Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Music for Cool People: 2/27/13

In high school, a teacher of mine gave the class a side assignment during a poetry unit to bring in a song that we thought qualified as poetry. I struggled to find one since I loved music so much. But, in the days of no internet and limited resources at home, I never did find anything to bring. Man, I wish I'd known this song then. I would have knocked the class's collective socks clean off.

Also, "We're just a habit, like saccharine." is probably the best line in any song ever. EVER.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Recipes: Allison's Baked Chicken Tenders

Let's face it friends: those bargain chicken tenders in your freezer? Really not the best option when it comes to dinnertime fare. Yes, they are fast and easy, but they are so processed that you have no clue what it is exactly that you are eating. This should scare you. So! Try making some chicken tenders from scratch - I swear this recipe is relatively simple, well-liked by all and quite tasty.

Allison's Baked Chicken Tenders

2 chicken breasts cut into about 4 tenders a piece
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
3/4 cup regular bread crumbs
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
3/4 tsp salt plus extra for seasoning
1/4 tsp pepper plus extra for seasoning
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 paprika
2 TB butter cut in small pieces

 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a baking dish (mine is 9x13) with cooking spray. Combine all breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, 3/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, garlic powder and paprika in a low bowl. Lightly beat eggs in a separate bowl. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper.

2. Coat each chicken tender in the egg and then in the breadcrumb mixture. Place the finished tenders in the baking dish. Side note: I will usually sprinkle a bit of extra breadcrumbs on top of each tender to ensure they are their most delicious.
3. When all of your tenders are in the baking dish top each one with a few chunks of your prepared butter. I usually aim to have about 3 chunks per tender. Bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until tenders are golden brown.

You can serve these tenders with anything - I served them with roasted broccoli (natch). They taste excellent alone, but pair well with the usual condiments (honey being my favorite). Enjoy!

Friday, February 22, 2013

All the Winged Horses

As a child I used to daydream that there were pegasi flying through the sky outside the school bus window. Flitting in and out of the clouds, only I could see them. One would fly down and I'd climb out of the bus window and onto its steady back. From there we'd go anywhere. Everywhere.

My daughter takes a baby doll and propels it across the living room shouting, "WE CAN FLY! WE CAN FLY!" and I feel like I'll just die from the intensity of emotion hurling itself at my ribcage.

Such a sweet gift, the imaginings of childhood. The realness that dreams have. The magic inherent in everything - in a baby doll, in the clouds outside of a school bus. I love that parenthood allows me the privilege of reliving this part of life, albeit from a vicarious place. It fills me with happiness for Willow and with wonder. Curiosity and pride. All of those things.

But, sometimes the emotions springing forth from me are born from a place of pain, of a certain sadness. I have this longing to feel those things again, to believe them possible the way she does - it creates a feeling akin to jealousy. Not really jealousy of any serious variety, but it's there nonetheless. I find myself wishing I was her for a moment so I could see wonders, too.

But I just can't do it. I don't see winged horses in the sky any more. I know they are not there.

I also know this will not be the only time I feel this way - I mean, isn't it sort of a built-in part of parenting? I definitely heard the line "don't wish away your childhood" many a time growing up, and blew it off as old people being dumb. But now, I see it for what it probably was - a tiny twinge of impractical jealousy that gets redirected into a responsible statement of truth. Not that it will do your kid any good - they'll most likely blow it off just like you did.

She throws down her doll in favor of her blocks, and begins building a tower - a home to a princess or an ogre or maybe a vampire. I join in - saving leaning towers and building up places that are lacking stability. Redirecting. Doing the adult things - the responsible things.

I sigh and keep stacking. Trying desperately to dream up a pegasus or two.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Music for Cool People: 2/20/13

I got into the car this morning and had an immediate and overwhelming need to hear the song "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes." THEN! I turned on the radio AND IT WAS PLAYING. Well played, Universe. Well played.

