Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Food: Lemon-Garlic Shrimp Skewers

This is a super easy and very tasty meal that takes little prep and always impresses guests. You need an hour or so to marinate the shrimp but the rest of the prep and cooking takes only minutes.  

Lemon-Garlic Shrimp Skewers - with fail
Lemon-Garlic Shrimp Skewers
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 to 1 1/2 pounds peeled, deveined shrimp (med or large)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1 or 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
Lemon wedges

- In a bowl, mix salt and sugar. Add shrimp and stir gently to coat. Cover and chill 45 minutes to 1 hour. Rinse shrimp well and drain; also rinse and dry bowl.
- Return shrimp to bowl. Add olive oil, parsley, lemon peel, garlic, and pepper. Mix to coat. Thread shrimp on metal or soaked wooden skewers, running skewer through the body once near the tail and once near the head end of each shrimp so it looks like the letter C.
- Lay shrimp skewers on an oiled barbecue grill over hot coals or high heat on a gas grill (you can hold your hand at grill level only 2 to 3 seconds); close lid on grill. Cook, turning once, until shrimp are bright pink and opaque but still moist-looking in center of thickest part (cut to test), 5 to 6 minutes total. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over shrimp.
 - You can also grill some seasonal veggies (like asparagus coated with olive oil) and serve with bread to round out the meal.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

To enjoy what you really are.

It was hard for me to leave my job to raise my kids. I always intended to stay at home when I became a mom. I had a good career in product management for social websites, a role and a field I'm pretty indifferent about. But it's a job I'm good at, one that comes easily for me. Apparently it does not come so easily for others since it pays pretty well. I was always surprised when my employers were impressed by what I did as a matter of routine, and downright shocked at how much they were willing to pay for my work. It's nice to feel valued. Even though the job wasn't one I enjoyed much, being highly praised and well compensated made lack of interest less of a problem.

When I became a mom I found it hard to justify leaving my job. Was I really going to walk away from that paycheck, and from the recognition and sense of accomplishment the workplace provided? The answer turned out to be no. Not at first, anyway. When my boss offered me a flexible part-time gig, I took it despite my strong feelings about being at home with my child. It seemed too good to pass up. And it was good, very good, for a while. But as time passed the demands both at work and at home increased, and I had to make a real choice. Go back to work or do what I really wanted and stay at home.

For years before motherhood I had looked at changing careers, but fear held me back. I was really good at product management. Who knows if I'd be good at something new? I certainly wouldn't make as much if I started over. So I stayed doing what I knew I could instead of seeking something that represented me. I made this choice over and over, feeling more stuck with each passing year.

Having a baby was a free pass, a built-in excuse to step away from the easy path I was on and take time to figure out what I really wanted to pursue. And even then I couldn't take that first step. After struggling with the part-time role for a year, I longed to be at home with my son but didn't make a change. I took the cowardly route and waited until I was pregnant with my second child before finally quitting. I didn't have the confidence to choose for myself. I needed the excuse of another baby to do what I really wanted.

I still beat myself up about all this. How could I have left work? Why didn't I have the courage to quit when I wanted to? Am I just lazy for wanting to be at home with the kids? Shouldn't I keep a better house if this is what I m supposed to be doing? No matter what the line of thinking, my inner self can find a way to cast doubt.

In the midst of this doubt-fest, my husband tried to be a supportive as a baffled spouse can be. He kept telling me to do whatever would make me happy. If no one has ever said this to you, let me tell you it's one of the nicest things a body can hear. Of course it wasn't enough to get me to actually take action, because I didn't believe my happiness was worthwhile enough to matter. Still it's wonderful to hear. It's helped me make peace with the choice I've made.

But I won't be at home forever. And unless I can figure out what I'm passionate about and start pursuing it, I'll end up picking up where I left off in my old career. I don't want that. Not for myself or for my children. I want them to charge after their dreams with gusto, and trip along the way and change course and keep on going. Success is not a finish line. It's the joy you have while plugging away every day. I want this for them, and I'm too afraid to go after it myself. They will be too if they don't have a better example.

I was watching the 1990s teen drama “My So-Called Life” and was struck by what the mother character said to her daughter. “That's all I want for you: To enjoy what you really are.” It's what I want for my children. I can give that to them by giving it to myself. First I need to find out who I really am. I need to make that a priority, make time for discovering myself. Then I need to enjoy what I've found. I suspect that's going to be the hard part.  

