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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Food, Friendship, Fellowship and CHAOS!

Let me start out by saying I miss my friends, I really do. Two years ago, when I married my wonderful husband I moved across Atlanta and away from many of my friends. Others moved away as well, the end result is we are all scattered like so many grains of dust on the wind. And as I am not currently gainfully employed outside the home, my get together of choice is a "Why don't ya'll come over for dinner?"

I love to cook, I love to have people over, I love to feed people and have them enjoy the food I make.

But I stress myself out to infinity, worrying over minuscule details such as whether or not my charmingly overly populated house is clean (guess what? it's not), whether or not the attending guests have some really random food allergy I've not been informed of, whether or not my children will behave (again, NOT!), and whether or not there will be enough food (I cook for an army.)

So enter my day yesterday. I started off with my bit of work that I do from home at 5:10. Yep, that's right folks, I awakened at 4:45 AM and began working whilst the rest of the house slept. And that was after getting up twice to nurse R and going to bed at approximately 11:15pm. Whilst I worked, I also balanced the checkbook, looked for a job, ate my breakfast, etc. In a break, I cooked turkey bacon, eggs, cinnamon toast (for M), and laid out canteloupe for the family's breakfast. I pulled out ground chicken, eggroll wrappers, and boneless chicken thighs to thaw, and put some brown rice on to soak.

I then dressed in a suit and got ready to head out the do
or to a job interview. I happened to glance in the mirror and realize my post-pregnancy form is NOT quite the same as my pre-pregnancy form and panic and change. I then headed out with the kids in tow, dropped them off at my dear mother-in-law's house, and proceeded to go do my interview. Since it was a phone interview, I went to a parking lot and parked, thinking it would save me time later on. I parked downwind of a dumpster who Advanced Disposal thankfully decided to empty whilst I was on my phone interview (Thanks guys, that sounded professional!). Post interview I went to Northside Hospital to see my friend's new beautiful baby girl. Then after spending WAY longer than I should have at the hospital, I hurried back to grab the kids. It took an hour to get them away from grandma, mostly due to M dancing on and off of grandma's aerobic step.
Fast forward to home. Immediately R wanted to nurse, M wanted computer help, and I wanted to prep dinner so the evening would be easy. C
an anyone spell conflict of interest?

My plan for dinner was Chinese. I know it may not be too American-traditional, but it was mostly healthy and well balanced, and most of it wasn't pre-packaged nonsense except the eggroll wrappers. And I'm not to the level of making those myself YET.

I have a few lovely crockpot meals I make that I like to serve guests. These meals make my life easier, dinner generally gets done on time, and I can devote time to the kids. I planned for Orange Chicken, Chicken Springrolls, and fried rice.

The orange chicken is fairly easy. You take boneless chicken (I
used thighs this time) and put in a crockpot with concentrated orange juice (frozen), soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper and some water. That's it. You cook on low for 5 to 6 hours. Depending on the audience, I may make it spicier/sweeter etc.

Fried rice is like the easiest thing ever. So I soaked the rice a couple of hours, which makes it easier to digest and reduces cooking time. Once cooked, I left in the pan and scrambled two eggs with soy sauce and ginger. I removed them from the pan and heated up some frozen peas and carrots. (Yes I use frozen. I'm not shelling peas for fried rice). I left all of it on the stove so we could stir fry it when ready to eat and it would be hot and fresh. My darling husband did the frying. :-)

But those springrolls! Oy! So the spring rolls themselves are not that difficult, but I forgot that they call for Thai peanut sauce and I had none on hand and couldn't remember how to make it. So before I could start the spring rolls I had to make the peanut sauce while (again) nursing R and quizzing M in French. Ack! I started the ground chicken at the same time, hoping to speed up the process. I felt the end result was that the chicken lacked the flavor it normally has when you cook it together, but c'est la vie.

My rough Thai peanut sauce:

1/4 c peanut butter
1/2 tsp or so of cayenne pepper
3 tbsp of sesame oil
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 splash apple cider vinegar
couple splashes of soy sauce
minced onion

minced garlic
minced ginger

Put in all in blender until liquified, cook on low about 15 minutes.

So to make the chicken springrolls, you mix in slaw mix or your choice of chopped fresh veggies (we like teeny matchsticks of carrots and brocolli), the peanut sauce, and the ground chicken. Cook together for 3 or 4 minutes, then roll up in the spring roll wrappers which is much, much easier than it sounds. Place in a greased oven-safe pan and bake on 400 for about 15-20 minutes, or until the tops start looking nice and brown. Like this:I generally serve them with a choice of dipping sauces. I saved peanut sauce for this purpose, and then whipped up some "plum" sauce. I cooked on low in a saucepan: peach jelly, rice wine, apple cider vinegar, cayenne pepper, and a little ginger. I just cooked it stirring with a whisk until the jelly lost its clumps.

Did I mention in the middle of the spring roll debacle I had another phone interview I didn't know I was going to have, R was crying, M got him to take a nap, and I couldn't find my husband?

Then M decideds we need place cards. So she makes placecards for everyone and I realize I had been saving wine corks for a year or so to make placecar
d holders... so I went running for the hot glue gun and whipped some up. M loved them because we were recycling!

Then I realized we needed a drink for the meal. And of course it need to be themed... so, I found the Green Tokyo on green tea, white rum, springs of mint, simple syrup. Simple, except, I didn't want to serve it hot in 90 degree weather, so I had to make it and then chill, and I had to make my simple syrup from brown sugar instead of white because we were out of white sugar. That may be permanent, being out of white sugar is not necessarily a bad thing.

I really put too much pressure on myself, the reason the day was chaotic is because I insist on doing TOO much and perfection. C'est la vie though. It's always worth it to work hard for your friends and do things for them in whatever way you can. Particularly when it's a friend you love so much!

So the plan for Father's Day weekend includes:
  • make breakfast bars to have for next week
  • make truffles
  • make my husband breakfast burritos on Sunday (his favorite breakfast)
  • work in the garden per my husband's request
  • have a cookout for my dad
  • take a nap
  • take M to a birthday party
  • make at least one diaper.
Ha ha, we'll see how much of that actually gets done. My guess is the nap is the first to go!

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