Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The January Greens

It could be the weather. Or maybe the sleep deprivation from having sick kids has finally caught up with me. Just last week, it was warm and sunny and we spent a few hours each day outside at the sandbox. The Big Boy built sand mountains while Little Miss Piggy lay on a blanket in the grass and kicked and blew spit bubbles. And I got to breathe fresh air and pretend that spring was just around the corner.

But then reality set back in this week. It is, after all, January. And I’m in a funk. Like schlump around the house in my slippers, sighing heavily, in a low-energy, nearly-depressed funk. I hate it when I get like this. When my list of things that are wrong with the world seems insurmountable, and I start to act lazy and mopey and just generally turn into one of those people that I don’t like very much. I feel like Eeyore.

Oh, this time of year just isn’t very much fun. I can usually stay positive through the cold days in November and December. And by February, the daffodils start blooming and my handful of disappointing tulips raise their pitiful little heads to give me something to laugh about. But January is the tough one for me. By mid-month all the excitement of the holidays has completely dissipated, and a sad anniversary for our family starts looming large in front of us, and I end up in this introspective, existential, annoying little mood.

Sure, I can still sort of see the humor in this kind of thing. And right before I do something rash, like start reciting bad poetry or reading angst-ridden philosophical tomes from college, you know, the American Idol auditions are aired and I’m able to park myself in front of the television and see, loud and clear, how bad my life could REALLY be. I suffer through the awful televised auditions every year, even though The Carnivore ends up putting a pillow over his head and groaning with agony. He has a tough time watching people make asses of themselves. I, on the other hand, love it. I mean, yeah, there are always a few uncomfortable moments, but for the most part, I end up falling down laughing at how delusional these people are. I should be embarrassed to admit all this, I’m sure. But I have no shame. Last night, I even tried to guess which drugs these morons were exposed to in utero.

It needs to get warm again. Fast. I'm clearly losing perspective.

But there were some successes yesterday. It wasn't all losers, all the time. Towards the end of our grocery shopping trip prior to dinner, during the time when I’m most apt to give in to The Big Boy’s unhealthy demands, we ended up dangerously close to the ice cream aisles and, lo and behold, a preschool-sized temper tantrum started brewing. He started fussing, Little Miss Piggy busied herself wiping snot in my hair, and I dug in my heels. And, because The Big Boy is, well, a big boy now, he jumped right out of the cart, opened the freezer case and pulled out a box of ice cream sandwiches and defiantly put it in the cart, folding his arms and setting his jaw at an arrogant angle.

“Oh, no,” I said tightly, and as quietly as possible. “This isn’t the way the world works, my little friend.”

I’m sure you can guess what happened next. He started jumping in place and raising his voice. Other shoppers began to look in our direction. Piggy began to whimper. But I had a trick up my sleeve. “If you really want ice cream sandwiches, darling, I understand and I will make you a deal.” He started to brighten up a bit. “I will not buy these things,” I said, pointing at the brightly-colored box that he had just put in the cart, “But I would be happy to take you home and help you make some ice cream sandwiches with real cookies and real ice cream.”

It took another few minutes of negotiation, but I won. And we had a delicious dessert of homemade peanut butter cookies (made with nothing more than peanut butter, sugar and eggs) sandwiched around luscious Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream, whose ingredient list was blessedly short and filled with words I could pronounce: cream, milk, sugar, egg yolks, and natural vanilla.

But the true winner of the day was the casserole I made for dinner. A few months ago, to curb my appetite for new cookbooks, I signed up for a daily dinner recipe to be emailed from My Recipes. Most of the time, the recipes are for meat entrees, and often I just delete the email without so much as a second glance, but recently there was a Winter Greens and Potato Casserole that just sang my song. A seasonal recipe that sounded earthy and filling and downright warm and comforting. And oh, how easy it was to put together and how utterly satisfying it was to eat. I went back for seconds and I’m looking forward to leftovers for lunch today. Even better, though this casserole may sound like a vegetarian’s dream, The Carnivore ate seconds as well.

WINTER GREENS AND POTATO CASSEROLE (adapted from MyRecipes)
  • 1 lb kale or mustard greens (or a combination of the two), chopped
  • 2 lbs red potatoes, sliced very thinly
  • 2 cups vertically sliced onion
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 oz shredded provolone cheese
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  1. Bring about 6 or so cups of water to boil in a Dutch oven. Add greens, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until wilted and slightly tender. Drain.
  2. Coat a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray or butter.
  3. Arrange 1/3 of the potato slices in a single layer in the bottom of the casserole dish.
  4. Top with 1/2 of the onion slices.
  5. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.
  6. Top with half of the greens.
  7. Sprinkle with half of the cheese.
  8. Add another layer of the potato slices (1/2 of the remaining amount).
  9. Top with remaining onion.
  10. Sprinkle with another 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.
  11. Top with remaining greens.
  12. Top greens with remaining potatoes.
  13. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  14. Pour broth over casserole.
  15. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.
  16. Cover casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
  17. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes, until lightly browned and potatoes are tender.
I still haven’t quite figured out the best accompaniment to this dish – last night I served it alongside spicy pan-fried fish, but since the fish was from WAY far away, it kind of cancelled out the local/seasonal aspect of the casserole. Suggestions are welcome.

5 comments:

Cindy said...

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...you said asses. I'm telling.

Becky said...

Woohoooooo!!!! You've saved me from the dreaded dinner decision once again!

Jennifer said...

I so can relate to the January Blues!! I think I will make this tonight for dinner. Sounds yummy.Do you make your own baby food also and do you have any suggestions outside of bananas, peas, green beans, applesauce, pears, sweet potatos,carrots, peaches and apricots? My daughter is 6 months old. Also do you use the box baby cereal? I am really trying to do an overhaul on our eating. BTW I found your blog through your moms.

Sarah Beam said...

Jennifer - I'm on the fence about the boxed baby cereal. As for baby food, I'm a big fan of pureeing whatever we're having for dinner and giving that to the baby. I have a tiny food processor that is perfect for the task - just take a spoonful of the adult's dinner, whirl it in the processor, and plunk it down for the baby. That way, they always get a variety of food.

CC said...

Sarah,

I LOVED this casserole and am making it tonight for the second time. YUM!

CC