Monthly Archives: January 2011

Oh, What a Night……


As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about……..savoring more moments! Not to beat a dead horse, but, we’re down to the last few weeks of hockey being the center of our family’s universe. It was a particularly poignant weekend. Saturday night the Be All and End All Academy celebrated Senior Night.

 

Hands down, I think that hockey has to be one of the coolest sports EVER. Hockey players are modern day Gladiators (Gerard Butler and Russell Crowe watch out!). From where I sit, to be a great hockey player requires the hand-eye coordination of a baseball player, the endurance of an Iron Man, the speed of a sprinter, the tenacity of a middle linebacker, and the finesse of a Michael Jordan, all while balancing on a ¼” thick blade. Why do you think they call Gretzky ‘The Great One”?

I think our family totally could have been Canadian! Our neighbors to the North eat, sleep, and breathe hockey. In fact, they have television stations devoted to showcasing local Mite teams, which is awesome. They even have ice rinks in their shopping malls. Here in the Sates (eh) however, hockey remains somewhat of a cult like phenomenon (though, thanks to the Blackhawks, Sid “The Kid” Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, it’s rapidly gaining in popularity).

Mainstream high school sports, like football and basketball, draw huge crowds, while our hockey program is lucky to draw our parents. Maybe it’s the late nights and the distances less near, more far. Perhaps it’s because most casual onlookers don’t understand the traditions and rules of the game. Senior night, however, was a completely different animal. There were posters lining the school hallways and announcements shouted over the loud speaker; balloons, buzz and fanfare.

 

The senior moms were asked to make a poster, highlighting the boys (or girl…..as our goalie, while utterly fierce, is the prettiest little thing and the only girl in the Catholic League) careers in hockey. You know I am a total sucker for nostalgia, so I loved sorting through our family photos, pictures of Nick rollerblading in the cul-de-sac, kissing the Stanley Cup at the Hockey Hall of Fame and action shot after action shot.

The seniors got together for dinner before the game, dressed in suits (and a very fashionable cocktail dress). They had their pictures taken and greeted their parents out on the ice before the ceremonial puck drop. The best part, though, was the fans. The house was packed as they cheered their team on to victory. Nick had a goal, an assist and his best hit on defense of the season (the opposing player was airborne!).

While I’m no where near ready to let my Nick move on, it was quite a night!

More hockey, more fanfare, more memories, more special moments…….

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The Story of (and the recipe for) The Amazing Stacked Cobb Salad


The Story of (and the recipe for) the Amazing Stacked Cobb Salad

As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about…….more amazing, over the top, culinary excellence and artistry! Next week marks the annual celebration of Catholic Schools Week, where we celebrate our teachers and community. While my children have both moved on from Our Lady of Perpetual Donations Grammar School, I wanted to share with you a story from my 13th and final year; the story of the Amazing Stacked Cobb Salad…….

You may also enjoy my first embarrassing foray into posting a You Tube video. If you listen closely, you can hear my Wrigley chomping on a bone in the background. I gave it to him so he would stop barking at and nudging my friend Julia as she videotaped my endeavor. Chuck would call this a classic Lucy and Ethel moment:

   http://www.youtube.com/user/moreismoremom#p/a/u/0/UeE8vfLR2CY

Room Mom’s Log, January, 2010:

Our eighth grade class has many fun things planned to commemorate our dedication to academic excellence and show our appreciation to our amazing and devoted teachers. The week started off with flowers for the teachers and doughnuts for the students. There will be hot beverages and pastries for the teachers to begin their day and the week will culminate in dessert for the whole class. As a Room Parent, today was my day. I brought lunch. As you know, I believe that every event-big or small-should be celebrated. Showing appreciation for our incredible teachers is really kind of a big thing, as their commitment shapes the minds and spirits of our children. That my friend is an enormous gift, and there is not a gesture grand enough to express our gratitude to those that touch the lives of our babies. Besides, I live for opportunities to make things special. It totally beats cleaning the bathroom!

