Saturday, April 29, 2017

Lentil Tacos

Does anyone else take issue with the whole regimented food schedule we all suddenly seem to be on? As if I didn't have enough irrational guilt about missing some of the lesser kid-centric holidays, I'm now a Communist if I'm not having Tacos on Tuesday, a donut on the randomly selected day to honor its contribution to society or find myself inhaling a meatball sub with emphasis on the "meat" part on a Monday. It's too much! I have no idea where this all came from but my inner child does NOT want to be told what to wear, what to eat or how often to floss. That being said, we did find ourselves eating tacos...on a Tuesday and my love for alliteration won out, leaving me to do a little shimmy to the table while carrying plates and singing a stupid song about tacos. 

Whenever the option of tacos comes up we come back to this lentil mixture. It goes over well with everyone and the leftovers are versatile enough to find their way into breakfast burritos and nachos. I'm guessing you can grind it in a blender or just mash it but I can't vouch for that - if you have an immersion blender, that's the best choice and if not, it may be a good investment to make (single serving smoothies and shakes!) 

If you have the time, sprouting lentils can be an excellent way to get their nutritional benefits while making them easier to digest. If you'd like to try it, here is a tutorial

  • 2 cups French green lentils, rinsed, sorted through and soaked in water for 2-12 hours then drained, rinsed and dried with a dishtowel
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced small
  • 1 large red pepper, diced small
  • 2 large carrots, shredded (best) or diced small
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons mild chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 4-5 cups chicken broth (vegetable broth or water will work, too)
  • 3 tablespoons olive, avocado oil or mild coconut oil

Heat a large skillet that also has a lid on medium high heat and add the cooking oil. When the oil has thinned, add the onion, pepper, carrots and garlic. Reduce heat slightly and stir until the onions become translucent. Add the chili powder, cumin and salt, then stir continuously to toast the spices without burning them. Add the tomato paste and lentils, give them a quick stir, then stir in 1 cup of the broth and lower heat to medium low. Add another cup of broth, give another stir and cover the skillet, allowing the mixture to stay at a low simmer. When the liquid has mostly evaporated, 5-10 minutes, add another cup of liquid and cover again. Continue to do this until the vegetables are softened and the lentils are still a bit toothsome but have a soft, chewy consistency. Add more salt to taste, then remove the skillet from the stove and have an immersion blender ready. Using a spatula, scrape the mixture into a pile in the middle of the pan and insert the blender, pulsing to create a meat-like texture. Continue scraping and blending until most of the lentils have been incorporated, adding a bit more liquid if the mixture seems dry or too crumbly. 

We like to serve our tacos on soft corn tortillas with chili lime coleslaw, avocado, grated raw cheese, salsa and a healthy squeeze of lime. This recipe makes quite a bit, so you'll likely have leftovers. To reheat the lentil filling, put in a small pan with a bit of water, stir and heat over low medium heat. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Freaks and Geeks

On a trip to the library a few months ago I snatched up a Lucky Day copy of Judd Apatow's book, "Sick in the Head." As someone who loves nothing more than to ask people deeply personal, rapid-fire questions until they fake a phone call and slink away, I love to read interviews and have a special fondness for books containing nothing but (Terry Gross, Studs Terkel, etc). I really enjoyed Apatow's relaxed, genuinely interested interview style but my absolute favorite piece from the book was Apatow going deep on the show Freaks and Geeks; how Paul Feig came up with the idea, the casting, the production, the constant obstacles created by a disinterested network and especially, the excessive lengths the show's creators went to in order to keep the young, unknown cast as authentic and grounded as possible.

Reading the book demanded that I spend the next few weeks rewatching the show whenever I could. Outside of The Wonder Years and My So-Called Life I can't think of many other shows that manage to capture the cringe-worthy, heartbreaking and absurd moments of adolescence so perfectly. I let my oldest son watch a few scenes - the one where Sam attempts to become the school mascot in order to get closer to Cindy Sanders, Bill Haverchuck pranking Coach Fredricks as retaliation for the cruel, humiliating use of the "choosing teams" PE model. He laughed, even though he didn't really get it. And that's okay. I do know that in the next 3 or 4 years we'll have mandatory viewings of the show in it's entirety (separately, we only have so much saved for his future therapy) so he can see that, yes, this is how it is, and how it's always been and, more importantly, see? it could always be so, so much worse. This show holds an added amount of street cred since every plot line in each episode was actually inspired by real life events. The writers, early on, were asked to write down their most humiliating, saddest, hilarious moments which were later read aloud and then used in the show.

