Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lemons.....Take 2

My little cherubs.  Oh how I love them!

After Elijah's lemon squeezing efforts last week I found my little citrus juicer.  It's one of those juicers that sits on top of a glass container that catches the juice.  I got it when we lived in Florida because I had grand visions of freshly squeezed orange juice with my breakfast every morning.  I know....I'm an idiot!  I think I did it once, found that it takes anywhere from 5 to 8 oranges to get about 8 oz. of juice, and put my little juicer in the cupboard next to my pasta maker.  There it stayed until 3 days ago.

I was pretty disappointed about not being able to have the hummus and green beans to accompany my pork tenderloin last week.  So, I made sure I had all the right ingredients on hand this week.  Just to be sure I didn't run out of lemons again, I marinated the pork in a hoisin ginger glaze instead.  When it came time to make the hummus, all 3 kids stampeded into the kitchen.  (They saw me get down the food processor.)  I will never understand how 100 lbs. of kid on 6 little feet can sound like a herd of elephants. I keep expecting the light fixtures to come crashing down.  Sheesh!!

Once again, I rolled out and softened up the lemons, and then cut them in half.  I showed Eli how to juice them on the juicer and then stood back and let him juice with all his might.  There was less body shaking and vein bulging this time, but the fierce determination was still there, accompanied by intense concentration.  He managed to copy the push down and twist motion I had shown him, and while he was able to get more than a few drops of juice, it wasn't much more.  Abby and Jonah also gave juicing a shot, but also without much success.  I got three kids that are all tough as nails, but not one of them can get the juice out of a lemon!!  I gave in to their pleas for help and got the 4 tablespoons of juice we needed. 

I moved on to direct Abby on the proper use of a can opener.  We don't have an electric can opener.  I think they are a waste of space and money.  So, opening cans at our house is a two handed job that requires a bit of muscle.  After the lemon juicing incident, I really wasn't expecting any of them to be able to make any progress on the one can of chickpeas that we needed.  Much to my surprise all three of them got in at least three good cranks.  All I had to do was hold the handles in place - they opened the can without any assistance.  I couldn't believe it!  Were these not the three kids who were just bested by a lemon?!?!  Once I shook off my disbelief, I gave them a quick tutorial about sharp edges and then drained and rinsed the beans.  I told them what tahini was (ground up sesame seeds) and they all looked at me with those bright blue eyes and begged for a taste.  Yes, I put a little smear on each little tongue and then laughed when each face crinkled up in distaste.  It was the little devil on my left shoulder that made me do it.  Everyone knows that the amazing, and never mean, mom that I am, would never do such a thing!  That same little devil has also forced me to give all of my babies pickles at least once.  What can I say, the way they scrunch up their little noses and pucker up their little lips is incredibly endearing - and funny.

So, we dumped the can of beans into the Cuisinart along with the lemon juice, some salt, pepper, a couple cloves of garlic, a spoonful of the tahini and three healthy drizzles of olive oil.  I have to say I never get tired of seeing the pure delight on Jonah's face every time he does something entirely on his own.  It is priceless.  I would also like to thank Cuisinart, from the bottom of my heart, for making it impossible for anyone, even an industrious two year old, to chop off their fingers in their food processor.  Thank you Cuisinart.  That was one fine piece of engineering!  After telling Jonah to get his fingers out of the bowl about 45 times, I finally got the lid in place.  We were ready to roll.  Before I could give the go ahead, Jonah cried out, "Ready!  Set!  Go!!!" and hit the pulse button.  All three kids took many turns pulsing until our dip was very, very creamy in texture.  We all took a taste and agreed to not tell daddy that there might be a little too much tahini.  It had a little bit of a cardboard taste.  We tried to cover it up with a little more salt and garlic.  It helped, but it still tasted like garlicky hummus on cardboard.  I think my daughter said "Karma" as she walked out of the kitchen, but I can't be sure.

You may be able to tell that I got a new camera as an early birthday present, which is why you've been inundated with pictures of my kids.  They are cute, aren't they!  

Monday, June 20, 2011

You Take a Lemon....

