Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas Recipe!

M. was dancing with happiness this morning. We had a great time! M. even slept in until 7am. As we were opening presents, snow started falling. A perfect white Christmas.
So with that, I am leaving you with a perfect recipe. My sister's recipe actually. She has been making it for over 10 years now. We lovingly call it Onion Souffle, but I have many times referred to it as white trash dip. Doesn't matter, because on countless occasions it has been at a party or gathering with me, it is the FIRST thing to go on a table. If you are a person who likes spinach dip or baked artichoke dip, you will like this. People will ask you for the recipe. It will become a recipe you keep. I would not share it with you unless I was absolutely sure of this. If you bring it to a party make sure it is just out of the oven before you take it, or if possible bake it at your friends house if you are bringing it. If it has to sit out for an long time before it is served, choose something else. This is a dish best served promptly. And, forget about the calories and fat for about a half hour until it is gone!

Onion Souffle
3 blocks cream cheese (we use low fat)
1/2 cup mayo
2 cups shredded Parmesan
3 shakes/squirts hot sauce like Tabasco
1 bag frozen onions, thawed, excess liquid pressed out

In bowl, beat cream cheese, onion, and mayo with hand blender
Stir in Parmesan and hot sauce
Spoon into shallow dish, bake at 350 degrees for around 25 minutes or until bubbling and slightly brown on top.
Serve with Frito's, Belgian endive, apple slices; whatever you choose.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

When I was a cocktail waitress at Green Dolphin Street in Chicago, I was concerned with three, girlfriends and cocktails. When I became a manager of the club room I catered to those who could pay for a table, and for $100, a table at the front of the stage would magically appear. It was fun. I developed a severe taste for Veuve Clicquot. The bartender, Ginger was my very dear friend. Any night she worked, Veuve was flowing all night long for me. These nights, arguing with my husband, doing dishes, folding laundry, boredom all make me miss my "fun" life. I did not appreciate my life then; I was too preoccupied with whatever small drama was staring me in the face. Turning 37 this week. I think I will keep hoping for a gaggle of my girls, together again. Drinking Veuve.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A gift for me

M is better. I am better. Only two days left.
I got my holiday present this year when I was bit by a tick. After a doctor visit, a bottle of antibiotics and a moderate amount of crying, I took the tick to Staples to Fedex it to San Jose to be tested for lymes. I put the test tube with the tick into an envelope. I had my sunglasses on to conceal my red eyes from the staples lady because I was embarassed I had been crying. I took a last look at the tick and silently said goodbye to it. "We have a lot of karma you and I" I said to myself. Everyone around me in the store was not paralyzed with the fear I felt that this tick could have lymes, they were just shopping. I want to be just shopping too. But, shopping won't get me anywhere, so I will go on a journey with the tick. I will be the main character on a journey and the rest of the world will be the actors helping me along. And, in many of the moments I was caught in fear about my situation, I reminded myself this is just play with actors and myself. I was able to let go of outcomes, judgements and pretty much everything else that was not useful in those moments. I was able to unparalyze myself from anxiety and its grip on me when I remembered all of this. This was a totally new experience for me. So, in celebration of the tick, I am going to try to dig really, really deep into all my stuff this year and find the gifts.
Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ice, Rain, Snow and Chicken Potpie!

When 4pm rolls around everyday, excitement usually rises from my belly. Dinner preparation has always been a happy time of the day for me. I love the challenge. I would love to come to your house, look in your fridge and just make it all work. The days when you say there is nothing in the fridge to make for dinner, is the day to ask me over.
I am a believer in keeping staples in my fridge and pantry, a list that has evolved over time. Here is my current list:
Olive Oil
Chicken Stock
Chicken Thighs
Canned Fire Roasted Tomatoes
Canned Tomato sauce
Dried Oregano
Brown Rice Pasta
Italian Pasta
Frozen Pie crusts
Lentils/Dried Peas
Half and half

That is the bare minimum. I have a lot of extras like an extra pound of coffe and bacon in the freezer too. When I moved here and discovered the hard way that popping over to the store is not an option, I started my list. This past summer we got a freezer to keep in the garage. I spent a week dreaming about all the ways I would fill it. Being a 40 minute drive from town and my own tendencies of hoarding food staples for armageddon made getting a freezer a perfect addition to my kitchen life. My first freezer goodies were berries. My girlfriend and I toured all the local organic berry farms this past june and july, and I think I put 20lbs of berries away. Ollaberries, logan berries, blueberries, rasberries, blackberries; they are all frozen waiting for the perfect mid-january dinner party when everyone is sick of mandarins and chocolate. I went through a canning phase, but the mixture of bacterial contamination fears and somehow convincing myself I would be the person who would blow up their house with a pressure canner was offputing. Yes, a freezer is a much better fit for me.
Anyway, last night I realized I had all the ingredients for chicken pot pie. An official crowd pleaser. Wonderful for leftovers. Want to try it? I promise it will not fail you. After it comes out of the oven let it sit 10 minutes. That will let it set slightly. This is adapted from Cooks Illustrated Best Recipe Pot Pie recipe.

