Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"I Don't Know Which Way to Run"

On Monday evening after a long day of work, an hour long class at the gym lifting weights, rushing to aftercare to grab the girls before they shut the doors at 6pm, a quick trip to Fred-eat-my-paycheck-Meyer to grab something (mini shells and alfredo sauce) to whip up for dinner...the girls and I arrived home at approximately 6:20 pm. I am loading the groceries out of the car up the stairs and I notice that UPS has dropped off a package the girls should not see on the porch. I drape the box with my jacket and top it with a box of clementines Mary is oblivious while I shout at Brigid to hurry in and let the dogs out because they have had the luxury of having us home the previous week and they are not used to holding it all day anymore. She obliges and I hide the contraband in the car while bringing in the next load of bags. Another disaster narrowly averted. I throw a pot of water on to boil for the pasta and try to think of what healthy meal Marty and I would eat - leftover turkey sandwiches - again? I begin to wash the jars I have, to ready them for this weeks soup. The pasta is done and the girls have dinner. Marty comes home and brings the dogs inside to dry off while I put the finishing touches on our open faced turkey sandwiches with melted cheese and left over gravy. While we are eating Mary reads us her story for the night about germs. Germs are everywhere and they make us sick the story tells us. They are in our food and on our hands and in our sneezes and coughs...she writes her review of the story which reads "My mom had an infection once." and moves onto do her math homework while I gather the dishes and load them into the dishwasher with the soup jars. The clock says it is 7:40. I begin to debone the chicken reserving the meat for soup and other uses and set up two huge cauldrons to boil water into rich chicken stock adding only a bit of fresh sage and thyme left over from the Thanksgiving Herb pack. The stock is beginning it's slow climb to a boil and Marty makes me a Margarita while I start to reign in the mess. Meanwhile in the background Mary is plunking on the keyboard and singing at the TOP of her lungs...PLUNK "Doe, a deer, a female deer, PLUNK "Ray, a drop of golden sun!", PLUNK "Me, a name I call myself", PLUNK "Fa, I don't know which way to run."...

Cascade Chicken Noodle Soup...from "Simply Classic" Seattle Jr. League Cookbook
2 TBLS Veg. Oil
1 Cup Onion, chopped
3 med cloves garlic, minced
10 cups chicken stock
1 TBLS dry thyme
1/4 tsp dry dill
1/4 tsp pepper
5 sprigs fresh parsley
2 carrots, sliced
6 oz wide egg noodles
1 lb cooked chicken cubed
2 TBLS corn starch
2 cup unflavored yogurt
1/4 cup green onion chopped for garnish

Heat oil in large heavy pot, ass onion and cook over meduim heat until onion is soft. Add garlic and cook a couple of minutes more. Stir in the chicken stock, thyme, dill, pepper,, parsley, and carrots. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Remove and discard parsley. Add noodles to stock. Simmer uncovered, over med. heat until noodles are soft. Add chicken and cover pot to keep soup hot. In a small bowl, stir cornstarch into yogurt then combine with 1 cup of hot broth. Return the mixture to the pot and bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Remove from heat and serve immediately. Garnish with green onion.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

At least I'm enjoying the ride...

Do I go forward picturing the my next move, my next action, my next reaction, the world's response to my action or do I simply go and let Que sera sera. Manifest destiny or go with the flow? Arrogant advancement vs. ignorant blisss?

As I stood on the corner waiting to for the cross walk signal to beckon me over to my afternoon latte, I could not help listening to the conversation between two high school girls. The conversation was repleat with explicatives regarding a third girl - the fuel of the profanity fire. At one point the first said to the second in a loud and animated way..."she so dumb, I never met anybody dumber than that, she so dumb."

I was struck dumb, literally dumb. I could not speak and yet I wanted so much to do so. My mother the English teacher, myself the mom and a million other little voices were screaming inside my head - "DO YOU KNOW HOW IRONICALLY STUPID IT SOUNDS FOR YOU TO SAY "SHE SO DUMB."" I swear I choked to hold back my laughter and then I almost spoke up. The profanities were escalating and nearing crescendo at this point. "That girl could not pass that class if her life depended on it and I got a B in that class last year without ever trying. I heard her dumb brother a drop out too."

English grammar on the corner of NE Broadway and NE Cesar Chavez BLVD is practically a mute point...except possibly when you sound so dumb saying "she so dumb!"

My thoughts raced forward about the possible exchanges that we might have...

