A Shiksa on a Mission

Balaboosta (n.)(bah-lah-b00-sta) A Yiddish term meaning the perfect housewife
I'm a shiksa on a mission...
It may not be perfection but it's the journey that counts

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Salad Days

Here's another thing I made. Same sunny day. Same friends and bbq. Add a hankering for couscous. Israeli couscous, to be exact.

I have no idea why but I saw a recipe on Closet Cooking that I really wanted but it called for quinoa and I was in the mood for couscous. Both are fun to say so I figured the salad would be just as tasty (Flogic is contagious).
The onions became shallots because I had them. And I really love shallots. But really because I already had them.
The white beans almost became garbanzo beans but I stuck with white beans. I think either could work. I might have to try it next time.
Bacon stayed bacon (sorry, Vegetarians of the World, but you could leave out or substitute with the fake stuff). This bacon is actually pepper crusted and applewood smoked. It's delicious.
The beer has nothing to do with the recipe but I was so happy that Reg bought it for us and it was a good beverage to enjoy while cooking. Feel free to consume any beverage you want with this recipe. I do, however, recommend Stone since it's one of the bestest beers out there. Sorry, Portland, but I speak the truth.
Blue cheese became ricotta salata. I don't know why. I kind of felt like blue cheese would overwhelm. But I think the ricotta salata was underwhelming (I think it just wasn't good enough cheese). It wasn't bad. I just like ricotta salata because it's a super salty cheese. This one was not. Next time I'm doing feta. Count on it.

Spinach and mushrooms remained the same.

Bacon first and then carmelizing the shallots and mushrooms. Again, the smell. Just spectacular.
Deglazed the pan with red wine vinegar, dijon and garlic. Then it's beans and spinach until it wilts.
And then everything is mixed together with salt and pepper. And eaten in copious amounts.

Pineapple Express

The combination of a sunny day, a friend's bbq and time to bake yielded this beauty of a tart. A Vanilla Pineapple Tart, to be exact.
It didn't hurt that pineapple was on sale. Double bonus that the pineapple was perfectly ripe, sweet and delicious.
It sliced up easily and I had to taste a few for good measure.

As the pineapple simmered with the sugar and vanilla, the entire kitchen began to smell like a tropical paradise. I could live there.

Made up some pie crust.

Put my hard earned muscles into it.

Here's where I started to fade in my Martha-hood. She makes a perfect lattice top and then freezes it. I felt no need to do that. Instead I made the lattice top and froze the whole tart for about 30 minutes.
Baked to sweet, gooey, crusty perfection.

This may be one of my favorite desserts. I have a feeling it will be making more than one appearance this summer. I would love to try it with some coconut ice cream or some kind of fancy whipped cream concoction. The kids were a little upset that the adults ate the entire tart and left them with only cookies and ice cream. Oh, the HUMANITY! But I'm feeling a tad guilty about it (several days later--it takes a while for guilt to really penetrate the skin) so I think I'll make it for my mom when she's here and actually let the kids eat it. I mean, theoretically I'm going to do that.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Survival of the Fittest

So we survived. . . .Good thing because the Man from Mars has quite an unusual appetite. And what do we really have left when he eats up all the cars and bars and guitars? Hell on Earth.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I know that I make fun of Flannery's fashion "sense" a great deal. And, yes, I realize that referring to it as "sense" with the quotations is continuing that trend. I'll even kind of cop to knowing that I may be somewhat indirectly responsible for at least a part of it. Maybe. Okay, so I can be a bit of a rhinestone cowgirl. And I might have a pair of gold glitter shoes that I'm convinced were made by some drag queen somewhere. But I think Flannery has me beat hands down.

And here's my proof.

The other morning while I was taking a shower, Flannery decided to pick out my clothes for the day. Unbeknownst to me. It, of course, was a very sweet gesture but it left me pretty speechless which, as you know, is hard to do.

Behold. The Outfit.
A navy blue with turquoise diamonds sheer top.
A black and white flowered linen skirt.

Purple platform loafers.

Red and gray star knee socks.

A hot pink silk scarf.

A vintage green and white embroidered sweater.

And the entire ensemble in all its glory.

How do I make her understand that although they are all my clothes, if I wear them together as she has planned that I will spend the whole day explaining that I did not unexpectedly go off of my Lithium and, no, I won't be needing a ride to the free clinic?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Happiness in a Jalapeno

Okay, so life has been less than peachy keen in these parts what with the disappearing wallet, concussed boy and my recent decision to wrap my left hand around a burning hot skillet handle. All bad things. But no more. It's a new day. I have a new driver's license which, to look on the bright side, has my correct hair color on it. Well, at least for now.