Swimming lessons has always been a mecca of friendly and fun moms.  I can't count the number of great moms I have chit-chatted with while watching my little ones splish-splash around the pool.  We've always been able to trade the usual "he/she is soooooo cute" comments and share in the little triumphs as our children learn to be floating islands instead of sinking rocks.  It's the one place I can relax and feel confident that I won't have to referee an argument, threaten my kid with everlasting damnation if they don't share, or just worry that they will hurt someone and I'll have to apologize profusely to some woman I've never even met.  It's the only place in kid-world where I haven't run into "That Mom".  You know, the mom that has no issues with scolding your kid even when you are standing right there.  The mom who instantly decides that your kid is a future Charles Manson because he accidentally knocked her toddler down on the playground.  The mom who scowls at you because your kid threw rocks and makes you feel like an utter failure as a parent.  We've all had to deal with this woman at one time or another, and many of us have even been her on occasion, but she's usually at those places you don't go to regularly, so you only have to deal with her that one time.  Two weeks ago I had the great misfortune of running into her at swimming lessons.  I wasn't expecting it and I'm sorry to say she caught me with my guard completely down.  I won't fill you in on the gory details - it wasn't pretty - but the worst part was that I had to deal with her for the next 8 days!

Other than the mornings we spent at swimming lessons, our lives progressed as usual.  Earlier in the week, I decided to marinate a pork tenderloin and serve it up with some hummus, pita triangles and green beans.  All the kids were eager to help, so I started by getting Eli to help me with the marinade.  It was a simple, Mediterranean style marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, thyme and oregano.  I showed him how to squeeze and roll the lemon so it would be easier to juice, but after a few attempts I could see that he just didn't have the strength.  After I halved the lemons, he insisted on helping me juice them.  I held back laughter as I watched him squeeze with all his might.  His whole body was shaking, the veins in his neck were bulging, and he had a fierce determination in his eyes.  Finally, mercifully, a few drops of juice dripped into the marinade.  He looked up at me with absolute triumph and shouted, "I did it!"  He tossed me the lemon half and ran out the door to tell his sister.  I looked down in amazement at that half lemon that showed no signs of the tremendous effort my son had just employed, gave it a gentle squeeze, and the whole thing collapsed in my hand dropping at least 2 tablespoons of juice in the bowl.  I was going to give his sister a chance at lemon juicing, but while the meat was marinating, I realized I had no lemons left for the hummus and no green beans, so I had to move on to Plan B.

This incident with the lemon actually made me think of my troubles with "that mom".  She was trying her hardest to squeeze the joy out of swimming lessons for both me and my son.  For a few days, I thought she had succeeded.  As it turned out, her efforts proved fruitless.  Elijah continued to splash and play, and I continued to derive great enjoyment from watching him swim around like a little fish.  Though she was fiercely determined to make us pay for an over-zealous splashing episode, she just wasn't strong enough to squeeze the fun out of swimming.  "That Mom" was out of her league.  Disapproving scowls, heavy sighs and nasty comments may ruin a trip to the play area at the mall, but they are no match for the pure glee that comes from playing in the water.  I didn't make any new friends this time around, but I was bolstered by all the old ones who stopped to say "hi" and comment on how cute he was and how well he was doing.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

It Took Nearly 10 Years

Many, many years ago a friend gave me a pasta maker.  At the time, my (then) fiancee and I lived in an itty bitty studio apartment in St. Thomas.  The place was truly amazing.  We had a cute little courtyard that had endless potential for being a private tropical paradise.  There was also a little terrace that had a spectacular view of the ocean and surrounding islands.  The view alone was worth the lack of kitchen space.  We had the smallest kitchen I have ever tried to cook in, or ever seen.  It would easily fit in our closet with room to spare.  We lived in that little 100 square foot palace for over a year and cooked maybe five meals.  Our priorities were different then.  We used the kitchen, not so much for meal preparation, but as storage for our beer and........oregano.  At any rate, there was no way I was going to be able to make my own pasta.

My pasta maker has lived in it's original box and faithfully travelled with us everywhere, only to be carelessly stashed in the back of some cupboard.  Since we moved from St. Thomas, we have had much more functional kitchens, but by then we had started our little family and  it was all I could do to get a nutritious meal on the table every night.  Every now and then I would wistfully stare at my brand spanking new pasta maker and dream of cranking out linguine by the pound, but my thoughts would inevitably be interrupted by the demands of a baby or toddler, or both.  It seemed that the pasta maker would have to wait a little bit longer. 

Lately, I've been trying to systematically clean out my cupboards and pantry.  I can handle chaos and disarray in every part of my life except my kitchen.  We have a very nice kitchen here, but not enough cupboard space and our pantry is even smaller than our kitchen in St. Thomas.  It is very easy for these spaces to get completely cluttered and disorganized.  So, I have gotten into the habit of trying to clear them out every few months.  By chance, I came across that faithful pasta maker which reminded me of some semolina flour I accidentally bought last year. (It's a long story)  I decided it was time to either make some pasta or get rid of the poor, neglected, never-been-used maker.

