David is in Australia this week on business, and even though the girls and I are keeping ourselves busy with birthday parties, our very first real, over-night, sleep-over with our best friends, back-to-back play dates all weekend, and turning a spare closet into a cozy, pink, secret clubhouse strung up with pink lights and tons of pillows, we're still very aware that something, someone, is missing.
We are a group, us four, and when one of us isn't around, well, things can be good, and fun, and even exciting, but they're also just a little off. And things have been a little off without David, for sure.
I mean, not one person has left their dirty, black, balled-up socks on the floor. Weirdly, I miss that. And when I tried to make coffee in the French Press yesterday, it was runny, brown, coffee-tinged water. And no one has read my writing this week and told me that it reads like "the rotary club year book." That was harsh, but true, and I think it might be the best piece of literary criticism I've ever gotten. And the orange sweater? I even miss...no, I don't miss the sweater. Not at all.
I miss the sex, but no wants to hear about that here, and there's a new episode of Friday Night Lights I'm dying to watch, but can't because we watch it together. And David takes the kids to school every morning, so I ready for that little piece of hell to be over, and he does the laundry, and so I'm wearing dirty clothes. Also, the cats won't sleep with us because David isn't here. I found out this week the cats hate me and only tolerate me because I feed them and come with the marriage. And I think I might be on the verge of menopause.
It's all going to shit around here. I blame it on Australia.
I haven't spent much time in the kitchen this week either and that too, I think, is Australia's fault. My main kitchen responsibilities seem to be keeping juice cups washed and also retrieving beverages for small children. That's really all I do. When David's home, I cook longer, more complicated, more deeply textured meals, because I know he appreciates them, because we appreciate them together. The girls, on the other hand, for all the good food they eat, would be just as happy eating pizza every day. And so, when we are going it alone, there's no sense in making a big elaborate dinner because they eat like tiny field mice. It's a lot of effort for not a lot of results.
So, I’ve been making simple dishes: one or two pans tops, under 15 minutes from prep to table, and things I’m sure the kids will wolf down without too much shouting and dismay. Even though it's not pizza. Or noodles with butter. I try to avoid that moment where they look into the bowl, realize what's there and then make some kind of stink face. I don't want to see that stink face until David comes home.
Yeah, that's the one.
Here's two easy meals for people who are really pissed off at Australia...
Cold Shrimp, Guac & Chips
This is one of the girl's favorite meals and it feels more like a fun snack than dinner.
Buy the shrimp cooked and peeled and you save a ton of time. Put the shrimp in a bowl and add a couple good squeezes of lemon, a handful of chopped cilantro, a pinch of salt. Mix it all together and chill in the fridge for a few minutes. Make the guacamole - a couple avocados, a squeeze of lemon, a little salt, chopped cilantro - mash it all up with a fork. Put the cold shrimp and guac on a platter with some chips and serve.
Herbed Lamb chops with Sautéed Broccoli & Bacon
The broccoli in this dish is really for me. But the kids like to eat the chops with their fingers like lollipops. In the end, everyone is happy.
For the broccoli: Chop bacon into slivers (the bacon in the pic is home-made) cook until crisp, let drain on paper towel, set aside. If there’s too much bacon grease in the pan, pour some out. Add a handful of chopped green onion or leek to the remaining bacon grease. Add a hunk of butter. Let the onions get soft, about 5 minutes. Add broccoli florets sauté for another five minutes over medium heat, until just starting to get soft. Salt and pepper to taste. Add bacon. Mix everything together.
For the chops: Put chops in a bowl, add olive oil, salt, chopped garlic, and herbs, thyme, rosemary, sage, tarragon, chives, whatever you have. Here I used thyme. Let it sit in fridge all day, a few hours or a few minutes, whatever you’ve got. Heat a pan and add a little olive oil. When the oil is nice and hot, add chops. Let them sear on one side for five minutes, check for a nice brown color and flip. Cook 5 minutes on the other side. The meat should have give when you touch it. You want it medium-rare to rare. Take it off the flame and set aside for a couple minutes. Let it rest. Serve with or without the broccoli.