the Smitten Kitchen cookbook arrived on my doorstep. It may not be the most beautiful dish (hello, soupy black water), but it is a quick and easy (and inexpensive…) life-saver. (Assuming I have my wits about me around noon or so to dump all the ingredients into the crockpot.)
I absolutely adore this black bean dish. It’s so simple and versatile! Dave and I have decided that our favorite way to eat these black beans is inside of burritos, but we also enjoy them crostini-style on garlicky bread and tossed into scrambled eggs with salsa for some extra protein in the morning! You could even potentially eat this as a soup. The possibilities are nearly endless.
I so want to tell you about how awesome this pico de gallo is, and how I grew some of the tomatoes and all of the green peppers.
But first, I have to tell you that while I was making this delicious, amazingly fresh summery salsa, my son was eating crayons.
CRAYONS! I cannot get the child to eat a fresh fruit or vegetable to save his life, but crayons are yummy. What!? And he was so sneaky about it, too, just sitting in his chair and pretending to color quietly whenever I poked my head in to look at him, and taking huge chunks out of yellow and green as soon as I turned back to chopping.
Motherhood, friends…motherhood. I don’t know what I’m doing.
Recently a few good friends pointed out a personal flaw to me. (Don’t you love how friends can tell you the real truth?)
As we sat around a huge table, stuffing waffles and frittatas into our mouths and rocking with cuddly babies, they gently informed me that although they like reading about food, they don’t often try the recipes I post here because they are, in fact, too complicated.
They told me (with great glee…although that may have been the mimosas) that I really should stop saying every recipe is “so easy, but…”
Hm. I take your point, MGs.
But listen. This recipe really is easy. And quick! I mean seriously. It has three steps: cut veggies, toss into skillet, cover and walk away. You can change up the veggies if you want. You can read a magazine while everything cooks. You can have your cake and eat it, too.
You should definitely make this side dish! It’s the right thing to do. And I will work on being more realistic and truthful. Because that, too, is the right thing to do.
Can I please just riff for a moment about things going wrong? Because you know that happens to you when you are making dinner, too.
Like…sometimes I get all set and purchase all the ingredients I need to make a delicious gluten-free, vegan meal with my mom…and then when I open the pantry, my chickpeas are mysteriously not there. And I’m forced to use black beans. (Deep breath. It’s okay. Beans are beans, right? So what if the meal no longer seems like a fun play on hummus. It’ll still be delicious.)
Like…I whip my tahini sauce into a pale, thick, delicious frenzy. And then instead of being able to drizzle it elegantly over my pretty eggplants, it falls off my spoon in horrifying globs. (Deep breath. Globby-looking sauces aren’t the end of the world.)
But then. My son. Has some kind of allergic reaction to eggplant. While he is happily eating something that is not grilled cheese for the first time in a week. AUUUGHHHH! (Don’t worry, he was fine! I don’t think he even noticed his golf-ball lip or rash. It just made for a stressed-out mommy.)
You may be wondering why I am even bothering to share this meal with you. But seriously, it was so good. And so easy to make! You really should try it. And just remember to take deep breaths! And maybe stock some Benadryl for the under-3 set. You know. Just in case.