Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What We Ate in Maine

Everything.  We ate everything in Maine.  

Get all the Murphy boys and their families together and I think there are about 400 people total.  Okay, maybe my estimates aren't the most accurate, but when you toss in the visiting friends and put everyone all together, I don't think that I'm that far off.  And there was much fun to be had.  And there was lots of eating.

we also had beautiful sunsets, great times on the beach, adventures in minigolf and Old Orchard amusement park, and fun times with the Murphy ladies.  
But we're talking food here.

We ate at Congdon's Donuts which have the best donuts ever, and their bacon isn't too bad either.

We ate delicious meals prepared by the various and sundry Murphy families - chicken noodle casserole that actually tasted like chicken and noodles and vegetables (yum!), American chop suey which was as good as always, chicken parm for a crowd over pasta, BBQ chicken and marinated steak that I went back for more than once.  I made tacos that, not to toot my own horn, were pretty tasty.

The last night we ate s'mores, and then, realizing that there was Lobster Tracks ice cream left, we ate that too.  

I am not getting on the scale for many weeks.

And one night many of the grown ups ate lobster.  Or as I like to call it, cockroach of the sea.  Guess who didn't eat lobster?

Since, in spite of our best eating efforts, there were many a leftover, I made leftover pizza for those of us who were going to take a pass on the bottom dwellers.  And I made cheese pizza for the kids.

The pizza that got a little burnt is not pictured.  Not to worry, it was still eaten.

Leftover BBQ Chicken Pizza
1 package pizza dough (I'll get my homemade recipe on here someday)
1 leftover breast of BBQ chicken, sliced thin
about 1/2 cup leftover grilled vegetables (we had peppers and onions) diced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
BBQ sauce* for drizzling (I think I used about 1/2 cup, but just have the bottle handy)

Preheat the oven to 425

Let the store bought dough rest on the counter for at least an hour.  It really needs to come to room temp before it's willing to be stretched.  Once it is pliable, grease a pizza pan (I used 12 inch, but 14 inch would have been fine), stretch the dough to fill the pan, and then let it rest again.  It will probably contract.  Give it about 10 minutes, stretch it again to the edges, then lightly brush with olive oil all over (or spray with olive oil cooking spray).

Drizzle a few lines of BBQ sauce in a zig zag pattern on the dough, then layer 1/3 of the cheddar and 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese on top of the BBQ sauce.

Place the sliced chicken on top of the cheese, and zig zag a few more lines of BBQ sauce.  Top with 1/3 of the cheddar and 1/3 of the mozzarella.

Finally, sprinkle the chopped veggies on top, put a little more BBQ sauce in the spaces that don't have any, and top with the rest of the cheese.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the crust is browned (I always lift up a corner of the crust and check the bottom.  It should look lightly browned as well).

*As far as I'm concerned KC Masterpiece is the best BBQ sauce out there.  I understand that some people wrongly prefer Sweet Baby Rays.  I'm sure whatever you use will be fine. But if you're on the fence, go with KC Masterpiece.

Leftover Steak and Gorgonzola Pizza

This was really good.  Worth making an extra steak if you're grilling.

1 package pizza dough
about 2 cups leftover marinated grilled steak sliced thin and cut into bite sized pieces (probably about a 12 oz steak, but it would depend on your cut of meat)
2 cups baby spinach, sliced into ribbons OR 2 cups arugula
3/4 c crumbled gorgonzola cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella

Do that thing with the pizza dough that I described above until it's ready to be topped.

Put the spinach or arugula over the center of the pizza dough (in lieu of sauce) and either coat with a light coating of olive oil or spray with olive oil cooking spray.

Top the greens with about 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese.

Place the cut steak on top of the mozzarella, and then top that with the remaining mozzarella and the gorgonzola.

Bake for about 20 minutes, making sure the crust is browned all over.  

Dammit.  Now I want pizza.

Coming tomorrow...waffles, apples, and maple buttermilk syrup.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Why I Don't Spank My Kids (even when I really want to)

I've been having a good time with the kids lately, but you know, sometimes they piss me off.  And in those moments, when I'm yelling and they're not listening and I'm tripping on Legos and all manners of nonsense, I really really want to deck them.  But I don't.  Here's a piece I wrote for offbeatmama.com about why.  (Waiting to hear back if it'll be published - if it is, I'll update).

PS - more recipes and whathaveyou coming soon.  It's been too damn hot to cook.

Their Own Bodies

I love my kids’ belly buttons.  I often point to them and say “Do you know why this spot is special?”  “Yes,” they reply.  “It’s where we were attached,” although as they get older they say it with less enthusiasm than when they first learned of the magic of that spot.

