Monday, December 13, 2010

Derailing Exam Prep In One Easy Step

Thirteen days until Christmas and all through the house, not a creature is stirring.  Because exams start tomorrow.

Did we have exams in high school – back in the lava-lamp 70s?  Probably.  Maybe.  Um.  Maybe I was absent that day. 

Is it possible I didn’t have exams?  Is it possible I did, but just don’t remember? Could I possibly have been that Holly-Go-Lightly?  Well, to all three questions, my answer would be, “Don’t judge me.”

If we did have exams, I must’ve taken them even less seriously than Son did last year (see "How To Prepare For Exams In 20 Easy Steps"), which on the one hand, is almost impossible to conceive.  And on the other, it's entirely possible, if not probable.

This year, though, the Son and Darling Daughter (DD) are hard at work.  Son is diligent, no doubt still smarting from last year’s metaphorical two-by-four upside the head, and DD is cautious, surely reliving my ‘round the clock shrieks last year of  “You have to do well!  You’re in high school now!  Everything counts!”

Whatever.  For the past few days, they’ve both been hitting the books.  Not to mention the refrigerator, pantry and, on occasion, each other. Are they really well-prepared for the week’s exams?  (Son has four and DD faces two.)  Or have they both been skillfully dodging everyday chores, holiday errands, and me?

But wait.  Is that snow?  Really?  In December?  In Charlotte?  When Son has two exams tomorrow and DD has two end of the semester tests?  Really?

Really.  Out of nowhere, flakes fall – fast, furious and magically illuminated by our outdoor holiday lights.

So much for quiet.  So much for focus.  So much exam prep.  The proverbial train has jumped the tracks, hopped the rails and ground to halt in our own front yard.   Even though it’s dark outside, both kids run out to catch the season’s first snowflakes.

Not exactly the way I saw this blog post going.

What was previously peaceful progress – or at least, peaceful plugging along -- turns to a bizarre combination of exuberance and panic.  What if school closes tomorrow?  What if school doesn’t close tomorrow?   Will it keep snowing?  Will it stick?  Will the roads ice over?

Mom.  Mom!  MOM!  What’s going to happen?

I wish I knew.  For years, I’ve insisted to them, fairly convincingly, that, like Santa, I always know what they’re up to.  Not only do I have eyes in the back of my head, but I can also predict the future.

This time, though, all I can predict is that it’s going to be cold.  Darned cold.  I’ll be sure to check the school closings before waking anyone up in the morning.  And regardless of exam schedules, I’ll be making up a batch of this heavenly white bean soup.  Because baby, it’s cold outside.

Rosemary White Bean Soup with Gremolata

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 4" - 6" branch of fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 quart chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2-3 cans cannellini beans (white beans), drained and rinsed

1 clove garlic, very finely minced or grated
1/2 cup minced parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
zest of two lemons

In large, heavy-bottomed pot, saute onion and carrot in olive oil, over medium heat until onion is translucent.  Stir in garlic, and continue sauteeing until vegetables are very fragrant and onions begin to brown.  Stir in seasonings, broth, lemon juice and two cans of beans.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, lidded, for at least one hour.  Remove rosemary branch.  Using immersion blender (or food mill), puree soup.  Bring back to a simmer.  If you like your soup thicker, stir in additional can of beans and puree once again.  Season well with kosher salt and pepper.  Stir together gremolata ingredients (or even better, use a large knife to "cut" ingredients together on a cutting board) and sprinkle over soup.  Yum.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bacon Bloody Marys? We Have To -- It's Tradition.

A few days ago, Darling Daughter opined, “Thanksgiving is my favorite.”

“It’s not the turkey so much,” she continued, “It’s all the other stuff.  You know. The oyster roast at Grandpa’s and the orange juice at MaMama’s. The Christmas music you make us listen to.  All those decorations in Grandpa’s yard, and all those ice cream sandwiches in MaMama’s freezer.  And you know we’ll go to the Pig* at least three times.  And maybe even Bi-Lo.  Ooooooh.  And Krispy Kreme.”

Every family has traditions.  These, I guess, are ours.  Nothing extraordinary.  Nothing to do with turkeys or stuffing or football or Plymouth Rock.  Just us.  Just tradition.

We've all got 'em.  For me, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Black Friday shopping with my sister, where our first doorbuster is predictably Starbucks. 

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without my Gingered Orange Cranberry Sauce.  My dad’s way-too-perfect holiday display.  My mom’s kind-beyond-reality bathroom scales.  And at some point, Bacon Bloody Marys.

At this time of year, traditions dictate what we eat, what we wear, where we go, what we do.

Traditions can change, of course.  When I was in college, nachos and bloody marys at my Dad’s were an essential part of Christmas morning. Nowadays, my own kids awaken to the aroma of Sausage Bread – although tradition seemingly mandates that they each eat only a few crumbs.  A number of years back, we were also subjected to the “one-gift-at-a-time” unwrapping tradition, which I’m here to tell you, does not, in fact, make a child pause and appreciate what others are receiving, but instead, makes him or her count the very days to his or her next birthday.

And although traditions can change, I’m old enough to know that you can’t force the change.  Surely mine isn’t the only family that’s tried – unsuccessfully -- to enforce the “Let’s all write down what we’re thankful for” bit? 

We don’t choose tradition.  It chooses us.  Which is why, it would seem, Bi-Lo is part of DD’s tradition.

A huge part of my own holiday tradition is cooking.  I began baking breads (banana, pumpkin, zucchini) a few weeks back.  Spiced pecans and Crispix mix and chocolate toffee crackers will soon be spilling out of the pantry.

And since overnight company is also part of the Chez Wiles holiday tradition, I’ll also be making this comforting, familiar Cheese Grits and Sausage casserole, to serve with biscuits and scrambled eggs.

Of course, if tradition holds true, one of the kids will say they’d rather have Frosted Flakes.

Behold – the birth of yet another tradition.

