Strawberry, Basil + Goat Cheese Panini

The alarm clock on my phone rings, and I hit snooze for the first of several times. I’ve never been very disciplined about getting out of bed right away. Despite the previous night's vow to wake up before my kids, I reluctantly crawl from beneath the covers only when I start to hear, “Mama! Mama!” from the next room.

Today, fortunately, the calls for mama are interrupted by laughter. My two-year-old twins jabber to each other about something hilarious, but in a language unknown to me. I leave them to giggle and chat for a few more minutes, giving me a chance to put on clean clothes and spray my hair with dry shampoo (an innovation I should have embraced long ago). Then we hit the ground running—or waddling in my case, being eight months pregnant.

I change one diaper, then the other. We head downstairs, a migration which lately includes nearly all their stuffed animals—Bear, Sloth, Gorilla, and the rest of Noah’s ark. I fill my favorite white and gray mug with coffee and make my kids a plate of scrambled eggs and toast. They (usually) inhale it contentedly, although some days they suddenly deem such a breakfast inedible. I snag bites of their leftovers in between sips of coffee before wiping the worst of the mess off the floor (a feat that’s getting more difficult as my pregnancy progresses), and we’re off to do whatever the day has in store for us.

Sometimes the days feel chaotic. There are more spills, more cries, more clawing at my legs, more inexplicable fussiness. Other times, I aimlessly wander through our daily rituals, not stopping to give them much thought. I like routine. I crave structure and schedules and plans. But those ordinary moments can easily blend together like one homogeneous block of time, and the routine starts to feel too ... routine.

When my kids took two naps, I started using the first nap to stop and eat—actually eat, as in sit down at a table with a real plate and real utensils. I didn’t cook anything fancy, often just a couple slices of toast with avocado and an over-easy egg. But the practice forced me to slow down, even for just 10 minutes, rather than simply grab a granola bar and a piece of fruit on the go.

My kids now take one nap, so my late breakfast routine has turned into lunch. Soon after they’re settled in their cribs, I make myself a salad or a sandwich, or heat up last night’s leftovers (and try to take a few extra seconds to eat them off a real plate rather than cold out of Tupperware). It’s not even about the food, although good food is important to me. It’s about what happens when I physically stop and give myself permission to hold still. As mundane as it sounds, I’m realizing that sitting down to a meal nourishes not just my body, but my mind. It helps me pause long enough to think. To listen. To rest.

It doesn’t happen every day. Some days require me to move with more urgency than others. And I know my midday break won’t always be possible. We’re expecting Baby No.3, and I’m guessing he or she won’t care much about sleeping at the exact same time as the twins. But hopefully, eventually, I’ll find a way to press pause during our ordinary days.

Maybe despite my habit of hitting snooze, I’ll learn to make it happen early in the morning over coffee and a muffin. Or maybe I’ll savor the late night stillness with a glass of wine and a few slices of cheese. Whenever I can, I want to be able to stop in the midst of the routine. I want to nourish more than my grumbling stomach and make room for moments of quiet. I want to press pause long enough to notice the life I’m living and be thankful for the beauty of the everyday.

Strawberry, Basil + Goat Cheese Panini
Yields 1 sandwich

2 slices of bread*

Olive oil



Crumbled goat cheese

A handful of fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced

A few fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

Preheat a panini press or grill pan. Drizzle olive oil on both sides of the two pieces of bread. Season both sides with a pinch of salt and pepper. 

Layer the goat cheese, strawberries, and chopped basil onto one slice of bread, and top with the other slice. Cook in a panini press (or grill both sides on a grill pan) until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted. Serve immediately. 

*I like to use relatively thinly sliced white Italian bread for this recipe. If the bread is too thick, the rest of the flavors won’t come through and you’ll end up tasting mostly bread.

**If you really want to take this sandwich up a notch, add in a few pieces of dark chocolate. So good!