I am fond of the idea of sobriety tool kits: arsenals of healthy coping mechanisms, more or less, that help a woman ride the waves of life in the proverbial “middle of the boat.”
I was talking with a friend the other night about how we just do not know what the future holds. Life has thrown me unexpected blessings and devastating curve balls. And I consider myself much the wiser for it. When I pray, I physically open my palms to assume a posture of receptivity to this mysterious universe and surrender to the not-knowing. Meanwhile, I use my f-ing tools!
Here are my top 10 go-tos:
- Plenty of sleep, made possible by good sleep hygiene
- Guided meditations
- Daily gratitude practice
- 12-step meetings
- “Treating myself” in simple, inexpensive ways
- Reading as a healthy form of escape
- Listening to uplifting and inspirational music
- Yoga With Adriene on YouTube
- Balancing plenty of solitude with meaningful connections to others
- Housework/chores as a salve and mental break
There is a phrase in recovery circles, “To keep it, you have to give it away.” This idea that giving generously is its own reward is how I feel about cooking. There’s nothing more satisfying to cook and feed others with than cheese- and cream- and egg-rich comfort foods. And this week, it was mine to give away. I enjoyed dropping off a generous portion of the first dish, creamy orzo, at my brother’s house, a meal I highly recommend serving to kiddos, but that does just as well with full-fledged adults 🙂 The second recipe for herb-apple bread pudding was a hit with the crowd at the baby shower I attended on Sunday (despite quite the smorgasbord of casserole-like dishes. I attribute this to it having great fresh flavors that stand up to the starch and cream. You can really taste the herbs and apple.)
As we head into the middle of the week (I’m so off my consistent Sunday posting game!) I hope you will try one (or both!) of these recipes yourself, and maybe even consider reflecting on what the non-negotiables are in your personal toolkit for life. Meanwhile, I think I may have to add heavy cream to my list.
Until next time!
Adapted from Everyday Pasta by Giada De Laurentiis
1 pound orzo
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
3/4 to 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
- Bring a large pot of generously salted water to boil over high heat.
- Add the orzo and cook, stirring frequently, until it’s al dente, about 8 minutes. (You definitely don’t want to overcook this! Erring on the side of firm is good.) While the pasta is cooking, prepare your other ingredients. Drain the pasta in a colander sitting atop a mixing bowl so you can reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.
- Warm a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the shallot and garlic and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until they are tender, roughly 8 minutes. Stir in the cream and peas.
- Combine the cooked orzo and the skillet mixture in the pot you cooked the pasta in. Add the Parmesan cheese and toss thoroughly. Add reserved pasta water as needed to thin the sauce to your liking (I didn’t end up adding any pasta water because I prefer a thicker consistency). Season to taste with salt and pepper. (This step, however, you don’t want to skip. It needs salt.)
Herb and Apple Bread Pudding
Adapted from Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten
8 cups country bread cubes, crusts removed (use a slightly stale loaf, if possible)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 ounces good thick cut bacon, chopped
2 cups chopped yellow onions (1 1/2 to 2 onions)
1 1/2 cups medium-diced celery
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped
1 3/4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons minced rosemary or thyme, or a mixture of the two
Kosher salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
7 extra-large eggs
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 cups freshly grated nutty, salty cheese such as Asiago, Gruyere, or Parmesan
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and cube the bread. Place the cubes in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes, tossing once, until lightly browned. While the bread is toasting, prep the onions, celery, apple, fresh herbs, parsley, chicken stock, and bacon, in that order. Set aside the toasted bread cubes.
- Heat a large pot over medium-low heat and add the butter. Add the chopped bacon, raise the heat to medium, and cook for 5 minutes, until browned. Add the onions, celery, and apple and cook over medium to medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender.
- Stir in 1/2 cup chicken stock, the two tablespoons of fresh herbs, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until most of the liquid is gone. Add the parsley off the heat.
- Whisk together the eggs, heavy cream, remaining 1 1/4 cups chicken stock, and 1 1/2 cups cheese in a very large bowl. Stir in the bread and the vegetable mixture and set aside for 30 minutes to allow the bread to soak up the custard.
- Pour the mixture into a 9 x 13 x 2-inch oven-to-table baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the top is browned and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Serve hot.
Note: You could probably use 8 large eggs as opposed to 7 extra-large eggs.