I always wonder about bloggers. Like: What do they do in their real lives? How do they make time to post regular recipes? And quite importantly, what do they make for dinner on a normal night? So I realize that this post may be assuming too much — for example, that you’re interested in what I was doing at 10:20 a.m. the other day – but just in case this comes across as a completely normal post, here it is: A day in the life of me. Welcome.
Scene: The Simon caravan
- Tali: mama bear, freelance editor, food blogger
- Aaron: papa bear, with a job description longer than two words
- Big Boy: baby bear #1, age 19 months
- Baby Girl: baby bear #2, age 5 weeks
5:20 a.m.: Baby Girl starts to stir. I wake with a start, as I always do, hoping to get to her before she cries and wakes up her brother sleeping soundly on the other side of the caravan.
6:00 a.m.: She’s finished her bottle (and no crying yet). I put her back in her crib and go fill the washing machine with a load. I can’t believe the first thing I’m doing today is laundry. Every few minutes, I go back to the baby, who looks like she needs to burp. I try and try but no luck, so I rock her for a couple of minutes and then just put her back down. Maybe I can get some work done before the day really starts…
6:27 a.m.: Never mind. She’s still not settled. I try all the burping positions I can think of and give up on working until later. I hadn’t even turned on the computer, anyway.
6:52 a.m.: The baby is finally calm. About a minute after I put her down, I hear a little voice call, “Mama?” I walk down the hall and go say good morning to Big Boy. He hands me his pacifier, which is his ticket out. I change him, get him dressed, and put suntan lotion on him for the day.
7:15 a.m.: Big Boy climbs into his high chair and gladly takes the bottle of milk I hold out. Afterward, I set him up with his new coloring book (a gift from one of his aunties) and a few crayons while I put away the dishes I washed last night.
8:35 a.m.: He “helps” me wheel Baby Girl’s crib into the main room, where it will stay for the rest of the day. I should think about taking off those quote marks, though. He’s actually really good at walking backwards while pulling the crib by its bars.
9:30 a.m.: Big Boy had his breakfast of white bean dip on rice cakes (is that weird?), and I’ve changed and dressed the baby. Now I’m reading him books while I give her a bottle. A third hand would be useful right about now.
10:20 a.m.: The floor is full of toys. My husband, who is working from home today, comes into the kitchen to make eggs for breakfast. Big Boy wants some, too, so I scramble one egg with some cheese and put him back in his high chair. I grab two carrot spice muffins for myself and manage to get halfway through the second one before I put it aside so I can read Big Boy his favorite alphabet book.
10:55 a.m.: The babysitter comes to take Big Boy out for an hour. I have a huge project due at the end of the week, and I’ve arranged for four hours of babysitting over the next few days to help me make the deadline. I love that this babysitter always arrives five minutes early and brings back my big-little boy precisely on time.
11:05 a.m.: I turn on the a/c, put Baby Girl in her musical seat, and double-click on my work files. I have 54 minutes to work … let’s hope the baby cooperates.
12:19 p.m.: I’m in the middle of lunch, otherwise known as midday negotiations, with Big Boy. I succeed in getting him to eat a black bean veggie burger by giving him spoonfuls of (sugar-free) grape granita after every bite. He’s overdue for his nap and is totally exhausted (hey, me too!). I put him in his crib and get ready to return to work.
12:30 p.m.: Are these kids in cahoots? As soon as he’s asleep, she wakes up to eat.
12:54 p.m.: I take advantage of a pause in her feeding to feed myself something: two brownies from Shabbos, straight from the freezer.
1:36 p.m.: Big Boy has been asleep for an hour (and I’ve been working only half that time) when Baby Girl makes a loud yelp. He hears her and starts crying, at which point she promptly goes back to sleep. I wait a few minutes and then go into his room to comfort him. When I leave, he’s still crying.
1:43 p.m.: It’s a miracle! He fell back asleep! I resume working.
1:49 p.m.: I know I should keep working with two hands, but I feel guilty having the baby in her musical seat or crib for too long. I pick her up and try to work as usual. Mmm hmm.
2:13 p.m.: Big Boy is awake for real, and not happy about it. For reasons I only wish I understood, he’s screaming, crying, and refusing every attempt at consolation. My husband takes a break from work and comes over to calm him down. Abba magic works like a charm.
3:51 p.m.: Big Boy is opting to play in his room instead of eat, so I go find myself a snack instead. Pickings are kind of slim, but I’ll take what I can get, so brown rice, peas, and Bissli it is. Soon enough, he walks over saying, “nom nom nom!” He wants my Bissli but I tell him that it isn’t for little boys, a statement he seems to accept as fact. He eats a decent amount of the rice and peas.
