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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

‘Tis the Season


'Tis the season to be grateful, or so I'm reminding myself on a daily basis. I have wanted to write about the ridiculousness of the holiday "gift" season; how the incessant emails and ads, radio spots and come-on pleas to shop, Shop, SHOP are curbing any desire I had to spend, Spend, SPEND. In years past, when I've had far less tuppance to spend, I would feel badly that I couldn't buy what I wanted or give the kind of gifts that I wanted to give. In the more flush years, I've over-spent, buying gifts and trinkets for people that frankly, I'm not sure anyone needed or wanted. Does anyone really remember the gifts they received last year or from 10 years ago? Do you even know where they are if indeed, you still have any of those things? Probably not. The American push to "help" the economy by shopping seems so out of line with values that we should be practicing. I know that spending money helps to keep the wheels of commerce moving, keeps shops open and people gainfully employed. However, it does seem as though "value" has become a thing of Christmas past. Inexpensive goods, non-stop discounts and cyber-Monday specials have cheapened our ideas of retail value. Its' also cheapened the true spirit of giving. It's easy to say we should be grateful for what we have, for the people in our lives, for the homes in which we live and the clothes on our backs. Many of us have more than we will ever truly need. It's far more difficult to put our gratitude into practice. Think about it for a minute and allow yourself to be grateful. Hard to do, isn't it?


Yesterday, I was out and about during my lunch break, running a few errands and taking photos along the way. I was in a good mood, having just found a cool new cache of street art. As I debated about price checking on a gift for a friend, I decided to head into the busy shopping area of Walnut Street. I crossed the street, in between stopped traffic and got hit by a car. Long story short, I couldn't quite scoot out of the car's way; I took a hit to the lower right calf, and was bumped up into the air and landed on my ass. It looked as though I did one of those classic slipped-on a-banana-peel-pratfalls. I was embarrassed and shaken up, bruised and sore, but over-all okay. Witnesses stepped forward and the police were called, but they never showed up. After about 15 or 20 minutes, the driver said he, "had to leave". I was too shook up to know what to do other than to take his basic info. I limped slowly back to my office and called it a day. I am very grateful that I wasn't seriously hurt and am eternally grateful that all that happened is that I am sore today. Having been in a few bicycle accidents, I know all too well how it feels to be hit by a car and have more serious injuries. After I picked myself up and settled down, my first thought was how much I hate the holidays, specifically the shopping and the rushing around. It's not the holidays I hate, it's the commercial guilt that pushes us to feel as though we are less than if we aren't buying and giving things to each other. I have no real injury. No "thing" was broken, not my camera or phone, or any other object I had with me. If ever doubted the presence of Guardian Angels, they just announced themselves to me. Either I have a minyan of angels who lifted me out of harm's way, or I truly am a cat with the proverbial nine lives. I may be working on life number 7 by now. For this I AM Grateful.
 
I could write several volumes about the bad holidays of my life, the years when my mother would go on one of her infamous tears and throw the Christmas tree or the presents out into the street, or refuse to put up any decorations at all. The times I was thrown out of the house or hit or just so verbally abused that I couldn't bear another moment at home. I spent most of my 17 years at home having to listen to her incessant whining about being alone. "Alone again, Naturally" was my mother's favorite refrain and theme song. No gift was enough, no meal was grand enough, no man was ever in her life long enough to make her happy. She found little on which to be grateful. Consequently, I grew up despising this time of year. Once I got away from the hell of my childhood, I carried this burden of holiday hatred for many years. The lean years brought me some gratitude's though. I had wonderful friends who took me into their homes and families and helped me to develop my own holiday traditions. Some of the best Christmas's of my past were the ones that weren't about the gifts; it was about the company, the meals and the fun things we did. Sitting around the dinner table wearing paper Christmas "cracker" crowns; watching one of the many versions of Charles Dickens Christmas Carol; eating at Hymies Deli for brunch, having Chinese food for dinner and taking a trip to the movies on Christmas day. Or my new tradition with Liz - our Christmas Eve marathon services at church, starting with the children's pageant; lasagna dinner with our "church family" then the 9 pm and 11 o'clock services. We make it home by 1 am, have a snack, open some gifts and start watching the 24 hour showings of A Christmas Story on TBS. Christmas day we usually spend at home, just the two of us, though now with Nate, I guess we'll have a bit more to add to our day of traditions.
I am grateful that my family's Christmas is not about the gifts or spending money (that a lot of us don't have) or fulfilling obligations that are burdens instead of joys. I am grateful that I have a loving extended family, a clear sense of self and purpose and I am grateful that I am alive. No email blast, circular special or Old Navy discount can give you this kind of peace of mind.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Food Finds: Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce


I know, a blog post about Worcestershire sauce is not really a hot happening topic nor is it an griping recipe tale and it's certainly not a new food find.  I haven't plumbed the depths of the culinary world to bring back some rare and exotic animal/vegetable/mineral or exlir that will change your life or turn your taste buds inside out.  Well maybe it will turn on your taste buds  and cause you such joy and delight that everyone at the dining table will look that much more attractive and your meals will be just a tad more delicious.  There are few condiments so perfect that any competition can barely reach the level of greatness that these products have achieved.  Heinz Ketchup,  Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard and Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce(s) are but a few that come to mind.  And in order of full disclosure here, yes, I did receive a few bottles of this magical food transforming sauce from Food Buzz, my blog advertiser, but I'd pay them or the Lea & Perrins folks to use this great product.  


When it comes to recipe uses, I prefer to keep it simple.  An add-in to meatloaf instead of salt; a few dashes in hamburger ground meat along with a few grinds of black pepper and a pinch of kosher salt and nothing else; or my two favorite ways - the Chicken Marinade over boneless chicken breasts baked in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.  Serve over rice with a green vegetable on the side.  Or my other favorite chicken dish - Chicken That Tastes Like Steak: thin sliced chicken breasts, marinated in the Original Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, along with freshly ground black pepper.  Pan sear the chicken in a stainless steel or cast iron skillet with some vegetable or canola oil.  Deglaze the pan with more Worcestershire sauce and saute some garlic and onions until the sauce reduces and the onions and garlic caramelizes.  It's a bit messy, so use a spatter shield if you have one, but the mess is worth it as the chicken will be really tasty. By the way, the sauce would also work great with tofu, prepared the same way or baked in the oven for 45 minutes until the tofu is firm and crispy.

Should any of my loyal readers care to share some recipes or recipe ideas with me, please post a comment on my blog.  I have extra sauces to share and would love to send a bottle your way.