15-Minute Coconut Breakfast Quinoa

Coconut-Breakfast-Quinoa-2 It all started with two inches of frost on the inside of our chest freezer.

Two months ago, I opened up the freezer to toss something in there, and I saw that we had a legit defrosting situation on our hands. But, the freezer was full to the brim of bags and bags of frozen veggies, of individually wrapped chicken breasts, of loaves of bread – all bought in bulk and when on sale because I am physically incapable of passing up a good deal – especially when I know I can stock up, squirrel-style, and keep it in the freezer.

And so I determined that in March, I would make as many meals as possible from what we already had in our freezer and pantry, only getting a few fresh dairy and produce items from the grocery store each week. I had a lot of fun coming up with meals out of our ordinary routine…and for the most part, it worked. I came up with some winners (baked apple butter pork chops over wild rice) and some definite losers (rice bowl with avocado, salsa, cheese…aaaand cut up bits from a leftover grilled hamburger). Seriously, don’t ever eat that.

Coconut-Breakfast-Quinoa-

But after a month of purging our pantry and freezers, I still had the quinoa. The quinoa I bought on impulse at Costco two years ago. The quinoa that had moved into progressively smaller containers every few months. Yeah, that quinoa.

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Bread of Life

bread-of-life

1
It starts simply.
Some flour, some water, then yeast.
It is mixed, and it is active.
It is alive.
Kneaded and pounded, then left to rest.
It is filled with air and rises with potential.
It is baked, and the aroma is intoxicating.
The smell of baking bread.
The aroma beckons us.
It speaks to us of home and comfort and sustenance.

2
The time has come.
The loaf is removed.
And there it sits, perfect in form and fragrance.
We gather around the cooling bread.
This loaf – which, done right, has been long in the making.
Forearms tired from kneading. All of that waiting.
And for what?
We rip into the bread, destroying all of the work with every bite.
The bread is consumed.
And in its death, we are fed. We are nourished.
It dies that we might live.

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Photo Credit

Kindness

kindness He was wearing sunglasses inside.

Right there, in the library on Saturday morning. He stood there, near the checkout computer, eyes covered and with an scraggly white beard that had hints of tobacco stain. He wore black, some leather, and seemed out of place, surrounded by parents’ lugging Trader Joe’s tote bags of books and their toddlers hyped up on the recently ended storytime.

I was one of those parents. Owen, Elsa, and I had gone to the storytime that morning because it was Saturday and Eric had to be gone all day and I felt sorry for myself that this weekend day felt like every other day of the week. We needed to get out of the house. So, with Elsa in the Ergo, I’d done my best to contain Owen’s endless energy for the duration of the storytime…and then, between chasing Owen down as he raced around the bookshelves and trying to keep Elsa asleep, I managed to find a bunch of new books to take home.

books Baby in carrier, toddler firmly in hand, I lugged our thirty pounds of books towards the checkout computer. The mom in the front of the line checked out their fifty-seven books, while Owen tugged and tugged on my hand and Elsa started to make that squirming sound which, ignored long enough, erupts into what is definitely not a library-friendly squawk.

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Cheesy Roasted Asparagus & Bacon Melts

asparagus-open-sandwich

So yesterday it was 70* here, and my spring checklist was in full force.

Robin in the backyard? Check.
Tulip buds poking through the ground? Check.
Obligatory Minnesotan in shorts, sandals, and a tank top? Check.

The kids and I spent the morning at Como Zoo along with every other family of preschool-aged kids in the metro area. And I ended the day by having dinner on a !patio! with a good friend. I kind of felt like I was giving Spring a hug the entire day, and it was fantastic.

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Overheard

coffee

Over breakfast…
Owen: (pointing upstairs) Mama, der’s a gian eccavader up der!
Me: Um, I don’t think there’s a giant excavator upstairs. That’s pretty funny though.
Both: (chewing toast)
Me: (sipping coffee and stretching)
Owen: Mama’s tired.
Me: That’s actually true.

Friday Morning, April 4, with 6″ of snow on the ground….
Eric: Doesn’t seem to be many kids walking down the sidewalk to school today.
Me: Maybe they cancelled school because of snow………oh wait! It’s spring break this week.
Both: (silence)

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The Starfish Throwers

image from southernsonomacountrylife.com/

Eric and I tend to seek out movies that have been described by my mom, among others, as “quirky” and “weird.” We can’t disagree; I mean, for weeks now we’ve been scheming a way to see The Grand Budapest Hotelnot knowing whether Elsa could keep her cool for two hours in the theater and not being ready to leave her sometimes-bottle-refusing self with a babysitter just yet.

But quirky, weird, or not, it’s not often that we’ll turn down the chance to see a documentary. We’re pretty much documentary junkies, and we’re definitely those people that you’ll overhear at a party obnoxiously praising the merits of some obscure documentary we’ve just seen. It’s true.

