Celebrate Each Birthday

My birthday is a time for personal reflection. Some people use the calendar year, but mine restarts every May 27. In the week leading up to the big day, I check in on how I have used my last 365 days on the planet.

Were they a wise use of this gift of time? Because it is a gift. Every day. Every morning that the birds are singing. Every morning when the sun shines (or at least tries to). And every evening when I tuck myself into bed. Each day I ask if I was good to my daughter. To the planet. To myself. To my family. Did I accomplish anything? Or at least do no harm?

I don’t plant to go through life just skimming along, however. It’s not enough just to know I tried to keep my carbon footprint low, my optimism contagious, and my contributions on the plus side of the abacus. On birthdays, I want  to measure whether I have hit goals that are important to me.

I wasn’t always like this. For awhile there (like maybe 20 years), I told myself I was content to get up each morning, have a coffee or Diet Coke, go to work, go home, make dinner, go to bed. Repeat. Throw in a Sunday dinner with family. An occasional evening out with friends. But really, at the end of the year, I measured my worth by my job title, and accompanying raise or bonus.

Then the raises and bonuses stopped, not because of my work, but because of the industry. And I was mad. Mad at the industry, bosses, etc. A complete and total waste of emotional investment. Yet I did it anyway.

I would like to report that I read a book, or attended a lecture, or saw a counselor who gave me an a-ha moment. But life doesn’t work like that. There are clues dropped along the way to a better path. You can either pick them up or ignore them.

Finally, I started picking them up.  I started really listening to friends – not just preparing a monologue of a reply in my head. I was present. I dug out books recommended by a career counselor, but ignored. I found poignant passages. Then I bought more books. Did more Internet searches. Listened more.

And, eventually, I climbed three mountains with my sister. Those mountains in Colorado were the start of setting goals – and reaching for them. I didn’t master the 14,400-foot one, but I did enjoy a day climbing to nearly 13,000 feet. The old me would have insisted on the Fourteen-er, no matter how miserable I would have been (and the guide assured me I would have been). Instead, when he recommended a compromise that would have meant enjoying the scenery, I accepted that challenge instead.

Since then, I’ve traveled to France, Greece, Italy, and England. I started riding a bike again. I adopted a wonderful dog from the A.N.N.A. Shelter. And my relationship with my daughter, and my family, is a blessing with challenges that I embrace.

I’m single – and that’s a good thing. I am now old enough to know what I want out of life, and I’m going after it. My friend Claudette jokes that men just need to meet me to realize that clingy, needy female I am not. I tried that shoe on, and it just didn’t fit. Another friend said she loves her 50s because now she can say what she has been thinking all along. The fabulous 50s.

I’m loving them.

So what’s a birthday girl do for her dinner when she doesn’t have a “date?”

She makes dinner for her daughter – which we eat in our PJs – and then make plans to go to Creamland for ice cream.

Damn right 50s are fabulous.

XOXOXO

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Crab Topped Flounder
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
people
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
people
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and red pepper. Saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together mayonnaise, mustard, egg yolk, seafood seasoning, Worcestershire, lemon juice, a dash or so of hot sauce (optional). Stir. Add in onion and pepper mix. Taste and add salt and pepper if desired.
  4. Fold crabmeat (picked over for any shell, and rinsed if you are using canned) into mayo mixture. Gently. You want lumps of crab.
  5. On a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment, place the flounder fillets. Top with equal portions (4 in this case) of crab meat, to cover entire length of fish.
  6. Dot with butter, if using. Sprinkle additional seafood seasoning. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  7. Serve with lemon wedges.
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Friday Faves: Getting the Garden Going

Snow in April might normally put me in a funk – along with the droopy daffodils. But each morning I check in with my seedlings – tomatoes, basil, eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini, chard, beets, and snapdragons sprouting under the grow lights.

The zucchini and cucumbers burst forth with such enthusiasm that I’m going to have to move them out of their seedling tray today because they are close to pressing against the plastic dome cover that traps in the moisture and heat.

Snapdragon and nasturtium seedlings.

The beets, and the chard, are also sprouting – as are the tomatoes. Those, the tomatoes, I planted in peat pots to reduce the repeated transplant trauma that can occur between now and the time they go into the outdoor containers in mid-May (depending on the temps). The chard and beets will move into the cold frame – which has lettuce, arugula, and radish seeds planted in half – later this month.

 

Tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini seedlings.

My seed-starting set up is a DIY job, with grow lights sourced from Lowes, my basement, and Amazon. I will be curious to see how the plants respond to the various lights – which range from florescent to LED, and in price from $8 to $40.

Why does this make me so happy? Because I can imagine vines loaded with ripe cucumbers, and tomatoes. I am hoping for zillions of zucchini.

