Sunday, October 24, 2010
My Dad's Mom used to make corn pudding for most family meals. It is one of my earliest food memories and I absolutely love it. It's creamy and just a little bit sweet and completely delicious. It can also be made ahead of time and then warmed before the big meal.
Sweet Corn- 2 Large cans drained
Sugar- 1/2 Cup
Flour- 3 TBSP
Salt- 1/2 tsp
Butter- 1/4 cup melted
Eggs- 3 Large
Milk- 2 cups
Vanilla or Almond Extract- splash
Baking Dish 8x8
Preheat oven to 425*. In the mixing bowl, combine eggs, salt and sugar. Next mix in the Flour. Add Corn, Vanilla/Almond extract, and Milk and mix well. Mix in the melted butter and pour immediately into greased baking dish. Place into oven and cook for 35-40 mins or until browned on top and firm. Serve hot/warm. Can be made up to a day ahead of time and reheated.
I grew up with the typical style of Southern Green beans, cooked in fat back for an entire day. Shudder. I like vegetables because they taste like vegetables, and I like my green beans nice and crunchy and full of flavor. Here is a great recipe for super flavorful beans that literally take less than 20 minutes to make. If you are not a fan of Garlic, this is also very nice if you substitute the garlic for Fresh Rosemary.
Whole Frozen Green Beans- 1 bag (I like to use the baby green beans just because they are more tender. If you have access to fresh green beans go for it!!)
Shaved Almonds- 1 Packet
Garlic- 2-3 cloves finely chopped
Good Quality Olive Oil
Salt- to taste
First steam your green beans for about 10 minutes until they are tender but NOT mush. They should still have a bit of a crunch too them. Remove them from the steamer and let them drain. Shake off any excess water. In a skillet put a good drizzle of olive oil over a warm heat. Its important to use a good olive oil so that the flavor is olive-y more than oily. Add the garlic and stir a few times. Next add the green beans and mix together until garlic has cooked and the green beans are entirely coated in the oil/ garlic. Add in a few shakes of salt and stir. If you are not a fan of garlic, add a few sprigs worth of fresh rosemary that you have removed from the stems and loosely chopped to the beans instead. Remove from the pan into your serving dish. Next in the same pan, add a drop or two of olive oil and the shaved almonds. Stir until almonds have a nice brownish color and are toasted. Lightly salt and sprinkle over the green beans. Serve immediately so you do not eat them all before they get to the table.
So where I'm from, pretty much every meal that involves meat is served with Gravy. Sometimes I think that instead of blood, Southerners veins contain rich savory gravy. It's pretty much a staple, we pour it onto potatoes, drizzle it onto meats and sop it up with biscuits. No meal is complete without it. I grew up from a very young age helping my Momma make gravy over the stove. It is not Technically hard, but alot of people seem to really mess it up. Here is a recipe for gravy perfection, just like my Momma makes:).
Turkey Drippings From Fresh Herb Turkey
Giblets and Neck from Turkey
2 Bullion Cubes
Chicken Broth or Water
Several TBSP All Purpose Flour
Fork or other stirring tool
Before placing Turkey into the oven, place Turkey neck and Giblets (insides) into a small saucepan and cover with water. Add in Bullion cubes and cook over a low heat, replenishing the water as it runs out. Once Turkey has cooked, remove it from the pan and pour Turkey drippings into a large skillet. Pour a small amount of hot water/broth into the original Turkey pan as there are alot of condensed flavors that tend to get stuck in the pan and its a shame to waste them. Once it has softened, stir it around and use later as water for the gravy. Over low heat, add several heaping TBSP of Flour until the grease from the drippings has soaked up. It is very important at this stage to mix/mash the flour into an even paste to avoid lumps later. Once grease is completely absorbed, pour in small amounts of HOT water/ broth stirring/mixing it in well each time. We also always used the broth from the giblets in our gravy. Stir like crazy adding a small amount of water a bit at a time until the gravy has reached a consistency slightly more liquid than you would like it. If you would like you can also chop up the giblets and add them to the gravy at this point. Continue stirring until gravy starts to thicken up. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve immediately over everything:).
