“Maybe we should have pancakes.” My daughter says, when I ask what we should have for breakfast that sunny Saturday morning.
“Hm. Yea, we could. But I don’t have any mix.” I respond, bottom lip between my teeth.
I am a huge fan, HUGE, of making food from scratch. Unless it is just way to much work, I will do it myself from all raw ingredients. I make my own chicken stock; I make macaroni and cheese from scratch; I make cheeseburger macaroni from scratch. Cheeseburger freaking macaroni, as in the Hamburger Helper dish we all ate when we were kids.
For some reason, though, I have always been convinced that pancakes were going to be super complicated.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a lover of pancakes. Every time we go out to breakfast at a diner I get a side pancake. One pancake on the side. It’s my dessert after breakfast. I’ll order corned beef hash, potatoes, toast, eggs. And a pancake on the side. I only end up eating like a quarter of my breakfast because I want that damn pancake, smothered in butter and syrup.
At home, however, it is an entirely different story.Continue reading…
I live just above the downtown area of the city of Hayward on the top floor of an apartment building overlooking the city and looking out to the hills. My husband and brother have been trying to convince me to move for years. “We could get a house,” they say. “The kids could have a yard,” they say.
“Find me something similar to what I have now, for a similar price, and I will move.” I always respond in the same way.
Especially now that I have children, location is incredibly important to me.
My daughter and I have been walking to our city library (We have a new library going up now, and we cannot wait to get in there!) since she could walk. It is less than a mile away. The hubby and I walk to the movie theater, which is seldom overcrowded, for date nights. The theater is even closer than the library. I live in a secure building. My apartment has windows on three sides (I get to gaze at the horizon from my desk while I write), a balcony on the backside and a patio on the front, and we enjoy two thousand square feet of space.
No, I’m not leaving until I buy my dream house. (I have been getting more anxious for that recently. More on that later.)
But, I didn’t always live in this big place; we needed the space when my brother moved in after my daughter was born, and we lucked out when the only three bedroom apartment in my building became available. When I was 19, I moved into this building, into a one bedroom apartment on the fourth floor. Years later I moved into a two bedroom. Now we are here.
The building is nothing to brag about. People throw trash in the elevator, vomit in the stairwells, and pee in the hallway. It can be pretty gross sometimes. Plus, our fabulous pool just happens to be located next to the dumpster. So, yea, that’s luxury living at its finest right there. But I understand also that I live just down the hill from my alma mater, California State University of East Bay (Hayward, really), and that college kids and their friends can be idiots. Also, some people never learned the “don’t poop where you eat” rule. Go figure.
But we have a great group of people here who wave to each other as we head out for the day. We make conversation in the elevator (over the vomit), and we ask after each other’s family. We also commiserate over the pee and the trash.
I am not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as they say, and I’ll tell you why.Continue reading…
“What’s for breakfast tomorrow?” My brother asks this question every Friday and Saturday. During the week it’s “what’s for dinner?”
For a grown man who is more into fitness and health than anyone I have ever personally known, he sure is food obsessed.
“French toast.” I respond, offhand, because I can always throw together some french toast.
The problem is that I only had the honey wheat bread that I buy from Costco in the kitchen. And I just do not like French toast made with regular bread. It works. You can do it. But why? If you’re going to make French toast, make French toast.Continue reading…
I love food. There, I said it. I love food with a passion unseen before in the halls of time. I take longer to eat than anyone I’ve ever met, usually because I am savoring my food. ( I also talk a lot during meals.) I make a freaking loaded salad to take to the park with my kids every weekday because sandwiches get soggy if you load them up the way I like them, and everything else just feels like snacks, which are for other times of the day. I snack so much I can’t possibly also have snacks for meals. Also: meals rock.
But I don’t have a ton of time to prepare food. Salads are easy because I can throw in some greens, some shredded carrots, and quickly chop up whatever veg I have sitting on the counter, bell pepper, cucumber, tomato, etc. Then I typically throw in some cold cuts, turkey or salami are my go to’s. Top it off with some sunflower seeds and small jar of olive oil, whatever vinegar (pick your poison), salt and pepper to add once I’m ready to eat at the park, et voila. Lunch.
Dinner is another story. I like a nice warm meal for dinner, pasta, rice, potato, a green veggie, a meat, and usually a sauce. We’re big, really big, on protein in my household, so pretty much every meal includes a meat, but most of the dishes I make you can replace with tofu or you can make without a meat at all. I know because I was on a “let’s incorporate more vegetarian dishes into our household” kick until I got gestational diabetes during my last pregnancy. You need to eat really meat heavy meals and snacks when you have gestational diabetes, so I turned away from vegetarian, and so far I haven’t ventured back.
