Sunday, March 30, 2014

A spot up there with kefir and green smoothies

Mostly I have to eat food my children are willing to eat, so unfortunately I've had to tone down the spice considerably otherwise I tend to have to make multiple meals and...no.  Who has time for that?  This past month however I've found myself incredibly enchanted with Kimchi since my mother made me some after some gentle inquiry.  I've literally found myself eating it with anything and everything.  I think it's a delight but my husband won't touch it.  It totally reeks, but it's fermented spicy cabbage, of course it smells funky.  And on the bright side, the active live cultures in it are good for you and since it's meatless I don't need to concern myself with cholesterol issues.  I'm on a mission to make kimchi cool.  Those folks who really pushed Greek Yogurt were pretty successful, right?  Maybe if we talk kimchi up enough it'll be pushed up the cool kids list with pomegranate juice and acai berries.  

Since I'm tired of buttered pasta, mac & cheese, breakfast for dinner, grilled salmon and rice...I've had a renewed interest in cooking, if only on the weekends.  (And yes, my 3 year old loves fish and lobster. I'm 140% sure we didn't leave the hospital with the wrong baby.)

I know, I know....crock pot cooking is an option but seriously?  I can't look at another pot roast or mushy pile of (insert protein) now that it's springtime.  Chilli and beans and pot roast and pulled pork...it's been done and now I'd like some other foods, please.

Today's venture was Hainanese chicken rice, which is about as basic as Chinese food gets in terms of ingredients.  My kitchen is a disaster zone because I have spices, condiments and various seasonings of a world's worth of cuisine.  From the Thai green chili paste, the jerk seasoning when I feel like some seriously crazy spicy chicken, several bottles of cooking wine, sirancha, a half dozen hot sauces including tabasco, garam masala when I feel like Indian curry, and various kinds of rice noodles and pasta noodles I can't live without (we love carbs here) I probably won't starve for a year.

Hainanese Chicken is essentially poached chicken served with chicken broth enriched rice. It's no beauty queen but it's comfort food jam packed with lots of spicy, sweet, sour flavor from the dipping sauces.  I don't think I've ever seen it at a Chinese restaurant since the irony about Chinese restaurants in America is that they don't tend to serve many entrees that normal Chinese people would eat.  I prepared a salty sweet lime sirancha sauce for Trev and a fish based sauce for myself since that's what my mom has always tended to serve.  I won't bother posting a recipe because I did not actually measure anything and I would be remiss to lead you into a path of oversalting or overcooking, which is very easy to do. My only tip is to NOT overcook it because chalky chicken breast is my enemy and slice up a big pile of cucumbers or other crunchy veg since everything else is cooked so thoroughly. 

Before this venture I had several packages of cream cheese in the fridge that were bothering me, so I made crab rangoons.  And yes, ingredients in my refrigerator do indeed bother me, if they sit around long enough without any inspiration to move me forward.  Before that, I was enraptured by the thought of picked daikon radish, and since a person cannot just eat the Vietnamese equivalent of sliced dill pickle slices as a whole meal I made banh mi (sandwiches) with super thin beef filling topped with cilantro, picked daikon and carrot, scallion oil and a bit of mayo.  I have a hard time finding bread that works well for banh mi as it needs to be super crusty without being too thick and doughy. Clearly I need to venture out of the suburbs, but I have strict time restrictions before Deuce turns into a pumpkin and starts screeching like someone is ripping his baby toes out with pliers.  The kid's got some lungs.

The baby eats anything.  Charlie ate everything when he was a baby too.  Fish, chicken, duck, noodles, rice, corn on the cob...but once you hit 3 everything slides backwards.  Saying no is a very powerful powertrip for someone who cannot successfully wipe their own bottom clean.  Charlie says no to a LOT of stuff I know he likes.  On the bright side, if it can be considered that, he loves eating out so almost anything that strangers put in front of him gets gobbled up.  Kind of makes me feel like chopped liver slaving over a meal for him after a long day at work and racing home...but I guess as long as he has a few balanced meals mixed in with the less than healthy ones I will consider it an overall success.  Making meal time too dramatic only sets us up later for someone defiantly opposed to trying anything new at all. 

Easter is coming up, so I like making a big roasted leg of lamb.  I know an Easter Ham is ridiculously easy as all you do is throw it in and let it warm up then add some kind of sweet glaze but it's fairly common, and I almost never get to have lamb so I get excited about the indulgence.  When we have ham I tend to have leftovers for a week and you get tired of ham salad sandwiches, split pea soup, eggs benedict...even if they are all good meals, something about that one consistent salty note makes it feel less special. I don't bake as much anymore because when I bake my kids want to eat it, and the mean mommy in me doesn't like sugaring them up everyday.  If it's a treat, sure great.  But if you have something everyday it loses that "treat" status and becomes more of a "well, don't I just deserve to have this because it's Tuesday?" entitled attitude. And that's why everyone complains about being fat, there's always an excuse to make for why we deserve that big slice of cake.