So when we were contacted about our interest in seeing The Starfish Throwers,  we were more than on board. The documentary tells the story of three individuals who are doing incredible work to take on hunger. The key here is individuals – Katie, a nine-year old girl in South Carolina, Allan, a retired school teacher in Minneaoplis (represent!), and Narayanan, a top-tier chef in India. All three made a small choice to do what they could with what they had to help the people in need around them, and all three have had tremendous impact on their communities.

What impressed me was that these three people are actually doing the work of feeding the hungry. They are the faces bringing food, bringing compassion. And while they now have a wider network of people who are contributing to their efforts, it is still the three of them happily and deeply involved in the day to day interactions with the food and the people. Their work and stories show that everything big starts small. I loved that.

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Sweet & Savory Pancakes

pancakes-3 The seat of your car being too cold in winter.
Your chest freezer needs to be defrosted again.
Having to take more than one trip in from the car with your groceries over icy sidewalks.

These are all totally legit first world problems.

But perhaps the most difficult first world problem of all?
Whether to go sweet or savory when going out for breakfast.

I struggle with this every single time. And I always default to savory – an omelette with toast or a big plate of scrambled hash goodness. Because I just can’t fathom eating an entire plate of french toast – the same flavor bite after bite. But doesn’t everyone want to end on something sweet? Just a little nibble of maple-syrup-soaked pancakes before draining that last sip of coffee? I mean, you guys are with me, right?

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Eyes to See

Eyes to See Oh, Owen.
This morning was a train wreck.

Though I know better, I couldn’t drag myself out from under our flannel sheets until just minutes before your dad had to leave for work. When I heard him putting shoes on, I knew things were about to get real.

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New Seasons

Two months ago, Elsa arrived, and we, as a family, could suddenly fill over half of a mini-van. Where once there was one carseat, now there is two. What I’d like to tell you is that I’m caught up! We’re back on a consistent daily routine! All of us are happy all of the time! 

But the reality is that sometimes Owen wakes up for the day at 5:15 instead of 7:00. Sometimes Elsa eats every two hours, sometimes she’ll go four. Baskets of unfolded laundry are slowly taking over my house. And sometimes I feel like I’m caught up in a swirling cyclone of unanswered mail.

We are adjusting. It’s slow but sure.

It’s usally 9:30 at night before I have a minute to really sit down and breathe. And by that point, all I want is to watch something mindless. But all throughout the day, there are thousands of moments: the absurd, the hilarious, the anxious, the deeply sad. And I am processing these moments, ever aware of how much they are changing me.

More often than not, I am alone with these reflections during the day. At times, I try them out on Owen; he usually responds with a request (“Play castle?”), a demand (“Juice please!”), or complete silence. It is not amazingly helpful.

And so I write. Sometimes just a jotted sentence as a reminder. Sometimes a flood of words the second both kids are sleeping during naptime. Sometimes something more structured later that night. But I write to process…and then make Eric read it while I intently watch his face (it’s as annoying as it sounds).

I am trying so hard to embrace all of the changes that this additional little one has brought with her. To “Carpé the crap out of this Season” as we like to say. And part of doing that will be making some changes to the blog. Going forward, I’d love to share some of these reflections with you.

Don’t worry. There will still be recipes because there are just so many cheese-based dishes out there that I have yet to try. And the recipes will still be seasonal. But on a somewhat regular basis, I plan to throw my non-culinary thoughts out there too. Doing this will free up a little extra time for me to nibble on my newborn’s cheeks rather than take 124 pictures of (increasingly cold) enchiladas…but more importantly, I’m hoping it will give me further chances to connect with you!

I’m so grateful for all of you who read Carpé Season. And I’m so grateful for the people I’ve met – virtually and for reals – through this little corner of the World Wide Web. I hope you know that.

Here’s to new seasons.

 

Make-Ahead, Freezer-Friendly Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole

Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole

We’re just days away from the first day of spring. And It’s trying to be spring. It really is.

Here in Minnesota, we’ve had just a couple of those really warm days – the kind where you don’t really need a jacket. The snowbanks are diminishing, leaving gray piles of rock-hard ice and road-salt behind, but it’s okay because there are puddles everywhere, and sometimes you can even hear birds chirping.

owen-puddles

But the reality is that we’re still a couple of months away from flip-flops and fresh produce.

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image from the blog A Cup of Jo; illustration by Sarah Lazarovic

And around here, we’re still happily on the winter-comfort-food bandwagon.

Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole

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Make-Ahead, Freezer-Friendly Pasta with Sausage & Pumpkin-Cream Sauce

Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce and Sausage Sometimes...awkard things just happen. And over dinner the other night, Eric and I were reflecting about these moments…when your interaction just takes a turn for the weird. Our conversation started with a mishap Eric had last week as he was walking into the parking garage after work. Apparently he’d had his head turned around while holding a door for a fellow walker and then proceeded to basically T-bone a parked car at full walking speed.

I may have laughed so hard that water came out of my nose. (Also, I would pay like $500 to have that security camera footage.)

Once I stopped laughing and got my breath back, I responded by asking…”Did I tell you about what happened in church last Sunday?”

Somehow, I hadn’t.

Here’s how it went down. 
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Make-Ahead, Freezer Friendly Stacked Enchiladas

Stacked Enchiladas Now that the wonderful tidal wave of family visits has receded, we are busy finding our new normal. Most days, we are home, with no plans to leave the house again until mid-April when we no longer need eighteen layers of boots and hats and mittens and coats.

These days are full of nursing sweet Elsa and laughing with Owen at her catastrophically loud belches.

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Make-Ahead, Freezer-Friendly “Sloppy Juffins” (BBQ Beef Biscuit Cups)

Sloppy Juffins - (BBQ Beef Cups) Let’s talk about last Thursday, okay?

Last Thursday, Elsa was three weeks old and still mostly oblivious to the world. Last Thursday, Owen woke up with a recurring rash once again all over his face. Last Thursday, I cried when I saw Owen’s returning rash and ate a cookie for breakfast.

We were in week six of the War of the Rash and the rash was totally winning the emotional battle. So, after my cookie, I got on the phone and calmly explained to the nurse on the other end of the phone that my son needed to be rid of this face rash….today.

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Love.

It’s Valentine’s Day.
I had a freezer friendly post I was going to write and put up today. And then it took me and the two kids no fewer than 85 minutes to leave the house just to get to the grocery store. I’m not kidding.

So, rather than spend my Valentine’s night writing that post while Eric edits pictures next to me on the couch (oh, Photoshop, you aphrodisiac), I am posting this video instead and looking forward to our original Valentine’s sexy date plan of putting two kids to bed and ordering in Indian food to inhale over some Downton Abbey.

Plus, this is one of my favorite love songs. Only Josh Ritter could write a love song set within the context of a post-apocalyptic war bunker. Its lyrics have long haunted me in only the best of ways, which is why I’m posting them here.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

The Temptation of Adam
By: Josh Ritter 

“If this was the Cold War we could keep each other warm.”
I said on the first occasion that I met Marie
We were crawling through the hatch that was the missile silo door
And I don’t think that she really thought that much of me

I never had to learn to love her like I learned to love the Bomb
She just came along and started to ignore me
But as we waited for the Big One I started singing her my songs
And I think she started feeling something for me

We passed the time with crosswords that she thought to bring inside
What five letters spell “apocalypse” she asked me
I won her over singing “W.W.I.I.I.”
Oh, we smiled and we both knew that she’d misjudged me

Oh Marie, it was so easy to fall in love with you
It felt almost like a home of sorts or something
And you would keep the warhead missile silo good as new
And I’d watch you with my thumb above the button

Then one night you found me in my army issue cot
And you told me of your flash of inspiration
You said fusion was the broken heart that’s lonely’s only thought
And all night long you drove me wild with your equations

Oh Marie, do you remember all the time we used to take
Makin’ love and then ransack the rations
I think about you leaving now and the avalanche cascades
And my eyes get washed away in chain reactions

Oh Marie if you would stay then we could stick pins in the map
Of all the places where you thought that love would be found
But I would only need one pin to show where my love’s at
In a top-secret location three hundred feet under the ground

Oh, we could hold each other close and stay up every night
Looking up into the dark like it’s the night sky
Pretend this giant missile is an old oak tree instead
And carve our name in hearts into the warhead

Oh, Marie there’s something tells me things just won’t work out above
That our love would live a half-life on the surface
So at night while you are sleeping I hold you closer just because
As our time grows short I get a little nervous

Oh, I think about the Big One, W.W.I.I.I.
Would we ever really care the world had ended
You could hold me here forever like you’re holding me tonight
I think about that great big button and I’m tempted

(lyrics from A-Z lyrics)

Make-Ahead, Freezer-Friendly Red Chicken Chili

Freezer-Friendly Red Chicken Chili Here’s the thing about winter: it’s really two different seasons.

You’ve got December, when people everywhere are excitedly staring out the window as it snows and decking the halls and wearing all of their favorite winter hats again.
And then there’s January. February. And in Minnesota, most of March and April. People grow tired of winter. They are weary of pulling on heavy boots. So, so sick of scraping off their cars. And by people, I mean me.

I was born in late January. And to be honest, I’ve kind of always hated having my birthday during the bleakest part of winter – save for one year when my mom had all the girls from my class over for a sledding party, which I still remember as one of my happiest birthdays.

