It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Recipe: Lentil-Rice Cakes

Ingredients:

1 cup green lentils
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano (optional)
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
2 cups cooked rice
2 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

Method:

1. Put lentils, garlic, onions and oregano in pot, cover with 2 cups of water and boil for 4 minutes. Cover and simmer till lentils are soft, 25 – 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary.

Drain. Let cool ~10 minutes.

2. Put rice and all but 1 cup of the lentil mixture into a food processor, and pulse 5 – 8 times, till sticky. Glop into a bowl and add the remainder of the lentil mixture. Fold together thoroughly.

3. Beat eggs, and add, along with flour, and seasoning. It will be sticky, but if it’s too goopy to form into patties, add bread crumbs or oatmeal until you get something more malleable.

4. Form into patties and refrigerate a couple of hours. (Chilling the batter is necessary if you’re going to fry them, but not if you’re going to bake them.)

5. Cook, either by
a) Fry at medium-high in a few millimetres of oil, at least three minutes on the first side. Be patient here, otherwise it will fall apart when you try to flip it. Fry the second side for a minute, then carefully transfer to a plate.

b) Bake on well-oiled cookie sheet at 350 for 15 minutes on the first side, five on the second.

The children love to eat these at room temperature, with their fingers, and dipped in ketchup. I find them a bit bland, and so will eat mine in a half-pita with a dollop of hot salsa and Dijon mustard on top.

June 26, 2012 Posted by | food | , | 9 Comments

Menu Monday

Monday: Veggies and tofu with peanut sauce, on brown rice vermicelli

Tuesday: Lentil-rice cakes (the children will be helping to make these), beet-carrot salad

Wednesday: Tandoori chicken, cucumber raita, naan, lentil-beet salad

Thursday: Fish-spinach curry on rice

Friday: Enchilada bake, broccoli with sesame sauce

As always, if there’s a recipe you’d like to see, just ask!

June 25, 2012 Posted by | food | 3 Comments

I couldn’t script this stuff nearly so well

Grace: I have a flower in my hairclip.

Jazz, her tone bright and interested: Oh. You have a flower in your hairclip?

Grace: Yeah. My mommy put it in there.

Jazz, her tone regretful: I didn’t got one today.

Grace, after a pause, with great sympathy: Oh. Well, that happens.

Jazz and Grace, together, nodding sagely: Yeah.

June 22, 2012 Posted by | Grace, Jazz, the things they say! | , , , | Leave a comment

I’ve been tagged!

Thank god, because I do not have a post in me. Just don’t. So Carol, at If By Yes, thank you for tagging me!

The rules for playing blog tag are simple:

1- You must post the rules
2- Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post
3- Create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged
4- Tag eleven people with a link to your post
5- Let them know they’ve been tagged

Here are the questions I was given.

1. How many times, as an adult, have you wet yourself?

Hoo. Let’s start right in at the “WHO would want to know this???” deep end of embarrassment. Okay, so… how does one define this? Full-on, running-down-the-legs disaster? In which case, never. Or are we talking uncomfortable-but-invisible (so long as you don’t sit down, don’t ask me how I know that) mini-event, provoked by sneezing or foolish attempts to actually, you know, run anywhere?

In which case I shall say only this:
- second pregnancy
- 10-pound baby
- 87 minutes of labour

I think we need no further details.

2. What book are you most ashamed of liking?

I have a degree in English. I read a lot of capital-L Literature, I read a fair amount of non-fiction. I also read a lot of frivolous, brainless fluff. I like it all, depending on my mood. The only thing I’d be truly ashamed of reading would be truly shameful stuff — kiddie porn or something equally vile, and I don’t read that. So what I’m saying is that if I enjoy reading it, I’m not ashamed of enjoying it. The only reason to be ashamed is if you feared someone else’s disapproval, and I don’t give a nanosecond’s thought to that. Why should someone else’s taste determine my reading list?

3. What book are you most ashamed of disliking?

See answer to number two, only in reverse. To be ashamed of something would mean that I’d fallen short of some sort of Worthy Standard, and when it comes to matters of taste, well, that’s what it is … personal taste. I may not share someone’s taste, I may not even approve of it, but why should that matter to them? You want to decorate your den in black velvet paintings of poker-playing dogs, feel free. And if I liked them (which I don’t) I would be unapologetic. Whatever floats yer boat.

4. What cartoon character did you have a crush on as a child?

I was a late bloomer. I didn’t do crushes until I was 16 or so, by which time I’d stopped watching cartoons. Though perhaps Rocket Robin Hood came closest.

