“Severe Weather Alerts”- Who Has Time For THAT???!!!

Every year we hear these dramatic predictions.  Accuweather.com is talking about 18-24 inches of snow, with the “possibility of a blizzard”.  Some people are even talking in terms of the “great blizzard of ’78”.  Grumpy claims it’s going to be a whole lot about nothing again.  Who knows?

In the meantime, we prepare.  These storm predictions are the “black Friday”  of grocery stores.  All over New England, people scamper off to fill their home with food, water, candles and batteries “just in case”.

I know we could survive for  weeks on what we already have here.  Months, even.  But… I am leaving early tomorrow morning for a 12 hour work shift.  I know they’ll be fine, but, I still feel  like I need to make sure that the kids and Grumpy are fine in my absence.  So I went, like a lemming, to prepare. 

We have a huge, shiny new store in the next town over.  market basketIt was packed.  About 4,000 people pushing carriages all over the store.  I had no idea what to buy.  I just wandered up and down the aisles.  Usually behind old people.  I mean “tales from the crypt” old.  I could hear the clock ticking my life away.  I had to get something and get out.  Then, I got this great idea to roast a turkey.  It would stay fresh for them over the weekend, right?  If we lose power, they can always store it in the porch back-up refrigeration room.  Lucky for me- they had 2 fresh turkeys left.  It was 2pm, but if I hurried home I could get it into the oven and done by about 5:30; in time for dinner.  Perfect!

Well, by the time I got home it was 2:30.  Maybe if I cook it unstuffed it will be done in time. Then, there were dirty dishes in the dishwasher.  Can’t rinse a turkey with dishes there- so I had to put them into the dishwasher…which was, of course, filled with clean dishes.  So, putting away the dishes when the phone rang.  Run to my desk- it’s a robo-call from the school superintendent announcing that school is cancelled for tomorrow.  As soon as I answered the phone, though, I forgot what I was doing.  I started checking out Facebook.  And email…OMG! It’s almost 4 o’clock!  Back to the dishwasher.  Finished unloading, then reloading.  Chopping the onions, carrots, celery to put under the turkey in the roaster.  Finally got that bird washed, seasoned (no time to brine it) and into that oven.  At 4:49pm.

So now- I just have to make the stuffing, because what’s a turkey without stuffing? Oh- and I have to figure out what to do for dinner.  Because that bird isn’t going to be done for a long time.  Seriously- who has time for this???

When Your List Says Salad, But You Only Hear Sangria

Plato must have seen me coming when he said “Necessity, who is the mother of invention”.  So many good things have come from the need to think outside the box.

The lettuce is coming up with those tiny, tender leaves.  They deserve a dressing that’s light and mild.  Instead of thinking of what to make, I thought I’d check the grocery store.  I don’t know why- just didn’t have my thinking cap on I guess.

The blond daughter also had errands, so we set out together for a little mother-daughter retail therapy.  After 2 shoe stores, one comic book and a fro-yo snack, we got to the salad dressing stop.  Or close- we were probably an aisle away when she saw marshmallows.   This led to chocolate bars and calling her twin friend (daughter of my friend Sue) and inviting ourselves over for a firepit and smores night (kind of a firepit and sangria night for Sue and me).  This also reminded me that we were almost out of wine.   So we filled the cart with wine, marshmallows and chocolate.  Then we went home.  Completely forgot about salad.  Completely forgot about dinner until I walked into the kitchen and saw the nekkid lettuce.

Then,  I thought “why didn’t I just make dressing?”.  Duh.  Only the dressing I now wanted to make was creamy chive.  They served one that I loved years ago at Seaside Restaurant in Boston.  The chef gave me the recipe, and of course I never wrote it down.  I remembered that it had Bermuda onions and lemons.  Neither of which were in my kitchen.  So I put on my thinking cap (a little late, I realize) and worked with what I had.

I now have a new favorite.  It’s so light, just perfect for summer salads.

