Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lemon-Kale Turkey Meatballs

One of the things my kids love to eat, and that I can sneak healthy superfoods into, is meatballs. They especially love Lemon-Kale Turkey Meatballs (they even know there is kale in them nowadays, which I consider a win; I'll be sneaking some kale into the chicken soup I'm going to make for lunch to test them out).

This past Saturday, I hit on the best recipe yet, so I thought I'd share it with you. Enjoy! A/J

Lemon-Kale Turkey Meatballs (Makes about 12 Meatballs)

What you'll need:
1 package ground turkey
1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
1 lemon
1 cup finely chopped kale
1 small onion (peeled and grated into the mixing bowl to catch the onion juice)
2 tablespoons pizza sauce (save the rest to make mini-pizzas for lunch one day:))
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup egg whites
4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan
1 tablespoon of the liquid from the Pepperoncini jar (optional, but you should totally add it:))
Salt and pepper

What you'll do:
1. Heat the olive or coconut oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the zest and juice of one lemon and the kale, onion, pizza sauce, breadcrumbs, egg whites, garlic, paprika, shredded Parmesan, Pepperoncini juice, and a few cracks each of sea salt and black pepper.
3. Add the turkey and combine with hands. Don't overwork it. Just hand-mix it until the ingredients are evenly combined.
4. Form the mixture into medium-sized meatballs, and place the meatballs in the pan. Don't overcrowd them. Brown on all sides.
5. Transfer to a cookie sheet lined with either a Silpat or a cookie cooling rack (if you want a crisper meatball with less oil).
6. Bake in oven for about 15-20 minutes until the meatballs are fully cooked (no pink).
7. Eat:)). With loved little ones.

My latest other trick is to get Sophie to think she's competing in MasterChef Junior (she loves that show). Here she is making the salad, cutting up red peppers with her cheese spreader:). She eats whatever she makes, including the leaves. Win-win!! Less work for me, and a more adventurous eater. PS, don't mind the mess. We're busy 'round here:).

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Why I will NOT be making my daughter's Valentine's Day Box ...

Back when I was in the sixth grade, many, many years ago, we had this bug project we were supposed to do for my science class. Basically, the directions asked us to go out into our backyards, collect a bunch of bugs, and then pin said bugs to a Styrofoam board alongside little tags that stated their family, genus, species ... whatever. Now, I was really grossed out by said bug project, so I played the "poor me" card, and my Mom and Dad did a great deal of the project for me. Down to finding a Praying Mantis and pinning it to my board for bonus points (I'm pretty sure that's against the rules of the universe these days, but they meant well).

You know what I remember that I learned doing this project? Nothing. Except maybe the fact that I got my parents to do it for me. I do remember my Dad sitting at the dining room table surrounded by Mason jars filled with chloroformed bugs while I stood idly by, twiddling my thumbs. Watching.

Fast forward about 30 years. Everyday, for about the last week, my Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and tumblr feeds have been filled with Valentine's Day boxes that look like they were created by Martha Stewart on steroids on speed. Now, I know for a fact that when a kid makes a Valentine's Day box, it sure as hell doesn't look like it was crafted by the Real Simple Art Department (see below).

Too many things these days have become a competition in which we, as parents, take the reins from our kids. We make tricked-out party treats/art-projects/cards/gifts/book reports/room-decorations/playroom-displays inspired by the latest pins. Everything has to look perfect. Like it fell out of the Pottery Barn Kids' Catalog.

But here's the thing. In doing that, we don't allow our kids to try and fail, to be proud of something they constructed with their own hands, to experience the joy that is struggling with and constructing something they imagined, to create their own creative spaces. As a college teacher, I can see the dangerous side effects of this; I have encountered more than a few young adults whose parents have done so much for them throughout their childhood and adolescent years that they find it difficult to think creatively on their own.

So, here's what I'm doing. I'm giving my kid a box. I'm putting a bunch of art stuff on the dining room table on top of a layer of newspaper. And I'm letting her go to town. I'll help her if she needs help, but I'll be the one standing idly by, twiddling my thumbs. Watching.

Kids need to learn how to do things on their own. Even when it comes to something as simple as the Valentine's Day Box. (PS Mom and Dad, I still want to say thanks for doing that bug project. That was just disgusting;).) A/J

Valentines Day Kids

Monday, February 9, 2015

To die would be an awfully big adventure: Some Thoughts on Peter Pan

In the play Peter Pan, at the end of Act III, the boy who refuses to grow up finds himself lingering on Marooner's Rock, the place where traitors or enemies are sent, hogtied, to die a slow death, drowning slowly with the incoming tide. Peter, the waters rising slowly over his own ankles, contemplates his mortality and finds himself "afraid at last." "With a drum beating in his breast as if he were a real boy," he utters the following words to a moonlit lagoon: "To die will be an awfully big adventure."

