Saturday, January 30, 2010

Shrink-My-Ass-Month: Miss D.'s Smoothie

If you don't know the story of Miss D.'s incredibly fussy eating habits, I would encourage you to go here.

We're improving, teeny baby steps at a time, here at Chez T. Miss D. and Miss M. are still incredibly fussy eaters, but they're getting better at trying new things and definitely are showing interest in cooking. We're spending some lovely time together in the kitchen every week, and I cherish that.

The other day, as I was fixing breakfast, Miss D. said, "Hey Mama, do you think I could make my very own smoothie?"

This from the mouth of a girl who's never allowed a smoothie to pass her lips.

"Sure," I said, trying very hard not to show even a sliver of excitement, because parental excitement is a guaranteed Buzzkill.

"I have several recipes for smoothies; I'll find them for you."

"No, Mama. I don't want to make it that way. I want to invent my very own smoothie," she said.

Hoo-boy. This from the mouth of a girl who has no idea what ingredients go into a smoothie.

My mind started to race a little. I had visions of Froot-Loop-Sour-Apple-Gogurt-Peanut-Butter Smoothie dancing in my head.

"Okay," I said. Hey, what the Hell.

"Awesome!" she shouted, bolting out of her seat and doing a pint-sized version of the Yummy Dance. "I'm going to concoct my recipe!" Concoct my recipe?
Where does she get this stuff?

Pen and paper in hand, she returned to the kitchen.

"Hmmm," she said, tapping her pencil. "What kind shall I make?" Shall? Has she been sneaking down to the basement while I'm watching The Tudors again?

"I think we'll need raspberries. And strawberries."

Solid start. Nothing Gag-Tackular there.

"And maybe a teeeeeensy drop of lemon," she added. It's official: the child is from Mars.

"And sugar, of course."

"Not too much, and maybe honey would be better," I said. Big Mouth.

"Okay." Pause. "What else will we need, Mama?"

"Something liquid, so you can suck it through a straw," I said. "Milk would be good."

So it was settled. Off I went to the store. And noticed that fresh raspberries were 6 bucks for a tiny little carton. Screw that! Frozen berries, here we come.

My little chef impressed me. And she was quite proud of her little concoction.

"Look, Mama," she said. "I'm gonna be a good cooker like you!"

Well, she's on her way.

Miss D.'s Smoothie

serves 2 kiddos

2/3 cup frozen raspberries (unsweetened and still frozen)
2/3 cup frozen strawberries (unsweetened and still frozen)
2 cups lowfat milk
3-4 tablespoons honey
a tiny squeeze of lemon

Place all ingredients in a blender and whiz until smooth, adding more milk if necessary. Taste for sweetness; add more if necessary. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Neighbor Friday: Lost in Suburban Bliss

Hi Readers! TKW here! I am honored and thrilled to share the words of Gibby at Lost in Suburban Bliss with you today. Gibby is mother to Poonch and Chuckles and is in my small club of Most Excellent People. Sweet Gibs has been with me from the very beginning, when this blog was in diapers and Desitin. I know you'll love her as much as I do!



Poonch is a perfectionist. If she knows that she won't get something right from the start, then she wants nothing to do with it. Nothing.

As a parent, this is extremely frustrating.

For a child, this must be extremely frustrating as well.

I can't seem to get across to Poonch that a 7-year-old is not expected to have perfected anything. I can't even convince her that being almost 30 years her senior, I have yet to perfect anything. (Except making those break-n-bake sugar cookies. I have pretty much perfected that. Oh, and I am pretty good at making guacamole, too. But that's about it.)

As Poonch's parents, Hubby and I usually engage ourselves in a slow walk along the tightrope of encouraging Poonch to try something new vs downright pushing. It's not easy, and many times we have fallen too far one way or another. Hopefully her insurance with her future employer will cover therapy.

Anyhow, a couple of months ago our park district sent out registrations for their winter programs. I like to sign the girls up in at least one activity because Chicago winters pretty much negate outdoor play. Poonch eagerly signed up for ballet but that was it. Not that there's anything wrong with ballet, but let's just say that the way Poonch does ballet doesn't result in a whole lot of physical activity, which is what my aim was here.

Basketball, Hubby, a former varsity player, says. Sign her up for basketball. I laughed. I know Poonch, and I knew there was NO WAY she would sign up for basketball, a sport she has never played except for a couple of games of Horse with her pink basketball in our driveway. Not to mention, Poonch put the girl in Girly, and I don't think a jersey and mesh shorts would go with her red-sparkle high-heeled (1/2 inch, people) shoes. Hubby insisted he could get her to do it.

Good luck, I said, and walked off to let them chitchat.

To make a long negotiation short, Hubby convinced her to try it, with about 20 reservations on Poonch's part. When the first day rolled around, Poonch amazingly stuck to the deal. The first two sessions were just practice. The next session was an actual game. You know that picture everyone has in their mind of the little girl playing outfield and picking the daisies instead of participating in the game? Yeah, that was Poonch, basketball style. Jumping jacks underneath the wrong basket. Twisting the hair. Tucking and untucking the shirt. Waving to us in the bleachers, repeatedly. I think Hubby might have been a teensy bit perturbed, but I was just happy that she was out there. To not be afraid to try something different. She even seemed to be having some fun. Completely clueless to what was going on around her, but hey, so am I most of the day, so who am I to judge? I just want her to try new things.

Second game, Hubby is out of town. Chuckles and I wish Poonch good luck and then find our seats in the bleachers. I brought my camera so that I could video the game for Hubby. Poonch was much more into this game. She stayed with the ball. She guarded her person. She used her hands to guard, moving all around, getting right in that other girl's face. Nice, I thought.

Camera stops recording for no reason. I look at it and see the error message: no more memory. Darn-it. Oh well. I got some great video of Poonch's defense. That should be enough, or so I thought.

Wrong. Poonch's team has the ball. They take it down the court. A boy passes it to Poonch. She catches it without bobbling. Her coach yells at her to shoot it. Her mouth falls open, her eyes lock in on the basket. She shoots. The ball goes in. Her team and coaches cheer. Two points for the team. More than just two points for Poonch.

If only my camera was working. NOT to get the basket, but to get her face, lit up with amazement and pride, smile as big as it gets, giggling with joy as she sought me out in the crowd, questioning did you see? Of course I saw. That face, that was the picture I wanted. That jumping back all the way down the court, that was the video I wanted.

Later that night I asked Poonch how she felt about the game. She told me how happy she was when the ball went in and how good she felt.

I don't know if Poonch will keep playing basketball. Maybe she will, maybe she won't. It doesn't matter. I just hope the next time she gets nervous about trying something new, she will think about this. I hope she remembers how she felt when that ball went into that basket. After all, it's how I feel every time I look at my little girl.


Isn't she Most Excellent? I knew you'd think so, too. Thanks Gibby! A

Don't forget to check out more awesome posts for Won't You Be My Neighbor Friday over at The Never-True Tales

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Shrink-My-Ass-Month: Asian Meatball Curry

Meatballs don't exactly pop immediately into the mind when you think "health food," do they? More often than not, they're big, meaty, suckers served atop a steaming bowl of pasta. And you're right--those meatballs aren't health food. Because the thing that makes them so juicy and delicious? Fat.

