STOVETOP BARBECUED CHICKEN WITH BUTTERED EGG NOODLES
FOR BARBECUE SAUCE:
3 slices good quality smoked bacon, sliced into strips or diced fine
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup molasses
1/3 cup yellow mustard
1/3 cup Worcestshire sauce
1/2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. onion powder
coarse grain salt and pepper to taste
optional: hot pepper sauce to taste
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken tenders – rinsed and patted dry
non-stick spray for pan
1 tsp. canola oil
1 lb. package of wide egg noodles
2 tbsp. unsalted butter at room temperature
coarse grain salt to taste
optional: shredded cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a preferably non-stick skillet over medium high heat, spray non-stick spray and drizzle in canola oil.
Boil water for egg noodles in a large pot. When water for noodles begins to boil, add noodles, cook to package instructions.
Add chicken tenders to skillet and sear them for about 4-5 minutes on each side.
When chicken tenders are seared on both sides, remove and set aside.
Check on the noodles.
Add the bacon to the skillet and render the fat.
When the bacon begins to brown, to scent the kitchen, and render fat, add the rest of the ingredients for the barbeque sauce to the skillet.
Cook on medium to medium low for about 10 minutes, until you get a deep, dark color.
DO NOT LET THE SAUCE BURN OR STICK TO THE BOTTOM OF THE PAN.
Check the internal temperature of the chicken – you need it to be 165 degrees internally.
Add chicken tenders back to pan.
Mix chicken in with the sauce.
If the chicken needs more cooking time to get to internal temperature of 165 degrees, put in oven for 5-7 minutes, then re-check.
In the meantime, your noodles should be done. Strain, place in a serving bowl, mix with butter, a dash of coarse grain salt if desired, or shredded cheese.
Serve under the chicken and barbeque sauce.
I wish someone would have told me.Told me that when I was a mother, the joy and love that you feel can be equal to terror and fear.Now that I think about it, I was told.By my parents.”You have years and years of scares ahead of you”, a wise man recently said to me. Great. I’m down on my hands and knees enduring the scare I’m riding out now.Things can go wrong when raising kids. The things you see on the news but also random, inexplicable things that require tests and waiting and, terror in the hearts of moms and dads.Before having children, I arrogantly attempted to control every variable in my life. I still try to do that, it just drives me crazier now.So here I am.
Waiting to have a “procedure” done on one of my own, and I can hear my heart pounding through my chest most of the day, unless Spongebob is on very, very loud. But even then, I am feeling it.I feel more than I ever imagined. Just like my parents told me, when they felt it.I’ve come to find out that just like joy can life you up so high that you can reach the clouds dotting the blue sky, fear can sneak into your system and rob you of your life force. And nothing else is wrong with you other than you didn’t take your parents seriously enough when they said You’ll see what it’s like to love something so much.I text message my husband during the day I’m not hungry. I have no energy to cook. It’s is very true at the time my thumbs pound out the desperation via satellite signal.I hide under a quilt and watch foodie shows.The chefs and home cooks on the shows, the entrepenuers who reached people in their hungry spot, they’re people just like me.
People go through things. For all I know, they could be going through “things” right now, or perhaps, just survived something. Something scary. Or something joyful.And there they are on television, cooking. Surviving. This active imagination of mine, I’ve got to put it to use in good ways. Like imagining the likelihood of good outcomes.And feeding my family dinner – carrying on when I’m slightly shaken at the helm of the stove.Very soon, before I even know what I am doing, I’m rendering fat from bacon for a barbeque sauce, taking out butter so it comes to room temperature, and boiling wide egg noodles in a pot of salted water.
Talking myself down as I cook. Praying as I knead bread. Showing my family that optimism is best served straight up, piping hot, from the heart of the home.It’s not even that cooking is my comfort zone or self-medication. Putting one foot in front of the other is done differently for everyone. My feet usually end up in the kitchen.Because you can’t help but love, you should choose to have hope, you have to live like – you know – and to do these things, you need to eat.So eat well.
A little bit of everything in here – a culinary grand slam.
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 large red potato, peeled and diced
6 cups of water
3 tbsp. vegetable boullion
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes with their juice
1 bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed* and each stalk cut in half
1/2 cup acini de pepe pasta beads, or orzo
1 14.5 oz. can white beans, slightly strained of juices
juice of 1/2 lemon
if available: fresh white corn, freshly trimmed from on whole ear of corn
In a soup pot over medium-high heat, add olive oil.
Throw in garlic and sweat for 1-2 minutes, don’t let it burn.
Add diced potatoes, mix around in the olive oil and garlic until coated.
Add water and boullion, mix well.
Add thyme, tomatoes, asparagus and pasta.
Bring to a boil.
Boil or aggressively simmer until pasta beads are al dente.
Add beans to soup.
It’s done when the pasta tastes like you want it – al dente, or more cooked, about 3 more minutes from adding the beans.
Squeeze in lemon juice.
Remove thyme sprigs before serving.
* to get the ends off asparagus, snap the stalk, and where it breaks, that’s the length of the spear you want to eat – discard the bottom end, no matter where it breaks.
** schmaltz: rendered chicken fat. I make my schmaltz by roasting a chicken with butter under the skin and olive oil all over the top with a cut lemon inserted inside it’s bum, then straining the pan juices from the pan and freezing the liquid into a freezer baggie or ice cube trays. I then add this super-delicious flavor-packed secret ingredient into all of my soups, stews, sauces, and braises.