The problem with all my food love is I work four nights a week as a tutor, and during the day I am chasing after one child and carrying another in a front pack. I do not have time to make big elaborate meals, but I know that if I don’t prepare dinner before I leave for work, my family, which includes my husband, my two kids, and my brother will end up eating bread and cheese, literally. Well, maybe tortillas and cheese, depending on which carb is closest at hand.
So three of the weekdays that I work I prepare a meal ahead of time, either in the morning before heading to the park, or in the afternoon right before I leave for work, depending on how the day goes and on what the meal is. One of the four weeknights there is enough food for leftovers.
In addition to being an active, hands on, homeschooling mom (which means my kids are always with me if I’m not at work) and being a tutor, I am also (hi there) spending a lot of time trying to get my writing online and read by as many people as possible (that’s you!), which is time consuming, plus I try to get regular exercise for physical and mental health, and I have ten million other I am woman hear me roar tasks to accomplish, grocery shopping, bill paying, corresponding with family and friends, making plans for family or friend get togethers, working toward ending white supremacy, smashing the patriarchy, you know, the little things.
If you can relate, and I’m sure you can, because you’re still here, I will share with you one of the many recipes that is a quick, easy, and delicious meal to prepare the morning before you head off to work or play dates, the afternoon before you head off to coffee with a girlfriend, or the evening before you head off to a Black Lives Matter march. Or, this could just be a meal you can prepare quickly when you get home from anyone of the above events and you need to get dinner on the table, so you can rest easy afterward while you knit a pink hat.
This particular dish is a favorite because it works anytime of year and I usually have all of the ingredients on hand. It also doesn’t really have any of those “ew I don’t like that” foods that my daughter, husband, and brother all have on a list somewhere they’ve hidden from me.
Without further ado, here it is:
Chicken Mozzarella Penne
2 cloves garlic
crushed red pepper
1 32 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 bag of whole wheat penne pasta
4 chicken breasts
12 oz brick of Mozzarella cheese, or half a brick of that giant one from Costco
salt and pepper to taste
First, Put a giant pot of water on the stove to boil; it takes forever, so start there. Don’t forget to salt your water; it is the only way to season your pasta.
Put a skillet on the stove on medium heat and drizzle some olive oil in the pan. Put a saucepan on the stove on the same heat level and drizzle some olive oil in. I like Rachel Ray’s technique of “once around the pan.”
You now have three pans on the stove.
Cube your four chicken breasts, wait for the oil to be hot enough that you can clearly feel the heat rising from the pan.
In the meantime, cut your 1/2 onion and and chop your garlic. You can make these in big chunks because you are going to throw them in the blender later.
By now, both your pans should be hot, so add the chicken to the skillet and season with salt and pepper, then add onions and garlic to saucepan. Keep a close eye on the saucepan, stir regularly because you do not want to burn your garlic. It’s gross when it’s burnt.
Once the garlic and onion are translucent, about a minute, add the can of crushed tomatoes, salt, about a teaspoon of crushed red pepper, and about a tablespoon on dried basil, let simmer.
Check your chicken! It will get really juicy and start to turn white, keep stirring it up and mixing the pan until the chicken is cooked all the way through, but the juice is still in the pan and hasn’t cooked off yet.
After your sauce has simmered for a few minutes, throw it in the blender and blend the heck out of it so it runs thick but smooth, no big onion chunks are left. My brother hates onions, so I have to hide them. Return the sauce to saucepan and simmer on super low or the sauce will bubble and get everywhere. That’s a nightmare to clean up.
By now your chicken should be just about ready and your water better be boiling.
Add about 2/3 bag of pasta to the water and stir immediately so the pasta doesn’t stick together. I don’t make the whole bag because I like a saucy pasta dish. Let your pasta cook for about 5 to 6 minutes, super al dente, because you want to add it to the sauce and let the sauce cook it the rest of the way through, so the sauce flavors the pasta.
Now, you can add your sauce to your chicken in the pan, drain your pasta, and mix all of that together in a medium to large sized baking dish.
Now comes the fun part, and by fun I mean my favorite part:
Cube the brick of mozzarella and dump all the cubes on top of the dish. Take your serving spoon and mix it all together.
When you are close to ready to eat it, throw it in the oven for 30 minutes on 350 if its still warm, or 45 minutes if it’s been in the fridge.
The end result will be a bubbly, gooey, pizza-y delight that will fill your family’s bellys and make them worship the ground you walk on, after all you are the queen (unless you’re a guy, then you’re totally awesome too! I hope.), you deserve to be worshipped.
You should also have plenty for leftovers, unless you have a large family, in which case double this recipe so you have leftovers because red sauce pasta dishes make THE BEST leftovers.
Enjoy! And please leave comments and feedback if you tried the dish and loved it, or hated it. Either way, I’m off to do all the other things now!