What to Expect at 2pm

couscous salad

This past weekend my coworker threw a birthday party for her two-year-old son. Earlier in the week we spent some time finding invitations (um, am I the only one who’s never heard of the Backyardigans?) and more importantly, figuring out food. It was a 2pm party, which is kinda an awkward time.

How many meals have you had by 2pm on a Saturday? Would you have eaten breakfast? Breakfast and lunch? Lunch? Brunch? Nothing?


Also, what would you expect food-wise for a 2pm child’s birthday party? Just chips? Sandwiches? Just cake?

My coworker decided on bite-size, semi-substantial fare. Whatever that means. Well, actually, I can tell you exactly what it means: Chicken nuggets from Chick-fil-A, burger sliders (very impressed she found mini-potato rolls), waffle fries (frozen), spinach and artichoke dip (with pita chips and tortilla chips) and some party punch thing where she dumped a bucket of sherbet-like stuff into a bowl with Sprite. Oh, and of course cake (with Backyardigan decorations) and little ice cream cups.

We also wanted to serve a more grown-up side. That’s where I came in. She initially thought of a pasta salad type dish, but wanted something a bit different. Couscous! Still a side, but a bit more refined than pasta salad. Plus, I had a few winter vegetables that would be a much better fit for a grain than for pasta. (I think sweet potato and noodles are a bit much.)

Parsnip, Sweet Potato and Cabbage Couscous Salad

In the most unoriginal sentiment of all time, I really hate doing dishes. Sure, once I get going it’s not all that bad, but dirtying just one more pan is fairly painful. That being said, I used just one pan—three times—for this dish.

I peeled and cubed/quartered one large sweet potato and one parsnip. I only had room for one vegetable at a time, so I let each cook with oil, salt and pepper until they were soft and browned. Then in the same pan I cooked down some cabbage and garlic, with oil, salt and pepper. I also cut up some scallions for freshness and bite.

I found whole wheat couscous in the bulk bins at Yes Organic Market and my crap, couscous is easy to make. I’m not the biggest fan of this tiniest grain. I like plenty of grains better, but because this is so stinkin’ easy too cook, I’ll probably be going in this direction a lot this summer. The whole wheat-ness is a plus, but the no-hands and quick cooking make it especially attractive.

I poured 1 cup of couscous in a large glass bowl, and in following Clotilde’s advice, drizzled a bit of oil on the dried grains. Then I poured in 1 cup of boiling water over top and covered it with plastic wrap. Eleven minutes later I removed the plastic and fluffed it with a fork. Done and done.

While the couscous was “cooking” I crumbed a bunch of feta over the vegetables. Of course this needed cheese!

I mixed together the couscous and the vegetables and feta together and dressed it with a quick mix of oil and ramp vinegar, salt and pepper. But I’m sure you could use any other vinegar, maybe red wine or rice, or a lemon.

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6 thoughts on “What to Expect at 2pm

  1. Wow. A lot for 2:00pm Saturday. Hell, 80 p who do an extra pan for you
    looks sounds tasty anyway

  2. as i was eating leftovers today for lunch (with extra wilted spinach), my mouth missed some crunch. wishing there was some pine nuts in there.

    and thanks dad.

  3. bad blogger!
    yes, couscous is a pasta. but that’s like saying kim kardashian is a celebrity. it might be correct, but it doesn’t actually make sense.

  4. *bulgur wheat. just easy easy to “cook”, just takes longer. chewy as all get out, fills you up fast! <3
    *never heard of Backyardigans. i have no children.
    *i went to a 3yo’s 12 noon bday party a few weeks ago. it was mostly meat and cheese from the grocery store. i was overjoyed when they pulled out fruit, potato chips, and dairy free brownie bites 😀

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