Sunday, March 24, 2013

My latest, greatest soup

I'm obsessed with this soup. It's been a cold, dreary March in these parts, and a bowl of this deliciousness has warmed me up on multiple occasions this month. With April fast approaching and snow in the forecast this week (?!), I'm pretty sure I'll be making it again soon.

This soup is hearty without being too filling, comforting while still being healthy, and jam-packed with flavor. Give it a try. And bonus - it's totally doable on a weeknight. One note: don't skip the garlic oil topping. I thought I didn't need it, and then realized what I've been missing all these years. Garlic oil should top everything.

Sausage, Chard, and Lentil Soup
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4-6, depending on appetites. (Serves only 4 in my house.)
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- 2 large links of sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 celery stalks, sliced or diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into half-moons or diced
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced (reserve half for later in recipe)
- Kosher salt
- A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 6 cups water
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 to 4 cups shredded or thinly ribboned Swiss chard leaves (kale works, too)
- Grated Pecorino Romano cheese to finish

- Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. When hot, add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it starts to brown, about five minutes.
- Add the onion, celery, carrots, first two garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook with the sausage until the vegetables soften a bit, another 5 minutes.
- Add the lentils, bay leaves, tomatoes, water (6 cups = two of your empty tomato can), more salt and black pepper to taste.
- Bring to a simmer and allow to cook until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes.
- When the lentils are cooked, add the chard and cook until the leaves are tender, just a few minutes more. Discard the bay leaves.
- To finish, divide soup among bowls, then add the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 garlic cloves to a small skillet and heat over medium until the garlic softens and hisses. Drizzle this over soup bowls, and top with fresh Romano, passing more at the table.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The worst and the best of it.

People ask: what's the worst thing about IVF? Well...
  1. The cost. I already complained about this one. Holy CRAP, the cost. It's absolutely debilitating. Enough said.
  2. The side effects. If I was one to post photos of my stomach online, I could show you. I'd show you the span of bruises, a range of sizes and colors, ringing my entire abdomen. I'd show you how pregnant I look before an egg retrieval, belly as full and round as I imagine it might look in happier times. Baseball-size ovaries feel just like you think they would, actually. And the fatigue is a new level of fatigue, of a body doing things it's not meant to and continually asking you why. Everything hurts... a lot. 
  3. The alienation. An IVF cycle takes over your life. There's really no other way to put it. You can't leave town. You have to show up to the clinic nearly every day. You have to stay off your feet and can't do anything remotely active at all. You are an incubator, plain and simple. The only way to feel more normal through it all is to try and pretend that it's not taking over your life, pretend to be normal. And so you try to be normal with people who don't understand what's happening and you fail miserably. Faking normality is painful. And then you just give in and let it take over your life for real. You become a hermit.
  4. The reaction. Is there a worse feeling than trying desperately to be happy for someone else's good fortune, but failing? IVF girls know what I mean here, and it's heartbreaking. Feeling like a bad friend is the worst feeling of all. I'm so very happy for your pregnancy conceived after one month of trying... now please let me shut myself away for the next three days. It only gets harder over time.
  5. The "What If?" What if we go through all of this again, and it still doesn't work? How many times can we try? How old will I be then? How broke? When do we switch to Plan B? What is Plan B?

And now, let's do something that used to come much more naturally to me. What's the best thing about IVF?

  1. The science. Without a doubt, the science of IVF is some cool shit. I'm not a science girl, either, and this stuff amazes me. Our bodies are amazing on their own. But the ways brilliant people have devised to help biology along? Astounding. Growing dozens more eggs at a time than our bodies normally produce in a cycle is painful as hell, but the fact that we can even do that at all, then mate them in a lab and insert them back into the right environment, all of it manipulated precisely? It's crazy. For the first time ever, I can honestly say I think it'd be cool if my kids became scientists.
  2. The ownership. One thing I've learned waiting in countless morning monitoring lines is this: IVF gives women choices. Nothing makes me happier for my gender than choice. I've been in line with women freezing just in case, women starting a family with their wives, women with a second chance on life and love... all kinds of women. IVF is a tool that gives all of us dramatically better chances than we've ever had before, and we make all the decisions - whether to go through this at all, how to go through it, how many embryos to implant, how many to freeze, whether to use or destroy them. We choose. That's a beautiful thing.
  3. The hope. Few jump into IVF first - our roads there are usually long and littered with frustration and grief and even tragedy. With other assisted reproduction techniques, insurance typically covers several procedures, so there's not as much risk or sacrifice involved. With IVF, we put everything on the line because it's the end of the road, because we believe, and that kind of hope is intoxicating. It makes the failures all the more heartbreaking - oh god the heartbreak - but I think it might make the successes more exhilarating, too.
One other note, in case someone you love is going through IVF. You might feel weird sometimes, and that's okay - we feel weird, too. Being there is all you need to do - you don't need to know the right questions to ask or anything at all about this crazy-science-magic. You just need to keep knowing us, and that's enough. With any luck (and some of that hot science, too), one day it won't be so weird anymore.

"Hey handsome... what do you say we slip out of here and inject a trigger shot in that fancy hotel bathroom we passed?"

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Oldie but goodie

Update: So seriously, I start watching this show right when the Kickstarter movie campaign begins? What are the chances?? Nice work, V.

Some things I wish I could go back in time and tell myself in 2004:
  • Nothing will turn out the way you think, but it will turn out even better.
  • This is the most self-indulgent time you’ll ever have – act like it!
  • Savor every minute with your girlfriends.
  • Watch Veronica Mars!

I know, one of these things is not like the other. And sure, I was eyeball-deep in graduate school and everything that came with it in the fall of 2004, meaning television didn’t happen very much for me then. Plus there was a certain World Series that October. But this show!

8.5 years after its debut, I’m loving:
  • The always-adorable Kristen Bell as a spunky Nancy Drew type
  • Quick wit and funny writing
  • The high/low plot point mix
  • Awesome father/daughter relationship
  • Amazing cameos from then-unfamous actors
  • A great heart
  • Hilariously bad lighting
So this is me these days – laying super-low and watching old television. I can't get enough of this fun fluff!

And yeah, this is also me deciding that blogging at all is better than blogging importantly. Enjoy!
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