Blessed Eggs

As the “alarm clock” (My mother calling from a time zone to the east) went off this morning, the day began.  With everyone needing to be out of the house by 10:00 (or so I thought), the coffee got going and the breakfast options were decided.

I had boring toast. Even though it was some special new flavor from the discount bakery, it worked well with peanut butter, so I was content. My wife pulled out the eggs to get her diet its necessary protein fix.  I wrongly assumed the eggs were for her, when she had already decided they were for my son.  As my son (the one heading to a day of food prep at Chick Fil A) watches my wife make his eggs for his breakfast this morning, I scold him for letting her do it.

He casually replies, "I am making the toast."
Unfazed, I reply, "I could make toast in a body cast."

My son and I laugh.  My wife glares.  My daughters look annoyed as they turn up the volume and continue watching the DVRed “Once Upon A Time.” As my sons scrambled eggs are plated with toast on the side, my wife finishes the carton with the eggs that will serve as her breakfast. Before putting the egg carton in the trash, she glances on the inside lid.  She is rewarded with a bit of inspiration.

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Psalms 118:24 This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Prior to realizing this message was inside the carton, I was just glad to get eggs at $0.79 a dozen from Aldi’s .  (Below cost, but it certainly sucks me in the door.) Now that I know this message is there, I think I will smile a little bigger knowing somebody, somewhere cares enough about my eggs and my day to sneak in a bit of encouragement.  If an egg carton can encourage, what can I do to encourage the people I interact with today?

The Scale Really Is Broken

My wife has been saying it for a number of weeks as she went on a very successful diet.  I kept refusing to admit her critique of our scale had any merit.  I tried to blame it on high humidity, low temperature or the scale just having a bad day.  However, the facts can no longer be ignored, the scale is really broken.

After dreading the visit to the doctor where my physical would take place, I arrived and was quickly admitted to my own private room.  Before making me aware of my accommodations, I did hop on the scale.  Although my shoes were off, the weight did come in more than I expected – approximately the 6 pounds my wife had been telling me our home scale was off. While enjoying my excellent room and bed, I was prodded, pressured (as in blood), pulsed, and poked (in one of my most unfavorite ways).  Considering my age, the quick evaluation made me look like a healthy old man.  (This physical was far better than the Valentine’s Day physical of 2008.  One particular “poking” seemed especially wrong on that day.)  I did have an one odd finding…one ear was hoarding the ear wax and the other one was clean…???

Since there was nothing else serious to talk about, the doctor did have to mention the news provided by “their” broken scale.  While my weight is less than 10% more than what it was when I graduated from High School, I still was sensitive about his comments.  So, despite my near daily walking, almost daily vitamins, and attempts to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, I can do better. (The fruits of Halloween do deserve some blame for the excessive weight spiking.  Just because something whispers my name and won’t stop until I eat it is no excuse.  I am an adult and should be immune to such childish contrivances.)

Going forward, a couple of possibilities exist:

  1. I can crank the scale back so it “zeroes” below zero but still gives me the weight I want to see.
  2. I can heed the advise of the doctor’s lying scale.  I can add 6 lbs to my scales delivered weight until I am within the doctor’s recommendations.
  3. I can move to a planet with a lesser gravity and greater accuracy in its weight providing equipment
  4. I can cut off appendages until the necessary weight is achieved.

So, as tempting as these options are, I really am just going to have to make some goals.  Whether it is “no noodle” November or “no sandwich” Sundays, I will have to have a plan and stick to it.  Assuming all of the test come back within range and I don’t have to see the doctor again soon, I have a year to lose my weight or…move to Venus.

 

Chinese Banana Bread

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If anyone who reads Chinese wants to make my banana bread, this should get you there! While our Chinese exchange student helped me make the bread, she told me about the “3 Cleans” that used to be expected of a Chinese woman when making dough….clean hands, clean bowl, and clean, shiny dough. She hasn’t achieved this herself, but she is convinced it is something to do with the water temperature….???

