Monday, May 10, 2010

what it's REALLY like

I know I called it off with Martha, but I’m still kind of seeing her.  See, there are just a few of her recipes that I’d already picked out to try, and some of them are just too alluring to pass up.  It’s an on again, off again thing.  For the record, I’m officially done with her, although tonight’s food fest did help her regain some footing in my book.
It all started last night, when I decided to - FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE - read the recipe not only before making it, but also before shopping for it.  Pure brilliance, I tell you.  I discovered that I had all of the necessary tools, that I didn’t need any weird obscure ingredients and that I didn’t need to let anything sit in the fridge overnight.  I started out on the right foot.
(Just a note: things quickly went downhill.  I spent a good 15 minutes in front of the pork chops this morning, trying to figure out which cut looked the most like the picture since they obviously didn’t have bone-in pork RIB chops... I went with the loin chops that looked almost identical, but I was already beginning to worry at that point.)
In honor of Mother’s Day, my mom picked the food - Pork Chops with Peppers and Green Beans and Applesauce Cake.  She couldn’t decide on a side so I chose Potato Croquettes.  We also had your standard side salad.  That’s the menu.  Here’s the story.
Around 3:30 I started to get ready, meaning I had finally gotten mini to fall asleep so I could set her down and do some straightening/start the dishwasher so I could then actually begin cooking.  K woke up from her nap right at this point, so I had her help me pick up and then sat her down with some crayons and a coloring book in the living room where I could keep an eye on her.  I finished up with the cleaning part right in time to start the cooking part.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the recipes.  I had taken them to the grocery store with me in lieu of a list and somewhere between the cart, the fussing, the bags and belting the kids in their seats I lost track of them.  I searched the car and the diaper bag.  I searched my pockets.  I searched and searched.  Then I took K downstairs where I hopped on-line and looked up my friend Martha’s website to find them and print them out.
Now, here is the part where I tell you one of the biggest reasons I’ve got a beef with Martha.  You know how she puts “all” of her recipes online so you can “easily” find them?  Well, this is a fib.  No matter how many ways I typed the titles of the recipes, no matter how many search parameters I adjusted, no matter how I narrowed my search, these recipes would not be located.  It was as if they never existed at all.  Except I knew I wasn’t making them up because for once I had read them the night before!  (So if you were wondering why there aren’t any links up there for the recipes like there normally are, now you know.)  
I was pretty frantic when my sister came to pick K up.  She wished me luck and mini woke up crying as she was leaving.  I was still determined to find the recipes, since I had bought all the necessary items.  I was calming mini and searching for the recipes when mr came home.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t pawn our screaming child off on him as the call of the wild (AKA yard work) was too strong.  While he mowed, I scoured and mini moped.  
I should have realized then what the evening had in store.  
I finally searched every pocket of the diaper bag and found them nestled all snug in the tiny outer compartment.  
By this time I was behind.  mini was dealing well enough, so I set her down to entertain herself while I got started.  I began with the dessert, because it would take the longest to make and bake. 
I think this recipe was a little deceptive.  You look at it and think, “MMMMM.  I’m going to make Applesauce Cake!”  But really what you should be thinking is, “Mmmmm, I’m going to make Applesauce AND Cake.”  Because you first need to make one before you can make the other.  (First I realized I had forgotten to buy apples.  In a very short-lived panic, I stared unseeingly around my fridge, wondering if I should try to send mr for apples, when I suddenly saw the bag of apples my mom had left me a week ago.  Hallelujah!)  I am notoriously LOUSY at peeling apples.  I mean, I take things off that shouldn’t be taken off and leave things on that shouldn’t be left on and just generally take way too long to do it.  So about halfway through the third apple (yes, I only needed three, why am I complaining?) I was wishing for Mott’s.  Why couldn’t I use pre-made applesauce?  Because it’s Martha, that’s why.  So I set the apples to simmering and softening and started on the pork chops.
I opened the package and realized that what I originally thought was 4 chops was in actuality 3.  I was way behind at this point, thanks to the billion years it took me to peel the apples, so I didn’t feel I could try to talk mr into running to the store.  Instead, I bravely decided to go without.  They were big chops, maybe I could beg a bite off of someone’s.
The first step was to cook the chops in veggie oil, 4 minutes a side.  This is right about when mini decided she was NOT ok, and must be put to bed THIS SECOND.  So, I rocked her to sleep and made it back to the oven just in time to rescue the chops from a certain death via incineration.  
The apples were beyond done.  I took the chops off, cleaned out the pan like the recipe said and started the veggies cooking, in between taking the apples off heat and adding other cake ingredients.  Now, let me pause a moment to give you my take on meals which include the requirement to wash dishes WITHIN THE RECIPE.  This is really lame.  I don’t like washing dishes after I cook, much less during.  I suppose I could have pulled out a second “large skillet” but, alas, I have only one.
Somewhere amid all of this adding brown sugar, cutting green onions, stirring the green beans, adding eggs, peeling the ginger root, whisking the oil in, I failed to notice the accumulation of smoke on my main floor.  Really, amid all of this I’m just lucky I got the right ingredients into their respective pots and didn’t make some gross applesauce and red pepper cake, so maybe it isn’t so surprising that I didn’t catch the smoky haze wafting ever closer to my smoke detectors.  
The ear-splitting, shrill, incessant beeping of all FOUR smoke detectors in our house going off jerked me out of my cooking frenzy.  I flew into action, turning on the ceiling fan, opening our patio door, and propping our front door open to create a breeze.  Amazingly, they stopped relatively quickly (the last time they went off, I not only beat one of them with a broom handle, but also climbed up on a stool and completely dismantled one of them to make the noise stop.  These suckers are so loud mr and I have to shout to be heard over them.  They are industrial strength, super-sensitive, and when one goes off, they all do because they are wired together.  In a way, it makes you feel all warm and cozy and safe.  But not really.  Because they are just so dang annoying.)  
I held my breath.  I knew my chances of escaping that hubbub without at least one of the kids waking up were pretty much nil.  But not a peep!
So I put the cake in the oven and started the croquettes, while stirring the veggies, adding the roasted red pepper out of a jar, and standing on my head while juggling colorful balls with my feet.  Now, here is the part where I ask you why Martha can use roasted red peppers out of a jar instead of roasting her own but she can’t use pre-made applesauce out of a jar?  Why?
And then above the sound of sizzling food and the melodic tones of Benton Paul on my kitchen CD player, there was the unmistakable roar of the weed-eater.  Which was, of course, followed by the shriek of a very upset baby.  I ran upstairs and got her out of bed, calmed her down and pulled her highchair into the kitchen so she could watch me and perhaps be pacified.  I plunked some toys on the tray and hoped against hope, because I was seriously pressed for time at this point.
I should perhaps mention that the croquettes are akin to the applesauce cake in that you must make something first in order to make what you really want to make, so I had to make mashed potatoes.  And you know what?  I’m not ashamed to admit that I used flakes instead of the real deal, because honestly, you have to draw the line somewhere, right?  (But actually, I am a LITTLE ashamed, I mean, flakes?  It’s just not right...) However, I made them nice and thick and added chives and parsley, so really, it was all good.
By this time green beans were flying around, potatoes were flopping onto the floor, timers for who knows what were going off, the wind was blowing random objects around my house, the cat had escaped out the front door and the jalapenos were making me tear.  mini started fussing and just then, the hero of the hour arrived.  My mom walked through the door.
She calmed the baby while I rolled potatoes into "logs", then took the cake out before it burned and took care of the romaine and tomato side salad while I dunked potatoes in egg and heated oil on the stove.  After kicking around a few green beans and stepping in potato glop, she also wiped up the floor for me, which was awfully nice.
And, then, in a flash, it was all over.  Everything was finished, made, on the plates and the table was set.  mr came in from weed eating and got bug ready for dinner, my dad sat at his usual place, and I actually had time to take a breath.
It’s funny, but even with all the chaos, Monday Food Fest is still one of my favorite traditions.