* Piggly Wiggly, a Lowcountry grocery store chain. and America's first true self-service grocery store.

Cheese Grits and Sausage
I make this breakfast side dish during the holidays and when we have company, because it's easily assembled the night before. 

4 cups water
1 cup quick (not instant) grits
3 cups (12 ounces) grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 cup milk
2 T butter
2 t Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

2 eggs, beaten
1 lb. breakfast sausage, cooked and crumbled (I prefer Neese's)

Bring water to a boil in large saucepan. Add grits, bring to a boil and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and add 2 cups grated cheese, milk, butter, Worcestershire, eggs and Tabasco. Spoon half the mixture into a greased 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Top with crumbled sausage. Spoon remaining grits over sausage. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil and chill overnight (or at least 8 hours).

In the morning, remove from refrigerator and allow to stand 30 minutes, before baking, covered at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until molten hot all the way through.

Good with scrambled eggs and biscuits.  Or instead of Frosted Flakes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I Love To Write. And Cook. And Write.

Son was incredulous right from the start.

When I began writing Feminine Wiles – and at that point, it was more of a daily addiction than a habit – Son asked, without a hint of sarcasm, “Do you get money for this?”

Fair enough. I was a newly divorced, stay-at-home mom. Extra cash would’ve had encountered no speed bumps traversing our welcome mat. I think, though, what Son was asking was, “Why write when you have no teachers, no deadlines and no nosy parent incessantly asking, ‘Is your paper done? Is your paper done?’”

Fair enough. Still, Feminine Wiles served a purpose for me. Any PSYCH-101 student would correctly recognize that writing was an outlet. I was struggling to identify myself and re-define my family. Just as important, writing a blog was a sneaky way to let my family know that I was, indeed, OK. True, I just wasn’t so good about speaking to them. Still, I was “writing” to them.

Look. I love my family. Nevertheless, I’ve never been one to share my inner-psyche workings. And navigating the divorce sucked away every random bit of my MC-squared. It took everything I could muster to take care of Son and Darling Daughter and me. I had no energy left to bear the kindness of strangers – much less that of family. Feminine Wiles was a way to assure my family that I was, indeed, “OK.”

Every now and again, I’d get a bit of recognition– a kind comment on my blog, a mention in the newspaper, some new subscribers. And again, Son have to ask, “Are you getting paid for this now?”

Nope. Still not. I’ve worked through the divorce. I’ve re-defined my family. I’m back to talking to my family (although not as often as I should). Turns out I just like to write. And I’m not alone.

Yesterday was “I Love To Write” Day. No kidding.  And hoo boy, I do love to write. I love to write emails on behalf of clients. I love to write text messages to my kids. I love to write Feminine Wiles. I even like writing recipes. The second edition of Feminine Wiles: The Cookbook is sufficient evidence of that. Still, I’m always somewhat inhibited at the start.

Take this recipe for Herbed Cream Cheese. I’ve made it for years. Loved it for years. Shared it for years. But even now, as I key it in, I wonder: Is it clear? Does it sound overwhelming? Is it sufficiently descriptive?  Is it easy to follow?

And I hear Son asking, “Do you get paid for this?”

I guess, in a way, the answer is, “Absolutely.”

Just not in dollars.

Herbed Cream Cheese (Mock Boursin)

I make quarts of this every holiday season, because it keeps so well and is always so welcomed. One year, I even packed it in crocks and gave it out as gifts with small serving knives and baguettes. I don’t know that a holiday gift has ever been so well-received! 

1 lb. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 lb. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon each dried basil, marjoram, dillweed and thyme
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper and ground cayenne pepper
2 large cloves of garlic, minced or grated

Beat together all ingredients until well combined. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving with sliced bread or crackers. (Keeps well – a week or longer!)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Tip For Parents Everywhere: Don't Spank. Spray.

Parenthood ain't for sissies.

So far as I can tell, from the very nanosecond your newborn gulps that first lungful of air (did he get enough?  is he supposed to cry like that?), every millimeter of your brain is consumed -- completely devoured -- by parenting. Which begs the question: if we weren't parents, would all that gray matter accomplish something more significant and everlasting? Curing devastating diseases? Solving world peace? Keeping Lindsay Lohan sober?

Actually, that Lohan thing falls into the parenting category, which is just one example of a parent's non-stop, humbling rollercoaster of worrying, second-guessing and self-loathing. Just when you figure out how to get rid of the insidious pacifier, you're gobsmacked by potty training, which is further complicated by cloth versus disposable. After conquering grocery store tantrums, you face a never-ending ticker tape of childhood illnesses. When you finally navigate your offspring through the challenges of tantrums, cliques and wildly inappropriate language, you're frantic to think they're falling behind in the college application process. And that's all before kindergarten.

And getting kids to simply behave? Please. Even if you're carnival-man-strong or yoga-man-flexible, you can't simply bend them to your will. I've tried. Moreover, in today's parentally-correct environment, you can't beat the tar out of them either.

C'mon. You know I'm kidding, right?

Still, as the kids get older, what options do you have?

Timeouts don't work with teens. And sending them to their rooms? They wish. Some parents say to me, "Just wait 'til they can drive! Then you can take away the keys." Thanks, but for now, I'm just okey dokey that my kids can't drive. You should be, as well.

Sure. Confiscating the phone works on occasion. Or the laptop. But other times, you need something more attention-getting. More powerful. More, um, unexpected.

Something like the spray bottle.

C'mon. You know I'm not kidding, right?

The spray bottle works. Sure, it can't be 100% on major issues like drinking and driving, or academic failings. But burping at the table? Spritz. Teasing your sibling? Squirt away. Bad manners? Shouldn't take more than a couple of pulls of the trigger.

It works with Josie-the-rescue-dog. It works with the Lionel-the-pugilistic-cat. It works with the teenagers. The spray bottle just works.

Note that, even though it would surely improve my accuracy, I chose not to use a water gun. That would be wrong. But a bottle -- with plain old water in it. C'mon.