Fat is key to a light, flavorful meatball, bursting with juice. Most restaurant chefs use an 80/20 meat mixture for meatballs and meatloaves; some of them even add pork fat or bacon or pancetta to the mix. Those meatballs? Gooda in the mouth. Not so gooda for the ass.

People who eat meatballs in their regular rotation sorta look like Batali, don't you think?

So what's a meatball-craving girl to do? In short, she completely breaks the Rules of Meatball.

The original recipe for this curry was Backside Suicide; it called for ground pork in the meatballs, full-fat coconut milk and several tablespoons of oil. It sounded delicious, but I knew I'd have to seriously re-work this recipe to make it appropriate for SMAM.

First, I needed to address the meatball issue. Ground pork=fat. I decided to try this recipe with ground chicken instead. And, perhaps in a really unwise move, I decided to use the leaner ground chicken breast, rather than ground chicken (which is a combination of light and dark meat). I worried about this; lean+meatball=rubber. Clearly, I had to tinker some more.

In order to add some moisture back into the meatballs, I shredded up a zucchini and a stalk of celery; it's something I saw Giada deLaurentis do when she made turkey meatloaf. Normally, I would've added some finely diced red pepper as well, but my lunch guest was anti-bell pepper, so I jettisoned that idea.

I also made sure to handle the meat as little as possible and lightly press the meatballs together--if you manhandle the meat, you will pay the price, friends!

After a heck of a lot of tweaking, I came up with this recipe.

Asian Curry with Meatballs
serves 4

For the Meatballs:

1 1/4 lb. ground chicken breast
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 small zucchini, shredded
1 rib celery, finely diced
1 serrano or jalapeno chile, seeded and finely chopped
1 lemongrass stem (pale part only)
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil (Thai basil if you can find it), chopped
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 egg, beaten
1/4-2/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

For the Curry:

1 can (13.5 oz) light coconut milk
1/2-1 tablespoon red Thai curry paste
squeeze of honey
3 drops Thai fish sauce (or a generous squeeze of lime if you fear the fish sauce)
1 stalk lemongrass (pale part only), finely chopped
Either 1 red bell pepper, sliced or 1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 small can water chestnuts, drained and sliced
2 tablespoons each: slivered scallion, fresh cilantro, fresh basil
1 thinly sliced serrano or jalapeno chile, seeded and sliced (optional)

Preheat broiler.

In a large bowl, combine shallot, serrano chile, lemongrass, zucchini, celery, lime zest, juice, cilantro, basil and ginger (If you are lazy like me, you can just whir all of these in a food processor rather than chopping them by hand). Beat the egg and add. Add the chicken and combine gently, using your hands, until just mixed. Add panko by 2 tablespoon measures, stopping when meat mixture just holds together. Mixture will be sticky.

Form meatball mixture into 16 small balls; place on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Spray meatballs lightly with cooking spray and broil until meat is just lightly browned and almost cooked through, 7-10 minutes. Remove from oven.

In a large wok or skillet, bring coconut milk to a boil. Add curry paste and whisk until incorporated. Add honey and fish sauce, if using. Whisk. Add lemongrass. Reduce heat to simmer; cook for about 3 minutes or until slightly thickened. If desired, strain mixture and return to pan (if you don't mind little bits of lemongrass in your curry, you can skip this step). Bring back up to a simmer; gently drop meatballs into the simmering liquid, along with the zucchini/red pepper. Cover pan and cook on a low simmer for 3-5 minutes, or until meatballs are just done. Top with scallion, cilantro and basil.

Serve over hot steamed rice.

**Verdict: Very, very good! And the meatballs, while not bursting with fatty juice, still had plenty of flavor and weren't gut bombs! Definitely a SMAM victory! And special thanks to BloginSong, my ferocious, talented and dear friend since 8th grade, for being my guinea pig at lunch! She liked 'em, I promise.

ps: And no pumping BloginSong for geeky teenage TKW stories, people!!! NO!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Shrink-My-Ass-Month: Hummus and Grilled Vegetable Wraps

Sorry, carniverous beasts! It's a Monday (well, Sunday if you want to get technical) for the Meat Averse, so if the sight of a zucchini sends you shreiking for the hills, don them sneakers!

Growing up, I didn't really know any vegetarians. The first vegetarian I encountered was our neighbor, Jan. Her daughter was in my fourth grade class and Jan and Mama soon became thick as thieves. I still remember listening to them whisper and laugh in our living room, glasses of iced tea sweating in the afternoon heat. I also remember a few days later, opening a drawer in a living room cabinet and discovering the source of all that giggling: A dog-eared copy of The Sensuous Woman.

Even at the tender age of ten, I could tell that The Sensuous Woman was one of those books you read cloak-and-dagger fashion; naturally, I did just that. Armed with my trusty flashlight, I fled to the basement to see what that tempting, well-read tome had in store. Hoo-Boy!! Seriously ladies? Those women in the late 1970's had it going on. I came whizzing out of that basement a while later, eyes a-buggin.'

Jan was quite glamorous; she had luxurious red, thick hair and green eyes and was always tanned. She also had the slowest, most God-awful metabolism on the planet. I never saw her eat more than a few bites of food. One summer she abandoned meat entirely, subsisting on leaden, cardboard-colored pita pockets stuffed with avocado and wild, sprouty stuff that looked like hair. I watched her chew those concoctions slowly, amazed that she could gag it down.

Luckily for the Veggie Vixens of today, we no longer have to eat Bedrock Bread and shit that looks like hair. There's some lovely options nowadays and some are even easy-peasy. Which is what this wrap is. We like it for lunch but it's just as good for a light dinner or, if you are a freak like me, for breakfast (with a couple of potato chips stuffed in for salty goodness). Hey, don't knock it till ya try it.

Hummus and Grilled Vegetable Wrap
serves 4
from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave

2 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick-slices
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 cup store-bought hummus*
4 pieces whole-wheat wrap bread, about 9 inches in diameter, such as Flatout
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 jarred roasted red bell peppers, drained, rinsed and sliced
2 ounces baby spinach leaves or romaine lettuce leaves (2 cups lightly packed)
1/2 cup red onion, thinly slices into half-moons
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

Preheat a grill pan over medium heat. Brush both sides of the zucchini slices with the oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Grill until tender and slightly browned, about 4 minutes per side.

Spread 1/4 cup of the hummus over each piece of bread. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the pine nuts on top. Top with zucchini slices, red peppers, 1/2 cup spinach or romaine, a few onion slices and 1 tablespoon of mint. Roll each of them up and slice on the diagonal.

* You can use any kind of Hummus you like. Personally, I think the Sabra brand hummus kicks everyone else's ass.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Neighbor Friday: A Design So Vast

Hi Readers! TKW here! I am so thrilled to share the words of Lindsey from A Design So Vast with you today. She's a beautiful writer who always makes me think, feel, and vow to be a better person. Enjoy!


One of the (many) parts of Eat, Pray, Love that I adore is a phone conversation between Elizabeth Gilbert and her sister. The sister mentions a family in her neighborhood who has recently received some awful medical news, and Elizabeth Gilbert thinks: “That family needs grace.” Her sister says: “That family needs casseroles.” That passage has always made me smile with the recognition of the myriad ways that people offer support. With the knowledge that sometimes, casseroles are grace.

