They say in Seattle it rained every day in January. I was lucky enough to escape to Palm Spring for a long weekend for work, and can I just say, you forget how much you miss the sun until you’re sitting outside eating chips and guacamole and enjoying a 3pm margarita. It was good to be away.
The thing about having young kids, as all parents out there already know, is your personal desires are basically always suppressed in favor of keeping your kids alive, healthy, and happy. Let’s dig into this for a minute: rarely do I actually get to ponder what I’d like to eat for breakfast or what my body feels like it really needs. Nope, I typically eat the remains of Oliver’s frozen waffle and grab a handful of nuts on the way out the door (parents who survive off of your kid’s scraps: I SEE YOU).That’s one reason why getting away to California was so nice. Yes, it was a work trip and we had a pretty booked itinerary, actually. But I had a few days to really consider myself: what would I like for breakfast? What would I like to do with my hour before dinner? I even went out at night and didn’t worry about what time I’d get to bed. A much needed time to just be Megan.
Right now, Sam and I are struggling a bit with the juggle to get each other that time. Sam needs time to be a Sam and I need time to be a Megan, and then of course we need time to focus on each other. And man, where do people find this time?! While most days really are wonderful, I’m not surprised by the divorce statistics to be honest: this juggle ain’t easy.
So this upcoming week we’re trying something new! Every Tuesday is Sam’s night and Thursdays are my night — so this Thursday I won’t come home after work to help with dinner and bedtime. And I don’t need to think about getting home by any certain time. Maybe I’ll go to yoga and meet up with a friend for a drink. Maybe I’ll go see Little Women by myself. When the weather gets warmer, I can see myself meeting my friend Keena for walks around the lake. Or just going to a cafe and reading an actual book. And then, of course, on Sam’s nights the same holds true and I’ll handle dinner and bedtime for the kids.
Do you all do anything similar? What are the ways you carve out space and time for your partner?
And of course completely unrelated (I remember the days I’d really try to link the recipe to the narrative, but hell, who has the time?!) is this cheesy polenta with little ribbons of tender chard that I’ve been making each week. To be honest, it’s not the biggest looker of a recipe – I wouldn’t make this if someone famous were coming over for dinner. But it’s incredibly satisfying in these colder winter months. I take out a scoop before adding the greens so Oliver will actually eat it, and Frances loves it — not surprising to anyone as we have yet to meet a carb she’ll turn down.
I hope you all have a great week, peppered with a at least a few hours just to yourself.
This easy side dish features ribbons of chard but you could certainly use any hearty green you like (or leave them out altogether). Here I just used the chard leaves because they soften and incorporate into the polenta nicely. Feel free to save the ribs, chop them up and cook them in a stir fry or fold them into a crunchy salad.
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the water and milk to a gentle boil. Slowly add the polenta, salt and pepper and stir to combine.
Decrease the heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, until the polenta is nice and creamy, 25-30 minutes, stirring often to prevent clumping or sticking (if it starts clumping, add a little more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to loosen). Note that the polenta will continue to thicken as it cools.
Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Fold in the butter and set aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil and cook the shallot for 2 minutes. Then add the garlic and chard and cook until the chard softens, about 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and fold the cooked chard and Parmesan into the polenta mixture. Serve warm; best served immediately.
Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Reheat leftover on the stove top over low heat — you may need to add a little water to loosen.
Healthy Comfort Food
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)