10.21.2008

My Wordle


I'm late to the game, as usual. It takes a while for trends to sink in with me. I have to assess and reassess and evaluate their worth in my life before jumping in. But for god's sake, it's just words, so here, at long last, about 2 years after everyone else in the blogosphere introduced their Wordles, is my silly Wordle, courtesy of http://www.wordle.net.

10.12.2008

A Non-Recipe:Tri-Pepper Turkey Pasta


I tweet on my personal Twitter account about making my tri-pepper turkey pasta a lot because, well, we make it at least twice a month. It's easy, fast, healthy, inexpensive, reheats well for lunch leftovers and is, quite frankly, damn good. I've had requests for the recipe, but here's the deal with my cooking: there are no recipes. I have a whole kitchen cabinet with three shelves devoted to cookbooks, but my philosophy is that recipes are to be used as inspiration and not as absolutes. If there is an ingredient or two or three that I don't like in a recipe, I will still try it, but with my own preferred substitutions.

So with that in mind, here is my non-recipe recipe for one of our family's staples. This makes enough for my husband and me, our two kids, one hungry dinner guest, and lunch leftovers for all. Try it if you want, with your own substitutions and whatnot, and let me know what you think!

TRI-PEPPER TURKEY PASTA
Ingredients:
2 Tbs olive oil plus more for sauce if necessary
1/2 cup or so sliced onion
minced garlic
1.5 - 2 sliced red bell peppers
1-1.5 sliced orange bell pepper(s)
1 sliced yellow bell pepper
half & half if necessary/if you want to make the sauce creamy
1 package lean ground turkey
basil - either dried or fresh chopped
pasta - we prefer a corkscrew pasta such as rotini or fusili
salt & pepper
finely chopped parsley
grated romano or parmesan cheese (optional, but really makes the flavors pop if you add romano)

GUIDELINES (NOT DIRECTIONS!):
1. Boil enough water to cook your pasta. How much pasta? You decide. We usually do 1/2 a pound up to a whole pound depending on if we have a dinner guest or not.

2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Do a little dance, because the people who make olive oil deserve it.

3. Add sliced onions and peppers and minced garlic (see pic below). Saute until slightly tender but still crisp. You don't want to saute them too much or they won't puree as well in the food processor. PORTION NOTE: the more peppers you use, the heartier the sauce, so really, use however much you see fit. We usually stick to 1 to 1.5 of each type of pepper, with more of the red pepper than the orange and yellow, but if you want a sweeter sauce, go with more yellow or orange pepper. Just be aware of the shift in flavor and texture of sauce based on your portions of peppers.

4. When peppers are just tender enough, set peppers, onions and garlic mix into a food processor to cool for a bit. Make sure you've got a medium-sized food processor and not one of those rinky dink ones or you'll be cleaning up a big mess.

5. Sprinkle your dried basil or your finely chopped fresh basil on top of the pepper mix. Just be sure to use less if you are using dried basil since the taste of dried herbs is sharper than fresh. But then again, if you don't like basil, skip it. This is also good with thyme or sage, but I'd use those sparingly since they are both very strong herbs with distinct flavors that can overpower the peppers.

6. Meanwhile, your water should be boiling. What are you waiting for? Put the pasta in already.

7. Also while pepper mix is cooling a bit, go ahead and start to brown the ground turkey in the same skillet you used. You could brown the meat first and then the peppers, but I like cooking the peppers first because then the meat soaks up the pepper/onion/garlic taste from any remaining olive oil as it cooks.


8. While meat browns, go ahead and process the pepper mixture in the food processor. Now I sometimes add more olive oil and/or half & half in this step, depending on if we want the sauce to be saucier or thicker. Use your preference as your guide. Who am I to tell you what to do? Oh right, I'm writing the recipe. But I did warn you it's a non-recipe. Anywhoo... this is what it should look like when the mix is processed enough:


9. Add the pepper mix to the ground turkey as soon as the turkey is cooked enough. If you don't know how to tell if ground turkey is cooked enough, I can't help you. You shouldn't be cooking. But I can show you what the whole mixture should look like:


10. Stir the pepper mixture and the ground turkey until the pepper mixture is distributed evenly throughout.

11. The pasta should be done by now. Drain pasta water and add cooked pasta to the ground turkey pepper mixture.

12. Add salt & pepper to taste, plus fresh parsley and/or grated romano cheese and voila! You get something that should look like this:



I know, you're not supposed to serve food on blue plates because it makes the food less appetizing, but it takes a lot more than color theory to make food less appetizing to me, so those food critics can suck it. I think food looks great on blue plates and these Pottery Barn pasta bowls have lasted 7+ years, since we got them as wedding gifts.

