Just Fake It

I know what you’re thinking. Get your mind out of the gutter.

I recently got my hair cut and colored so I can be presentable at holiday parties. Someone complimented my new coif at last night’s festivities and innocently asked, “Is your hair just highlighted? Is your base your natural hair color?”

Honey, I couldn’t pick my natural hair color out in a line up.

I have been a brunette, blonde, and redhead, and every version in-between. I actually had to think about my natural hair color when she inquired. Sure, I know it’s brown, but is it light- or medium-brown? Does it have any dimension, or is it just a solid color? When was the last time I sported my natural hair color? 1985?

My motto has always been it’s much easier to change my hair color than the size of my butt. My hair has been fake for so long I don’t know what’s real.

I believe in faking it when it comes to cooking, too. If I can get away with slashing a few calories without compromising flavor, why not? After my late night last night (if you must know it was midnight, but that’s late for a woman with a six-month-old), I felt like making a lazy brunch. And my go to dish is something I call “fake quiche.” It’s fake because there’s no crust, but you won’t miss it. Fake quiche is real delicious.

Fake Quiche

Ingredients

1 onion, chopped

2 small zucchini, grated

1/2 cup of vegetable oil

3 eggs

1/2 cup of parmesan, grated

1 cup of cheddar jack cheese, shredded

1 cup of Bisquick

1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Method

Beat eggs in a large bowl, and mix with Italian seasoning, pepper, and vegetable oil until combined. Add zucchini, onion, Bisquick, and cheeses, and mix together. Pour into an 8 x 8 pan coated with butter flavored cooking spray. Bake in a 350 oven for one hour, or until the top is golden brown. Allow some time to cool before serving.

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Diet is a Four Letter Word

I grew up with a magnet prominently displayed on my refrigerator that read, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” The mini scale magnet was designed as a major scare tactic; one had to contemplate if the craving was worth risking cankles.

That magnet most often made me pause, but I would open the fridge with wild abandon during the holidays. I shut my inner thin woman up with my Mom’s famous Christmas confections. It is the most wonderful time of the year after all.

Until this year. The year I decided to publicly declare I am going on a diet during Thanksgiving week.

For the record, I have lost 4.3 pounds so far–my desperation is on display by the use of decimal points–but I feel like I have sacrificed enough to lose 43 pounds. I have sat stoically beside candy bowls filled to the brim with gooey caramels, lush chocolates, and crisp candy canes; I have passed on hearty helpings of choice crudités; I have eaten frozen meals instead of freshly prepared macaroni and cheese. Still, I am just 4.3 pounds lighter.

I could eat one big piece of cake tomorrow and gain those 4.3 pounds right back. And they would undoubtedly cling to the hot post c-section Mommy pouch I am sporting right now. What’s up with that?

I do have a few recipes to keep me focused on my husband’s threat of whisking the family off to Florida this winter. I find myself making the following split pea soup recipe at least once a week because it is so deliciously satisfying and surprisingly low-fat. This one does taste as good being as thin will feel.

Parker’s Split Pea Soup

Courtesy Ina Garten (with a few minor revisions of my own)

Ingredients

1 yellow onion, chopped 

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/8 cup good olive oil (enough to thoroughly coat your soup pot)

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups medium-diced carrots (3 to 4 carrots)

1 cup medium-diced red boiling potatoes, unpeeled (3 small)

1 pound dried split green peas

8-10 cups vegetable stock (2 large containers plus one can)

Method

In a 4-quart stockpot on medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with the olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper until the onions are translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the carrots, potatoes, split peas, and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for about an hour and a half, or until the peas are soft. Skim off the foam while cooking. Stir frequently to keep the solids from burning on the bottom. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Posted in Diet, Family, Kids, Life, Parents, recipes, Thoughts, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Sweet Melissa

If you’re part of the small but mighty audience reading my blog, you’ve learned I am the least likely to succeed in teaching a Hanukkah history lesson (I should’ve been sent straight to detention for flaking on the first night), but I have learned this much: Hanukkah literally means dedication. And I have the most dedicated friends.

For the Macabees, a band of Jewish patriots who conquered the Greeks and restored religious freedom, the miracle of Hanukkah came in the form of one night of oil that inexplicably burned for eight nights. For me, the miracle of Hanukkah came in the form of a United States Postal Service box from my friend Melissa.

