Sunday, January 27, 2008

Adieu, Mon Beau Lapin

when i first took cooking class, one of the things we made was braised rabbit. it's also one of the things i don't eat, although i tasted it for class. we're a rabbit kind of family, so it's not the rabbit that's a problem, it's the EATING of the rabbit that's the problem. we're rabbit owners, i've owned rabbits as pets for quite sometime and our bunny, Bugsy, has been a member of our family since we got him from a christmas tree farm back in 2002. he was just a baby, actually given to us before he should have been leaving his mother, and although we were told not to hold him too much, both brandon and nicholas took turns holding him the whole way home from the farm. it was a long 3 hour drive and by the time we got home, our Bugsy was a cuddly, wanna be held, personality full rabbit who would thump to get your attention, loved tummy rubs and had the run of the place.

so, no. i never cook rabbits. i never eat rabbits, because of Bugsy and before him, DJ and before her, Beanie and Cecil, her parents. these weren't just caged "oh, aren't they cute?" from afar pets. all four of these were litterbox trained, playful, actual walked on leash pets who, interestingly enough, came when you called.

when i woke up this morning, i looked over at the condo sized cage this master of cute calls home to find him lying on his side, silent and gone. Bugsy died this morning, 27 January, after almost 6 years of living with our craziness, being our sole and most beloved pet to having to share his space with (gasp!) two dogs. and we are heartbroken. deep down, sad to our souls heartbroken. we loved, we LOVE, that rabbit and as i write this, the tears are blurring every word. it may seem strange to put so much weight on the depth of meaning of a rabbit, but he was more than a bunny. he was our friend, he was our family and he will always stay that way in our hearts.

my hope in life, my dream, is to one day go to Paris and take cooking from the masters, as i've mentioned here before. i like to think i'm a good student who does what they're told and learns well. but i can't cook rabbit. i won't. i guess i'll get an "F" in lapin cooking. and i'm okay with that. Bugsy would be proud of me, i do believe. and in honor of Bugsy, the one, the only, the bunny love of life, i'll be baking a carrot cake today -- sweet, wonderful, full of good things. like our Bugsy. and i will be missing him, because he was special. even bunnies can steal your heart. this one sure did.

adieu, mon beau lapin, Bugsy.
bon voyage.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cooking on a Budget Well and With Imagination

ah, money. it makes the world go 'round, makes you feel safe and would get us to Paris so my sons and i could be like Ratatouille (the movie, not the dish) and indulge our foody sides. unfortunately, money is not our current strong suit, so we get through from month to month, hoping for the best, cutting corners, pinching pennies and eating on a budget.

i do not like eating on a budget. let me put it a better way, i'm a bit weary of eating on a budget, but respect that i must and, therefore, we do. like tonight. we are just a few days away from payday, but a few days away from payday when it's once a month, is like a lifetime. and, so, you get creative on a budget. or, well, we do. i know, i could do things like buy cheaper foods and the like and, yes, i have begun to scrimp there in some ways. however, we have also begun to do some things on a regular basis that, if my calculations are correct (and, well, sometimes they are and sometimes they... you know), will make this month to month not be so month to month, but more like life in the slow lane.

we make our own bread ALL THE TIME now. i haven't bought a loaf of bread in over a month. we make our own tortillas, we make our own jam, we cook dinner every single night, not just for the blog's sake -- which is how that started, although we always cooked quite a bit, i didn't cook every single night -- i don't drive more than i REALLY have to, i bring my lunch every day to work and blah, blah, blah. my sons are being pretty good about it, quite frankly, and i'm very proud of them for it.

and, so, sometimes, because we are nearing the end of the month, but are not yet to payday, i improvise. at least i improvised tonight.

with three really great red potatoes, a lovely half of a red onion, some leftover taco meat, garlic, herbs, spices, eggs, fresh baked bread, some fruit, and cookies for a treat, i created dinner for us all. sauteing the potatoes, chopped, with the onion and garlic in olive oil, with salt, freshly ground pepper, rosemary, and thyme, until golden, caramelized and crispy, then adding the meat to get all yummy, the eggs, scramble all of this up, toast some of the bread, slice some fruit, nicholas and brandon were ecstatic. they chowed that stuff right down and clamored for more. that, of course, does my heart very good, because if i have to grab from just whatever we have lying around, then i hope i do right by them as i create for them.

you know my feeling about dining -- i want my sons to feel it, experience the joys of it and take it to heart. not just eat to eat, but immerse themselves in it, enjoy it, fuel themselves with good stuff, even if we don't have the dough for the GOOD stuff all the time.

i love my kids and i wish for the best for us, all of us. you, too. times are tight all around. i know that and this isn't some sort of "woe, is me" call to the masses. this is truly a way to let you know that if you've got to tighten your food belt, you can still create something great, luscious and full of flavor for your fam or yourself. how much more could i sound like a commercial? i mean, c'mon, right? but i do mean it. cuz it's hard out here sometimes, isn't it? hard to keep it going when you feel a little off kilter, as we all do now and then. but life is SOOO very short and whatever you can do to enhance your time here, even when the shit is hitting the fan, do it. i mean, i try to do it. a lot. more these days than ever before. i used to suck at it, unless everything was perfect or i thought it was perfect. but it never is. it can't be. it just is as it is.

positive thinking is a really good start as is a strong emotional state. doing tangible things is excellent when it's teamed with all of that and more. cooking instead of going out to dinner is one of those tangible kinds of things. and i know it can be a total and complete DRAG, truly, but if you can find a way to enjoy it, have fun with it, turn it into fun, even if just inside your own heart. make up a story about your meal, create an environment that is unique and different from where you are, if that's what's got you hung up, to make you feel better.