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Make-Ahead, Freezer-Friendly Quick & Easy Pizza Breads

quick-easy-pizza-bread-2 First of all, let’s hear it for pizza.
Okay, thanks. Freezer Friendly, Make Ahead Meal

Welcome to our first installment in our Make-Ahead, Freezer-Friendly Series. I’m so excited to share these pizza breads with you because since we first made them, we’ve been making them weekly and eating up all of the extras instead of freezing them for the next week like I keep planning to. Snarf Fest 2014.

These little pizza breads came from Lindsay over at Pinch of Yum. If you’ve never read her blog, please stop what you’re doing right now and fix that situation.  We’ve gotten to know Lindsay and her husband Bjork over the last few months (Minneapolis!), and they’re as adorable and hilarious as they seem. Plus, her recipes are over the top wonderful. Funny story–last Wednesday we were supposed to head on over to their house for a little dinner date with them and also get to meet the dynamic duo behind Girl Vs. Dough. We’d been looking forward to this get together for weeks and had spent about 18 hours trying to find a babysitter for that night. We finally did. And then I went into labor and had a baby. Raincheck?

 

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Make-Ahead, Freezer-friendly Meals Series Introduction

Well, now that you’ve met Elsa, I’m happy to also introduce you to a little series we’ll be doing for the next few weeks:

make-ahead-freezer-friendly-meals-title-3

While we recover and get our world right-side up again, I’ll be sharing several recipes that are not only easy to make, but also best buds with your freezer. The recipes come from some of my very favorite bloggers, who gave me permission to use them. I spent the weeks before Elsa joined us testing out these recipes and sending emails back to these bloggers with subject lines like “Gaaaahhhh! So Goooood!” and “Looooove it!” - you know, super professional blogging language.

While making the recipes, I always made a double batch, so we’d have a second helping to enjoy once the baby came. So while I’m sharing the recipes with you, I’ll also be snarfing them down at my own dinner table.

I hope you enjoy these recipes and that they help you out when you’re in a crazy season of life someday…check back in a few days for our first recipe in the series: Quick & Easy Pizza Breads.

Okay, I’m off to nuzzle this sweet girl’s cheeks and obsessively smell her newborn head for a few hours.

title image source: Flickr CC - Ethan (SportsSuburban)

 

Kale & Fruit Salad with Orange-Ginger Dressing, Wild Rice, & Feta

Kale and Fruit-Salad with Orange Ginger Dressing I hope that one day, I can look back on this pregnancy and say…”Oh, that one was my sick pregnancy.” Because if I ever have a pregnancy where I encounter more germs than this one, I will probably just die.

Let’s take a moment and just reflect on what the last nine months have held:
-Round one of a summer stomach flu that left me in the ER. Unjust.
-A month-long cold that turned into a sinus infection. Antibiotics for the win.
-Round two of the stomach flu just before Christmas. How festive.
-And most recently, Owen had impetigo, which caused me to sanitize every surface of my house and every toy he touched like a maniac because I was terrified we’d get his rashy face too and that we’d somehow spread it to this baby girl when she was born.

Kale and Fruit-Salad with Orange Ginger Dressing

At one point in my life, I thought it took a room full of kindergarteners to expose me to every virus known to man…but now I know that it just takes one toddler who licks one grocery store cart and then smooshes his face against mine to do the same.

Toddler. germs. are. no. joke.

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Classic Cheese-Topped French Onion Soup

Cheese-Topped French Onion Soup So, Eric and I are those people who keep the names of our babies a secret until they’re born. We do this mostly to avoid the feedback…”Oh I knew an Andrew in fifth grade, and he stuck gum in my hair!” or “Wow, Claire?! I dated a Claire once and it did not end well!”

But nobody’s going to look you and your newborn baby in the face and give you that kind of commentary. So, we keep our names to ourselves. In other words, “we know, but we’re not telling!” 

For this baby, however, I told my mom this past fall that if she guessed the name, I’d tell her if she guessed right. I had no idea she would take me so seriously. For the past three months, she’s been randomly sending me texts:
“Alice? Dorothy? Maggie? Bertha?”
To which I’d reply: “No. No. No. Seriously, mom…Bertha Berget?…Do you want her to have any friends in middle school?”

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“30 Quick Clean Dinner Recipes” eBook Winner Announced!

We’re happy to announce the winner of our recent giveaway of iFoodReal’s eBook “30 Quick Clean Dinner Recipes.”

congratulations

Congratulations, Carolyn Gonzalez!!
We’ll be contacting you by email shortly!

Thanks to all who played along with our little contest! Remember, you can always purchase this fab little eBook for just $7.99 here.

Happy Eating in the New Year!