Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Big Boys Do Cry

Sobs wracked his body and hot tears streamed down his trembling cheeks. "I don't want to be in separate classes," he wailed.

We had stopped by the pizza place to grab lunch after swim lessons and someone there recognized us from kindergarten orientation. Her daughter would be in Sis's class. Bud was immediately upset. "Why can't I be in Sis's class? I want to be together."

They all played together for awhile, as we waited for our pizza, but Bud came over more than once for a hug and a pat. "Why isn't anyone in my class? I don't want to be alone."

Reassurances of new friends and upcoming playdates went unheard. By the time we got home, it only took tripping over his own foot in the entryway to elicit this storm of sadness. Where he has been prone to being angry about things beyond his control recently, wanting "alone time" to cope with it, asking us not to talk about it, sometimes needing to stomp or yell or pull all the covers off his bed, today he crawled up into my lap, arms flung around my shoulders, and sobbed into my chest uncontrollably for what seemed like an eternity.

All I could do was rub his back and tell him I loved him. The tears had to cry themselves out. They did eventually, when cooling pizza tempted him to the kitchen, where he insisted on sitting so close to me that we could touch.

But the pain and fear of separation and isolation linger just below the surface, ready to flood us both.

Adventures in Cooking Our CSA Share: How Not to Boil Water

Okay, officially we haven't gotten any corn in our CSA share this year, but we will. And there is great corn in the markets right now.

Plus, I think I've finally hit on the best way I know to cook corn on the cob. Boil a big pot of water. When water is boiling, drop in corn, cover, and turn off heat. Leave in water for 10 minutes.

I've done it twice and it has been perfect both times.

Now, I know my cousins who grow corn read this blog: how do you cook your corn?

And, in the event that I ever have leftovers, which I haven't so far, what do you like to do with it? Cornbread? Corn pudding? Cold salads?

Happy not boiling!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Adventures in Cooking Our CSA Share: Something Old, Something New

We get a lot of kale this time of year and it goes right through almost the whole CSA season. Which is fine by me because I've learned to love kale (and chard and escarole and all the greens like turnip and collard). So, kale is an old friend in my CSA box.

But tonight I cooked it in a new way: polenta pie. And I loved it! And Mama loved it even more than I did. Even though I think I had more kale, and cut in more coarsely, than the recipe called for. And I even used "shaker cheese" in a green can, foodie gods forgive me. I can just see making this recipe with lots of different vegetables--any of the greens, mushrooms and onions, even cooked beans!!!! It's almost like (and forgive the odd connection) a frittata that uses cornmeal instead of eggs, which means the possibilities are endless.


Kale and Polenta Pie

1/2 lb kale, washed, destemmed, and chopped finely
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup instant polenta
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400.

Bring 3 1/2 cups water to a boil in a large pot. Add kale, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon of the oil to the water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender, about 6 minutes.

Reduce heat to low. Slowly stir in polenta with a wooden spoon until smooth, about 1 minutes. Partially cover and cook until the polenta is thick, about 6 minutes.

Remove pot from heat and stir in cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt if necessary. Grease a 9" round cake pan with remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Scrape polenta-kale mixture into cake pan.

Bake until polenta pie is firm and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let pie cool until barely warm, at least 30 minutes and up to several hours (it will firm as it cools). Cut into wedges and serve.

Jack Bishop, Vegetables Every Day

Thumbs Up!

We're big fans of Ed Emberley's drawing books here. Bud loves Make a World, with its step-by-step lessons for drawing simple figures which can be endlessly combined to create different scenes. And now both he and Sis love the thumbprint books--you know the ones where you put down an ink thumbprint and add some details to make anything from a cowboy (oops, that again!) to a frog. We prop the book up in my cookbook holder and the kids go to town making thumbprint worlds. And today we did it for their birthday invitations, which the kids covered with fish, turtles, frogs, birds, penguins, whales, ducks, and other critters. Some are much more legible than others; some more smudged. All were fun to make.


Our concerns are twofold today: my Ohio aunt, who is in an advanced state of dementia and was recently widowed, is deteriorating and has entered hospice care. I can't help but think she knows that her beloved husband died.

And our cat Albus has been vomiting since a few days before we got home. The vet seems to think he has a sensitive stomach, perhaps from the stress of being kenneled for so long, but he'll go in for x-rays tomorrow. Mama and I are just sick, as this brings up the worst memories of our beloved Morgan's decline and demise more than three years ago. Let's hope it's just the stress.

From the Heart (of Texas): Wrap Up

I don't want to get too far from the vacation before I wrap everything up (say, like I have with the Bread Pledge, which I still haven't wrapped up yet!). And so, perhaps lucky for you, you're getting the condensed version of these posts, here, now:

  • Beans, Glorious Beans: One of my favorite things this trip was to hit the local grocery stores, something the peripatetic Sterns (food writers/travelers Jane and Michael) suggest. And the main object of my attention was the dried bean section. Beans are different in Texas, in that they are usually served savory, as opposed to Boston Baked with maple syrup. I think that might be the Mexican influence. Anyway, I came across habas, which are new to me, and mayacoba, which I'd only seen in the heirloom categories. To go along with "everything is bigger in Texas" ("why, Mommy? How?"), I loved that you could buy pintos in bulk. I could also buy pinto bean seasoning mix and Mexican oregano. And when I wasn't dreaming of making my own at home, I was eating them out every chance I got, including both pintos and "calico beans" (really a combo of pinto, white, and green bean in a sweet sauce) at Prasek's, pinto beans at the Mel's Diner (which were so thick I think they must puree some to thicken, with great results), and bean and cheeses at the Buc-ee's. Yes, I ate at a gas station. More than once. And it was good. Finally, I made my own beans: pintos cooked with onion and bell pepper, with some pinto bean seasoning, and then served with fresh tortillas. Later I "refried" them in oil, smooshing them up into a paste, and made my own bean and cheeses. It really just doesn't get any better!
  • Aunt Banana and Uncle Soccer: we saw Aunt Banana for a few days, though Uncle Soccer just for one because of his classes (he's becoming a teacher). The kids enjoyed being reunited with their aunt and uncle, especially when Banana would swim with them and play "dolphin" and such. Sure, Bud commented on her "gigantic belly," which isn't, yet, and Sis almost broke her neck tripping her from behind, but all's well that ends well. For me, it's the most concentrated time that I've spent with Aunt Banana since, well, when? Not the wedding, which was absorbing for her, or when I had the newborn babes or before when I was pregnant (she came coincidentally the weekend I had emergency hernia surgery), which was distracting for me. So, Chicago, maybe? Who knows, who cares. It was good. Let's do it again. Sooner.
  • Back Troubles: or how kneading bread, riding boats, riding in a car, swimming in the surf, etc, combine to cause trouble. Enough said about that, I think. Let's just say that I was tight in my back (upper and lower, plus neck and "lats," depending on the day) most of the trip. Never (well, once) debilitating. And I had all my meds. Blah.
  • Kites at Night: Gommie loves to fly kites. And so do the kids. And so, one evening around sunset, we headed out into the stiff coastal breeze for some kite flying. Much to the delight of the kids, not so much to that of the local pelicans who fly the currents along the coast at dusk and had to go around the kites (though, Mama did get some pics of them from a nearby porch). One of the kites was a penguin whose little flippers flapped and fluttered in the breeze, as if it were really flying. Bud got a kick out of that. Bud actually got a kick out of most of it, to the point that he could barely concentrate on holding his kite handle. We kept warning him that nothing good happens when you let go. And just to illustrate the point, Gommie accidentally let go of Sis's kite's handle and the kite flew up in the air, hit a nearby roof, and almost snagged on a power line. All's well that ends well, and it ended, with the grownups holding the flying kites while the kids played around.
  • Birthdays and Father's Day: We did lots of celebrating at the bay, but in a casual way. There were cards for Pop (that actually said Pop! Pop! with popcorn) and father-to-be Uncle Soccer, and birthday balloons and cake for everyone. The cake was that Coca-Cola cake I blogged about a month or so ago and the recipe was awful. I need to look elsewhere for the chocolate coke cake recipe. But there were cupcake candles for everyone to blow out, as we turned, this year, 70, 68, 40, 36, 37, 35, and 5.
  • Shrimp! Or, What Bud Ate All Summer: Bud's favorite new food is shrimp, which he could eat morning, noon, and night. Which you almost can in Texas, where shrimp haven't yet been affected by the oil spill. He had them fried, grilled, boiled, and in lo mein. And still kept asking if he could have more. And whether we can get shrimp in Connecticut. Well, yes, but not fresh off the boat like in Texas, Bud.
  • An Ode to Boat Rides: I love boat rides. I love boat rides a lot. And we had a few really great ones, especially out the pass to see the shrimp boats, with the dolphins following behind. I love seeing dolphins in their natural habitats. And the pelicans were pretty impressive too, particularly because they weren't at the bay when I was growing up. They've returned, which is quite a conservation success. But more than the wildlife, I like the wind in my hair and the bounce (even though the bounce was a bit problematic for my back after a spell). The solitude amid company; the space to think. Even when the kids were driving. Sis's driving was just like Pop's--straight and smooth--because she was very careful. But Bud turned and swerved, loving the feel of the wheel as it moved. But the move of the boat was a bit much . . . . still, I love boat riding. And I think my kids love them too.
  • Rainy Day Thursday: I like thunderstorms almost as much as I like boat rides. And there were a couple of spectacular, house-shaking, sky-illuminating, rough and tumble thunderstorms with driving rain that came in sheets across the water and pounded on the metal roofs of nearby boat stalls. Only thing: in Texas, rain doesn't ever cool things off; it just gets hotter and more humid. Which is a pretty high price to pay.
  • Scotland the Brave: Upon arriving at my aunt and uncle's house, Sis spotted and correctly identified the Royal Standard of Scotland flying in their yard. And Aunt Sis (since Sis is named after her) was so pleased. We had seen my aunt and uncle in October, but without the kids, so this was the first time they'd gotten together in a few years. To make it extra special, their cousin, a little girl about 6 months younger, came over too. And so they played playdough and yard games together while the adults (or, the adults not supervising all that sharing!) caught up. Which I always enjoy.
  • Circle of Love: we saw a lot of family over the days we were at the bay, on both sides of the family, and felt the love of being embraced by people whom I've known for so long but almost never see. I do sometimes feel like the prodigal child when I go home. And am welcomed with similarly open arms. So, thank you, all, who came out to see us. It was great to see you in person, to catch up, to chat, just to be with you. You're what makes our trips to Texas more than just a vacation.
  • Inside the Evil Empire: Yes, I went over to the Dark Side, succumbing to temptation out of desperation. I NEVER shop at the big W. Ugh. I'm politically, morally, ethically opposed. Except, in this part of the world, there were no other choices for what I was looking for in the time constraints I had. And so I went. And gave them my money. Funny, how quickly morals go by the wayside. The shame. And so we'll be sending money to some extremely liberal cause to compensate for my sin.
  • Square Quiche, or odd meals at the bay: so eating with my parents, especially at the bay, is unpredictable at best. My parents only really eat one meal a day . . . and sometimes it's spread out into tiny little snacks across a 12-hour period. So, you're never really sure if you're going to get a real meal or not, unless you're cooking it or going out. Of course, when there are meals, they are very good. We had two such that stick out: For one, we grilled--steaks and shrimp two ways (from Ma), plus our now famous grilled pizzas. For another, Gommie fried shrimp, boiled corn, baked squash, baked sweet potatoes, had Mama make salad and broccoli, and me make quiche. Yum, yum, yum. The quiche was from Mademoiselle M's recipe, which was exceptionally good, either hot or cold, just as she said. Even baked in an 8" square pan instead of a pie plate. No worries, no one minded. Just like we don't really mind the odd eating schedule.
  • If You Like Pina Coladas: what goes better with that Texas heat than a cold drink? Sweet tea is usually my drink of choice, but I could switch. Sure the pina coladas were "virgin," with Aunt Banana pregnant and Mama and I relative teetotalers, but they were good. I mean, how can you mess up coconut milk and pineapple juice? I just hope I can't find the special Coco Lopez brand here. We don't need these in CT.
  • The Long Road Home (through The Pit Stop, The Camp, The Ranch, and The Loop)--I think this might still have to be a separate post, as it concerns a swazu Mama and I took solo.
  • Calling Connecticut! On one of the last nights in Texas, the kids, as they were (not) trying to fall asleep, pretended that their critters were calling home to check on everyone else. Meaning, one set of stuffed animals called the other. Mr. Big Penguin assured them that everything was fine at home.
  • and some Tidbits, even more condensed:
    • "Gom" is Sis's new abbreviation for Gommie, which makes sense, I guess, if Mommy can become Mom, which it has.
    • flowers from Buddy: Pop cut some sunflowers at Aunt Sis's house and Bud presented them to me with a kiss. What a sweetie.
    • "air dry": I told the kids, after one bath, that they could air dry. Bud lay down on the ground, naked, fully expecting me to get out the hairdryer! I guess we've never done air dry before. He gets it now. And what 5 year old doesn't love running around naked?
    • "Why is Pop naked?" Sis wanted to know when she saw Pop without his shirt (but otherwise clothed). She was quite put out to learn that girls can't run around topless (for the most part, in this country). But since she's only 5, she got to try it herself at the house.
    • I saw 3 falling stars during late night talks on the porch. And made some good wishes to boot.
    • Mama's astronomy app on her Droid phone made stargazing even more amazing: you just point the phone at the horizon and it identifies exactly what stars, constellation, and planets are in front of you. It even works during the day, even if you can't see past the sun. Fascinating.
    And that's it, as I remember it. For now. Though, I'll write about our backroad swazu and ranch visit soon.