The dough was surprisingly easy to pull together.  It's just semolina, salt, eggs, water and a little olive oil.  Mix it all up and let it rest for about 20 min.  It actually took me longer to assemble the machine than it did to make the dough.  Not because the machine is so complicated and has many pieces that need to be fitted together with a special allen wrench, but because there were no pictures to accompany the directions.  I work better with schematics.

Once I got the thing assembled and secured to the counter, I used a small piece of dough to practice and also to clean out the edges of the machine.  What fun!!  It was so easy and everything worked perfectly.  No torn dough or surprise messes.  I must have been oozing excitement because my son, Elijah, was suddenly at my side asking to help.  I had him crank while I fed the dough through the rollers.  Two minutes later we had one looooooooooong strip of dough.  Two more minutes later and we had another loooooooooong strip of dough.  Voila!  Pasta!!  I can't believe I've thought for all these years that it would be so hard and time consuming.  It took me exactly 6 minutes (not including the 20 minutes of rest time) to make enough pasta for at least 40 raviolis.

A little more rummaging and sorting produced some frozen spinach, use-or-lose mascarpone and roasted red peppers.  I just sauteed the spinach with a little garlic and then Abby helped me stir everything else together.  The spinach was still hot, so the mascarpone just melted in perfectly.  We dumped in some Parmesan cheese and, in neat little spoonfuls, made two looooooooong rows on the first strip of dough.  I wet the edges and in between all the little piles of filling with a pastry brush, lay the second strip of dough on top and sealed it all up.  The raviolis were ready to be cut and cooked.  We bathed them in boiling water for a couple minutes, dumped some sauce over the top and dug in.  They were mighty tasty if I do say so myself.  The kids liked them too.  Well, Abby liked them.  Jonah gobbled them up until he realized he was eating spinach, and Eli picked the noodle off the filling.  All in all, a success!  Especially considering I got Jonah to eat a few bites of spinach and Eli to eat something that had been touched by spinach.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I Wouldn't Choose Them

What is it about family that makes us so crazy?  Every time I spend more than a day with either my family or my husband's family, I feel like I lost a fight with a steam roller.  I'm always left wondering: "Am I the only one?  Am I the only one who has a love/hate relationship with my family?"  Certainly there are people out there who love every minute they spend with family and never get irritated or frustrated, let alone spitting mad, and come away from the experience feeling refreshed and full of life.  Surely those people exist, but it is my belief that they are from a different planet.

Family members are forced together, either by birth or by marriage, and many times the people in our families are not the type of people we would normally choose to hang out with.  I know this is true for me.  I love my mom, but she can drive me to insanity faster than a bad day with my kids.  If we were strangers, the chances of us becoming friends would be slim to none.  (And slim just left town!)  Put simply, she's just not my type, I wouldn't choose her as a friend.  The same goes for my dad and my brother.  If I wasn't forced to share my life with them, I wouldn't even choose them as drinking buddies.  And then there's my husband's family.  That's a bag of crazy I would normally carve a wide path around.  After a week with them I look at my beloved and think, "How did he turn out so normal?"  Then I have to remind myself that to them he's probably not normal at all, and neither am I for that matter!

I think that's the whole point.  Stick a bunch of wildly different personalities together and force them to find a way to get along, and eventually learn to love each other.  If we were always surrounded by people we chose to be around, then we would never learn the invaluable skill of finding common ground with the one person who would normally reside in the "narcissistic asshole" part of our personal rolodex.  It might also make us a little more tolerant of those we actually choose to be a part of our family.  My husband can make me so mad I just want to kick him in the balls, but he can't make me see red the way his mother can.  Even when he's being incredibly insensitive, he never makes me feel as bad as my dad can.

Here's the weird part.  My mom may not be a friend I would have chosen on my own, but she's a great friend.  I can tell her anything.  My dad and my brother happen to be two of my favorite drinking buddies.  Although my dad can make me feel smaller than a gnat, he can also make me feel greater than an Olympic Gold Medalist.  In my book, my in-laws are crazier than the average crazy, but they are also some of the most wonderful people I've ever had the privilege of having to get along with, and I have learned to love them very much.  All of these people, these family members that have been forced into my life and drive me to insanity, have also enriched my life more than I usually give them credit for.  I'm grateful to have them all as a part of my family and a part of my life.  I'm grateful that they too have found a way to get along with me and love me for who I am, no matter how exasperating I get.  So, while I wouldn't have chosen them, I sure am glad they were chosen for me.