Polenta and Broccoli Rabe Lasagna (with Gymnastics)

Wednesday mornings, the garbage truck comes around 6:15am, and on those mornings, Matt has been known to open Teddy’s bedroom door (after hearing him shout, “Need out!” a handful of times) only for the little guy to sprint past him to the living room where he climbs up on the couch and presses his face against the window so as to see a truck in action. So, when I heard that Los Angeles Sanitation was hosting an “Open House” on Saturday from 9:30am to 2:30pm, I knew I could make Teddy’s day/life by taking him.

The problem was that my favorite yoga class (taught by an ex-gymnast from Romania—more on this topic in a bit) is at 10am on Saturday mornings. Matt watches both kids while I go. We decided to push Teddy’s afternoon nap a bit so that I could take him to the trash headquarters when I got back. I would just need to first feed Isaac, who usually naps from around 11 to noon, and then we could go. But on this Saturday, Isaac just slept and slept, and Teddy and I didn’t get in the car until 1:30pm.

I’d mapped a route to our local garbage center, which to be clear, is a place I’d never visited before. About three-quarters of the way there, I ran into some major road construction and a detour—taking me into unchartered Los Angeles territory. Eventually, I pulled over and consulted my phone to figure out how to get there, at which point, I realized that the car had grown increasingly silent. I turned around and saw that Teddy had fallen asleep. But, according to my new route, we were almost there. I decided to forge ahead and to wake him when we arrived.

We pulled into the dump/Open House For Children at 2:00pm. In the parking lot, I saw a few adults loading small kids into their cars, but online it said the event went until 2:30pm. We still had thirty minutes of garbage fun time! I put the back of my hand on Teddy’s cheek and said, “Teddy, do you want to go see some garbage trucks?” Nothing. I tried again, nudging his shoulder. Still nothing. Not even an eye flutter. I called Matt for advice.

“Wake him up! He’s gonna love it.”

I hung up and tried once more. Squeezing his shoulder, I said: “Teddy, look! A garbage truck!” Absolutely nothing. Weekend-at-Bernie’s nothing.

I paced around the parking lot with the door to my car open. After about three to five minutes of this, I saw a man pushing a toddler in a stroller toward his car.

“Excuse me. Is the Open House still going on?”

“No. It’s over,” he said, definitively.

“But it’s only 2:07pm.”

“It’s over.”

I drove home—got lost once more for good measure, and then sat in the driveway for a while, opting to let the boy sleep, as I talked to Matt on the phone about what we might do with the rest of the afternoon.

“Wait, are you in the driveway?” he said at one point.

“Yeah,” I said. “I’ve been in the driveway. I thought you knew that.”

Not only does this story sum up my Saturday in a nutshell, it can also be filed under My Personal and Ongoing Battle to Accomplish Things with Children Present.

On Sunday, however, I woke up with a firm goal. I wanted to cook us something new for dinner. Something new and something that I wouldn’t be able to tackle on a weekday.

Being the pasta/Italian-food centric family that we are, I chose a lasagna stuffed with polenta. I liked the idea of adding some texture to a vegetarian lasagna. I also liked the fact that I had a bunch of these ingredients on hand.

And look, guys! I did it.

And you should too—especially if you have a lot of people to feed or don’t mind having tons of leftovers. One slice of this super dense lasagna for dinner is all you need.

In fact, we have so much left over, I’m going to go drop some off with my friends who just had their second baby last week. (Speaking of second babies, I believe Kris Jenner had her math quite right when she told Kim, re: children, “One is one and two is twenty.”)

Now that the garbage truck and lasagna part of the post are over with, can we talk about gymnastics?

With the Olympics just over two months away, I’ve been dying to write a follow-up to My Gymnastics Diary, Part 1—remember that post? The problems are two-fold. First, I don’t even know where to start. So much has happened since I wrote that—not only within the sport itself, but with my level of nerding-out on the sport. (As many babies as I have, I will still find time to stay up to date on gymnastics news.) I’m now a regular listener of Gymcastic—a gymnastics podcast (the gymnastics podcast?). I also discovered this blog, The Balance Beam Situation, and it’s so hilarious and insightful.

Secondly, I just don’t have the time to get into all the details I’d like to. And yet, I still want to talk gymnastics.