I’m not really the best judge of my cooking, as I usually can only tell you how I could have made things better, but the rest of the family loved this meal.  The chops were a hit (so I guess loin was ok rather than rib) - they were tender and moist.  The veggies were spicy and still crisp, and everyone liked that.  

The cake was extra moist and yummy - I added walnuts to the top just because it seemed like the right thing to do.  

The REAL stars of the show, though, were the croquettes.  They vanished from the serving plate before I could return to the table from feeding mini.  Mom says they were the best potatoes she ever ate in her life - a bold statement.  

But honestly, if you try nothing else from this menu, you should try them.
I’m not saying Martha and I are back on or anything.  I’m just not burning any bridges yet.

(Click to enlarge)




alicia said...

This story was so funny. And the sad part is it was just a day in the life for you. But good laughs. I can just visualize the choas and totally relate on so many levels. See, I have a love/hate relationship with martha myself. I got her subscription for xmas.

Thanks for joining in my discussion over at blogfrog. Just wanted you to know I'm a new follower over here. Great read. Oh, and your header is so clever!

Unknown said...

Thanks Alicia! I only cook a nice dinner once a week, really, and I've been using my mom's subscription to Martha for a lot of the recipes. I thought maybe I was the only one with a tumultuous relationship with her! :) I'm a new follower on your blog too!

Megan said...

HI-LARIOUS! I'm amazed your dinner still turned out so awesome, if it were me, my dinner would have been a lost cause and I would be found on the ground, curled up and crying!

Honey I'm Home Blog said...

Hi Kimberly, I'm linking over from "LambAround". I love this cute post & I'm definitely trying those potatoes!

Warmly, Michelle

Laura J Harrison said...

Howdy Kimberly!
I have got to try those croquettes. I printed the recipie. Thanks. Going to be having a B-Party this week-end. Perfect!
I am a new follower stopping by from Lamb Around Hop.
If possible, pay me a visit and consider giving us a little help a the link below. CSN Store finalists. (3rd place)

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