Totally Awesome Asian Swiss Chard Salad

I love any salad that can be tossed with a cold cup of pasta for a hearty, fresh and easy meal either on-the-go or at home with kids. This Asian Swiss Chard salad recipe relies only on your basic knife skills and a quick assembly time, making it a versatile and vitamin-packed addition to your typical work lunch repertoire. The Brianna’s Home Style Ginger Mandarin dressing was on sale for $2.99 this week and is going to a fridge staple in our house as it packs a punch with its zingy creamy gingery flavor. This dish has potential for a great vegan Buddha bowl and can be combined with other key ingredients like avocado, sesame seeds, or nuts.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup broccoli cole slaw
  • 1 cucumber, peeled seeded and sliced into half moons
  • 1 red pepper, julienned
  • 1 yellow pepper, julienned
  • 1 bunch rainbow Chard, stemmed and roughly diced
  • 2 cups edamame
  • Chilled cooked pasta

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Fried Farro with Kimchi

This Fathers Day brought my husband new summer sandals and an unplanned gift of a new kitten! The sandals came from Costco, and the kitten came from the window well leading down to our basement. The frightened kitten was discovered in the early hours of Sunday morning meowing in a highpitched, insistent frenzy. After the terrified 8-week old little guy was discovered and cleared by the vet … we soon learned he had lost track of his stray litter and knew in our hearts we had no choice but to welcome Stormy to the family! Mozy and Suki are not exactly pleased … yet…


This week we also tried an excellent new recipe for Fried Farro with Kimchi – a variation of Korean fried rice – which is now added to my list of easy, go-to favorites. Only 4 key ingredients go into this fabulous entree, and then a basic Asian sauce of soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar. 

Farro is high in protein, fiber and B complex vitamins and is very low in gluten. It has a subtle nutty, chewy flavor and doesn’t release starch when it cooks, so the grains stay separated and marinate nicely with this sautéed crunchy rainbow chard and briney Kimchi base. The final step breaks a creamy egg yolk broken on top with a delicately fried egg – my husband’s speciality. Kimchi typically contains fish sauce but I discovered a vegan version at our local Fresh Farms market which was delicious and I highly recommend.

Fried Farro with Kimchi

  • 2 cups cooked farro
  • 1 bunch of rainbow chard, roughly chopped
  • 1 small jar kimchi, roughly chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 TB sesame oil
  • 1 TB soy sauce
  • 1 TB rice vinegar
  • Sriracha, as desired

Simmer farro for 30 minutes. Heat 1 TB of sesame oil in a skillet over medium heat, then add a handful of chopped kimchi with its juice. Cook until kimchi is softened, about three minutes, then add one bunch chopped rainbow chard and 2 cups of cooked Farro, and a splash of water. Cook until greens are wilted and grains are warmed through. Stir in soy sauce, rice vinegar, and 1 TB sesame oil to taste. Top with a fried egg, yolk still creamy. We also added some fried tofu and sriracha, which is optional.

Polish Dog Rice Bowl

I love anything as a rice bowl. So I recently invested in a Breville rice cooker. It’s not something I ever thought I needed, but we prepare grains like quinoa, rice or farro so I often I felt it was worth a try. Well this baby steams grains to a perfectly soft, stickily tender consistency. My mind has been opened to vegetarian rice bowl possibilities! It really makes my meal preparation so much easier and this appliance has become a staple on my countertop now. 

Today I was in the mood for a Hungarian inspired Tofurkey Polish sausage with cabbage and peppers heaped on top of a steaming bed of rice. The cabbage chunks marinate nicely in a simmering pot of paprika and garlic infused vegetable broth giving it a nice a silky texture, while the peppers and sliced sausages fry up on a medium high setting for a slightly charred, roasted taste in a separate pan. Add a dollop of brown mustard and sauerkraut on top of this dish and you will not be disappointed in this rice bowl version of a polish dog. 

Polish Dog Rice Bowl

  • 1 package of Tofurkey Kielbasa, chopped into 1″ chunks
  • 3 bell peppers (assorted red, yellow and orange) julienned in thick strips 
  • 1 head of cabbage, sliced into large chunks
  • 1 cup of vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • Rice (your choice)

Add chunks of cabbage to a large sauté pan along with 1 cup vegetable broth and spices. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. I large frying pan add olive oil, peppers and sausages. Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes turning frequently. Once oil seems to dry out, let the peppers char very slightly in pan. Cook your choice of rice separately, then scoop cabbage and pepper/sausage mixture on top in a serving bowl. Top with spicy brown mustard or stone ground mustard and a small scoop sauerkraut.

Drawing a Line in the Sand

This Thanksgiving holiday, I am grateful for all the advocates in my life, and for a being a better parent today than I was exactly one year ago because of them.

Throughout our 6-year old son’s life, he has had a series of physical and emotional delays. He was a late walker, suffered from continuous colds and fevers, and at age two narrowly survived a life-threatening bone infection. On the flipside, he was playful, smart, happy and creative. He spent hours building intricate Lego structures and writing funny, imaginative story books. But simple things, like putting on socks, often seemed insurmountable for him.

