Wednesday, December 21, 2011

birthday brunch

Every year my friend Jen hosts a brunch with her women friends in honor of her birthday. (Great idea, btw!) I have gone for the last two and feel honored to be included. Here's the thing: every woman there is accomplished and beautiful and interesting. Also, every one, I'm betting, is comparing her self to every other self.

Don't get me wrong: the vibe is totally positive, We all have an excuse to be away from our kids (except the one who doesn't have kids), we all have a break from our jobs (except for the one who doesn't have a 'real' job), we all have a break from our husbands (whom we love) and life in general.

Sitting around the table, though, I can feel the comparisons. One woman is out-of-this-world in shape. One woman is pregnant. Most women are tenured professors. So many amazing moms. I feel inadequate. I know I'm a good mom but that seems like the bottom bar. Like: the thing you have to do to completely not-suck at life. Then, suddenly, I find myself talking about this book I've read about the brain and how it has helped me to understand my experience with vision loss.

I can feel some people tuning out (mostly amazing-body lady) so I'm wrapping up. But I can also feel some people interested and I'm thinking: "Is this my thing? And if so, what the F is it?" I started to feel a kinship with amazing-body lady because we both are not academics. And then a kinship with the academics because I'm interested in the brain. And then with all the moms because I'm a mom.........Okay. Stop.

It might sound like a simple easy Disney/Hallmark moment. It wasn't.

We started to talk about food and the fact that only 2 of us had brought something homemade (me and amazing-body lady). The talk turned to skills in the kitchen. Suddenly, I'm feeling confident. Amazing-body lady has to go because she has to teach a group of women how to flash mob dance to celebrate some woman's 50th. How cool! We share stories of flash mobs we've seen or known about. Wow! Amazing-body lady is someone I can actually talk to!

So: I came home and had the deep/shallow revelation that we all have our own gifts and our own strengths and we don't have to be in competition. There, I've said it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

cabbage soup

Easy, lo-cal soup recipe---reinvented cabbage soup

1 Tbs canola oil
1 jalepeno pepper, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 small/med head cabbage (napa or green) chopped
2 14.5 oz cans low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 C lowfat or non fat sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

Saute pepper and onion in oil until soft and fragrant. Add the cabbage and stir fry until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add broth and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream. Salt and pepper to taste.

Option: add fresh chopped mushrooms at the beginning or add dried broken mushrooms with the broth.

Option: stir in some cumin seed and/or thyme.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Marry Me Chicken

I found this recipe on the NPR website after hearing an interview with an Italian-American woman who wrote many cookbooks. I apologize that I cannot remember her name. I've made this a couple of times and it has been incredibly juicy. The leftovers and bones make a yummy chicken broth!

Serves 4
3- to 4-pound chicken
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
2 rather small lemons

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Wash the chicken thoroughly in cold water, both inside and out. Remove all the bits of fat hanging loose. Let the bird sit for about 10 minutes on a slightly tilted plate to let all the water drain out of it. Pat it thoroughly dry all over with cloth or paper towels.

3. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt and black pepper on the chicken, rubbing it with your fingers over all its body and into its cavity.

4. Wash the lemons in cold water and dry them with a towel. Soften each lemon by placing it on a counter and rolling it back and forth as you put firm downward pressure on it with the palm of your hand. Puncture the lemons in at least 20 places each, using a sturdy round toothpick, a trussing needle, a sharp-pointed fork, or similar implement.

5. Place both lemons in the bird's cavity. Close up the opening with toothpicks or with trussing needle and string. Close it well, but don't make an absolutely airtight job of it because the chicken may burst. Run kitchen string from one leg to the other, tying it at both knuckle ends. Leave the legs in their natural position without pulling them tight. If the skin is unbroken, the chicken will puff up as it cooks, and the string serves only to keep the thighs from spreading apart and splitting the skin.

6. Put the chicken into a roasting pan, breast facing down. Do not add cooking fat of any kind. This bird is self-basting, so you need not fear it will stick to the pan. Place it in the upper third of the preheated oven. After 30 minutes, turn the chicken over to have the breast face up. When turning it, try not to puncture the skin. If kept intact, the chicken will swell like a balloon, which makes for an arresting presentation at the table later. Do not worry too much about it, however, because even if it fails to swell, the flavor will not be affected.

7. Cook for another 30 to 35 minutes, then turn the oven thermostat up to 400 degrees, and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Calculate between 20 and 25 minutes total cooking time for each pound. There is no need to turn the chicken again.

8. Whether your bird has puffed up or not, bring it to the table whole and leave the lemons inside until it is carved and opened. The juices that run out are perfectly delicious. Be sure to spoon them over the chicken slices. The lemons will have shriveled up, but they still contain some juice; do not squeeze them, they may squirt.

Ahead-of-time note:
If you want to eat it while it is warm, plan to have it the moment it comes out of the oven. If there are leftovers, they will be very tasty cold, kept moist with some of the cooking juices and eaten not straight out of the refrigerator, but at room temperature.

All Purpose Sauce

This is yummy over fish, chicken, veggies....almost anything! Adds lots of flavor and very few calories.

Simply combine:

1 tsp canola oil
3 tsp black bean garlic sauce
3 tsp finely chopped scallion
3 tsp rice vinegar
3 tsp water
pinch crushed red pepper (to taste)

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups buttermilk (or 2 cups milk mixed with 2 Tbsp. vinegar)
1 cup raisins, currants, or diced dried fruits (VERY optional)

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease an 8-inch glass pie plate or a baking sheet.

Put the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and stir with a fork to blend. Add the buttermilk and stir vigorously until the dough comes together. Add dried fruit if using. (I most definitely am NOT!)

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently for a minute.
The dough will be soft and malleable, but, tantalizing as it is, it should not be overworked. Add more flour if too sticky. Pat the dough into a disk about 6 inches across, slash an X across the top, cutting it about 1/2-inch deep, and place the dough in the greased pan or on the baking sheet.

Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the slash has widened and the bread is golden brown.

Transfer to a rack to cool completely, then slice or wrap in a moist towel until ready to serve. Allow the bread to cool completely before serving.

Makes 1 loaf.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christmas wishes

When I was an adolescent, Christmas was all about wanting something to transform my life. I would hope for and actually anticipate that I would get the right sweater or jeans or shoes or book bag or haircut or something that would make me popular or at least acceptable.

The year I asked for the striped turtleneck, I got instead a baby blue short-sleeved t-shirt emblazoned with "One Wild and Crazy Gal!" Yeah, that didn't help so much. When I asked for a book bag like the ones everyone else had I got instead a diaper bag, essentially, that I could not be seen carrying even to the trash. It didn't take long for my stepmother to adopt it as her gym bag. Hmmm.

As the oldest child I often got shafted by Santa because I "would understand." It is true that I had a good run with Santa as a pre-teen, but those weren't the years when I needed an extreme makeover.

Eventually I just stopped wanting although I couldn't extinguish that itch of hope going to bed on Christmas Eve. Then 5 years ago I got something that really did transform my life. I got pregnant.

This year my sons are 4 and I was able to give them exactly what they wanted. I hope I'll be smart enough to figure out what they wish for when they no longer sit on Santa's lap and spell it all out. And I hope I will know the difference between making them happy and making them spoiled.