If you've watched the Freaks and Geeks you'll know the genius apparent in each episode but if you have not, I cannot recommend a weekend binge session enough. Cancelled long before its time, Freaks and Geeks went out on a very high note, with the last episode largely centered around The Grateful Dead's American Beauty album. Even the most Dead-indifferent viewer will be unable to deny the power of that record and its significance - historical and musical. Although American Beauty was released in 1970 and Freaks and Geeks centers around the 1980-81 school year, the sentiment of the songs still manage to perfectly encapsulate the feelings of restlessness, angst and anticipation found at the end of high school each year. Another longstanding truth, right up there with book-checking and lame parents.

As someone who never really felt much for The Grateful Dead as a teen, my indifference was quickly turned to loathing thanks to an especially awful boyfriend who found a way to work his travels with The Dead into nearly every conversation. Long after the boyfriend was gone, the opening twang of "Truckin'" still managed to call up a retching noise and a quick flip of the dial. But several years ago, when I finished the final episode of Freaks and Geeks I felt compelled to play American Beauty in its entirety and was reminded that the most annoying Dead-heads often overshadow the brilliance of the band itself. And so, just like I listen to the Almost Famous soundtrack the first stormy fall day each year, I've found American Beauty speaks perfectly to the end of school, for parents and teens alike. I take a long drive, turn it on, and am instantly transported back to those years of tedious days behind a desk, limping your way through end of year assignments when you would rather be nearly anywhere else, the sun staying longer each day, building anticipation to the coming summer when anything is possible and ambitious plans can be thwarted only by lack of money, an empty gas tank, summer school and parents who refuse to understand what summer is really about...doing nothing and everything all at once, with the day not fully culminating until 2-4 am. It's a feeling that never truly dies, it only goes dormant with the reality of jobs, schedules, mortgage payments and regular dental visits. "Box of Rain" and "Friend of the Devil" are ubiquitous and basically serve as the musical equivalent of the first glass of wine. The start of "Ripple" always forces a lump in my throat and makes me turn the volume up, not wanting to miss a single word:

Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow
Reach out your hand if your cup be empty
If your cup is full may it be again
Let it be known there is a fountain
That was not made by the hands of men
There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone

Even Robert Hunter, who wrote the song, cites the lyrics to "Ripple" as his personal favorite and it serves as the perfect lead in to "Brokedown Palace." Those two songs remind us that as much as certain Dead songs have a strong Country influence, the message is very different; while a classic Country song bemoans the singer's state of affairs and warns of a hopeless future, the Dead advocate a rueful sort of optimism that encourages transcending whatever ails you and dancing instead, no matter how bleak the outlook and "Truckin'" becomes the grand finale and mantra for American Beauty. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Spring Break 2017

I'm sitting in bed for a bit today while the toddler naps and the two oldest boys take over the living room. Occasionally the sounds of crinkling paper and whatever show they are watching are interrupted by a fit of coughs, a throat clearing or a trio of sneezes. Being here, again, in the role of nurse and servant was not on my agenda but what this winter has lacked in moisture it has definitely made up for in ick. I thought we were all past this latest bug after we fell, one by one, several weeks in a row but nope, at the start of our Spring Break we caught the newest incarnation and disappointment ensued. 