And did I mention that I also buy CSA shares from Gordon Post, a farmer in North East. His CSA is the best deal going, with so much variety, more than 200, that it can be overwhelming.  I can help you out on that this summer. I am buying extra sh ares and will be cooking prepared farm to table meals using Post’s produce starting in July. The chicken, beef, and pork will come from Parable Farm, just over the border in New York state.

If you want to buy shares in the CSA, and I encourage you to do so, we can work out a deal on me picking up your share and cooking with it, returning to you the part I haven’t used.

More on that as it develops.

So I’m in love with sprouting vegetables because they are a sign of hope, of the future, and of my new business.

In the meantime, asparagus is the closest thing we have to a seasonal vegetable right now. Although it’s not sprouting locally, it does serve as a reminder of what will be coming soon enough. This chicken breast, sourced from McDonald’s Meats, on Route 20 on the east side of Girard, is wrapped in bacon or prosciutto and stuffed with asparagus. Serve it with a lemon aioli (garlic and lemon mayo) over a mixed rice pilaf for a lovely spring dinner.

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Bacon Wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Asparagus
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place bacon in a oven-proof skillet, roasting pan, or rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes (depends on the thickness) to render off some of the fat and partially cook. Remove from oven before it browns (you need to be able to wrap chicken with it). Transfer to paper-towel lined plate.
  3. Line baking sheet with heavy-duty foil to cook chicken.
  4. Pound out of the chicken to approximately 1/2-inch thickness. Brush chicken breasts on both sides with pesto.
  5. Trim asparagus to remove the woody ends, and so the size is about the same as the chicken roll (so only the tips of the asparagus stick out).
  6. Place a piece of prosciutto over each piece of chicken. Place 3 asparagus spears on top of prosciutto and sprinkle with some cheese, if using. Roll chicken around asparagus. Wrap each roll with 2 bacon strips.
  7. Place, seam side down, on baking pan.
  8. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until juices run clear. Check after 30 minutes.
  9. If your bacon is not crisp, place under broiler for about 5 minutes.
  10. Serve with a lemon aioli.
Recipe Notes

To make lemon aioli, follow this recipe from Martha Stewart. 

OPTIONS FOR LARGE CHICKEN BREASTS: If you really large chicken breasts, then they will be too big to roll. So cut each in half, width wise, being a little more generous to the thin end. Then pound. Or butterfly each breast, pound, then cut in half.

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Moms, Movies, and Dinner

The holiday break gave my daughter and I some time together on the couch. Agreeing what to watch together was a lot easier when she was 4, instead of 14. Then we watched Disney movies. Although by the time that period was over, I was pretty much princess-ed out.

Nicole and me in Florida. Nicole is a master packer now.

Now we negotiate between teen romances, rom coms, and more romance. I’m not much for romance films, so it’s a struggle to find something we can watch together. Finally we settled on “Bad Moms.” I don’t need Hollywood to remind me I might be a bad mom (on a somewhat frequent basis), but it beat boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy and girl get back together. At least there’s some grain of  truth in a movie called “Bad Moms.”

Except there wasn’t. This was about a bunch of over-achieving moms who make some modifications to their lives – like telling their teen kids to make their own breakfast – and then live happily ever after  … with the widowed hunk with the adorable daughter. In a beautiful house. In a lovely school district filled with moms doing their kids’ science projects. And sending their kid to school with well-balanced lunches.

Oh, and they got drunk a couple of times – but only when the kids were safely in the care of others.

My daughter kept asking me why I wasn’t laughing. And all I could think was this movie was either written by a man or by a woman with nannies.

Because not once did any of these women open the refrigerator and see … NOTHING but condiments for dinner, a container of blueberry yogurt, and expired milk. Never did they have to announce it was an upside-down day – and serve pancakes for dinner made with the yogurt – and feel proud that yogurt counts as a protein, dairy and some fruit.

Never did any of these women have the principal call and say your daughter had shown her knickers to a group of boys on the school bus. And if she did it again … (But Mom, “they asked what kind of underpants I had on.”)

And none of these moms gave their kid Benadryl in the hopes they would fall asleep on a 3-hour airplane ride as a 2-year-old. Of course, this has the opposite effect when your kid as ADHD (see below).

None of these women didn’t realize their child was ADHD until the child’s uncle suggested you might want to get her tested … and then you find out she is both ADHD and on the autism spectrum … at age 12.

None of these women looked at their child and said, “Honey, I don’t know where mommy is going to live, but it’s all going to be OK” when going through a divorce.

And none of these women ever let their own kid pack her bag for spring break, and then get to grandma’s house in Florida and realize that:

  1. Nothing matches.
  2. Nothing fits.

But I have. And I’m sure a lot of other mothers have too – although maybe not the underpants thing. Although I was really happy she had some on because there was a time when she liked to go commando.

