Hello, Millet

One of the exciting events going on at our house right now is the Great Bath Strike of 2013. You know when you have a little routine that’s been going well for a long time? A part of the day you can count on to go smoothly and you sort of depend on it to keep your sanity? This was bath time at our house from mid-to-late 2012 until around April of this year.

Sure, O screamed her head off when I tried to wash her hair, but that was only once a week. Because toddlers don’t really need their hair washed more often than that, right? I’ve decided that mine doesn’t, mostly because of the hysterical screaming when water gets in her eyes (not shampoo, just water. god help us if shampoo ever does get in her eyes) but also because she’s been blessed with the type of hair that looks even more adorable the messier and dirtier it gets. I have wanted hair like this my entire life. Yes, yes, of course I know that good hair is not something I want my daughter to think is important and of course I would never mention it in front of her but come on ladies….isn’t waking up in the morning with naturally, beautifully tousled hair something we all desire? And this kid’s got it.

breakfast on the deck

breakfast on the deck

 

So, bath time was great. She splashed and played and I read a book on the stool next to the tub. It was 15 to 20 minutes of pure bliss. It was the main reason I finished every book my book club was reading each month. It was a lovely little break before the battle of bedtime began.   And then…I don’t know. Who really does know why kids do the things they do? She started refusing to take baths and then, when she finally does get into the tub, refuses to sit down. Which means her feet and ankles get clean, but the really important parts don’t. And forget about washing her hair these days. Right now that beautifully tousled mop has a rat’s nest in the back that will take half a bottle of conditioner to de-tangle.

It’s unbelievably aggravating. Baths are down to only a few times a week and there is absolutely nothing relaxing about it. Though I have to admit, these months of cajoling her into the tub have certainly sharpened my toddler negotiating skills. Other parts of our day are easier because I’ve learned how to motivate and move her along without causing a meltdown (for both of us). I’ve also learned  from the Great Bath Strike of 2013 that sometimes, changing your expectations and accepting the unexplainable behavior of your child rather than killing yourself (and all happiness in your home) trying to change your child is the better way to go.  Toddlers, and maybe all the way up to teenagers, are offering solutions and answers if we take the time to see them.

Recently, our “solution” presented itself when I was dragging baby-gear out of the storage room for a friend who’s expecting. “My baby tub!” O squealed, delighted by the sudden reappearance of the blue whale tub. I’ve written before about how long I kept her in that tub before letting her loose in the real bathtub. It was a tight fit when we stopped using it around 20 months and now, at 2 1/2 years, she’s well past the recommended height and weight. But she dragged that whale outside on the front deck anyway, we filled it with water and she happily played in her “whale pool”. With no fussing at all, she reclined back in the baby tub while I washed her hair al fresco on the deck. 

While she continued to splash around I pieced everything together: She doesn’t like taking baths anymore because she started understanding that bath time leads to bedtime which means the fun is over. And if she doesn’t take a bath, then she doesn’t have to go to bed, right? She doesn’t like sitting down in the tub anymore, because she has seen me take all my showers standing up and therefore, wants to stand up in the tub like mom, instead of sitting down. She doesn’t want her hair washed because she hates water in her eyes. So if she can lay back comfortably (like in a baby tub) while I wash her hair and bath time is new and fun (like swimming) and doesn’t lead to bedtime (bathing in the afternoon) then….well, we might have ourselves a solution.

A little bit of creative thinking, a little bit of watching and listening to my kid instead of forcing her to do things the way that was easiest for me, and the strike might be over. I often forget that what’s been working, whether it’s bath time or a bedtime routine or what she eats for breakfast every morning, isn’t going to work forever. Kids change constantly and we have to change along with them.

Which leads me, finally, to millet.

dry millet

dry millet

First – remember rice, that grain that was easy to cook and cheap and kids loved it and it could be a side dish for anything? And then there was the whole arsenic thing and all of us parents were forced to add rice to our list of things we inflict on our kids that probably aren’t all that bad but we feel guilty and worried about it anyway?

On the bright side,the rice debacle finally inspired me to really explore the wide world of grains. Rice was an easy go-to meal, but when we’re forced to change it often leads to new and interesting experiences. A steady parade of bulgur, farro, wheat berries, quinoa, amaranth and millet have made their way onto our dinner table. I haven’t loved all of them (amaranth! what the heck!) but it’s been fun.

Millet might be one of my favorites, if eaten soon after it’s cooked. Much like rice, millet does not refrigerate well and dries out over night so it’s not great for leftovers. But right out of the cooking pot, it’s slightly firm but tender. Millet can also be soft and creamy if cooked with more water, like porridge or polenta.  It’s not as heavy and earthy as some other grains. Millet has a light, nutty flavor.

This article from The Kitchn is a good overview about how to cook millet. I also took inspiration from this recipe on Food 52 for Jeweled Millet. The pesto (made without cheese or nuts) came about because I needed to used some wilting spinach and parsley in the fridge. I’m a little bit in love with parsley pesto right now, made with or without parmesan. And adding a handful of fresh baby spinach to any pesto brightens up the color and sneaks in a little extra nutrition without changing the flavor of the pesto.

Millet with Crispy Garbanzo Beans and Parsley Pesto

Millet with Crispy Chickpeas & and Parsley Pesto

Millet with Crispy Chickpeas & Parsley Pesto (about 4 servings)

Ingredients:

1 can of chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup millet
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small yellow onion, peeled, halved and sliced thinly

Parsley Pesto (no cheese or nuts)
2 tablespoons raw, unsalted sunflower seeds (out of their shells, of course)
1 small garlic clove
1 bunch of parsley, leaves shaved off stems
Small handful fresh spinach leaves
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt or more to taste

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

Toss the drained chickpeas with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Put the chickpeas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (prevents sticking). Roast, stirring now and then, until most of the chickpeas split open and are bit crispy, about 20  to 25 minutes.

Toast the millet for 3 to 4 minutes in a dry pot over medium heat. You’ll smell a yummy toasted aroma.

Add the water and salt. Bring to a boil.

Turn the heat down as low as it goes,  add 1 tablespoon olive oil and put a lid on the pot. Simmer for 15 minutes then turn off the heat and let the millet sit covered for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the millet vigorously with a fork.

While the millet is cooking, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onion slices and cook until nicely browned, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the onion, you might have to turn the heat down to med-low so it doesn’t burn.

In a food processor, blend the sunflower seeds and garlic until very finely chopped. Add parsley and spinach, and blend again until finely chopped, scraping down the sides once or twice. With the blade running, add olive oil and lemon juice. I often add close to 1/2 cup of olive oil to reach a nice consistency. Add salt to taste.

Fluff the millet again with a fork and mix in the garbanzo beans and onions. Serve the millet warm, with parsley pesto on the side.

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