Enter the Stacked Cobb Salad.

I am a huge believer in planning ahead, rarely am I a fly by the seat of her pants kind of a gal. My preference for everything, and in entertaining in particular, is to prep as much as humanly possible in advance.
Serves  4

Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette:

Combine:

¾ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp minced garlic (I always use way more!)
1 Tbsp minced shallot (twice as much at least!)
1 Tbsp chopped mixed fresh herbs (basil, oregano, thyme…….the more the better!)
2 tsp salt (I love sea salt)
1 tsp freshly ground pepper (I prefer cracked black pepper for a little kick)

Toss in a food processor or blender.

Puree on low speed and slowly add 2 ½ cups of olive oil until well incorporated.

Store in the refrigerator in an air tight container.

 You want the dressing to be thick, so you will make it nice and creamy.

The recipe calls for a ½ cup of the Balsamic Vinaigrette and ½ cup of mayonnaise whisked together. I always think you need more, so I use about ¾ of the Balsamic Vinaigrette and eyeball it when I add the mayo to make a nice creamy consistency.

Meat:

 Here’s the thing, there are so many variations that you can incorporate to make this salad customized to your own taste and budget.

For lobster meat:
• 2 sliced lemons
• 2 dried bay leaves
• 2 tablespoons black peppercorn
• ¼ cup salt
• 3-4 pounds lobster (live….I’m way too squeamish), I use lobster tails and figure one per person. If your budget permits, for a serving of 4, I would use 5 tails… a little more is always better.
• Fill a stockpot with 6 quarts of cold water and add the lemons, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes to flavor the poaching liquid. Add the lobster and cover the pot for about 10 minutes, or until the lobsters are bright red.
• Prepare an ice bath and submerge the lobster to stop the cooking process (so you don’t over cook the meat and it gets rubbery….complete waste of a beautiful lobster!). When cool enough to handle remove the meat from the shell and chop in to bite size chunks. I am all about being prepared ahead of time because I totally hate feeling anxious and stressed, so I do this a day in advance. I wrap the chopped lobster meat in paper towel to absorb and moisture, so the meat doesn’t get slimy and gross. I love paper towel and I especially like Bounty, the quicker picker upper. Store is a Ziploc baggie over night until ready to use.

This time around, however, I defrosted a bag of shrimp, cut off the tails, and chopped it into bite size pieces. As is my method (I have many methods and think in another life I might have been an efficiency expert. I know I was not Cleopatra or Joan of Arc. I was a worker of some sort. I may also have been a purveyor of food, home goods and cloth at a general store, but I’m not sure), I wrapped the bite size pieces in Bounty and sealed them in a Ziploc baggie over night.

You might also consider using a few grilled chicken breasts. The options are endless.

The Layers:

 Chopping and cooking…..get cracking

The recipe calls for 8 slices of thick cut bacon, but I think 16 is more like it (4 per person…I mean if you’re a meat eater, who doesn’t like bacon?). I like a smoked, maple, bacon personally. Fry it up in the pan, chop in to bite size pieces, wrap it in paper towel and store it in a baggie.

7 hard boiled eggs (I hate to be skimpy).

 Separate the whites from the yolks. Chop in to bite size pieces, wrap in paper towel and store each in separate baggies.

4 Haas avocados. Peel, remove the seeds, chop, wrap and store. You can certainly try drizzling with lemon juice to prevent from some browning. I don’t like to deal with a mess while I am preparing to entertain, so I can live with a little brown, it gets covered up in brown balsamic dressing anyway. I’m sorry Martha if I am being offensive, but I am one woman kitchen prep and clean up crew, so on occasion I must take a few shortcuts where my sensibilities will not be offended. I chop the avocado, wrap it in paper towel and store it all in a baggie.

4 (or more…personal preference) vine ripened tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced. I wrap tomatoes in a huge wad of paper towels because they are so darn watery, and no one likes a slimy tomato. Chop, wrap, store.