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Food: Broccoli Cashew Salad

I'm great at buying vegetables but not so consistent about actually preparing and consuming them. I was looking for a way to use up some broccoli and found an interesting salad recipe from Paula Deen

The problem was I didn't have most of the ingredients. I used cranberries instead of raisins, which was simple enough. I had no tomatoes on hand so I left those out. She called for sugar, which seemed unnecessary. I also didn't have bacon, but it seemed the salad would be lacking without it. A quick scan of the pantry revealed cashews, which seemed a fine substitute and had added the benefit of keeping the dish vegetarian.  I stirred in some some leftover cooked orzo to make a more hearty dish. The result was a knock-out salad that makes eating raw veggies a pleasure rather than a chore.

The amounts below are guidelines - add more or less to suit your taste. One thing I've found is that the onion really brings it all together. I'm not a raw onion fan, but I always make sure to add a bit to make the salad shine.
Broccoli Cashew Salad

    * 1 head broccoli
    * 1/2 cup cashews, roughly chopped
    * 1/4 cup chopped onion
    * 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
    * 6 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
    * 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, 
halved  (optional)

    * 1 cup cooked orzo pasta (optional)
    * Salt and pepper to taste
    * 1/2 cup mayonnaise
    * 2 tablespoons white vinegar

Wash and trim off the leaves and stalk from the broccoli head. Cut the head into florets and 
(if desired) the stem  into bite-size pieces. Place in a large bowl. Add the chopped cashews, onion, raisins or cranberries, and cheese. Add tomatoes and orzo if using. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, mayonnaise, salt & pepper, stirring well. Pour over broccoli mixture and toss gently.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Friday Food: Watermelon Feta Salad

watermelon feta salad recipe - with fail
Writing often with kids about will take some doing, but I want to get into the habit of posting regularly so I'll give myself an easy weekly post. I'll share the simple yummy recipes that have become staples in our house.

First up: Watermelon Feta Salad. I first came across the surprising combination of flavors at Thea Mediterranean. Michelle took me out for a much-needed dinner-and-a-movie and we shared this fresh summery salad. The sweet-tangy-salty combo was easy to mimic and soon became a summer staple in our kitchen.

Watermelon Feta Salad

  feta cheese, crumbled
  mint leaves
  sea salt

Chop watermelon into bite-sized cubes and place in a large bowl. Chop mint leaves into thin threads and add to bowl.  Squeeze in a little lime juice. Add the crumbled feta and a pinch of salt. Mix lightly and taste to adjust the flavors as needed. Chill before serving.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Writing the Wrongs

The thought of writing terrifies me. Wait. That's not true. The thought of writing is blissful. The *act* of writing is what induces terror. I say I want to write, but I never do it. Why? Because I am a coward.

I started this blog to confront my fear of failing, to embrace the part of myself that knows I can do amazing things if I'd just take a chance. After two measly posts I went right back to my old routine of thinking about writing instead of just writing. But it's never to late to succeed, or in my case, fail. So I'm stretching these stiff muscles once again, starting gently and hoping to find that once I get going it's as pleasurable and freeing as I remember.

As eager as I am to write, I am more eager to do things that prepare me for writing. Well, I pretend it's preparation, but in fact it just helps me avoid actually turning out words. My desk could stand to be uncluttered. In fact, a remake of this entire space would certainly spark creativity. I should make an outline of all my story ideas and potential subjects. Really what I need is to create a writing schedule to keep myself on task. A nice pretty organizer would help inspire me. I should go Google that right now...

And another day goes by without writing. Somehow none of those other tasks get completed either, or they don't end up helping. The fear remains. Just what I'm afraid of remains a mystery.

Not today. I'm writing, despite not having any good idea what I'm getting at here. Despite this being a personal screed rather than a topic of interest to a wider audience. Despite my fears.

I have so much I want to write about. Parenting issues. Profiles of astounding people. The myth of perfection. A celebration of the ordinary beauty we fail to see around us. I can't write it all, so I don't write any of it. Focus is required, but deciding where to begin is numbing. I miss my school days where the writing was assigned: what, when, how long were all settled for me. I flourish at writing on topic to a deadline. When it comes to deciding what to write, my lack of confidence kicks in. Not a lack of confidence in my writing ability, but that my opinion is worth anything, that what I pick to write about has any relevancy or merit beyond myself. That I matter.

My head knows the answer, but the rest of me is going to take some convincing.

Now if you pardon me, I need to search for a pretty notebook, and maybe a nice basket to organize all this desk clutter. I know it won't help my writing, but why let that stop me?