She was very meticulous in her notes.  When she forgot how to write an uncommon Chinese character, she resorted to English.  (She had one moment where it took her a couple of minutes to remember how to write the proper character.  Eventually the Chinese Brain search engine kicked in, and she had it.)Also, as part of the recipe, the bananas need to be smashed into a paste.  She said the Chinese word she chose for this would be the same word used if you were “making something bloody”.  She also gave me a tutorial in how a character is used when writing proper Chinese so the right “adverb” is associated with the right “verb”. (I put them in quotes because I am not sure those words would accurately describe them from a Chinese perspective.)  Apparently, the older Chinese think this character is still essential; our exchange student did not seem to share this opinion.

Her goal before she leaves our house next June is to make a batch of banana bread all by herself.  When she gets home, she wants to make it for her family.  She has mentioned the possible difficulty in finding sour cream, vanilla extract, and possibly cinnamon in China.  She is a resourceful girl – I am certain she will find some way to get there.  (Our Korean exchange student sent the recipe to her mother in Korea.  Her mother made it in Korea without sour cream or cinnamon, and they still claimed it tasted good.  I am not as convinced…)

With exchange students, you need to fully engage them in your lives!  You never know what activity you are going to participate in when some interesting rabbit trail will result.  Some days it is harder than others (my wife is on a business trip for 3 days), but the potential for mental cross pollinating certainly puts the “hardness” into perspective!

Deseeding The Jalapenos

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We typically make our carnitas once a month or so.  And, although the eating of the carnitas (tacos, fajitas, tex-mexey stuff) is quite popular, the prepping of them is not.  While the use of the food processor helps greatly in mincing the jalapeno into many mini bite-sized pieces rather than many larger ones, it is the deseeding and the mere handling of these scovillian packages of mouth-granting pain (and eye and skin and nose and anywhere else where there is skin sensitivity) that causes near mutinous rebellion. (They also complain about onion prepping as well.  Fortunately, they are still willing to cut zucchini, broccoli and egg plant.)

The techniques for cleaning the jalapenos have varied, but not by much.  My personal technique and the technique I was prepared to use prior to the ambitious volunteer arising from the household of homework-focused young ladies was simply, “cutting off the ends; cutting them in half longwise; and using a spoon to scrape out the seeds”.  Most of the techniques previously tested in our house were this technique or variants of it.

Our Chinese student (AKA The Volunteer) was not a newbie to the test of the jalapeno.  (As the Chinese have some sort of torture which likely involves bamboo and being tickled by a panda, a person from Mexico may have a torture involving jalapeno [or hotter] peppers and being licked by a lizard.) She had not left her first contact with jalapenos unscarred.  She was having to use some acupuncture and hypnosis strategies prior to again approaching the jalapeno task.  Despite her initial reluctance, she committed herself to cleaning all of the 15-20 jalapenos she encountered on this visit.  Her technique was largely the one I used with the exception of the plastic sandwich bag worn over her hand.  As she worked her way through her pile of peppers, (Did Peter Piper pick a pile of pepper or was it a peck?) the pepper juices were seeping into her protective bag.  To limit the seeping, she installed a paper towel to try to minimize the jalapeno/skin contact.

As the carnitas cooked all night and we awoke to our Friday morning routine, I did not hear any complaints from our “volunteer”  For that, I was grateful.  She didn’t complain about the odd skin tingling that follows soaking hands in jalapeno juices.  She didn’t mention her eyes hurting from the introduction of juice into them.  (Although the juice could get into the eyes by holding a pepper over your eye and squeezing, touching the eyes with tingling jalapeno hands [Odd “jalapeno hands” uses alliteration when it is two totally different letters of the alphabet.] is the most likely source of the pain.)

I love the interaction with our teenagers.  Whether they are my bio-daughters or my exchange-daughters, they keep me guessing on how to relate to them.  They can be moody; they can be curious, and they can sit back and stare in complete wonder why an adult is not acting how they believe an adult should act.  I am good with all of that!  It is my hope (and prayer) each one of them can keep their sense of wonder and ability to be slightly inappropriate a couple hours a week!

 

 

Warm-ups Or Leftovers?

