Tuesday, October 30, 2012

baked rigatoni with kale

Tuesday, October 30, 2012
As I was hastily preparing this dish a few nights ago, after a short-lived crisis wherein I realized I did not, after all, have a full pound of kale, I wondered why I had never written about it before.  I've made it loads of times, each one with results as satisfying as the first.  On that occasion, the first mouthful of the toothsome, hearty whole-grain pasta coated with creamy, cheesy sauce and interspersed with dark green kale was so supremely comforting and good that I swore I would never return to plain old mac n' cheese.  Why should I, when the insertion of that most celebrated and trendy veg made it a transcendent experience?

Despite my best intentions, it was quite some time before I was really back in the swing of things in the kitchen, post-baby.  It's hard at the beginning, of course, for all the expected reasons: you're exhausted, baby's schedule (and thus, your schedule) is completely unpredictable...one minute you're swearing that you'll nap after the tenth feeding of the day and the next you are eating your words because you can't help but stare in amazement at your precious sleeping bundle.  For me, there was a brief window of time when the stretches of sleep became a bit longer in the evenings, and instead of taking turns with the baby, my SH and I were actually able to sit down at the table collapse on the couch in front of the television with plates of food I successfully prepared myself.  Those meals were simple at first, but eventually I made things with a few more steps, a bit more prep work, and perhaps enhanced by a flavorful herb or two.

With the advent of solid foods, cooking dinner became more challenging once again.  I didn't have quite as much time to prepare, both because the wakeful periods during the day were very long and though my beloved little A settled into a decent nap routine, he almost inevitably woke up in the middle of each nap and required a bit of soothing back down AND because I made almost all of his food.  Aside:  I found this to actually be easier (and cheaper!) than storebought food, and incidentally, every thing I made actually tasted like what it was supposed to be, which was not my experience every time I tried a jar of baby food.  I could write a whole additional post on my homemade baby food experience-perhaps you'll see it in a few years?

Anyway, to get back to the main reason I'm writing, the amazing baked rigatoni with kale, I positively have to share the joyous time when baby can finally EAT WHAT WE ARE EATING.  After months of double duty dinners, preparing mashes and purees alongside standby soups and pots of beans and rice, it was a welcome relief to gradually begin making baby A his own little plate to match ours.  It was exciting, because it represented his healthy growth and development, and every time he ate a morsel of chicken breast or slurped bolognese sauce off a chunky piece of rigatoni I was thrilled, and not a little proud.  It's also equally convicting and inspiring: I am much more conscientious about what we eat, because I know that A is going to be eating it with us.

I was cautious with those first few table food dishes-I wanted them to be tasty, but also manageable.  This particular blend of hearty green and pasta was a great dish to meet our needs.  The sauce isn't heavy, the cheese is just right (and I need a lot of that, since baby A has yet to fall in love with whole milk), and the bigger pasta is the perfect finger food.  We have made it many times, with kale and also with a substitute of spinach.  It's never let me down.

I found the recipe on a particularly beautiful blog, The Kitchen Sink Recipes.  Blogger Kristin hails from Chicago, takes incredible photos, and writes warmly of food and family.  She recently had a baby girl, and this particular post, eat as three, is what inspired me not only to document the dish I have grown to love so much, but also to write a bit about my own little family eating as three.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

weekly distractions

Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Ok, I wholeheartedly confess that I am borrowing a page from dooce.com's playbook here.  She has a post every week or so entitled "stuff I found while looking around" containing all kinds of interesting Internet tidbits.  Inevitably fascinating and often totally obscure, her discoveries are far more intriguing than mine, but I liked the idea of collating some of the things I enjoyed most during my daily weekly obsessive browsing.  Of course, everything I read is heavily pop culture-based, but that shouldn't surprise my loyal few.

Classic movie posters with a Toy Story twist...-courtesy of graphic designer Jim Tuckwell

Coldplay's latest video, dystopian comic-styles:

Over at Lainey Gossip, Duana (frequent contributor) joyfully expounds on the news that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will be hosting the Golden Globes-including a hilarious photo bomb...

Equal parts heart-wrenching and impressive-Henry Thomas' audition tape for E.T., via Huffington Post

New, harrowing trailer for Zero Dark Thirty:

NY Times piece on the background of Justin Cronin's rise to fame with The Passage.  The second novel in the trilogy, The Twelve, is out today.  I'm so excited I can barely stand to start it, dreading its inevitable conclusion!

That must be really hard for you.