1 med onion chopped
4 med carrots peeled, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 cup frozen peas
2 med ribs celery chopped 1/2 inch thick
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
salt and pepper
1 pie crust or 1 recipe loaf of cornbread
4 Tbls butter
3 Tbls dry cooking sherry
2 Tbls olive oil

chicken thighs and chicken stock in pot. Bring to boil and cook until done (10min or so).
Remove chicken thighs, put on plate to cool.
Pour chicken stock into a glass measuring cup and set aside.
In same pot, heat olive oil and sautee onions, carrots and celery for 6 minutes.
Put sauteed veggies into a bowl.
Shred chicken and add it to the veggies in the bowl.
Put 4 Tbls of butter in empty pan, melt butter and add flour. Sautee with a whisk until blended. A minute or so. Add chicken stock slowly while whisking. Add fresh herbs, salt and pepper. Bring to simmer and let thicken about 4 or 5 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper. Add sherry.
Add this to the veggie/chicken bowl. Stir together and taste for salt and pepper. Add frozen peas.
Pour into a pie dish. Top with pie crust (so only pie crust on top) or spoon cornbread mixture on top of the pot pie. Baking the pot pie will cook the corn bread if you are choosing this topping. I like the pie crust because it is easy. I also like Pillsbury refrigerated dough. I think it has the best texture. Cook for 30-35 minutes at 400 degrees.
There you have it! Tell me how it turns out if you try it!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What the Smell?

M. has croup. Surprise surprise. This might very well be the 7th time. After the 3rd or 4th time I decided enough was enough. Everytime I took her to the pediatrician, I felt beyond frustrated. Just like some children get ear infections along with their viruses, M gets croup. I could give her motrin and use a vaporizer to ease symptoms the doctor said, and then she could offer no other help. As I type this, she is in her room barking away, woken up from the cough. I do have a regime for croup. After giving up on allopathic medicine, I took M. to a pediatric acupuncturist and homeopath in San Jose who gave her a constitutional remedy and a prescription for chinese herbs made for children called Chest Relief. Along with that I use two homeopathic cough syrups, and 3 separate homeopathic remedies and 2 gemmotherapies. The middle of the night cough/barking is so frightening that having an arsenal of "helpful" things is how I cope with my own anxiety, and try to help my daughter in a mostly helpless situation. Just now it was decided that D. and M. are taking a steamy bath together to help the spasms. I have been trying to push the Motrin on her at night to take some throat pain away, but she flat out refuses because it is too sweet. Tonight I mixed it with pineapple coconut juice and she could still smell and taste it. I told her all the reasons to drink it, how it would make her feel better, less pain, sleep better, etc. No way. Ok then, how about if you drink this here medicine and I buy you a present next time we are in town? "Ok mama!" She choked it down scowling and shivering from the sweetness in 3 gulps. Immediately she wanted details about what kind of prize she would be getting. "The five dollar kind." I said.

So, tonight we are all together again in the same bed. I sleep with M. when she has croup so I can monitor her and also feel the joy of being coughed on all night. Last night, midnight we are all getting cozy after a steam therapy. In all her sickness, she is still singing Christmas carols with her hoarse low energy voice laying in bed. I know then she is not totally lost in being sick. She looks at me in the darkness and says in a clear, loud voice "mama what is that smell?" I start to sniff. Skunk? No. Cat poop? No. Dad farts? No. "Mama what is that smell? Can't you smell that mama? That yucky smell mama!" Oh lordy what could this be I am thinking. I pull her close to snuggle. "Honey, I don't smell anything." Oh yes I do now that she is close to me. Her breath. Sickness breath. Really bad. My sweet, tender, lovely daughter's breath is always like home to me, even then.