Last week, standing on a stretch of grass with my father on a late spring evening, we named as many birds as we could find at our nearby little league fields. He started me on this silly activity called bird-watching when I was a young girl, not much older than my daughter Zoë, who was playing to our left on the t-ball field. To the right, my son Alex played on the Minors field. My father has already taken him hawk-watching, trout and bass fishing, but most importantly – at least in my family – to baseball games.”Baseball lessons are life lessons,” said my dad that night as we waited for each kid to come up to the plate before rooting loudly.”Oh yeah? How do you mean?” I asked, anxious to hear his metaphors instead of my own.
A funny thing about my Dad; when he speaks to you, he watches your reactions as your internal dialogue begins, like he’s planted a seed inside your head for you. I have never been able to beat the tag.
“What I mean is this; Baseball Lesson number one, wait for your pitch. Number two, don’t chase the ball down. Number three, be mad for about ten seconds when you make an error and then move on. And Baseball Lesson number four, no trash talking or pointing fingers.”
Quick look, there’s a robin.
I contemplated what my Dad said and let his metaphors sink in with nature chirping all around. My Dad stood way taller than me, like he has all of my life, with his hands in his pockets and cautiously added, “This is good stuff, Sam.”
Sam the Eagle from The Muppet Show? I swear that’s who you remind me of right now, Dad.
“And you need to tell Alex these things. Zoë is still in t-ball, she’s young still, but Alex needs to know that baseball lessons are life lessons, and he’ll be better for it.”
Yes, oh wise owl/father.
Earlier that evening, my son had committed an error – not coming up with a grounder hit to him at shortstop – and had gotten down on himself. He also pointed out the range of his field position to his Coach (my husband, his Dad) and blamed someone else for this error. That frame of mind stayed with him into his next at-bat. My father and my husband jumped on this opportunity to teach my son about sportsmanship, but my father practiced his “Baseball Lessons are Life Lessons” speech on me first. I knew right then I’d remember that speech always. Birds in the background, baseball all around me, I understood many different things at once, and it was soul-filling.
Up there behind left field, is that a Cooper’s or a Red-Tailed hawk?
After watching Alex ground out and Zoë fly up the first base line and keep going – enthusiasm indicative of t-ball – and with a respectable birds-sighted list for one perfect evening, my Dad and I continued talking about Baseball Lessons. “Make sure he remembers this stuff,” Dad said to me, hands still in his pockets, patriarch-type grin on his sixty-something face.
It’s a Cooper’s hawk, note the striped tail.
“I’ll do better than that, Dad. I’ll write about it and you can drive home these baseball lessons next time you take Alex bird-watching,” I responded.
“Deal?” I asked. Check swing. “Deal,” he said.
So I’m writing about it.
Baseball Lesson #1: Ten Second Anger Rule. Who was it that said you should count to ten when you are angry before reacting? Anger aimed at oneself can be fit into this philosophy. What good does it do, dwelling on committed errors? Rather, aren’t mistakes the best way to improve your game? At least for me – and apparently to my offspring – it’s the difference between a mental win and emotional loss.
Baseball Lesson #2: Don’t chase down the ball. If it comes your way, you do what every moment in your life preluded to this one has prepared you for; go after it with every cell in your body in concert with your pre-destined actions. But if the ball is hit somewhere else, if someone gets to it before you, or if it quickly gets out of play, what can you do? You keep playing, senses fully aware for the next opportunity. Which leads us to Baseball Lesson #3…
Baseball #3: Wait for your pitch. Pitch. It’s a word writers often hear. I love the strategy of pitching. It’s a psychological duel between the person on the mound and the person at the plate. Example: If there are men on base, and the count is 3-0 or 3-1, you’re going to get something to hit. Work the count in your favor. Don’t let someone else in your head; don’t get too far into your own. Know your strengths, feel the environment until you get a physical – almost automatic – reaction and swing. Letting your pitch pass you by is a painful, I-can’t-ever-go-back feeling, like striking out looking. Tricky stuff, but achievable.
Baseball Lesson #4: Grace. You can’t calculate poise, foresight or self-possession like you can a batting average, but EVERYONE knows when you’re lacking. One thing I have learned even though I never played baseball; you don’t better yourself with blame (or judgment).
Look, there’s a bluebird, never seen one here before. Must be a sign of something.
Baseball Lessons are Life Lessons, like generational recycling of wisdom and making tradition of recreational activities. Taking every opportunity to learn something, observe everything, and use it to your advantage, which will ultimately benefit those around you – family, team, or species, which, of course, are all the same thing anyway.
1 pkg. ground turkey handful ground sirloin
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1 cup oatmeal, ground up fine in a mini-prep processor
1 tsp. Worchestshire sauce
1 tsp. garlic powder
coarse grain salt to taste
white (or black) pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients and form into balls.
For the soup:
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil,
divided use 3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 green cabbage (I used a very small homegrown cabbage)
2 stalks celery,diced
1 tbsp. dried oregano
2 sprigs fresh thyme, dried is okay too
(2) 32 oz. cartons good quality beef broth
coarse grain salt to taste
black pepper to taste
1 cup cooked pearl barley (follow package instructions)
In a heavy stockpot with taller sides, add 2 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil.
Add meatballs and brown them on both sides over medium-high heat. If the meatballs stick to the bottom of the pan, they need more time. When they’re done (about 3-4 minutes per side), they’ll pull away with tongs or a spatula.
Soon as meatballs are browned on both soides, remove rom pot and set aside. Add additional tbsp. of olive oil and scrape the browned pieces of meatballs from the bottom of the pan.
Add a little bit (1/3 cup or so) of broth if you need to, to shake these flavor pockets loose. Add salt and pepper.
Add garlic, cabbage, and celery.
Stir around these veggies, coating them with olive oil. When the veggies are softened, about 3 minutes, add ALL broth.
