Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bleeping Pie

Hi all,

The clock just turned 2:00 a.m..

I set here curled up on the sofa, watching Bridget Jones's Diary with my daughter, waiting for a pie to come out of the oven.

I am only running about twelve hours behind.

John Lennon said life is what happens while you're busy making other plans.

Well, for me, life is what happened while I was making Thanksgiving plans.

Nothing went right today.

I won't bore you with the all the details.

But all is well after one trip to the emergency care clinic, two hours spent in traffic, and four trips to the nearby Walmart Neighborhood Market ... only two of those for food.

I had such high hopes.

I planned my menu in advance. I read through all my recipes and drove to several different grocery stores earlier in the week, just to get all the right ingredients.

I was making everything from scratch and we were going to have the hap, happiest Thanksgiving since Bing Crosby danced with ... well, you know the movie quote.

That was mistake number one, Over Ambition, one of the seven disastrous sins of the holidays, it'll bite you every time.

Mistake number two was refusing to accept that I was in the weeds and move on to plan B.

Mistake number three was the most abnormal looking pecan pie you have ever laid eyes on. More on that in a minute.

It all began with my son, who's a bit of a neurotic, like myself. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. He's been watching food documentaries lately: Food Inc., King Corn, Fast Food Nation ... and well, he refuses to eat anything with corn syrup, saturated fat, Yellow number 5, pesticides, hormones, or preservatives in it. Which pretty much cancels out everything except Kashi cereal and dried beans. And that doesn't make a very good Thanksgiving dinner. So this year I set out to make everything from scratch: homemade pickles, homemade chicken stock for the dressing and gravy, homemade rolls, and that most dreadful and difficult of culinary tasks, homemade pies.

Pies are hard.

Me and pie don't get along.

And it just so happens that my husbands favorite Thanksgiving dessert is Pecan Pie. And the poor guy went to bed tonight with me cursing in the kitchen, trying to bake a pecan pie. I felt like that furnace cursing dad in A Christmas Story. Tonight there is a cloud of obscenity hovering over my house, all in the name of pie.

And well, to make a long story longer, after two different tries, and a huge mess in my tiny apartment kitchen, I admitted defeat. I could not bake a pecan pie.

What to do? Tomorrow is Thanksgiving! My husband has to have his pie.

Lucky for me, he is not a picky eater and will eat any pie.

So with no makeup on and flour all over my brown suede house shoes, dazed and delirious, just before midnight, I grabbed my daughter, slipped into a coat and snuck out the door while hubby was sleeping and traipsed into a nearby Walmart Neighborhood Market and bought a bleeping Pecan Pie.

It was surreal. Like a scene from a movie. My daughter, myself, and a band of Mexicans oblivious to the holiday, strolling the lucent isles of the deserted Walmart just before midnight on Thanksgiving.We had a blast. There was something bracing and invigorating about the cold night air mixed with the fluorescent glow of Walmart that seemed to wash my worries away. Our serendipitous jaunt made it a Thanksgiving we'll never forget.

It is getting late now.

And I just took the pumpkin pie out of the oven and it looks pretty good.

Such a relief.

Must get some rest for the big day.

I never thought I would be saying this, but I am thankful for Walmart that stays open all night.

Happy Thanksgiving All!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Getting Small

Remember that Steve Martin comedy routine from the seventies, Let's Get Small?

Well, I thought of this today as I was cleaning out my closet, ridding myself of old clothes and getting organized.

To understand where I am going with this, you must first understand where I am coming from.

About a year ago my husband lost his job due to a corporate restructure.

And after we recovered from the initial shock, something strange came over us, we began to look at it as an opportunity.

Both our kids were in college and we were ready to downsize.

So in a matter of weeks we sold our home and half its furnishings and cleaned out the attic and had a giant garage sale.

We only kept those things of greatest necessity and extreme sentimental value. Everything else was out the door. Riding lawnmower - no longer needed. My daughter's Little Tikes dollhouse - sold. A couple of rusty bicycles - gone. Those afghans Grandma crocheted back in 1970 - I think those went to Goodwill.

Downsizing forces one to edit.
We no longer have space for that formal dining room table or a ten foot Christmas tree. Also, my closet space is one-third what it used to be.

But I don't mind.
What I lost in counter tops and closet space, I gained in free time.
Oh, I do get busy sometimes and let things pile up.
So once in a while I purge.
I go through closets and drawers and clean like mad.
And when I experience a Feng Shui attack, watch out. My husband will never forgive me for tossing out that Sports Illustrated Kids magazine with the Tiger Woods card in it.

Today everything in my life is smaller than it used to be - from my home, to my wardrobe, and even my spice drawer - well, except maybe not my spice drawer.
I think getting small, or downsizing, is a good thing. It simplifies life.

In the news we hear that retail shops are not doing so well.
As a society, I don't think we've stopped shopping and spending just because of the current economic crisis. I think we are craving a less hectic, less materialistic lifestyle. We want to enjoy the important things in life like food and family.
Wouldn't it be great if let's get small could become the new slogan?

Steve was on to something.

In honor of Steve and the seventies, and because I was craving it, I made a modern day version of Rotel Dip - without the Velveeta.

I am all for living a simpler lifestyle, but I am not ready to go back to eating that stuff again.

Rotel Dip (Without the Velveeta)

1. Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a heavy saucepan.

2. Add 1 diced onion, 1 chopped jalapeno pepper, and 1 chopped poblano pepper and cook until softened for about 5 minutes. Add a pinch of Ancho Chili Powder, a pinch of Cumin, and also a pinch of salt if you like.

3. Add 3 cloves chopped garlic and cook for another minute.

4. Next add 2 Tablespoons flour to pan and stir around and cook for a minute.

5. Then add 1 cup of milk, and cook until mixture thickens, about 4 minutes. Then plop in 1/2 cup chopped cilantro.

6. Now add whatever 16 ounces of shredded cheese you prefer. Monterey Jack is excellent! But a mixture of Monterey Jack and Cheddar is good too! Remember to add shredded cheese a little at a time - patience grasshopper - you want a smooth dip.

8. Lastly, add 1 can Rotel. Stir on low heat until mixture is melted, smooth and creamy.

Note: I used original Mild Rotel - so I added the jalapeno for a little extra heat - and this still wasn't too hot for me. So if you prefer a spicier dip, you could always use Hot Rotel tomatoes - or add more jalapenos instead.