Love this.  And for the record, the new phone is a MAJOR upgrade.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The best kind of mail

Sunday, October 14, 2012

This arrived over the weekend, my beautiful, wonderful sister's wedding invitation.

"A heart well worth winning, and well won. A heart that, once won, goes through fire and water for the winner, and never changes, and is never daunted."

Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend

- Posted from my iPhone

Sunday, October 7, 2012

what we're reading now...september (rather, what we read...september)

Sunday, October 7, 2012
September was a lovely month for us, full of birthday celebrating, trips to the beach and aquarium, and even an early visit to a local pumpkin patch.  Clearly, not a lot of blogging was happening.  We were reading all the while, of course.

Extra Yarn.  Is it wrong that I coerced by little baby into loving this book?  I took one look and decided that he HAD to like it.  Illustrated by Jon Klassen, the clever genius behind I Want My Hat Back, it is a great little story about a magically voluminous box of yarn that transforms a little town, all at the hands of a young knitter named Annabelle.  Didn't that one brief descriptive sentence make you want to read it immediately?  I thought so.  For the record,  A does actually love it.

It Looked Like Spilt Milk.  I was surprised that A developed such a strong connection to this book at first.  It was a selection on a whim from the library, a classic that wasn't part of our own collection.  We are already on our first book renewal, and I don't know if he'll be able to part with it.  Even though I know that the simple, deep blue pages with single stark white illustrations are exactly the kind of thing a young mind like his can comprehend, I somehow thought he would lose patience with it.  After all, he doesn't grasp rather abstract concepts like a cloud yet.  I know I harp on this all the time with my reading lists, but conceptual books that focus on a repeating pattern like this one are truly great for emerging readers.  Yes, I did just refer to my ONE-YEAR OLD toddler as an emerging reader, but I think it's an apt description.  For those years until a child begins to read, every reading behavior that they practice, from exploring books to choosing them based on pictures is a part of the reading process.

Who Took the Farmer's Hat?  We have a farm obsession going on in our house.  Farm animal puzzles, farm animal magnets, fancy farm animal noise-making toys.  All of this has resulted in baby A's incredible proficiency at imitating the sounds of the biggies (cow, horse, sheep, pig, etc.)  Another farm animal book, especially one as old-fashioned and adorable as this one, can't hurt!

A Visitor for Bear.  I adore this lovely book, which lends itself to reading in a British accent.  The tale of a persnickety bear who doesn't quite realize just how lonely he is until he is worn down by the repeated friendly efforts of a "small, grey, bright-eyed" mouse, I consider A Visitor for Bear to be one of my best new finds of the year.  I was thrilled to discover that there are several other Mouse and Bear titles, and can't wait to get my hands on them.

The Three Little Pigs. Yet again, a Paul Galdone classic haunted our little house for the ENTIRE month of September.  I cannot tell you how completely attached A becomes to virtually all of these extremely traditional fairy tales.  I checked out a cute James Marshall riff on The Three Bears this week and we barely made it through four pages before he shoved it off my lap.

Diary of a Worm.  Another book that I really thought might be beyond A's interest, Diary of a Worm has become a fast favorite.  Doreen Cronin's books are always funny, but these Diary editions (Worm, Spider, and Fly) are especially enjoyable because of the detailed, yet not too busy illustrations.  So far, I haven't won A over to the other books, but I'll happily continue reading this one.  My favorite page, by far, is when the worm tells his vain sister that no matter how much she looks in the mirror, her face will always look like her rear end.  Ha!  We moms and dads need a bit of humor to get through nine million readings of the same book!

Knuffle Bunny.  It took me a while to warm up to this book, and all of Mo Willems' work.  I am all about children's books that subtly showcase adult humor, but I felt like I needed a bit more substance than what these have to offer (Ok, I did totally love the book about Pigeon finding a hot dog, and Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, a recent find at the library, is hilarious).  A pulled this book off the shelf one day, and as I opened it (with a sigh, I might add), I found a faded yellow Post-it stuck to the first page.  In my mom's handwriting were the words, "Cute book."  She'd picked up a copy at the elementary school book fair years ago and saved it for my classroom library (not the first or last time she generously assisted me).  It was like finding a little treasure, a little bit of my mom, however small and seemingly insignificant.  A fresh perspective immediately came over me as I started on the first page.  "She thought it was cute," I told myself.  That's good enough for me.
P.S. A has now taken to grabbing the stuffed Knuffle Bunny at our local bookstore and hugging it.  Too bad the $25.00 price tag will prevent him from adding it too his collection.

Coming up in October: holiday books edition!