Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving Menu - What's Yours?

Lets face it, we all eat the same thing every Thanksgiving, right?  I don't mean 3 million people have turkey on a given Thursday, whether they like it or not.  I mean, if you are at all like me, you have the exact same menu every year.  You use the same recipes and make the same things and have the same Thanksgiving.

No matter how many cooking mags I flip through (and I get all of them) or how many pages I dog-ear, I always go back to the standbys, too.  When I tried to change the main course one year for Christmas Eve dinner from prime rib to something like a crown pork roast, I got several protests, so now all I change up is the appetizers and sides.  

Thanksgiving is harder.  There are set things you are supposed to have, otherwise someone says, "No mashed potatoes?" when you have served sweet potatoes in their place.  Its not Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce and gravy, so there are two musts that have to be made and kept in the fridge.  There must be at least two pies, because one pumpkin seems too boring (btw family, we're only have one pumpkin pie this year.  Deal with it).   Maybe its because the pilgrims were starving or the Indians hadn't yet met Mr. Trader Joe, but Thanksgiving has the tendency to be the starchiest meal ever served to man.  To try to balance it, I always want to serve a salad, which means we now have a 16-course meal for 8 people.  Its not the tryptophan that makes you sleepy but the 4 pounds of corn, stuffing, potatoes, yams and pie you have eaten.

In my house, Thanksgiving is always a deep-fried turkey.  My husband won't have it any other way, which I think belies the underlying sentiment that I have long suspected is lurking underneath the Thanksgiving traditions... I'm not sure we all really like turkey.  But this is the first Thanksgiving with the Bug, so we'll hold to traditions a little while longer, even though I think someday, a juicy pork loin might be nice.

Here's our traditional Thanksgiving Menu.  Feel free to email me for recipes, if you want, and let me know - what are your traditions?

The Chang-Ambrose Thanksgiving includes...

Crudite Plate or Roasted Eggplant Dip (btw, you want this Eggplant Dip, seriously)
Deep Fried Turkey with Gravy (purchased from Williams Sonoma, hey, deep-fried = no drippings)
Orange Cranberry Sauce
Chestnut Stuffing  
Green Bean Casserole (a GOOD recipe with fresh beans and mushrooms, not from the back of a can, with canned goods)
Mashed Sweet Potatoes w/Brown Sugar & Pecans
Green Salad (sometimes with blue cheese and pears, sometimes with pomegranates and persimmons)
Pumpkin Pie
Apple Tart (I always wind up feeling bad that there is only one dessert.  Then the puff pastry and apples get whipped out)

What do you eat for the national day of food coma?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


CJ is starting daycare on Friday.

I think I'm supposed to be more apprehensive about this than I actually am.  I think I'm supposed to feel horribly guilty that I have to have others - strangers! - watch my child, especially when right now, its not a necessity to do this.  I think I'm supposed to sit outside the daycare for an hour and then go back and get him (btw, I'm fully aware that I might actually be compelled to do this).

I'm not going back to work yet.  He is on the waiting list for a full-time spot in January, which is when I had originally anticipated going back to work (that's not looking likely right now either).  When the school said they had two half-day spots open during the week, we decided to take them, figuring this will give us at least 6 weeks of transition time, for both him and me.  It will likely take a few weeks to adjust, but I want him to get used to other people and other children.  I want him to realize he is only King of the World at home, and I want someone else to teach him that lesson.  I want him to play with other toys and have other experiences he cannot have with me at home, singing him the same songs over and over.  I want him to get some new germs and build up a little immunity.  I want him to give me that big smile and open up his arms because he is so happy to see me again after only 4 hours.

Here's the other thing I had to come to terms with:  I want to do things while he is gone.  I want to wash dishes and empty the dishwasher without being concerned about how much noise I'm making.  I want to water the vegetable garden leisurely, without worrying that he may be crying in his crib.  I want to do laundry and run the vacuum and mop the floors, and clean the house, and go to the grocery store and work on being Martha Stewart (without the nasty divorce and people not liking me part).  I want to sit in front of my computer and have a coherent thought or two, and research and write my weekly newsletter so I'm not up until midnight on Wednesday nights.  I want to be able to run 4 errands in a row, without worrying about getting him in and out of the car and whether I should try to wear him, or if he will be difficult getting back into the car seat.  On occasion, I would even like to go to the gym or pilates or yoga, or maybe even take a nap.  I want to have a little me time so I can be... me.

I think I'm not supposed to want this yet.  I think I'm supposed to want my child to be glued to my chest for the next 5, 10, 18 years, and if I have the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom, I'm supposed to embrace that ability like a junkie on a needle.  I'm not supposed to be okay with leaving my child with others, but as a friend pointed out, the full-time Mommy gig is not for everyone, and that's okay.  We have been really blessed that I've been able to stay home for these first 6 months, and I love staying home with my kid.  But I can't just stay home and be the 24-hour CJ Channel.  That's not good for me, or for him.  And we need life to be both.

So I'm not going to try to feel some guilt others may want to impose on me.  I'm not going to feel bad that I'm ready for this and I think my kid is too.  I'm going to embrace this transition as another big step, and realize that it is not only okay, but important that I take time for myself, for my kid, for my husband. I'm not going to feel bad if I drop him off and don't pick him up again until noon, and I'm not going to feel bad if next week I decide not to drop him off at all.  In my Mommydom, sometimes each of us needs a little day care.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Magic Review

Okay, I know many of you secretly (or not so secretly) thought I was crazy for my newfound infatuation with paid programming.  I couldn't resist, I had to find out, it was eating at me day and night, so I did it.  I bought a Magic Bullet (the blender ladies, the blender).

