Ok, not really our team, but the local team. In truth, we are not serious (American) football fans. We love a good athletic event as much as we love Downton Abbey or Phineas and Ferb. We Ella and her dad watch soccer, baseball, college basketball, more soccer, much of the weekend. But football doesn’t really grab us until the playoffs. Even so, the Superbowl is an Event we don’t miss: the day stops, we cook a whole lot food, and watch it all unfold.More
One of my resolutions this year is to do only One Thing At A Time. This is very, very hard for me. Somedays, when I have 12 things on my to-do list, including writing, teaching, errands, chores–it’s physically painful not to do that one extra thing. The commitment has meant, among other things, that I am trying hard not to Get Dinner Ready While Helping With Homework. Or not to Section The Cauliflower While Doing Laundry. Or not to Peel Carrots In Ten Minutes Before School Pickup. I’m trying hard to avoid Eating Dinner In The Car On My Way To Work. It means other things, too, like not asking my kids to Get Ready For Soccer And Eat Your Snack. Or Clean Your Room and Get Ready for Bed. You can extrapolate.
You can call it my Oxford comma moment.
However, I am still trying to cook with fresh food.
Leaving the fast food to Finn
Doing One Thing At A Time means I have to plan more than ever. It means I have to start early. It means I have been thinking hard about what I can do to minimize my cooking time between the hours of 3 and 6.
In my quest, my new appliance has been life changing. Technically, my slow cooker is not a traditional slow cooker. It also roasts, sautees, browns, and simmers. I am still learning the best ways to use it: how the high/low settings work; how long to parboil pastas; best cooking times for different sizes of baked potatoes; how much extra liquid to add to simmer-all-day soups. But it has been on my countertop nearly every other day since I got I it, and it has helped me slow down and simplify in countless ways. To date, I’ve made delicious Swedish Meatballs and Beef Stew. But also: macaroni and cheese, red sauce, baked ziti (with leftover red sauce), split pea soup, baked potatoes. Not all the recipes are perfect. Yet. (Except the pea soup. And the hint to rub the potatoes lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt before baking.) But it has made my life exponentially less stressful. And that, as some of you know, makes everyone less stressed-out. Funny how that works. Funnier that it has taken me so long to learn the lesson.
So along comes last Sunday, when our local football team played my childhood football team for a spot in the Superbowl. I have fond memories of dark winter afternoons, a house full of the smells of my mother’s red sauce, or spaghetti and meatballs, or lasagna, endless football games, tv trays, warm garlic bread. And so even though I didn’t need to use it, I pulled out my slow cooker, sauteed the meat, added the tomatoes, herbs, and wine, and set it to Simmer for the next, oh, 4 or 5 hours.
Right before game time I cooked the pasta. Ella made kidtinis. We watched the game. We ate. We put in all the stops.
Ella’s 49er Kidtini. It involved club soda, Meyer lemons, grenadine, and a whole lot of cherries. Also red sugar.
Slow Cooker Red Sauce
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
1 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
2 cans Italian tomatoes
4 sprigs thyme
1/4-1/2 cup red wine
With slow cooker on Sautee/brown, sautee meats with a pinch of salt until cooked through.
Add onion, garlic, and bay leaf, and cook, stirring constantly, until onion begins to soften.
Add tomatoes, thyme, wine.
Simmer for 4-5 hours.
This easily makes enough to dress 2 lbs of pasta. Save 1/2 for a batch of quick baked ziti during the week.
This weekend we went to a holiday party where a friend was mixing a drink he calls The Grinch, which really is anything but (unless maybe you’re around the person who drank them the day after…)
A Grinch is basically a Grasshoppper made with vanilla ice cream instead of cream and garnished with a peppermint stick and crushed candy cane sugar on the rim. I actually didn’t drink them, sweet drinks not being my thing, but Kory did, and I can vouch that they’re sort of fun.
We made the Christmas Kidtini version for the kids the next night: a mint chip shake + green food coloring, garnished with candy canes and red sugar on the rim.
We still haven’t made the milk punch, or any cookies, or candy…but we are slowly but surely finding some Christmas spirit.
This is an unlikely and unpractical post for the middle of winter if, like me, you’re cold in any state but Hawaii. But it’s not wholly inappropriate if you’re like my kids, and are not ever bothered by the cold, even in the middle of blizzard. In an effort to keep my hungry kids out of trouble while I was cooking dinner on Saturday, I had Finn put together a plate of snacks (cheese, crackers, turkey, olives) and let Ella make the kidtinis. The problem was we had no bubbly water and no juice. She concocted a kind of smoothie with milk, ice, and mango and coconut syrups.
I was a skeptical, but the drink was really pretty, and–because she somehow found just the right proportion of milk and ice and syrup–perfectly light and not too sweet. In fact, it was a lot like shave ice. It melted in the mouth.
Also, it reminded me of first snow. And the blizzard we experienced over vacation. Which was also a beautiful, serendipitous, icy mess.
Tropical Blizzard Smoothie
1 part low fat milk to about 3 parts ice
Equal parts mango and coconut syrups, about 2 T each
A few months ago, I had a gin fizz at the Moss Room in San Francisco and fell in love. You might remember my first unsuccessful search for orange flower water . I did find it, however, at Whole Foods, and a few weekends ago I whipped (or shook) a couple up for the husband and me. They were done in the late afternoon on a Saturday, and we promptly banished the kids to their bedrooms for a lovely 25 minutes, and Kory and I sat in the living room and had a quiet cocktail.
The drink is outstanding. It’s a little fizzy from the splash of seltzer, creamy but not rich, and slightly sweet. It’s my new favorite, and I urge you to try it.
2 drops vanilla extract (very optional; there’s some controversy over whether this was ever really used, but it does add a nice touch)
2 ounces cream
1 egg white
Shake all ingredients except the soda water WITHOUT ICE very vigorously for at least one minute, preferably longer — the longer the better. Then add ice and shake for 1-2 minutes, as long as you can manage, until extremely cold and frothy. Strain into a tall thin glass, or a very large old fashioned glass, and top with soda water. Stir gently.
When we finally let the kids out, we were refreshed and relaxed (an argument for making an small oasis of time for the adults in the house, even in the middle of the day), and Kory mixed up a version for them, which involved bubbly water, a few drops of orange flower water, a dash of (maybe raspberry?) syrup, and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. Certainly, a better, more authentic kids version would involve lemon and lime syrup, but we didn’t have any in the house. We’re happy to improvise when necessary, and the kids, of course didn’t care. This was probably their favorite one yet.