that's one of the beauties of cooking and dining, to me. you can create an ambience around a meal, set a mood that takes you out of your environment and puts you some place like Rome or Paris, Tuscany or, even, two state over. set the table as if you're having company and it's just you or your family. pretend to be plating in a competition, like Iron Chef. light candles, serve yourself buffet style or wait upon yourself. you can lose yourself in the romance of dining, even if it's Top Ramen and a bottle of water. splurge on cheap wooden chopsticks and pretend you're in a noodle house in Tokyo or Singapore. that, i think, is one of the benefits of dining out -- getting away from your day-to-day, escaping for awhile, with a friend or friends, family, yourself, a lover, escape and pampering. so do it at home, if you can't get away. and if you can't cook or fear it, then go into a book store, go up to the customer service counter, tell them you don't, can't, won't cook and you need one cookbook to get you started. one that will get you on the road. they'll probably point you into the Joy of Cooking direction, which i highly recommend myself. it's durable, has ever recipe known to man in terms the American cook can definitely understand and it answers any question you could ever have about food and cooking. but take a cookbook, grab it, feel it, get it dirty and stained and begin to play and allow yourself to build your confidence in the kitchen.
it saves money.
it makes you feel good.
it opens all sorts of doors inside yourself we all need.
my thing is learning how to be more fashionable and dress better. i see The Devil Wears Prada and cry every time. not cuz it's so deep, but because i wish i took more time and loving care to look good and, by definition, feel good. i could get behind wearing seriously cool clothes, but i, alas, do not have the closet to allow for it nor the bank account to go for it.
but, i digress...
go out there and cook.
and i'll go into my closet and accessorize and coordinate better.
and we'll all be happy.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Te Quiero Arroz a la Mexicana

diana kennedy is a mexican food queen. she's legendary, actually, and the one cookbook i own of hers, THE ART OF MEXICAN COOKING: TRADITIONAL MEXICAN COOKING FOR AFICIANADOS. i, myself, as you know, grew up eating mexican food in one of the greatest places on earth to eat mexican food (if you don't happen to be in mexico) -- los angeles. my friend, hilda, would make us mole (for which i will be eternally grateful), some of the best chicken enchiladas i've ever had in my life and... oh, man, unbelievably killer arroz con pollo. the chicken was terrific, yes, but it was her rice, her incomparable rice that made my life so fabulous. and, well, the fact that she was so cool and i could tell her anything and trust her with my children without a thought or moment's hesitation. and i hope she felt the same.

rice at mexican restaurants is always my fave -- so full of incredible flavor and yummy extras that i never mind mixed vegetables in it. i HATE mixed vegetables. okay, that sounds really third grade of me, i'm sure. and i don't mean i hate ALL mixed vegetables, but i have really ick memories of frozen Bird's Eye crapola that my beloved mother imparted upon us as our vegetable at meals -- we usually either had frozen, canned or salad, as memory serves (as well as boxed mashed potato flakes, a lot of boxed Noodle Roni, Rice-a-Roni, which i must admit i LOVED, Hamburger Helper and Minute Rice). so, mixed veggies meant a lot of cooked carrots (omg, AAAHHHH! -- those and brussel sprouts are my least favorite vegetables in the WORLD -- and i mean cooked carrots, not raw. i could eat an entire bunch of raw carrots, drink a gallon of their juice and still crave more). okay, i'm totally rambling. let me get back to the point.

mexican rice. very yummy indeed. and this evening, we decided to have some mexican rice, a mexican style meatloaf i created with our lovely ground chuck from our lovely cow that would entice my meatloaf hating son, brandon. it seemed to have the right kind of vibe going for it, so we opened our beloved, very well-worn THE ART OF MEXICAN COOKING cookbook by the extraordinary Diana Kennedy and made ARROZ A LA MEXICANA or Mexican Rice.

here's how it went:
1-1/2 cups unconverted long-grain rice
1 cup (1/2 pound) finely chopped unskinned tomatoes
2 tbs finely chopped white onion
1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
1/3 cup safflower oil, melted chix fat, or melted lard
3-1/2 cups light chix broth, approximately
1/2 cup carrot rounds (optional)
1/2 cup fresh peas or diced zucchini (optional)
1/2 cup chopped giblets (optional)
sea salt to taste

what to do:
1. put the rice in a bowl and cover with very hot water. stir and leave to soak for about 10 minutes. drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.
2. put the tomatoes, onion and garlic in a blender jar and blend until smooth. set aside.
3. heat oil in a heavy pan. give the rice a final shake and stir into the fat. fry over fairly high heat until it begins to turn a light golden color. strain off any excess oil, stir in the tomato puree, and fry, scraping the bottom of the dish to prevent sticking, until the puree has been absorbed -- about 8 minutes. stir in the broth, veggies and giblets (if used), add salt to taste, and cook over fairly high heat, uncovered, until all the broth has been absorbed and air holes appear in the surface. cover the surface of the rice with a towel and lid and continue cooking over very low heat for about 5 minutes longer. remove from the heat and set aside in a warm place for the rice to absorb the rest of the moisture in the steam and swell -- about 15 minutes. dig gently to the bottom and test a grain of rice. if it is still damp, cook for a few minutes longer if the top grains are not quite soft, sprinkle with a little hot broth, cover, and cook for a few minutes longer.
4. before serving, turn the rice over carefully from the bottom so that the flavored juices will be distributed evenly.

here's what we did:
all of us really love this rice and really look forward to it every time we make it. we use vegetable oil, not lard or chicken fat, and we do not add veggies -- i've rambled on that long enough not to have to explain it. this is a no brainer kind of rice, very flavorful and terrific with everything from tacos to fish. our mexican meatloaf was a hit as well -- brandon really loved it. it's a conglomeration of a bunch of different things i made up on the fly. suffice it to say it includes mexican spices, mexican favorites and a lot of good meat.

what i really want to share with you is the cookbook, which i adore. i have cooked often and much out of this cookbook, some things that have saved me when i've had to cook for a gig. the flautas are extraordinary, my favorite one being the potato flautas, the chicken tacos and more. while the recipes are priceless, it is what diana kennedy writes, her tales, her stories, her insights into authentic traditional mexican recipes that make you want to not just cook them, but go to the country and try them right there. as in cook them, in mexico and the various cities in mexico about which diana writes (oh, yeah -- we're close) with the ingredients that are right there, in the ovens and kitchens that are seasoned with history and dishes we will never know. what i wouldn't give to go there with the boys and do that. whenever hilda would talk about her family's ranch in mexico, i could not only see it in my mind, but i could taste it, smell it, hear it. feel it. she was a good friend, one of the best, and one of the best things she brought into my family's life was a memory that will last forever of a life i have realized i wish to give to my children -- joy in a place of beauty and passion.
i miss hilda avila, because of that feeling
and because her heart was so huge, so real, completely without agenda or judgement.
i hope she is well.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


wonderful little treats come in some of the most unexpected ways. just little moments of tasty-ness that bring a smile to your face -- tasty in palate and general heartfelt yummyness, a warm feeling in your heart and a time to share with someone you love. the nights brandon and i spend together while nicholas is out with his big brother are always interesting and life affirming. my youngest guy has a lot of, well, inner turmoil that is finally coming out, not always in the best ways, but for the best in the long run. these two guys have not had the easiest of times and they've held it close to the vest for awhile, but now, as they reach puberty, they're really letting go, letting out. not to get too deep, just to give perspective. one on one time is not the easiest to grab with two guys so close together in age. i doubt nicholas even remembers what it was like to have me all to himself -- he was only 13 and a bit months old (okay, 1 year +, for all you george carlin die hards) when brandon was born, had just learned how to walk at age 13 months (never even crawled, just went from being a slug to cruising the furniture to walking -- unbelievable kid) and, boom, there was his brother. both of them have been sharing with me thoughts and emotions i always intuited but never heard from them and we're better for it -- even when i don't think we are at the time. ultimately, we are. any time my sons are able to set their hearts free so they can grow past it, i'm cool.

