image scanned from bon appétit {february 2013}... best cover ever.
i've mentioned before that i have a love/hate relationship with meal planning. if i'm not careful, following a rigid plan for days/weeks in a row tends to leave us with an over-stuffed pantry and an empty bank account.

i try to plan according to what we already have... to work leftovers- and leftover ingredients- into the mix, and to remember little things, such as~ tuesday may not be the best day for a 13 ingredient-22-step-3-course-meal...

but still, i find myself over-shopping and over-spending, all in a effort to stick to the plan.

yet oh so many benefits come from having a ROAD MAP. not only time-saving benefits, but money-saving, which is a big area of focus for the coming year (more on that later)... less eating out, less ordering in, less starving kids scrambling parents...  for it to work, however, it has to have a LOT of flexibility built in- with weeks off to 'clear out the pantry' (some of the best meals come out of these clear-out sessions).

and in light of my recent post [our recent chaos], increased structure in this regard has been absolutely essential. we're a month into to 2013, and so far, it's been a huge success.
lots of recipes tried... {old & new} cookbooks cracked open... new blogs discovered... magazine tear-outs put to the test... so many keepers to share... 
one of the best meals to date~ derived from a "seven perfect pastas" feature in an incredible february issue of bon appétit~ was a wonderfully unique pasta dish that definitely held up to the "perfect pasta" claim...

{hearty but not heavy... rich but not creamy.  a strikingly [and a bit surprisingly] delicious stand-out dish that would absolutely hold its own next to the usual 'pasta-heavy-hitters'... & not even an ounce of meat.}
ditalini with chickpeas and garlic-rosemary oil
{or pasta e ceci}

1 medium onion, quartered 
1 medium carrot, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces 
1 celery stalk, cut into 1-inch pieces 
6 garlic cloves, 4 whole, 2 chopped 
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves 
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
1/2 cup olive oil, divided 
Kosher salt 
2 tablespoons tomato paste 
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed 
1 pound ditalini or elbow macaroni 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Pulse onion, carrot, celery, whole garlic cloves, parsley, and red pepper flakes in a food processor until finely chopped; transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Wipe out food processor bowl and set aside.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat; add reserved vegetable mixture, season with salt, and cook, stirring often, until golden, 8-10 minutes. Stir tomato paste and 1 cup water in a small bowl to combine; add to pot. Cook, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until liquid has almost evaporated, 5-8 minutes. 

Add chickpeas and 2 cups water to pot and simmer for 15 minutes to let flavors meld. Transfer 1 cup chickpea mixture to food processor; purée until smooth, then stir back into sauce to thicken. 

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1 1/2 cups pasta cooking liquid. 

Add pasta and 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid to sauce and stir to coat. Increase heat to medium and continue stirring, adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta. 

Heat remaining 1/4 cup oil in a small sauce­pan over medium-low heat; add chopped garlic and rosemary and cook until sizzling stops, about 1 minute. Divide pasta among bowls and drizzle with garlic-rosemary oil. 
as i mentioned, so much more to share in this regard. until then, any keepers on your plan that i should know about??

don't hold back on me now... 

When life gives you lemons...

...stop blogging.

That seems to be my approach, anyhow... looking at my very infrequent posting schedule this past year.  

Well, "life" [2012] has given us [Ryan] a few lemons ~ literally and figuratively.

It's been a rough year for my husband, and in turn, a rough year for all of us.

...first, a major health scare back in spring, then a whirlwind of stress in the form of difficult and extremely time-consuming assignments, on top of an extra heavy workload at 'the office'- all the while filling out cover letters and resumes, submitting profiles, and of course, interviewing (all of which, after being with the same company for over 15 years, is an emotionally-and-physically-grueling-labor-intensive challenge in and of itself) ... months of being buried, overwhelmed, stressed, and longing for brighter days... for the days he can get back into the garden, back into his kid's daily lives (he really has done his best in this regard), back into the kitchen (with yours truly)............. He wants his life back.

I initially tried to keep up with posting, [...sharing, gramming,...] but unavoidably, each post- each status update- had an underlying message [complaint] of "WE'RE DROWNING OVER HERE!!" and I realized [for your sake & mine] that it was time to step away... to take the necessary steps to pull ourselves "to shore"...  

[many, many steps later...] official letter of resignation, a very-close-graduation date of JULY 1st(!!), and for the first time in far too long~ a sparkly clean house,...  

getting there.
{On a side-note, we've done a few other magical things with those lemons [literally and figuratively :)]... 
We made lemonade of course, but better yet~ we made Melissa's lemon scones (my first time baking with spelt flour- in her words~ easy, healthy, and delicious).............. Turns out, lemons are not so sour afterall.}
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