In truth, I think I'm starting a trend. Before you know it, you'll watch a teaser spot on The Today Show, extolling the virtues and unexpected effectiveness of a single, affordable parenting technique -- to be revealed in the 9 o'clock hour. And at 9-O-5, there will be me. With my spray bottle.

Until then, though, in the absence of a spray bottle, I'll flex my culinary muscles to get my way.

This Creamy Broccoli Soup -- which is easy to make, hugely satisfying, very green, and has nary a meatball or shred of ham does the trick.  I can't get enough of it.  The kids clearly can.  But it'll have to do.  Until, of course, I find my spray bottle under somebody's bed.

Creamy Broccoli Soup with Garlic Croutons
6 cups chicken stock
2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cups chopped broccoli
16 baby carrots, chopped
2-3 cups broccoli flowerettes
1 cup cream
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
kosher salt

3-4 slices homestyle white bread, diced in 1/2-inch cubes
3-4 tablespoons butter
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
kosher salt

In a large soup pot, bring chicken stock to a boil.  Stir in potatoes, chopped broccoli and carrots, reduce heat to low and simmer until vegetables are very, very tender - about 45 minutes.  Use an immersion blender to smooth soup until consistent and creamy.  Stir in broccoli flowerettes and cream and simmer an additional 6-8 minutes, or until broccoli is just done.   Season with cayenne, salt and pepper.  Garnish with croutons.

For croutons

Heat butter over medium high heat in large, nonstick skillet.  Toss in bread cubes and whole garlic cloves.  Sautee, stirring regularly, until well browned.  Remove garlic cloves and season well with salt and pepper.  Drain on paper towels until needed.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What I'm Good At: Oysters, Sangria and Lots of Work.

We’re in the thick of autumn here in Charlotte. The temperature is dropping, the foliage is lit up like church windows on a Sunday morning, the air is tantalizingly smoky-crisp, the leaves rustle and crunch as Son walks Josie-the-Rescue-Dog, and Thanksgiving is a few weeks away. 

My only thought, though, is that it’s practically Christmas, and I’ve got boxloads of stuff to get down from the attic. The baseboards need to be wiped down. The foyer light needs to be cleaned. And I don’t think I can survive another holiday with the mustard/burgundy wallpaper in the downstairs bathroom.

Clearly, I’m not stopping to smell the roses. Or the pumpkins, the apple cider, or roast turkey, either.

It’s not that I want to rush the season, but to top it all off, Darling Daughter is urging me to have a holiday party. “It’s a lot, a lot, A LOT of work,” I remind her. “I know,” she responded, “but that’s what you’re good at.”

That’s what I’m good at.

When I was married, we had an oyster roast every year on the Friday evening that school let out for the holidays. Although common where I grew up (most Charlestonians have their own knives and gloves, which they’re expected to bring – along with a six-pack – when invited), here in Charlotte, oyster roasts are, let’s say, unconventional. Perhaps, even, bohemian. 

When invitations went out that first year, we had to answer all manner of questions. “No, it’s not like a standing rib roast.” “No, the oysters aren’t fried.” “No, ‘casual attire’ really does mean jeans and sweatshirts.” “ No. We said ‘dress warmly’ because we’ll actually be outside.” “No, you’ll have to learn to shuck your own.” And finally, “Yes, you’ll love them.”

My Charleston family – from whom we were borrowing the essential accoutrements like oyster knives, gloves, steamers and shucking tables – was equally puzzled. “Your friends don’t have their own knives? What kind of family do they come from?” “You don’t know anyone with a shucking table? They’re not hard to make, you know.” And, “Your friends have never been to an oyster roast? Bless their hearts.”

Truly, though, an oyster roast is one of the easiest parties ever. It has to be casual, because there's mud, and oyster juice, and bits of shell. There’s beer, there’s wine, and Chez Wiles, there’s sangria. There’s cocktail sauce and melted butter. My Dad, and now that he’s old enough, Son, tend to the oysters, which involves hauling the bushels up from Charleston, pressure-washing them in the driveway and steaming them in what we fondly call “The Bigass Pot.”

For non-oyster-eaters, we have chili. And saltine crackers. When the oysters are gone, the party’s over. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. (Oooh. We'll want some lemon wedges, too.)

I guess when I told DD that throwing an oyster roast requires a lot, a lot, A LOT of work, it’s mostly because I make it so. And I guess, after taking a year off, I’ll make it so again this year.

It is, after all, what I’m good at. 

If I’m going to get around to those baseboards and lights, though, I need to start cooking quicker meals. Something like this Shrimp in Cream Sauce over Lemon Rice. Honest. It could hardly be easier. 

If only I could say the same about stripping that ugly wallpaper.

Shrimp in Cream Sauce over Lemon Rice

1 cup rice 
1 14-oz. can chicken broth 
1 lemon, zested and juiced 
1 large handful of finely chopped parsley

 1 tablespoon butter 
1 large clove garlic, finely minced or grated 
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled, cleaned and de-veined 
1 lemon, zested and juiced 
1 cup heavy cream 
several shakes of Tabasco sauce

In medium saucepan, combine rice, chicken broth, and juice and zest of one lemon. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cook, lidded, for 13 minutes. Fluff with a fork, to separate grains. Meanwhile, melt butter over medium high heat in a large skillet. Stir in shrimp, garlic, and juice and zest of one lemon, constantly stirring and sautéing until shrimp is pink and barely cooked through. Pour in cream and cook an additional 1-2 minutes. Season generously with Tabasco sauce. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve hot over cooked Lemon Rice.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Step One -- Of A Million -- Of Choosing A College

Fifteen-year-old Son is two years, 10 months away from beginning college, which means two things.  One, I’m certain that he needs to begin –- posthaste – buckling down in school, getting his name on college mailing lists, listing and ranking the college attributes he finds most appealing and appropriate to his skill sets, and then, one million other things.  Two, Son is equally certain that two years, 10 months is 34 months, which is a long, long time away, and oh by the way, he needs new guitar strings.  Can we go get some tomorrow?

