You will be shocked, dear reader, to learn that I am not always inspired either to cook or to write. At the moment, I see the Holiday Train coming straight at me, I am tied to the tracks with lengths of curling ribbon, and my life is flashing before my eyes. I have not put away the leaf and gourd decorations, boxes of Christmas are piled in the foyer, we are out of Hanukkah candles (we are a multi-religious family just to amp up the number of things that have to be purchased, stored, lost and broken), and I am still waffling about what to buy for various relatives. I am bludgeoning members of the Council of Elders at church with passive aggressive e-mails reminding them to please sign up to contribute to the staff party, I am shaking down fellow parents for donations to buy gifts for needy families in the community, and I am filling the calendar with open houses, concerts, pageants, cocktail parties and carol sings. Am I lucky to be healthy and to have friends? Sans doubt. Am I wishing I could hide in a bunker with a quilt, a mystery, a flashlight and a bag of pistachios until January? Mais oui.
Anyway, the week ahead will not be one of culinary accomplishments on Forest Street. Rob leaves on Sunday for a five day conference in San Antonio, and Sam and I will switch to our default “nursery food” setting. There is little point in presenting a ten year old boy with osso bucco on a bed of polenta with deep-fried basil garnish to eat while he watches “Dirty Jobs.” It is also a week that includes two basketball practices, one choir concert, one large cocktail party, one open house, cutting down the tree, baking at least 7 dozen cookies for student neighbors who are studying for finals, and a partridge in a pear tree. I know what that partridge was doing: she was hiding from her family because they kept asking where the scotch tape was, and why she had removed the batteries from the family of singing snowmen.
As always, I am striving to make reasonable healthy meals, to have no more than two red meat meals and at least one vegetarian meal, and to use what is fresh, in season and on sale. Here’s what we’re eating on Forest Street:
Writing about it made me hungry. Plus, chuck steak is on sale.
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Cream of Tomato Soup
Nursery food, to be sure, but can you honestly think of anything better?
Stelline wth Butter and Cheese and Green Salad
Nursery food again; tiny pasta with butter and grated Gran Padano.
Church Christmas Party
I’m in charge of this particular clambake, so I’ll be there slinging punch and bussing empty cookie trays all evening. My guess is that my dinner will consist of one meatball on a toothpick, three cookies and a radish with some ranch dressing.
Because we only eat it when Daddy’s gone.
Chicken Thighs in Mushroom Sauce, Risotto and Broccolini with Pine Nuts and Raisins
Daddy’s back, chicken thighs are in the freezer, and I’ve been dying to make a green vegetable with pine nuts and raisins because it sounds wonderful.
Dump Ziti, Green Salad and Italian Bread
Dump Ziti is right on the edge of Nursery Food, but if the ingredients are really good, it can be a pretty good adult meal. I boil ziti and make a mixture of ricotta, mozzarella and egg with some fresh herbs as I would for lasagne, as well as homemade marinara. I “dump” the cooked ziti into a casserole, add the ricotta mixture, and the marinara, top with more mozzarella and some grated Parmaggiano Reggiano, and bake at 350 until the top is brown and bubbly. Of course, a less wonderful, caring mother than I might use jarred sauce and pre-grated cheese. If other mothers weren’t less wonderful, what would I have to be smug about in my bunker?