Monday, October 1, 2007

When You're Too Tired to Cook ...

Last week I went to South Carolina for four days. Three of those days were spent talking to middle school students, doing a song and dance I do about writing and books, signing copies of my books, and hanging out with media specialists, formerly known as librarians.

When I came back, I was exhausted. But there was no time for relaxing--I had a conference to attend here in my hometown, a meeting of the regional Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. My editor, who came down from New York, and I did on an hour-long session on how we work together. I worried that the session would seem solipsistic and self-congratulatory, so both Caitlyn and I focused on how much work it takes to make a book, how many revisions we go through, how getting a book accepted for publication is just the beginning. We spent very little time gushing over one another. We didn't want anyone in the audience to throw up.

Caitlyn was here with her family (after the conference they would continue to drive south, destination Hilton Head), so the weekend also involved entertaining her husband and two little girls, which turned out to be an easy job indeed (her five-year-old daughter and any my almost five-year-old son were clearly separated at birth--they are both a mix of sociability and contrariness, lots of bluster, a good dose of sweetness tempered by an impressive self-assertiveness--they had a great time together). Nonetheless, by the time the weekend was over, I was beat. I'd planned to make salmon and new potatoes for dinner, but when the time came, I couldn't muster the energy.

Sick of pizza, my husband suggested something just as easy and a lot cheaper: spinach linguine. This is something I avoided for a long time after starting Weight Watchers. There are certain meals it's hard for me to control myself around (there is a pasta dish I make with sausage and mozzarella and tomatoes that completely does me in), and spinach linguine has been one of them. It is serious comfort food. But we tried it a few weeks ago and I did the Weight Watcher's approved half cup of pasta, and I was good with that. Also, since I no longer serve it with fabulous, buttered Italian bread, there are fewer calories overall to be consumed.

Here's what you need for spinach linguine: a package of Stouffer's creamed spinach and 12 ounces of linguine. You can use a whole pound, but it spreads the creamed spinach a little thin.

Boil the pasta according to directions and microwave the creamed spinach according to directions. When they're done, mix them together in a large bowl. I add salt, pepper and about a half teaspoon of nutmeg, and if I have parmesan cheese on hand I throw some while I'm mixing things around and also put a bowl of it on the table.

This dish takes as long as it takes to boil the pasta (ten minutes; the creamed spinach microwaves in four). It tastes high in fat, but is actually not. It's warm, it's filling, and best of all, it's quite tasty. Jack likes it. If Will actually ate food, he might like it, too. A girl can dream.

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