Yeah, I know I already posted a recipe for Sweet Potatoes but I'm from the South, we can't get enough of these things:). This dish was originally introduced to me by a friend who brought it to one of our All American Thanksgivings here in Israel. I liked it so much I've used the basic idea and twisted it a bit adding the bananas to make this winner of a recipe. Its a really simple side to make and is definitely delicious.
Large Sweet Potatoes- 4-5
Ripe Bananas- 3
Pecans- 2 cups
Brown Sugar- 4 TBSP plus 1/4 cup
Butter- 2 TBSP plus half a stick
Cinnamon or Pumpkin Pie spice- To taste
Condensed Milk or Heavy Cream- A Good Splash
Large Baking dish either glass or throw away
Large Mixing Bowl
Hand Mixer or Potato Masher
To Prepare Candied Pecans:
Place 2 TBSP Butter into a skillet and allow to melt but not boil over medium heat. Add into melted butter 4 TBSP Brown Sugar, and a few good shakes of Cinnamon. Stir constantly until sugar has melted into butter and loses its grainy appearance. Add in Pecans and stir vigorously until all of the Pecans have been coated with the Sugar mixture. Pour onto wax paper and separate. Allow pecans to cool. Try not to eat all of them before finishing the recipe. Once Pecans have cooled, break or chop them into smaller pieces.
To Prepare Sweet Potatoes-
First place rinsed Sweet Potatoes in a pot of boiling water and cook until soft all the way though. Set aside and let cool slightly. Remove the peels and place Sweet Potatoes into a mixing bowl. When Potatoes are cooking, place the unpeeled Bananas on a Cookie Sheet into the oven at 375*. Cook until the Bananas are soft and the peel has turned black. When they have finished cooking set them aside and allow them to cool slightly. Slice open the peel and scrape the cooked Banana into the Mixing Bowl. Add 1/2 half stick of butter, 1/4 cup brown sugar, a good dash of Cinnamon/ Pumpkin Pie Spice(more or less to your taste). Using a Hand Mixer or Potato Masher, mix all ingredients until creamy. Add a generous splash of Heavy Cream or Condensed Milk and mix until blended. Scrape Sweet Potato/Banana yumminess into a Baking Dish and top with chopped candied pecans. Place into warm (not hot) oven until time to serve. So Yum!
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Last year was the first year I tried this for a Marinade. I made it up on a whim and it was hands down the best Turkey I had ever eaten. It was juicy and tender and all around a Yummy Bird. Fresh Herbs make this an easy winner and a definate crowd pleaser. Get a big Bird as there won't likely be leftovers!
1 Whole Turkey (Recipe makes enough for about a 15lb bird)
Fresh Garlic- 6-8 Whole Cloves
Lemon- Juice from 1- 1 1/2 whole Lemons
Fresh Lemon Zest- 1 tsp
Olive Oil- Approximately 1/2 cup
Fresh Parsley- A heaping handful of leaves, free of stems
Fresh Sage- A small handful of leaves, free of stems
Fresh Oregano- A smallish handful of leaves, free of stems
Fresh Thyme- About half a handful of leaves, free of stems
Fresh Rosemary- About half a handful of leaves, free of stems
Fresh Lemon grass- A small Handful of leaves, free of stems
Salt- 1-1 1/2 tsp
Fresh Ground Pepper- to taste
Large Turkey Sized Baking Dish
2 Large Kitchen Sized Trash Bags
Several Large Safety Pins/ Needle and Thread/ Other Method of Closing up Bird
Combine Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Lemon Zest (fresh grated lemon rind), and Fresh Garlic in Blender/Food Processor and pulse until smooth and free of chunks. Next add fresh herbs a bit at a time, blending until smooth. You should end up with a fairly thick pesto-like paste. Add salt/pepper to taste. Next rinse out one of the Kitchen Trash Bags and place it inside the other Trash Bag to double layer it. Place Turkey inside open bag on a counter where you have room to work. Slide your hand very gently in between the Turkey's skin and the meat of the breast making a sort of pocket. Extend this pocket as far as possible to the legs etc being careful not to poke holes in the skin. Next take small handfuls of the Herb mixture and rub it all over, in between the skin and the meat, inside the bird, and on the skin. Use all but a few Tbsp of Marinade, which you will save and use to baste with while baking. When finished coating the Turkey, close the bag tightly squeezing out all of the air and tie it. Place in the fridge for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight. The longer you marinate it, the more flavorful and tender it will be. When you have finished marinating, place the Turkey in a large baking dish and stuff with your choice of stuffing. Close Skin over stuffing with a Needle and thread/Safety Pins/ other method. Before placing in oven, pat with leftover marinade. Cook according to your birds specifications basting often and thoroughly. When the Turkey is done, remove from baking dish and let it rest on serving plate for 10-15 minutes before slicing so that it has time to reabsorb its juices. Do not forget to remove thread/ safety pins/ etc before serving. Do not forget to save the dripping for a succulent herb gravy (to follow in a later post). No doubt this will be the most flavorful Turkey you've ever tasted!
