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Monthly Archives: March 2012

No Apple Unpolished

I can see right through you!

Hey, ladies, raise your hand if you married Satan. Yeah, me too. He gets around, huh? I know my kids are gonna berate me when they read that, but this month marks my twenty-first wedding anniversary (been separated the last two years), so the past has been central my thoughts. I got hitched at nineteen because I knew everything and my parents wouldn’t let a boy sleep in my bed unless he made an honest (sic) woman out of me. With no bun in the oven, our nuptials were more like a shotgun wedding without the ammo. I’m not writing this from a place of resentment or regret—I was a big girl and I made big girl decisions. I also got to make three very interesting monkeys, so my dance with the devil was a pretty good deal.

The focus here is more my pathological need to please people. Even though I loved my ex, I knew he wasn’t right for me from the get and the go. But, I allowed his happiness to matter more than mine—even at the cost of my twenties and most of my thirties. (You better believe I made up for lost time after I left him. I defy you to find a public bathroom in SoCal without my number etched into it. Kidding?) To say I was a brown-nose at some of my old jobs would be an insult to colors and cartilage. I had my head so far up one of my former boss’s ass that if I ever got a bright idea, he would’ve needed invasive colorectal surgery to remove the lightbulb. When said boss took my schmoozing as an invitation to try and fondle me, did I retaliate with (warranted) complaints of sexual harassment? Of course not. I wanted to be liked.

Why did I endure so much for so long? Wonky self-esteem. I think that’s the Latin term for it. I wish the reason ran deeper, but no. Even though I made friends easily and developed early, I could only prop myself up when I was in the adoring favor of everyone around me. But, propping up is not the same thing as being happy, and it took years of therapy to realize that if I insisted on being the world’s doormat… fill in the cliché.

Fast-forward to today. I’m out of my toxic marriage (in spirit at least) and know how to be just enough of a hole-in-the-ass to get my little way. I’m definitely finding my own voice. Yet—there’s always a yet—I’m still fueled by a need to be the life of the party. Hell, I created an entire blog to satiate this fact. Was all that therapy was for naught, then, and I’m forever doomed? No, because it seems to come from a healthier, more dangerous place now. I want you to worship me so you can feel better about yourself; so you can discover your daily supply of not having to die over something as silly as disliking me.

That’s all.

Bimodal’s Not-Too-Spicy Chinese Chicken

Spiced just right.

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 bunch scallions (about 8–10)
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp prepared minced garlic or 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 tbsp corn starch

Prepare marinade by mixing soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, sesame oil, garlic and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Cut chicken up into thin strips. Pour marinade over chicken and allow to marinate for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the veggies into strips (julienne, if you want to get all French about it). Toast the walnuts by heating in a small frying pan over medium heat for about 5–7 minutes, stirring frequently. Set aside. Heat cooking oil over high heat in wok. Stir fry veggies for 2 minutes and then push to outside of wok, making room for the chicken in the middle. Drain chicken of excess marinade and reserve. Add chicken to the wok and stir fry for an additional 8 minutes. Add remaining marinade, bring liquid to a boil and add corn starch that has been dissolved in a little cold water to thicken the sauce. Serve with rice.

So purty!

Even as my recipes go, today’s is pretty special. Why? Because it was the first challenge ever presented to The White Trash Gourmet. My blogging buddy, Bimodal Tendencies, wanted to make some kind of Asian chicken for himself, but the results were always too salty for his liking. (Click here to see his page, but be warned, it is far from child-appropriate.) So, making the smartest decision of his life, he instead put his faith in me and I really hope I delivered. Helping him has given me a great idea for a new feature I’m going to detail next week. I haven’t worked out all the kinks (duh, have you met me?), but it will serve my self-important need to be beloved as well as give my followers a more direct way to bask in my foodie goodness. Stay tuned, you lucky ducks!

TWTG says, “We have to turn the air up or I’m not making out with anybody!”

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Tall To Arms

Grandpa Ware

Last Saturday, I took the wee ones and our Russell to the USS Midway Museum and, my, how the country has grown. I don’t mean as a nation or even technologically; I mean Americans are freaking big now. Russell, who claims to be a hairline (read: an inch) under 6’2″ thumped his skull on just about every ceiling not high enough to accommodate an aircraft. It’s odd to think that while movies about the great wars cast tall thirty-somethings, the reality (in terms of stature) looked more like a schoolyard brawl with bayonets. We met a pair of World War II veterans there. I had a nice conversation with them about their service, but I couldn’t help noticing that my 12-year-old already eclipsed them.