    Mademoiselle M's Quiche
    Re: your question about quiches, they're are one of the most easy thing to cook. I typically sort of invent my own receipes, and here is one I have been making quite often.
    Pre-heat at 350 degrees.
    - 3 or 4 eggs (depending on how thick you like it, I like it with 3 eggs more often)
    - 1 pie dough/pie shell (or if Jamie feels like making it herself she can :) I just buy it done)
    - 2 big spoons of sour cream
    - cooked vegetables of your choice: I tend to use frozen spinach a lot, and thaw it in a pan. Brocoli works well too.
    - a bit of nutmeg
    - Optional protein (like ham slices, or tofu, you can also put cut bits of bacon)
    - Optional cheese (I love adding roquefort to the spinach - it's a strong cheese so not everyone likes it. For a milder version I'd put cubes of gruyere, it's also very good).
    - Optional walnuts (that's also one of my favorite on the spinach roquefort quiche) - to be added once everything is ready for the oven.
    If you had protein and cheese I'd recommend using 4 eggs.
    You put everything together in a bowl, then add your vegetables to the preparation and pour onto the prepared baking plate (like a tart thing - typically round and elevated sides, mine is about 2 inches high I think so it's a bit higher than a typical pie plate) where you have spread out the pie shell (if additional dough on the sides, you can roll it onto itself).
    Add some walnuts on top (I usually use halves), just push them a little bit in the preparation so that they're in but still on top.
    Leave in for about 35 minutes. I think it's fairly standard, I usually go check after 30 min, sometimes leave it in for 45 min.
    Enjoy hot or cold :)
    Looking forward to hearing from you and hear if you guys made the quiche!

    Monday, June 28, 2010

    A Graduation Luau

    "I'm on my way home
    to the middle of the sea.
    There''s an island lullaby
    that is calling out to me

    I'm on my way home,
    my Pacific paradise.
    Blue water cools my face
    and the mountains touch the sky."

    --Imagination Movers, from the song in "Trouble in Paradise"

    I might be on a ranch kick, but the kids are all Hawaii 5-0.

    See, the Imagination Movers have a new episode, "Trouble in Paradise," in which the character Nina needs a traditional Hawaiian skill to perform at her "tutu's" (grandmother's) birthday. After drumming and surfing, she chooses a hula dance. The kids are under her "island lullaby." Bud had me transcribe the words to the song's chorus, along with a few pictures, so that he could dance the hula too.

    And so when it came time today to decide on a theme for Babysitter's graduation party with us, they chose "to celebrate Hawaiian style!" We bought leis, floral plates and tablecloth, bright napkins, and the best thing, a lit singing palm tree! They went crazy cleaning and then decorating the house, pulling out their ukelele and bongo drums (okay, not Hawaiian, but similar to the ones in the show). They even made a poster with a palm tree on an island and dolphins in the water, "Time to have a Graduation Luau!" We had Zinger Punch, a recipe Sis loved from Aunt Banana at the bay (though, it occurred to me afterwards that we should have had Gommie's virgin pina coladas with Coco Lopez coconut milk and pineapple juice blended with ice!), and brownie sundaes.

    Babysitter arrived early, which was perfect because the kids were bursting out of their skins, and Bud did his hula dance for her, while Sis jumped around giggling. We then all got our leis and sat around the table listening to the palm tree while Babysitter looked at her Texas soap (a souvenir from our trip), two bracelets the kids made today, and our card. We then dug into the brownie sundaes, the first real food we'd all had since breakfast because we were too busy and excited to have snack or lunch. Babysitter told us all about graduation and then her orientation at college--she has grown up so much since she was an eighth grader, obviously; she really is an amazing young woman--or just "woman," I guess, without the young--and has been so good to the kids, who love her dearly, we'll be so sad to see her go away in two months.

    But today we celebrated, "Hawaiian style," because we're so proud of her!

    Shaka, Babysitter!


    Zinger Punch

    1-2 liter bottle of Sprite
    2 Red Zinger Celestial Seasonings tea bags
    (optional: pineapple rings, separated and frozen; sherbet would be good too)

    Steep tea bags in bottle of Sprite until the soda turns pink (I'd say you need at least 30+ minutes to get minimum flavor; I imagine you can steep it overnight in the fridge, so it's chilled. If you're in a rush, though, steep at room temperature and then chill with frozen pineapple/sherbet). Serve with garnishes of your choice.

    Aunt Banana

    Rise Up: Restarting My Starter

    So I'm reading Lonesome Dove, which is not my usual fare, being both a Western and a novel. But I'm completely entranced by McMurtry's ability to draw characters and evoke imagery so strongly and clearly.

    And then he mentioned sourdough biscuits. See, one of the main characters, Augustus McCrae, likes a good breakfast and makes his own biscuits every morning. Only one morning, some cowboys miss breakfast and he refuses to "stress his starter" to make another batch. I suddenly had a hankering for biscuits--I was missing them just like the tardy wranglers. But I didn't know you could make them with sourdough so I rushed to my cookbooks, including the new one I bought at the George Ranch, which exceedingly vivid evocation of the 19th-century cattle world encouraged the reading of the Pulitzer-prizewinning novel. (I know, I know, what's with a lesbian vegetarian being interested in cowboys and cattle drives? Crazy, weird, and completely intoxicating for now. And you know, there were some women on the trail . . . Mama says, "The answer is: it's a Texas thing.")

