Saturday, July 26, 2008

Houver-douver conundrum

So, I'm going to a cocktail party tonight. Yippee! Time to make an awesome houver-douver (hors d'oeuvre for those of you who insist on pronouncing it correctly).

My first thought, sometime during the week, was "find a simple,
popular recipe that is sure to please the masses AND not take me all day to prepare."

So I found one, highly recommended (by the person who posted it), on the Cooking Light bulletin board. It was "Skewered Tortellini with Creamy Parmesan Dip" or something like that. I shelled out for handmade tortellini, lemons and creme fraiche at Whole Foods, and I was on my way.

Well, as usual, I had doubts. For one thing, this isn't the kind of food I care for. It's carb-heavy, fatty and cheesy -- three strikes in my book. But I pressed on, and made the dip this morning, thinking, if it isn't good, I still have time for Plan B. Well, it wasn't good. It was a gritty, sour blech-fest. Time for Plan B. I'm pretty much known for Plan B.

My heart (and stomach) were saying, "fresh, light, crunchy," when I stumbled upon a great-looking Vietnamese Spring Roll with Spicy Dipping Sauce (OK, that's not the real name, but that's what I'm calling it because I can't quite remember the real name). Made a run to Stop and Shop, found all necessary ingredients, and came home to create my masterpiece.

It's just what I wanted. It looks great and tastes even better. Now to find an equally fabulous outfit, and go make a name for myself on the local cocktail party circuit. I have arrived!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Family Dinner - My favorite time of day!

I can't express how much I enjoy the family dinner time.

The typical scene is that I plan the dinner, based on what I know the family enjoys with some surprises (new recipes I'm dying to try) mixed in.

Every day without fail, one of the family members will ask, "What's for dinner." I have an index card with the week's meals clipped to the family calendar, but I guess no one notices it. Then they ask, "What time are we eating?" Well, we ALWAYS eat between 6:15 and 6:45 pm, but I guess they need it nailed down, just so they aren't in the middle of a Guitar Hero riff (TS); the latest Nick or Disney show (DD); or a nap (Hubby).

Then, in a giant leap of faith, I assume the kids will be present at dinnertime and will remember to do their jobs.
My job = planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning as I go and, during the school year, assisting with homework, which seems to reach a crisis point just as I need to pay close attention to the saute pan
Kids' job = washing their hands, setting the table and pouring drinks before the meal fossilizes

I just realized I started this post about how I enjoy dinnertime, AND I TRULY DO.

So I'll get to the good part. We all sit down, everyone has a smile on their face, and the talk just starts. We update each other on our days, which usually leads to auxilliary conversations about random topics, and frequently ends with TS doing some sort of crazy impersonation or silly voice that has us all cracking up. It's a good thing I know the Heimlich Maneuver, because one of these days, we're going to need it.

We frequently remember and talk about the times when the kids were little, and they crack up at the stories. One our favorite dinnertime memories from that era was when we'd let DD let out of her highchair, she'd use the edge of the table to propel herself around to her brother's plate (picky eater, remember?). He'd leave a lot of food on his plate, and she knew it. So we'd just see a little arm reaching up and grabbing whatever was left on his plate.

Well, it's time to make tonight's meal. I know it will be a good one.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Weekend Recap

Does Friday count as the weekend? I have to start there. I was up early watching the news when I saw that people were already lining up at the Apple store for the new iPhone, scheduled to be released at 8 am.

TS had been saving up, and I had promised him I'd take him to the store early in the morning. I was thinking maybe 7 am. But now I was worried, as I couldn't wait in line all day; I had to get back to take DD to camp by 9 am.

[This would be the time to tell you that my husband is away racing at NHMS this weekend, hence me running around like a chicken with her head cut off. Well, I do that when he's here, too. It's just my standard mode.]

