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February 2009
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Not like the picture. Still.

You know my memoir, "Not Like the Picture"? Well it applies to so much more than my adventures and disasters in the kitchen. There's this picture of who I am in my head/who I want to be, and then this real me who is, at times, more angsty than I can even stand. I hesitate to unleash thatme on you guys;which is the answer to my online silence. And why my ringer is off. But I'm heading to yoga this morning, after I pick Cheerios out of Sam's hair and Lucy's fur.


p.s. I know this will be a contender for the lamest metaphor award, but sometimes messages come in the bottom of a garbage can. I emptied the trash in Sam's room and there, under the bag, were my sunglasses. I've been looking for all over the house. I'm reading this to mean I should take out the trash more often - mentally, too! (You know, with the whole "future's so bright you gotta wear shades" saying and all).


Roll with it, measure of a good day

Not all days are created equal.

Recently I got into the habit of thinking the outcome of my days depended on how Sam slept, whether or not he napped, what time it is when Matt's work day ends and what kind of mood he's in, and finally if I got everything on my list done.

That's not really working for me. I kind of liked it better when the marker of a good day went more like this: Kept the kid alive. Got some stuff done. Went to bed.


Meatless Monday: Pasta ratatouille

Source: Better Homes and Gardens booklet "Easy Vegetarian Dinners"

Allegedly start to finish: 25 minutes    Makes 4 servings

10 oz. dried rigatoni or penne pasta (or whatever pasta you have in the pantry)

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed (5 cups) (I was tempted to skip this step because eggplant is gross and slimy in my memory - turns out the opposite is true)

1 medium zucchini, sliced (1 1/4 cups)

1 medium yellow summer squash, sliced (1 1/4 cups)

1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup) Note from Matt: when prepping onions a day in advance, for God's sake cover them

1 medium green sweet pepper, chopped (1/2 cup)

1 15 oz can chunky Italian-style tomatoes, undrained

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and keep warm

Meanwhile, in large saucepan heat oil over medium-high heat. Add eggplant;cook and stir for 1 minute. Add zucchini, yellow summer squash, onion and sweet pepper; cook for 10 minutes more, stir occasionally. Stir in pasta and undrained tomatoes. Serve immediately.


Meatless Mondays: Thai Vegetable Noodle Soup

Day 36 You know I'm not one to brag but I made the tastiest soup last night with a little ton of help from the container. Here's how it went down. I was at Safeway and Sam decided to start climbing out of the cart in front of a display I would normally ignore. Partly because I try to avoid temptation and partly because this is a crazy-big cart to steer with the patrol car and all ... but I digress.

So this container of "College Inn" Culinary Broth Thai Coconut Curry jumps out at me, or I knocked it down, either way I was forced to pick it up. I scanned the recipe ideas and it sounded so good I figured I'd give it a go. I was pretty sure I'd have to make a back up dish for Sam but with a little yogurt to cool it down, he was all over it.

It came together relatively quickly, though the 15 minute prep time on the carton was a LIE, as usual. In all fairness it probably would take 15 minutes to chop, dice and grate the ingredients IF you had nothing else to do but focus on said chopping, dicing and grating. I don't know about you but on this end I'm prepping dinner while I keep Sam's head out of the oven, fingers out of the freezer and feet off the dog.

Verdict: fairly quick to assemble, super healthy and delicious!

Thai Vegetable Noodle Soup

Prep: 15 minutes (ish) Cook: 10 minutes

Serves 4-6 (Matt, Sam and I had big servings and still had leftovers)

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup broccoli florets

1/2 cup diced carrots

2 tsp grated fresh ginger

1/2 tsp. curry powder

1/4 - 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (to taste - in retrospect I might've eased up on this for Sam's sake but he didn't complain)

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1/2 cup vermicelli or thin spaghetti broken into 2-inch pieces

1 carton (32 oz) COLLEGE INN Thai Coconut Curry Culinary Broth

1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

1. cup light coconut milk (I didn't catch the "light" until just now. Maybe that's why it was so good!)

1. cook onion, broccoli, carrots, ginger, curry and red pepper flakes in oil in large saucepan (or Wok) 3 minutes. Add noodles, broth and lime juice.

2. Bring to boil; reduce heat. Simmer 7 minutes or until noodles are tender. Stir in coconut milk; heat through. Garnish with cilantro and green onions, and serve with lime wedges, if desired. (I did not desire, though am sure it would be lovely).

Thai soup before  Thai soup after


Life, unplugged

I was doing a little research this morning for my "Confessions" column and came by this link where Nickelodeon encouraged children to "unplug" from the television on Earth Day for one minute. ONE minute. And, my favorite part, the one minute is to be at 9 p.m.

"Today's kids spend an average of 6 hours a day planted in front of an electronic screen-spending about half as much time outdoors as you did when you were a kid. No making mud pies. No catching fireflies. No swinging in trees. No looking for critters under rocks. No feeling the wind in their faces. No discovering tadpoles. No daydreaming while watching the clouds roll by... Unplugged isn't just about going outside for baseball or soccer practice or recess at school. Unplugged is about giving your child a GREEN HOUR every day, unstructured time in green spaces to explore, imagine, and discover. It's healthy and it's FUN. Find and share unplugged ideas for kids at greenhour.org."

