Mussels in Wine Sauce Recipe

My, how I love me some mussels; and not JUST because you don’t pay for just a TON of shell when you buy them like you can with other shellfish! Can we talk about this issue for a second? I love clams. Love them. But when I go to buy them they, as are the lovely mussels in this recipe, are sold in the shell, by the pound. And that’s all well and good, but clams have extremely thick and heavy shells… so I feel like you’re paying a LOT for the packaging. Alright, here’s an analogy. You know when you go to buy software (you internets pirates wouldn’t understand…) and it’s in a box almost the size of a cereal box? And then you open it and it’s just a normal sized CD? Why so much packaging?! That’s your clam right there. And then you know how old school incandescent light bulbs are packaged in just thin sleeves of cardboard? One of the most fragile objects and it’s in this insanely thin, lightweight, and easy to open package? That’s your black mussels right there. So clams are QuickBooks and mussels are light bulbs.

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Look you jerks, I need that space in the recycling bin for beer bottles!

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I have a bright idea…

I made these mussels for years in just the wine, garlic, and butter sauce- and oh my are they good like that. But the addition of the diced tomatoes, basil, and parsley really takes this recipe to the next level. Crusty bread for sopping up sauce a must.

3 Tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic
¼ cup finely diced onions (shallots if you want to get all uppity about it)
2 cups white wine
2 diced tomatoes
2.5 lbs black mussels
small handful mixed fresh parsley and basil, chopped

In a high sided sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and onions to melted butter and sauté until aromatic. Add wine, bring to a simmer. Add mussels and diced tomatoes and cover pan. The mussels are cooked when they open- don’t overcook till they’re rubbery BUT WOE BE TO THEE WHO UNDERCOOKS so like, walk that knife edge, okay? Serve over pasta of your choice or just in a bowl by themselves with crusty bread on the side. Garnish with a generous amount of fresh parsley and basil.

Don’t eat the unopened mussels or risk… unpleasantness. I’d have put ACTUAL pictures of mussels in this post, but I’m writing this while still recovering from the stomach bug I wrote about in the last post and thought that a google image search of shellfish was probably bad idea in my current state.

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The Reason Not To Put “Lose Weight” On Your Christmas List…

Why should you not do that, I ask? Why should you not throw a stupid, off the cuff thing like wishing to lose weight into the ether? BECAUSE SANTA HAS A FUCKING SENSE OF HUMOR IS WHY. So yeah, I lost weight on Christmas… 4 days of not eating much of anything and violently puking will do that to a person.

So here’s the story: I ended up in the emergency room at 4am on Christmas Day. Got a shot (NOT IN THE ARM) for pain. Had to swallow Lidocaine for such intense, stabbing stomach pains. Writhed in agony from 8pm to 4am due to (I am about 80% sure here) the insane acid reflux from all the puking having irritated my esophagus and weird esophagus nerve pain transferring to my upper back. Didn’t know that was a thing, but Google says it’s rare but possible, and considering the back pain went away with swallowing the Lidocaine it seems to be the case.

Now, originally I thought it was food poisoning, and it might be. But it also looks like my husband and 8 year old got a lighter (SO THANKFUL WAS LIGHTER) bout as well, so might be norovirus. The description of women with it saying they’d rather be in labor than suffer through norovirus again is spot on considering I said that EXACT thing at least twice. And that it goes away… and then can come back. Because the abject horror of having another night on Thursday like I did on Monday was insane. I thought I was better.

And here’s the weird part. That second go round I KINDA had pegged what the back pain was about. So while I couldn’t do anything for the violent puking, alternating hot and cold water from the shower onto my upper back… it kinda tricked the transferred nerve pain into going away. I’m sure my husband checking on me facedown in a running shower was weird. The choice to ask me “Are you asleep?” instead of “Are you dead?” must have taken some back and forth for the poor guy. I wasn’t either, but was pretty close to both. He wouldn’t have worried so much if he had seen the Cirque du Soleil move I’d pulled of turning the water from cold to hot with one leg while not moving my upper back off the marble shower tile floor. Flexibility is all in your head, turns out. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

So yeah. Remind me not to ask for someone to declutter the house next year so Santa doesn’t send a goddamn house fire my way.

