Archive | February, 2012

A Cook’s Kitchen Nightmare

24 Feb
 
The National Organic Program administers the O...
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English: A bundle of kale from an organic food...
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   On Wednesday morning I woke up to some very upsetting news. When I opened my refrigerator door to drink some cold refreshing water, it was at room temperature.  I wondered did I leave the door of the refrigerator open last night?  Everything in my refrigerator felt like it was room temperature.  I checked the controls and I went to work.  When I returned, the refrigerator smelled and everything inside was spoiled.

Yes, this is a kitchen nightmare for me.  I had so many organic vegetables (Kale, swiss chard, fresh spinach, ginger, celery, carrots, avocado) for my morning green smoothies that were totally spoiled.  All of the weekend’s work of preparing meals for the work week for my son and I for our lunches and dinners was lost overnight ! It was so disappointing not to be able to enjoy the turkey meatloaf stuffed with organic fresh spinach leaves, sage and thyme, my adult’s version of  homemade mac & cheese made of whole wheat penne pasta covered with melted fontina, creamy gorgonzola, rich ricotta cheese, fresh mozzarella and a cream tomato sauce and finally the bowl of homemade tomato sauce and fresh raviolis.   It was sad for me to toss into the garbage all of my spoiled vegetables in the green grocer’s bags that help keep them fresh for me. I poured down the drain organic milk, organic yogurts, and tossed into the garbage pastured organic butter and organic raw cheeses. 

Photo of a typical refrigerator with its door ...

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The only positive thing was that my freezer was still very cold and I was able to store my frozen foods in the freezer of my apartment building’s community room – thankfully!  In my freezer, I have tons of organic frozen vegetables, organic chicken, frozen soups that I prepared in the past, organic unsalted butters for baking and organic, humanely raised grass fed beef!

All of this mourning over lost food in my refrigerator and pouring of money (literally) down the drain had me thinking of all of the money I spend on my organic produce and foods.  It was an expensive loss (not to mention the urgent need to locate a new refrigerator that fits in this custom built kitchen) but I know that I am lucky to have the knowledge about food and the ability to afford to purchase my organic groceries. 

I wasn’t always an organic zealot.  It began when I was pregnant with my son in 2006.  I started with little things – like organic milk and organic chicken.  I didn’t want to eat food that was injected with antibiotics and other hormones while I was having a child develop and grow inside of my body – New York City if filled with enough toxins and my domestic life was toxic enough.  That was the extent of my organic food purchases – it was expensive and I was going through a divorce.  However, a few years later I started to read about our food supply and how the FDA has allowed it to be modified over the years, improved by science, some may say.  I’ve read books like Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, the 3-Day Cleanse by Zoe Sakoutis and Erica Huss, Kris Carr‘s Crazy Sexy Diet and Integrative Nutrition by Joshua Rosenthal.  I watched movies like Food Inc.  I learned about genetically modified crops, genetically  injected animals and the need to eat locally and seasonally.  Doing all of these things, I’ve learned, benefit not just our bodies but also for our land, our animals and our environment. 

I’m hoping to read the New York Time’s reviewed book, The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan soon (see review: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/21/books/tracie-mcmillan-writes-the-american-way-of-eating.html?_r=1&ref=books).  Her view is different from the others – it discusses the workers at the bottom of the food industry and how they are impacted and what needs to change in our food industry so Americans can start eating better again.

I urge you to sign petitions like ones flying around Facebook: http://signon.org/sign/tell-the-fda-that-we.fb1?source=s.fb&r_by=2537995 and tell our government that our food, at the very least should be labeled.   Americans should be aware that their food is not natural, straight from the source, that science has attempted to modify it to make it cheaper to grow.  Safe, organic food should not be for Americans that could afford to pay for it – safe natural, organic food should be available to all Americans despite socio-economic status. 

 

Valentine’s Day Cookies

19 Feb

I didn’t get to post earlier in the week about my Valentine’s Day celebration with my little guy.  I was never really into celebrating Valentine’s Day until my little man asked that we be festive.  A few weeks before he asked me to bake heart shaped cookies for his friends.  And so, the preparation for Valentine’s Day began – we made little Valentine’s for his friends and on the weekend before Valentine’s Day we baked shortbread heart shaped cookies.  My little man baked his own cookies and has his own baking tools.  I find baking and cooking with children really encourages them to be involved in what they are eating and learning about coooking! 

 It is a lot of work to have the children in the kitchen but I think the benefits are enormous.

Buckwheat What?

19 Feb
English: vegetables

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I find that if I don’t eat well it impacts my mood.  Over the last few weeks I have been feeling depleted and I’ve been trying to correct that watching what I eat but it has been so hard!   We have been so busy with birthday parties and play dates and Superbowl munchies and Valentine’s Day chocolates and cookies that I haven’t really been eating what I love – fresh vegetables!

