When your little one is (all of a sudden) not so little…and a recipe

Every parent experiences a moment (slash hundreds of them) when their child says or does something that inspires a double-take. Just this morning, Rowan and I were preparing for a walk. She always insists on bringing at least one (if not multiple) stuffed animals or dolls on our excursions. This particular morning, she decided to bring her Our Generation foal.

As we got our warm clothes on for the walk, she turned to me and said:

When we walk, we can put the blanket on my horsey to keep her warm and when we get to the store we can take it off!

While it may not seem significant, it’s these little trains of thought that I’m noticing more and more with Rowan as she is getting older. She is extremely conscientious with everything she does – whether it’s setting up her dolls so they can all “see” or how she goes about cleaning her room.

As a parent, I observe these little nuances in her character and attempt to relate them to what her personality may be like some day. With the level of control and obsessiveness that Rowan sometimes displays, this exercise can be terrifying…(just kidding but not really).

Then I come to my senses and realize she’s just a three year old girl and I have plenty to worry about between now and her teenage years…and beyond (gulp!). Might as well just enjoy the ride.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Caribbean Pork Tenderloin with Carrots

This recipe was inspired by one of those random thoughts one Sunday afternoon…I haven’t had jerk chicken in forever…or something along those lines. Undoubtedly inspired by the cooler weather we’ve had recently, the second I started thinking about the spicy goodness of tender, flavor-packed jerk chicken it was bound to make it onto our plates this week.

But as I began to think of how to prepare the dish, I decided to call an audible and use pork tenderloin. It’s cheaper, just as flavorful and pulls apart really well when cooked low and slow.

This dish serves like a stew, which can be served over white or brown rice, or ketogenic alternatives such as cauliflower rice or sautéed spinach.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 pork tenderloins, depending on size (about 2.5 lbs)
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 28oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp jerk seasoning paste (or desired spice level)
  • 1 chicken bullion cube (2 cups)

Start by slicing the pork tenderloin into approximately 1-2” thick medallions, attempting to create uniform pieces where possible. Season the pork with salt and pepper and set aside in a bowl.

Dice the carrots, celery, onion and garlic and set aside in another bowl. I strive for approximately ¾” chunks of carrot and similar sized celery, while you can go finer with the dice on the onion and garlic. Set all of the vegetables aside in another bowl.

Depending on your cooking setup, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in you dutch oven or crock pot set to a “sear” setting. When the oil is hot, cook the pork medallions on each side until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the pork from the pan and set aside.

Next, add the vegetable mix to the sizzling pan and cook down until somewhat tender, about 6-8 minutes. At this time, add your preferred amount of jerk paste to the vegetable mix. This will largely depend on the spice level of your seasoning and how hot you want the end product. Mix the vegetables with the seasoning for about a minute and then add your diced tomatoes. Sauté for one more minute and then add the pork back into the mixture. Add the chicken broth and stir. Set the crock-pot to the low temperature setting, or transfer your dutch oven to the preheated 300-degree oven.

Cook for 3-4 hours or until pork is pull apart tender. Serve over desired accompaniment.

The parallels in parenting and hummus

How what we learn as parents can offer new perspective on tedious tasks.

There are many opportunities to take the easy road as parents. Every day comes with challenges – some new – but mostly those which we can expect (temper tantrums, not eating vegetables, blazing little trails of dirt everywhere they go). Patience is not just a skill, it becomes a core value, and one necessary to not only our everyday sanity but also for the sake of the child.

Toddlers are demanding, exhausting, time consuming, daily routine-shattering little life forces. Without patience, we’d lose grasp of reality in the days after our kids first learn to say, “no,” and our children would be destined for a life in front of a screen.

Our two and a half year old daughter Rowan takes everything to the extreme. From her insistence on climbing (and jumping) everything in sight, to her boisterous demeanor and one-track mind, she is a 30-inch tall Ph. D program in patience.

Her latest course offering has been her decision to wake up before 6am most mornings. It starts with a subtle whine at 5-something and quickly escalates to “mama or dada-geeb up!” (she can’t quite enunciate “get up” correctly).

