Short(er) and sweet

January 14,2009
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

I feel as though my last two posts have been extra long-winded, and weightier-than-usual--but it's an emotional week when your littlest one turns five--emotional in wonderful and wistful ways, too. So I thought today I'd put up something short and sweet. Classes start this morning, and the rest of the week will be a whirlwind of activity--work and home and party-planning, with a potentially unpleasant 7:30 a.m. IEP meeting thrown in on Friday, for good measure. I'm sure the rest of the week's posts will be slightly hysterical ones about the follies of deciding to organize a birthday party for 18 four- and five-year-olds. Today, more than other days, I have been aching for a snow day. The weather has turned cold and downright arctic, but there is no snow forecast--just lots of sunshine and bitterly cold weather. I ache inside for one of those mornings when you half-awaken, and peer out the window to see the world blanketed in a quiet grey-white hush, and you can sink back into your soft pillow, snuggle a bit deeper into your blanket, and sleep a little longer. Even as an adult I still get that same happy/excited feeling at the prospect of a snow day--except now I want it for my kids more than I want it for myself. I want my kids to scatter snowy footprints all over my kitchen floor when they come in from outside. I want to ladle sweet hot cocoa into their mugs, and play Scrabble in front of the fireplace (with a fire burning, of course). I think I ache all the more for a snow day when I'm poised to return to classes, and each week I feel as if I'm standing at the edge of a rapidly flowing river, trying not to get swept away by the water rushing past. I find myself turning more and more toward warm comfort foods, the types of food that would warm up our insides on a snowy afternoon. As I meal-plan these days, I find myself including more and more oven-baked dishes, and definitely ones that cook slowly, infusing my home with warm smells and a steady, almost tangible comfort. Last winter I discovered the whole grain quinoa, and while googling recipes, I also discovered a recipe for quinoa pudding. After sifting through a few recipes, I settled on one that I adapted somewhat. Don't be afraid of quinoa--it has a toasty taste to it, and the pudding, a glorious golden mix of cinnamon and raisins and walnuts, is divine when served with a drizzle of honey. We've had this pudding for dinner, with cooked gingery carrots on the side, and the pudding is perfect reheated in the morning for a super-start to the day. You can also cook the quinoa ahead of time, as I did this morning, and put together the pudding when you get home--timing it for 4:00, that witching hour in households with kids, when you need a little cinnamon and honey to chase away those mid-afternoon demons. Quinoa Pudding 1/2 cup organic sugar 2 tablespoons soft butter (I use butter substitute), plus butter/margarine for greasing the pan 2 eggs 1 cup milk (I use vanilla soy milk) 1 tablespoon vanilla 1 teaspoon cinnamon Pinch of salt 2 cups cooked quinoa 1/2 cup toasted nuts (I use walnuts, but hazelnuts and even almonds would be fine) Optional: 1/2 cup raisins or currants (I'm not a huge fan of cooked raisins in things--a carryover from the days when my dad would cook soupy oatmeal with raisins for us on a school days.) Preheat the oven to 350. Cream butter and sugar together. Stir in eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and a dash of salt until blended. Add quinoa, nuts, raisins (if using) and mix thoroughly. Butter a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish, or individual ramekins. Pour the custard mixture into the the dish and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake for 40 minutes until set. Serve with a drizzle of honey. And how about you? What winter dishes make you think about snow days, and warm fires, and winter comforts?