Remember that scene in The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy asks Scarecrow, “What would you do with a brain if you had one”?  Well, some 30 years ago, when I told my own parents I wanted to go to college, their reaction, although not verbatim, was along the same lines:  “What would you do with a degree if you had one?”

It was a different time.  Not everyone was expected to go to college.  And, colleges weren’t so discerning in their admissions decisions.  As a good-not-extraordinary student with good-not-outstanding grades and good-not-scorching SAT scores, I knew I'd have no problem getting into college.  My family just had to figure out how to swing it.  Even then, though, I wouldn’t be making a “choice.”   I’d attend the school that offered scholarship money – the University of South Carolina.

I got to go to a football game at my beloved alma mater this weekend.  And lucky me, Son agreed to go, too.  It was typical Gamecock football: tailgating of Thanksgiving proportions, unreasonably raucous fans, head-scratching calls, inexplicably sloppy play, skin-searing heat, unbridled fan faith, at least nine iterations of Sandstorm, and, despite being 17-point favorites, my beloved Gamecocks in their usual position behind the eight ball.  The only atypical part of the game was that we (the royal “we”) ended up pulling off a decisive victory over the underdog, orange-clad Tennessee Volunteers.  (Go Carolina, go Carolina!)

I enjoyed every minute of it.

Apparently, so did Son.  After the game, we continued tailgating with new, as well as tried and true, friends.  Finally, after feasting on far too much seared lamb, and baked ziti and sausage bread and spicy chilled shrimp, the two of us climbed into the Pilot to head for home.

It had been a long day, and I fully expected Son to be studying the inside of his eyelids before we hit the interstate.  But then, unexpectedly, he said, "This was fun.  And I don't know where I want to go to college, but I do know I want to go to a school with football."

OK.  On the list of one million things, perhaps not where I would've started, but OK.

Thirty-four months and nine-hundred, ninety-nine thousand, nine-hundred, ninety-nine things to go.

Cheddar Chive Biscuits
I'd love to share the recipe for the Lamb in Pita we had this afternoon, but I don't have the recipe.  What I do have is a recipe for flavorful Cheddar Chive Biscuits -- which I should've taken to the tailgate!

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
6 tablespoons shortening, chilled and cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/4 - 1/2 cup minced chives
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425.  Stir together dry ingredients.  Cut in shortening (using fork or pastry cutter), until mealy.  With a fork, stir in cheese and chives.  Quickly blend in 3/4 cup of buttermilk.  Dough should be soft and slightly sticy.  If not, stir in remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk.  Scrape dough onto well-floured board or counter.  Using floured hands, gently pat out dough, folding it over itself several times.  (Do not knead.)  Pat dough out to 3/4 inch thickness.  Cut out biscuits, placing on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake until very lightly golden -- about 10-12 minutes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. And A Cone Of Safety.

Darling Daughter is attending an 80s-themed birthday party this weekend.

The 80s?  Say whaaaatttttt?  OMG.  I suddenly have an ice-cream-headache-like stab in my brain.  OH-EMM-GEE!  I'm flashing back to lazy Sunday afternoons in the 1970s, listening to Charleston’s WTMA (“The Mighty TMA”) radio playing the “Golden Oldies” – which, of course, meant sock-hop music from the 50s.  “At The Hop,” “Chantilly Lace” and “The Twist” come to mind.

See where I'm going?  The 80s are Darling Daughter’s “Golden Oldies!” 

I try not to swallow my own tongue.  Unflinchingly, DD serves up another cerebral popsicle, “What did they wear back then?” she asked.  (Wait for it, ‘cause it gets worse.) “Was it like in the movie Grease?”

Grease?  Really?  “Let’s Google it,” I delicately suggest.  So we checked out Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan.  And Jennifer Beals in Flashdance.  And then, Cyndi Lauper’s classic, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”

Everyone loves that song, right?  Everyone, of course, except, DD, who proclaimed, “She’s just plain weird.”

Whatever.  Here’s what I think:  Girls do wanna have fun.  But it’s not what some people think.

Last week, I got to have a GNO (Girls Night Out) with a few old friends, a few new friends and some friends I’d never met.

Oh what a night.  But again, not what some people might think.  There's a belief, I think, that when women get together, all we talk about is our husbands, or the secret reason we're single, or the crushes we had on other girls in high school, or the craziest place we’d ever “done it,” or the time ...  C'mon!  Really? 

Let me let you in a on a little secret.  When a bunch of girls/women get together, it’s not because we’re auditioning for “Your Mom’s Gone Wild,” or because we’re telling the real story behind the divorce or because we’re looking for lapdances, lingerie or a magnum of Pinot Noir.  OK.  Just kidding about the Pinot.  Everyone knows that a little wine – or sangria or margaritas – never hurt anybody.  Truly, when a bunch of us get together, we mostly just want to laugh.  We want to share stories and feel safe and laugh.  Nothing tawdry about it.

Nevertheless, at Kathy’s last weekend, we agreed that we were all in the “cone of safety.”   On the Bob & Sheri Show here in Charlotte, the virtual "cone of safety" is invoked anytime the hosts or their guests wants to say something without fear of repercussion or judgment.   In other words, when we lowered the "cone," we all knew that what happened at Kathy’s, stayed at Kathy’s.

In that nest of safety, well-feathered by Pinot – or whatever dark red liquid was in those bottomless glasses – we told plenty of stories.  Laughed and laughed and laughed.  But as it turns out, there was no real need for a “cone of safety.”  Nothing shocking or horrifying or mildly embarrassing was revealed.  We just had fun.  We laughed -- and giggled and guffawed.  We swore to do it again.  We even exchanged a few recipes.

Kinda.  On her kitchen table spread, Kathy had a fabulous chilled shrimp dish – saucy, spicy and bursting with flavors.  I couldn’t wait to try it at home.  Within days, I mixed up a batch.  Loved it.  Even bragged about it on Facebook.  But as it turns out, I kinda missed an ingredient.  OK, two.