As my daughter was designing at attachment for her team’s robot project, I had a pretty good food conversation with one of the other parents.  (In the spirit of full disclosure, I am supposed to be a coach on for the team.  Since they are one of the older teams and have been doing this for a few years, my services are more along the lines of asking them questions “why?” rather than being there to keep them from losing focus.)  After the other parent told me of her younger daughters refusal to use cake mixes out of the box because making it from scratch was so much better, we talked about a couple of things we make for dinner.  (Her same daughter who is home-schooled will search out recipes on the internet and give her mother shopping lists.  She makes dinner 1 or 2 times per week, and she rarely watches anything other than Food Network on TV.)  When it came to the portion of the meal remaining on the table after everyone has eaten their fill, I received a temporary blank stare when I used the term “warm-ups”.  Not sure if it is a Midwest term, but maybe it is an attitude.  Sure I know what she means when she says “leftovers”, but it set me to thinking….

I am proposing the use of “warm-ups” or “leftovers” is an attitude.  In our house, we rarely if ever use the word leftover.  Leftover sounds like something you tolerate.  (Although, the Caribbean beans and rice did fall into this category.  Our “rice-lovers” had a hard time accepting the coconut milk taste in the rice.) Leftovers are something that are the last thing picked when the foods on your table were picking teams.  It is an unwanted thing your refrigerator needs to be bribed to keep alive for the few days necessary before the container is either full of mold or too sloppy/stiff to be able to believe the microwave could revive it.  Whoever the chef is on any given night (chef is used loosely, but is much more complimentary than, “person charged with cooking and responsible for all of the blame if the meal goes horribly wrong”.  We make every effort to be flattering, but the number of second servings speaks louder than, “Great job.  I really loved it!”) usually pulls from something they know will be good.  (If our exchange students, they either call or email their mothers to get ingredients and/or ideas.  For the “natives”, we build on things we know will be eaten and expand from there.)  When I hear “warm-ups”, I think of taking a glazed donut out of a box from Krispy Kreme and putting it in the microwave for a few seconds.  A warmup is something to look forward to.  It is something to be savored.  The term implies good (possibly slightly decadent) eating ahead!

In our household, warmups better describes the dining remaining for these reasons:

  1. Warm-ups is a much happier term in our household.  Since my daughters and exchange students all pack lunches everyday, the ability to rapidly consume the warmups allows us to view any food left over after a meal as only a temporary contributor to refrigerator clutter.  Each girl usually has 2 – 4 plastic containers at the end of each meal.  It depends on the individual night (they pack the night before because cross country demands a very early wake up call) how frustrating their towers of protein and veggies are to navigate when something is needed at the back or bottom shelf.
  2. Taste better warmed-up:  This is a possible lie we have cultivated to improve the enthusiasm for “maturing” meals.  The argument does have some validity with a couple of our meals.  The jambalaya has been accused of being too hot on day one.  As the rice mixture matures, it tends to become a little less potent.  It still tingles the tongue, but it doesn’t rattle the tear ducts.
  3. Kudos and praise:  When the warmups pile up and it is one of those summer lunch meals, the counter top is covered with lidless plastic containers.  Bounties are placed on certain containers, and rewards are offered for emptying a container.  Special rewards are offered for those who are capable of consuming the contents of two or more containers at one meal.  If necessary, peer pressure is placed on the potential diner who refuses to consider any of the offering and claims, “I am not hungry.”  When they reluctantly pull out a plate, choose a warm up and take their place in line at the microwave, they are again embraced and accepted as a fellow soldier in the battle to exterminate the warmups and admitted leftovers from the household.

Despite the bickering over what is a warmup or a leftover, I will fully agree with the title of “leftover” being assigned to anything that remains in the refrigerator for over a week.  Once the criteria is met for disposing of the “aged” food, we ask ourselves what we could do different so we don’t have to throw the food away next time.  Do we need to make it differently?  Do we need to make less?  Do we need to find a new way to repurpose a warmed up meal?  (We will often make roast and carrots in the crockpot.  The roast does not usually get eaten well as a warmup, but it usually does pretty well as beef and noodles.  While breathing life into a pork roast as pork ‘n noodles does not seem to be quite as winning of a plan.) Do we need to make LOTS of something and just freeze the balance knowing its reception will be much warmer if the intended diners believe it is fresh (assuming the taste it not too badly compromised) rather than a “revisit”?