Add oregano and thyme.
Bring to a boil.
When broth is boiling, add browned meatballs (and whatever juices have dripped from them) into pot, reduce to simmer.
Simmer for ten minutes or so.
Cut open one meatball to make sure they’re done. Add barley. Soup’s done.
I did a little research online prior to making the applesauce. Canning and preserving and food milling is too ambitious for a mom of three soccer teams. Turns out, the potato masher and determination of an 8 year old sous chef work just as well.
5 medium sized apples, peeled and chopped 1/2 tsp.
salt 1 tbsp.
butter 2 tsp.
sugar (we used raw cane sugar, but brown sugar is fine too, or granulated if that is all you have) 1 tbsp.
cinnamon 1/2 tsp.
In a stockpot or heavy saucepan, add salt to about 6-8 cups water and bring to a boil.
Add apples. Boil mellow/simmer aggressive until apples are tender, about five minutes (check by piercing with a fork).
When apples are soft, drain. Place cooked apples in bowl, or add back into pot.
Mash the apples with a potato masher.
Add butter, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Serve or refrigerate.
Since the first week of school, when my grade schooler made applesauce and did apple crafts, she has been tugging at me in the kitchen, or poking me in the arm at the store…”Apples, Momma, APPLES! I wanna. Make. Apple. Sauce!”Yesterday I noticed the five remaining Washington apples I bought needed to be used. I stood in the kitchen last night, pen in hand, writing to my daughter in her “Write Me Back” book that goes back to school on Mondays, and I promised, “We’ll make applesauce soon, I promise, baby.”
Autumnal Food #1, homemade applesauce with my daughter. On the menu and planned.
Fall calls for soup, this is culinary law by now. or maybe a a seasonal phenomena. Yesterday as I prepped burgers for hubby to grill, I set aside some ground sirloin to blend with a package of ground turkey I had on hand. And after I’d made the burgers, I rolled meatballs out of the turkey/sirloin, with ground oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs, egg, dried oregano, sea salt, white pepper, garlic powder, and Worchestshire sauce. The meatballs stayed in the fridge overnight, waiting to be cooked in beef broth, pearl barley dancing around them in the soup pot. What a delicious vision.
Autumnal Food #2, barley soup with meatballs and homegrown vegetables. Half done and highly anticipated.
Even though my husband is down with the flu and my kids crave hearty food, no one but me expressed a desire in the soup (my Mom, however, drove over to pick some up. Soup is sharing food, you know). Knowing I hadn’t many takers on the soup, I took a few of the browned meatballs added them into a quick scratch tomato sauce to finish off. I tossed the sauce and meatballs with some whole what pasta and fresh shaved parmesan.
Autumnal food #3, impromptu spaghetti and meatballs, enjoyed by the kids and all set for lunch tomorrow. Leftovers manifest and linger in multiple goodness, anytime of year. My father, another flu-struck family member, loved the soup so much he called me twice to tell me.
I celebrate the solstices, equinoxes, harvests with food. Harvests are symbolic to me, ritualistic to my appetite and psyche. I like to feel everything go around again, it means we’ve all come through another year, and the recipes wait for me like an old friend at an airport terminal as I step off a plane.
The barley soup is a new one for me, and I improvised a lot. It seems I am always out of carrots, onions and celery for the base I need for soups and stews. That deficit just brings out the resourcefulness in me, however.
That is how all the best dishes – impromptu and planned – are created. With what is fresh, and what is around. I’ll be darned if they are not the same thing.
I want to reward myself after spin class with something delicious. After all of that hard work, I don’t want to replace all those calories with one meal. This meal is indulgent, but the flavor comes from fresh herbs and citrus. Coconut is remarkably healthy, too.
Place coconut milk, coriander, lime juice, oil, lemongrass and salt in a pot.
Gently bring up to an agressive simmer.
Add mussels, spoon some coconut milk mixture over them, cover pot, watch carefully.
As soon as mussels open, remove from heat.
Add cilantro, serve.
I don’t have to force myself to go to spin class. I have to force myself to stay there. Pushed to physical limits by the trainers leading the class, something happens to me. I inadvertently activate my dormant spoiled-brat alter ego, into an infantile state of mind in which I almost feel infringed upon. To keep myself from leaving, I curse, gnarl, and whine inside of my mind. Being internally caustic helps me release the demons somehow.
Here is it how it goes. The trainer motivates us, while my internal dialogue rages.
“You can do it! Resistance up as high as you can take it, now pedal fast as you can! Come on!” says the trainer.
No. You can’t make me. What’s going to happen if I don’t sprint at a level 10? Is it against the law? Law, law…what is that Emerson quote, “No law can be sacred to me but that of my own nature.” That’s it. Obedience is against my nature. And after this song is over, I’m leaving this class and never coming back.
“Keep those legs sprinting! Push through the pain!” the way-too-happy trainer insists. She didn’t mean sprint, I know this, because I have declared today Opposite Day. How nice it is, pedaling slowly while everyone else is in a flat spin. I’m leaving after this next song. Really. How dignified I feel being a non-conformist. I can go at this anti-speed as long as I want, exercising independence instead and defying unrealistic expectations, while everyone else is mindlessly pedaling away. One of them is bound to topple over. Silly people, just pedaling away. Everyone here, doing what they’re told. Everyone else, still going. Everyone else, everyone else…is everyone else then tougher than me?
