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Baked Quinoa

June 2, 2011

Dry Quinoa

Recipe: Baked Quinoa
Total Cooking Time: 45 minutes

There are many firsts in the first year of a baby’s life. Some major ones seem just around the corner for little O – she is up on all fours testing her strength but not yet crawling; she is staring intently at our lips when we speak and watching how we form words; she is drooling up a storm and chewing on anything that comes near her mouth; she is considering, although not yet committing to, eating something other than breast milk. Last week, however, a major first happened when I least expected it. In fact, I had pretty much given up on it happening at all – although to be fair, it did happen once before, on the way home from the hospital after she was born. But never again since, although it seemed like every other baby I knew was doing it on a regular basis. But last week the thing I’d been envying finally happened: my baby fell asleep in her car seat.

I’d heard stories from other parents about purposefully driving their child to sleep in the car or getting home from the grocery store and little Johnny just happened to be snoozing peacefully in back. Who were these babies, I wondered, and why didn’t I get one of them? I envied parents who had this instant nap machine, a place where they could listen to the radio and drink a coffee and see the world while their baby magically drifted off to sleep. How amazing it would be, I thought, to pull into my driveway and have little O smiling that cute little smile she had while she slept instead of screaming bloody murder to get out of the torture chamber  known to other babies as a car seat. If there was an Olympic event called “Car Seat Removal” in which an athlete pulls a vehicle into a driveway, jumps out and extricates a screaming child from a car seat and then carries the screaming child on their hip while dragging groceries into the house before a neighbor pops outside to see what the hell all the racket is, then I would surely be heading to London in 2012 to win a gold medal.

But last week something different happened. I should have seen it coming, because in the past few weeks O has realized that playing with toys or chewing viciously on her stuffed rabbit is actually more fun than crying the entire time she’s in the car. I can make it to the grocery store and back now,  with her making hardly a peep. But this time when I pulled into the driveway, the backseat was even quieter than usual. Before turning off the engine I swiveled around in my seat and peered over the edge of her car seat. There O was dozing peacefully, her little lips making a gentle sucking motion while she let out sleepy sighs.

I felt as if I had won the lottery! The thing I had been envying for months when other parents told stories of their sleepy babes was now a reality! It had finally happened to me! My dream had come true! But just as quickly as my excitement came, it began to fade. Instead of feeling like I had a gift of blissful, quiet time to myself I felt as if I was trapped. I was afraid to turn the engine off for fear it might wake her up. For the same reason I was afraid to turn the radio off or switch stations, although a painfully boring talk radio show was discussing the local pothole problem in excruciating detail. I didn’t want to make a phone call and wake O up with the sound of my voice. I had no books or magazines with me – why would I? My baby didn’t fall asleep in the car. I was caught in the uncomfortable predicament of being really thirsty and also having to really, really go pee. To top it all off, I was starving. Breastfeeding mama starving. The type of starving that makes you search through the glove compartment for a loose piece of old gum you might chew on (there wasn’t any).

In my dream, when my baby fell asleep in the car I had a tall, steaming latte and a book I couldn’t wait to read. I had snacks in my purse and “This American Life” on the radio. As is often the case when the things we envy about others happen to us, it’s rarely as great as we thought it would be. I was a famished, bored prisoner in my own car and my instinct to never, ever wake a sleeping baby forced me to simply sit quietly and wait. O slept for just over an hour and then finally, at last, I heard her glorious scream, the feisty high-pitched wail I knew and loved that said, “Momma, get me outta this dumb seat!”

When we got inside I was well past starving into famished headache territory and so was very pleased with myself for having something healthy and delicious in the fridge

Cooked Quinoa

that I could simply slice and eat. I’ve been making baked quinoa quite a bit lately and think it is a near perfect food for parents who want a healthy meal they can eat on the move. Baking the quinoa turns it into a casserole of sorts and it can be eaten warm with a fork – however, eating with a civilized utensil like a fork is part of my former, pre-baby life and in that category of things I hope to do again one day, like reading the Sunday paper and drinking martinis. Until then, I am all about meals I can eat with one hand.

Quinoa with Tomatoes

My baked quinoa recipes are inspired by Martha Rose Shulman’s  “Recipes for Health” I follow in the NY Times. I’ve come up with several variations of her baked quinoa recipe:

You can come up with your own variation too if you simply use this equation as the foundation:

1 cup cooked quinoa + 2 whisked eggs + 1-2 cups grated cheese

To this you can add whatever you like: minced herbs, cooked meat, veggies of choice. Bake for 25 minutes, let cool, then cut into squares and eat on the go… or standing in your kitchen with a baby on your hip who has promised you she will never, ever fall asleep in the car again.

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