2 cups crumbled cheese. I hate blue cheese, so I substitute with feta because it is also a nice soft cheese, but use what you like.

If you don’t like all of these ingredients, choose what you do like. I have also incorporated diced cucumbers and carrots. C’est la vie!

Fancy lettuce

Rolls or crackers (I like to serve this with flatbread crackers)

Stacking:

You will need a tube type mold to stack the salad, so it stays vertical. The least expensive and simplest thing to do is to purchase a 15 ounce (or whatever is closest) can of generic soup (or be thrifty and use this item to make dinner, perhaps homemade chicken noodle soup), empty its contents, remove the label, remove the lid from both sides, and wash. Now you have a tube shaped mold! I have 8 empty cans for this recipe, as I have made it on several occasions. You really do need one mold per person because the layers needs time to stabilize and the dressing will bind the ingredients together in order for the stack to remain upright.

Because I will layer the salad earlier in the day, I may use a small bread plate, or even easier a paper plate (because I am all about being efficient, and you can easily toss the paper plate in the trash when you are in the frenzy of putting out your masterpiece, and have one less plate to clean up per person).

Place the mold on the plate.

For each individual serving:
• Divide the tomatoes equally amongst the 4 cans and arrange on the bottom.
• Spoon approximately 1 tsp of dressing over this layer.
• Divide the egg whites equally amongst the 4 cans and arrange as the next layer.
• Spoon approximately 1 tsp of dressing over this layer.
• Divide the bacon equally amongst the 4 cans and arrange as the next layer.
• Spoon approximately 1 tsp of dressing over this layer.
• Divide the egg yolks equally amongst the 4 cans and arrange as the next layer.
• Spoon approximately 1 tsp of dressing over this layer.
• Divide the cheese equally amongst the 4 cans and arrange as the next layer.
• Spoon approximately 1 tsp of dressing over this layer.
• Divide the avocado equally amongst the 4 cans and arrange as the next layer.
• Spoon approximately 1 tsp of dressing over this layer.
• Top with the meat of your choice; lobster, shrimp, crab, chicken…whatever makes you happy!
• I cover the can with plastic wrap and secure it with a rubber band while it is in the refrigerator.

6. When you are ready to serve your creation, simply add the lettuce in a circle around the plate, leaving a small flat surface for the can. Carefully slide the can off the paper or bread plate, and on to the dinner plate, and remove the plastic. Gently and slowly slide the can upward, revealing the stacked salad. With any luck it will remain intact. If some of it happen to fall over, not to worry, it will still be delicious!
7. Certainly serve extra dressing on the side (for people like me who only choke down veggies because there is an opportunity to savor tasty, flavorful salad dressing!).
8. I like to garnish with flatbread crackers. If you were brave and cooked a live lobster, then you could certainly, artfully arrange the antennae upright in the salad. You could also garnish with sprigs of tarragon.

As an aesthetic person, I think it is equally important to be surrounded by pretty things, satisfying my sense of sight, in addition to my sense of taste. Today I was serving lunch in the teacher’s lounge, so from my vast collection at home (I do believe that I mentioned that I collect these items in 20’s), I brought placemats, cloth napkins, napkins rings, chargers, dishes, flatware and real glassware. If you are taking the time to make something special, go the whole nine yards! Again, I am all about authenticity. Rather than serve water or soda (because the Board of Education takes this funny stance about consuming alcohol during the school day, on school property, while you are responsible for minors….details, details, details), I served a lovely sparkling pomegranate juice. Sparkly drinks always feel luxurious, even when they are alcohol free (but I avoid that whenever possible. If I’m going to consume the calories, I’d better get buzzed!).

I am so pleased to have had the chance to show Amanda’s teachers just how important I think the job they so lovingly devote themselves to, is to me. As a bonus, Chuck and I are having Stacked Shrimp Cobb Salad tonight for dinner while we watch American Idol. Yum

More teachers, more appreciation, more decadent and beautiful lunches………

The Amazing Stacked Cobb Salad

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Rock Me Like a Hurricane…….


