Multiply That By FOUR – Sweet Potato Curry with Brown Rice

Sometimes I feel like having four kids is like holding down FOUR full time jobs.  You know, like those start up companies where one person is juggling a million balls to fill four positions all rolled into one.  Believe me, having helped to launch not one, but two, Internet start-ups “back in the day”, I know of what I speak.  I used to put in 16 hour days in my previous life as a leader in a techie start-up . . . because in that culture, you did whatever it took to get the job done, whether it was technically your job or not.  After all, you had one shot, and one shot only, to get your baby of a business off the ground.

So yesterday, it just kind of hit me, that my current life isn’t that drastically different from my old one.  I put in very loooong days and do whatever it takes.  As I see it, I’ve got one shot, and one shot only, to be with these little people through every age and stage.  But multiply that one start up company by four and  – – –  well, I think you get the picture.

Just this week, there was so much going on that I really thought I was about to lose the plot.  One wants to raise money to fund a well in Africa.  So she was baking cakes, going door-to-door offering samples, and trying to get customers to pre-order her goods.  Of course she had to create an order form, a delivery calendar, and the list goes on and on.  Not to mention that now she has to fulfill the orders over the coming two weeks. Budding entrepreneur basically.  Another one is entering a youth expo and was busy painting and photographing her entries.  Budding artist, you might say.  Number three had CoffeeCanTheater which came home from preschool.  That involved telling stories, acting out the stories with puppets, and then writing the stories down.  Hmmmm, budding writer / comedian / thespian?  The last one  is just a sponge taking it all in.  Of course on top of that there’s the routine sports practices, school work, meetings, and playing.

And you know what?   This isn’t a question of overscheduling.  The majority of this stuff isn’t organized extra-curriculars that often can get such a bad rap.  This stuff is just about letting them identify their interests and passions and run with them.

What’s a mom to do?  It’s not like I can just pick a favorite “start-up” and tell the other three, “Tough luck, we’ve decided to pull your funding”.  Wouldn’t that be rich?!  Pick the kid with the most potential and get 100% behind her while letting the other ones just “go under”.  OK – end fantasy analogy world and resume real life thinking.

So it’s long days and late nights for me.  Not to mention that no matter what else is going on, they all have to be fed.  I often joke and say that if they would just stop eating and wearing clothing that I would end up with an abundance of free time.  They think that’s funny.  I’m. Not. Joking.  Anyway, amidst this past week’s flurry of activity and dinners, I served up a little Sweet Potato Curry with Brown Rice.  It was a clear crowd pleaser and quite simple to pull together.

I started by just cutting the sweet potatoes into wedges and steaming them over some boiling water until they were tender.

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While the spuds were steaming, I sauteed up some mushrooms.

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I also sauteed up some shallots and chopped up a small bunch of cilantro.

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Then I brought some coconut milk and water to a simmer in a skillet.  To that I added some Thai red curry paste and cilantro.  The sweet potatoes got tossed in next, along with the sauteed mushrooms and a drained can of bamboo shoots.  Oh, I also tossed in some sauteed shallots to this mess of goodness.

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I let that all just simmer a few so that the flavors could blend, and then spooned it over some brown rice, dished up some roasted bok choy on the side, and garnished with lime wedges.

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Nothing particularly fancy, but definitely choc full of nutritious goodness for my  “four little budding businesses”. Because no matter how thin I may be spread at this point in my life, there’s really no other place that I’d rather be investing my heart and my time.

Here’s the complete recipe for Sweet Potato Curry with Brown Rice.

The Art of Delegating . . . some things, anyway – Curried Butternut Squash & Green Beans over Quinoa

I feel like that little cartoon saying that you see pinned up in middle management offices sometimes – “The faster I go, the behinder I get”.  The reality of my everyday real life makes it so that I just can’t write as fast as I can cook.

I literally have recipes, creations, and pictures backing up like baby clothes in a laundry hamper.  And I know you mama readers can relate to that little analogy.  For those of you who have gracefully left the baby stage of parenthood, just take a moment and reflect on those days when you easily tallied in FOUR dirty outfits for one tiny creature.  You remember now, don’t you?  An endless parade of bibs, burp cloths, and buntings (what is a bunting really anyway?).  And everything so tiny that folding was like origami practice.  So much so that sometimes it was easier to just leave the mass of tininess in a big pile rather than even trying to fold and put away.

Well that’s how I’m feeling with my cooking these days.  I’m pumping out the meals and chronicling each creation in photos as I go,  but there they all sit in digital nowhereland on my laptop.

