Friday, September 23, 2011

Iranian Insanity Kabab

Dear Reader,

The country of Iran has been in the news quite a bit this week. First they released those hikers, which was good news. I have always wondered about those kids, not that they were spies, but just sort of stupid, because there are so very many beautiful places for hiking, like
Yellowstone National Park 
 Lucerne, Switzeraland
Bled, Slovenia

I just simply can not fathom why, when there are so many beautiful places in the world, you would choose to hike along the
Iran/ Iraq border.

Nevertheless, I am glad those crazy kids are coming home! Then there's this crazy kid:

I mean, he's nuts, right?  For most people, if they spoke in front of the U.N. - or any other audience, and that audience collectively stood and walked out, it would be a nightmare! But he loves it.

I will tell you something, Iran may be a dangerous place for a vacation, and their leader is a madman, but their food is delicious. I should know, having lived there as a child. My school notebooks were filled with doodles of chelo kebab, which looks an awful lot like poop. So today, not exactly in honor of Iran, but in spite of it, I offer you Chelo Kabab. Yum.

You will need:
1 lb. ground lamb
1/2 large onion
Small pinch saffron

Puree the onion in a food processor and push through a strainer. What you're trying to do is make onion juice. Onion juice should not be confused with orange juice and served as a breakfast drink, but might taste delicious if included gingerly in a martini. Grind up the saffron and dissolve it in the onion juice. Mix all this with the meat and cover with plastic wrap to marinate in the fridge for at least one hour. Pack lamb onto skewers in the shape of poop, and grill, brushing with butter as the kababs cook. Serve with grilled onions and tomatoes and Iranian rice, which you can learn to make by watching this guy's video, which is the simplest way I've ever seen of making it, that does not involve a delivery menu.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Overextended Carrots

Dear Reader,

Now that we're fully back into the swing of things with the cooler weather, the after school activities, the homework, and all the other nonsense and annoyances which seem to comprise my life these days, it's hard to be creative at dinner time.  Right?  Also I'm so frazzled that cooking up some elaborate side dish seems totally beyond the scope of my super powers.  But don't worry, because I have for you a recipe which can go on the side of just about anything.  It's delicious, it's inexpensive, you've probably got all the ingredients already, and even my kids loved it.  People of the internet, I would like for you to meet my Overextended Carrots. Enjoy.

Overextended Carrots

You will need:

Baby carrots (1/2 bag)
Vegetable broth
Orange Juice
Salt and Pepper

Root around in the back of the fridge, or empty out the kids' lunch boxes to find forgotten and passed over baby carrots.  Stick these in steamer basket in a pan of water and cover. Take the time to find a lid for the pot - do not use whatever is closest, as many things, (newspaper, towels, homework folders, laptops) are flammable or would otherwise not be able to stand up to the heat of a stove. In a small sauce pan, heat 1/2 cup vegetable broth, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1 tsp. ground cumin, or more if you are madly in love with cumin, as I am, salt and pepper. Let this simmer away until it is as syrupy as my favorite video on the YouTubes.  Prepare the rest of the meal, whatever that might be.  Roast chicken, grilled Tilapia, Hot Pockets, it's really no concern of mine, I'm just here for the carrots.  When the sauce has reduced, float in 1/2 tsp butter. Remove carrots from pan and put them in a bowl. Drizzle on sauce, and eat while sitting at a table, preferably with a napkin on your lap. Enjoy while not thinking about the fifteen million things you did not get done today that you will try (and most likely fail) to get done tomorrow.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

*#@!#*& Snack Week: Friday


So what do you eat when you make about a million raspberry bars and half the kids don't touch them? They'd rather have left-over pretzel rods? I'll tell you:  raspberry bars and a super large vodka tonic. I guess this answers my question as to whether my bars are as good as my friend's.  Cheers.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

*#@!#*& Snack Week: Thursday


I have a friend who makes the most delicious raspberry bars known to mankind. Yesterday I begged her for the recipe, knowing that I was going to bake something for my daughter's class. But even knowing how very much in love with her raspberry bars I am, she would not fork over her recipe. Well. I. Never. Actually I completely understand, however I took this as a CHALLENGE. I would make my own raspberry bars, goddammit. And that is what I did.

