Poach This

6 Jun

To know me is to know that I’ll pretty much do anything for you. Need a kid picked up or dropped off when you’re in a bind? Just ask. Don’t have a place to go for the holidays? Door’s open and food’s a plenty. Having a mommy meltdown? Let’s go for a drink.

But poach my babysitter and I’ll crush you.

It’s probably the number one unspoken rule of mommyhood. You don’t steal another mom’s babysitter. Not surreptitiously. Not publicly. Not on a boat. Not on a plane. Not in a moat. Not in the rain. And especially NOT AT MY POOL IN MY OWN NEIGHBORHOOD WHEN I’M ONLY THREE HOUSES DOWN TRYING TO MAKE AN HONEST LIVING. YEAH. I’M TALKING TO YOU PERSON WHO DOESN’T READ THIS BLOG BUT IF SHE DID SHE’D KNOW BETTER.

Okay, I got it out. At least my babysitter’s smarter than the average fifth grader. She knows when to share information. And she shared it.

“How did it happen?” I casually ask?

“Well, she saw me having fun with your kids and not playing on a cell phone like the other sitters,” replied responsible fifth grader. What? I know what you’re thinking. Fifth graders are very responsible.

“And?” I continue.

“She came over to me and told me I look very responsible.”

“Did you tell her you were in fifth grade and technically shouldn’t be babysitting? And especially not taking children to the pool?” I ask.

“Um, no.” she says.

“So?” I say. “What did she want?”

“She asked me for my number and wanted to know if I was free the rest of the week.”

Pause.  “And then she introduced me to her two kids.”

“She introduced you to…THE REST OF THE WEEK???” THE REST OF THE WEEK???? I HAVE YOU THE REST OF THE WEEK!!!”

“Um, I know. Can I go home now? I want my mommy.”

“Oh, sorry, yeah.”

Well isn’t that just special. A seemingly nice mom toting her two precious children trying to show my underaged babysitter who’s too young to even have a cell phone which is exactly why she’s not on it like every other babysitter at the pool, that she’s cooler than me and therefore deserves to have her the entire week without even thinking to ask me if that’s okay.

Well let me tell you something woman whom I’ve seen at the grocery store and might I add I think your hair is wayyyyy too dark for your mousy little face.

NO. NO. and NO.

Just you wait. I know where you live. I’ve seen your kids. They won’t be getting the full-sized candy bars this Halloween. Your house will be casually passed over the next time there’s a little pool soiree that I’m helping to organize. Oops! So sorry about that.

You blew it. You tried to poach my babysitter. And now I hate dislike will shun you forever.

Deep breath. Okay. I’m over it now. But I will remind myself how much I don’t like you on Sunday when I cook this and don’t invite you for brunch:

Poached Eggs with Spinach and Corn Flake Crumb Mushrooms

Oh how I do love poached eggs. But oh how I hate people who poach babysitters.

Ingredients (listed per serving):

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 slices nine grain or whole wheat toast
  • Bag ‘o spinach (fresh)
  • 4-5 sliced Portobello mushrooms
  • Corn Flake crumbs (they come in a box…just dump some into a bowl)
  • Parsley flakes
  • Butter
  • S&P
Directions:
  1. Sauté some spinach in a bit of butter. *If you’re making a few of these buy a whole bag and sauté it up with some salt and pepper. It reduces considerably in the pan.
  2. While the spinach is cooking, beat up one of the eggs and dip the mushrooms in it, then coat with Corn Flake crumbs.
  3. Remove spinach from pan and sauté coated mushrooms for a few minutes until brown on each side.
  4. In a separate pot, salt and boil some water.
  5. Toast the bread.
  6. When boiling, reduce to medium-low and crack two eggs gently into the water. The yolks will rise to the top and the whites will magically gather ’round!
  7. Cook at least two minutes (longer if you like harder eggs) and remove with a slotted spoon.
  8. Remove English muffins, top with spinach, mushrooms and finally your perfectly poached eggs.
  9. Sprinkle with parsley flakes (I don’t do Hollandaise but it’s probably yummy drizzled on top!)
  10. With every stab of the fork, remind yourself how much cooler of a mom you are than anyone would dare poach your sitter.