5. What dream was terrifying as a child, but is funny to think about now?

My first nightmare, when I was not quite two, involved “a big bunny rabbit!!!” I have no recollection of this, but apparently I was seriously spooked. Poor baby Mary. This amuses me. The other scary dreams I had as a child are still scary: endlessly falling, being trapped someplace dangerous, being chased by something scary and unable to run, though in truth, I very, very rarely have frightening dreams any more. Thank goodness!

6. What word do you always misspell?

I have one. More than one, in fact. Can I remember any of them at all? Of course not. I’ll have to come back to this.

7. What bad smell do you secretly kind of like?

Sweat. Slightly stale sweat. (Particularly slightly stale male sweat.) However, there’s a very fine line between “mmmmmmm” and “eeewww”, so don’t be omitting to shower should we ever meet, mkay?

8. What good smell do you actually dislike?

If I don’t like it, it’s not a good smell for me, so it’s hard to say. I don’t like the smell of brussels sprouts. Is that considered a good smell? Wet dog, but I gather few people like that. I’m hit and miss on coffee, and I know lots of people love that. Sometimes I like the smell, sometimes not so much.

9. Are you the kind of person who wants to eat babies/puppies?

Puppies! With floppy ears and fat bellies. And puppy fluff! Short, stubby tails! Oooooo… Oh, and baby toes! Nom. And dimpled elbows and round cheeks and fat bellies with bellybuttons. Lucky me, I get to nibble on baby toes and fat cheeks every! single! day! :-D

10. What is your most intellectually snobby personality trait?

Grammar. I am a grammar snob. I am not a vocabulary snob. It does not bother me that the language changes. Where would you draw the line, declare the language to be perfect, and refuse any further evolution? That’s just silly. ‘Focus’ was once primarily a visual term; now it’s more likely to mean ‘attend’ or ‘concentrate’. I’m fine with that. Languages, if they are to stay vibrant and useful, evolve.

But grammar? “Than” and “then” are two different words, people, and give us useful distinctions. Learn the difference. (I’ve known since I was eight years old at the very latest. I’m sure you can figure it out.) “Who” and “that”. If it’s a person, it’s WHO. “There’s the woman who came in second in the marathon,” not “the woman that”. ‘It’s’ and ‘its’. These are grade school errors, things that were taught in grade 3, 4, and 5, yet you see them all. the. time. I’m a grammar snob, though as you can see, I’m perfectly comfortable using an informal, colloquial writing style. Inconsistent? Perhaps.

11. What is your trashiest personality trait?

I like to gossip. Not maliciously (er, well, usually), I keep confidences well (always), and I’m careful who I gossip with. I refuse to gossip with malicious, secret-spreading people. But I loooove to talk about people, what they’re doing, who they’re doing it with, why they’d be doing that at all.

Okay, that’s that. I don’t have eleven questions right now. I’ll give it a day’s thought and see what I come up with…

June 21, 2012 Posted by | memes and quizzes | 1 Comment

Your Friday Reminder

Don’t forget to…

Stop

and smell the roses.

Happy Weekend!

June 15, 2012 Posted by | Grace, the cuteness! | , , , | 1 Comment

Every morning

Every sunny morning when we walk by the river on our way to the park, or maybe just to go frolic in the field by the river, Poppy will do this.

Stop, point.

If you were here with us, with that lovely scene in front of you, you might think that she’d noticed a fish (carp, probably) breaking the water and splashing back, causing a cascade of circular ripples. Or maybe she spotted one or two of the royal swans. A red-wing blackbird? A heron? A frog?

But if you were here with us, you’d be able to hear her little voice, high with delight. Every sunny morning that we walk along the river, Poppy will stop, point and call out,

“Look! SPARKLES! SPARKLES!”

And every sunny morning, I love the sparkles. Almost as much as I love Poppy.

June 14, 2012 Posted by | Ottawa, Poppy, the things they say! | , , | 1 Comment

Crackers!

As part of my suddenly-burgeoning passion — yes, it’s reaching the point of passion — about children and Real Food, I decided that the time has come to expand what I cook with the children. We will not limit ourselves to muffins and cookies! Boy, have we expanded our horizons: pesto, galette, gazpacho, stew.

We started off easy, though, with these:

Cheese crackers!

It was fun — just like cookies, only savoury!