It also reminds me intensely of my mother, for whom food often is grace. For her, it is a way of expressing the abundance of her love, a way of supporting the spirit by nourishing the body. Right after my first child was born, I slipped into severe post-partum depression. During what remains the darkest time of my life, my mother showed up on my doorstep, almost daily, with full meals. I remember holding my squalling, red-faced newborn and watching her, slightly stunned, as she bustled into the kitchen, in minutes making it more homey than it had felt all day. She set the table, lit candles, heated up roast chicken or baked sweet potatoes or sliced pork tenderloin or tossed a big salad. With my mum cooking in my kitchen I felt safe, the emotion that was so terrifyingly, shockingly absent in the rest of my experience of my daughter’s infancy. My own mother was there, and in her company, supported by her warmth and her delicious food, I could face the idea of being a mother myself.

That is just one example of the ways that Mum’s particular brand of food-related magic has marked my entire life. She is an exemplary cook, all the more impressive to me for how rarely she uses recipes. Her intuition about food is remarkable, as is the fluidity with which she handles the cooking process. She said once that the difference between she and I is that when I’m making something I make sure I have all of the ingredients before I start cooking, whereas she starts cooking and if she doesn’t have an ingredient she just makes something else. She goes with the flow in a way that I can only dream of doing. She cooks and welcomes guests and sips wine and passes hors d’oeurves and makes toasts with characteristic and seamless aplomb. She is so relaxed about entertaining, in fact, that a classic scene of my childhood was my sister and I answering the door and entertaining guests while Mum showered and got dressed (it’s hard for me to remember where my Dad was in this memories!). From the living room, if we looked down the long narrow hall, we could occasionally glimpse her dashing back and forth from her room to the kitchen, her hair in curlers, wearing a slip, to stir something on the stove. To this day she thinks showing up at 7:05 for a 7:00 invitation is a travesty! The ease with which Mum hosts and feeds and celebrates others is magnetic and, indeed, powerfully graceful.

She cooks simple things (a favorite childhood casserole) and fancy things (crown roast of pork) with equal skill. I associate her home with dark gray Calphalon pots simmering on the stove. There are, always, clouds of delicious smells, hugs, offers of snacks and drinks. Always. Food is a part of the way my mother shows her support and its abundance echoes how plentiful that support is. I am immensely grateful to have grown up in a kitchen so rich with nourishment, both for the body and for the soul.


Isn't she great? I knew you'd agree.

For more awesome Neighborly posts, check the links over at The Never-True Tales.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tears for Charles Wu

Anyone checking in before tomorrow's guest post, I think I'd like to send you HERE!

I was so affected by this post that I was stunned to tears.

And for you, Charles Wu, I send out my whole heart. It's small and black and not very good, but it's all I got. My heart is the Ultimate Booby Prize, but I hope you'll take it. Alas, this week was living proof that you're going to need it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Shrink-My-Ass-Month: Portobello Benedict

Am I the only person on the planet who thinks Hollandaise sauce is the Devil's work? That shit be nasty. Fatty, gloppy, lukewarm sauce the color of I want that on my eggs? No. But thanks, really.

This aversion is actually good when you are deep in the month of Project Posterior Shrinkage. Hollandaise has no place in SMAM.

I was intrigued by this recipe because duh, there's no Hollandaise in it. Plus, it seemed kind of genius to use a grilled portobello mushroom in lieu of the English muffin.

*Little Side Rant: Okay, people, is it portobellO or portobellA? Because I've made recipes with both spellings, and as an English Nerdlet, it bugs me. Which is right? My anal-retentive self needs to know!!!!*

This recipe seemed perfect for a lazy Sunday morning, so Saturday I went to the grocery store and picked up the ingredients.

Lazy Sunday Morning, my fat fanny. At 4:55 am I was awakened to something akin to: "Reeeeeeaaaaaahhhhhwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!" Hubs and I both bolted up in bed.

"Holy Shit, what was that?" hubs said.

"A peacock circumcision?" I wagered.

And then, of course, the aftermath. Two small girls raced into our bedroom, eager to spill the gory details and place the blame firmly on the head of the other.

Long story short: if you slam a door very forcefully on a kittycat's tail, you will be greeted with "Reeeeeeaaaaaahhhhhwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!"

What the heck those girls were doing making mischief at 4:55 am is beyond me.

So my morning started oh, 2 1/2 hours earlier than I would have liked. At least breakfast was delicious. In fact, hubs declared it the best thing he's eaten for breakfast EVER. Now he might have been plying me with praise because I was rather irritable after my rude and premature awakening, but I'll take any compliment I can get.

Grilled Portobello Benedict
serves 4
from Ellie Krieger's So Easy

Cooking spray
4 portobello mushroom caps (about 4 ounces each)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
4 slices Canadian bacon
4 large eggs
4 large egg whites
2 tablespoons water
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 teaspoons store-bought pesto
8 fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons
4 teaspoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat grill pan sprayed with cooking spray.

With a spoon, gently scrape out the dark inside of the mushroom caps (the gills), being careful not to break the cap. Brush both sides of the mushroom caps with the oil and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Grill the mushrooms over medium-high heat until they are tender and their juices begin to release, about 7 minutes per side. Transfer each mushroom to a plate, top side down.

On the same grill pan, cook the Canadian bacon slices over medium-high heat until they are warm and grill marks have formed, about 30 seconds per side. Place one slice of bacon in each of the mushroom caps.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs, egg whites, and water together until well combined. Spray a medium-sized nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-low heat. Add the eggs and scramble until cooked through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon 1/4 of the egg mixture into each mushroom cap. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of the pesto over each and top with some of the basil ribbons and 1 teaspoon of Parmesan cheese.

*When I make this again, I think I'm going to add a few chopped sun-dried tomatoes and mix them in with the eggs. I thought the finished dish just sort of needed something red in it. I'm an aesthetic weirdo that way.

Author's Note: Since I am sure you are all dying from curiosity, Harryboy is okay. He did, however, scuttle around with the crazy eyes all morning.


"I can't really explain it to you," my friend Betteanne says, "because you're still pregnant and you really don't believe me, but let me just warn you that after the baby is born, you are going to be Down for a while." There is a menacing pause over the wire.

"I mean," she speaks slowly, as if I'm retarded, "you will just be...Down."

And she's right, I don't believe her, or maybe I just can't believe her, because I'm huge and pregnant and cannot imagine anything feeling worse than how I feel now, like a Sperm Whale.

But I know what she means now, this first month home with the baby who turns into a vicious demon at 4 o'clock, the same spirited girl-child I wished for who never stops screaming.

Down. Gotcha.

What it means when you are Down is that you don't know what the fuck you are doing, and you have to pop a Xanax in the middle of the day because you feel like you might drown, and your Mother-in-Law is sitting in your kitchen, waiting for you to make her lunch.

And maybe, if you think about it long enough and let the fear get the best of you, Down is what those women were who threw their kids out of Buick sedans or smothered them with throw pillows because they couldn't handle their own incompetence any longer. Sometimes that kind of Down is almost within your mental grasp and you have to lock yourself in the laundry room for a while.

So I'm doing what Betteanne told me to do, which is to mark a month from now on the calendar with a big black X. When I start to feel Down, I look at that X and know by the time I reach it, I will be less Down. And the month after that. And if you keep doing it your Down isn't so bad any more.

But sometimes the Down is awful, and you cannot for the life of you figure out how to soothe this little thing. This thing that they somehow trusted you to bring home. And yet. There's a winter sky and open arms and music on the radio.

You pick her up, hold her flush against your body, dance, and she makes this funny squeaky sigh, and suddenly it feels like Us Against the World.