Speaking of our armed forces, both of my grandfathers served in World War II. Grandpa was a Seabee in the Navy while Papa was a Captain in the Army. My dad (who is quite tall) did a tour in Vietnam as an MP. These men were part of an ilk that considered it their duty to serve (and thank you for that, gentlemen). True, there was a lot of draft dodging in Nam, but my dad answered when Uncle Sam poked him with a stick. I’m not taking a political stance or anything, just contrasting then with now. Elvis is a good example of this. When his number was drawn, he didn’t use his money or renown to evade whatever hardships his country may have had him endure.

Would such a thing happen today? Who is The King’s modern, heartthrob equivalent? Justin Bieber? Can you imagine that effeminate troll on the front lines of anything that mattered? Sure, he’d fit on the Midway (at 5’7″), but knowing us we’d probably turn it into a scripted reality show. “Be All You Can Biebs.” American sigh.

“KP” Roasted Sweet Potatoes

To compliment the mole I made last time.

  • 3-4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp dried minced onions
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cumin

Preheat oven to 425˚. Toss sweet potatoes, olive oil and spices in a large bowl. Spread out in single layer on baking sheet. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, stirring at halfway point. Potatoes will be browned and crisp on the outside when done.

Because we hate it when other people try to keep their own stuff, and because we lack the mental faculty to not press shiny red buttons, Russell assures us that nuclear holocaust will indeed be the story of man. Rainbows and puppy giggles, that one. I hope he’s wrong for mostly selfish reasons. I have an international following now (what up, Latvia!), I’m kind of a big deal. I wanna enjoy that… at least until I get my castle. All jokes aside, here’s a video of Camp Anza, a World War II staging camp located in my hometown of Riverside. Five-or-so minutes into it, my beloved Mimi (Louise) makes a cameo:

See it here.

TWTG says, “I don’t know! Quit putting your heart and soul into it, Russell!”

Childhood Unplugged

Sorry, dad. Eric Northman wins.

I grew up without cable TV for the oddest reason. My folks were neither poor nor cheap—they always did the best they could with what they had. They also weren’t demanding about fresh air. I don’t recall ever being kicked to the curb for a Saturday of mandatory exercise. No, it was more that my dad detested the cable company. The idea that a utility worker not sanctioned by the city could have an easement over his property was a pill so tough he refused to swallow. Being my father’s daughter, I wholeheartedly agree with his logic. I also love True Blood. You can see the bind I’m in.

Growing up with only a handful of channels, I became very acquainted with PBS. It was there that I became a child of Julia Child. Her positive attitude and unwavering dedication gave me my first, figurative taste of culinary crack (been hooked on the stuff ever since). Yan Can Cook? So can Kim. As for Jeff “The Frugal Gourmet” Smith, not only did he insist on saving his audience from spending too much money, but also insisted on saving little boys from a childhood of not being touched by him. Since he was never convicted of those charges, I wonder if that last sentence is libelous?

Probably.

This entry is gonna end up being more anecdotal than informative, as I really have no idea what point (if any) I’m trying to make. Hmm. While something as disengaging as television might not be good for kids, try to keep an open mind because you never know when and where inspiration will strike? Yeah… that’ll do nicely.

Holy Mole (courtesy of Raquel Phillips)

Thank you, Rockie!

  • 4–5 lbs chicken, bone in (with or without skin)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp pasilla ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 Ibarra chocolate bar
  • 6–10 almonds
  • 1/2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 6–10 saltine crackers
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1–2 cups hot water

I adapted this from a Mole recipe one of my BFFs gave me years ago. My personal touch is to use chili powder instead of soaking whole, dried pasilla chilies. Heat oil in large stockpot. Add chicken and saute over med-high heat for 15–20 minutes. Meanwhile, add all remaining ingredients except hot water to blender. Pour hot water a little at a time into blender and blend on low until a sauce is formed. Pour sauce over chicken, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20–30 minutes, until chicken is falling off the bone. Serve with tortillas, refried beans and roasted sweet potatoes.