So, here’s what I’m going to do: once again inspired by the title of Sara Ruhl’s book 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write, I’ll try and catch you up with the story lines/things that are interesting me the most. And then if you want to know more, you can start listening to Gymcastic.

1. Romania (you know, home of Nadia Comăneci) did not qualify as a team to compete in Rio. Romania! The country that practically invented gymnastics. Remember in 2000, before that pesky two-per-country rule, when they took gold, silver, and bronze in the women’s all around? (Full disclosure: The Olympic suits actually ended up stripping the gold medal from the first place finisher, Andreea Raducan, as she tested positive for a banned substance (pseudoephedrine), even though she was later exonerated of any personal wrongdoing and it basically seems like the whole stripping-of-the-medal-for-taking-cold-medicine was uhm excessive.)

    a. This means (according to Olympic-qualifying rules that I don’t fully understand) that Romania 
    can only send one gymnast to compete as an individual. Right now that’s between Larisa Iordache 
    who placed third in the all around at the 2015 World Championships (and who has been injured) and
    28-year-old three-time Olympic gold medalist in 2004 and two-time Olympic medalist in 2012
    Catalina Ponor, who I recommend you follow on Instagram.

    b. I was once told that when you’re outlining, you can’t have an “a.” without a “b.” Is that true?

2. I’m so glad The New Yorker just came out with this great piece on Simone Biles so that I don’t have to use one million superlatives to tell you how insanely amazing she is / how she should almost certainly win five of the six available gold medals in Rio.

3. Aly Raisman! What can I say? She is my fave and despite some shaky performances, she really looks like she’s going to make the 2016 team. The people over at Gymcastic give her a way hard time about her form (bent knees and maybe some trouble hitting 180 degrees in some of her leaps) and her lack of artistry, but frankly, I don’t give a sh*t. Her floor routine, leg muscles, and the way she always seems to be an underdog even though she technically shouldn’t be make her a personal hero of mine.

4. Who else is going to make the five-person team? I don’t know! The U.S. has so many of the world’s best gymnasts that we could seriously send two teams of five women and those teams would win gold and silver. Right now, however, if I were Martha Karolyi (in my dreams!), I would send: Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Maggie Nichols*, and Laurie Hernandez*. And that would be leaving off the reigning world champion on uneven bars, by the way.

*Both are recovering from injuries right now, though I think they should be good to go soon enough.

5. Gymnasts and makeup. I’m having a hard time with the amount of makeup my favorite U.S. gymnasts are wearing these days (including Aly). It’s the lipstick that bothers me the most. I just think the makeup belies what badass and exceptional athletes they are. I think about the U.S. women soccer players and the fact that they aren’t wearing any makeup (or at least I’ve never noticed it before) and I imagine what it would be like if they did—like if they all wore bright red lips. That would be ridiculous, right? I mean, who cares what you look like when you can throw a double layout as your third floor pass? But then, I guess there is an element of theater to gymnastics—at least on floor there is. So I suppose it makes some sense? It also makes sense when I think about college and all of that eyeliner I wore and all of the times I straightened my hair, you know, to look pretty, and I was only going to the barely off-campus bar (an evening which wasn’t being nationally televised). I also think about my desire to want to have a family, and to work, and to fit into a leotard my jeans, and YES, to look good doing it all. And I guess I can relate to my young gymnast heroes yet again. (For more on this line of thought, check out my recent post on Grizzly and Golden.) 6. Lastly, in the above section, I link to this commercial for Under Armour, which features three of our top gymnasts: Maggie Nichols, Madison Kocian, and MyKayla Skinner. All three have signed on to compete in college, at the University of Oklahoma, UCLA, and The University of Utah, respectively, and therefore all three didn’t/couldn't get paid for being in this commercial. I find that to be messed up.

Yours in garbage, food, and gymnastics,
Polenta and Broccoli Rabe Lasagna via the New York Times
serves SO MANY people

18 dry lasagna noodles (from 1 package)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
⅛ teaspoon red chile flakes, plus more for serving (optional)
1 28-ounce can or box chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
1 large bunch broccoli rabe (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 ¼ cups quick-cooking polenta (I used medium-grind cornmeal here, but you will need to tack on about 40 minutes of extra cooking time.)
18-ounce container mascarpone or fresh ricotta
4 ounces parmesan, finely grated (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size pieces
½ teaspoon black pepper

Place the lasagna noodles in a large bowl of cold water to soak (if you are using no-boil noodles, you can skip this step). Lightly oil a 9- by 13-inch baking pan.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and chili flakes; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and the basil. Remove from heat.

