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 The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening.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.
I’m at the point in my pregnancy now where everyone wants to chat about it – strangers, grocery checkers, bank tellers, everyone. And while I know many friends who are annoyed by this, I like to try to give people grace: they’re all coming from a good place, either remembering their own small kids or grandkids or the kids they wish they could have had. People are just trying to connect. The one thing I’ve found interesting this time around is at any given moment, I’m not entirely sure how far along I am. With Oliver, I had that little app that tracked the changes in your body each week with fruit and veggie graphics: “this week your baby’s the size of a blueberry!” I’d eagerly await Tuesday morning when the app would update, and I’d have news to share with Sam and my lovely employees who at least pretended to care. This time around I just haven’t gotten around to re-downloading it, I guess (much to Sam’s disappointment) and weeks seem to go by without a deliberate effort to count or log them.
With Oliver, I kept a pregnancy journal of how I was feeling. I took belly photos each week, and was really diligent about prenatal fitness, eating enough salmon, reading all the books. This time, none of the above have been true and if I think too hard about it, it makes me a little sad. I bought a journal a few weeks back to try to encourage myself to just write down a few things, but once evening rolls around and I have those precious few minutes to rinse out O’s lunchbox and catch up with Sam, other things feel more immediately pressing.
It’s not for lack of excitement or enthusiasm, it’s just that there’s far less time to focus inwardly on myself and my feelings and experience during this pregnancy. There’s post-workday dinner to throw together, birthday parties to plan, new shoes to buy for Oliver’s school, breakfast with friends, oil changes, Halloween costumes – you get it. But there’s also the sweetness in between: Oliver putting his stuffed manta ray under his pajamas and telling me he’s growing his baby, too. Sometimes he even sleeps with her under his pj top and lately he’s started asking her if she’s hungry for some milk or a snack. Over breakfast last weekend, O told me he’s going to teach the new baby guitar. Sam’s gearing up to move out of his home office so we can turn it into a nursery. I’m going to paint the walls and hope to make new curtains.
I went to my first prenatal yoga class this past week; I recall it being a bit too slow for my taste during my first pregnancy but thought this time around it might be different. And while it was still too slow and still not to my taste, it turned out there was an unexpected bonus I hadn’t thought of: a full hour of quiet to connect with the new baby, not something I’ve really gotten a chance to do. So I may return. Not for the sloowwwwwwww stretching or pillow-laden poses, but for a chance to lay my hands on my belly, chant a few “om’s” and say hi to this new little person. I may not know the size in vegetable or fruit icons or the exact week, but as Oliver says, the baby is “growing” and we all couldn’t be more excited for that fact alone.
To make this a weeknight recipe, cook the quinoa and cauliflower the day before (or even a few days before) so then you’ll really just be cooking down the greens, assembling and getting the casserole in the oven. You’ll notice I cook the quinoa in broth here, a great way to add an extra boost of flavor to your savory cooking.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
While the oven’s preheating, cook the quinoa: Add quinoa and vegetable stock to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover, and simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until the water’s absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to sit, covered, and steam for ten minutes. Fluff with a fork.
Lay the cauliflower onto the baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast for 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender (it’s ok if it’s not super roasted looking; it’s going to continue cooking when you bake the casserole).
In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the shallot. Cook for 3 minutes, or until shallot is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the kale and saute until wilted, 2-3 minutes.
Turn cauliflower out into a large mixing bowl. Fold in the kale, quinoa, 1/2 of the cheese, milk, capers, Dijon, salt, red pepper flakes and thyme. Mix well. Scrape mixture into a large oven-safe baking dish. Top with breadcrumbs and remaining cheese.
Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until cooked through and golden brown on top. If you’d like a crispier top, turn the broiler on high at the end of your cooking time and continue cooking for 2 minutes, or until nice and crispy.
Leftovers are great if covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days.
Healthy Comfort Food
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)