Hello! If you’re just reading for the daily recipe, please scroll down and you’ll find one near the bottom. But before I get to that, I’d like to reduce some of today’s thoughts and realizations to writing. I had a professor in college who once told us students that “you’ve never fully thought anything through until you’ve written it down.” While I’m not sure I completely agree with this, I do believe there’s merit to it, and it has stuck with me for the last 15 or so years. So here I am, “thinking on paper” to be sure I’ve got it all covered. 🙂
I spent quite a bit of time today trying to shake off negative thoughts and feelings. Upon checking my calendar later in the day, I realized that this is likely due to the impending full moon on the 10th, which nearly always leaves me feeling slightly off balance emotionally. Once I made this connection, I was able to search for and truly appreciate the positive aspects of the things I had been perceiving negatively.
For example, I wrestled a lot today with the notion that I had not made time for a “real” workout, while ignoring the fact that I had done something great (both physically and environmentally) by walking Zander to his play group this morning instead of driving. After the play group, we walked to the post office to deliver sugar cookies to Zander’s buddies, Jim and Pam, and we made a little loop around town. All together, I got in a nice 45-minute walk up and down lots of hills and managed to work up a pretty good sweat despite the 40 degree temperature. So why was I beating myself up over a missed workout? So silly.
Next, I found myself being overly critical of the fact that I almost always take Zander to the same playground near our house. He was having sort of a rough time when we first got there, probably because it was cold and there were no other children to play with, but I convinced myself that it was because I was a bad mother. If I were a good mother, I would give him more variety and take him to other playgrounds. He eventually mellowed out, and we had a great time playing together.
After reflecting on this for a bit, I was reminded that I have good reasons for choosing this playground; it’s not done out of laziness or habit. We play here because the equipment is appropriate for children his age, and also because the close proximity to our home enables us to walk there if we like (getting fresh air both ways) and maximizes the amount of time spent actually playing versus sitting in a car in transit, a ratio that is very important to consider now that the days are short and it gets dark so early. Moreover, I decided that I should feel proud of myself simply for making a commitment to take Zander outside every day to play, even when the weather is less than perfect, because I want him to grow up with the same appreciation of the outdoors that my parents always encouraged in me.
Want more examples? OK. I ate sugar cookies for breakfast. That’s right, the very same sugar cookies that just yesterday I criticized and said didn’t really impress me; I ate them for breakfast, and I spent the entire morning beating myself up over it. Until Zander (during his brief period of neediness at the playground) came up and grabbed me by the pants leg, and I looked down and realized that he was clutching an entire handful of fabric, when that fabric used to be practically adhered to my skin and nowhere near baggy enough for someone to grab onto it, even just between two fingers, let alone a whole handful. And then it hit me, I can eat sugar cookies for breakfast every now and then and still stay on track with my weight loss! Just as long as I remember to compensate in other areas… 🙂
OK, last example. Clearly, I spent a lot of time inside my head today, and part of that time was devoted to exploring my inner conflict over taking a break from my career to be a full-time mom. You see, as an activist, I really loved my former job at Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, as I continue to be involved as a volunteer, and the fleet is just about to depart from Australia for its annual Antarctic whale defense campaign. Although challenging, I found my job at Sea Shepherd to be incredibly meaningful and rewarding, I enjoyed having a distinct purpose in my day-to-day work, and I took immense pride in each contribution I made to saving the lives of marine animals.
In many ways, I am a classic “Type A” personality, which Wikipedia describes as follows: “The theory describes a Type A individual as ambitious, aggressive, business-like, controlling, highly competitive, impatient, preoccupied with his or her status, time-conscious, and tightly-wound. People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving ‘workaholics’ who multi-task, push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence.” I actually enjoy working hard, don’t mind putting in long hours, and I love having both creative and professional outlets–things that I have been missing for the last few months since I resigned from my job, but have tried not to think about.
When these feelings surfaced unexpectedly today, it caught me off guard at first. It happened while Zander and I were at the playground, and I was so preoccupied for a moment that I smacked my head on one of the monkey-bar-type-thingies on the play structure and let out a yelp. Zander immediately stopped what he was doing, rushed to my side, pointed to my head and gestured for me to bend over, then leaned in and gently kissed my head, just like I always do for him when he gets hurt. He then gave me a hug and, with a big smile, said that the word that melts every mother’s heart: “mama.”