I seem to have teetered off into hyperbole up there. (Who? Me?) Of course television wasn’t the only culprit behind my foodie goodness. Coming from a big Baptist circus of silently competitive food snobs might’ve had a part in it, too. When you can feel the heat emitting from their laser eyes as they covet the center of the dinner table—the perfect showcase for their greatest of holiday dishes—what opportunity did I have to be anything else? I had to adapt or die. It’s not my fault I cook better than you.

TWTG says, “I have to put on hoochie mama makeup to get my picture taken.”

World’s Worst Daughter

My mom called me today to make a correction about Matt’s Favorite Syrup. Her exact words were, “I saw your post. It’s wrong.” I thought recipes were allowed to evolve throughout generations, but see my place? That’s where she put me. Use these quantities instead:

Matt’s (actual) Favorite Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Prepare it exactly as before. I’ll be in my room, thinking about what I did. You’re not the boss of me!

Clown Spawn

Then.

I take pride in being a single, working mom. Well, “single” in the fictitious sense. I’m in the process of getting divorced, as well as tethered to a boyfriend. Well, “boyfriend” in the fictitious sense. Russell’s just that thing we keep in the attic. He’s like the opposite of of fine china, we put him away when guests come over. Did I digress? Motherhood. Rereading three months of entries, I realize I’ve only referenced the wee ones (and my superb parenting skills) without really exploiting them for profit. I thought I was doing them a favor—preserving their anonymity, not airing their dirty laundry out to potential sex perverts and whatnot. I guess I was entirely wrong, as all three of them have chastised me for not giving a proper shout-out on the blog. Be careful what you wish for, children. By the time this post is done, the world will know your hopes, your dreams, your fears, class schedules and the lies guaranteed to lure you into a van.

Now.

Meet the family:

Katie is my youngest, my only daughter and my shadow. Pretty as a princess and can be just as insistent. She’s the most honest of the three, if only because nine-year-olds don’t understand the value of discretion. There are only two notches on her enjoyment gauge, and momma’s cooking is either deemed “disgusting” or becomes her “favorite” thing ever. She’s an adamant supporter of snacks as food. For example, when I asked which of my blog recipes was her favorite thus far, she immediately chose my chipotle dip (“that nacho-y thing with the chips”).  As you can imagine, this makes it tough to get a balanced meal in her come dinnertime. I know I should be pushing more regimented nutrition (hard as that can be with latchkey kids), but she’s just so damn cute when she’s happy. Love you, Boo!

Middle child syndrome at full tilt.

Chris will be your guild leader of choice during the zombie invasion. Loves knives, guns and starting fires. He sends himself to bed just after sunset and rouses himself up way before sunrise—he gets more done by five in the morning than most turtles get done by five in the morning. Always my brave little angel, he’ll eat anything momma puts in front of him. Whereas his siblings cried over that most excellent rabbit I made earlier this week, he dove headfirst into the leftovers (and was genuinely sad I wouldn’t let him take a baggie of it to school). When we went to a French restaurant for a family function last year, he demanded to have frog legs. So, yeah, even as twelve-year-olds go, he’s pretty weird… and neither he nor I could be prouder. Love you, Steve Steve!

Sean is on the cusp of eighteen and, therefore, can’t let himself enjoy anything ever. He’s my eldest, my gentle giant and, most importantly, my psychically-linked brain twin. You never want to play against us as a team, doesn’t matter the board game. Probably the most natural musician I could’ve made, he went from Guitar Hero to headlining local acts in less than four years (entirely self-taught). He used to be my sushi buddy, but his newish girlfriend seems to have taken over feeding-his-ass duty. He’s going to start college soon, so hopefully he remembers momma when a steady diet of cheap Asian noodles turns his Irish innards into Scottish haggis. Love you, Jimmy the Enemy!

My other, more motherly tattoo.

You might notice that I’ve described my brood almost entirely in the context of their palates. This is because I believe food is one of the sincerest windows into a person’s character. It’s a synecdoche—a part that defines the whole. If this were not true, most first dates wouldn’t happen over dinner. I never wanted to break up with a former boyfriend more than when he kept sending his omelette back for being too cold (boohoo!) then called our server an asshole in so many words. Conversely, I knew Russell was worth knowing the first time we went out for sushi and he taught me chopstick etiquette. It was important to him that we not only respect our hosts, but the values of their culture as well. It’s almost like I enjoy it when my fellow man is treated with dignity. Go figure.

