Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Betty Freaking Crocker of Birthdays

It's been a few days (or more) since I had my big "f*ck this" moment in my life and as usual, I'm back. Sometimes I really just need to vent. This is not at all where I want to be anymore (physically) and it will change soon enough... I just get impatient. :) Sorry I was all angsty. Let's move on.

So one of the things I absolutely love about being near my family and friends is cooking. I'm sure my family would be shocked by that because we grew up in a baking family. Angel food cakes are the business and the specialty. Brownies, cakes, and cookies are regular staples. I've done all of those things, but when it comes to feeding my family I like to get a bit, or a lot, outside our English/Norman-Scandinavian roots.

Before anyone gets all uppity about their roots, remember I am cut from the same cloth. For the love of God we're probably cooking from the same damned church cook books. Was that blasphemous to say damned and church in the same sentence? Oh well, moving on... Many of us grew up with 'black ground pepper' and 'salt' as our seasonings. I've looked through my Methodist and Catholic cook books. I've yet to find basil, oregano, cumin, or any curry powder that has been known to man for centuries.

Regardless, big dinners is what I do. Most of the time it is traditional fare: Roast, grill food, chicken... chicken, chicken (grilled, broiled, baked, grilled, pan friend, etc). Still, I specialize in Italian because my kids will lean toward Italian meals. Perhaps it is the fact that you don't walk away from an Italian dinner without knowing full well that you've had your share. Maybe it's because I offer them wine (which they always turn down)? Hey, if you're being Euro with your food you might as well be Euro with your children! Regardless, I've conquered a few dishes, including a sweet risotto puddling with steamed pears and white chocolate, as well as more pasta dishes than any dieter should ever consider attempting.

So when my daughter's fiance had his birthday I had all sorts of ideas of what to cook. I couldn't settle on one so I took an idea from a friend for one I hadn't done before... Carbonara. Ugh... parmesan sauce. I'd tried to do it before with terrible results. Just a little hint, I've always tried substituting low fat ingredients with horrible results. HORRIBLE. So this recipe is what it is. For the dieters, enjoy your cheat day. For the lactose intolerant, take Lactaid. For the wine drinkers, grab some wine. I've included it in the directions.

Chicken Bacon Carbonara
side note: Let it rest a few minutes before serving and taking pics or it will settle (as above)

 Before you begin, get a wine glass and pour wine in it (drink some wine), a medium size mixing bowl, a skillet, and a large stock pot for boiling pasta. Ready? Here's what you need: 

■ 1 pkg penne pasta

■1 lb chicken breast (boneless and skinless) sliced

■1/2 lb bacon cut

■2? bottles of white wine (1/2 cup set aside) (I don't know how you do.. if you followed directions you've already emptied a glass plus half a cup) 

■2 1/2 cups heavy cream

■1 1/2 cups shaved parmesan cheese

■1 heaped teaspoon diced garlic

■1/4 cup chopped basil

■1/8 cup chopped Italian parsley

■2 eggs

■2 diced and de-seeded Roma tomatoes (really, who likes the slimy seedy part)
Chop your parsley and basil and set aside.
(drink some wine)

Cut up bacon and set aside
Cut up chicken and set aside
(drink some wine)

Put a large kettle of water on to boil. Brown the bacon. When the bacon is nearly done turn off the heat and drain the fat. Save about 1 tbsp to pour back into the pan. Add 1/2 cup of whatever white you’re drinking to deglaze. Toss chicken breast, garlic, and reserved bacon drippings into the pan. Cook on medium until done.
After you toss the chicken in to cook, pour the Penne into the boiling water.
(drink some wine)

While the pasta and chicken cook, grab a medium mixing bowl. Add eggs, parmesan, basil, parsley, and tomatoes. Whisk until blended. Set aside.
Obviously, you’re going to want to check that chicken. Don’t over cook it. When it’s done go ahead and turn it off and drain the juices and fats.
(drink some wine)

When the pasta is done drain it and rinse vigorously with hot water to destarch and stop it from over cooking (keeps it from getting sticky on its own).

Toss pasta back in the big pan and add the meat/garlic mix on top. Pour cream/cheese/tomato/herb mix on top. Turn to a med-low heat and mix. Continue to mix until the pasta is sticky coated with the entire mixture (about 5 minutes). Remember, this contains raw egg so not stirring regularly can result in a more “curdled” appearance. Stir stir stir off the calories of wine you consumed while cooking.

Serve with a nice warm Italian bread and maybe dipping oils or one of Hy-Vee’s (or your local store's) already prepared Asiago Focaccia breads and a white wine.
(drink some wine)

Also, have some wine. When you’re done eating and cleaning up the kitchen I recommend having some wine. It helps prevent you from ruminating on the fact that you’ve made this kick ass awesome meal and you’re also cleaning up.