As he got older, his physical setbacks became more pronounced; he refused to sleep, refused to potty train, refused to go anywhere without the stroller. His obstinacy became more explosive, and even the smallest change in his routine would set him off. Soon we were the parents fireman-carrying our kicking and screaming child home after family outings, and were too scared to go to restaurants for fear of his outbursts. At first we blamed it on the terrible twos, then the terrible threes, but as he got older and the outbursts became more erratic and unmanageable, we became fraught.

One particularly rough morning after he started kindergarten at the age of 5, he punched me in the face then ran straight through heavy street traffic. I had just taken him on his first train ride to school and somehow he had convinced himself that we were going the wrong direction by looking at the train map. I had to restrain his body as he screamed “STUPID MOMMY!” while hitting me until we finally reached our stop and he ran from the turnstiles right into rush hour traffic. As I chased him in my high heels juggling a cup of coffee, heavy laptop bag, school backpack, and purse, I realized that I had grossly underestimated the severity and danger of this situation.

The least helpful thing people did at the time was label. He’s LAZY because he won’t play. He’s BAD because he won’t listen. He’s SPOILED because you had a nanny. He’s autistic because he’s different. And the worst label of all was in my own voice: BAD MOTHER. I travel for work and leave my husband alone with the children. Is it really worth it??

I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I felt the lonely distress of a parent with a child with some kind of diasibility over these years. How many times we’ve woken up in the middle of the night wondering what people are thinking, feeling a sense of loss, alone, the unknown, or worse a loss of control. Years of psychological evaluations, possible diagnoses, therapists, babysitters, and doctors. Years of being a constant watchdog, apologizing. My heart was breaking. What values are we imparting on our son, and how are we still keeping our marriage together??

If you share these distresses of a difficult child, then you know that you cannot punish or discipline problems away. But as the parent, you will be shamed. Blamed. There will be long uncomfortable silences. Everybody will tell you to be better disciplinarians.

But what these outsiders don’t see are the many humbled moments we experienced as a parent in these desperate moments. The moments that told us what kind of discipline worked, and more importantly what didn’t. When we put him into his room, turned off the lights, shut the door and left him screaming in darkness for hours until he passed out on the floor, only to awake an hour later with night terrors that lasted 30 petrifying minutes. They didn’t see his room laid bare after we confiscated every Lego and removed his bed sheets, demanding an apology. But they also didn’t see the piles of sticker charts for good behavior that we had worked on over many, many months.

Exactly one year ago today, a school administrator sent me an email coolly stating that he had screamed so hard that he wet his pants and they had to have him sit on the bench in the hall alone for 15 minutes. We had a meeting with the principal and were informed that he had been kicked out of after care, indefinitely. His behavior would not be tolerated. My husband and I were devastated. They had drawn a line in the sand. What more could we do??

Fortunately, we did have some advocates during this difficult time. People who told us we had done everything right. That we were good parents. To keep going. That Asher was bright and wonderful and worth fighting for. And for those of you – I am ever so grateful. I tell this story because we listened to those voices and our lives are different today because of you.

This year, we made a drastic decision to move to a new neighborhood, buy/sell our house, enroll in a new public school, re-enroll in Kindergarten and have a fresh start with the fall. It’s now been one year since that very low moment labeling myself a bad mother, six months since we moved, and four months at his new school. And in these few months, his progress has been nothing short of astonishing.

He is inspired. His art teacher has inspired him to create intricate story books filled with rich color and text long into the night instead of watching TV.

He is confident. While he used to be aloof and uncomfortable climbing playground structures, now he gathers all his friends around him to learn a new “leaf game” that he has invented. He is popular.

He is proud. This morning, for the first time, he was able to put on a pair of winter gloves. Historically, we had resolved to just let his hands be cold to save the effort from another fight. But when his fingers easily slipped into place without any frustrations, he literally jumped for joy and chased me around the room with hands outstretched screaming “Freezer Boy!!”

He celebrates. Last month he had lunch with his school principal which he earned by being a star student. He talked about it for days and days and days. He felt special.

He is in control. His new school has given him tools to meet his sensory needs in the classroom to help regulate his own body. He has wobble chairs, weighted shoulder pads, snack time on demand. They allow him time to take preventative measures. Nobody is labeling him.

We still have our problems. He still needs a lot of coaxing to do little things like putting on socks. His first response to anything contrary is still anger, but his more deep-rooted frustrations have become more clearly defined so that we are now able to appropriately tackle the problems in a more positive, productive way. He puts himself to bed. MILESTONE!! He has excellent bathroom manners. It’s no longer daunting to pick him up from school because parents talk to me about parties and play dates. I realize, for the first time, he is happy. We are happy. That is a milestone.