And what better way to seize the day by the proverbial horns than to make something out of raw materials. I have peppers and I love pepper jelly but I have yet to make a successful batch. Luckily the "mistakes" are delicious too, they just lack something I've been aiming to achieve. Mainly I want to make the jalapeno jelly that my mom's friend gives to her for Christmas every year. I know. I know. Just ask, right? Wrong. He won't share. He doesn't play nice with others. And also he sells the jam so I kind of get it. I guess.

I'm feeling pretty positive about this batch. And if it doesn't work, I have to admit that the act of cooking simply makes me feel better. I know many people try to avoid it but I love to roll up my sleeves and play with food. Plus, making jelly and jam always reminds me of watching my grandmother in her kitchen. And then I'm smiling.

With today's rare sun, the burst of green from the peppers to the trees and a chance to make something to share with my friends, I feel like I'm on the right track.

Monday, May 16, 2011

New Chicks on the Block

We lost two but we gained three.
I'd like to introduce the newest members to our family.

Olive Oil who is a Naked Neck. Yes, her neck will remain nekkid. She looks very much like a tiny ostrich. She's mine and I adore her. It's funny but the lady at the farm store said that boys pick these birds more than girls. Emerson picked her although she became my favorite immediately.
Betsy Black who is called Ms. Black. She's a Cuckoo Maran and will eventually lay chocolate brown eggs. I wanted her since the variety of eggs is so great. She's very mellow and can be handled way more than the other ladies.
Princess Buttercup is a Sicilian Buttercup and she's adorable with her cute little mask. Flannery named her after the Princess Bride.

We're very excited to have them on board at the Five Cent Farm. We'll definitely keep you all updated!

Karma's Chameleon

I've never been a particularly religious person but I'm thinking I'll spend this week in confession, fasting and possibly create a shrine or two for good measure. I'm feeling a little like Karma's Plaything. I know that bad luck is simply bad luck but DAMN I'm feeling the downward spiral starting to strangle me. Not pleasant. Was I getting cocky, Fate? Because I'm the first to admit that LIFE IS GOOD. But I'll apologize if that is not the general consensus.

The downhill slide began on Thursday morning when I went outside to feed my chickens some leftover banana and found that two of them had been some animal's midnight snack. And one lonely chicken was left. My flock was reduced by two-thirds in one crushing blow. I hid this fact from the kids because it was time to go to school and I knew I would never get them going if they had some high melodrama to engage in that might just derail a day of education. After drop off was Body Removal which is definitely a profession I would like to avoid and I feel qualified to speak from experience. And now I've got A chicken. One. One really is the loneliest number. And she probably has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after watching her coop-mates devoured. But I'm ill-equipped to deal with a chicken with issues. So I spoke lovingly to her as I cleaned up the carcasses. Isn't that enough? And I thought about what I would tell the kids. Actually, that's not true. I knew what I would tell the kids, but I just thought about how each of us would react. One of the reasons I wanted chickens is so the kids could learn about responsibility and the food chain and all that jazz. Not that I could say something like I know you are sad about grandma's death but remember how the chickens died and it was okay? It's not exactly like that but it's a start. I knew I'd tell them the truth but I was bracing myself for some heavy duty chicken grieving. I don't mean to sound cold. I was sad. I was mostly sad that whatever animal came to hunt took my favorite chicken. Yes. I have a favorite chicken. Kind of like all parents have a favorite child. . .You know.

When school was out, I told the kids and then immediately swooped them over to find new chickens. Nothing like racing through the grieving process in fast forward. On the way over to the farm store, they had ample time to grieve, bargain, deny, be angry and accept all before we parked. And they happily picked out new chicks. This new acquisition brings our family up to 2 parents, 2 kids, 1 neurotic dog, 1 chicken suffering from PTSD and some massive survivor's guilt, 1 angry fish and 3 new baby chicks. Come Memorial Day weekend, the hubby and I will be leaving the whole menagerie (that's kids and all) to go to Mexico. I hadn't planned on leaving my mom with baby birds but Circle of Life and all. And I'm sadly coming to realize that at this moment in time, Flannery is the SANEST of the entire bunch. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Now let's skip ahead to Sunday when I realize that my wallet is missing. Emerson has a soccer game, both kids have a play date and the whole family has an indoor soccer game which means in between all those stops, I have to retrace my tracks from Saturday. Ever try to think about where you left something? I replayed all of Saturday in my head and kept announcing where the wallet could be but it was nowhere to be found. It's crushing to know that you did exactly what you warn against all the time. And I had to admit that I was a girl with no identity and I thought about running away to join the circus. I had to give up the wild goose chase and just go with the flow. I was like a man without a country except it was more the girl without her debit card. I'll also admit that a certain huge part of me was upset that I had lost the pizza card that needed one more slice before one was free. Oh, the humanity!

