Do you ever, once you’ve made it through a pile of scary deadlines and come out the other side, just kind of melt into a blob for a week or two, one that can sit semi-upright in an office chair and guzzle coffee and maybe make ill-advised purchases of overpriced throw blankets but otherwise accomplish none of the tasks that are still remaining but that are simply not yet due? No, just me? Well, it is definitely me right now. I cannot promise that any of this will make any comprehensible sense. You have been warned.
As of a couple of weeks ago, I’m officially back at work. Unlike his mama, B3 thought the transition was a total breeze — he sees me off to work every morning with such blasé cheerfulness that I’m wondering whether I shouldn’t be at least a teensy offended. (He is, however, in a war of attrition with his Public Enemy No. 1, The Bottle, so there is at least one part of me that he misses. Or, more accurately, two parts.)
So, our freezer is officially ready to burst. I wish I could say that it’s packed to the brim with healthy, ready-to-heat casseroles and nourishing breakfasts that I tucked away for the zombie days ahead, but that’s only about 30% true — maybe more like 0% true depending on how you interpret “healthy” or “nourishing” — and the remainder is more things like baked French toast (coming soon!) and frozen brownies for the nurses (okay, also for me) and that Costco 17-pack of Hot Pockets we gleefully took home last Sunday. But the good news is that we finally bought a new microwave after leaving our old one in New York a few months ago (which made the last gleeful Costco pack of Hot Pockets we bought a little less gleeful when we got home and realized our folly. Twenty-eight minutes in the oven. Twenty-eight. Sometimes more like 40. Also, what made them choose to include 17?) So we are ready to irradiate these meals to our heart’s content.
In the last week or so, in what seems to be the norm for this time of year, B2 and I have been basking in a much-needed respite from a couple of busy months at work. Mostly this has consisted of me procrastinating all my non-urgent responsibilities by streaming the Olympics for most of the day (while B2, by comparison, texts me at 11am that he has done everything he needed to do and is wondering how “to be more productive”), before zipping home and landing on the couch in comfy clothes while the sun is still high in the sky. We’re spending our long evenings mostly enjoying our quiet, bright apartment, marveling at how it’s possible we can already be in the third trimester, and trying really hard to get B2’s hand on my belly in time to feel B3 bopping around like a caffeinated frog (somehow harder to do than it should be with all of the punch-dancing and caroming back and forth that he’s doing each day).
The very good news is that we’ve officially moved into a place to call our own in LA (hurray!) and the accompanying not-bad news is that, because we got rid of all our furniture in our move last month, we’re very slowly figuring out how to furnish it (adjusting to new and foreign concepts like What Makes Sense or What Looks Nice and not Where Can It Possibly Fit in Our Tiny New York Space) and in the meantime, still eating standing up at the kitchen counter or on our laps. Personally, I’m tempted by an all-abiding impatience to go ahead and just stuff our home with furniture already, but luckily the perpetually calmer B2 is here to keep me in check, and from ending up with a home that manages to be nonfunctional, haphazard, and overpriced all at once. Still, word on the UPS street is that our kitchen table is on the way! So hopefully I’ll be able to start sharing some new eats and snaps from this sunny West Coast home of ours sometime soon.
The thing about alfredo that plagues me is the same thing that might be said about cacio e pepe, or macaroni & cheese, or carbonara — they’re dishes that I adore with all my soul, all cheesy, carb-y deliciousness, but that I eat woefully infrequently, because I somehow always talk myself into something with a little more greenery or a little more protein (and then I wish I went for the alfredo). Imagine my delight when a recipe came into my life that offered both the satisfaction and bliss of a rich alfredo and the substance of a more protein-packed alternative — instead of cream and cheese, it turns out that soaked cashews (protein!) and chickpea flour (more protein!) can combine with a little nutritional yeast, garlic, and salt and pepper to form, pretty simply, magic. A chickpea alfredo is practically no-cook and all-blender, comes together in a matter of minutes, but is silky-smooth, every bit as creamy as a traditional alfredo, yet simultaneously lighter and more filling. Add in a little watercress and chives for brightness, and even B2, who usually has eyes only for pizza, was so into this rendition of a restaurant classic. Who knew?
A couple of months ago I stumbled on this caramelized onion and yogurt pasta by Diane Kochilas. It’s just like it sounds — tangles of caramelized onions and thick, strained Greek yogurt, tossed with sunshine-yellow pasta and a few ladles of starchy water, then served with nothing more than a generous grating of salty cheese on top. Yogurt in pasta! And by all accounts, super delicious. I’ve been meaning to try it ever since, totally fascinated by the idea that you could get a rich, alfredo-like sauce from Greek yogurt instead of cream. The one thing that continues to surprise me as time goes on is how rich foods tend to overwhelm me easier and easier these days — clearly this blog shows that I still love it as much as I ever did, but somewhere along the way, slightly more nourishing alternatives, especially when they’re not “lighter” substitutes but just really genius ideas that happen to be good for you, got super exciting. (15-year-old belly with an appetite for Jack-in-the-Box breakfast sandwiches every morning, where did you go?!)
It’s the last week of August and I’m sad about it! I know, technically summer doesn’t end for another three weeks and change, it’s still plenty humid here in Brooklyn and the heat in the subway stations still closes around us like a fist every morning on the platform, but my grieving has already started. I’m such a sucker for spring and summer. Sunscreen smells like happiness! Long days and sleeveless tees and flip-flops are the way to my heart.
When we came back from Japan, I didn’t think I’d try to recreate any of the magical, thoughtfully, wonderfully-made food we had while we were there. It all seemed way beyond my ken — a just-so balance of kombu and bonito, a dollop of miso and things I couldn’t even guess at, hand-pulled and long-simmered and much-perfected. That was true most of all for the multi-course kaiseki meal we had in Kyoto. We weren’t even sure if our uncultured palettes could even properly appreciate everything we were served — delicate, softly-cooked beef wrapped in thin slices of eggplant, vegetables cloaked in water jellies, cold soups with scallops and deliberately arranged tiger prawns — and I’m pretty sure a lot of it did go right over our heads.
Were you a school lunch or a packed lunch kid? I was mostly a lunch-buyer growing up — I had my fair share of Lunchables on field trips and PB&Js in those fold-top plastic Ziplocs-without-Ziplocs, but my school lunch memories are dominated by plastic trays sliding along metal rungs, boat-shaped French bread pizzas, clammy and not quite melted in the center; paper cartons of chocolate milk and foil-capped orange sherbet; hard-shell tacos that I’d gleefully crush into a makeshift taco salad.