I started with a shortbread crust. I can make shortbread. My grandmother was from Scotland, and just about the only thing she could make was shortbread, so that's a cinch. In my food processor, I dumped 2 1/2 cups of flour, 2/3 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp (sort of heaping, almost). I blitzed for a few seconds, then dropped in two sticks of unsalted butter cut into cubes. I pulsed this for about 40 pulses until it was grainy, and able to be pinched together. I scooped out 1 1/4 cups of this sugary grainy flour and put it in a separate bowl. Next, I lined a 13x9 inch baking pan with foil, greased it up, and pressed the shortbread into the pan, and let her cook at 375 for about 17 minutes until she was nice and golden brown on the edges. Shortbread, done.

Here you see the shortbread crust mid-way through being pressed into the pan.

Then I mixed 3/4 cup raspberry jam with a half pint of fresh raspberries, and sort of squashed the fresh berries into the jam because nobody wants great big globs of fruit in their delicate raspberry bars. To this berry mush I added some fresh lime juice, squeezed from half of an extremely juicy lime. If you are using a dryish lime, then go for the whole thing, or taste it to see how limey you like it.

 This picture is not a badly drawn parallelogram. You can't tell, but that is my stove on the right.

Now for the crumb topping. Normally I like almonds in a crumb topping. Or pistachios, if I'm feeling fancy. And if I am being totally over the top, 'who does she think she is?!' I mix marzipan in there. Oh, I know. It's totally crazy. But there's this nut issue. So I used pumpkin seeds. I blitzed half a cup in the processor, then added them to the flour with 1/2 cup of oats (the old fashioned kind) and 1/4 cup of brown sugar. My mother used to call brown sugar "Brown Hoo Ha," and one of my earliest memories is of her standing on the counter, gnawing on a hardened piece of said Hoo Ha that she kept in a high cupboard so that my brother and I couldn't reach it. Chic c'est la vie!

 Pumpkin seeds to save the day!!! Since I used pumpkin seeds a.k.a. pepitas, and lime, can these bars be heretofore known as Mexican Raspberry Bars? Maybe not.

I mixed this stuff up, and when the shortbread was ready, slathered on the raspberries, then topped with the crumb mix. Baked for about 24 minutes, then let it rest for an hour, or as long as it took me to pick the kids up from school and take them to their after school activities. I swear, if I added up all the time I have spent waiting outside various ballet classes, swimming lessons, gymnastics and Kumon, it would total about four years. Anyhow, when I got home, I cut them into squares, and as I made two batches, we got to eat some!

The verdict? These bars are delicious. Do they match up to my friend's raspberry bars? It doesn't really matter, does it? The important thing is that I am no longer dependent on someone else to provide me with raspberry bars, cause I can make them my own self. Not that I wouldn't be really really really thrilled if my friend would make me some of hers soon. Real soon.

Will the kids like them tomorrow? My daughter assured me that they would - if I also sent in some whipped cream.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

*#@!#*& Snack Week: Wednesday


Today the kids ate the rest of the yucky pretzel rods, and the cookies - nobody had to bust out their epi pen, so that's a good thing. This afternoon I really planned to bake something, I swear I did. But I hurt my back and am trying very hard not to move too much, so that's not happening. Don't worry I didn't hurt my back so badly that I won't be able to lift the magnum of vodka out of the freezer and pour myself a large cocktail now that the kids are in bed. I bought the snack for tomorrow, and it is a healthy one to make up for the cookies that I'm sure the teacher was not exactly thrilled about (sorry Caitlin). Tomorrow is hummus, carrots, and I was thinking to buy pitas and chop them into cute little triangles, but I found these, which are super cute all on their own!

I'm sure the kids would like them more if they were stuffed with M&M's, but they're going to have to settle for chick peas.

Here is something else that's cute:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

*#@!#*& Snack Week: Tuesday


Today I got a free pass, as the kids had the Pirate's Booty that I dropped off yesterday. AND, if that's not enough to make a mom smile, the cookies passed inspection, so that takes care of tomorrow! I'm feeling like a bit of a whiner that I was making such a big deal out of snack week, and I was almost finished with my duties on Monday. So, just to even things out, I am going to actually make something for snack on Thursday and Friday. I know you're saying, "Heather, don't make us wait until Thursday to see what you are bringing for snack! We will die of anticipation by then!" But remember, if I'm making something to bring to school on Thursday morning, I'm going to have to bake, or otherwise prepare, the snack tomorrow night, because the type of person who gets up at four to bake is not the type of person that I am.  In the meantime, check out this totally awesome video I found on the YouTubes. Enjoy!

Monday, September 12, 2011

*#@!#*& Snack Week: Monday

Dear Reader,

At my kids' school, parents are required to take turns providing snack for the class for one week. It's best to sign up early, lesson learned by forgetting that it was my turn and leaving the teacher with a room full of famished first graders. So this week it is my turn, and in this here blog, for this whole entire week, I will tell you about the snacks I am bringing to school. If you have any snack suggestions I would be most appreciative!  


