Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dinner Party

Last night, a group of my husband's co-workers (including his new boss, who was in town from Atlanta) came over for dinner.  There were seven of us in all, and I made enough food to feed at least 20 people.  Oh well, I'd rather have too much than too little.

I didn't take pictures of anything; I was a bit too busy for that.  The menu included:
  • Flatbread pizzas; one with a fresh tomato, sun-dried tomato, pepper bacon, fresh mozzarella, and basil topping... and one with a caramelized onion, gorgonzola, bacon and honey topping.
  • Lasagna made with ground turkey, spinach and large portabella mushrooms (half had mushrooms)
  • Cream-sauce pasta with onions, garlic, shallots, chicken, baby portabellas and marsala wine
  • Italian salad with romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, jumbo black olives, red onion slices and peppercorncini
  • Rosemary and olive oil breadsticks
  • Homemade tiramisu
The tiramisu is something that I recently discovered to be very easy to make and incredibly delicious.  I could not, for the life of me, find ladyfingers at any local grocery store, so I substituted frozen pound cake; you can't tell the difference!  I'll post the recipe here and will try and remember to take a picture the next time I make it.

  • 8 oz. tub of marscapone cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of amaretto liquor
  • 3/4 cup of strong espresso or very strong coffee
  • 1 Sara Lee (or comparable brand) frozen pound cake
  • 1 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder
  1. Start by taking the frozen pound cake and slicing it into 1/4" slices.  Set these slices aside and allow the cake to thaw
  2. In medium-sized bowl, combine the marscapone cheese, sugar and amaretto and beat on medium speed until creamy and thoroughly combined
  3. In a separate medium-sized bowl, whip the cup of heavy whipping cream on high speed until stiff peaks form; this will take about 3 minutes
  4. Gently fold the cheese/sugar/amaretto mixture into the whipped cream
  5. In an 8" x 8" glass baking dish, pour the espresso (coffee) and quickly dip each slice of pound cake into the coffee mixture, flipping over so both sides absorb the liquid
  6. Once all the coffee is absorbed, place a layer of pound cake slices in the bottom of the baking dish (you might have to "squish" some of the pieces and cut a few in half to make them fit evenly in the dish) and top with 1/2 of the whipped cream/cheese mixture
  7. Place another layer of pound cake slices and top with the remaining half of the cream/cheese mixture
  8. Dust with unsweetened cocoa powder - I use a mesh tea strainer to do this; simply put a teaspoon of cocoa in the tea strainer and tap the strainer over the top of the cheesecake - voila!  a light, even dusting of cocoa powder!
  9. Cover with foil and refrigerate until you're ready to serve

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Chicken Tikka Masala

Last Saturday, I took a break from the Thai curries, and decided to make an Indian curry; Chicken Tikka Masala.  There are numerous variations of this recipe, but I wanted to make one that (I thought) the whole family would like.

It turned out to be a bit too spicy for the wee ones, but Jesse and I really liked it.  This recipe serves 6-8


  • 1 lb. chicken breasts (either 3 or 4 breasts)
  • 1/4 Teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 Teaspoon ground coriander seeds
  • 1/2 cup plain, lowfat or non-fat yogurt
  • 1 large yellow/sweet onion, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
  • 32 oz. Hunts(TM) Petite Diced tomatoes
  • 3 Tablespoons Garam Masala
  • 1 Teaspoon Thai chili powder
  • 2 Tablespoons canned (and drained) green chiles
  • 1/4 Teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream (at room temperature)
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 cups Basmati rice
  • 1 Tablespoon Tumeric
  • 1 bag (12 oz.) frozen peas
  • 4 Tablespoons salted sweet cream butter
  1. Season the chicken breasts with ground cumin, ground coriander, and salt
  2. Coat each chicken breast with plain yogurt
  3. Grill over medium heat until cooked through - about 10 minutes
  4. Remove from heat, and let sit for 5 minutes
  5. Dice cooked chicken into 1" pieces, and set aside
  1. Melt 2 Tablespoons of salted sweet cream butter in a medium-sized skillet
  2. Add the diced onions, and saute until golden (about 5 minutes)
  3. Add the minced garlic and grated ginger, as well as 1/2 Teaspoon of salt to the onions and saute 2 minutes
  4. Add 3 Tablespoons of Garam Masala spice and 1 Teaspoon Thai chili powder to the saute pan, as well as 2 Tablespoons canned (drained) green chiles.  Stir to coat ingredients with Garam Masala
  5. Next, add the petite diced tomatoes and their juices (remove any pieces of tomato that look green/yellow, and discard), and 1/4 Teaspoon white sugar.  Stir to mix ingredients.
  6. Simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally
  7. Right before serving, add 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream, diced chicken breast, and 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro to the pan.  Stir to combine.
  8. Serve over rice
  1. Place 2 cups Basmati rice, 1 Tablespoon Tumeric, 4 Tablespoons salted sweet cream butter and 4 cups of water in a rice cooker.  Set to cook and walk away.
  2. When rice finishes cooking, open rice cooker and add the frozen green peas, stirring to combine and heat peas.  Let sit 3 minutes until peas are cooked through.
Spoon rice onto each plate, top with curry/chicken mixture and enjoy!