Sunday night ended in a trip to the Urgent Care for Emerson after he took a soccer ball to the face. Yes. Our last stop of the weekend could not possibly be a fun family get together where we all get to play soccer. A friend kicked the ball (which, by the way, is a tad bit weighted compared to a regular soccer ball) and hit Emerson smack on the right side of his face. I was pretty sure I would roll him over and find a bloody nosed mess but instead he was pale and blue lipped. After he finally got some air in him and his sobs wouldn't subside, we decided it was time to take him in. He said he couldn't bite all the way down on his teeth. I braced myself to find out that he'd broken some bone in his beautiful face but it turned out to be more an inflamed TMJ and a mild concussion. It's almost a disappointment when it's not as bad as you think. Well, not entirely. I have to admit that when Flannery fell and cut her gums on the bucket during this summer's river rafting trip, we were hoping it made her a little less adorable. But with Emerson, I was definitely thinking that someone had ruined my boy's pretty face and I was going to have to seek my revenge. Different kids warrant different reactions.

So I'm sorry Buddha, Shiva, Jesus, Yahweh, Allah, Fairies of the Mist, Odin, Zeus, the Lady of the Lake and Ganesh. Please stop kicking the ever living crap out of me. I am, by the way, fully aware that these issues all fall under the heading First World Problems and that I'm mostly just annoyed that a raccoon got the best of my favorite chicken, I am now forced to spend time at the DMV getting a new license which will require a new and possibly hideous picture and that my 8 year old son is going to expect me to entertain him for the week while he's forbidden from doing anything that might cause him to hit his head again which for his age group is pretty much a game within itself.

Awesome. Don't be surprised if you see me this week and I'm wearing full body armor. I just want to be prepared.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Make Some Noise

I have a deep and abiding love for the Beastie Boys so I'm especially delighted to see that they are back and in fine form. I am also happy to see that they haven't lost their sense of humor.

As I watched this video, I was reminded of the age of videos and so I looked some up. I ended up going through a host of Beastie Boys live performances for Mtv (back when the "M" stood for Music). Then I decided I would share it with my children. You know how you want to share with your kids when you learned how to pop and lock or do the robot or fight for your right to party. My kids watched for about a fraction of a second until they were bored by mom's old people music and they left. They're dead to me now.

I know my children will break my heart over and over again as they grow into their own versions of themselves but I didn't think it would be over my beloved Beastie Boys.

Mom and Apple Pie

I've said it before and I'll happily say it again. . . .things in a pie crust just taste better. I remember when I was a child and I seriously loved those hideous Hostess Fruit Pies which, of course, were marked "Naturally and Artificially Flavored" yet I can't even imagine anything even resembling natural in them. And, being the young connoisseur in the making, I liked the pudding ones. Pudding in a crust. Actually, that would be so very good right now.

When Mother's Day rolled around, I decided to make myself some wholesome American apple pie and bake it in my glass pie pan that says Bradi's Apple Pie on the bottom. The pie dish was a gift from my mother after I baked my first pie from scratch. I was living here in Portland, so far from my mom in Arizona, but I knew she'd be proud of my mad pie making skills. I had Reggie take a picture of my beaming face with the hot pie in my hands. My mother still has that picture on her fridge.

Now while I am sure that my loving family had an amazing day of mommy fun planned, I went ahead and made some potluck plans with a couple of other families. Strangely, Reggie was really okay with my idea to bake a pie and head over to our friends' house to eat brunch, drink champagne and watch the Lakers crash and burn. I guess he was able to quickly change the big massive Mother's Day plans he had been working on. It's nice when things work out for everyone.

The pie is a recipe from the new Martha Stewart cookbook. I know many people do not like Martha and I understand but I'm rather hesitant to say really horrible things as she's done time in the joint and she'll shiv you, man. So I'm nothing but positive when it comes to La Stewart and I can say (again, since I do realize that I just mentioned this book but it is full of tarts and pies. Tarts. Pies. It's heaven in a flaky, buttery crusts) that the Apple Brandy Pie was a mother's dream. The only thing I changed, because I simply can't follow a recipe like a normal person, is I used Clear Creek Distillery Pear Brandy instead of just any ol' brandy.

