Thursday, January 22, 2015

Food, Glorious Food

Tonight I get to attend a Neighborhood Council Annual Meeting.  I have to say, I'm looking forward to it a little.

The Council is sponsoring a tasting of all the restaurants in the area.  There will be pho, which I have never tried before, as well as a lot of other ethnic dishes from different places in the neighborhood.

Hubster and the rest of the family are not much on trying new food.  This is, I believe, one of the reasons Eldest Son and his wife came up with our yearly continental meal.  Not only does everyone have to try each unfamiliar dish, but they have to learn a little something along the way.  A most excellent idea!

(For instance, Uruguay, our country of choice this year, was the first country in the world to legalize marijuana.  We didn't know that until after the rice dish was already cooked, but there it is.)

This past week I got the culinary creative bug again.  Hubster hates when that happens.  If it isn't meat and potatoes and green beans and corn, it is looked upon with disdain before it is ever tasted. After a few cautionary bites, the new food is either eaten with gusto, or pushed around on the plate.

I hate when that happens.

This particular evening I tried out the recipe below, expecting the worst.  But I must say, not only did the picky eaters like it, they gorged on it!  The Boyfriend was there, and he ended up eating the greater part of the whole thing (three helpings) and took the rest home.

I think we could chalk this one up as a success.

Without further ado, let me share this veritable wonder with you!

Chicken and Penne with Creamy Sun-dried Tomato Sauce

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 C Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1-1/2 C half and half
dried or fresh garlic 
red pepper flakes
dried basil
large jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil

Note:  all spices are to taste.

Cook 1 lb (box) of penne pasta in boiling water.  While it's cooking, do the following:

Use oil from the jar of tomatoes (a couple of tablespoons) to caramelize as many tomatoes as you want to use (I use the whole jar).  Add garlic, basil and red pepper flakes and stir until the spices are aromatic and the tomatoes are brownish.

Remove tomatoes from the pan and add chicken to the remaining oil to saute until done.  Remove chicken and pour in half and half on medium to medium low heat.  Sprinkle cheese over the half and half and melt slowly, stirring constantly.  The sauce will thicken at this point.  Add tomatoes back into the pan, and simmer for a few minutes so the sauce really gets the flavor.  (My tomatoes kind of disintegrated.)  Taste the sauce to be sure spices are OK.  Try not to eat it all before the rest of the family gets some. 

Add the chicken back in and simmer a few minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little of the pasta water to it to thin it out. You can either chop up the chicken or leave it whole.  We chopped it up so that it would be evenly distributed through the pasta.

Drain the pasta and pour the sauce and chicken over it, then get ready to die happy!

I think it would be OK to sub out some of the half and half for chicken broth, as this is a pretty high-fat dish.  You could also use 2% cheese.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Aliens Have Eaten His Brain

The Boy came home for the weekend, being as it was three days long.

At least the body of The Boy came home.  His brain had obviously been eaten by aliens.

This Pseudo-Boy told us of ten-minute showers taken at school, as opposed to the half-hour showers the Real Boy takes at home.  He told us of making his bed...EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  He told us tales of studying...and being outgoing...and cleaning the BATHROOM!!!


While he was home, he was helpful without having to be asked.  He thanked us for little things he would normally take for granted.  He gave out hugs ON HIS OWN.  He spoke in a friendly manner to the greeter at Wal-Mart.

Heck, he WENT to Wal-Mart.  With me, his MOM.  And he didn't roll his eyes or sigh loudly even once.

I'm thinking I could grow to like this new kid.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Welcome to My World

Working for a not-for-profit can be the adventure of a lifetime.  Especially when it's in the inner city.

We see all types of people come into our building.  Most of them are in need of some sort of assistance.  Sometimes they're in trouble, and sometimes they just need a little something to help them through the time until payday.

And sometimes...sometimes we have run-ins with what I term "characters."

We can go months at a time without one.  But for some strange reason, we've had three during this week alone.

The first was obviously a street person.  Dressed in many layers, she came in to complain to us about another branch that was refusing her service.  Come to find out she had caused such a disturbance at the other branch that the police had to be called, she was arrested, then taken to a local hospital for a night of mental observation.  She was upset because the other branch banned her from coming back. While she was here she talked with several other people, loudly and with great vigor.

The only problem was that the people were invisible.

She has been back twice since her first visit, but we declined to open the door for fear she could cause bigger problems.  She needed more help than we were able to give.

The next was a man who couldn't afford a taxi to take him to where he needed to be.  He brought his take-out lunch into the office with him, then proceeded to pretend he was a dog by getting on his hands and knees and eating from the Styrofoam container on the floor.  We were able to talk him into going to a treatment center, although he decided it wasn't his cup of tea when he got there.

Two down, one to go.

