Category Archives: Featured Articles

Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

I really wish I could have invented silly bands or rainbow looms, but alas, I only invent things like Chickpea Salad. And even then, I didn’t really invent it, of course. But today, I had the idea to make a mashed chickpea salad in the exact same style as my favorite chicken salad — with grapes and nuts/seeds and chickpeas instead of chicken. Because I sort of hate chicken and I can’t stand handling it. I much prefer legumes to chicken — with the exceptions of a good local, roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy or a real fried chicken. Otherwise I find that it takes too much seasoning and work and sauce to make it good. Bacon and filet mignon do not have this problem. I will add that I don’t really like the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner that much either. Even after brining and doing dances to the moist and flavorful turkey gods, give me the sides and the gravy and I’m happy.

So, today I present Chickpea Salad. Have it on a sandwich. Or have it with a salad. Or eat it out of the bowl. And feel free to send me royalty checks.

Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

Makes about 3-4 cups of sandwich or salad filling

1 can of chickpeas (15 oz.), drained and rinsed
3-4 T mayonnaise (more or less depending on how you like it)
2 stalks celery, chopped
2-3 green onions, chopped
1/3 cup red grapes, quartered or chopped
2 T pumpkin seeds (or other nuts/seeds)
1 T lemon juice
Salt and Pepper to taste
Lightly toasted bread

1. In a medium bowl, mash chickpeas with a potato masher. Leave some mixed consistency, but not whole chickpeas.

2. Stir in mayo and remaining ingredients. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper, or lemon juice if desired.

3. Serve on lightly toasted bread or place a scoop on a plate with a lightly dressed salad.

 

Velvety Cauliflower Soup with Turmeric, Sunflower Seeds, and Truffle Oil

This summer was not kind to my waist line. Or to my hip line, ass line, and stomach line, for that matter. Packing and moving meant pizza and beer on many more nights than I’d care to admit. And if unpacking one spice bottle from twenty sheets of packing paper burned a lot of calories, I’d be in my pre-baby jeans. But no one would want to see me in those 12 year old things anyway — including me — so let’s just skip it. Bottom line is that I am trying to get back to normal eating before the holidays crush me all over again.

A friend was telling me about her success with a twice a day shake/smoothie plan, but instantly said, “Oh, you couldn’t do it because you love food and flavor too much.” True enough, but I did consider it for a moment. It couldn’t be as bad as the cabbage soup diet. Remember that shit?

No, any healthy eating plan for me needs to include real food and flavor and cooking. And now that we are back on our weekly farm share plan in our new area, I feel like the vegetables are calling me and nagging me from the fridge. “You aren’t seriously going to let us go bad, are you? Come on, you lazy piece of shit, cook us!” Maybe your vegetables (as I like to call my inner voice these days) are kinder than mine, but I do feel incredibly more guilty if I don’t use my farm share vegetables as opposed to my grocery store vegetables. You know how when you were a kid, you felt sorry for the last banana going brown because you were worried it felt unwanted? OK, maybe that was just me, but I am quick to personify produce and the hard work of the individual farmers who grew it is a much stronger cooking motivator than some unknown factory farm.

I digress. Can you see why my husband is a good man to put up with me and the constant over-analysis of even my produce drawer?

But even with my farm share love, there are things that get abandoned in the back of the fridge. Cauliflower is one of them. I like it, but no one else in the family does. They hate it, in fact. So when the vegetables were talking to me before lunch today, I had a moment of clarity that I could make something with them for me! Just for me. For lunch even. So this is what I made. It was delightful and rich and healthy and I will probably eat it for lunch all week. And even though the heavy cream in the fridge was screaming to be included in this soup, my hips told her to STFU.

Velvety Cauliflower Soup with Turmeric, Sunflower Seeds, and Truffle Oil

Adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini

1 medium head of cauliflower, chopped into small florets
1 large onion, chopped
2 t turmeric powder
1 t curry powder
1 T olive oil
3/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds (or other nuts or seeds)
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
Juice of one lemon
2 t salt (to taste, less if using full sodium broth)
Fresh ground pepper
Chopped fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, or chives would all be good)
White Truffle Oil or Good Olive Oil

1. In a large soup or stock pot, sauté onion, turmeric, and curry in 1 T of olive oil until softened. Add cauliflower and sauté for about five minutes until the cauliflower begins to soften.

