Raspberry Rhubarb Compote
I’m leaving town on a red eye tonight to go to my little sister’s bridal shower outside of Boston. I’ve got my scarf-that-doubles-as-a-blanket all packed and am debating buying one of those neck pillows at the airport. My mom booked a fancy hotel downtown, I bought a new tank top with a tropical palm tree situation gracing the front, and I plan to sleep past 7 am at least once. Hopefully twice. Usually before I leave town, I jot down ideas for Oliver’s meals and lay things out for Sam. From what I’ve gathered from other parents and friends, it seems we all fall into funny, unspoken roles and while Sam almost always bathes Oliver, I plan and prep his meals. Sure, I’m quite capable of giving him a bath and Sam is quite capable of roasting his sweet potatoes, but this is just how things have landed for us. But tonight I’m walking out the door without jotting anything down. While I did stock up on berries and string cheese, I’m not leaving any notes and for the first time, not feeling terribly worried about how much Oliver eats, when he eats, even frankly if he eats. They’re going to be just fine.
I wish I could say this swing in sentiment was just a natural progression, but we had a funny meeting last week that changed things for me. Oliver has been seeing a language therapist for about a month now. I’m not entirely convinced it’s necessary, but his doctor was concerned about a delay and it’s certainly true that the few “mamas” we used to get every now and again have disappeared altogether, so every Friday Ashley comes over and hangs out with us, playing blocks, observing and guiding. Last week she came for lunchtime after I’d mentioned that I was concerned we weren’t doing a great job with the food thing, that Oliver only stayed seated for about 1/3 of his meal and became incredibly fussy — that whole hot dog on the floor bit. She asked how he was for smaller snacks and I said he really didn’t snack and never motioned or communicated to me that he was hungry. Something was wrong.
So Ashely visited while Sam diced Oliver’s half avocado and I got his chicken sausage and pasta together — I did notice her eyes kind of widen as we laid out Oliver’s food but I thought nothing of it at the time. Sure enough, at about 1/3 of the way through his meal, O started fussing and waving his hands back and forth indicating he was done. “See,” I said! “This is what happens every time! He just shows little interest in meal times and doesn’t seem all that excited about anything we set in front of him”. She looked at me from across the table and said kindly, “Megan, he’s stuffed.”
It seems we’ve been over feeding out little Tank. Apparently an entire chicken sausage, a half an avocado and pasta is a pretty big lunch for a toddler. I think it was the half avocado that really did Ashley in. That and the fact that I’d typically follow Oliver around the house after dinner kind of popping tortellini in his mouth if he didn’t finish his whole bowl, like a good neurotic Italian grandmother (I’m neither of those things). I’m not sure why I didn’t realize it before, but an immediate wave of relief flooded over me: The problem is us, not Oliver. Poor kid has been trying to tell us for months: Enough already!
Since Ashley’s visit, mealtimes are much less stressful for me. They’re not as loaded — I don’t glance at Oliver’s plate the entire time wondering if he’ll finish or question why he’s pausing for so long. Somedays he surprises me with the amount of something he’ll be into and other days he takes one bite and isn’t interested at all. The result: I have peas and leftover pancake pieces for lunch more often than I care to admit. Other days, we eat like kings at breakfast during that short blip of summer when rhubarb and raspberries are in season at the same time (run, now!). Oliver and I have been having a little spoonful of this quick and easy compote on our yogurt or oatmeal lately. It’d be great on waffles or pancakes, too. And Sam and I can vouch that it’s mighty fine on ice cream, eaten outside on your summery deck right after hanging sparkly string lights as your not-so-little Tank sleeps soundly in the room above.
Raspberry Rhubarb Compote
- Yield: 4 Servings
- Prep time: 5 mins
- Cook time: 15 mins
- Total time: 20 mins
This simple summer compote is a great way to dress up plain yogurt, or spoon it atop oatmeal, waffles, or ice cream. I used a little less sugar than the recipe called for, so feel free to add an additional few spoonfuls if you like yours on the sweeter side.
Slightly adapted from: Vegetable Literacy
Trim the rhubarb stalks, then cut them crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Put them in a saucepan with the sugar, orange juice, and berries and place over medium heat.
Stir frequently while the rhubarb is warming up and the sugar is starting to dissolve, until juices appear, then cover the pan and cook until the rhubarb is tender, about 10 minutes. Give the contents of the pan a good stir. Slide the fruit into a dish and chill well before serving.
Healthy Comfort Food
Thai Carrot, Coconut and Cauliflower Soup
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
Cheesy Quinoa Cauliflower Bake
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
Stuffed Shells with Fennel and Radicchio
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
Smoky Butternut Squash and Three Bean Chili
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
To Talk Porridge
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)
This hit home for me as feeding is one of the most stressful things for us and my almost 2 year old daughter and she is also doing speech therapy, along with PT and play therapy. Hang in there, in a few years we can only hope we can look back at these days and smile.