My friend Emily recently turned me on to turning off the tube. Check out her fun ideas and adventures in life unplugged at her blog.


Rappin' in Sam's crib

Download MVI_0255

Admittedly, Beastie Boys are a bit of an odd choice to play for Sam, but I had to do something to get him off the Country kick he's been on since he was a baby. Plus, we played Beastie Boys in the delivery room so I figured there was a good chance it would sound familiar. What I did not expect is for Sam to be this into it.

The day after he heard "Funky Boss" for the first time, we were at the grocery store and he looked up at me and said "Funkah Baw?" And then repeated it through the rest of the store and most of the way home.

Matt came downstairs last night barely able to suppress a laugh.

Turn it up and see if it doesn't make you laugh, too!


Spring hopes eternal

Happy Spring! We made it through winter. And that's the most positive I can be this morning. Well, I guess I can toss out a few more things.

Thank you, ants, for teaching me not to leave anything out. Thank you Lucy Dog for reminding me the garbage was too full, and therefore too tempting for you to resist. Thank you, Sam for teaching me that I am nowhere near the Zen Mama I want to be. Hmmm. What else? I think I'll wait to post again until I've had a chance to visit my attitude adjustment chamber, a.k.a. the shower.

But meanwhile, thank you Nature for reminding me that Spring does come around. I'm hoping this means my tantrum-throwing barnacle will be back to his mostly sweet self one of these days.

Incidentally, is "terrible twos" one of those b.s. expressions like "morning sickness"?


Musings

My characters are talking to me at night again. So exciting. Some, I know, would take medication for that but I am thrilled. I think they're back because I'm making space for them and my writing again.

I don't know how the whole Muse Industry works, really I don't. I just know there are a few things I'm doing differently that have my head and heart back in my work and I couldn't be happier about it. Even if it does keep me up at night.

My critique group met last night and once again I held my breath as A. read all 13 pages of Chapter 2 out loud. Which of course, means the draft of Chapter 2 is finished. I assure you that would not have happened without the deadline of wanting to have it ready for the group.

  • Co-starting the critique group - because it holds me accountable for moving forward with the book and gives me a place to practice sharing my work and getting honest feedback.

  • Attending Northwest Author Series events - the inspiration from the speakers as well as identifying myself as a writer hanging out with other writers talking about "writerly" things.

  • Shifting from using my Outline as an oppressive crusher of spirits and more as a springboard, or guide. Essentially opening the door for inspiration and listening to my characters.

  • Not being quite as concerned about publication and genre and allowing myself to ENJOY the process of writing. I feel like I'm writing this for me again and that makes all the difference.

  • Putting together a support system of people who ask about the book and support me in writing it. Because the process is this crazy combination of fun and brutal.


Meatless Mondays: Stir fry. How bad can it be?

I had some ground turkey all defrosted for tonight when I remembered it's meatless Monday. Really? Monday? So soon?

I think my standby dinner for Mondays that come too soon will be stir fry because it's good, healthy and it's easy. I use my steamer to make brown rice (double the amount while you're at it and save in fridge for another quick meal later in the week).

You know how I often find a way to get lost to places "you can't miss?" And you know how I screw up "fool-proof" recipes? Well, friends, stir fry is one thing I haven't messed up yet.

Stir fry my way = veggies + starch (noodles/rice) + protein*

*okay, before I was challenged to try going vegetarian I'd just say meat. Okay, fine, chicken since that's the only meat I'm somewhat comfortable cooking. And yes, Maciejewski, I call myself a true Eastern European.

Lazy as I am, chopping all those veggies makes stir fry something I meant to make more often but ... you know ... so allow me to introduce one of my new best friends - the frozen veggie section at any grocery store (but I'm most in love with Grocery Outlet).

For around $2 I got a big bag of Green Giant "Szechuan Stir Fry"

"Broccoli, carrots, green beans and red peppers in a zesty Szechuan sauce"

Hello? $2.00 for veggies cleaned and prepped? And tofu is relatively cheap as well. I know it's mostly gross, and I apologize for that but it is really not that bad after it absorbs the flavors in the dish. (I know "not that bad" isn't a big sell but the only other thing I've got is "it's so good for you.")

So if you don't know what's for dinner tonight, or you want to join me for meatless Mondays (or any day) grab a pan or wok and:

Cube some extra-firm tofu - just try a little bit 

Heat 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil in a 10-12 inch skillet or work over high heat. 

Reduce heat to medium-high. Stir in the frozen sauce and veggies. 

Cover and cook for 6-9 minutes, stir frequently, until veggies are crisp-tender (we've already discussed how I think that is stupid cooking instruction, right? Crisp-tender? Which is it? It appears to mean brightly colored, won't break your teeth if you bite into it but doesn't look all wilty.) Stir in the cubed extra-firm tofu for 2 minutes prior to the end of cooking time. Then--and this part of the directions made me laugh--serve immediately. Because I am sure your people come to the table the very moment you call them.

If you don't have the handy frozen veggies - use what you have. My motto in the kitchen, admittedly not the makings for a hit cooking show, is "how bad can it be?"