I finally had a free Saturday afternoon – DB came to take Kyle at 4pm and so  a few minutes after my little man departed with his inconsistent dad – I put on my running shoes and grabbed my GPS and decided to hit the road for an 8 mile run.  I ran along the east river and I had a smile across my face the entire 1 hour + of the run.  It was awesome.  This mild winter has been great for getting out there and hitting the road – when I can .  I finally  replaced all of the endorphins that have been missing over the last few weeks as I realized that I need to run.  I need it more than almost anything else – even more than sex.  It empowers me and makes me feel great inside and outside.

Now, what to eat? Of course my boyfriend, Mid-Western Boy, wants to get pizza.  I LOVE pizza but I just did an 8 mile run! I’m not going to erase the benefits of that run with a few precious moments of melted mozzarella, tasty tomato sauce and perfectly baked crust.  I told Mid-Western Boy that I was going to make Buckwheat Soba noodles with sautéed vegetables.  He, of course, opted for 2 slices of pepperoni pizza.

As he was eating the delicious smelling pizza, I focused on sauteing my vegetables. 

I began with a little bit of olive oil and some garlic in my saute pan on low heat.  I then added some chopped organic baby carrots and shallots that I chopped in my mini food processor.  I added them to the pan and some tamari sauce with seafood gomasio (which is made up of sesame seeds, seaweed and sea salt).  I then sliced up some organic crimini mushrooms and added them to the pan with some more tamari and seafood gomasio.  Finally once all of the vegetables in the pan appeared to be almost done I added fresh kale and spinach leaves to the pan and put the cover on to steam them down.  While I was steaming the vegetables down, I added my buckwheat noodles to a pot of boiling water.   After three minutes I drained the buckwheat noodles and added them to my sautéed vegetables with a bit more tamari and the seafood gomasio.  Finally, I shut off the low heat and added some avocado and pine nuts.  I mixed it altogether and had a healthy, filling dish of Buckwheat noodles and fresh sautéed vegetables.

I sat in front of the television to catch up on watching episodes of Homeland with my Mid-Western Boy and as he was sniffing the lovely flavors from my Soba noodle special, he asked to try it – and guess what – he loved it and said that it was better than Pepperoni Pizza and he should have waited the 15 minutes it took to put the dish together.  This was truly a compliment from my high fructose corn syrup, McDonald eating, dorito munching boyfriend who had initially chosen pizza over buckwheat noodles!

A GIANT win!

9 Feb

I hosted a Superbowl party on Sunday to watch the NY Giants beat the New England Patriots for the 2012 Superbowl Championship.  It was an awesome day on many levels.  Firstly,   my son confirmed that he is a Giants fan more than a Jets fan (which has been a point of contention in our house because DB thinks it is very important that his son grows up to be a Jets fan and has been trying to brainwash my son against the Giants – very sick, I know) and secondly I was able to host a Superbowl party for the first time ever.  DB never allowed me to invite people over for the Superbowl for a variety of reasons (television too small; nobody likes me and would come, etc.)  But I digress.  I couldn’t wait to cook for the party!

 I love cooking for friends and family and watch them come together to enjoy a nice meal.  I’m not sure if this is a result of my Italian-American heritage or just because I love food.  Either way, it is important for me to have every meal prepared and eaten together – including our breakfast, lunch and dinner!  I prepare almost every single meal my son eats including his snacks — kale chips, cookies and cakes!

Many of my friends marvel over how do I make time to cook among all of my – duties including being a full-time attorney and a mom (and now girlfriend too!)   I think the key to being efficient when juggling all of these other responsibilities with cooking for a group lies in the following three things (1) Fresh Direct food delivery service; (2) organizing my grocery list early in the week; and (3) a slow cooker!

A slow cooker has been an excellent addition to our busy life and has encouraged me to make more meat recipes for my Mid-Western Boy – who absolutely loves meat dishes.  I never used a slow cooker before last month and now I make at least one awesome meal a week with it – including on Superbowl Sunday!

On Superbowl Sunday my guests arrived around 1 hour before the actual game started.  I prepared everything but the sliders before my guests arrived.  I began grilling the sliders about 30 minutes before the game started so that everyone had fresh burgers to much on during the first half of the game.  I had hoped to cook wings for the second half of the game during halftime (they were prepared already) but my guests confessed that they were too full for the wings.  So, I left them to eat later in the week. 

I love eating together and talking about the food.  My guests were impressed with all of my “homemade” dishes but especially my meat-less chili and my secret ingredient macaroni and cheese!