Update: Elf on the shelf. We are 16 days in. Still going strong. Still driving me crazy.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Skunk Blues

M. went to school and I drove to Roseville to the MALL! I am a 1 1/2 hr. drive to the mall so shopping does not happen very often. Anthropologie opened a couple of months ago, along with a Whole Foods. And, because my girlfriend picked up M. and kept her for the afternoon, I could take my time and enjoy my day. I swear I was the happiest person in the mall. Shopping all by myself is such an indulgence I feel guilty even typing about it. But, I will go on. I know it is Christmas, but the sale rack at Banana Petites was too good to pass up. 3 dresses later I am walking out, on my way to the real treasure trove; anthropologie. There, I mingled around tables, racks, shelves filled with my version of material paradise. I started piling clothes on my arm to try on, because even though I am supposed to be shopping for others, I started telling myself stories about all the reasons I needed clothes instead. Ok, only clothes on sale I am saying to myself. Sale clothes, don't buy full price. Ok, where is the stupid sale room? Why is the sale room so crowded? I am going to elbow my way in because I need that sweater. People, I need more space to find my size, so move out of the way. Don't you know this is a special day for me? I don't ever get to just go shopping when I feel like it. Holy cow, wooden ducks. I must have those wooden ducks. Only in anthropologie would I find wooden ducks. Life size.... Yes, if I could live in an anthropologie world, I would. I spent about an hour floating, smiling, cooing really. Yes, cooing for sure.
And then, the SKUNK.
Skunks and I have unusual karma. Mostly we interact alone. D my love, my husband, my toxic chemical taker carer is somehow always absent when the skunks are really imposing. When living at Shoboan, a skunk brushed by me, skimming my cheek while sleeping in bed. It scrambled under the bed, pooped and scared the crap out of me. That is a situation a many other people have skills to deal with, but not me. That night D was out of town working. So, I took me and the cat into the other room, opened the doors for the skunk and it was gone in the morning. And that started the skunk karma. Since then there has been a cat spraying and numerous other close calls. But today, after my lovely restful shopping trip, we meet again. I come home to feed the cat and drop off groceries before picking up M, and I hear the cat hiss while walking out the door. I knew instantly it was a skunk. Oh geez. I get down on the floor, and there it is, under my white couch. My white couch! Don't spray. Whatever happens, just don't spray. I am not ready to part with the couch just yet. I get the cat, shut him in our room and close all other room doors. Then, open all the sliding glass doors and leave. Major flaw on my part; I did not take the cat door out of the den, so when I get home the skunk has moved from the living room to the den. D. has since arrived home, and become very frustrated with my mistake of not removing the cat door. It sits now, under the couch listening to very loud punk rock music, courtesy of D. Hopefully it will get sick of the noise and leave. Hopefully.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Party Party Party

Great Day. This bottom photo reminded me of clowns stuffed in a little car at the circus.
I am happily relaxing while writing this, all the work over. Soup is on the stove and we are all now in our comfy clothes.
When people I love all come together in the same room for a party like today, I have feelings of really loving my community. So many incredible mothers with different styles, opinions, lifestyles. So, while we talk during the party, gossip amongst ourselves, children busy themselves with special work. Today the special work was tending to a rescued lizard. Working together to make a new home for the poor little lizard, tasks were delegated. Homes were created. Harmony among the 4-5 year olds is beautiful music to my ears. At first I found myself wanting to liberate the lizard. In the midst of the party, I wanted to run to the end of the driveway and deliver the lizard to freedom. It was a matter of coincidence the lizard happen to be on the porch to begin with. Then one little girl saw me trying to pick him up and gasped. It was over right then. I handed the lizard over with strict instructions to release him in the yard, by the tree so it would find its home. "Ok, I will" she said. I sighed deeply knowing that most likely it would not last the hour, but be generously cared for by the quickly forming group of party children wanting in on the lizard action. Less than an hour later though, it had a new home in a glass container with leaves, rocks, water and a bark roof. The most earnest, proud, faces showed us with pride their accomplishments. And it was. Magic of the season.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Getting ready for the party

I have let go of doing crafts at M's Party tomorrow. It will be just food, music and dancing. But my sister is picking up my bakery order at Whole Foods on the way here tonight. That saves me over 3 hours of driving!
I managed to finish two crafty projects myself. First, I finished my felt christmas tree. I tried to take a good photo but the lighting was never quite right. I am going to try to keep making more so I have different sizes to place next to each other. The children at our house this week helped me make paper roses that now decorate my dining room table. I cut construction paper into swirls, rolled them up and placed on the branches. I really like how they turned out.
So, notice the swirling mass in D's kombucha experiment? He has a new pet name for the experiment. He called it his "embryo". So gross, I laughed.
It was announced yesterday that a little girl at M's preschool has the chicken pox as of this past monday. I am going down the invite list letting everyone know before the party tomorrow. There has been a lot of sad news from friends and family this week about health and life related issues. It has weighed heavily on my heart. I constantly struggle between my own inner demons related to sickness and also wish I could be closer to all my friends and family during their struggles. After getting the flu last year I have had thoughts of getting a flu shot this year, but never would because of thimerisol and potential immune reactions. I will keep taking my homeopathic flu vaccine hoping it is effective. Time to order this years batch!
I made Mormor's Christmas cake for M's party. It is my special way of celebrating my grandmother every Christmas. Thin cake with layers of rasberry and apricot almond filling. Oh, it is soooo good. She has always been my inspiration for becoming a good cook. I always marveled at how effortless she made wonderful food. Her brown bread, vegetable soup, irish soda bread just to name a few. I remember her making her special "tea" for my sister and I. It was lipton tea, sugar and milk. So simple really, but it seemed exotic to us; a special grandmother treat. Looking back upon it now, I see those efforts as a way of easing us during the transitions of our mother or father leaving us with her for a summer vacation and the immense saddness I felt of the fragmented, broken family I had. Just before the tears started rolling, she would announce it was time for special tea. And the three of us; Mormor, my sister and me would sit and get settled. I am really happy to say now, that even thinking about those times do not make me sad now. So much pain that defined my growing years and my 20's have healed.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Elf on the Shelf