well, on to what i was mentioning about the treats that come in unique ways. friday night and nicholas went out with his big bro. i defrosted a chuck roast from my 1/8 of moo and made pot roast. brandon is not a pot roast fan or, at least, like nicholas and chicken breasts, he thinks so until he eats it. so i didn't tell him we were having POT roast. i told him we were having ROAST. yep, i'm not above manipulation when i just don't have time to deal with it. call me a weak mom or a wuss. i'm cool with that. all i'm looking for is calm at times when there is chaos. you bet.

in order to create this lovely pot roast and keep to my own personal pirate code, i looked in a trusty, dusty cookbook, THE COMPLETE MEAT COOKBOOK by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly. yeah, i know, i cooked out of this before not too long ago and i'm sorry if i'm breaking my own rule, but with so much beef in my house, cooking from a cookbook called THE COMPLETE MEAT COOKBOOK is not so out of the question. but i will try to do better. i promise.

the recipe is called Lisa's Lazy Pot Roast and i had me quite the large chunk o' chuck roast to cook up that night. there's something quite homey about pot roast, if done the right way. i found, as a child, that while i liked the meat, i never liked the veggies that went along with it. they were cooked into oblivion. i realized that i like vegetables that keep their bite, that aren't cooked into mush (even mashed potatoes with a little chunkyness make me hap, hap, happier than totally smooth -- although a good, well made puree of potato never hurt anybody. oh, no). and, so, when i first saw Lisa's Lazy Pot Roast, i smiled...
you'll see why. oh, this is not the first time i have made this particular dish. no, no. however, it is the first time i actually really THOUGHT about it. don't forget about the flavor step, that faboo absolute yum flavor step The Complete Meat Cookbook provides. what pals.

herb and paprika rub for beef
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbs chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried
1 tbs paprika
1 tbs osher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 4-pound boneless beef chuck roast OR a beef brisket, trimmed of most fat
2 tbs veggie oil
1/2 cup water or beef or chicken stock, or more if needed
5 cups thinly sliced onions (about 3 large onions)
6 garlic cloves, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

what to do:
1. flavor step (YAY!):
combine the herbs, paprika, salt and pepper in a small bowl. rub the meat thoroughly with the mixture. you can cook the roast immediately, but it will taste better if it sits for an hour or two at room temp or overnight in a zipper-lock bag or, well wrapped, in the fridge.
2. preheat the oven to 350ºF. in a large, heavy casserole or a dutch oven, heat the veggie oil over medium-high heat. brown the meat on all sides, about 7 minutes. remove and set aside. pour off any fat from the pan and deglaze the pan with the water or stock, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon or spatula. put the roast back in the pan, cover it with the sliced onions and garlic, cover, and bake for 1 hour.
3. remove the cover, turn the roast over so that it is on top of the onions, and continue to cook, uncovered, for another hour, adding more liquid if needed. stir the onions around after about 30 minutes so they can brown more evenly.
4. replace the cover and continue to cook for 1 hour more or until the meat is fork-tender; brisket will take a little longer than chuck. remove the meat from the pot and let it rest, covered loosely with foil, while you prepare the sauce. (at this point, you may refrigerate the pot roast for later reheating. refrigerate the cooking liquid separately. to serve later, remove any congealed fat from the cooking liquid and strain it before using it to reheat the meat gently.)
5. to serve, strain and defat the sauce. taste for salt and pepper. cut the meat into thick slices or separate it into chunks. spoon some sauce and onions over each serving.

what we did:
we used dried rosemary and chuck roast. the marinade time was for 1 1/2 hours and we used 2 onions instead of three (because we only had two onions). we didn't use stock, but water, which i usually don't do when stock is an option in order to impart more flavor, but let's see how that turned out. everything else the recipe said to do we did. so was i able to convince brandon that pot roast, once again, is quite yum?

yes. using the water instead of the stock worked out great. this is EXCEEDINGLY flavorful, in every possible way. if you've ever experienced pot roast that is either overdone, underdone, flavorless or covered in mushy, icky veggies, this is the one that will change your mind forever. like the horseradish encrusted pot roast we made a bit ago, this is a winner. brandon was in love with it and when i reheated it a few days later for leftovers while hanging out with nicholas, nicholas went nuts for it. this was terrific and i recommend it highly.

this experience is really wonderful. while i haven't been keeping up with the blog as much as i would like (and i am SOOOO sorry for that -- i promise to work harder. really, really, really), the cooking every night has been as great as it has been challenging. but what it's brought out for us more than the challenge or the great feeling is this sense of doing for ourselves in a way that allows us to control our food so we are aware of the quality of the ingredients, know what's really going in to what we are eating. i like that. i like knowing that the things i am feeding are from a place we can trust and are made with thought and care. and ease, quite often.

i know, i'm doing my "isn't cooking wonderful?" thing again, which you may not agree with and, um, really hate me for doing all the time. i'm cool with that. honest. but i do love it, obviously, and i believe, if you give me a chance, you'll come to love it, too. because, everybody deserves to cook for themselves and experience an ease in cooking should, heaven forbid, you find yourself low on funds and going out to eat is way too much to deal with all the time. even really simple stuff, which i hope you discover in this blog, will make your life a lot easier.

okay, i'm off my soapbox now.
thanks for playing :o)

Friday, January 11, 2008

In Praise of, Well, Eating, um, Well...