Remove the tough lower stem ends of the broccoli rabe. Cut the remaining stems, leaves and florets into 1-inch pieces. Fill a pot with 7 1/2 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt. Bring water to a boil and add the broccoli rabe. Cook 30 seconds, then use a slotted spoon to transfer broccoli rabe to a bowl.
Slowly whisk the polenta into the water. Simmer until polenta is thick and creamy, 5 to 10 minutes. (If  you opt against the quick-cooking polenta, just know that you're going to need to simmer and stir this for much longer--around 45 minutes total.) Add the mascarpone or ricotta, 1/2 cup parmesan and the butter, and stir until combined. Stir in the broccoli rabe.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange a single layer of lasagna noodles in the bottom of the pan. Tear or break any pieces as needed to fit them in one layer, with no overlapping. Top with a third of the polenta mixture, half the tomato sauce and a third of the mozzarella. Arrange a second layer of lasagna noodles over the mozzarella. Repeat layering of polenta, sauce and mozzarella. Arrange a final layer of noodles over the cheese and finish with the remaining polenta and mozzarella. Scatter 1/2 cup parmesan and the black pepper over the top.

Transfer casserole to the oven. Bake until cheese is golden and bubbling, 30 to 40 minutes. Let stand 20 minutes before serving. Serve with more chili flakes scattered on top, if you like.
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Video(s): Green Chicken Meatballs & Flourless Blondies

In the interest of catching you up with the most recent videos we’ve shot for mom.me, one of which is kosher for Passover, I’m giving you the elusive two-recipes-in-one blog post. 

First up are these chicken meatballs. Or as Teddy casually explains in the video, “me malls.” (Click HERE to go to video.)

I recommend you making them as soon as possible and then, if you’re like us, adding them to your semi-regular rotation of weeknight dinners. Only semi-regular because they do take longer to make than your average weeknight dinner, but they really are so worth it. And they’re entirely kid-friendly.

Second up are these flourless blondies. (Click HERE for the video, which, by the way, is probably my favorite one that we’ve done for mom.me to date as it really captures what it’s like to cook with a two-year-old.) I first made them when Isaac was just three weeks old and have since made them at least three more times.

Also, until very recently, Isaac was mercifully content to sleep through the majority of our shoots. However, as he’s rapidly growing it’s becoming clear that there will be more Isaac in them in the very near future. I mean, eventually, the show is going to have to be called “In the Kitchen with Amelia and Teddy and Isaac.” Right? Or perhaps: “In the Kitchen with Amelia and Teddy and Isaac and a Babysitter.” That has a nice ring to it.

Point being, make the blondies! They’re insane and kosher for Passover! Which is exactly how Matt and I usually feel while trying to shoot these videos (insane and kosher for Passover)!
Green Chicken Meatballs adapted from The New York Times

1 pound boneless chicken thighs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan or about 1-2 ounces from a Parmesan wedge
1 cup loosely-packed, chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 small onion or 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
a few grinds of fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
All-purpose flour for dredging
Store-bought tomato sauce
Dried spaghetti

Cut the chicken thighs into one- to two-inch chunks and place them in the freezer for a half-hour or so.

Pulse the Parmesan, parsley and onion in a food processor until everything is finely chopped. Add the egg, chicken, salt and pepper, and continue to pulse until the chicken is coarsely ground — almost as fine as ground chicken but not quite. Shape into one-inch meatballs.

Put the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. One by one, dredge the meatballs in the flour and add to the oil. Cook, turning as necessary, until nicely browned all over, 15 to 20 minutes.

When the meatballs are halfway cooked, heat up the tomato sauce in another large skillet and begin boiling the spaghetti according to the package directions.

Drain the spaghetti and toss it in the skillet of tomato sauce. Plate the spaghetti and top with a few meatballs and some more grated Parmesan.

Flourless Blondies adapted from My New Roots
Makes about 20 blondies

2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup almond butter, or another nut butter of your choosing
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. fine grain sea salt
3.5oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped
a pinch of salt, preferably sea salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°F.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla extract together. Set aside. In another bowl, combine the sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt, and baking soda.