2. Add stock, wine, water, 2 t salt, and freshly ground pepper. Cook for about 15 minutes until cauliflower is falling apart and very soft.

3. While soup is cooking, chop the sunflower seeds very finely in a food processor or small chopper until they are the consistency of corn meal. Reserve a few tablespoons for garnish and set the rest aside.

4. Remove soup from the heat and purée with an immersion blender until soup is velvety smooth. (You can use a regular blender, but obviously leave the lid partially off and do it in small batches so you don’t have an explosion of hot soup.) Stir in chopped sunflower seeds (reserving the others for garnish) and lemon juice and puree for a few more seconds to incorporate. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

5. To serve, ladle soup into a bowl, sprinkle with reserved ground sunflower seeds and fresh herbs, and drizzle with truffle oil or olive oil.

 

 

“Food allergies aren’t my problem.” Wrong.

So I just read another tragic story of a young boy who died after eating something with peanuts in it. As a parent of a child with severe tree nut and peanut allergies, my heart sinks every time I see one of these all too common headlines. It is our worst fear and our ongoing nightmare: that we couldn’t protect our child from a life threatening reaction. We try to use logic (I cook my kid’s food, I pack their lunch, they carry their epipens, I’ve talked to the teachers, etc. etc.) and we try to convince ourselves (I won’t let it happen, it can’t happen). But at the end of the day, you can never put those feelings away. It is a reality and one that we must live with. Life threatening allergies kill people. They kill children. And the occurrence of such life threatening allergies has been rising steadily.

If you have a school aged child, you no doubt are aware of this fact. Every school handles it differently, but you probably have received a notice about going peanut free, or that there is a peanut allergic child in the class, or have seen a sign that reminds kids to wash hands. And judging by some of the grumbling and resistance I’ve heard, you no doubt are sometimes annoyed by this fact. “My kid only eats peanut butter. Tough luck. There’s nothing I can do.” (Might I add that food allergy families have dealt with severe dietary restrictions no matter how much our child wanted to eat something, so this argument doesn’t hold a lot of water with us.)

The bottom line is that you wouldn’t invite a house full of toddlers over and leave out an open container of bleach or a loaded gun. If you are negligent with food allergens, you are being no different. Harsh but true in many respects. And I understand that many parents are wonderful. They are truly amazing and ask if they can have a safe recipe to make for a treat or decide not to send peanut butter in their child’s lunch. We appreciate you so much. You make our lives that much easier.

So, here’s my list of things to do/not do. Anyone with a child. Or anyone in general. This is how you can help people with food allergies. Please do. Lives depend on it. And they are lives that mean everything to us. Please.

1. Don’t send peanut butter or nut products in your kid’s lunch or snack. There are many allergens, but nut allergies tend to be the most life threatening and life threatening contact reactions are real. That means if your kid eats peanut butter and doesn’t wash their hands and she holds my kid’s hand in the hallway, we have potential for a deadly reaction. There are many options instead of peanut butter. Sunflower Seed butter is great. Keep the granola bars with nuts at home for after school treats. There are a million other things you can send. We don’t want you to not eat nut products, we’d just prefer you do it at home.

2. Make sure your kids wash their hands after eating breakfast. If they are heading to school with that on their hands, we have reaction potential.

3. Don’t eat nut products at the park. I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve seen half eaten granola bars underneath swings or on climbers. It’s unsafe, and quite frankly, poor manners to leave uneaten food and wrappers anywhere.

4. Don’t send products with nuts to school events, camp events, parties, or anywhere that there is potential for a nut allergic child to eat it. Kids are not adults. They don’t read like adults, they don’t understand that a regular rice krispie treat looks a lot like a peanut butter rice krispie treat, and they feel really awful that they can’t enjoy what their friends are having. Once again, there are a million other choices for party treats.

5. Related to that, clearly label anything that you send. If you must send nuts, put a freaking red flag on the platter that says this treat has nuts in it. Young children need help. And it is good practice to label anything. It helps the dairy allergic, egg allergic, or soy allergic kids know what choices they can make too. Just help us out. Please?

