Author: Leah Ferguson

Some Little Lessons I’ve Learned from Pandemic Thanksgiving + Start of Covid Christmastime

Some Little Lessons I’ve Learned from Pandemic Thanksgiving + Start of Covid Christmastime

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned over this Pandemic Thanksgiving + start of Covid Christmastime:   On the Wednesday before your it’s-just-us-this-year Thanksgiving, it’s really nice to cook the big meal with your kids while also not stressing about cleaning the house for company. 

Then Anything is Possible: Happy Thanksgiving

Then Anything is Possible: Happy Thanksgiving

It’s 7:15 on Sunday morning. I’ve just sat down on the couch with a newspaper and the first, and therefore most precious, cup of coffee of the day. Cian’s already here in the living room playing, and he abandons his toys when I sit to 

Leah Cooks Easy Ramen Soup

Leah Cooks Easy Ramen Soup

The kids asked me the other day to name my favorite food, and I totally blanked. I had about ten different options swimming around my head, all foods that I don’t make at home–tom yum soup, risotto, even a really good slice of cheese pizza (okay, I make that, but you know it’s not the same)–but couldn’t land on a single one. The kids were incredulous. “Are you sure you don’t know your favorite?” they insisted. “And don’t say pizza.”

But I was at a loss.

Two days later, as I was preparing dinner (not pizza) and Quinlan was chatting with me in the kitchen, she stopped mid-sentence. “Mom. It’s NOODLES. Noodles are your favorite food!”

Oh, yeah. How could I forget?

She’s right. Give me a big bowl of pasta and I’m a happy lady: angel hair aglio e olio, cacio e pepe, Japanese udon, Vietnamese pho, heck, even Annie’s mac ‘n’ cheese from the box–like a lot of people, noodles are my ultimate comfort food, and, as David is always saying, most often the simpler recipes are the best ones.

To that point, I’ve been searching high and low for an easy ramen soup recipe: one that can rival the kind that comes with the packet, but takes just about as long to make. I think I found it, on a lovely food blog called Fifteen Spatulas, and I’m SO excited. I made it the other night, with some adjustments based on what I had on hand, and it was delicious. Enough to even rival pizza.

With the holidays arriving next week, I know a lot of us won’t have time or simply don’t feel like cooking a big dinner some (let’s be honest: most) nights. Let this be your substitute instead of that takeout one night. If you’re a fellow member of the Noodle Crew (no? We’re not making that a thing?), here you go. You’ll be so happy.

Quick Ramen Soup

(adapted from fifteenspatulas.com)

Serves 5-6

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs. canola or sunflower oil (I use organic because I am a hippie)
  • 2 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. grated ginger
  • 8 scallions, white and green parts sliced*
  • 1 tsp. sriracha or other chili sauce
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 6 cups beef stock
  • 2 Tbs. fish sauce
  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 2 10-12 oz. packages ramen noodles**
  • 5-10 eggs (optional), straight from the fridge
  • cilantro, for garnish

* I only had a white onion on hand for this, and that’s fine to use as a substitute for green onions: just chop it very, very small so your kids don’t act like you’re trying to poison them.

**I used Lotus Millet and Brown Rice Ramen: it’s more filling and healthier than regular ramen, and you don’t notice a texture difference. But use anything you can find, really. Noodles don’t judge.

Directions

For eggs (optional): fill a medium-sized sauce pot halfway full with water and heat to boiling. Once the water is boiling, use a slotted spoon to gently add the cold eggs, one at a time, to the water. Boil the eggs for 6 1/2 minutes for medium eggs, and 7 1/2 minutes for large eggs. Once your timer goes off, place the eggs in a bowl filled with ice water. Let cool for 2 minutes, then gently peel under running water. The eggs are now soft-boiled. Set aside.

While the eggs are cooking, heat the oil in a large sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic, ginger, scallions, and sriracha and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the scallions start to soften.

Add the chicken stock, beef broth, fish sauce, and soy sauce to the pot. Bring this to a boil over high heat. Add the ramen noodles and cook according to package directions.

Portion into soup bowls and garnish with eggs (sliced lengthwise in half) and cilantro. Enjoy, then repeat every single time you’re craving your favorite food.

One more thing: As I mentioned, I am a hippie, and therefore belong to a CSA (a community-supported farm), so every week I’m faced with a pile of organic, locally-grown vegetables we have to eat right away or else feel like terrible humans. If you’re in a similar boat (looking at you, you plastic container of wilting “super greens” in the back of the fridge), throw those veggies you can’t quite face in this, too: stir in a couple of handfuls of spinach or chard while the noodles cook, or add shredded cabbage or zucchini. Your conscience will thank you, even if your kids don’t.

 

Writing: I’m Using the Pomodoro Technique

Writing: I’m Using the Pomodoro Technique

I haven’t talked a lot about my novel-writing lately here, largely because I’ve spent so much of my time this fall either being sad or writing about being sad instead (I’ve been fun!), but what I haven’t told you is this: I’m back to writing, 

We’re Selling My Parents’ House (Farewell, My Youth!)

