Friday, May 28, 2010

Cottage Pie or How to Use Up Old Root Veggies

Last night we had this dish that my husband and I both love for different reasons. He loves that at it's heart it is meat and potatoes with some veggies thrown in for color. I love that it is an excellent way to clean out the refrigerator. I discovered it when I needed to make a hearty dinner and we didn't have much in the house beyond our CSA share and a pound of ground beef. The original recipe is here, but I modified it quite a bit based on what we had in the house. Here is my version, hope you like it.

Cottage Pie

2c beef broth
1-2 lbs potatoes (red skin are best, but anything will work)
1 tbs. oil
1 bunch green onions, shallots, or a normal small onion
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 c. chopped carrot
1/2 c. frozen green beans/peas/corn/other veggie
1 tsp. Worchestershire Sauce
1 pinch chili flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 350. Chop up the potatoes and boil them in the broth. Meanwhile chop the green onions separating the white part from the green part. Heat the oil and saute the white part of the onion in the oil. When it is translucent add the ground beef. Brown the beef and then drain out most of the fat. You don't have to be super careful because a little won't hurt the flavor of this at all. When your potatoes are tender pour about half of the liquid into the pan with the beef (leave the other half in the pot) and add the veggies, Worchestershire sauce, chili flakes and salt and pepper to the beef mixture. Put the pan back on the stove over medium heat and let it get all warm and bubbly. Once it is bubbly pour it into a 2 qt. casserole dish. Meanwhile mash the potatoes with the other half of the broth. They should be like runny mashed potatoes. Stir in the green onions and put the whole thing in the casserole on top of the beef. Bake in the oven 30-45 minutes or until the potatoes are starting to brown up nicely and everything is hot, bubbly and smelling amazing. Pull it out and let it cool a couple minutes so you don't burn yourself and you are done.

If you want to be fancy you can serve it with a green salad, but if it has been a busy day and you're tired don't feel bad serving it as is. You have your meat, veggie and carbs all in one dish. If you have extra veggies feel free to throw them in, the amounts I list are really the minimum. My favorite part of this dish, other than using up lots of stuff out of the fridge, is that if the baby wakes up or I suddenly need to do something right as it is finishing it can be left in a warm oven for quite a while and still be quite tasty.

Try it, I hope you like it as much as we do.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Have you ever watched a baby learning to sit/crawl/walk/roll over? It is amazing to watch the concentration on their faces as they try over and over again to do something that we do so easily. They watch others around them and try time and time again to do something that they have never done before. They can't quite figure it out, but they never give up until one day they actually manage to do whatever it is they were trying to learn. One day, all of a sudden, a baby actually makes forward progress or gets to their hands and knees or pulls up to standing. One day a baby will sit all by themselves without anyone holding them up...until they fall. The most amazing thing is that while they may cry for a minute when they fall, almost as quickly they are trying it again. They never give up for long because they seem to know that that next milestone is within their grasp if they just keep working. The best part is that once they learn one thing they don't just sit and bask in the glory of it, they move on to the next challenge. Babies never stop learning, trying or doing. This is what amazes me the most. All I can think is that we must all be born optimists. How else can you explain that as a baby we keep at something that we have failed at a hundred times. At what point do we become cynical enough that we stop trying? At what point do we start setting a limit on the number of times we try before we give up on a dream? What is the difference between the dream of crawling or walking and the dream of running a marathon or throwing a killer dinner party?

There is a fine line between dedication and obsession, but sometimes I think we need to learn from the babies of the world and try a little harder to meet our goals. After watching my daughter go from dragging herself a few feet to get to her favorite toy to scooting her way under the coffee table after the cats I have decided to rededicate myself to a goal that I've had for a long time. I am going to run what has been called "the hardest 8-miler you'll ever run" this September. That's right, I said September, I'll be training through the summer months. Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What's in a Job?

I've been thinking a lot lately about how one defines a "real" job. To many people being a full time housewife is not a "real" job, but working part time from home can be. I was talking to my MIL today and she mentioned that she was surprised that vocational training for the blind considered homemaker to be a valid job. Presumably, the argument against this is that since homemakers do not earn an income and therefore do not pay income taxes the money that the state puts into training them will never be recouped. However, it reminded me of a debate that I've been having with myself lately. What part of my day is spent "working"?

To offer some background, I stay home with my 7 month old daughter while my husband earns the majority of our income. I do work 15 hours a week from home mostly using DD's naps and the time after she goes to bed and frequently sacrificing my own sleep because I feel the need to contribute financially. I also try do many of the jobs one might expect from a full-time housewife. I bake my own bread, and cook from scratch as much as possible. I maintain a (very) small vegetable garden as well as some fruit trees and berry bushes. I sew and knit and mend my husband's clothes. On rare occasions I even clean the house. All of these things take time, but I find joy in them so I don't tend to think of them as being a "job". However, at the end of the day the toys and clothes I make for my daughter, the bread that I bake and the food that I grow do save us money and "A penny saved is a penny earned." Then there is the cost of childcare, diapers and formula to consider. Since I stay home with DD we have never had to pay for a babysitter and breastfeeding is convenient so we have never had to buy formula. I also have time to wash cloth diapers and don't have to worry about a daycare that requires the use of disposables so that is another place that we save money. When I look at what I was earning before I had DD and compare it to the cost of infant daycare, formula and disposable diapers we are already ahead even without me baking or gardening or sewing. Does this mean that I am effectively "earning" more now that I stay home?

Personally, I feel that staying home and caring for your family can be a job if you make it one and treat it as a profession. However, does that mean that everyone with kids has two jobs? The job that pays them and the job of being a parent? Does that make them somehow better than those who only stay home or are they only part-time parents because they pay someone else to care for their kids while they are at work? The problem with questions like these is that no matter how you answer someone will get offended. If you say that being a homemaker is a job when it is done full time, but is a hobby when you do it evenings and weekends then those that work full time while still having kids will feel that they are being criticized for working. If you say that being a homemaker isn't a real job or that it is, but those that are working and have kids are working two jobs then you are trivializing the time, thought and effort that a good homemaker puts into her (or his, let's not be sexist) chosen profession. There is no way to win without hurting someone's feelings, but in my experience at least people often tend to stand with those who get paid.

How do you define a job? Does homemaking count?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Obligatory Akward Introductary Post

Hello World!

Can you tell I was a computer geek in a previous life. Technically I still am a bit of a computer geek, but since my daughter was born a little over 7 months ago that seems like a different life. Growing up I never thought of myself as a hippie (if the term crunchy existed I didn't know about it) and I certainly never thought I would be a housewife. I especially didn't know how much work or joy came with either role. I also didn't realize how much social isolation could be involved, though I am lucky to have found several other moms in the same boat. As I was sitting (or walking really, I rarely have time to sit) there thinking about how much life has changed I realized it might be nice to have a place to write it all down and a place to reflect on how life is and how it isn't. If anyone is reading (now or in the future) I'd love to hear from you. Leave a comment about your thoughts on motherhood whether you stay home or work or somewhere in between. If you don't have kids, are you planing on having them later or would you rather focus your energy elsewhere?