Monday, October 3, 2011

Come on Over!

Don't you just hate it when bloggers abandon their blogs for no apparent reason?  One day they are talking about how much they loved their grandma's rice pudding, then nothing.  You never hear from them again!  Personally, I worry about them.  I mean they could have perished in a fiery car crash.  How is one to know?  For this very reason, I am giving you an explanation of what the heck is going on here.

As you can tell this blog has been terribly neglected.  It has faithfully held my thoughts and your comments for sometime now without the proper thanks and attention it deserves.  Originally this blog was begun as a place for me to print online copies of an article I was writing for American in Britain Magazine.  Even though I loved writing my article, it became apparent that no one seemed to be reading it; no publishers looking for raw talent and great recipes, no hungry ex-pats looking for adapted recipes from home, no one . . . period, so I decided to move on. 

For this reason I am slowly transferring my posts over to my other blog, Savoury Table (formely Eat Drink Wash Up).  If you happen to be one of my 21 followers (or anyone else) and miss me and my clever, dry wit, please click the link above and join me over there.   Most of all, thanks so much for following me and reading my ramblings.  Now come on, don't be shy, we're waiting for you!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Leapin' Lizards! Fried Oreos

My teenage son and I recently discovered a couple of secrets about each other. I learned that despite his aloofness and quiet demeanor he does indeed seem to care about what goes on in my mind. I had no idea that he read the stories that I share here on my blog until his voice boomed from the den the other night, “I didn’t know that you hid vegetables in our food!” I quickly denied the admission I had made in one of my earlier posts and wrote it off to poetic license. I don’t know if he bought it or not, but I guess I’ll have to start being very careful about what I write as not to embarrass him or give away any parental trade secrets because, as I know now, the opposing team is watching. After I was able to shake off being caught red handed, it occurred to me that he must be one of my silent followers. I’m so flattered, and I want him to know if he’s reading this how much I love him for it. Now, go clean your room!

My son and I don’t relate like we used to. When he was a little guy, he and his older sister would always run to my car instead of their father’s when we were going somewhere separately. I secretly took great comfort in the fact that as much as they loved their father, it was obvious that they just loved me more. This was no less than what I would have expected from people that I sacrificed my firm breasts and tight tummy for. Then, when he was about eight years old a troubling change occurred. Very gradually he started riding with his dad (hey, he didn’t stand outside the Disney store for hours in the freezing UK rain just to score you a Buzz Lightyear buddy). I knew that this was the way it was supposed to be, but I hadn’t prepared myself to lose my baby so soon. Now when we do ride in the car together he often doesn’t say a word except for the occasional “yes or no.” In an effort to change all of that, I tried and failed miserably to play video games with him. I started watching sports with him but sometimes I just couldn’t endure the pain and would have to escape to my bedroom with a good book. Finally, in an effort to be the fun one for a change, I lifted my moratorium on reptiles in my house and allowed him to bring home a collard lizard and all the paraphernalia that goes along with it. He bought an aquarium, sand, caves, hygrometers and thermometers, misters and things for it to climb on. All of this was just fine, and then came the food, crickets and worms. Noisy smelly crickets and big fat juicy worms which bear a suspicious likeness to maggots, in my house, in the hands of a teenage boy. This was the act of a desperate woman.

Jefe in happier times

All was well until about seven months later. While changing the sheets on my son’s bed I looked over and noticed that his lizard was sleeping in a very different position than usual. When he got home from school I asked that he check on Jefe (boss in Espanol, I’m told) and was assured that that was the way he always sleeps, silly woman. Two days later while putting away clothes in his drawers, I noticed that Jefe was still in the same position. As an experiment I poked him with a wooden drumstick only to discover that he was as dead as a door nail. Hey, I may not know much, but I know a dead lizard when I see it. He was respectfully wrapped in a toilet paper shroud, and since the next day was trash day, was gently laid to rest in a place of honor at the top of the trash bin. Rest in peace Jefe.

A couple of weeks later, I reluctantly ok’d the acquisition of a sick baby lizard from the manager at a local pet store. He obviously decided that it stood a better chance with us than in the garbage. My son and I made sure that this cute little guy had only the smallest crickets and the fattest maggots, uh sorry, wax worms, to fatten him up. We read up on sick baby lizards, kept his body at just the right temperature and fed him baby applesauce and bananas. Life was good until he suddenly died on us one afternoon almost three weeks later. We were both heartbroken, but we were heartbroken together. Somehow, quite by accident, we had found our common ground, so I guess the disappointment we experienced at his loss was all worth it.

Shortly thereafter that cute little baby lizard was replaced with the meanest red and black gecko I’ve ever seen. He looks like a Star Wars creature on crack and actually growled when the kid at the pet store pulled him out of his aquarium. I’ll tell you one thing, I won’t get too involved with this one. Of course, I should never say never, because it’s obvious that there’s not much I won’t do to hang out with this wonderful boy.

Since I’ve dedicated this entry to my son it is only fitting that I add a recipe for something that he loves. Like his mom he is a serious snacker so here’s his one of his favorites and the best thing is I guarantee that there are no veggies hidden in it anywhere.

Deep Fried Oreos

1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 -1/4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
24 Oreo or chocolate sandwich cookies (or anything else you might find in your pantry that looks like it needs to be fried)
1/2 cup powdered sugar for dusting cookies

Heat 2 cups cooking oil in a medium size saucepan over medium high heat or if you're lucky like me, fire up your deep fryer.

While the oil is heating, combine the egg, milk and vanilla extract in a small bowl; whisk well.