“Okay, slow down and take a break now”, the trainer catches her breath and takes a sip of water. When do we sprint again? Excuse me, can we sprint again? I came here to work, that’s what I’ve got to do. I’ve had my silent tantrum, I’ve cursed you during our internal dialogue, and now I’m ready to pretend no one else is in the room and work. I promise, I’ll work and prove that I’m tough, too. It’s just that, everyone else here, their reasons and motivations and own levels of ability, it just throws me off. I will stay out of my head and inside my core. Okay? Can we sprint already? I’m, like, really sorry for pedaling slowly when I was supposed to be going fast.
“Okay, ready everyone? We’re doing five minutes of rolling hills!” the trainer warns. Ooohhh, I LOVE rolling hills! Check the clock. I only lost ninety seconds to two minutes during my silent tantrum. Say, fifty calories I had the potential to burn if only I were tougher – stop! – get out of your head. I’m rolling, I’m rolling…
“Remember, if this is too much for you, take the resistance down a bit. It’s your class, go at your own pace!” affirms the trainer. My own pace? Why the **** didn’t you say so? What is my own pace, anyway…if not to surpass everyone else, is it to beat my own best, or worst, effort yet? Could be, that is exactly what I’m doing…
“Good job on those hills. Take a sip of water. We’re going to do jumps next,” the trainer says while smiling. I think I understand now (again) why she’s smiling. I really like this trainer.
When I leave spin class – after the trainer has called us off our bikes or down to stretch – it’s like I’ve worked a lot more than the abs, biceps, or quads. I’ve beat my own worst self with a better part of me, but not even that – I stayed in motion.
That’s a victory in itself. And that’s how I roll.
1 lb. brown sugar
1.5 cups water
1.5 cups oil
3 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup honey
10 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup wheat germ
3 cups chopped nuts (preferably pecans) 3/4 cup sesame seeds 2 cups sunflower seeds 1 lb. coconut
Pour wet mixture over dry – mix well. Spread into shallow baking pans or on cookie sheets. Bake at 150 degrees until dry (several hours). Mix half way through. When you can smell it. itâ€™s near done. Recipe Courtesy Kimberly Huffman
We do the sun
We hike on trails
We don’t know what’s up
With this sleet, rain and hail.
We skate on boardwalks
And we lie on sand
Chance of precipitation
We don’t comprehend.
When the start of this year
Brought wet, scary weather
Most C-A sun worshippers
Held hands and wept together.
But not me, I’m stranger
I check the forecast each day For any slight chance of rain
Or a few clouds of grey.
I love storms and thunder
Lighting and wind, too
It’s a geographical wonder
When you live in a place like i do.
I’m the outcast, the killjoy
They say I should move to seattle
But I’m a native californian
Used to hearing windows rattle.
They way I solve this dilemma
Making hay while the sun don’t shine
I settle into my kitchen
And invite the skeptics to dine.
In addition to the shelter
From the wet roads and cold
I make soups, stews, and braised meats
Butter cakes in dainty molds.
I do granola and I do grains
But I know the value of sugar
When a kid is frightened by rain.
I sweat veggies in oil
For an immunity boost
And I squeeze homegrown citrus
For my own, very Cali juice.
Then we watch an old movie
Or read an American classic
And cross our fingers for loved ones
Making way home in traffic.
Satisfied with slow cooked and baked goods
I made during downpours
Those who miss the sun
Haven’t complained anymore.
Eyelids get droopy
And fuzzy blankets are laid
As we count away distant storm noises
And clear sky predictions are made.
You can be warmed by the sun
Rays of western light on your skin
But when the rain does come
Find a home fire within.
BROILED SALMONOmegas, omegas, omegas! Or, one less vitamin the kids have to take.1 large salmon filet (preferably from the belly)
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
zest of one lemon
Salt & pepper to taste
Herbs de Provence
Pour olive oil over salmon. Add salt and pepper. Generously sprinkle the Herbs de Provence and zest of one lemon over salmon. Broil for 8-10 minutes.
Optional: Squeeze lemon juice over salmon when it comes out of the oven.
Yes, my kids eat this. Fight over it, actually. Trust me.
1 bunch asparagus
1 or 1 ½ tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400º.
Wash asparagus and trim; bend the asparagus spears and they will break off where they are ripe and ready.
Rub with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Roast for ten minutes, or until tender.
To make a New Year’s resolution is to say there is some thing about my self/life that could use improvement.I say, wouldn’t it be better to acknowledge all of the things in our lives that are good, to bullet-point the things we’re doing right? I’d call these “non-resolutions”. A list of non-resolutions would not begin with regret, and has no place for “shoulda-coulda-woulda”.But similar to a list of New Year’s resolutions, a list of non-resolutions ends with hope. It’s got it’s eyes turned towards the sun.
I’m making a list of non-resolutions, things I do right, things I hope to keep on doing throught 2010, and beyond.
Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude.
Make dinner for my family almost every night, except for Friday, when we go to the nearest family-owned Italian restaurant, get Chinese take-out, or eat enough spicy enchiladas to set our souls on fire.
Continue to get exercise four days a week; walking the dog, a spin class, taking a hike, swimming in the surf when the weather warms up.
Read more books than television shows I watch; cookbooks of Indian cuisine which I know nothing about, re-read a work of classic American literature, or a friend’s blog to which I can relate.
Help my kids with their homework without losing my patience. Actually, this would be on my New Year’s Resolution list too, because I accomplish this not quite all of the time.
Keep up on the wellness exams – kids, dog, car. Oh, and me.
Write every day, because it makes me feel good; make edits in my book, finish the blog I’ve hit “save draft” on 1000 times, or start/finish/re-work a column that seemed a lot easier when it was merely an idea that came to me while driving to soccer practice.
Make my husband lunch because it saves us an estimated total of $2,080 a year if he doesn’t spend $8 each day on a burrito and iced tea or an overpriced sub sandwich and bottled water.
