Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Page 123 Meme

Ah, inspiration in the form of a tagless meme. Many thanks to Philly Expatriate for providing!

Here are the questions:

Pick up the nearest book.
Open to page 123.
Locate the fifth sentence.
Post the next three sentences on your blog and in so doing...
Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged me.

"I'd spent the afternoon making hay, really just lending a hand to a farmer making hay, and after a few hours in the midday sun hoisting and throwing fifty-pound bales onto a hay wagon, I hurt. We think of grass as soft and hospitable stuff, but once it's been dried in the sun and shredded by machines-once it's become hay--grass is sharp enough to draw blood and dusty enough to thicken lungs. I was covered in chaff, my forearms tattooed red with its pinpricks."

The book was the freshman reading project for last year, The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. Each year, a different book is chosen for the entire incoming class to read to have as a common intellectual experience. This was last year's selection.

Michael Pollan writes mostly for the New York Times Magazine, or at least that's where I've run in to him before. He writes a lot about food issues, or specifically, food production issues. He wrote a piece following a calf from birth to slaughterhouse, noting what it ate and experienced from the moment it arrived until it was consumed. It was quite memorable, in a way not quite as literally gut-wrenching as Fast Food Nation, but I remember thinking, Is that really a good way to treat food? Something I'm going to consume? Really? So, given that the subtitle of The Omnivore's Dilemma is "A Natural History of Four Meals," I was looking forward to reading it.

Alas, I am still looking forward to reading it. It has sat in my office as something I have flipped through during hold times on the phone or other such events, but alas, I have not really had the chance to read it yet. But I loved the meme idea and figure hey, it just said "the nearest book," not the nearest book I've already read.

How about you? What's on your desk or computer table?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Four Foods Friday #30--white white white the color of our food. Sorry, that's an old joke that isn't even mine to share. It's from a joke issue of a college newspaper lambasting the "theme nights" in the dining halls--"Pink pink pink is the color of our desserts!"

Anyway. The theme this week at FFF is white. Or close to it.

#1. What’s your favorite white beverage? If you don’t have one, what’s your favorite beverage with something white in it?

Favorite all time beverage is a White Russian so that's easy.

#2. What’s your favorite white gravy, sauce, condiment, dressing or topping?
Mayonnaise. Are you even allowed to admit that in foodie America these days? I guess so, as the Phila Inquirer just did a big article about it in the food section.

#3. What’s your favorite white item from the refrigerated section?

A hard one. Lots of contenders but I'd have to go with cream cheese here.

#4. Share a recipe for something white.

Just made this recipe this week from the paper, here. Delicious. Didn't make the salmon with it but it also worked great with chicken and broiled tomatoes.

Buttermilk Vinaigrette
Makes about 2 cups, up to 16 servings

1/2 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup light buttermilk

2/3 cup real mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons minced chives

1. Combine the garlic and vinegar; let stand 20 minutes to allow the garlic flavor to bloom.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, mayonnaise and sour cream together. Gradually whisk in the vinegar mixture, then the chives and salt and pepper to taste (usually very little is needed).

- From Erin O'Shea, executive chef, Marigold, Philadelphia

Note: This dressing was designed to marry the flavors of the lightly smoked salmon and fried green tomatoes sometimes served at Marigold. It works well, too, with plain seared salmon, as well as with a simple green salad.
Per serving: 81 calories, 1 gram protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, 1 gram sugar, 8 grams fat, 5 milligrams cholesterol, 68 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.

Wanna see what white foods other people are craving? Look here!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Malaria No More

For those who saw Only Me's comment to my Bite Back post, I thought her point was a good one. Since I am Christian, though not an especially pushy one, I tend to assume most Christian groups think as I do, and I am quite probably incorrect. (I appear to be out of step with my own church, let alone the global Christianity.)

So then I actually got to read the New York Times last weekend and read this great column by Nicholas Kristof, whose angsty anger about extremely awful situations in the world never fails to inspire me. Of course, as a recovering admissions officer, anything about kids in high school doing things that might "look good for college" is of interest to me, but this one resonated even more.

And, it pointed me to Malaria No More, a non-denominational group running a very similar campaign, where for a $10 donation, you can provide bed netting in a malaria prone region. No God-talk necessary. To donate, you can go here; to learn more about the group, you can go here.

Hey, Are You Pregnant?

Nice timing.

MPM, just for fun

Happy Monday (or late late Sunday)!

May is all but whisking itself on out of here. I am wearing the crepe mourning clothes as Thursday is the last day of school for my older son, bringing summer to a superfast start. Happily, my aunt and a cousin from CA are coming out a week later so we will have some happy distractions that will take us all the way in to June. Leaving us only four months until October when the Shortest Preschool Ever resumes.