I thought I had everything under control, buying strawberries, because the snacks are meant to be healthful, and also some organic Oreo-type cookies, because I want the kids to think that my daughter's mom brings awesome snacks. But last night I received a letter from the teacher, with words that no parent who is providing snack for thirty (yes, THIRTY) kids wants to hear:  

There are peanut and nut allergies present in the class. When shopping for snacks, please be on the lookout for anything containing peanut oil, peanut butter and nuts as well as any foods that have been manufactured on equipment handling these ingredients.

A quick check of the cookies I had purchased revealed that they were manufactured in the same general vicinity as some things that may or may not have touched peanuts. I don't know when peanut allergies became so commonplace, or so dangerous, but I'll be damned if I'm going to make a kid go into anaphylactic shock over my snacks. So the cookies stayed at home and I will soon be providing you with a recipe using two boxes of organic Oreo-type cookies.

Three pints of strawberries are hardly enough for thirty kids, so after the school run today I had to stop in the grocery store for some pretzel rods. I also picked up three bags of Pirates Booty, because I can't figure out why kids, or anyone else for that matter, like pretzels. When my son was in nursery school, my very first snack experience, I brought in fruit and the kids helped me make a delicious fruit salad. I was so proud of myself, had bought the best fruit, all organic and everything. I spooned some of the fruit salad into little bowls, and hovered, waiting for the kids to say how delicious it was. Not one of them ate a single bite. They just sat there squirming in their little chairs. And these weren't exotic fruits or anything. The teacher said, "Would anyone like pretzels?" There were cheers, fist pumping, and chants of, "Pretzels! Pretzels! Pretzels!" Go figure.

At least there aren't gluten issues in this class, cause that leads to some super lofty string cheese bills.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 11th.

The past few months I’ve been running in the morning, getting up early before my husband and the kids. But with school starting this week, today I ran after dropping the kids off. Their school is near the West Side Highway in lower Manhattan. I always run along the Hudson River to avoid the awkward jogging in place that one must do when stopped at a traffic light. Today, a beautiful, crisp morning, I ran west to the river and turned left. This is what I was looking at:

That building with the cranes on top is 1 World Trade Center, formerly known as the Freedom Tower, under construction. I have lived in New York for eighteen years. The view from my apartment used to be of the World Trade Center. After it was gone, the view, in spite of all the buildings I could still see, was nothing more than a huge, gaping void. Today, running along the river, I was staring at this new building and, I don’t know why, but I decided to run there. I ran down to the pedestrian bridge, against the swarming mass of commuters emptying out from the PATH train, and stopped just in front of the site. 

1 World Trade is really quite eerie when you imagine what it is replacing - you can see them - really see where the twin towers once were. Craning your neck, looking up into the empty air, it is hard not to picture the people who were just sitting at their desks, turning on their computers, drinking coffee, and ten minutes later hanging out the window about to jump, or the busboys with their faces pressed hard against the floor of Windows on the World trying to breathe.  This morning, in front of the site, I was stopped in my tracks. I stood, staring for a minute, and then I just cried and cried. I didn’t even know that I was still that sad. 

Mostly when I think about 9/11 I feel angry. Not only angry with the people who did this, but also angry at the tourists who go down there sightseeing, ticking “Ground Zero” off their list before catching the matinee of Mary Poppins. I hate the street vendors who sell American flags, souvenirs, pictures of the towers, pictures of the towers on fire, and the people who buy them. I’m angry at stupid right wing politicians like Sarah Palin who praise the virtues of small-town America and the people that live there, and lambaste the “liberal elite” that live on the east coast in lefty places like New York, all the while waving their flags and saying “Never Forget,” and cheering a war against people they know nothing about in the Middle East. The reason New Yorkers are so “lefty” is that it’s hard not to be tolerant and compassionate of your neighbors. It’s much easier to hate what you don’t know, the unfamiliar scares everyone, even my kids know that. And these small town virtues, what might they be? Helping your neighbor? Sticking together, being strong and proud of where you come from? Because that’s what we New Yorkers did in the days after 9/11. While it’s nice to say that the terrorists didn’t win, in many ways they did, because it’s just not the same here anymore.