For as long as I can remember my birthday has fallen on Spring Break, which I loved as a kid. Then, for seven or eight years it didn't matter because when you're a single, childless, working person a week off at the end of March is generally just wishful thinking. Once kids come into the picture there is a pressure and a need to mark the transition in some way - the arrival of spring feels both hopeful and congratulatory, a celebration for having made it through another winter of lost mittens, errant ice balls thrown "by mistake" that do just enough damage to get the game shut down, freezing early mornings trying to shove the damn car seat buckle through the extra bulk of a snow suit and feet like icicles being warmed on an unsuspecting spouse in the middle of the night. Generally, I think we do pretty good. I give my husband endless credit for his constant optimism and determination to honor the week and try, in whatever way possible, to make my birthday stand out. Typically alternating between Santa Fe and Salida, this year was a "mountain year" and we had plans to spend the week with our neighbor buddies, who own a house in downtown Salida. We often joke that we are simply driving two and a half hours to recreate what we have at home in Golden (rushing water, walking to town for coffee, a large mountain with its initial labeled at the peak standing sentry right outside our front windows) but still, we loaded up mountain bikes and skis and headed out. With four boys between us, the trip was off to a rocky start - two of them feeling crummy with fevers the first day. Despite our cabin fever, we rallied the two kids left bouncing off the walls and did our best to salvage the time outside while still entertaining and attending the two sickies parked on the couch armed with an ipad, a remote and a platoon of tea mugs. By Friday morning another kid was down for the count and a storm was rolling in so, we decided to save ourselves and head home. Once we were unpacked we collectively agreed the trip had been a bust as far as group adventures go but I was grateful for a few days of solo bike rides, coffee dates with my guy and frequent trips to my favorite vintage shop to make sure I hadn't missed any gems in the $5 record bin. I'll look back fondly on those afternoons spent chatting with my good friend, when time seemed to stand still in the way that only sick kids can cause, their low energy creating a vacuum for whatever motivations we may have to get out, to see something, do something or be productive. 

However "meh" this last break may have been, it was a break nonetheless and also reminded me of last year's trip to Santa Fe, in a gorgeous house just outside the city with sagebrush covered hills as far as the eye could see, and our perch from up high served as theater seating for every sunrise and sunset. I woke up early one morning to spread my beloved Uncle's ashes and the boys spent hours and hours beating down the dirt roads on bikes and on foot. Every window in that house seemed to hold a view unlike any of the others and we dutifully followed the owners' instructions on plant care in the sunroom, determined NOT to be the ones who killed off the gorgeous blooms growing from floor to ceiling. That week was a stream of visits to Santa Fe favorites - Whoo's Donuts, rosemary garlic fries and mochas at Chocolate Maven, forcing ourselves to deviate from our standard orders at Bumble Bee's Baja Grill, drinking margaritas in the courtyard of The Shed and taking an incredible day trip to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument that felt so surreal we were all left a little speechless. 

No matter how off the rails this last trip may have gone I don't need a redo...just a morning to look back on past travels and start daydreaming about next year. 

If you're curious about the house we stayed in, check it out here

Monday, February 6, 2017

Women's March, 2017

In the weeks since the Women's March swept through cities across the globe I've found myself reflecting on it almost daily. My initial resolve to attend the March in DC when it was announced quickly began to deflate when the realities of airfare, limited hotels and adult responsibilities began to set in. Feeling down, I immediately rallied at the announcement of the marches happening in cities across the US, including Denver. As the march neared, it seemed more and more likely that my husband's flight home would be delayed and I would be toting three kids, including a toddler, along with me and I'll admit, it felt very daunting. But then, the skies parted and he found a flight that would put him home in the very early morning hours of Saturday and relieved, I put my two oldest boys (10 and 6) to work crafting their signs. 

As we thought of sayings that were impactful and meaningful to us personally, lots of hilarious phrases found their way to the cutting room floor, including my favorite, "I had to get up early on a Saturday morning to march for you dumb girls." :) Ultimately, we each found something to say that we felt could, in some tiny way, reflect how we felt about the current ails of our country. 

The morning of the march my eldest felt hesitant and a little put out, giving lots of subtle hints that he would not be heartbroken in the least to sit this one out. As I began to waffle about how much I should pep talk him into the car, my husband assured me that going was the right choice - even if he sulked the entire time, it was a moment not to be missed and an important initiation into the new world order that his generation is being forced to inherit. They will not be afforded the luxury of indifference and ignorance that we kids of the '80s and '90s enjoyed. And while we've made every effort to shield them from the majority of current political nonsense, fairness and justice for all is a message that all kids can get behind (thank you, Harry Potter!) so why not ease them into activism in the most positive and supportive way possible? 