In that moment, every potential regret was erased, and every imaginable reason in support of putting my career on the back burner while Zander is young came rushing back to me in a flood of emotion. I feel completely at peace with this path and grateful for our decision as a family to cut corners and live simply on a single income. I am grateful for Alex’s willingness to earn this single income to support us. I will always be able to return to the work force later and contribute to the well-being of our planet and its inhabitants and be a kick-ass activist and role model for my son and do all of the things that over-achievers aspire to do. But I will not always have a precious and sweet-natured 19-month-old who adores his mama and is growing and changing not only every day, but every single minute. And to miss out on moments like these would be the absolute worst decision of my life.
At this point, many of you are probably thinking, enough of this chatter, let’s have the recipe already! So here it is. For tonight’s dinner, Zander and I made a super-simple, deliciously comforting, and very filling Chickpea & Broccoli Casserole.
The way dinner works in our household is this: First, I do all of the prep work that involves knives or otherwise dangerous objects, as well as tasks that might be difficult and/or frustrating for a toddler (because cooking should be fun!). Tonight, that meant chopping up carrots and broccoli and mashing up chickpeas with a potato masher. I also measure things out in advance for Zander, so that all he has to do is pick them up and pour them into the pot or mixing bowl, one by one.
I’m really working hard to give Zander more freedom in the kitchen, which sometimes means making a mess. Tonight, after mixing things together and pouring them into a glass baking dish, we tried to master the concept of using the bottom of the spoon to firmly pat down the ingredients and smooth the surface. Things started off really well…
…until Zander decided to plunge the spoon deep into the middle of the dish and…
…fling a big glob of uncooked casserole onto the stovetop! But like I just said, cooking should be fun, so we wasted no time crying over spilled chickpeas. 😉
Fortunately, the spill was easy to clean up, and the finished product wound up tasting fabulous! Best of all, the topping was just the right combination of gooey and crunchy.
Here’s a shot of Zander’s dinner plate, which included some of his all-time-favorite Spinach Cannellini Bean Dip leftover from today’s lunch (this will be tomorrow’s featured recipe), baked lentil chips for dipping, and a pumpkin cranberry muffin for dessert. After dinner, Alex always cuts up some sort of fresh fruit for Zander, as well. Tonight, it was cantelope. Yum.
Each time I make a dish, I make notes on how to improve upon it the next time and write them directly into whatever cookbook I am using. One thing I would do differently with this casserole next time is to perhaps use a little bit less of the Daiya vegan cheese, because it was incredibly rich. I might also double the amount of broccoli. And last, see my notes below (within the recipe) regarding the quantity of chickpeas. But other than that, I think it’s just about perfect as is. Here’s how to make it.
CHICKPEA & BROCCOLI CASSEROLE
Three 16-oz cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I only had one 25-oz can of chickpeas on hand tonight, so that’s what we used, and it turned out OK–much moister, actually, than the last time I made it using the three smaller cans, which total 48 ounces. I think that next time, I might compromise and use two 16 oz cans, totaling 32 ounces; that seems about right to suit my taste buds. But I recommend trying it according to Isa’s original recipe first before making any adaptations, to see what you think.)
1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced (I omitted the onion)
3 large carrots, grated (about 2 cups)
1 head broccoli, cut into small florets (about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives (I omitted the chives)
1/2 cup bread crumbs (preferably whole wheat) (I’ve made this dish in the past using panko bread crumbs, and tonight I used whole wheat; both were tasty, but I agree with Isa that I think I prefer the whole wheat)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tsp salt (I omitted this, because the Rapunzel veg broth I use is already quite salty)
(*I added roughly 2-3 Tbsp of powdered garlic and about 1/2 tsp black pepper, plus a bit of Daiya vegan cheddar cheese mixed into the body of the casserole. I also made a crumb topping–which I highly recommend–made of melted Earth Balance vegan butter combined with whole wheat bread crumbs and Daiya vegan cheddar cheese. I don’t know the amounts–sorry–but it’s pretty easy to eyeball and probably largely suited to individual taste, anyway.)
Preheat oven to 350º F.
In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas well, using a potato masher or firm fork. It takes about 2 minutes to get the right consistency. Add the vegetables and mix well. Add the bread crumbs and mix; then add the oil, and mix again. Finally, add the vegetable broth and salt, and mix one last time.
Transfer all ingredients to a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish (preferably glass or ceramic). Press the mixture firmly into the casserole. Cover with foil, and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 more minutes. (Last time I made this dish, I covered with foil as instructed, but it didn’t seem to serve any real purpose. So tonight, I tried it without covering and just baked it for an hour straight. Perfection. No need to waste a sheet of aluminum foil.)
CREDIT: Vegan with a Vengeance, by Isa Chandra-Moskowitz