i often think that the secret to wonderful food is feeling wonderful about what you are eating. aren't i brilliant? yeah, whatever. but, i have found, in my time cooking, that, truthfully, enjoying your meal totally and completely comes from being able to feel good about what you're eating. i don't mean just happy with the health factor of it, what wonderful something you're putting into your body, should healthy fare be your choice. it's more than that. it's the taste, the feel of it inside, the way it warms your soul as it fills you up, just enough, so your sated but not stuffed. the freshest ingredients, the tastiest herbs and spices. trying combos out that work for you and your tastebuds, trusting in your skill, regardless of level, by trusting in your own senses. after all, we walk into restaurants everyday, trusting our palate to people we do not and probably will never meet, to kitchens into which we will never enter with utensils we have never seen. we not only trust these places of mystery, we worship some of them to the point of creating celebrity chefs of the like of movie stars.
is that wrong?
no. that's not what i'm saying.
is it a shame we don't trust ourselves with ourselves as much?
yes. that's what i'm saying.
the wonder of food, cooking, is that we become something of a real magician, even if it's just heating up chicken fingers from the grocery. we're these master providers of tangible sustenance and in our hands, it can become anything, nothing or everything. wow, what power?
i know, i'm waxing rhapsodic ABOUT FOOD. i get it. but it's something i strongly believe and it's what made tonight's dinner so, well, gratifying. it was fresh, lovely, delicious and simple. it wasn't rocket science, L'Escoffier technique and presentation. it was more. it was appreciation.
my stomach still sorta bugs me. i'm a little iffy on it and i've been SUPER tired, so i stayed home from work yesterday in an attempt to shake this... whatever it is. i was like a huge slug all day, lying in bed, attempting to disappear into dream land, hoping not to have to move at all. i knew nicholas and brandon would be back from school soon enough and was DEEPLY happy i had bought some fish a couple of days before. fish, as a general rule, cooks up quick, easily and, in our house, is much revered. tonight we made a few quite lovely things to sooth the stomach and tempt our palates:
the book tonight was THE ITALIAN COUNTRY TABLE by Lynne Rossetto Kasper. the cover of this book always brings a smile to my face of hope and possibility -- it's this beautiful, rustic wooden bowl filled with fresh, simple ingredients -- some good canellini beans, chunks of excellent parmeggiano-reggiano, peppers, radicchio and the like. really gorgeous bowl and it makes me think of picking olives, hunks of rustic bread dipped in their oil, a ripe tomato eaten like an apple and the best salami and cheeses known to man -- i'm a real charcuterie hag. you know, cured meats, pates, cheeses and such. oh, man. the two dishes i chose from this cookbook that night were CLASSIC POACHED FISH and SEARED BROCCOLI WITH LEMON. report card at the end of both of them.

ingredients for Poached Fish:
4 cloves garlic, crushed
8 branches fresh Italian parsley, plus additional for garnish
1 tsp salt, plus more for taste
freshly ground black pepper
1 to 1-1/2 pounds firm fleshed fish fillets or thick-cut steaks (sea bass, cod, sea trout, salmon, trout, char, haddock, halibut or bluefish) or 2 - 3 pounds whole fish
2 medium lemons, cut into wedges
extra-virgin olive oil

what to do:
1. in a 12-inch skillet or saute pan, combine the garlic, parsley, 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste in water about 2-1/2 inches deep. bring to a simmer, cover, and cook 5 minutes. Measure the fish for thickness (cooking time depends on thickness).
2. slip the fish into the water, adjusting the heat so the water shudders but doesn't bubble. cook 8 to 10 minutes to the inch, or until all but the very center of each piece is opaque. Check by making a small slit in the chickest part of the fish. as each piece is done, use a slotted spatula to lift it onto a heated plate.
3. garnish the fish with the lemon wedges and parsley branches, and serve immediately. at the table, invite everyone to season the fish with salt, drizzles of olive oil, and freshly squeezed lemon.

1 large bunch broccoli or baby broccoli (about 1-1/4 pounds)
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
shredded zest of 1 large lemon
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
lemon wedges

what to do:

1. trim off 1 inch of the broccoli stalks. peel the remaining stalks. split thicker stalks lengthwise into thirds, slender ones in half.
2. place a collapsible steamer in a 6-quart pot containing about 2 inches of water. bring to a boil. crisscross the broccoli stalks in the steamer. cover the pot and cook 1 to 3 minutes; a stalk should still show some resistance when pierced with a knife. immediately rinse the broccoli under cold water to stop its cooking. (at this point, you can set the broccoli aside a few hours at room temperature.)
3. heat the oil in a 12-inch saute pan (not nonstick) over medium-high heat. saute the broccoli until speckled with brown on one side. adjust the heat to prevent it from burning, and watch the pan bottom for scorching. sprinkle the broccoli with the lemon zest and salt and pepper, turn the stalks over, and saute to brown on the second side. try to keep the stalks whole by turning them with wo spatulas. taste for seasoning. serve hot or warm, with lemon wedges. the broccoli is even good at room temperature, but do not refrigerate.

what we did:
first of all, we added some steamed potatoes with a little olive oil, rosemary, salt, pepper and lemon tossed in with them. they were small red potatoes, so we ate them whole. and i mean, tiny. the other thing that came out of this is brandon, who does NOT like broccoli, loved it seared. he especially like the browned parts of it, because of how flavorful it was, so it is my goal to make it for him again seared all over and crunchy (as he says), but not fried.

the fish was perfect -- moist, non-acidulated -- meaning, it had no citrus or acid to toughen or put flavor to another level. it was subtle and we tasted the fish. we used tilapia filets, which nicholas and brandon adore, and it was DEEE-LIH-SHUS! they were happy guys.

we used cilantro instead of parsley -- i had just chopped my last -- and it was a delight. my sons were happy, my tummy was happy and, so, all was well with the world. a treat with this cookbook is how the entrees have all these wonderful wine recommendations and terrific suggestions. it's simple and glorious in its simplicity.

eating well, adoring, feeling the gift of what you have brought to the table is exquisite. the smiles on my sons faces made me feel better about what i am capable of doing. i don't cook for a living, i live through my cooking. and they feel my love... because i take the time... or so they think.

this took me, total, 1/2 hour. no joke.
and that was from start to finish, plating and the like.
so delightful, delicious, yummy, and feel good.
that's one of the wonderful things about cooking, that joyous accomplishment of simplicity.
you don't have to make a souffle or cassoulet (both of which i enjoy making, by the by) to impress or delight. just give of yourself. truly. all of yourself with all of your heart.
yeah, blah, blah syrup and treacle...
but truth.
trust you.
your tongue won't lie.
i promise :o)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Box, Packet and Beef

pre-packaged, quicky meals are not necessarily horrific if you find yourself needing a magic wand at a time of night when you could make a misstep that could lead to late night eating which, in our house, just won't do. oh, no. i made a commitment to myself on new year's eve that i would not, no matter what, have my sons eat past 7:30 in the evening. of course, if we're in europe enjoying a siesta, well, i could make a concession to that. i mean, i'm not COMPLETELY heartless. hell, if we were in europe, i would let them eat in their sleep, for godsakes. but, at the moment, we are in kansas and it is my goal in life to teach my children good eating habits -- along with excellent DINING habits. you would think that by the ages of 11 and 12, i would have done my job, right? don't count on it. i'm not the "faboo mom" poster mother on any level, but i get by and my children seem to love and even like me, so i must be doing something right. whether it's the right kind of right, who knows? but i'm doing, well, something. and one of my somethings is this...
tonight was one of those rush home, pick up some groceries, cook up some pre-packaged taco whatever adding beef, tortillas of my own and whatever condiments will work. as i cringed inside and dished this out to smiling boy faces, let me explain:


and i do mean anything.
i don't like pre-made pasta sauce, but i use it.
i don't like pre-made pasta in cute, fridge case packages -- so i NEVER use them.
i don't like pre-packaged pizza dough, because it's SOOOOO easy to make, freeze and hold onto (really).
i don't like pre-packaged pie crust, although i have discovered rather yummy and serviceable pie dough from the freezer that i would use in a pinch.
i don't like, as you know, pre-made fondant (and to all of my friends who rescued me that day, one dinner at McCormick and Schmick's is NO WAY the big enough thank you all of you deserve... don't think i've forgotten you).
i like getting my hands in it, being all about it, creating from scratch anything. bread to baked goods to entrees and beyond. there's a certain sort of comfort in knowing all of the yums that went into the big picture were by your hand, at least for me. it warms my heart and brings a smile to my soul.
but, tonight?
i succumbed.
i'll forgive myself.
i already have.
my kids didn't care.
oh, i know.
you think since they eat these home cooked meals of substance that a hot dog and cheeseburger would be, well, just below them.
this is what my son, brandon, told me on the phone tonight as he was out with his "big brother":
"hey, guess what, mom. guess what cool thing i had that you guys didn't."
(we had leftovers tonight, nicholas and i)
i said to him, "what?"
and with a huge, salacious smile in his voice, a delight that was beyond compare and a smugness that only he (and my brother, who shares the same ability to completely epitomize joy like no other human being i know just in their essence -- so cool), he said, "a CHEEEEEESE-burger... yep."
he's eleven. he's an actual eleven year-old who, yes, also loves ratatouille, indian food, couscous with currants, a good spinach salad, homemade bread and handcrafted desserts piped with handmade roses. he's still eleven and nicholas is still twelve and they're american and we live just 4 minutes from a McDonald's.
yeah, don't think that isn't quite the discussion on weekends (although, when i pull into Panera to get them their Chicken Pomodoro sandwiches with Iced Green tea instead of a Quarter Pounder with Cheese or a Big Mac they smile bigger).
the box
and beef...
it's amazing the magic they create.
julia would forgive me, i think.
i hope.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Madhur Jaffrey, Indian Goddess of Food

indian food, as you well know, is something we enjoy because, well, it's yummy. madhur jaffrey, you may or may not know, is an indian goddess of delicious wonder. at least, i think so.
my blog.
my opinion.
live with it.
'kay, so, ms. jaffrey has A LOT of cookbooks that focus on this delectable way of eating, cooking, dining spectacularly with flavors and experiences that, truly, tingle your sense all over and make you wish you had ALWAYS been given this incredible gift of food.
in my opinion.
like i says up top there.
all day, i had been baking, cooking, creating. i couldn't stop myself. i made two loaves of bread (yes, TWO), homemade berry jam, made ricotta pancakes for breakfast that morning, offered up leftovers for lunch (i mean, really -- how much can one gal do, ya know?), then, realizing brandon had a basketball game early that evening, wanted to get dinner together to eat before we left. i was a cooking, chopping, stirring, baking fool all day and it felt, well, quite wonderful. i felt alive and productive, energized and completely in my element. which was a really nice way to spend my day, because the night before i had stayed up until about 3:00 in the morning (maybe later) writing on a screenplay i'm working on (ssh! don't tell the wga -- i mean, i don't plan to try and SELL the thing until the strike is over, but i can't just sit around and NOT write, ya know?). it was like i was immersing myself in the two worlds that fulfill me artistically so well, the contentment i felt is indescribable, so i'm not gonna try. the boys could sense it, i could tell, because they were wonderfully happy and willing to do the little things i needed them to do around the house -- grateful is too light a word to describe that part.
what to make for dinner that would continue that feeling of blissful renaissance tripping? i grabbed up a cookbook by madhur jaffrey simply called INDIAN COOKING, a gift i had received ten years ago from some very special friends of mine -- friends i miss dearly (Robin and Mia, if you can read me, you're on my mind). i use this little beauty quite a bit, but we'd never made this particular dish before and i was excited to try it. BOMBAY-STYLE CHICKEN WITH RED SPLIT LENTIS or Murgh aur masoor dal.

take a look:
1-1/4 cups masoor dal (red split lentils) picked over, washed, and drained
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1/2-1 fresh, hot green chilli, finely sliced
2 tsps ground cumin seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp very finely minced, peeled fresh ginger
6-1/3 cups water
about 3 pounds of chicken parts, skinned
2 1/4 tsp salt
2 tbs veggie oil
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/4-3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbs lemon juice
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp garam masala
optional garnish: 3 tbs chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)

what to do:
1. combine the lentils, onion, green chilli, ground cumin, turmeric, half of the chopped ginger and 6-1/3 cups water in a big, heavy pot. bring to a simmer, cover, leaving the lid very slightly ajar, and cook on low heat for 45 minutes. add the chix and the salt. mix and bring to a boil. cover, turn the heat to low and simmer gently for 25-30 minutes or until chix is tender.
2. heat the oil in a small frying pan over medium flame (heat). when hot, put in the whole cumin seeds. as soon as the seeds begin to sizzle -- this just takes a few seconds -- put in the remaining 1/2 tsp chopped ginger and garlic. fry until the garlic turns slightly brown. now put in the cayenne pepper. lift up the frying pan immediately and pour its entire contents -- oil and spices -- into the pot with the chicken and lentils. also add the lemon juice, sugar, and garam masala. stir to mix and cook on medium-low flame for another 5 minutes.
3. sprinkle the fresh coriander over the top, if using, just before you serve.

here's what we did:
i ALWAYS think i have whole cumin seeds and whenever i look, i'm always surprised i don't. i've got whole coriander seeds and i've got cardamom pods, whole nutmeg, allspice, fennel and blah, blah, blah, but not CUMIN SEEDS, which is SOOOO stupid, cuz i cook this shit alot. again, it's like my mustard problem. i either always think i've got several jars only to discover i have none, or always think i need it and discover i have, yep, several jars. so, instead of the seeds i used ground cumin. don't ask me how much, i just guessed, but i figure i used about 1/2 tsp, put it in the hot oil and let it sizzle, then added the rest of that stuff. my lentils were regular red lentils, so the stew like quality of the dish came out a bit soupy, but, yo, still YUMMY-NUMMERS (yep, got right into the report card for ya... couldn't wait). we also didn't have any green chillies (tee, hee), so i used a nice pinch of red pepper flakes. although i have a ton of fresh cilantro -- literally, a ton, honest -- i didn't use it for this.

