My mother-in-law will fool you. She has perfect diction. She knows where all of the many forks go when you set a fancy table. She plays the harp. She and her husband put everyone to shame when they dance at weddings - straight backs, weightless, floating to any song as if they were attending a cotillion a hundred years ago. She's just classy.
Every now and then though, her inner hillbilly sneaks out. She wades knee deep in the turtle pond to find the lost turtle -so in need of a lanolin rub down for his peely shell. She climbs on horses, likes her steaks bloody, and prefers her sneakers with no socks.
The other day I vented my frustration to her. I've done everything right. I've read every Martha Stewart article about choosing a good watermelon. You heft it...looking for a heavy one. You smell it. You look for one that is evenly green and sounds solid and full of juice. I followed these carefully studied steps. But I kept getting gross, mealy, flavorless melons!
My mother-in-law said, "You have to give it a thunk and pick the hollowest sounding one." HUMPH! I thought. That is silly! Doesn't this woman know that contradicts every piece of research I've ever conducted on choosing a good watermelon?
Fast forward two days to my shopping trip to Walmart. I'm standing in the produce aisle scowling at the green mountain of melons before me. I circle them once, slowly. Then I ignore them and bag some onions, ginger, carrots. Squeeze the mangoes - too squashy. Smell the peaches - too expensive. I pretend I don't care about the watermelons, but they call to me and so does Michelle's hillbillywitchdoctery! Her voice floats in my ears..."Pick the hollow sounding one. Pick the hollow sounding one."
NO! I won't do it! It isn't sound! It isn't true! That's some wives tale from some granny in Fallon or something! I grip the shopping cart handle and build up some speed but as I pass that pile of melons they taunt me! They taunt me I say!
Broken, I slink over to them. I thump one. Solid. I thump another. I can't tell what that sound was. I thump a third. Hollow, like a striped green cave. I pick up that melon like a flea ridden stray on the street. I'm committed now.
It was the most firm, red, flavorful, juicy and sweet watermelon I've ever had! It was. I cut it into rhindless wedges, took it to the lake and back and it held it's shape and firmness! Even Nic couldn't shut up about it.
So I bow to the hillbilly wisdom of my mother-in-law Michelle. She is wise. She is exquisite. I'm not worthy to cut her melon. The end.
As a mom I grew so tired of my weekly dinner menu consisting of some arrangement of spaghetti, pizza, fish sticks, mac-cheese etc. because that's what my kids "would eat". Not only is it basically a pasty blah menu, it's not good for you, it's boring, and it was totally my own fault and doing. NO MORE I SAY! Now I cook what ever sounds good. I can pretty much guarantee my kids won't like it. You know what? Too bad! Mean mom you say?
Well, this is how it goes. I tell my kids they must take at least one bite. They wrinkle their noses, beg, complain, and insult. If Afton is feeling particularly dramatic, she'll even conjure a juicy gagging sound. After all this they will take one microscopic bite, proclaim it the most vile sustenance ever created in their own way such as "EW! Keck! Pblbllbbbll! Then refuse to take another bite. Fine. But they must stay at the table until everyone is done eating.
So Nic and I sit and talk and enjoy fresh vegetables, new flavors and actual real food while the kids scowl and contemplate their pile of apparently inedible sludge. I make it clear that this will be the only food served tonite and express my hope that they eat enough to fill thier tummies til breakfast. If I'm feeling very kind I will leave their plates til bedtime and almost always they will get hungry and nibble a bit more while complaing and glaring at the evil devil chef, me. But you know what? They get used to it and slowly but surely, they are expanding their repetoire of foods they like.
So here's one of those recipes I just tried and it was DELICIOUS and fragrant and easy and healthy and Evan thinks I literally put dog turds on a plate. So torture your kids tonite with this...
Sausage Tortelini with Carmelized Veggies. This recipe takes about 30 minutes start to finish.
You will need: olive oil thinly sliced onion one red and one yellow pepper thinly sliced 2 tsp finely chopped garlic One 9 oz package of sausage tortelloni prepared from package instructions 1/4 cup fresh basil chopped or 2 tsp of dried basil 1 tbs balsamic vinegar salt, pepper, and red pepper if you like spice
1. Heat Tbsp or so of oilive oil in pan, add onions and peppers. Cook on Med low for 20 min stirring occasionally till tender and slightly brown. Add garlic, cook for 3 min.
2. Add pasta, basil, s&p, red pepper if you feel like it and 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar. Cook for 3-5 minutes to let the flavors marry and the tortollonis brown a smidge. So delish. Serves 4.
By special request of Ashley Stout.... This is Afton's absolute favorite dinner. She loves de-stringing the peas for me, grating the fresh ginger, squeezing the lime juice. Great dinner for kids to help cook. It is fresh tasting, lots of textures and flavors. A keeper for the recipe box. IT CUTS THE MUSTARD.
First of all, have a double batch of jasmine rice cookin'. Don't you dare use minute rice.
Ingredients: 1 lb sirloin steak 1tbsp cornstarch veg oil 12 oz snap peas (de-stringed if you have it in you) 5-6 green onions, chopped whites and greens separated 1 tbsp peeled, grated ginger sprinkle of red pepper flakes juice of one lime (don't you dare use bottled lime juice)
1. Cut steak into 2 to 3 inch stirps and sprinkle with cornstarch in a bowl. Season with s&p, stir. Heat oil in skillet and cook half the meat til brown on one side. 1 to 2 minutes tops. Seriously, leave it mostly raw. Trust me. Transfer to a plate and repeat.
2. Then cook snap peas, white part of onions, ginger and pepper flakes and 3/4 cup water til peas are bright green 1 to 2 minutes. Return steak to skillet with juices and cook til done 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in green part of onions, and lime juice. Serve over rice.
Chef's notes: Don't panic about using fresh ginger! It's easy to find at any produce section. It looks like a flat lumpy potato with lumpy arms and legs and smells so good! Just break off an apricot sized hunk and put it in a produce bag. No biggie! You can also find bags of snap peas right there in the produce section. Enjoy!
Also, I only make this when I pricematch the sirloin at Walmart. What is pricematching you say? You bring in the sale ad from any mainstream supermarket, even sunflower market and they will match the price. Vons and Albertson's always have great deals on sirloin. I've gotten it for 2.50/lb several times.
I just have so much pent up recipe powers inside me that I must create this cooking blog. These are my all-time fave recipes that aren't that hard to make and won't require tons of time or random hard to find ingredients. So let's get cookin'!
I've had requests for this recipe. It sounds so blah, but I tweaked it to delicious and you have to try them!
Bizay Bomb Bran muffins
2 C All Bran Cereal 1 C bran flakes 1 C boiling water (pour over cereal) 1 1/2 C sugar 1/2 C oil 2 eggs 2 C buttermilk ( I just do 2 tbs vinegar and enough milk to make 2 cups, stir, let sit for a couple minutes) 2 1/2 C flour 2 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp cinnimon pinch (or two) of cloves, ginger, nutmeg 1tsp vanilla
Mix all ingredients and bake in greased muffin tins. I avoid paper cups because they stick to them like crazy for some reason. Just let them cool in cups and wiggle your fingers to the bottom of the muffin and they pop out just fine.
Bake 4oo degrees for 20 minutes. Makes about 2 doz.
Hot tip: Batter stores for a week in a fridge. I put it in a pitcher and darned if they weren't fluffier and more delicious a week later!