I would say, "Ladies you might sound a bit more sophisticated when depreciating your peers if you would at least use proper grammer." They would be so moved by my concern and would make it a point to present themselves in a professsional manner with honed gramatics from then on. The entire course of their lives would change until one day they found themselves donned in stylish business attire, briefcase in hand, on the corner of NE Ceasar Chavez waiting for the cross walk signal to beckon them to their afternoon Green Tea.

Or rather...

I would say, "Do you know how dumb you sound saying "she so dumb!"" and they would re-align the target of their profanities toward yours truly right then and there.

I remain quiet. At Starbucks I ask for a drink, "Please" and "Thank you so much." Off I go.

Destiny is ubiquitous. It manifests itself in every moment of our existence. Every step, every word, every choice. It seems pure arrogance to say that we choose the path we are on.

At the very next stop light the car in front of me has a bumper sticker..."I miss Jerry." I do too. "At least I'm enjoying the ride. At least I'm enjoying the ride."

Ginger Pumpkin Soup from Country Living

2 can(s) (15-ounce) pumpkin puree
3 can(s) (14 1/2-ounce) chicken broth
1 can(s) (11 1/2-ounce) pear nectar
1/3 cup(s) creamy peanut butter
2 clove(s) garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoon(s) grated fresh ginger root
2 tablespoon(s) finely chopped green onion
1 tablespoon(s) fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
1/4 teaspoon(s) ground cayenne pepper
Toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
Chopped chives (optional)

In a 6-quart saucepan, combine pumpkin puree, chicken broth, and pear nectar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes.
In a blender or the bowl of a food processor fitted with chopping blade, process 1 cup pumpkin mixture with peanut butter until smooth. Return to saucepan with the remaining pumpkin mixture. Add garlic, ginger root, green onion, lime juice, salt, and cayenne pepper; cook 10 minutes over medium heat.
Divide soup among soup plates and garnish with pumpkin seeds and chives, if desired. Serve immediately.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Better with bacon?

One of my favorite and most anticipated activities each summer is sitting on the deck of Grant Pool night after night watching my children's painstakingly slow progress towards their illustrious Olympic swimming careers while "reading" my book. This year however the swim lessons are slow in more ways than one...

Normally I glean the best information about life in NE Portland right here on deck. Forget PDXCAFEMAMA or the bulletin board outside of New Seasons. Sit on the deck at Grant Pool and you will learn which Pre-schools are the best, the new hot spot for birthday parties, how much blueberries are selling for at Fred Meyer, or when the annual sale at Footwise starts. You will hear tales of woe - unemployed neighbor has to put their house on the market as they can no longer afford the payments, (...very much are they selling it for?) Tales of lust - aforementioned neighbor is also getting divorced, too much free time led to some afternoon wanderings, (eek!...with who?) You will hear tales of joy - so and so is having a third child, 2 months along now found out she is having two, (OMG!...better her than me!)

This year however just about every conversation that you eavesdrop, um I mean happen to overhear - at Grant Pool is the weather. We all want it HOT and it is not. The annual summer 3 weeks of 90 plus degree weather we have in PDX is as anticipated as it's counterpart "Artic Blast 2011 - Storm Team Coverage 24-7 right here on this channel!" This year no dice. The big box stores are up to their ears in fans and air conditioners that Portlanders run out and buy annually when Matt Z. tells us we might see temps in the 90's. Grant pool is still advertising that the water is heated and the moms are still promising their little blue lipped babes "hot showers" if they do a good job in their swimming lesson.

Generally I tune out of the conversations at the point of the weather and wait for more interesting spicy NE PDX mom subjects to pop into my in-inadvertently (of course) eavesdropping ears as I attempt (pretend?) to read my summer book group pick on the pool deck.

Unfortunately this summer the next hottest topic is also really a bore...and perhaps more bothersome to me than the weather - the mosquitoes. Everyone seems to have more bites, complaints, remedies, repellent strategies and scientific factoids about mosquito breeding theories than the next person. These conversations do drag. People love to go on about the state of the blood sucking populations of their own backyard domains forever and of course they have to "1-up" their neighbors on this subject. If you say you are not bothered or affected by these beastly loathsome little creatures that interfere with BBQ's, camping, gardening, and summertime evening porch sitting - you are plain lying. If you breath out CO2, you are as miserable as me - period. No point making me more miserable chatting incessantly about it at the pool.