CityMama’s Easy Superbowl Party Menu

Drinks:

I kept it simple with two different beers; a pitcher of fresh, fresh lemon flavored water (and some soda for those that are still addicted to the high fructose corn syrup)

Appetizers:

  When the guests arrived I put out salsa, tortilla chips, baked potato chips, mixed olives and various  cheeses for them to much on.    I had also warmed up “pigs in a blanket” that I purchased at Trader Joes the week before.  I toyed with making my own pigs in the blanket (I have some mini organic chicken apple sausages that I give to my son for lunch) but I didn’t want to waste time on preparing something that will be gone with two bites and that was easy to buy already prepared!

Main Course:

City Mama Secret Ingredient Macaroni & Cheese: I prepare a healthy version of homemade macaroni and cheese topped with breadcrumbs and sliced tomatoes.   My secret ingredient (substituting some cheese with frozen winter squash).  Trust me – no one can tell the difference. 

Slow Cooker Meatless Chili: I love this recipe because it is so easy to make and it yields a lot of servings.  In a slow cooker I put the following ingredients: 1 large can of diced tomatoes, 1 can of northern beans, 1 can of kidney beans, 1 can of black beans, four or so cups of chicken broth, a diced fresh pepper (usually green), 2 tablespoons of chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and some oregano.  I set the slow cooker for 8 hours.  When it finishes cooking I add 1 cup of cooked couscous, some shredded cilantro, salt and black pepper to taste.  Before I serve the meatless chili, I use a ribbon shredder and shred some extra-sharp Wisconsin cheddar cheese and cut up pieces of avocado.  It is so simple and so filling!

Prime Angus Beef & Turkey Sliders : This is always a bit hit at a party but it does take some time to make them.  I purchased packages of already prepared sliders made of organic turkey and some made of prime angus beef.  I heated up a cast iron grill pan on my stove (removed the fire alarm from the kitchen) and grilled 6 sliders at a time!  I also toasted the buns on the side of the grill pan that wasn’t being used.  I grilled each burger for about 4-5 minutes per side and topped the buns with organic red leaf lettuce, organic beefsteak tomato, melted wisconsin cheddar and some ketchup.  Pickles served on the side.

Dessert:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches: I prepared my chocolate chip cookie recipe the week before and froze the batter in a log form.  I defrosted the log the morning of the Superbowl and baked the cookies earlier in the day. I added a scoop of vanilla ice cream in between two cookies and passed around dessert!

The Request for Some Digits

4 Feb
PHONE

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I have a secret stress weapon that lives in my building.  Her name is M.  She is 14 years old and charges $8 an hour to babysit.  She is the  best deal I found in Manhattan.  My son adores her.  She is almost always available when I ask her to babysit.  If it wasn’t for her, I probably would not have been able to develop my relationship with Mid-Western Boy.  She stayed with my son on almost all of our dates in the early part of our relationship and she even watched him last weekend so we can go out on a Friday night. 

I responded to her advertisement  in the laundry room of our building and we have been developing a nice relationship.  I learned recently that her parents are divorced and that her dad lives 4 blocks away.  She understands my need for help.  She is the oldest child and her mom has three girls. 

There is a very friendly neighbor in my building who always offers to help me (although I haven’t asked her to).  She has two sons and one of them is my son’s age.  She and her husband have been incredibly kind and even invited my son to their son’s birthday party.   We went “trick or treating” together on Halloween.  I’m looking forward to getting to know her when my son joins her son at the local elementary school.  I’m sure the boys will get along well.  It will be great as the boys get older and can spend time together.  It will be nice for me to have a friend in the building – if a relationship develops between us.

Earlier this week she asked me if I had babysitter. I said “yes”.  She asked me who? I said she is 14 and lives in the building.  She said I can’t believe “”you” already have a babysitter in the building!  You have to give me her number!”

I paused.  It was as if she asked for my boyfriend’s number.  I don’t want to share it.  I became really quiet.  My friendly neighbor is a psychiatric nurse practioner, she sensed my closing up.  She said “I’ll run my dates that I need her by you first if you give me her number.”

I didn’t respond.  I just don’t want to share this secret weapon with anyone.  She is the only outside help I have.

My friendly neighbor has a lovely full time Nanny that even comes on Saturdays.  Her parents and her husband’s parents live within walking distance of the building and fill in gaps when her Nanny isn’t available.  She has ALOT of help.   She makes her own hours for her business.  She works 4 days a week (my other fantasy),

She asked me how the heck I found a babysitter in the building – “I told her I do my own laundry.”  It was her turn to be quiet.  It proved my point, I need the help and I can’t share this little help that I engage.   I know my friendly neighbor’s Nanny better than I actually know her because we spend time together in the laundry room with the kids.

This is the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  I need to fend for myself.

My Fantasy

2 Feb
The Nanny

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I did it! Today I took time out of my day to sit by myself in solitude in the center of Manhattan and I was able to enjoy a few minutes of quiet time.  As I people watched, I noticed that my mind kept drifting to coveting a certain relationship that I have never experienced and until recently, have had no desire to experience.  However, as my stress levels rise at home and at work I’ve been increasingly thinking about engaging in a certain relationship.

