Friday, December 11, 2009

On The List Of Things I Won't Buy For My Kid: A Snuggie.



In the spirit of the season, Darling Daughter and Snarky Son submitted their wish lists for my consideration a few weeks ago. Since then, in the spirit of the 21st century – or, more precisely, in the spirit of a generation accustomed to cutting and pasting and clicking and inserting 10 minutes before class begins -- they’ve each made countless clarifications and embellishments.

If only they were so thorough when editing their schoolwork.

Still, the lists – in writing – are essential, because I’m the “Go-To.” When someone, anyone, everyone wants to know, “What do DD or SS want for Christmas?” they don’t ask DD or SS, they go to me. I’m the “Go-To.” I am the mother lode. More accurately, I am The Mother.

Although I always remind the kids that the Baby Jesus only got three presents, I like to have gracious plenty ideas to choose from. (Dangling participle. My bad, my blog.) Some years, the kids are stumped. (Until, of course, I remind them that I love nothing more than buying books.) This year, though, they were downright prolific. I wanted ideas, and hoo boy, I got ‘em.

DD’s list included possibilities priced from $1.97 (a toothbrush) to $997 (not a toothbrush). As an added benefit, I could actually read and was familiar with the items listed.

By contrast, the list “written” (a word I use loosely) by SS was largely hieroglyphic – even after he de-coded it. Does every other mom on the planet know what a Boss DS-2 distortion pedal is? And MacBeth Brightons? Anyone? Anyone? Nah. I’m not that lucky. MacBeths have nothing to do with The Bard.

So here we are, two weeks from Christmas, after two weeks of list fiddling, and it comes down to this. DD wants a ceiling fan. And braces. Sigh. Neither one of those will fit into a nice, neat gift box. However, she’s asked for the ceiling fan for lo these past five years. And the braces? She already knows that her Dad will be getting them for her as soon as the orthodontist flashes the green flag. What we have here is yet another example of why some people call her “The Golden Child.”

SS slimmed his list down, too. Having blown through more phones in the past year than he has fingers, SS’s top priority is a basic, no-frills flip phone. And a Snuggie. True, either one would fit in a nice, neat gift box, but I refuse to buy him another phone. And a Snuggie? Not gonna happen. There's no way I can click the "Buy Now" button. Not for him. Not for a frostbitten child. Not for a featherless penguin. Not for the cryogenically-preserved head of Ted Williams. OK. Maybe for the frostbitten child. Other than that, not gonna do it.

Not that I’m not flexible. I’m plenty flexible. OK. Maybe not that flexible. But I’m bendy enough. Take this tomato basil soup recipe.

I came up with the recipe for Cougar Bait (I know, he’s only 23 days younger than me, but he likes to believe ...), who’s something of a connoisseur of Tomato Basil Soup. But at the last minute, I remembered I had some ground turkey in the fridge. Just like that, a totally vegetarian dish became not-so-much.

Just a little cutting and pasting and clicking and inserting and voila – I had a very nearly vegetarian Tomato Basil Soup – with meatballs.

Almost Vegetarian Tomato Basil Soup – With Meatballs
Despite the ingredient list, the soup comes together pretty quickly -- and it's very good without the meatballs, as well.

Meatballs
1 minced garlic clove
1 pound ground meat (turkey, beef or pork)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 tablespoons minced parsley
½ teaspoon kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

Soup
1 large onion, chopped
2 dozen baby carrots, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 quart vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
½ cup fresh basil, sliced very, very thinly (chiffonade)

First, make the meatballs. Preheat oven at 350. In a large mixing bowl, gently mix all meatball ingredients. Try not to “pack” the meat. Form into ¾ inch meatballs. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Make the soup. In a very large skillet or soup kettle, saute the onion, carrot and celery in the olive oil until the onion is very translucent and the carrots and celery are slightly browned. Stir in the tomatoes and vegetable broth. Stir well, and add the bay leaf, a sprinkle of red pepper and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf, and carefully, carefully, use a handheld immersion blender to smooth out the soup. (Alternately, allow soup to cool, and then, puree in a blender until smooth. Then reheat.) Taste and adjust seasoning (particularly for salt). Stir in basil and meatballs. Simmer another 10 minutes and serve hot.
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