Who knew the Postal Service could actually deliver Hanukkah on time?

I was in the process of lugging in the never-ending bags of groceries needed to prepare a Hanukkah feast for my family tomorrow night when I stumbled on the package. It was addressed to my son, but he can’t take his hands out of his mouth long enough to open it, so I did the honors.

The package contained a customized onesie, the story of Hanukkah, and his very own plush dreidel. (She technically threw in 80s lullabies for him, but that one is more for me; I can’t seem to let the decade of decadence go). She read my “Surprise! It’s the Festival of Lights!” blog post, and took it upon herself to help me deliver the miracle of Hanukkah to Alex. Like I said, Hanukkah means dedication.

If you want to show your dedication at your Hanukkah feast, put individual vegetable kugels on the menu. There’s something about serving a dish in individual portions that makes dinner guests feel special…

Individual Vegetable Kugels

Ingredients:

1 medium onion, chopped well

3 carrots, grated

1/4 cup red pepper, chopped well

1/3 cup green pepper, chopped well

1 10-ounce package of spinach, chopped and very well-drained

3 eggs, beaten

2/3 cup of matzo meal

3 tablespoons of butter

Freshly grated pepper, to taste

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and spray a muffin tin with cooking spray. Heat butter in a frying pan and sauté onion, carrots, and peppers until the onion is translucent. In a bowl, mix the well-drained spinach, eggs, matzo meal, and pepper together. Add the sautéed vegetables to the mix. Spoon into the muffin tins, and bake for about 30-35 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before removing from the muffin tin.

Posted in Family, Food, Hanukkah, Holidays, Kids, Life, Parents, recipes, Thoughts, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Bragplaining

Have you heard of the term bragplaining?

Bragplaining (def): When you complain about something for the sole purpose of bringing it up in conversation to brag about it.

Uh oh. There’s actually a word for that?

Bragplaining is a new word in my vocabulary, but I have been practicing it for years. Bragplaining is bitching to show off, and new Mommyhood gives me so much material.

Colleague: “You look great. I really like your new coat.”

Me: “Really? I have no idea how, considering I literally haven’t slept in weeks, and I bought the coat out of desperation at BJ’s Wholesale Club while picking up industrial size boxes of diapers and wipes for my son. It’s crazy what I can find now that I have no time to shop. But, thanks.”

Husband: “Why don’t you just sit down and relax for a minute? You like this show.”

Me: “Oh I’d love to, but I have to fold Alex’s laundry, put away his toys, make his bottles, and pack everything up to drop him off at your mother’s at the crack of dawn so I have enough time for my hell commute. Oh, and I forgot I have to whip him up a fresh batch of sweet potatoes because he ate the last serving for dinner. Remind me again why I decided that all of his food has to be homemade?”

Do you hear what I am saying? If there’s a Bragplainers Anonymous, I should be sitting front row center at the weekly meeting. Who’s with me?

I can’t be alone in my addiction to bragplaining. It comes with the Mommyhood turf, doesn’t it?

Are you a bragplainer?

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Surprise! It’s the Fesitval of Lights!

 Somehow I missed the memo from the tribe that Hanukkah starts tomorrow. That’s right, the Jewish equivalent to Christmas is less than 24 hours away. Six days after Thanksgiving. Really?

I just purged my refrigerator of the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers yesterday, and now I have to fill it back up with matzo ball soup, potato latkes, and vegetable kugel. Tomorrow?

My Hebrew school dropout status is still plaguing me at age 37, apparently.

In addition to being unprepared, I have the added pressure that it’s my son’s first Hanukkah. As of now, I have nothing for him. No cute “It’s my First Hanukkah” onesie, no special menorah, no gifts. Yeah, I am feeling like a rock star Mommy right about now. Thank G-d I have 8 nights to get this right.

This would never happen during Christmas. The decorations go up right after Halloween, the teary “home again” commercials start airing, and the radio stations begin playing holiday music exclusively months in advance. Jews have one Hanukkah song by Adam Sandler in rotation. It’s easier to forget when it starts, you know?