So there you go. I told some of you who requested this recipe that I don't write recipes. If you make this and it sucks, don't blame me! Must be something you did. :) But really, there are many variations to this dish. Here are a few:

*substitute lean ground turkey for italian sausage
*substitute orange and yellow peppers for all red peppers
*substitute basil for the herb(s) of your choice
*substitute fusili or rotini for linguini, fettucine or penne...just not shells or ditalini or other small pasta shape
*substitute parmesan cheese for romano cheese
*add ricotta cheese to the mix of ground turkey and peppers, add cooked pasta, place into a baking dish, sprinkle with generous amounts of mozarella cheese, and bake in 375 degree oven until set for a super tasty baked pasta dish.

10.08.2008

A Year of Death & Divorce

Death and I do not get along. It mocks me, and I curse and spit at it. But then, I turn around, and go back to the mechanics of my daily life. I've become an expert in denial.

I'm bad at dealing with death. Very bad. It angers me to think about losing someone, anyone, I've ever come into contact with. I get addicted to people, and even if they've only been in my life briefly, I am still easily overwhelmed by their loss. If you and I meet on a train and have an amazing 10 minute conversation, rest assured that 15 years later I will remember you, your face, and I will want to hang out with you and listen to the story of your life for the last 15 years if ever we meet again. You'll probably wonder "dude, who's this creepy lady who remembers a 10-minute conversation on a train from 15 years ago?" and sometimes I am annoyed by how attached I get to, well, everyone, but I've learned to live with this quirk of mine and just go with it. We only have one life, so shouldn't we cherish all of the people we are fortunate to meet?

Now my uncle R (who is also my godfather) is going off life support as I write this. I'm pretty sure some of my family members think I'm crazy. "What's wrong with her? She hasn't seen him in years!" No, I haven't seen him in years. I haven't made any effort, whatsoever. I'm a douchebag for not spending more time with my extended family. I got the news via email in my office, and there I sat, in full pathetic glory, bawling alone while listening to the rain. I remember the time we did spend together. I remember things in frames that aren't quite all in order, but the scents, the lighting, the colors, the laughs, the distinct voices... they are all there quite clearly. I remember him, and it pisses me off that I am losing him, that his kids are losing their father.

Why am I such a fountain this year? When my lola died, I got emails starting with "I know you aren't normally emotional, but if you need me..." and my personal favorite "I know you don't do the whole tears thing..." I distinctly remember these because for some reason I got all defensive. "I do so cry sometimes!" I would retort, but alas, they're right: I have not been so big on the crying thing for most of my adult life. Other people crying, I can deal with. Me crying? I don't think so.

But then this year has changed all that. 2008 has been the year of death and divorce. All around me, I have watched friends and family lose parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, children, spouses... I have one friend who lost both parents within a month. Within one year, I have watched even more friends deal with ailing family members, and more than ever before, I am surrounded by friends dealing with divorce, which more than a few of them have equated as dealing with a death. It's the death of part of your life, saying goodbye to a person who was your life and trying to fit into a new one. Except with divorce you get the whole rebirth thing, and with death you're, well, done. So much sadness, so many goodbyes, so much pain and questioning and guilt. So. Fucking. Much. Can the year please just let up a little? Jeebus! Enough with the drama! It's bad enough that the economy has tanked, our earth is dying, and that they don't make the chocolate covered Kudos bars anymore... can we at least ease up on the death of loves ones?

I'm at the age where there are certainly more possibilities for grave illnesses. The word cancer is as common among friends these days as the term keg party was for us not so long ago (ok, maybe it was long ago, but humor this old hag). I had my own scare less than a year ago, and even though everything turned out fine, there was still that "oh holy shit, I really could die sooner than later"that is more of a possibility now more than ever, especially when you're undergoing procedures you'd always imagined you wouldn't ever have to undergo until you were older. Suddenly, ta-da! You're old enough, and you wonder how the hell you got there so fast. Our parents are aging. Our circle of friends is wider. There are many, many reasons why there's more death & divorce in my life these days. None of them make me feel any better.