6. If you send/serve a store bought treat, kindly keep the packaging so we can check it. Once again, our kids love to be included when it comes to food. If there is a chance they might be able to have something, we’d like to know.

7. If you are a supermom or superdad, ask us in advance what you could serve that would be safe for our child. It’s not necessary and we usually have back up treats or plans, but this is just simply awesome. It makes a food allergic kid cry (and her mom too) when someone cares enough to make sure they are safe and keep them included.

8. If you are a family member or friend, NEVER underestimate the severity of a food allergic child’s reaction. You don’t know. And it can change all of the time. No risk is worth death. Don’t assume any ingredient is safe without asking. No one is trying to control the situation with their kid’s allergies. They are simply trying to keep them alive.

9. If you are a restauranteur, train your staff on allergies. There is tons of free information out there. Make sure they know that food allergies are deadly and what procedures need to be taken if a patron has allergies. They are not making special requests to be difficult. But food allergy families have to use restaurants too. We can’t stay home every minute of our lives to prepare food. We go on trips and have to hit a drive thru before a soccer game just like you.

10. Schools? Get rid of the nut products in school lunches. It is simply not worth the risk. And once again, there are a million other things to be served. Oh and teachers, coaches, dance instructors, etc., don’t ever think about bringing in a treat for your class with common allergens. Especially when you know someone in the class has allergies. Be smart. Be kind.

11. Governments, Schools, etc.? Pass epinephrine laws. Make the schools stock it. Make restaurants stock it. You will save lives.

This might seem like a lot. But it’s nothing. Nothing like facing your child’s death at every meal of the day. Every field trip. Every party. Every dance.

You don’t want to walk a mile in our shoes. So how about just helping us out?

(And I’m sure I haven’t thought of everything. Please comment with your own tips.)

 

A do over

Today I put my face to the sun and heard the waves crash. The tide was coming in, so there were actually waves. They came  in a diagonal flow, each one crashing a second after the other. I do this every day. Even yesterday when the winds from the remnants of the tropical storm sandblasted my legs. I walked leaning into the wind so it wouldn’t blow me over. The return walk — with a strong wind at my back — was much easier than the walk at to the point.

There is a marina in the distance that I haven’t reached yet — still being a little too fearful to go that far on a beach that is generally empty with the exception of a few swimmers still enjoying the water for daily exercise. The runners and walkers generally stick to the neighboring nature trail, a much easier walk than the rocky shore line. I stick to that rocky shore, watching my every step to avoid the large rocks and driftwood, which I took a nice trip on last week. Is it a public fall if only seagulls are there to watch?

I notice the differences every day. One day there is a weird kind of seaweed everywhere. One day, there is a weird sea vegetable that looks like romaine lettuce. One day there is some sort of pink algae. The shells that are there are battered, seemingly from trying to compete in a body of water full of rocks. Some days I notice a sock or a bottle cap mixed in the rocks and sand. We are, obviously, only an hour or so from New York City. On clear days, you can easily see Connecticut or big ships in the distance. In the last few weeks of warm sunshine, the waters were equally filled with sailboats and fishing boats — some ignoring their work and some doing it.

One day the tide was completely out and I could walk out on huge sand bars further than most would swim. Just me and the seagulls. Several days have been downright warm. Warm enough for me to consider getting in the water. Several days have been brisk. There will be many more of those to come.

But the sea air makes you do one thing: breathe. The gusts force you to inhale. Which is logically followed by an exhale. The constant focus on watching the rocks beneath you is separated by the moment you look up at the open water and are forced to pause, partly because you don’t want to trip and partly because the vastness and beauty of the world makes you stop. It makes you stop. And breathe.

And the things that are circling through your brain — silly things, dumb things, inconsequential things, they slip away. I find myself thinking a lot about my kids. How grown up they are getting. How the younger mothers on the beach playground — desperately trying to wrangle a toddler and a newborn — don’t know how wonderful those moments are even when you feel like you might just lose it then and there. Hell, I never realized it. What I wouldn’t give to have a moment to play with my toddler son or daughter on that beach. If only for a day. What I wouldn’t give to bring them home all sandy and feed them lunch and put them down for a nap. If only for a day.