We’re Selling My Parents’ House (Farewell, My Youth!)

You guys, I’m working through something here (aren’t I always, though? I KNOW). The house that Paul and I grew up in is under contract. This is a relief, but it’s also a little like, Oh, hi! You’re buying my youth! Here’s what goes through 

The Escape Before the (I’m Sorry, What?!) Quarantine

The Escape Before the (I’m Sorry, What?!) Quarantine

It’s Wednesday of last week, and I’m writing this to you from a pool deck along the ocean in North Carolina. We’ve turned an idea to get away over Columbus Day weekend into a week-long stay in an oceanfront home in Corolla. We took the kids out of school for the first extended time ever, because David found this house, a re-book, through an internet ad, and it came with a pool and a private walkway to the beach and clean linens already on the beds when we got here, and we didn’t have to go anywhere else but where we are, right now.

As I write this, on Wednesday of last week, I do not know that this time next week, we will be sequestered in our own house for fourteen days because Pennsylvania will have added NC to its quarantine list two days before our return, and I’m glad I do not know this, because right now it’s a sunny 78 degrees and Quinlan is on her dad’s shoulders dunking a basketball into a poolside hoop while Saoirse and Cian try–and fail–to block her and I can hear the ocean just behind me, past a dune.

I never really liked the Outer Banks before this trip. Something about the place–the quiet, the gentrified-ness of it, which other families adore–never struck me the way it struck David the first time he visited, when we vacationed with my mom and Paul and Sarah a few years ago. I told him that it was because OBX always seemed like the suburbs of beach resorts. But he was in love, and still is. He loves the scrubby trees of Corolla, the peace that’s found here away from the shopping centers, the feeling that the Atlantic Ocean is wide open, right in front of us. I can’t argue with him about any of these things.

Our kids are still swimming. It’s dinnertime. David will run out in a bit for steak fajitas and vegetarian enchiladas and more tortilla chips we can eat in this week, though we’ll try. It’s the warmest day of the week, this 78 degrees, and even though the sun has dipped behind our rental house, and the children’s toes have become ghostly and wrinkled in the October water, they ask to stay in the pool. They want to go night swimming, they say. This is amazing, they add.

R.E.M.’s “Nightswimming,” they know, is one of my favorite songs (and now you know exactly how many years old I am). My senior prom date played it in the car as he drove us to the dance. If you just forget the facts that a) our senior prom was held in the gym of my old elementary school, and b) the song was playing from a mix tape (mix tape! I am so very 44!) my date had made for a former girlfriend at his old school (whomp, whomp), “Nightswimming” makes me feel young, and full of that feeling of anticipation that came with being outside when the world is a mix of sun-warmth and chilled air, and I’m still on the brink of growing up, going away, becoming new.

My three children are giggling in the pool–cackling, actually. David has poured me a glass of wine and plopped down in the chair beside me to dry off. We are both tired and a little grumpy because the occupants of the house next to us have been up and outside all night, each night, since we got here. Partying, we muttered at 2 a.m. We peered outside and glowered through the dark at the people having fun. They have kids in the house, we grumbled. And then, this morning: How do they do it?

I am so very forty-four.

David engineered this trip. The timing is not ideal at all: we are in the middle of estate-selling, lawyer-communicating, mom’s-house-selling. My brother and sister-in-law are coming in this weekend, while we’re away, to get their stuff out of our mom’s house, and we won’t be able to help them or say a last goodbye together. Sarah will send me a picture on our drive home Sunday of Paul standing on our parents’ front porch for the last time, alone, and I will cry.

But David knew. He knew I was cracking just a bit around the edges. He knew our family needed to step out for a while, get centered again, and he whisked us away to find the ocean (if by whisking, you understand that means crawling along in I-95 traffic in a minivan down the East Coast for nine hours, whisk we did!).

I miss her. I miss her so much.

The kids are towing each other around the pool on their boogie boards. There is a neon-yellow butterfly that keeps flitting over their heads, away and back again. We were at the ocean this morning, and even when we’ve walked away, we are close enough to hear it, to smell it. When we got here late Sunday night, we rushed down through the dark to be near it, hungry and tired and very ready to sink into its water.

This is bittersweet, all of this.

The kids call out to me, getting confirmation. Yes, I tell them, of course. We’re going night swimming tonight.

I am so grateful.

It’s Book Pub Day! New Releases: September 29, 2020

Hi! It’s Pub Day, here again! There are some INTRIGUING new books being released into the world today, everybody. Shall we take a look?   Fiction The Bell in the Lake: A Novel, by Lars Mytting   Just Like You: A Novel, by Nick Hornby 

Grief, and When Our Children Show Us the Way Out

Grief, and When Our Children Show Us the Way Out

As I type this, there is an estate sale company in my mother’s house, sorting through her belongings. The estate manager called me from where she stood in my parents’ dining room this morning to ask me some questions, and when she looked outside, she