i served this over some nice basmati rice and with a refreshing salad of romaine and homemade salad dressing. this was dee-vine. delicious, tender, just lovely. nicholas and brandon loved it, chowed it seriously down, and they were in heaven. oh, yeah, wait, i also added about 1/4 cup plain yogurt to the stew which imparted quite the yum. i used boneless, skinless chicken thighs which i cut into about 1-1/2 inch pieces. terrific dish. simple, warming and good. i would recommend salting and peppering it to taste after its cooked, if you feel the need.

something about madhur jaffrey's cookbooks -- they are not for the faint of heart. she assumes, like bobby flay (but NOT like bobby flay, if you know what i mean -- cuz they are in no way like each other in demeanor and such, but in belief, yes), that you already know how to cook and she is merely a vessel to offer up recipes from a region you may not have ever explored in a culinary sense rather than giving you instructions on learning how to cook WHILE making her recipes. there are wonderful pages of history regarding an ingredient, a dish, something. she gives great background as well as props to you in her instructions. they are very straightforward and kind of conversationally "this is what you do, but you already know this stuff, so why don't i just lay down the basics without bogging you down in the tutorial." she's just so incredibly open and it's like she's in the kitchen with you while you're making these dishes. you're a team, peers when you cook with madhur jaffrey's cookbooks. equals.
how cool is that?

brandon played one hell of a game, even though the team lost. he rocked it and felt great after the game. this was a light, lovely meal. i probably already said that, but i'll say it again.
oh, and again, just for good measure.
this was a light, lovely meal.
so there.

The Princess Chicken

i know what i'm missing -- romance in my life.
it's true.
i have no romance and so i have begun to create it.
how, you may ask? well, since this is a COOKING blog and not a RELATIONSHIP blog, it is through -- you guessed it -- cooking. not eating, per se, but cooking. really immersing myself in the joys of creating meals for us to dine upon, not just eat. delicious, succulent morsels of marvelous culinary wonders that go beyond the day-to-day and transcend necessity. i throw myself into the kitchen with a passion that defies all reason, sometimes, because, as i just mentioned, i have no ROMANCE in my life.
so i am creating it and discovering it in something other than relationships with a hot guy who thinks i'm cute.
i am discovering it within myself.
yes, how incredibly "self-help, i'm okay, you're okay, let's do the tango" of me.
shut up.
it's my blog.
i can philosophize if i want to.
anywho, back to the romance creating of it all, moving beyond what must be to what we merely dream come to life. a meal, cooked this evening from necessity that turned into something so much more, cuz i had just come from a conversation with a friend which served to remind me that i HAVE NO ROMANCE IN MY LIFE.
oh, wait, i said that already.
moving on...
yep, i know.
it can be boring, basic, typical, necessary. it's a meat that you can either destroy by not treating it with the delicate kindness it deserves -- cuz ya got about 20 minutes to get everything on the table or you're gonna look up and realize it's getting SOOOO late and your kids haven't finished their homework and they still need to take their baths and, wait, what about their chores and did you remember to sign the thing about the stuff that has to be to the teacher by the ya know? -- or you can turn into something rather luscious and memorable, elegant even, with just the right love, care and, yep, passion. after all, the elegant side of the spectrum would be coq au vin, which is just an old stewing chicken lovingly braised in good wine forever while the lower end is chicken fingers (cuz, as we all know, chickens have hands) which are breaded pieces of breast meat pounded into submission, fried and dipped in sauce so you really don't pay attention to the taste anyway (or even know it really is chicken). the same chicken covers a lot of faboo and serviceable positions. the more time you have to devote to one, the better your results.
tonight, i did not have time.
i was, however, craving romance.
what to do?
i called ahead and had nicholas take out some chix breast -- boneless, skinless -- from the freezer and defrost it. now, this led to quite the "but i don't LIKE chicken breasts, mom!" back and forth (he loves them, just for the record, but he didn't FEEL like them tonight, therefore he HATED them FOR ALL ETERNITY!!!), but that's really neither here nor there, because we were having chicken breasts, goddammit, and he DAMN WELL BETTER JUST DEAL WITH IT! okay, not like that, actually. i was quite "yes, well, just put the little suckers in the microwave to defrost and we'll talk about it when i get home, 'kay? great." i promise. by the time i got home, brandon was home from his monday night basketball practice, the chicken was defrosted, it was WELL after six o'clock (i really like to get home no later than five-ish if i can help it, but whatever) and i don't like us eating after 7:30, cuz that ees no good for dee chillies or the 45+ body i am whipping into hot girl shape. no'm.
i stood at my chopping block, looking at the rather naked skinless, boneless 1-1/2 pounds worth of chix breast and thought -- for about 2 seconds and it came to me. a chicken pasta dish. but not just "chicken pasta". no, it was more like CHICKEN PASTA sung by marilyn horn and accompanied by yoyo ma.
romance on a plate created out of necessity.
check it:

1 lb pasta -- spaghetti, linguine, penne
1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (organic, preferably)
seasoned salt
freshly ground pepper
italian seasoning
4 tbs. olive oil, separated (2 and 2)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 scallions, chopped (whites and greens)
1 cup chopped broccoli
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup GOOD tomato sauce
1/4 cup grated parmagiano reggiano
1/2 cup cubed fresh mozzarella

what to do:
1. prepare your pasta per instructions on the package. drain, reserving about 1/2 cup pasta water. DO NOT RINSE PASTA (trust me). set aside.
2. while the pasta is cooking, cut the chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes. toss with the salt, pepper, thyme, oregano and italian seasoning. heat 2 tbs olive oil over medium high heat and add the garlic cloves. let them just perfume the oil, cook for about 30 seconds (do not let brown) then add the seasoned chicken and brown, lightly, on all sides.
3. make a well in the center of the chicken and add the other 2 tbs of the olive oil. drop in the scallions and broccoli and sautee along with the chicken until bright green and glistening -- still firm.
4. pour in 1/4 cup of the pasta water and let simmer for just 30 seconds. in a bowl, combine the rest of the pasta water, yogurt, tomato sauce, parmegiano reggiano and the mozzarella then add to the pan and stir, coating the chicken and veggies.
5. to the pan, add 1/2 of the pasta and toss with the sauce, heating through and making sure the chicken and veggies combine well with the pasta.
6. serve on separate plates, top with a sprinkling of parmegiano and some cubed mozzarella.
serves 4

yeah, i know, i didn't get specific with the spices. that's because i was tossing in off the top of my head, not measuring. i'll do it again and make sure of proportions for ya, if you REALLY want me to. honest. but here's the report card:

this looked pretty, tasted delicious and expanded horizons. nicholas has already placed the leftovers in a container to take to school tomorrow for lunch. i used high protein pasta, which gave this an even more hearty flavor. it was just the right amount of chicken, veggies and such for a quicky tonight, but the next time i make it, i'll add even more veggies and, perhaps, make it with a meaty white fish. could be on to something. what was also so much fun was the fact that nicholas, who HATES CHICKEN BREASTS FOR ALL ETERNITY!!!, is the one who now MUST HAVE IT FOR LUNCH TOMORROW!!! AHHHHHHH!!!!
i love my kids. they're so, well, kid-like. imagine that.

