Archive | April, 2011

A Royal Pain

27 Apr

Did you hear? A wedding of royal proportions is about to happen and we can all follow it on one big, fanstastical countdown plastered on major and minor news shows across the globe. No amount of detail has been left behind.

Curious minds have been happily placated with warehouse-sized amounts of information, down to Kate’s possible choices of toe nail polish.

While I’m sure Kate will become a wonderfully adept and principled princess, I, on the otherhand, will always be known to Kaukab as the “Queen.”  Queen of Sheba, to be more precise.

In most circles, being a queen, or princess generally bought you some level of respect or honor. But in Kaukab’s house, being of royal stature meant a place of disrespect, of dishonor. It was her way of putting one in her place–in my place–whenever I got the silly idea of buying something nice, or desiring something good for myself.

So, pardon me if I don’t get excited about the royal festivities. I’ll leave that for the other billion, or so of the world.

When I Don’t Feel Like It

21 Apr

I suppose one could toss in any number of subjects to mean “it”, but I’m choosing the topic of cooking, here.

So then: When I don’t feel like cooking, as I hadn’t last night (really tonight, as I type, but this post will not be allowed to remain in its original Wednesday slot, given the time I press the “publish” button), I resort to making tacos.

Not your Chipotle-fresh tacos. But, your browned hamburger-tossed-with-chemical-laden taco mess. With a little water, of course. I’m not stingy.

I did, however, manage to dice some fresh tomatoes, slice some green onions, shred a little lettuce, pop open a tub of sour cream, rip open a package of shredded cheese, and screw open the lid of some factory-made taco sauce. Oh, and cut a few lime wedges–to bring a little Chipotle to the neighborhood.

And while Kaukab would have declared this meal as “junky” and unfit for human consumption, the diners at this fine establishment found them good enough to scarf down without any complaint.

Mission accomplished!

Tuesdays With Kaukab’s Daughter

20 Apr

Tuesdays represent a sort of achievement day for me. It means I’ve made it through another Monday–a day which usually begins with high expectations, only to reach day’s end with significantly lowered ones.

From Tuesday forward, I can return to a more realistic mindset. The world won’t stop spinning if I don’t get the laundry done on Day B, or I forget to enter today’s school notes. Sure, the cats may be a bit peeved if I’ve forgotten to buy more cat food, but it’s not like they’re without a natural gray, furry source of protein hiding out in the garden.

It’s taken me a long time to get to this place, and not every day, post Monday, magically morphs into a zen-like mindset. I need order. Maybe not as much as I once did, but I need some.

I’ve heard it said that people generally crave for things they lacked in their childhoods. If that’s the case, it would well explain my desire for list-making and organized chaos. I must be able to locate a writing instrument at a moment’s notice–an item always MIA at Kaukab’s and not w0rthy of her attention.

Which begs the question: Are the things we deem important, that we deem checklist-worthy, really so? Or, are they like Kaukab’s missing pencil?

Shrugging It Off

17 Apr

Last night, hubby and I took a turn at some movie-going. He had been waiting, seemingly much of his adult life, for this very moment in movie-making history.

Atlas Shrugged.

Violin girl had enthusiastically suggested “Rio.” But, no, we were going to see some purported obscure movie about a bunch of rich nitwits who’ve made it their business to exploit themselves, and others, against a perceived governmental chokehold–or something like that.

Frankly, I was dumbfounded. I expected very little from the movie, as it was hubby’s to enjoy, since he (and much of his family) had been devoted fans of the book. I’m more of a non-fiction kind of gal, especially when it comes to politics, and such. No matter. The least I was hoping for were an array of dinner party scenes with mountains of fine meats and silver-plated soup tureens.

What I got instead were some small scenes of an incidental wine glass here; a half-hidden plate of some roast beef there. The most eating I’d seen came from the old oil tycoon who had eaten three hearty bites of steak, while skewering big government. Try getting away with that at Kaukab’s table.

Luckily for me, we had a wonderful Greek dinner to look forward to afterwards, where we noshed on lamb, humous, green beans stewed in tomatoes, celery, and carrots, and wonderful rice, sauteed with onions and laden with Greek aromatics. We finished it off with homemade baklava.

A perfect meal for an imperfect film. I even managed to get hubby to admit as much. With a shrug, though.

Soup To Combat The Sniffles

15 Apr

Whenever we kids got a bad case of the sniffles, Kaukab would turn to her medicinal arsenal of soup-making. Specifically, her infamous swiss chard and lentil soup. She’d make a big pot of the concoction and force us to eat all of it, claiming that her natural, holistic medicine could heal our sniffles better than any over-the-counter remedy. Of course, being naive and impetuous as we were, we’d secretly think her slightly off-balance.

