Top thoughts in my head this week in no particular order:
1. It’s awesome to have seasonal yoghurts for sale in Switzerland. Today I thoroughly enjoyed my rhubarb and elderberry concoction.
2. Should I put vegetable stock in the potato, pea and fennel tagine? I skipped it and went with salt and doubled all the spices. It was a good decision.
3. The Texts from Hillary website is probably the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time, and this and this made me laugh so hard.
4. Norwegian justice, and yes, it’s probably a bit judgmental to start forming opinions before Anders Breivik is properly tried and convicted, but IKEA-style maximum security prisons with flat screen TVs and personal trainers for murderers and rapists? Really?
5. To make and decorate a complicated first birthday cake for Small One or not to make…that is the question.
6. For most of the week, I thought about Hillary Rosen’s comments about how Ann Romney “never actually worked a day in her life.” Being a stay at home mom does not qualify you (or me) to be a political adviser, and Ann Romney raising five boys on her hubby’s multi-million dollar salary does not give her the ability to speak to the economic woes of all women.
7. Also. I need to limit my consumption of American politics. Too much of it is bad for my health.
8. Tomorrow I get the day off to do whatever I please. Here’s to lots of shopping and eating.
Pizza is probably one of my most comforting comfort foods. When we have more children and when they are older, we hope to make two Fridays of the month pizza and activity nights. Maybe one day I’ll learn how to make my own crust, or maybe I’ll just keep buying the pre-made ones at Coop. I’m not a crust snob, for me it’s all about the toppings.
I’ve done the gourmet pizza thing, and it is easy, tasty and unique, but there’s nothing quite like the grease and taste of good, old-fashioned pizza ingredients. Today I picked all of mine up at the grocery store – mushrooms, pre-grated pizza cheese, onions, sliced salami and chorizo. It was gooey, meaty and delicious. I made the base sauce out of passata from a jar. I warmed it on the stove and added salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar and dried oregano.
My parents made us eat our veggies, and it wasn’t just one serving of carrots that we’re talking about here when I say veggies. There were usually two or three vegetable dishes or lots of veggies mixed in with our meat and fish. For several years we had a garden maintained by my father that had all sorts of Filipino greens. I guess you could say this was one of the benefits of living in a tropical country; vegetables and fruits were readily available. All kind of squashes, beans, okra, Asian greens, eggplant, and others I don’t have English names for, we had to eat it all.
I had many clever ways of getting out of eating the green stuff, the slimy stuff and every other stuff in between. Every now and then I would take the veggies in my hand, yawn and stretch and throw it across the room. I am not even kidding. And I did this as a 12 or 13-year-old. I don’t know how I did not get caught. Other times if I had an empty chair pushed under the table next to me, I put the veggies on the seat, and our dog, Champ, would come and eat it because he was a veggie-eating dog. (He also bit my sister during one of these episodes; she must have been trying the same trick as well.)
There was a season when we had a vine growing on our calamansi tree, and this vine yielded wing beans. We had a mighty crop of wing beans, and it was the ever-present veggie at our lunch and dinner tables. The problem was that we (my sister and I) hated it. So one afternoon I decided that we were going to do something about this to keep the wing beans off our plates and out of our mouths. While my parents were napping, I convinced my sister to go out to the tree with me, and we plucked as many of the wing beans off the vine and threw them over the wall into – I guess – the neighbor’s yard.
We still marvel at our brilliant kid minds.
I can’t remember when I made the switch to becoming a veggie lover, but I’m there now, and I need, crave and love to eat my vegetables. But meat is still my first love, and often when I eat one of my all-vegetable meals, I feel shortchanged. This is not one of those meals. This Chard and White Bean Stew by Smitten Kitchen leaves me feeling wholly satisfied, and the taste. Oh it’s amazing. I actually think adding meat to this dish would ruin it.