We do realize less cooking would help us have less dishes to wash.  The table is a place to cultivate belonging.  It is a time where the grunting/chomping that goes with oral consumption is blended with the chatter of school, work and relationships.  When we pray over a meal, it is like we are making the table and everything that transpires around it sacred.  When we arise and clean up, the sacredness is broken.  In the spirit of this mood, why would anyone want to introduce anything to make the experience less than the bonding/coaching/parenting experience it should be.  If you are ever hear on a warmup night, you are allowed to sit at our table and refer to the items eaten out of the plastic containers as either leftovers or warmups, but one needs ketchup, and one needs a good appetite.  Which do you want to eat?

Kimchi II With a Side of Cold Noodles

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After surviving another Saturday morning of cross country and a lunch of warmups, we solicited volunteers to take the lead on dinner.  Fortunately, our Korean exchange student stepped up.  As she did her online research and threw out things like “spinach root” and a few other things we had available in our refrigerator or knew we could get OR were pretty sure a substitute would be necessary, we started to pull together our grocery list.  Since her shopping list was written in Korean, I had to make sure the “must have” items made it onto my English list.

When the grocery trip was announced to include Whole Foods, all of the girls wanted to go.  And, when there was a pet store next to Whole Foods, everyone but me was really happy.  Before we made it into the pet store, there were adoptable kittens, cats, and dogs all along the sidewalk.  My exchange daughters barely made it into the store. Although the cats and dogs were in cages, they were reminiscent of their pets in China and Korea in mannerisms if not in appearance.  My daughters immediately went to the guinea pig and hamster area.  They rattled off facts of both creatures like they had studied them in their native, non-domesticated nests.  After visiting the geckos, birds, snakes, chameleons, fish and assorted mammalian life at the entrance, I announced to the girls it was time to get Rachel’s birthday present and head out the door.  They obeyed pretty well; I ran interference with the birthday girl as the purchase was made.

After the pet-related gifts made it to the car, we poured into the Whole Foods produce department.  (When you have 5 or more, your movements are somewhat more flowing than otherwise…)  The pineapple and melon samples were soon vanquished.  The mushroom options were reviewed with a portabello decision being made, and the spinach root was put in the unavailable category.  Other than needing to spend $25 to qualify for using our coupon, the rest of the 1/2 was spent exploring.  Our Korean student liked the natural sunscreen and related items.  Our Chinese student liked the apple juice with the special delivery mechanism.  (I didn’t look at it, but I am assuming it still involves the mouth.)  My girls were all over the healthy snacks.  Whether it was bulk trail mix or some sort of otherwise unavailable flavor of a food bar, they were just happy to take in the experience.  As we checked out, it was nearing 5:00.  The errands were over; the dinner prep needed to begin!

If we would have known at the beginning of prep the 2 hour wait necessary until we dined, we might have chosen another dinner option.  Since the ingredients were there and cooking also provides some entertainment, we went for it! Of the two menu items our Korean student made, these were the key things I thought were interesting (If you are seasoned in Asian cooking, it may be of absolutely NO interest to you.  I am okay with that.  Since no real recipes seem to be used by either of our students, a list of techniques and guidelines are all that seem necessary):

  1. Fried Kimchi Rice:  When we made the rice to be used in the fried rice, it was “dry” and not sticky.  Sticky rice would have made the frying process excessively difficult. (All vegetable prep was done previously.  I am only referring to them as if they are already cut and waiting to be cooked.  The smoked sausage was also cut up and ready to go into the heat.)  The  two batches were basically made the same way. 1) The vegetables needing a little extra cook time were cooked first. 2)The rice and sausage were added after some oil was put in the bottom of the pan. (if necessary) 3) The special tube of “special” pepper paste was squeezed into the pan and blended with the ingredients. 4) The kimchi was put in after being sliced according to ancient Korean secrets. 5)  Any remaining veggies were added.  Since the onions were sliced thin and cooked before, there may have been some thinly cut (and small pieces) carrots, green onions, and celery or some such item.  When I have fried rice in the past, I get worried about all of the sticky stuff that really adheres to the pan.  I was told this is normal.  It is to be scraped off and eaten–very flavorful–before doing the next batch.  (The eating is optional and does not have to be done immediately.)
  2. Pork with Cold Noodles and vegetables: This one was not to hard to follow.  She cut about a pound of pork into thin pieces maybe a couple inches or so long. (She added salt and pepper and made sure all of the meat was satisfactorily seasoned.) The vegetables were all prepped and cooked separately with minimum oil.  (The veggies included: carrots, mushrooms, green onions, onions and maybe some celery and some other similar veggies.) They were set aside in a bowl waiting for the pasta.  The pork was cooked in a similar fashion, and also set aside.  The pasta was an Asian starch based noodle.  (Not sure what the noodles were made from.  I think she mentioned sweet potatoes….???  Whatever they were, they cooked up clearish.) Before putting the pasta in, she added a significant amount of soy sauce to the water.  She monitored the pasta pretty close; she wanted to make sure it was just right when she declared it done.  It was immediately drained of the hot water and bathed in cold water. All of the pork, veggies, noodles, some garlic and extra soy were added to the mix and tossed.

