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Friday Advice Column for Wacky Mothers & Others

November 4th, 2005

Dear Wacky Mommy:

I am going to school and working full time. My house is filled with men, so the housekeeping . . . . . well, we won’t go there. Anyway, even though I’m up to my eyeballs with things to do that will never get done, I still try to put dinner on the table (made by me, not Costco) once a week.

Do you have any recipes or time-saving ideas so that I can do this mighty feat at least twice in one week without a lot of stress? Helllllllllp Meeeeeeeee, Plleeeeease!

Signed,
Pizza Mom

Dear Pizza Mom:

You’re talking with the woman who just served her family pizza the last two nights in a row (Wednesday was our end-of-season soccer pizza party; last night it was Amy’s frozen — rice crust is okay, but I like the wheat crust better. The kids didn’t notice, though. But for those of you with gluten-intolerance, hallelujah to a ready-made frozen rice crust pizza). I was considering taking the time to make homemade pizza tonight — but then I got your e-mail. What was I thinking???

Google “family meals” online and you will find tons of great sites and ideas. Two of my favorites are:

FamilyFun.go.com

Hungry Monster

No matter what you cook, your family is going to probably hate it or bitch about it. You can cook fresh lobsters you just netted, take-out pizza, Captain Crunch, a four-course French thing — they’re going to find something wrong with it, pick at it, or (worse, to my way of thinking), wolf it down and not say one damn word about it! Cook for yourself, Wacky Mama! And the rest will follow.

I frequently cut out recipes from the weekly food section of our local rag and stick them on the refrigerator with a magnetic clip. The food sections are good cuz they kick your butt a little, getting you to use fresh, seasonal stuff (ie — acorn squash recipes galore right now). If you don’t have a big freezer, buy one, along with some decent glass casserole dishes, small and large plastic freezer containers, and freezer bags. I try to make two pans of everything when I cook and freeze one. (Enchiladas, veggie loaf, manicotti… And I love soup, so that’s great to freeze, unless it’s potato. Or cream-based. I’m thinking minestrone, black bean and others.) I keep homemade pizza dough in the freezer. Microwave it to defrost, put canned sauce and grated mozzarella on top and you’re done! Home cooking at its finest, and cheaper than take-out.

We love egg salad sandwiches with tomato soup, grilled cheese with tomato soup, or fried egg sandwiches with sweet hot chili sauce or mango chutney. Grilled cheese is also awesome with sliced onions and tomatoes. All of these are fast and easy.

I bake most of our bread because it’s easy and cheap. Most bread makers have timers on ‘em, so you can set it to have the bread ready when you walk in from work. I make great homemade pizza dough with the bread maker, too. And raspberry jam. (No kidding.) The trick to a bread maker is buying Tupperware containers to keep all the flour in, and keeping a jar or three of yeast in the cupboard.

Tonight I’m going to do a no-cheese meal, just for something a little different. Veggie meatloaf with polenta, broccoli and a big salad. Fresh pears and apples for dessert, because good Lord — we’ve been eating too much garbage all week, what with miniature Kit-Kats, Reese’s, son-of-Reese’s (whatever that new bar is they invented), Milky Ways, New! Dark Chocolate! Milky Ways, etc. Going into diabetic coma over here. Must. Have. Vegetables.

VEGETARIAN MEATLOAF

Take 2-4 cups cooked lentils, mostly drained; or defrosted, chopped-up gardenburgers or soy protein; or 2-3 pounds raw ground meat (chicken, turkey, sausage, hamburger, or a combination).

Add:
Approximately two cups shredded vegetables — carrots, broccoli and zucchini work well
One medium chopped onion
Two or three cloves of fresh, chopped garlic
1/2 cup ketchup
One cup vegetable or chicken broth (some people add a can of tomato soup instead of ketchup and broth)
A few teaspoons of spices, to your liking (rosemary, oregano, basil)
Salt and pepper
A couple shots of Worcestershire sauce (they make a vegetarian one now! Yay) or tamari or soy sauce
Two eggs (skip these for a vegan meatloaf, of course)
Two cups bread crumbs (or crackers, or torn-up bread) — you may need more or less, depending on how saucy you like this recipe)

Mold into a 9 x 13 pan. For a glaze, I mix about a half-cup of ketchup with approximately 1/4 cup dijon mustard and add a couple spoonfuls of brown sugar. Add enough water to make a paste, then spread on top of meatloaf. Top with sliced green peppers or onion rings.