Ingredients:

6-8oz plain  Greek yogurt (whatever size you find)

1/2 cup mayonnaise

juice of 4 key limes (you could probably use lemons or plain limes here, but this is what was in our kitchen here in Mayberry)

1/2 tsp onion powder (I had no fresh onions, and gave it a try. I was skeptical too, but it was perfect)

4 Tblsp chopped fresh chives

pinch each of pepper and salt

milk- just enough to thin to pourable state (I used about 3 Tblsp).

I put it all into a quart sized jar and whipped it up with a stick blender.  I love how it just fits right in and doesn’t make a splatter.

A light, creamy chive dressing with a hint of lime.  Bring on the summer salads!

The Shopping Games

I had the day planned so carefully.  Take the early train to North Station.  Spend half hour prowling the stalls, chatting up the vendors, spotting the deals.  Then work 5 hours, leave at 2, stop at bank for ready cash.  Return to Hay Market and spend another 30-40 minutes comparing, returning to favorite vendors.  Wait for the old man by the hotel to go on break- he sneaks old peas into your bag instead of the sweet fresh ones.  Try to negotiate  with the nice woman who only speaks Cambodian.

Then, it all went south.  How many patients can they cram into a 5 hour shift? Yesterday there were three.  Today, eleven.  Two of them had twins, so technically that makes thirteen.  Unlucky 13.  Several new patients, some with little or no ability to speak English.  Filling out paperwork, log books, completing reports in THREE of our five computer systems (yes, the bureaucracy in hospitals is that stupid).  I finally left work at 3:15.

Do I even have time for the Hay Market? Grab a quick subway to the station.  It’s 3:35.  The train leaves at 4pm.  Sharp. You’d better be on it.  No time for the bank.  Quick check of the wallet reveals $8.  It will have to be enough.  I want green beans.  The kids like them, but it has to be a bargain.  Rules of the game.  I have $8, ten minutes, and no wiggle room for either.

The score:  First stop- by the hotel.  The old man is there: fail.  Next stop- the nice Brazilian guy.  Has nice baby eggplants.  $1 per pound.  They’re really nice, though.  Offers to throw in yellow squash at 2lbs for $1. For that ratatouille that my kids love.  OMG- he knows what my kids like. How could I say no?  Calling it a win.  While I’m talking,  notice the guy at the next stall has nice corn, 4 ears for $1. Score!  Then I go back to hotel.  Old man isn’t around.  Ask young guy for artichokes.  2 for $1, I’ll take 4.  Then, that old buzzard pops up his head and hands me a bag.  I really can’t stand him.  I just know, when I get home, that they’ll be rotten inside.  Ugh! I really want to take them out and inspect them.  How much of a jerk do I want to be?  What to do? No time to argue.  Not sure here- but I think I’m batting .50 again.  Last stop- nice Cambodian lady.  Beautiful green beans.  But still $1.50 a pound.  Ugh! I ask her if I can have 3lbs for $3. No go.  Maybe 2.5 pounds for $3? Nope.  I give up.  “You know what?”  I say.  “You are always fair to me, and your stuff is good.  I give up. I’ll take 2 pounds”.  She carefully weighs out 2 pounds.  Then, she looks at me, winks and smiles, and throws another 1/2 pound of green beans in the bag.   I just love her.  I love the the Hay Market, the vendors, and this city.  I’m filled with love.

Back at North Station.  I lug my bounty, arms heavy, half running, and charge up the steps towards the train.  It’s 3:50.  I made it!  Oops!  The train doesn’t really leave until 4:40pm.  I’m an idiot.  Really.  This is so typical.  You know what?  I don’t care.  I’m still feeling the love.  And I have time to read.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…I try once again to interest the kids in corn-on-the-cob.  Nope.  It’s not even June, and they are bored with fresh corn.  Really!  Who are these kids anyway?  You know what they want instead?  Green BeansCan’t get enough of them.  They are stealing and eating them raw.  Like they’re candy.  Thank you, nice lady.  My kids are hoping that you and I spend a lot more Fridays haggling over those beans.   I can’t wait!