I liked both meals.  The rice was very flavorful with an expected texture.  The pasta was good.  However, it had a somewhat rubbery texture.  Whenever I bit into it, it felt much different than normal pasta.  Chewing this pasta involved a bit more of a chewing commitment.  Although it did offer slight resistance to being consuming, the overall flavors were very good.

Our first Korean meal was good, but the Korean chef was much more confident on this meal.  She was very decisive as she chose her ingredients and did her cooking.  As exchange parents, we selfishly get to benefit from the great meals they have made us.  (The corollary, of course, is we have to be pleasant and enthusiastic when the meals are not so good, too.  😦 ) It is great seeing our students mature as young ladies!  They continue to surprise us with the skills they have acquired through parental osmosis.  Our fear is what obvious and less than obvious skills and/or vices they might acquire after a year in our household.  As we are tempted to play favorites between them (this is a challenge we also juggle with our bio kids), we have to alter our view of the immediate.  We need to climb up the ladder a few rungs and get a view of the situation in the light of future perceptions rather than the moment.  We have been entrusted with these kids.  Their parents have willingly allowed them to come into our homes and allowed our whole family to grow from the experience.  We are not told to pull out the cookie cutter and make them into kids that would have come from our families kid factory.

As with all relationships, there is give and take. Both they and us will be changed from this 10 month exchange experience.  It isn’t only our palettes that will expand during this time.  We are obligated to use all of our senses and embrace the cultural exchange in its fullest.  We probably won’t realize the vacuum created when they leave until we participate in one of the things shared with them.  Then we will realize how this experience changed us and made us richer people and a richer family.  So many months to go, and only one blog to try to capture the moments and meals of the experience!

Milk To The 4th

We like milk. Well, at least we used to.  Now it seems regular milk is simply not good enough for our population of mammals.  Where once we had a total of 3 types of “cow” milk (Our kids drank 2%, my wife(on the rare occassions she drank milk) and I drank skim milk, and our undernourished foster child drank whole milk) living in our refrigerator, we now, today as I write this, have a variety of things that have never seen the inside of a cow.

The milk-ish products in our frig include the following:

  • Gallon of 2% milk:  Our only shout out to the milk of my youth.  (Growing up, we got milk directly from our neighbor who milked the cows.  We got whole milk that was unpasteurized and unhomogenized.  Once the milk settled out, my mother scraped off the cream that rose to the top and made yogurt.  I don’t remember eating any of the yogurt, but she told me she used the dehydrator to make it.  My daughter has heard this rumor and wants me to put the dehydrator on my Christmas list so she can experiment.  Since getting the blender for Father’s Day, she has had far more fun with it than I.  Why shouldn’t she ask for it?)
  • Almond milk:  My mother has been buying Almond milk at Aldi’s for a number of years.  She has been cheering its merits for quite some time.  I have tried it, but remain a traditional mammal.  The non-traditional mammals will drink it knowing full well there is no guarantee when or IF the carton will be replaced when emptied.
  • Soy milk:  This one was one I did not really ever planning on drinking.  Our Chinese exchange student doesn’t ask for much, so when she requested the soy milk, it seemed hard to turn her down.  She drinks it very diligently….a cup in the morning and at night. [I believe.]  (My experience with Chinese students [I am guessing adults, too.] is they are very disciplined.  And she certainly is that.  She likes sweets, but limits (at least she gives all appearances of limiting) her consumption of them.  She may sneak an extra cookie into her lunch, but she is rarely seen getting a snack after dinner.)
  • Coconut milk:  This one is my fault.  I had this incredible plan to make a Caribbean feast for dinner.  I had 15 or so skinless, boneless chicken thighs marinated w/ a bottle of Caribbean Jerk marinade.  Since I was such a good planner the night before, I had set 4 cups of beans in a bowl with 12 cups of cold water.  They expanded nicely and after cooking in the crockpot all day, they were ready to be blended with some rice in an INCREDIBLE (or not) Caribbean Beans w/ Rice.  Since last time we made rice, I doubled it and there was barely any left over for school lunches.  I determined I was going to get ahead of the curve and double it.  The plan was good, but I failed to factor in the impact of the coconut milk on the flavor of the rice.  Needless to say, the rice wasn’t a hot mover at dinner.  When the containers came out for pre-packing tomorrow’s lunch, the rice was almost completely absent from the festivities. Only one container had the rice paired with some broccoli.  I don’t fault them for not being more enthusiastic.  A happy, satisfied cook is much more likely to experiment and sometimes hit one out of the park.  Right…..a half gallon of coconut was purchased for the bean and rice experiment.  It was cheaper than buying 2 cans, and it may tempt us into other experiments.
  • Hazelnut creamer:  We have had one of these in the frig for quite some time.  I am NOT a black coffee drinker.  My wife sometimes dances with the black brew. I am also a recovering sugar user–why does my wife stay married to me?  I usually don’t use full strength creamer.  I will splash the creamer and make up the difference with milk. I have attempted to take walks with other flavors of creamer, but I usually reach the bottom of the cup  unsatisfied.
  • Chocolate Caramel creamer:  Since my son moved back home while commuting to school, he has revealed a variety of new habits.  The habit that pleases my wife the most is his graduation to coffee drinker.  As an added bonus, he usually has coffee in the morning and another cup in the nightish time.  The chocolate caramel is definitely his creamer of choice.  My daughters have also been known to make an iced coffee where this creamer is an ingredient.  If our youngest son would only start drinking coffee, my wife would know her job as mother was a successful one.

I suppose milk to the 6th might also have been an appropriate title.  Having sometimes been overly a purist, I was not sure exactly if the creamers qualified for a “power of milk”.  In my desire to be accurate, I may have inadvertently offended any whose entire dairy consumption comes from their coffee cup.  (Better milk than those little, non-dairy creamer cups–yuch!)

Also, I have failed to address any cheese present in the frig.  For those who are curious:

  • we have mexican shredded cheese for our frequent tacos, carnitas, and fajitas
  • cream cheese for any of those bagel purchased at the discount bread store,
  • American cheese-we really don’t eat it.  It is only to show our support for America–kind of like putting out the flag on various holidays,
  • Provolone-one of the best cheeses ever.  When it goes on a hamburger, the meat gives it a big hug and takes a bite out of its neck in a pseudo-vampirian embrace,
  • Mozzarella-the pizza cheese of choice–as long as it hasn’t already gone moldy,
  • Parmesan- a nice thing to have around for those Italianish things us Americans think we do so well.
  • The final holdout…sour cream– not a cheese, not a milk.  It is a big glob of dairy goo that is all too necessary when I make banana bread.

Maybe at some future day, I can give a tour of the vegetables presently residing in our frig.  (Even more exciting, the ice cream and dairy products residing in our freezer.) It is not as good as an adventure movie, but may compete with “Honey Boo Boo”.  (I doubt they have many vegetables in their refrigerator.)  Making a milk “suicide” (in my youth, a suicide was a little bit of each soda/pop available at the fountain.  Cream soda was essential for a good one.) might just be the right way to bring closure to my dairy adventure….

Spicy Hands

As a father and “exchange” dad of 2 to 4 daughters (depending on how you want to count them—presently, there is a very strong case to be made for the 4), I don’t make it a habit of smacking their bottoms.  (The teenage years are challenging years as the “new” father/daughter dynamics emerge, but it certainly is not as often as it used to be.)  After some events of this weekend, I find out the kids (I am hoping it does not cross gender boundaries.) play a game called “hot hand”.  (Maybe “kids” is throwing the net out there too widely…it might just be my daughters or whatever other girls are inhabiting our house at the moment…)  Apparently, the winner in hot hand is the one who is capable of using their hands to smack some one in the rear and have in sting significantly.

The whole “hot hand” thing only came to my attention when I heard the girls talking about “spicy hands”.  Our Korean exchange student claims this is what they call someone who has the American equivalent  of a “hot hand”.  (After dinner last night, the 4 girls were in the family room together trying to come up with “girl” stuff to talk about.  Once they got started and spicy was mentioned, three or four more spicy body parts were mentioned including spicy foot, spicy elbow and I know I definitely heard “spicy toe”. )  It is worth mentioning at this point what “hot hand” meant in my youth.  A hot hand was the star basketball player who was having a difficult time missing the basket.  (Rarely me…although I am pretty good at killing flies. The key to killing flies with your hands is not swinging where they are at, it is swinging where they will be.  Flies typically spring backwards a little before taking off.  So, my fly killing success comes from clapping my hands about an inch above the surface they are sitting on.  I don’t always get them, but since I am such a good clapper and have my eyes clouded w/ fly blood, I often have a “hot hand” after either an attempt or a success.)  And, when boiled down, “hot hand” was just someone with a good streak of luck going.  Regardless, our Korean exchange student was going to get her definition of “spicy hand” broadened…..

(I am sorry this is another blog post that mentions carnitas.  They will not be the star; they are only a necessary evil to justify the “spice” for the broadened “spicy hand”.)

When we go to Sams and buy pork shoulder butt (it is the carnita meat of choice), it comes in a two pack.  With one of the butts being quickly spoken for, the second one is too expensive a cut of meat to sit too long in the frig.  So, we make another batch of carnitas and freeze it.  A key ingredient in our carnitas is the jalapenos.  Since our Chinese student cut the jalapenos last time, I felt it was fair for me to ask our Korean student.  (They already have both told me they will not cut onions, so I have to find something for them to do in the kitchen.)  Fortunately, she jumped right in.  There was 15 or so jalapenos, but I only showed her 6 of them before revealing the rest of them.  I showed her “my” technique of cutting off the ends before slitting them up the middle.  A spoon is used to clean out the seeds so the contact with the juices can be minimized.  It is not a completely pepper juice free experience, but it makes it pretty safe.

As she slogged her way through the peppers, she decided to try some cream cheese icing my daughter was mixing.  As she dipped her finger in the icing and licked her finger, she said, ” Cream cheese icing is hot.”  I let her know it was the pepper juice on her hand, but she complained no more and finished up all of the peppers.  She easily transitioned into cookie icer/decorator without making any more mention of the peppers. (At this point, I had chopped all of the jalapenos and onions up in the food processor.  The crockpot was set up for a long cooking on “low”.  As I went to bed, my brain was completely “spicy hand” free.

As everyone assembling in the kitchen to eat breakfast before church, I heard those fateful words, “I will never cut jalapenos again.  My hands were so spicy.  I touch my face and hands, and I could not sleep. I like to eat carnitas, but I cannot cut the peppers again.  I do not like spicy hands, Sam-I am.”

With the exception of the Dr. Seuss reference, this is pretty much all true.  I wanted to be a fiction writer once, but decided I did not have the imagination for it.  I have found a much happier marriage when my mind takes reality and warps or twists it into some sort of sausage.  It closely resembles the meat I started with but with a couple of extra spices and a casing that holds it all together.

Grilled Cheese With Waffle Iron Included

Another one to clear out of the “draft” folder….

Waffleless Grilled Cheese

After last weeks cruise, the emphasis this week was on improving our diets.  (Although cruises are infamous for throwing a few pounds on the hips and any other place they will stick, a combination of exercise and minimal additional meals [the always available pizza and hamburgers does seem to make our decisions more like fish stories, but they are true!!] allowed us to not get to far off of the scale.)  We had two meals using spinach tortillas.  Chicken and lots of those green leafy, onioney, and peppery things with a touch of salad dressing made these pretty healthy choices.  The girls made a new batch of red roasted pepper hummus.  They invited me to join them for their carrot/celery/pretzel dipping feast. As a reward and because it just does not seem right to let a week go by without serving our taste buds something new, my daughters fulfilled their wish to re-purpose the waffle iron.