    So this morning, I needed to refresh my sourdough starter that has languished unfed in the fridge these last two weeks. And with the cup of starter I removed, I knew I would make sourdough biscuits. And Sis helped. She measured ingredients, helped knead the dough, enjoyed rolling out the dough with my new French rolling pin (which I bought at Kalustyan's and is amazingly easy to work with), determinedly cut biscuits, and then ate several with honey when they were done.

    They're all gone now. We ate them after lunch, for afternoon snack, and with Mama for dessert after dinner. The sourdough gives them a nice tang, more depth than plain ol' biscuits, and, call me crazy (again), but they seemed more tender on the inside with a flakier/crisper crust than usual. I can see how a cowboy could sit in a saddle for 16 hours with a stomachful of those biscuits. I won't be doing any horseriding anytime soon (even though I loved the ranch with its three period houses from the 1830s, 1860s, and 1890s), but I'll be making biscuits again as soon as it won't stress out my rejuvenated starter!

    (which, if I understand it, is no sooner than 18-24 hours after being fed. Or, oops, 12 hours. Either way, Gus was right.)


    Golden Sourdough Biscuits
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 cup cold butter
    • 1 cup Sourdough Starter
    • 1/2 cup buttermilk (I substituted dry buttermilk powder and water, adding the powder to the flour and the water to the starter)
    • In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine Sourdough Starter and buttermilk; stir into crumb mixture with a fork until dough forms a ball.
    • Turn onto a well-floured surface; knead 10-12 times. Roll to 1/2-in. thickness. Cut with a floured 2-1/2-in. biscuit cutter. Place 2 in. apart on a greased baking sheet.
    • Bake at 425° for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool. Yield: 1 dozen.
    • Taste of Home

    Sunday, June 27, 2010

    Hit the Ground Running

    Well, as much as I ever run, that is.

    But we've had a full 24 hours of getting back into the swing of CT things: playing with every toy, unpacking, laundry, grocery shopping, going through the mail, checking up with people. You know, what you do when you get home from vacation.

    And the week just continues: we have a couple of random doctor's appointments (follow-ups for the kids and me), the beginning of swimming lessons, kung fu lessons, the RETURN of BABYSITTER. And then an overnight with Ma and Gong.

    It's good to be home, but vacation was good too . . . .

    Saturday, June 26, 2010

    Happy Birthday!

    It's Mama's birthday!!!! And we're celebrating . . . by doing one of her least favorite things--flying in an airplane! So, we'll make a cake and have a little party on Sunday to make it special, even though she's not so concerned about a specific celebration.

    We love you, Mama!

    I love you, Mama!

    Thursday, June 24, 2010

    From the Heart (of Texas): Back in Town

    We're back in Houston and I'm back on my blog. I've posted some of the things I'd written up while we were away but I am in no way near caught up. We had a great time, as you'll read, though I haven't yet said enough about how much we enjoyed Aunt Banana and Uncle Soccer. More on that soon.

    With only about 36 hours left in our trip, I won't get caught up before we leave. Here are some of the posts to look forward to:

    • Beans, Glorious Beans: mayacoba, haba, pintos in bulk, "calico," pinto seasonings, Mexican oregano, fresh tortillas, homemade refried, Buc-ee's bean and cheeses
    • Back Troubles: or how kneading bread, riding boats, riding in a car, swimming in the surf, etc, combine to cause trouble
    • Kites at Night: flying penguins, what happens when you let go, "pelicans, interrupted"
    • Birthdays and Father's Day
    • Shrimp! Or, What Bud Ate All Summer
    • An Ode to Boat Rides
    • Rainy Day Thursday
    • Scotland the Brave: visiting my aunt, meeting a cousin, playdough, cats, yard games, Scottish flags, and dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant
    • Inside the Evil Empire: succumbing to temptation out of desperation
    • Square Quiche, or odd meals at the bay
    • If You Like Pina Coladas
    • The Long Road Home (through The Pit Stop, The Camp, The Ranch, and The Loop)
    • Calling Connecticut!
    • and Tidbits!
    Lastly, for my friends in Connecticut, continued thanks to Mama Teacher for watching our house. And prayers for Miss L's grandfather, who is dying.

    From the Heart (of Texas): Wild Kingdom (Monday)

    There were shrimp boats in the pass and so we headed out in our boat, at 7:45 Monday morning, to see if we could spot dolphins. On our way out, pelicans glided along the surface of the water looking for breakfast. Behind the shrimp boats trolling their nets, seagulls worked. And dolphin. Several dolphin. Mommies and youngsters, swimming and spouting behind the nets. "Mommy, I see one. I see another. And another!" Bud cried out as he watched several pairs of dolphins surface. "And they're in the wild." Yep, this was the real Sea World Texas. Sis said, "I see an eye!" They were practically winking at us (Mama took several amazing pictures). And so we followed and watched for more than half an hour. Seeing live swimming dolphins really is just one of the most incredible things. It never fails to amazae me. Then, we pulled up beside the shrimp boat, Vietnamese streaming over the CB radio, and watched the lone shrimper empty his nets. Besides the shrimp, he had minnows and mullet and a single small ray. We bought huge shrimp directly off the boat. Talk about locavore. Those shrimp had been swimming under us just minutes before. And now they were lunch! (and probably dinner and even lunch again). I think they were some of the biggest shrimp I'd ever seen, something like 4-6 count (i.e. to the pound!). We used much smaller bait shrimp to fish in the harbor later. And within just a minute or so of Pop baiting Bud's hook, Bud had a big catfish on his line. He was almost too amazed to pull it in and needed help with the long pole (no reel on this rod). He just kept jumping up and down that he caught a fish. Of course, this is so-called "sports fishing," a term coined by one of the bay friends, meaning that the fish are unhooked and returned to the wild mostly unharmed. There were a few more nibbles but no more bites, but each nibble bought us 15 more optimistic minutes of fishing. Sis was disappointed not to catch anything. So we'll be going back. Though, upon returning to the house for lunch (of grilled shrimp and sauteed shrimp, both in Thai sauces that Mama got from Ma), we noticed that something had bitten or stung Bud, a huge whelp developing on his right inner thigh with a pinprick point of contact in the middle of a red raised lump the size of my first. Spider? Ant? Jellyfish? No telling. But Aunt Banana, R.N., recommended hydrocortisone cream and ice--and so Bud slept through lunch. But he'll be all rested up for more exploring of the local wildlife again soon.