Monday: leftover Indian takeout. Yum. Raita on all, with Palak Paneer, Malai Kofta, and Lamb Biriyani. Alas, I discovered I like Trader Joe's nan (bread) better than the Indian restaurant's. (That's ok. TJ's is cheaper.)

Tuesday: More leftovers. By the end of the week I had had it with freezer cleanout so tried a recipe from the paper. It was fine and my husband enjoyed it; worth keeping as an easy thing to make when I feel like beef. Also of course baked some chicken breasts as the kids are on a no-beef-unless-it's-a-hamburger kick (which is fine with me). I will augment with a recipe from Country Mouse/City Mouse that looks awesome for my CSA box haul of spinach and portobello mushrooms. Yum.

Wednesday: Found some chicken breasts in freezer so probably trying the Robin Miller curry/coconut milk recipe since I'm still on a curry kick. (And no, I am definitely not pregnant for those who are wondering.) This might change, though, as it's the spring concert this night and we may end up with grandparents over for dinner. In which case I'm hosed as I only know how to cook for two grownups except for things I've already made for them. Multiple times.

Thursday: Just found out there's a Moms Night Out--woohoo!--but I'll still have to make something for the rest of the family. Probably spaghetti & meatballs. Lots of those still in the freezer. And really, while the weather is this cool (50s in May?!) might as well take advantage. Big steaming bowls of spaghetti with red sauce aren't nearly as compelling in summer.

Friday: My poor younger one has been begging to go to his favorite pizza place "as a family" for weeks, ever since a dead cell phone battery kept his dad from meeting us there one Friday. So I think we'll do that for him. (Oh, yes. For HIM. Because a family pizza night does nothing for me, of course.)

And then it's Memorial Day weekend! Yay! Oh, wait, that means the pool opens. That happened fast. Huh. It also means most of the weekend at family events and parties so that's always fun. Lots to look forward to as ever--hope you feel the same!

Wanna see what more inspired people are making for dinner this week? Go to OrgJunkie to find out!

Really, I Do Have Other Things On My Mind

Today, while the kids were having fits that they had ignored the five minutes of requests to put shoes on if they wanted to go with Dad on errands, and therefore missed the "going with Dad" part of the afternoon, Dad went to the craft store and bought watercolors. There is currently a blissful quiet from upstairs, where T is whistling while he paints, R is chiming in with an occasional question, and J is too intent to make a sound. I am not there because in situations that involve paint, I am the anti-bliss as I freak out unnecessarily about things like spilled rinsewater cups, so I am making us all happy by not being there right now.

Which gives me a chance to catch up on some other things like laundry blogging. While Callapidder Days did host her Spring Reading Thing carnival this year, I decided not to join because I am so frustrated by the growing pile of three-quarters finished books on the floor next to my nightstand. Really, I might have thought of it as encouragement, but I am terribly frustrated because the same five books have been on my Facebook Visual Bookshelf for months now.

The irony is that I actually did finish a book, and it's the one I was least committed to, least interested in, and frankly, was somewhat sorry I was reading. I drank the Oprah Kool-Aid in a moment of winter dreary weakness, and bought Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. But, in a moment of unthinkingness, I put it in the bathroom off the laundry room, where, alas, my best reading is done these days. While it is no longer the sanctuary it once was, with a child who loves to wash his hands (really), it's still the place I get the most chunks of uninterrupted time. So why I can't remember to throw The Memory Keeper's Daughter, or Life of Pi, or A Walk in the Woods, or any of the Ames & Ilg books in a laundry basket, I don't know. But I didn't, so lucky Eckhart got my time.

Have you ever had a Bad Boyfriend (or Girlfriend) who said to you, "Oh, baby, you're too good for me"? If so, I hope you were smart enough to know that no matter how you felt about him (or her) before that moment, the only appropriate answer is, "Darling, you're absolutely right. It's been fun but I'm gone." It took me about three boyfriends with that line to figure out that if they knew that, I should too. (Which was about one too many, but I was young.) But alas, I am out of practice or I should have known it with this book, too. On page 7 (SEVEN! That's really early! So early in the book I had barely cracked the spine! Which meant I probably could have returned it but felt guilty doing so and stupid for not getting it from the library! Even though the last library book I got out for me was, oh, OCTOBER and I'm still renewing it since it's in the "incomplete" too!), Tolle writes of his own book, "It will change your state of consciousness or it will be meaningless. It can only awaken those who are ready." My friends, I am apparently not ready. The book was meaningless. Or maybe just the things he was writing about are things covered already and better by Thich Nhat Hanh and Madeleine L'Engle and even Freud. But I had paid for the book, so I hated to bail on page 7. So on I went, learning, or re-learning, the ideas of separating ego from being, and rediscovering our inner space, and being awakened to the infinite possibilities of us all.