As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about……….more fun with hurricanes! Not the 75 mile per hour tropical thunderstorms, but decorative glass candleholders. I love the shape and silhouette of a beautiful piece of glass. Such a simple object, filled with so many possibilities…..

I’m a total candle junky! Since more of everything is always better, I’ve got candles stashed everywhere; under the kitchen sink, in a drawer in the powder room, in a cabinet in the family room, an assortment of votives in a bookcase drawer, several Rubbermaid containers full in my basement storage room. The candles are nothing compared to my collection of candleholders! However, one of my favorite candle holders will always be; the hurricane.

What I love about the hurricane is that it always makes a statement. It’s not so big that it doesn’t pack a punch, but it’s not so small that it gets completely lost. There are so many perfect places for a hurricane; on a side table on your front porch, on a chest of drawers in your foyer, on your kitchen island, in your powder room, a pair on a coffee table (corralled by a gorgeous tray completely sweetens the deal), by your bathtub, at your desk, on your patio, the list just goes on and on.

As much fun as a hurricane is alone, think of the possibilities for greater impact when you have a pair, which can make for beautiful centerpieces.

 

While I appreciate the calm simplicity of a single pillar candle, one way you can make your hurricane display more interesting and appropriate to your design or party theme is through embellishment.   

 

River rock provides for a serene and organic quality.

 

Collections are personal and charming. My Amanda collects bouncy balls (over 400 and counting…), which make for a whimsical embellishment. This would be great fun for a kid’s birthday party!

 

One of our favorite family traditions is outdoor movie night in the summer. We set up a screen and projector on our deck and a huge movie theater concession stand in our kitchen, complete with all the fixin’s; popcorn, Twizzler’s, Junior Mints, Milk Duds, Sweet-Tarts, Hershey’s bars, Cookie Dough Bites, pretty much everything that’s good for you. As a centerpiece, I set up two hurricanes filled with popcorn. It’s sooooo cute! For Movie Night inspiration, please visit my website:

  http://moreismoremom.wordpress.com/2010/08/11/lights-camera-action-outdoor-movie-night/

 

Sometimes, I’ll simply remove the candle and fill the hurricanes with inspirations of the season; faux lemons and limes (or other fruit), decorative Easter Eggs, raffia balls, moss balls, gourds, ornaments, pine cones. Whatever makes you happy!

More decorations, more embellishments, more beautiful homes…….

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Tomato and Onion Smothered Pork Chops!


As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about……more quick and delicious weeknight dinners! Last week, the unthinkable happened; my gas grill ran out of propane. You know my mantra is more of everything is always better, so we have 4 propane tanks, all of which were empty. We love to grill, but it was just too stinkin’ cold to wrestle the propane tank away from the hose.

With the break in the weather (if you consider temperatures in the 20’s a break), today was the perfect day to haul the tanks over to the hardware store to have them refilled. I asked Nick to unload the hatch of his SUV hockey bag, duffle bag with the wet towel from Monday mornings practice, uniform shirts, various scattered pieces of paper, empty golf ball sleeves, loose golf balls, his Law Club poster, water bottles, a necktie; I think you get the picture. Because we have sons to do the heavy lifting, I had Nick load up the tanks and I was on my way.

I had every intention of unloading the tanks myself, when a very sweet senior citizen that works at the hardware store met me at my car. It was so embarrassing! Nick’s car stinks. I had to apologize for the overwhelming aroma of teenage boy. Before long, I was headed home, dreaming about grilling pork chops for dinner. Only after I had the tank re-connected, I soon discovered a problem with the igniter. Shoot! There would be no grilling tonight. But how was I going to make those pork chops?

 Fortunately, I had a can of diced tomatoes in the pantry (I’m the MacGyver of cooking dilemmas) and was able to whip up a tasty meal in no time at all.