However, as they age, that belly button gets more and more important to me.  At one point, now years ago, our bodies were the same.  They were a part of me, and I was a person who ate for two, wore a seatbelt that wrapped around us both, and had clothes that were built to hold four arms and four legs.  But then they were born, the cord was cut, and our anatomies separated.  I had made people, and now they had their own bodies.  

This is, to quote our esteemed Vice President, a big fucking deal.  As people, we get one body, and, as a feminist, it is damn important to me to claim total ownership of mine.  If my body had been created 500 years ago, it would have been something to be traded for more wealth for my family.  If it had been created 200 years ago, it would have been something that my parents could have sent off to work, but it never would have reaped the rewards.  It my body had gotten married 50 years ago, my husband could have used it for sex whenever he wanted, as there was no such thing as marital rape.  Not anymore.  The best thing that I can ever do for my children is to give them autonomy over themselves.  I want my daughter especially, who came into a world that legally accepts her body has her own, but sends messages all the time that reject that truth, to fill out her skin with a personal spirit that is impermeable.  

She will need to know that having one’s own body is an incredible responsibility.  Having a body is hard work.  You have to nourish it properly.  You have to protect it from harm.  You have to learn what makes it feel good and what makes it feel bad.  It is hard to learn all the ways to do that, and there’s plenty of cajoling on my part.  Autonomy doesn’t automatically mean enlightenment.  Responsible ownership must include education - seatbelts and bike helmets must be worn, vegetables need to be eaten, hands must be held in busy parking lots, hair must be brushed.  I insist that she do these things not to assert dominance over her (despite her frequent protestations over the hair brushing especially) but because, as her mother, it is my job to teach her how to care for the frame that her persona will inhabit for her entire life.

Because having her own body is a privilege.  I want her to discover that her body is capable of amazing things.  I want her to feel the power that comes with a sense of total control over her own private and finite space in the world.  The sense of satisfaction that comes with enthusiastic consent, and the feeling of self worth that comes with a firmly stated “no.”  The ability to exercise that control over her anatomy is one that comes with time, but it is her birthright.  

This is why, in spite of the fact that she is sometimes rude, disobedient, inclined to make poor choices, and can be downright infuriating, I will never spank my daughter.  Spanking is one person saying to another “I am in charge of your body, and I will do with it what I want.”  The essence of spanking is not pain; it is a total lack of permission.  I believe that you can spank your children without hurting them physically, and I believe that spanking can curb some very troubling behavior.  Yet as a sex-positive feminist, I know it would be wrong to violate my basic belief in the power of consent.

I would be heartbroken if my daughter found it acceptable for someone who loves her to hit her; even more so if she believed that someone _should_ hit her out of love. But if I am allowed to hit my daughter because I’m bigger and I’m mad, why isn’t her high school date?  If it’s okay for me to hit her when I’m right and she’s wrong, why isn’t her spouse? If she cannot control what happens to her butt when I’m smacking it, when does she earn that right?  How will she learn that it’s hers so she can feel confident stomping on the foot of that asshole grabbing it on the train?  Equally important, I want her to know when her body wants to say “yes,” (to the ear piercing, to the doughnut, to sex) and I want her to feel a sense of ownership so she can say yes responsibly and enthusiastically.  

I can’t unequivocally give my kids a whole lot.  But after 9 months of sharing mine, their bodies are their own.  Every time I look at those adorable little belly buttons I am reminded of that fact.  And while I often want to “eat them up, I love them so,” I know I cannot.  However, I can marvel at all of the things that they can do with their spirited, gorgeous, energy-filled physiques, and relish the fact that I created amazing things that can now stand on their own two feet.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Dinner Date: Short Ribs and Other Good Stuff

I really should have called this post: "How to impress a date without really working hard," but there's a lot of ways to do that, and frankly, some of them are much more fun than short ribs.  But as far as impressing someone with your cooking prowess, this is totally the way to do it.

The whole dinner was the short ribs served over buttered grits and a grilled beet salad.  But of all of those things, the only thing that really required a recipe was the short ribs, and I'll toss in a dijon vinaigrette for the salad (in case you're the make-your-own-dressing type).  

Beer Braised Short Ribs
note: most of my recipes serve 4, this served two, but it could easily be doubled
1.5 lbs beef short ribs, bone in
olive oil for searing
1 onion, medium size dice
2 bottles of dark beer (I used Long Trail doublebag, but that's only because it's what we had in the house.)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dijion mustard

Preheat the oven to 325
In an oven safe pot with a lid (I used my dutch oven - thanks Rachel Brill!), heat about 2 tbsp olive oil to high heat and then brown the short ribs on the meaty side (this takes about 2 minutes).  Remove the ribs to a plate.