Peter Pan is a play largely about our fear of mortality. Peter's utterance above amounts to my whistling into the void as I descend the basement stairs, flicking on the lights to ward off my welling fear of darkness. Here's the thing about Peter Pan: he's a rather treacherous figure. A riddle. A conundrum. In one sense he represents the fantastic appeal of eternal childhood.  "I'm youth, I'm joy, I'm a little bird that has broken out of the egg," he crows. But on the other hand, he represents the immoral refusal to face facts; in turning toward eternal childhood, he refuses to live, to grow as a person, to claim any kind of meaningful identity beyond the Dionysian boy lording it over his own creations in the ephemeral space of Never Land. Everything in Never Land is a figment of Peter's imagination, an extension of himself. More importantly, he controls what happens. That's why Wendy entering Never Land is so disastrous. He can't control her desire for him, not entirely. She doesn't fit the island's contours. It's shape is not her shape. It's the shape of a heart with a piece missing (quite literally, take a second look).

Peter's fear of death almost forces him to live. Almost. But, in the end, he decides not to live in order not to die. And not to live in order never to love. Consider these perplexing stage directions that close the play, after Wendy gets on her broomstick and wends her way home:
In a sort of way he understands what she means by 'Yes, I know' [in response to Peter's refusal to allow her to touch him], but in most sorts of ways he doesn't. It has something to do with the riddle of his being. If he could get the hang of the thing his cry might become 'To live would be an awfully big adventure!' but he can never get the hang of it, and so no one is as gay as he. 
"The thing" here, from my perspective, is touch. To touch Wendy would mean that Peter would have to grow up, to become a lover of this girl who desires him so much, to become her husband and generate his own offspring. Peter can't live because he refuses to love someone other than himself, he can't live because he can't be human.

Peter Pan, to me, is a play about failure. Peter isn't something or someone to be celebrated, his ecstatic ship sailing across the sky to the strains of "You can fly, you can fly, you can FLYYY!!" as in Disney's version of the play. For Barrie, in the end, Peter has no memory, no identity, no power outside of his playworld. And he's an egotist. And, perhaps worst of all, at the end of the play, he is utterly alone. Marooned in Never Land in a state of perpetual non-existence.

So live. And love. It's an awfully big adventure. ~Alice

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Let's have a little chat about what "Cinderella" really means ...

This past month, in two of my three classes, we have been studying the "original" versions of different fairy tales (I say "original" with my tongue firmly in my cheek; anyone who studies fairy tales knows that they are constantly evolving and changing based on the culture that is telling them). Anyhow, I asked my students to write about the tales before they came into class to discuss them, and I was once again struck, as I am every time I do this exercise, by how much students want to stick to the messages they have learned to associate with these stories, even when the words that are directly in front of them on the page contradict what they recall.

Let's take "Cinderella," for example. I had them read Charles Perrault's version of the tale after an extensive discussion the class prior about several different versions of "Little Red Riding Hood" and how the messages purveyed by each specific tale related directly to the culture out of which that particular version had evolved. Still, I got lots of papers that asserted that "Cinderella" is a real "rags to riches" story in which the family's lowly housemaid "pulls herself up by her bootstraps" in order to become a princess; that the "charm" that Cinderella has is that she's such a kind person and that's why she ascends in her social position by the end.


Arthur Rackham Cinderella
Arthur Rackham's Cinderella

Let's stick with the Perrault version that was in our particular text and examine it (the tale even varies translation to translation, depending on what the translator focuses on). First of all, in this version (as in many others), Cinderella is not just a lowly housemaid. She is an aristocratic young girl, the daughter of a gentleman, who has been knocked out of her rightful place in the social order by a stepmother who seems a little nervous about her and her biological daughters place in the household. The tale has a lot to do with how blood will win out, how you can't try to rearrange the social order. She may look like the housemaid, but she's not.

Second, she doesn't "pull herself up by her bootstraps." Her fairy godmother gives her all kinds of cool stuff to make her more desirable, i.e. "charming." The fact that the Prince is supposedly so in love with her he would die without her, but he can't even remember what she looks like is most telling. I mean, shouldn't he remember her face? Why does it all come down to whether a shoe fits or not?

My point here is that part of becoming a responsible citizen, a thinking person, is to question the world around you (I've been thinking a lot about this since it came up in a really thoughtful faculty coffee I attended the other day). To turn over the stones and look underneath them at the things squirming around underneath. What my students wanted to stick to was an American Cinderella, a girl whose tale reflects the American Dream. Not the girl they were actually reading about on the page. They didn't really want to contend with the real messages squiggling around in that glass slipper. A/J

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Eat, Eat, Eat: Why I only read the first part of Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir

One of my favorite books is Elizabeth Gilbert's travel memoir Eat, Pray, Love. I tend to completely fall for these kinds of books, where people make a complete break from their everyday mundane lives to do something wildly different with themselves (right now, I've fallen into the chocolatey comfort of Eloisa James's Paris in Love). It's not that I don't appreciate the mundanity of my own life (and the way I've constructed it). It's just so delicious to imagine myself in Paris, wandering through winding streets filled with cafes, booksellers, bread, and cheese (that's how I've constructed Paris in my brain, anyway, having never been there).