 

 

Dominoes

So, the public figures have been tumbling, one after the other, as I sat over here and stalled on a blog post for most of the month. (Combination of 3 weekends away from home capped off by a family shared cold. Damn you, worn down immune system!) But here’s what I can say about recent events: Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out, sexual predators… mostly because I bet you’d like it.

And today I read about that most annoying and insufferable public journalist… Garrison Keillor. Writer’s Almanac… BARF. So breathy and over emoted! Prairie Home Companion… so under emoted and full of off key warbling and just boring story telling- I’d open my veins before I have to listen to it. And yet, people bought his schtick! How in god’s name I don’t know, but I saw this comment on an article earlier: “Not Garrison Keillor! Who’s next, Santa?!” And I have numerous problems with that comment, but my main one is to ask if the guy who makes you sit on his lap is the best example to use there?

Anyway. Tumble away, dominoes.

Tumble away.

On Meditation and Lettuce

“Pick a mantra that feels right to you” the meditation app says.

And I don’t even know the name of the app I’m using (but of course now I just HAD to check. It’s Meditation Studio) but it isn’t important. What is is that I was trying to follow a six minute Releasing Self Doubt meditation because I’d kinda felt like I’d been missing the mark, parenthood-wise lately. And I wanted to move past self recrimination to actually being a better parent and maybe self doubt factored in there and what the hell, I had six minutes to solve all my problems, sure.

But… it wasn’t the right guided meditation, I guess. Or maybe requires more than six minutes? Because to “Pick a mantra that feels right to you” and then repeat it into the cathedral you imagine is the inside of your own chest (yup. You read that right.) didn’t work. And it was probably that the mantra was wrong. Or my wishes for this six minutes was wrong, but I didn’t get where I wanted to go. (Internal-chest-cathedral-that-you-repeat-your-mantra-in imagery, I promise, actually pretty successful.) But it was the mantra I think. You pick it yourself and there’s the rub- it’s your fault if you don’t do that part right. Some examples were “I am enough” or “I am strong”… I picked “I don’t blame the lettuce.” Again, dead serious here that I spent 6 minutes mind speaking a quote about lettuce into an echoing Sistine Chapel-esque space where my own ribs were the flying buttresses.

And here’s why that mantra didn’t work- it’s aspirational instead of something I feel I am. Because me? I kinda blame the lettuce, a lot, as it pertains to parenting. Catherine Newman wrote about it better here and a quote she references struck a nerve.

“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

So all this is to say, I seem to blame the lettuce way more than I would like around here as it pertains to raising these here chillins. These sweet little lettuces… I need to treat them more gently than I do sometimes.

The other day we’re carving pumpkins… and I start setting arbitrary limits on design or complexity… because I don’t want them to get frustrated? Or take eighteen hours? And somehow I think it’s their fault if they don’t just accept that dictated down to them? And one of the lettuces was okay with that. And one of the lettuces had a shiny film of tears… after such a joyously raucous pumpkin gutting and her repeated stating that she doesn’t know how many Halloweens as a “kid” she has left… And sure, I gave myself a time out about it, but not before I told her to stop having an attitude about it. And yeah, I went back and helped her with her more complex design I had unbent on. And yet I stomped all over the lettuce, and felt/feel awful about it.

And so, perhaps Releasing Self Doubt was not the meditation to do, I guess. And they didn’t have a self recrimination one. Or a “Hey, treat these little people more gently and stop being an asshole” one… or even a “hey you’re REALLY good at recognizing this stuff after the fact but if you could just start catching it on the front end and preventing your own shitty behavior that’d be great” …but woe is me. That is, I guess, a lesson that can’t be learned in an App. Or in six minutes.

