Planning Ahead

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Sometimes, leaving the house for a day at work is like preparing for a backpacking trip, and coordinating the logistics is like one of those logic problems where you are trying to get 3 people across a river with nothing but a horse, a sandwich, and a raft.


My car is out of commission and being fixed up on Burnside, I have to be at work by 11, Jesse needs to be at work by 9:30, and we both have plans after work.  Which means, the pup needs to come to work with me, because that’s way too long to leave him at home by himself.  Luckily, my plans are pet-flexible (meeting an old friend for drinks at the Landmark Saloon, just down the street from Yarnia, and with a wonderful outdoor patio that I plan on taking advantage of, as it’s supposed to remarkably hit 85 degrees this afternoon).  And no, Tucker and I can’t just score a ride to work with Jesse, because his departure time of 9:00 a.m. is far too early for me to pull off my morning work AND a 6 mile run, which wouldn’t be so anal about if I weren’t training for a half marathon and feeling very serious at this point about sticking to my schedule.

There’s nothing I love more than a good logic problem!


I leave my Yarnia key for Jesse and go for a run.  Jesse leaves for work, stopping at Yarnia on the way to drop off Tucker, gets him all cozy in his bed, locks him in from the outside,  hides the key for me in a predetermined location, then continues on to work.  I come home from my run, get ready for work, and walk to the bus which gets me to Yarnia right at 11:00 when we open.  I locate the key, Tucker’s here waiting for me, happily snoozing, and we spend the day at work together.  At 6, I close up shop, Tucker and I walk down the street to the Landmark where he joins me for his first patio beer (hello, summer!) and I get to catch up with my long lost friend.  Then, whenever we decide we’re done, Tucker and I walk the 3 miles home, and we call it a day.

This is just a day in the life, but here’s what it requires me remembering to pack in my trusty messenger bag before I walk out the door:

  • A vest for later (even if it’s going to hit 85 today, that means nothing when the sun goes down, and if Tucker’s with me, there’s no option of going inside when it cools down)
  • Phone & headphones (long walk home = podcast time!)
  • Lunch (leftover kebabs and Greek salad from grilling last night + brown rice that I thought ahead to make earlier this morning while I was doing my pre-run work)
  • Breakfast = The base to my single-serving smoothie blender — remembering that I still have a smoothie in my work fridge from last week that I never drank, and all it needs to perk back up is a handful of ice from my trusty ice machine at work (yes, most worthwhile investment of my life), and a few spins in the blender
  • Patio puppy amenities: portable Kevlar water dish, a meaty bone to keep him occupied if he gets restless, a squirt bottle in case he gets barky, and treats galore
  • Exact change for the bus, so I can get myself to work and execute this grand plan

We have good teamwork, me and Jesse, and I owe half of our well-adjusted, happy puppy to his compliance with my carefully scheduled plans.  But I also love the times when we barely have to plan at all, and it just comes together.  Like yesterday, when I got this text mid-day while working from home.


That’s a picture of some delicious looking kebabs, in case you can’t tell, that Jesse spotted while checking out a new meat market for lunch.  True to his word, he arrived home with a delicious selection (teriyaki beef, and spicy pork!), I whipped up some easy drop biscuits in the Cuisinart and threw together a salad with Greek dressing I had made last week and already had sitting on the counter, he oiled and seasoned some asparagus and threw it on the grill with the meat, and without even trying, we had collaborated an insanely delicious Tuesday evening summertime meal.

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Pasta Carbonara with Garlic Asparagus

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I remember the first time I ever made carbonara.  I was living in Montreal, and my boyfriend at the time had invited me over for dinner.  The menu was his inspiration, and this was in the early days of Internet recipes.  (He also insisted on pronouncing béchamel as “bockamell” for the duration of our relationship, so I was already a little suspect.)  I have a vague memory of an open laptop on the table, a bit of erotic panic at the idea that we were about to mix raw eggs into our meal, and a frenzied moment where it all came together and we stirred like there was no tomorrow to prevent the threatened scrambling.  And, I remember both of us taking a few token bites, congratulating ourselves for thinking outside of the box of the typical college-age go-tos of quesedillas and tofu curries, and then admitting that we were totally disgusted, no doubt moving on to an equally exciting dinner down the street at any of the 24-hour eateries that surrounded both of our glamorously bohemian apartments.  Le sigh.

My relationship with raw eggs has come a long way since then.  I still won’t order eggs sunnyside-up for brunch, or drink an egg white cocktail, but I WILL make an over-easy egg at home and enjoy how a runny yolk with salt and pepper can be the perfect complement to some fluffy artisan toast; I will slowly beat an egg into hot Asian noodle soup and watch the wispy strands curdle with delight; and I will poach an egg and put it over nearly-any-vegetable-and-brown-rice and call it a meal.

I have 12 more years of experience watching ingredients transform since that night on Boulevard René Lévesque, and now, I feel fully supportive of pasta carbonara being a legit meal, and serving it to my family for dinner.  It’s good, guys.  Don’t worry about the eggs.  If you eat pho — and everyone should eat pho — then you can make and eat this meal.

So, let’s go.  Pasta carbonara.  Even though it sounds (and tastes!) fancy, it’s a supremely simple dish — the crux of which is some really delicious bacon.

So first things first, I chopped up 8 oz. of some applewood smoked bacon I’d bought earlier, and fried it up in my smaller cast iron skillet.  I poured the extra fat into a dish to use for future cooking oil, drained the bacon chips on a paper towel, and then cooked up 2 handfuls of frozen peas in the same skillet, transferring them to another bowl once they were cooked.

pasta carbonara

In a separate mixing bowl, I beat together 4 eggs and 1 cup of shredded cheeses (Romano, and garlic pepper jack that was on sale at Grocery Outlet this week), and chose a bag of pasta from the pasta shelf in our pantry.  I didn’t even plan this, but we had a full pound of Campanelle in there, which is a totally wonderful pasta to use for carbonara.

While I boiled a big pot of water for the pasta, I split a bunch of skinny asparagus in half — saving the rest for another meal — and put it in that same skillet, along with 3 pressed cloves of garlic and some salt.  I sauteed this in the remaining bacon fat for just a minute or two, enough to coat all the spears, and then popped the whole skillet into a 350-degree oven to finish them off.  I adore any piece of kitchenware that can double as a stovetop champion, and then weather a hot oven unscathed.
pasta carbonara

So the water boils, pasta is added, and once it’s done cooking, I reserved some of the pasta water before draining it.  Once it was drained, it went back into the pot with some of the reserved water to loosen it, the peas and bacon were stirred in, and then came the egg/cheese mixture — poured in with one hand while the other hand vigorously mixed it all together to prevent the eggs from scrambling while the hot pasta cooked them.

The result — and the beauty of carbonara — is a deliciously silky, creamy texture that tastes cheesy without all the rigamarole and heaviness of a roux-based cheese sauce.

A little more salt and cracked pepper on top, pull the asparagus out of the oven (this could be any vegetable you enjoy, obviously), and you’ve got a perfect meal, with only two dishes to clean.

pasta carbonara