And they were good. So good that I forgot to take pictures of the finished product. Not that they stuck around long. The tots got theirs when we cooked, and when I went to package up the remainder, I discovered my own ‘children’ (almost 19 and 23) had descended. Nothing but crumbs remained on the cookie sheet.

Nom.

June 13, 2012 Posted by | food | , , | 5 Comments

Blundersome Boys

“Danieeeellllllll!”

It’s a whine I hear a dozen times a day from both Grace and Jazz.

“Daaaaanielllll!”

A whine of indignation, dismay and resignation.

Daaaaniel!!”

Each time, it’s because Daniel, in his happy, blundersome way, has bumped, knocked, toppled, tumbled, banged, dinged, crumpled or otherwise discommoded their ladyships. Now, this is not to say that their protests are unwarranted. Well, some of them.

Fact of the matter is, Daniel can be a blundering nuisance. Fact of the matter also is, the girls complain far more readily than needful. And always in the same, pointless, ineffective way.

“Daaaanieeelllll!”

Time and again, I explain to them. “You have to talk to Daniel. When you just say his name, he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know what he’s done. Tell him what you want him to do.”

“I want him to not push me.”

“Then tell him, ‘Daniel, no pushing me. Daniel, hands are for hugging.’ You know he loves to hug.”

“Dannniieeeellll!”

Sigh.

Most often, Daniel’s actions are not deliberate or willful. The boy is just very active, built (as my grandfather would have said) like a brick shithouse, and clumsy. He moves far too fast for his not-quite-two years of coordination. He hasn’t pushed, he’s only bumped, jostled, careened off of.

Which is why, when Rory walks through that door, Daniel’s wee face lights right up. Well, in truth, it lights up for Grace and Jazz, too, but I think I see a particular aura of relief in the beaming face when he sees Rory. Because, though he is a sensitive and very verbal little dude, a boy who can play quietly, who ‘reads’ books for long stretches, and also talk up a storm, a boy who can play with the girls without eliciting wails of protest, Rory is also a boy. A loud and physical boy.

(I only wish, come to that, that Grace and Jazz were as versatile.)

Rory arrives, and within seconds the two little boys are in a tumbling and writhing heap on the living room floor, playing a ‘game’ Rory has labelled “Monster Chairs”.

A few minutes later, they are thundering from one end of the house to the other. They bounce off each other, they bounce off the walls, they careen around corners. Both of their faces alight with the sheer thrill of the physicality, the joy of the speed rush, the exhilaration of the noise. (Because, when you are almost-two and just-turned-three, it is not enough to BAMBAMBAMBAMBAM around the house, you must also YELL AND BELLOW while you BAMBAMBAMBAMBAM. Girl or boy, this is required.)

Daniel loves Rory. They play alike. It must be a relief for the poor little guy, to play, to just play to your heart’s content, and not have someone inexplicably become fraught and indignant, over and over again. There are very rarely any shrieks of “Daaaaanieeellll!” when Rory and Dan play together.

They thunder into the kitchen, wheel around me and thunder down the length of the house, to the tiny front hall.

BAMBAMBAMBAM – giggle giggle – YELL BELLOW YELL – BAMBAMBAM …

CLUNK.

Oh. Ouch. That sounded like a head. A head against the wooden front door. A head against the wooden front door at speed.

I wait for the wails.

They don’t happen.

Instead…

BAMBAMBAMBAM, giggle giggle, YELL BELLOW YELL, BAMBAMBAM …

and they are in the kitchen with me. Rory looks up at me, dancing from one excited foot to the next, his face shining with fun … and is that a smallish red bump I see on his forehead? I glance at Daniel’s face, equally happy, equally fun-filled … and with a matching red bump rising on his forehead.

“Mary!” Rory stops dancing, but isn’t precisely ‘still’. He vibrates in place, quivering with glee. “Mary! Mary, we runned into the front door! We bonked our COCONUTS!!!”

“Yeah!” Daniel taps his head. “Bonk HEAD!!”

“You guys want some ice?”

“No fanks!” And they thunder away again.

I am truly glad, for the sake of Daniel’s psyche, that he has Rory to thunder with. I do, however, entertain modest fears for their life and limb…

Heh. Not really. I’m loving it.

June 12, 2012 Posted by | Daniel, health and safety, individuality, Rory | , | 1 Comment

Menu Monday

Monday: Meatball soup, baguette with spinach pesto

Tuesday: Vegetable-cheese galette

Wednesday: Spring rolls (with tuna), sesame bok choi

Thursday: Beet-carrot salad

Friday: Peanut butter-taco roll-ups, broccoli

June 11, 2012 Posted by | food | 1 Comment

Food, Meals, Food Culture

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to eat with the daycare children.