So I guess what I’m writing about today is “Not Kathy’s Spicy Chilled Shrimp.”

But who knows?  I got the recipe while in the cone of safety.  Maybe some things – like a quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil and a sliced onion – get to stay there.  Along with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.  Without judgment or repercussions.

Not Kathy’s Spicy Chilled Shrimp

2 pounds shrimp, poached with ½ lemon, 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 bay leaf until barely done, drained

1 cup ketchup
5 ½ ounce jar of Zataraine’s Creole Mustard
5 ½ ounce jar of Zataraine’s Prepared Horseradish
juice of half a lemon

Drain shrimp, discarding lemon and bay leaf.  Combine with remaining ingredients in a resealable plastic bag.  Chill overnight.  Serve with crackers or over salad.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Frig, Frick, Love, Hate and Zucchini Bread.

When I was a kid, two words were off-limits.

It's not what you think.  Of course, all "curse" words were forbidden -- including words that pretended to be curse words, including "dang," "frig," "frick," "H-E-double-toothpicks," and anything that rhymed with "duck."  Curse-word substitutes weren't the only forbidden words.  We kids weren't allowed to say, "yeah."  Mom insisted we say either "yes," or "yes ma'am."  Or really, just "yes ma'am."  "Shut up" was also out of the question, which forced me to invent all kinds of stories where the evil queen declared, "Shut up the dungeon, men!"  If I was able to work a beaver "dam" into the story, all the better.

Today, though, the two words I'm referring to are "hate" and "love."

Sure, I was allowed -- expected -- to tell my parents and relatives I loved them.  I could also love God.  And my black cat, Smokey Joe, who, being born on Friday the 13th, surely warranted some extra affection.   I think what Mom was trying to head off was the tendency of young girls to "love" absolutely anything.  Or really, absolutely "everything."

You know.  "I love the smell of Hawaiian Tropic."   "I love blue eyeshadow."   "I love the black light section at Spencer's."  "I love that 18-year-old boy with the white Camaro."  But I digress.

And "hate"?  Well, I was allowed to say I hated ... nothing.  Nothing whatsoever.  I wasn't supposed to "hate" anything. Mom warned against overstatement.  How could the word "love" apply equally to your feelings for your parents and your feelings for the new Almay, no-sharpener-required, midnight blue eyeliner?  Did my feelings for the buffet pizza at Pizza Inn really equal my feelings for Hitler, Satan and world hunger?

Besides, Mom reasoned, what if your feelings change?  Do you really want to paint yourself into a corner of "love"?  Or, for that matter, "hate"?

Although I've never called my kids down for over-using "love" and "hate," I can't help but cringe when 15-year-old Son claims to "hate" stickshift cars.  Or when 13-year-old Darling Daughter declares her "love" for watermelon-flavored, Jolly Rancher gummies.  The word that really gets me, though -- the word that makes the skin crawl right off my body is "like," as in, "I need, like, three 5-subject notebooks."  Fine.  So you're saying you don't actually need three, 5-subject notebooks, but something "like" them?  Don't get me started.

One thing the kids agree that they hate is zucchini.  They "hate" it.  Hate, hate, hate it.

I want to ask, do you really want to paint yourself in that corner?  Do you really want to take such a strong stand against a vegetable?  And a bland one, at that? How do you even know that you hate zucchini?  Really?  Do you like that bread you're eating right now?  Ha!  It's zucchini bread!

Don't you just hate that?

Zucchini Bread
This wonderful recipe comes from my friend Cathy.  She adds a cup of chopped pecans -- which I think makes the bread even more special -- but which I've left out because of nut allergies.  Makes two moist, delicious loaves.

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 medium eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini

Preheat oven to 350.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.  In another mixing bowl, beat eggs until foamy  Gradually stir in sugar, blending well.  Stir in oil and vanilla.  Gradually stir in dry ingredients until well-incorporated (batter will be stiff).  Fold in zucchini.  Divide batter between two greased loaf pans.  Bake until golden (about one hour).  Remove from oven, let cool about 15 minutes before turning from pans, and allowing to cool completely on baking rack.  Freezes well.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Clean Room? Now That Would Be Magic.

Although Son and Darling Daughter, at ages 15 and 13, have long outgrown the Harry Potter books (sigh), they both believe our house to be magical. Or criminally-infested. Or both.

I know this because each of them routinely – perhaps, weekly -- instigates the following claim.

I don’t know where it is. I looked everywhere. It just disappeared."

Note: The magically vanishing object is not relevant here. It could be an ordinary piece of clothing, an algebra book, a water bottle, a housekey, or an item borrowed – almost always from me.

It just disappeared.

Right. Without benefit of a silk tophat, a blond, leggy assistant, or an 11” holly wand with a phoenix feather core (remember, the kids are the ones who've outgrown Harry Potter, not me), those magical words then propel us down a magically-scripted path – one from which we cannot veer.

Me: “What? Are you sure? Have you checked your backpack? Do you want me to help? Maybe it’s at school. Did you check?” Then, the deadly and inevitable, “Maybe if you cleaned up your room …”

Well. This is, indeed, a predictable script. Cue the criminal element. My child, “No, Mom! Stop! It’s gone! GONE! I think it was stolen!

Stolen? Someone stole your unlabeled USB key? Your field trip permission slip? Your 35-pound backpack crammed with Nature Valley Oat ‘n’ Honey granola bar wrappers and the test you didn't want me to see? Your scraped and cloudy water bottle with the 3” peeled-off residue of a Nantahala River sticker? My new black suede boots with the stacked heels? (Actually someone might want to steal those. They're darling.)

Right.  Allow me to repeat: Maybe if you cleaned your room.

