We’ve had a spell of cool, rainy weather the last week or so. It’s been a bit of a buzzkill for those who have graduation parties (or ceremonies) on the calendar but at least it’s not snowing, for Chrissakes, like it did two weeks ago. That was spring madness, right there. It had to have been one of the latest snowfalls for Denver on record, and combined with the epic hailstorm we had in May, let’s just say that spring 2017 is keeping Coloradans on their toes.

The girls have been content to spend their first days of summer break quietly, drawing or reading indoors, with occasional breaks (between rain showers) to walk the Mozzerator or hit the backyard swingset, headphones firmly on ears.

I’ve been puttering in the kitchen, content to watch them from a kitchen window. I made a big batch of pasta salad to nibble on, and some homemade coconut and dried cherry granola that I’ll be telling you about soon. As for the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, we don’t really have much planned, for several reasons.

a) we leave for our Costa Rica/Europe/Road Trip adventures (respectively) in one week. We’re scrambling to get things organized and Jesus, the anticipatory laundry…

b) my husband is working extra hours so he can take off for said adventures, so why have festivities without him?

c) Daddy-o is in Russia at the moment, being entertained by the white nights and performances of Swan Lake and everything St. Petersburg has to offer, so why have festivities without him?

d) I’ve been flatlined by a rotten bout of tinnitus (and accompanying nausea/vertigo) and have been pretty bitter about it, so fuck festivities, man. I’m just hoping that the ringing and the constant irritation subsides before we leave. I’ve been hanging off the side of the bed, tilting away, hoping to ease the dizzy spells.

With a little luck, we’ll have some sun by Monday, so if you’re inclined to bust out that grill and kick off summer with some sizzle and charcoal, I say go for it. While burgers and hot dogs are never a bad idea, if you want something a little more festive, give this chicken a try. It’s got booze in the glaze, so you know it can’t be bad! Plus, it’s got that tropical, island vibe going on that immediately whispers: party.

I’m going to suggest that you plan about an hour before you want to fire up the grill so you can give the chicken a quick brine. Chicken breasts, while convenient and a crowd-pleaser, can dry out quickly on the grill. Brining them in a sugar/salt/water solution helps keep that chicken juicy and tender. You also can use boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of the breasts. In that case, you don’t have to brine them, but I usually do it anyways in case I wander off in search of a cocktail and forget about my chicken. Not that that’s ever happened or anything.

Whatever your plans are for the holiday, I hope you enjoy it with family and friends. Summer’s coming! Are you ready?

 

 

Tropical Rum and Pineapple Glazed Chicken

serves 4

slightly adapted from Fine Cooking

Brine the Chicken:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup salt

2 cups warm water

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6 to 8 oz each), patted dry

 

For the Rub and Chicken Prep:

1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne

kosher salt and black pepper

 

1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 garlic cloves, minced

For the Pineapple-Rum Glaze

1/4 cup salted butter

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon chile flakes

1/4 cup dark rum

1/4 cup pineapple juice

Brine the Chicken (one hour ahead):

Dissolve the salt and sugar in the warm water. Place mixture and chicken in a zip-top bag and refrigerate for one hour. Remove the chicken and pat dry.

Make the Rub and Prepare the Chicken

In a bowl, mix all of the spices, along with 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Set the chicken in a baking dish and drizzle it with the oil. Rub in the garlic. Take the spice rub and rub it thoroughly on both sides of the chicken. Set aside for 15 minutes while you heat the grill to medium-high.

Make the Glaze

Combine butter, brown sugar, chile flakes, rum and pineapple juice in a heavy saucepan. Boil over medium-high heat until syrupy, whisking constantly, about 7 minutes.

Grill the Chicken

Oil the grate of a preheated medium-high grill. Grill chicken about 5 minutes, then flip and cook another 5-6 minutes or until chicken is done.  Remove from grill and drizzle glaze over chicken.

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My gosh, we’ve had a busy few weeks, but it’s almost over. Okay, I lied. The school-busy part of things is almost over, though. The girls are finishing up as we speak. One more half-day and we can call this school year a wrap! I must say, I’m looking forward to summer, even though it means Miss D. learns how to *gulp* drive a car.

Those of you who follow me on Facebook also know that we fostered our very first homeless kitty last week, which was an impulsive and sort of foolish decision. What kind of nutjob decides to make her maiden voyage into the sea of animal fostering when life is 7 kinds of batshit crazy? Me, that’s who.

To be honest, it didn’t go very well. It wasn’t an outright disaster, but there were some sticky moments. It certainly was not the fault of this guy, though.