5:00 p.m.: A woman collecting tzedaka knocks on the front door, and after explaining why she’s collecting, tells me to watch out for Big Boy’s fingers, which are hovering perilously close to the door hinges. I look down, and lo and behold, she’s right. When she leaves a minute afterward, I tell Big Boy that we’re going to get ready to go to the park, and he tries to expedite the process by bringing me my shoes. They’re my Shabbos shoes, but he totally gets an A for effort.
5:45 p.m.: Baby Girl had to eat, so we still haven’t left. At this point, I figure it makes sense to cook Big Boy’s dinner so that I can feed him as soon as we get home. One seared tilapia fillet, coming right up.
5:55 p.m.: Two kids in the stroller, one packed diaper bag in tow, one tired mama thanking her lucky stars for her City Mini double. From the way this thing pushes, you’d never know there’s a six-kilo difference between the two sides.
6:39 p.m.: Makolet run for eggs, milk, and melon? Check. Stop at the park so Big Boy can go on the swings? Check. See at least half a dozen neighbors on the way there and back? Check. Now back at home, Baby Girl is in her crib and starting to fuss. I pull the crib closer to Big Boy, where he’s sitting in his high chair and finishing his fish. As if on cue, he leans over to her and says gently, “coo coo!” (= cootchie cootchie coo). Seriously the highlight of my day.
7:25 p.m.: Big Boy is in bed and the baby is chilling with my husband, so it’s time to start dinner. I’m working on a sweet potato cream sauce recipe to serve with pasta. Tonight’s test run is just about flavor; I’m not taking measurements at all. It’s delicious, though I might have drenched my noodles in sauce. Baby toes for dessert.
9:01 p.m.: I know I should put the baby in the carrier if I want to be productive, but my back is killing me so I settle her in my left arm and start editing blog photos with my right arm.
9:31 p.m.: My husband is on the phone with good friends who live in the south when a siren goes off in their community — once again, they’re under rocket fire. I don’t know how these families keep going.
9:45 p.m.: I take a break from working on the blog to feed the baby. I should get back to real (read: editing) work after this, but it’s so late and I don’t have that kind of energy.
10:18 p.m.: My husband replaces the batteries in the baby’s musical seat and she stays asleep when I buckle her into it. I wash the dishes and it somehow becomes 11:00 p.m.
12:02 a.m.: Have I been working on this post for an hour? What? I need to go to sleep! I’m so tired, but I love being with the kids and I feel really lucky that this is my day-to-day reality.
And there you have it! If you made it this far, you get a prize. See you guys soon with a new recipe.
I’m still processing what happened this afternoon.
A friend and I took our kids to a tatzpit (lookout) on the outskirts of the yishuv. The big boys shared a peanut butter sandwich and explored the area while baby girl hung out in her pink sunhat (and pink onesie and pink shorts, and don’t worry, the pink socks were in the diaper bag). We were headed for home, walking side by side with our City Minis, when the siren started.
It took a second for it to click: we were out in the open, not close enough to a house or building of any kind to make it in time, and there was a rocket somewhere in the vicinity, coming towards us.
We ran, pushing the strollers over to a cluster of boulders off the road, hoping they would offer some protection if we needed it and knowing there wasn’t any other viable option anyway. As we crouched there, I reached inside my stroller, one hand over each kid, trying desperately to cover them. All I could think about was that my babies were in danger and I couldn’t do enough to protect them.
A few minutes later, still in those positions, we heard the boom. I have no idea how far away it was and how far the sound could have traveled… The last time that rocket fire escalated into war, back in November 2012, I was in my ninth month with our first. This time, as the mother of a toddler and a baby, it feels a lot different.
What does a creamy swiss chard mushroom bake have to do with war? Nothing, really. It has more to do with total deliciousness. The inspiration for this dish was the pashtida (crustless quiche) that one of our neighbors brought us soon after baby girl was born. We loved it from the first bite, and I knew I’d be recreating it before long. This dish is cheesy, creamy comfort food that’s light enough for a summer meal and perfect for the upcoming Nine Days.
Hoping and davening that those days and every other day will be rocket-free.
- One year ago: Skillet lasagna
- Two years ago: Garlic pita wedges
- Three years ago: Making your own crackers
Yield: 8 slices
- 1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more to grease the pie plate
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 pack swiss chard/alei selek (5-6 stalks)
- 1 (8 oz) carton mushrooms, sliced
- 250 grams (9 oz) cottage cheese
- 200 grams (7 oz) sour cream
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour or potato starch
- Pinch black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet and saute the onion and garlic over low heat until nicely browned. While you wait, prepare the swiss chard: Using a paring knife, cut the leaves off the stalks, leaving behind as much of the stalks as you can. Wash and dry the leaves. Set aside.
