Keeping it Simple

I took a trip to San Francisco, my future home, this past weekend. I wonder when that won’t sound weird.

My cat took the trip with me, taking her first, and hopefully her last voyage across the country via a 747 loaded with passengers. She was relatively well-behaved, and fortunately she handled the situation much better than I’d anticipated, only meowing constantly during the drive to the airport and during the last hour of the flight. She even clung to me for dear life during the security walk-through, and here I was worried she’d claw and run away. Not too bad, really, all things in perspective.

We made it into the San Jose airport, Chris waiting at the baggage claim, and drove into Cupertino only to find that my cat’s sister, who’d taken the maiden voyage earlier in the week, was not nearly as enthused about big sis’ arrival as we’d expected she’d be. Growling and hissing throughout the weekend, she made sure to assert herself as much as possible, claiming her territory with a quickness and keeping consistent with that theme way after I’d left on Sunday.

Aside from the cat fights, literally, the weekend went just fine. I did realize that, the second I leave my husband alone for a week, he regresses to bachelor mode. Meaning, I opened up his fridge and after two weeks of living there, there were still 4 items in it: eggs, milk, crystal light, and Target brand shredded cheese (!). The pantry also held three distinct items: cereal, Frank’s hot sauce (for the eggs, silly), and cat food. The only thing missing is a case of Bud Light in the door, but I’m gonna chalk that up to him having a cold and being a little bit busier than he’s used to.

That being said, I felt the need to make dinner Friday night. For one, I hadn’t cooked since our big party, which I should remind you was only a week ago so that isn’t really that long. But second, I felt the need to make that temporary apartment feel a bit more homey, and buying olive oil and pasta was a good start.

Let’s just say that the kitchen is lacking a few amenities, but it’s by far stocked with enough tools to make do. Needless to say, it’s a kitchen where you have to keep things simple, and I’m ok with that for the next few months. Heck, I don’t even know if I have it in me to churn out some of these 10-step dishes I’ve talked about in the past, even if I wanted to. Moving is hard work, that’s for sure. But even so, there’s always pasta, and that means a lot.

Spaghetti & Meat Sauce
serves 4

time commitment: less than 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
1 T olive oil
1 lb ground organic pork
2 16 oz jars pasta sauce (I used San Marzano tomato-basil)
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 box spaghetti

instructions
in a skillet, heat olive oil. toss in pork and cook until browned. dump in pasta sauce, add salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer.

meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook spaghetti for about 10 minutes, or until al dente. drain, and serve with above meat sauce.

About that time

So what do you guys think about when November hits? Thanksgiving isn’t the answer I’m looking for here.

Christmas shopping isn’t either. I mean for realz – who shops in November?! I totally wait until December. The middle of December, if I’m lucky. Well, if you’re lucky, if you’re on my list ….

What I think about, is that it’s gettin’ ready to be time to hibernate. It’s almost time to put the bike away (although this is my first Fall/Winter biking to work, so I don’t know how long I’ll make it, really), and time to walk from the train to work so fast that my butt shakes (which really, it doesn’t take much).

Speaking of butts, and of hibernating, it’s about time for a few months of comfort food. To me, that means squash, sweet potatoes, and pasta. Soup never hurt anyone either.

Yes, it’s about that time. And thanks be to the CSA (& Costco), I happened to have all of that lying around this weekend, which was the exact same time I located a recipe from a couple of years back, one I’d absolutely forgotten about.

I’ve been eating this all. week. long. And I haven’t complained a bit.

A vegetarian treat, the squash & potatoes have that perfect amount of sweetness, and a gooey enough consistency to seem saucy. When the dish comes together, you hear that squishy sound – that of the pasta and the rest of the mixture blending together, sauce nuzzling itself into the twists and turns and holes of the pasta – hibernating. It tastes like the week before Thanksgiving, no matter when you eat it, and the cheese and walnuts are a perfect contrast in terms of both taste and texture.

Yes, it’s about that time. Time to eat that last plate of this almost-empty casserole dish. Time to cozy up on the couch, preparing for that everlasting, but somehow not so horrible, season of hibernation. Time to indulge, and to put off that Christmas shopping for a few more weeks. Oh, November – you are too good to hate. It’s about time I give in, I think.

Baked Pasta w/ Squash & Sweet Potatoes
Adapted from Weight Watchers online, 2 years ago; serves 6-8

time commitment: 1 hour, 15 minutes; 45 minutes active time

yes, Weight Watchers! it totally doesn’t taste as healthy as it is. You can probably use any squash/sweet potato combo here (last time I made this, two years ago, I used butternut only).

printable version

ingredients
1 lb delicata squash, peeled and cubed (1″ pieces)
3/4 lb sweet potato, peeled and cubed (1″ pieces)
12 oz uncooked whole wheat penne/rotini
1 1/4 c skim milk
2 T ap flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t kosher salt
1/4 t black pepper
1 T fresh thyme, divided
1/2 c part skim ricotto cheese
1/3 c Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 c chopped walnuts

instructions
preheat oven to 375 F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. place squash and sweet potato cubes on prepared baking sheet; roast until tender, about 30-45 minutes.

meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. After squash has been roasting for about 10 minutes, cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.

in the pot where the pasta was cooked, whisk together milk, flour, garlic, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking frequently; reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in squash and 2 1/2 teaspoons of thyme; mash until squash is incorporated with the sauce. Add pasta to the sauce; toss to mix and coat.

transfer pasta mixture to baking dish; dot with spoonfuls of ricotta and then sprinkle with Parmesan and walnuts. Bake until top is lightly browned in a few spots, about 15 to 20 minutes; remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon of thyme.