Nomadic Musings

2 Jun

Wonder who has a better signal out here...Verizon or AT&T?

Being a freelancer is a bit like being a nomad in the desert. You’re always wandering around setting up your tent, working on all kinds of projects with all sorts of interesting (feel free to interpret liberally) people until the job is done, and then you move on. You’re also a bit of a chameleon, changing your colors and outfits to suit various client needs, adapting to assorted office environments, making small talk at happy hours you’re only invited to every now and then, and keeping your space neat and clean in the event of a quick office relocation. It’s certainly not for everyone. But it works for me.

I’ve picked up a lot of life lessons from observing and participating in these various office cultures, some of which I try to implement at home. And since I’ll soon be moving from one tent to another, I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve learned along the way.

1. Always say good morning and thank you, especially to the support staff. Support staff can make or break a work environment. Treat the support staff like they’re inferior and it’ll get you nowhere fast. You’ll look like an ass (Yep, I’m talking to you, xx) and you’ll always be the one talked about during happy hour (the one you don’t get invited to). But the converse is also true. Treat the support staff with respect and your experience at work will be so much more pleasant. And who knows, you may even make a few friends! This can also apply to any other service oriented professional you’d typically ignore in your neighborhood or around town. Call me pollyannaish, but I just think the world would be oh, so much nicer if people just said hello.

2. Don’t bring tuna sandwiches to work. Tuna sandwiches are meant to be eaten in one place only: the diner. Fresh, white meat albacore with a side of extra crispy french fries. Homemade tuna is absolutely disgusting and homemade tuna that you throw in a sack and bring to work then fish out of the office fridge (or worse, leave out in a bag on your desk) around 1 pm is almost worse than hanging your sweaty gym socks on your door before a meeting. Nobody needs to smell that. Not now. Not ever.

3. Please, please, please, don’t imitate your two-year-old’s voice at work regaling coworkers about his exciting poopy on the potty yesterday. I cannot stress enough how unbelievably annoying it is. I love your kids, don’t get me wrong. But man, there is a time and a place for poopy potty imitation. And it ain’t here! Not to mention that part of the reason I come to work in the first place is not to hear kid voices, especially bad imitations.

4. Bring the tech support guy brownies. Befriend the tech support guy and your computer woes will be forever solved. Because when the network goes down guess whose computer will be up and running first?

5. Every now and then eat lunch with some colleagues. Even though this can be annoying and phony, face time not discussing work stuff (please adhere to tips 2 and 3) is very beneficial. Laugh at their jokes, sympathize with their ‘my life is so much harder than yours’ stories by nodding with a concerned look.

6. Don’t bring your Halloween candy and leave it in a bowl in your desk. You didn’t want to get fat at home. And I don’t want to get fat in the office. Toss it sister.

7. Don’t use your work email account for personal emails. Duh. I just think it’s funny to watch people get busted for that.

8. Always keep your tent open. You never know when you’ll run into your old tribesmen somewhere down the road.

The Fulani people of West Africa are the largest nomadic group in the world, primarily nomadic herders and traders. Through their nomadic lifestyle, they established numerous trade routes in West Africa. A typical West African dish has loads of starch and tons of fat with just a hint of meat. Which means I won’t be making it.

But in honor of nomads everywhere, I will make a variation of a traditional Fulani dish filled with onions and tomatoes (and a lot less fat) called Jollof Rice because I know everyone will like it! Personally, I think it tastes exactly like Aroz Con Pollo. Such a small world, isn’t it? Nomads, Mexicans and freelancers. We’re all one big happy wandering family!