And how in the world does this have anything to do with bacon? Hell if I know. I do know that everything IS better with bacon. Unless of course you are converting to a vegan lifestyle in the interest of boosting your thyroid health...and even then maybe..? I could convert to Vegan-ism if they invented a "Vegan Plus Bacon" diet. Worth a try I think. We are doing a bit of BBQ-ing this year despite the mosquitoes and cold weather - we just bring our vittles inside for consumption. Our favorite new discovery on the grill this year - "Pecan Crusted Pork Tenderloin Pinwheels" from Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book. This entire book is meaty - way way more meaty than the chat at Grant Pool this year. And these pinwheels in particular are pork wrapped in pork. Yes, PIG - in the shape of smoky succulent bacon tucked neatly and deliciously inside of PIG in the fom of juicy tenderloin - whoa! Unreal decadent goodness...this is deliverance people!! Deliverance from cool weather, mosquitoes and idle vegan chat on the deck of the Grant Pool...Enjoy.
Pecan-Crusted Pork Tenderloin Pinwheels
1 pork tenderloin
6 bacon strips
1 cups finely chopped pecans
Salt & Pepper
Plus on recipe Carolina Mustard Sauce:
(combine all ing. and wix well - store refrigerated up to 2 weeks, great on burers as well)
3/4 cup prepared yellow mustard
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 TBL ketchup
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
Cut the tenderloin lengthwise (yes-lengthwise) into 6 long strips about 1/4 in. thick.
Place a strip of Bacon on top of each strip of tenderloin,
roll into pinwheel and secure with toothpicks.
You can also secure with 2 toothpicks and cut between them for smaller,
appetizer size pinwheel medallions.
Stir together pecans with Salt and Pepper to taste in a bowl.
Coat the pinwheels with Carolina Mustard Sauce and then roll to coat with pecan mixture.
Grill over medium heat for 7 to 8 minutes on each side, less if doing mediallions.
Enjoy with extra Carolina Mustard Sauce.

Friday, March 5, 2010

I remember

Memory is such a strange thing. The things we remember and the things we don't for whatever reason. The older I get the more I remember fondly certain parts of my earliest childhood and the more I tend to forget what I ate for lunch yesterday. My early memories are triggered by certain smells or the lighting of a particular time of day or season. I remember as a very young child wandering around the house looking for a patch of sunlight on the floor. I would curl up in it's warmth and wake up later shivering after the sun had shifted on and left me in the shade. I look at my girls and wonder what will they remember most and why. I know the big old heating vent in the corner of the living room will be in the fore-front of both of their recollections. They sit on that warm air vent reading, coloring, doing homework. They have huge squabbles over who got to it first and they put off hunger or even the need to to the bathroom so the other will not steal their 'spot' on the vent. Of course they will not remember everything but certain times will become embedded in their psyche and come back to them with sentimentality when they are 40 and I am a bit older than that - triggered by lighting or sounds or seasons or a tone of voice...who knows.

When I was in kindergarten my dad took me to that beauty parlor on Main Street and had my very long hair cut short as a "gift" to my mom who struggled with me every morning when she put ponytails or braids in my very long - very tangly - very thick hair. That beauty parlor had a glass door with sand blown glass shutters and a bell that tingled whenever someone opened it. The place smelled like perm chemicals even from outside. I remember passing by the shop on the sidewalk and smelling the smell of the hair salon which was next door to the florist shop so it was an interesting mix for the olfactory sense that one does not easily forget. Inside the chemical fumes were even more intense and I had suffered through them at some point before this as I waited for my mother or my Auntie Maryellen or someone to get a haircut. I can't even remember if dad asked me if I wanted to get my hair cut and I know he didn't ask mom by the way she cried and cried when she saw me. I felt like dad and I had just gotten into big trouble and it was rather confusing for me as a five year old because you never get in trouble when you are doing something with your dad - right?

We always set the table for breakfast at night before we went to bed with place mats, cereal bowls, napkins, spoons, juice glasses - the works. We all had breakfast together before we went off tho the various other parts of our day. The night before it was my turn to set the table. It was all ready for breakfast when I went to bed that night but in the morning it was a mess. The place mats and dishes were moved aside and in their place were used glasses and a dirty ashtray with old cigars in it. This memory is vivid for me because it is the first time I recall reasoning to a logical conclusion - of what had happened to my perfectly set breakfast table. But it was also the overwhelming emotion of inadequacy I felt at that moment for the first time. Let me explain...I remember waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of someone yelling "It's a boy! It's a boy!" as loud as can be. Seeing the glasses and cigars that morning n the table I clearly figured out that our neighbor Mr. Gizzarelli and his wife had had a baby boy and Bob came to our house to announce the great news and celebrate with my dad and cigars & scotch. Bingo! I had put the pieces of the messed up table setting together by myself - a celebration for a newborn baby boy! The very next thing I remember was feeling bad - really bad that I was not a boy. The emotional rush I felt that my dad would celebrate so much because the neighbor had "a boy!" "a boy!". I wondered if dad wished that I had been a boy - not a girl? Weird the thoughts that kids think.

