Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Frug Eye for the Cheap Guy
It was probably the exhaust fumes. What else but near asphyxiation could explain the TV show we dreamed up as we both sat outside Rundlett Middle School on a recent frosty afternoon waiting for our Nordic stars to emerge from practice?
We were convinced that all of America would tune in to watch us share the secrets of zhuzh (pronounced the way the Gabor sisters would say shush) which is the ancient art of spiffing up all the plain, boring, inexpensive things that form the basis of suburban existence. Well, our suburban existence anyway. Carson Kressley might have been the first to use the term but the Fru Gals have been zhuzhing up our lives since Carson was getting stuffed into his middle school locker for wearing his blazer with the sleeves pushed up to his elbows, shirt cuffs akimbo. In our little day dream Oprah was airing The Frug Eye for the Cheap Guy on her new network and we were rich and famous.
All it took was one little glance in our rear view mirrors to realize that the two of us are pushing our luck with a newspaper column and a two year old photo.
Maybe it’s a combination of the countess bland pairs of khakis, the endless casseroles of brown food and the hundreds of beige towels that we’ve had to endure through our years of motherhood, but something in us is always striving to make things look better than the price tag might suggest. The rich may have cash, but the Frugs have zhuzh.
No time or money for a paint job? Grab a couple bunches of the fresh tulips from the grocery store and jam them into a pretty teapot or pitcher and place it squarely in the middle of your kitchen table. The bright burst of color will draw your eye away from the dinged moldings and the lacy shreds of cobwebs. We like to sit and have a cup of coffee and just stare at the tulips. We can’t help but feel that spring is on its way, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Has the great old quilt you’ve loved forever now become thread bare in spots? Throw it over your kitchen table, figure out which area is in the best shape and trim the rest away. Stitch or glue on some trim (or just fold the raw edge over and sew it up). The quilted fabric and pretty patterns make a wonderful spring tablecloth. So what if your kids think it’s creepy, remember that these are the people who think a Star Wars poster is high art. Trust us, you will garner compliments from everyone who walks in the house. And now that you’ve got an unused tablecloth that is likely stained in a few spots, why not turn that into a new bunch of napkins. The internet is full of DIY directions and videos for making a killer fringed hem on a napkin.
School Project Zhuzh
It didn’t take us long to figure out that most school projects get a check mark from the Concord teachers. While this must be unbearably disappointing for those overzealous parents who used a skill saw and 15 varieties of wood to create accurate topographical maps of Mount Washington, it is just perfect for weary parents like us. We’ve been known to zhuzh up a project from the archives (as we like to call our attics—and if anyone needs a Mary Baker Eddy report, we are your gals). With just about 50 additional toothpicks, Fort #4 can become one of the more rustic buildings at Strawberry Banke.
The Seventh grade cell model project is another good time to break out the zhuzh—why make the model out of clay or colored paper when with very little skill you can bedazzle a box mix sheet cake with leftover Christmas candy to make an awesome and edible model, one that won’t wind up in the archives.
It’s February. We’ve been wearing the same four turtlenecks and the same sad pair of yoga pants and ratty fleece vest since what seems like Halloween. So how do we keep it fresh and our hubbies interested? Scarf zhuzh. We have loads of soft and colorful scarves that we tie insouciantly around our necks. You can find a good scarf nearly anywhere—Marshalls, Yankee Swaps and even, if you are very lucky, in the dress up box a friend keeps for her visiting grands. Not only are our outfits interesting, you can hardly see how crepey our necks have become.
Box mix brownies for the buffet? Again? A bag of chocolate chips is the perfect zhuzh. Fill the bottom of a rimmed platter with a couple handfuls of chips, add the brownies and scatter another handful of chips over the pile. Cute and yummy.
Another great zhuzh is to use glass jars for leftovers. Save the big pickle jars and the jam jars with the colorful lids, run them through the dishwasher a time or two to get the labels off and voila – your left over soups and tuna fish will be all classy and retro looking. Some would say healthier too, as opposed to storing them in a warped old plastic tub that came filled with butter spread.
This week’s recipe is for a simple cabbage soup with Italian sausage. Delicious yes, but kind of sad looking. We zhuzhed it right up by hollowing out a nice little round bread loaf and ladling in the soup. Our children clapped with glee and gobbled it right down, cabbage and all. The bread bowl is also the perfect zhuzh for chowder and beef stew.
Cabbage Soup with Sausage
Makes 6-8 servings
1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage
½ cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, roughly chopped
½ cup crisp white wine
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin coins
½ half medium sized head of cabbage, tough core removed, sliced into thin ribbons
8 cups chicken broth
1 28 once can petite diced tomatoes
1 parmesan rind (optional but adds wonderful flavor)
6-8 small round bread boules hollowed out for serving
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Prick the sausages with a fork and place them in a large, heavy dutch oven or stock pot.
Add ½ cup of water and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
Cook until sausages are no longer pink and water has just evaporated, 7-9 minutes, turning occasionally.
Remove the sausages and add the butter and the olive oil to the pan.
Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until the onion is limp and glossy.
Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to release the browned bits.
Add the broth, carrots, sausage and Parmesan rind to the pot and bring to a simmer.
Place the lid on the pot and let simmer for for 20 minutes until the carrot and the cabbage are tender.
Slice the sausages and add back to the pot.
Continue to simmer for another 10 minutes to warm the sausages and to blend the flavors.
Fish the Parmesan rind out if you used one and ladle the soup into individual bread bowls or into wide soup bowls.
In either case garnish with freshly grated Parmesan and if you didn’t use the bread bowls, serve a loaf of crusty bread for dipping.