Chicken and Jollof Rice

Ingredients:

  • One package boneless/skinless chicken
  • Appx. 1 1/2 cups Basmati or Saffron rice (Saffron gives it a more Aroz Con Pollo taste)
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1 bell pepper (diced)
  • Heaping spoonful of tomato paste
  • 2-3 cups chicken broth
  • Paprika (at least a few spoonfuls – I love this stuff so I really heap it on. It adds amazing flavor)
  • One garlic clove (diced)
  • Flour
  • Pepper (you don’t need extra salt in this dish)
  • Olive Oil
Directions:
  1. Cut chicken into strips.
  2. Dredge in flour, pepper and paprika (which is fancy for just throw all that stuff on top of your chicken so it’s all covered)
  3. Heat olive oil (just a little!) on Medium in a large pan and cook chicken just until brown on each side (appx 2 minutes per side).
  4. Remove chicken from pan. Keep drippings in heated pan.
  5. Pour dry rice, onion, pepper and garlic in the pan and let brown.
  6. Add chicken broth and heaping spoonful of tomato paste and mix thoroughly.
  7. Bring to a boil and then to a simmer.
  8. Once simmering, add chicken and cook, uncovered for approximately 25 minutes or until rice and chicken are cooked thoroughly. *If chicken is done before rice, remove first and let rice continue cooking. And if the rice gets dried out and still needs more time, add more broth.

Kufurahia! (means ‘Enjoy’ in Swahili for those of you who don’t know this or didn’t Google it like me)

Summer is for Berries

28 May

I love Farmer’s Markets. Good ones. Big ones. Ones that don’t have booths selling auto insurance. Ones where people walk around with straws coming out of coconuts eating mangoes on sticks. Ones where random bands play random songs, and people say hello and walk their dogs. Ones where you buy herbs you’ll never actually plant but that look so good in the booth and you think for a brief moment you can totally be organic and start composting and buy a hybrid and be like the laid back lady in the booth with the cool hippie skirt selling the fresh herbs. But that never happens and you’re back in the Chick-Fil-A drive thru in no time in your oversized gas guzzling SUV.

Ones with summer berries in buckets that look like this:

Can you believe I took this with my phone?

As I reflect on this bounty of berries and come to terms with the fact that I’ll probably never compost, I’m currently watching a meltdown ensue as a result of my daughter spilling nail polish all over my office after I repeatedly asked her to not use my office as a spa. The berry colored stain that is now sitting on a second rug in my house (someone really has something against me and my rugs lately) reminds me of better times scouting for luscious berries in Venice Beach, California. I take myself to this place mentally when situations like ‘NailPolishGate’ occur in my house. If only I had a bottle of Prosecco and a splash of fresh orange juice I’d make mimosas and casually toss one of those plump berries at the bottom of a champagne flute. Plop!

Because it’s the official kick-off to summer this weekend, I celebrate berries. I am berry glad that school is almost over and we won’t have to fight about homework or being late or carpool snacks or bath time. Summer in our house means you are free not to bathe for eight weeks in a row and I won’t care. You can let your hair go bohemian and form dreadlocks and neither make your bed nor fold your laundry and it just doesn’t matter. Well, maybe a little. You can completely ignore your reading list for seven weeks thinking I won’t notice (I will) and still get away with it. But that’s cool because I won’t yell at you until week eight.

I will bribe you with movies and yogurt smoothies so I can work when we are all home together and I am begging for fall and asking myself “how in the hell do people home school?” In fact, I’ll bribe you with one now so you’ll clean up the five hundred towels you used for the spa set-up in the office which now proudly displays a berry colored nail polish stain that will forever remind me of why it’s important to have designated playrooms with cute plastic mats on the floor like in the Pottery Barn catalog.

Summer is for berries. Offices are for computers.

Summer Berry Yogurt Smoothie

The perfect summer bribe.

