Tuesday, May 11, 2010

One Mom's Superpowers.

At Darling Daughter’s middle school, the year-long academic theme for seventh graders is “heroes.”

The students study Greek and Roman mythology to learn about heroes of ancient times.  They read modern novels where everyday people emerge as heroes, albeit occasionally with some reluctance (both the students and the heroes).  In their advisory groups, the kids discuss what makes a hero – both in fiction and in real life.  As I understand it, common heroic qualities are courage, strength, ingenuity, daring and trustworthiness.  Superpowers, while less common, are a plus.

After eight months of having these valuable teachings seared into their brains, each student applies these lessons to identify a bona fide hero in his or her own life.  Now hold on just a minute.  If you're thinking DD named me as her hero, she did not.  I’m her mom – and occasionally, The Worst Mom Ever.  Instead, she named Cougar Bait – who is both fun and funny, not to mention strong, daring, trustworthy, and, to paraphrase DD, doesn’t get all upset when there's a problem.  He also has a boat.  Since I’ve found few occasions in life when I myself wouldn’t rather be on a boat, I have absolutely no qualms about DD’s choice.

Besides, I don’t need a 13-year-old to tell me I’m a hero.  Even without the cape and tights – or even sceptor and tiara -- I have no doubt but that I am SuperMom. 

Behold my superpowers:

•  I can shrink everyday objects.  Chez Wiles, I am the only one who, utililizing a secret series of intricate, origami-like folds, can reduce a full-sized, fitted sheet to dimensions suitable for stacking neatly in the linen closet.  (My mysterious abilities further allow me to both open and close the closet door.  My powers do not, however, allow me to reduce my own weight.  Or shoe size.)

•  I have Superman-like vision.  See that clump of cat hair?  See it?  See it?  See it?  No?  Of course not.  I, and only I, can spot the pale orange fur on the dark striped rug, pick it up and properly dispose of it.  All of that, without squinting, closing one eye, or using x-ray vision goggles.

•  I, alone, control the darkness and the light.  OK.  Not the "light" so much, but the "darkness"?  Absolutely.  This is due, in large part, to training my Dad gave me during the 1970s energy crisis, when he would ask, repeatedly and irritatedly, "Am I the only one around here who knows how to turn off a light?"  Why no, Dad, you are not.  You have shared that superpower with me.  And I am grateful.

•  I can make things disappear -- permanently.  Behold the cat vomit and dog poop on the upstairs landing.  Without uttering a single “abracadabra,” I make them vanish, and with a quick spritz of Febreze make it seem as if they never even existed.  Likewise, show me a dishwasher full of clean dishes.  Within moments, the dishwasher will be empty.  Spooky.

•  I am a master of transformation.   Without benefit of a telephone booth or even the aforementioned cape, I take limp, pink, somewhat slimy items (meat), combine them with impossibly crunchy and oversized items (vegetables), apply magic dust (i.e., kosher salt) and voilà – a meal.

This Stir-Fried Chicken – with only a handful of ingredients -- is yet another example of my extraordinary, nay, heroic,  powers.

Anyone see a cape around here somewhere?

Stir-Fried Chicken
This dish comes together very quickly.  I usually serve it with white rice (cooked with a ½ teaspoon of toasted sesame oil), which I prepare in advance and keep warm while preparing the chicken.

2-3 boneless chicken breasts, sliced in thin strips
3 tablespoon soy sauce (or more, to taste), divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon toasted (dark) sesame oil (optional)
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 12-ounce bag of pre-cut and washed stir-fry vegetable mix*
3 tablespoons water, plus additional ½ cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Toss chicken with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil and red pepper flakes and set aside.  In large skillet (with a lid), heat oil over medium high heat.  When very hot, stir in vegetables.  When veggies become bright green, add 3 tablespoons of water, put lid in place, and continue cooking 2-3 minutes or until crisp-tender.  Remove vegetables from skillet and set aside.  Stir together ½ cup water, cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce in a measuring cup and set aside.  Reheat skillet over medium high heat.  When very hot, stir in chicken mixture, stirring constantly until done.  Reduce heat to medium, stirring in vegetables, and then, cornstarch mixture.  Stir gently, but constantly, until sauce becomes clear.  Thin with additional water if necessary.  Serve hot over fresh cooked rice.

* I use Eat Smart Vegetable Stir-Fry Mix from my grocery store’s produce section, but you can easily create your own mixture – of broccoli, snow peas, carrots, red bell peppers, etc. --  from the fresh salad bar.
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