And if I were Roy Rodgers,
I'd sure enough be single,
I couldn't bring myself to
Marrying old Dale--
It'd just be me and Trigger
We'd go riding through them movies
We'd buy a boat and on the sea we'd sail

And Miss D. and I dance and sing with Lyle and I imagine that, too, I am on a Pony on my Boat out on the Sea.

*****Author's Note: This is an autobiographical essay on post-partum depression and its effects on the body, brain and psyche of the person afflicted. It is not a diatribe or slander against any of the following: the mentally handicapped, Mother-in-Laws, or unmade lunch. It should be noted that the author of this piece was not in shackles at any point during the post-partum period and the assumption of any appetite for lunch was purely speculation of the author. Mention of unmade lunch was purely a literary tool used to underscore the feelings of desperation and overwhelming helplessness of the author. Any offense given to the mentally handicapped, Mother-in-laws or unmade lunch is unintentional and regretted. In addition, the author would like to note her previously stated appreciation and respect for her own wonderful Mother-in-Law here and here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Shrink-My-Ass-Month: Spaghetti Frittata

Roughly twice a year, my husband decides that he's fat. This tickles me for two reasons: One, he's not fat. Ever. Two, he's a bigger girl than I am, because I only decide that I'm fat roughly once a year.

Whenever hubs decides that he needs to go on le regime, I heckle him mercilessly for a day or two and then agree to help him manage his food.

This is a little more high maintenance than it seems. Dinner is no problem--I mean, I'm cooking it anyways. But le regime requires that hubs takes breakfast, lunch and a healthy snack to work, because he's too busy to go out for lunch and the hospital food is...well, you know.

Lunch I can handle. I pack a healthy wrap or the leftovers from last night's nutritious dinner or, if I'm desperately pressed for time, one of those Kashi frozen meals. Add fruit and a leeetle nibble of dark chocolate, and we're done.

Breakfast is a trickier affair. Hubs will eat cereal maybe once a week. He hates yogurt. And oatmeal. Doesn't much care for peanut butter. Fruit is a once a day affair, at lunch. Le regime needs to be protein packed, so this usually means eggs. But not hard boiled; he doesn't like them that way. Readers, meet Mr. High Maintenance!

While I'm willing to do this for him (but only twice a year), breakfast is an ass-pain for me to figure out. Because, if your mornings look anything like mine, you know that mornings are whacked-out, ugly, whirlwind Freakshows.

Solution? The humble frittata. I can make a large, healthy, eggy frittata early in the week, cut it into wedges, wrap up each wedge and hubs is good to go for several days. Plus, frittatas are equally good hot or cold, so if he's nowhere near a microwave, it's still fine.

As luck would have it, hubs has started on le regime at the same time I'm running Shrink-My-Ass-Month. That simplifies things, at least.

I was intrigued with this recipe because unlike regular frittatas, which often feature potatoes, this features whole-wheat spaghetti. Pasta and eggs? Well, now that I think of it, they work fine together in Spaghetti Carbonara, so why not?

This recipe came out beautifully and tastes delicious. And breakfast is one less thing I have to think about it when the Freakshow starts at the crack of dawn.

Spaghetti Frittata
serves 4
from Ellie Krieger's So Easy

5 large eggs
5 large egg whites
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped or sliced thinly into half-moons
5 cups baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed), reconstituted in boiling water for 10 minutes, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups cooked whole-wheat spaghetti (4 oz. dry spaghetti), tossed with 1/2 cup marinara sauce
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg whites.

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the spinach is wilted, about 1 minute. Add the spaghetti to the pan and stir to combine. Pour the eggs evenly over the spaghetti and vegetables. Lower the heat to medium low and cook until the eggs are set on the edges but not in the middle, 6 to 8 minutes.

Preheat the broiler. Sprinkle the top of the frittata with cheese and place under the broiler. Cook until the top is set and golden, about 2-3 minutes; be careful not to overcook or the eggs will become tough. Cut into wedges.

Serve to your high-maintenance, vain, girly-man husband. Who is totally worth the effort.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Neighbor Friday : Google is Whack

Welcome to the first edition of Won't You Be My Neighbor Friday! Thanks to Amy of The Never-True Tales for organizing such a neat program!

I'm thrilled to have sweet Jane from TheyCallMeJane's Blog. Jane is witty, kind and hysterically funny. Jane first asked me to be her neighbor in this blog post in November, and she hasn't been able to get rid of me since. I know you're going to love her as much as I do!

What To Do When You're At A Loss For Words? Play Around With Google, Of Course!

I was in the habit of writing posts when the mood struck (which was often) and then scheduling them to be posted. I was getting so ahead of myself my body had a hard time keeping up with my brain. My brain was already wearing tomorrow's outfit and my body was taking off my shoes from the day before. Posts were just spilling out of my head and onto the keyboard. I was more than a week ahead of myself.

Until now.

I just realized I had nothin'. Not a thing scheduled for tomorrow.

The little angel on my right shoulder said, "Come on, now. You can do it. Just cozy up to the keyboard and write. You have so many wonderful things to say."

The little devil on my left shoulder said, "Awwww, skip it. Who really looks in on you daily, anyway? Just those weirdos searching for moms doin' dirty things. Go downstairs, sneak into your chocolate stash and watch one of the 100 shows you have TiVo'd."

The little angel on the right shoulder said, "No. Your public awaits. They'll be so sad to have to look at yesterday's post all over again. You MUST add something new!"

The little devil on the left shoulder said, "Mmmmmm...some chocolate sure sounds good right about now."

Guess who won?

Hey! Ye of little on.

For inspiration, I decided to Google "top ten reasons for....," just for kicks and giggles, to see what comes up. Among the suggestions were "Top ten reasons for divorce" Intriguing. So I clicked it. There were 2, 360, 000 hits. Quite a lot of people pondering that issue. I decided to investigate other reasons for top ten lists. Below are the rest of my findings.

Top Ten Reasons Sarah Palin Resigned - 164,000,000. That's million. Are you kidding me? I had no idea that many people cared.

Top Ten Reasons to Date a Wrestler - only 272,000 results. I betcha I can think of #272,001.

Top Ten Reasons for Getting Fired - over 1,000,000 results. There are articles on the reasons, the causes. There's even articles on warning signs. Thank God I'm a SAHM. Job security is lookin' pretty great right about now.

Top Ten Reasons You Might Be A Jedi Redneck - Really. I can't make this up. Approximately 2,950 hits for this search. Now, I know Jedis. (My husband is a big Star Wars fan) And I know rednecks. (I live in the southern United States). But how do the twain meet? How, I ask you?

Top Ten Reasons I Procrastinate - Only 102,000 hits there. Come. On. Now! Procrastination is an art form, carefully crafted by many. Only 102,000 hits? We got a lot of people in denial out there, and I ain't talkin' about a swim down a famous river.

Top Ten Reasons Against Evolution - First of all, against? Like it's a choice? Ok, so the number of results? 2, 960,000. Almost 3 million.

Top Ten Reasons for Bathing - Only 177,000. I thought I smelled something funny.

Top Ten Reasons Couples Fight - There were 2, 540,000 results for that. I bet my husband and I could add a few more.

Top Ten Reasons Gay Marriage Is Wrong - Another 2 million plus results. Someone tell me why we're spending any time on this issue? Really? Behind closed doors. Consenting adults. Doesn't affect my taxes. Two people love each other. Oooooooooo. Scary.

