Monday, February 22, 2010

Recipes Gone Wild

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Actually, that's what people who steal other people's ideas tell themselves to feel better. In that spirit, I am shamelessly stealing my friend Susan's idea (My Sliver of Life) and offering a recipe that I wrote many years ago. I can now watch reruns of Mad Men tonight, feeling smug and guilt-free because I updated my blog.

p.s. I even stole the title from her.

Susan’s Beef Stroganoff Mistake

March 20, 2007

I got out my Joy of Cooking cookbook tonight and put it in my cookbook holder – I love those. I realized after the fact that I glanced at the recipe but basically paid no attention to it while I was cooking. The reason I made this in the first place is because yesterday on the way into Kroger, the girls and I ran into Tanita, who works at their dentist’s office, and I asked her what she was having for dinner and beef stroganoff sounded really good. (I made soup last night but that’s a different story.)

Although I usually use a cheaper cut of meat and first marinate and then pound it with my meat hammer, I used two filet mignons. This is because this really nice guy came around the other day selling beef from his truck. The reason we have a freezer in the first place is because at least 11 years ago (before kids), another guy came to our house selling beef from his truck – it was a pretty good deal and the meat was good, as it has been this time. The only problem is that the first guy stuffed it all into our little freezer above the fridge, and I could not repack it. So I went out and bought a freezer.

So I think a good cut of beef is nice to start with.

John describing the size of the beef.

I thinly sliced two filets, dredged them in flour, and started sautéing them in butter. I ended up adding some olive oil because the flour was getting stuck to the bottom of the pan. I kept scooping up the stuff on the bottom and stirring it back into the meat. I added generous helpings of salt and pepper and then added one onion, cut up (I like bigger chunks vs. diced). Then I added about two spoonfuls of tomato paste – I’ve never added this before but Tanita said it was good. After I got that all mixed up, I added maybe four tablespoons of butter, one package of portabella mushrooms and mixed it all up well. Then I added one cup of pinot noir (the only thing I measured, because Tanita gave me that measurement, although she said to use burgundy) and probably two cups of water – it was kind of watery so I let it cook down a bit, adding salt and pepper to taste. I also added a bit of allspice because I noticed in glancing at the cookbook that it called for a nip of nutmeg.

I served it over egg noodles and we all pronounced it delicious. John said that although he loved it, it was a bit watery and then I remembered that I forgot the sour cream. And I rarely use sour cream so it will probably go bad in my fridge.

Some girlfriends laughing with me years later about how I forgot the sour cream. Susan is second from the left and will hopefully still be my friend after she reads this.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gone, Baby, Gone

We used to joke with our kids all the time that they would go bad when they became teenagers. It's come to pass with my youngest daughter, who just turned 13, and being bad in this case means that in public she acts as if she would rather be with anyone but me. Those of you who can see my current profile picture on Facebook can see how thrilled she seems to be with my arm around her -- she looks like she's being groped by the fourth boyfriend her mom has let move in this month -- the one who wants her to fetch beer and "give us a kiss." I'm trying not to take it personally, but being thin-skinned, it wounds me deeply.

I know I stopped being the center of her world a long time ago, but this public physical rejection is a new chapter -- and yes, I know it's not abbynormal. I just read this on a website called Family Education: But if you become angry, indignant, hurt, disappointed, or feel rejected and pressure her when she says "no" to you, you are teaching her to put other people's feelings first and that it is wrong to try to protect herself from unwanted physical advances.

Unwanted physical advances? Wow -- seeing that in print makes me want to go have a cigarette with the creepy boyfriend. I don't know why I should be spared -- I certainly didn't spare my mother. I feel such shame and sorrow when I think of how I distanced her from myself, even as I got older. My chickens are coming home to roost -- the surly biddies, not the cute chicks.

Years ago I was visiting my sister and commented on how churlish her teenager acted when she came downstairs. My sister, totally surprised, told me that her daughter was having a good day. Like many of us, I did my best parenting when I had no children and I remember thinking how I would never put up with that kind of behavior! I not only put up with it, I sometimes cringe and cry.

Lucky for me, her sister likes physical affection, no matter where, and now that my youngest is home and it's just us, she's back to being my baby -- even having her stinky feet in my lap feels a treat. Sometimes you win.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snowed In

I was really disappointed when the power came back on at our house a few days ago. We had candles all over the living/dining room and were playing Bananagrams -- the kind of thing we just don't do that often. Okay, we don't do that kind of thing at all unless we have no access to electronics. It seems we're always in different parts of the house these days, going our own ways and doing our own things. We have dinner together most evenings, which I hear will help keep the kids from being serial killers. So that is a comfort. It wasn't even much of an outage: the power had gone out in the middle of the night -- we woke to a very cold house -- and came back on before 7 the next evening. It seemed that we had just settled in when family time was over. I could kick myself now, because I was the one who started it: my laptop was sitting on the table and I felt that I just had to check work email. After that, we all scattered and I was suddenly sitting there with the lights on and my family gone.

I keep thinking back to the outage of 2000. Our oldest child, then 4, was wildly and loudly frustrated because the magic had disappeared. We'd brought her home from China the previous March to a whole new world, to say the least, and one of her favorite parts of the new world was television. She and her 3 1/2 year old sister (who came home to us when she was six months old) especially loved the Teletubbies, who creeped me out almost as much as clowns do. And you know that one with the purse was a gay blade. She was okay with being miserably cold and having pretty crummy meals and not being able to play outside, but could not comprehend why we would not let her watch the telly -- it seemed to break her heart when it wasn't really pissing her off. She pretty much threw fits the entire time (about 2 /12 days) between endless games of cards and Shoots and Ladders and Go, Dogs Go and Brown Bear. Everything was covered not in beautiful snow but in ice so they couldn't even go out to play.

Our house then was low-lying and didn't get much sunshine in the best of circumstances - under gray skies, it was pretty depressing. We had a well then, and at least I had the foresight to run a bathtub full of water to use for flushing toilets, sponge baths, etc., and we had bottled water to drink. Sponge baths were a bit of an adventure: heating the water over the fireplace and quickly washing by candlelight in the bathroom before getting into warm jammies. Although we had a fireplace, we had very little firewood, and one of my most vivid memories is of John in the back yard hacking away at ice to get at a few skimpy branches. At the bitter end, most of our candles were burned out, and I had scrounged some old meat and veggies from the freezer and thrown them in our cast iron pot to cook over the dwindling fire. I was dying for pizza or a burger or anything but the slop in that Dutch oven.

What a difference a few years makes. We now live in a house full of light, and I didn't have to entertain the kids much -- I worked at home but also read, a total luxury on a weekday. We had real snow -- fat, lovely flakes -- and the girls spent most of their time outside. We had enough candles for a siege -- many of which I'd bought after the outage of 2000. And we had not just water, but hot water.

I'm writing this in the library; the girls are in a conference room learning Mandarin with our friend Penny. (As of Sunday, I will have two teenagers, but I'm keeping those thoughts at bay.) I keep thinking back to them as toddlers, watching those stinkin' Teletubbies. They only knew three words of Mandarin then: Hello, Goodbye and Bad. The show started with a baby's face within a sun, and the girls loved shouting "Bad Baby" in Mandarin, which sounded like "Boo How Baby." Like their mother, they have always loved sophisticated humor.