We served this with fresh vegetarian spring rolls and some garlic Indian Naan bread.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Most women get to choose one or the other: Stay-At-Home Mom or Career Mom.  I get to do both this summer.

For the past several years, the children (my step-kids, age 15, 12 and 10) have gone to their biological mom's house during summer days.  Their dad would drop them off in the morning on his way to work and pick them up on his way home from work.  This was done for a few reasons:
  1. He was, at one time, a single dad who didn't have daycare.
  2. The biological mom (a.k.a. bio-mom, "BM", or "Momster") is a true stay-at-home mom. She doesn't have a job and therefore can devote her time to the children.
  3. The BM has a community pool in her neighborhood, and the children enjoy spending their summer days at the pool.
This year, however, is different.  The first day of my husband's custodial week during summer vacation, the Momster mentioned to him that the children wish to spend their summer days at our house.  I'm not exactly sure why this change took place - last year, the kids had no interest in staying here - mostly because there are no other kids their age in the neighborhood, we don't have a pool, and I work from home (which means they need to remain relatively quiet during the day).

My oldest step-son was upset at the prospect of staying here.  He wanted to stay at his mom's house (we suspect this was so he could play World of Warcraft on the computer - a game he does not have at our home).  My step-daughter and youngest step-son were all for staying at our house, thinking they were getting out of a summer of cleaning and general responsibility.

When my husband mentioned this change to me, I wasn't too pleased.  First of all, the Momster made such a huge deal last year about the children staying at her home, and said she was advocating on the children's behalf by requesting they stay with her - why is this year all of a sudden different?  Second, I work from home, which means I require a level of concentration and devotion to my job, in order to help provide food, clothing, and basic necessities for this family - I know these kids, and I know their (lack of) ability to "keep quiet".  Third, what would they do all day - I explained that I was concerned about sleepovers and other kids being here and how it would be a disruption to my day.  Fourth, having to pay for daily lunches for the kids will impact my budget, as I currently do the grocery shopping for our family.

I mentioned all these concerns to my husband, and was assured that they would all be addressed.  The kids would be reminded to keep quiet during my work/office hours, they would be in charge of cleaning up their own messes, and they would not be allowed to have friends over during the week with the exception of special occasions when my husband can be home to maintain a level of order.

There - my concerns were addressed and things should work out fine.

Except... during the first week of the kids being home: I was interrupted several times (and have since reminded them that they need to knock before entering any closed door in our home); no messes were cleaned up (on Friday there were wet towels on the floor, food was all over the counter and two kids were sitting on our leather couch in wet swim trunks for a good part of the afternoon); no "be quiet" rules were followed (I had a horde of screaming, water-fighting kids right outside my office window for a good part of Friday's work-day); and the "no friends over" policy lasted all of 12 hours - three kids spent the night during my first week home with my step-kids.

To say I've been frustrated is a severe understatement.  I'm not frustrated with the children; they are doing what they're allowed to do... break rules, disregard what I say/request, and have a fantastic fun summer break.  I am, however, very frustrated with their dad, who it seems has allowed all of this to happen (at no consequence to him, I might add).  He does not have to stay home with them and attempt to get work done; he does not have to listen to them fight and argue all day; and best of all, he gets to lessen his interaction with his former wife because he no longer needs to drop off and pick up the children on a daily basis.  It all works out great for him.

When I've voiced my frustration to him this week, and said "I'm concerned about how this was all communicated to me and how it's turned out this week," his response was, "Well, I guess I'm not that cool."


It certainly doesn't rectify my concerns or help me feel more like we're a team.

Ok, so I understand that all of this stems from me being a step-mom and not a bio-mom to these kids.  However, even if I were their bio-mom, I doubt it would be considered ideal to have 3 rambunctious kids (AND their friends) in my work environment every day.

I have repeatedly quoted Frank Costanza this week: "Serenity NOW!"

I know (hope) it will get better, and that this frustration is just a part of me adjusting to my new routine and new responsibility.  But let me tell you, the thought of running away (or at the minimum, getting in the car and driving in any one direction for a very very long time) has been very appealing!