  • 4-5 fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries or raspberries)
  • 1/2 small bag of frozen strawberries (or just dump 5-6 berries in from the bag)
  • 1/2 small bag of frozen peaches
  • 1 banana
  • 1 small container of vanilla yogurt (I like Greek)
  • 3 hearty splashes of orange juice
  • 3 splashes of low-fat milk
  • 1 spoonful of protein powder
  • One packet of Splenda or sweetner
Directions:
  1. Break out the blender.
  2. Blend everything.
  3. Pour into tall cups and drink with a straw. (serves 3)
If you’re feeling overly ambitious, make two batches (one with just bananas) and layer it in the cups.

Memories of Madeline

23 May

The Madeline I once knew...sigh...

I just came home from work to find my dog eating my rug. I’m pissed. But not just because he ate my rug and had the audacity to continue eating as I walked in. Because it’s a MADELINE WEINRIB rug that I got at ABC Carpet for a steal after finding it on the bottom of the pile on the remnant floor. The steal of the century. The kind of steal that designer types would say “Wow! What a steal!” and not just my friends and family. It matched everything and made my kitchen look really good. Like magazine good. Call me a callous superficial snob. I don’t care. Right now I like my rug more than I like my dog. In fact, I hate my dog. I’m mad that he ate my Madeline.

I don’t deserve this. I give him delicious food. Treats. Filtered water. The occasional chicken from the leftovers. I give him baths. I take him on walks. I brush him. I play with him. I worry about him at doggy daycare. And what does he do? He eats my rug. My Madeline Weinrib rug.  Why couldn’t he have eaten something else? Is that asking too much? Eat the chairs. The throw in the living room. Eat my daughters’ stuffed animals or homework! Eat my husband’s hideous sneakers. Please. Eat ANYTHING but my Madeline.

Yes, I know. It’s a stupid thing to lament in this day and age. But I’m through being paranoid that the world is going to end (in case you just woke up, it didn’t). I’m bored reading about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s U.G.L.Y. mistress (really???) and no matter how hard I try, I won’t be able to control what happens to the pre-1967 Israel/Palestine borders. So I’m bringing it down to a trifling suburban level. And I’m getting mad about my Madeline.

I read that dogs only have thirty-second memories. So I already blew it because I let him out to pee and then I yelled at him instead of yelling at him first. And now he doesn’t remember why. Which leaves me steaming and staring at this.

And this is the salvageable part.

What should I do? Should I rationalize and tell him that there are doggies everywhere who don’t have the luxury of sleeping on a designer rug? That there are dogs who are forced to spend their time on low-end Dupont Stainmasters and the Home Depot specials of the week…even {gasp!} Astroturf?? Does he have no understanding how good his life is????

Oh now he’s trying to be all coy standing at the door. Well it’s not going to work. Not today. Sorry, pal. Sorry, Madeline eater.

There is a cute café in my neighborhood called Le Madeline. It’s French, in that ‘suburban chain restaurant but we’ll try to make it look unique’ kind of way. Nevertheless, there’s a good spinach tomato basil salad that I sometimes get. I think we’ll have it for dinner modified as a pizza to honor the deceased.

Le Madeline’s Spinach Tomato Basil Salad Pizza

Ingredients: 

  • One bag fresh spinach
  • One package pizza dough (usually comes fresh in bags in grocer’s refrigerator section)
  • 2-4 Roma tomatoes
  • Marinara sauce (homemade or jarred) – see link for homemade sauce recipe
  • Block fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Handful fresh basil
  • Good olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher Salt
  • Pepper

 Directions:

  1. Roll out the pizza dough (add flour to your hands if it’s too sticky).
  2. Preheat oven to 400.
  3. Ladle sauce onto dough.
  4. Top with fresh spinach, fresh tomatoes, slices of mozzarella cheese.
  5. Drizzle olive oil on top and sprinkle with S&P.
  6. Sprinkle chopped basil on top.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes (or less depending on how thin your crust is).
  8. Enjoy your Madeline on the floor sitting atop your Madeline not caring if your kids drop pizza sauce on it because you have to throw it away anyway.

