Saucy, Springy, Shrimp Scampi

Garlic. Butter. Lemon. Wine. Fresh Herbs. Gotchya hooked yet? I mean, I had myself at butter, but then it just keeps getting better. Spring has sprung in most places, even the Northeast. Summer has practically sprung here in Phoenix, but this dish is simple enough, and for the most part light enough, to last all summer long. Sure, at first, it may seem like a lot of butter; but keep in mind you are making a pound of pasta. This dish could easily feed 6-8 adults, especially with some asparagus and a nice salad on the side. It feeds my family twice, and then some. So don’t be afraid, it’s just butter….and a lot better than some of the low- fat partially hydrogenated stuff that some companies disguise as healthy. Go real or go home, that’s my motto. At least for today. Usually it’s Go hard or go home (for my workouts). Sometimes it’s Go big or go home. Not today though. Sorry. Let’s get started! Here’s what you need:

4-5 garlic cloves, minced

4 Tablespoons of butter

1 Tablespoon of olive oil

1/2 Yellow onion, diced

20-25 jumbo raw shrimp, peeled and thawed

1 lb. angel hair pasta

Juice of one to two lemons

1/4 White wine. Chardonnay or Sauvignon blanc is best

1/4 cup chopped parsley and basil mixed (fresh is best!)

Salt and pepper to taste.

Start things off right by heating up some water for the pasta and adding a liberal amount of salt to the water. Then let’s go ahead and melt that butter in a saucepan. Toss in a dash of olive oil, the chopped onion and the garlic, and let it saute a bit on medium heat until translucent. Smell that? Mmmm. That’s what dreams are made of people.  Go ahead and toss in the shrimp, but be careful because they cook quickly. Add the pasta to the water if it is boiling. Cook 3-4 minutes until al dente. Drain, reserving a cup of the pasta water. If you haven’t turned the shrimp, you should have. Kidding, go ahead and turn them now.  Open up that bottle of wine, or in my case grab the open bottle and toss in 1/4 cup. Squeeze lemon over mixture and add salt and pepper to taste. Now, pour the pasta back into the original pot and pour shrimp mixture over the pasta. Add the pasta water and maybe a drizzle of olive oil. Add the fresh herbs and toss with a littlefresh parmesan cheese. If you only ingest the parm cheese that comes in the green can, it’s time to branch out. Really. Now grab a fork and taste. Die on the spot from the yumminess! Yuminess is a word, you know. Yes it is. YES it IS!! Enjoy.

How Raising Boys is Different From Girls

Sisters

Sisters

Sometimes I am surprised I have any feminine traits whatsoever. After spending my youth around two older male brothers and all male cousins, I could throw a decent spiral by the age of 8. Top that with a move to a rural farm area in Ohio at 12, and I was suddenly pioneering a large tractor and had some nice mulch growing under my fingernails. Thank God I had a sister to get sweaty with, but for the most part, I was a tomboy.

Fast forward a decade or two and my residence consists of two growing boys ages 8 and 6, a husband whose stomach never ceases to amaze me, a male Golden Retriever with an affinity for socks, and me, the lone female. Don’t get me wrong, I love to watch football, don’t mind going a while without showering, and can wrestle my boys with the best of them; but sometimes it might be nice to have someone ask me to paint my toenails. And God forbid if I call my boys “handsome” instead of “cool!”

I actually feel very blessed to be able to raise these boys to be great men, and I am blessed to have a great example in their father while doing so. My sister asked me the other day if I thought I did anything differently in terms of raising boys than I thought I would with girls and it gave me some pause. I think there are differences between the sexes in regard to how you teach them lessons, but I think the lessons overall are the same.

In a culture where I think women are often disrespected, either by fault of their own or as a result of a society where so much less value is placed on integrity and moral codes; one of my main concerns is that the boys grow up being very respectful of women. They are constant witnesses to their dad thanking me for dinner (every night), complimenting me on my appearance from time to time and opening the door for me. Some women are offended by such acts from men, and I guess to each her own, but when I think about how I want my boys to treat their wives, this is it.

Most women are more emotional than men.  A generalization for sure, but men tend to be more pragmatic and “get over things” faster than we do. The other day, I was trying to explain this to the boys. I explained that sometimes women and girls cry more–and not just when they are hurt physically, but when their feelings are hurt. I told them that they should try to be sensitive to this as they grow. For example, it is never acceptable to drop a girl off in the middle of the street during a downpour after taking her for a fine culinary meal at Arby’s and then leaving her stranded without even a kleenex or a coat. Okay, obviously a bad college flashback on my part, but you catch my drift.