I think about how I get a chance to have a do over. We moved. Elementary school here goes to 6th grade. I get the chance to see my son and daughter walk hand in hand into their school for one bonus year. I think about how much I miss our friends. I think about how it is no easier to make friends at 41 than it was at 12 — mothers at school pick up are just as intimidating to me as middle school mean girls.

I think about the moments occurring right in front of me now. The seagull standing on one leg in the face of winds I am having difficulty walking in. The two women walking the other direction complaining about a former spouse.  The old woman showering off after swimming in the Sound — her skin hanging in folds on her skinny frame, but not covering up the way I would.

I embrace the present, yet still worry at every turn about losing it. Both in big, quick kinds of ways and small, seconds ticking on a clock, living life kinds of ways.

I think about standing proudly in my bathing suit at 80 years old, shaking my head at the 41 year old me attempting to cover up her soft, smooth skin.

On the eve

This screen is empty, but my head is not. It is filled with thoughts of growth and change and transition. And somewhere in the mumbo jumbo of to do lists, laundry, cooking, packing, and anxiety attacks, I am trying to make sense of it all. Tomorrow is the last day of elementary school for my now very grown up 11 year old daughter. Tomorrow is the last day of kindergarten for my sweet little man who just yesterday was my baby.

To say this year with them has been a joy would be an understatement. Being able to watch them walk up the hill into the same school door every morning (her always panicking that she was going to be late [she never was] and him searching for his boys — and lately, his girls) has made me feel like the luckiest mother in the world. They have been Book Buddies and had the comforting feeling of knowing that someone they love is by their side (even if down the hallway) all day long. They’ve had moments of growth and sadness and fear — him telling her he didn’t think she should keep hugging him at school in front of his boys. Her saying after Newtown that if that ever happened at her school the first thing she would do is run out of her classroom and go make sure her brother was safe.

My little girl, who sings now more than ever, is no longer in the days of dance recitals and soccer games. This morning, I dropped off clothes that she forgot for a kickball tournament and I was struck by her suddenly more mature beauty as she turned the corner, smiled, and flipped her long hair a bit as she saw me. She has braces. We talk openly and honestly about friends and boys and all of the obvious things that 11 year olds wonder about. Last night she cried when talking about all of the injustice in the world. She has started to argue politics at the dinner table. And on social media. (Oy.) She feels. Intensely.

My girl makes me a better person.

My little boy, who runs, climbs like a monkey, and builds Lego sets like a teenager, is still in the days of soccer and weekly birthday parties. Last night he ended up sleeping with me and the big metal “throw up bowl” after puking all over the car earlier in the day. His limbs entangled with mine all night and his head was firmly planted on my chest — creating a dull pain that only a mother knows. I hardly slept a wink between the random punches and kicks and turns. But this morning he said, “Thank you for letting me sleep with you, Mommy. My tummy really hurt.”  He likes to point out that he and I both like to rub our feet together in circles while getting settled into bed at night.

My boy completes me.

So I sob a little. I rejoice in them. I thank the powers that be that they light up my life every day. I read somewhere that having a child is like putting a nail in your heart. Initially, it fills up a void you never knew existed. But slowly, you know that nail is being withdrawn and that you will be left with the hole that they filled for so many years. So many sleepless nights. So many birthday parties. So many throw up bowls and antibiotics and fevers. So much laughter. And so many tears.

The joy of motherhood almost always feels one whisker away from pain. And today, I guess I feel the pain a little as that nail comes out just a wee bit more. I already long for it to be pushed back in and relive every little moment of them walking up the hill together again.

If It Weren’t for the Internet, I’d Be Wearing Mom Jeans

I read this article today from Paul Miller, who you may recall was the dude who went off the Internet for a year and got paid to tell the story of his experience. I remember reading (on the Internet) that he was going to do it, so I was somewhat interested in how it went. I didn’t follow along with his weekly essays, because well, I have a short attention span, I guess.