Card Me

17 May

I’m not a card-carrying member of much but I do carry a lot of cards. Mostly in the form of Nordstrom, American Express, Starbucks and Jersey Mike’s (one more sub and I get a free sandwich!). Flaunting my membership affiliations isn’t something I typically do (save the occasional single school magnet) so I’m always a bit taken aback when I come across this…

There’s a lot going on here. Let’s see if we can decipher…

Nice big happy family with three kids. They’re all smiling with their hands on their hips, Partridge Family style. Don’t we all do this? Looks like there are about nine activities on display so let’s assume three per kid. A generous family. A rich family. And it seems as if someone won something in ’08, ’09, and ’10 so congratulations are in order!

But here’s my question.

Why? Why is this necessary? I mean this is just wrong for so many reasons. First of all, companies and organizations listed on said magnets are certainly not giving us discounts on these places so why the free advertising? Secondly, why does every single person driving behind me need to know where my kids are going after school? Isn’t that dangerous in this day and age? And lastly, is there no consideration for the single woman in the next lane who’s already had a bad day and then has to look over from her car and see this?

"Hey Girl! I've got four kids and you're still single!" Ha ha!

It’s just so mean-spirited, don’t you think?

My daughter carries a lot of cards in her wallet, too. I’m not sure where they come from but I’ve been looking for my ATM card so I should probably check and see if she has it. She doesn’t. But I did find this inside:

Note to self: Look for all forms of Fake ID in daughters' wallets before they leave home from now on.

Woops. Probably not the best idea to have your eight-year-old carrying around your fake ID from high school college last month. See, I’m younger than you thought!

How she found this I have no idea. I’ll confiscate immediately. Who would ever carry such a thing around anyway?

I have a recipe box that I got at an art festival years ago. It’s about as organized as the rest of my life but the cards that it holds are priceless since some are from family members who are no longer with us. I especially love to read the titles on the cards because people try to exercise superiority and ownership (with just a touch of condescension) with their recipes. As in “Aunt Dorothy’s Super Duper To Die For Chocolate Cake.” Or “Cousin Mandy’s Ultimate Best Ever Chicken Parmesan.” And “Dorrie’s Delectable That’s Ten Times Better than Anything You’d Ever Make Apple Pie.” I’m calling the bluff on that one. Isn’t it up to us to decide whose recipe is worthy of such titles?

In case you’re wondering, my recipe box looks like this:

Where am I going with this? Not sure yet. I’m actually still thrown by the fact that Talia has been carrying my fake ID around for a year without my knowledge. It’s survived 15 moves in four cities which is impressive. But clearly it’s time for me to shuffle her cards and get her some new ones. For now, I’ll throw a really good recipe card out there for you. It’s an old neighbor’s chicken marinade for the grill that she made when I was in high school. She brought me the recipe card herself. And here’s what it’s called. I guess some people just need to flaunt it.

Sandra’s Superior Grilled Chicken 

Ingredients:

  • One package bone-in chicken with skin
  • 1/2 jar orange marmalade or Apricot Jam
  • 4-5 squirts honey
  • Appx. 1/2 cup orange juice (or three healthy splashes)
  • 1/2 bottle Italian dressing
Directions:
  1. Mix up all this stuff.
  2. Marinate chicken.
  3. Grill on Medium then crank it up for a few minutes at the end so you get those cool lines that make you look like a pro.
  4. Write the recipe on a card using some form of alliteration showing how great it is you are and give it to a friend.

Today’s Post Brought To You by the letter “C”

10 May

… as in ‘C’rap, I have no idea what’s for dinner. And ‘C’lutter, since that’s all I see. Ah, a daily occurrence, really. It usually hits right around 4 pm when everyone descends upon me and, unlike my other friends, I haven’t done my grocery shopping for the week because I still have a city mentality and pretty much go to the store once a day at the most inopportune of times. I’m not sure how long it takes to actually live in a place where you have enough room to store stuff and be able to go to the store once a week like a regular person before you actually start going. I guess it’s kind of like 80-somethings who still take the Sweet ‘n Lows from the diner or wrap up brownies in paper napkins at community functions because they were children of the great depression era and always feel deprived. Some things you can’t change. So, I guess I’m just one of those people who’ll continue to go to the grocery store at inopportune times every day. No coupons, no lists, no plan. Yep, that’s me. Disorganized me.