Tomato and Onion Smothered Pork Chops:

Serves 4

 

4 Tbsp olive oil

4 pork loin chops

Salt and pepper for seasoning

1 medium to large onion, thinly sliced

2  - 15 oz cans diced tomatoes in the juice

2 tsp herbes de Provence

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (especially if you like it spicy)

1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

In a large skillet, heat oil over a medium-high heat

Season the pork chops with salt and pepper

Place the pork chops in the skillet and cook until nicely browned, about 4 minutes per side

Remove the pork chops, setting aside on a platter to collect all of the juices

Keep warm by tenting

Add the onion to the skillet and sauté over medium-high for approximately 4 minutes

Add the cans of tomatoes with juice, herbes de Provence and the red pepper flakes

Reduce to a simmer and cover for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally

If you like a little more kick, by all means sprinkle on some more red pepper flakes

Return the pork chops, and any juices collected on the platter, to the skillet’s tomato mixture

Cook for another 3-4 minutes

Place one pork chop on each dinner plate and top with the tomato and onion mixture

I also made mashed potatoes, which was the perfect accompaniment!

 

More breaking bread together, more rolling with the punches, more unexpectedly tasty dinners……..

Tomato and Onion Smothered Pork Chops

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Scouts Go Viral……


As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about……..more modern uses for technology! Life used to be so simple. Back in the olden days, when I was a kid, we had a television and a telephone. There were exactly six channels to watch on TV. If you grew up here in Chicago they were; 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 32 (and UHF reception could be sketchy). We had rabbit ears and the youngest person in the household was responsible for moving around the antenna until the picture was just right. We watched simple, wholesome programs like; Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Mork and Mindy, the Love Boat and Fantasy Island. I actually had a friend that wasn’t allowed to watch Speed Racer because it was too “dark” (can you imagine!?!).   

We didn’t have call waiting, caller ID, an answering machine, cell phones, text messaging (we practically used Morse code, smoke signals or tin cans), Facebook or e-mail. We had snail mail. Letter writing was an art form! I still maintain that there is nothing like going to your mailbox, flipping through the bills, magazines, catalogs and advertisements to find an envelope, lovingly hand addressed, especially to you. It could be a greeting card, a letter from a dear friend or an invitation to a party. Such possibilities!

Everything was simpler! Living in the city, most things were relatively close; as a kid I could walk or ride my bicycle wherever I needed to go. Chicago has a great transit system. By the time I was 8 years old I was fairly well versed in how to keep track of my bus fare, take the bus, get a transfer, make a connection and navigate the “El”. None of this cry baby, I need a ride from my mom nonsense. City kids were independent warriors!

Of course, we’ve raised our family in the cushy suburbs, something I like to call……The Bubble. The Bubble, though, is a wonderful place to live! It’s nostalgic and pure and relatively safe; like Mayberry RFD. Life here in The Bubble has a very nice, old fashioned kind of feel to it. The kids meet up to play baseball, ride their bikes for fun (not necessarily transportation), rollerblade and have lemonade stands. We know our neighbors, their kids and their pets. We can always count on neighbor kids, ringing our doorbells to sell us wrapping paper to benefit the schools, popcorn and Christmas wreaths for the Boy Scouts and cookies for the Girls Scouts.

However, this year I’ve noticed a new trend, taking full advantage of technology. Gone are the door to door solicitations. Enter in a new era; Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts using social networking! You can find a post of Facebook, an email, a text or at the very least, a message on your answering machine; virtual fundraising.

As much as I love the convenience of technology, there’s something to be said for a personal touch. I, myself, prefer a visit from my little friends. I enjoy catching up and seeing how they’ve grown. Besides, I think the kids have a greater sense of pride and accomplishment when they go door to door, look you in the eye and take your order. However, if that’s the only way to get my Thin Mints…..shoot me an e-mail.

More nostalgia, more technology, more importantly; more Girl Scout Cookies!

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