Chard and White Bean Stew(from Smitten Kitchen) I’ve made this dish so many times, I could make it with my eyes closed. It is easy to make, and the only reason why it takes 15 to 20 minutes to prepare is because you have to chop the shallots (I’ve used shallots and onions – I can’t tell the difference), carrots, celery and separate the green part of the chard from the white. I’ve never used white beans because I can’t find them at my Coop. Any kind of bean I’ve used has been more than fine. Make sure you use a good vegetable broth – I use Vegeta stock powder. The result is a simple, hearty, tasty stew, and we eat it with bread or sometimes over rice. It’s great with a poached egg but without one is also fine.
Husband and I suffer from anniversary fatigue. I’m not sure I can even keep track of the number of anniversaries we have. There are the obvious ones – our wedding anniversary and the anniversary of the first day we met (and got engaged, a year later – we did not get engaged on the first day we met) – but there are the other ones, the lunch at his place, our first date, our second date, the day I left Geneva the second time around and he took me to the airport, the day we found out we were expecting Small One, Small One’s birthday. So many anniversaries, and as much as I remember or try to remember, it is almost wearying to think about celebrating it all, and we lose the special ones in the shuffle of it all.
Yesterday was another one of our anniversaries, the anniversary of our civil wedding. Growing up a girl doesn’t day dream of her civil wedding day, but of course I was also never expecting to be in a long-distance relationship with a German who lived in Switzerland, which would therefore require me to have a Swiss visa to live with him as his wife. So we decided to have a civil wedding in Geneva right before I left to return to Australia so that we could speed up the application process for my Swiss visa. Our real wedding day was in July, three months later. (The civil wedding is the legal part of the marriage process; in the US and Australia, it’s combined with the church service, but in Switzerland the civil ceremony and the religious – or non religious – part are completely separate. Everyone has to have a civil ceremony as it is the only way to have your marriage legally recognized if you are getting married in Switzerland.)
Neither of us consider April 16 to be the beginning of our marriage – the Swiss government does not determine who is married and who is not married, at least for me it does not. Marriage is a covenant made between a man, a woman and God, but for what it’s worth, April 16 was the point at which Husband and I were legally bound to each other and to no one else, so it is still significant. I also can’t complain about having two wedding dresses, two wedding days, two receptions. Yes, that part was awesome.
Photo by Rachel Dolores
What was also special about that day was that we spent it with our community of friends here in Geneva, and the reception was at the café where we had our first date. That evening a big group of us went to the home of friends in France where we all cooked tacos together, played games and hung out for the night and the next day. Lots of special memories.
Husband and I talked about what we wanted to do yesterday, and the conversation went something like this. Please let’s not do anything, I said. I don’t have a gift, said Husband. Neither do I! said I. I don’t even have a card, he said. I don’t either! I said. Then Husband came up with the idea of making April 16 a night where we make tacos together in honour of the wonderful evening we spent with our friends. I loved it, and honestly, the tacos we made last night were the tastiest tacos we’ve ever had (in my opinion, Husband liked them but didn’t necessarily think they were the best).
February 15 is our Bolognese Day, in honour of the second time that Husband and I met, so now we add Taco Day to the list of annual family events. Mince meat clearly occupies a special place in our life.
Tacos I am trying to remember what I put in the meat this time around – I rarely do the same thing twice. But it was so tasty for last night’s tacos. (Here’s an old recipe I’ve used.) I think I browned the mince with cumin and Sri Lankan curry powder (Larich brand). At the end I added lots of salt and a Jaffna curry powder that is hot.
Pico de Gallo Nothing but chopped cherry tomatoes, coriander, red onion and lime juice
Guacamole Avocados, garlic, red onion, coriander, lime juice and salt
Our trusty blender is getting a work out these days thanks to Small One’s appetite, and don’t even get me started on his consumption of natural yoghurt. My son’s favourite food is without a doubt natural yoghurt. I don’t keep track of how much he eats, but after the general feeling that I was picking up lots of tubs of yoghurt on a regular basis, I payed attention last week. He ate almost one kilogram of yoghurt. That’s just over two pounds. It was a bit overwhelming, and I sincerely hope that this is going to be good for him. Send me an email if you think otherwise. I’m serious.