But, as I grew older (and slightly wiser), with kids of my own, I came to understand her reasoning–at least in the medicinal soup-making area. So, when a couple of the kiddies got sick this last week, I went to my medicinal pantry-of-sorts and concocted my own infamous soup. It wasn’t Kaukab’s, but it was far easier to make and just as effective. At least, that’s what I’m contending.

For a quick chicken soup to help stave off (or at least reduce) the sniffles, I present to you the following ingredient list:

(1) 32 oz. carton chicken broth

1 stalk green onion, thinly sliced (I like to slice them on the diagonal)

2 whole cloves garlic, peeled

2 med. carrots, thinly sliced (on diagonal)

a couple large slices of pre-cooked chicken, chopped

1/8 tsp. (I use about a tips-worth of a regular teaspoon) of ginger paste

cayenne pepper (a few sprinkles)

a small twistful of cilantro, chopped

You could switch out or add other ingredients, as well. Some others may include: lemongrass (if using, I think a little squeeze of lime would go nicely with it), Italian parsley, some celery sprigs, a small handful of rice, or pearl pasta.

Just pour in the chicken stock in a medium pot. Add in the rest of the ingredients and bring slowly to boil. Turn down to medium and cook for about 15 min to 20 min.

You’ll be feeling better in no time.

Shifting Gears

13 Apr

Violin girl decided the time had come to take hold of the wheel. Steering wheel, that is.

Hubby thought it a splendid idea. Kaukab’s daughter thought not.

I understand the whole “coming-of-age” thing. The importance of launching her toward independence. On the other hand, violin girl isn’t exactly known for keeping her concentration front-and-center in circumstances which ask for such skill. She’s the kind of free-thinker who can get lost in thought. A nice feature for, say, creating art, but not too terribly helpful when some crazy driver suddenly appears in your lane when you didn’t invite him.

I remember when I wanted to get my driver’s license. I was seventeen and headstrong. I had managed to convince Kaukab that I was more than ready to get one. She had me sign up for a lesson from a driver’s ed. firm, so that I could use their car to take the driver’s test, since we had only one car (back in the day when most families had just one car *gasp*) and my father needed it to work.

All had gone well, except for the day when I had to take the driver’s test. I had done well enough with the road test, but the parallel parking was another matter. I had managed to manuever the car into the actual space, however, when I was asked to straighten up the vehicle, I had forgotten to relieve the gas pedal in a timely manner, thereby running over the rear cone. I had failed. Worse, I had the unfortunate job of relaying this information to Kaukab, who had believed that by simply paying for the driver ed service one could simply be granted a pass on their test and receive their license. Suffice to say, it didn’t go well.

After a two-week sabbatical, Kaukab convinced my Aunt Lilia to help me achieve the teenage American dream. Luckily, she drove a small car with easy steering capability. Plus, she didn’t charge for her service.  All went well. Kaukab was happy. And, when Kaukab’s happy, everybody’s happy.

I’m not sure I’m going to say anything to Kaukab about violin girl’s first try at driving around parking lots, shifting in and out of gears with her father.

I don’t think she’s ready to hear that.

Real Food. Really?

10 Apr

I had been walking through one of those party merchandise stores the other day and had come upon these strangely elongated see-through bags of pre-made cake and pastry fillings. Fillings I had, on rare occasion, made from scratch. Precisely because “scratch” entails a lot more effort than cutting open a plastic bag of artificial goop and squeezing.

Even more troubling was the fact that these fillings were found in the wedding section, ready for any cake-maker, most of whom, I suspect, are of the average homemaker-turned-weekend-wedding cake-maker to use.

Which made me wonder about the impending wedding season. How many potential wedding cakes will I be served whose layers will be decked out with these corn-syrup, artificially flavored and colored concoctions?

Afterall, they look real enough. To those who’ve never made or tasted the real versions, these food impersonators come off as authentic. And that’s the sad part about foodstuffs being passed off as real.

Aside from being unhealthy, they rob diners of a wonderful tastebud experience. And, the thing about much of pre-made sauces and such, is that they lure you in with their easy-open packages, impressing you with visions of a “homecooked” factory-manufactured product when, in fact, it tastes and looks nothing like homemade.

For instance, take a look at those jars of pre-made alfredo sauces. What do you see? Taste? Look at the ingredients. How many do you see? How many do you really need to make it? If you’ve never made alfredo, here’s all it takes.

Ingredients List:

flour (2 heaping tablespoons–the kind you eat from)

unsalted butter (1/2 stick)

half-half (1 qt.)

parmesean cheese (1/2 to 3/4 C)

cayenne pepper (2 tsps.)

garlic salt (1 tsp. or so)

cracked black pepper (a few grinds)

nutmeg (light sprinkle–optional)

chicken juice from store-bought roasted chicken or 1/4C chicken broth

Thats’ it! If you’ll notice, there isn’t any corn syrup. No artificial colors or flavors. And few in number. Ahhh, the miracles of real food.