So I'm trying to figure it all out, while also trying to figure out how to explain these things to my kids. My son is at the age where he truly wants answers and quite frankly, mommy doesn't have any. I don't believe in bullshitting him, and we don't conform to any religion so those convenient "heaven" answers don't fly in our house, but I also don't want to leave him with more questions. So I try to focus on the now, and talk about how there are so many things we can do today, to teach him how to live a life without regret, to live so that at the end of each day he can be proud of who he is at that exact moment and all he has done up until then. But those aren't answers. Those are delays. Why do we die? I don't know. It makes me mad that we do. It pisses me off that today I'm losing someone who once opened up his home to me and my family, who made a ginormous Filipino feast for more than 20 of us, who had a great smile and laugh in my memories, whom I didn't get to see on a regular basis, and who is leaving behind a wife, kids and grandkids who love him very much. More and more, we're losing each other. I'm putting the year of death & divorce in a big time out for now, until it can learn to calm down a bit.

10.03.2008

Pandora's Box

Sometimes when you go searching for one thing, you end up uncovering something totally unexpected. I've been trying to find my black sandals for a couple of weeks now. I was all bummed when we went to the beach for a friend's wedding and discovered that I hadn't packed them. I just had my wedding shoes, spare heels "just in case" (for what? who needs heels at the beach ever?!) and my running shoes. No sandals. I figured I just left them at home. Well it's been two weeks now and I still can't find them. So I was searching upstairs in our closet, in storage areas I haven't touched in a while but that are accessible by my kids who have a habit of sometimes storing important items in the most random of places. They're just adorable like that.

So then I uncovered a box. A box I hadn't opened in probably 10 years, much less even remembered existed. I thought it was just an old box and I started to break it down for recycling when I realized it had contents. Naturally, I opened the box.

HOLY PANDORA, BATMAN.

It's a good thing I had a glass of wine waiting for me in the living room. Never open these kinds of boxes without knowing what's in them, my friends. But then, after the initial horror, it wasn't all scary.

I uncovered photos of me and my family when I was a baby. Who knew I had these in my possession? Want to know what my daughter looks like? Here ya go. Except these are pics of chubby little me as a baby. The resemblance is super freaky. So sorry, dear baby girl, you're gonna look just like mama when you grow up. But look how cute we are as babies!



The photos were so great to discover. There were photos of me and my cousins as little kids, photos of me and my great-grandmother who passed away 1.5 years ago, photos of uncles and aunts and friends. There were middle school and high school wallet-size photos with the typical "stay cool this summer" signed by the BFF of the month. There were more photos. Then as I stripped away the layers of photos I uncovered the notes. I distinctly remember going through boxes and boxes of notes I had saved from middle and high school when I went to college and trashing them. Apparently, I saved some. ML, if you're reading this, I think there are some from you in there, girlfriend! And my poetry books. Holy cow, I wrote enough poems to fill several manilla file folders and at least a dozen spiral-bound notebooks. I read some of them. A few were ok. Then underneath the letters and notes were...things. gum wrappers friends had written on. Empty boxes that once held...what? Gifts? Smokes? Sugar packets friends had written on. Cards and stickers. And in the middle of it all, a letter I had placed in a box written January 15, 1994 and never sent.

I am rattled and a bit amused by all this because this is not what I know now. Back then, I apparently saved everything. Now, I save almost nothing. Photos, yes, but things? Even with my kids' baby items, I'm just not that sentimental about them. I even had to talk myself into holding onto their first baby clothes, for sentimental value, but the logical part of me just sees it all as stuff taking up room. I feel the same way about my kids' artwork (bad mama, I know, but really: what will a half-colored page of a fireman drawing mean to my kid in the future?). My life is about people and memories, not things.

And yet, I sat there, surrounded by Pandora's beautiful and sometimes painful insides, thinking that maybe it's not such a bad idea to save some things. To understand who we are now, we sometimes have to look back at who we were. I admit that some of these seemingly random, unimportant odds and ends in the box slowly started to take shape and importance in my head. I eventually remembered. I got it. I smiled. I put the things, including the gum wrappers, back in the box, closed the lid, and placed it back in its space. At least I know it's there now. It can't assault me unexpectedly on a lovely Friday night again.

So for my kids, I think I will start to save more for them from now on. Who am I to decide what is or is going to be important to them later in life? When they are grown, they can make those decisions of what to toss and what to keep.

I didn't realize I had a Pandora's box, but I think it found me when I was finally ready to find it. Do you have a Pandora's box? If so, what's in it? What do you save and what do you keep, of both your kids items and your own personal items?

Oh, and by the way? Still haven't found my black sandals.