I think my mom would be proud.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Derby Days

The Kentucky Derby has come and gone but it still remains one of my favorite events ever since we started going to our friend's party. The difficult part about the Kentucky Derby in Portland is this time of year is so very hit or miss when it comes to outdoor garden parties. Even the best hat would droop on most spring days here. But we always get a least a few sun breaks to run around, drink homemade mint juleps, nibble on bbq and watch the kids play. That may be my favorite part of this yearly get together. The kids know very little about the tradition or the horses or even why everyone is wearing a crazy hat, but they have so much fun with what they have.

Herbal Ideas

Although we've had more rain and less sun than usual which is saying something, we are on our way to spring if only in my iron resolve. And I've planted herbs to get the ball rolling. Veggies are coming but it's going to take another couple of warm days to thaw me out completely. Until then, I'm pretty smitten with the herbs growing right outside my front door.

Now it's finding all the right things to do with these beauties. I have some ideas.
One idea is herb infused vodka. I've done this before when we had a mountain of cucumbers in the garden. They'd make lovely gifts. And imagine the summertime cocktail possibilities.
Another idea is herbs in savory pie crusts. I'm a sucker for pretty much anything in a pie crust so I picked up Martha Stewart's New Pies and Tarts cookbook on a recent trip to the library. And then I promptly fell in love. Some of these herbs are definitely going to decorate a pie crust.
I've been dying to make some herbal vinegars and jellies from this cookbook. Lavender Jelly. Rosemary Jelly. Tarragon Vinegar. Oh, the possibilities from my garden to my shelf. I'm looking forward to little bits of spring and summer in jars lining my kitchen walls.
But for now, I have little herb plants that are hoping for some gentle spring sun and then we're all going to bloom.

Vestido, No?

Reg and I are heading to Mexico at the end of the month for our friends' wedding. I can't tell you how big this is to us because this is our first real vacation in some time. We're actually going to a place where no relatives live while our beautiful little beasties are back home in Portland with my mother. Do you understand the significance of this momentous occasion? I think it warrants a new dress. On my To Do List is to get a dress to wear to the wedding. My criteria is simple:

1. Fabulous dress
2. Perfect fit
3. Weather suitable
4. Costs next to nothing

That's all. Should be no problem. So I head over to Buffalo Exchange with my friend to look for dresses. I think I tried on about 100 dresses much to the chagrin of the devastatingly hip sales clerk. Eventually I tried on a hot pink number and my friend gasped that it was perfect. I mean, come on, it made my friend gasp. And she wanted it for herself. Score! That wasn't even on my list of criteria but inspiring jealousy is just a given, right? Now I will admit that the dress was a little shorter than I usually go for but I was feeling like the trip and the wedding and the lack of my children warranted a little walk on the wild side. So I bought it.

When I got home, I decided to try it on again to determine just how short it was with the shoes I might wear. You know how you wish something to be different by changing something completely unrelated. Like finding the perfect heels is suddenly going to make the dress seem the perfect length. But it's my new precious and I'm giddily excited about it. Then my excitement fades as I lift the tag to read "Blouse." It's a shirt. It's not a dress. It's surely not just a short dress. And it's painfully obvious that no amount of footwear magic is going to change that fact. About 10 minutes later, Reggie calls me from work.

Reg: Did you find a dress?
Me: A dress?
Reg: I think that's a yes.
Me: It depends on what your definition of dress is.

So I tell me that when he gets home, I'll show him my "purchase." I should really apologize to him for that as I'm sure I left him feeling more than a little anxious. Like maybe I didn't get a dress but I did buy a new car. Late that night when he finally got home after the kids were in bed, I tried on the dress to show him. Before I go on, I have to say that he has come a long way in terms of facial reactions and anything that has to do with me or my appearance. If he doesn't like the latest hair color I'm sporting, he has a tendency to say things like I think you always look beautiful which is so much better than his former responses like I thought you looked better before. You see the subtle difference? It's tricky. And it's a skill that needs practice and training. When I come out to the living room, he plasters on his smile says that it's very cool and very short.

Me: Is it too short?
Reg: It's shorter than you usually wear.

See? He's good. So I tell him the story and right as I say what was written on the tag, he announces that it's a shirt. He's annoyingly confident about this part. In fact, he's done with the conversation. But I have one more test (and remember this when you are stuck in a similar dress vs. shirt situation).

Me: But wait....Say I'm in Mexico and I've had a couple of margaritas and this song I love comes on. (And with that I lift my arms in the air and do a little half dance).
Reg: I'd say that those underwear are very cute.

And so we come to the sad end of the journey of the Dress which also begins the journey of the Shirt as it will live on in my closet but as a top that requires a bottom.

The moral of this story is: If something seems like it's one or the other, it's a shirt and always listen to your mom and wear clean underwear. You never know when it counts.