THE RELUCTANT DINNER

A nap with my oldest on this reluctantly lazy afternoon while the younger two are upstairs playing.

A flashback to when she was just a baby - so tiny and full of spirit. Not unlike now. Still tiny. Still full of spirit and with a mind of her own.

Off to first grade this year. Oh, where has the time gone? She's already talking about saving the stacks of leftover and unused diapers for her own children.

Please don't grow up so quickly.

It's been forever since I took a nap with her. Today it was needed. I'm not one to stop moving during the day. "Relaxing" is not a word I know too well. This afternoon I knew it.

Glancing up at the clock, still feeling a bit guilty for not "doing" something, I reluctantly leave my daughter sleeping on the bed - the one under the window in our room. The one still without curtains although the curtain rods were finally put up this year (five years after we moved in).

I go into the kitchen and stare at the pantry. The flour moths are still there. I have no time to figure out which bag of flour or grain is the culprit. Truthfully, I don't care. I'm too tired these days. If I happen to come across it, I will toss it out.

For now, I need to figure out what to make.

I put on a large pot of water to boil. Almost plain penne pasta is what the kids prefer. No sauce. But lots of freshly grated Parmesan.

I locate the bunch of asparagus in the vegetable bin. The bunch I bought about a week ago. I take out a red bell pepper as well and slice it up. My main ingredients.

Olive oil and butter go into the pan. After a minute or two, I toss in the chopped garlic and the last shallot that I had from before we left on vacation this summer. I need to buy more shallots. This one will do.

The asparagus and peppers are next. I grab a lemon from the bottom refrigerator drawer - the one also containing the oranges and apples. I grate the skin of one of the lemons into the pan. I use lemon zest - a lot. At times I feel sorry for all of the zestless lemons. Such a simple ingredient but packed with so much flavor. A dash of salt and freshly grated pepper followed by a squeeze of half of the lemon and the meal is nearly finished. Something else is missing. Texture. Crunchiness. I tossed in a handful of sliced almonds and decide that was the missing ingredient.

I set out the plates outside on the patio tables - the kids have their own table. The larger table has only four chairs. I open up a bottle of red "backyard" wine from Concannon and pour a glass.

I muster up the energy to go back inside and grab my camera. The only photo I took was the one above. I didn't plan the recipe as I do my desserts. No research went into it as the extensive research I do for desserts. No measuring. It's a matter of simply tossing together what's on hand and what I feel like preparing at the time.

This was tonight's reluctant dinner. And it turned out better than expected.