Go Sun Devils!

Go Sun Devils!

I also strive to teach the boys manners, but I think I would do this in the same fashion as I would girls. One big difference. Burps and farts are funny to boys, they just are–and if you have spent any time in a high school, frat house, or locker room lately, it doesn’t get much better with age. At the dinner table and around grown ups, not acceptable. But in their rooms or outside with their friends?? Well, I could waste my time chastising them, but as the old adage goes, boys will be boys. Please and thank you,  and looking adults in the eye and answering them, are a must. If they need to engage in a little armpit humor from time to time, well, I may not join them, but I may just laugh.

Another big difference is the way boys engage or fight with each other.  Have you ever listened to how a group of men talk to each other, interact, and will even arm wrestle into their 40s? Yeah, I may not get it, but if I get huffy every time the boys break out in a wrestling match or the tackle football looks particularly gnarly, I would be wasting my breath. Call me crazy, but girl drama is not that fun, and lasts waaaaay too long. Most men would rather duke it out, shake it off and have a beer, and that’s pretty admirable if you ask me. (Of course, the beer part still has to wait). Sometimes, the more I intervene in these things, the bigger the problem becomes. Have at it, and let it be done.

Last but not least, and this is a big hot button. I want my boys to become men. I don’t care if they play sports or instruments. I don’t care if they can recite Whitman or know the NASDAQ, but for the love of all that is holy and true, let’s not turn them into women. I see women, I love women, I engage with women, but I want to be married to a man. I want them to be able to listen, to be sensitive, to not be threatened by a powerful woman; but in the same breath, I want to feel protected (even though I am strong!), I want to show you love by making your food and washing your clothes (and be respected for my brain and my work too!), I want to take care of you (and feel worshipped and adored!). I want to know how to change a fuse or a tire (but have you offer anyway, while you praise me for my  knowledge!). Call it sexist, call it unfair, call it whatever you want; but when I picture my boys taking care of their wives, I want them to be like my husband.

Do you have boys, girls, or both?  Do you raise them differently?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Spicy Corn Relish–As a Side or Dip!

It is spring everywhere. That means the sunscreen is being slathered on , margaritas are a mixin’ and people are cleaning off and prepping their grills.  Actually, in Arizona, we pretty much grill all year round, but don’t hate us because we have good weather. Just make this spicy corn relish and delight in the flavor. Serve it with a side of BBQ chicken,  serve it like I did with some flank steak, or  serve it with some grilled shrimp or swordfish! Heck–eat it out of the tupperware container the morning after you make it! What? I am the only one that does this? You guys are more civilized? Who cares, just make this side and make it soon. Here’s what you need:

6 ears of corn

1/2 red onion

1/4 cup green onions

2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and chopped

1/4 red bell pepper, chopped

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

splash of olive oil and red wine vinaigrette

salt and pepper to taste

Clean corn and brush with olive oil and salt, same with red onion. Toss on grill. Grill corn approximately 7 minutes each side and rotate until all of it is cooked and bits are charred. Grill onion face down for 10 minutes or so. Remove both from grill. Cut corn off the cob and dice the red onion. Mix both of these with the rest of the ingredients and let your taste buds have a party in your mouth. I love this dish because it is so versatile. You could add black beans, diced cucumbers, diced avocados….the possibilities are limitless.  The smokiness of the charred corn and onion carmelize a bit and rest nicely with the other flavors. Make this tonight! Serve with some Red Zin, if you want to accentuate the smokiness, serve with some Sauvignon Blanc, if you want to cut the spiciness. But for the love of all that is good, just serve it!

The Boston Marathon–a High Like No Other

Runners from all over the United States and several other countries are nervously preparing for the 115th Boston Marathon this weekend. The race is always held on Patriot’s Day, which is a Monday, but the city is already buzzing in preparation. Hotels are preparing, flights are full, street closures and detours have the city in a virtual lock-down, and there will be nary a seat in any restaurant that serves pasta on Sunday night.

I was blessed enough to qualify for and run this race in 2009 after a lot of hard work and early a.m. runs, but a fall on a trail run 8 weeks before the race nearly thwarted my plans. I tore several ligaments, but fortunately, after three weeks completely off, I was back at the training with 5 weeks to go before Boston. Just hearing and reading up on all the last minute news this week has me reminiscing. Qualifying times are strict, and have just gotten more so due to the popularity of the race. It was all-consuming at times, trying to qualify, but I guess that is what made it that much sweeter. Nothing worth it ever comes easily. I am certain my family was glad when I could finally lay that goal to rest.