    Grilled Shrimp with Thai Dipping Sauce

    grill with heads on if possible
    Skewer the shrimp so it doesn't bend while cooking
    grill skins until dried and charred

    fish sauce
    hot chilies (prik ke-nu preferred, but used jalapenos this time), minced, chopped, and in rings
    minced garlic
    fresh lime juice
    Mix together to taste and let stand of at least an hour
    Shell shrimp or remove legs and eat with skins on

    Shrimp with garlic and chilies
    shell/de-vein shrimp
    heat oil in skillet
    place shrimp in single layer, when the shrimp starts to color, turn the shrimp
    Add minced garlic, chilies, soy sauce, fresh ground pepper, a couple of tablespoons of water (crushed cilantro roots can also be added)
    Cover and 'steam'
    Remove from heat and serve when shrimp is cooked

    Mama Hungry via Ma Hungry

    From the Heart (of Texas): Lost in Port (Sunday Plus)

    One of my favorite things to do at the bay is to leave it, meaning to head into town to visit the grocery store, look at the lighthouse, and now get some sweet tea at the Buc-ee's. When I was a teen, in my anti-bay phase (there was my tween pro-bay phase when we first got the house in 1982 when I'd swim and fish happily, followed quickly by my burgeoning bay antipathy marked by sullenness and a lack of interest in anything bay-like that lasted about 6 years, through high school. Then I went off to college and graduate school and didn't return for years. Now I feel like the prodigal child returning to a welcoming and forgiving bay family. And I find that I can enjoy it again both by myself and through my kids. Who thankfully won't be sullen for at least 5-7 more years!), before I finagled my mom into letting me stay in Houston alone while they went to the bay (only after I had my driver's license at 16), going into town was one of the highlights. Things have changed in this baytown--it's gotten bigger, with more stores. Today's venture to town for crackers for making the crust for fried shrimp found me also perusing the Mexican baked goods and selecting some brightly colored molletes and marveling at the array of beans such as Mayacoba, Haba, and pintos in bulk. We stopped at the doughnut shop because Yelp recommended it and brought home doughnuts for everyone. Which I wasn't hungry for because we got bean and cheeses and tamales, plus sweet tea and orange cream swirl Blue Bell ice cream at the Buc-ee's. We contemplated tracking down Indianola, the ghost town created by a 19th-century hurricance, but instead drove down Main Street, which we had discovered the day before.

    The day before when Pop had sent us to town to buy bait. Sure, send the two "foreigners" into town for bait! Uncle B had said to try the causeway; no go. Locals in line at the Buc-ee's suggested a bait shop on Main Street, "just turn left." But they must have thought I was a local because they forgot to tell me that the big thoroughfare through town is NOT Main Street. It took a few more calls back to my folks to determine that Main Street, in fact, wasn't main. It's the "old" Main Street, with a 1904 hotel and an abandonned but no doubt once prosperous town center. And there was the hole-in-the-wall live bait shop with huge vats of shrimp and minnows and mullet. And no dead bait, or frozen shrimp. Then, heading home, we stumbled upon the bait shop the Buc-ee's folks had directed us to, a nicer place, but similarly devoid of dead bait. But they did have postcards--of the lighthouse, the historical marker at Indianola, the beach hotel, and the shrimp boats. Proof that we had indeed found the bait shop, even if we never found bait.

    From the Heart (Of Texas): Bay in a Day (Saturday)

    You can't keep a good Gommie down. We almost did everything she had planned in the first afternoon! They hit the beach within minutes of arriving, the kids thrilled to get in the water. And we were shocked. They'd only first ventured into the ocean alone the Saturday before. And while it was the clear water of the Atlantic, the waves were 5' tall and the riptide strong. Plus the water was COLD. Not so Texas: brown, warm water with not much of a surf or undertow (which everyone seemed to not quite apologize for about as often as I mentioned how hot it was). And the kids headed into it with almost no fear. In the beginning, I stayed on the beach, chatting with the a parade of relatives who came to greet the prodigal moms and their kiddos. But then I, who should never have seen /Jaws/, went into the bay for the first time in 2 1/2 decades. And only because I'm the mom. Funny what motherhood does to you. Besides, with Gommie in the water, plus my cousin C and her two girls (Sis's "girl cousins" whom she unhesitantly approached and invited into the water, as if it were new for them all, not knowing that those girls have grown up in that bay; regardless, Sis really enjoyed meeting her cousins. Thanks for coming down, y'all!), I was a bit redundant. The kids floated on these netted doughnut floats or alternately paddled along on kickboards as I watched and got several hugs from the friendly fish-like cousins. Only once did Sis go completely under, in waist high water, but I her righted quickly enough and she was undeterred.

    After about 2 hours in the water during the heat of the day, we all headed in for rest time and some games, another bay staple. I got a wonderful nap. And we had some snacks. All of which we followed up with a great boat ride. Around and around for the "Arleene cruise" (named after my Bammie's favorite boat ride). The kids marveled at the swooping and diving pterandon-like pelicans but were also mystified by the lack of other sea life--where were the turtles and crabs and otters and such always pictured teeming in picturebook images of the ocean? This lacuna was overlooked when Pop let them drive the boat. Bud loved steering, the act of moving the wheel around and around regardless of where it led. Sis, however, continually checked with Pop about the direction in which she should steer, maintaining a relatively straight and steady course. They both beamed with pride and pleasure.

    The rest of the day found us visiting on the porch, doing arts and crafts, birdwatching, taking a shower outside, and going to bed super later. That pretty much only left kite-flying and fishing on our to-do list! And then we can do it all again and again and again.

