Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Rough Night

As I smile with delight when my 9-month old starts saying "Mama," I remember all too well how ecstatic I was to hear those words with my first son too.  Phrases like, "I love you, Mama," and "You're the best Mama ever," warm the heart and remind you why you wanted to take on the challenge, albeit indescribably rewarding, of being a parent.  As every parent knows, though, there are also times you'd really rather NOT here your title.  "Mama, Mama, Mama, can I watch a cartoon, Mama, Mama???" or anytime "Mama" is preceeded by the words "but" or "no."  There's also the time in the middle of the night I dread . . . about 1:00 am this morning my poor husband ran to the bathroom, clearly in the "throws" of some sort of stomach illness/food poison.  After making sure I couldn't get him anything, I drifted off to sleep with a last thought of, "Well, I'm glad it's just one of us that's sick."  At exactly 2:45 am, I heard the word - "Mama!"   I struggled to gain consciousness, stumbling to find my pants and glasses, hoping I could make it upstairs before his cries woke the baby.  About half-way up the stairs, I began to flashback to my husband and quickly realized it wasn't just one of us that was sick.  As I hit the landing, I heard the dreaded words, "Mama!  I vomited all over my bed!"  Now, anyone who knows me, knows I can clean up just about anything, but I really have a serious physical reaction to that one - it makes me do it too.  I said a little prayer, "God, please let me get through this," and simultaneously repeated the Little Engine's mantra, "I can do this . . . I can do this . . . I can do this."  My sweet husband actually came upstairs with me and pulled our son out of bed so I could help clean the little guy up.  I kept telling myself not to look at the bed, as if some heinous crime had been committed there; one look at the carnage or one whiff would most certainly send me reeling.  I immediately employed the use of fruity-smelling soap to clean off his hands, arms and face, and held my breath while I carefully helped him remove his clothing and put on clean jammies.  I started wrapping the bedding in a "protective" cocoon (and was ever so grateful he'd hardly eaten anything during the day), then I realized the priority should be to get the little guy back to sleep quickly and deal with the mess later.  As I was getting ready to take him downstairs, I could hear my hubby in the bathroom still waging his gut warfare.  I created a makeshift sleeping area in our bedroom downstairs and safely tucked my baby into bed.  My saintly husband managed to bring down the bedding and promised to hose it off today rather than making me deal with it.  I really don't think I've ever loved him more!!!  Everyone managed to drift off to sleep after both patients made a few additional trips to the bathroom, and after my hubby, in his usual sense of humor, asked me to make him a leftover BBQ sandwich from the lunch we'd had earlier.  Twelve hours later, about $40 worth of BBQ is in the trash, both boys are still in bed, baby's sleeping happily, chicken soup is simmering on the stove, and all evidence of last night's drama is gone.  Guess who cleaned off the bedding??  Yep, I did.  Me.  I honestly don't think my husband could have crawled outside to take care of the mess, and having it lurking outside the laundry room just wouldn't do any longer.  The Mama adrenaline and nothing less than the hand of God helped me with that chore, ladies and gentlemen.  Now, I think I'll reward my Super Mommy-ness with a cup of warm coffee (that's actually fresh, not reheated!) and a little time in front of my new sewing machine.  Maybe everyone will sleep for a little longer, right? :-)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Favorite Holiday

Well, I do love Christmas, watching my babies get lost in the magic of it all, but for me holidays = food, and my favorite holiday is St. Patrick's Day.  Don't get me wrong.  I love the tasty food at Thanksgiving - fried turkeys, dressing and pecan pie - an Easter ham with splotchy colored deviled eggs, but my favorite truly is March 17.  I know corned beef isn't really a traditional meat in Ireland, but since my husband and I are both only part Irish, I don't mind taking a little creative liberty in creating our own tradition.  You'll get to see the full feast when it's prepared, but today I initiated the metaphorsis of plain, boring brisket into the explosion of flavor it will be in just about a week.  If you haven't tried making your own corned beef, trust me, it's worth it.  My Mimi made it years ago, and I haven't been able to go back to the old, store-bought, boiled standby without feeling disappointed.  The corning process really is very easy to do; it just takes a little planning to make sure you've started it early enough.  You start with this rather unattractive piece of meat:

Doesn't my Tupperware marinator look happy to have come out of storage for its once-a-year task?   Next, you coarsely grind a mixture of coriander seed, peppercorns, mustard seeds, and bay leaves, then add a little brown sugar, curing salt, and garlic.  This yields a spice rub that will leave your house smelling fabulous:

