Midday risotto

I have what I consider built-in midwestern guilt (or perhaps a lingering case of Protestant work ethic) that makes me feel guilty for taking long breaks in the middle of the workday. This, even though I know I get plenty done and have a job that thankfully gives me flexibility in my work hours.

So it’s rare that I take the time to actually cook something from scratch for lunch. Today, though, I didn’t have much prepared and I happened to have everything I needed for Jacques Pepin’s Risotto with Broccoli Stems — only, in my case, using asparagus instead of broccoli (a substitution I have enjoyed in the past). It only took 30 minutes and was totally worth it.

Experimenting with bread

After hearing multiple people bring up sourdough bread in the past week, I decided it was time to give it a try. I’m not sure why I had avoided it before. So today I pulled out Beard on Bread and threw together the starter — so far so good, and I have tucked it in a warm spot in the kitchen to do its thing. Now I wait.

Discovering new poetry

On a whim a couple weeks ago I bought a new book: Poems That Make Grown Women Cry: 100 women on the words that move them. I initially skimmed the first 15-20 poems, getting a sense for the poetry, the women, and the descriptions they gave.

Realizing that I’d glossed over a number of poems, I decided to slow down and read one each day. That gives me plenty of time to delve into the ones I enjoy and to find ways to appreciate the ones that don’t grab me right away.

I’m eleven poems in now, and today I read Lord Byron’s “So, we’ll go no more a roving.” While looking up more about the poem I came across two musical renditions from artists I like — Leonard Cohen and Joan Baez — each one different from the other and beautiful in its own way.

Getting home safe and sound

We came upon a serious car accident on our way home last night. We had been at someone’s home for dinner, going through that ritual everyone must know where you say you should be getting home and then you stay for just a bit more conversation.

Well, last night I’m glad we stuck around for those extra few minutes.

A few minutes after getting on the motorway, the car in front of us slowed way down and pulled over — we were the first cars come up on the scene. One car was smushed on the shoulder while the other was perched on the railing in the middle of the motorway, with bits and pieces strewn in between. We hopped out of the car but someone ahead of the accident had also stopped and had already called emergency services, who arrived a couple minutes later.

We ended up sitting for over an hour, watching the police, paramedics, and firefighters work to stabilize the situation. Finally we were able to turn around, wind our way through the maze of emergency vehicles and large trucks parked behind us, exit the motorway, and drive to the next onramp to continue home.

It turns out that one of the cars had driven the wrong way down the motorway, causing the accident. If we had left dinner five or ten minutes earlier, we could easily have ended up in that accident ourselves. And, sadly, the driver of the other car died at the scene.

Although not an incident that inspires much happiness, it does make me exceptionally grateful for our health and safety.

The satisfaction of a home-cooked meal and a full stomach

There is a simple pleasure in spending two unhurried hours preparing dinner from scratch. Thank goodness for weekends! Tonight’s dinner was three dishes from Ottolenghi that didn’t end up meshing all that well flavor-wise, but were each tasty and I’ll certainly be cooking again. (And with some tweaks they could be really versatile!)

I made a simple turkey with sauce, beans with hazelnuts, and a butternut squash and celeriac mash. The mash also had fried onions on top, which were super easy thanks to a microwave trick I happened to read on Food52 the other day. My stomach is very happy.

Writing in cookbooks

I get bizarre pleasure out of writing in books. Years of writing in the margins of textbooks never quite erased the years of being told to respect books by never, ever writing in them.

Taking notes in my cookbooks is an essential part of getting to know a recipe, making it work for me. Tonight I added some notes on the gilded pages of Nopi: Cut the lemongrass in bigger pieces, use a bit less five-spice, take it easy on the tomato sauce while serving, and try eating it with low-carb noodles. Details I’d otherwise forget the next time around.

But my favorite note happens on the recipes I really like — a little smiley face in the corner for quick reference. 🙂

Moving a little each day

I am not a gym-lover. I am not a runner. I am also not consistent about practicing yoga, even though I love it.

But I know this about myself: If I find a way to be even slightly active during the day, I will be happier for it.

And so I have been working on that. I have done 20-minute yoga classes, because sometimes I have to ignore my judgy, perfectionist brain telling me I really should practice for an hour and be realistic about what’s going to happen. I tried a Zumba class because 45 minutes of feeling silly was absolutely worth the happy-exhausted feeling I ended with. I even joined a gym because knowing that my husband also plans to go will at least get me out of the house and moving a couple times a week.

And today? Today I did none of those things. Today I opted to walk the 20 minutes between my dentist’s office and a coffee shop, and that was most of my activity for the day. And it counted — my brain and my body tell me it was worth it.