Thank my parents for something each day; for always being there to help me with my kids, for calling me while they’re at Costco and saying “Do you need anything, honey?”, for being a buoy in the ocean that keeps moving around me.
Acknowledge my kids efforts as often as I can; for getting out of bed to go to school, then out the door by 7:30 a.m. when they’re age-appropriately inclined to chase the dog or fight with their siblings instead. For caring about how other kids feel (even if they forget how I might, from time to time). For telling me that my broiled salmon is fantasterrific and eating their vegetables during dinner. For taking three different kinds of vitamins each night just to ease my mind.
Make my spouse feel loved – draw hearts on the sandwich baggies, wash and fold his favorite shirt for game day, text him lyrics from our song while he’s working.
Keep the patches of dirt around our home alive with herbs, flowers, fruits and vegetables; so my kids can see how something tastes better when they grow it, so we can wake up every morning and count tulip buds together, so we don’t have to pay for our own pumpkins come autumn when we grow our own and feel pride when they give the surplus to our neighbors and friends.
Put more energy into cultivating joy than worrying about variables. This is the last one because it, like #4, fits on both lists; something I currently do, and something I need to do better.
One of the main reasons people make a list of New Year’s resolutions – as a person who used to make them – is to make the better things in life habitual.
It only makes sense, then, to list the better things in our life. And the more you do it, the easier it gets.
In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, place chicken into water and bring to a boil. Cook chicken completely in water. When chicken is cooked, remove from saucepan and let cool.The water is now your broth base.
Strain the juice of 2 lemons into a bowl. As cornstarch and whisk into lemon juice. Set aside.
Add orzo or rice to chicken broth. Boil low until rice or orzo is cooked and “soft.”
In a separate, medium-size bowl, crack eggs and whisk. Add whisked eggs to lemon juice/cornstarch mixture.
One cup of broth at a time, scoop chicken broth into the egg/lemon juice/cornstarch mixture, whisking vigorously so as not to scramble the eggs. You’re bringing the eggs up to the soup temperature gradually (tempering). Scoop one cup of broth and whisk until you have incorporated about half of the broth into the egg/lemon juice/cornstarch mixture inside the bowl.
Add the broth you mixed with the egg/lemon juice/cornstarch mixture back into the saucepan with remaining broth and mix well, keep on low flame.
Pull apart cooled chicken from the bone, and add torn strips of the poached chicken into the soup.
MATZO BALL SOUP
For Matzo Balls
3 eggs, separated
1 tsp. salt
1 cup Matzo Meal
2 tsp. parsley (optional)
2 tsp. schmaltz *
Bring stock pot of water to a rolling boil.
Beat egg whites until frothy. Add yolks and schmaltz (you can also use oil) to egg whites.
Add Matzo Meal and salt.
Form matzo balls the size of a plum and drop in boiling water, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes.
Take out and cool.
After matzo balls are cooled, add to chicken soup.
For Chicken Soup
1 whole chicken
In a large pot of boiling water, add chicken and vegetables and boil until broth looks rich and golden.
Remove chicken and let broth cool.
Put some meat from poached (boiled) chicken back into pot.
* schmaltz is chicken fat, and can be purchased at most supermarkets in the kosher section.
My son was home sick last week from school for three days straight.
Body and mind, this flu season is like nothing I have ever experienced. I have neti-pots, I have Snuggies, I have saline solution and cotton swabs at the ready, I have anti-bacterial spray, wipes, and hand gel, the warehouse size packs of tissue, and have spent more on gummy vitamins this year than probably all my years as a parent combined.
I indulged myself in the occasional thought that I was prepared and ready.
To crush that fantasy, all I had to do was log on to an online news site, or hear a child coughing in any public place before I went into panic mode – albeit a silent panic – until I could plug my maternal fears into a realistic outlet.
That place is my kitchen. I’ve been waging a war on illness there. I’ve got some fight in me, and my weapons have been used by people like me for centuries.
I’m cooking away my fears this year as I make soup and other organic, anti-oxidant rich foods that are supposed to contribute to the health and development of little people.
My antidote is information, and I have found more than I need in my recent quest. I read that hot liquids such as tea and soup can stop proliferation of viral populations. I have also read that chicken soup has healing properties. I’m not claiming these things to be undoubtedly true, but am I willing to put some faith in generations of common advice? Without a doubt, and with a media filter. I won’t be good for anyone if I let the news dictate my emotions.
I tried not to let my son see how worried I was.
My sick little guy, normally so active I have to stop and think “which practice is he at?”, lay on the couch under his Snuggie, watching World Cup qualifying matches and baseball movies, asking me when he could return to his “normal life”. I took his temperature every twenty minutes. I called the doctor three times in two hours. I checked Facebook and Twitter to distract me and put worst-case scenario thoughts out of my mind.
In my kitchen – the heart of my home – bad, hurtful and scary things are beatable against my will and wooden spoon. I made not two, not four, but five different soups. Even that was not enough; my mother-in-law made soup too, what I call the Greek version of Jewish penicillin (also known as matzo ball soup), or avgolemono.
Sick day number one, my husband told my mother-in-law that her grandson was sick. Within three hours, she called to tell us that there was a pot of soup ready to be picked up for the patient.
This is what we do, we cook illness away. Sauté, steam, poach, stir, and mix your fears into one pot, like the way you pour all of your soul into your kids. It all goes into one place. In this place, you have to have keen senses and sharp edges. The kitchen becomes a design center.