So Thanksgiving is coming up soon and as it is my absolute favorite Holiday, I've decided to devote the next several recipes to Thanksgiving Dinner Favorites. At our house, we always had a ton of people for Thanksgiving. I grew up in the boonies and very often we had family and friends who came to stay with us for the week as it usually coincided with the first week of rifle season. My Mom is an excellent cook and we always had TONS of different dishes for Thanksgiving dinner. My Grammy taught my Mom to make this and it was always my favorite side dish. I would eat seconds and thirds at dinner and then happily gobble up the leftovers for breakfast the next day. The mix of sweet potato, savory spices and tart apples is a combination you must experience for yourself. I look forward to it every year and no Thanksgiving would be complete without it.
Sweet Potatoes- 3-4 large
Granny Smith Apples- 5-6 peeled cored and sliced into wedges
Slivered Almonds- 1 Packet
Margarine- 1/2 stick
Brown Sugar- 1/2-1 Cup (adjust to your preferred level of sweetness)
Cinnamon- to taste
Nutmeg- to taste
Pumpkin Pie Spice- (optional substitute for cinnamon and nutmeg) to taste
Large glass or Disposable Baking dish approx 9x13
Preheat Oven to 375*
First boil whole Sweet Potatoes until they are tender but not 100% cooked, leave them a bit firm as you will finish cooking them in the oven. Cool and then gently remove the skin. Slice the Sweet Potato in thick chunks about 1/4 inch. Leave in circle form. Next lightly grease the baking dish with margarine and or cooking spray to prevent sticking. Place Sweet Potato slices in bottom of the pan, 1 layer thick. Next do a layer of Apple slices. With your fingers, pinch off small pieces of margarine and place on top of the Apple slices. Crumble part of the Brown Sugar on top. Sprinkle a small dusting of Cinnamon and Nutmeg and a coating of Slivered Almonds. Repeat this process until you have used up all the ingredients, finishing with a topping of Brown Sugar, Margarine, Spices and Almonds. Place Casserole into hot oven for approximately 45 minutes-1 hr or until apples are soft. Check periodically to be sure that it does not get too brown. Cover with foil to keep in the juices. Remove and let sit for a few minutes to allow the juices to thicken up a bit. Serve hot and amazing. Also Yummy cold as Leftovers if it lasts that long. Serves 5, or one very determined me:).
So my little man turns 6 months old today. 6 months... I can barely believe it. The time has flown, well flown and dragged somehow simultaneously. When I was pregnant I set my goal to exclusively breastfed him until 6 months as the WHO recommends and not to introduce solids (or anything else for that matter) a second before that. Not as easy as it sounds. I've dealt with everything from having to check out of the hospital AMA 2 days after having my stomach butchered because the Doctors were going to feed him formula against my wishes as "a baby that big cannot possibly survive on breast milk alone", to pressure from my In-laws to feed him oh pretty much ANYTHING else, to a bad latch that we didn't fix for a good two weeks of bleeding, cracked, blood blistered nipples, to serious supply issues, to getting past pumping in an office at work where there was practically a revolving door of people walking in and out, you name it we experienced it.
And we got through it. 6 Months... It's just flew by.