Put the onions in the pot, lower the heat to medium, and cook for a couple of minutes until they begin to brown around the edges.
While the onions are browning, drink some of one of the beers.  Seriously, you only need about 1 3/4 beers for this recipe, and it's a shame for it to go to waste.  If you wanted to go ahead and drink half a beer, that would be ok too.  
Once the onions have started to brown, remove the pot from the heat, pour in what's left of the beer, and stir in the thyme and mustard.  
Put the short ribs back in the pot, cover, and place in the oven and forget about them for about 2 hours 

(this is very forgiving - two hours, two and a half... Just check after about 2 to make sure there's still enough liquid in the pot.  If not, add a little more beer, water, whatever).  
When you're ready to serve, cut the short ribs off the bone and into about 1 inch pieces, and serve with the onions left from the gravy.  

If you want to serve with the grilled beets and grits...

Grilled Beet and Wilted Lettuce Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette
1 bunch beets, peeled, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1 head romaine lettuce, cut in quarters
6 tbsp olive oil, divided
3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the grill to medium high.
Place sliced beets in a grill basket and toss with 2 tbsp olive oil.

These beets were stripey.  And delicious.

Grill, turning occasionally, about 30 minutes

As they're grilling, make the dressing by combining the rest of the oil, vinegar and mustard.

Right before you're ready to serve dinner, spray each of the quartered romaine heads with cooking spray, and place on the grill for 2 minutes.  
Remove from the grill, plate the lettuce and beets, and drizzle with the dressing.

I'm not going to tell you how to make grits.  Buy a container of instant grits.  Cook them according to the directions on the box (although I do prefer to cook them a little more slowly and covered, but that's only because it's more forgiving, timewise).  Stir in a little butter at the end of the cooking.  

Top with the short ribs, serve with the beet salad, and realize that something that took two hours of mostly hands off cooking can be eaten in about 10 minutes.

This picture is upside down.  No idea how that happened.

Dining al fresco.  

Which leaves you a lot of time for the rest of your date...

Summertime, and the Living is 1833

Lazy summer days sound so good in theory, but around my house, they're a lot like this:
"Where are we go-ing?"
"When are we leeev-ing?"
"What are we dooo-ing?"
We don't do a lot of lazy summer days.  That means that I have to figure out a lot of stuff to do to get up and out of the house.  We make a summer "to do" list and work our way through, and it ends up being a lot of fun.  

Thankfully, the kids do like to do a lot of different stuff.  One thing that they love is Old Sturbridge Village.  If you haven't been and you live pretty much anywhere in MA, it's worth a trip.  It's a "living museum," and they have a ton of activities.  

Watch out, American Gothic.


Big Balloon political sign thingy.

Chillaxin' on a straw bed

Pumping well water.

Old timey fun like stiltwalking...

and marbles (which is as painfully boring as you would imagine).

Jax played a few intense rounds of tug of war.  He's a scrappy little bugger.  
(I'm not sure if my first attempt to upload video is working - let's give it a shot.)

I believe we've come full circle here.

At the end of the day, one of us was exhausted and begging to go home.  That would be me, actually.  The kids would have stayed another hour.  

So that's one off the list.  Tomorrow will be the Boston Harbor Islands, with our first trip to Spectacle Island for a little swimming.  

But in between the two was a kids' sleepover with Grandma, and a whole 24 hours+ to ourselves.  It was amazing, and lots of good food was had.  The recipes are coming up.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Walden and Ricotta Gnocci

Perfect weather for the kids' inaugural trip to Walden Pond.  

It's like they weren't trying to kill each other in the car 5 minutes before this

We walked about halfway around the lake to a private little spot, which was awesome in that we had it to ourselves pretty much the whole morning.

taking a break from swimming to take a little stroll

on the rubble next to the Thoreau house

Dinner was a modified Ricotta and Spinach gnocchi recipe.  I'd like to say that these were light and pillowy.  They weren't super dense and chewy, but they could have been fluffier.  I think that a) they needed to be cut smaller, b) they needed slightly less flour and c) they needed to boil about one minute longer.  I've made these modifications in the recipe, so if anyone wants to try it and let me know how it goes, that'd be swell.  

Ricotta Gnocchi
1 15 oz container low-fat ricotta
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1/3 c. grated parmesan, plus more for the top
1 1/2 c. flour, plus more for kneading
tomato sauce 

Mix the ricotta, egg, salt and parmesan together well.  Then add flour, 1/2 c. at a time, until it forms a dough.
Turn the dough onto a floured counter and knead until pliable and soft and not too sticky, but not too dry either.*
Cut the dough into 4 pieces and, on a floured counter again, roll each piece out until it's a rope about an inch thick.
imagine that there were pictures earlier.  I keep forgetting.