The basic idea is that it was great in the beginning — he had energy to go do things, lost 15 pounds, read, and actually listened when people talked. Those are all good things. But as he reflected upon the experience, he realized that those were novelty effects of living in a different world. Physical letters were exciting to get in the mailbox until responding to them became just as much of a chore as responding to email. Time wasted playing video games replaced time reading TMZ or Buzzfeed. And then there were the effects that were worse — he ended up socializing less, he talked to his friends much less frequently and sometimes not at all, and his niece who used to Skype with him thought he didn’t want to talk to her anymore.

And that reminds me of a quote by Alan Kay that my husband uses all the time:

“Technology is only technology to those who were born before it.”

To his niece, without the Internet in his life, her uncle just simply didn’t want to talk to her. To her, the Internet was no different than talking on the phone. To choose not to participate was shunning social interaction in general. (And my bet would be that if I told the children I were going to undertake a similar year off, they would look at me with confused glances and ask why. Did anyone ever say that the telephone was too much of a distraction and decide they were going to live without it? Perhaps. With some historical reflection, would that be dumb? Yes.)

I have to admit that I thought he would end the experiment with grand pronouncements about how the Internet is great for some things, but detracts from our real, “meat space” lives in countless other ways. I thought he’d say those people who announce they are going off Facebook have the right idea. I thought he’d say we were all wasting our time. He didn’t. And he didn’t because the Internet is social interaction. It is us. And while it has disrupted the way we do nearly everything, the problems it creates aren’t necessarily new ones. It used to be when I got bored during a dinner conversation, my only choice was to daydream. With my iPhone, that’s not true anymore, but  it doesn’t mean I’m paying any more or less attention.

And the whole thing got me thinking as I was chatting (on the Internet) with my husband and we both easily admitted that the Internet has really given us everything. For my husband, it’s a career. For me, it has allowed me to write and read multiple newspapers every day (not just my one hometown view on the world) and pretend I’m a photographer and involve myself in politics in a way I, as a social introvert, probably would never have done without it. If I were writing this essay and sending it off to Women’s Day or some such other literary POS (sorry), they’d kindly send me a letter and say no thanks. And I’d be sad and after a while I would give up and turn my attention elsewhere. Or nowhere.

(And I realize I am not a professional writer. I don’t pretend to be, nor do I expect to write the next great novel. But does that make my words any less worthy of being written? In the end, everything I post on Facebook or Twitter or write here is for me. Have we forgotten that the term blog originated as “web log?” This web log is the journal of my life. If what I post here makes someone happy, or laugh, or cook, or feel supported, that is fantastic. But in the end it is a way to chronicle *my* life. And just like my real life, if you don’t like what I have to say, move the fuck on.)

Do I waste time here and elsewhere on the web? Yep. Did I used to waste time playing Solitaire on the computer (or with actual cards!)? Yep. Do Pinterest or Facebook make me feel bad sometimes that I am not crafty, or too fat, or don’t run enough, or not pretty enough, or don’t do enough fun vacations with my kids? Yep. Would I feel that way without Pinterest and Facebook? Yep.

When I was chatting (on the Internet) with my husband, I said that without it, I’d probably be sitting around in mom jeans. At first, he said “No way.” After a few minutes of reflection, he changed his mind and said “But actually without e-commerce you wouldn’t be able to shop for anything outside of our little town, so maybe you would be wearing mom jeans.”

So, Internet, thank you for saving me from mom jeans and letting me think I can be anything or know anything or talk to anyone. I, for one, am not going to think bad thoughts about you anymore. Or IM them, or text them, or blog them, or tweet them, or tumble them. I promise.

Carry On

I used to be a big fan of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” saying until it became the fodder of every meme maker or person on Pinterest who tried to tweak the saying for their own pleasure. (“Keep Calm and Grow a Mustache seems to be the depths of the meme world.) It has become polluted and cliché and has lost most of its meaning — which obviously goes back to British propaganda during World War II. From Wikipedia:

The poster was initially produced by the Ministry of Information,[1] at the beginning of the Second World War. It was intended to be distributed in order to strengthen morale in the event of a wartime disaster, such as mass bombing of major cities using high explosives and poison gas, which was widely expected within hours of an outbreak of war. Over 2,500,000 copies were printed, although the poster was distributed only in limited numbers, and never saw public display.[5]

When the Germans actually did start bombing Great Britain during the Blitz, the posters had been put in storage or trashed, due to pubic opinion that felt the messages were “patronizing.”