It's Crosby, Stills and Nash, of course.
And can I get a shout-out for the "sofa on the porch" motif? So epic.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Thanks Wholly to a Pop Culture of Insanity

Yesterday began as a brisk, cloudless morning. I decided to take advantage of the odd weather and went out for a run on my usual 5K route. My path takes me through an industrial park, and although I do see occasional people filing into their respective offices, I hardly ever run into anyone on the sidewalk.

So as I turned a corner and headed toward my halfway point I was surprised to see a man walking several hundred feet in front of me. It became quickly obvious at this point that I was going to have to pass him once to get to my halfway mark and then again when I turned around to head home on the same path (which is my typical routine). I weighed the decision for a second - then I noticed something else odd about this guy... he seemed to be more shuffling than walking. He was bent a little to one side, moved slow. My mind was made up - I wasn't going to get any closer to this dude. So, I turned around and headed home with the intention of taking an extra lap around the neighborhood to make up the distance.

As I ran the other direction I started laughing at myself because I realized the real reason I turned around when I did. I wasn't scared that this guy was some sort of criminal with a gimpy leg. My first thought: ZOMBIE.

Thanks pop culture!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Music for Cool People: 2/17/13

Because if someone is going to write you a love song, it might as well have a beat to burn cities to...

Ray LaMontagne - Meg White

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Art: Yellow Floral

Recipes: Company Couscous

I named this recipe Company Couscous just now (like, right this second) because it occurred to me that my usual naming convention of just listing the main ingredients was a tad, well, boring (i.e. I used to call this recipe Mushroom and Zucchini Couscous - snore, right?) Also, this is totally a dish I would (and have) served to company, so the name fits. It has a lot of veggie power, snappy flavors, and involves couscous which is one of my very favorite things. If you're not already cooking the hell out of couscous on a regular basis, get with it! Couscous is ready in like 5 minutes, guys. It's AMAZING. Anyway, this is a dinner staple at our house which we eat as our main dish, but it would also make a great side dish so, be creative!

Company Couscous

1 cup chicken broth (vegetable broth may be substituted)
1 cup uncooked couscous
2 1/2 TB olive oil, divided
3/4 tsp salt, divided
3/8 tsp pepper, divided
3/4 TB lemon juice
3 medium zucchini, chopped into bite-size pieces (about 2 1/2 cups)
4-5 portobello mushroom caps, chopped into bite-size pieces (about 2 1/2 cups)
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese plus 2 TB for garnish
1 TB chopped fresh chives (optional)

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 TB of olive oil. Next, add the mushrooms and season them with 1/4 tsp* of salt and 1/8 tsp* pepper and combine thoroughly (*these amounts are approximate, use your judgment and season them as you would any regular sauteed veg). Saute, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are softened and have released liquid (about 5 minutes). Pour cooked mushrooms and all liquid into a bowl and set aside.

2. Put the skillet immediately back over the heat (no need to rinse) and add 1 TB of olive oil. Bring to heat and then add the chopped zucchini, 1/4 tsp* salt and 1/8 tsp* pepper (*approximates) and stir to combine well. Saute, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

3. After you get the zucchini going, bring 1 cup of chicken broth (or vegetable broth) to a boil in a small saucepan. When the broth begins boiling add 1 cup of couscous and stir. Then cover the pot and remove it from heat. Wait at least 5 minutes. Uncover the pot and add 1/2 TB olive oil, 3/4 TB fresh lemon juice 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/8 TSP pepper. Fluff/stir with a fork to combine well.

4. Once your zucchini has softened, add the mushrooms plus liquid back into the pan and cook together for a couple of minutes, then turn off heat.

5. Pour the couscous mixture directly into the pan along with 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese and the chopped chives (if you have them available - which I did not). Stir to combine thoroughly. Serve warm with a smidge more Parmesan cheese on top. This recipe makes 4 servings at 320 calories and 13 grams of fat a piece.