And I fear- a deep down, scary fear,  that I’ll never actually strike on how to learn it. That I’ll forever be over here, futilely trying to grasp it. Clawing at the door that leads to it, like whoever that poor skeleton was off to the side of the Path of the Dead at the end of the Lord of the Rings. That I’ll see what I need to change, but never accomplish it.

And sure, I learned a lesson here. But when, oh great echoing chest cathedral, will the lesson be learned?

Turmeric Chicken Breasts

Turmeric is not one of those spices you get in the prepackaged 10 count spice racks, but don’t be afraid of it. It is readily available and not expensive. I bought my 1 oz jar for a little under $3 at my regular grocery store (not even the good one on the hill!), and in the spice world one ounce goes a long way.  Besides, it’s the next big thing in 2017, just like coconut oil was in 2014. Google it if you want to see a bunch of millennials smearing it on their faces and then claiming it’s the reason their skin is so good. (Newsflash: it’s because you’re 23, idiot)

This dish is easy, quick, and the chicken turns a beautiful yellow color. And then with the blackened bits from the griddle pan, Mmmm! This one is differently flavorful, but not so different as to require work to get to a point of appreciation. It’s not smelly cheese or sardines or anything, is what I’m saying. My kids loved it the first time they ever had it. Try it, you’ll see.

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How is it we all ended up with those tongs in our first apartments? Did any of us ever buy them or did they just show up somehow? Forget the Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory… I want to talk about the red handled shitty tongs conspiracy.   -Image by Sky_24

(20 minutes to prep, 2 hours to marinate, 20 minutes to cook)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
¼ cup coconut milk
3 Tbsp. Asian fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. local honey
½ tsp. ground turmeric

(Chili powder or any asian hot sauce aside for Sriracha is a good addition to the marinade if you want this with a kick. What do I have against the cliche of a hot sauce that is Sriracha? Well for one thing the spelling annoys me. And two, it’s very one note on the palette and not worth the hype. And three… I like being contrary, if I’m honest about it.)

Pound chicken to about 1/2 inch thick and cut into smaller pieces to get them to a more manageable, deck-of-cards-esque size. Combine all other ingredients in a storage container and whisk briskly to make the marinade. Add chicken to the marinade, making sure all pieces are coated. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Heat griddle pan (or skillet, if you don’t have a griddle pan) over medium high heat. Add chicken in batches, being sure not to crowd, and cook until done. The thickness that I pound mine and the temperature of the griddle pan means mine are cooked in about 3-4 minutes a side. But cooking time will vary depending on temperature of your stove, the pan you use, size of the chicken, air pressure (not sure about that), ambient temperature (even less sure about that), and other factors (seems likely and a good way to cover my ass here). Make sure you’re getting some nice and dark browned bits on the chicken as you cook- don’t be flipping too soon, is what I’m saying.

Would be good with rice, a spring greens salad, and a sauce made out of plain yogurt, lemon juice, and herbs. Or with roasted broccoli and couscous topped with some hot sauce and maybe cilantro…

*Full disclosure: your recipe writing food blogger over here just ate cold pizza for lunch after a “breakfast” of two cups of black coffee. Do as I say, not as I…

Random Word Generator: Lamp

REALLY stretching on this one, Random Word Generator. Couldn’t be something cool like Spy? Or Rapids? Or Credenza? Because lamp is… wow. This little tool is supposed to make writing easier, isn’t it?

Okay. Lamp. *Cracks Knuckles*

Lamp from Childhood: I used to have a dusty pink colored clip on lamp on my headboard when I was a kid. I used to wake up early, move it so it was inches away from my face and turn it on. Presto: instant “fever” for faking sick and then turn it off right before my Mom came to wake me up. (Also useful to hold a thermometer against to continue to fake said fever. Care must be taken to not have a 140 degree fever or burn your tongue. Is an art.) As a mother I will be checking the lightbulbs of my daughter’s lamps on days they swear they don’t feel good and need to stay home sick.