Aww, thanks Marla. You guys sound like you've got a lot on your plate - hope the feeding thing is going ok for you. As you probably saw here, a lot of people recommend Ellyn Satter, and I do really agree with her philosophy, too. Maybe she'd be helpful to you if you can get your hands on one of her books? Thanks again for your nice comment, and I hope you guys have a good weekend!
This recipe looks amazing. I'm glad you're relaxing about feeding your Oliver, and I hope you have a lovely weekend. Everyone who's stressing about feeding their kid must read Ellyn Satter's book How to Get Your Kid to Eat...But Not Too Much. It was recommended on Alphamom. I read it when my Oliver was a baby, and I've never really stressed about him eating.
Yes, Lydia! I think this is the one I have at home - I need to go back and look at the title. I'm not sure why I've been kicking my heels but I think it's time. Thank you!
Many of the same issues going on in my house - maybe I also need to trust more in my daughters naturally small appettite.. Good luck with the language therapy, my 17 month old is also not truly articulating any words other than hi and bye yet, and it becomes so hard not to worry and compare and feel like I have failed somehow. As mentioned above, I am sure this is just a short phase for us both and will be all but forgotten soon enough.
Hi, CP. Thank you for sharing. Have you tried teaching your little one any signs? This has helped us with Oliver a bit as then he can tell us he wants more, sign for his shoes etc. I was hesitant at first only because it seemed like one more thing to have to think about and learn, but it's actually been quite fun. Hope you're all having a good week.
Megan, I love reading about your life. You are an amazing woman and mom: smart, caring, kind and so grounded. I hope you had a fantastic trip and that your boys had a fun bonding weekend.
For a while when I was traveling for work, I'd plan every meal and leave directions and then come home worried that my guys had starved to death or only eaten junk food to find them happy and well. It was both disconcerting and encouraging though when my son would ask when I was going away again so he and his dad could have a boys weekend again!
Thank you, Lori! You're too kind. Always nice to see your name pop up in the comments here. I had a great trip (although I've decided I think I'm too old for red eyes) and - no surprise - the boys survived just fine without me. Thanks again for your sweet comment!
My oldest son went through a phase at Oliver's age where he would only eat ONE meal a day and it was breakfast. So, we had peanut butter and jelly pancakes or waffles (I snuck in tofu and yogurt into the batter), a side of bacon, banana or applesauce and hot chocolate (it was summer in California but who cares!). The good news is that he ate a lot of food but just sort of stored it up for the day. He did drink water, sometimes some fruit juice during the day and I could occasionally get him to have a piece of cinnamon toast before bed, but that was it. He was happy, gaining the appropriate amount of weight, active, slept well, all systems were working, so I stopped worrying. The phase lasted about 6 months and then he wanted to eat when we did. This is also the kid who went vegetarian at age 5 when he became insulted by the food chain when he saw the turkey sitting in the fridge just prior to Thanksgiving and realised it was an actual bird :-). Happy to say he is now a young adult and the only food-related issue is trying to fill up those hollow legs! Enjoy your little guy - he sounds like a character.
HI, Lynn. Thank you for sharing! That's so interesting. I've noticed our little guy actually eats a really small breakfast, which never makes sense to me as you'd think they'd be starving, and I used to worry about it but after realizing his lunches are quite large, I figure it just all evens out. Your vegetarian story is too funny - sounds like a really observant, special guy.
When my firstborn was a toddler, the best advice I received was from a nutritionist, who said one tablespoon per year of age was an appropriate portion size of any food. What a relief! I could suddenly let go of the "is he eating enough?" panic.
YES, Colleen I recently heard this and it was such a reassurance to me because really that's just a few bites (at my son's age). Thank you for sharing!
My kiddo (3 in September) barely seemed to eat a year ago and now I am frequently astonished by how much she can pack away... sometimes it seems like I spend the entire afternoon getting her snacks! The compote looks delicious!
I've heard this from a few friends, Rosa. Thank you for sharing - the hunger thing seems to totally go in waves and there's just no predicting or calling it. I'll be excited when he can tell me he's still hungry or express more directly he wants a snack -- we can eliminate the constant guessing game!
Meal times with littles can be so stressful. My mom is a nutritionist and she introduced me to "The Division of Responsibility" principle by Ellyn Satter. Basically all it is is that as parents we decide what to eat but allow the child to choose how much. Anyways, just the way she talks about meal times gave me so much peace. I can get excited about providing lots of healthy options and new foods and flavors but don't have to stress about forcing extra bites on my little guy. I was so focused on weight percentiles and calories etc.that mealtimes had completely lost their fun. Satter's resources have been a huge help to me, hope you find them useful too. And very excited to try this compote over vanilla ice cream!
Thank you, Emma. I'm familiar with her and actually have one of her book's on my nightstand and have for months and for some reason just haven't dipped in yet, but I love her philosophy, too. I think the book I have actually has a toddler section, so I need to get on it - thanks for the nudge!
I definetly made this on Saturday and then took it camping! We enjoyed it on oatmeal and pancakes! So yummy!
Yayayay! So glad to hear it!
Kayleigh | Whisks & Wooden Spoons
Rhubarb compote is amazing. And I've found myself overfeeding my kids over and over again. I forget how little their bellies are. :)