Measure out the nut butter and place in a large bowl. Add the egg mixture to it and stir thoroughly to combine. Add the sugar mixture and fold together. The dough will be very thick. Add about half of the chopped chocolate, using your hands if necessary to incorporate.

Press the dough into a parchment-lined 8×8 inch baking pan. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate over the top and press slightly into the dough. Sprinkle all over with a pinch of salt and place in the oven.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the blondies are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan completely before cutting.
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Grapefruit and Lemon Bundt Cake

Citrus season is almost over, so in the interest of getting this post up in case you want to make this cake (and/or buy this book!) before the produce aisle / farmers' market completely turns on you, I'll make this quick.
Although, you know what's not quick? Making a cake with a 2-year-old and a 3-month-old in the house. In fact, I forgot to put the butter out to soften until I was about one-third of the way through this recipe, and when I finally did, I thought for sure I would have to pop it in the microwave for a few seconds, but no. By the time I actually got to the very next step of mixing the butter and sugar, it was hours later and my butter was quite nicely softened.

To be fair to me/us, this isn't your average bundt cake recipe. It's special. For example there are steps involving massaging zest into sugar and supreming fruit. But it is well worth it.
The original recipe calls for Meyer lemons, but despite having a Meyer lemon tree in our backyard, we used Eureka/regular lemons. (Our tree is presently fruitless. It had an off year.) The good news is that this recipe works great with Eureka lemons. (It also works great with the other necessary substitutions I made, like using one cup of whole wheat flour as I ran out of all-purpose.) The grapefruit I used, in case you're curious, was a Cocktail grapefruit. I'd seen them all winter long at my neighborhood store, Cookbook, and was glad to finally use one. The truth is I'm not a huge fan of grapefruit on its own, but I do like a grapefruit dessert. Also, sidebar, if you’ve got time and enjoy laughing, here’s a bit on grapefruit that I tend to agree with.

The resulting cake is pretty insane. It's so bright and almost pudding-like in places because of the pieces of fruit incorporated into the batter; the glaze that gets poured into it while it’s still warm doesn’t hurt either. I've been letting Teddy eat a small piece for breakfast. When I set it down in front of him, he yells, "Cake!" I'm a sucker for watching him get excited about food. (When I fry him an egg to eat with rice, I always show it to him before breaking it up into the rice and he says, "Wow.")
Point being, I can't wait to make more things from this beautiful book. Up next on my list is the rhubarb and rye upside-down cake. Congratulations, Yossy!
Oh and lastly, here's an iPhone photo wrap-up of Isaac's and my trip to North Carolina. 
Clockwise from left to rightIsaac right before his first flight ever. / As part of the festival, the culinary school hosted a Bon Appétempt-inspired dinner! This is the menu. / This was the cover of the menu. Ha! / The first course was their version of the very simple rice and eggs with broccolini recipe in my book. / The main course was a combination of my recipes for pasta carbonara and chicken cordon bleu. / The dessert was their version of my crepe cake. / Signing books was extra cool after three months of newborn-rearing. / Someday, I might tell you about the adventure that was my flight home from Charlotte to Los Angeles. But until then, here's a shot of Isaac asleep on me, somewhere over the continental United States.

Grapefruit and Lemon Bundt Cake adapted from Sweeter off the Vine by Yossy Arefi

For the cake:
1 medium grapefruit
2 medium lemons (The recipe calls for Meyer lemons, but I used regular old Eurekas.)
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter softened
6 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream at room temperature 
1/2 cup whole milk

For the glaze:
2 medium lemons
3 cups confectioners' sugar sifted
1 pinch salt

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325ºF (160ºC/Gas Mark 3). Butter and flour a 10-inch tube or Bundt pan very thoroughly.

To make the cake: Scrub the grapefruit and lemons with warm soapy water to remove any excess wax, then dry the fruit. Put the sugar into a medium bowl and zest the grapefruit and lemon directly into the sugar. Use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar until evenly distributed and fragrant.