    From the Heart (Of Texas): Road Trip (Saturday)

    It was like a pilgrimmage to Santiago de Compostela, with my parents' bay house as the sacred shrine at the end and numerous important stops along the way. First, we stopped at Buc-ees, using their pristine bathrooms, stocking up on Buc'ee nuggets, and buying a few Texas souvenirs. They were out of sweet tea but no matter: Mikeska's, our next stop, would have some. (Before we got there, though, we had to pose next to the huge beavers and the giant stuffed bears in front of the store!) And even though it wasn't yet 10 am, we were assured of barbecue when we got there. The kids marveled at all the "stuffed animals" on the walls, this roadside barbecue joint a veritable church of taxidermy. I ordered the traditional array of sides: potato salad, pinto beans, pea salad, macaroni salad, banana pudding. Gommie and Pop chose brisket, ribs, sausage, chopped beef sandwiches. Sweet tea. I had just been reading on the plane the day before Calvin Trillin's dissection in the /New Yorker/ of how /Texas Monthly/ chose the state's best barbecue, choosing a complete unknown in 2007. In the article, Trillin recounts that one Texas barbecue joint is like any other:. And in case you've never been, I'll tell you: you saunter up, tray in hand, to the person next to the pit, who may or may not give you a taste while you're thinking, and then order your beefy lunch by the pound; sides, optional, ordered separately. Usually, sandwiches are not available: if you want one, grab a couple of slices of Mrs. Baird's white bread at the register on your way to tables stocked with sauce. Texas barbecue usually comes sauce-free. And that's almost exactly what happened.. Next we headed only a few miles away to Prasek's Smokehouse. But we don't often visit there for the barbecue; we liked the baked goods, specifically sweet cheese and fruit kolaches, sausage kolaches (or "pigs in the blanket"), and chocolate sheet cake. We'd called in our order at 7 am, wanting to be sure we got all the kolache flavors--strawberry, apricot, peach, pineapple, cream cheese, cottage cheese, plain sausage, and jalapeno sausage. Sis had been concerned that she couldn't recall her favorite flavor, though she recalled it was sweet and light colored (i.e. not prune!). She beamed when she saw the choices and, I believed, eventually decided it was apricot that she preferred. I picked up some pinto bean seasoning too. My folks and the kids, in a separate car, made a swazu to Staff's, a catering company that, I believe, has done most of the family's weddings, to pick up the kids' first meal of fried chicken. They were nonplussed by the cripsy coating, which found this vegetarian evading her vows (I had had a bite of Mama's chopped beef sandwich, with it's sweet, vinegary sauce; ah the taste of childhood summers! Mea culpa, mea culpa. Texas is a tough place for vegetarians, with its chicken fried steak, fried seafood, brisket, fried chicken, even pork fat in the beans!). About 45 minutes later, we arrived at our destination, full and happy to have arrived. Let the vacation truly begin!

    Monday, June 21, 2010

    Happy Birthday to You!

    Yes, you, Mama Teacher! Even though you're not celebrating, not even getting older this year. We'll party when I get back. Until then, enjoy the vegetables, the end of school, and your dad.

    Friday, June 18, 2010

    From the Heart (of Texas): Store Envy

    After happily settling the kids at Gommie's (4 bathrooms! no basement! what a strange place!) with all the new-to-them toys, Mama and I did one of my favorite things to do in Houston: grocery shop. Some of my strongest memories are of shopping at the Randall's, when that was the store to visit (mainly because for a long time after it arrived, it was one of the only stores; before it came, we had a long trek to the Gerland's. NW Houston as the boonies then). I remember free cake on customer appreciation day, all the soups and Kool-Aids, the staff whom Mom knew by name. I'd swear we'd go more than twice a week!

    Well, Randall's isn't the store anymore, having been replaced by newer, swankier, better-stocked, less religious (Randall's didn't sell alcohol when I was a kid) stores. Tonight we hit Kroger's; later in the trip we'll go to the big H.E.B. Both have amazing stocks of organic and natural products, ethnic groceries, a variety of produce, and just things you never see in the smaller, older groceries in Connecticut (even though the new Shop Rites, replacing the old Shaw's, as well as Big Y, come closer than Shop and Stop. Yes, I always say that backwards, accidentally; and now it's a habit.) Sure, last year I questioned the need for such quantities of goods (and I stand by some of my concern about the excess)--there is a whole aisle of paper towels and toilet paper! And about 6' of grocery shelf space of powdered drink mixes! But they also carry all the Bob's Red Mill flours and a ton of Indian, Asian, and Mexican ingredients. Yep, I have grocery store envy.

    And some nostalgia, too: BLUE BELL the best ice cream in the country (now in convenient pint containers), Ranch Style Beans, Rotel (which we do now get, but not in as many varieties), Steen's Syrup, those pink and white frosted animal cookies, just the name "Parkay" (not that I think I've ever even had that), Adams extracts, Imperial Sugar, Trappey's Black Eyes. And those are just the things I noticed in our quick run today. I got a little teary-eyed in the grocery store (yes, I'll cry about anything) and so had to buy a tacky Texas totebag in honor of it all! We also got 4 pints of Blue Bell, just for samples and I came home humming that tune . . . .

    After a delicious dinner of baked chicken, rice and gravy, peas and carrots, corn on the cob, and squash, all of which (minus the last) the kids scarfed as if they hadn't eaten all day, and a little watching of the DVD Mama made of the Mother's Day tea and graduation at preschool and the church pageant (all of which made me a bit teary; yeah, yeah, I know--just like Gommie, who had to wipe her eyes too!), we put the kiddos to bed, even though it was still light out, and headed off to the bookstore. The Half-Price Books bookstore. I think I like it even better than the grocery stores! Good thing I only get to visit once a year. But that's okay because I think I picked up enough books for that, from Elizabeth David's tome on English Bread and Yeast Cookery to Marion Cunningham's iconic cookbook on breakfast, plus a couple of books on baking. Mama got a few drawing books, a history of ancient China, and some books on knights and castles for Bud and folktales for Sis. We could've picked up more for them but, then, we know we'll be going back before the trip is over.

    Right after we go back to the grocery store!

    From the Heart (of Texas): We Arrive

    The first thing out of Bud's mouth upon exiting the airport (to which we had arrived more than 30 minutes earlier than scheduled, almost beating Gommie and Pop, balloons in hand, to baggage claim!) was "Mommy, it's hot here."

    Sis said the same thing, adding that it was "double hot." Double is right--double nines, close to 100F.

    Kiddos, we aren't in Connecticut anymore!

    But we are very happy to be in Houston. The kids are running around Gommie and Pop's house, thrilled with all the toys both purchased and borrowed (thanks, Granny Quinn!). By far, Bud loves the personalized sword and shield Pop found at Prasek's--perfect for Bud's current medieval knights obsession (we have 4 knights books and two knights toys with us!). Sis much prefers the tea sets.

    Mama and I are just glad to have arrived . . . and to have new munchies like chocolate mint almonds to try. We're planning a grocery trip for this evening, because I'm in charge of birthday cake and there are requests for grilled pizza and crusty bread.

    And Mama's GPS says there's a Taco Cabana nearby . . . . let the fun begin!

