Monday, February 18, 2013

Dinner with G & Crystal over Morroccan Tagine and Red Wine

For Christmas this year, Dad and Vicki gave us this beautiful pottery called a Tagine. (tah-jscheen) Maybe that didn't help. Anyway, here is what wikipedia had to say about it to give you an idea.
tajine or tagine (Arabic: طاجين tajin from the Persianتابه‎ tabe[1]) is an historically Berber[2] dish from North Africa that is named after the special earthenware pot in which it is cooked. A similar dish, known as tavvas, is found in the cuisine of Cyprus. The traditional tajine pot is formed entirely of a heavy clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts: a base unit that is flat and circular with low sides and a large cone- or dome-shaped cover that sits on the base during cooking. The cover is designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom. With the cover removed, the base can be taken to the table for serving.
So we called up G and Crystal Friday night, set the ipad up against a picture frame (which is the greatest discovery I have made in a while) and had dinner with them. This particular recipe is so hearty, filling and delicious, you can't resist eating it slowly and savoring all the interesting flavors.

Since we have a coil burner, we had to have one of those ceramic heat distributors. I cooked the entire dish in the Tagine. Saute the onions and spices over the stove and then you add the meatballs, carrots, tomatoes, golden raisins and broth, put the lid on and bake it in the oven. The spinach just has to wilt so I just mixed it in fresh at the end and it was ready to go without putting it back in the oven.You can do this in a cast iron stew pot with a lid too. The recipes online are a little big to fit in mine so keep that in mind if you make it in a traditional Tagine.

I doubled the meatballs and we only used about 1/3 of them (about 2-3 per serving if you aren't a big meat eater) and froze the rest for another night. I used a mix of grass fed beef and ground elk meat from Peyton and Justin's hunt this past fall. Delish!

*Saffron's expensive, so skip it if you want. You get the yellow color from the turmeric anyway and I haven't noticed a huge difference without it. Serve it in bowls over prepared cous cous and you have a one pot meal!

Go here for the Morroccan Meatball Tagine recipe.

Thanks guys for the dinner date! Now we just need to figure out how to play Settlers over the ipad...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

An Entrepreneur in the Making

Museum Curator

We hosted a dessert night this week for the students on Valentine's Day. Aeneas, dressed to the hilt with rubber gardening gloves and a bow tie, asked me over and over again when the party was going to begin. "It starts at 8," I say. "Yeah, but when will there be a lot of people here?" "What do you mean? Why does it matter? Wait a minute, what have you got planned?!?" "Well, I want to make some money." "WHAT? Make some money? Doing what?" "Selling admission to my museum. It's a phone museum."

 Kate, a willing and very enthusiastic participant!

Let me back up. If you ever need to give your kids something to do, go get an old phone and give them some pliers and a selection of screwdrivers. I traded out our old fashioned corded phone for a cordless and instead of saving it for later, we gave it to the kids and they have spent 4 solid days taking every screw (which Aeneas refers to as the glue that holds it together) out of it. They even woke up early a couple of mornings to get some "work" done on it before school.

Display cases

Colin, Another willing participant!

"Show me your museum." I'm thinking to myself. So that is where all my leftover containers have gone. They are display cases for a disassembled phone! I should have guessed! "So what are you going to charge?" "How about $2.50?" "$2.50?!? College students are poor. How about a donation and they can put whatever they have in there?" "OK." "Mom, can you go knock on doors to let people know so I can have a line of people outside waiting for the tour?" Uh, no, I thought. "I'll help you go around and ask people to come in." "OK."

We set out a dish of coins for the unprepared college students to use for admission. I never got a count but I am sure it was 3-4 dollars by the end of the night.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

(insert your holiday here) Day

I actually hate Valentine's Day. There, I said it. And it's not because of some thwarted love in my past or the fact that my husband never remembers it anyway. It's another one of those holidays that pressures us to buy things. And it honestly just sets men (and women) up for failure. 

Let's see. You need to remember Valentine's Day and Anniversaries and make them as romantic as possible. And then there's Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparents Day. And on top of that there are birthdays. And then the birthdays that are monumental like 18, 21, 40, 50, 60 and so on. These are no ordinary birthdays. They have to be somewhat differentiated from all the others that you may have forgotten. And not just by remembering them. 

Any normal person is going to blow it at least once, and more likely several times out of the year. I think it's society's way of holding our hands through making sure we are grateful for the people in our lives that mean so much. When in reality we shouldn't need a stupid holiday to remind us. Just make the phone call when you think of it. Send an unexpected letter at any time of the year "just because." Pick up the phone when your mother calls even if you talked to her the day before and have nothing new to say or if you don't have a lot of time. And for Pete's sake, ask them about their lives every once in a while. Moments like these are my Valentine's cards. These are my birthday celebrations. These are my thanks yous and my "you mean a lot to me," moments.

I have a friend, Missi, with whom I have been friends with since we were 12 years old. Our lives are so different, They pretty much split in college as we sought to find out who we were despite going to the same school. We graduated and moved away and as the years have gone by, we have managed to stay in touch off and on. One time we were on the phone she was very frank and said that she rarely had time to talk and a good timing to catching up just doesn't exist with the business of life: marriage and kids an work. She said she was beginning a new approach. In any quiet moment I came to mind, she would call. Maybe she would have 5 min in the car on the way to work. Maybe an hour on a road trip. The point was to make it happen when and how it could and not wait for the ideal time. It just doesn't exist. Sometimes we talk several times a month. And sometimes only every few, Sometimes we talk for over an hour and sometimes no more than 5 min. But the connection is made. I am important to her and she to me.

OK. So back to the holiday at hand after a totally unexpected and unplanned soap box. 

Even with all of that, I do remember decorating those little shoe boxes with relish. And placing the letter slot just so. The whole process of handing out your Valentine's was magical. I don't know why. There was just something cool about pretending to be a mailman (of love and friendship, I guess) and slipping the little letters that were painstakingly addressed and signed into their correct slot. And then to go back to your own box to see the surprise of "mail" in your own mailbox. So I buy into the crazy Valentine chaos for the boys' sake each year despite the personal grudge I hold against the holiday. As far as I can tell, it's a crafty outlet for me. And for me as a graphic artist, sometimes my craft comes in the form of 2-dimensional design. 

I searched for printable Valentine's cards online (because I didn't want to drive all the way out to Wal-Mart to pick some up) and found a lot of ones I thought were really cute. But after giving it some thought, my boys don't "give a hoot" for anything. And anything mushy just isn't their style. Star Wars, Harry Potter and LOTR is what's really on their minds and in an effort to be a cool mom, I decided to go for something they would actually be proud to hand out. So I have spent my lazy, snowy afternoon "making Valentine's (and writing this blog). Here is what I came up with. I hope it creates a chuckle if nothing else. Maybe I am just trying to cover up my loath of Valentine's, or maybe I have too much time on my hands...You decide. Happy Valentine's Day! I mean it! REALLY!!!

Does anyone have a fun breakfast idea or snack idea for the big day? Because if I'm doing this, I'm gonna go all the way!