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
pepper

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

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.
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