It almost feels like she’s trolling us – successfully at that. It’s so close to when we actually need to get up that it completely ruins that last 20-30 minutes of sleep we might have enjoyed getting but now certainly won’t (whether she goes back to sleep or not).

At this point, rather than fight her every morning, we purchased a toddler training clock called the Gro Clock. The premise is simple, at night, the clock shows a large blue-lit star surrounded by a series of smaller ones. At the time of our choosing, it transforms to a yellow sun, signifying daytime and time to “geeb up.”

Rowan may be a bit too young to understand the full concept (at least in the wee hours of the morning when she’s still hardwired to wake up and insistent on doing so). But in just two days of practice she does enjoy the idea of the clock and is saying things like “sun go night-night” and “stars, it’s dark.”

All this to say that sure, we could go on getting up at 5:45 and it wouldn’t really change our daily routine. We could also let Rowan cry it out and fall back asleep a few mornings in a row (we do, however, live in an apartment for the time being and this isn’t really a desirable notion). Instead, we’re using this as an opportunity to teach Rowan about a boundary that she needs to learn: one that challenges her first instinct when she wakes up in the morning and forces her to think logically (for herself, and us).

I’m hopefully optimistic that she will take to the clock within a few weeks. It will be one of those rewards of parenting that radiates positive effects throughout our family. In the meantime, it will take all of the patience we can muster to keep Rowan from “geeb’ing up” at the ass crack of dawn.

Into the kitchen – Peanut Butter Hummus

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Rowan and I cheers’ing a shared piece of hummus toast

Little did I know that when I started making homemade hummus two days ago that I would have to channel that very patience of which I speak. While simple in terms of ingredients, the process took about 16 hours start to finish (granted, most of that is just waiting for the chickpeas to soak and cook).

I’ve made hummus from canned chickpeas before – and I can say that this recipe yielded superior results. The base ingredient list is small, but like any hummus there are a variety of add ins or toppings you can inject to make it your own.

Patience will be needed during the chickpea skinning portion of the recipe – I’ll describe the technique below. I’m sure there is a sweet spot to cooking the chickpeas to a point where the skin falls off yet they aren’t broken down, but I did not hit that sweet spot. However, like parenting, taking the long road had delicious rewards.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cooked, skinned chickpeas (prep method below)
  • 1/4 cup reserved chickpea cooking liquid
  • 3 tablespoons natural peanut butter (traditional recipe uses roasted tahini)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, extra drizzle for garnish
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • Juice of 1-2 lemons
  • Salt & pepper
  • Smoked paprika for garnish
  • Other optional garnishes include: olive tapenade, roasted garlic, harissa or roasted red peppers, etc.

Preparation

  1. Chickpea prep: Rinse 1.5 – 2 cups dry chickpeas (this will yield more than enough). Pick through any broken or green peas and discard. Put the chickpeas in a pot and cover them with water an inch over the peas. Leave to soak overnight (8-12 hours), adding water if necessary. Drain the peas and fill the pot once more so the chickpeas are covered with water by an inch. Place on the stovetop and bring to a rolling boil. Cut the heat to low and let the peas simmer for at least 2 hours, stirring every 30-45 minutes. Check for doneness.
  2. Patience needed: Drain the cooked chickpeas (save 1/4 cup of cooking water) and lay out a clean dishcloth on the counter. Working in shifts of one cup at a time, lay out the chickpeas, fold the cloth over and roll them around with soft pressure. This will loosen the skins and make them easier to peel. Discard the skins and set aside the chickpea meat in a small bowl. Do this for three cups of peas.
  3. To the bowl of chickpeas, add the reserved chickpea water, peanut butter (or tahini), oil, garlic, juice of one lemon, and salt and pepper. Add mixture to food processor and run until smooth. Check the consistency at this point. It’s really a personal preference from here – do you want a thick, chunkier dip or a smooth, creamy spread? Either add more lemon juice and water or leave it as is.
  4. Portion hummus into a bowl and top with your favorite garnishes. From here, the world is your oyster. Enjoy!