When I last wrote about baby food, we were still doing basic purees, and I had not introduced any meat into Small One’s diet. What followed was a weekend fever that knocked out his appetite, and all he ate for about two weeks after that was fruit puree out of a jar. So we went the bought baby food route for a while, and it was great. That was also during the time of Papa’s death and funeral with some travel involved for all of us, and it made life that much easier to feed Small One bought baby food. It also gave me lots of jars to use for our baby food at home.
When we were home and settled, I finally bought Superfoods for Babies by Annabel Karmel, and that’s where I got the bulk of my meat recipes from. The first one we tried was a braised beef one with onions, garlic, beef, sweet potato, carrots, water, bay leaf and parsley, cooked on the stove for over an hour. It was so delicious, I wanted to eat it.
Now I’ve started making Small One unsalted versions of our food and also supplementing with some baby food that’s just for him. For example, I made a taco soup for us a few weeks ago, and before I added the salt, I took some out, pureed it, and he loved it. The chicken dish in the photo was also eaten by Husband and I – I pan fried the chicken, took it out, then sauteed onions and garlic, added mushrooms to it and put some white wine in, then I added the chicken back and let it cook for a while. At the end I put in a two blocks of frozen spinach. After a minute in the blender, it was lunch for a few days. He was a fan. (We were, too.)
He nurses four times a day, and I’ve started giving him some water. Here’s what his meals look like most of the time:
Breakfast Super porridge + greens + fruit The porridge sounds complicated, but is so so so easy to make. I take a cup of brown rice, a cup of quinoa, two tablespoons of amaranth and a 1/4 or 1/2 cup of lentils and grind it in the blender for a minute. Then I add two to four tablespoons of brown millet flour to it, mix it all together in an IKEA jar and put away. To make the porridge, I boil water on the stove and add 1/2 a cup of the mixture to it and cook for about 10 minutes. The taste is great, except for the one time when I used brown (puy?) lentils instead of the red lentils. That was not so great. The greens has been a mix of asparagus and peas for the last little while, but that will change to probably broccoli, spinach and peas as asparagus goes out of season. Avocado is usually thrown in there, and he has just started egg yolks in the morning as well.
Lunch Meat puree + fruit I was giving him yoghurt for his lunch meal until I realized that combining calcium and iron will inhibit his body’s ability to absorb the iron, but vitamin C enhances iron absorption, so I try to give him a fruit puree that is high in vitamin C with his meat (right now it’s strawberries and blueberries). I’ve made him some meat purees now that have Sri Lankan curry powder in it with a tomato sauce base, so it’s a bit like a tame beef curry. His meat purees usually have two or three veggies in it.
Dinner Super porridge + veggie + yoghurt Right now he’s been eating a tame dhal that I made with onions, curry leaves, a bit of curry powder, lentils, zucchini and coconut milk.
As previously mentioned, natural yoghurt is basically his favourite thing. I think I could get him to eat anything if it was covered in natural yoghurt. He has not rejected any food completely, but he definitely shows a preference for his meat dishes and fruit purees. Small One usually happily eats half of his meal, and the second half requires a bit of entertainment.
He has started eating wholewheat pasta as a finger food, and I will probably switch his dinner carbs from the porridge to regular carbs like brown rice, wholewheat pasta, cous cous, quinoa and whatever else we are eating.
I want to get to the point – sooner rather than later – where all of us are eating the same food, and also hopefully start introducing him to the nuts and seeds group of foods in the next month.
Babies are unpredictable, and I am still unconvinced that he likes his food because he genuinely likes his food (because, honestly, what is so tasty about natural yoghurt? Or does lactose turn into liquid sugar in their mouths?). I suspect that a lot of it is texture and colour related. So that’s the baby food update for now. We’ll see what happens next.