Head Lamps: we periodically walk the six blocks or so to the restaurant on the edge of our neighborhood for dinner and bring headlamps with us for the walk back in the dark. The older children LOVE it. Out at night? Walking? Headlamps? Joy of Joys! I also give one to the toddler and she just turns it on and off for the entire walk back. Considering she insists (even in the dark) of having the stroller canopy up, it’s like pushing a giant firefly through the neighborhood.

Bachelor Lamp: My husband had a brass lamp with a black pleated lampshade next to the bed when we first got together. We don’t have it anymore. Not much to that, I guess, but I just never could understand the concept of a black lampshade…

Grandma Lamp: After my grandfather died my grandmother was on a mission: get rid of all these dratted earthly possessions. (I think she was signaling to the higher ups just how serious her readiness to get a move on was) She asked her grandkids what we wanted of hers: Rugs? China? Clocks? I said if anyone hadn’t claimed it yet I’d love the lamp in the spare bedroom where we’d all slept for sleepovers. Huge, overly ornate thing. Gilding, sage green, marble and brass base. Massive 3′ shade with gold embroidered flowers and many a grubby paw print acquired over the years. (one of them mine, as I distinctly recall). She said her father had picked it up for her at an outside secondhand store- it had been broken and her father had fixed it for her. (I’d never noticed the crack, in all those years of looking at it) It’s in our storage room now, because I can’t find a spot in our house I deem safe enough for it.

Night Lights: in our house currently we have a ceramic one shaped like a bird that glows at night (ala dead Jedi masters), a pink gummy bear battery powered one, and one that shines green stars on the ceilings. Are like lamps, right?

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The rage I feel from the goddamn replacement of Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christensen in this scene is pretty much unparalleled to anything else I’ve felt in this life up to this point. Anyway. This is what the bird nightlight looks like.

Bedside Lamps: Matching green glass, quasi bottle looking ones next to our bed. I got both on clearance at different Ross stores and was super proud of myself. They’re too big, and glass lamps at toddler level is probably not the best idea, and they match nothing in the room. I’m pretty sure that checks off all the proper points for having lamps, right? And they’re a constant reminder to read something at night not from a glowing screen but from something that actually requires turning on of said bedside lamp.

Lamps.

 

 

Lessons Learned

  1. I used to babysit regularly for a family that lived in a haunted house. The TV used to flick on and off, it always felt like you were being watched, and I had a kid run behind me laughing while I was doing dishes once… turned around- nothing. Went to check on the kids I was babysitting… all three in bed and sound asleep. And I mean SOUND asleep- they weren’t pulling one over on the babysitter.
    • Lesson: atheism doesn’t negate a belief in ghosts.
  2. One time in high school I started my period and knew, I mean KNEW, that I didn’t have any supplies… but I frantically rummaged through my backpack anyway. AND OH MY GOD I FOUND A TAMPON I WAS SAVED! I then immediately dropped it in the toilet.
    • Lesson: Sometimes having something and losing it is exactly like never having it at all.
  3. I was running into the grocery store one time in the rain and didn’t realize how deep a puddle was and SWOOOSH, kicked up a huge plume of water (one leg on the backswing) and sunk halfway up my calf in the puddle. A guy running the other direction DIED laughing to see it. (I mean died- stopped, doubled over, grabbing his stomach, the whole bit.) He called out an apology as I ran past him, but I yelled back that if it had to happen I was glad that someone saw it at least.
    • Lesson: With the right mindset the phrase “As long as somebody laughed” will get you through a hell of a lot in this world.
  4. Lice. (Shudder)
    • Lesson: Even if you think you’re so busy you don’t have any time to breath- somehow you’ll find 2 hours a night for weeks on end if you’re motivated.
  5. Steamed King Crab Legs (see here) is the hands down easiest dinner anyone could ever cook. Lentil Soup is the least expensive meal that will feed you for the week for just a few bucks.
    • Lesson: you can have fast… or you can have cheap… but you ain’t getting both.
  6. So this one time… I got pregnant? When I had my tubes tied? (see here) And we proceeded to freak the fuck out for months and months and months and now we all love that child like it’s going out of style.
    • Lesson: Aethism doesn’t negate an in depth understanding of the phrase “Man proposes, God disposes.”
  7. I got up to speak as a sophomore in high school to defend Block Scheduling because I believed in it SO much- I KNEW it was preparing me for the college experience and letting me learn much more in depth. (Longer classes, only 4 a day instead of 7 for the first half of the year with another set of 4 classes for the 2nd half of the year.) I loved that schedule… until the way my math classes synced up and I’d had an entire year between Algebra I and Algebra II.
    • Lesson: Just because you believe something doesn’t make it true.