My friend told me about a person who comes in and helps you get organized. She’s a clutter expert. I called her. She’s supposed to be coming this week. But I’m embarrassed. And competitive. I have to de-clutter before she gets here so she doesn’t think I’m a hoarder. Kind of like those people who clean up before their cleaning service comes. What’s the point?

I wonder where she’ll start? There are so many places I’ve been using to stash away junk. I’m actually a little scared. And I’ll get in trouble with my daughter if I throw away this:

You never know when you need a staked ribbon for those impromptu floral arrangements.

Or this:

What better way to remind yourself that you need to play more Candy Land than when you're grabbing some aluminum foil? Keeps me in tune with my kids when I'm cooking.

You know those people who “change over their winter clothes to their summer clothes” annually? Yeah, I don’t do that. What happens if we get a cold spell mid-July? You always need to be prepared.

Oooh, or what about the people who take in their outdoor furniture cushions the minute it’s about to rain? You know, to preserve them for like an extra week? Yeah, I actually forgot we even have outdoor furniture so that doesn’t happen. Plus, it’s more fun to buy new cushions every season! Out with the old!

So maybe I don’t need this organizational lady after all? Maybe she needs me! To go into her home and spruce up her drawers with things like this:

Hey, don't judge. They all go to something. I think.

Well, it’s nearing melt-down time and we have no more nuggets left in the bag. But, alas! The bag remains empty in the freezer. Now who would ever think to do a thing like that?

Let’s see. Sticking to today’s theme…things with the letter “C”…

Catering is an option. Nah.

Cauliflower. Nope. Never figured out how to cook that stuff. And let’s just say it does a number on the gastrointestinal tract.

California Pizza Kitchen? Always a trusty back-up plan, no matter how many crayons are on the floor.

Caesar Salad. Hmmm…. Eggless. A must. Super yummy. Super easy. Kids like it. Adults like it. Now we’re talking. Top it with some chicken if you want more Cs. And don’t add the croutons if you want less Cs (carbs). Okay, I’ll stop.

Caesar Salad 



Ingredients:

  • 1-2 heads of Romaine Lettuce (or bagged…but I don’t like the taste of bagged salad so I always chop my own lettuce even though it takes an extra few minutes)
  • 3-4 splashes of Olive Oil
  • 3 squirts of Anchovy Paste (I measure a squirt to be the equivalent of a teaspoon)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 spoonful of reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 1 squirt of Dijon mustard
  • 1 splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Sprinkle of pepper (don’t use salt…the Anchovy paste is very salty!)
  • Flaked Parmesan cheese (as much as you want)
  • Croutons
  • Add Grilled chicken if you want (see recipe for grilled chicken on previous post and then just slice into strips)
Directions:
  1. Mix everything up (except for cheese and croutons)
  2. Chop and wash lettuce carefully (really carefully as Romaine has lots of bugs! Yuck!)
  3. Toss with dressing immediately before serving or salad will get soggy.
  4. Add croutons after dressing.
  5. Serve in a wooden bowl to look extra professional.
  6. Enjoy with another favorite “C” of mine….Chardonnay from Cakebread Cellars.

A Mother’s Day Thought

6 May

Since this is both a cooking and a parenting blog I should probably offer something up for Mother’s Day.

Okay.

My hope is that I’ll be doing neither on Sunday (cooking nor parenting).

My cooking recommendations are as follows:

Breakfast: The Four Seasons

Mid-morning snack: Haagen Dazs

Lunch: The Ritz Carlton

Afternoon Snack: Payard

Dinner: Daniel

And one last before bed treat just because you can: Sour Patch Kids

Cheers!

Another mom who's probably neither cooking nor parenting this weekend. Makes me feel like a rock star.

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