Who know what treasures would be unearthed if you cleaned your room -- if you just picked it up -- a little. Who knows what's lurking under the laundry pile or in the crusted-over closet? The book you're looking for may very well be keeping company with the baseball hat, empty chips bag and hoodie crammed under the desk. At the very least, if you cleaned up your room, I’d have time to fix something for dinner. Although truth be told, this roasted chicken dish comes together in a snap.

We’re big fans of my
Slow Cooker Chicken With Artichokes, and one recent evening, I craved the same flavors, but had less than an hour to pull it all together. This fit the bill perfectly. Quick and flavorful.  Like magic.

Still waiting, though, on the clean room.

Roasted Chicken with Israeli Couscous and Artichokes

6-8 dark chicken pieces
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
½ cup parsley, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups boiling water
1 ½ cups uncooked Israeli (pearled) couscous
1 package frozen artichoke hearts
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon oregano

With a large butcher’s knife, cut together garlic, lemon zest, parsley and teaspoon of kosher salt, until pasty. Combine in a large, resealable plastic bag with lemon juice, oil and cut-up chicken. Massage until chicken is coated with mixture and allow to marinate for 20-30 minutes.

Heat a large, ovenproof skillet over medium high heat. Brown marinated chicken, well, on all sides.

While chicken is browning, preheat oven to 350. Combine boiling water and couscous and let stand 10-15 minutes.

When chicken is browned, remove from skillet, and stir in couscous mixture, artichoke hearts, kosher salt and oregano. Bring to a boil, scraping up flavorful bits from the bottom of the skillet. Remove from heat. Place browned chicken on top, and put entire skillet in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until chicken is done and couscous cooked through. (Add additional water as needed, so couscous cooks completely.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

For My Birthday, A Good Nap. And Happiness.

I am 48. Have been now for over a week.

Truly, truly, truly – I don’t mind getting older. Truly. (It won’t bother me when Cougar Bait turns 48 next month, either. I’m just saying.)

I don’t yearn to be 18. Or 28. Or 38. Well, I wouldn’t mind having my 38-year-old body back. All those eyelashes. All that naturally-colored hair. All that naturally-occurring collagen. On the other hand, at 38, I had a 7-year-old, a 5-year-old and couldn't run two blocks without getting a stitch in my side. In the words of Roseanne Roseannadanna,* “Never mind.”

Despite my petty hair and skin complaints, September 17, 2010 was the best birthday I can remember. It was fun, it was surprising, it was decadent, it was comforting, and it was also -- restful.

I know. “Sleep” shouldn’t a fabulous birthday make, but after 48 years, I'm now enamored with naps.

That’s how old I am. More sophisticated people may grow to love fine wine, or appreciate opera, or treasure literary works. I’ve become discerning about sleep. I prize it. I revel in it. Given the opportunity, I might marry it.

I had an even better birthday gift, though. One of Darling Daughter’s 13-year-old friends said this to her mom, who then repeated it to me, “Ms. Wiles smiles all the time. She’s so happy, she should get married.”

Don't you love it? “She’s so happy.” C’mon. Think about it: Isn't that exactly what we parents always insist? “I just want my child to be happy."

We all know the drill: “They don’t have to get soccer scholarships, and they don’t have to be valedictorians, and they don’t have to be the most popular. I just want them to be happy.”

I do want my kids to be happy. True, I have no worries that I’m doing laundry for budding Ronaldinhos or Zuckerbergs or Kardashians. But even if I were, bottom line, I'd still want them to be happy. And if I get to be happy too, all the better. Even without eyelashes. Or collagen. Or shiny, bountiful, brunette hair.

Sigh. I do miss the hair of my youth. But I’m happy.

I’m 48, I’m happy, and Cougar Bait will be 48 in 13 days.

Life is good.

*Gilda Radner, SNL, 1978-79. Yes. I am indeed that old. And happy.

Ginger Spice Cookies
An incredibly dear and thoughtful friend -- who's kept a special eye on me since my divorce -- delivered these cookies on my birthday. I haven’t made them myself yet (although I’ll be stirring up a batch tomorrow), but they are crazy and intensely good. The crystallized ginger packs quite a snap. I may just double the batch.

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup (packed) dark or light brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 large egg

1/4 cup mild-flavored (light) molasses


 (for rolling)

Combine first 6 ingredients in medium bowl; whisk to blend. Mix in crystallized ginger. Using electric mixer, beat brown sugar, shortening and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add egg and molasses and beat until blended. Add flour mixture and mix just until blended. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour. 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter 2 baking sheets. Spoon sugar in thick layer onto small plate. Using wet hands, form dough into 1 1/4-inch balls; roll in sugar to coat completely. Place balls on prepared sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. 
Bake cookies until cracked on top but still soft to touch, about 12 minutes. Cool on sheets 1 minute. Carefully transfer to racks and cool. (Can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Return To Femininity, Blogging and Chicken.

Son and Darling Daughter returned to school a month ago, and I don’t believe I’ve ever blogged so much.

In my own little head, of course.

No joke.  These past few weeks, I’ve been teeming with what I hoped were carefully-composed sentences, clever turns-of-phrase, and tidy little anecdotes.  Nonetheless, my last Feminine Wiles post was over a month ago.

My own fault, really.  Way back at the end of August, surveying the month ahead, I honestly thought, finally, some time to myself.

At least, I hope I “thought” it.  I hope I didn’t actually say it out loud, because even the bats in my attic could see that September was booked before it began.  It is, after all, September, and not January, marking the beginning of a student’s “new” year.   Thirty days hath September, and each of ours was packed – with middle school and varsity cross country meets, Scout meetings, school dances, Homecoming, school football games, daily cross country practices, a return to Sunday School, the obligatory back-to-school meetings, orientations, and shopping – not to mention my own school commitments and the usual, unusual rounds of Charlotte medical professionals.  (Son’s early season injuries have prompted countless appointments.  The only medical advice we haven’t yet sought is from voodoo practitioners.  But that’s because none have yet recommended by name.)