Cut each dough rope into pieces about the length of your first knuckle (or 1/2 inch in case you have freakishly large fingers, or are some kind of cooking orangutang.) 
Gently press on each dumpling with the tines of a fork, making a four-stripe indentation* (I have no idea why this step exists, but it was in the original recipe, so I did it, so here it is.  You could probably live on the wild side and be indentation-less, but it's up to you).
Lightly grease an 8X10 glass dish and coat the bottom with tomato sauce (yes, from a jar.)  
my nicely indented gnocchi just waiting to be boiled alive

Preheat the oven to broil.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and heavily salt it.  Once the water is boiling, drop the dumplings in gently one at a time until you've added 1/2 the gnocchi.  They'll sink to the bottom, but as they cook, they'll rise.  Once they've risen, cook for 3 more minutes, then ladle them out with a slotted spoon into the tomato sauce.
Repeat the boiling and ladling with the second half of the gnocchi.*
Top with as much extra parmesan cheese as you desire, and broil for a couple of minutes to heat the sauce and brown the cheese. 

(You can make the sautéed spinach as this is happening).

*This recipe seems like a lot of work because there are so many steps.  But they were all really easy and, wherever there's a little * you could stop, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the next day and just pick up where you left off.  So it's a good make ahead meal if you don't want to tackle it all at once.

Sautéed Spinach
The trick is to use about 2 tbsp more oil than you think you should.  

One extra large bag of baby spinach
4-5 tbsp olive oil
sea salt

In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil over high heat until very hot, then toss in the baby spinach all at once.  Turn with tongs to coat evenly and cook on high heat until the spinach is entirely wilted, but no more.  Season generously with sea salt. 
(This whole process should take no more than 5 minutes)

Dinner is served!  (Look, no one likes it when that yucky spinach juice runs into everything else on the plate)

Don't let this picture fool you.  She ate most of it, but informed me that she liked the gnocchi from the store better.  And liked it better with pesto.  I should have taken a picture of the child who ate it all and asked for seconds, but no such luck.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tall Ships and Ginger Chicken

This guy

oh no, ladies.  He's mine.

had never been to see the tall ships, so we made a day of it today.  BIL Danny joined us, and we toured ships from Indonesia and Colombia before we melted.

This boat made it all the way from Indonesia at the incredible speed of 12 knots/hour

and they brought a band.  Let's just say it's likely that the trumpet section has been quite frequently threatened with being tossed overboard

Just kidding, although it was hot as hell.  Thankfully, we had planned ahead and hit the fountain on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. 
I always splash incognito.  

I highly recommend it, even for grown-ups.  (Pro tip - we just changed clothes in the bathroom at International Place, where we parked).  

Came home, survived several thousand melt-downs from this guy

and had dinner, which was easy and yummy ginger chicken.  Really can't go wrong.

Before I give you the recipe, let me put in a word for this stuff

Amazing stuff.  Fresh ginger is a PITA to peel, cut, and cook, and powdered ginger is nowhere near as tasty.  This preserved ginger tastes as good as fresh, but only involves popping open the container and forking it out.  I'm not getting any kickbacks from these guys; it's just really good.  Here, I'll even help you find a place to buy it.

Ok, recipe:

Ginger Chicken
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch thick pieces
1 medium white onion, sliced
1-3 tbsp of the ginger (you could also use peeled julienned fresh ginger, if you're a glutton for punishment)
2-3 tbsp soy sauce
vegetable oil for sauteing

(I served with plain white rice and steamed broccoli on the side, so you could grab that stuff if you wanted to be a total copycat - which I encourage).

Heat about 2 tbsp oil in a nonstick skillet* until hot but not smoking.  Add chicken and sauté on medium heat until cooked through but not browned, stirring frequently.  Remove the chicken to a bowl (the serving bowl is fine)
If there's any juices in the pan at this point, dump them into the sink.  Add about 1 more tbsp oil to the pan and sauté the onions on medium heat until they're soft but not browned, about 6 minutes.  
Add the ginger to the pan and cook about one more minute.
Stir the chicken in with the onions and ginger, and add the soy sauce (go light at first and add to taste).


I feel healthier just looking at this.  The picture alone probably makes up for the fries I had at lunch.

*I'm not normally a fan of nonstick pans, largely because of the unknown health risks of eating everything off of teflon, and because you can't get anything to brown in a nonstick pan.  But since it's better if this chicken doesn't brown, go for it.