TGIF in Boston: aka Haymarket Day!

I do not work after 3pm on Fridays.  It’s my favorite time of the week.  Haymarket time.  Shopping.  Sigh.  When asked if I like shopping, the answer is always “of course”.  I love competitive shopping.  It should be an Olympic sport.  Thanks to the coupon wizards, this may someday happen.  But that’s not the kind of shopping I like.  In fact, I’m fairly certain that I don’t like most shopping.  Shopping at any mall on December 24th?  They’d better be offering free cocktails at every store.  A day of clothes shopping with my teens?  I’d rather stick a fork in my eye.  But an afternoon at the Haymarket?  Now that’s my kind of shopping! 

The Haymarket is on Blackstone Street and runs from North Street (at the south end, naturally) to Hanover Street at the north.  These streets were among the first laid in the original settlement of Boston.  There are a few shops that are open during the week.  There is a halal butcher, a shop that sells remarkably bad pizza, and Durty Nelly’s (a great little pub with some good food and amazing views from the upstairs room). Most of the week, it’s fairly peaceful.   Starting on Thursday evening, though the place really comes alive.  The vendors arrive late in the evening, setting up tented stalls and stacking up the first crates of produce (there are a couple of fish vendors, but mostly it’s about the produce).  The produce is from the warehouses in Chelsea that all the markets buy from.  They clear out the places at the end of the week, selling cheaply to the vendors who can then sell at below market prices.  Their are some unusual items; the selection is usually better than the average market.   The produce might be ripe, almost ripe or over-ripe.  I’ve been lucky; the quality and flavor is usually better than what I get from the big store.  I’ve heard some tales of woe; fruit that looks great on the outside, but inside is totally rotten (I call this “Ursula fruit”; ;like from Ursula in The Little Mermaid).  You have to proceed with caution and know your produce!

Being prepared is also important. Fortunately,  the  local markets advertise their sale items before Friday.  I’m aware, for example, that I can buy (fragile) grapes for $.99 and strawberries for $1.50 this week.  Since I’m carrying my purchases (I commute by train) they need to be not TOO heavy or fragile.  The menu at home will not dictate my purchases, it’s the other way around.  I usually spend about $15-20, and buy just a bit more than I can comfortably carry.  Within about 2 blocks it has become way more than I can carry.  By the time I lug it onto the train my wrists are numb, my arms are shaking and I’m glowing (as in “horses sweat, men perspire and ladies…”). You will never convince me that it’s not a physical sport!  Our menu on the weekend is always more interesting and vegetable based for my efforts.  This week was a version of middle child (Avery)’s favorite: Roasted Ratatouille.

Ratatouille always includes eggplant, zucchini, onions, garlic and tomato.  Depending on what’s in the pantry, it may also include mushrooms, olives or other vegetables. I start by chopping everything (except tomatoes) into about a 1 inch cube.  Some people go through a big salt/press thing with their eggplant to remove “bitterness”.  I’ve tried and it makes no difference; so it gets only a rough chop  like all the veggies.  Then, I toss the chopped veg into a large roasting pan with olive oil, sea salt and a generous helping of ground pepper. This all gets roasted in a 400f (204c) oven for about an hour. At this point it’s a bit caramelized and the veggies are soft.  Now I stir in a 15oz can of diced tomatoes, or if I have them about 2 cups of diced fresh. Then I cover lightly with grated cheese.  This week the fridge gods offered up some nice Gruyere and mozzarella.  It goes back into the oven, at 450f (232c) for about 30 minutes.  The end result is an amazing casserole filled with lush veggies and melted cheese.  My middle (vegetarian) child is happy,  my young boy (devout carnivore) even likes it.  I’ve also served it as a side for holidays.  On Easter it was actually the only dish that we ran out of.  Enjoy!