Going back to the spirit of family, today’s recipe might not be special in a universal sense, but it means everything to my little posse. It’s a simple syrup named after my brother Matt (for very arbitrary reasons), and nary a pancake or waffle in this house gets eaten without copious amounts of it.

Matt’s Favorite Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Bring water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan. To prevent lumps, dissolve corn syrup in a bit of water and add to syrup. Boil until thickened. Add vanilla, stir and enjoy. This is probably one of the easiest and most versatile things I make. In place of vanilla you can add any extract that suits you (maple, coconut, almond, etc.), or lemon juice (a couple tablespoons), or berries (fresh or frozen). I’ve even added strawberries, coconut and pineapple on an especially experimental day.

Even though it’s probably the best you’ve ever had, I decided not to include a picture of my family’s syrup. Know why? Because it’s freaking syrup. It’s brown. It’s translucent. It’s viscous. Use your imagination a little and… oh look! You guessed exactly right. Russell suggested I model with it by slathering the stuff all over myself. After all, food is one of the sincerest windows into a person’s character…

TWTG says, “It’s good for you—it makes you poop!”

The Hungry Games

Be vewy, vewy quiet...

Now that I have my lungs back, I’ve been taking walks around the lake near my home. Now that I’ve read The Hunger Games, I have an insatiable need to hunt woodland critters. Put ’em together and my lakeside strolls have become preoccupied with fantasies of snaring a cute little bunny rabbit. I will hug him and squeeze him and name him George and skin him and roast him and suck out the foodstuffs. To anyone offended by the image of that… rabbits want to die. They really do. What won’t eat them directly can still win in a knife fight. Shine a flashlight into their eyes and they may die of shock. Know why they hump like themselves? Because only a fifth of wild kits survive into adulthood. Face it, lagomorphs simply aren’t long for this world. Good thing they’re tasty.

If I sound heartless, I’m mostly not. I respect that bunnies make excellent pets and—as a fellow animal lover—empathize with whatever emotional attachment their owners have. But, when the revolution comes, we’ll do what we must and there’s no harm in having a bit of practice. Whereas Russell is forever sharpening his knife for the zombie invasion, my concerns are much more Orwellian. I believe individual greatness is the soul of societal progress and the idea of Big Brother (in any capacity) is an affront to that. This is probably why I consumed Suzanne Collins’ trilogy in under a week: her dystopian interpretation of America, “Panem,” preys on my greatest fears as a (wannabe) freethinking intellectual. Do I really believe we might get cordoned off into districts, annually forced to sacrifice our children as tribute to our evil overlords? No, but just in case, here’s a great rabbit-centric recipe for when we’re having to live off the fat of the land—ironic, given that bunnies are among the leanest of meat and, hence, have no fat off which to live:

Plumper Thumper (Stuffed Rabbit)

Akin to a chicken on stilts.

  • 2–3 lb whole rabbit
  • 1 loaf rustic bread
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3.5 oz roasted chestnuts
  • 3 oz pancetta
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed mandarin orange juice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 honey
  • 1 tsp orange zest

This is a complicated one, so bear with me.

Substitute guts with this.

Preheat oven to 400˚. Cube bread loaf and spread out on baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes until toasted. While bread is toasting, slice fennel bulbs and place in a single layer on the bottom of a small roasting pan. Sprinkle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Chop any remaining fennel (should be about 1/2 cup remaining). Saute pancetta, fennel and onion in the olive oil until veggies are soft. Crumble the chestnuts into large pieces, add to veggie mix. Place toasted bread cubes, veggie mix, melted butter, 3/4 cup of the orange juice, 1/4 cup wine and orange zest into a large bowl and stir until the bread has absorbed all of the liquid. (I had to let my stuffing sit for a few minutes to absorb the liquid and then stir it some more.)

Now take the little bunny rabbit and sprinkle him (inside and out) with salt and pepper. Stuff the body cavity with the lovely stuffing you just made and run moronically around your kitchen, looking in every drawer for something to truss that sucker together (or think ahead and have butcher string). Truss away. Place the rabbit in the roasting pan on top of the fennel. Mix 1/4 cup wine, 1/4 honey and 1/4 cup orange juice in a small saucepan. Stir and heat until ingredients are well-blended. Pour over rabbit and place in oven. Roast for a total of 1–1 1/2 hours, basting with pan drippings every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow meat to rest for at least 5 minutes.