Supreme the grapefruit and lemons: Cut the tops and bottoms off of all the fruits, then cut the white pith away from the outside of the fruit. Over a bowl, carefully cut the wedges of fruit away from the membrane, letting the fruit and juices fall into the bowl. Remove any seeds that have fallen in and gently break up the fruit into 1⁄2-inch pieces.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, mix the butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add half of the sugar and zest mixture and turn the mixer up to medium high. Mix for 2 minutes, then add the remaining sugar and mix for 4 minutes, making sure to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula periodically. The butter and sugar should be very light, fluffy, and fragrant.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing for about 30 seconds after each addition. Periodically stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

On low speed, add the sour cream and milk followed by the flour mixture, and mix until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently fold in the fruit segments and juices. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and tap the pan lightly on the counter to remove any large air bubbles.

Bake the cake until it is golden and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 60 to 75 minutes, depending on the pan. Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then carefully unmold it onto a rack to cool a bit more before glazing.

To make the glaze: Zest and juice the lemons. Add the zest, confectioners’ sugar, and a pinch of salt to a bowl. Whisk in about 6 tablespoons of the lemon juice. You want the glaze to be thick, but pourable. If the glaze seems too thick to pour, add a few more drops of lemon juice.

When the cake has mostly cooled, use a skewer to poke a few holes into its surface. Drizzle half of the glaze on top of the cake, let it soak in for about 20 minutes, then whisk the remaining glaze until smooth and pour it over the top of the cake. Let the glaze set for a few minutes before serving.

Store leftover cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.
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Chicken (in adobo) Tacos

Matt’s parents were here visiting last week, and I barely cooked at all. What’s more, in the ten days they were here, I only went to the grocery store twice and to Target once. That’s some kind of post-Isaac record for me. So what have I been doing with my extra free time? Writing? Not really. Mostly, I’ve spent it reading. I also got a haircut (and highlights!) and so that day, I spent a lot of time pumping milk and washing the parts to the pump. (Fortunately, I was able to do this sans Teddy’s “help,” which involves him rather invasively and annoyingly holding the two canisters collecting the milk.)

So many of the things I’ve been reading of late have been bleeding together, theme-wise. For example, this book, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nahesi Coates and this article, "The Crooked Ladder" by Malcolm Gladwell.

I’ve also re-read these essays a few times: "Find Your Beach" by Zadie Smith and "We’re not meant to do this alone: American individualism is destroying our families" by Tarja Parssinen. Both aren’t necessarily about this, but nevertheless spoke to me about a question I keep asking myself (in case you haven't noticed?), which is: What happens to one’s personal ambition (outside of the personal ambition of having a family) when one spends their day caring for a small child?

And after all that, I needed some David Sedaris. This piece cracked me up, especially in the places where I could hear him reading it aloud.

When I was getting that haircut, I read this essay and almost cried in my chair. The guy who cuts my hair is young and low-energy to the point of apathy—even about hair. He’s got a kind of non-ironic Zoolander vibe going on. He doesn’t have any kids and whether or not he wants any in the future feels like something he doesn’t spend too much time pondering, but even still, it took everything in me not to look up from the magazine, teary-eyed and ask, “Do you want to have children some day?”

If I had more time, I might write an essay about these essays. In fact, that’s what I’d started to do. But I quickly gave up. Right now, I think it’s more important for me to finish small tasks than begin large ones.

Next week I’m flying with Isaac to Charlotte, North Carolina to give a couple of readings as part of the Sensoria literary festival. I’m really excited—not about flying by myself with a 3-month-old. (How does one pee in one of those tiny restrooms with a baby? I guess I’ll find out!). I’m excited to feel like a person in the world and not just a caregiver. If you live in the area, I would love to see you there!

Now here’s the part in the post when I remember that I have a recipe to share with you. But please don’t take my forgetfulness for lack of enthusiasm. These tacos are perfect. When I have the energy to have friends over for dinner again, I will probably feed them these. Bonus: Teddy loved them too. Watch the video for proof!

p.s. Perhaps this screenshot from a moment in the video is an answer to my question about what happens to one’s personal ambition when one spends their day caring for a small child.
Chicken (in adobo) Tacos adapted from The New York Times

for the first part of the recipe: 
1.5 pounds boneless chicken thighs
1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
5 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 ancho or other mild dried chili, optional
3 peppercorns
½ teaspoon salt

for the second part of the recipe: 
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 or 3 chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped
3 tablespoons adobo sauce, from the can
½ cup broth (you can use the broth from simmered chicken)

Serve with:
corn tortillas
Thinly sliced radishes
Sliced avocado
Crumbled queso fresco or mild feta cheese
Sour cream
Cilantro sprigs
Lime wedges

Combine the first eight ingredients in a saucepan and add water to cover. Turn heat to high, bring to a boil, and skim any foam that comes to the surface. Partially cover and adjust heat so mixture simmers steadily. Cook until meat is very tender, about 30 minutes. Strain, reserving at least ½ cup of the broth.