I manage to keep up with other stuff around the house by delegating to my troops.  Everyone pitches in and that’s what makes it all work.  I recently found a little gem called My Job Chart which I use to help keep everyone on track.  They LOVE it and clamor to the computer to log their helpfulness in exchange for points which they can spend, save or share.  It’s really an amazing motivator – I mean after all, it’s got technology AND money involved.  But there are some things, like this blog, that just can’t be delegated.  Teeth brushing would be another one of those “un-delegatable” items.  Is it really just me, or can anyone else relate to those days when you fall into bed at night after a trying day and just wish someone could take your head off, go brush your teeth for you, and then return your head?  OK, definitely just me, but now it’s out there and now you know the true level of my weirdness . . .  not to mention the extent of my fatigue on “certain” days.

So before I get any more “behinder”, I have decided to take a few days and give you the recipes, just the recipes (to be spoken in your best Joe Friday imitation), without any of my superfluous spiel.   Here’s the first one to get us started, and it’s an ORIGINAL creation (read – no recipe) that I just can’t wait to share.

To get started with making Curried Butternut Squash and Green Beans over Quinoa, I first peeled and cubed one medium butternut squash.

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I tossed the squash with a little olive oil and then roasted for about 30 minutes at 425 degrees.  While that was roasting, I sliced up some green pepper and a little lemon grass.

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I melted a little butter in a skillet and then added the green pepper and finely chopped lemongrass along with some red pepper flakes and curry powder.

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I sauteed everything until the pepper was just tender.  Then I added in a little coconut milk and some Thai fish sauce.  At the same time, I had brought a pot of salt water to a boil and cooked up some green beans until they were just tender.  I added the green beans to the curry mixture and also tossed in the roasted squash.

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I let things simmer just until everything was heated through.  I served it around a bed of quinoa and garnished with chopped cashews and some chopped fresh cilantro.

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Quite a satisfying little dinner.  It also got approval all around the table – which isn’t always the case when I go free-wheeling and recipe-less.

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Here’s the complete recipe for Curried Butternut Squash and Green Beans over Quinoa.

Looking for more curry recipes?  Give these a gander.

9 Simple Ingredients – Curried Zucchini Soup . . . oh, and a Skillet Peach Cobbler

Just in case that last post had you reeling from ingredient and preparation overload, here’s a simple little number to balance it out.  And yes, we’re sticking with the curry theme.

I’m an experimenter by nature.  In the kitchen that means that I rarely do repeats.  But this soup was so tasty that it will definitely be making regular appearances at the table.

On a separate note, this week was unofficially “peach week” at our house.  One friend stopped by bearing a whole bag of delicious little peaches.  The following morning, we awoke to another bag of peachiness left on our front doorstep by another friend.  Well, when that many peaches just show up unsolicited, you really have no other option but to make cobbler. I wasn’t too happy with my first attempt – a pretty traditional recipe that got good reviews on Epicurious.  Not to be defeated, or to sell the peaches short of their full potential, I tried again.  This time with a Skillet Peach Cobbler.  Winner, winner, cobbler dinner!  The clan was unanimously very much in favor of my quest for cobbler perfection.  After all, why wouldn’t they be?  They got peach cobbler for dessert two nights in a row!

So first for the soup and then I’ll let you in on the cobbler.

The greatest thing about this soup is that I literally threw it together in 20 minutes. I started by chopping a whole onion.  zucchini soup onion

I  heated some oil and sauteed the onion, and then threw in some garlic and curry powder. I then added 3 medium zucchini and a russet potato along with 4 cups of water.  I brought it all to a boil, then reduced the heat and let it simmer for about 15 minutes.

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I left everything just sit on the stove at this point while the Hubs was off collecting children.  When everyone was accounted for and whining for dinner, I brought the soup back to a simmer and then pureed it in the blender until it was smooth.  I then added in a half a cup of half and half.  Done! (BTW, the original recipe I was working from had no mention of half and half.  But I looked at the soup and the soup looked back at me and we just both knew some half and half was needed.  BUT . . . if you are looking to cut calories, fat or dairy, just skip that step and I won’t think any less of you.)

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Oh, and please don’t judge me based on the ice cubes in my rosé wine – so gauche, I know.  But the Hubs brought the bottle home after collecting kids and we didn’t have time for a proper chilling.

Now on to the cobbler . . .

I’ll spare you the explanation and let you imagine it through this photo collage. I think a big part of its deliciousness came from the fact that it was a skillet cobbler.  I essentially melted a half a stick of butter in the skillet before adding the batter and then scattering the peaches over that.  The peach preserves, blobbed about around the fresh peaches, also gave this dessert a great flavor.  And if you’re going to go through the effort of making this little number, don’t skimp on the preserves.  Bite the bullet and buy the good stuff.  I personally love this St. Dalfour brand pictured in the collage.