The Rabbit, by Clive Barker

You will have extra stuffing. I placed mine in a glass baking dish and cooked it next to the rabbit for the final 30 minutes. This ends up being very tasty (duh), but for over a $9 a pound, the rabbit really did just taste like chicken. I could’ve saved a couple of sawbucks by just getting myself a fowl. Oh well.

Before any screwball (vegan, activist or other) asks… no, I wouldn’t eat my dog. That is what we call a leap in logic. True, this post is advocating pets as food, but if you are willfully/woefully ignorant of the difference between Peter Cottontail and man’s best friend, you are just spoiling for a fight. My rule of thumb is simple: Can it be left to run freely through your home and yard, alone and uncaged? No? Then it’s fodder for the end times.

TWTG says, “You can fix fat. You can even fix ugly. But you can’t fix stupid.”

Cuss You, You Cussing Cuss!

It-it was... soap... poisoning!

A little foreword before I launch into my triweekly tirade. I try to integrate links into each post, either to share whatever random crap I’m currently all about or to make a punchline about the given topic. However, WordPress informs me they are (at best) seldom clicked upon. It is, of course, your right to ignore them—even if you are my Subjects. But, today, Her Royal Highness must interject. The following link is so uniformly perfect for the following post that if you don’t follow through with a little click of that mouse, a spider will lay eggs in your brain. True fact.

Click here. Please?

While I would never give one of my kids a goofy name like Kyle, I have sadly been that mom. About a decade ago, I was camping with the little ones near Yosemite. My eldest was pounding away at his Game Boy (to absorb nature, clearly) and his then three-year-old brother wanted a turn. This request was summarily denied. My younger son’s verbatim response? “Yeah, well I don’t give a fuck!” Disparaging sigh. There was no mystery about where he learned that kinda language, because momma’s reaction to him? “Aw shit!” Still, it was the first time I ever truly felt like a failure as a role model.

My own parents tried to raise me better. To this day, my mom only swears as a genuine, involuntary expletive. My dad may be the world’s last true gentleman and refuses to curse around women and children. (Although a little bird told me that his vulgar streak at work is nothing short of blue. Love you, dad. Sorry if I just outed you to mom.) So how did my love of four-letter brushstrokes happen? The same way my love of smoking did: I had something to prove and it was a shortcut to relieving frustration and anxiety.

In a pot.

Unlike my smoking, however, I still stand by my commode mouth. Today’s post, and the drama behind it, is the perfect example of why. It was originally very different (about the killing of defenseless/delicious animals), but had to be pushed back to Wednesday because I grossly overestimated my (in)ability to manage time. When I realized the recipe I tried to prepare for it—the very thought of which still makes me salivate—wouldn’t make Monday’s deadline, what do you think I yelled at Russell from across the room? “Fiddlesticks! Why am I such a silly melon farmer!? Why can’t any handsome thing I do just frying pan work, you groovy biscuit juggler!?”

Not quite.

Sometimes we need to vent as to not explode into a rage of stabby goodness. If your parenting suffers in the process… eh, shit happens. And while today’s recipe may not be the pièce de résistance I intended, it’ll do in a pinch (which is kinda the whole point of this blog). If the name seems cryptic to you, just say it faster in your head.

Sofa King Yummy Navy Bean Soup

In a bowl.

  • 1 lb navy beans (soaked overnight)
  • 5 carrots, chopped
  • 5 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 lbs smoked ham shank (or ham hocks)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 2 quarts water

Place beans in bowl, cover with water, soak overnight. Rinse beans next day. Place everything in crock pot, pour approximately 2 quarts of water over ingredients. Cook on low 8–10 hours (or until beans are tender). Soup’s on!

I was going to get more sanctimonious about foul language by dragging the First Amendment into it. I was going to explain how it mainly applies to government and is not an irrevocable license to be a dick all the time. About how there’s a sizable difference between fighting for a legitimate cause and throwing a hissy fit because the line at Banana Republic is too long for your fragile sensibilities. About how—should you fall into the latter category—you must understand that it isn’t censorship when we advise you on which commonplace object you may fornicate yourself with. Or about how you should have the sides of your head surgically altered into a shape not unlike a Mad magazine fold-in and save us all the guesswork of determining whether or not you are an ass-face.

Glad I chose not to get into all that.

TWTG says, “I fart on you anyway, so what difference does it make?”