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Fettuccine Alfredo with Broccoli

For the first time in 18 years, the first week of September had no meaning to me. It came and went with no new shoes and sweaters, no scribblers, no fresh start.

It’s been looming over me for the past month now, ever since the back to school flyers started arriving in my mailbox, serving as a weekly reminder of my permanent adult state.

I can’t bring myself to drive by my old university campus, or to change my homepage to something other than my school’s site. What would I possibly change it to? Where do I belong now?

The truth is, I belong to myself now. I am responsible for what happens next, what path my life takes, not some professor with the mark of her pen.

It seems so infinite, which is what scares me the most. In school, I always had semesters and summer jobs to look forward to, always knowing that each would come to an end eventually, and I had no control over when they did.

I’ve lived my life on deadlines, always looking ahead to what’s next, always planning for my next chapter, never appreciating what I have in the moment. Now I have everything: a beautiful apartment, an amazing boyfriend, an incredible job in my field, and a kitty that cuddles me every evening when I read my book.

But for some ridiculous reason, all I can think of is the next step: what will I be doing in five years, when will I get married, where will I live? But it’s not just thoughts; it’s worry and doubt that run through my mind, causing me to ignore all these beautiful things I have now.

I often catch myself staring out my office window at the house next door. There’s a woman that lives in there with her husband and handful of kids, and I’m jealous; jealous of the haphazard way she goes about her day, living according to her 4 year old’s schedule. I look over at her and think how simple her life is, caring for her kids. But the other day, as I took a break from work and gazed out my window, I saw her standing on the porch of her lovely home, looking bereft and staring up at me on the third floor, a hint of envy in her eyes.

I wish I had perspective and was able to recognize that everything I’ve worked toward is a reality, that the life I’ve spent the past four years preparing for is now mine. I wish I was able to go back to being that confused freshman student just for a moment, so I could see how far I’ve come.

Five years ago, when TJ and I were just about to graduate from high school and start the next big step in our lives, he decided he’d try his hand at cooking. He wanted to impress me, so he chose, of all things, Fettuccine Alfredo. To be honest, it was kind of dreadful. The sauce was chunky and cold, and the pasta was undercooked. It meant the world to me that he tried, so I smiled and ate it nonetheless.

Neither of us have dared to make it since, so now that we’re entering another chapter of our lives, I thought it was about time to try it again. The base of the recipe is from an old issue of Canadian Living, but I added more butter and some broccoli to mix things up.

Tools

large saucepan
medium saucepan
whisk
measuring cups
measuring spoons
colander
wooden cutting board
large kitchen knife

Ingredients

12 oz fettuccine pasta
2 cups broccoli
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup butter
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

Cook pasta in large pot of salted, boiling water for 7 minutes. Add broccoli and cook for another 2 minutes. To prevent noodles from sticking together, pour 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil in the water beforehand.

Drain and return to the pot, removed from heat. In medium saucepan, heat butter and whipping cream. Whisk thoroughly and bring to a boil. Reduce head and whisk in salt, pepper and parmesan cheese.

Add sauce to pasta and broccoli, toss, and serve with added parmesan cheese on top.

Enjoy!

*Edit* After receiving a concerned phone call from my sister claiming this recipe is too salty for her taste, I have realized an unfortunate typo; rather than the 1/2 cup salt listed on the original post, the recipe in fact calls for 1/2 teaspoon. Let’s hope she was the only chef who followed my advice blindly (I am trying my hardest not to make fun of her right now).

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Broccoli and Garlic Penne

I’ve been under a lot of stress lately. It’s crunch time in my final year of university and it feels like life won’t allow me to breathe. But the funny thing is, every time I’m free from my scholarly obligations, my mind drifts to something much more uncomfortable and scary.

I graduate in two months. For the first time in 16 years, I’m going to be able to choose what I want to do with my life, and frankly, this scares the hell out of me.

I’d like to able to say that I have a plan, or at least a vague idea of what I want to do after I graduate, but I don’t. The thing is, I’ve grown up around people who settle for whatever comes their way first, and I’ve seen how unhappy they are because of it. But to get what I want, or what I think I want, I have to take a risk, and that’s something I’ve never really done.

I applied for jobs I really wanted and got shot down. I then applied for jobs I didn’t want, and got shot down again. I’m beginning to feel like maybe it’s just not in the cards for me, that all I can ever attain to be is ordinary.

And it’s not that bad, really. I could get a cozy little apartment in town with my boyfriend, just blocks away from my office. We could decorate our first Christmas tree together, get married and have kids, all before I reach the age of 30. I wouldn’t have to live off Kraft Dinner for a year or survive in a cramped rat-infested apartment, the way people always claim to have done before their big break. Best of all, I wouldn’t have to fail.

As tempting as this life is, I know it won’t make me happy. Because no matter how pretty my wedding dress is or how good my job benefits are, I will always ask myself the same question: ‘what if?’

What if it takes turning down a perfectly fine job to get what I really want? What if I have to move out of my comfort zone in order to move into something better?

These are the things that race through my mind when I’m walking home from school or cleaning my apartment. They take over my life when I let them, paralyzing me so that I can’t actually do what I need to.

But then there are times, those rare fleeting moments, when everything settles, and I think that maybe, just maybe, everything will turn out right. It’s these simple little times that get me through the day, the everyday pleasures that remind me why I’m here and what I’m supposed to do.

It’s the sound of my cat purring when I rub under her fuzzy little chin, reassuring me that my sole duty in this world is to make her happy. Tonight, it was the sheer satisfaction of making a recipe to perfection, for the very first time.

This broccoli and garlic penne is exquisite. It’s simple, requires very few ingredients, and takes under a half hour to make. Best of all, it is absolutely delicious, and it leaves plenty of left-overs for tomorrow’s lunch. Freshly grated parmesan is a must for this recipe. I’ve tried the canned stuff, and it’s just not the same.

Tools

large saucepan
colander
medium saucepan
wooden spoon
skillet
cutting board
large knife

Ingredients

1 lb penne
2 heads broccoli
3/4 cup olive oil
10 cloves of garlic
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
freshly ground pepper

Instructions

In a large saucepan, cook penne according to package instructions until al dente. Once done, drain in a colander and run under cold water.

Cut broccoli florets into small pieces. Bring medium saucepan to a boil. Add broccoli and boil for two minutes. Drain in a colander, rinse under cold water, and pat dry with paper towel or a clean dish cloth.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for one minute or until edges are brown, shaking the pan often. Add cooked and drained broccoli to the skillet and stir well. Sprinkle with some pepper and cook for two minutes, stirring often. Add penne and butter to the skillet. Stir well, until all ingredients are mixed together. Cook for four minutes.

Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve.