• Sunday Extra: 3 Weeks of Menus

    You know I love to cook and regard the family dinner as a sacred time, although the combination of immature jokes (“Hey Mom- spell icup!”) and constant reminders (“Boys– use your napkins, not your shirts.  Finn, don’t steal Porter’s milk.  Get up and refill yours.  I’m not raising thieves.”) results in the most chaotic part of our day.  But I have high hopes that some day all of us will sit at the table and all elbows and napkins and condiments will be in their proper places, and we will have conversations that aren’t punctuated by audible farts, or center on jokes in which we are asked to name the word that starts with “f” and ends with “uck.” (Answer below for those of you who don’t have ten and twelve-year-olds.)++

    I don’t see any end to our nightly Hearing on Who Gets Dessert, in which Bill sits as judge, each boy represents himself and makes an argument outlining the reasons he is entitled to Cookies N Cream ice cream, and I serve as adviser to all parties, reminding them of crucial arguments (“Tell him: Your Honor, a look at the evidence will make it clear that I have tasted each food on my plate and consumed seconds of pork.”)

    I’ve been slammed at work lately and thus have been even more in need of easy recipes than usual.  The last couple of weeks I turned to Simply Recipes to find some winners and I’ve become a devotee of the site.  I heard Elise Bauer speak at BlogHer and recognized her beautiful site, but it wasn’t until Playgroupie raved about a Carnitas recipe that I really checked it out.

    Here are several recipes that were hits with my family.  Some, like the Carnitas, I prepared in the crock pot a day ahead.  Most of the others were so easy that I did them the day of, prepping ingredients when I picked the boys up from school and cooking later.  The Shrimp Fried Rice was so basic that I made the rice a day ahead so It could dry in the refrigerator, then left Bill and the boys to make it while I enjoyed a girls’ night out.

    I’ve divided this into three weeks of menus to make it easier on you so that you can do all your shopping today or tomorrow for the week.  I’ve also added two recipes of my own.  It’s the last week to make Jack-O-Lantern Pie, which The Voice Of Reason and I have been making for years.  It’s no great shakes from a culinary standpoint for my artichoke-loving boys, but it’s a tradition.

    It’s officially freezing to me here, now that the temperatures are in the high 50’s and low 60’s.  If I were to move as far north as Nashville I might well die of hypothermia. Bill requested a soup or stew, so I’ll be making Sausage and Lentil Stew which is a snap and healthy as well.  It’s easy to freeze or take to work for a quick lunch.

    Feel free to mix or match these menus; I’ve just tried to provide a good mix of chicken, meat and fish each week.  (The Simply Recipes dishes are marked with a *):

    WEEK 1:

    Jack-O-Lantern Pie (from the post Food, Glorious Food, which includes pictures of the pie and, for reasons I have forgotten, Brad Pitt.)

    *Dad’s Fish Stew (the clam juice is above the tuna at the grocery.  For economic reasons I used catfish and tilapia which were cheaper fish.  Be sure and serve with bread to sop up the juice. )

    *Sweet & Sour Chicken (super-easy, and don’t freak out when you mix up the sauce that seems odd and ends up perfect.  Be sure and read her tips about using a very hot pan.)

    *Pot Roast (Of course everyone already has a pot roast recipe but sometimes it’s nice to try a new one.  I did it in the crock pot.)

    WEEK 2:

    Sausage and Lentil Stew (recipe below)

    *Chipotle Meatballs (Remember how my Beef Balls were such a hit?  This is a great update. Sorry that you have to skim through the details of the family doorknob/fart game to get to the actual recipe.)

    *Pasta With Tuna, Arugula & Hot Pepper (I know– this sounds weird!  But it’s fabulous, I’m guessing because you use fresh garlic and oil-packed tuna.  I used spinach instead of arugula.)

    *Chicken Marinara (to make this even easier you could buy a jar of Newman’s marinara sauce and use that instead of making the tomato sauce!)

    WEEK 3:

    *Carnitas (these are fancy tacos.  The boys prefer flour tortillas, so I used some corn and some flour.  Publix has black beans that are seasoned, so we drain those and add them to the taco.  Don’t eliminate the step where you put the meat in the oven to crisp it up.  Delish.)

    *Chicken, Mushrooms & Tomatoes with Port Wine (this would be a good Election Special dinner; follow it with the always popular Multi-Tasking Ice Cream Pie and plenty of wine and settle in for the night.  If you don’t have Port, you can buy some very cheap or use red wine.  This would be good with green beans, or brussels sprouts sauteed with garlic and bacon, or zucchini sliced thin and sauteed with sliced almonds and topped with some Parmesan, salt and pepper a la the Red Cat restaurant in NYC.)

    Remember – don’t freak out if you can’t find everything.  You can use an onion instead of shallots or dump in a can of diced tomatoes if those at your market aren’t beautiful, as I did.  The point is to end up with edible food.

    * Shrimp Fried Rice (the boys did not leave me any to sample.  That speaks volumes.)

    Oops.  I am missing a recipe here.  You can check out my recipe posts by clicking on the “Let’s Eat” category in the left sidebar.  Or to make it easier, I’ve compiled several right here:

    Food, Glorious Food

    Week O’ Recipes

    Let Me Organize You, One Meal At A Time

    Sausage and Lentil Stew:

    6 oz smoked turkey sausage (I use more)

    1.5 cups thinly sliced leek

    2 cloves garlic, minced

    3/4 cup dried lentils

    2 10.5 oz cans chicken broth

    1 tsp dried thyme (I add some fresh, too)

    1/2 tsp sugar

    1/4 tsp Tabasco

    2 14.5 cans diced tomatoes undrained

    Slice sausage into 1/2 inch slices and cut each in half.  Brown lightly in a skillet.  Add leeks, garlic, and cook 3 mins.  Add lentils and broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 30 mins.  Stir in thyme and remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer 15 mins or until lentils are tender.  6 cups.

    (I thought I got this from Cooking Light, which I frequently use, but I’ve searched all over their web site and cannot find it.)

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    Answer to immature joke:

    ++ FIRETRUCK

    (and you did spell “icup” out loud, didn’t you?)
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    My mom died three years ago today.  I’m holding it together okay so far.  This is a picture of her in 1976, when she was 35 years old.    This is the exact way I remember my mom looking when I was growing up.
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  • Being Brave

    Today would have been my mom’s 67th birthday.

    I still have her birthday set on Birthday Alarm, which emails me in advance of everyone’s birthdays so I won’t let one slide.  I haven’t been able to remove my mom from the service.  It would be like removing her.

    Today I’m supposed to be writing an article that’s due soon, but instead I’m gathering my boys close and thinking happy thoughts about my mom.

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    Three years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Staredown at the Pool

  • Haiku Me!

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    I rarely win things, but I’ve been named a finalist over at Rocks in my Dryer in the Haiku about my mom contest.

    Am I the only one whose mother haunts me about my haircolor? You should hear what my dead grandmother whispers in my ear every time I pop a piece of chewing gum in my mouth. (“It’s so unbecoming, dee-ah.”)

    Anyway, at least help me make a respectable showing. And my haircolor is Loreal Coleur Experte 6.3. You know you want it. (Sorry, Mom.)

    Just for kicks, I’ve added a picture of me at my (fake) blondest:
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    May 1992 – Law School Graduation (yes, that’s Bill’s tassel hanging over my head) (Ooh – didn’t mean that the way it sounded) with my DARK roots and BIG earrings

    and a picture of me this past summer
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    Luv ya 6.3!

    You can have whatever opinion you want about my HAIR – it’s the haiku I need the votes on.

    Go here to vote – I’m the second circle. Thanks!

  • Eggs ‘n Ovaries

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    My mom died suddenly two and a half years ago . She’d just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her cancer was quite advanced by the time it was detected, which is too often the case.

    I guess people who haven’t lost a parent think I should “be over it,” but the truth is that I think about her every single day. I don’t guess I’ll ever get over it.

    About the only thing I can do is to try and make some good come out of this horrific event. And so, here’s some information about ovarian cancer so that you can help prevent it and throw some money at it if you’re so inclined. It would be fantastic if a cure, or at least a decent method of detection for this deadly cancer could be found.

    They call ovarian cancer the disease that whispers. Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect because its symptoms are easily confused with other diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome. There is no reliable, easy to administer screening tool that can be administered to all women. The blood test that detects a protein in some women with ovarian cancer, the CA-125, often is not positive until the disease is in its later stages. The CA-125 is elevated in only 25-50% of Stage 1 cancers, making it ineffective as a screening tool. Ultrasound can identify masses in the ovaries, but cannot tell if the masses are cancerous or not.

    The five year survival rate for women diagnosed when their cancer is in Stage 1 is 90%. The overall five year survival rate for ovarian cancer is 50%. At Stage 3 the five year survival rate is 35-40%.

    By the time my mom’s cancer was diagnosed, she was suffering symptoms such as shortness of breath, bloating, and lack of energy. Her doctor drained over a liter of fluid from her abdomen the same day, and she was scheduled for surgery three days later.

    I’m sure each of you know someone who’s been touched by ovarian cancer. If you can’t think of anyone offhand, perhaps some of these names are familiar to you: Gilda Radner, Madeline Kahn, Liz Tilberis, Jessica Tandy, and Shari Lewis. All died of ovarian cancer.
    gilda madeline notimetodie1 jessica OBIT LEWIS

    There are a number of actions you can take to help find a cure for this deadly disease.

    There is a deadline for signing up to get your car tag to support ovarian cancer research in Alabama. Click here to download a form for the tag. You can do it BY MAIL instead of schlepping to the DMV! The deadline is RAPIDLY approaching so go ahead and click over and register now. I’ll wait. (The page also contains information about getting an ovarian cancer tag in Kentucky, and for starting the process to get a tag approved in your state.)

    You can read about Brittany Waldrep, whose illness inspired the tag here in Alabama. She passed away in 2006 at the age of 25.

    Additionally, we’ll be holding a MOTHERWALK to raise funds for ovarian cancer research on May 10 here in Birmingham. Last year my sisters and I formed a team to walk in memory of my mom and we plan to do the same this year. If you’re nearby, come join us!

    Here is the first column I wrote about losing my mom, and here is one I wrote a couple of weeks later.

    My mom was always up for an adventure. When she was visiting Israel and she had the chance to ride a camel, she didn’t hesitate. She climbed right up on that camel and showed him who was boss.

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    Thanks for your support. Please pass this along to anyone else who might be interested in helping with this important cause.