To do today: Be like Brando. Find a patch of sunlight and breathe in the warmth that’s found on a chilly late summer morning.
My sis-in-law, Karensa, has been teaching me yoga. And I feel like I’m learning how to breathe. It seems essential for so much more than the breath of life. It helps with focus for to dos, clarity in work, and calm in tumultuous times.
As Brando lays here, he listens to the world outside the window. He hears distant cars drive down the road at the end of ours. He listens carefully to check if they’re familiar. If they’re not, he relaxes and takes a deep breath. The neighbors walk by. We both hear their footsteps on our quiet road. He is alert. He looks to me for what to do. I tell him it’s the neighbors and that he’s safe. He lays his head back down and takes a deep breath. He will nap until they turn around and walk back towards their home, footsteps breaking the silence again.
When we lived in Burbank, Brando and I would take walks around our neighborhood. Every once in a while there would be a break in the traffic. Silence in the city. It was such a gift. Sometimes I’d close my eyes and take it in. Now that we live in the country, I forget to notice the quiet. Until I remember. Until I am overcome by the peaceful morning. By the dog laying in the patch of sunlight. By the neighbors’ feet crunching the gravel.
Right now the only things breaking the silence are soft chirps coming through the open windows, the refrigerator humming in the other room, and the contented sound of Brando and me breathing as the sun slowly creeps towards its place in the midday sky.
Baseball is back. I’ve missed it, mostly. During the off season the Red Sox let Mookie and Brock get away. They’ve been favorites in our house, so it’s a little sad. I’m excited for the other guys to get to shine though. Benny, Bogaerts, Chavis, JD… they have a good offensive team.
I’ve been a baseball fan for as long as I can remember. I was a diehard Jays fan during the “Touch ’em all Joe” World Series. My brothers and I screamed and jumped so hard that the VCR fell off the TV.
Tim and I fell in love with the Red Sox in 2007. After nearly a decade of not paying much attention to baseball, we were on a fall anniversary trip and the Red Sox were in it. I started planning our outings around the playoff schedule. It was Dustin Pedroia’s rookie year. What a time to join Red Sox Nation! Dustin and Papi will forever be my all time favorites. I cried when Papi retired. If Pedroia ever plays again I’ll cry too.
It’s gonna be a weird season (#ThanksCorona). But, whatever it looks like, however short it may be, we will be cheering on the Red Sox. It’s a bit of brightness during a dark time. I like to plan fun foods to eat during the games. Things that we might eat at the ballpark: nachos, pizza, popcorn, hotdogs, fries… So if you need us for the next while, we’ll be eating all the baseball food, yelling at the TV, and texting LeBlanc about how much we love having Jerry Remy back in the booth.
Our Favorite Nachos
our favorite hot toppings: sautéed onions and bell peppers, ground meat, pinto beans, black beans
salt, to taste
tortilla chips, lots of them
grated cheese, a lot, like more than you think you’ll need
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F (toaster oven please bc summer!).
Cook or re-heat any hot toppings. Stir in some taco seasoning and a pinch of salt.
Arrange the chips in a layer with no gaps for cheese to fall through. This is important. Sprinkle with a ton of evenly distributed cheese. Layer with more chips. Add more cheese. This is like chip lasagna. Do a third layer if you want. We usually stick to two. But, it’s 2020, nothing makes sense. Maybe we’ve been making nachos all wrong by omitting the third layer. Bake for a few minutes, check on the cheese, bake a little longer if it’s not all the way melted. You can always do more melting. You can never un-melt burnt cheese.
When the nachos are perfect, take them out of the oven. Plomp them onto some plates. Top with those cooked hot toppings. Add the sour cream, salsa, avocado, tomatoes, and anything oniony. Did I forget anything? Oh! Tim likes thinly sliced black olives. I think it’s weird, but if he’s in charge I’ll eat it without complaint and will probably like it.
The heat of July can feel oppressive and overwhelming. I forget what it’s like to be cold. Even on the cooler days the humidity drenches us with sweat. July feels like a month to get through. But, we’re at the end of it. We did it.
August has always felt gentler, the breeze cooler and more refreshing. Less like hot breath, more like a cool caress.
The past two weekends have been hot hot hot. All fans on all the day, move as little as possible, ice cubes melt in minutes. The only good thing about it is that the tomatoes and basil like it. The arugula that I grew way too much of doesn’t seem to care either way. It survived winter, it’s thriving in summer, what doesn’t it like?!
I tried to grow Butter Lettuce. Not a single seed sprouted. What even am I doing wrong?! The thing I want to grow won’t, the thing I don’t is so abundant that it’s choking out other plants. That feels very 2020 of it.
Tim has declared that he hates arugula. I’m trying to trick myself into liking it. If I eat it often enough will I start to enjoy it? My friend, Madie, eats it from the garden while we stand six feet apart and chat in the sun.
Arugula is ok when it’s well balanced. As I was eating this salad the other day I could taste the earthiness of the beet greens, the spice from the arugula, and sharpness from the pickled onions. It was smoothed out by sweetness from raisins and balsamic vinegar, finished by smooth peppery olive oil and salty almonds. Some leftover salmon elevated it to a filling meal.