You might ask, well, Kaukab’s daughter, isn’t it hard to make? Well, if you have a whisk, a hand, and a few minutes, you can make it. Here’s how:

All you’re basically making is a bechamel sauce. That’s a roux with a milk product added into it. That’s all.

So, take a med. deep large sauce pan and turn heat to medium. Melt butter, adding in garlic salt and cayenne pepper. Add in flour, and whisk until blended and until golden brown (2 – 3 min. or so).

Turn up to med. high, and slowly add in about 1C., whisking continuously. Add in another cup, stirring on med. high. Next, add in parmesean and stir in. Add in some cracked pepper. Then add in remaining half-half, stir through and turn down to med. to med. low. Stir a few more times, turn down to low and cover. (This is the time to add in the nutmeg, if you like.) Keep simmering for 5 or 10 min. more. Add in a bit more parmesean if you want slightly more thickened and cheese flavor. You’re done!

Feel free to jar your real sauce, if you feel so inclined.

We Interrupt This Post To Tell You:

8 Apr

That Kaukab has halted cooking for the moment. Said cooking could not continue because it requires the body to be upright, preferrably standing, for a minimum of  2 – 3 minutes, if only to stir some oatmeal, or fry an egg.

But, Kaukab was hit with an excrutiating bout of vertigo yesterday morning, which lasted much of the day and could only be managed at the E.R. with some pretty substantial meds.

At the time of this writing, late Thursday evening, Kaukab is reportedly (via Eli–thanks, brother) resting well, but held overnight for observation.

I’m asking a special prayer go out to the nursing staff. Once she sees what the cafeteria has sent up for her, no one will escape her self-elected food patrol rantings.

Let’s hope, for everyone’s sake, she gets to come home tomorrow.

Be well, Kaukab. Be well.

Question of the Day

7 Apr

At what point does going “green” become too costly, both financially and emotionally?

Here’s how Kaukab would answer that question:

1. Why you charge so much for deeze tomatoes? Silly! What, you dirt more special den mine!? Ah, c’mon, you dink I born yesterday!?

She has a point, even if it lacks a certain political correctness about it.

For all the talk about “green” this and “green” that, I have to admit, I’m a bit unfazed about the whole matter. Everything has become a point about “going green.” So much so, that even feminine products have to advertise about it!

Well, I don’t want to “be” green. I just want to go about my day: re-using my plastic grocery bags; planting herbs and small garden veggies; running several errands on the same day to save gas, and countless other daily activities that I’d rather not talk about. In other words, just do the things that countless generations before us, like Kaukab’s, did everyday.

Living “green” for her wasn’t some modern-day, altruistic choice. It was a necessity.

So, before you consider buying that $2.49lb. “heirloom” tomato from your local grocer, ask yourself this: “What would Kaukab do?

That’s right. Put that pretty tomato back . Your dirt is plenty special enough.

Spring Eating

5 Apr

Last night, I made myself a small salad of leafy greens and tomatoes, dressed with olive oil (extra virgin, of course), lemon, and sea salt. No garlic. No dried mint. Nothing else. I just didn’t have the energy to squeeze the press or rub the mint. Plus, I was famished. I hadn’t eaten anything for seven hours. Seven long hours of work, shuttling two boys across town in a nasty rain storm, and jean swapping at the local Kohl’s for drummer boy.

Even the cat found no favor with me when I hurried to the kitchen, ignoring his whiny requests to be let out. (He was let out following my salad-making.)

Later that evening, violin girl, who had pleaded with me to buy her potato chips (?), had deposited herself beside me, chips in hand, berating herself about how she must eat healthier, somehow intoned in such a way that the berating actually redirected itself toward me. Never mind that on the kitchen counter lay two ripened mangoes, bought just a day prior to this epiphany.

Yes, healthy eating is good. Kaukab will have no problem lecturing you on that. The only time we had potato chips in the house was when company was expected. She’d even allow soda pop in. Big time under the circus tent, for sure. That said, I think it’s fair to note that even Kaukab had her weaker moments when it came to unhealthy food. It’s just that she had an interesting way of both enjoying and denying the act, devouring fingers-full of a great grandchild’s Happy Meal fries while denouncing the ill-effects of the evil potatoes. Students to her Master class on backpedaling, we’d  sit speechless, our eyes fastened on her fingers as she grabbed at the last crispy fry crumbs.

As for spring eating, I’ll shoot for more salads, but I won’t spend precious time beating myself up over a few finger fulls of fries. Pedals are for bikes.

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