Once we had filled our car with our lovely neighbor, Alison and our friends Robyn, Piper and Sophie, the atmosphere turned much more festive. As we passed packed bus stop after packed bus stop en route to downtown, the kids waved and cheered more loudly to the small groups waiting - excited, pussy hats on, a cup of something warm in one hand, a sign in the other. When we drove past the assembling crowd at the park on our way to meet friends, one of the kids had made a comment about Donald Trump and we had all reiterated that this march was not about that - it was about the building of something much bigger, not the tearing down of someone. He was not on today's agenda. And just then, as if on cue, a twenty-something walked in front of our car hoisting a sign that read, "Impeach the Cheeto" above a very impressive likeness of Trump, complete with Cheeto hair. We all laughed and agreed that despite what we'd just discussed, that was objectively funny. Then we were back to the high road. 

By the time we met up with other friends and began our walk downtown the air felt more and more surreal. I couldn't see the storefronts and traffic on Colfax, only the fellow marchers, in all shapes, sizes and colors, that trooped to Civic Center Park all around us. At one point, I had a moment of realization, "Wow. This must be what football fans feel like at the Superbowl." 

Later I would hear from friends that they had avoided the march with their young children because they feared the potentially aggressive nature of the crowds, the crudeness of the signs...but it really was not like that at all. Once we joined the mass at the park, the air was humming with positivity and excitement. Finally, after all these weeks of frustration, anger, fear and uncertainty we were doing something! Even if we were only standing around, ogling the thousands of signs, feeling the crowds grow and swell all around us, it was something. It was camaraderie, reassurance and exhilaration. The longer we stood, the more restless the kids became and we took turns doling out snacks and assuring them that we would, at some point, start actually marching. Every 15 or 20 minutes, a cheer would erupt from the crowd somewhere up ahead of us and a jolt of electricity would make it's way to us where we would jump up and down in excitement, "This is it! Here we go!" But no. We could not figure out why we weren't moving - the 15 feet we would shuffle every 10 minutes or so did not cut it for the kids, or for us. As we discussed alternate routs, future planning, etc in the way that only a large group of women can, we saw a stream of people begin to break away and circumvent the Denver Post building to meet up with the marchers a few blocks down. We quickly jumped into the moving crowd and felt reenergized. We would later find out that the severe traffic jam was caused by the more than 200,000 people who congregated that day, rather than the 10,000 that were initially projected, the entire city seemingly covered in a sea of pink that would have made Shelby from "Steel Magnolias" awfully proud. 

At some point, one of the kids mentioned donuts and once we had "marched" for a few blocks and done some math to calculate what time we needed to be on the road for afternoon activities, we decided that they'd gotten a sufficient dose of Fighting the Man and headed for VooDoo Doughnuts, the kids no longer limply dragging their signs, but waving them high over head to the chant of, "What do we want? DONUTS! When do we want 'em? NOW!" Next door to VooDoo Doughnuts, the awesome ladies bar, Blush 'n Blu, was collecting signs to display on the walls and we proudly forked ours over, all hands free to hold coffee and doughnuts as we made it the rest of the way to the car. I'll forever remember that day as a turning point in politics and activism - America's and my own - and be grateful for the dear friends we took to the streets with. 

During the march I was reminded of the insane power a collective shift in energy can bring and laugh if you will, it took me right back to my raver days, a sudden, life-changing epiphany striking me as I danced my heart out in my usual place at the speaker on the right of the DJ booth. The march was both medicine and motivation. It was also, contrary to its billing - not solely a women's march, a Tawanda-induced fervor of angry women ovulating and succumbing to hot flashes. It was a celebration and a stand for women and all who know them, love them and see their vital necessity in this world. Not just as vessels for birthing children or objects of sexual desire, but as the slow fires and the nurturers of this universe. We may not always have the answers but we know how to listen, we genuinely care...and we're also really fucking smart. As a friend later commented, every type of underwear humanly possible was represented at those marches, from diapers to Depends and everything in between. 

Later that day, as we hustled to a soccer tournament, I found myself alone in the car with a momentarily introspective 10-year-old. "I"m so glad I went today," he said. I told him I was glad, too. "And," he added, "I really liked it. Which is good, because I think we'll be doing things like this a lot more." Indeed you will.