Top Ten Reasons Men Are Better Than Women - 3, 220,000 results. And the Top Ten Reasons Women Are Better Than Men? 29, 400,000. Let me say that again, gentlemen. Twenty nine million, four hundred thousand. Somebody's got some catching up to do!

Top Ten Reasons Not to Get a Toller - What the heck is a toller? There were only 4,040 hits. So I'm not the only one who is in the dark on that one.

Top Ten Reasons to Vote Democrat - There were 2, 010,000 results. But only 1.4 million hits to vote republican. Hmmmmm.

Top Ten Reasons Why I Love You - 45,000,000. But that must be a typo. Surely there are more hits out there? Because love is what makes the world go round. And I just want to shout out to all of you out there, I LOVE YOU! (You're the best. You really are. Now, go hug someone.)

We love you, too, Jane! Please give a hi-five and a herky for Jane!

As for me:

I'm proud to be guest posting at several fabulous sites today! I've tried to pluck some fun, diverse, delicious morsels from the archives that many of you haven't read. I'd be so honored if you'd pop on over to these great blogs today and spend a little time with us! You can find me at TheyCallMeJane, A Design So Vast, Drama for Mama, Making the Moments Count, and Elastamom's Excerpts

Swing on by and hang out by the punchbowl! Much love, TKW

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ina's Indonesian Chicken

Barefoot Bloggers must have known that January is the official month of The Downtrodden and the Overwhelmed, because our first recipe for January is wicked easy.

You can view the recipe here:

My first impression when I saw this recipe? Oh my gosh! This isn't an ass-buster! I think this will fit into SMAM just fine. Although I did have to take the skin off my chicken once it baked--am I the only one totally skeebed by chicken skin?

My second thought, while reading the recipe, was: This sucker needs some spice! I'm sorry, I just can't help it. I, TKW, am a Sriracha addict. It's a sickness, I know. So I added a nice big squirt of the Rooster to my marinade.

Otherwise, I miraculously managed to follow the directions!

Well, except for the sauce part. I dumped the sauce into a saucepan, boiled it and reduced it down a little so it was a sticky glaze. Which I then proceeded to dump over the chicken and the rice and broccoli that I'd prepared for sides.

This recipe is so easy it's almost criminal, and it's very flavorful. Winner, winner/Chicken dinner!

Don't forget to check in tomorrow, for the inaugural guest post during Won't You Be My Neighbor Fridays!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Memo to my Body in it's 40th Year

Dear 40-Year-Old-Body:

As the date of my 41st year rapidly approaches, I would like to have a little chat with you. You know, while I still can. Because our visiting rights are soon to expire, and I have a few leeeetle issues I'd like to address.

I realize that we didn't start out on the best of terms. I'm sorry if you were insulted that your inauguration took place in a tiny bar in Mexico, under the influence of seven tequila shots. Admittedly, I wasn't very welcoming towards you.

I am sorry if you happened to overhear the conversation between myself and the 39-Year-Old-Body, one week prior to your arrival. You know, the one where I sucked my thumb, drank grain alcohol out of the bottle and wailed, "No Fucking Way?!?!" Yeah, that one. Ahem. Water under the bridge, right?

Right??? Because I'm kind of doubting that you've forgiven me. A few things have happened this past year that, frankly, make me doubt your generosity of spirit.

I think it's best to get these issues out in the open now, so we can maybe come to some kind of agreement and resolution? You know, before Year 41 takes ownership?

Your time and cooperation in this matter is appreciated.

The Management

~Issue: Paranormal Follicular Function. Please explain the following:
a) Hair growth in areas previously unafflicted. Please consult the Wandering Nose Hair from Hell for further explanation. I whacked it down with clippers about a week ago, but it should be emerging, in all it's stealthy glory, momentarily.
b) Hair loss in areas previously unafflicted. See scalp for details.
c) Change in hair color and/or texture. Now really, was this necessary? I think exhibit a and exhibit b were ample evidence that you'd begun the Reign of Terror. Did you really have to send me, three weeks after your arrival, the Lone White Pube? And did you have to present it to me when I was in the stall of a Target public restroom? Badly done, Body. Badly done.

~Issue: Volcanic Eruption of the Epidermis. Please explain:
a) The thing that used to be my chin which is now a Blackhead Farm.
b) The thing that used to be my bikini line which is now an Ingrown Hair Farm.
c) Backne?!?!

~Issue: Metabolic Desertion. See Ass for details.

~Issue: Global Warming.
a) Do the Night Sweats and the Day Sweats *have* to be so competitive? Their collective ambition is getting old.
b) Financial hardship. Consult the Water Bill for further explanation.

~Issue: Excretion Management.
a) Please withdraw excess moisture from the nasal and armpit cavities and deposit into the Vaginal Bank. It's like the Sahara down there and I'm not blowing Miss D. and Miss M.'s college fund on Astroglide.

~Issue: Depletion of the Libido.
a) Please quit transferring energy out the Libido sector. The Snacking sector has adequate funds already. If not a surplus.

~Issue: Foundational Shifting.
a) Breast tissue should not exceed past the 3rd rib.
b) Thigh tissue would like to report on record that it is at capacity and is not taking applications for expansion projects. Please cc this item to the Ass, the Stomach, and the BackFat.

Understand that these are legitimate and pressing concerns. If you cannot address these concerns before your eviction date of February 23, 2010, legal action may be imminent. Prompt and thorough action is appreciated.


~P.S. Please anticipate arrival of Memo regarding the Profusion of Flatulence. This is sensitive material and should be kept confidential.

Bringing Singapore Home

Pulling one from the archives today because I'll be at the Chicks Who Click conference; wish me luck!

It's no secret that we love all things spicy here at Chez T. Awesome Stepkid R. is a heat freak and so am I. And like me, Awesome Stepkid R. is a bit of a show-off. So when he announced that he was bringing two friends home with him this past weekend, I decided to make something spicy. And, of course, mock his friends mercilessly if they couldn't handle the heat.

Yeah, I'm a cool Evil Stepmonster like that.

I clipped this from the November issue of Food and Wine; it's a variation of a recipe for "Singaporean chili crabs."** And best of all, it looked pretty easy!!

Chili Shrimp
serves 4
from Food and Wine Magazine, November 2009

2 pounds large shrimp, preferably head-on (ummmm, no. Barf.)
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 tablespoons Asian sweet chile sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium jalapenos, seeded and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 stalk of lemongrass, tender inner white bulb only, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Steamed rice, for serving

Using scissors, cut down the back shell of each shrimp and remove the dark intestinal vein, leaving the shell intact. In a small bowl, combine the ketchup, sherry, chile sauce, lemon juice, soy sauce and sugar.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil. Add the deveined shrimp to the skillet and cook over high heat, turning once, until they start to curl and turn pale pink, about 2 minutes.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet with the jalapenos, garlic, lemongrass and ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the scallions and the ketchup mixture and stir fry for 30 seconds. Spoon the shrimp onto plates and serve with rice.

I whipped this up, called the boys into the kitchen to eat, and watched like a spider in the corner, gleeful.

"It's got some spice," Friend 1 (aka: Enormous Yard Ape) said, choking a little.
"It's not hot at first, but it kind of sneaks up on you," said Friend 2 (aka: Prince Lilliput).
"This isn't spicy at all," said Awesome Stepkid R. (aka: The Boy Who Suddenly is Hairy).