Luckily for me at the time, my sister was already working and living in Providence, just a quick trip into the city for the race, so we had a free place to stay during part of our trip; not to mention the joy of having your loved ones around you during such a momentous occasion. We headed into the city on Sunday to hit the expo, and the fun began.

I am not typically much of an expo kind of gal, but the expo at Boston puts all others to shame. There are scores of famous runners, new gear, brand new products, ground- breaking shoe technology, and of course a beer den. I was pretty amped up in terms of being a bit jittery, and so I kind of flew through the expo, got my race packet and we moved on. In retrospect,  I wish I would have stayed longer and savored all the excitement, but I had three non-runners waiting for me and I just felt the need to get it over with.

Due to some chilly weather and the fullness of every single restaurant, we just settled in at a chain where I could grab some pasta and protein and get back to the room. My husband and I were staying right across the street from the host hotel, and my sister and brother in law were going to meet up with him in the morning to at least see me at the finish. As we got back to our hotel, I was crabby because I was a bucket full of nerves and I remember picking a dumb fight with my husband and then basically crying myself to sleep with only 5 hours left to go before my alarm went off. Not a good start. In fact, my worst pre-race day ever.

The buses leave extremely early from the city for the long ride out to Hopkinton. It was pretty chilly, about 40 degrees and they drop you off approximately 2 hours before the race at least. There is no indoor shelter, except for a small gym with people giving massages, but the lines were over an hour long, so I didn’t even try. I knew as soon as I did, the starting gun would fire and I would miss my start. I hunkered down behind some building for shelter from the wind, ate my bagel and peanut butter and banana, and tried to keep warm and calm. I had resigned myself not to worry about time or pace for this race. The goal was to get here. I was going to settle into whatever felt like a comfortable pace, not looking at my Garmin, and just run. I had music, but I wasn’t going to listen to it until the last 12 miles or so. I really wanted to see the sights, feel the energy of all the good souls who come out and cheer, take in the epic route, and just give thanks that I was able to do this thing for which I had shed plenty of blood, sweat, and tears. Literally.

I remember hearing a warning sign or somebody on a microphone, herding us toward the official starting place. There were so many people and the street seemed so narrow. I worked to find my corral and settled in. Five minutes seemed like an hour and suddenly, POP! Off went the gun. The cheers were deafening and both sides of the tree-lined streets were packed 5 or 10 deep with well wishers, volunteers and spectators. Five miles flew by, I had no idea of my pace, but it felt good. We ran through Framingham and into Natick. I high fived about 200 kids at least. This was about enjoying the moment and I sure was. Still, at some point, I think it was mile 10 or so, I thought, “Damn, I am running the Boston Marathon, but it is still hard! I have 16 to go!” I accidentally saw my time on one of the huge time clocks at the half-way point, but those clocks begin right when the gun goes off, and it takes a while to actually cross the start. So, since I had told myself I was not going to look at my Garmin, the time seemed normal for where I usually was at the mid-point of a marathon. I certainly wasn’t impressing myself by any means.

The weather temperature-wise was okay, about 43 or so with clouds overhead. However the wind was really starting to pick up. I noticed it intermittently, but then became distracted by throngs of people yelling my name (people tell you to write your name on your shirt, so I duck -taped it on and it lasted about 14 or so miles). I saw a ton of smiling kids offering oranges, popsickles, Gu’s, water. I saw thousands of volunteers with such happy faces. I saw biker bars with the occupants sitting on the outside drinking beers and cheering on runners; I saw nursing homes, with the residents blanketed up and sitting in wheelchairs on the lawn.  There were signs galore, cheerleaders, American flags, cowbells, music, and the reverberation of thousands of feet, pat, pat, pat, clomping down on the road.

After Natick, came Wellesley, with their famous females cheering and kissing any male (or female) runners for that extra high. Every single new town had new spectators. Not an inch of the course was blank. It was, in a word, fantastic. The high of Wellesley lasted a few miles and then….and then I heard my name, but it sounded familiar. I turned to see my sis, brother- in- law, and hubby yelling for me! How in the world??? If you could imagine all the road closures and the fact that none of them was familiar with the route, not to mention the timing and predicting where I would be when, well, it seemed like a miracle. They took a subway, and then got help from some cabbie who promised to get them there. I stopped to hug them all and discard my long sleeve, and trudged on. That high lasted another mile or two.

