Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Ch ch ch chANGEs"....

Life changes come in many forms. Like when you go to the ER because you have some crazy-ass bout of food poisoning that has lasted for a week, and they tell you that is NOT something you ate, but something that will eventually eat YOU out of house and home, and that saltines and 7-up are the only things you will consume for the next 4 months. Another wake-up call is when your children all finally exceed the legal age of 18, and the day is finally here when you no longer have to worry about them....then your stomach turns into lead the first time one of them does something stupid/scary/BIG and it dawns on you that THAT DAY NEVER COMES. Those drug company commercials where old people are laughing and lying around naked in bathtubs on the beach are a LIE....we're too busy losing sleep over the mistakes our kids are making to frolic with pharmaceuticals in the sand - those people are obviously childless.

My daughter and her family are making a life change at this very moment - I think the steady harassment of family for them to move back to Oregon was not quite enough until the big hairy toe of homesickness stepped on and tipped the scales. SIL is probably heading back overseas for another year-long contract, and because I think this last year is the longest he's been home all at once for quite a while, the thought of being alone again was too much for her. Which is fine by me - if family gets overwhelming, they can get their own place and pretend they're not home when we come knocking, and leave the phone off the hook....I will just be supremely happy that they're closer than a 6+ hour flight to an airport where you fly over what smells like the biggest crap farm in the universe. How can you smell that on a PLANE way up in the air anyway??

This, in turn, will be a big change for us - we have Son #2 at home, but he is pretty self-contained, and only rarely grunts a need for something, like say a tow from the California border (haha, that was SO funny!). Depending on when a job comes through for SIL, we will quite possibly double the size of our household, and STILL we have one bathroom. There is a disturbance in the force, and Darth Stranger is starting to draw up plans for said commode #2 (haha, yes I said it) - even a half bath is better than none, so I am ready to give up part of my luxuriously sized laundry room so I can shower without the fear that someone at any given point will desperately need to come in and make me have to shower all over again.

Please understand, this is not a complaint - I am unbelieveably excited, but keeping it low key in case it somehow doesn't happen...that would be very bad - but just an observation that things are about to change big time for our family as a whole. My kids are all awesome, as are the people they attach themselves to, but are also very independent (see "stubborn", they get that from their father) souls, so we (see me) are all going to need to be flexible. Which means that if someone puts the steak knives in the cheese knife slot, or leaves the cereal bag open so it gets all stale and chewy, I'm going to have to swing with it. Altho eating the last graham cracker and not immediately getting in the car and going to the nearest open store for more could be punishable by death (I don't ask for much, but my GC's are WW crack). And the benefits will FAR outweigh any inconvenience....I have only dreamed of the day when my grandson would be instantly accessible for teasing and rubbing grammy's feet (gross...I am totally kidding), and my daughter back so the balance shifts back to girl power - along with my someday DIL, we are going to RULE!

Change is mostly good, it shakes up our complacency, makes our lives more interesting, and can help you to see what you're really made of. Which brings me to this: a recipe for change. I am working really hard at making things that are good for you but still edible, and when I tweak a terrible (see delicious and full of fat) recipe and actually make it better for you and STILL good-tasting, I feel like I just invented chocolate. OK, maybe not chocolate....but maybe graham crackers. So give this a try and tell me what you got rave reviews here, but our taste buds could have been the first thing to disappear when we started losing weight!

Not-So-Fatty Patty's Killer Noodle Salad

I think the original had more noodles, less veggies, used regular peanut butter and more oil, but this version is far less point-plus intensive and still packs an amazing flavor punch. And load up on even more veggies if you want - you can also sprinkle chopped peanuts on top, but beware...those points add up FAST!