Everyone should eat more veggies - so give this a try instead of a typical meal with meat. I hope you like it!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Crying to the Music

One of my Dad's favorite memories of me as a kid happens to also be one of my very first legitimate memories - it happened when I was 3 or 4 years old. Back in 1982, an awesome movie was released called "The Secret of Nimh." Practically as soon as they released it on VHS a copy found its way into my hands - and I watched it as often as my Mom would let me. One day as the movie was finishing and the credits began to roll my Dad walked into the living room and found me sitting there sobbing. Just gutted. You're probably thinking to yourself, "Wait a minute. That movie has a happy ending. Doesn't it?" You're right. It DOES end happily. The story had nothing to do with the reason I was crying. I was crying because of the music.

This is the song: Flying Dreams by Jerry Goldsmith and Paul Williams

I remember it, crying to the music because it made me feel like I had to. I was internalizing it, making it part of me and being moved to show it. It was really the first time I had ever showed that I was able to connect that way  - and since music has been one of the great loves of my life, I hold this moment near and dear to my heart.

Fast forward about 30 years (yikes) - my lovely little girl is playing nicely with our electric keyboard in the guest room while I put away some laundry in other parts of the upper level. She likes to play the demo song and press all the keys and buttons and kick her feet to the music - it's pretty cute. Anyway, on this particular day she managed to press the keys in just such a manner that the demo song switched to something new. (I'm not kidding you guys, I had NO CLUE that thing could even do that). Then she switched the song again - this time to a little harpsichord ditty. A fourth song popped up and then a fifth! Finally a big, soaring number (using the "strings" setting) that sounded like it could have been the theme for a Jane Austen film. This one made her stop. The strings kept flying, but I realized I wasn't hearing the usual cacophony of kicks and clicks that had accompanied the other demo songs. 

I was immediately suspicious - a kid that is quiet AND out of your sight is never a good thing. So, I dropped what I was doing and stepped into the hall where if I leaned a bit to the right I could just catch a glimpse of the piano bench. As she came into view I immediately noticed her shoulders - they were stooped just slightly. Her head was bent forward so a swath of blond hair covered her face. Her hands sat still in her lap. By all accounts, she appeared to be simply sitting quietly and listening. Very unlike her.

My fears for her safety now squashed by seeing her, I crept slowly closer to satisfy my growing curiosity instead. As I closed the distance between us my ears picked up some sniffling noises, and the truth came crashing in: she was crying to the music - just like me. Slow tears rolled heavy down her cheeks and fell with audible drips to the bench below. Her shoulders shook slightly as she pulled in catching breaths. I had to clutch my chest to ensure my heart wouldn't explode from loving her so much in that moment.

She noticed me finally, turning up her miserable little face - and that's when she really lost it. She sobbed for several minutes and clung to me and kept repeating the word "SAD." It was a strange mix of sympathy, wonder and pride that filled up my chest as I consoled her. I knew just how she felt - I knew just how the music had made her feel. I mean, "Flying Dreams" is by no means the only song to ever knock me off my feet emotionally - I have cried to countless tunes in my day so my understanding was palpable. I also felt an overarching sense of gratitude - I won't beat around the bush, the fact that my kid can emotionally connect to music already is a dream come true for me. I would love to nurture her love of music and to encourage her to explore it. So I felt jubilant, too - standing there holding my wretchedly sad daughter, sublimely happy. Grateful. 

I'll remember it forever - and I'll certainly bring it up when they interview me for Behind the Music someday.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Music for Cool People: 2/10/13

My sister shared this song with me just yesterday and already I'm not sure how I ever lived life without it. Warning to those of you with little ones: some of the lyrics are explicit (but awesome at the same time). You may want to listen to this when they are out of the room, you know, unless you want them walking around calling everyone a motherf*#@er.

 Thrift Shop - Macklemore and Ryan Lewis Featuring Wanz