Well, a long time until two weeks ago. For the past two weeks, I’ve sat down every day. Eaten with them, corrected manners, modelled my own, chatted about the day’s events and Important Things in their small lives. Now, it wasn’t that I was ignoring them before. I did a lot of this even when I wasn’t eating with them. But, though I’d started off eating with the daycare tots, years ago when I began a home daycare, I had drifted out of the habit.

Gradually, I started doing chores as they sat around the table. Chores that I could do while supervising them, in a fairly casual, in-and-out-of-the-room sort of way. I’d start the dishes. I’d sweep the dining room floor. I’d get out the craft supplies (many of which are stored in a cupboard in the kitchen) for the afternoon activity. I could refill bowls as required, wipe spills, help a wee one load peas into a spoon … but I wasn’t sharing their meal.

Why the change? I’ve been reading Jeannie Marshall‘s “Outside the Box“, a book about food culture. She was in Ottawa not too long ago, and I recommended to my parents that they go hear her speak. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go, but one of my Lovely Clients bought the book for me! (I am so lucky. Yes, I know it.) I’ve been reading it slowly, rather than my usual break-neck speed, so that I can absorb the ideas. The ideas in the book include the difference between “food” and “food products”, something I’m familiar with from Michael Pollan‘s excellent “In Defense of Food“, and, come to that, from my very own mother.

(Was it from her I first heard, “If I can’t pronounce the ingredients, I don’t want to eat them?” It may have been. She was — and remains — far from a health nut. Back then, she was a pack-a-day smoker, though she quit many years ago now. Her favourite treat was crunchy pork rinds (remember those? packaged like potato chips? god knows what was in them) but she knew, we all knew, they were damned unhealthy. For eating once in a while, not for every day. Vegetables, fruit, protein, grains — those were for everyday.)

So I’m familiar with the ‘food/food product’ distinction, and (not to put indulge in any false modesty here) I do a kick-ass job of providing food, real food, to the daycare. These tykes essentially never get food products when at my home. Essentially no packaged foods, no ready-made stuff, very little fake-food-masquerading-as-healthy, like storebought granola bars. We made our own cheese crackers last week. (NOM!)

I cook with the children, but I admit that until a couple of weeks ago, that was pretty much limited to muffins and cookies (read: treats). Crackers are still borderline treats, but at least they’re not sweet! I’ve brought chopping board and a heap of vegetables to the dining room table (so they could sit around and watch) to make a big batch of gazpacho. We talked about the vegetables, they nibbled bits of this and that, they smelled the garlic and the onion, and cheered when I slammed the garlic to get the skin off. And when it was done? They were falling all over themselves to have a taste.

But still, I didn’t eat with them. And the more I read Marshall’s book, the more I realized how critical that is to instilling in children the idea of how to deal with food. I was good at providing healthy, real food, and getting them to eat it, but I wasn’t putting it in context.

A quote from my then 11-year-old daughter springs to mind, something she said during her first term in school, having been homeschooled to that point: “It’s like they [the other kids] see learning as some sort of bad-tasting medicine. It’s good for them, but they don’t have to like it.” Was I giving the same sort of message to the tots, regarding food?

So I’ve been sitting down and eating with them, and (another idea from Marshall) not hurrying them through the meal. A meal is not a hiccup in our day, something to be rushed through so we can get on to our next Important Learning Activity (or, I wryly confess, naptime, blessed, blessed naptime). No, a meal is an important activity. It’s not just a nutritional pit stop, a filling of the gas tank as quickly as possible so you can roar back into the race of life.

It’s nice, you know? Our lunches now take close to half an hour, instead of ten or twelve minutes. They don’t eat any more than they ever did. They just spend more time chatting. And — wahoo! — less time pouting about what might be in their bowls. (Well, except Jazz. Jazz is just not a food-oriented kid, and this is not a miracle cure. But who knows what the results of relaxed, social meals will be, even for food-indifferent Jazz, long-term?)

Last week, they tried roasted asparagus and mushrooms (even Jazz!), because I was sitting at the table, eating with them. We’re having fun, we’re enjoying our food and each other’s company.

And I haven’t even finished the book yet! Who knows what we’ll discover next??

June 7, 2012 Posted by | books, food, health and safety | , , , , , | 4 Comments

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