I just need to point out the pudgy 4 year old hand stirring the batter.  She was my sous-chef for “Peach Cobbler Take II”.  Oh and I guess I should also add this photo for your entertainment.  The peach peeling was slow going given that the ratio went something like this.  One half for the bowl, one half for the Wee One.  Good thing we had so many peaches!

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Want the complete recipes?  Here they are.

Curried Zucchini Soup, adapted from Martha’s Great Food Fast cookbook

Skillet Peach Cobbler, from Epicurious

 

Vacation & the Elimination of Excess – Curried Couscous with Roasted Vegetables, Peach Chutney & Cilantro Yogurt

I’m back after a blissful week of vacation up at Hume Lake.  The eating wasn’t so “real”, but seriously I don’t care.  It was an entire week of no cooking and that’s a welcome change once a year.

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There were, however, plenty of other real experiences.  Completing the High Adventure Ropes Course (I have done it once and I sure hope my kiddos remember this moment because I have virtually no intention of ever doing it again), shooting a 3 pointer with a pinecone and playing peek-a-boo with an unsuspecting adult during the parent scavenger hunt (in other words, the kiddos came up with all the things to do/find during the hunt), playing some weird version of flag football without any flags, and off- roading in Suzuki Samurais and getting COVERED in dust – just to name a few.

This is our third year enjoying Hume Lake.  It is the total vacation for us. This year we even roped friends into joining us.  I think they loved it as much as we do, and may make it an annual deal as well.

I think I might have mentioned before that our vacation week fell during my “clothing fast” that I did as part of my book club which is studying Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7 – An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  For the first time in my entire life, I packed for our 8 day vacation in . . . . drumroll, please . . .  my kid’s school backpack!  Unheard of in my world of meticulous forethought and uber-preparation.  But hey, I was only packing 7 items of clothing (I did decide that bathing suit didn’t count, so I guess that technically means I packed 8 items).  I had all the encouragers tell me how freeing it would be to not have to worry about clothes and clothing choices.  Nice try, folks, but nope.  This was a stressful endeavor for me.  First of all, do you know how dirty a person can get in one day at Hume Lake?  And second of all, I have a 4 year old and an almost 2 year old.  I’m lucky if I make it past breakfast without spit, snot, food, or some other unidentified substance smeared on me.  By the third time of wearing black running shorts and and turquoise t-shirt (aka, outfit number 1) I was downright gross.  But I persevered and held the course.  I’m still processing the stress  associated with this “experiment” and may let you know later if I figure any of that whole deal out.

The one (possibly only) thing I do know from this foray into clothing minimalism was that it made packing a whole lot easier.  When you are packing up a tribe of 7 for a week away, there’s just a lot of “stuff” involved.   Eliminating MY stuff really lightened the load.  Even though the preparation can be exhausting, this week away is always so worth it.  Kind of like this little recipe for Curried Couscous with Roasted Vegetables, Peach Chutney & Cilantro Yogurt (say that 3 times fast).  It’s a little heavy on the preparation time because it contains a lot of  “stuff”, but the result is so worth it.

I started by knocking out the yogurt sauce.  You just throw some cilantro, lime juice and coarse salt into the food processor.

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You puree all of that goodness and then mix in some sour cream and plain yogurt.  Phew.  Step one, completed.

Veggie preparation is next. I cubed some eggplant and summer squash (you could also use zucchini). I then  place each veggie on two separate baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray.  Then I tossed with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.  I roasted the eggplant for about 50 minutes and the squash for about 25 minutes (thus the reason for 2 separate baking sheets).

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While the veggies were roasting, I charred a bell pepper over the grill and then placed in a paper bag for about 10 minutes,  I then removed the skin and chopped it into bite-sized pieces.

I also prepared the couscous.  In this time around, I combined regular couscous and Israeli couscous just because I had a little of the latter and wanted to finish it off.  The mixture gave a nice texture variation.  I sauteed a little onion, added some curry powder and then did the basic couscous prep.

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I chopped up some cashews and was finished with all the prep work.

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Finally, I fluffed the couscous, tossed in the roasted veggies and bell pepper, mixed in the cashews and some currants.  I was a slacker and decided I just didn’t have it in me to make the peach chutney.  I went with Major Grey’s Mango Chutney and served with the Cilantro Yogurt Sauce as well. A flavor explosion well worth all the steps involved in the recipe.

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Here’s the complete Curried Couscous with Roasted Veggie & Cilantro Yogurt Sauce Recipe.