Wednesday, November 3, 2010
There must be something wrong with us.
Every time we start something new we look for role models in popular culture. We’ve spent plenty of time arguing over who is the Mary and who is the Rhoda; not once have we had a tiff over which one of us is the Toni Morrison and which is the Georgia O’Keefe.
So when we both went back to work last year all we could do was sing the terrible jingle from that 1980s Enjoli perfume commercial, the one where the woman in the brown suit belts out a jingle about bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan and never letting him forget he’s a man.
Pathetic, yes, but that jingle is our theme song and it is so corny and yet so catchy that we sincerely apologize if it winds up running through your head for the next week and a half. It’s perfect for a couple of women who are trying to get to work on time with two matching shoes, a reasonably wrinkle-free outfit and some confidence that our houses are not in a state that would trigger an anonymous call to youth services if someone happened to stop by.
We spent too many years and too many brain cells at home raising children and technology has almost passed us by. Back when that commercial was in heavy rotation on all three of the television networks Spam was a Monty Python sketch, on line was how you waited for the next bank teller and no one expected us to be able to insert a pivot table into our spreadsheets. We long for the days of landlines and one telephone number per family.
Not to sound like Andy Rooney here but all of these gadgets that are supposed to make things easier have only made life more complicated. When we fill out emergency contact forms we not only need to remember home/work/cell numbers for us and our husbands, we need them for the three alternative adults who might be cajoled into getting our kids when we forget to drive the carpool. And wouldn’t it be nice if cell phones had caller id so you’d know who some of those cryptic texts were coming from? “What R U wearing?” takes on one meaning if it’s from a friend from the office wondering about an evening work event and a whole different one if it’s from a brother in law who is just curious on a Tuesday morning.
Despite our failings we say, bring it on! We know how to monitor what our kids are posting on Facebook, we are figuring out how to sync our smart phones with our netbooks and best of all, we’ve developed a matrix to get dinner on the table using only the ingredients we have on hand. It’s a nifty device if we do say so ourselves. Maybe not as nifty as an iPad, but much more affordable and probably more useful too. There are no wrong answers here, feel free to substitute ingredients at will—if the only “protein” you’ve got in the house is hot dogs, so be it. Jazz them up with some of the extras on our list, serve them hot and spend 15 minutes having an actual face to face conversation with your family. And when the little darlings push their peas onto their forks with their thumbs, just be glad those digits are being used for something other than texting.
It’s called the Mealtime Matrix and here’s how it works: simply choose one from each category, add in some of the extras and you’ll have a great dinner in the oven in 20 minutes and on the table in 45.
Guidelines: Each pound of protein, when paired with two cups of cooked starch plus two cups of vegetables will serve 4 people. Have as many to feed as the Fru Gals? Double the amounts.
OK dear readers, we weren't lying. We really are on the brink of being technological dinosaurs. We don't need to have an IBM Selectric on our desks but sheesh....Suz is at work and can't figure out how to get the Matrix to show up here. She's working hard on converting a pdf to a jpeg so she can jam it in but she is at work and is afraid to download any software onto the Brewery computers. Until she gets home and can work freely on her virus riddled laptop,
please visit The Concord Monitor to see the fabulous Matrix. Le fricken sigh.
Pantry extras to have on hand:
canned or jarred olives--black and green
apricot jam and/or orange marmalade
beans--black, kidney, cannellini, butter
Refrigerator extras to have on hand:
refrigerated biscuits and/or crescent rolls
If you’ve got a couple pounds of ground beef, whip up a nice
Mexican Casserole that can be served over tortilla chips or folded into flour tortillas.
Robin loves it because it’s a good as a taco but with far fewer little bowls to wash.
Ingredients from the Matrix:
to serve 6ish
Protein: 2 pounds ground beef
Starch: bread: flour tortillas or tortilla chips
Vegetable: 1 15 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, not drained
Cheese: 16 ounces shredded cheddar or Mexican mix
Seasoning: 2 packages taco seasoning mix
1 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 small can green chilies chopped
1 cup lettuce chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1 can black olives
1 bottle of taco sauce
Brown the ground beef and drain well. Add the beans, green chilies,
taco seasoning mix and tomatoes and cook for another minute or two.
Spread the mixture into a large baking dish, cover with cheese and cook at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until hot and bubbly.
Top with the taco sauce, lettuce, green onions and black olives.
Serve on a plate to be scooped up with tortilla chips or folded into soft flour tortillas.
If you’ve got some chicken thighs on hand consider this dish:
Sweet and Spicy Chicken Curry
to serve 6ish
Ingredients from the Matrix:
Protein: 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Starch: 2 cups uncooked rice
Vegetable: 2 medium onions, chopped
Liquid: 2 cans chicken broth
Seasoning: 2 teaspoons curry powder, or more or less to taste
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup apricot jam or orange marmalade
2 cloves garlic, minced
Saute the chopped onion in a few tablespoons of oil until limp and glossy.
Add the curry powder and stir until fragrant.
Place the cooked onions in a large baking dish and add the rice, broth and water.
Stir to combine.
Nestle the chicken thighs into the rice.
Mix together the garlic and the jam or marmalade together in a small bowl.
Use a spatula to smear some of the marmalade mixture onto each of the chicken thighs.
Bake, covered for 45 minutes at 350 degrees until rice and chicken are cooked through.
Remove the foil for a few minutes at the end to turn the jam into a nicely caramelized glaze.
Left over chicken on hand? Make this easy pasta dish:
Italian Chicken and Pasta
To serve 6ish
Ingredients from The Matrix:
Protein: 1 pound boneless breasts simmered until cooked through and chunked
Starch: 1 pound thin spaghetti
Vegetable: 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
Seasoning: 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, plus salt and pepper to taste
Cheese: ½ cup Parmesan cheese
A couple handfuls of shredded mozzarella would hearty this right up.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
Meanwhile combine the chicken, tomatoes and Italian seasoning in a large bowl.
When the pasta is done, drain well and add to the chicken mixture.
Toss to combine, add salt and pepper to taste and top with the Parmesan.
Beef chuck for stew in the freezer? Thaw it out and throw together a quick beef stew.
The key to keeping this quick is the cut the chunks of beef into smaller pieces of no more than one inch in size—most packaged stew meat can be cut in half twice to make it bite sized and quick cooking.
Easy Beef Stew
to serve 6ish
Ingredients from the Matrix:
Protein: 1.5 pounds chuck, cut into 1 inch pieces
Starch: 4 smallish potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
Vegetables: half of a pound bag of frozen peas and carrots
Liquid: 1 bottle red wine or 4 cups beef broth or some of each
Seasoning: 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 bay leaf, Kosher salt and pepper to taste
half of a pound bag of frozen pearl onions, fresh minced parsley
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Season the meat with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
Brown the beef in a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large, covered flameproof casserole.
Add the garlic and the wine or broth and bring to a boil. Cover the casserole and place in the preheated oven.
After 45 minutes add the potatoes, cover and return to the oven for another 20 minutes.
Add the peas and carrots and pearl onions if using and return to the oven for 6-7 minutes, just until the vegetables are hot.
Add a handful of chopped parsley if you’ve got it.
Check back here for more Matrix recipes tomorrow and Friday!