Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dinner's Ready!

I was asked to make dinner for a friend who just had a baby. This is what I made

Hungarian Beef Goulash
serves 6-8

3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2 " cubes
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
4 ounces sliced bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
2 medium large onions, chopped coarse (about 2 cups)
1 medium red pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tblsp sweet paprika
3 tblsp flour
1 cup white wine
2 cup chicken stock or low sodium broth
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
4 large carrots, peeled & sliced 1/4 " thick
1/4 cup minced parsley
½ cup sour cream

1. Plan to make enough stew for friend's family and yours.
2. Defrost 4 lbs of chuck and realize that it's too much for one family but not enough for two. Convince yourself that friend's family is not as big and so 4 lbs will do. Cut into small pieces so as to make stew seem like it has lots of meat.
3. Realize that there are other ingredients missing. Hope friend won't notice.
4. Brown bacon, onions and beef separately while wondering why recipe is so fussy as to require browning everything by itself. Make comparison to children who don't like it when a sibling touches them.
5. Decide to use crock pot instead of oven because you just know better, that's all!
6. Use special sweet paprika that parents brought back from Budapest. Not having enough, supplement with paprika purchased at dollar store. Wonder if the two will cancel each other out.
7. Throw everything else into crock pot and hope nobody messes with it while you go see movie with husband.
8. Enjoy afternoon out with husband only to come home and realize that stew boiled down to dry meat. Praise God that the babysitter knew enough to turn off the crock pot before things really got charred. Wonder why you don't pay her more.
9. Fret and worry over what to do since it's getting late, the stew is ruined, your own dinner is still not made and the children are fussy.
10. Resolve to resurrect stew with more paprika, Goya tomato sauce (a little Mexican/Hungarian fusion cuisine) and water. Make children scrambled eggs for dinner.
11. Bring stew to friend at church and pray that they like it.
12. Be utterly surprised when they ask for the recipe.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sad but True

My husband is a wonderful man. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. But (and you knew this was coming, didn't you?) a few days ago he brought me a McDonald's Monopoly game card. Now I'm hooked. I'm addicted. I'm convinced that despite what God has blessed me with, I'm going to win $1,000,000 by eating one more cheeseburger.
(I've got an extra Park Place, States Avenue, and Pennsylvania Railroad if anyone wants them. I'm also not using my 20% off Footlocker coupon either.)

Road Trip

This is one of those "What I Did During My Summer Vacation" blogs or "How to Survive a Road Trip with Small Children." Don't get me wrong, I like road trips. I'm not one to complain about being stuck in a minivan with five small children for two days straight. No really, I'm not. Done right, road trips are a great way to spend time together (that was not sarcasm) and see a little of our wonderful country. I figure with a good attitude and enough junk food, road trips can be lots of fun. Here are some of my tips.

Don't bite off more than you can chew.
We live in Rhode Island and our trip was to see my dear brother and his family in North Carolina. It’s a 12-hour trip. Factoring in potty breaks, food breaks and pulling over to make good on the threat "If I have to pull over...." it’s really a 24-hour trip. So we decided to break up the traveling over two days. We picked a point six hours away. Anymore than that with little ones and you're just asking for a mutiny. My children are wonderful but anyone will get ugly after driving for six hours.

The dollar store is my new best friend. We buy little toys and trinkets to give the kids every few hours or so. They get a new toy or activity book, we only spent a buck and if it gets lost, it's not a big deal. We also pack junk food that we don't normally have at home. Used judiciously, you'd be surprised how much good behavior can be extracted from a bag of M&M's. And I haven't even mentioned how well the kids responded to it! To keep the nausea and sugars highs to a minimum, I also pack beef jerky and peanuts. A word of warning: do not have a large ice coffee and then get lost somewhere with no bathrooms.

Have a sense of humor.
Some times things don't work out the way you had planned. We planned to stay at a suite hotel or getting two rooms. Instead, all seven of us ended up sleeping in the same room with the hubby and I on what is possibly the squeakiest bed on earth. Sufficed to say, not much sleep was had that night. Then there was stopping in Lebanon, New Jersey, which, for some reason, does not have a public restroom anywhere. We asked in every store/restaurant/cafe with the kids giving their best puppy dog eyes. No one would let us use the restrooms. They said they didn't have any. I guess people in Lebanon, NJ don't have to piddle. Either that or they go to Pennsylvania. So our choice is to fuss about it or have some fun making Lebanon, NJ the butt of every joke from here on out. Did you hear the one about how people in Lebanon......

There's also some funny stuff to be seen out there. For example: a bill board that advertised a Botox Bonus Card (get seven injections of this toxic stuff and get the eighth free!), Dietrich's Meat Market (no word of lie, on their sign "We Custom Slaughter! Campers Welcomed!"), a trucking company called Navajo with a photo of a pale-skinned, blue-eyed Native American on the side of the truck cab. We told some of our friends about what we saw but they didn't seem to think it was that funny. Perhaps it was because they weren't sleep deprived and hopped up on beef jerky.

Be flexible.
Passing a farm in Pennsylvania, we saw one of those huge 12-foot satellite dishes with a full figure painting of Jesus on it. Of course that got us pondering some theological questions such as: Does having Jesus on your dish bless what you watch? Was there a limit to that? Did Jesus on your satellite dish prevent adult movies from getting through or does it just absolve you of the guilt associated with watching smut? The point is our children were flexible and very patient as mom and dad drove back and forth down the same stretch of highway trying to get a picture of this. However, in an effort to make it to my brother's before dinner we had to pass up such enticing stops as the Sheep Skin Store, the Furnace Museum and the J. Priestly Museum (who would have thought you could find a museum dedicated to the wonder that is Jason Priestly?)

On the way back we opted for the scenic route and took the Blue Ridge Parkway. Now when people make reference to "God's country," I know what they mean. Beautiful and scenic are understatements and I'm glad we took that route. However, going forty miles an hour would have meant returning to Rhode Island next year. So to limit our day to six hours, we decided to get off the parkway and take Route 43 back to the interstate. I should have known things would be hairy when the sign before Route 43 said, "You must be this tall to go on this ride." I've never seen so many steep twists and turns in a road in my life. If the Blue Ridge Parkway was God's Country, then Route 43 was the twisty little road to hell if you sinned.

Oh yeah, about the visit.....
We spent a lovely four days with the in-laws doing fun stuff. We took the kids swimming and my 15-month old son, known affectionately as Captain Chaos, proceeded to walk into the water like he was Mark Spitz. Going under a few times still did not cure him of this delusion. I got to ride a Segway scooter at the local science museum. An aside here: Christmas is coming and Segways are a great gift idea for busy moms you know and love! We also attended a church potluck. You have not eaten until you've gone to a southern church potluck. Can I get an Amen? My brother and his family were gracious hosts despite the fact that just before leaving, Captain Chaos knocked the hamster and his cage off the table. There were wood shavings everywhere with poor Mr. Hamster face down on the carpet. We spent a few tense moments staring at the hamster's butt looking for signs of life, but thankfully, all was well and we were able to depart with a clear conscience. Thank you guys, it was lovely.