About ten years ago, I found a notebook with the saying on it and stuck it in my purse. It was a good reminder to not let the details of life get overwhelming — which I often do. But the threat of poison gas and bombing of neighborhoods? I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t help me manage that at all. So, yes, good people of Britain, you were right. It was patronizing.

Stop the damn war and I’ll carry on just fine.

And I couldn’t help but think about that yesterday after the news in Boston broke. The shell shock that is carried inside of us from 9/11 and now from Newtown gurgles back up the surface quickly. I go from watching a movie with my 6 year old who was home sick to furiously searching the Internet for information. I go from crying at the end of Toy Story 3 to panic thinking about all of our marathon runner friends who might have been there. And I get word that most of them didn’t run Boston this year and our other friends and acquaintances who were there were fine.

Stop making me look at pictures of children — this time an 8 year old — who are dead or maimed. Stop making me think about a father who was running who now has a dead son and a wife and daughter with grievous injuries. And stop making me look at it in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq or India. Stop making me see it in Israel or the West Bank. Stop making me see it on the campus of Virginia Tech or in a daycare in Oklahoma or in an elementary school in Connecticut.

Stop the damn wars and I’ll carry on just fine.

We know they never win. We know we will carry on. Right? We know we will never forget those faces. We know this time will be different. We know we will struggle to pass even freaking background checks for military assault weapons capable of murdering hundreds of people in the matter of minutes. We know the terrorists will never change our way of life. Right?

Tell it to the families of the victims. Tell it to the people who are scared to go back into their city. And tell it to the people (like me) who approach any crowded situation with fear. Mr. Rogers also made the rounds yesterday with his quote to look for the helpers. And I agree. The outpouring of help and love is astonishing. It is who we are.  But I sure would prefer to not have to endanger other innocent people when they run to the scene of a bomb to help triage war-like wounds on a sunny Boston Marathon day — with “real” war nowhere near them.

So one side of me says they never, ever win. And the other side of me says the sides of evil and hate and plain craziness can win whenever they want. They win, in their warped minds, by causing pain and terror. They win, when I have to have yet another conversation (this time mostly with the 11 year old) that starts with phrases like “Something bad has happened, but the odds of it happening are so low. You shouldn’t worry about it. We will catch these people.”

And she weeps. And says, “But Mommy, those people that died or were hurt woke up yesterday excited and didn’t even think that they would die. How do I know that it’s not going to be me?” Maternal sucker punch. Yet another seed of fear is planted in her heart. While someone else down the street plants a seed of hate in their child’s heart by saying “It was probably one of those damn Muslims” or “God is punishing us because of these gay people.”

Keep calm and carry on? Maybe it’s time to freak the fuck out and carry on. I desperately want us to rise up against the violence and the hatred and the insanity and whatever else it is that causes us to keep ending up here. But the seeds of fear and doubt have been planted in my heart too. March on Washington? Large crowds and lobbies that are more powerful than millions of people. Take on the NRA? They are armed and like to intimidate the people who disagree with them. Try to end the trillions of dollars spent bombing a world away with no real goals? Good luck.

Stop the damn wars and I’ll carry on just fine.

 

 

 

 

The Avalanche of Mundane Shit

I can’t find my reading glasses. I am pretty sure this is not a unique phenomenon just for me, especially considering the clerk at the drugstore commented that she has at least 10 pairs because she constantly loses them. I think they call that foreshadowing in the biz.

After one day of glorious use — I can see my iPhone! Look how much clearer my computer screen is! — they are gone. Nowhere to be found. The last thing I remember is my husband asking me to try them on the other night — because men have a thing when you wear your glasses, don’t they? Does it go back to the librarian fantasy? I don’t know. So I tried them on and we laughed because reading glasses magnify your eyes to the people looking at you and the bug eyes just aren’t as sexy as one would think.

So, if 40 is the year when your eyes go bad, 41 is the year when they are even worse and your brain is diminished enough that you can’t keep track of a pair of damn glasses. God help me if I need to buy the string to keep them around my neck.