This past summer, I tried and tried again to re-read Gilbert's book, however. And I could not get past the "Eat" section, when the author is in Italy and lets caution fall by the wayside, falling head-first into Neapolitan pizzas and glass upon glass of wine. 


I think the fact that, this year, I could only get through this part of the book really tells you something about me. I believe that life should be filled with sensory adventure. I don't want to get up everyday and eat the same thing, all day, every day. I want to see new places. Learn new things. I want my life, right now, to be filled with stuff I enjoy doing. I think I've reached the point in my life (pushing 40) when I want to give myself permission to stop doing things I don't enjoy - in my professional life, in my personal life, as a parent - just because other people think that's what I should be doing. 

It's not that I want to be a glutton. The deliciousness is not necessarily in the eating but in enjoying the life I create. I am, right now, over the asceticism that the second section of the book requires. I feel like I've served my time as an apprentice to life; I've been the disciple, in various ways. Now, I just want to live on something of my own terms. Before I wind up, like the man in Shakespeare's sonnet, with a few sparse leaves rattling around in my ribs: 

When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang, 
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs where late sweet birds sang. 

So, this summer, I gave myself permission to read only the part of the book that I enjoyed. And then I ate a pizza (and a really amazing one at that);). A/J

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Happy Saturday! Seize the Day, says my new favorite coffee cup

Hi all. I just had to share with you my new favorite coffee cup, from Kate Spade (I've been having mostly tea in it lately, but isn't it pretty?).

"seize the day" Coffee Mug from Kate Spade
"seize the day" coffee mug from Kate Spade
Another Saturday note, we tried the Lemon Blueberry Chia Parfaits from Fooduzzi for breakfast this morning. They were delicious (I had to add some raspberries because I didn't have enough frozen blueberries; still yum). Even Mags said so, and that is a win-win. It goes on my Recipes to Keep Pinterest board for future use.

I just finished meal-planning, so it's off to PiYo and then grocery shop for me. Enjoy whatever your weekend has in store for you! With love, A/J

Friday, January 9, 2015

Roasted Carrot and Tarragon Soup

Some days, about the only thing I have left in my refrigerator are a bunch of leftovers, some chicken broth, and a beer. Today was one of those days, and I started my second AdvoCare 24-Day Challenge on Monday, which was probably not the best idea, because I have zero money left to go to the store until tomorrow and eating healthy is EXPENSIVE.

Looking into the depths of my fridge, I realized I had a container of leftover roasted carrots (made from basically this recipe; goodness, they were delicious. My brother-in-law, who swore he hated roasted carrots, even liked them), onions and garlic I had strained from the onion broth I made for Soph because she was sick, and chicken broth (see above). So, I thought, I guess I could try to make carrot soup. Is there such a thing as carrot soup? Turns out, there is.

I stumbled upon this recipe on Pinterest as I was searching, and decided to tweak it, based on what I had in my pantry/reserves. It turned out so delicious I just had to share. Enjoy!! A/J

Super-Easy Roasted Carrot and Tarragon Soup
Just looking at it makes me all hungry again. 
Roasted Carrot and Tarragon Soup (Serves 3-4)

You'll need:

  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • One diced onion and three cloves of garlic (either reserved from making a broth or diced fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of tarragon
  • 2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
  • Roasted Carrots (either make a double batch one night for dinner and reserve half for the soup, or roast the carrots using the recipe linked above) 
  • 1 small potato, microwaved for 2 minutes, peeled, and diced (for body in the soup; be sure to poke holes in it before you microwave)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 dash of cayenne pepper 
  • Salt and pepper to taste

You'll do: 
  1. Bring the tablespoon of coconut oil up to temp over medium heat. Once the oil is melted, add the onion; saute lightly until translucent. Add the garlic, saute for about 30 seconds more, adding in at the same time the paprika, ginger, and tarragon. 
  2. Add the broth, being sure to scrape any brown residue from the bottom of the pan so that it dissolves into the broth. Bring to a light boil and then reduce the temp to low. 
  3. Allow the broth to develop for about five minutes. Then, turn off the heat and add the carrots, potato, and a dash of cayenne pepper. 
  4. Using a hand-held immersion blender, blend up the soup right in the pot. Process it as you like. If you want it  toothsome, leave some unblended. If you want it silky smooth, go for that consistency. (If your broth seems too thick, add the necessary water. I had to, but it didn't affect the flavor negatively). 
  5. Season to taste. Serve, in a white bowl with cracked black pepper for effect;). 
  6. You guys know my last step: ENJOY! Would also be great with a swirl of sour cream or Greek yogurt, but I am on a challenge after all;). I probably already broke a bunch of rules eating those roasted carrots;). I also think it would be delicious to add some finely chopped parsley on the top. Because I love parsley in just about everything. 
PS: If you like it, would you pin it? Pretty please? You're awesome:).