I had to try it myself, just to see. First off--Delicious! These are very, very, good.

Second: the heat is definitely not an out-there, smack-you-down kind of heat. It does show itself, but it's not at all overwhelming or tongue numbing. At least in my opinion.

If you like things racy, you can do as Awesome Stepkid R. did and add some crushed red pepper to your pile of shrimp.

The boys ate the whole batch, tossing shells into bowls and licking their spice-stained fingers. Then Yard Ape, Prince Lilliput and TBWSiH grunted their thanks and descended back into the Man-Cave, which was already starting to reek of teenager and angst and promise.

**WTF is it with Asian recipes that say "crabs" and "shrimps"??? It's just weird.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Kale Chips: Epic Fail

I am greens-phobic. Not the salad kind of greens; it's those sturdy, bitter, winter greens that give me the willies. In fact, I've never cooked them, because just looking at those woody stems and ginormous leaves makes me nervous.

But I've seen several recipes this winter for Kale Chips. As in, torn leaves of kale, baked and salted, transformed into crackly and crunchy morsels not completely unlike REAL chips.

A veggie that resembles junk food? Inconceivable!

And there are even actual pictures on the Internet from food bloggers, showing small children devouring these crispy green bits of goodness. Now if kids in Pull-Ups can pony up and eat kale, I certainly can, right?

I decided to put on my big-girl underpants and not fear the kale. I actually made it to the register without returning my leafy bundle to the veggie aisle. I brought it home. I washed it. I spun it dry--because every recipe I've seen is quite *stern* about the fact that the kale must be bone dry or else it won't turn out.

I followed the basic method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Drizzle the kale with one tablespoon of olive oil and toss well to coat. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing the leaves out so they don't touch. Sprinkle kale with 1 teaspoon seasoned salt and a few grinds of pepper.

Pop the kale into the oven and roast for 7 to 15 minutes, watching VERY carefully. The recipes I read were also very *stern* in their warnings not to let the kale brown, which it will do any time between minute 7 and minute 15, depending on how hot your oven runs. Who are these Stalins of Kale? They are very bossy.

But, if the kale browns, it becomes bitter, so you really have to babysit this sucker starting at minute 7. When brittle and crackly but NOT brown, remove from oven, plate and eat.

Verdict: What the Hell is this recipe about? I was a good little rule follower, down to the letter. My kale was dry and it was not brown and it was--Garrrgggllllll! Nasty! Despite my diligence, the kale chips still tasted kind of bitter and, frankly, like crispy grass.

None of us liked it. Well, Miss M. can't say for certain because she took one look at those things and said, "I not eating that."

Sorry Kale. I guess for us, it just wasn't meant to be.

Shrink-My-Ass-Month: Salmon with Ginger-Soy Butter

Hey, it can't be all olive oil, all the time. Sometimes you just need a little butter in your life. Well, at least I do.

Now let it be noted that I said a little. I feel the need to mention this because everyone's favorite artery-clogger, Paula Deen, featured a recipe on the Food Network during an episode of her show titled "The Lighter Side." The recipe, which I'm sure is delicious, called for 8 tablespoons of butter.

Interesting! I didn't know that cooking fish for 4 people in a stick of butter was an ass-reducing method! Even I, who suckity-suck at math can figure that that's 2 tablespoons of butter per person, adding an additional 200 calories per serving.

Now I don't know about y'all, but if I'm going to consume 200 extra calories, it's gonna be on a Mojito or something, not fish, for Heaven's sake.

Which brings me to another point. Americans are fat. We are fatter than ever. We are also busier than ever and work harder than ever. Which means that when hunger strikes, we often eat out. And when we eat out, we don't really know how our meal is prepared behind the closed doors of a restaurant kitchen.

Oh, sure, we think we do. We're not stupid. Any person worried about the size of her backside knows that she shouldn't order the Fettuccine Alfredo, the Chicken-Fried Steak or the gut bomb that is the Outback Blooming Onion.

A girl who worries about the size of her butt navigates a menu carefully, makes shrewd decisions. She orders the Chopped Salad, the Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry, the Asian Grilled Salmon with Rice.

Menu-Savvy Girl, I applaud you. You are diligent and you are wise. So...why is your ass still fat?

Your ass is still fat because even when you make "smart" entree choices, the chef behind the closed door fattens it up with plenty of butter or oil or cream because--NewsFlash! Butter and oil and cream make food taste delicious!

Case in Point: I was leafing through my husband's Men's Health magazine (which is a great magazine, by the way) and stumbled across an article about this very same issue. Health-conscious diner walks into a restaurant, scans the menu, makes health-conscious entree selection. Wrong-o.

Say, for instance, you walk into P.F. Changs China Bistro. You are informed enough to avoid calorie grenades like the fried Crab and Cream Cheese Wontons, the Dan-Dan Noodles or the General Tso's Chicken. You aren't stupid.

You choose a healthy menu option like Asian Grilled Salmon with Rice. You eat your meal, enjoy the time out, feel good about your healthy dinner. Which had, unbeknownst to you, 734 calories, 32 grams of fat and 1,306 mg of sodium.

Is your jaw on the floor? Good, because mine sure was. Because you know what? I've actually ordered and eaten that thing. That flubbery sound you're hearing? That's the junk in my trunk. It's growing.

My point, and it's a cruel one, is that eating out on a regular basis will make you fat, even when you're trying to make informed food choices. Truly, the only way you can control the fat and calorie content in your food is to make it yourself. Sorry. I know that message sucks really hard.

I guess the only good news is that eating at home will also save you money, so there's solace in that. I think we're all a little worried about money nowadays, right?

I not telling you to stop eating at restaurants. Even I am not that big of a bitch. Eating out is fun, and social, and part of a balanced life. I definitely eat out, and I'm concerned about my health and the size of my hiney.

I'm just making the leeeetle suggestion that you eat out less. As in, less than one meal out of three, which is what the average American does. That's kind of a scary statistic there.

And instead of eating that P.F. Chang's ass-busting salmon, I'm making this.

Salmon with Ginger Soy Butter
serves 4
from Men's Health Magazine

4 salmon fillets, 4 to 6 ounces each
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for an hour or two
1/2 tablespoon minced chives
1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
Juice of one lemon
1/2 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

Combine everything except the salmon in a bowl and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the ingredients are incorporated.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil or canola oil in a large stainless-steel saute pan over medium-high heat.* Season the salmon with salt and pepper; when the oil is lightly smoking, add the fish, flesh side down, to the pan. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until the skin is lightly charred and crisp.** Flip the fish and cook for 2-3 minutes more, until the flesh flakes with gentle pressure from your finger but is still slightly translucent in the middle. (Salmon is best served medium, but if you want yours completely cooked, saute for another 2 to 3 minutes.)

Serve the salmon with a generous spoonful of the flavored butter, which should begin to melt on contact.***

per serving: 390 calories (salmon only, cooked the Men's Health way; my way is more like 337).
cost per serving: $2.46

* I am lucky enough to own a Calphalon ridged grill pan. It's awesome. It's extremely efficient and non-stick, so I got away with brushing the salmon fillets with a mere 1/2 tablespoon of oil and then plopping them onto my grill pan. It came out perfect, did not stick and I saved 150 calories in the overall dish. If you don't have this pan, you should get one. Only caveat: do not put your expensive Calphalon pan in the dishwasher. Hand-wash this baby. The dishwasher will take away all of it's magical non-stick capabilities. I learned this the hard way.