For some reason, this made me cry. I think it was the combination of too many things piling up around the house — laundry folded, but not put away, toys taking over every single room of the house, bedrooms that are a disaster, closets that need to be switched for the seasons (and because of the fact that the kids are outgrowing everything — quickly), sheets that need to be changed (um, when was the last time?), school papers (Oh my, the school papers. Times two for two kids. I can’t keep up.), checks that need to be written for the taxes, for track t-shirts, for random bills, reading logs that need to be filled out, snow clothes and boots that need to be put into storage. You know the drill.

An avalanche of mundane shit. One that makes you cry because you can’t find your glasses in an avalanche of mundane shit. An avalanche that makes you feel like a failure because why, at almost 41 years old, can’t I keep this all together? Why, if I am old enough to need reading glasses, can’t I manage a household? Why don’t toys get picked up and put away at the end of the evening? Why am I more apt to look past them and tell the kids to go to bed? Why don’t I spend every Saturday morning like my mom did — stripping beds, cleaning bathrooms, and returning the house to a clean state? Why can’t I be that good? Why, even though I like to cook, does evening meal preparation feel like a chore I can’t conquer?

As a professional, I managed large, complicated projects and kept track of details and remembered everything. As a doctoral student, I dove so deep into analyzing research, I sometimes couldn’t come out. As a child, I had a memory that was tack sharp. As a mother, I can’t do any of it.

And the question that is nagging me is whether it is aging, or boredom, or just a general hatred of cleaning? And the other question is where are my glasses? And should I bother continuing to look for them or just go get a second pair?

Cooking Ideas from Around the Web: Spring (?) Edition

We humans are incredibly fickle about the weather, aren’t we? I include myself in this category (as a human) and will admit I am the first to complain about it being too cold, too hot, too cloudy, too humid, or too rainy. Basically, if I could have 70 degrees and brilliant sunshine every day, I would be good. Maybe.

Last winter, we basically had a fall that turned into spring. We had only one snowfall that was in big shoveling territory and the daffodils were coming up in January. But we still complained. “It’s weird. It’s not natural. I can’t believe the kids haven’t had one snow day.” And they didn’t all winter.

I have no formal meteorological training, but because we got off light last year, I knew this winter was going to be a pain in the ass (I’m amazing with easy predictions, BTW). And it has been. On April 3, it’s still freezing out there. The weather people say that is going to change and our spring is going to start soon, but I think they lie to us just so we won’t go postal with 10 day forecasts full of clouds and cold.

So, I’ve been trying to cook with springtime in mind, even if I’m still waiting for spring to actually show up. Easter is a good excuse to pretend we’ve made it through the winter, even if my asparagus were bought from our local Giant, rather than our local farmer. But I’m sorry if I’m not going to make an Easter side dish with shriveled, stored turnips. I’ve had it.

Here are some links to good dishes I’ve made recently or plan to make soon.

Sauce Gribiche

This sauce is an amazing homemade herbed and caper mayonnaise. I like the first version better and served it with roasted asparagus, carrots, and snap peas as a side for Easter dinner. I also had the leftover sauce mixed with hard boiled, leftover Easter eggs for a fantastic egg salad. It’s a winner with veggies, grilled meat/seafood, potatoes — you name it. (BTW, if you have never roasted carrots, do it. Whole carrots tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper, cooked at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes or until tender and caramelized. Turn a few times to encourage that. Delicious and like candy.)

Tangerine Semifreddo with Salted Almond Brittle

This was Easter dinner dessert and it is a wonderful frozen mousse with crunchy bits of brittle layered inside. Of course with our nut allergies, we used pumpkin seeds in the brittle, but it was still wonderful. Very light, fluffy, and refreshing after a big meal — and I think I might start doing semifreddos instead of much of my homemade ice cream. So easy, no ice cream freezer required, and I love the texture.

Sautéed Bacon and Blue Brussel Sprouts with Pomegranate

This was my second choice for an Easter side dish, but I decided to go the first route. I still think it sounds great and plan to try it very soon.

Grilled Lobster Caesar Salads

This is dinner tonight, except I plan to use frozen lobster tails (on major sale at Giant one day, so I stocked up) and grill them before putting on top of salad. Caesar salad is one of the kids’ favorites, so it should be a hit for everyone.