It was religious fanatics who did this, not Muslims. The guys who run the deli down my block don’t mind if you’re short on money, and they’ll let you come back later when you’ve got it. They’re Muslim. They used to have a sign in their window, written in Arabic, saying their meat was Halal. It’s gone now. They took it down September 12th. The week following the attack I got into a taxi with my husband, the driver wore a turban.  In front of us on the plastic partition he had pasted a sign reading, “I am not a Muslim. I am a Sikh from India. I love America.” That’s not something you ever would have seen in New York City prior to 9/11. In New York, a turban wasn't out of the ordinary. My husband and I both cried, because while the attack was against America, it was also against our hometown, and it was also this cab driver’s hometown, and it was all so sad. Religious fanaticism that rejects any sort of reason is dangerous regardless of the religion from which it was born.

Every year, I hate September 11th.  I hate the beams of light that blare up from “Ground Zero” as a memorial, and was really glad they didn’t have them this year. I hate the reading of the names. I hate the flags. It’s too sad. I don’t want to remember that. It was horrible. But of course, nobody has to tell me to “Never Forget.” How could I when the wail of a fire engine’s siren turns my blood cold, and the sight and sound of a fighter jet fills me with deep, gray sadness? I won’t forget checking in with everyone - the guy at the coffee place, my doctor, anyone I saw really, in the days that followed, to see who had lost friends and family. “Is everyone OK,” we’d ask each other, and hold our breath for the answer, knowing that nobody was OK. Not really. I will never forget the smell, like burning plastic mixed with an acrid sweetness which lingered in the air, for even as long as late October when my husband and I came out of a movie on 19th street, and it was as strong as it was in those first days. I don't remember the movie, but I remember that smell. I remember every time I take the subway, drive through the Holland Tunnel, get on a bus. I was four months pregnant on that day, and when my baby was born I wouldn’t let him out of my sight, wouldn’t even let him sleep in a different room, and when the time came for him to go to nursery school, I sat in front of my window, staring in the direction of his school, waiting for a plume of smoke that would send me tearing down Eighth Avenue to get him.

This weekend, all the warnings, and the advice to be “vigilant,” whatever that means, has brought all those awful feelings back, and it is, this year, as if it happened yesterday. I’m crying more. I canceled the babysitter tonight because I just felt like being home with my kids, and I’ll probably stay home for most of this weekend. I hope that this anniversary brings some sort of closure, not to the pain, and horror, and sadness, because that will never go away. But to the media’s constant reminding us to “remember,” because that’s not necessary.

This blog is called Eat Your Feelings. What will I eat on this September 11th? Probably the cans of soup I’ve had stored in the basement for ten years. And maybe a bagel.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

First Day of School Gooey Breakfast Cake

 Fourth grade, Second grade.

Dear Reader,

This year the first day of school came too soon.  I couldn't figure out why this formerly joyous day was now bittersweet, and then I realized: this year I like my kids more.  Of course I have always loved my children, I'm not a monster, but they're a little older now and we can do stuff together besides playing Memory or reading over and over about the cranky trains on the Island of Sodor.  They're real people now!  Sometimes they even give me the finger!  (Not in an out-and-out F.U. kind of finger-giving way, but more like an "Oof, I got something in my eye," while wiping your eye with your middle finger kind of way.)  So today, I packed them off to school and actually can't wait for them to get home.

I wanted to make them something delicious for breakfast - not only because they are awesome and they deserve it, but because I knew I would be exhausted and bleary-eyed this morning.  And let's face it, the first day of school can really, really suck.  Just ask my brother whose best friend thought that dying his hair platinum would help with the bullying.  Wrong!  He was wrong! Oh so very, very wrong!  Then he tried to dye it back to brown and wound up with green hair, oh the torture!  Don't worry though, cause that kid grew up to be team President for the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants, so suck it Eric Berg, you mean bully.

Last night I whipped up a banana bread for the kids, but no ordinary banana bread was this. To make my bread really yummy and special for awesome kids like mine, (and yours I am sure), here's what I do:  I rub butter all over the inside of the loaf pan, as usual, but then I sprinkle in sugar, the same way you would if you were to flour the inside of a pan, but see, I used sugar!  Ten minutes before the thing is finished baking, I pull it out, dot butter on the top and sprinkle on more sugar!  So the outside of the bread is super gooey and sweet and so freaking good.  This works with any quick bread and is especially good if you have that raw sugar with the big crystals which can be obtained for free at Starbucks if you're sneaky or just cheap.

Of course the banana bread recipe I prefer is the You Were a Bully In Middle School Banana Bread from my book, which you can buy even if you are cheap because it is only $9.67 on Amazon.


 Pan dusted with sugar. Note: I didn't get the bigger crystal sugar, but just used plain ole reg'lar sugar, which is also good.

Bread ready for baking.