** If you prefer, you can use skinless salmon fillets

*** I decided to melt the butter and combine it with the rest of the sauce ingredients, because I wanted to be able to drizzle a little of it over the side dishes of rice and steamed snap peas. It tasted terrific this way!


Interested in guest posting on this blog? Click here!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Reason I Suck #369-update

You know, I probably ought to quit posting about How Much I Suck. Talk about redundancy. Any of you who've popped in with any regularity already know that I'm a frequent-flyer in the suckage department. I should get bonus miles, or something.

Today I'm here to confess yet two more things I suck at. Promptness and reciprocity.

Over the past few months, some of you kind readers have been thoughtful enough to give me a Blog Award of some kind. And when I found out that I'd received each and every one of those awards, I was, truly, honored and thrilled and humbled that you thought of me. And I meant to post about those awards and pass them on, but I sort of completely and utterly failed.

I also failed to display the corresponding widgets, because I am inexplicably widget-impaired. I know it's a simple copy and paste affair, and I've followed the directions, but for some reason Blogger denies me. It won't let me display the widget on my Dashboard. GRRRRR. I'd like to kick Blogger in the ass...because of *course* it can't be my fault!!

I want to assure you that I'm not ungrateful, just lame. And now I can't remember which of you I ought to thank, although I hope I did so in the comments section of your blogs.

It's a funny thing with me. Rather than posting awards, I just prefer to visit the blogs I love consistently, and read those fresh new posts, and leave my thoughts and admiration there. Because I'd WAY rather read what you awesome people are thinking about than blather on about me. I do that enough already, don't you think?

So forgive, dear readers.

But there is a way I'd like to give back to you, if you're willing to have me. Amy over at The Never-True Tales is running a lovely little exchange program on her blog. This program, called Won't You be My Neighbor, starts January 11 and you can read all of the specific guidelines/details HERE:

**Okay, see? Blogger will let me put the widget in the text of a blog post but not on my Dashboard! WTF! This is assholery!

Simply put, it's a guest post exchange. For the duration of the program, I'd like to invite bloggers I admire and enjoy to guest post on this blog. I'll display your post, explain a little bit about why I love you, and link back to Amy's blog.

And if you are so inclined, you can join in the fun by contacting Amy, signing up for the program, and host your own cadre of awesome bloggers on your site.

Guest posts appear every Friday, so if you'd be interested, please let me know! And I hope you'll visit me over at The Never-True Tales on February 5, when it's my turn to blab!

Criteria For Guest Bloggers: if you are on my sidebar or I visit your blog regularly, assume that I love you and would welcome your guest post. Just contact me if you're ready and willing!


Just wanted to assure readers that you do not have to cook or talk about something food-related to guest post! We could use some shaking-up on Fridays!!!!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Shrink-My-Ass-Month: Tortellini-Spinach Soup

Hello Readers! It's Nanuck of the North here, checking in! Well, that's at least who I feel like lately--we woke up to a temperature of -4 yesterday.

What kind of assholery is Mother Nature up to? Nothing good happens at -4 degrees.

Okay, I will admit that the trees looked pretty. And it got me in the mood to make soup. Fortunately, in the panic felt by hearing the words "blast of frigid arctic air" slip from the lips of a newscaster a few days ago, I'd made a recent trip to the grocery store. At the time, it was snowy and blowy and I was pissed to be trekking to the market, but that weather was hella better than what I woke to yesterday morning. I went out to get the newspaper and I think my butt cheeks froze together.

This soup is easy, vegetarian, warming and delicious. That's a tall order!

I made only one modification to the recipe. Prior to adding the spinach and the tortellini, I whizzed the soup through my immersion blender. Because my kids don't *do* chunks in their soup, and sans-spinach, I had a fighting chance of getting them to eat this recipe. So I stacked the deck.

And hubba-hubba, they ate it! Can you feel me doing a herky?

Tortellini-Spinach Soup
from Ellie Krieger's So Easy
serves 4

1 teaspoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced (1 1/2 cups)
2 ribs celery, chopped (1 cup)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 14-oz. can low-sodium diced tomatoes with juice (I used fire-roasted)
6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
3 ounces baby spinach, sliced into ribbons (3 cups)
1 9-oz. package fresh store-bought spinach-and-cheese tortellini (2 cups)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (1 1/2 ounces)

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until the onions are translucent and the garlic is softened, another 3 minutes. Add the carrot, celery, oregano, thyme and red-pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until softened, 5 to 6 minutes.

Add the tomatoes with their juices and the broth and bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the spinach and tortellini and cook until the tortellini are cooked through, 6-7 minutes. This soup will keep up to three days in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Serve topped with parmesan cheese.

**This soup serves 4 very generously! Kreiger lists each serving as 3 cups of soup plus 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese. Calorie total: 380 per serving

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Yummy Dance

Do we ever really see ourselves? I remember an old friend of mine, Betty, would catch a glimpse of herself in a shopping mall mirror and then stop, startled. She would look at her reflection, sigh, shake her head and exclaim, "In my head, I always think I'm way cuter than I really am. Mirrors suck."

Mirrors do suck. Some mornings, I lurch to the bathroom, flick on the light and gasp in horror. What happened during the night to turn me into a 90-year-old prostitute? As I recall, I went to bed looking semi-okay; I mean, my husband wanted to jump me, so it must not have been that bad. But whaaaaa? Who on Earth is that Gorgon staring back at me a mere 8 hours later?

As a writer, I'm constantly scrutinizing people. If I see someone interesting, I'll narrow my eyes, hone-in, try to absorb every nuance and facial tic. It sort of drives my husband crazy. "Quit staring," he'll hiss at me in public places.

When we went to Disney World--the Official Homeland of Freakshows--this spring, I thought he was going to throttle me. I couldn't stop gawking and rubbernecking to save my life.

For someone so observant of others, I am shockingly un-self-aware. I do strange shit all the time and have no idea. Even worse, when my husband (that obnoxious lout) points out said strange shit, I have the gall to adamantly deny that I've done anything weird.

Yeah, I don't know why he married me, either.

A few months after we'd been dating, my husband took me to a new restaurant. I can't even remember the name of the place, but it was hoppin' and full of beautiful people, and I enjoyed myself. About halfway through the meal, hubs furrowed his brow and asked, "Is your dinner okay?"

"Yeah, you want a bite?" I said.

"No, I'm good," he said, and we continued eating.

A few minutes later, the waitress wandered into the vicinity and hubs asked, "Do you want me to flag her down? Do you want to order something else?"

"No, really, it's fine," I said. "Why do you think something's wrong?"

"Well, you didn't do the Yummy Dance. At all."

"Huh? What do you mean, the Yummy Dance?"

"You know, that thing you do when you really like your food."

"What thing? I don't do anything."

"Yeah you do. You know, this." And he proceeded to show me an exceedingly awkward little upper-body shimmy and head-bob.

He sort of looked epileptic.

"Oh my God. Oh my God!" I was Gobsmacked. "I do not do...Oh my God. You're right. I do do that." If I hadn't been so stunned, I'd have darted under the table in humiliation.

"That's awful!" I wailed.

"No. It's kinda cute," he said.

"Cute? I look like I'm having a medical emergency!"

Later, after the shock dissipated, I called my mother.

