I’m having a birthday this week, and I think my husband is ready to trade me in for a better model. Not a younger one, necessarily, but a better one. At least one with a better attitude towards her birthday. Sometime along the line, I’ve become pretty grouchy and impossible when it comes to the subject of my birthday.
The only gripe I used to have about my birthday was that it came too close on the heels of Valentine’s day, and oftentimes February 14th got all of the effort and the sparkle. By the time my birthday came around, nobody had much energy for it. I expected parades and fanfare, and I got “meh.” You can read that gripefest here.
I can’t even attest to that gripe anymore, because frankly, the one who no longer cares about my birthday is me. If I had my druthers, my birthday would slither in quietly and slither right back out again, down the drain and under the radar. I could spend my day in bed with a novel, four whiskey sours and a bag of Chex Mix and call it a day.
Is that so wrong?
It’s definitely wrong in my husband’s opinion. Daddy-o’s opinion, too. They’ve both been nagging me for weeks about my birthday. How should we celebrate it? What do you want? What’s your heart’s desire? If you could sneak out for a weekend getaway, where would you want to go?
My response to all of this inquiry? Crickets. I just haven’t answered. Not so much because I’m a brat (although I am), but because I honestly don’t know. I’m at this weird stage in my life where the last thing I want is more stuff, and I’m lucky enough to not truly need anything.
I guess the only thing I really need is some energy and enthusiasm for my own birthday.
The poor, poor men in my life. They deserve all sorts of pity and credit for putting up with me.
My husband has something cooking up in that big brain of his, and he’s being secretive about it–probably as a little revenge for making things so difficult. I’ll have to wait and see on that one.
Daddy-o solved the problem by booking a birthday dinner for two (my diligent husband has to spend my birthday working) at a very spendy, very grand, special-occasion restaurant. It’s set up in the Boulder hills and has a breathtaking view and breathtaking food and an even more breathtaking bill. I’ve only been there twice in my life and the last time was sixteen years ago. So yeah, it’s a very special-occasion kind of place.
I’m quite excited to celebrate and spoil myself with lots of decadent food, but I have to be honest…at my age, a meal like that takes some advance…preparation.
In short: my menopausal ass has to eat like a lean, clean, carb-free machine for a few days prior to a feast like that.
I mean, I guess I don’t have to, but I know I should. Because I know myself. A few days of virtuous eating is necessary for me to enjoy myself under circumstances like these. Is that weird?
Yeah, it’s probably weird but let’s face it, I am kind of odd.
And to my odd brain, it’s a lot easier to actually enjoy my celebratory dinner if I know I’ve got a little wiggle room going in. I don’t want to sabotage my father’s grand gesture by spending the entire time under a cloud of guilt, and I’m a guilt-monger by nature.
I want to sip the champagne and eat the lobster (or the pasta, or the Kobe beef) and enjoy every mouthful, and if I decide I want dessert, I want to order it like a boss.
It’s my day, after all.
A few days of pre-birthday diligence and suffering is a minor price to pay. It’ll make my reward that much sweeter.
This weekend, I went to the grocery store and filled the cart with all sorts of preparatory weapons: lean meat and seafood, eggs, Greek yogurt, the makings for soup and a rainbow of vegetables, even including *gasp* kale. Then I came home and got to prepping and marinating and cooking.
One of the items on the menu: these chicken tandoori skewers. These take a little prep work: you need to trim the excess fat off the chicken thighs, whip up a flavorful marinade and allow the chicken to bathe in that stuff for at least 12 hours. And then skewer away.
Your reward for that effort is SO worth it. Fragrantly spiced, juicy, and smoky from a trip under the broiler or on the grill–these skewers are delicious enough to seem like an indulgence. I chose to dunk mine in a mixture of Sriracha and harissa, but you can dunk your skewers in any sauce you wish. Some sort of cooling yogurt-based sauce would be brilliant here.
Unlike the kale, this chicken dish didn’t feel like a sacrifice at all. So if you’re preparing in advance for a special night out, or if the jeans are feeling a little snug, or if you’re just craving something meaty (but not heavy)–give this recipe a try.
And then, if you wish, eat a slice of that cake, guilt-free.
Tandoori Spiced Chicken Skewers
slightly adapted from Maya Kaimal MacMillon
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
1 tablespoon finely grated garlic
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
1 tablespoon paprika (you can even go heavier if you want that deep, orange color)
4 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2-3/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
melted butter, for basting
wooden skewers, soaked in water for an hour before grilling (to prevent burning)
Cut the trimmed chicken thighs into 1 1/2-inch chunks.
In a large bowl, combine garlic, ginger, paprika, spice mixture, lemon juice, salt, yogurt and oil. Pour mixture into a large zip-top plastic bag. Add the chicken pieces and squish the bag around to coat the chicken. Seal the bag and marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours.
Take the bag of marinated chicken out of the refrigerator and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then thread the chicken pieces onto the skewers.
Heat grill on medium-high. Baste chicken with melted butter and grill 5 minutes on one side. Turn and baste again and cook for about 3 minutes more.
*If you wish, you can place skewers under the broiler and cook as indicated above, watching closely to see that the chicken doesn’t burn.*
Serve chicken with a squeeze of lemon and any dipping sauce you like.