She was sitting on the edge of the pool, waiting for her turn at swim lessons and was completely sausaged into her swimsuit. Her longer body stretching the length of the bathing suit so that the chest of it was too low and the straps looked stressed. Beautiful, tender, winter skin against that mustard yellow daisy print. Cleo waves at me, looking like such a… girl.
She turned six a few weeks ago and while we are dancing in the kitchen to the Encanto soundtrack and mixing up our “b’s” and “d’s” , our conversations are about friendships at school and what happens when you die. She is both little and big to me. Motherhood is a wild whiplash. Each one of those days, while the bathing suit became too small, felt like nothing, but is also the compilation of so many small moments. I’m having a bit of a time with my own insecurities and watching them find their way at school and with people. My kids growth, tangled up and digested through my own. It’s just like the moms before me said, the challenges never go away, they just change. I see this girl of mine growing, still needing me, but also moving towards my role as support, instead of the lead. Yessss, I know she’s young, but I can see it. A small shift, the ones you can miss if you’re not paying attention.
January used to be a month of goals all organized on paper – less sugar and new tennis shoes to get moving but this one felt… observant. Curious. Asking what I want, and what my family needs, as opposed to the more/better mentality that a new year sells you. I want to take a few classes, read books to learn things – parts of history that didn’t stick through school, or Spanish so I can help my kids with homework without so much google translation. We need a vacation that feels different, exciting. I learned from our covid quarantine week that we need more time just playing and hanging, as opposed to schedules and sports and social plans that I naturally tend towards. That includes me, stopping, not wiping down counters when I can afford to sit and compose some legos, or bead for a bit instead. I can feel and see a different season with my kids and while I definitely prefer it to toddlerhood (preach!), it feels like things are moving quickly and I’ll have to stay connected to myself, to see these simple, magical moments with my family.
With that said, let me share this casserole that went over really well with my Sprouted Kitchen Cooking Club folks. It’s two pans and veggies that can be swapped and kid friendly because who doesn’t love orzo? I delivered one to a friend who said it stretched for two meals, so keep this in your back pocket for delivery.
Anyway. From my tender heart to yours this month, hope you are healthy and well and feeling hopeful about this next year. Cheers.
BROCCOLI + MUSHROOM ORZO BAKE // Serves 6
It’s like a mac n cheese-ish pasta bake but with some vegetables in it. My kids like broccoli, but you could get away with whatever your people like in similar volume, and cooked before adding it in. So long as the mushrooms are super small, I can squeeze those by them. Sub in peas or hunks of cooked butternut squash or add in 1/2 lb. of browned Italian sausage if you prefer an animal protein in there.
If you’re making this to deliver or freeze, assemble everything through the panko parm topper, and wrap it in foil. Pass along directions to bring it to room temperature before baking.
2 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil or butter
1 small yellow onion – chopped small
8 oz. of mushrooms – wiped clean, super well chopped
3 cloves of garlic – minced
2/3 cup of white wine
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tsp. of fresh thyme leaves
3 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 lb. of orzo (about 1 heaping cup)
10 oz. of broccoli florets – steamed & chopped
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1 lemon – zested
4 oz. of grated fontina or Italian cheese blend
1 cup of panko
1/4 cup of parmesean
extra virgin olive oil
fresh parsley – chopped
Grease an 8” pan or 10” oven-proof skillet. Preheat the oven to 400’.
In a large Dutch oven or skillet over medium, heat your oil or butter. Add the onion, and sauté a few minutes until tender. Add the mushrooms, garlic, big pinches of salt and pepper and sauté another 5 minutes, until the liquid is released and you get some browning. Stir in the wine and cook another 5 minutes to cook down. Stir in the pepper flakes, thyme, and turn off the heat.
In another pot, heat the broth to a gentle boil. Add the orzo and cook for about 7 minutes until just tender. Yes, it will absorb most of the moisture.
Transfer the orzo and any residual broth to the pot with the mushrooms. Add the steamed broccoli, cream, lemon zest, cheese and another pinch of salt and pepper. Fold everything to combine. It should be loose.
Transfer the mixture to your prepared pan. Sprinkle the panko and parm on top, and drizzle it with olive oil (it can be refrigerated for a day or frozen at this point. Bring the refrigerated one to room temperature before baking. Cook the frozen one, covered for 25 then uncovered for 20). Bake for 20 minutes, uncovered, until the top is golden brown.
Garnish with fresh herbs.
The entire casserole can be assembled up to a day in advance and baked just before serving. It can be frozen pre-bake as well.
Use It Twice
This makes a lot of food, would be a great one to double and gift or freeze for later.
So long as you get your mushrooms and broccoli small, mine loved it!
Jovial makes a cassava-based orzo. It can get gummy, but I think it will still work here. It’s possible a long-grain brown rice would work here, too. I would just steam it before assembling, and add two eggs in there if you can to help it hold some shape.