We had company over for the first time post-baby two weeks ago. Prior to baby, I thought spending time at home with one small, portable child who naps on and off all day would mean I’d have lots of time to menu plan and cook and get real fancy. I had big plans for this blog, for instance.
Clearly, I didn’t spend any time with any children before abruptly shifting into 24/7, all baby, all the time, mode. So what made it to the table for company was a reliable friend: chicken and this simple, deceptively good salad.
Arugula and Mint Pea Salad
2 cups fresh peas
1 bunch mint, torn
good handful of parmesan
juice from one lemon
a bit of lemon zest
If using fresh peas (which are awesome), bring a pot of water to boil and very quickly pass the peas through – about 1 minute. You can also use canned or thawed frozen peas.
Whisk dressing together.
Combine all ingredients together and toss with dressing; top with parmesan.
This is an old reliable for good reason. Simple, easy, and super delicious. Definitely enough to impress post-baby company.
A long, long time ago, when our budget for fun far outstripped our budget for Amazon Prime diaper delivery services, I planned a little bachelorette party for my BFF, Jessica. And because we both have the same definition of fun, i.e. pasta, cheese, and wine, a cooking class was in order.
Now I know how to make pasta out of cheese. Serve this with a glass of red wine and just tell me you’re not having fun. I dare you.
for the gnocchi
15 oz container whole milk ricotta cheese, drained
1 cup shredded parmesan
1/2 cup pesto
pinch white pepper (black pepper also works)
optional – very small pinch nutmeg
fresh chopped herbs – parsley or basil
1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (a bit more if the dough is too wet)
Stir together ricotta, pesto, eggs, cheese, salt, pepper – and if desired – a very small pinch of nutmeg. Very slowly add the flour, stirring gently to form a soft, wet dough.
On a well floured surface, divide the dough in half, and then in half again. Roll out a quarter of the dough into long rope and then cut crosswise into one inch pieces. If you want little ridges, press each gnocchi with the back of a fork. Stick them on a piece of parchment paper (to avoid them sticking) while you turn to the next section of dough.
Repeat step 2 with the next section of dough – two ropes is probably more than enough for two people, so feel free to freeze the rest.
Bring salted water to a boil in a deep skillet (to give you more surface area) and drop each gnocchi in individually, taking care not to drop them on each other. They will sink to the bottom, rising to the top when they’re done (about five minutes or so per batch).
Lift out cooked gnocchi with slotted spoon and proceed to the next batch. Serve with tomato sauce below.
for the spicy tomato sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 red or sweet onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
crushed red peppers
salt and pepper
1/2 cup red wine
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
a few sprigs basil
optional – big scoop of pesto
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook down 3-4 minutes; add garlic and cook another minute or two. Add crushed red peppers – as much as you can stand!
Add tomato paste, red wine, and tomatoes. Stir the whole thing together and cook a few minutes.
Add salt, pepper, sugar, basil and pesto, if using. Bring to a boil, and then cover, simmering over low heat about 30 minutes. Discard sprigs of basil before serving over the gnocchi.
This was a veritable party in our mouths…all fun & games until the Little Man woke up. But no worries – we have more gnocchi dough in the freezer!
Back when I got pregnant a YEAR ago (because what’s up: you’re pregnant for 10 months, hello, fifth grade health class you’ve got some curriculum updates to do) I became wildly uninterested in anything that wasn’t bread. Or cheese. Or melted cheese on bread. For a while, I think the Husband thought he had basically won the lottery. Pizza every night sans those pesky vegetables. Holler.
However, even though I slowly re-introduced important food groups into my diet (thanks, Ben & Jerry’s, for all the support), mussels — something I have loved since I was a very small child — never made it back to the rotation. In fact, until about three weeks ago, the very thought of mussels made me feel unhappy. This made my husband feel unhappy.
To celebrate two months sans pregnancy, we had mussels, and they were delicious. (Thanks to the one & only Ina for the recipe.)