 

On FB I referred to him as “the George Clooney of fosters,” and it honestly was true. He was truly a charmer of a kitty–curious and cuddly and quick to purr and butt his silky head against your hands, begging for love. I was afraid that he’d be spooky and skittish, since he was surrendered in Gallup, NM and I had no idea what he’d been through. Nope, not Godzilla-boy. He’s a badass, resilient guy.

The problem was this guy.

 

 

And this girl.

 

 

They reacted very differently to the interloper, but both reactions were stressful for our foster kitty. Mozz-man wanted to play. He was extremely curious about Zilla and couldn’t help himself from barking and barking and wanting to get right up in his business. Godzilla wasn’t having it. Even when I tried to do everything right (eg: isolating Godzilla at first, getting all of the animals used to each others’ scents, making sure Mozzy was on a leash for initial interactions) things still kind of backfired.

Godzilla’s presence also triggered a jealous streak in Mozzy McGreedySome. That dog was unrelentingly demanding in his need for constant affection and even resorted to sleeping either ON my butt or wrapped around my neck like a whiny, fluffy scarf.

I thought Aria, the world’s laziest cat, would be okay with him, since 3 years ago she adjusted easily to a frigging puppy, for Heaven’s sake, but she was a fluffed-up, hissing mess. Even after we took the testicles away from His Sleekness (and I did wonder if that was the issue), Aria hated his guts.

Didn’t my resident animals understand that I’m trying to do a good thing here? That I’m really needing to make the world a better place in these trying times? No. They didn’t.

In truth, we were all kind of miserable this first time around, and even though Godzilla is now safely at a PetSmart awaiting adoption, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it again. I need some time to think it over.

However, there’s a silver lining to this little tale of woe. Even if I don’t end up fostering any more kitties, I did discover that I really kind of enjoyed writing interesting/amusing biographies for our little lost, furry brethren. That’s definitely something I’m willing to continue doing and if it will generate more notice for the animals, I’m all for it.

I won’t be able to do much of anything for a few weeks, because once June begins, we pack our bags and our passports. Miss D. is headed to Costa Rica with a group from her school, Miss M. is taking a road trip to the in-laws, and my husband and I (and Awesome Stepkid Ro–who is so not a kid anymore) are headed to Europe. I’m really excited!

We’re starting in London, then driving our way through the Irish countryside (woo-hoo! I cannot wait to pick up swag from Dingle, Ireland!), and then finishing things off in Madrid.

Ireland and England will be a little bittersweet, because I visited those places in the past with my parents, so memories of Mama will most certainly bubble to the surface.

 

^In Ireland. I’m 16 in the 80’s here, so no judgey the pink raincoat and hair ribbon.

 

I’m hoping that the promise of making new memories will cancel out any unhappiness. Well, most of it anyways. I know for a fact that I’ll come back with some good stories for all of you, though! Hopefully nothing involving explosions.

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My husband’s work schedule can vary widely. Some nights he’s home for dinner but sometimes he won’t hit the house until well after 9 or 10 pm. On nights like that, he’s on his own for the evening meal. If he’s got a particularly grueling day ahead, I might pack something for him that he can heat up, because it’s nice to eat something warm for your last meal of the day, but sometimes my day is crazy too or I’m just not organized enough, so he’s in sandwich territory.

Nights like that also mean that *I* am on my own for dinner, and that can be problematic.

The reason it’s problematic is because I’m a lazy slob, and if left to my own devices, I will happily scarf down half a block of Dutch gouda and a box of Triscuits and call it dinner.

Or I’ll dig around the refrigerator and find any leftover on the verge of spoiling and make do, since I can’t be bothered to fix anything decent if it’s just me.

I can also make a meal out of a big bowl of buttered rice and a sliced tomato. Not the most balanced of repasts.

I’m so pathetic that I’ll fix the Minxes a full breakfast for dinner (their usual meal when Daddy’s gone)–eggs, toast, bacon–and forget that I, too, require feeding. I’ll serve up their plates, rinse the dishes and then remember, “Oh yeah. I’m here, too.”

You’d think that after 40-plus years, I’d have a little more self respect than that, but I guess that’s just the way I work.

I’m trying to do a little better.

When summer is in full swing, I have better luck, because I always have sweet corn around and everybody knows that several ears of sweet corn, slathered in butter and salt, washed down with a glass of cold rose wine, is the perfect summer dinner.

Alas, it’s not summer yet. I have a few months of scrounging around left before sweet corn season.

Luckily for me (and for you), this spring, I discovered socca.

What the Hell is socca? Glad you asked.

