weeknight pasta & meat sauce

There is nothing better than homemade meat sauce from scratch. But cooking up a pot of that good stuff on a weeknight is impossible. On a typical night, David and I get home by 6PM and are ready to tear through the cupboards.  Not wanting to fill up on chips, cheese, and other random pantry finds, we started making what we call 30 minute meat sauce. Full of flavor and fast, it is a constant go to weeknight meal choice.

Ingredients:

Olive oil

Rotini pasta (cooked as directed on the box, al dente)

1 24oz jar of diced tomatoes

2 jars of Arrabiata Sauce (we like Rao’s)

2 onions

4 garlic gloves

1/4 white wine (or red, really anything you have open would do)

Spices: Red Pepper flakes, salt, pepper, basil

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Set a pot of water with a handful of salt on the stove and bring to boil to cook the pasta.  In a separate pot, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Dice 2 onions and saute in the pot, tossing and coating them in the olive oil until translucent. Add in the garlic and saute for another 2  minutes.

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Once the onion and garlic are fragrant, add in spices. I like my meat sauce spicy so I am heavy handed on the red pepper flakes and black pepper.  Add 1/4 of wine and bring to a boil tossing the onions and garlic until 1/2 of the liquid boils off.  Add the ground Turkey and break up.  Cook the turkey through.

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Once the turkey is cooked through add the diced tomatoes and two jars of sauce. Simmer it all together until the pasta is cooked and ready to go.  Serve the 30 minute sauce over generous portions of pasta because let’s be serious it is hard not to eat a big bowl of pasta when winter has dragged on this long! Enjoy.Screen Shot 2013-03-27 at 7.56.09 PM

one by one it all gets done

Growing up this phrase, “One by one it all gets done” was my grandma’s (we call her Nanny) mantra. If she was standing in front of a big pile of holiday dishes in the sink, she would slip into her scrubbing gloves, toss me a drying towel and say “One by one it all gets done” before we charged into our task. When I would come home from high school overwhelmed with school work and sit down at the kitchen table surrounded by my books and assignments, Nanny would come in, make me a little snack, and kissing me on my head say “one by one it all gets done” before encouraging me to get started on my work mountain.
It is funny how every day it was said, it felt like fresh new advice.  It created an “Aha!” moment in the midst of cloudy, dark thoughts.  It simply never got old and always felt supportive, encouraging, and empathetic. Now as a high school teacher, I see my students struggle to organize themselves around multi-step projects.  Their initial response to a big assignment is always, “I can’t do this” or “This is impossible.”  I can’t help but smile a little before saying, “One by one it all gets done.”  If anything I hope it gives them even a moment of perspective that I believe in their capacity as young learners and that despite the initial inertia that paralyzes them, they can grapple with this assignment. You could imagine my joy when I overheard one student recite my family mantra to her peer as they delved into their final for my course in which they had to write their own history textbooks using multiple perspectives for each major event. It felt amazing to see this little saying have an impact not only on me and my family but on them in that moment.  I hope it continues to spread!

new car smell

Holy Doodle!!!!!  We bought a new car.  During the Friday commute home, I turned to David and asked “Do you want to do something crazy?” So there we were on Saturday morning at our local Toyota dealership ready to test drive the redesigned 2013 Rav4. We walked in and steeled ourselves for what would inevitably be a day full of pressure, haggling, and a lot of “no thank yous.”

We tested the car in the neighborhood and found that the Rav4 drove just like my corolla with a slight height difference. Of course after the test drive, the salesperson brought us inside to talk about “getting you into a car today!”  The nerves immediately went on high alert and David and I sent each other looks, “do we want to do this?” “should we get out now?” “What is our bottom line” “Are we willing to negotiate?” Between 11AM and 5:30PM, David and I were hostages at the dealership.  We haggled, debated, hemmed and hawed, and finally shook the salespersons hand and bought ourselves a new car!

I like to name my cars.  My electric blue Corolla was named Zoe.  It felt like a young, playful and trendy name which seemed to fit perfectly with such a bright and sleek vehicle. Trading in Zoe was sad. She was my first car. We had been through a lot together. From road trips, to errands, to adventures, Zoe and I made great memories.  She was a solid, efficient car and it is sad thinking about how she had no idea yesterday morning that when she left her comfortable garage she would not be coming back. We said our goodbyes to Zoe and I know that whenever I see an electric blue corolla out on the road I will always hope it is Zoe being reliable and awesome with her new family.

