Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A savory cake... & "exuding trust"

I recently fell in love with an expression I read in this insightful parenting article : "exuding trust". 

It is the perfect way to express something very intangible. A way to be within oneself that can be sensed by others. All between the lines. Just a feeling, an impression of someone. I have found this to be one of life's best kept secrets. Sometimes we get so anxious, scared, threatened, insecure, competitive. We project too much into the future, our expectations are unrealistic, projections of our neurosis. Too many nervous "what ifs". And when we feel all those things, I am pretty sure what we "exude" to those around us is a far cry from trust.

In the past, I have often felt that I needed to have things "figured out", and have felt uneasy and anxious about life's uncontrollable variables.  Pablo is turning two in a few days, and interestingly, my recent birthday had me thinking about my shortcomings, whereas his birthday is reminding me of how much he has taught me.

And he has most certainly taught me the importance of exuding trust. An inner trust in the process of  things, in trial and error. A trust in the beautiful struggle that life is. A trust that things will happen naturally, when and how they need to happen, even if I have no idea when and how just yet.

It's being optimistically open-minded, in a serene, peaceful way. I'm pretty amazed I'm even able to achieve that state. Not 100 % of the time of course, but getting better at it.

The thing about this open-minded-optimism-trust-exuding business, is that it is self-fulfilling. Just like the anxious-insecure-stress-inducing-doubt-exuding is. And the serenity that comes out of that trust, is contagious (just like the antsiness that comes out doubt and fear.) When someone we trust exudes trust, it is so reassuring, isn't it?

With Pablo, it's been about exuding trust that he will learn what he needs to learn when he is ready to do so, that his strong emotions (i.e. tantrums, he is 2 after all) are normal and come and go, that he can listen to his body... This inner trust makes me feel grounded, gentle, clear and calm, and I can be the gentle leader he needs in order to thrive.

I have also found this to be very true at the table. Having this inner trust that my child will enjoy good food, if not the first time, then the next time or the 10th time, that he may like something I dislike, that he will eat what his body needs. I am always optimistically open-minded about food, and as a result, so is Pablo.

When it came to food and Pablo's education of taste, maybe because of my culture or upbringing in France, I never had doubts, I trusted that if I exposed him to good foods, he would enjoy them. Or at least some of them. I had this inner (somewhat unconscious at first) certainty that the enjoyment of good food, of a pleasant meal, would not be a problem. That it would be a natural thing. And so it is.

Applying that trust in other areas of my life has been the real lesson for me. In parenting, writing, marriage, work... Letting go of doubt, of those uncontrollable variables, and trust that life will take its course as it must, and that I will learn, survive, grow from what it brings.

Perhaps exuding trust is simply being able to tell oneself (and believing it), "It's going to be okay, even if I don't know how (or when)."

I am facing a considerable trust-exuding challenge this coming weekend as we are preparing for Pablo's birthday party. Much much cooking,  and logistics, will be involved. In the past, I have faced such events with a lot of stress and have spoiled the mood a bit for those around me.

This time, I am exuding trust that things will be great even if they are not perfect, that Pablo will have fun and feel loved and celebrated, that our friends will have a nice time and enjoy good food. I shall report back on this and let you know how I did :-)

In the meantime, I would love to share the recipe for one of my favorite "party foods": the savory cake. There are countless versions of it, it is fairly easy to make, and most definitely a crowd pleaser. Kids usually love them, it is similar to a savory "bread", a fun finger food. I make them on a regular basis for barbecues, picnics or potlucks. They also make an easy and delicious cold lunch (very convenient for a lunchbox as well, I would think).

Spinach, watercress, fennel cake

Adapted from Les Cakes de Sophie by Sophie Dudemaine

Prep time: 25 min
Cook time: 45 min

Age for babies: 10-12 months.

3 eggs
1 heaping cup of flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup (4.5 oz) whole milk
3.5 oz grated Swiss cheese (mozzarella could work too, though less flavorful)
1 bunch of watercress
2 bunches of spinach
1 medium fennel bulb
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 pinch nutmeg
2 pinches salt
2 pinches pepper

Preheat the oven at 400°F.

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Cut the stems of the fennel off and discard, wash the bulb. When the water is boiling, place the bulb in and blanch (cook) it for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, wash the watercress and spinach leaves thoroughly, cutting off the thicker parts of the stems.

Remove the fennel bulb with a slotted spoon (keep the water). Run the fennel under cold water, then place in a kitchen (or paper) towel to absorb moisture.

