Sweet potato tortilla Española

Eggs

Thank you for all your breakfast advice! I have put it all into a Word document and bullet-listed it, and the document will serve as an extremely wordy shopping list. We’ve been eating a lot of leftovers, and Nick is very excited about the idea of breakfast cheese. He is less excited about leftovers, but he could get up early and make us both something to eat if he really has a problem with it.

He has yet to volunteer.

I’m even putting my Crock Pot to work. It’s still making breakfast slop, but at least the slop is different – I like this list of porridge recipes at SweetVeg (Hi! Thanks for the tip!), especially the overnight barley one (which also works for a blend of barley and farro with dates and cardamom).

Your advice has been super helpful. I have, literally, been eating it up.

I have been gradually learning to cope with morning food, but since starting this new job where my hours are much more flexible we have been eating wholesome homemade dinners a lot more often. Sure, I am up way too early and at the office at an ungodly hour, but I am home by 5:00! It is just enough time to start a load of laundry and savour a brief, perfect moment of silence alone with a magazine and no one wailing on the floor about the injustice of being told “no,” and then to start dinner.

Sweet potatoes in eggs

Tonight, dinner was a lot like a breakfast I might make if I had any zest for life in the grim hours before 8:00 a.m. I actually stole this recipe from my friend Paul who learned it when he lived in Spain, like the well-travelled bon vivant he most dapperly is. Well, I adapted it – his recipe uses regular potatoes, and no thyme. I always have sweet potatoes, and usually a hardy herb or two on hand, so it evolved to suit my fridge’s contents; feel free to use regular waxy potatoes and no herbs if you prefer. The best part about it is that we have just enough for breakfast! If I am very lucky, Nick will get up first* and reheat it for me so I can sleep a little bit longer.

Dinner.

*Dare to dream, no matter how impossible your dream may seem.

Sweet potato tortilla Española

(Serves 2 to 4; portions for 4 will be small.)

  • 4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 lb. sweet potatoes, sliced thinly (1/4 inch)
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 4 tbsp. cup water
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

In a 9-inch pan over medium-high heat sauté the onion in two tablespoons of olive oil until translucent. Add potatoes, tossing to coat in oil and onion mixture, then add water and cover with a lid. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 20 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to prevent sticking (and scorching).

Remove the sweet potatoes and onion from the pan and cool for 10 minutes or until there’s no more steam, and heat the broiler. Fish out the thyme sprig and discard it. Wipe out the pan.

Whisk together eggs, some salt and pepper, and heat another tablespoon of oil in the pan, tipping to coat the whole bottom. Mix the sweet potatoes into the eggs, pour the whole thing into the heated pan. Run a spatula along the sides every so often, and when the sides are golden, after five or six minutes, then shove it under the broiler until the centre sets and the top is golden. Another three minutes, maybe five, but leave the oven light on and check frequently.

Turn out onto a plate, and slice into six pieces. Serve with salad and pickles or olives.

A slice of tortilla with coleslaw and pickles.

 

 

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A request and a winner.

At the risk of alienating breakfast mush enthusiasts … I’m kind of over oatmeal. I need a break on the whole slop for breakfast routine.

To be honest, I don’t want to do much about breakfast, because I am someone who can live quite happily from 6:30 am until almost noon on a single fat-free latte. My stomach doesn’t even notice this neglect until it’s time for lunch, and then it is an angry beast who demands carbs and cheese and I reward it handsomely for its patience. Unfortunately, Stomach and Metabolism aren’t on speaking terms so while Stomach is fine on a little bit of tea and frothy milk, Metabolism is like “Oh, really? Don’t you know about six small meals a day to maintain a healthy weight? HERE’S AN EXTRA FORTY POUNDS, SMUGGY.” So, breakfast. Jump-starting the day, and all of that.

I tried smoothies – both with yogurt and vegan-styles – but those are worse than eating nothing. It’s like that little bit of fruit and yogurt and flaxseed reminds my metabolism that I am awake and doing stuff in a way that a latte does not, and my stomach gets pretty angry about it. I have found myself eating broken, linty teething cookies from the dregs of my purse in fits of famished panic. I’ve swallowed gum. In trying to do something healthy, what I’ve done is turned myself into the kind of person who angrily eats beef jerky from a vending machine at 9:30 in the morning.