When I was sick as a child, my grandmother would make matzo ball soup or send my grandfather would run to the nearest Jewish deli to retrieve it. When my husband and I first started dating and I got the flu, he would buy and prepare for me Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup mix and squeeze fresh lemon juice into it, before he made me chamomile tea with honey and lemon, spiked with a little whiskey.
Now the mom and chief caretaker, I draw from all of these practices and knowledge when someone is sick, and when I am scared.
Back in September, I asked my mother-in-law to teach me the art of avgolemono. I got Grandma’s matzo ball soup recipe from her little sister, after Grandma died. These scribbled down recipes grace my journal like familial elixirs of healing and remind me of two swords angled together on a mantel.
Those four nights of staying awake to monitor my son’s fever are when I concocted the five soup recipes for the following days; 8 bean soup, chicken tortilla soup, roasted tomato bisque, traditional chicken noodle soup, beef and barley soup. Even with less than six hours of sleep each night, I executed the soups as if driven by some elemental force. As if a recipe would watch over us if I obeyed it to the letter, as if cooking and baking like a madwoman could keep a virus at minimum safe distance, or save me from my own nightmares. Maybe it did. I asked myself more than once if my children were at more risk of an epidemic flu, or from my constant state of doomsday distraction; smiling less frequently, 98.6 degrees obsessed.
I don’t know the answer to that question. So I will keep doing what I know how to do – add love, chicken broth, and every healing tool I’ve got into that place, that one place where I am defined by tradition, preparation, and waking dreams.
1 1/2 – 2 lb. beef brisket, all fat removed or
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 beer, preferrably a dark brew
(1) 14. oz can tomato sauce
1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. Worchestshire sauce
1 tsp. mustard powder
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. ground cumin
Dash cayenne pepper (if you really want heat plus the hip
factor, add some smashed canned chipotle
peppers from a small can)
Coarse grain salt to
Black pepper to taste
3 cans of beans – white, kidney, chili, black, or pinto – drained
Optional: 1 jar of artichoke hearts in
My husband won’t let me add but I
love to: corn, especially when I use black
What completes this: cooked elbow
macaroni or cavatappi pasta, biscuits, a huge baked potato, or French bread
Brown brisket in olive oil on both sides over
medium-high heat. When browned, put brisket into
Into the pan the brisket was
browned in, add onions, sautee until softened.
Add beer, tomato sauce, brown sugar,
Worchestshire sauce, mustard powder, bay leaf,
cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil.
Carefully pour over brisket in slow
cooker and put on low setting for approximately
six hours. If liquid level gets low, add some
beef broth or chicken broth to slow cooker during cooking.
When done, add drained beans and artichoke
Garnish with grated cheese of your
liking, or crumbled goat cheese, sour cream (in
which case the goat cheese is superfluous),
diced red or green onions, chives, parsley.
I dig this over a potato or with the cavatappi pasta.
Okay, so, the chili.
All 5 people in my house freaked for it. This
makes plenty of leftovers. The brisket pulled
apart so easily, the flavor of the chili was
sweet, the beans kept their shape and added a
creamy factor, I paired it with whole wheat
rotini, and the toppings made it personalize-able for everyone.
Here is a breakdown of how we take our
Child #1: Alex: sour cream and many Tabasco
Child #2: as much sour cream as she can get away with
Child #3: with grated cheese
Hubby: yellow mustard, half a bottle of Tabasco
Me: 1/2 cup at a time, still doing this portion
control thing, and yellow mustard, plus few Tabasco
Here is what I will do differently next time,
but please, please try this chili, people. Let
it slow cook and fill the house with meaty,
tomato-y aromas during a football game on
Sunday. It is honestly healthy and pleases everyone.
The night before (I forgot to mention that I did
this): marinate brisket in tomato paste, 1/2
cup Worchestshire, brown sugar in a Ziploc bag. Work in the marinade well.
Change out the artichoke hearts for diced potatoes, if you want. Or neither.
I didn’t use an onion after all!
Instead of beer, beef broth or stock can be (and
was) substituted. Seems I drank all my IPA.
I am specifically stating chili beans and white beans.
Toppings bar…sour cream…pita
chips…chopped red onions…chopped green
onions…grated all kinds of
potatoes…roasted garlic…crumbled goat
cheese…french fried onions…chopped bell
…just to give you and idea of how you can run
away with something, make people happy, and be
terribly satisfied, even if your team doesn’t win.
I have never really been into chili. When I
worked at Sea World, we had Chili Cook-Offs and
the San Diego Padres would send players to be
judges. That was interesting, but I never tried
the chili. It’s when I bought this brisket a
couple of weeks ago that I was hoping to make 3
meals out of it, stretch my dollar, that brisket
chili crept into my mind. One package of meat, a few cans of beans and tomato sauce, a package of
pasta and if you do your shopping right, chili is a great budget meal.
Or you can play it up for a party, and watch a
great budget meal become an annual event your friends hope they get invited to.
OUT OF THE SLOW COOKER, INTO THE FIRE
Come Tuesday night I won’t be home making
dinner, helping with homework, preparing for the
next day like usual because I am actually doing
something I never do – going out to Taco Tuesdays with some friends.
I never do this because somewhere in suburbia,
sometime during my experience in this idyllic
community, I became a person who likes to play
hide and seek, but not get found. Years of being
friends with women – and all the stuff that
comes with having women as friends – has sent
me into a Gollum-like seclusion, coveting
self-preservation like Smeagol coveted his Precious ring.
It’s not that people have been unkind to me or
my family. My neighbors and friends are
forthcoming; there is a good deal of involvement
in community sports and schools. We live among
other people with interests and histories
similar to ours, and have made friends with many of them.