I learned how to swim in part when my dad threw me into a pool at some hotel we were at and said "swim!". Of course I remember this...hello...traumatic. Child services would have you for that these days. The memory is most vivid for me now as I sit next to the pool at Matt Dishman Community Center smelling the intense chlorine smell and watching Mary and her instructor practicing her side breathing, kicks, and backstroke. The hours I have spent watching swimming lessons...I could teach them was my summer job through high school and into college. Mary loves the water and is quite determined to swim "all the way down" by next fall so she too can be on the CYO swim team like her big sister. Good for her - somethings are best taught by someone other than a parent - lesson learned dad, thanks. And just FYI mom, I am not going to teach them to drive either!

Getting lost on the subway on the way back to Queens after a Yankee game..I think we were at a game but I remember clearly being on the subway and being lost. We went to a lot of Yankee games in the great late 1970s and they really were...great! Dad was successful in creating a least one or two fans of the four of us! Dad must have been unfamiliar with the train routes and Suzanne and I were exhausted and I think we nodded off on the subway while he talked to conductors trying to figure out what line we needed to be on to get where we were going - Queens I think it was after Grandma Anne moved to Rockaway. What I remember most though about being lost on the subway with dad was that I was not in the least bit - not one fiber of my being - afraid. Even though I knew we were lost I felt totally safe with my dad and I just wanted to fall asleep. An incredible sense of security that I rarely feel now that I am a parent with responsibilities of various kinds. A few weeks ago Mary and I headed over the river to Vancouver to a birthday party. I went armed with an address and a vague idea of where to go. Of course we got lost and as we approached a full hour in the car driving around I looked back at Mary who sat in the sun in her car seat nodding off and thought of the panic and fear I had of missing the party...oh to be such a trusting fearless child again...of course I was going to get her to the party she assumed...or maybe in the way 5-year olds think she figured the party wouldn't start without her.

I remember going to my dad's office with him on a weekend and getting to play with the type writer. Now that I am an adult I can just imagine how this must have played out...Mom likely had had it - as she put it - "up to here with us"... but dad needed to get some stuff done at work on a Saturday. So we got to go along, maybe a Yankee game after too. Kara may have been a baby and the demands of her care were draining and exhausting on my parents as they took turns staying up at night to be sure she was still breathing in that time before monitors for SIDS. The old style type writers kept Suzanne and I busy for a seemed like a while to us any way. Dad situated us in the room next to his with paper and some click clack typewriters. There was a window - he could see us through it. The sound of the buttons and watching the silver metallic arms with the black inky letters embedded at the end flying up and striking the paper. It was fun to press several keys at a time and watch the arms get tangled or to press one key and then grab the arm when it came up before it hit page...until one of us got our hand stuck in it (tears, screaming) and had to be rescued. Kids are so tough.

Chap stick. I think my dad always has a tube of chap stick in his pocket. His kisses always smelled like chap stick. I remember as a child going into my dad's sock drawer at the very top of the dresser. He had a box in which he kept some religious medals, a scapula, spare change if we were lucky, at times his wedding band, and usually some old worn out chap stick tubes. I would uncap them and breath in his "smell". He used the tubes down to where you could see the little white stick in the middle. It is the smell I most attribute to my childhood memories of Dad. Moments before I walked down the aisle on his arm to get married he pulled a tube of chap stick out of his pocket and put some on - he let me put some on too.

LONG Lectures about the bible, specifically the old testament. Dad really liked the old testament. If we had a dinner full of fidgeting or chaos or refusing to eat liver you could count on him pulling out the bible and reading the old testament to us and talking about Moses and Abraham and sacrifice etc. All the while he would twist his napkin into little itty bits and we would have to sit there for hours and hours and hours - or so it seemed to me at the time. I stared at that napkin being twisted and untwisted and twisted again waiting for the words "you may be excused" so we could jump up and run far away to our rooms. Not sure if I can even tell you what it was he said about the old testament except that it was a bit frightening contemplating that a parent would take his own child up to the mountain to kill him because God told him to...especially hearing it from your own dad - made me want to behave...always.

I have watched dad's faith journey over the years from the Old Testament preaching days to family retreats and experiencing the love of Jesus with "Renew" and "Encounter" to a solid internal peaceful spirit he seemed to have of late. Dad passed away on March 7th and he had been very ill for a very long time. We have spent two and a half years praying, fighting and wondering when/if the illnesses would get the better of him. This time has not been easy - least of all for him and mom. As adult children these past couple of years we have witnessed how our parents have tried to handle illness with grace - sometimes without grace, with strength - sometimes with no strength, and with God - and I am sure - with doubt in God.