Island Pork Tenderloin Salad

This is one of our favorite warmer weather salads. My friend, Beth, introduced me to it and I think I’ve made it every year (multiple times a year) since she did. Delicious flavor combinations, great for entertaining, and kid friendly if you make a separate pork tenderloin without the spice rub.

Goat Cheese with Chile Morita and Piloncillo Sauce (AKA Double Dip)

This one was introduced to me by my friend, Jenn. It is another one that I always come back to for entertaining (any time of the year). It is basically a garlicky, chipotley cheese mixture (dip one) with a chipotley caramel (dip two). It is a show stopper and everyone will beg you for the recipe. I generally use regular sugar and serve with tortilla chips.

Napa Valley Cabernet Burgers

This is one of my favorite burger recipes. I often make homemade garlic/rosemary focaccia if I have time and it is another fantastic warm weather entertaining dish for meat lovers.

Garlic Shrimp

This is a classic, Tapas-style garlic shrimp dish. It is best served in a big bowl with good, crusty bread. I think I’ll skip the grill and make this for dinner on Friday night since it might snow. Argh.

 

 

Sunny Side Up Egg, Prosciutto, and Caramelized Onion Pizza

I had a little birthday party for my husband a few weeks ago and decided I wanted to make a bunch of pizzas. This is usually a real pain, not because it’s difficult, but because you run out of space for the multiple pans, dough, and ingredients required to do this for a crowd. And I like to have everything ready to go ahead of time, so I can have an adult beverage enjoy my guests. This meant four pre-cooked dough rectangles, which tend to take up a lot of space.

I happened to remember a rack that stacks trays and decided to get one. Thankfully Amazon had it here in a day and it worked beautifully. All of the doughs were pre-baked and stacked up in a corner of the kitchen and I pulled as needed when I was ready to bake. The toppings were ready to go, so I could easily make the pizzas and serve them hot as needed. I would definitely recommend getting one of these racks as it folds away flat and takes up no space at all. I think it will be really handy for parties and holiday baking.

So this was my favorite pizza: dippy eggs broken all over top prosciutto and caramelized onions with a bit of parmesan and gouda. I’m just not sure it can get any better.

Sunny Side Up Egg, Prosciutto, and Caramelized Onion Pizza

1 pound fresh pizza dough (I used Trader Joe’s dough, which I think is great)
2 onions, thinly sliced
Chopped Proscuitto or Bacon (cooked), about 3/4 cup
Shredded Parmesan and/or Gouda (or TJ’s parm/gouda blend), about 1 cup
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Red pepper flakes, to taste
6 eggs
Salt and Pepper
Fresh basil or parsley, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Season well with salt and pepper.

2. Sauté onions in a bit of olive oil or butter over medium low heat. It will take at least 30-45 minutes to caramelize them decently. I cook them until they are reduced by a great deal and a nice caramel color.  Stir them every so often, season with salt and pepper, and add a bit of water if they start to stick.

2. Meanwhile, roll pizza dough out until very thin. This is personal preference, but I like mine as thin as I can possibly get it. I do this directly on a large sheet pan and it ends up being about a 12 inch by 15 inch rectangle. But do it how you like — on a sheet pan or pizza stone. (Little tip: if doing on a sheet pan and pizza dough keeps springing back, put a dab of water under each corner before you bake. This adheres the corners to the pan.)

3. Take about two spoonfuls of your olive oil mixture and spread over pizza dough. Put dough in preheated oven for 5-7 minutes until just pre-baked and not brown at all.

4. When onions are done, spread them over pre-baked dough. Sprinkle prosciutto or bacon on top of that. Sprinkle cheese over top onions and ham/bacon. Make 6 little “wells” equally spaced around the pizza (that is where the eggs go). Drizzle whole pizza with more of the olive oil mixture. Crack eggs into your 6 wells. Season entire pizza with salt and pepper.

5. Bake pizza for about 10-15 minutes until eggs are just set. Watch it carefully because the eggs go from being not set to fully cooked (and not dippy) very quickly. If you want an over-easy egg, broil for a minute. Remove from oven and sprinkle with fresh basil or parsley. When ready to serve, break open the eggs and let yolk run over pizza.