It wasn't always easy, some mornings I would be sitting in the chair, the pump on one side, the baby on the other, barely able to keep my eyes open after working all night, but still needing 2 more bottles to have enough milk for the next shift, pumping sometimes for an hour or more, trying to extract just a few more precious drops. But then there were the moments that made it completely udderly (yes, yes pun intended) absolutely worth it. Sometimes he reaches up and pets my face or twirls my hair in his little hands as he is eating, or the Tyrannosaurus growls and birdlike squawks right before he throws himself at the boobie after not seeing me all night, or the way he hums to himself as he is falling asleep, his tummy full of milk. I wouldn't trade those moments for a million dollars, not even for all the money in the world.
For the last few weeks the little man has been literally throwing himself at our plates, fists frantically trying to grab food out of our hands (and sometimes our mouths) and despite wanting to delay foods a little longer, I know he is ready to start eating solids. Tonight we will give him his first real food. I am thinking either a steamed carrot or a chunk of Batata (like sweet potato), I haven't decided. We are practicing Baby led Weaning (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_led_weaning) and I am so looking forward to seeing his face at his first taste of "real" food. Despite this, a part of me is really, really sad.
It's hard on me being a working Mom. I had always wanted to stay home with my babies for at least 6 months after they were born. Unfortunately life got in the way and I had no choice but to go back to work only 2 months after he was born. It's so hard for me to leave him, despite knowing that his Babushka and Tchyochya (Aunt) spoil him rotten and dearly love him. I admit I have pangs of jealousy every time he breaks into a huge grin when they come to pick him up, his little arms reaching out to them. A piece of me wishes he would cling to me, even just for a moment, acknowledging that I am Mommy, and that is my trump card. As much as I know that it means he is happy and well adjusted and confident, it is still hard. The nights that I work someone else comforts him when he is sad, rocks him to sleep, sings him lullabies, kisses his tears, tickles his chub. I know I can't get those moments back. It hurts me a little inside when I hear how much he just looooves so and so or such and such. Breastfeeding was just mine, I didn't have to share it. Yeah someone else has to give him a bottle when I am gone, but it is MY milk. I made it, and sometimes I have to work damned hard for it. Only I could do that for him, that I didn't have to share...
Now things are changing.
I'm not the only person in the world who knows how to steam carrots, or peel a banana. Other people are more than capable of putting an ear of corn or a chunk of potato on a tray for him to grab with his little fists. My chunk of tomato will taste exactly the same as the chunk of tomato that his Tchyochya fixes him. I can't help but feel a sense of loss, a moment of sadness mixed in with the pride that my little man is growing up.
I know I have to let go, to let him grow and be the wonderful amazing little man that he is. But I can't lie, sometimes I just want to freeze time and scoop him up and just mush my face into his neck and smell him for oh, the next ten years or so. I know I will still breastfeed him, for as long as he wants, whether thats another 6 months, or another year, or another three years. But I know that as time goes by, the times he will need to nurse will become fewer, and those incredible, wonderful moments that we share will get farther between. Yes, there will be other incredible wonderful moments, but I am already feeling a sense of mourning at the idea of introducing solid food. I can't imagine how I will feel when he decides to wean himself completely.
I am so proud to have made it to 6 months, I would love to go back to that sorry excuse for a Hospital and do a little I-told-you-so dance on the desk at the Nurse's station in front of all the Doctors who told me it wasn't possible. I am amazed at how something that at times seemed so clumsy, so painful, or tough has become so effortless. A dance of sort, the motions so fluid it feels like it's choreographed, a routine built upon night after night of him in our bed, tucked against my body, one of his little hands on my chest, one reaching behind him to touch his Daddy. A rhythm that has grown over time from scooping him up the second I get home from work, nursing him when he's hungry, when he's tired, when he's hurting.
I know that I am giving him so much more than just milk. More than antibodies, nutrients, sustenance. I am literally giving him a part of me.
I am just not sure how a carrot can replace that.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Yesterday as I was walking from the train station to the bus station on my way home from work I ended up behind a young Ethiopian man about my age. He was blind and using a cute yellow lab as a guide dog (made even cuter by the fact that he had closely trimmed the dog's fur, but left a pom-pom on the end of his very waggy tail). I followed him for several blocks, nearly the entire distance between the two stations. I noticed several things that honestly made me believe in the good in people again. At first I watched him, fascinated by his amazing trust and confidence in this animal, guiding him on a very narrow sidewalk next to a busy highway. As I got closer, I heard him speaking to the dog as they went along. The sweetness of the conversation melted my heart. As they were walking the young man was chatting away to the dog in Hebrew, "Yes Charlie, that's a good boy, here we go, no fu fu Charlie, not for you, lets go we have a big day today." and the dog was doing amazing, guiding the man around obstacles and people and only occasionally getting off track and distracted by an interesting smell, a trash can, an alley cat, only to quickly pop back on duty, gently nudging the young man around obstacles.