But. Within these community organizations, at
school functions, I can not help but notice
little things that become bigger things in my
overly-analytical mind. Without trying, I pick
up nuances and dynamics, which to me are more
telling than gossip or here say.
Getting-to-know-you systemizations that I
willingly participated in, I now believe, take
one additional sentence or question to become
socially disastrous for some of us. And silly
me, I got attached to certain families, who less
than one year ago sat at my dinner table, our
kids jointly destroying my home, but now are
separated and living apart, jointly sharing custody of their kids.
Things aren’t always what they appear to be and
that scares me…in a primal, selfish, but mostly maternal way.
Going to Taco Tuesday with friends, though, it’s
tempting for the pack animal buried within me. I
usually repress my pack animal instincts for the greater good of our collective family character. But one evening out with a group of female friends doesn’t mean I have to
morph into a character from [fill in television
melodrama]. I know how to be me by now. I don’t
have to give any juicy details of my relatively
normal life away. I have become a master
segue-er, clever conversationalist, and polite
answer decliner. Fortunately, the people I
attract of late seem to be content to keep their
minor pseudo-scandals and
we-all-have-them-secrets behind their picket
fences, just like me. (I don’t have a picket
fence though, to be accurate, just a wisteria
that thinks it’s a wooden structure).
At Taco Tuesday with my friends I can balance
the knowledge of what I’ve learned and what I
have yet to learn. I can admit freely that I
once naively believed everything signed on a
dotted line was forever. Marriages, mortgages,
the safety net of good intentions.
I’m careful of the promises I make – and keep -
because while the diamond may be the hardest
substance on Earth, it represents things that crumble all too easily.
So, while the cynic in me says I should shy away
from all social invitations, I’m thinking instead of
a shredded beef taco with pico de gallo and a
margarita on the rocks, not blended, while my
family at home eats the hearty, reliable chili I
made for them in the slow cooker before I ventured out into the fire.
After all, this is suburbia. What could go wrong?
I understand now why some meals stay, and others
go. As a Mom, trying to save as much money and
time as possible, certain meals and mainstays of
Americana make sense to me: Meatloaf. Roasted
chicken. Tomato sauce. Casseroles. It’s
comforting when your family smiles as their
bellies fill, but it’s also nice to leave the
market as the victor against high prices,
corporate chains and the squeeze of hard times.
We’re all hurting on one way or another, so our wits become refined.
Let me get you some chili (how do you take it?)
while I give you a rough breakdown of how to beat the high cost of cooking…
Brisket*: $6 on sale
2 cans of beans: .99 each, $1.98 total
1 package of rotini: $1.00
1 can tomato paste: .63
Canned tomatoes: $2
Sour cream: $2.50
…everything else, the sugar, spices,
Worchestshire, toppings, I had in my pantry
It comes to under $15. Divided by 5 people, that
is about $3 a person for dinner, not including
How good does that taste going down?
* Note: I bought a 5 pound brisket for $17 and
change, using approximately 1/3 of it for the brisket chili.
1 egg, plus enough milk to make total 2/3 cup liquid
Optional: 1/2 cup dried or fresh berries
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Combine flour, salt, baking powder and sugar.
Place in bowl of a food processor or in a mixing bowl.
Add butter and blend until well distributed and mixture resembles oatmeal or tiny peas.
Lightly beat egg in a measuring cup, then add enough milk to produce a total liquid measure of 2/3 cup. Ad the egg/milk mixture to the dry mixture.
Beat gently until mixture holds together.
Gather dough into a ball, place on a lightly floured board and knead gently about 10-12 strokes.
Pat dough into a square evenly with hands to 1/2 inch thick.
Cut this large square into 4 smaller squares and each smaller square into 2-3 rectangular pieces. (You can use cookie cutters for this).
Place the scones on an ungreased baking sheet about 1 inch apart and bake for 12-15 minutes.
Serve warm, with butter or jams, or use to make tea sandwiches.
Makes 8-15 scones.
I bake for three reasons:
1) Celebration (autumn, holidays, birthdays, a friend coming home from Iraq).
2) Distraction (working off nervous energy or trying to reason something out).
3) Craving (I have the job of eating the corners of the brownies because all my co-habitants like “the middle pieces”).
Today I went to the store to get stuff for cookies and tea scones. She’s three, my youngest, and as much as I like to think I have control of my little world, I am honestly just at the mercy of her whims.
Take for instance, what I call the MELIA BATHROOM TOUR ’09.
The second we walk into an eating establishment, the market, a recreation center, or department store, she exclaims “I have to go to the bathroom!” But I try to ignore her for as long as I can.
“I have to go to the bathrooooooooom, Momeeee!” I try to divert her into different store sections, market aisles, or pointing out things that she really couldn’t care less about.
When she starts pulling on her clothes and yelling “I am going to peeeeeee in my pants, then!” I realize I’m dealing with a savvy negotiator, she knows she’s got me, that all eyes are upon us after she exclaims that she will soon soil herself if I don’t comply.
So I give in.
And chalk it up to another stop on the the MELIA BATHROOM TOUR ’09.
I should make t-shirts listing all of the bathrooms we’ve visited in various cities and locations – that would be our family’s version of homemade tie-dye. Or make her baby book into an event program highlighting her extensive restroom experience – it would have more integrity than the most foo-foo pink scrapbook or prettiest picture of this kid that I could ever paint.
Parenting – girls or boys – isn’t always pretty.
My kid likes public restrooms. It is what it is.
She’s never sat patiently and quietly in the kiddie seat of a shopping cart, nor has she been content to color or dot-to-dot on a kid’s menu. She has her own agenda, which includes investigating foam vs. lotion soaps in the varying dispensers restaurants have. She enjoys being scared by aggressive, loud flushing mechanisms, and must display her independence by climbing onto the potty all by herself.