the romance? well, what started as NECESSITY transcended it. creating something that became more than i had dreamed within the little amount of time i had allotted myself did have the essence of fairytale to it, surely. i was cinderella, but instead of wearing my glass slipper i was holding up a wooden spoon, and instead of princes for wooing were two young princes for nurturing who sat down to the table, smelled the food, took a bite and proclaimed, "what is this magnificent thing?"
chicken with pasta, your majesties.
chicken with pasta.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Sir Nicholas, The Gentle Epicurean

parenting is an interesting life. you HOPE that whatever you are ATTEMPTING to teach your children gets through to them and become lifetime tools they can mold to accommodate their world. you do things and say things you never thought you'd say or do, you love harder than you ever thought you'd love and, without fail, you are always surprised to discover that, in the immortal words of debra winger in Terms of Endearment "as hard as you think it's gonna be, you wish it was that easy." today was one of those days.

due to circumstances way too boring to go into here, nicholas and brandon found themselves grounded for the day and needing to do certain things to get out of that grounding. how do we find ourselves in these situations? anyway, before Nicholas went to begin his chores, he made himself some breakfast. now, let me explain about nicholas and cooking, as i have said before -- he is a lyrical chef, an artist in the kitchen who layers, gently, flavors, paints with his herbs and spices, attempts difficult dishes without even having any concept that they are difficult. there's an incredible beauty in that, a fearlessness that is the mark of a great cook, artist, creator on any level. he dives in, not like a bull in a china shop, but like a fawn, prancing through a cool brook, not afraid of what's in the water, just wanting to be in the water.

nicholas made an omelet for himself today. not just any omelet, but a cheese omelet with rosemary. yep. and it was perfect. i mean, folded beautifully, just enough cheese, not too much (which, considering he ADORES cheese, says a lot for him) and some wonderfully sauteed rosemary. when he brought it to the table, he asked me to try it and i did, just a little piece, and the flavors didn't POP, they ROLLED, flowed, filled me slowly with a unique and gentle build that made me want more. i was blown away.

just like his tea. when he makes me tea, it's an event. it's full of spices, steeped wonderfully and presented with a delicate flourish. how he found that inside of himself is beyond me, but he has. he is as much a romantic as he is a tweenage boy whose only desire is to watch his favorite show, play swords, run around and get dirty and jumping on the bed.

when he went off to do his chores, nicholas did so with kind of a satisfied saunter after his omelet. he had made himself this wonderful meal, sat down to eat it, savor it, then went off to do what needed to be done... which he's still doing, but that's a whole other story.

i guess my point in all of this is my sons have discovered something i was fortunate to discover when i was a kid -- eating for one is not so awful. it is actually be quite wonderful to treat yourself to the time, the effort and the consideration of a real meal, a dining experience just for you. pamper yourself at the table with candles, a glass of wine, some good food and your company, excellent company. when they cook for themselves, nicholas and brandon go all out, really playing in the kitchen to make something remarkable. it's an event, a true gift.

no recipe this time, just a memory, a mention, a comment on this wonder of life called the kitchen.
don't be afraid of it.
embrace it.
like a child at play.
like nicholas.

Touchdown for The Great Brandini

brandon smith. the youngest of the "morris" based children. fiery, giggly, sweet, a huge mischief maker with the heart of a negotiator. omg. this kid could talk his way out of ANY situation, even if by merely wearing you down.

needless to say, as his mother, i have become immune to his needling charms (while still being quite enamored by his natural charm), which drives him absolutely bonkers, but what do i care? i mean, really? as my mom used to say about my brother, who was also an incredibly charming needler back in his kid days, "he should be a lawyer." interesting that my brother's birthday is a day after my son's birthday (thirty-something years apart, but you get my drift). and so, why have i focused upon the great brandini, as my forever pal elizabeth calls him (which is SOOOO apropos considering his disappearing skills and tries at sleight of hand)? our meal, this evening, is one this young man put together to sooth his mum's icky stomach or, at least, my peace of mind.

new year's eve. lovely day. brandon was sick a couple of days leading up to that, a flu that just took hold of him quite badly that had been coming for quite some time. i had made him some matzo ball soup a few days before, which i would share with you, but it's one of those secret recipes i have perfected over time and, well, i've gotten strict orders from my two sons to pass it down to them, not the world. they've both become quite adamant about certain recipes of ours and who am i to deny their desire to begin a family cookbook? our menu was one picked out by both kids and we looked forward to it with true anticipation:

sauteed crab cakes
pasta w/shrimp scampi (and just simple marinara sauce for brandon)
caesar salad with homemade croutons
hot bread
japanese fried chicken

earlier in the day, my friend, stacey, had called me up to come on by and hang for a bit. love her and her hubby, gill. really do. such great friends -- i told you about that, right? the cool folk i've met? yeah. i miss my crew in l.a. like nobody's business, trust me, but if i could transplant my pals here to there, i would be in heaven.

okay, wait, back to the point. we had a lovely time over there, taking sunflower (our doggie) over to play with her pals, ginger and pumpkin, gill and stacey's dogs, as well as stacey's sister's dog, abraham, and a good time was had by all. then we came back home, i began cooking, the boys were rockin' and rolling, playing guitar hero III on their playstation (omg, so much FUN! you MUST try this) and it was a chill night. lowkey and absolutely FREEZING!

we sit, we begin to eat, i take about two bites and, before i know it, my stomach is just saying "not happening" and i was in the bathroom the rest of the night, tossing EVERYTHING up with no relief in sight. now, just for the record, there is nothing i hate more than throwing up. NOTHING. i could be coughing, hacking, full of whatever unimaginable and needing a humidifier, oxygen tent and rubber tubing and i promise you i wouldn't be half as miserable as i would be throwing up. even so, usually, after you've done so, you feel better, right?


this night, i was so sick, i felt like it was never going to end and it terrified my sons. because it's just us here, folks, and they didn't know what to do. who do we call? for all my talk about my great friends, no way was i gonna put this on someone i have only known for a couple of years in the middle of the night. i don't even like to do that to my family, and they're my freakin' family. i had visions of dragging myself to the car, pulling over every few minutes, and taking myself to the emergency room if need be. nothing was working. i couldn't function, it was so bad, and as i dragged myself to my bed, hoping it would somehow work out, in so much pain i couldn't believe it, brandon and nicholas flanked me on both sides, held my hand and talked me through. brandon was crying, worried, telling nicholas we needed to call 911, call someone, anyone while nicholas, staying completely calm, told him, no. she'll be okay. and i remember these words, soothing, calm, incredibly in control:

"deep breaths, mom, take deep breaths. it's okay. it's gonna be okay. throw up again if you have to, mom, but keep taking deep breaths."

i did throw up again. quite a bit, by the way, but his advice about deep breaths was completely right and something he has been hearing from me all his life.

new year's eve was kind of ick, to say the least.

new year's day, the plan was for me to make a ham, have some lovely greens, mac and cheese and cornbread. down home stuff. no way was that gonna happen, because i was still so sick, i could hardly get out of bed. i drank ginger ale, water, hot tea, and nicholas cut me an apple. my stomach was still in so much pain and wanting to throw up so badly, but by now i was able to keep it together, cuz no way did i want to throw up again. oh man. i told the boys i was gonna have to leave them to their own leftover devices while pointing out there was some defrosted chicken in the fridge. brandon's eyes lit up. he had an idea. could he please make something for me? would that be okay? a salad, something simple. please? i agreed, floated back off to neverland in my sleep and just hoped.

this is what brandon made. see? it takes me awhile to get there, but i get there eventually :o).


1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (could use breasts)
2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. season salt
pinch kosher salt
fresh ground pepper, to taste
2tbs. olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth (preferably low sodium/organic)
romaine lettuce
worchester sauce

what to do:
1. cut the chicken into 2 inch pieces. set aside.
2. place the spices including the garlic into a ziploc bag. add the chicken, shake them together and set aside.
3. heat the olive oil in a large skillet or pan (not non-stick) over medium heat and add the chicken with the spices, sauteing three - four minutes on each side, until brown.
4. add the chicken broth and stir, bringing up those yummy brown bits, then cover, the heat and simmering for about 5 more minutes (just until not pink in the middle).
5. place a few romaine leaves on a plate, dash some worchester sauce over the leaves, place chicken pieces on the leaves and serve, family style.

as an aside, you can degrease the chicken sauce, reduce and ladle it over the chicken, if you so choose.

let me tell you, this was a refreshing, delightful bite to have on this cold night from my son. it was really good (and if it seems a bit too salty, lower the salt to your liking). this is something you can really play with and you could use some radicchio instead of romaine, if you wanted, wild lettuces, you could grill radicchio and put this over it, it's a lovely little salad and it made my night.

my stomach, quite frankly, is still iffy. i don't know what it was, whether i got something from brandon (he had just been throwing up the day before, so maybe), something i ate didn't work for me (although the boys both ate the exact same thing and neither of them felt sick) or if i drank too much (i had a couple of glasses of wine at stacey's and was about to have a glass of proseco for new year's when i got sick. i didn't even get a sip off when my stomach went hogwild). whatever it was, is (cuz it's still staying there, in my belly, i hear my stomach rolling over even as i write this and know that my eating has changed so drastically because of it -- i ate only apples, pears and rice last night), it sure began the new year with a bang.

and put brandon in the kitchen, creating relief for his mom and this delicious recipe. i'm not so surprised anymore when nicholas and brandon get behind the stove and make magic. i am, however, always warmed by the caring they show with their desire to "make something for you, mom", don an apron (yes, they actually put on one of my many aprons) and create in the kitchen.
like my mom let me.
so wonderful.

as chef gousteau says in ratatouille (one of our all time favorite movies and, because of that film, one of the boys' fave dishes for which i will always thank pixar, cuz anyone who can get my kids to beg for a dish made with squash, onions, peppers and eggplant is my hero) "anyone can cook."
i know i've said it before and i'll say it again...
love is one powerful ingredient.
love and tenderness.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


i did something i have never done in my entire life.
i bought 1/8th of a cow.

you read right.

i bought 1/8th of an actual cow to put into my deep freeze and keep us in burgers for, well, a long ass time.

why, you may ask, did i buy such a thing and what exactly would an 1/8th of a cow look like in a deep freeze?

well, it's been butchered, so it's not like i've got hooves sticking up or something and i need to name it then not be able to cook it cuz i named it. and it's not as if it was walking around the pasture with my name stamped on it's ass reserving my space.

see, there's this lady who works where i work and who, during the spring time and summer warmth, has eggs for sale. so i buy her eggs, because they're natural and damn near organic and i'm all about that shit. really...

and fighting against greenhouse gasses and global warming; pursuing the art of baking my own bread and making my own jams; wishing i had the land to grow my own food and hoping someday i will be so lucky while still believing that by eating right and exercising, i could actually be in good enough shape that i will, one day, wear a bikini without fear... at age 45+ (yeah, i know, you may say i'm a dreamer, but, just for the record? i'm not the only one.)

but i, once again, digress...

she also sells an entire butchered cow from her farm once a year as well and this year i got in on it. now, the prospect of buying even 1/4 of a butchered cow had me kinda freaked for my first time, so i started small, sharing my 1/4 with my friend, lisa (who's also all about holistic, natural shit -- she's learning to be an herbalist, which i think is cooler than words can say). i gathered up brandon to go with me to the butcher to pick up this load o' meat and stared at it in slight awe when i got it back to the car. we both did. it was quite amusing.

oh, you get a lot of ground beef, to be sure, but there are KC strip steaks in there, a brisket, some top sirloin, some roast and on. it's plenty and just right. i do, after all, have two bordering on teen sons who are active in sports, massive humans (11 and 12, five foot six and five foot seven last time i checked and growing) and since i'm on this big "i will cook EVERY SINGLE NIGHT" kick, it certainly helps to have, well, something to cook besides pasta, rice, beans and toast.

brandon does not like meat loaf, no matter how many ways i make it. ah, hell, i hated meat loaf as a kid, too, so whatever. he also does not really like meatballs, lasagna (too much stuff inside), casseroles (again, too much stuff) or meat sauce. upon receiving the large order of meat, as we gazed upon its splendor, these words came out of my mouth --

"brandon, we're gonna have to find a recipe for all that ground beef that works for you, man, beyond burgers, chili, tacos and sloppy joes. you're gonna have to learn to like some meat loaf, dude."

to which he responded with a glassy eyed nod, "i know, mom. whoa, do i know."

watch out, moussaka.
here we come, shepherd's pie.
glad to meetcha, samosas.
couldn't be happier to see ya, jamaican meat pie.
you're goin' down, meat loaf.