3 oz. fresh soba noodles (they look like fresh ramen, but are not deep fried)
1/4 C. seasoned rice vinegar
2 T. Peanutbetter (that stuff I told you about at Trader Joe's)
1 tsp. sesame oil (this is where a LOT of the flavor comes from...)
2 T. sugar
1 T. soy sauce
1 tsp. red curry paste (uh, yeah...I use maybe 1/4 tsp. so as to not set my hair on fire)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 C. shredded cabbage
1/2 red bell pepper
1 C. sugar snap peas
1 carrot, peeled or a handful of baby carrots
1 rib celery

Cook the soba as per directions - it only takes a couple minutes - drain and rinse with cold water and put in large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk vinegar, peanutbetter, oil, sugar, soy, curry paste and salt to a smooth emulsion, set aside. To prep veggies, wash and cut peppers and carrots into matchstick size pieces, then slice the sugar snap peas crosswise diagonally into 1/4" sections. Toss all veggies with noodles, pour over dressing and mix to coat. Adjust seasoning to taste, and serve cold - SO good and only 7 points plus for the WHOLE batch!

If you want to make this for more than just you, just multiply it per person for a main dish (you could add sliced cooked chicken breast for more protein - 3 oz. will add I think 2 more points), or for every two people if it's a side. You can also get fancy and add some toasted white and black sesame seeds, a tsp. is zero points, so just don't add more than that per serving and you're good to go. And if you don't care about the fat, by all means use regular peanut butter, drizzle in some olive oil and crust the top with crushed peanuts - shoot, you can eliminate the veggies altogether and stop yourself up for a month of Sundays! Just don't come to my house when it finally breaks loose....I still only have one bathroom, and I like the paint to stay on the walls, thank you very much.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

There are too beaches in Seattle...

Handsome Stranger and I went to Seattle last weekend, and despite the horror of the big city, terrible traffic (FULL of Washington drivers - I think they do their driver's training on Mario Kart), and having to walk hills in the city that I SWEAR should require caribiners, nut tools and quickdraws, we actually had a great time.

In the frenzy of trying to do every single tourist thing possible in 3 days, we wore ourselves's been 3 full days since we returned, and I am still exhausted. We blended in well with the other dorks taking pictures, running red lights (sheesh, why do you have to put them on the side like that?), and doing little jigs while waiting in line to pee because we never quite got the "Large Masses of Humanity and Only So Many Public Toilets" concept. And there were special moments - like when some lady cut me off as we were about to sit on a bench to share a croissant because she was going to sit there with the rest of her party who were still a half block away. I told her "Well, I'm sitting here too", so she ate her ice cream standing up and telling her family how rude I was. I did not tell her that someone should slap her momma for not teaching her manners, but I did say that we were there first, and there was still plenty of room for her. I guess her ass needed a zip code of it's own...but it wasn't as big as her mouth. I know, I'm terrible....just don't try to steal my bench and you'll be fine.

Sunday we vacated our hotel, then drove south to the Boeing Air was far more interesting than I imagined. My gramps used to work for Boeing, I think something to do with graphic art which was probably pretty boring, but they had some really amazing exhibits. My dad was a huge fan of airplanes, especially war birds, and if he never made it up there, he really missed out. I think his love for them was passed on, just a little, because that was my favorite part of the museum - those planes were just magnificent. There was a hot air balloon basket they mounted on a tiny platform that hung over a ledge....scary as hell, but I went on it and had HS take my picture. He was horrified....and rightly so - if you moved the whole thing bounced like a diving board. Which is why I went on only live once, and I get a lot of joy out of freaking HS out from time to time...I just hope I never have to tell him I'm pregnant again because I'm pretty sure this time it will kill him.

So just in case you wondered, here are my top 10 favorite things about Seattle:

  1. If you are overwhelmed at the enormity of the city and what the hell you’re supposed to do next and burst into tears at Pike and 2nd, passersby would surely put money in your cup even if it still has coffee in it.
  2. Leaving EMP. (I want my 18 dollars back, Paul Allen)
  3. 2 words. GUM WALL.
  4. The old lady with the Australian accent at The Bite who teased Handsome Stranger for switching seats with me because “he doesn’t like me” (I actually didn’t want to suffer through his “eating elbow” in my face). When she got up to leave, I told HS she didn’t like us and made her giggle.
  5. The nutty older gentleman street “performer” with two cats wearing sweaters.
  6. The view of Seattle from Elliott Bay.
  7. The butterfly habitat in the Science Center….one landed right on my chest, so I know they like things that are SWEET.
  8. The mentally challenged panhandler who asked through a mouthful of smokehouse almonds if we could spare some change – I gave him a dollar and he shouted after us as we crossed the street “God Bless you!!”….he made me not mind so much that I had to climb back up the hill.
  9. Two blocks later as we climbed a heinous hill while gasping and laughing about not making it, the random stranger who smiled and said “God Bless you both!” as he walked by.
  10. That we do not live there.
So this weekend it's Son #2's birthday, and I asked him what he wanted to do for dinner on his special day. I know better than to ask this, because I'm fairly certain (see "bet money on it" in the dictionary) that he will ask me to make Chinese food....which is precisely what he said. I used to make a New Year's Eve feast for my family every year, but it's a lot of work, and I am trying to cut back on stuff like egg rolls, fried rice and pork dumplings - the egg foo yung is probably the best option other than a dry fried veggie stir fry, which nobody really wants. So I am going to make as much as I can in a more thoughtful and healthy style....I will have to fry some egg rolls, but I hear that you can actually bake them to get a non-greasy crispness, you can use ground chicken in the dumplings (yup, I DO make my own potstickers...I am magic that way), and I can try to use less oil in the fried rice....but we'll see. I made the following offering tonight, and just might make it again on Friday....the birthday boy proclaimed it "freakin delicious" even though it was full of veggies and very little fat. I'm getting very sneaky in my old age....

Garlic Pork & Green Beans

I made this up today because I got 5 lbs. of romano beans from my sister-in-law's farm, and am concentrating on veggie dishes this week to make up for my indiscretions in Seattle last week. And it's actually not bad for you at all - I'm starting to get the hang of making stuff that tastes like it's bad for you but does not leave a puddle of oil on the bottom of your plate when you're I need to work on lowering the sodium. Oh salt, how I love thee....

2 lbs green beans, washed, ends trimmed and cut into 1/2" to 1" lengths
10 oz. pork loin, trimmed of all visible fat, and cut into strips
5-7 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 large onion, cut in half, then in strips from end to end
8 large mushrooms, washed and sliced medium thick
1 can water chestnuts
2 tsp. oil
1 T. dark soy sauce
1 T. rice wine
1/4 C. oyster sauce
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. msg
White pepper to taste (mine is about 1/4 tsp)

Preheat oven to 400. Spray a cookie sheet with Pam or olive oil, spread out green beans, then spray again. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt, then put in the oven and roast until they still have a little bite....sort of semi-tender. Remove from pan to stop cooking and set aside.

While beans are roasting, slice the pork loin chops in half (like butterflying but all the way through), or you can buy the extra thin sliced ones. Cut in matchstick style pieces, then put in bowl and sprinkle with 1 tsp. of the dark soy and rice wine, stir in. Let marinate while you prep veggies.

When beans are done and veggies prepped, heat a large skillet or wok and add 1 tsp. of oil. Add garlic, then immediately throw in pork and separate into one layer, stir fry until no longer pink, then dump in the beans and stir to coat and mix. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add 1 tsp. of oil to pan again and bring to smoking point. Throw in garlic, onion and mushrooms and start stir frying - when the onions start to get a little soft, add the water chestnuts and stir fry another minute or so until they're heated through. Dump in the beans/pork mixture, then add 2 more tsp. of dark soy, the oyster sauce, sugar and white pepper, and continue to stir fry until well coated and there is no excess sauce in bottom of pan. Adjust seasoning to taste, then serve over brown rice for an extra healthy meal that will fill you up, then empty you out the next day. I love brown rice...I use brown jasmine I found in bulk, and it's almost as soft as white but way better for you. And I think I have the cooking method down pat now - 3 cups water to 1 cup rice and a pinch of salt, bring to boil, cover and simmer until it's done....probly 30 minutes.