In a pan or Dutch oven, melt 1 tbsp butter and § tbsp coconut oil over medium-low heat. Cut up the fennel into small pieces, and add it in with a pinch of salt & pepper, the sesame and 1 tbsp of water. Let cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often (don't let the fennel brown), until soft.

While that cooks, put the watercress and spinach in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes.
Drain the watercress/spinach well (pressing with a spoon to squeeze the water out) and put in a kitchen (or paper) towel to absorb moisture.

In a pan over medium low heat, melt 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of coconut oil. Add in the watercress/spinach, a pinch of salt and pepper, and the nutmeg. Let cook for 5 minutes, stirring often (at that point, you're stirring both pans simultaneously, the fennel and the greens).

Warm up the milk (I like to use baby bottles for measurement, you can stick it for 1 min in the microwave).

In a bowl, mix the flour and baking powder together, add the eggs in and whisk with a fork (I find the fork easier than the whisk in this case, as the mixture is quite thick).

Little by little, whisk in the oil, then the warm milk. The mixture will become thinner and easier to whisk. Stir in the grated cheese. Then add the watercress/spinach and the fennel.

Butter a rectangular cake mold and pour the batter in. Bake for about 45 minutes (it is done when a knife or toothpick comes out clean.)

Let cool. Eat at room temperature.

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  1. What a lovely post Helene. Hopefully, your party will go smoothly. When My Little Miss S turned 1 we had quite a big party. I actually remember having a nervous breakdown in the supermarket because I had so much food to prepare:) It went well in the end! Enjoy it and I shall be trying out this lovely cake. Looks delish! Raminta x

  2. Happy Birthday to Pablo! I need to remember to trust. At my daughter's 1 year check this week she dropped way off her weight curve and I've been panicking about her not eating enough. This post has reminded me of the principles we follow with her eating: we decide what to serve, she decides how much to eat. I have to trust her with that.

    Christine (52 crafts in 52 weeks)

    1. Hi Christine, thanks for your kind wishes. You know, sometimes that trust is easier said than done, but if we're aware of it, I think it's half the battle, keeps us from running with our anxiety (which I've been known to do in the past!) Glad the post was helpful, happy eating to you and your little one :-)

  3. Helene, I would love to see your menu for Pablo's party...Happy Birthday to Pablo! Angela

    1. Hi Angela, yes, I actually was going to post it on Saturday :-) Thanks for the birthday wishes!

  4. Ahhhhh, I think trusting ourselves is a difficult thing. I finding trusting other people to be much easier.
    This year when J turned three, I gave up the home birthday parties (lots of stress and food to make) and we had it at the gym where he takes gymnastics and had the whole thing catered. Ridiculous for a three year old party? Quite possibly but I got to actually talk to our guests and didn't have to worry about as many things.

    1. Hi Robin, I can certainly understand your choice! Though I really enjoy cooking a lot, it's also a chance for me to experiment with a few recipes, so I'm quite thrilled to do it :-) Since it's at the park, everything has to be done the day before, and I should be able to be more relaxed on the day of.

    2. I would love to do it at a park versus my home (last year older kids who came trashed Js play room, another negative). Js birthday is in March however and we never know what the weather will be up here in Northern Cal. Could be sunny and gorgeous or cold and rainy.

  5. Saw this on isntagram and I HAD to come over. Looks freaking amazing! Love savoury cakes, my go-to is a pie/crustless quiche/giant thick omelette of sorts. This reminds me of that but I'm surprised there's no egg in this! Love the golden brown crust all over. Definitely trying this! Good one for fridge clear outs of leftover veggies too!

  6. And hope the birthday party went well. I'm sure it did. "It's going to be okay, even if I don't know how (or when)."

    (p.s. that line is what I've been saying to myself ALOT now that i'm about to graduate from uni and enter the scary world out there.)

    1. Hi Shu Han hope you enjoy this one, it does have 3 eggs for a whole cake, but is more bread like than quiche like for sure. We have savory cake leftovers from the birthday party, so our lunches are set for a few days! My warmest and best wishes for your plans in the scary world out there, I know much success awaits you, you are very talented and have a great, warm voice!

  7. Hi Helene! This looks wonderful. I can't tell though, is it a regular loaf pan or a 9x13 cake pan? I'm hoping to try it this weekend for a big get-together and wondering how many it will feed. Thanks!

    1. Hi Caryn! I used a rectangular loaf pan 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5, and it makes about 10-12 slices. Can't wait to hear how you like it! If you make several, for variety, you can also do the same basic recipe replacing the greens by ham and olives, or raisins goat cheese, or blue cheese walnuts. Lots of possibilities, just keeping the same flour/milk/egg/oil/Swiss cheese base. Enjoy :-)


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