This will be our generation someday too and we will have these examples to draw from. It is human nature to falter and it is with Grace and faith that we rise above. I credit Mom and Dad for the visible presence of faith in my life...they always made it a priority to go to church, Catholic school, and to sit around the dinner table listening to stories about Abraham and Moses. In the end they let go and let us kids follow our own faith paths but thanks to them we all have richer fuller lives now. When the time comes for us to feel the power of illness and death I hope I can find God's Grace in my life as mom and dad have done.

Today I remembered my dad in the form of a pretty grey wool hat that he bought for me. We were Christmas shopping this past October for my mom and we walked all over the mall - not a small feet for my dad at the time. He wandered into J.Crew and pointed out a hat he insisted I would look great in and he insisted on purchasing for me. Later in the library today I was brought to tears reading a recipe for banana pancakes. My dad loved to make banana pancakes. It seems like when I was younger my mom dominated the kitchen scene learning to cook like Julia Child she was forever reading recipe books and making fancy date night entrees - maybe that is why when dad had the chance to shine in the kitchen he did so at breakfast....

Banana Sour Cream Pancakes:

1.5 Cups flour

3 TBLS. sugar

2 tsp bkg pwder

1.5 tsp kosher salt

.5 cup sour cream

.75 cup milk plus 1 TBLS

2 ex lg eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 ripe bananas, sliced

In a med. bowl sift together flour sugar baking powder and salt. Whisk together the sour cream milk eggs, and vanilla. add the wet ingred. to the dry ones. Mixing only until combined. Melt one TBLS butter in a LG. sillet over med. heat until it bubbles. Ladel the pancake batter into the pan. distribute a rounded TBLS of bananas onto each pancake, cook for 2-3 minutes, until bubbles appear on the top and the underside of the pancakes is nicely browned. Flip the pancakes, and then cook for another minute, until brown. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, and add more butter to the pan, and continue cooking until all the batter is used. Serve with sliced, bananas, butter, and 100% real maple syrup.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

French Onion Soup

Apparently, based on the comments I am hearing about this week's soup selection, the entire free world loves and craves good french onion soup. I myself - not so much. Why did I include this illustrious soup in the line up one might ask...Marty can be counted in among the entire free world category - he loves it. I have never made it before - not once. I know he likes it though because he orders it in restaurants. What I can glean from his experiences at these establishments about onion soup are it is either great or not worth finishing. He always seems to manage to eat the cheese and bread on top, but he does not always slurp down the last bit of soup. Seems strange to me that it would be difficult to make a dish with practically one ingredient - poorly. I decided it was time to test my soup making merit on this classic - not only for you wonderful Wednesday soup fans (I didn't even have a following yet when I made the list of soups) - but I included it for Marty.

That I placed in February close to Valentines day was just a fluke - I am not that corny. Moreover it's placement during the week leading up to the COLTS Superbowl appearance probably earns me more endearing points in Marty's book ...however I could not have predicted that either and had I attempted to predict that the COLTS would still be in the running at this point in the season and had the COLTS fallen short of that goal I personally would have gotten the blame for Jinxing their entire season - yes I have that kind of power over the National Football League - it is a little known fact but the things that I say or even think about the COLTS can help them or jinx them so I always have to be very careful in that arena.

Back to this weeks soup story...onions. If you are sick and tired of hearing your kids fight .... if you need just an hour or so of peace and quiet .... ladies, grab a ten pound bag of onions and a butcher knife. I am serious - your family will run for the hills. Brigid ran out of the kitchen and up to her room door slamming behind her when she saw me pull out those onions. I heard her screaming something like "No Mommy...No!" as she left. At this point I think my neighbors were speed dialing child protective services. Mary is a different bird. She sat down at the counter and asked if she could help me chop. I said sweetly, "No honey, but you can keep Mommy company while I work." What a wonderful mommy ruse!! That sweet little 5 year old really tried to stick it out for a while too - maybe twenty minutes or so before she looked at me with those huge, puffy, red watery eyes and said "I think I'll go see what Brigid is doing." At some point Marty came through hands over his face asking for mercy - he too retreated to Brigid's room where they all spent some wonderful family time huddled in blankets next to an open window. I plugged in my I pod to the player, opened the window and relaxed while I chopped chopped chopped. AHHHH...peace and quiet cooking in the kitchen.