Socca is a pancake of sorts, made with chickpea flour, popular in Nice, France.

When I first came across a recipe for it, I thought, “This sounds weird.” A savory pancake? Chickpea flour? I’d never seen chickpea flour before, but then I remembered that I live in Boulder county, where gluten is the undisputed enemy against humanity. I toddled off to the local Sprouts supermarket and sure enough, there it was.

My main impetus for trying socca (besides the obvious allure of it sounding “weird”) was that it sounded kind of like dosa, an Indian crepe-like delicacy made with ground lentils that is incredibly complicated and beyond my realm but so damn delicious. My husband adores dosa and my mother-in-law makes crazy good dosa, but I am not an accomplished Indian cook. I’ve seen her make dosa (even on the grill!) and it makes my head spin.

Dosa be hard, man.

But…if I can find an easy, sort of dosa-like substitute that I can pull together on a weeknight? I’m in.

The only difficult thing about socca (besides buying chickpea flour) is that you have to let the batter rest for about 20 minutes before you cook it. Turns out, this isn’t that big a problem, because it gives you time to figure out what you want to stuff your socca with.

Yep, you stuff socca. With delicious stuff.

Like dosa, you can stuff socca with just about anything you have lolling about in your refrigerator. Leftover vegetables? Saute them up with some garlic and seasoning. An egg and a lone slice of bacon? Why not? Chopped tomato, leftover chicken and some cheese? Go for it.

I have been diligently trying to eat my vegetables (swimsuit season, y’all. It’s coming.) so most often, that’s what I stuff my socca with, but do what makes you happy.

My current favorite version consists of sauteed greens, onions and garlic, gussied up with a creamy yogurt drizzle. Sometimes I add mushrooms and peppers, and if I have a little slice of Canadian bacon hanging around, all the better. If I’m feeling racy, sometimes I add a sprinkle of fresh herbs or some toasted chopped nuts or sunflower seeds.

See where I’m going, here? There really aren’t any rules.

Okay, I lied. There are a couple of rules.

1. Don’t rush the batter. It does need to rest for at least 20 minutes.

2. If you make the yogurt sauce, use full-fat yogurt. You’re worth it and it makes a difference.

3. If you make more than one socca (you can double or triple or even quadruple the recipe), you have to serve each one immediately after cooking it. This means you will have to serve people individually and then return to the stove to make more. Like dosa, socca doesn’t sit. If you make it sit, it gets soggy and sad and mean. Don’t do it. Be organized enough so that you can scarf that socca hot off the griddle.

Okay, enough bossin’.

Let’s do this.

 

Socca with Sauteed Greens

serves 1

slightly adapted from Bon Appetit

 

For Socca:

1/3 cup chickpea flour

1/3 cup cashew or other nut milk

2 eggs

dash of salt, pepper and garam masala or curry powder

 

Whisk together the chickpea flour and the cashew milk. Set aside and let it rest for about 20-30 minutes. After the batter has rested, stir in the beaten eggs and the seasonings.

Meanwhile…make the sauteed greens and yogurt sauce:

 

Sauteed Greens:

-wash and cut out the tough stems of a buttload of leafy greens (at least once bunch of Swiss chard or kale or about 3 cups baby spinach). Tear into pieces and pat dry.

-slice one half of a sweet onion thinly

-mince 1-2 cloves garlic, depending how zippy you want your filling

then

-heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil or coconut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat

When hot, add the sliced onion, turn down the heat to medium and saute until onion is soft and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the greens by handfuls, stirring, until they wilt enough to add more to the pan. Continue until all greens are wilted.

Add seasonings (as desired):

-crushed red pepper flakes

-salt and pepper

-splash of red wine vinegar or lemon juice

or

-splash of soy or fish sauce

 

Make yogurt sauce:

1/3 cup plain Green yogurt, full-fat

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon minced garlic

salt and pepper

dash curry powder

 

Set greens and yogurt sauce aside. It’s socca time! Let’s put this all together now…

 

Make socca:

Warm about 2 teaspoons butter, coconut oil or ghee in a 10-inch, cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Pour in the chickpea batter, coating the pan evenly. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until nearly set (small bubbles will form).

Flip the socca (and say a little prayer–it’s a big, thin pancake so use confidence!) and cook for a couple more minutes. **

 

Slide socca onto a plate, top with a scoop of sauteed greens, drizzle with yogurt sauce and serve immediately.

I sometimes like to sprinkle some sunflower seeds over the top for crunch.

 

**If you are an unconfident flipper, don’t worry. Your socca might look a little mangled but it will still taste delicious.

 

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