To its credit, the book did remind me that "this too shall pass," which was a mantra for me in my work life, was equally applicable to my home life. And while it didn't transform my parenting or reduce my overall stress level, it did save me from a cranky outburst or two. And it had an interesting reminder for me on page 274: "Some changes may look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge." While I don't always buy that (for example, nothing good emerged from my mother's death), it helps with some of the smaller ones, like the loss this week of my favorite tree. Our backyard neighbors have a tree that is gloriously alive on the side that faces their house, and dead as can be on the side that faces ours. This week, a branch the size of a small tree fell from their tree into our yard. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but any of us would have been crushed beneath it had we been outside. We were also fortunate that there was no damage to the house, because my favorite tree, my flowering crabapple, bore the brunt of the damage and blocked the branch (that was bigger than my little tree) from getting any further to the house. It was quite a memorable incident, watching something like that blow down and towards the room you and your children are in. The kids are still talking about it too, as you might imagine.

I couldn't bear to cut down the whole thing. It had four main trunks, and two were completely sheared off by the branch. Another was cracked to the point of no return, but my tree guy, who knows how I love that tree, didn't cut off the merely mortally damaged one. He knows he'll be back for the whole tree soon.

And while I am really sad about this, the tree solidified its "favorite" status by saving my house and family from the branch. And I am starting to get used to having more sun in the backyard, and there is some creeping excitement at the idea of an excuse to really re-do our back yard.

But as to A New Earth? Buy it used, if at all. Or if you haven't read any Zen or metaphysics. But I've got to get a book I like better in the bathroom.


And, two Sunday Shout-Outs: Thanks to R at My Life as a SAHM for the link to Because I Said So with the html code for strikeouts (like laundry, above. I thought that was just a TypePad thing.

And for a good giggle, do check out this post at Callapidder Days on her advice to people who find her through Google. She made me giggle, and that's always worth passing on.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Four Foods Friday 29--chocolate

Ok, as a note, I'm getting disturbed that the only thing that moves me to write is food. Apparently I'm not reading enough these days, and have made a conscious choice to keep kid stories to a minimum here. (Main reason being, if you know me, you'll have heard the stories before, and if you don't, why would you care what my kids are doing?) So sorry for the food skew. I'll work on it.

That said, there was no resisting this week's Four Foods Friday meme...

#1. What’s your favorite beverage containing chocolate or chocolate flavoring?

How lame am I? Chocolate milk. I'm not a big hot drinks kind of girl. And I'm not a big alcoholic drink kind of girl. I am far more likely to enjoy an alcoholic beverage with chocolate in it. But I will also often think while drinking one, You know what? This would be REALLY good if there weren't any alcohol in it.

#2. What’s your favorite chocolate bar? OR Share a pic of your favorite candy, chocolate or otherwise.

Favorite candy, right now, is the organic gummy bears I can only find at the Co-Op and Martindales. (Yes, K, the Co-Op started carrying them...and Ezekiel Bread...I may never have to go to Martindales again!) But I can't find a picture of them (I have tried to find them on the web to order wholesale but alas, with no luck whatsoever) so luckily, the next, oh, eight to ten favorites on the list are chocolates. I'm a dark chocolate woman, so plain old Special Darks, Doves, or Blisses are great. But I'm also fond of Take 5, Cadbury Fruit & Nut (or Chunky original), and of course, the ur-candy, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and the spinoff, Reese's wafers.

#3. What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten that had chocolate in it?

Chocolate garlic ice cream. We had the pleasure of attending the Gilroy Garlic Festival one year, and tasted many, many amazing things with garlic. Chocolate garlic ice cream was one of them. To my immense surprise, it was better than the vanilla garlic ice cream.

#4. Share a recipe using chocolate.

It won't let me copy the text, but there is an amazing chocolate sauce recipe here.

Wanna play? Or get other awesome chocolate recipes? Check the meme's site here.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Trying to Get Back on the Horse--MPM

This computer issue has been a total drag. I really need to just cowboy up and call somebody to fix it and stop trying to do it myself.

May has turned in to quite the season...not only is our 11th grade nephew going to the junior prom...our 9th grade nephew is going to the senior prom! (Different school district, but close enough...) Lawn chairs and cameras to the ready, folks!

Meanwhile, fruit smoothies and cucumbers rule the day here. My little one is finally eating things from the earth that are not starches again. We bought baby cukes at Trader Joe's and he's obsessed. Hooray!