In the short time I have lived with my son on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I have noticed that many working parents have this relationship (and many non-working moms have it too).  I noticed this relationship in my building’s playroom, in my building’s laundry room and during walks in my neighborhood. 

Unfortunately, my fantasy is not about some sexy, hot celebrity – like Bradley Cooper.  Instead, I find that I spend my time fantasizing about a Nanny. 

I never really thought I wanted a Nanny and I have been so proud of myself for figuring out how to do work/life balance without any outside help (beyond my parents).  However, lately I find that I have been frequently fantasizing about engaging in a relationship with a nanny. 

My fantasy is something like this: My relationship with my Nanny (she would be an older, lovely woman, say mid-60s) would be amazing.   She would take care of my son’s every need and demand and I wouldn’t have to do a thing (this is a fantasy, of course).  She would cook dinner for us, she would do my laundry and clean our apartment. I would be able to stay late at work and go to the gym and fit in long runs.  She would run my errands for me and do my grocery shopping.  My son would love her and so will I.  She would become part of our family and she would live close by, perhaps in an apartment in the building.  She would take my son to activities during the week that I can never ever dream of signing him up for because I have to work.  She would take him on playdates.  She would bathe him and actually be able to clean his ears.  He would no longer leave the home with his hair standing on end and jelly all over his face.  His finger nails would never have dirt in them and when I told him not to run off he would actually listen.  He would be so content he would never ever have a tantrum again.  She would even put him to bed for me and he would fall asleep quickly.  My home would always smell of freshly made bread that she would bake for us. . . .

My fantasy was just interrupted by that demand – MOMMMEEE!!!!  Back to reality. . .

Yes, it is an unrealistic fantasy but so is having sex with Bradley Cooper and we all engage in that fantasy or something like it every once inawhile – so I’m allowed this one little guilty pleasure.

Persistence of Time

1 Feb
Old Post Office Pavillion clock tower

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It has been a very long time since I’ve had a few minutes of time all to myself.  A few moments of time to gather my thoughts and write about city life and my son.  Time  to be creative and passionate.

I never realized how important this time to  myself was until I didn’t have a whole minute alone.  I always knew I was a person that liked to be by myself but I never realized how much I would crave solitude as I have over the past several months.

My son’s father hasn’t taken my son for an overnight visit for over one month now.  My days have been exclusively dedicated to spending time with my precious four year old son, who demands my attention, with screams and constant yells of “mommeeee!”  All of this time together has brought us closer together.  I wake up to my son calling out to me, we spend the morning commuting  to the office on the city bus doing puzzles or reading books.  I spend the day at my office working, negotiating and thinking about various issues that each day brings.  At the end of the day, I pick up my son from school and we spend the evening talking, eating dinner nd getting ready for bed.  All of My time is either spent at the office or doing something with my son.    If my son is cooperative in the evening and gets to bed at a decent hour, I can have a few minutes to myself to clean up the kitchen and pack up our food for lunch.  However, this is not my time.  this is what i call Family Time.  Just like cooking is Family Time.  It is an activity that is meant for the family to enjoy.

What I really want is a break – some time to myself; so I’m not rushing from work to the bus to the connecting bus and then home.

I have no one to blame but myself.  I wished for my son’s dad to fade out of our life.   And now it appears he is fading out.  I feared that the fading out would have a negative impact on my son because he was losing this male figure in his life.  His Dad. 

What I instead observe is that my son is better adjusted.  He listens to me, is not as aggressive and is very affectionate with me.  I don’t sense that underlying anger that my son seemed to have exhibited during the summer and early fall when he was seeing more of his father. 

Yes, I feel a sense of justice.  I feel that maybe my son will have a fighting chance at growing into a well balanced man if his father fades away into the background.  My son won’t have to learn to deal with the lies and manipulating thoughts he was infecting my son with during the latter part of last year.  Yes, I feel a sense of victory.  I only hope this fade away is consistent because the only thing consistent about DB is that he is inconsistent.

While I do feel a sense of victory, I feel that the battle has been devastating to the warrior (me).  I’m exhausted, I’m spent and I’m searching for time, time to be by myself, time for solitude and time for “being” instead of “doing.”   Maybe this is how all mothers feel at one point or another.  Even if it is how all mothers feel. . . I just don’t think it is acceptable. 

Last night I worked on building in time for solitude in my schedule.  I’m decided o begin with 15 minutes twice a week.  I’m going to deliberately unchain myself from my desk at the office and sit on the benches outside my office building. I’m not going to bring my blackberry or my iphone.  I’m not going to bring documents to review with me. 

I’m going to sit for 15 minutes and do nothing – twice a week.  The idea of it just relaxes me already.  Today will be my first day.  Wish me luck!

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