Thursday, August 28, 2008

I (heart) Autumn

I've always loved autumn. When I was a child, September meant new school clothes, school supplies and cooler weather. I still revel in the crisp, cool mornings; sunny, warm days and comfortable evenings. I didn't grow up in New England, but it didn't take any time for me to fall in love with the beautiful fall landscapes and variety of apples and other produce grown locally this time of year. I'm even excited about the orange and gold foil-wrapped Hershey's Kisses I saw in the store yesterday. Fall has arrived!

These days, I also share in my childrens' excitement as they get ready for a new school year. I feel energized and hopeful; full of great expectations and ready for new challenges. In a few weeks, I may feel overwhelmed with carpooling, schedule-juggling and homework angst, but for now, I'm ready for autumn. Bring it on!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Purgatory Chasm

I took my daughter to Purgatory Chasm in Sutton, MA, yesterday. What a cool place! It's a natural rock formation believed to have been formed about 14,000 years ago. I discovered it one afternoon this spring, and I was determined to take my family there to explore.

Yesterday was the perfect day to go: it was sunny and warm, and we didn't have anything on the calendar. However, my husband is nursing a twisted ankle so he bowed out (wise choice). And it goes without saying that TS (teenage son) wanted nothing to do with it. So that's how it ended up being just my darling daughter (DD) and I, making our way slowly down into the Chasm. I'm here to tell you, it was extremely rocky and treacherous. It was slow going. We got muddy. We got scraped up. We slipped and fell. DD kept pressing on, pausing to look back to make sure old Mom was coming.

Apparently, not all the visitors to the Chasm find it as challenging as I did. This is based on my observation of several preschool-age children merrily making their way though; some teenagers leaping over the rocks with bare feet; and a dapper elderly gentleman and his lady friend (she dressed in white pants and sandals), who we spotted entering as we heaved our sweaty bodies over the final rock ledge and made our way back to the car. I knew DD was truly beat when she turned down my offer to stop at the Shoppes at Blackstone Valley for a little post-Chasm shopping or an ice cream cone.

I highly recommend this very interesting landmark to any brave soul with a snug-fitting pair of hiking boots and some band-aids in the glove box. Jolly good fun!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Brining Chicken... Vive la difference!

I was going to grill some chicken breasts last night, and slap some homemade BBQ sauce on during the last minute of grilling in a weak effort to get the kids to eat the chicken. Grilling "naked" (not marinated) chicken breasts seemed way to ho-hum, so I pulled out Steve Raichlen's "How To Grill" for some inspiration.

Inspiration came on page 236, with a luscious-looking grilled chicken breast an instructions on brining the breasts to make them moist during their quick visit to the hot grill. Great news: they only have to sit in the brine for 2 hours; longer is not better, according the Steve. Bottom line: these were some of the best chicken breasts we've had, and everyone gave the dinner a thumbs-up. Here are the easy instructions, courtesy of Steve R.:

Grilled Brined Chicken Breasts

2 large whole boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (or 4 halves)
1/4 cup coarse salt
1/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
20 whole black peppercorns
1 red chile pepper, thinly sliced (I didn't have this on hand)
2 bay leaves
1 cup hot water, plus 3 cups cold water
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed with the side of your knife

If using whole breasts, cut each in half. Trim any sinews or excess fat off the breasts and discard. Rinse the breasts under cold running water, then drain and pat dry with paper towels and arrange in a deep 9x13 nonreactive baking dish. (I lightly pounded the fatter part of the breast so they would be an even thickness.)

Make the brine by placing the salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, chile pepper and bay leaves in a large nonreactive bowl and add hot water. Whisk until salt and sugar are dissolved. Stir in the cold water and let cool to room temperature. Pour the brine over the breasts and stir in lemon slices, onion and garlic. cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.


Then, I rinsed the breasts off and grilled them on a lightly oiled grill racks over medium high heat for about 4 minutes per side, brushing with barbecue sauce during the last minute or two of grilling.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Rain, rain go away

I decided earlier in the week to take Wednesday off; I'd been working a lot, and I really felt like I needed a break. I was going to the beach! I mentioned this to my friend and she said, "No, you're not." Huh? "It's supposed to rain all day. You could go to a tanning parlor, though," she said, giving my pale skin the once-over.

I think it's been raining for at least 40 days and 40 nights around here. This morning, the local meteorologist said the cause of all the rain is the Jet Stream. Whatever. All I know is, I WANT TO GO TO THE BEACH! My husband says he's had it with me moaning about wanting to go to the beach. (I was doing it again at the dinner table last night.) "Go tomorrow," he said. "It's the last day you'll have to yourself all summer."

But, guess what? It's raining again.