Once I got all the onions chopped, into the oven to caramelize for three hours, and the kitchen cleaned up, the second reason no one ever makes this soup at home hit me right in the nose. While you may initially think that the smell of onions cooking is pleasant and appealing - try smelling it for 3 full hours at 400 degrees. And the oven caramelization method is kinder than stove top at least in that your olfactory glands are not being forced to stand over the pot while you stir. We went about the rest of our business as usual that Sunday evening having dinner, making lunches and coffee for the next day, packing backpacks and tote bags and finally sitting down to a bit of TV. Before retiring for the night I turned off the onions to let them cool off, covered overnight. At 3am I awoke from a terrible dream. I dreamt I could not catch my breath. When I awoke I smelled the onions. It was as though I had been gone on a long vacation and returned home to take that first whiff of air as you walk through your front door when your house has been closed up for a week and your like..."so this is what our house smells like to strangers" except that it was horrible. In the morning I as I unwrapped and packaged up my perfectly caramelized onions into the fridge I could not wait to get out into the fresh air and walk the dogs. Whew. The smell PERMEATES absolutely everything. By 7am as I sat down to start up my computer at work I realized the extent of this last statement when my coworker Ray said to me - "What is that smell?" and I realized it was me. All day long I subjected poor innocent souls to the Au du Onion perfume I was sporting that day. I called Marty and begged him to Febreeze the children thoroughly before sending them to school lest they be the object of elementary school ridicule all day. I stopped by "Whole (Paycheck) Foods" on the way home and invested part of the days earnings on various incense to try to overpower the enormous odor when I returned home. I got one bundle of herbs called a "smudge". This grouping of cedar and sage and lavender said that it would clear the room of unwanted odors if I burned it. It sure did clear the room of the unwanted odors. I lit the smudge and now the room smelled as though we were smoking a peace pipe - a big fully loaded pipe - with Native Americans. Too bad it didn't feel like that to me as well unfortunately I was still stressed and the house still reeked. Next I lit the less expensive even more pungent Changa sticks...

The moral of the story - Never try to mask the smell 10 lbs of cooked onions with incense or your house will smell like cooked onions AND incense. Also never make French Onion Soup at home...order it at your favorite restaurant. IF you are lucky you will get a bowl worth slurping to the last drop or if not - at least eat the cheese and the bread. If you are like my children and choose not to listen and learn from me - here is the illustrious French Onion soup recipe which is from Cooks Illustrated Magazine...

3 TBLS unsalted butter

6 Large yellow onions (I found the Safeway Organics bag to be the most economical at 1.50/bag and the best quality as well) halfed and sliced pole to pole.


2 Cups Water plus extra for deglazing

4 Cups low sodium chicken broth

2 Cups beef broth

1/4 cup dry sherry

6 sprigs Thyme bundled with kitchen twine

1 bay leaf

ground black pepper

croutons/toasted baguette

swiss cheese/asiago cheese

Preheat oven to 400. Place butter, onions and salt in large oven safe dutch oven pot coated generously with cooking spray and cook covered in oven for 1 hour.

Remove pot from oven and stir onions sraping bottom and sides of pot. Return pot to oven with lid slightly ajar for another 1.5 to 2 hours.

Remove pot from oven and place over medium high heat on stove top.

Deglaze onions stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot until very little liquid remains and onions are brwning nicely. Add 1/2 cup water scraping fond off bottom of pot and deglaze again. Deglaze a third time. Should take a total of 30 to 45 minutes for a nice dark brown color to develop.

Add 1/4 cup sherry and stir until liquid is reduced by half.

Stir in broths, water, and herb bundle. Scrape any remaining fond from bottom of pot and bring soup to boil. Reduce to simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

Remove herbs. Ladel soup into broiler proof crocks. Top each with croutons or toasted baguetter and cheese. Put under broiler long enough to melt cheese and make it slightly browned and bubbly. Serve immediately. Slurp down the whole bowl not just the cheese and bread!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My children LOVE Ikea. They actually sing-chant "let's go to I-KEY-A, let's go to I-KEY-A, let's go to I-KEY-A..." as we drive towards the sprawling megalith that is Ikea Portland.

When I ask the girls if they would like to go out for a nice dinner they say yeah! ...and then they choose IKEA. (Generally they get overruled - but not always.) The appeal largely seems to be in form...not so much in culinary mastery. The format of a line - cafeteria style - where you have a tray and multitudes of food choices laid out before you. There is a sense of ownership in choosing what you will eat from a vast number of offerings that a child - at least my children - do not get at home. "I declare this piece of Triple Chocolate Overload Cake to be mine!" Ikea marketers are not dummies - dessert is displayed first and while you are still busy getting the trays and silverware the kids reach out and put that chocolate mountain smack in the middle of their tray. The ingenious Z formation of the line behind you makes it nearly impossible to tell your child to "put that back" because everyone behind you has seen your child touch it already. Still if you choose to battle with them the conversation and parenting style you choose to engage in to loosen the cake from their grip is presented for critique by your Z formation audience. At least it gives them all something to do while they stand there waiting for their meatballs.

