Both of my children suffer from nightmares.
They wake up terrified, crying out for help. When I wrap my arms around my trembling son he struggles, still in the grip of the bad dream, unable to recognize me; I have to wait for him to surface, to stop thrashing and take what comfort I can offer with hugs and soothing sounds.
My daughter, once her tears have subsided, is more analytical. Mournful and perplexed, she won’t rest until she finds out why she’s been dreaming about such unhappy-making things.
I wish I had an answer for her.
Instead, I hold her close and we talk about all of the things that bring her joy: our recent trip to Mexico; riding her scooter; my parents’ dog; the bunk beds at the cottage last summer; waking up early enough to see the sun come up.
We hold each other tight in the dark and whisper about all of these things, and I tell her that enough happy thoughts will push the dark ones aside, at least temporarily, long enough for her to get back to sleep.
I realized the other morning, as I ran through the park on yet another dull, chilly uninspiring day, that I would do well to take my own advice.
The ponds and puddles were all soupy, filled with icy slush that leaked into my shoes, and the swans wouldn’t lift their heads from under their wings. Nary a bud nor a sliver of spring green was in sight. It was windy, and the forecast was for flurries.
To say that I am sick of this weather would be understating the case enormously.
We just celebrated seven years in this city, and things are getting better all the time. It feels like only moments ago that I was, literally, sitting on my empty kitchen floor on a March day, dreaming about the future.
I have work that is thrilling and a business that keeps both my husband and me inspired and involved in our amazing community.
I’ve begun driving, and loving every minute of it.
I have friends who are there for me whether I am seized with despair or not, a small posse of caring, fierce, intelligent women who will shop or run or drink with me, and who will listen while I rattle on about paint chips and food and shoes and furniture.
So really, this is the life.
And these endless, not-yet-spring doldrums? It’s time to shake them off.
Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic Soup
What to cook when the need for hibernation-friendly (read: hot and comforting) foods has passed, but not the desire? This soup. Hearty, rich, and healthy, I have been eating more than my fair share of it lately.
5 cups chicken broth
2 whole star anise
a 1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and smashed with a heavy knife
1 large head cauliflower, cut into small florets (to make about 8 cups)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tbsp olive oil
sea salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Combine broth, anise, and ginger in a large pot; bring to the boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer.
In a large bowl, toss together cauliflower pieces, garlic, and olive oil. Place on one or two metal baking pans, whatever you need to ensure that there is just one layer of veggies and that they are not too crowded.
Roast in middle of oven until golden, 20-25 minutes – don’t let the garlic burn!
Remove baking pan (s) and use a rubber spatula to tip vegetables and oil into the pot of simmering broth. Simmer until cauliflower is very tender, about 20 minutes. Fish out star anise and ginger.
Puree soup in batches in a blender until very smooth and velvety, then return to the pot and reheat over moderate heat until piping hot. Taste for seasoning and add sea salt, if desired.
Makes about 8 cups.
My husband works in the late afternoon and late into the evening, so breakfast is an extremely leisurely affair, involving baking, cocoa-drinking, story-reading, music-making, and, in good weather, a trip to the park or another outing of some kind to blow off some steam and get everyone stoked for lunch.
Lunch is the main meal of our day, and it happens in the early afternoon. The spouse who has not taken the kids out in the morning is usually the one who prepares the food, and once we’ve finished eating and cleaning up, and the kids and I have begun to shamble through the remainder of our day, my husband goes to work.
I relish our days together as a family, and I recognize that they are a luxury that not many families are able to enjoy, particularly in the fast-paced and expensive city where we live.
The corollary, that we worry about our finances perhaps a little more than some of our friends and neighbours, feels like a small price to pay for all of this time with our babies. They are growing at lightning speed, and soon enough (sooner than I care to acknowledge), the demands of a more conventional schedule will impose themselves.
The only slight drawback of our daily routine is that the evening meal my children and I have together tends to be a touch on the uninspired side: these days I rely heavily on French toast and cheese omelettes, roasted vegetables, and – more often than I care to admit – granola with applesauce.
This soup is one that is currently in heavy rotation on weeknights. It’s not overly glamourous, but it covers all of the basics; and it’s dead easy to make, which has its advantages at the time of day that every mother I know refers to affectionately as ‘the witching hour.’
Day’s End Alphabet Soup
I chop all of my vegetables in the food processor, and I aim for two cups of each. I always have carrots, onions, and celery on hand, which is why they are specified here, but I encourage you to be creative!
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4-5 carrots, finely chopped
6-7 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds, coarsely ground
1 tsp celery salt
6 c low sodium chicken broth
3/4 c alphabet noodles
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute 5 minutes, then add remaining vegetables, cumin, and celery salt. Saute until veggies are tender. Add chicken broth and bring to a fast simmer. Add noodles and simmer 6-8 minutes, until noodles are cooked.
Makes easily a couple of dinners’ worth.