Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Meal Plan | 07.20.2015 | Tomatoes

I'm letting this little publication lead me through this week.  It's proving to be just the inspiration I need as I try to remember what to do in the kitchen on a hot summer day.  

Monday:  Heirloom Tomato and Vegetable Soup
Tuesday:  Pasta Tossed with Tomatoes, Chopped Basil and Olive Oil
Wednesday: Anna's Taqueria Inspired Pinto Beans and Rice Bowl with Avocado, Tomatoes and Lime
Thursday: Simple Chicken Salad on Toast
Friday: Chinese-Style Pepper Steak -see full recipe below

I'm including the full recipe for this pepper steak from ShortStack Vol. 2.  I'm very hopeful.

Here's the intro which is hard to resist:

"This is one of my favorite recipes to cook when I'm in a hurry to get dinner on the table.  It takes about the same amount of time to pull together as ordering takeout from my local Chinese restaurant, and the result is so much better.  Tomatoes play an essential role in the recipe, as they mix with the soy sauce to make a beautiful sauce for this fast, healthy and delicious dish."  See?

4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce (optional)
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch red pepper flakes
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
8 ounces sirloin or flank steak, cut into 1/8-inch slices
1 cup diced Roma tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
cooked white rice for serving

In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar, cornstarch, red pepper flakes and 1/2 tsp black pepper.

Heat the oil in a wok or cast-iron skillet over high heat.  Add the peppers, onion and garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute.  Add the beef and stir-fry for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes and cook for 1 minute longer.  Add the soy-sauce mixture and toss to combine.  Sprinkle with basil and season to taste with salt.  Serve over rice. :)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Meal Plan | 7.01.2015 | Peak Season

I'm not sure why exactly i stopped meal-planning.  I'd like to believe it wasn't complete laziness, exhaustion certainly played a hand.  "What's the point," was definitely muttered.  But mostly it was a fairly subconscious move and the slope was slippery.  For the first few weeks with my back turned toward this labor I could usually come up with an idea or two in the morning hours after a quick survey of the cupboards and icebox.  This worked well unless it didn't work well.  When I couldn't decide, time and energy together waning, I'd end up on the phone at the end of the day with a relative to steal her idea or inspiration.  Or I'd flip through a cookbook or scan the Internet at too late an hour, usually finding a recipe but without the appropriate ingredients or time.  The short-lived triumph when something would appear on the table still gave me a small amount of accomplishment.  But, there are nights when I'd like to be more thoughtful and I don't want to be bothered to think.  So, if I began my meal planning with a good amount of rigidity, I'd like to continue it with courage and diligence and adding a level of flexibility.  Because I do still believe it can help.  Of course, the hope is to make lighter the load, right?

We spent this past weekend enjoying the seacoast of Maine in the comfort of someone else's home.  It was so nice to prepare food in a different kitchen.  The old, wide hardwood floors was a nice contrast to checkered linoleum.  The large, weighty cutting block was a trade up from my plastic, onion-soaked cutting sheets.  When I was asked about the trip, I first recalled the food we ate, next the lupins and then everything else.  I know the memory of shelling lobsters and then making lobster rolls will stay with me.  Pardon me for being so idealistic, but I'd like to try to enjoy my own kitchen and it's dribbly faucet.  And I'd like to record the times I did enjoy it.  I certainly won't be getting fancy.  Enough is as good as a feast, as Mary Poppins reminded me.  I'm just picking back up -hitting restart in the season of stone fruits and tomato sandwiches.

Naomi in Maine on an anchor.

This week's menu:

Wednesday:  Real Simple's Mexican Chicken Soup.
Thursday:  !01 Cookbook's Lentil and Yogurt Salad with Basil
Friday: Homemade Pizza

Monday, June 22, 2015


A couple of weekends ago we drove to Hershey, Pennsylvania to meet up with Eric's parents.  The girls rode some rides and both walked away with a very bright and very copyrighted bear from Chocolate World purchased by their loving grandparents.  Every kid hopes for a moment like that right?  I had secretly resolved to avoid the factory tour no matter what -but the moving trolley with the singing Holstein heifers was actually pretty cool.  The rendezvous softened the fact that we aren't driving to Virginia this summer.  I'm sad for the girls to miss the time there and sad myself to miss the Blue Ridge mountains that make you feel homesick and at home in the same breath.  I'm also very relieved not to spend twelve hours in the car to and fro at summer's peak.  Instead we get to enjoy these brief and beautiful months in different ways.  There is plenty to keep us busy, and hopefully we will all get a good dose of summer boredom to make us into the creative beings that we were meant to be.  ;)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Destination Playground

Chuckie Harris Playground had fallen into a bit of disrepair over the winter.  The big slide was closed.  The grass and plants were overgrown.  Even so, it's such an open, inviting playground.  Room to run, space to climb.  We had the park to ourselves, a lot like the last time we were there.  This wasn't our hope, but it made for a wonderfully simple morning -no one to cooperate with, on our own time, eating lunch before 11am like we sometimes do.  It was just plain nice.  I had my doubts about our plan -over-thinking can be a problem for me.  But I'm learning sometimes it's best to set the wheels in motion.    