She especially likes motion-activated paper towel machines, and full-length body mirrors by bathroom doors. Sometimes she walks into a stall, places a toilet seat cover onto the toilet, and says “Mommy go pee.” Other times, she walks into a public restroom, takes a look around (behind the doors, under the stall, what not) and looks up at me with a smile, saying “I’m done now.”
Maybe she’ll be a health inspector.
Maybe I should stop trying to figure out what is so fascinating about touring public bathrooms. I think I’d have to be three-years-old to know. All I know is that this little quirk of hers keeps me from ordering a side salad or grabbing a carton a milk and getting into the check stand quickly.
While shopping today, she waited until we were checking out – items on the belt – before she did the potty dance, adding emphatic vocals. Making this more difficult was the fact that I was doing the self-checkout. I looked at her, teeny little thing that she is, trying to think of a workable solution that didn’t inconvenience other shoppers.
I came up with none.
So I gave in.
I picked her up, ran her into the bathroom, tapped my foot on the tile floor until she was through, then rushed back out, smiling the smile of “please feel sorry for me I have a toddler”, not actively seeking out any eye contact from anyone. A sweet, young market employee had bagged some of our items for us while we made this latest bathroom detour, all of which took less than three minutes.
I’m getting kinda good at this.
No one else seemed to notice we had to stop our productive inertia and make said detour. Only me.
Me, who is at the whim of a 3-year-old (not to mention the 10-year-old, or the 7-year-old). On a bathroom tour. It’s one of those things about being a parent I couldn’t have thought up. No way.
3/4 lb. large shrimp (about 12), shelled and deveined
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 bunch scallions, cut into 2-in lengths
In a bowl stir together flour, curry powder, cayenne, and salt to taste. Add shrimp to flour mixture, tossing to coat.
In a large heavy skillet heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and saute scallions until well browned and almost tender.
Add shrimp to scallions and saute, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes, or until shrimp are opaque throughout.
SPICY BAKED SHRIMP (another from Jen)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. Cajun or Creole seasoning
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. soy sauce
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 pound uncooked large shrimp, shelled and deveined
Combine first 7 ingredients in 9×13-inch baking dish. Add shrimp and topss to coat. Refrigerate 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bake until shrimp ar cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve shrimp with French bread.
(“For this one you don’t have to use as much olive oil which will cut down the fat. Actually for this one [and any oil based marinades] you only count the oil/fat that is absorbed by the meat not all of it. So it isn’t quite as fattening as one might think.”)
“I like all of thes recipes because they are all really easy to make. I always keep enough shrimp for a couple of dinners in the freezer so if I’m in a hurry or want something easy to make I just take them out. If you like the shrimp that Len made then you’ll like these recipes.”
One of my most successful recipes – Bayou Shrimp- is based on a dinner I ate in Mountain View, California at an old friend’s apartment back in 1993.
Jen is the old friend, one I have lost touch with. And I miss her. Can’t find her on Facebook or Twitter. Googled her and got a result from a Boston newspaper, about staycations.
But she still isn’t in my inbox, unlike years ago.
Back in the early 90s, we worked at Sea World together. The quarrelsome, trouble-stirring, feline parts of our personality clicked and we became fast friends when I transferred to her department. We realized we went to the same college, and we hung out in between and before classes.
People called Jen and I Anastasia and Grisella – after the wicked stepsisters in Cinderella – because we tormented each other (and often times other people) at work, you know, to pass the time. She would sneak up behind me at my desk and pull my hair as hard as she could (while I was on the phone with clients), causing me to yelp in pain. I locked her in her office I recall, or I piled numerous boxes of my sales kits inches behind her chair, limiting her mobility which drove her insane; that, or I stacked the boxes up to the ceiling of her teeny-weeny office on her days off. I hid her favorite green pens.
Never one to concede gracefully, she would methodically wait until after I had spent twenty minutes getting my hair into a French Twist, then she would walk casually by me and pull the clip or pins out, leaving my hair flat, me in distress, and her with a cat-who-ate-the-canary grin every time. And through Jen, I was introduced to the phenomenon of horns growing from the head of a person who needs to eat every two hours but sometimes skips these important meals.
In ’95, Jen followed the boyfriend who would become the husband to San Jose. In ’96, she was my tallest bridesmaid, in ’97, I was her shortest bridesmaid. Then she and her hubby traveled all over Europe for his work, finally settling in New England. I have the ceramic bowl still that she brought me from Prague. But not her current e-mail address. Which is so odd.
But also typical.
I believe when I think about Jen, I have probably crossed her mind too. I think one day we’ll connect in cyberspace again. I know she is up to her ears in kid stuff, marriage maintenance, and watching time get away just like me.
And when I make Bayou Shrimp, or put my hair up in a twist, sometimes I laugh at how bratty I got away with being for a while, and how just because someone isn’t around anymore doesn’t mean they’re gone. Yes, I have this theory stuck in my heart and I feel I can’t let it go, that to do so would be irreverent.
Jen sent me letters for a long time from San Jose/Mountain View, or postcards from Europe, and holiday cards from her home outside Boston. I recently came across four shrimp recipes Jen sent me sixteen years ago (no, sixteen years!?), including Bayou Shrimp.
Hey Jen, Evil One, drop me a line sometime. Or just think some happy thoughts about me, like when you powdered my nose right before I walked down the aisle, or when my husband stole a golf cart at your wedding and caused a ruckus. Because the more happy thoughts and less regret anyone has, the highest energy we release to the world, the better place we make it, right?