    Thursday, June 17, 2010

    Goin' Deep in the Heart of Texas

    Heading back to the homeland tomorrow (and, oh, Joe Barton's homeland, too. And if I can't tell a GOP joke, what fun would it be? Nah, he's too easy), so posts might be few and far between. Besides I'll be hanging out with half my readers! Grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins; sand, surf, sea (sans oil); and food, glorious food!

    See y'all at Buckee's!

    (And a note of thanks to Mama Teacher for keeping an eye on things while we're gone.)

    Way With Words

    "It's like a cannonball through color," Bud said of the spin art he'd just created. It did indeed have a dark blue center with bright red, yellow, and green colors shooting out of it. You should know that Drummer Hoff is his favorite book right now--it ends with the firing of a cannon, which produces lots of swirls and flowers. Kah-bah-bloom!


    "Mommy, last night, I dreamed that when Mama held me up I could see the world! New York, Paris, China, even the South Pole!" He stands on your shoulders, Mama.


    Sis was trying to put a game spinner away and kept forgetting where she put it: "I think I forgot my brain."


    Getting dressed to go to the drugstore, Sis declared how difficult dresses could be to pull over your head, "it's doing that hard dress thing."

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    A Tale of Two Groceries

    It was the best of days; it was the worst of days; it was the age of medical wisdom; it was the age of technological foolishness . . . it was the spring of hope; it was the winter of fear. Last week, besides visiting the neurologist about my MRI, Mama and I wandered the area around NYU Medical Center (the Murray Hill section of Manhattan) a bit, hitting two fascinating grocery stores, which really turned the rather trying day into a wonderful city experience.

    Tordaro Bros.: Founded in 1917, this grocery store is a gem of Italian specialty and prepared foods. While I was a bit too nervous to relax and explore fully, I was delighted to find a takeout container of zabaglione, which I later snacked on in NYU's lobby--a sweet cream texture with that marsala bite. And Mama had never even heard of it! I can't wait to get her to Rome--it was one of my favorite gelato flavors! We got a syrup to make fizzy drinks, something with almonds and orange, I believe. Haven't tried it yet but I love an Italian soda. I also got a chunk of panforte, which I remember clearly from a visit to Siena--the chewy, dark confection filled with fruits and nuts all covered with powdered sugar, this one had a spicy flavor, perhaps cinnamon and nutmeg and allspice? Mama hadn't had that either . . . and I think she'd like Siena! She picked up some chocolate and candies for the kiddos and eyed all the imported oils and vinegars, cheeses and processed meats. Another day, definitely another day. But she did get a torrone, which she'd always wanted to try (even if she was later not very impressed).

    Kalustyan's: This specialty food store opened in 1944 and is now renowned for its international array of spices, herbs, teas, coffees, and other ingredients. I'd even seen it featured on tv. There is a whole room devoted to a variety of grains and beans--oh, the beans, the beans! I bought so many packages of heirloom and other hard-to-find beans: Anasazi, Christmas Lima, Swedish Brown, Scarlet Runner, Indian Butter, Canary, Steuben Yellow, Rice beans, European Soldier, Corona/Runner Sweet White, Jackson Wonder, Rattlesnake, Lupini, Gigante, several dals in gorgeous colors from black to brown to green to yellow to orange. Are the names evocative?! The spices--oh, my word, the aroma of that section--and anything you could imagine, things you've never heard of. Because we regularly go to Penzey's, we're pretty well-stocked, but I did find some asafoetida, which I'd heard about at the Silk Road exhibition. Mercy, is it stinky. I'm not sure I can keep it around long enough to cook with it. (Guess where the word "fetid" comes from?). I did get some sweeter smelling ingredients, including dried rose and jasmine, if only for potpourri. And some lovely masala chai. And a French rollling pin! Best of all, we managed a snack in the small upstairs cafe, sharing a vegetarian platter of amazingly sweet and onion mujadara, stewed gignate beans in a Heinz 57 beans-like sauce, and this chickpea dish that had too much cilantro for me, all "washed" down with a rose lassi. Mmmmmmmm! As we walked out, I was inspired by all the cookbooks--Paula Wolfert, Julie Sahni, Madhur Jaffrey, Najmieh Batmanglij (Silk Road and Persian cooking), plus random titles like The Art of Armenian Cooking--which would tell me what to do with all the ingredients I couldn't identify. We'll be going back here again, and probably ordering beans online before then.

    It was such a delightful experience, roaming the streets and stores of the city I love with the woman I love, talking food, eating food, planning food. Almost made me glad we'd had to venture in to see that neurologist--I just hope my next visit to Murray Hill is just for groceries!

    Snowed Under

    Reading this article on delicious summer shaved ice desserts made my mouth water and my memory turn to summers past.

    Like many American kids, my earliest exposure to shaved ice desserts came in the form of a snow cone, with neon, sweet syrup poured on top of it. It always gathered at the bottom of the paper cone and was slurped up past the increasingly insurmountable obstacle of those hard ice crystals. Did you ever finish all the ice? I even had a little icee guy kit that would shave ice to be served in those paper cones with that bright syrup. I think there's a picture of me and my neighbor, in suitable aprons and hats, serving the treat.

    My first introduction to non-snowcone style treats was in a Vietnamese "ice cream" shop with my high-school buddy/prom date. This traditional treat was served with shaved ice, cubes of almond dofu (not tofu, it's more like solid pudding/jello), an array of sugared beans, and some kind of syrup on top. Sugared pintos? It worked, though I can only imagine that it was through blind faith in dessert that I took my first bite.

    Mama has a pink panda handcranked ice-shaving machine but I can't recall ever making dessert with it, at least not since Chicago. But she dreams awake of the treats she had growing up, drizzled with palm syrup (I think) and sweetened condensed milk. Ma made them once at her house--delicious!

    And then in Texas for Aunt Banana's wedding, Mama and I downed a freezing cold tamarind-flavored Mexican raspado in front of the Alamo. This wasn't just a tamarind-flavored snow cone--the ice and syrup melded so you finished the whole thing. Fantastic.

    Piraguas, granizados, frio-frio. Bingsu, bao bing, kakigori, golas, chuskis. There's a whole world to explore!

    Comparison Shopping

    How many times have we been in that department store before? Once a month for five years? Practically their whole lives?

    But on Monday, the display beckoned to Sis, with its bright colors, tiger stripes, fancy patterns.

    "Mom," she said almost sympathetically, "why do some people have such small breasts?"

    Three other mommy-heads swiveled to watch, almost giggling, as I began my answer.

