Hello, January! I still hear people out on the street and in my exercise class wishing one another a happy New Year and it brings a smile to my face — there’s something about this time of year that feels truly hopeful. It’s not so much about goals or resolutions for me (although it used to be); it’s more about checking in with each other, wishing one another well and doing better by ourselves and for ourselves. I remember one of the things I loved about being pregnant was how often people asked me how I was feeling — from my caregivers to friends, family, acquaintances, the woman making my coffee on my way to work. And they waited for a genuine answer. They seemed to really care. What a revelation! To check in with people in a very real way about how they’re feeling! Let’s keep it up for at least a few more weeks, shall we?
Yesterday we went to the Seattle Art Museum to visit the Andrew Wyeth exhibit on its very last day — I’ve wanted to go for some time, and Sam and I even planned a Day Date last month when we had a sitter, but the museum happened to be closed that day. Soooo, we went yesterday with Oliver, Sam quite positive that we’d all have a nice experience looking at art and me a bit doubtful that I’d get a chance to truly ingest and absorb much of it at all. Can you guess who was right?
It turns out, if you have the inkling to go to a museum exhibit you’re really excited about with a two year old, you should expect to spend the brunt of the time riding the escalators up and down … and back up again. And making promises about snacks you’ll find together that don’t actually exist. But I did have one takeaway in the whirlwind half hour or so I spent chasing a crazed, small person around the viewing rooms — and that is that inspiration is so often right outside our window or front door.
This time of year so many of us are thinking about new ways to approach work, life, parenting, self care: what apps can you buy to make things easier and fresh? What ways can you mix up how you approach meal planning, what goals do you have for the house or the garden this spring? What new friendships do you want to foster? Something I found interesting about Andrew Wyeth was that his large body of work really focused on the view outside the window or door of his residence in Pennsylvania or his summer home in Maine. So many paintings and such rich stories and history spanning years … from largely the same vantage point.
In many ways I think this is an important little nudge for this time of year, a reminder that we can do better for others and ourselves and work towards many of our goals and resolutions without grand gestures, different apps on our phone, or the infinite search for newness. Oftentimes, the inspiration we’re looking for is right outside the window, and perhaps we can even reach it sometimes without moving a muscle.
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This is a slow cooker curry, and I’m hoping some of you are luddites like me and are still using your slow cooker instead of the Instant Pot (I just can’t justify another appliance, you guys!). I think the slow cooker is still the best weeknight hack for busy families, and this is a great winter recipe as it’s filling; has a good hit of protein thanks to the lentils; and marries the flavors of curry, coriander, cinnamon and turmeric, making the house smell like a dream. We’ve been serving this with brown rice, although it’d be great on its own with a big slice of buttery naan. Good fuel for gazing out the window and trying to see things in a new light this week; I hope you get a chance to do just that.
The work here is really in chopping the veggies; beyond that, this curry makes itself. If you’d like to add some chopped greens (kale or spinach would be great), you could do so at the very end and let them wilt in the hot curry. I thought about adding frozen peas, too, which I may do next time around. You’ll have a little leftover coconut milk, which I save and use in smoothies so as not to waste any ingredients. Leftover curry is great for up to 5 days in the refrigerator, or freeze for harried weeknights in the future.
Coat a 5-6 quart electric slow cooker with cooking spray.
Place the cauliflower, sweet potato, onion, water, lentils, broth, curry paste, garlic, coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon stick, salt, and tomato paste in the slow cooker. Stir well to combine. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours. Turn off the heat, stir in coconut milk and remove cinnamon stick. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Serve with rice, chopped cilantro, green onions, toasted cashews and a spoonful of plain yogurt.
Glimpses of Spring
We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine). Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).
It turns out shopping for wedding dresses is nothing like they make it appear in the movies. Or at least it hasn't been for me. Angels don't sing. Stars don't explode. Relatives don't cry. There isn't a sudden heart-stopping moment that this is, in fact, "the one." To be honest, I always knew that I wasn't the kind of gal for whom angels would sing or stars would explode but I did think I'd have some kind of moment where I could tell I'd found the best dress. Instead, my mom flew into town and we spent three (yes, three!!) days shopping for dresses, and since then I've been back to the stores we visited -- and I'm more undecided than ever. Tomorrow morning I'll return with my friend Keena to try and tie this business up once and for all. Cross your fingers.
When I was single and living alone in the Bay Area, I made virtually the same thing for dinner each night. I ate meals quickly while in front of the computer. Or even worse: the television. This most often included what I call "Mexican Pizzas" which were basically glorified quesadillas baked in the oven until crispy. Sometimes, if I was really feeling like cooking, I'd whip up a quick stir-fry with frozen vegetables from Trader Joe's or a mushroom frittata using pre-sliced mushrooms. Mostly, though, it was Mexican Pizzas -- a good four or five nights a week. Today, thankfully, dinner looks a lot different. Meals in general look a lot different. How would I explain that difference? I think that ultimately how we feel about our life colors how we choose to feed ourselves and the importance that we place on preparing our own meals.
Today was 75 degrees in Seattle and it seemed the whole city was out and about drinking iced coffee in tank tops and perhaps not working all that hard. When we have a hit of sunshine like this in April (or, really, any time of the year), we're all really good at making excuses to leave the office early -- or, simply, to "work from home." I just got back from LA last night, unpacked in a whirlwind this morning, and took Oliver to meet up with three friends from our parents group at the zoo. The only other time I'd been to the Seattle zoo was once with Sam a few years ago when we arrived thirty minutes before closing and ended up doing a whirlwind tour -- sprinting from the giraffes to the massive brown bear to the meerkat. The visit today was much different: we strolled slowly trying to avoid the spring break crowds and beating sun. I managed to only get one of Oliver's cheeks sunburned, and he even got in a decent nap. A success of an afternoon, I'd say. Coming home I realized we didn't have much in the fridge for lunch -- but thankfully there was a respectable stash of Le Croix (Le Croix season is back!) and a small bowl of this whole grain salad I made right before I left town. It's the kind of salad that's meant for this time of year: it pulls off colorful and fresh despite the fact that much of the true spring and summer produce isn't yet available. And for that reason, I make a few versions of it in early spring, often doubling the recipe so there's always the possibility of having a small bowl at 1 p.m. while the baby naps in the car seat, one cheek sunburned, windows and back door open -- a warm breeze creeping into the kitchen.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.