Well, you guys, we did it.
We took our babies camping.
And while I’m busy preparing an entire post, complete with pictures and snake stories (intrigue!), about our experience, I thought I’d share one snippet of our adventure with you today. It involves our neighbors at the next campsite over – three young men from India. They were probably around twenty, and the first time we noticed them was as we were cooking our dinner.
They turned their car battery on and started playing music…not concert-speaker loud, but definitely loud enough to hear. And the thing is, had it been a little bluegrass, or something soft and woodsy, I probably wouldn’t have minded. But no. It was a steady stream of Bollywood beats, Enrique Iglesias, and Nickelback. Nickel. Back.
Because they are young and probably in college, the music would get progressively louder until one of them would tell another to turn it down, and so the cycle continued through our dinner and s’mores. I rolled my eyes and asked Eric if we could ask them to turn it off…but because he is kind and good and patient and wise, he replied that we’d better keep it friendly so they didn’t ask us to turn our kids down when they cried in the middle of the night. Point: Eric.
Eventually, the three guys left in their car around 9 p.m., leaving the perfect space of quiet for us to put our kids down. But then, they came back. Around 11:00. Pretty drunk and pretty loud.
And here is where you need a little background. I could probably sleep on the surface of the sun; light doesn’t bother me. But noise? I kind of freak out. We sleep with a fan, and every so often, the fan will make a buzzing or clicking sound, and I spaz out in a tired rage until the noise ceases. When I had roommates, there was little that would bother me more than the sound of someone rustling in a plastic bag, preparing their lunch in the morning. That sound is the devil’s violin when you’re tired.
So you can imagine how I felt when one of them kept repeatedly shaking out a tarp. At midnight. It was like a cyclone of a thousand plastic bags, coming again and again. I couldn’t decide if it was better or worse that they weren’t speaking in English and I couldn’t understand what they were saying; the one thing that I understood all night was one when guy giggled, and another responded, “If you call her, I’ll kill you.”
I took deep breaths. I tried to visualize the ocean and hear the sound of waves. But we couldn’t drown them out, though our kids miraculously slept through it. Eventually all that brought me peace was knowing that Owen would probably literally be up with the sun and we’d be chattering away over breakfast while they tried to sleep off a hangover at 6 a.m. I know…vengeance doesn’t suit me well.
Around 12:30, they quieted down. We eventually fell asleep and…
…oh I’ll tell you the rest with the gigantic camping post we’re working on.
Meanwhile, this dish. I don’t think it’s actually a pilaf. It’s kind of more like a stir fry meets an autumn stew. But pilaf was about the closest I could get to describing it. I came across this recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks when I was trying to figure out what to make for our Uproot Farm CSA newsletter contribution for the week. This pilaf contained so many of the vegetables I knew we were getting in the box that I had to give it a go.
I love this recipe because it has multiple components that allow you to multitask. You start the barley, which takes about an hour to cook. Then, you bake some chicken breasts. Both hands-off, doing their thing. While both cook away, you chop up and saute a bunch of vegetables, then simmer them in broth and wine. By the time you’re done with the veggies, you mix them in with the barley and chicken, and voila! dinner is served.
I wanted this dish to act like a main course rather than a side, so we added plenty of chicken and doubled the recipe because truth be told – this meal tasted better the next day after all those flavors had cozied up for the night. What I also love about this meal is that it’s a great “naptime” meal, meaning I put it together during naptime, did all the dishes, and then reheated a pot of it for supper – making dinner time cleanup so much faster.
It’s fall. It’s possible that it will rain every day for the rest of the week. So please make this stew-made-lighter-stir-fry-pilaf, and please, check back in a few days for the rest of the story.
(recipe adapted from The Northern Hearland Kitchen )
(serves 6 as a main course)
Allow about an hour to complete this recipe, but you can multitask during that hour. Start the barley first; it takes the longest, then bake the chicken. Then you can prepare and cook your vegetables, and everything finishes about the same time, so you can assemble and enjoy!
I adapted the original recipe by replacing chickpeas with baked chicken, rosemary with thyme because I had it on hand, and orange juice/zest with lemon.
1 1/2 cups hulled barley, rinsed*
4 1/2 cups water
1 pound chicken breasts
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 large onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups broccoli florets (1 small head)
2 cups diced parsnips (about 2 large)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (+more for garnish, if desired)
1 pinch grated lemon zest, more to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice, more to taste
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 scallions, green parts only, sliced
1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese
*you can substitute pearl barley and cook for less time, according to package instructions
Cook the Barley:
In a large pot, bring barley and water to rapid boil over high heat. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 50 minutes, adding more water if necessary. Once tender, drain any excess water and set aside.
Bake the Chicken:
Preheat oven to 375*. Grease a small baking dish. Salt and pepper both sides of the breasts and place in dish. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake, uncovered, for about 35 minutes until just done. Allow to cool slightly; shred with a fork and set aside.
Prepare the Vegetables:
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, celery, and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes until onions are translucent. Add the thyme, wine, broth, and parsnips. Cover and cook for about 8 minutes. Remove cover, add broccoli, and cook for an additional five minutes until broccoli is just tender. Remove thyme sprigs.
Once barley is cooked, add the broccoli mixture, shredded chicken, parsley, lemon zest, and lemon juice and stir gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Heat to warm through. Garnish with parmesan cheese and scallions (as well as more fresh parsley if desired) when serving.