Tuesday, March 3, 2015

True Test

salmon, kale, rice
The true test of my resolution, of course, occurs when I return to work. Which I did this past Monday after our mid-winter break. In order to stick to the plan, I rushed out of a meeting - a 50-minute meeting on top of the morning meeting that we had that day already due to an event at the school on 2/13 - when talk turned to touchy-feely things. I believe in community-building, but not at 4pm when I have to get my kids. The principal asked us to go around the room and share a positive event or word to capture our mid-winter breaks. She wanted us all to "have a voice" that afternoon. I am sure some of you might say, "Wow, how lovely. I would love to hear all of my colleagues' thoughts and feelings." Surely, I do love learning about my colleagues and I do believe we are brought closer together by these things. It is meaningful, it is. And yet.

Sam eating everything with bread to "wash it down"
Being a teacher has reminded me that people don't change. That your personality is set when you are about 6 and, when you are a teen and whatever clique you gravitate towards, that is YOU, my friend. So, I have always had a potty-mouth and a bad attitude. After the fourth or so remark at the end of that meeting, out I went, muttering to the gal next to me, "Uhhh, I gotta get my kids."

Teddy ... at the table!
 I knew that I also had to get dinner supplies out and ready. And dinner landed on the table, where a mere three of us sat, at 7pm. Sam's eyes were drooping and he had been whining just a little bit about dinnertime. Bless him, he tried everything. I am crushing this! Even though, the whole drive home, I was trying to figure out how I could shop at Metropolitan Market for dinner and still maintain the spirit of my resolution.
lamb chops, rice, escarole
 I kept rallying and making dinner. Sam kept trying everything on his plate, even earning dessert a couple nights. But I was pretty tired by Friday and had to order pizza because the kitchen was a mess and I just couldn't muster the strength to prepare what little I had to. I still consider the week a success, though. Sam wanted family dinner each night and was disappointed one night I was really late and suggested he have toast. He had one piece to tide him over and then ate "grown-up dinner."

empty kongnamu bowl
Reflections at the end of the first week: I have to hold myself to my resolutions and rally, but I also have to be gentle with myself. I can't take on too much in terms of the menu. I tend to think of three dishes that will go well together and then kill myself and get dinner on the table at 8pm. That didn't happen this week, but I can easily see myself reaching too far. I have get back into the habit of taking photos of the food. This bean sprout salad was so brilliant, you should have seen it!

Monday menu: salmon with a dijon-breadcrumb-potato chip crust; brown rice with Parmesan, lemon, and parsley; and wilted kale salad with raisins and pine nuts. The rice and salmon were new recipes from ATK and I overcooked the salmon. The kale salad is my go-to greens salad. You can find variants in many a cookbook. I'll give you mine below.
Tuesday menu: lamb chops with Pape meats herb crust; escarole sautéed with garlic and anchovies; leftover Parmesan rice. I heart escarole! One of those greens that is great raw and cooked - in soups or salads or sautéed or even on pasta! It's what spinach wishes it was.
Wednesday menu: lentils (precooked from Trader Joe's!) with pancetta and leek-carrot-celery saute; leftover rice. I was too tired to attack the pho I was supposed to make, but at least I made dinner!
Thursday menu: Beef pho, kongnamu (bean sprout salad). The pho was a recipe from ATK and it wasn't very flavorful. I decided to marinate the rest of the meat for the leftover meal.
Friday menu: pizza! I was too tired to heat up leftover broth and saute the meat. Friday is a long, tiring day. I need to remember that every week, I think.
Saturday menu: Pho with marinated beef this time! and green papaya salad. The meat was thinly sliced when it went into the marinade, so after 48 hours in soy sauce, the proteins had actually "cooked."
Wilted kale salad
1 bunch kale of choice (also works with Swiss chard, spinach, escarole ... not really collards)
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup pine nuts
several good glugs of olive oil
1/4-1tsp. salt, to taste
1-2tsp. sherry vinegar

Heat up the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, raisins, and pine nuts to brown for a couple of minutes. Toss in the pre-wilted and chopped greens. (I microwave torn leaves for 1.5 minutes in a covered bowl that has 1/4 cup of water in the bottom. I squeeze out the extra liquid and then chop.) Stir greens around to coat with oil and sprinkle with salt. When the greens are heated through, add vinegar, stir again, and kill the heat.

You can vary this by greens, but nuts, by dried fruit - I like pistachios a lot. You can even add anchovies or pancetta; you can vary the acid at the end. Infinitely variable and pretty quick and easy.

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