Bacon, eggs and toast are good, but they’re hard to eat when you’re trying to evenly apply mascara with one hand while fighting off a cat and a baby while the two of them battle over who gets to be the one to unroll all the toilet paper directly into the toilet. Cold cereal leaves me starving immediately after I eat it. I hate bananas so much. But I need options.

I’ve put my question out into the ether (the Googles) and it’s too much. I can’t read 80,000 blog posts and forum discussions about 80,000 slightly different recipes for green smoothies – it’s overwhelming, and I distract easily. Also my kale has wilted in the crisper. So, why not try a smaller sample group?

What do you eat for breakfast on your weekday mornings, and does it keep you from starving? Can you recommend a smoothie recipe, a breakfast sandwich, or some other magical, convenient (homemade) weekday-morning-friendly thing that will leave me full  until lunch(ish)? I suppose it could even be oatmeal, but maybe something new and different to do with it.

I should also announce the winner to that little photo giveaway we talked about last week. I was supposed to do it at 5:00 and then I set my oven on fire, as you do, and as a result lost track of time.

Winner!

The winner is Aim Harder, who wants to prove to her new little person that it’s not so scary out there in front of the camera. Congrats, Aim, and all the best! Shoot me an email at emily.wight@gmail.com and I’ll put you in touch with Bethany so you can schedule your session.

Crafty macaroni and cheese

Crafty macaroni and cheese.

Sometimes you just want to eat the food you grew up with, the kind of stuff that hearkens back to a time when cheese was powdered and that was okay. Remember when Parmesan cheese came in its own plastic shaker and was shelf-stable? I think it was made of nylon.

I have always loved macaroni and cheese, and for most of my life macaroni and cheese was something that came in a box. It never would have occurred to me to make it from scratch until a few years ago. When I moved out of my parents’ house and into my first “apartment” (translation: dank basement suite with limited natural light and a permanent damp smell), I was broke all the time and would maximize my calorie intake in the days before payday by cooking up a box of macaroni and cheese (remember when it cost less than a dollar?) and eating the whole thing super fast, then laying face-down on the couch, uncomfortable, to digest for the rest of the evening as though I were a snake that had just swallowed an antelope.

It was an attractive time.

It felt horrible, but it was oddly comforting. When I was a kid, even though we always had Costco cases of macaroni and cheese in the cupboard, it was a total treat, especially if you got it for dinner which almost never happened. I loved macaroni. And in my formative years, macaroni and cheese was always, ALWAYS orange.

Orange sauce.

When you make macaroni and cheese from scratch, it is mostly not orange, even when you use orange cheese. And while grown-up, from-scratch homemade white mac-and-cheese is extremely delicious, it is more like comfort food to me when it’s orange. But macaroni out of a box is the opposite of comfort food these days; when I eat it now, I feel … gross. But you know what’s orange? Carrots are! Also they are healthy, so you can pretend that’s why you’re using them.

Veggies.

This is a very simple dish, and I make it quite saucy so that I can add stuff if I feel like it – adding a 28 oz. can of hominy (drained and rinsed!) makes this kind of amazing – or so that I can plan ahead and have leftovers that reheat well. Add whatever you want – even chopped up hot dogs, if that’s what you like. I won’t judge. (How could I?)

Big pot of cheesy noodles.

Macaroni and cheese

(Serves four to six.)

  • 2 carrots
  • 1/2 onion
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 1/2 cups uncooked macaroni
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. yellow mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded aged white cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • Salt

Over high heat, bring carrots, onion and garlic to a boil in about two cups of water with a bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until carrots are soft, 15 to 2o minutes. Remove bay leaf, pour contents of pot into a blender, and blend. Set aside.

Cook macaroni in salted boiling water according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Add mustard, whisking again, then add the carrot mixture. Add Worcestershire sauce, paprika and pepper and simmer – whisking occasionally – until thickened, four to six minutes. Add cheese, stirring to melt. Add cream, if you feel like it – not mandatory, but it gives the sauce a richer, silkier taste. Add any additions – such as hominy, cooked sausage, roasted veggies, or whatever. Taste, adjusting seasonings as needed.