Mussels with White Wine & Tomato Saffron Sauce
2-3 pounds mussels (or at least a pound a person)
big scoop of all-purpose flour
big pinch saffron threads
2 tablespoons butter
3-4 large shallots, chopped OR a large sweet onion
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz can chopped tomatoes, juice drained
lots of chopped parsley
about a cup of white wine
Clean your mussels: add them to a large bowl or pot with lots of cold water. Add the flour, and let soak for 45 minutes. Drain and then remove the beards by hand, bringing it toward the hinge and then pulling it gently off. Throw out any noticeably bad mussels and give the whole batch another good rinse.
Meanwhile, add the saffron to a half a cup hot water and let soak for about 15 minutes.
In a large pot, add butter and olive oil and melt down over medium heat. Add shallots or onion; cook until translucent and then add the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the tomatoes, saffron & saffron-flavored water, parsley, thyme, wine, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil.
Add mussels, stir it all together and then cover the pot. Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, or until the mussels open up. You don’t want to undercook them – gross – and you don’t want to overcook them, either – rubbery. Discard any that do not open. Another sprinkle of parsley won’t hurt anyone, either.
Serve immediately, with garlic bread for the critical step of dipping into the sauce.
I’ve gained new appreciation for lots of things I’d never before considered before I became a walking dairy cow mom. Showers, for instance. I didn’t know I was such a proponent. (In fact, I am pretty sure I was on the low end of the shower bell curve.) No longer, my friends. I am PSYCHED when I get to shower. Ramps are another biggie – our first bout of activism: lobbying our condo board association to reinstall a lobby ramp. Chairs with arm rests – helpful to have something to push off of when trying to stand up. My friends, who brought us lunches and dinners and sent me funny Bitmojis and fruit to the hospital. My mom. Oh, my mom. My mom was everything those first few weeks. Cook, grocery shopper, house cleaner, baby changer, bottle washer, life giver. At one (let’s be honest, very low) point, I found myself breastfeeding my baby in a Wendy’s parking lot, my mom spoon-feeding me a Frosty, and I realized: this is motherhood, and it is NEVER. GOING. TO. END.
I also have a new appreciation for one-handed meals. And a fast and loose definition of what “meals” entail – these cookies, for instance.
Banana Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, brought to room temperature
1 super ripe banana
splash vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1-2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 – 1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
optional – pecans, almonds, your preferred nut.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl. Slowly beat in the egg, banana and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda and fluff it all through with a fork; slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture.
As a last step, stir in chocolate chips, coconut & (optional) nuts.
Use an ice cream scoop to measure out about half a scoopful onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 9-12 minutes, depending on your oven.
Goodness these are delicious and I am pretty sure that’s not just because I am always ravenous. Fluffy and light, they don’t keep longer than a day or two before they start to lose their texture…which wasn’t a problem around here.
Things that happened over chez nous since our last musing on kielbasa & lentil soup:
One Saturday morning, the Husband insisted we go house-hunting. Again. 41 weeks into gestation, the stairs have never felt steeper.
We stopped for pretzel hot dogs for lunch. And then falafel and french fries. And then, because why not, for the first time in YEARS, a McDonald’s milkshake.
And then, one terrible, terrible car ride later – stuck behind a funeral procession, SCREAMING at the Husband to just end it all NOW – I had an epidural. At 2:57AM, we heard our kid cry for the first time. In between, there were some terrible, serious complications that we are still working through, 2.5 months later – stories for some other time.
BUT. A BABY. A wonderful, healthy, smiley, squirmy baby boy we’ve named Theodore. Our little man. Holy, moly, love.
But this isn’t a blog about babies. (Although I do feel like I could do a whole side blog entitled “Really Hard Stuff No One Told You About Pregnancy and Babies and Childbirth and Parenthood Because Otherwise We’d All Stop Procreating and Social Security Would Disappear Faster than It Already Is.” Catchy name, no?)
And now I’m going to do the impossible: try to start cooking again. And to write about it. Bear with me.