I opened it and immediately did not have high hopes.  I don't know why, maybe it was just the aura that poofed out of the box but I somehow instinctively knew I was beginning an un-returnable experiment.

It came with lots of crap - the two blades, one flat for grinding and whipping, and one pointed for chopping and blending.  It also came with a small cup, a large "blender/smoothie" type cup, and four of those stupid mugs with the handles and colorful screw-on rings (so the drunk-asses can tell which mug is theirs).

I immediately put it to the test, since I needed 2 cups of chopped onion for Chicken Adobo for dinner.  I wasted 1/2 an onion in it, and then just to be sure, wasted 2 cloves of garlic.  Since the cups are tall and the blades are small, it works like a blender and shoots food upwards, as opposed to a food processor, which is wide and has long, flat spread blades, so food flies to the side and back into the blades.  What you wind up with is puree on the bottom and huge pieces of uncut garlic or onion or finger or whatever your chopping on top.  The more you try to shake it and cut the large pieces, the more puree you have.  Not helpful.

Thinking it seemed to really like to blend, I tried a chocolate milkshake.  This was better, but really, it's hard to screw up ice cream and milk.  This is also not helpful if you are trying to lose the last 5 lbs of baby weight.

Already knowing the results but undeterred nonetheless, I attempted the Magic Bullet guacamole.  I threw in some scooped out avocado, half a small tomato, half a clove of garlic, a squeeze of lime juice and a little hot sauce.  I pulsed.  I whirled.  I pulsed some more.

I got pink avocado hot sauce puree on the bottom and big chunks of uncut avocado on top.  Gross.
(I took a picture of this, but I'm not going to subject you to it).

The last try was to see if it would do what I actually sort of need it to do in the next few weeks, which is puree baby food.  I steamed a zucchini cut into rounds and threw it into the cup.  Since a lot of nutrients leech into the steaming water, I put a spoonful of the cooking water in with the rounds and turned it on.  After a few seconds, it began to suck from the sides just like a blender, and in another few seconds, I had very nice, quick, fresh, organic baby food.  And since there were only two pieces that were dirty, clean up was easy.

I was going to use the flat blade to see if it would really whip cream, but I just don't think I have the energy. I think I've butchered/wasted enough food with this thing.

Bottom line.... it mostly sucks, people.  I'm glad that it will at least make baby food for the next few months, and maybe if I drank margaritas I would try that, but I don't.  I used the last of my Magic Bullet energy to send them a message that their product sucked, didn't do all that it claimed, and to tell them that I was going to tell everyone on my website and blog not to waste their hard earned money on their crappy product.

Mission accomplished.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Paid Programming

I may be succumbing to paid programming.

Its got me.  At 5:30am, when I'm in the armchair feeding CJ for the first time and bored with the morning news, I'm surfing the endless channels of paid programming.  I mostly pass on the weight loss infomercials and the financial help, but really...

My Cuisinart blender/mini-processor combo is broken.  I might need a Magic Bullet.  I have baby food to make (in another month, but its still coming), and with the limited counter space in my kitchen, it really won't take up much space.  Have you seen all the food I could make in 4 seconds with a Magic Bullet and a microwave??  This could replace the mini-chopper I was thinking of buying, since apparently I can "slap all my troubles away."  How can you not be convinced by the Slap Chop Rap?  Its the best worst car wreck I've seen in a long time.

Then again, the question is do I really need a Magic Bullet, or should I just attempt to replace all my appliances with the Bullet Express?  Apparently I will never need to touch a knife again, as this gadget will chop all my vegetables for me, and will also make dough and work as a large processor.  I can kiss my tangerine orange Kitchenaid standing mixer that I coveted for years good-bye.  Same with my Cuisinart 11-quart processor.  I can get meals going in 8 minutes!!

Then I can take all the food I have successfully chopped and prepped sans knife and cutting board, and cook it in the NuWave Oven, which will cook all my food in half the time in one machine, using a combination of direct heat, convection heat, and infrared heat.  I can see my meat cooking with night vision goggles.   No more searing steak in a cast iron pan to finish off in the oven, and roasting green beans separately in the oven, or boiling potatoes to mash on the stove - why dirty so many dishes?

Then I'd be able to save hundreds of dollars a year once I pick up the Foodsaver machine, so I can vacuum seal all my food, both cooked and raw.  I can buy in bulk and freeze, or I can cook full meals and vacuum seal them so I no longer have to nuke a Lean Cuisine when I come home from yoga.  I can nuke the steak, beans and potatoes I made in the NuWave two days or two months ago.

Of course, now that I have all these new gadgets and I'm saving so much money storing my food, I'm going to have to find a way to organize it all.  The label maker simply won't do, nor will a sharpie on one of those plastic food bags.  I know, I could get a Cricut Expression!  Then not only could I make cool, bright, creative labels for all the food I've saved and bagged, I could make custom recipe cards to give away for the holidays!  I could scrapbook pictures of all the food I saved with my Seen On TV gadgets to prove they really do work!

With all the time and money I'd save, I'm sure I'd have more time to do things like raise my son and check my favorite blogs.  And here I thought I was just trying to make baby food.

*NOTE:  I actually did succumb and purchase a Magic Bullet today (the blender ladies, the blender).  I'll let you know how it works out.