Once chicken is cooled, shred it. Set aside.

Put the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the diced yellow onion, season with salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin and cook for 1 minute more. Add the chopped chipotle chile and adobo sauce and stir to combine. Add the shredded chicken and stir to coat. Add the chicken broth and simmer for 2 or 3 minutes, until sauce has thickened somewhat. Taste for seasoning.

Heat the tortillas briefly over a gas flame, and then build the tacos. Put a spoonful of the chicken in the center of each tortilla. Top with some radish and avocado slices, a teaspoon of queso fresco and a teaspoon of sour cream. Add a few cilantro sprigs and a few squeezes of the lime.
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Root Donburi

I wish I could pat myself on the back at the end of each day for accomplishing the major task of having semi-successfully taken care of my baby all day long, but sadly that never really feels like an accomplishment. Probably because taking care of a baby/child is one of those things you never actually cross off your to-do list.

And as a person who enjoys cooking as well as the feeling of accomplishment, I realized that making something new for dinner, even if it often exhausts me (and Matt) also makes me feel good.

That’s where this recipe comes in. I made it on a weeknight and instead of dinner at 6:30 and Teddy’s bath at seven, everyone’s schedule got pushed into dangerous, near-hangry territory. 
I was interested in this recipe for a few reasons.

1. I’ve been trying to eat a little healthier (read: fit comfortably into my pre-pregnancy clothing).
2. Because I was planning to go to one of the Japanese markets downtown anyway in order to get some masago for a different recipe.
3. I had some tofu I needed to use.
4. I like rice bowls.
5. I like eating rice-bowl leftovers for lunch.

Point being, this recipe delivered. I loved the combination of the vinegar, shoyu, and honey mixed into the warm rice. I also loved the simple idea of sautéing the sweet potatoes and tofu in sesame oil. It’s nothing too special on its own, but works really well with all of the other elements.

The problem with cooking all of these new dinners within this highly-draining life phase is that I’m pretty behind on reporting them back to you. Not to mention I’ve been wanting to write another gymnastics post. The Olympics are less than six months away! (I gotta start training again.)
Root Donburi adapted (mostly the quantities) from Heidi Swanson’s Near and Far
Serves 4

¼ cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon shoyu
4 cups cooked short-grain brown rice
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
3 medium carrots
2-3 tablespoons sesame oil
3-4 Persian cucumbers, seeded and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon umeboshi plum paste or a few umeboshi plums chopped/minced
1 avocado (optional)
1 lime (optional)
2 medium sweet potatoes peeled and cut into ¼-inch pieces
8 oz. extra-firm tofu, drained, cut into ¼-inch cubes
2 sheets toasted nori, crumbled [this didn't make it on for the above photos, but we did add it afterward]
1 cup green onions, thinly sliced

In a small bowl, stir together the vinegar, honey, and shoyu. Pour half of this mixture over the rice while it’s still warm. Mix well. Cover and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the sesame seeds, carrots, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and the remaining ½ teaspoon shoyu. Stir to combine and set aside. In another small bowl, combine the cucumber with the umeboshi paste and massage with your hands to combine.

In another small bowl, (if using) toss the diced avocado with the lime juice. Season with a few pinches of salt.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, combine the remaining tablespoon (or two) of oil. (I needed a little more oil because I was probably using more sweet potatoes than originally called for.) Toss to coat, cover, and sauté for a few minutes, stirring regularly, until the potatoes are golden and tender throughout. Push the potatoes to the side and addd the tofu to the pan. Cook until the tofu takes on a bit of color and is heated through, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat.

To serve, add a generous portion of rice to each bowl. Arrange neighborhoods of carrots, cucumber, and sweet potato tofu over the rice. Top each bowl with crumbled nori and green onions. Serve with the remaining sauce, allowing each person to season to their liking.
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