"Mom, how long have I been doing this...thing?" I asked. And described the oddity that is the Yummy Dance.

"Not long dear," she replied. "Only, like, your entire life."

So I guess it's settled. A habit so deeply ingrained as the Yummy Dance cannot be extinguished. It is, alas, a Trademark Move. I own it. And it only took me 30 years to learn it existed. So much for those razor-sharp powers of observation.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Shrink-My-Ass-Month: Asian Chicken Salad

Sorry folks, but this is not the 1980's version of Chinese Chicken Salad. You know, the one with a whole can of those delicious fried chow mein noodles in it and a cup of sliced almonds and the 3/4 cup of salad oil in the dressing? Yes, it is true that 1980's Chinese Chicken Salad is a yummy bit of goodness, but it's hella bad for your ass.

The good news? You can still enjoy the flavors of Asian Chicken Salad without all of the fattening doo-dads. And, best of all, this salad is a snap to make.

The dressing for this salad comes from Ellie Krieger's cookbook So Easy. I substituted honey for brown sugar in the dressing, just because I think it emulsifies better.

If you like, you can add mandarin oranges to the salad. I didn't because frankly, I don't like them. Is that weird? Doesn't everyone like mandarin oranges? And just as I write this sentence, I realize that I don't like regular oranges, either. I love the smell of oranges, as I'm peeling them, but I don't really like the way they taste.

Great. Yet another little oddity about myself, revealed in this public space.

Well, despite my quirks, I think you'll like this salad. Best of all, the cabbage is sturdy enough to last a day in the refrigerator, so you can toss it together the night before and take the leftovers to the office for a healthy lunch the next day.

Just step away from that can of chow mein noodles!

Asian Chicken Salad
serves 4
adapted from Ellie Krieger's So Easy

2 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons honey (Kreiger calls for 2 tablespoons brown sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoons Sriracha hot chile sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 head napa cabbage, sliced
1 cup shredded carrot
3 scallions, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/3 cup slivered almonds

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Shrink-My-Ass-Month: Shrimp, Avocado and Mango Lettuce Wraps

I am scanning every cookbook and food rag I own, trying to come up with innovative ways to make clean-tasting, healthy and yummy food. I'm also flipping around the Food Network, looking for inspiration (and avoiding Paula Deen and Emeril like nobody's business; I watch those shows and can feel my ass getting bigger. Guilt by association, or something).

One thing I noticed about Bobby Flay--he almost always dresses something with a "viniagrette" or a "mojo." And those dressings are usually flavor-packed and utilize olive oil. I think I've seen Flay use butter once. Now olive oil isn't low calorie, but it's a much healthier fat than butter. I also like Flay's penchant for bold, clean flavor--you aren't going to see him whipping up a casserole with cheese and soup.

And of course, we at Chez T. love our spicy things, so we do not fear the Flay-Man.

I decided to try my own hand at making a Flay-esque dish. I wanted something with a little heat, something to cool things down, and some fresh, crunchy substance to anchor the dish.

I'm telling you, I was doing a herky and a backflip after I tasted my experiment. This sucker is so good that you'll be doing the Yummy Dance* after the first bite. It's got a lot of ingredients, but honest, it's not that labor intensive, and this thing impresses. Despite the peppers called for, this isn't an overly spicy dish; the creamy avocado and the sweet mango temper the heat. It's a gorgeous balance.

Spicy Shrimp, Avocado and Mango Lettuce Wraps

inspired by Bobby Flay
serves 4

1/2 cup olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded
1 poblano pepper, roasted and peeled and seeded**
2 cloves garlic
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 red or yellow bell pepper, roasted and peeled and seeded**
1/4 cup mango nectar, such as Kerns
squeeze of lime
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper


1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 cup rice stick noodles, cooked as per package directions
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 avocado, peeled, seeded, thinly sliced and drizzled with lime juice
1 ripe mango, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
12-15 leaves green, red or romaine lettuce, washed and spun dry

Combine all ingredients for marinade in a food processor. Pulse until well combined. Set aside, at room temperature, for one hour.

Reserve 2 tablespoons marinade; set aside. Pat shrimp dry with paper towels. In a medium bowl, toss shrimp with remaining marinade and let sit for 15 minutes (only 15 minutes! If you marinate longer, the shrimp will get mushy.)

Meanwhile, cook rice noodles as per package directions; rinse in cold water. Toss with sesame oil and set aside, covered.

Slice mango thinly and set on platter with lettuce leaves, cilantro, and avocado (spritzed with lime to avoid discoloration)

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and stir-fry until just pink. Remove from heat, drizzling pan drippings over shrimp.

To Assemble:

Place a lettuce leaf on a flat surface. Cover with a thin layer of rice noodles, avocado and mango. Top with 2-4 shrimp, depending on size. Top with cilantro. Drizzle a bit of reserved marinade over, roll up, and enjoy!

* A post on the phenomenon that is the Yummy Dance is forthcoming.

**To roast peppers, hold them over a gas flame until blackened and charred. If you don't have a gas grill, you can toss the peppers with a little olive oil, put on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast at 450 degrees, turning occasionally, until skin is blistered and blackened, about 20-30 minutes.

Place blackened peppers into a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let sit 15 minutes. Skin should peel off easily then; remove stems and seeds.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Shrink-My-Ass-Month: Garlic-Basil Shrimp

Welcome to the first annual Shrink-My-Ass-Month at TheKitchenWitch! I must admit...usually I avoid the bathroom mirror. In fact, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that when I'm exiting the shower, I scuttle past the bathroom mirror like a cockroach.

I've had two kids, people. That mirror is not my friend. So why, why, why did I look in it yesterday? Without clothes on, in broad daylight, which is seven kinds of suicide?

Because I'm one of those freaks who can't look away from a car crash, either. I'm sick that way.

Let's just say that one look at that sad-sack lump of dough and hail damage...Hoo boy. I went sprinting for my sweatpants.

RIP, the ass of my youth. We had a good run. And I'm sorry that I didn't appreciate you more when I had you.

Now I'm not naive enough to believe that I'll ever get my old ass back. That sucker be gone. Still, it just might be time to lighten up things a little in the kitchen for a month or so. Because while my 20-year-old ass is a thing of the past, I might be able to at least get my 39-year-old one back. Maybe.

Mama, in an act of holiday genius, gave me Ellie Krieger's new cookbook So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week in my stocking this year.

Now seems like the perfect time to try some of these recipes. Because boring rabbit food is suckage. Healthy food can also be delicious, if you put some thought and effort into it.

So hop onto the Lighten Up Boat with me and we'll see what we can crank out. Now if only y'all could go to the gym for me...because I hate that joint.

Garlic Basil Shrimp
from Ellie Krieger's So Easy
serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste*
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 cups cooked orzo pasta, preferably whole wheat
teensy sprinkle of feta (my addition)

Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking, the add the shrimp and cook, turning over once, until just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl.

Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the oil remaining in the skillet and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and basil and season the sauce with salt and pepper. Return the shrimp to the pan and cook just until heated through. Serve with the orzo.

*I used 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes and added a handful of chopped kalamata olives, as well.

Per serving (1 cup shrimp mixture and 3/4 cup orzo): 380 calories

I thought the addition of olives and a sprinkle of sharp feta cheese added nice depth to this dish. It's delicious and a stunner to look at. You won't feel deprived eating this, I promise you.