I had a friend that lived in the area agree to meet me around 17 or 18 to “run me in.” I was turning the corner by the infamous fire station and out of nowhere, there she was. We didn’t say a word at first, she just hopped in next to me, right at my pace, and distracted me as we headed into the famous Heartbreak Hill. “You could get a PR, you know,” she said.

“Huh?” I responded. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, you are on your way to a serious P.R!”

I looked down at my Garmin for the first time. Now, if you haven’t tried to calculate splits, Garmin time, miles left to go, and mile per minute pace at 18 or so miles into a 26.2 mile race, let’s just say, it’s pretty hard, and I am not bad at math. It took me quit a bit….pause, pause… “Holy s**$!!, I could PR at Boston!!!”

“I know, that’s what I told you, now let’s go!”  My friend, Kristina, kept pace just in front of me, trying to get me to chase her up the hills and trying to block some of the now 15-25 mile/hour wind gusts. “Just this little one, then you are basically done.” However, the “little one” was Heartbreak, and we hadn’t finished the rest of the hills through Newton. It worked though, I kind of kept my head down, and Heartbreak seemed like no big D.

Time passed. I was feeling the pace now, and worse, I knew what it was and exactly how far I had to keep it up. I started the mental torture….”this is hard, who cares if I P.R.? It was supposed to be for fun, I kind of want to puke, I really want to stop, it is windy, it’s starting to rain, what can I eat tonight, why am I here, is she speeding up?, am I slowing down?, I stink…..” You know, the negative self chatter in which we all engage? Well, it can get pretty nasty during mile 23 or so of a marathon.

Though it seemed like hours, soon we were turning onto Beacon street, with just a little bit to go. Spectators were bursting at the fences, yelling and screaming and cheering; at least 10 deep on both sides. People were hanging off of balconies, hanging out on rooftops. It was electric. Kelly Clarkson was beating out “Since Youv’e Been Gone” on my ipod and I could see the street raise slightly. The finish was just ahead, clear for the huge banners, blue and yellow baloons, and throngs of people and music and microphoned announcers. And then, and then, I crossed that line, arms raised, smiling from ear to ear, and crying just as quickly.

A 7 minute P.R.–not seemingly that big of a deal, but a big deal to me as my last 3 marathons had been within 2 minutes of eachother.  It was my fastest marathon to date, on a difficult course in less than ideal conditions, but the sweetness of that moment happening where and when it did, will never be lost on me. I had just run the 113th Boston marathon, and I would never forget it.

3 Happy Mommy Tips

frazzled cat

Ever have one of those days where from the time you woke up to the time you went to sleep  on your ultra-soft pillow and 500 count sheets everything went perfectly? A day when what you wanted to wear was perfectly clean and loose (gasp!), the kids woke up happy and using their best manners? A day when you zoomed to work with no traffic on the road, and the radio had you singing; the work day flew by and before you know it you were being whisked away for a secret date night totally planned by your husband? Seriously? Yeah, me neither. I am sure it is coming though. In the meantime, most of my days involve arguments about Vans vs. Tennis shoes, collared shirts vs. t-shirts, a slow commute, boring radio, too cold office A/C, and me feeling like a member of the World Wrestling Federation as I am pulled to and fro all day long.   Oh, and then I get home and figure out we are out of milk. This may or may not result in a glass of Chardonnay being tipped down my throat at 5:01. On. The. Dot. Until I get the aforementioned perfect day, here are a few things that help me along the way from the kitchen to the gym.

1). Start Early. I am one of those annoying people who really likes to be on time. And although I am relatively happy in the morning, I can’t say I am pumped to see my alarm set at 4:45 am on any day. That being said, when I get up at zero dark thirty, I have no excuse not to get in the exercise. It leaves me time to get home, make lunches, feed my three peeps, brush teeth, do hair and take the kids to school as I head to work. The more you put things off till later, the less likely they will get done. Why? Because life happens. But there just isn’t a whole lot to interfere with your day at 5 am!

2). Stick to a Schedule/Routine. Now, I would really like to be spontaneous and leave for the Maldives tomorrow, but let’s be realistic. It’s not going to happen. I can save the spontaneity for things later in life, like say choosing between Bran and Fiber. The most efficient people I know thrive on routines and schedules. From doing the wash to going to the store to exercise to kids bedtimes, everyone gets more accomplished when they know what to expect. Try to do things like laundry, cleaning and shopping the same day every week. Write it down and cross it off, if need be; make a plan and follow through.