Hanukkah is anyone’s guess. I hope it falls around December 25 so I have time to prepare, but there are years when it sneaks up on me like thong underwear post pregnancy.

Thankfully, I can fall back on tradition when it comes to cooking some Hanukkah favorites. There are certain dishes we make each year–both Idaho and sweet potato latkes, for example. Jew or non-Jew, one cannot help but love handmade pillows of potatoes fried to perfection in small batches. And my “to do” list for tomorrow just got a little shorter because I always have the ingredients in the house. Maybe I can pull off a Hanukkah miracle for my son during my lunch break after all.

Old Fashioned Potato Latkes

Ingredients:

3 cups of grated potatoes (Idaho or sweet)

1 onion, grated

3 scallions, chopped fine

2 eggs, beaten well

1/2 cup matzo meal

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Oil for frying

Method:

Grate the potatoes by hand in a medium grater, or by food processor with a medium blade. Drain the potatoes of excess liquid. Grate the onion and add it with the scallions into the potatoes. Add matzo meal, beaten eggs, salt, and pepper. Mix well.

Pour a good amount of oil into a frying pan (enough to generously coat the pan for frying). Heat the oil until hot, and drop the potato latke mixture in by the tablespoonful. Fry until they turn brown, and then flip it over. Drain well on paper towels. Serve immediately with applesauce or sour cream.

Posted in Family, Food, Hanukkah, Holidays, Kids, Life, Parents, recipes, Thoughts, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

MommyGuilt, Continued

 I took an unconventional path towards motherhood. The stork dropped a sweet 9-year-old girl on my doorstep first.

One can never predict their destiny. If you asked me in my 20s if I would fall deeply in love with a widower and his daughter at age 32, I would have emphatically said, “No” (or “Hell, no!” because I had an attitude). But that’s exactly what happened. I essentially dated both of them (Dad and I devoured delectable dinners, drinks, and each other; his daughter and I bonded over milkshakes, movies, and mom-and-me moments she missed losing her mother so young). Like a Chia Pet that is somehow popular during the holiday season–Just add water!–we were an instant family, and it was solidified in marriage a few years later.

I had envisioned the traditional route to motherhood–love, marriage, and a baby carriage–but that wasn’t the path I was supposed to take. I was thrilled with my new family, but still longed to experience the magical moment of discovering my pregnancy, nourishing a living being growing inside of my belly, and feeling the pure joy of holding my baby for the first time.

I waited 37 years before I was blessed with my beautiful son.

I think MommyGuilt is so intense for me because becoming a Mommy is truly a dream realized. I am profoundly grateful for both of my children at my core. When I wish for an uninterrupted night of sleep–sans the 3:00 a.m. feeding or 3:00 a.m. wake up call from giggling teenage girls–I feel MommyGuilt. I remember what my life was without them, and I would trade every wink of sleep to always have them by my side.

Like I said in my previous post, MommyGuilt trumps the schmear of Jewish guilt I grew up with.

Do you suffer from MommyGuilt?

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MommyGuilt

Am I a horrible Mommy if I do a little happy dance in my head when my beloved baby takes a nap?

The happy dance doesn’t happen all the time, only sometimes. Just so I can shower, do some laundry, prepare dinner, or–if I am really feeling indulgent–read a few pages of a novel or watch a show I taped weeks ago on my DVR (sidebar: The Good Wife is my favorite since 24 went off the air)? Should I feel bad about silently praying to the nap fairy for a two-hour reprieve? And crossing my fingers that my stepdaughter is out of the house during nap time, too? 

Because it makes me feel guilty. I grew up in a Jewish household, so I am no stranger to guilt, believe me, but MommyGuilt is the worst.

Sometimes my son will snuggle right next to me, exhausted with his eyes closed, and cry hysterically. I go through my nap refusal checklist (Well fed? Changed? Warm? Comfortable? Binky? Favorite blanket with a deranged looking monkey head? Check, check, check, check, check, check.), and he won’t give in to his tiredness. I lay next to him, give him his space, pick him up, put him down, sing (sometimes that can make him hysterical)…nothing works. By the way, nap refusal often occurs following his all night parties.

Those are the times I need him to nap like an alcoholic must need his next drink. Should I suffer from such a bad case of MommyGuilt?

To be continued tomorrow…

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