Our pretty tree!

M was gifted Elf on The Shelf last year. At 4 1/2 she now really understands the story and since it was unpacked with Christmas items two days ago, she has been very serious about Elf on The Shelf business. A book comes with the elf which explains a story about how the elf works. It visits santa at night telling him how you behaved during the day, and in the morning because of its travels, is in a different spot than the night before. If a child touches it however, it loses its magic and can't see santa or move.
Past two morning there has been 4 year old shrieks all through the house waaay too early in the morning while she hunts down the elf. And while the excitement may very well wear off in 2 more days, while it exists I am trying to focus on a primary goal; trying to remember to move the damn elf before I go to bed. The first night I forgot, and woke up paniced at 3am stumbling around in the dark trying to get it to sit upright and not fall over in her room. The second night I handed it over to D and he hid it on a rafter in the kitchen. Tonight I asked D. how are we going to remember to hide the elf every night, to which he replied, "we"? But, moments ago he announced on his way to bed, that yes, he did move it. But still, I am kinda annoyed with the Elf on The Shelf people. Yes, he looks sweet, innocent, old-timey, but in a Bride of Chucky sort of way. And no, elf on the shelf does not have whiskers, its just sitting in front of the mechanical cat. Which is another blog entry for later I guess.


Our Thanksgiving was spent with our friends who are are our family. Thank you to our friends who hosted all of us!Food was outrageous. Chipolte sweet potatoes, coconut sweetened sweet potatoes, beef tamales with mole sauce, two cranberry sauces, stuffing, etc. A new dish also, green bean casserole made with swiss cheese, sour cream, mustard, horseradish and crispy onions. I did make the Sunset magazine Sweet Potato Cheesecake. It was luscious and creamy, but too sweet. My sis however made pumpkin bread pudding that crazy. Martha Stewart's recipe, and it took the dessert grande prize at our pie party.
I am relieved that little M. christmas shopping is all done. Now I can focus on her Christmas Party next saturday. I am calling Whole Foods today to see if they will make me a yule log. Crossing my fingers on that one. I am hoping to manage my anxiety in a constructive way this week as M's party approaches. This week we get 6 more solar panels added to the array, which is D's weekend project. Our laundry room smells like yeast and things are starting to collect in the kombucha jar. Iwish I had not taken a microbiology class in college. Ignorance is bliss.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

How you know your real

Driving home last night D. asked M. how does she know she is real? In perfect form, she quips "daddy I know I am real because of three things; 1. I pick boogars from my nose 2. I fart and 3.(my personal favorite) I have chicken breath. " No explanations needed there I guess. It was a wonderful way to end our family fun day. Pictures above of the gnome house we built at the Live Oak Waldorf School Winter Faire we attended.

Friday, November 21, 2008

My Husband's Science Experiment

D. has given up coffee the last week or so, and has been drinking lots of Dave's Kombucha. A bottle sets you back atleast $3.50 so he decided to make his own.
With the wise guidance of a YouTube video, he brewed sugar, tea and a bottle of kombucha to make the "mother" a starter kombucha mushroom that will provide the culture for a lot of kombucha to come. So, the "mother" is now sitting in our laundry room fermenting for the next three weeks until a big mushroom forms on the top. I have opted to not participate in drinking the end results; I have enough problems with nausea as it is thank you very much. But he is very optimistic about his mycology science project. Wanna come over and try some?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Snow White isn't so scary!

Books before bed are always a big time of the day for M. It has been fun to start reading more complex books too. Tonight we read a japanese folktale and Snow White. It was translated from the Grimm fairy tale. Looking to M's face while reading it, I wanted to be sure she was not scared by the evil queen trying to kill snow white. I kept thinking "this is a kid's book?" Disney Snow White it was not. But, she was excited, enthralled and loved the suspense. Afterwards she ran out to tell dad all about it.


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