I woke TS, and we were at the mall by 6:20. The line at the Apple store was maybe 35 deep. TS was just starting to count when a very kind security guard tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Come with me. They're also being sold at the AT&T store upstairs, and no one is in line there." Long story short, he was 6th in line; he got the phone; and I got DD to camp on time.

Our friends from out of town stopped in on Friday for dinner. We loved seeing them and catching up. DD and her old friend reconnected instantly. TS went out to the movies with a friend. We all went to bed by 10 pm.

Saturday was a lazy day with errands and our first crack at getting TS packed up for sleepaway camp. It wasn't pretty. In fact, I'll go take a picture of how we left things. Six days and counting until he leaves. I don't know how the packing and labeling will get done, but it will. It was definitely time for a glass of wine and dinner. It had cooled off enough so the kids and I could eat dinner on the deck and then play in the backyard for a while. I also took the opportunity to clean off the grill racks. Yup, that was my Saturday night.

Meanwhile, in NH, my husband had won his race!!! I asked the kids what we should do for Dad to congratulate him. "Bacon," they replied, so bacon it will be, one morning after he returns.

This morning, I was up early again (thank you, loud cat) so I went for a run before dropping DD off for her camp field trip. She was going to the Big Apple Circus in Rhode Island, and she was very excited. The rest of the morning and afternoon, I read the Globe, ran an errand, worked on my website, cooked a few new things, and hung out with TS.

GOOD NEWS FLASH: TS just paid me the $208 he owed me for the iPhone.

BAD NEWS FLASH: He has forbidden me from taking a picture of "his stuff," so there will be no picture of the disaster that is the camp packing zone.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What's For Dinner, Part 2

What did I tell you? Sure enough, my well-laid plans for the week have been blown to smithereens. In fact, I just read a quote that I find quite appropriate: "If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans." (or have him take a look at your wacky sideways kebab picture)

Things went swimmingly on Sunday and Monday. Tuesday afternoon, my Darling Daughter (DD) developed some "tummy trouble" and has been subsisting on ginger ale and soda crackers ever since. Dinner went on sort of as-scheduled Tuesday, just without DD and Teenage Son (TS), who had fled to a friend's house.

Today I remembered that we're having some old friends and their kids over for dinner on Friday, which made me rethink my seafood and Asian-vegetable themed meal.

Tonight, DD is feeling better but still not ready for food. TS is HUNGRY, so I ran out to my butcher and got some steak and turkey tips to grill. No sooner did I light the grill then a torrential downpour ensued. "Mom, the grill is smoking. A lot. You better come see," DD cried from her comfy position on the couch. "It looks like a mad scientist experiment," TS commented.

The storm passed, and I grilled in a light drizzle. One of the cats escaped as I came back in the house, but he's the slow one, so I was able to grab him before he wandered off. We thoroughly enjoyed the dinner, which was Grilled Steak Kebabs, Grilled Turkey Tips (I'm not much of a red meat eater) and Orzo with Spinach. TS had plain steak and some orange wedges. DD didn't eat. What will tomorrow bring? I'd better not plan anything just yet.

Grilled Steak Kebabs with Orange and Hoisin Glaze
adapted from Bon Appetit

1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
2 T. chili powder
1 1/2 T. olive oil
2 t. grated orange peel
1 1/2 lb. sirloin steaks, about 1 1/4" thick, cut into 20 cubes
salt and pepper
3 1/3"-thick orange slices
2 red bell peppers, each pepper cut into about 12 cubes

Heat grill to medium-high heat. Whisk juice concentrate, hoisin, chili powder, oil and orange peel in a medium bowl.
Place beef in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Add 1/4 cup of the sauce and toss well. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut each orange slice into 6 wedges. Alternate 5 beef cubes, 4 orange wedges and 4 pieces of red pepper on each of 4 metal skewers.
Grill kebabs to desired doneness, brushing with a bit more sauce and turning occasionally, about 10 min. for medium-rare.
Serve kebabs with remaining sauce. Serves 4.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Yes, that's Chef Goofy

If you're wondering about my picture, it's me and Chef Goofy striking a pose during my family's recent trip to California.