Today was the man whose car had been parked illegally on the street in front of the building.  He started out nicely asking if we knew where his car had gone, but became very irate when we told him the police had towed it.  He thought we had called to have it towed, and stormed out of the building, throwing his hands in the air and yelling all the while.  He ran up the street and back down, screaming to himself, then came back and leaned on the door buzzer and shook the locked door repeatedly.  We wouldn't let him back in while he was that angry, so he ran up and down the street for a while, then came back three more times to repeat the whole scream, lean on the buzzer and shake the door business.

Finally, he left for good.

Then, just for good measure, the first lady returned.  She spent a good fifteen minutes leaning on the buzzer and trying to get into the building through any means she could.  We warned everyone that needed to leave about her, then guarded all the entrances until she gave up and went on her way again.

The good part of all this is that my world is never dull.  It may be a little crazy, but that's what keeps it interesting.

And interesting is better than dull any day.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Flying On His Own

We dropped The Boy off yesterday.

He's been attending community college in town these past two-plus years, so it was time he transferred to The University.  He decided to live in the dorm for his first semester to make some friends, with the hope that he would be able to get an apartment with a roommate in the future.

He is the last of our children to make this trek.  He is also the one I worry about the most.

I know he can handle this new adventure in his life.  He is strong and steadfast and loyal, this young man.  He loves deeply, forgives easily, and is not afraid to show his emotions.  I adore him, plain and simple.

He is also a bit shy.  Because of that, he finds it hard to make friends easily.  We are hoping that he will open up in this new setting, hoping that he will make lasting friendships with many people.  We hope he will learn to be self-sufficient, while still leaning on us for advice.

Isn't that what every parent wants for their child?

He says he wants to make a difference in the world.  He wants to work with people who have a hard time speaking for themselves.  I am so proud of his decision, and of him!

The time flies, my friends.

And now, so does The Boy.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

It Hurts So Good

I have recently become introduced to the phenomena that is Chinese foot massage.

While I love the regular, old-fashioned Swedish massage with a passion, I can't justify the cost.  A cheap massage runs over $60, and then there's the pesky tip to be left.  If I were to get a massage every time I wanted one, we'd be eating beans and living in a shack on the wrong side of town just to support my habit.  You can imagine how well that would go over with the rest of the family.

Since my feet have become a bit cranky in my old age, I decided on a whim to Google "foot massage" one day.  Imagine my surprise when I found a place that specialized in rubbing feet!  And to top off my excitement, I found it was less than half the price of a regular massage!

I made an appointment, and headed straight to the establishment after work.

"Gonna get my feet rubbed, gonna get my feet rubbed!" I sang to myself as I parked the car.  I couldn't wait!

I entered, and noticed the room was almost dark, save for the receptionist desk.  I let her know I was there, and she guided me back to one of about thirty large, velour-covered chairs.  I sat down, took off my socks and shoes, and soon a woman appeared.  In her hands she held a woven bucket with a plastic liner, filled with hot water and something else that floated around my feet.  I know now it was probably tea and herbs, but it freaked me out a little at first.

She had me sit back in the chair while still soaking my feet, and she lowered the back of the chair to a reclining position.  Then began the journey.

She rubbed shoulders, face, ears, and head while I died and went to heaven.  For fifteen solid minutes she concentrated on eradicating every inch of my head and shoulders that might have tension.

And then she started on my feet.

Washing them in the bucket and drying them off, she wrapped one in a towel while she commenced work on the other.  And all the tension she had so carefully worked to vanquish in my shoulders came back with a vengeance.

Because, dear friends, she was killing me softly by using her knuckles and strong fingers to try to poke holes in the bottom of my feet.  Some of the places she hit were extremely sore, and it was those she concentrated on.  I thought I heard her snicker with pleasure every time she elicited a groan from me, but I could be mistaken.  At times I had to stifle a soft scream.

I was PAYING for this?

She worked on my feet for what seemed like a sweet forever.  In truth, it was probably thirty minutes. By the end of the contortions, my feet, although a little sore, felt like jelly.

The next step was to have me roll over on my stomach so she could pummel, knead, stretch, pound, karate chop, and walk all over my back.


Just thinking about it makes me happy.

Suddenly, she stopped.

She said something to me I could not translate, but it sounded like "Hyphenee."  I took it to mean I was to continue to relax for a bit until I was ready to get up and leave.

So I did.

Then the receptionist came over and said, "Excuse me?  Ma'am?  You are finish."

Ah!  "Hyphenee" was actually "I finish!"  I get it.

Feeling like I had just survived being run over by a truck and come back alive, I rose and put my socks and shoes back on my feet.  I thanked my lady, paid, and left.   

Would I willingly submit to this torture again?


As a matter of fact, I've been back three times since then.  This has become my new love!

Sorry, Hubster.