Years of setbacks are slowly being erased. The truth is, he’s just a different boy. And he was born this way. Recently he was diagnosed with dyspraxia – a neurological disorder that results in impaired motor, memory, judgment, processing, and other cognitive skills. There is an enormous disparity with his intellectual abilities and his cognitive and motor skills which has been the root of all his frustrations. But to me it’s not a label. I know that both of my children will grow up to be attentive, clever, compassionate, empathetic, creative, confident contributors to society. We are going to give our two boys the tools they need to succeed like compassion and patience by demonstrating those behaviors in the home. Because we are good parents. 

And so, this year, I am grateful for patience, time, humor, and wine wine wine. I am grateful for the people who reminded me that I am a good parent, and for them I hope to do the same. Compassion and respect are universal truths. In fact they are the moral foregrounds by which our little enclave exists. And that is where I draw MY line in the sand.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Korean Vegetarian Bibimbap

For our 8th wedding anniversary this week my wonderful in-laws took our two rowdy boys for the night (THANK YOU Mark and Debra!!) and my darling hubby fretted about cooking me the perfect meal. Well guys. Lemme tell you. I have been wanting to make a healthy vegetarian Korean bibimbap for months now, and this. was. amazing.

 Traditionally bibimbap ingredients are served in a heated stone pot with plenty of oil, but we opted for a basic nonstick pan and just a tad of sesame oil where necessary to keep it light. The richness comes from the egg yolk that just melts like liquid gold over the dish after you cut it open. (My husband is the egg cooker in our house so he’ll need to write a guest blog post soon!) We roasted the tofu in the broiler instead of frying it in oil. The sweet jasmine rice also gets a light crispy golden bottom in the pan over low heat like a paella, and the veggies themselves only took a total of 10 minutes to prepare. All in all, from getting home at 6:00pm to sitting down to eat was about an hour. Not too bad… it probably helped that there were no children around to pull us in a million directions!


Korean Vegetarian Bibimbap

  • 2 cups cooked jasmine rice (preferably one day old – we cooked the night before)
  • 1/2 cucumber, julienned
  • Salt
  • 8 ounces firm tofu
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • 1 large carrot, julienned
  • 5 cups spinach leaves
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • 4 cups cooked rice
  • 2 egg
  • 1/2 sheet roasted seaweed (Korean-style kim or Japanese nori), cut into small strips with scissors

Sprinkle cucumbers with salt and leave to drain in a colander for 20 minutes. Squeeze out excess water. Rinse and drain tofu. Cut into 1/2-inch thick slices and drain well. Place on a nonstick baking pan under broiler for about 15 minutes, turning very frequently. Heat a tablespoon of sesame oil in a pan. Add carrots and a pinch of salt and stir fry until cooked through. Remove from pan. Blanch spinach in a pot of salted boiling water, just until wilted and bright green. Plunge into ice water to stop cooking, then drain and squeeze out excess water. Mix in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon sesame oil, a pinch of salt, and a dash of sesame seeds. In a large iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium heat, add a tablespoon of sesame oil and swirl to coat. Add the rice and pack it down evenly. Arrange the cucumber, tofu, carrot, and spinach on top. Place the fried egg on top and garnish with sesame seeds and seaweed. Once divided into individual bowls, cut open egg to allow yolk to cover rice. Mix and enjoy!

Perfect Panzanella 

After a very hectic two months of life upheaval, we are officially suburbanites now – and I absolutely love it! Never thought I would. I guess you never know where you’re headed in life until the opportunity practically hits you in the face and suddenly you’ve found it.

Well, to celebrate the family getting settled we hosted our first gathering for Father’s Day and I made one of my all time favorite dishes – Panzanella. I always forget how versatile and easy this dish really is. It’s perfect as a side dish for dinner or a main dish for lunch, and works for all seasons. It’s also easy to prep and have ready for a big crowd. The secret is the fresh herbs paired with those rich, juicy vine ripe tomatoes that balance with the acidity from a vinaigrette that gets soaked up by … wait for it, that highly addictive chunky, crusty, toasty bread. OMG!! This ones based on the Ina Garten recipe, except I used red wine vinegar instead of champagne vinegar and I also added a tad of parsley:


Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 small French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced into 1/2-inch thick moon shapes
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
  • 15 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saute pan on medium heat, then add the bread and salt; tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed. For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. 


Suburban deer… 

Three Bean Squash Chili

I’ve been making winter bean chili for years with the same tired ingredients. It was SO refreshing to enjoy a summer chili with white beans and butternut squash! The cornmeal added some mild thickness and texture to the broth. Surprisingly this was not a sweet dish,  and it paired perfectly with some white wine while sitting on the porch. Bam! Summer. 


Ingredients 

  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
  • 1 (28-ounce) can no-salt-added tomatoes, undrained and chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Add oil to pan and swirl to coat, with pan on medium heat. Add garlic and onion, cook 5 minutes. Stir in dry spices and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently. Add bell peppers, broth, squash, and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cornmeal and beans; simmer 25 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with green onions.