After a nice dinner watching the planes land at the Portland international airport from the floor to ceiling windows in the dining area at IKEA we head over to the toy area. This is the one place in all of Portland besides the Irvington COOP Preschool resale event that every mother needs to stay as far away from as humanly possible. Here we find mountainous bins of - not even sure I can type the words - ugh, give me strength - stuffed animals. I am too weak to even type more on this taboo topic. Enough said.

I have more of a love hate relationship with the place. I love that it occupies and feeds my children for hours on a rainy day however I always seem to find a wonderful something for my home that I just cannot leave behind because - and this is the hate part - it might not be there the next time you go. The Swedes do not get enough credit for their ingenious marketing strategies - you have to buy it and buy it today because it may not be here tomorrow. This fact is exponentially true if you really really like it and could use it someday in the future but it is not really essential for you to have today. Take the set of 6 extra teaspoons in the pattern that nearly matches my regular silverware. It would come in so handy when we have guests. Who knows when that will be. The set costs only $10 but I just got the quarterly water bill and now is just not a good time to be spending any extra. BUT I guarantee they will pull that silverware from the stock as soon as I walk out the door and later this summer when untold masses of people arrive for fun in the Pacific NW I will be demonstrating that Portland is not really that green as I serve my Baja Chicken Tortilla soup with plastic spoons because I chose to walk out of IKEA one day without an impulse purchase.

If your
Kids are happy
Eating meatballs
At Ikea - they will love this recipe...

Swedish Meatballs my Auntie Maryellen Used to Make
(Really there were no measurements with this recipe when it was given to me. I have given some of my estimates but they depend a bit on how many meatballs you plan to make - take the chance, it is worth it!)
Mix & Form Meatballs with:
1lb Ground Beef
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
Onion chopped fine or grated, (about half of small to medium yellow onions)
1 Egg
1/2 cup Milk
Nutmeg (about 1/4 teas.)

Brown meatballs on all sides in high sided skillet, add 2-3 cups beef broth and about 1 cup red wine and simmer until meatballs are cooked and sauce has reduced and thickened a bit. Remove meatballs before serving and add a whole container of sour cream to pan sauce. Whisk until incorporated and rewarmed and then pour over meatballs and serve with wide egg noodles.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


I awarded myself the title "soup-er mom" because I am a mom & I make soup. (I do think I am a good mom - at times - but that is not what this blog is about - at least not yet.)

I make soup once a week for family and friends. I am not super duper - I don't give it all away for free - I wish I could afford to - for now my friends give me money towards ingredients and time - about $10.00 per jar that feeds 4 people each a nice sized serving. Soup on Wednesdays began with minestrone back in the beginning of December. As the winter has progressed we have slurped our way through ginger-pumpkin, chicken noodle, chili, cream of broccoli, and lentil. I am anticipating more great steaming bowls to round out & bid farewell to the cold season of winter...tomato, white bean, onion, etc. I am making 6-8 64oz containers of the liquid happiness every week plus some for our family too. The interesting part of the soup project for me is why I do it?

Why do soup?
I really don't know. I work outside the home 5 days/week. I have two children who are still entirely dependent at the ages of 5 and 8 on me for cooking, cleaning, entertainment, driving, refereeing, homework help - you name it. I have two six month old puppies. Did you read that line?!? Right there - that is insanity! As adorable as our little rescue pups are - of course they are adorable why else would we have said "make it a double!" - they entail uber amounts of work. They must be walked, fed, socialized and exercised not to mention cleaning all the mud, fur, and oops - accidents! I am a wife and a daughter. Both relationships with their own unique challenges and rewards depending on the why? - I ask myself, take on another seemingly herculean and quite unnecessary project at this time.

I have spent long 'whiles' contemplating this question. While peeling carrots. While chopping onions. While shopping for ingredients. While de-boning chicken...etc. I have theories. To me these theories are like shopping for shoes in my innermost soul. They look really good in the window and so I go in the store. I think "This is the perfect shoe for me! It will go with everything even that skirt I never know what to wear with and besides that...they are soooo cute!" In the other part of my mind - the part that decidedly thinks I need to change everything about me to become what I long to be but am not - I look at the shoes and think - "These will make me look so hip and cool." Next then I try them on for size and fit. I walk around in them - are these "Me"? And of course there is the reality of my soul searching - the price - can I afford these shoes and still pay the mortgage? I come up with a yes these shoes are me or no way would I be caught dead in these. (Too often it is yes - who can't have another pair of perfect shoes - I am right!?!")