Some things are my best enjoyed on their own: chocolate ice cream, crispy bacon, cherry tomatoes still warm from the sun. They’re great as food pals, but they don’t need any help from anyone. Arugula isn’t there yet. But, Madie, I’ll always have some plain arugula growing in my garden just for you. You can have that while I enjoy my ice cream. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Arugula Salad with Raisins and Salmon
arugula, spinach, beet greens, and baby kale, torn into bite sized pieces
chopped roasted and salted almonds
cooked salmon (or crispy tofu)
Toss the greens. Top with pickled onions, raisins, almonds, and salmon. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Serve with crusty bread that’s been toasted and slathered with butter and jam and a glass of rosé if you’re feeling those summer vibes.
I notice a difference when I’m feeding myself well. For example, a couple weekends ago I didn’t eat enough, and what I did eat was a lot of empty calories. “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” (Julia Child quoting Oscar Wilde) has a place in my diet for sure. But, I feel a difference physically when I really feed myself. When I ate that way I felt bad all weekend. Physically poor, mentally and emotionally drained, zero energy for anything. Some of that might be unrelated (hello trauma, life, Covid, BLM, hormones, relationships, grief, work, stress…). But, the expression “garbage in, garbage out” seems fitting for my imbalanced food-life relationship of that weekend.
Since then, these last couple of weeks, I’ve been more mindful about what I’ve been eating. I ate things like Tofu with Cabbage and Crispy Rice, Brothy Beans on Toast with Creamy Coleslaw, and a Simple Garden Salad topped with tuna and seeds. And I feel great. The tricky part is the weekends. I’m going to try to make mostly good choices this weekend. It means doing some prep work ahead of time: washing and cutting fruit, making sure there are good options for meals, and picking greens from my garden and washing and drying them. And, remembering to show myself grace when I don’t follow my healthy eating plan perfectly. That’s ok too.
One of my goals for today is to plan our menu. It helps me to start the new week well when I have ideas in place. Here are some healthy-ish meal ideas to help with your menu planning for the coming week.
The flavor of a tomato that’s been warmed by the sun. It’s simultaneously bright and deep, acidic, sweet, and deeply rich. The warmth of the sun mellowing its sharp acidity, turning it into a gentle escape. I know these tomatoes. I can still taste them on my tongue. A childhood memory that’s grown up.
This summer I will consider it an accomplishment if I can coax tomatoes out of what last spring was just lawn. The cherry tomatoes will be eaten out of hand. Dirt brushed off while the sun kisses our cheeks. Each tomato bursting as we bite into it. Beefsteaks will be sliced thick and served on toasted bread with a smear of mayo or a drizzle of very good olive oil, topped with fresh basil leaves and a sprinkle of Maldon salt. San Marzanos will be saved for sauce. Thick, rich, flavorful sauce that will envelop penne, luxuriate over meatballs on a sub, or gently braise meat. I love to make my own sauce. I think I’m good at it too. But, the other day I tried a sauce that gives mine some tough competition.
The Brooklyn based company started because the founder, Andrew Suzuka, wanted fewer battles over food with his daughter. (That’s fair.) So he created a tomato sauce that doesn’t have added sugar or preservatives and packed it with veggies and nutrients.
Tomato, carrot, red bell pepper, sweet potato, butternut squash, spinach, red beet, sweet onion, garlic, and shiitake mushroom are blended up to a thick purée that begs to have crusty garlic bread swiped through. (Have you tried Burlap & Barrel’s Purple Stripe Garlic yet?? It makes the most amazing garlic bread!)
I compared Otamot to another popular sauce brand. The other one could be fine. But, I want more than that. Otamot is a nutrient dense food that’s got 25% of your daily recommended vitamin E, 10% vitamin C, 20% vitamin A, 15% vitamin B3… Read the label. It’s really good stuff.
Sometimes I don’t have the energy to make food that’s this healthy and delicious. Or I don’t have all the ingredients on hand. Maybe it’s 5:30pm and I’m still working on a blog post and dinner needs to be quick and right now. I’m thankful that there are companies out there making truly high quality food that allows us to easily feed ourselves well.
I learned about Otamot at the virtual Yellow Co conference in June. A free jar was in our virtual goodie bag. Yes please! I used the entire jar to make a simple pasta. I’m regretting not saving some for pizza night though. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Next time I think I’ll get the Otamot Organic Mixed Sauce 4-Pack. It’s a good deal and I’d get to try all the flavors. And, youguys, Otamot is offering 10% off to my readers (code RACHO10)!
Here’s an easy dinner to make with your Otamot. Use the veggies that you have on hand. Sub any type of ground meat, or try a meat free option like cannellini beans, seitan, or vegan sausage.
Cook your protein in a large skillet for about 3-5 minutes. Add the bell pepper, onion, and mushrooms. Cook until the veggies are tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes more. Add the Otamot sauce and cook until it’s bubbly.
While the veggies cook, cook the pasta to just shy of al dente. Add 1 cup pasta water to the sauce before draining the pasta. Stir the pasta into the sauce and let it finish cooking. Add salt if desired. Stir in butter, if using. If not, drizzle each serving with a bit of olive oil.
Otamot and Burlap & Barrel are affiliate links. I get a small commission for any sales generated from these referrals.