In Sickness and in…

Sick up to my eyeballs just about sums it up lately… and hey, my sinuses are infected so it literally is true!

So I’m now mostly recovered from a tonsil infection that spread to the rest of my throat and larynx and wiped out my voice for 3 days and then morphed into a sinus infection. But I’m almost better now. Almost.

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No head or neck… lucky bastard.

And maybe  I wore myself down? I don’t know- I have a lot on my plate and while grief, and worry, and stress are all carb free I’ve probably been overdoing them. But see- I have my wonderful little life with my wonderful little family- the stress and worry can kinda sneak up on me sometimes, you know?

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Well doesn’t that just about sum it up?

So maybe I ran myself down a little- happens to the best of us. Even before the voice took off on a long weekend without me I had started trying to get a bit more balance going on. Ordered a slew of books and now actually read- the novelty! (Wait- was that a goddamn pun?! Stupid brain pulling shit sometimes I swear…) I also started meditating, and I’m going to sleep about 30 minutes to an hour earlier a night. Plus cutting down on some alcohol and back to trying to cut down on the carbs. And I’m walking and lifting weights a couple of half assed times a week!

Let’s talk meditating though… super easy? Is that how that’s supposed to go down? Because I can clear my mind and keep it clear for a LONG time… turns out that’s how the majority of my days go already? Is that something I should be worried about? Because it doesn’t feel brag inducing, to have a mind that is as un-rippled as a pond without a rock heaved at it… that seems… hmm. I’ll take it though, don’t think I’m complaining. It’s just unexpected?

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My brain is emptier than yours… yay?

All that mental calm and yet I’m still making coworkers cry on the regular though… so still an asshole. I always feel terrible about it- I don’t want to crush people, but I feel like a rhino trying to fold origami when trying to discuss issues and solve problems. Whelp. Try to flip that self recrimination on it’s empty head and see it as an opportunity for something else to learn in this life! (got a quasi self help book in the stack) Ah for the Churchillian gift of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip (also a Churchill book)… So it’s the delivery not the character trait I’m working on, just to be clear. I stopped hating my fundamental nature and beating myself up for it a long time ago. But I am trying to blunt the edges a bit, I promise.

Anyway, to sum up:

  • I’m still sick- I’m working on it.
  • And I’m still a jerk sometimes- I’m working on my delivery.

Here’s a funny final story for this post: my husband and I were watching Jeopardy (a nightly thing for us after the girls are down. Love!) and I turned to him and said: “I tell you one thing- if I was on this show I wouldn’t clap if a competitor got a Daily Double right.” To which he replied “Well of course you wouldn’t!” We laughed and laughed… because it’s true and he loves me anyway.

Saturday Share Linkup!

Loss Gloss Boss

Sigh.

