Thank you all for your kind words and bits of advice after my last post. There’s no two ways around the fact that life with a newborn is hard, really hard. Especially if you’ve been blessed with a baby who is not quite what you’d call easy. We’re taking care of ourselves and saying “yes!” to any offers of help people give us. And those offers have been so many, and they’ve been so thoughtful. We couldn’t feel more grateful. Joel and I even got to commandeer a friend’s hot tub for an evening and sit, just the two of us, just relaxing, for a whole hour. That was pretty awesome.
Little mister Espen is becoming well and truly a member of the family. He’s still, ahem, a vocal young man, and he still doesn’t sleep for longer than two hours at a time, but we can see that he’s starting mature and relax a little, to be a teensy bit more comfortable in this crazy colorful world and more able to soothe himself. A little. Besides which, instead of just being a small squirmy creature who doesn’t do much besides cry, eat, sleep, and poop, he’s now developing a personality. He’s become a true-blue tiny person who looks at us and sees us. He’s insanely alert, taking in the world around him with the most giant, intelligent eyes.
He loves to look at the art in the stairway and at the overhead lights. He stares at my face inquisitively, like he’s thinking, “aren’t you a part of me? What are you doing right there?” Then his face breaks into a wide, toothless almost, almost grin. And sometimes he’ll look out the window at the sun streaming in and utter an enthusiastic little, “ooh!” He can barely fall asleep to nap anymore because he’s too busy looking. And then he gets overstimulated and cranky. But, you know, I think I’ll take fussing and all the hours of bouncing and dancing him back to calmness in exchange for getting to observe that level of wonder. It’s a lot of work, but he’s really a little darling. Plus, I keep telling myself that that alertness and sensitivity that make him a little bit of a psycho-baby right now are also going to make him an adorable and fun little child and interesting person overall. It’s a reasonable thing to hope, right?
And he fits right in with Joel and me. He swiftly gets cranky if he’s too hungry or too tired (what do you mean all babies do that? Well ours does it because he’s just like his – ever so mature – parents). He loves to eat. And one of the funniest things he does is after he’s had a really good, long, filling nursing session, he’ll shake his head a little, pull off, sigh, and then – I’m not joking – pump his fist in the air above his head like, “yes!!!” I love it.
Speaking of eating, I’ve been cooking us dinners again. Absurdly simple, fast dinners that can be made either with a baby in one arm or during the short spurts of time when he’ll sit happily in his monkey seat. Things like spaghetti with sauce from a jar or salmon and vegetables all roasted together on one pan. I’m getting kind of good at one-handed food preparation and eating actually, wielding wooden spoons and whisks and knives ambidextrously, depending on which arm is holding Espen at the moment. It’s not a tidy process, but I’m making it work. Most importantly, I’ve gotten so I can – sort of – slice bread with one hand and crack eggs with one hand (I feel like I’m in the scene from Sabrina where the French culinary instructor is teaching them to crack eggs with one hand “one, two, three, crack! Eet’s all in ze wrist!”), so I can make myself toast and eggs for breakfast.
I wouldn’t call my cooking inspired. I haven’t been feeling inspired. But then the November issue of Food & Wine magazine showed up, and I discovered that I wanted to cook and eat nearly every thing in it! It struck a cord with where I am and what I want to eat these days, I guess. Super simple, flavorful, richly autumnal. So, as I manage to cook and write about things here, don’t be surprised if it turns out to be a parade of dishes from that magazine!
This one for starters. It’s perfect for me on so many levels right now because roasting chicken pieces literally is something you can do with one hand. Not to mention, bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces pretty much make you dinner themselves, they’re so low maintenance. But, instead of my usual (so creative) salt and pepper, this recipe from Food & Wine inspired me to rub on a simple herb blend part way through the cooking, giving the crisply crackling salty skin of the chicken earthy fragrance. If you have a pre-blended jar of za’atar spice (I did), then it’s laughably easy. Next you cleverly add the same spice blend to some yogurt to make a speedy, tangy yogurt sauce that adds a surprisingly interesting bit of flair to the chicken.
Toss some lettuce with lemon and olive oil, maybe add some other vegetables, potatoes, or warmed pita – if you can do so with just one hand – and dinner’s on the table!
- 2 Tbs. sesame seeds
- 2 Tbs. dried oregano
- 1 Tbs. chopped thyme leaves
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- salt and pepper
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- In a small bowl, mix the sesame seeds, oregano, and thyme together. Stir one Tbs. of this mixture into the yogurt (or use 1 Tbs. pre-made za'atar spice blend), then add salt and pepper to taste and set the yogurt aside.
- Heat your oven to 425. Generously salt and pepper the chicken pieces and place them in a baking dish. Put them in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes, until the skin is golden and crisp.
- In the meantime, stir the remaining herb mix (or about 2 Tbs. za'atar) in with the 2 Tbs. olive oil. After the chicken pieces have roasted 20 minutes, take them out of the oven and brush them generously with the spice and oil mixture. Return them to the oven and roast another 10 minutes, or until cooked through.
- Serve the chicken accompanied by the yogurt sauce and a large salad.