This Week's Menu: The Mind the Gap Edition

Today  I'm thinking about that gap between what we want to do and what we actually do, and how many missed opportunities can stack up when we don't act on our intentions. Friendships can fade, skills can go soft, bad habits can get the better of us.

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When you're talking about food and cooking, sometimes a gap is just a gap - and you leave it there because to fill it would mean to miss more important bits of life. I always intend to plan our meals, prep components in advance, and have dinner as a family most nights of the week. Last week though, I left unfulfilled intentions in place. There's still a big kabocha squash on my counter from when I planned to finalize a recipe where it's roasted and glazed with chipotle and honey. I'd also planned to cook a brand-new-to-me recipe (something I'm trying to do more of these days) later in the week. 

But then I got word that one of my aunts had been transferred to a hospice last Monday. She passed away the next evening - thankfully after I'd had a chance to go say goodbye.

When I heard she'd moved to hospice,  I spent the rest of that morning processing the news by cooking things that required no recipe. Meal plan, schmeal plan. Chopping, stirring, whisking, tasting, listening to the thrum of the oven while I roasted and baked and thought about my relationship with my aunt. I love her and will miss her.  It's no more complicated than that. 

One of the lessons I've absorbed in the wake of a flurry of family deaths over the past few years is that there's no time like the present. Want to quit drinking? Start today. Write a letter to an old friend? Take ten minutes this evening and do it. Learn to cook? Find a recipe you like the looks of and make dinner tonight. Don't worry about how long it takes or whether you burn the garlic. Just cook some food, and do it again soon. 

Acting on intention takes practice, I think. But if closing the gap between what you want to do and what you actually do results in a life with more connection and more awareness, then it's worth remembering to do it. With that, I'm back on that planning and cooking train this week. 

Monday was supposed to be baked penne a la Krista, who fed this dish to me and my kiddos last week. It was met with yelps of approval so I  wanted a repeat victory of my own. It's a one-pot situation where you COOK THE PENNE IN THE SAUCE so that's exciting. Alas, my kid called it "mood food," and guess what - he wasn't in the mood so I kept their pasta plain and made some puttanesca sauce for myself, FILLED with anchovies, take that. I got some pinto beans soaking for... 

Tacos on Tuesday. That squash on my counter will finally get glazed and maybe I'll even get it right and write the recipe down. We'll have pinto beans and plenty of veg to stuff into those tortillas, and also JOY, because tis the season for crowning tacos with pomegranate arils. Try it! 

Wednesday I'll take the remaining pintos and turn them into veggie burgers - I find that with enough ketchup, mustard, and cheese, many things can get passed off as a "burger" around here. I'm also gonna put kale chips out there and see what happens. I have a feeling the boys won't eat them but you never know unless you test. Sometimes cooking for kids feels like one big experiment. Where's my eye-roll emoji when I need it?

Thursday we're doing pasta again, but this time I'm making it whole wheat and tossing with bacon, roasted cauliflower, and black olives. The wheat pasta needs assertive flavors to stick to - and I think this combo will work. I use bacon from Jasper Hill Farms, makers of some of my favorite cheeses - and it's tasty in the extreme. 

For Friday, I'll be out of town, amen, but there will be some extra red sauce left from Monday's penne. So I'll make a ball of dough and suggest pizza for my dudes. If it doesn't happen, dough and sauce can get frozen for another night. 

Planning out our meals helps me tamp down at least one component of our slightly chaotic weekly grind. Having that piece in place frees up a little space to focus on other intentions - from writing letters to old friends, striking up conversations with potential new ones, or listening to music my aunt introduced me to (Miles Davis, Michael Jackson) as a way to remember her well.

Just trying to mind the gap, kids. xo