Now that she’s a teen, she’s more than happy to have me serve her pancakes for dinner, especially if they made with Nutella. But I’ve been working on bad mom thing and now try to keep at least a head of unwilted lettuce in the fridge (OK, not always successfully) so I can at least attempt to serve a salad.

Sometimes it’s a salad made with chicken tenders that I keep stashed in the freezer. But steak salad may be served up even faster if you have some sirloin on hand and slice it before cooking. By slicing it, you cut the cooking time down to about 5 minutes. If you have dressing on hand and a loaf of bread, you can rock and roll in about 15 minutes.

As for movies, may I suggest “Harry Potter.” his mom is a saint.

XOXOXO

marnie

Marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

 

Print Recipe
Steak Salad
Course Main Dish, Salad
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
people
Course Main Dish, Salad
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
people
Instructions
  1. Slice the sirloin steak into 1/4-inch strips. Place in bowl or in a zip-top baggie with the seasoned salt and the vinegar. Stir or shake to cover. Set aside.
  2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread butter on both sides of sliced baguette and place in oven for about 7-10 minutes. Remove from oven when butter is melted and bread is just beginning to toast.
  3. Heat oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion. Cook for about 8-minutes until soft and brown. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from pan and set aside.
  4. Add walnuts to pan and toast over medium heat. Remove from pan and set aside.
  5. Add steak to pan over medium-high heat - depending on size of pan you may need to cook in 2 batches. Cook until seared on all sides. This should only take about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat. (Repeat if you are doing this in batches).
  6. Slice romaine n half lengthwise, Then cut each half into about 1/2 inch slices. Heap lettuce on 2 plates.
  7. Arrange sliced tomatoes and walnuts around the outside of the plate.
  8. Top each lettuce mound with half of the steak; half of the onions; and then sprinkle with blue cheese (if desired).
  9. Drizzle with dressing and any remaining steak juices from the pan. Arrange bread on the plate. Serve.
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Squash’s Savory Side

img_4734The change of seasons can be measured by the moon, the landscape (trees turning color), and my furniture. When the sun comes later in the morning and sets earlier in the evening, I spend more time inside. And when I’m inside, I stare at the furniture. And think of ways my home could be more comfortable.

I could spend lazy Sundays reading the New York Times, which I do. But I’m also eyeballing the chair no one sits in, including me. And, instead of contemplating the debate between the two presidential candidates, I am thinking that the leather recliner needs to move to the basement. And I need to call the Erie City Mission to deal with the rest of the rejects that are in the basement.

What I really should be doing is working on a business plan to open a bakery or cafe, but instead I’m procrastinating. If, perhaps, I find the right flow in the house, then, perhaps, the business plan can just be channeled from the universe through my fingers and onto the computer. Failing that, I move furniture. And bake.

I’ve got a few pumpking/squash items yet still to test. I had the most divine pumpkin bread pudding with a maple ice cream in Maine that I am trying to replicate. That recipe will be coming once I finish tasting. But the cooler temps remind me that pumpkin isn’t just for sweets. It can take on savory flavors just as easily as sweet. One of my favorites is to serve chile over roasted sweet potatoes in their jackets or over a pile of roasted and mashed butternut, acorn or pumpkin squash.

The Italians pair pumpkin and sausage, or zucca e salsiccia, with pasta. The faint sweetness of the squash with the Italian sausage is perfectly complementary. It’s a fall favorite around our house. You can make it will canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie) or roast a pie pumpkin, acorn squash, or butternut squash. Or bake all three if you have them courtesy of your CSA, scoop, and stash in a container in the fridge. This way I have plenty of roasted squash on hand for any of my culinary needs because whether I’m baking one or three, it takes the same amount of time and cleanup (very little if you use a nonstick pan or foil).

Mangiamo!!

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

Print Recipe
Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a heavy-bottomed pot large enough to hold the sauce and the pasta, heat olive oil and add sausage. Saute over medium to medium-high heat until it is browned.
  2. Remove sausage from pan, leaving enough oil in to saute the onion and the garlic. If there is too much grease, just drain until you have about 2 tablespoons again. Add the onion and cook until translucent, then add the garlic, cinnamon, and sage. Cook until fragrant.
  3. Return sausage to the pan of medium heat. Add the chicken stock and stir to get up any of the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. If the stock cooks down too quickly, add additional stock.
  4. Stir in pumpkin puree and cream. Stir until combined. Remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasonings for salt and pepper. This should sit for about 15 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle.
  5. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. With about 2 to 3 minutes left of the pasta cooking time, add the kale to the pot with the boiling water and pasta. Once the pasta is cooked, reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water before draining. Drain pasta.
  6. Return sauce pot to the stove over medium-low heat. Add pasta and stir to combine. If sauce is too thick, add some of the pasta water.
  7. Serve in bowls. Pass cheese and pepper flakes. This will serve 4-6, depending on appetites.
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