I know...I make excuses all the time.  Trust me, I work in an office.  Every other day it's someone's birthday, anniversary, baby shower, bridal shower, holiday food party...etc. and thus every other day there's cake.  And let's not even talk about the peer pressure. I'm probably one of the youngest people on the entire floor and as a result everyone feels it's their right to act like my mom and shovel food down my mouth. Can we please celebrate with something that doesn't taste like chalk with shortening on top?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The one where I use a lot of CAPS

I had another baby.  Let's just get that out of the way.  He's gloriously beautiful. He puts girl babies to shame with his full head of wavy hair, big smiles and dimples. Oh the dimples. They just kill you. And in case my opinion is not enough please ask the half dozen strangers that stop me at the grocery store just to compliment the baby. EVERY TIME. The kid smiles and giggles at the drop of a dime, he's the politician of the crew. I say that because three seconds before that he tried to scratch my eyes out and was wailing at the top of his lungs. Mercurial doesn't even begin to describe it.

On a side note, I rarely ever had that happen with my first boy.  Not that he wasn't a good looking child, but he had a very grown-up, serious expression glued to his face all the time. He came out a mini adult.  It took him a lot longer to figure out how to manipulate smiles out of people...but not the baby.  That kid can turn on the magic whenever he feels like it.

At this exact moment I don't think my elder son, "Charlie" could love his baby brother "Deuce" more. Sure, he's a toddler and his emotions are constantly in flux, but by and large he loves Deuce way more than I had anticipated.  Perhaps because I don't have a sibling I just never had anything to compare this to. As a toddler Charlie's got his moments of pure impatience with his baby brother but he hugs him, and kisses him, and asks about him every day.  You think you love them when they're small and have that sweet baby smell, but they really surprise you every step along the way.

Everyone always talks about how hard it is with the first kid. Oh, woe I didn't sleep well. Oh, geez does that rash mean something? Psssshhhht. One kid...it was a cakewalk.  CAKE I TELL YOU! You still have your wits about you.  You still care about taking pictures of things.  You spend inordinate amounts of money on shoes they never walk in. You may even be one of those people who take monthly pictures with the corresponding month of age of the child religiously to post onto social media and jam up your friends' feeds thereby rendering them totally sick and disgusted with you. So obviously you still have a smidgen of energy...LIAR!  Parents of multiples snicker at your ignorance.

You want to know the definition of torture? Trying to put one kid down who's screaming so hard at you that he actually wakes up the other kid who was happily sound asleep before. So now you have TWO kids who want nothing but cuddles but cannot possibly calm down listening to one another's screaming. And leaving the house is an act of futility. With two, I never know what's going to happen because in essence I have two ticking timebombs.  Even if I do everything I can to prep them, one will be crabby because it's getting close to his naptime because he's on a two nap system, whereas the elder one is raring to go.  Then one will have a blow out. Then the other is hungry for a snack. One's getting restless because the other one is getting changed and you can't yell quickly enough "don't touch that!" in the nasty bathroom stall that hardly fits 1 adult, let alone 1 adult a baby and a toddler. By then I'm sweating bullets from a combination of stress, a stroller crammed in with me, the weight of a baby bag, my purse, the kids' snacks bottles/sippies, and then whatever stuff I was picking up at the store that I thought was so important I couldn't live without it, like the biggest frickin' bag of coffee they sell.

Maybe when they're like, 8 and 10 I'll reemerge back into society. I am socially out of it.  Tell me when hover cars come out, okay? Did they cure cancer yet? Are skinny jeans not in style again? Please tell me they're done. How many times has Lohan been in rehab...I lost count.

I'll admit, it was entirely my idea to have two kids close in age. I chose this.  I know that sounds insane given my earlier tirade but bear with me. I had my second child at 30. With each passing year you play a game of roulette because your fertility or your spouse's fertility, may not be there for you.  And I won't play doctor here because we all know I just play one on the internet, but we all know that the chances of complications increase with maternal age.  Perhaps I feel this more sensitively because I'm an only child, and neither of my parents planned on that, but it's just what happened.  In the beginning, it's so hard. You just want to survive the crying and the sleeplessness and it's so expensive with diapers, those horrible bottles that swear to prevent colic that never ever do, formula if you do that, crazy ugly nursing bras and tops if you don't (which no one ever gifts you at your shower so start saving your pennies), and then of course the main monetary vampire: daycare.  By the time I was in school full time I was already five years old.  My parents were five years older themselves and by the time they decided to try again, it didn't happen the way they had envisioned.

And yes I know that siblings close in age fight and bicker and don't get along all the time but I just couldn't wrap my head around having a 4th grader and a 9th grader.  What will an elementary aged child have in common with a high schooler? There are going to be so many lost years where they won't have any common ground at all and then the eldest will have left the house.  The pros and cons bounced back and forth in my head for a long time, but it seemed for me personally that there was no reason to stop life, to stop the flow of where we were headed and the pace of our life because I was scared.  There will always be reasons to be scared, but you can't let it be a roadblock.  Life is for living, not making longwinded pro and con lists. Sometimes the braver thing to do is push aside the fear and dive in.

Having the kid?  That's by far the easiest part.  And that's coming from someone who spent several weeks extracting and testing my blood 4x a day everyday and followed that up by almost giving birth on the side of a highway without any medical personnel....oh right, during the biggest blizzard in several years.  Babies are made to come out of you, whether you like it or not.  It's everything that follows that really challenges your sense of normalcy.