Labor of love

Happy Labor Day! I hope most of you are having a nice three-day weekend (I know some people do have to work today).
In spite of the mini-break from work, boy, have I been laboring! Some of it’s been dirty work, like gardening and loads and loads of laundry, but some of it’s been fun, too. I single-handedly dismantled our guest room bed to make that room, which is also my home office, more office-like. It’s part of my organizational strategy to get ready for grad school. I am going to have to be ultra-focused on school and work, and I need a cave in which to do it. All I need to do is haul up an easy chair from the basement (which we were going to sell), and I’m good to go. 
(So what about guests, you ask? Well, in a pinch, we can reassemble the bed, but honestly, we’ve had guests maybe twice in as many years, partly since we haven’t exactly encouraged guests since we started taking classes).
I also cooked up two big batches of soup yesterday to freeze for fall meals (when schedules will be crazily tight). Split pea and navy bean, both from The Joy of Cooking. Simple, basic, easy, and always tasty. I added a few extra veggies, and used some homemade chicken stock from our freezer in place of some of the water, but otherwise I made the recipes as-is. 
Ironically, we seem to have fallen into a belated endless summer here in Seattle. Temperatures have reached around 80 degrees for days, and are expected to stay there for at least another week. Not the best time to be making big pots of soup (almost no one has A/C in Seattle)! Fortunately, I started the soup in the morning, when it was fairly cool, because by mid-afternoon our house felt “hot as a chicken in an oven” (to quote my precocious 5-year-old niece, Zola).
Since things got hotter as the day progressed, I’ve opted for cooler foods for dinner. And hey, guess what? I finally made a salad version of Tutta Bella’s fantastic Calabrese pizza! For two people, I quartered eight black mission figs (on sale at Whole Foods) and combined them in a bowl with about two ounces of prosciutto (cut into small pieces) and some crumbled goat cheese. Then, I poured some balsamic vinegar (nothing fancy…it comes in a big bottle from Costco) in a small pan, brought it to a boil, then reduced the heat to a simmer and let it cook down. I went a leetle too far, however. I thought I should let it cool in the pan, but when it did it hardened! So I heated it back up a bit until it was pourable. However, it was sticky enough that the whole concoction was a bit sticky. But, most importantly….it tasted A-MAZING! Oh, my gosh it was so good! Next time (i.e., tonight), I just won’t reduce the balsamic quite so much.
This is why I have no photo of the fig salad: It did not look pretty. Of course, this has been a recurring theme this weekend. I also tried a new recipe for cottage cheese pancakes. Something about them was slightly sticky, and they were impossible to flip without sticking to the spatula and falling apart. They tasted fantastic, but looked like the pancake equivalent of a train wreck. So I will not be sharing that recipe!
Speaking of recipes…probably my favorite chore this weekend was pouring through cookbooks with a notebook and pen in hand, writing down lists of “I want to make this!” recipes under several categories (beef, pork, fish, packable lunches and breakfasts, weekend breakfasts, freezable, quick & easy, main dish salads and the hodpodge list of Other Tasty Recipes). This is huge for me, because, as you know, I have a LOT of cookbooks. It has always been a problem that when I’m leafing through one of them, I’ll think to myself, “Oh, I need to remember to make this, and this, and this.” But I rarely remember! So now I just need to consult my list. Gosh, I’m so smart 😉