ALL OR NOTHING…
It’s amazing what a good, relaxing, and cool weekend can do for a person’s spirits. Armed with a list from my physical therapist of a dozen new exercises to do, and a fancy new collection of elastic resistance bands, I headed into the weekend determined to turn my low mood around by being active and proactive. I feel motivated and excited to rebuild my body in a such a way that it can properly support itself and I can resume my formerly active lifestyle. My clean MRI has freed me to start moving again. There’s something about taking a (literal) active approach to all of this that makes me feel better about everything.
I tend to be an all or nothing person… make that an all or nothing person who is striving to live a more balanced existence. Last week, as I shared, I hardly cooked a thing, I watched a movies during the girls’ nap time (including Haute Cuisine, which I highly recommend), slacked on emails, etc. It was understandable given the amount of discomfort I was experiencing from the cortisone injection and the 90 degree heat. This weekend things cooled down and my aches were diminished a bit, so true to form, I peeled myself up from the couch and got cooking again.
On Sunday, I steamed sliced carrots and green beans; roasted sliced beets, butternuts squash, and sweet potatoes. Then I froze all the vegetables in single layers on baking sheets and transferred them into little containers filled with a variety of frozen finger-food-sized vegetables for Lulu. I can quickly defrost them, along with some frozen peas or corn, and put give it to her with some buttered bread, shredded chicken, or slices of cheese for healthy lunches or early dinners.
Yesterday, I set out with the intention of making a couple of batches of homemade macaroni and cheese with roasted chicken, and somehow ended up making eight batches! I’m not sure what happened but I just kept cooking and cooking, and a couple hours, nine quarts of cheese sauce, six roasted chicken breasts, and seven pounds of pasta later and there I was with tons of macaroni and cheese for the freezer. I made so much macaroni and cheese that we ended up going to the neighbors house for tacos because the idea of eating mac and cheese for dinner was just too much.
I love making Macaroni and Cheese from scratch because, while I’m not against a box of it from time to time, I prefer to eat, and feed to my kids, food that I’ve made from scratch. It’s my thing. I like to toss in some chicken breast that I’ve roasted and shredded for some extra protein. I freeze whole batches in a casserole dish, but I also make a batch or two to freeze in smaller portions. I line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper and scoop out enough for the kids, then I freeze the portions. Once they’re frozen they can be transferred to a Ziploc bag and kept in the freezer for easy, fast, made-from-scratch lunches for the girls (or me). I posted the photo below on Instagram yesterday and everyone declared that I was brilliant and a genius – which also has a way of boosting one’s morale.
My big cooking and freezing and storing binges usually come on the heels of a week or two of no cooking (for various reasons) or a vacation. Something comes over me and I make and bake my way back to normalcy. So what if my normal is someone else’s crazy? Full disclosure: I also made a double batch of granola… and a quadruple batch of buttermilk pancakes to freeze… and chicken stock. On the tail end of one of my ridiculous cooking days, or weekends, I usually end up making something really simple for dinner (unless my best friend/next door neighbor steps in and saves me). One of the simplest, and most delicious dinners in my repertoire is Grilled Kale Caesar Salad.
We make Grilled Kale Caesar Salad a couple times a week in the summers, especially during the time when kale in our garden is in abundance. The kale is washed, stripped from the stalk, roughly torn, tossed with olive oil and grilled until wilted and charred. Then it’s simply tossed with a fresh, lemony Caesar Salad dressing, some peppery croûtons, and a decadent amount of shaved Parmesan. The result is a smoky, salty, bright salad that is incredibly filling, and incredibly easy to make.
2 large bunches kale, stripped from the stem and roughly torn (stems discarded)
extra virgin olive oil
some French bread, cut into crouton-sized cubes
freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese, shaved
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, very finely minced or grated with a microplane
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon, anchovy paste, garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Preheat your broiler while you toss the croutons with plenty of olive oil on a large baking sheet. They should mostly coated but not saturated with oil. Pop the croutons under the broiler and toast, tossing often, until they are golden. Remove from the oven, season with lots of freshly ground black pepper, toss, and transfer them to a paper towel lined plate. Set aside.
Heat your grill to high while you wash and prepare your kale. Toss the torn kale pieces into a large bowl, drizzle with a tablespoon or two olive oil. Using a pair of tongs, transfer the kale directly onto the hot grill. Allow the kale to wilt and char, tossing every couple of minutes. Transfer the grilled kale to a large bowl, along with the croutons and parmesan cheese, and toss with lots of Caesar dressing. Serve immediately.