This post could have many other titles:
dinner for three
easy low-fat cassoulet
how i am so proud of myself…
This morning, during meditation, I made up a stew recipe. (Yes, this may seem odd… one doesn’t control the direction of one’s thoughts in the kind of meditation I do. I have grocery shopped, problem solved, and made other plans while meditating; still, coming up with a whole recipe IS unusual.)
Thus, this afternoon, I made it. And tonight, for the first time, Wife, Husband and Baby all ate the same thing for dinner (baby’s was pureed a bit, of course).
The cassoulet reference requires some explanation. I recently decided I wanted to make that dish for the first time. So I did what I do. I bought some ingredients I thought might go in it, based on advice from the ingredient purveyor — in this case the French guy who sells sausages and charcuterie at the Farmer’s Market (pork “bistro” sausage, duck leg confit, rendered duck fat, plus a leg of lamb from our favorite meat guys) I researched the internet, read six or seven recipes, and picked one that I mostly followed. And it mostly came out good, but the stuff I froze and reheated and cut with two more cans of diced tomatoes this week was better.
My other inspiration came from the lamb stew with yellow squash we ate at the Hoes Down Festival yesterday (photos to be posted soon — of the festival, not the stew). Jonah thought it was yummy.
He was even more impressed with the stew we had tonight.
Chicken and White Bean Stew
(a.k.a. low-fat cassoulet)
1 pound dry white beans (navy or cannellini or great northern beans — I don’t know if it makes a difference and I’m not sure which I used but I think it was the great northerns) soaked for 4 to 8 hours
1 large yellow onion
3 celery ribs
1 lb yellow crookneck squash
1-1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
dash of apple cider vinegar
2 large cloves garlic
1 T cumin
2 Bay leaves
several sprigs of fresh thyme
1 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach
grated jack cheese (or other mild white cheese)
olive oil for sauteeing
Soak beans for as long as you can. I thought of it this morning, so I soaked them from this morning, until about 3 p.m.
Chop and dice onions, celery, carrots. If you have time and the inclination, saute the onion first until it starts to caramelize, then add the carrots and celery. If you’re me, and you’re impatient this way, saute all of them together, in a big big pot. Also, olive oil is good, but if you have leftover rendered duck fat lying around (and who doesn’t?), add some of that too. Or butter. Yummy.
Once those veggies are soft, or when you’re ready, cube and add the squash to the saute. Toss in the cumin, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves — if you don’t want to fish out the twigs later, remove strip the thyme branches now and just sprinkle the leaves in. Mince the garlic cloves and add to the vegetables.
Reduce heat to low and cover.
Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottom fry pan, heat more olive oil. Cut raw chicken into cubes-ish and brown them in the oil. You may need to do this in batches. Add browned chicken pieces to the stew pot.
Deglaze the fry pan with a dash or two of apple cider vinegar on medium heat, scraping up pan drippings. Add this liquid to the stew pot.
Drain beans and discard soaking water. Add beans to stew pot with approximately 5 cups of fresh water. (If you have chicken stock on hand, you may want to substitute some or all of the water for that, which would give a richer flavor. But maybe too rich? I only used water and it was delish.)
Bring stew to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer on stove top for 2-3 hours, until beans are soft and flavors have melded, or after boiling, place stew pot, top on, in a 350 degree oven for 2-3 hours (which is what I did). Check to make sure liquid hasn’t boiled off. Reduce heat if needed and/or add more water — I reduced oven heat after two hours to 300 degrees.
Towards the end of the cooking time, add frozen spinach and continue cooking until spinach is defrosted.
Before serving, remove thyme branches and bay leaves. And, sprinkle with grated jack cheese.
For serving to baby, puree to desired chunkiness or smoothness with a hand blender.
As I mentioned, the stew was a huge hit with the little one. How do I know? When he really likes a food, he makes these super excited grunting noises and smack smack kissy faces with his mouth between bites.
A far cry from his opinion of lunch. We have been sampling the “Happy Baby” brand of frozen organic baby food cubes — since we had a two-for-one coupon. We gave him the chicken stew with vegetables and mango to try and we pretty much had to fight with him to get him to eat it. Not that we force food on him, but some meals, there’s a lot of ambivalence: shaking head no, opening mouth, opening mouth for more, shaking head no again, spitting, opening mouth for more.
Not exactly a standing O.
So, I froze some of my homemade stew puree into cubes. Just saying, I could see this being a very popular item in stores, if it were available.
After dinner, we all three shared a pear. Between dinner and dessert, Jonah held out his fingers for kisses on the tips — which makes him giggle.
And then he had his bath. This isn’t a post about sleep or routines, but it is remarkable to me (so I will remark here) that we have become people who give our baby a bath every night before bed. Now that he’s scooching all over the floors and decorating his face and hair with solid food at mealtimes, it’s basically a requirement. He still enjoys a book (or five) before bed, but now, instead of rocking or singing or being put down in any form of partially awake, he just nurses himself to sleep. I didn’t have any choice in the matter. I swear. I heard him say to me “No problem, ma’am, I’ll take it from here,” one night, and that’s how it’s been ever since.