Bake approximately 45 minutes at 350 degrees until it’s done (times may vary)

POLENTA
Polenta, if you haven’t cooked it before, is a meditative food. That is, you put it in the pan, bring to a boil, then simmer it, stirring, stirring, stirring, til it’s done. It’s a thick corn porridge that you can do a lot with. After it’s done cooking, season it with salt and pepper, then add butter and fresh, grated parmesan, if you’d like. (I sub margarine and leave out cheese when I’m doing a no-dairy polenta.) I add fresh or dried herbs sometimes, too. Usually basil and oregano, sometimes rosemary. (We have a rosemary plant out front I steal from.) I use half vegetable broth and half water when I’m making polenta. Wacky Daddy likes all water. Some people like all broth. So…

Heat four cups liquid in a pan. Bring to a boil, then keep on low heat.

Take one cup polenta grains and put in a pan. Add the hot liquid by the soup ladle-ful, bring to boil (this part is quicker if the liquid is already hot, see?), then simmer on medium heat and stir til it’s done, about half an hour, adding more liquid as needed. I usually sample it along the way. When it’s not too grainy, it’s good. You can spread it in a pan, let it set, then cut it into slices and fry them up. Or serve it like a corn pudding version of mashed potatoes.

BROC
Microwave it or steam it lightly in a pan. You can fancy it up with sesame seeds and tamari, if you’d like. My favorite (so my family hates it, naturally) is steamed baby carrots with melted butter and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Oh. Man. Do I love carrots. But they don’t.

GREEN SALAD
I like nice organic greens. Wash, salad spin them, done. Maybe I’ll slice up a cuke and a tomato, and add some shredded carrots if I’m being fancy. I make a balsamic vinaigrette with 1 part balsamic vinegar, 3 parts oil, a small handful of fresh or dried herbs, salt, pepper, fresh minced or pressed garlic (as much as you can stand) and a tablespoon of mustard powder. Shake it up in a jar. (PS I love all the Paul Newman salad dressings, but especially the vinaigrette.)

DESSERT
Sliced fruit — completely easy. It just has to be ripe is the only trick. Garnish with mint leaves and frozen or fresh berries.

You can do all of this stuff in advance, other than the salad and the fruit, and they take about 10 minutes is all. Keep the meatloaf in a covered pan in the fridge until you’re ready to cook. I bought three of these nice big Pyrex cooking pans that have blue plastic lids, so they’re easy to stack. The polenta can be done ahead, then fried up or microwaved when you’re ready to eat. Happy cooking!

WM

Hi Wacky Mommy:

So what do you do when you have a wacky friend who’s not wacky in the fun sense, but wacky in the “Hey-I-have-a-habit-of-waking-up-next-to-old-men-after-a-night-of-drunken-sex-I-don’t-remember” sense? I sat down and called her on it, and her response
was to lash out at me. Do I stick by her, with the understanding that she’s sick and she’s not going to get better, or do I cut her loose? When she’s vaguely unwacky, she’s a kind, generous person. That’s why this is so hard.

Anyhoo…please advise!

Sincerely,
Confused

Dear Confused:

Why sleep with old, nasty men when there are so many sexy, germ-laden, drunken young bike messengers to snuggle up with? Tut, tut. And, right — she’s angry with you because you’re risking her life, with all of your wild, selfish behavior. Come on — you are being more than kind here, trying to talk with her. I’m sure you’re not the first friend who has been concerned, but maybe no one else has been brave enough to talk with her. So kudos to you, and give yourself some credit. She is lucky to have you — but her luck needs to turn.

Since you made the effort, it’s fine now to say something short and to the point, ie — “You’re bugging me.” And walk away. Maybe not forever, maybe just until she gets married, fucks around on her husband with his brother, brings hubby home a nice lil STD, he drops her sorry ass and gets custody of his (???) kids, and she calls you to whine. See what I mean? Women like this generally don’t wise up — they just go on to screw over nice people, including spouses and kiddos.

In that case, you have my permission to repeat, “You’re still bugging me.” Rinse, repeat, hang up. Life’s too short, mamacita! And hers might, unfortunately, be made even shorter if she hooks up with Mr. Goodbar one of these crazy, crazy, crazy nights. Did this younger generation not read Looking for Mr. Goodbar? Buy her a copy and hand it to her with a pack of condoms.

WM

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