A Change of Pace

Things I’m loving right now:

a dishwasher, a gas stove, painted walls, a sunny sewing room (I’m supposed to share with Mr. R’s home office, but his furniture is still in a truck and my fabrics are quickly taking over), central air, > 1 sq ft of kitchen counter space, a cute little strip of shops to walk to (including an ice cream shop, a fabric store, and a kitchen store), and a pretty little pond to run around.

Truthfully, I suddenly feel like an adult. I was wondering when it would happen and loving the feeling now that it has. Something about finally not being a student anymore, finally living in an apartment that isn’t covered in irremovable layers of grime from countless undergrad renters, and finally sharing space with Mr. R for the first time since we were married propelled me out of that weird graduate student limbo where you still have to take classes and pay tuition fees yet no longer get summers off.

I’m throwing myself into a new, if temporary, role. I’m organizing and unpacking, I’m sending Mr. R to work with lunch, and I’m putting dinner on the table when he comes home. I’m doing the laundry (no quarters necessary!) and… um… I guess that’s it. It’s a good thing I have a job lined up. Yesterday was only my second day at home, and I was already feeling a tinge of boredom. Even so, I intend to take full advantage of these next couple months of limited commitments. If I know anything about growing up, it’s that the older you get, the harder it becomes to cut all the strings loose and just play.

What I’m loving most now that the pressure and stress of my dissertation is over is the creativity that came flooding back. I’m delving into my stash of fat quarters and sewing up seat cushions and lunch bags (inspiration here). I’m sitting down to hand quilt and making plans for new quilts. (Really, I’m just making space to purchase more fabric.)

The inspiration for making fresh dinners has returned too, and it’s a welcome relief from what my diet had regressed to a couple months ago. Cooking for two is only extra motivation, since I want to make sure Mr. R gets something healthy and satisfying after a long day, and I don’t have to face the inevitable containers of leftovers alone. I think he’s making a concerted effort to show he doesn’t expect me to fully embrace this new role since he sneaks into the sewing room to take care of his own ironing before work. Maybe he just doesn’t trust my ironing skills, but for right now I’m having fun and embracing my lunch and dinner duties with pleasure.

Pesto Chicken Pasta Salad
This dinner was perfect in so many ways. Fresh, easy, amenable to whatever is in the fridge, and no need for pots in case they are all still packed away in a truck for another week. I didn’t measure much for this recipe, so I’m giving approximate measurements as a guide but feel free to adjust based on your own needs and preferences.
1 package fresh basil
1/3 Cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 Cup walnuts
1 Lemon
Olive oil
sea salt
Pasta Salad
2 Cups dried pasta in your favorite shape
1 Chicken Breast
1 Cup snapped green beans
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1/2 Cup cubed fresh mozzarella
1/2 – 1 avocado, cubed
balsamic vinegar

To make the pesto, place the walnuts and herbs into a food processor. Add the zest of 1 lemon, and juice of 1/2 the lemon. Add 1 tsp course sea salt. Pulse everything together until fine. Open the top, scrape down the sides, and add ~1/4 cup olive oil (or more to your preference). Pulse together until smooth. Extra pesto will keep in the fridge and is great for tossing with roasted veggies like zucchini or spreading on sandwiches.

To make pasta salad, prepare 2 cups dried pasta. If you have no pots to boil water, let the pasta soak for 90 minutes, drain, then pour a tea kettle of boiling water over the pasta and let stand for 1-2 minutes. Drain. While the pasta is soaking, cook your green beans and chicken. Preheat the oven to 400. Toss the snapped green beans with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast in the oven about 30 minutes. They should be coloring, but still crisp. Sear the chicken in a cast iron or other oven safe skillet with a bit of oil, salt and pepper. After both sides are seared, stick the pan in the oven until the chicken is cooked through (internal temp 165).

Toss the warm pasta, cubed chicken breast, and roasted green beans with pesto as desired. Chill everything in the fridge for several hours. Once chilled, toss in the cherry tomatoes (cut in half), the cubed mozzarella, and a few splashed of balsamic vinegar. Right before serving, add the avocado and a grind or two of salt if needed. Serve cold.


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