Lastly, you lovingly coat every inch of the brisket with the spice mixture and let it hang out in your frig for about 7 days, depending on the thickness, turning once a day.  I'll be baking this puppy, which yields a much more flavorful end product since all that tasty spice rub is crusted on during the baking process. 
Seriously . . . I'm just so excited I'll get to eat this next week (and Mom and Dad, if you're reading, look what you'll get to eat when you're here :-))!  As a sneak peak of next week's post, the menu will be of course the corned beef, cabbage sauteed with onions and Irish bacon, champ (which is a butter-ladened version of mashed potatoes with green onions), Irish soda bread (I usually use my Mom-in-Law's recipe but saw an interesting brown version in Cooking Light this month I might have to try), and, for dessert, a Guinness Cake which is a dense, moist chocolate cake, flavored with a little Guinness (only a little . . . I don't like beer) and frosted with a bittersweet ganache.  Toodles!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Baby's First Polenta

As a girl who grew up eating grits, polenta sits securely on the list of my top ten comfort foods. Tonight, I was able to share a "moment" with my baby. For supper, we had pork chops,  seared in a pan, then finished off in a nest of caramelized onions (quickly "pickled" with a little sugar and vinegar). These onions found a perfect home atop a golden mountain of buttery, cheesy, baked polenta.   Since I AM responsible for the nutrition of my family and therefore could not subject them to just the polenta (which would have been my choice :-)), we had some broccoli and broccoli greens (thanks again, co-op) sauteed with a little garlic and olive oil.

After my baby enjoyed his sweet pea mush and bananas, I decided to let him have a taste. Here's bite number 2: 
Notice he has literally pulled my hand and the spoon to his mouth in an effort to speed up the feeding process.

. . . and here's bite number 5:
  At this point, he's actually given up on my ability to feed him fast enough and has commandeered the spoon in order to savor every last grain of the stuff.  Of course, this happy baby was soon followed by one who gagged himself by sticking the spoon just a little too far down his throat, but Mama  remedied the situation, retrieved the spoon, and comisserated with a little dude who, like his Mama just loves the stuff.  Gosh, I think my arms may even look a little like his . . .

Monday, March 8, 2010

Kids Really Do Say the Darndest Things

So, I was cleaning dishes this weekend, gazing with a lightness of love in my heart at my baby who sat happily playing on the floor, longingly watching his big brother and Papa building something out of tinker toys. It was one of those breaths in time where all is right with the world and you can't imagine a more perfect moment. As my eyes drifted back down to the spontaneously generating pile of dishes, I heard my husband laughing and telling my son to "go show your Mama." It was one of those laughs that left little question something completely inappropriate was happening . . . the kind of thing you really shouldn't laugh about for fear of encouraging the behavior but that nevertheless finds you lacking mature parenting skills and instead giggling like an idiot. Clutched firmly with both of my sons hands was one of the tinker toy rods hovering just below his waist. With a big smile on his face he said . . . uh hem . . . "Look, Mama. I have a long penis!" Yes, I managed to contort my face so my smile looked more akin to horrible indigestion. Score one responsible-mother point for me. I just hope they don't have tinker toys at his school . . .

Viva la Avocado!

It's nice to live somewhere you can get good avocados almost all the time . . . I think we're pretty spoiled that way. The latest creation I used them in (which is another Rachel Ray-inspired dinner) was steak tacos with an avocado salad. These were crunchy tacos, with layers of medium-rare/chili-seasoned steak and the tasty salad (a mix of avocados, butter lettuce, lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, S&P).
Holy cow! My fingers look fat! Sorry, uh the salad would have had some heat by way of jalapenos had I not been feeding my almost-four-year-old. (Of course, my husband reminded me I can always make two batches :-)). The combination of the warm, salty and crusty steak pieces with the cool, creamy, tangy salad is just all that a hungry mouth could want. The yucky looking side is a stand-by at our house - refried beans. My kid loves them, what can I say . . . so what if it looks a bit like something that's already been digested. Anywho, the crowning glory to the meal was a Tres Leches Cake that was surprisingly not too sweet.
I started with an Allrecipes recipe but omitted some of the sugar in the cake and left the whipped cream unsweetened. Per some of the reviews, I also added some soda to the cake and only used half the whole milk (I couldn't bring myself to use half-and-half like some of those crazies did). Let's see, oh, I also poured the milk on while the cake was still hot. It's definitely better a day later (which is why I had an even bigger slice today :-)), so make sure you plan in advance for the perfect custardy, cakey, drenched-in-condensed-milk palette pleaser.  Can you SEE that wonderful juice-of-the-gods it's floating in????  Ummmm . . . heaven.