Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Homegrown Recipe

{Roasted Cauliflower and Crouton Salad}

The past few weeks have been very full, and I have failed to let any of it slip out here. I'm not going to recap the month for you. I promise I have more respect for you than that. I know you would rather I just shared a recipe with you. And that is what I will do.

Today was a cleaning out day of sorts. I had to scrape wax off the floor and a table following a near-horrific accident with a candle and a baby last evening. The Baby Boy needed his clothing size rotated. The basil plant badly needed pruning and winterizing. When it came to making dinner, I was planning on a simple pesto and chicken pasta dish because The Man left for a week-long trip this morning and I wanted something simple. This dish is simple because it is made from a packet, and is like a bourgeois version of mac n' cheese. 

Then there was all that half-shriveled basil sitting there. And a head of cauliflower I had failed to use from earlier in the week. Let me just say here and now that roasted cauliflower is my new obsession. It is so, so very good and typically I make it tossed with olive oil, curry powder, red onions, and salt and pepper. But then tonight I thought of roasting the cauliflower and throwing it in with the pesto (minus the curry powder obviously). Then I thought of how I usually have caesar salad with pesto but I didn't have lettuce tonight... and yet, oh how I love those crunchy croutons mixing in with the pasta. And hey, I had some hearty whole wheat bread that was getting a little too dry for sandwiches...and then when I opened the fridge there stood staring at me a near empty jar of homemade sun-dried tomatoes I had made a couple months ago. Lo and behold... a new recipe started forming...

Roasted Cauliflower and Crouton Salad

~1 head of cauliflower, broken into bite size pieces
~couple Tbsp olive oil
~1/4 red onion, sliced into strips
~3-5 garlic cloves, sliced in thick chunks
~dried basil (optional) 
~salt and pepper

{toss all the above ingredients together and spread on a baking sheet, sprinkling with salt and pepper, then roast for about 30 minutes at a high temp... mine was around 425F, watching until it is browned and crispy on top}

~homemade croutons: cut bread slices into bite size squares. toss with olive oil, seasoning like oregano or italian, add some grated parm if you like. toast in oven at 425 until golden and crispy.
~sun-dried tomatoes (couple Tbsp.) chopped into chunky pieces
~fresh basil, roughly chopped

{toss above ingredients with roasted cauliflower and serve}

I eyed the kids as we were eating and they gobbled it up without a word of dissent. Well, Scout did hand me all her onions like she'd scraped worms off the sidewalk or something. Anyway- I thought it was good. Let me know if you try it!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

we went away

The trip was, as we had brashly decided it would be, delightfully Worth It. The train ride to get there was perfect. We had beds in our own tiny, secluded cabin where we could hide from curious eyes and stretch out, resting with books or letting the baby sleep. We watched the countryside go by, blanketed by gray clouds and gloomy raindrops, each station filled with umbrellas shuffling past down below our window.

Our host was a friend of ours who had traveled home this past week to be with his family over the Mid Autumn Festival and National holiday. He grew up in this small village; a forty five minute bus ride out of the city we had trained to, over the Yangtze river and then a short walk to his home. 

We were somewhat self conscious, landing in this friend's home with our six people strong and tactfully forgetting our large bag of delicious fruits and treats we had intended to give as a gift to our hosts. But they were of course exceedingly gracious and seemed genuinely pleased to have us along for the ride. It was after all, a festive time for them as well and each meal had family members from all over the neighborhood congregating around the deliciously prepared food.

Our kids did remarkably well, trying most of the food and though skirting their way around some of it, found enough to munch on that they stayed full and happy and did not grumble about hunger (we had packed stashes of Snickers and noodles just in case). We explored the nearby streets and fields, and followed the train tracks to the local market. It was wet and drizzling most of the time we were there, so a few things we had looked forward to, like touring his Aunt's organic farm across the way, and going up into the Juzi Orchard behind the house that his grandfather had cultivated all his life, could not be done because of mud sloshed roads and our unprepared attire. Nonetheless, we managed to climb around and get dirty and happily fresh-aired as it was.

We spent the train ride home on hard seats, in the stuffy car with 120 other people. Seven hours of people following your every move, asking you repeatedly what country you are from and all manner of similar questions, and trying to manage six people on four seats with very limited activities is a daunting task. But happily, our troupe again did remarkably well. I was so proud of my little ones and their adaptability, patience, and creativity. Actually, I was proud of and incredibly thankful for my Man in this regard as well. He held children, made up little games, played cards, entertained the {slightly} irritating little friend that kept spitting her candy out at our feet, never complained or got tired and kept everyone laughing and smiling until the bitter end. Though it wasn't bitter at all. In fact, despite the hiccups and strains that inevitably come with traveling in China, and that with many small children, we are already thinking of doing it again.

Monday, October 1, 2012

the Panda post

We did it. We went and saw the pandas. 

It was actually just a lovely day; a low mist hanging on the horizon and groves of bamboo shrouding the pathways, big goofy looking bears munching on bamboo and lying about lazily, little red pandas scampering down the steps behind us (eek!), the kids running, always running, flowers reminding you that indeed those colors still exist in nature, and the comfortable presence of family. 

And of course there were the throngs of Chinese who indeed you would have thought were mistaking us foreigners for pandas, what with all the picture taking and oohing and ahhing. There were times when we felt like we needed our own little bio sign, explaining how often we breed (four children!!), our diet (red meat! that's why they don't dress very warmly!), and why we are so tall. Really though, it's just awkward to be stared and laughed at and photographed when in our culture that is considered extremely rude. But here such is not usually the case, and I know that they are just interested, as well as generous in their compliments and friendliness.

Tomorrow we embark on our short,  three day journey to a village where we know very little of what to expect, except that there are not toilets... only holes in the ground, and we were told today by our host to remember to bring bug spray. So far, sounds delightful! But nonetheless, we are all excited for the adventure.