3). Do Something Now that Saves Time Later. One of the things that works best for me in the kitchen is if I prep a lot of things right when I get home from the store. For example, I wash the berries and bag it up, same with the lettuce and other veggies so that they are ready to go when I need them. Put an extra trash bag in the bottom of the can so that it is easier the next time you change it. Make longer phone calls as you sit in traffic (on a Bluetooth of course!), pay bills or read a book while you wait at the doctor’s office or in the pick-up line at school. Lay the kids’ clothes out the night prior, and yours too! Plan your meals out on Sunday. The more you can multi-task, the less you have to do later in the day or week when you are more tired!

Let’s face it. Life doesn’t always mirror The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills!! In reality, busy moms like us don’t usually have drivers, assistants, 3 nannies, personal chefs and trainers, oh and hair extensions! It really is a lot of little things that can make the difference between needing that glass of wine at 5 pm, or simply sitting down to savor it, because you have time.

Do you have any tips you want to share?  As a busy mom, what helps you get through a chaotic day?

 

Snack Time-savers for Kids (and adults!)

I don’t know about you, but when I pick up my kiddos from school, I have been away from them for a while and I miss them.     They remind me of these sweet little guys…eager for affection, eager to please, eager to cuddle.  I tend to picure them like this….

puppies

 

But sometimes, in reality, their blood sugar is low, they are tired, they are hungry and  they don’t want to do homework. So in reality, they look like this…..

Angry Cat

And I know I must do something; I must do something fast, before we head into total meltdown city, a place I don’t want to go….a place no mom wants to visit for any length of time. (Cue daunting music).

My quick  fix is a power packed snack. Not too many carbs, not too much sugar, not processed; my kids call it the “Ultimate Smoothie.” Now, this smoothie is so easy, but don’t tell them, lest I have to start paying the smoothie place  $5  a pop. Here’s what you need for two of their favorites!

Berry Smoothie

1 Cup frozen fruit (I buy bulk fresh from Costco and freeze small ziplocks)–this can be blueberries, strawberries, rasberries, etc.

1 Cup low-fat Vanilla yogurt

1 Cup of any Nectar or fruit juice (I buy Mango nectar in the Hispanic section of my grocery store)

A drizzle of honey or Agave Syrup, perhaps a bit of ice. Blend and serve!~

Mango/Banana smoothie

1 Cup frozen mango

1 banana

1 cup yogurt, any kind

1 cup ice

1 cup pineapple juice

Drizzle of honey or agave.  Blend and serve!

These are so tasty and so filling that they will have your kids folding laundry and reciting their spelling words in no time! Okay, maybe not quite, but at least you get a “yummy, mama! I love it!”

Indian Chicken (You Can Make TONIGHT)

The title of this recipe can be a bit decieving in that although it uses some Indian themed spices, you could not be an Indian food devotee and still enjoy this dish. I have also heard versions of it called “Butter Chicken,” and although butter isn’t bad and I like chicken, I don’t think those really go together. Maybe butter and bread. Maybe butter and toast. Maybe butter with popcorn.  Maybe “I can’t believe it’s not butter.” Someone stop me…..I digress. My point is, get over the title and make this tonight! The kids will even love it. Here’s what you need:

4 pieces boneless skinless chicken breasts or a pack of chicken tenders

1 onion, diced

1 lime, juiced

1 t salt

5 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp ground Coriander

1/4 tsp Cardamom

1/2 tsp Cumin

1/4 cup butter

1 can (14.5 oz) Tomato Sauce

1 can (14.5 oz) Petite Diced Tomatoes

1 pint Half and Half or Whipping Cream

1 bunch Cilantro, chopped to taste

2 Cups Basmati Rice or White Rice

Here’s what to do!! Step one, open up a nice bottle of Sauvignon blanc. Oh wait, that’s me, sorry. Combine chicken, garlic, lime juice and all the spices in a ziplock and marinate for several hours or overnight. You won’t believe what these flavors do together. Also, if you don’t have Coriander and are shocked by the sticker price at the grocery store (as my sister was who called me up to gripe about it in the grocery line), you can probably get by without it. However, it is a good spice to have and lasts forever. Onward….Start the rice if you haven’t already made it. Get out the marinated chicken and get busy. Saute the onion in the butter until it is translucent and soft. Add chicken and cook 8-10 minutes or so. Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Cook for 25-30 minutes over medium to low heat with the lid. Add the whipping cream or half and half and cilantro just before serving. This dish is a bit spicy, but my kiddo’s loved it. You may want to only do half the cayenne, serve the littles, and then kick it up a notch for the bigs.

Enjoy! It’s a crowd pleaser. (Oh, and it really does pair well with a good Sav blanc, Brancott comes to mind!)

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