So- I’m just going to put this out there to the universe that maybe if it could stop with the making-people-I-love-drop-dead shit that’d be great. What am I comfortable with putting on the page? Or can even verbalize? I guess that loss and grieving is ubiquitous and is just the payment we give for loving others? Sure. Why not.

I had a Dutch teacher (she used to bike 15 miles to class with one of her pet rats in a carrier and then teach the class in sweaty bike shorts. The rat would sit on her desk. College is weird.) who didn’t really ever feel a need to stay on the Dutch topic at hand and would often digress into Buddhist thinking/teaching she was mulling around. One Tuesday morning (Ma’am, it’s too damn early for this crap.) she was talking about how we should see the loss of a baby as equally tragic as a 90 year old who was one day away from death. That all life is weighted equally. And yeah… that’s a big nope. Nope, nope, nope, ye ol’ rat loving professor. In Dutch? Rat liefhebbende proffessor. (How did I only make a B in this class? It’s 60% English and conjugated like Yoda… sheesh)

But life potential, happiness conglomerated, and the opportunity of having experienced much outta a long lifetime- it DOES come into play. And the death too- not too painful, and not too sudden… It’s a complex formula that never quite gets us to a “good death” but it makes the loss easier if you know your grandmother lived life to the fullest. If she was 89. And had the opportunity to laugh hysterically with all the other wives of their RV traveling/gambling group at a male stripper in Vegas doing a basketball player routine that one time back in the 80s. And then tell her granddaughter about it all those years later. And many other, inappropriate and hysterical stories. No shrinking violet- life is too short to waste it being meek- I think that’s the main lesson I learned from her.

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Pfft. How great could she have been if she hadn’t taught her teenaged granddaughter to draw on a pair of eyebrows already?

She was a good one, that lady. I will miss her.

She was tiny but she was mighty.

And may my own toddler follow in her namesake’s footsteps with that same mirth flickering in her eyes all of her live long days.

Amen.

Random Word Generator Word Associations

Well there’s a hurricane a-brewin’, so little to do but put containers under the roof leaks, snuggle up in a comforter, and do some literary Rorschach testing thanks to a Random Word generator!

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Image by Helmut Gervert

Failing: Any college class ever before 9am. Next.

Textbook: I only kept my Dutch language textbooks from college- I assume it’s like a rock picked up and kept from the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. That’s right, the language that you say “Braun, mine hound es” to say “My dog is brown” was my Kilimanjaro. Classes were not held before 9am. I got a B.

Dip: French Onion

Skill: I don’t want to brag but 90% of the time I can pick the exact number of clothes hangers needed when I’m doing laundry. With great talent comes great responsibility.

Gun: My militaristic cousin took my husband and me to the gun range for my birthday a while back. Sniper accurate might be an exaggeration, but not a gross exaggeration, you dig?  But no guns for me. I’ll stick to big dogs and the knowledge as to how to rip an ear off and shatter knees. I’m a violent pacifist, is what I’m saying.

Death: Jesus Christ Random Word Generator, don’t be a dick. Inevitable, you happy? Also, I’ve been pushed in a grave before. Thanks, weird ass childhood. Next!

Am I skipping some on the Random Word Generator? Sometimes. No one wants to hear me write about “involvement” or “minor.”( My involvement with the French Club was minor, but good enough to get me into UT. There. Shut up.)

Said: My youngest sat on the potty yesterday, looked deep into my eyes, and said “Pssssssssssssssssssssssss.” Pretending to pee.

Quantum: *Typing sounds* So turns out in physics, a quantum is the minimum amount of any physical entity involved in an interaction. So- like my favorite way to exist in social settings? Why are we not using this word more?! Does that mean the James Bond movie is “The Least Amount of Solace?” Turns out maybe.

Incoming: Nothing profound, but I do love when they yell that on war movies. Probably way less fun in real life, though.

Random: Becoming self aware, are we website?

Sentient: Fuck. Let’s go ahead and close that Random Word website and never speak of that terrifying turn of events again.