It’s only Monday and yet, I woke up exhausted. The kind of exhausted that hits you to the core. I thought, “Gads…I need a weekend to recover from the weekend.” Somehow I managed to drag myself downstairs and throw lunches together for my children. The standard fare…peanut butter and jelly, grapes, a couple of cookies, some water. Under the circumstances, it was the best I could do. After setting the finished lunch boxes on the counter, I started making my way around the house to open all of the blinds. Growing up, I would watch as my mother would put down every blind in the house in the evening and then, reverse this daily ritual in the morning. I seemed to have inherited it. This closing down or opening up our home every evening and every morning. As I pulled back the curtains in the living room, my eye caught the ever-growing flock of weeds in my flower bed. They almost seemed to be taunting me as they waved back and forth in the windy weather. Right next to them was the patch of proliferating clover that seems to be taking over my lawn. I sighed, looked at the rain pouring down and thought, “Not today.”
For the first time in weeks, everyone was off in his own corner of the city. No one was home sick. The house was silent. Out of sheer will power I hopped up on the elliptical machine for 30 minutes hoping that might give me a burst of energy. As my legs went around and around like a gerbil in a habitrail ball, I watched a recorded episode of Parenthood. I realized I must really be losing my mind be tired because I cried through the whole thing especially the part where the father says to his teenage daughter, “You’re right. There is a double-standard and it’s not fair. But you’re my daughter. And……life’s not fair.” I thought about the time in high school when I was at a friend’s house. Her parents were away and we were hanging out there with her older brother and his friends when suddenly my Dad shows up and yanks me out of there. At the time I was mortified and thought he was over-protective and nuts but now, of course, I realize he was just trying to keep me safe.
Somehow I managed to tackle the stack of bills, the “overflowing” email in-box and fetch my youngest ones from school. But then, when it came time to tackle dinner, the will-power started to wane. Too tired to go to the grocery store, I stood at the door of the pantry praying something would pop out at me. We’d had pizza last week more times than I care to admit. I couldn’t serve it again. I spied a half used box of orecchiette pasta and some canned beans on the shelf. Grabbing those, the gears in my mind slowly started to turn. In the fridge, I found some pancetta left over from last week’s big day. An onion on the counter. And, out on the deck, were my newly planted herb boxes just waiting to be put to use.
As I laid our dinner of Pasta e Fagioli soup, greens with a homemade vinaigrette and some “day-old” bread I had livened back up with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top and a quick run under the broiler, I was relieved that I wasn’t putting pizza on the table…again. Watching my family enjoy this simple meal, I reminded myself that, even at our most exhausted, it’s amazing what we can come up with if we just take a moment to look around and see what’s there.
Pasta e Fagioli Soup
Inspired by Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe of the same name
I have been making this dish for years and my kids love it. I tend to fall back on this when I can’t think of anything else to make because I usually have all of the ingredients in the house and it’s so simple to put together. I always make it with kidney beans but I suppose you could switch those out for another kind such as cannellini beans if you would prefer. I have a little herb garden that I keep year round on my back deck so I always tend to have fresh herbs around (unless an ice storm has come through and killed everything) but you could definitely use dried herbs if the fresh aren’t available to you.
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 med fresh rosemary sprig
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp of butter
1 cup chopped onion
3 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped
2 garlic cloves
8 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 (14 1/2 ounce) cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup penne pasta (or any other “smallish” shaped pasta)
freshly ground pepper
freshly grated parmesan cheese
Heat a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add your olive oil and butter and heat until butter is melted. Add your onion, pancetta and garlic and saute until the onion is tender and transluscent about 5 minutes. Add the broth, beans and herbs. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes. At this point, using tongs or a slotted spoon, pull out the stems from the herbs and the bay leaf and discard.
Add your pasta, cover and boil, until pasta is tender but still firm to the bit, about 8 minutes.
Season your soup with pepper. Ladle into bowls and and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Enjoy.
Yield: 6 servings or so
All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010