Our new car is named Bianca della Carza. Clearly we went with Bianca because the car itself is white and since I speak Italian it allows me to pretend to speak it fluently. The “della Carza” was added because a local news caster is named “Bianca de la Garza” and as soon as we named the car Bianca the della Carza followed naturally out of our mouths as though we had been fully indoctrinated by our TV watching.  Laughing, we decided to go with it. Bianca is in the garage now.  It is still hard to believe that we bought a new car, said good bye to Zoe, and weaved our lives together even more all in a single day.

mfa, boston

Sadly, today was the last weekday of Spring Break. How did I spend it?  Out and about, of course! Despite being sick with a sore throat, cold, and a touch of a fever, I bundled up, drove David into work, and grabbed Skye for a day in Boston. Starting the relaxing day at Flour Bakery, we relished in our breakfast treats, coffees, and conversation for two slow hours before making our way over to the MFA.  Since the museum’s renovation, I had yet to visit and this is shockingly sad since art history was my minor!  It was so beautiful and powerful walking through the new wing of the MFA and fully taking in the art of the Americas collection.  One of my favorite parts of the day came when we stumbled into the contemporary art section and discussed our varied preferences for pieces depending on their function and/or form.  Before museum fatigue could set in, we walked through the Boston Garden and grabbed a tasty lunch at Fig’s Pizza.  Sharing a pizza that was half fig jam and prosciutto and half portabella mushroom and truffle oil was divine! My belly is still full hours later. To try to settle our fully expanded tummies, we wandered along Newbury Street until it was time to head in our separate directions: Skye to Cambridge and I to meet with my friend Lauren.  It was a whirlwind of a day but after a few days in bed fighting off my Spring Break sick, it was the perfect last weekday of the break.

cream cheese & cucumber sandwich

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I am obsessed.  At 10AM, I am already craving lunchtime. Since visiting my sister-in-law in California and snacking on these sandwiches with her, I am now fully committed to eating these each day. Standing in the bakery of Whole Foods this morning, I contemplated which bread I should indulge in.  If I am going to be eating cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches for the foreseeable future then the bread must be delicious, soft, and tasty. As such, I opted for a french brioche. Likewise, I tossed into my basket some whipped cream cheese and one extra long cucumber to ensure that my ingredients would last me at least through the weekend of sandwich splurges that I am envisioning. Topping the sandwich off with a pinch of salt and pepper I gobbled it up before noon.  Not only was it fantastic, simple and fresh, but it also reminded me of the quiet afternoons nibbling this sandwich and drinking milky chai lattes with my sister-in-law not more than a few days ago. While I miss her, my brother, and the littles so very much, it is nice to travel back there with a sensory memory.

spring break

March has become my favorite month of the school year. Why?  It is a month of excellent transition. Not only from Winter to Spring, but from the second trimester to the third. It is a clear turning point in the school year. When March begins Winter engulfs Boston, yet by the last week of the month, Spring’s arrival is upon us and the tempo of life shifts in the city as Bostonians come out of their hibernation.  School becomes exciting as Seniors look forward to their graduation and as underclassmen are convinced that summer vacation is just around the corner. Sandwiched right smack in the middle of the month is our two week Spring Break. It is a decadent, luxurious time that I look forward to every year.  It gets me through the dark, cold winter of Beantown and rejuvenates my outlook on the end of the school year.  Its timing could not be better.

This year, I went to visit my family in Southern California.  After getting 12 inches of snow dumped on us, I packed my suitcase with summery items and boarded a plane for So Cal. IMG_3423 IMG_3427

The flight was an easy 5 hours or so and I upgraded to a “select” seat which meant that I sat directly behind the first class cabin and soaked up the free food, drinks, and wifi all the way there.  Of course, a first class upgrade would have been ideal on such a long haul, but I was content especially when it landed me in a row all to myself.

The best part of the visit though wasn’t the location (although So Cal is beautiful), but rather  seeing my niece, nephew, brother and sister-in-law for a full week was the real treat. I wish in 2013 we had the ability to teleport so that I could visit them more often.  By the time everyone has let their hair down and gotten reacquainted and playful with one another it feels as though the trip was a blink of an eye. I really miss the opportunity to live closer to family and I take for granted that we do live in a modern world, despite our lack of teleporting, and we can visit one another from across the country with a fair amount of ease.  Although even this is never enough!

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It is amazing how fast a niece and a nephew grow. Most of my visit I am just awed that they even exist let alone that they are flourishing! I just want to cuddle and play with them all day long.  And, of course, I secretly, and not so secretly, want to steal them away with me to Boston.

Each time I visit, I am inspired by the loving, empathetic parenting I see my brother and sister-in-law committed to. They set their limits and enforce them but within those limits there is much freedom and constant love. It is clear that my niece and nephew are developing into confident youngsters as a result of the support, love, and independence that frames their daily lives. David and I can only hope to model this when our time to grow our family arrives.

This trip was full of exciting moments coupled with endless quiet times in the home when we got to “just be together.”  My niece turned two, we went to Disneyland, I had the opportunity to visit my niece’s school and tumbling class, we explored the culinary world of So Cal, we shopped, we went on afternoon adventures, and we just existed together and appreciated the closeness of family. I wish so much that David could have joined in on all of the fun, but someone had to stay home to work and take care of the pups. We definitely have to get him out there for a visit next time. Nevertheless, the trip was heartwarming and was truly the best place I could have been for my Spring Break. Planning my next visit out to the littles will consume the last days before school begins agains…