I divided this into 3 servings, and each was 5 points plus. 1 cup of brown rice brings that to 10 total, and it tasted like if I can get graham crackers to taste like Oreo's I can quit my job and hire someone to do all my prep work. Oh YEAH....

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Attack of the Kissing Nun...

It's strawberry season, and that always reminds me of my Great Aunt Cecilia. She was a nun, and she taught elementary school - I always knew her as a sweet old gramma who made us run for cover when she visited because she had to kiss and pinch our cheeks. We did not grow up in a demonstrative family, and if injured, were encouraged to "rub some dirt on it" when we offered a bloody stump and tear tracks down our dirty face after having some heinous farming accident. OK, that never happened, but you get my drift...kissing was for sissies. My first memories of her were in a habit...not to the floor, but black and white, just like a penguin, but with bosoms. Later she took to wearing lay clothing....which meant old lady dresses and sweaters, really thick nylon stockings and sensible (see ugly in the dictionary) shoes. And we loved her, even if she was all mushy when she arrived - I think we secretly liked it, but had to pretend so we didn't get beat up behind the shed by a sibling for being a pansy.

It's been a while, and the story has become somewhat sketchy, but I remember mom telling me that when Aunt Cecilia was a young lady, a young man was very taken with her. I believe they even kept company, which back then probably meant sitting 4 feet apart on the same couch with your hands folded neatly in your lap and both of her parents in the room watching you both with hawk-eyes. Anyway, she got a calling from the Man Upstairs, and had to follow....she married God instead of him, so (I'm pretty sure) he married her sister or cousin or something instead. So I think he was still my great-uncle, just not with Aunt Cecilia. If any of my siblings can refute any part of this, please email me and let me know so I can fix it, don't put a rude comment on here about me being dumb as a bag of hammers and threatening to give me a killer noogie next time you see me.

I do recall one time when she stayed with us that we had cereal for breakfast - Mom was a waste nazi and made us finish everything we dished up under penalty of death by washing dishes. My little brother didn't finish his fake Cheerios (real ones were for rich people) or his milk, and Mom wasn't there at the moment, so Aunt Cecilia said "OH, we can use it to feed the birds!" and dumped it out the window into the bushes....I recall being SO impressed because I knew she would totally get away with it - even MOM wouldn't put a nun in a headlock and make her scrub dirty dishes. Nuns have invisible force's like Holy Armor straight from God.

So Aunt Cecilia's two most favorite things in the world (besides smooching on us) were roses, and strawberries. I remember going for walks with her in the woods and finding wild varieties of both - she was absolutely delighted with even the most pitiful blooms and runty little berries. It seemed like her visits to Oregon always came in June too....think that was an accident? Nope. I got this recipe from someone in Handsome Stranger's family, but not sure if it was his mom or sister - either way, it was one of those that make you glad you married into a family with such great taste in desserts and in-laws (haw haw). But I know that Aunt Cecilia would have ADORED this recipe....and I would have made it for her even if it meant getting kissed until I was slobbery! (Shut UP, you guys....I am NOT a sissy!)

Strawberry Pizza

The name says it all, so let's just get to it.

3 cubes butter (yes, I said THREE...that's 1.5 Cups)
3 Cups flour
5 Tbsp. sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter in medium bowl, add flour and sugar and stir with a fork until combined. Press on to pizza pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, cool.

8 oz. cream cheese (one whole brick), softened
1 C sugar
8 oz. tub Cool Whip
2-3 pints fresh strawberries, sliced thick, sugared if you like (I would add 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar)

Cream together cream cheese and sugar until smooth, blend or fold in Cool Whip until combined, then spread evenly over cooled crust. Spoon sliced berries on top with a slotted spoon (you don't want too much liquid) right before serving.

That's it, simple, horribly fattening, and so good you will simultaneously bless and curse me with your mouth full and your gut straining to break free of the constraints of your now too-tight pants. But I think you should stop and smell the roses once in a while, and eat strawberry pizza. Just not the whole thing. Amen.