January 24, 2012
I’ve always had the best of intentions. An organized pantry. A well-stocked freezer. A weekly dinner plan. A Sunday morning power hour to prep the week’s dinner ingredients. After returning to work eight plus months ago, those best laid plans took a back seat to cans of diced tomatoes mingling with near-empty containers of couscous and cashews, a mish-moshed freezer that could lend to a batch or two of these, mid-week grocery store detours for the essentials, and Sunday morning power naps to counter 6 am hunger cries. I’m officially convinced, loyal readers. Babies change everything. (Baby? Our kiddo is well into the double digits. Thirteen months. Wowza.) And so we modify those plans. We evolve. And semi-type A-ers let ourselves off the hook, loosen the pony tail, and come to terms with the fact that there will always be laundry and dust bunnies and milk-stained playmats. In the end, memories of time well-spent with my family will far outshine the fulfilled intentions, the validation of an orderly pantry or perfectly balanced meals or sparkly floors. I’m not discrediting the importance of a kept home and healthy meals. These are valid and good and necessary. But in the end, it’s about the balance. It’s about trusting in the fact that not having it all together doesn’t mean you won’t have it all. Perspective and attitude are just two of many life lessons Caleb has already taught me in his young life.
With all that said, I assure you we’ve been eating. I’ve cut myself some slack with regard to photographing and writing. Much as I truly love to do it, it’s time consuming. And at the end of the night, after we’ve managed to pull off dinner for the three of us and prep clothes and lunches for the following day, the allure of a glass of wine and tivo queue oftentimes shines brighter than the screen of my mac. But I’m taking the balance attitude to heart and following Kyle’s instructions to allow myself a little more me-time now and again. I’ll raise a glass to that, and hope to fall back on the comfort of this creative outlet when I feel inspired to do so.
Now that Caleb is old enough to eat nearly anything we eat, we’ve embraced the challenge to find foods that appeal to all. He’s not crazy about the texture of chicken or fish yet, so we turn to beans and other veg-friendly proteins quite often. In the past, I relied on canned beans near exclusively. They are still a go-to for quick, healthy meals, but feeding a little mouth has made me even more weary of additives and pesticides, and in the case of canned beans, sodium and BPA (even if the jury’s still out).
Cooking dried beans traditionally takes a bit of planning in the way of soaking the beans overnight, or at least for a few hours. I probably don’t need to tell you that I can’t remember that last time I actually did this step. Look, we’re friends. I’m not going to lie to you. I cut corners in the kitchen where I can. Simmering a pot of beans for two to three hours yields nearly the same result as soaking overnight.
The yield is large, enough to serve as the entree for a couple dinners and a few lunches. Once the extra beans cool, ladle into freezer bags, layer in a couple scoops of cooked brown rice, and tuck away in the freezer for dinners in a pinch.
Creamy White Beans with Garlic and HerbsNever underestimate the comforting power of a big pot of humble beans.
- 1 pound dried great northern or navy beans, rinsed and picked over for stones
- 10 cups of cold water
- 5-6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/2 large onion (I chop mine, but you can leave whole and remove after cooking if you prefer)
- Large fistful of fresh herbs (I used sage, rosemary and thyme), bundled in a cheese cloth (or coffee filter)
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
In a large heavy pot, combine beans through black pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 2-3 hours or until tender, stirring occasionally (cooking time will depend on type and age of your dried beans). If you prefer your beans even creamier, remove the lid and continue simmering for 15-20 minutes more, or until the cooking liquid has thickened to your liking. Remove the onion (if whole), herbs, and bay leaves. Check seasonings and serve.
A hunk of crusty bread and green salad round out this simple, comforting winter dish.