As we approached an intersection, I prepared myself to hurry ahead and help out if needed as Israeli traffic is crazy and people tend to be a bit pushy. The intersection was a series of three lanes with medians in between, each one had a different light none of which were in sync with the others. About 10 feet before the first intersection an older woman appeared at the young man's elbow, barely touched his arm and navigated him through the first intersection, and then like some sort of choreographed ballet, he was sort of passed along hand to elbow over the next 3 blocks or so, negotiating intersections and other less than desirable terrain. Not alot of words were spoken between the young man and his "helpers" but it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. Whoever landed at his elbow at the correct moment simply touched his arm and led him through. It was really something. This young man was so independent and so lighthearted (his banter with his dog really warmed my heart) and I was so impressed. I am not sure I would have that sort of strength and outlook on life if I were not blessed with sight. I was really inspired, not just by him, but by the type of parents that it would take to raise a child with a "disability" to be such an amazing independent adult, one that can confidently negotiate Israeli traffic and the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv, something that I find difficult and somewhat overwhelming even on a good day.
It made me think back to a video I saw once on YouTube about a man, Dick Hoyt who started participating in triathlons with his extremely "disabled" son Rick. (see similar video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64A_AJjj8M4&feature=related ) He literally pushes, pulls, and carries his son through these races. The thing that stuck in my mind so strongly was at one point the camera did a close up to the look on Ricks face as they crossed the finish line. Pure unadulterated joy. Turns out that despite doctors telling his parents to institutionalize him, that there was nothing going on in his head, Rick graduated from a public highschool, graduated from college, and has participated in something like 60 marathons and 6 Iron-mans (probably more by now) with his father. Makes me kind of wonder what is stopping me.
I was so amazed at the dedication as a parent that this took. To take a child with such an extreme physical "disability" and really give him such an amazing fulfilling life. To believe in him despite what the doctors said, to pull out all the stops, give your everything to make your child's life better. THAT'S being a parent. Parenting is not just having a baby and getting them to their 18th year in one piece, (although that really isn't as easy as one would imagine given the Little Fat Man's perpetual need to crawl off of beds and bite extension cords, well, at least crawl off of beds though I am sure the extension cord biting is in our near future) it's taking your child, no matter what they look like, what is "wrong" with them, what little thing makes them different from other "perfect" children and recognizing how truly amazing they are, how absolutely perfect they are, and making sure every minute of their lives that they never doubt that fact.
When I was pregnant I was scared as all parents are, that my child might be born with something "wrong". I was not so much afraid of the "disability", but of whether or not I would be strong enough to be the kind of parent that my child would need me to be. To raise my perfect child in a society that can only see "disabilities", differences, looks. I did not know if I had the strength to get past my own vanity (which I admittedly have a lot of) and be able to love my child no matter what, and to make them truly see themselves as the beautiful amazing little creature that they were. When our little monkey was born, we were blessed, despite his traumatic entrance into the world there were no major complications and other than a small heart murmur that healed by day two, he was a healthy baby. At our 2 month check up however, the Nurse at the Tipat Halav (baby clinic) noticed that his fat folds on his legs were asymmetrical. It had never crossed my mind that this was an issue, after all, my fat folds go every which way;). Turns out it can be a sign of a birth "defect" in baby's hips that apparently is fairly common but left untreated can cause a moderate to severe limp into adulthood as well as other problems such as premature arthritis etc.
It took us several months to get to a specialist for an ultrasound and it turns out, our little man did have the birth "defect". They gave us a brace to put him in 24 hours a day, minus butt changes and baths, for a month, and told me under no circumstances to go all Jewish Mama and take it off of him and the problem should be corrected. My husband looked at me and said "Boy, he read you like a book didn't he."