Add cooked macaroni, stir well to coat, and serve.

Also, if you live anywhere between West Van and Langley, enter this week’s giveaway! Not a ton of entrants, so your odds are good.

A sick day, a giveaway

Despite all of us having gotten our flu shots this year, the flu hit all three of us pretty hard this weekend, and we are only just now starting to recover. Well, Nick and I are starting to recover – the baby became energetic and noisy again just as we started to fall ill. It was the worst of times.

I had intended to share a recipe, but to be honest all we ate this weekend was take-out pho. Today we might leave the apartment and get some matzo ball soup, but at this point the tremendous effort required to put on something other than fleece footie pajamas is so daunting. I’m currently simmering a chicken and some veggies for broth, so that may be all that sustains us until I declare us ALL BETTER! and decide to move on.

Side note: If you’re ever not feeling very well, the best thing in the world is chicken soup made from a stock with a whole chicken as its base; simmer – don’t boil – the chicken with carrots and parsnips and celery and onion, plus whole cloves of garlic cut in half, a lemon halved, and a handful of dill pickles, and a couple of bay leaves, a sprig of thyme, and parsley bundled and tied in cheesecloth. Fill your stock pot with water to about ten quarts, and let it go for four hours. I learned that from Ina Garten, who is the person I’d most like to be when I grow up. I’m strongly considering painting WWID (What Would Ina Do?) in glitter across my hood fan lest I ever forget.

Baby and friend

Anyway. I had meant to give you a recipe, but today is not the day. Today is the day for a giveaway though; I’ve been sitting on this one for awhile. If you’re in Vancouver or the surrounding area, I’d like to give you a professional photo shoot from Images by Bethany, a really, really talented local photographer who I met through VancouverMom.ca and who is also friends with my friend Jenna. She made me look like a normal person, which is no small feat – most of the time when I get my picture taken I do this weird thing I bare my fangs in an attempt to smile and tilt my head down, tripling the number of chins I have while also accentuating my grey under-eye bags.

Baby and Squishy Lion

I’m pretty lucky to have this sparkling personality to fall back on.

Baby and friend ... making out.

Right. Anyway, Bethany is amazing, and she has graciously offered to give one lucky local family a one-hour professional photo-shoot at Bethany’s studio in Gastown or at the location of your choice, followed by a viewing session and an 8×10 print of your favourite photo from the day. Your photos will be available for viewing online for three months; you can purchase additional photos if you love a whole bunch of them, but no purchase will be necessary. The thing I liked most about our session is that it was totally relaxed – it was very casual, and since everyone was comfortable the photos look natural. Better than natural, even – we look like better versions of ourselves … which is surprising because our shoot was at 8:00 am on a Saturday and we have a hard enough time looking normal at peak hours.

Me looking like a normal person, kind of, plus baby.

And don’t let the word “family” deter you here – I think family can be any combination of the people you like; whether that’s you and your little ones and that person you married or live with, or you and your parents, or you and your special someone, or you and your furry four-legged companion. If you roll solo, that’s okay too. Can you imagine blowing up an enormous photo of you and your cat looking regal and windswept – maybe on a cliff over the ocean – to hang in your dining room? I totally want to do that.

To enter, leave a comment below or on the photo on my Facebook page telling me who you’d like to be photographed with, or how you cope with having a camera pointed in your direction. The contest will run until January 14; when I get home from work that day, I’ll put all the names in Nick’s grimy old hat and pick a winner. I’ll pass your name and contact info along to Bethany, and she’ll contact you to set up your session, anytime between January and April. This contest is open to Metro Vancouver residents.

None of us looks weird here. AMAZING. You have no idea.

Slow-cooker ham and white bean stew

Stew.

Patience is a virtue, but it isn’t one of mine. And so I am pacing, expectant, as a friend of mine is days, maybe even hours away from having a baby I feel like she’s been gestating for years. I keep wishing things would hurry along, because while I know people with babies, very few of those people live nearby. And when you have babies, you need other people around you to have them. People with babies need other people with babies because what we really need is a support group with wine.

