Avery will be one year old on Friday, and it’s got me feeling very reflective. I think back over the past 12 months, and I remember days that felt like they lasted for weeks, and weeks that flashed by in the blink of an eye. I think about how much of the year I spent feeding Avery, and how much that has changed as the year has unfolded. To start, I nursed her for many months, and it was a chore at times and more depleting than I could’ve imagined, but it was also an extreme privilege—one of the most basic, natural things I’ve ever done, but yet something that made me feel incredibly proud.
I think about spooning Avery her first runny bites of oatmeal, the question in her furrowed brow and then the twinkle in her eye. I think about how quickly that oatmeal became pureed fruits and vegetables and then bits of basically everything. I think about how some days Avery would gobble handfuls of something I’d made her, before literally pulling the very same food out of her mouth the next day. But, mostly, I think about how she’s game to try anything, and I hope hope hope she’ll hold on to that quality.
I think about the hours I’ve spent pulled up in a chair next to her high chair in the corner of our dining room, while I chattered away and Avery hummed as she ate. I picture her opening her little mouth, birdlike, to accept a bite of something, and I think about how she’s learning to say “all done” when the meal is over. I think about the food that’s ended up on the floor, about our failed attempts to teach her to clink her sippy cup against our glasses when we say “Cheers,” and about how she’ll run her quinoa-coated hand through her hair before shooting me a devilish grin. I think about the meals we’ve eaten in restaurants, Avery in a high chair charming the waiters and fellow diners, and I think about the picnics we’ve eaten, under shady trees and on beaches. I think about the fresh fruit Avery has eaten out of hand in her stroller at the Seattle farmers’ markets this summer, and I think back to the Chicago markets last fall, when she’d sleep through it all as we shopped, bleary-eyed, for apples and sunflowers and squash: the same baby girl, then and now.
I think about the cake I’ll bake Avery for her birthday, and I think about her favorite kitchen drawer, low to the ground and full of plastic containers. I think about the tiny apron my aunt gave me as a gift before Avery was born. I hope she’ll need that apron soon, when we can bake and cook together. For now, though, a tiny spatula and the oatmeal canister will serve as her makeshift drum set for a while longer.
I think, too, about the many meals that Kevin and I have eaten over the past year—about how I didn’t have the energy or the time or, frankly, the desire to cook at all during Avery’s early weeks, about how I returned to the kitchen slowly and about the triumph I felt about being back there. I think about our first date after Avery was born—we looked at each other across the table, gleeful to be out and alone, but happily talking about our girl throughout the meal. I think about our weekly date nights these days, and how we still feel thrilled to be out and alone, and how we continue to talk about Avery for much of the time that we’re out.
I think about the simple meals that Kevin and I have cooked and eaten together on a nightly basis, after Avery is fed, bathed, and asleep. I think about how our evenings used to be so different, before Avery was born, and how they seemed so endless then. Now, they’re a crush of bottle washing and pajama wrangling and lullaby singing before we finally sit down to eat. But when we do sit down together, a peaceful calm settles over the evening. We talk about our days and about Avery and, every single night, it makes me feel impossibly glad.
One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen/Martha Stewart Living
This is one of those simple meals that I turn to on busy weeknights. It basically cooks itself, and—more importantly—it so, so good. So good, in fact, that I’ve made it once a week for several weeks running. It’s Deb from Smitten Kitchen‘s adaptation of a Martha Stewart recipe that Tim also raved about over on Lottie + Doof. When it comes to recommendations, that’s quite a trifecta, and they didn’t steer me astray.
3 cups water
1 1/2 cup semi-pearled farro
1 medium yellow onion, sliced thinly into quarter moons
1 large clove garlic, halved and sliced thinly
4 cups halved grape or cherry tomatoes
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more/less, to taste)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups (loosely packed) baby arugula
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Place water and farro in a medium saucepan to presoak. Add the onion, garlic, tomatoes, salt, red pepper flakes, and olive oil. Bring uncovered pan to a boil. Set a timer for 30 minutes and reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. When the timer rings, the farro should be perfectly cooked. Add the arugula and parmesan; stir to combine and to wilt the arugula.
Transfer to a wide serving bowl. Serve with additional parmesan.