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Alumni Status

Last night I had the chance to step foot onto my old college campus.  It was a beautiful evening with the sun blinding us on the ride there and then warming us as we sipped on our glasses of wine on the lawn outside the new campus center which I preceeded.  I was brimming with pride for my alma mater and proudly donning my name tag with year of graduation.  Members of the class of '61 passing this way and that way, a class member of '75 just in front of me.  It was such a treat.  To see so many yarmulkes.  My people!  Not really of course, but I counted myself as one of them for the evening once again.  I remarked to Eric that when you become a stay at home mom, your degree of education becomes a very valuable piece of private knowledge.  

Ironically, today I got a letter from the Social Security department reviewing my income over the past ten years.  0 0 0 0 marked the last four.  Okay, that hurts a little.  No need to rub it in.  

I hope to one day make a modest amount of money again.  I want to put pennies in a jar that I don't empty for parking meters.  But some days, it seems like Verity will be two forever.  A friend of mine has twin daughters graduating from high school this year and going on to a reputable university.  And I sigh and for a moment firmly believe that will never be me.  My daughters will never be old enough to graduate high school.  It flies by.  I know.  Cherish these moments.  I do.  May I have the wisdom to see the shortness of our days, the brevity of our lives.  

Before we left for yesterday's event, I managed to lose it on the girls.  I couldn't keep my cool with the finish line so close.  Maybe some of you will be able to identify with the agonizing hours before the babysitter shows up.  I was in the kitchen making chocolate chip cookies to ease our departure.  And Verity was in the bathroom with Naomi dumping diapers, face wipes and other various bathroom items into the tub before hopping back in.  Verity was in trouble.  And Naomi was in trouble for watching it happen.  That one's a stretch.  It was just more than I could handle.  Cries for daddy.  Sad naked babies.  And chocolate chip cookies in the oven.  May they remember the cookies.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Marathon Monday | 04.20.15

I was watching Verity scaling the big kids section of the playground and stepped away for a minute to wipe off two swings for Naomi and her cousin, Fiona.  I slowly walked back to where Verity was, not really watching anything and heard deep groanings of someone little -and there she was, Verity, lying on the ground wailing.  Of course it was my someone.  I ran over to find her in agony but seeing that she hadn't fallen from somewhere very high.  It sounded like the wind was knocked out of her.  So I picked her up and she bounced back slowly, but easily enough.  She regained her breath and began to run around again, going right back to the spot where she had fallen. 

I monitored her the rest of the morning, wondering how we were going to get to the Emergency Room with all the street closures, but thankfully it didn't come to that.  Verity began to tell us that our cheering was too loud and that we need to "be kind," so I began to relax.

We go to this park, this wonderful park in Brookline on Marathon Mondays.  Afterward we walk down to Beacon Street and watch the runners go by.  For us it's the perfect place to watch.  We cheer on those sailing by in wheelchairs.  Then we wait for the elite woman to pass and marvel.  This year we didn't wait to see the men run by because it was cold and starting to rain.  So we walked to Bocca Grande for tamales and burritos.  And then we went to The Brookline Booksmith and picked out a few treats for vacation week.  Verity spied a Charlie and Lola paperback and Naomi settled on a sticker book.  I got the family a new map and a book on sale for Eric.  It's such a wonderful series of events -I really don't need anything else out of my week.  I say that now.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Bliss of a Brother and Three Flower Girls

We had a wonderful time in Washington, DC last week celebrating the marriage of my brother, Nathan to his beautiful bride, Courtney.  She looked stunning and I couldn't believe how grown-up my little brother looked as he stood at the end of the aisle.

These flower girls stole the show, holding hands down the isle, except for Verity who staged a dynamic protest at the back of the church before walking down with the maid of honor, ahead of her counterparts.  At the cocktail hour they continued hand-in-hand, running around happy as clams with their ginger ales and string of pearls.   

Myles, my darling nephew had a coming out party, if you will.  He got to stay up late with the grown-ups and celebrate the night away.  He looked so big and handsome and my sister and I realized that our mom was right -every stage, every age is special.  It's going to be a great privilege, and a lot more fun than sad, to watch our children grow.  

There's more to say, but I'm really very, very happy that my little brother has crossed over to the other side.  So much of it is not what you bargained for, but so much of it is good.  And now we get to do it together.