We took an Adventures by Disney ( vacation called, "Backstage Magic," which included a few days in Hollywood as well as a couple of days at Disneyland. It was a wonderful trip that I highly recommend to folks of all ages. We were part of a small tour group and got many once-in-a-lifetime behind-the-scenes tours of The El Capitain theater in Hollywood, the Jimmy Kimmel Live studio, Jim Hensen's Creature Workshop, the Disney Imagineering Studios, Walt Disney's apartment in Disneyland, a couple of rides and much more. In fact, we were sworn to secrecy about some of the cool things we got to do and see. I'm pretty sure I didn't blow it with the above list.

We were treated like stars, with top-notch accomodations, private meals, more Fast Pass tickets than we could use, immediate access to rides, preferred seating for shows, private tours, etc.

For a very complete commentary on each day of the trip, check out one of our fellow traveler's blog at

Sunday, July 6, 2008

What's For Dinner?

How many times a week do you hear that one? I have to say "Seven." We rarely eat out and my family counts on me to make dinner every night, which I actually enjoy, look forward to, and consider one of the high points of my day.

I try to make a weekly menu and stick to it; however, many things may crop up that will affect the weekly menu. These things usually include at least one of the following:

- the kids being invited to eat at someone else's house
- the kids having many friends over who want to eat at our house
- I see a new recipe and decide I need to make it immediately
- husband tells me he had a big lunch and doesn't want dinner
- we have leftovers of multiple meals and I feel it would be wasteful to make something new

I also have a family who is, let's say, selective. With the exception of my Darling Daughter, the other members of the family have a VERY LONG list of foods they will not eat. But let's not go there now.

So, when I plan a weekly menu, I try to include tried-and-true dishes that I know the pickier eaters will enjoy as well as some new dishes to try, knowing at least my daughter and I will appreciate them.

Here's this week's menu:

Tonight: Grilled Salmon (I will also grill hot dogs for the picky eaters); Herbed Fresh Peas and Corn; Wild Rice

Monday: Hamburgers/Veggie Burgers; Fries; Green Salad; Fresh Fruit

Tuesday: Barbecue Chicken and Black Bean Burritos; Rice; Chopped Salad (cheese quesadillas for the picky eaters)

Wednesday: Daughter out; Son??? Will play it by ear.

Thursday: Mediterranean Chicken with Couscous; Arugula Salad

Friday: Teriyaki Shrimp and Scallops; Asian Bean Salad (picky eaters will NOT like this menu and will probably call for pizza. This rebellion will be led by my husband. I will have LOTS of leftovers for the weekend.)

I'm a blogger!

If my just-turned-11-year-old can do it, so can I!

Let me back up. This morning, at 7 am, my Darling Daughter ran into my bedroom to announce:

1. She had a blog!! and;
2. Her brother was missing!!

Well, to be fair, she told me last night that she had just created a blog. I was reading in bed and it was time for her to go to bed, so I said I'd take a look in the morning. Then I fell asleep. Apparently, I need much more sleep than an 11-year-old. And less than a 13-year-old. More on that later.

So, after her reminder this morning, as well as the news about her brother, I popped out of my very comfy bed and ran downstairs. There, I found my son asleep on the couch, which calmed me down a bit. Then she turned on her laptop and showed me her blog, saying "It's easy, you should do it, too."

My response: "This is going to have to wait until I have a cup of coffee."

So here we are.

As for her brother, he was coming off two sleepovers in a row and had fallen asleep IN HIS BED at about 5 pm on Saturday. I could have sworn I checked on him during the night, but I guess I dreamed that. Apparently, he woke up at some point, went downstairs, ate something involving a lot of crumbs, and fell asleep on the couch, where he remained until about 11 this morning, when I woke him up.