So September has been crammed with scheduling, scheduling, scheduling, meeting, meeting, meeting, transporting, transporting, transporting,.  Then, my trusty and beloved iMac crashed.  (I know, I know.  “Every hard drive will fail.”  Use me as your case study.)  One morning, after the kids boarded the bus, with the click, click, click of a darkened screen, all my scheduling and meeting and transporting vanished.  Poof.

As Darling Darling would say, “WTF?”  (“Why the face?”  Don’t you love it?)  Gone were financial records, photos, iTunes purchases, my freshly compiled book fair list, and then, more cash than I care to confess just to get us back on our computing feet.

Perfect.  (Sarcasm.)  I could've used that extra cash, because anyone knows that all these back-to-school activities also mean “back-to-Chick-Fil-A.”  And Bojangles.  And, on occasion, KFC.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love chicken.  But I don’t know that I can face another “no-butter-extra-pickles-Chick-Fil-A-sandwich.”

In the midst of all the “busy-ness,” though, I’m reminded of another, easily prepared and easily adored chicken dish – one that can be cooked up in a snap and fits in some vegetables.  Or -- between you and me -- lots.

Son and Darling Daughter have long been fans of chicken lettuce wraps, and one harried evening around Labor Day, I had to wonder, why don’t we just make some?

Finally, in these 30 days of September – success.  Chicken lettuce wraps are now a weekly fixture Chez Wiles – inspiring me, perhaps, to finish working out my recipe for East-Meets-West Mu Shu Pork.

In October. 

You know, when I have some time to myself.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

1 teaspoon toasted (or dark) sesame oil

2 ribs celery, finely chopped
10-12 baby carrots, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
2 tablespooons freshly grated ginger
1 pound ground chicken 
1 can whole water chestnuts, drained, finely chopped
2 tablespoons prepared Chinese plum sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon chili oil (or hot pepper oil)

Large leaf lettuce, Bibb lettuce or iceberg lettuce leaves

In very large, nonstick skillet, heat sesame oil over medium high heat until smoking.  Stir in celery, carrots and bell pepper.  Sauté 5-6 minutes, or until vegetables are softened and slightly browned.  Stir in garlic, ginger and chicken, and cook, stirring, until chicken is cooked and slightly browned.  Stir in water chestnuts, plum sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar and chili oil until well combined and heated through.  Serve hot, a few tablespoons at a time, rolled up in lettuce leaves.  Holy cow.  Or chicken.  This stuff is good.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I'm A Listmaker. Not That There's Anything Wrong With That.

A few days ago, one of the kids’ friends asked whether I intended to buy the new iPhone 4G. 

Nope. There’s absolutely no reason to trade in my 3G, I insisted. Furthermore, exactly how crazy do I look? Do I look as if I’m made of money? (OK. I didn’t actually say that last bit. But my kids knew I was thinking it.)

Twelve hours later, my 3G hit the road – literally – one too many times. And there it was. The unalterably-blank screen. I now had a reason – an overwhelming one -- to trade in my 3G.

Sigh. Off to the always-mobbed Apple Store at Southpark Mall, where, upon crossing the threshold, you have to wade through the masses to track down the blue-shirted master-list-keeper, so you can get on the proper waiting list to have one of the blue-shirted product-keepers help you buy something – anything – which in this case, was a 4G.

Still, the next day, as we drove down to the lake, I told the kids and Cougar Bait that it hadn't been all that bad. I’d qualified for the “upgrade,” so I didn’t have to pay full ticket. All my emails, text messages, contacts, songs, games and photos were synced to my Mac, so no problem there. My only real concern was that I’d lost my lists.

Over the years, I explained, I’ve kept all kinds of lists on my phones. To-do’s. Gift ideas. (A ceiling fan? Really?) Bumper stickers. (“Unlike the hellbound demon spawn in your car, my children are saved.”) Unexpected sightings (an African-American man wearing a t-shirt reading, I’m the white man who’s been keeping you down.) Stuff my kids say, which I can post on my “Overheard At My House” page on Facebook. (Son, describing one of his sister’s textbooks,If the Devil wrote a bible, this would be it.”)

Oh – and let’s not forget my list of words that can be typed using every single finger, but each only once.

Cripes. Should’ve stopped with the “Overheard At My House” list. But maybe I didn’t mention that last list out loud. The car, after all, was oddly quiet. But wait for it.  Thirty seconds later, the three of them, in unison, said, “You do WHAT?”

Whatever. I’m Cheri and I’m a listmaker. A few years ago, I realized that typing the word “pleasing” requires using every finger once.  So it became a personal little quest. And to keep track, I keep a list.  So what?

C’mon. It could be worse. Way worse. Just think of the things that other people write in emails. Or put in text messages (Tiger Woods). Or say on tape (Mel Gibson). ‘Nuff said.

My little list, albeit quirky, is fairly harmless. Besides, thanks to MobileMe, my list was restored later that day – which allows me to boast that my current list includes 15 words – if you include proper nouns and the occasional oddity.  Which I do.

Is “replanks” a word?  On my list, yes.  Yes indeed.

Speaking of quirky and harmless, you’ve got to try these sautéed chickpeas. They’re not a side dish, really (although I guess they could be). And as far as hors d’oeuvres go, they’re a bit messy – kind of like olives. Plus, you can change the seasoning up any way you like. I’m showing them here with cumin and chili powder, but you can also try them with fresh minced rosemary and lemon zest. And, oh my, are they tasty.

“Pleasing,” in fact, is the word that comes to mind. P-L-E-A-S-I-N-G.

Sautéed Chickpeas

1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, rinsed, patted dry
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When oil begins to ripple, stir in remaining ingredients, shaking and stirring occasionally, until chickpeas begin to brown slightly (about 10 minutes). Drain on a paper towel, check for seasonings (salt), and munch away.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Even A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Can Get Worse.

Yesterday, in the words of one of my favorite children’s books*, was a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” 

I was unsettled.  Out of kilter.  Overwhelmed.  Under-able.  I was so awash in pity that the lyrics to Jimmy Buffet’s song, “My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, and I Don’t Love Jesus” kept running through my mind.