Midlife Shoes

Co-ink-idently - just before I started the soup 'business' I had my mile-stone 40th birthday. I, like many of my friends before me; allowed it to pass quietly - no big deal - right. I truly felt ok about forty for a few reasons:

1. I am the kid on the block. Recall the aforementioned fact many of my friends are already forty or older. I went to four or five parties for people in my life turning forty just this year. and for each of those who had gatherings - many more passed the milestone meekly.

2. I have a November birthday so I had a whole year to think "It's 2009, the year I turn 40". "It's 2009, the year I turn 40." "It's 2009, the year I turn 40." By the time it happened by - It was so yesterday.

3. I just don't look it. Not necessarily a good thing - I am short. I still get the occasional request for ID at the grocery or restaurants and I am quite sure it is due to my stature. Most people think I am much younger than I am and frankly - that DOES make it easier.

But I did turn forty and something is different about saying "I am 40" rather than 30-something. I have been more introspective for one thing - I keep looking inside to find out how has forty changed me? Do I need to change simply because I am embarking on my 4th decade? When I look at myself at 30 and today I have changed in so many ways. Do I feel the need to do something because I am now forty? Other people buy sports cars, cut off their hair, get tatoos...I'll make soup. Nah...that can't be enough. The mid-life shoe is not quite fitting right but it is still a maybe...maybe mid-life for me is making soup.

Career Shoes

I have a good job. It is a reliable, stable job and it is a bit boring. I am well educated, have a degree in Biochemistry and I get paid a good wage to do the work I do; however...I have been at it 14 years and could do it in my sleep. The job never really changes, there is no room in my work for creativity - standard operating procedure is the mantra here. At times I find the predictability of my work rewarding and satisfying and simply perfect for me and on other days...(manager, manager, manager)...I just want to run off and join the circus...or open a coffee shop, or be a hairdresser, or be a writer, or most often...a mom who stays home. I thought maybe I had put the soup on the front burner - literally to see if I want a new career? Do I want to just bust out and open my own place and be my own capital, health insurance, no time off, hiring employees, payroll, rent, marketing, etc. - that shoe is never going to fit - I am pretty sure.

Italian Shoes

I am half Irish and half Italian - Sicilian to be specific. This is quite a dichotomy when it comes to my inner food relationship. The Irish side of me is starving and the Italian side says "Mangi" and cooks up huge batches of food. It is true what they say about Italians cooking for everyone and force feeding crowds of people. I am not even that in touch with my heritage but when I step into the kitchen I want to feed people and I want them to love it and ask for seconds so I make a lot of food. I have gotten better at cooking the right amount for my family most of the time but when it comes to soup I always seem to end up with enough for a small army of people. There are left overs for days and we find ourselves not wanting to having soup again for a month because we are so sick of it. But... I love soup so much especially in the cold rainy northwest. Here is a food that is generally healthy and satisfying and it warms my heart and warms my body. When the first cold rain hits the windshield in November I just want to run home to a huge steaming bowl of soup. Why not then, make enough for us and give the rest away. It helps to keeps the soup allure going for me. I have it for dinner once a week and don't have to eat leftovers for 3 days. Bonus: I satisfy my need to feed. The Italian in me gets no greater pleasure than hearing that people are fighting over the last bowl of my soup! The Italian shoes are always the nicest ones aren't they!

In the end it doens't really matter why. I am busy doing - my hands are busy, my mind is busy and that seems to keep me happy...when it is not making me crazy. That is life. I would rather live it, than sit it out.
(Photo above)
(from "The Best Recipe Italian Classics")
The secret to this soup is adding the rind from a wedge of Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano, the Parmesan of Parmesans.
2 small leeks, white and light parts, sliced thin crosswise
2 medium carrots, chopped small
2 small onions, chopped small
2 medium stalks celery, chopped small
1 medium baking potato, peeled and diced
1 medium zuchinni, chopped medium
3 cups stemmed spinach, cut into thin strips
1 (28oz) can whole tomato in juice, drained and chopped
8 cups water
1 parmesan cheese rind, about 3X5 inch
1 15oz can cannellini beans, drain and rinsed
1/4 cup fresh pesto, I make mine very garlicky
fresh ground black pepper to taste
Bring the vegtables, tomato, water and cheese rind to a boil in large stockpot or dutch oven. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the vegtables are tender but still hold their shape - about 1 hour. Remove and discard the cheese rind. Add the beans and cook until just heated through. Remove from heat. Stir in the pesto. Adjust the seasonings and serve immediately.