The longer you have babies, the more you need wine. Mine is an accidental hurricane, a destructive force of nature seemingly bent on exploring and subsequently breaking all my things. That this is going to happen to someone I know is very comforting.

And so my friend is almost there, and because one only needs so many onesies, I had said I would make her freezer meals in lieu of a shower gift. So I have been plodding along, making a container of something here, and a pot of something there. Tonight I added one more to the freezer, a pot of ham and white bean stew, a creamy, savoury combination of leftovers and slow-cookery.

I left the stew in the Crock Pot to cook for ten hours today, and when I came home this place smelled like salty meat and garlic and herbs; using just a few bits and pieces, there was enough hearty stew for at least eight people, I’m sure of it. It’s not beautiful, but it’s delicious, and plenty soothing for someone with a newborn and the imminent danger of having all her favourite stuff smashed by a happy little Hulk.

Crock pot full of stew.

Ham and white bean stew

(Serves 6 to 8.)

  • 1 lb. small white beans, such as Great Northern or navy beans
  • 1 lb. cubed ham
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 6 cups stock (ideally homemade ham stock, but store-bought chicken stock will work too)
  • 1 tbsp. grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • Juice of half a lemon, if needed
  • Salt to taste

The night before you plan to eat, cover one pound of white beans with an inch of water.

In the morning, drain and rinse your beans. Put them into a slow cooker, along with ham, onion, celery, pearl barley, stock, mustard, rosemary, and bay leaves. Stir, cover, set slow cooker to low, and cook for 10 hours.

Go to work, or about your day, or back to bed.

When you get home, stir in pepper, Parmesan, and parsley. Taste, and add lemon juice and salt as needed. Serve with bread. Feel virtuous.

Stew and toast.

Into the pantry: Lentil Sloppy Joes

Vegetarian sloppy joes

Nick and I grew soggier in 2012, rounder and softer than ever before and at the end of it, we felt so tired. I can’t recall a vegetable in December that I didn’t eat coated in sauce, and every time I had a feeling I covered it in cheese and chased it with a handful of chocolate. So while we finished 2012 in a food coma, we’re starting 2o13 a little lighter.

I made a critical error in weighing myself the morning after an epic New Year’s Eve feast. (Never do that.) The sum of every bad choice I made this year is much higher than I’d anticipated, but that’s okay – it sets the bar for success this year lower. I have been fretting over what I am going to do with my life – 30 is fast approaching and good lord, what have I done? – but the weight-loss excuse buys time. “I had to lose 20 pounds!” I’ll say, and then maybe no one will notice that I still haven’t lived up to that potential people used to threaten me with.

If you are wondering what to do with your life, I suggest starting with a simple, hearty meal. Sloppy Joes remind (reminds?) me of meals on weeknights in a time when bad choices weren’t measured by weight, that I would always eat without fussing, and that would more often than not finish with a bowl of Neapolitan ice cream from a bucket (heavy on the strawberry for me, please) and maybe a drizzle of chocolate sauce. This grown-up version eschews meat and ketchup, but is no less satisfying … perhaps more so, because it’s delicious but not to the point of discomfort. 2013. We can do this.

Spices.

Lentil Sloppy Joes

  • 1 cup green, brown or French lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lb. mushrooms, finely minced (or whizzed until almost puréed in a food processor or blender)
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. chili powder, such as ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 x 5.5 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • Salt to taste

Simmer lentils and bay leaf in 2 cups of lightly salted water until tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and rinse, then set aside. Discard bay leaf.

Meanwhile, cook celery, carrot, and onion in olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over high heat until glistening, cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove lid, add garlic, and cook until the mixture is caramelized and reduced by two thirds, an additional 15 to 20 minutes. The longer you cook this, the sweeter it will get.

Mirepoix.

Caramelized.

Add mushrooms, and cook until moisture has mostly dissipated and the bottom of the pan is dry. Add spices, thyme and tomato paste, stir until combined, then add lentils. Add the cup of water and the apple cider vinegar and honey. Stir to combine, and cook until the mix begins to bubble. Serve over lightly toasted sourdough or buns.

Lentil sloppy joes.