Red Pepper Tomato Sauce

Red Pepper and TomatoI have a news flash for you…life with a one year old is pretty freaking chaotic. Pick me up, put me down, catch me, chase me up the stairs, read me a book, let’s play picnic, BANANA! Put that on a loop and repeat at 90 second intervals throughout the day.  This can’t possibly continue indefinitely, can it?  Because just typing that sentence makes me feel manic AND exhausted.

In my house there are two barometers that show the current level of crazy.  The toys scattered around every inch of floor space don’t count because that’s just a given.  No, I’m talking about the dining room table and the refrigerator.

When the surface of the table is no longer visible because of the mail, receipts, grocery bags, boxes and cans of food that didn’t get put away, daily reports from daycare, lunch bags, the Sunday Post, and god only knows what else, it makes me twitchy.  The longer the mess sits around, the more anxious I get, until finally I go through it grumbling and cursing the whole time about people not cleaning up after themselves.  Naturally then, the majority of the crap on the table turns out to be mine.  So I could save myself a whole lot of time and aggravation by either not letting the table deteriorate into a DEFCON 1 situation or by choosing to ignore it.

Likewise, peeking into the fridge will give you a pretty accurate assessment of my mental state even if I’m faking it with the dining room table organization.  Is the fridge relatively clean?  Then all is well…or as well as it can be.  Is the fridge disorganized and maybe a wee bit crowded? This tells you that I am being hijacked by my toddler to entertain her.  This may or may not include viewing episodes of Peppa Pig and hosting spontaneous dance parties in the kitchen . Does my fridge have an unidentified funk that haunts your senses?  Then simply close the door and run because the person having a nuclear meltdown in the corner is not my child, it is me.  Little Miss won’t take a nap and refuses to drink milk from anything but a bottle, she insists on watering the tables with the contents of her sippy cups, there is cat litter scattered all over the floor along with cheerios and bits of half chewed chicken, I have three or four sewing projects in various stages of completion, the dirty laundry is multiplying exponentially, and there is a knob of ginger on my counter that I have so utterly neglected that it actually sprouted.

By the time things actually start to smell, pretending not to notice….the chaos or the funk…is no longer an option.  That’s where I was last night.  So while The Mistah was on duty with bath night (also known as I will scream at you until you take me out of this damn tub), I emptied the fridge shelf by shelf, sniffed out the offenders (yeah, I’m looking at you cauliflower and ignored cup of milk), tossed a few other things that were about to take a turn for the stinky, wiped everything down, and restored order in my Frigidaire.  And damn if it didn’t feel so good when I was done that I kept going with the clean and tackled my stovetop.  For someone who hasn’t been doing a whole lot in the kitchen, I sure managed to make one hell of a mess of my stove.

Along with the physical clutter that I cleared out, I also gave myself a bit of mental breathing room.  And I have to say that felt pretty good too.  I know it will get better and that eventually Miss Libby won’t need constant supervision. Which means that my days of manic exhaustion are numbered.

Red Pepper Tomato Sauce

Adapted from Alexandra’s Kitchen

BAH Note:  I wanted a bigger batch of this sauce so that I could put some up in the freezer for those DEFCON 1 days.  Since I didn’t bother to write down a single note on how much tomato or peppers I used, I’m going to use the quantity from Alexandra’s post as a starting point.  You can bend and twist this to your liking.

PS…I discovered that this also makes the base for a pretty rocking red pepper tomato soup.  So you do what you like.

  • 2 cups red bell peppers, chopped (about 2 peppers)
  • 2 cups tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • basil (optional)

Place the peppers, tomato, salt, pepper, and water in a pot.  Simmer for approximately 30 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally.  If the tomatoes want to stick to the pan during cooking, add a bit more water to the pot.

The sauce is done when the tomatoes and peppers are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Transfer the sauce to a blender or food processor, add the basil (if using) and process till smooth.

Return the sauce to the pot and add the butter and olive oil. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper as desired.   Serve with your pasta of choice, or if the day has been really bad, enjoy a nice tomato sauce sandwich.

{printable recipe}

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Beefyroni

Cheesy Beefaroni

I’ve been visiting rehab lately.  Something about that sentence has a whole lot of shock value until I clarify that I was going to visit my grandmother who was getting physical therapy/rehab for a broken arm.  After a number of weeks and an operation to reset the bones with pins, the powers that be at her insurance company decided they were done paying for her stay at the facility.  And that was that.

Yup, my 90 year old grandmother got kicked out of rehab.  I can add that to the list of things I never thought I’d hear myself say.

I’m at the point in my life where I’m flanked by life beginning and ending.  On one hand there is Miss Libby just starting out on this journey.  On the other is my grandmother whose journey is winding down.  And both metaphorically as well as mathematically I am almost exactly in the middle of the two.  Somehow that feels so very right.  I get to watch Libby’s light grow and shine while I also get to see my grandmother’s fade.  Both are a privilege but there is sadness in the certainty of knowing I face a profound loss ahead.

I was talking about this recently with a friend and said how unfair I thought it was that after such a long life my grandmother should be facing a growing list of health issues.  And my friend said something that really made me think.  She reminded me that it takes time for a life to begin.  And it takes time for a life to end.  The notion of people peacefully passing on in their sleep?  It looks nice in the movies, but life isn’t The Notebook.  So what I’m seeing, and struggling with, this is part of the process.

That doesn’t make me dislike it any less.  But at least I can look at it a little differently now.  And in those moments when my heart breaks just a little at seeing my grandmother look so old and frail, I can take comfort in the delight she gets from seeing Libby’s joy and wonder unfold at the world around her.

Beefyroni

Adapted from Ezra Pound Cake

Note:  This is all about comfort.  I’m not suggesting that you should feed your feelings…well, maybe I am.  But there is something reassuring about ground beef, macaroni, and cheese.  Maybe it’s the simplicity of the dish.  Or maybe it’s just a trifecta of perfection.  Mine is not to reason why…yours shouldn’t be either…just enjoy.

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) Cheddar cheese, grated

Brown the beef and onion in a large skillet on medium high heat, breaking the beef apart with your spoon or spatula as it browns.

While the beef and onion cooks, combine the beef broth, mustard, ketchup, and salt in a bowl.

Once the beef is no longer pink, drain off most of the grease (remember, there’s a lot of flavor in those drippings).  Add the broth mixture to your pan with the beef and bring to a boil.  Add the macaroni, give it a stir, and then cover the pan.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook for approximately 10 to 12 minutes until the macaroni is tender.

Add the cheese, stir to combine, and dig in to a heaping bowl of comfort.

{printable recipe}