Go to the bathroom and run a really hot bubble bath. Take some wine. Maybe take the rest of the bottle or the second bottle. No one said you had to share the wine, but there is way too much food in the recipe to keep for yourself. Get into bath and ignore the family while you enjoy the bubbles in the bath and the wine in your glass.

I won't lie. The whole experience made me feel like the Betty Freaking Crocker of birthday dinners. To be honest, they might have also been impressed with Velveeta melting out from their pasta onto the plate, but I'd like to believe it was something more. When I had a chance to taste it for myself all I could say, in my most Norman-Scandinavian voice, was, "Awesome, maybe a little black pepper?"

Regardless, the birthday boy's response was that it was, "That was great! Thank you!" Another response was that we should have that more often. Unfortunately, they don't buy the groceries and we will only have it again when I can substitute the bacon for pancetta... because the snobby part of me wants to know what I'm getting charged for the next time I go to a nice Italian restaurant.

So I'm going to go look at the leftovers in the pan and imagine what it will taste like tomorrow for lunch. We all need something to carry us through the next day, right?

Alright. Go. Create. Cook. Eat. Gluttonize. Regret. Repeat.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Like a Mic Drop Only Quieter

For twenty minutes I have been typing the same sentence, in one fashion or another, and deleting it. It has become almost comical, in a Divine Comedy - Inferno sort of way.  It’s there, whatever ‘it’ is, just waiting to spill onto the page. I can feel it spinning around in my head causing utter chaos. The words have come out eloquently, but they felt fake so I erased them. The vision in my head looks a lot like dropping the mic and stepping off stage.

Fuck it. I’m done.

There. I've said it. I just wish I knew what it meant.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Thrill is Gone: Marriage Advice From a Divorcee

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Let's not beat around the bush here. I am the last person you should come to when you want to know how to land a man and establish a relationship. I've tried a few times and each time it ended in a flaming pile of rubble with my heart at the bottom of the heap. While I've never successfully accomplished this, and who really has until the end, I have gained a few insights along the way that bear repeating. 

Most relationships begin as "in love" or "in lust". Unless you are particularly superficial, you don't marry a person who is not suited to you in one of these fashions. Either way, lust can lead to love and love can entail lust, but both can be fleeting if not properly tended. You can plant basil all day long, but if you don't tend the garden other stuff will grow up around it and you will lose sight of it and pretty soon you're sprinkling some weed into your sauce and can't figure out why it tastes funky and someone will start to question your cooking skills when lasagna used to be your signature dish! (play with that one Hemingway) 

Where was I? Oh, yeah... marriage advice. No matter how you started, things will likely diminish. It happens. Whether it is love or lust, eventually certain things grow comfortable or passe. Once you've seen how a person cleans, attends to personal matters (this includes any shared bathroom time), snores, or does a variety of other real life things... everything will change. 

Things change even more once you throw kids into the mix. Whether they are his, hers, or theirs, kids change every dynamic of a relationship. Sadly, what seems to get tossed by the wayside in a lot of relationships is the couple itself. Been there. Done that. Own the house. Hahaha just kidding. I'm paying a mortgage. 

A wise woman once told me that your kids are your kids, and they always will be. They will always need you for something. Whether it is help with school work, relationships, or money they will always be there. Those kids will leave you, though. They will get lives of their own, and pretty soon you will be left with the one person who was supposed to be there with you until the end. If you forget to nurture that relationship you will find yourself alone. 

As parents we do the best we can. We give when we can. We discipline when needed. We advise, hug, encourage, and try to make them the best adults they can be. During that time, while you're both working at creating fine, upstanding, responsible adults... are you giving the same attention to your partner? The same can be said if you exchange the kids with a career. 

The type of attention might be different, but our needs as human beings is not. We crave attention. We want to feel important, loved, vital, and desired. Sure, the kids have interests you want to help them develop, projects they need help with, sporting events they want you to attend, and problems they want help working through. So does your partner. 

Here's the long and short of it... Your kids will not remember a single missed regular season game. If from time to time you get a sitter and go out and get to re-know your partner the kids won't be scarred for life. If you take a break from cooking the healthy meal and get take out then send the kids to bed 30 minutes before you are so exhausted you can't talk to your partner... guess what, the kids will survive. They are not as fragile as you might think, and it is important for them to see that you have an interest in each other. Just because they are the center of your universe doesn't mean they can't see you change orbits from time to time. It's good for them. 

Aside from the typical date night (where you're so exhausted from the stuff you're focused on all week long) what are your best re-kindling moments? What do you do to remind your partner that they are important to you? Do you have a go-to restaurant, event, or method? How do you make your partner feel like they are still important for something other than a paycheck, to-do lists, cleaning, or child rearing? 

My Zimbio
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