Without much guidance but a pressing need to use a non-stick spray, we treated the waffle-grilled cheese just like how we would have treated it if on a griddle.  The waffle timer was mostly irrelevant.  And, our waffle iron “likes” to have everything squashed together pretty tight before it will allow the waffle iron to do a half flip.  The first couple sandwiches were not fully embracing their waffleness.  We were reluctant to force everything into the very tight space demanded by the waffle iron.  As the successes continued, we took more risk.  By the 5th one (my oldest son ate two), we were pretty confident in the latitude allowed us.

This was not a diet meal, but it was fun and not too bad for us.  (We did use wheat bread!)  With the carbohydrates being watched (breakfast food tends to be heavy in the carbs and the grease – pancakes and sausage or french toast and bacon or donuts.), it is good to take one of the those appliances that has to compete for shelf space a chance to shine.  And, shine it did!  Although we were tempted to fill the waffle dimples with syrup, we were very content to consume our sandwich with a side of chips and salsa.

Maybe the waffle quesadilla will be our next attempt to give the waffle iron a little higher place on the appliance shelf.  (I don’t know if there is a pecking order with appliances, but I am sure the non-electric ones [manual can opener] are constantly dealing with self-esteem issues.)  Regardless of the appliance or ingredients, lunch is better with my girls and the enthusiasm they bring to nearly everything.

Adventures In Boboli

 

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We are fortunate to have a discount bread store close by.  (We think of it as our fortune.  However, all the bread may not be so good for us.)  They sell buns, bagels, fruit pies, specialty beds, and regular bread available at discount prices.  With the discount prices, also comes accelerated expiration dates.  All of the above listed items have been quick to go “bad” while they sit on our counter waiting to be consumed.  (Bad = mold.  Getting a loaf at half price is still expensive if the bread goes moldy in only a couple of days. 😦 )

The discount Boboli (In case you didn’t know, Boboli is a wonderful pre-made pizza crust.  My wife is not exceptionally fond of them, but they sure do help a meal come together quickly.) is an exception to this “bad bread” phenomenon.  There are a couple of different sizes (they even had a football shaped crust once.), a couple of different thicknesses, a couple of different flavors (regular and whole wheat) AND they thaw quickly while taking minimum space in the freezer.

As mentioned above, my wife does not always participate in our Boboli adventures.  Some of our notable Successes:

  • Bar BQ Chicken Pizza:  barbeque sauce w/ sliced grilled chicken.  Grated colby jack and small sliced green onions on top.
  • Carnita Pizza:  salsa sauce with the carnita (our carnita is pork shoulder butt done in the crockpot w/ jalepenos and other Mexican spices.  Before serving it, we broil it in the oven on the top rack) on top.  The same sliced green onions and colby jack are invited to the party, too.
  • Bread for Italian food:  If I am too lazy to make a focaccia, we will put the Boboli on a pizza pan.  Olive oil, Parmesan and some italian spices are sprinkled on top.
  • Chicken fajita:  Another favorite….salsa sauce with caramelized green peppers and onions.  The sliced grilled chicken meat is nestled in with the vegetables with Colby jack on top.

Notable Fails:

  • Macaroni ‘n Cheese:  Some buffet pizza place do  this, but they have perfected it.  We took left over mac ‘n cheese and put it on top of a crust.  I am not sure what we used as a sauce, and it really doesn’t matter.  I don’t think we could salvage this one.  Would a sauce of really creamy cheese that easily melted salvaged this fail?  I doubt we will even knock on the door of such an idea again.
  • Country Fried steak:  I attempted to make this with a bed of white pepper gravy.  The sliced country fried steak went on top w/ grated colby jack on top of that.  It just didn’t have anything about it that made our taste buds want to back this way again.

The Future:

Although we still like quick meals, the bread portion of our diet needs to decrease.  Our big bread eaters (a.k.a the boys) either don’t or won’t be eating with us as much as they used.  My daughters are more aware of the bad side of too much bread in the diet.  This week our extra chicken did not go into a pizza.  We made wraps w/ the chicken and filled the wrap w/ lots of vegetables.  Balancing our dining with the demands of our maturing palettes will likely equal more vegetables and less bread.  Glad to have the discount bread store, but the future is likely going to be spent at Sprouts, Whole Foods, and Trader Joes.