Monday: Mother's Day leftovers (quiche and hamburgers), risotto to tie together

Tuesday: Baked chicken breasts, roasted potatoes, salad

Wednesday: Something with spinach and portobello mushrooms from the CSA this week; asparagus and lentil side dish (will let you know how that goes)

Thursday: Freezer clear-out a go-go; frozen veggie medley, frozen stuffed chicken breast, frozen pork chop, and whatever is fresh from the new CSA box to round it out. (This day, btw, is a big fast food giveaway iced coffee at Dunk*n D*nuts from 10 to 10, and free chicken "southern style" sandwiches (breakfast and lunch/dinner) at the g*lden arch*s with purchase of a drink. Not sure if I appreciate the flexing on Ch*k-Fil-A but a free lunch is a free lunch. And nothing at all wrong with an iced coffee...unless my little one gets to it first.

Friday: More freezer clearing; probably chicken tenders, sweet potato fries, and whatever is from the CSA box for a green thing. We're also going to a friend's house for movie night so it might depend on that, too. We're flexible!

Saturday is prom night; we torture the kids by inviting the entire 20-person family to come have a barbeque or pizza dinner and stage endless photos of the kids in their finery. It's a hoot. And Sunday we're hoping to go to a minor league ball game.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Four Foods Friday #28

Sorry I've been out of touch. My computer at home is all but completely fried. And my older son is having a death wish. So far this week we have found him running outside naked in the rain (marginally ok in the backyard, not so great going up the street to the field where the high school lacrosse game is being played), sticking his entire torso out of the highest window in the house "to hear the birds better," and trying to shave--with Daddy's real razor. Honestly, I never, ever thought the hardest part of parenting would be getting them to adulthood alive.

Anyway. Fun to focus on something other than my child's safety.

Four Foods Friday Meme

#1. How do you make chicken salad?

I go to the Co-Op and buy either of the ones they make. They are excellent! Otherwise, I use mayo, more red vinegar than anyone else in the world would enjoy, chopped celery, and some salt and pepper. Pretty basic. Oh, and only white meat.

#2. Fast food chicken. What fast food restaurant makes the best chicken?

While I am overall impressed with Chik-Fil-A, and love the pickle, the chicken sandwich closest to my heart (alas, literally, with the "nutritional" "value" on it) is the original Burger King chicken sandwich. Even the fries and sodas are disgusting at BK, so I cringe at that sandwich. But something about the coating, the mayo, and the cool lettuce...mmmmm. It's my biggest fast food vice.

#3. What’s your favorite way to eat chicken?

Strangely, I love plain white meat shredded on a mostly-lettuce salad with lots of vinegar (and a little oil).

#4. Share a recipe using chicken or take a picture of a chicken dish.

Totally underrated way to make chicken: burgers. I'm so excited ground chicken is easier to find these days. This is my favorite from Rachael Ray. Even my boys adore this one.

Danish Burgers with Herb Caper Sauce and a Mod Salad
Recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray
Show: 30 Minute Meals
Episode: Speedy Endeavors
2 pounds ground chicken
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning, a palm full
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
5 button mushrooms, stems removed, finely chopped
1/4 pound Havarti with dill cheese, cut into 1/4-inch dice*
Salt and pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling, plus a couple tablespoons
1 cup sour cream
3 to 4 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped or snipped with kitchen scissors
3 to 4 tablespoons capers, drained - run your knife through them once
1 seedless cucumber, cut in 1/2 lengthwise, then sliced into half moons
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced
3 plum tomatoes, seeded then thinly sliced
1 pound sack washed baby spinach
2 to 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 crusty poppy seed rolls or other burger buns of choice
2 large radishes, thinly sliced
1 sack gourmet potato chips, such as Terra Chips Onion and Herb Yukon Gold or Blue Potato chips

Combine ground chicken, poultry seasoning, chopped shallots, Dijon mustard, chopped mushroom, diced Havarti, salt and pepper, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Mix thoroughly. Score the meat with your hand marking 4 equal portions. Form each portion into large 1-inch thick patties.

Preheat a non stick skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil over the patties and place them in the hot skillet. Cook 6 minutes per side until the patties are firm to the touch and cooked through.

While the burgers are cooking prepare the herb caper sauce and mod salad. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, chopped dill and capers then season with salt and pepper.

In a salad bowl combine the cucumbers, half of the red onion, plum tomatoes and 3/4 sack of baby spinach. Dress the salad with white wine vinegar, salt and pepper then drizzle with a couple tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil to coat the salad lightly and evenly. Toss to combine and adjust salt and pepper, to your taste.

Split the rolls or buns. Place the burgers on the bun bottoms. Top with sliced radishes, baby spinach and a heaping spoonful of herb-caper dressing slathered across the bun tops. Add remaining sauce into the salad and combine to give your salad a creamy finish. Fancy chips finish the plate.

The colder the semi-soft Havarti with dill cheese is the easier it will be to dice it. Pop the cheese in the freezer while you prep everything else. Because of the fat content of the cheese, just 10 minutes in a deep freeze makes the dicing a real breeze!

Love chicken? Looking for ideas? Head over to Four Foods Fridays!