The brace basically makes his little chubbo legs stick out to the sides like a sumo wrestler (we now call him Sumo Sam, like Sammity Sam, minus the Tobasco, plus Soya) and apparently holds his legs at such an angle that it promotes the growth in his hips/pelvis that the cramped conditions in my belly prevented. With any luck, this will do the trick and he will be 100% at the end of the month. Our Little Man, Lord love him, hasn't minded the brace at all, though he does enjoy taking it off now that he has figured out how Velcro works and that it makes a really fun noise (similar to the fun sound the Velcro on his diaper makes, though admittedly the brace has temporarily curbed his ability to take his diaper off in the middle of the night making the midnight golden showers a thing of the past, though I am sure still a part of our near future).
The hardest thing has been the stares from other people. He is such a happy smiley cute little baby and I had gotten used to everyone coming up to him on the street and gushing over him. Now when we go out we get quite a few points and stares. He is too little to notice, I am not. The inner Momma Bear in me has come out full force. I can't help myself. I want to educate people, to stop the ignorance, to make people see his perfection, not just a brace on a blob.
We were at a street festival the other night for Sukkot and there was a concert going on and I had the Little Fat Man in my arms dancing with him and there were several groups of people that would not stop pointing and staring at him. My husband literally had to hold me back because I was ready to go to war. Why can't people see what I see? The perfect little fat happy beautiful amazing snuggly stinky delicious squishy smart creature that he is. Why do they only see the brace?? It makes me sad about our society as a whole, that we can only see differences in people, recognizing them as something bad, wrong, less desirable.
The recent news stories coming from the States of a rash of teenagers and college kids killing themselves because they were gay and had experienced such severe bullying/mistreatment because of this that they thought the only answer was to take their own lives has really bothered me on a very deep level. Recently I had a heated discussion with a few of my In-laws, who will remain nameless in this case as I was fairly disappointed in their behavior. We were playing cards and it came up that the Little Man loves Women. My guess is that it is not so much Women that he loves, but food, and since food comes from boobies and boobies are generally attached to Women, the attraction is fairly obvious. Anyways I digress. A comment was made that "Betach who ohev yeldote, who Gever lo?!?! Ma who Homo??" which roughly translates to "Of course he loves girls, hes a boy isn't he?? What he's gay??"
I was a bit taken aback. I told said commentator that it didn't matter who he loved, boy, girl, whatever, as long as he was happy. This person then asked me (rough translation) if I WANTED him to be gay??? I said it didn't matter to me, gay, straight, trans, questioning, bisexual, a-sexual, whatever. I WANT him to be HAPPY, (okay truthfully I want him to be happy and bring me grand-babies, but I will settle for happiness if I have to decide between the two. Though I still want grand-babies...) I want him to know love and to be loved and to love himself. I refuse to tell him how to do this. It is not for me to decide, it is not my right. My job is to make sure he knows that whoever he loves, that it will not change my love for him (or my desire for grand-babies).
Our job as parents is not just to feed and clothe our children, to make sure they manage to get out into the big world on their own in one piece. It is to give them so much love that when the nastiness of this world we live in seeps through, the love we give them, the strength, the confidence, the knowledge that they are wonderful and amazing and truly perfect nullifies it. That when someone stares at them because they have braces on their teeth, or their legs, or glasses, or a stutter, or they decide to kiss boys and not girls (or girls and not boys), or in any other way don't fit into society's very tiny very exclusive very unrealistic mold of how people "should" be, that they know that they are in every way shape and form the most wonderful beautiful perfect creature that we have ever laid eyes on. With this knowledge, they will never doubt themselves. They will be able to negotiate Israeli traffic without their eyes, they will run triathlons and graduate college despite crippling physical "disabilities", they will manage to hold their heads up and love who they want to love despite heartless and brutal bullying, they will make a better society than we have today. The young blind man's parents must have done this, Rick Hoyt's parents certainly did this, I would like to think that the young gay victim's parents at least TRIED to do this, and maybe the inner Momma Bear in me is dong this as well.
This world WILL be a better place if we raise our children with love and with tolerance. Our differences, whether physical, sexual, mental, spiritual, or cultural do not make us better or worse, they simply make us different. We need different. This world today is so filled with images of "perfect" that we can no longer see the beauty in different. Maybe, because of us (though perhaps I should say despite us) our children can.