    Yeah, they don't sell my size, which Sis has seen drying in the bathroom, at Target.

    "Well, honey, people just come in different sizes."

    And that was the right answer for her then.

    Recognizing that tone in my voice that says we're having a serious or thoughtful conversation, Bud began to pay attention, "What? What are you talking about?"

    "Come on, kids. We were going to look at toys for your birthday . . . . "

    Toy Story and Knights beat bras, at least for almost-5 year olds.

    Adventures in Cooking Our CSA Share: Kale

    Mama Teacher is picking up our CSA box while we're away and I've checked the list: you're getting a lot of kale! And so, I give you here my favorite kale recipes, plus a few I'm hoping to try with even more kale (the farm says they have a ton this year!) when I get back.

    Notes on kale:
    • Look for dark green and crisp-looking leaves, the thinner the stalks, the better.
    • Store in the fridge in a plastic bag (or those keep-fresh containers).
    • It needs to be fully cooked and this takes awhile, especially if the kale is not young. Best to boil and then saute or braise. Unless you are roasting!
    • I'll use kale just about anywhere a recipe calls for cooked greens. In fact, if I get too many, I'll boil them up with a little onion and salt, then put them away in about 2 cups servings in the freezer to throw in any soup. It's been in my minestrone, vegetable soup, lentil soup, whatever.
    • My favorite way to eat it is, hands down, Crispy Kale. It's like green potato chips! The recipe below is needlessly complicated--just roast at 400 for about 15-20 minutes, forgetting the last olive oil bath. Though, I haven't tried the Kale and Polenta Pie yet so that could be my new favorite.


    Kale and Polenta Pie

    1/2 lb kale, washed, destemmed, and chopped finely
    1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1 cup instant polenta
    1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

    Preheat oven to 400.

    Bring 3 1/2 cups water to a boil in a large pot. Add kale, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon of the oil to the water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender, about 6 minutes.

    Reduce heat to low. Slowly stir in polenta with a wooden spoon until smooth, about 1 minutes. Partially cover and cook until the polenta is thick, about 6 minutes.

    Remove pot from heat and stir in cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt if necessary. Grease a 9" round cake pan with remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Scrape polenta-kale mixture into cake pan.

    Bake until polenta pie is firm and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let pie cool until barely warm, at least 30 minutes and up to several hours (it will firm as it cools). Cut into wedges and serve.

    Jack Bishop, Vegetables Every Day

    Eggs in a Nest
    **It says chard, but I know kale would work and I've seen similar recipes for it elsewhere.

    (This recipe makes dinner for a family of four, but can easily be cut in half.)
    2 cups uncooked brown rice
    Cook rice with 4 cups water in a covered pot while other ingredients are being prepared.
    Olive oil – a few tbsp
    1 medium onion, chopped, and garlic to taste
    Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil in a wide skillet until lightly golden.
    Carrots, chopped
    ½ cup dried tomatoes
    Add and sauté for a few more minutes, adding just enough water to rehydrate the tomatoes.
    1 really large bunch of chard, coarsely chopped
    Mix with other vegetables and cover pan for a few minutes. Uncover, stir well, then use the back of a spoon to make depressions in the cooked leaves, circling the pan like numbers on a clock.
    8 eggs
    Break an egg into each depression, being careful to keep yolks whole. Cover pan again and allow eggs to poach for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve over rice.

    Barbara Kingsolver, with recipes by Camille Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

    4 medium to large all-purpose potatoes, such as
    Russet, peeled and cut into chunks
    Coarse salt, for
    boiling water
    2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
    1 head dark curly kale, chopped
    2 tablespoons butter
    3/4 cup whole milk, eyeball it

    1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, fresh or grated (I don’t
    remember adding nutmeg)

    1 teaspoon ground thyme
    2 scallions, sliced
    A handful of fresh parsley, chopped

    Boil potatoes for 15 minutes in salted water. Drain
    potatoes and return them to the hot pot and mash.

    Heat stock or broth to a simmer. Chop kale tops,
    discarding tough stems. Add kale to broth and cover.
    Simmer 10 to 12 minutes.

    In a large skillet over moderate heat melt butter and
    add milk. Season with nutmeg and thyme and add
    scallions to the pan. Remove kale from cooking liquid
    to the milk and butter mixture using a slotted spoon.
    Stir in 1/2 cup of cooking liquid. Add mashed potatoes
    to milk and kale and stir until combined and creamy, 1
    or 2 minutes. Stir in parsley and season with
    salt and
    , to taste.

    (I also made a well on the top and added butter, just
    in case you needed more butter ;)


    Today's Vegetable Soup
    (bearing in mind, it's never the same twice)

    1 onion
    1-2 teaspoons minced garlic
    1-2 tablespoons olive oil
    appx. 20 baby carrots, chopped
    1 cup frozen corn
    1/2 cup frozen peas
    2 yukon gold potatoes, cubed
    1 turnip, cubed
    1-2 cups cooked curly kale
    6-8 baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
    1 yellow squash, sliced
    1 zucchini, sliced
    2-3 stalks celery, sliced
    2 1/2 boxes of stock (about 10-12 cups stock)
    2 teaspoons salt (give or take)
    a few shakes of Penzey's seasoned salt
    several grinds black pepper
    1/2 box rotini pasta

    Saute onion in olive oil; add garlic and saute until fragrant. Combine remaining ingredients, except pasta, and cook until desired tenderness. Cook pasta separately and allow kids to add their own (this way the pasta doesn't get mushy). I like mine with a bit of grated cheese.

    Crispy Kale

    Roasted Kale with Sea Salt

    • 4 cups firmly-packed kale
    • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 tsp. good-quality salt

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

    Cut the stems off the kale and discard; rinse and shake the leaves dry. Stack the leaves and cut them crosswise into strips about 1 inch wide. Put the kale in a big bowl and drizzle with enough olive oil to coat well (about 2 tablespoons). Toss the leaves. Spread the kale on a large rimmed baking sheet and pop it in the oven. Set the bowl aside without washing it.

    Roast kale until some of the leaves are tinged with brown, about 7 minutes. Remove baking sheet and stir kale around (tongs are the best tool for this), then put it back in the oven for up to another 5-15 minutes, stirring every five or so, until all the leaves are crisp. Immediately put the leaves back in the bowl you first tossed them in, then drizzle with another tablespoon of oil and a few splashes of vinegar. Toss kale with the tongs, taste, and add more oil, vinegar, or salt as needed. Toss again and serve right away.