The house needs painting, the laundry needs washing, the kids need to be more helpful, the bills need to be paid, I need to be do more volunteer work, the cat needs to go to the vet, the plants need to be watered, I’m not sure how to manage a few financial hurdles, I have no sangria, and I’m struggling with subject-verb agreement.

I wasn’t awash in pity.  I was wallowing in it.  Bathing in it.

In my head, I was chanting the lyrics to an old childhood song, “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I’m gonna eat some worms.”  And then, sure enough, things got worse.

A few days earlier, when the kids and I returned from Reunion Weekend, we’d noticed an “off” smell in the house.  So “off,” in fact, that the kids refused to hang out downstairs.  It was foul.  It was pervasive.  It was an “unwelcome” mat.  After a good bit of head-scratching, cautious-tiptoeing, hesitant-door-opening and reluctant pantry-sniffing.  I found the culprit – a decomposed, liquefied potato.

I tossed it immediately.  The smell, however, lingered.  Indeed, it worsened.

For the next couple of days, I burned candles, sprayed Febreze, ran the fans, and “aired” out the house – in 97 degree heat.

The funk remained.

Combined with my own foul mood, that stench made misery for everyone.  I typically turn to cooking to lift my mood, so I began making up a batch of Darling Daughter’s favorite macaroni and cheese for supper and chopping the ingredients needed to re-stock the basement freezer with marinara sauce.

Um.  Did I say “freezer”?

Dammit.  (Sorry, Mom.)   My super-sleuthing and super-sniffing hadn’t extended to the basement.  Dammit.  So now, cracking the basement door was akin to opening the gates of Hell.  Poets write of hell reeking of sulfur and brimstone, but I’d say Hell is a personal matter.  For me, Hell smells like 30 pounds of putrefied, decomposing chicken, oozing out a freezer door.


Trust me, I could be far more graphic – describing, for example, how the various plastic zippered bags holding far-from-frozen poultry were either inflated like balloons, or had already burst, releasing foul, black used-to-be-chicken sludge – but really, who wants to hear about that?

So just like that, my pity party was over.  I had to get to work.  No time for self-indulgent navel gazing.  Time to put on those big girl panties.  I had to scoop poultry residue from a fridge.

And then, come up with something decidedly “not poultry” for lunch.  Something like this cool, refreshing cucumber salad.

Hold the worms.

Creamy Cucumber Salad

¼ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 very small clove of garlic, minced, then mashed to a paste with 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 seedless (hothouse) cucumber, peeled, cut in quarters lengthwise, then sliced

Combine first five ingredients, to make a dressing.  Toss in cucumber slices.  Chill slightly and serve.

*Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst

** That’s “crap.”  With an “s-h.”

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

We're The Class of 1980, Part II

Oh what a night.*

My 30th high school reunion was this past weekend and I am exhausted.  Exhilarated.  And as event coordinator, exonerated.

It was a great evening.  Most everybody showed up.  Most everybody paid.  And most everybody repeated the same lie, I mean, line, all night long.

“You haven’t changed a bit!”

Indeed, the Fort Johnson High School Class of 1980 looked great.  Had fun.  Took full advantage of the open bar.  And in the end, had to be swept out the door by weary, broom-wielding caterers.  It’s unclear whether the bartenders were more eager to be relieved of us or our 1970s playlist (think The Village People, The Commodores and The Bee Gees).

Just as fun was the chance to meet spouses and dates and hear their perspectives.  My favorite line came from a wife who said, regarding her successful and loving husband, “If I had known him in high school, I never would’ve gone out with him.  Much less married him.”

In fact, after all the memory-sharing and memory-making and merrymaking, that’s what I took away from this weekend.  A direction taken as a teenager does not a lifelong journey make.

Parents worry.  Trust me.  I’m a worrying champ.  I want my kids to be happy in life.  I want them to be successful adults.  I want them to be contributing citizens.  So I’m always wondering:   Are they working hard enough now?  Are they well-rounded?  Are they taking the best courses in school?  Are they generous?  Are they musical?  Are they athletic?  Are they scholarly?  Do they have any heretofore undiscovered and scholarship-worthy talents that I have yet to unmine – perhaps an unnatural gift for Russian literature or bungee-jumping or harmonica playing?  Are they always doing their best?

Heck, no.  No one can.  Least of all me.  However, the moral of my reunion story is that, even if kids aren’t always doing their best, they can still become happy, contributing, successful adults.

The route to “happiness” depends upon the individual.  I know plenty of people, who, as kids, never missed a summer school opportunity.  People who “took an extra lap” in high school.   Teens who may have “skirted” the law.  Kids who made college choices based on nothing more than whims, hormones and the state drinking age.

And despite it all, they're now happy, contributing, successful adults.  Many, in fact, said they’ve never been happier.

Oh what a night.

Just don’t tell my kids.

*The Four Season, 1975

Of course I've got a recipe. It's what we had for dinner tonight, but had nothing to do with the story.  Despite that, it was a huge hit and prompted Darling Daughter to ask, "How do you come up with these recipes?"  Hmm.  Maybe she'll be a chef one day.  A happy, successful, well-rounded, well-paid, altruistic chef.  Could happen.

Rice and Chicken with Proscuitto, Basil and Parsley

4 oz minced or finely cubed proscuitto
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large garlic clove, peeled and impaled on a toothpick
1 cup raw rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
sprinkle of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced

In a large, lidded saucepan, saute proscuitto in olive oil over medium high heat.  When lightly browned, increase heat to high, and stir in garlic, rice, wine, chicken broth, salt, red pepper flakes and lemon juice.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cook, lidded, for 10 minutes.  Gently stir in chicken and fresh herbs.  Replace lid and continue cooking for 4-5 minutes, or until rice is done.  Let rest 4-5 minutes, fluff with fork and serve hot.