By: Wendy Rhein
In the aftermath of yet another ER visit (see my previous post for my love-hate relationship with my local emergency room) and in the throes of overwhelming year-end work responsibilities, I have not gotten much sleep this week. I have been able to doze off while holding my injured younger son only to wake up with impending “to dos” burning my eyelids. So many things to do, so many things I’d like to do, so many I am not ready for.
Some who know me will say I’m ready for anything. In fact, I pride myself on my ability to plan and yet adjust and organize and accommodate. I often say “no problem, I’ve got this” to challenges and surprises that come my way. But the truth, the wake-me-up-at-3-AM truth, is that there are many things that feel like they are racing towards me, some faster than others, that I am simply not ready for.
My 43rd birthday. That’s not the beginning of my 40s. At 43 I’m really in it.
My own kids’ blood on the pavement.
Hand-stuffing 5,400 envelopes with hand-folded letters.
Doing my own taxes.
Facing end-of-life care decisions for my parents.
Nate riding a motorcycle.
Sam’s risk-taking when he’s a teenager. It’s already scaring me and scarring himself at 2.
Either of them playing football.
My retirement. Not that that is happening any time soon.
My sons signing up for the draft. I come from a long line of military service and couldn’t be more proud but I don’t think any parent is really ready for that moment.
Dating in my 40s. Or 50s.
A low sodium diet. I haven’t been asked to, and I will fight it, fleur de sel in hand.
Trying to get the decorative contents of nine 18-gallon tubs of Christmas goodness unpacked in a 3-bedroom apartment. The idea of culling a lifetime of holiday memories makes me sad.
Letting go of the expectation that Nate’s father will continue to disappoint his son by being absent from his life and not comprehending that someday he will face consequences for that.
Letting go, period.
Last night in an obviously self-comforting move vaguely veiled as a planning opportunity to feed my family, I made a up a soup from the contents of my fridge. Something that involved the repeated movement of chopping that requires minimal focus. (Be careful, I did nick myself while my mind wandered!) It turned out just as I hoped – warm, comforting, textured, and with a bit of a bite. May it have the same effect on you.
Kale, Sausage and Lentil Soup
(Serves 4-6 depending on your serving size)
2T olive oil
2c lentils, rinsed and cleared of little stones
3-4 mild Italian sausages
1 celery heart, diced, leaves included
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 carrots, sliced into ½ inch pieces
4c chicken stock
2 or 3 bay leaves
1 bunch kale, leaves torn into 2 inch pieces
*a note to start – this would be equally good as a soup or as a stew. If you want soup, add more chicken stock and water. If you want more of a stew, go with the chicken stock here and plan on adding water as needed.
Heat olive oil in a pan. Add the sausages and cook the sausages on the stove top, browning the skins evenly. Finish in a 400 degree oven if the sausages are thick. Once they are done, remove the sausages from the pan and place on a plate, but reserve the pan and the juices in it! Heat the pan over medium heat and add the onions, celery, salt and pepper, and bay leaves. After about 5 minutes, when the onions begin to soften, add the dried oregano. Sauté until the onions are translucent. Yes, this means you are sautéing in pork fat from the sausage. Heart-healthy it may not be but it is beyond good.
While the onions and celery are cooking down, start cooking the lentils in 2 cups water and 2 cups chicken stock in a stock pot or Dutch oven for about 20 minutes over medium heat. If the lentils start to look dry, continue to add a 1:1 ration of chicken stock to water to keep the cooking going. Add the carrots to the lentils. Once the onions are translucent and very fragrant, remove the bay leaves. Cut the sausages into bite-sized rounds on a diagonal (just for looks) and add them to the onion mixture. When the lentils start to open but are still al dente, add the sausage/onion mix to the lentil pot and add any remaining chicken stock. Stir to incorporate. Toss in the torn pieces of kale and let the kale cook down for about 5 minutes in the soup. If you like your greens softer keep stirring occasionally and let it cook over medium low heat. Add the ketchup and let the flavors blend for about 5 minutes, again adding water to your desired thickness. Taste, and add salt and pepper if needed.
Just before serving toss a little red wine vinegar on top of the bowl for a bite of acid. Serve with a chunk of crusty bread.