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For the Greater Good (+ Orzo with Vegetables)

Meanwhile, I’m continuing to plod along over here in pregnancy-land. My appetite has lately returned to the phenomenon that occurred this winter — nothing, and I mean nothing, really sounds good to eat except for maybe a piece of whole wheat toast with a smear of marmite or butter and a slice of sharp cheddar cheese (even that’s a stretch). This is a true shame because I’d counted on these waning days to grant me a ravenous appetite and a penchant for delicious things like quesadillas and pizza dripping with good mozzarella and all flavors of ice cream and loads of chocolate chip cookies and and and. Instead, the only ‘cravings’ I may have are for granola and fresh fruit and the occasional spoonful of hummus and steamed broccoli. But really, I’d rather leave it than take it. The other night, hoping for the best, I drizzled a cut up sweet potato and a cut up carrot with plenty of olive oil and pepper and stuck it all in the oven to roast for a bit. But when it came time to sautee the chard I planned to eat alongside … well, I could barely stomach the sweet potato let alone the greens. Ho hum.

I know this is all within the realm of ‘normal’ but rats, it’s disappointing. I was anticipating a license to indulge in all those decadently non-healthy things that supposedly mark the final months. Instead I just want to drink lots of water and green tea and sometimes a fruit smoothie, too. Dairy except for cheese is a major turn-off, and I will take almond milk in my oatmeal and just a pinch of salt only, please and thank you. Yogurt, which I just wrote about for an upcoming NPR piece, I can barely stomach. And that’s just how it is right now …

So I’m taking myself out for thrice-weekly swims at USF and enjoying the sun in Golden Gate Park and drinking ice water and just taking it one day at a time, hoping the exercise will perk up my taste buds (either way it does wonders for my mental stamina). I know this will be good practice for my upcoming time with Fennel, too; perhaps my body is preparing itself. But oh, how I look forward to the return of my usual appetite (I hope it returns!) as well as to cups of coffee and the occasional cold pint. Soon enough.

If I did have an appetite, however, I might make this lovely dish I came up with a month or so ago, containing whole wheat orzo pasta tossed with a myriad of vegetables including asparagus and spinach. I do love all manner of green things, so this dinner was one of my very favorites.

I took what I had, which was asparagus, spinach, and red onion, and sauteed them in olive oil. I chopped some cherry tomatoes and added those in too. I made a pot of pasta, and saved a bit of the cooking water when it was done; this is an invaluable ingredient in most of my pasta dishes as it helps bring the final product together. I seasoned liberally with lots of salt and pepper, and folded in some feta cheese; my own bowl I sprinkled with Parmesan. It was salty and vegetable-laden and hot and deliciouss

Now, as summer is suddenly on the wane, I am thinking ahead to later this fall when butternut squash and sweet potatoes flood the markets; certainly they would make worthy additions to this dish, either chunked and lightly steamed or pureed into a smooth, creamy sauce. Gruyere cheese in place of the feta would be lovely, and perhaps chard or kale swapped in for the kale later this winter. Notes to self; I will report back then. Hopefully my appetite will have returned as well.

I’m not one for the make-ahead-and-freeze — no, I like to cook fairly simple and quick (yet good) meals from scratch with loads of vegetables and as many whole grains as I can incorporate. I may regret this, but rather than spend my last days in a frenzy of enchilida-folding and lasagna-assembling, I’m stocking the pantry with staples such as quinoa, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, oats, baked beans and so one, my vegetable drawer with greens and fruit, the rest of the fridge with good yogurt and almond milk. I naively hope I will still be able to whip up my usual quinoa and tofu vegetable stir-fries, vegetable soups, this pasta dish. Babies sleep sometimes, right? Well, time will tell.

In other words: the end — or rather, the beginning — is most definitely in sight (and perhaps earlier than I’d previously thought – ai yi yi!). I can’t really imagine what life will be like just yet, but then again I didn’t think I would. I suppose it will both thrilling and terrifying — exactly like life in general.


[print_this] Orzo with Vegetables

I like to use whole wheat pasta whenever possible, but of course if that’s not to your taste you may use traditional pasta here. Note that the quantities listed make enough for two servings (or one if you’re very hungry or, err, pregnant, but this recipe is quite easily doubled, or even quadrulped. Play around with how much spinach or cherry tomatoes you like; it’s a forgiving dish that wants only to please.

Makes 2 servings

1 cup whole wheat orzo
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 bunch asparagus, woody ends trimmed and stalks cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups spinach
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup feta cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste

In a large pot, make the pasta according to package directions. When draining, reserve about a cup of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, in a frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook for a few minutes; you want them tender but not mushy. Add the spinach and a splash of the pasta water and cook until wilted.

Pour in the pasta and mix well until thoroughly incorporated. Add the cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, and more pasta water, stirring constantly to melt the cheese a bit; the pasta water will help form a sort of binding ‘sauce’. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove from heat and portion into bowls to serve. Top with Parmesan cheese.



  1. Honestly? Make up a couple of meals for the freezer. A couple won’t hurt, right? You may be glad you did. Somehow, newborns manage to not sleep very much and when they do, even moms who are professional chefs don’t have energy to cook.

  2. Oh Nicole! I could hardly eat a thing in the last few weeks of my first pregnancy. For me, it wasn’t so much that food was unappealing – I think it was just that there was almost no room. But the first hours after A was born? OH MY SWEET HEAVENS. Food – which you know I love – never tasted so unbelievably delicious, not before or since. I’d worked so hard to get him out here into the world, and there was space in my belly again – I swear, everything anyone offered, it was like I’d never tasted food before. “Water? YES! Lasagna? YES! Chocolate? YES! Juice? YES! Cake? YES! Bacon? YES!” (You can skip the bacon, of course.) But seriously – it was the most amazing thing – I still think about it all the time.

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