In a medium size bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; stir well.

While whisking, pour egg mixture into the flour mixture and continue whisking until mixture is smooth; transfer to a container with a spout.

Test oil for proper temperature by dropping a spot of the batter into the oil. If it sizzles and floats to the top, the oil is ready. Dip each cookie into the batter covering completely, gently shaking off excess. Carefully drop into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, approximately 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mom Drops the Party Ball

One of my first social disasters in our new home came in the innocent form of a child’s birthday invitation. I stumbled upon it while going through my daughter’s book bag after school one day. I was delighted to see that my little girl was starting to fit in and had been added to the social register of her little village school. It was much the same as any birthday invitation that would have been passed out back in America, but with one subtle difference. In America you were often only given enough advance notice of a birthday party to run to Wal-Mart, pick up a Hot Wheels party pack or a Barbie and wrap it in the car while you drove your child to the skating rink. In our new home the custom was to give four weeks or so notice just in case her busy social calendar was to fill up, this little boy would get first dibs on her time. I telephoned the number on the card and spoke with his Belgian mother. She was warm and friendly and pleased to hear of our acceptance. It was a date, in four weeks my daughter would arrive in her finest party attire, gift in hand, for an afternoon of kiddie party fun European style.

Four weeks later, having long ago filed this party under the “think about it much later” heading, a thunderbolt struck me. Somewhere between the gym and prepping for my dinner party, the brightly wrapped package caught my eye. It was at that moment I realized we had forgotten about my daughter’s classmate’s 8th birthday soiree. I was sick with disappointment for both my daughter and the birthday boy. Even though the party was almost over by this time, I threw a dress on my little party girl, buckled her patent leather shoes, grabbed his present and sped down the green country lanes of Nottinghamshire to their house two villages over. We arrived at their home, that while beautifully picturesque, was like so many homes in older villages and had no accommodations for modern modes of transportation. We quickly parked and trotted a quarter mile down the road from our illegal parking spot at the village pub, the whole while making excuses under my breath as to why I had dropped this ball, “Mommy just has too much on her mind! Why do they send their invitations out so far in advance? Somehow this must be Daddy’s fault.”

We finally made it to their front door and rang the bell. Silence. I rang the bell again and felt a rise in blood pressure with every step I heard approaching the door. I recognized the woman at the door from the school’s sports day gathering at the local cricket pitch. Today she wasn’t smiling and friendly like she was the day our son let all the girls in his class beat him in the foot race. The look on her face let both of us know that the party was over, she was not amused with our tardiness, and she was glad that my son was a slow runner. She reluctantly, and without the hint of a consoling smile, invited us into the lounge with the rest of her family who were visiting from Bruges and had somehow managed to arrive on time. I can only compare the feeling in that room to the feeling we have all had in those horrible naked dreams. I apologized until I started to sound more stupid than I already looked and just shut up. Then I only made things more awkward by asking if the children had already had their cake. I’m not sure if it was the question I asked or the third eye I had grown in my forehead but it was at this time she announced that most of the children had already taken their cake home with them. After fifteen minutes of awkward silence and small talk, our hostess stuffed a piece of serviette wrapped cake in a party bag that we graciously accepted before making a hasty getaway. Thank goodness my new “frienemies” moved back to Belgium at the end of term.

To this day I’ve never forgotten another child’s birthday party. In fact, since that day, I have lived in fear of missing another one. From that point on, I turned over a new leaf and decided to try a new life strategy, I bought a calendar and best of all I even use it on occasion.

With spring upon us, I can hardly wait to fire up the barbeque grill and invite my favorite party guests around for dinner. I have many recipes for host friendly dishes that can be prepped ahead, quickly finished off and served without requiring long absences from my guests, so narrowing it down to three wasn’t easy. I chose these because not only are they perfect for the back garden on a beautiful summer’s evening, but they can be easily prepared inside for a bright taste of summer during the unpredictable English spring weather. Now all you need are guests that won’t forget your party.

Margarita Marinade

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (the juice of approximately 2 medium size limes)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons tequila (optional but highly recommended)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil

Place all ingredients in a small covered container and shake well. Pour over meat, turn to coat and marinate for 1 – 4 hours, turning occasionally.
This recipe is delicious as shown with fish but is also just as delicious with chicken or pork.

Old Fashioned Cheesy Cornbread Spoon Bread Casserole

2/3 cup (90g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (85g) cornmeal or polenta
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (113g) butter, melted
1 – 8 ounce (240g) tin whole sweet corn
1 – 8 ounce (240g) tin cream style sweet corn
1 medium size jalapeno, finely diced (optional)
3 spring onions, white and light green parts, finely diced (optional)
1 cup (240g) soured cream
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup (130g) grated medium cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (190C).

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cornmeal or polenta, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the butter, corn, jalapeno, spring onion, soured cream, eggs and 3/4 of the cheese; stir well. Pour into a greased 2 quart (2 litre) baking dish.

Place in preheated oven and bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until it is golden brown and firm in the middle. Remove and cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Serves 8

Confetti Coleslaw

1 – 16 ounce (453g) package coleslaw mix or approximately 8 cups shredded cabbage and carrot
1/2 small red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1/2 small red onion, sliced into thin rings then cut in half
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced across
1 small bunch fresh coriander
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 – 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine the coleslaw mix, red bell pepper, onion, cucumber and coriander; toss well and set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together the lime juice, orange juice, garlic, sweet chili sauce and salt. Pour over the coleslaw mix and toss once again to coat. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Serves 6 - 8


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