2. Onions done? Good. Add the mushrooms to the skillet and saute until those soften and brown. Transfer the onion/garlic/mushrooms to a small bowl, discarding any liquid. Add the prepped swiss chard to the skillet, with a drop more oil if needed. (Depending on the size of your skillet, it may be easiest to do the chard in two batches.) Saute until wilted but still a nice deep green, stirring with tongs. Let it cool until safe to handle and then “chop” it up with your local kitchen shears. (You can also just chop roughly with a knife before sauteing, but I find it easier to use the scissors after sauteing.)
3. In a large bowl, stir together the cottage cheese, sour cream, eggs, and mozzarella cheese, making sure to totally break up the eggs. Add the flour/potato starch and pepper and mix again to break up any lumps in the batter. Finally, stir in the vegetables.
4. Grease a 9-inch pie plate very well. Pour the batter into the plate, smooth it out to even the surface, and bake for 55 minutes, or until the outer edges are a pretty golden brown and the center is set and just starting to brown lightly. Let cool slightly, slice into 8 pieces, and serve.
With all of the rockets being fired at Israel right now, it feels awfully inane to publish a post on quesadillas (or just about anything, really). To everyone living in areas under fire, we are davening for you and hoping you are okay. And to every member of the IDF: Thank you.
About the quesadillas.
This is one of our favorite dinners, no question. First of all, when you have the right combination of fillings and toppings, they’re just so fantastically good (our toddler agrees). But that isn’t enough for me to really love a meal. It also has to be easy on the prep, short on the cooking time, and easy on the cleanup. Maybe I have high expectations, but look — if it takes me too much time to work through a dinner recipe, I’m probably not going to use that recipe again for a long time. And by long I mean long.
Caramelized onions are definitely not a quick thing to make, since it’s the slow cooking process that deepens their flavor, but because you can make them ahead and freeze, they feel fast to me. Well, not the day I caramelize, but all the days after that, when I magically pop little nuggets of incredible flavor out of the freezer.
Cooking with two kids under 2 can sometimes feel impossible, but you know what? If cranking out dinner is as easy as filling a tortilla wrap, browning it on the stove, and taking a bite … I can totally do this.
Yield: 16 quesadilla wedges
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus a bit for browning the quesadillas
- 3 large onions, diced
- 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 dozen cherry tomatoes, sliced (actually sliced, not halved)
- 1½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Couple pinches of Italian seasoning blend*
- 8 (20-cm/8-inch) tortilla wraps
- For serving: Guacamole (mash avocados with lemon juice, salt, and pepper), sour cream, salsa
*Can’t find it? Sub with dried basil and oregano.
1. Caramelize the onions: Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a stainless steel pot. Add the onions and garlic and stir to coat them in the oil. Cover the pot and cook on low heat for 10 minutes. This softens the onions; now it’s time to brown them.
2. Remove the lid and stir, leaving the onions to cook undisturbed for 10 minutes before stirring again. Repeat several more times. After a few rounds, you’ll start seeing brown bits at the bottom of the pot. This is where the flavor is building up, so scrape them back into the onions when you stir. Turn off the heat when the onions have reduced significantly and turned a deep brown.
–> The longer you go, the better the flavor will be (just make sure to stir more often than every 10 minutes if it seems like they’re close to burning). I usually let mine go 60-70 minutes.
–> Does this seem like a big time investment for one ingredient in a weeknight meal? I think so, too. That’s why I caramelize a whole bunch of onions at once (like 10 at a time) and freeze them in small portions. You can whip them out of the freezer and add them to recipes as needed.
3. Assemble the quesadillas: Lay a tortilla wrap on a plate. Place a big spoonful of caramelized onions, a couple of tomato slices, and about 3 Tbsp of cheese on the bottom half of the wrap. Sprinkle with italian seasoning. Fold the top of the wrap down over the filling. Repeat until all of the fillings and wraps have been used up.
4. Finishing touch: Heat a bit of oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet (or mist it with cooking spray). Fit two folded wraps inside and let them cook over medium-low heat for 2-3 minuter per side, just to heat them through, melt the cheese, and brown the wraps. Add a little oil to the skillet between batches as needed. (If you’re caramelizing onions and then making the quesadillas right away, go ahead and use the same pan for this step. You may need a little extra oil to prevent sticking and/or burning.)
5. Slice each quesadilla into wedges (one cut down the middle gives you two wedges per wrap) and serve with plenty of guacamole, sour cream, salsa, and your other favorites.