I wasn’t already feeling bad enough about inflicting only childhoodness on you …and then I find out, twenty-five years later, that I was a totally clueless parent! I had always thought of myself as a conscious and conscientious parent; someone who knew her child and tried to provide what her child needed, separate and distinct from my own needs…stop rolling your eyes. I tried. Obviously, I missed some things.
Who knew that you struggled with loneliness. It seemed that there were always kids around and activities planned and sleepovers at our house or someone else’s. You were gone for a month every summer at overnight camp living in a crowded cabin with 15 other girls. The rest of the summer was filled with day camps, swim team and friends. I know there were lonely moments. Clearly, you dealt with them creatively.
Who knew that you had a phone glued to your ear laying alone in your sick bed (Oy! Stab me in the heart!). You never answered the phone at home and barely talked on it (at least when we were around). I know I didn’t leave you home alone sick as a small child. Bubbe would have killed me. You clearly had to have reached some age of maturity to have been able to identify with the Golden Girls. You couldn’t have been that sick or I would not have left you at any age.
And the only thing I ever saw you make in the kitchen was an egg sandwich! I just really had no idea how much creativity was going on right under my nose. I am afraid to ask what else I don’t know. I am not sure how all of this relates to only-childhoodness, but at least if I had had a few kids, I would have an excuse for my cluelessness.
When I was young, my imaginary “when-I-grow-up” life included lots of children, a white picket fence with a backyard and a stay-at-home mom, not unlike my own childhood. Life doesn’t always pan out the way we expected it to. Sometimes the things we think we want, don’t make us feel the way we thought they would. I never would have survived as a stay-at-home mom…and you probably wouldn’t have either. Although being an only child has its challenges and burdens (I promise to clean out this house before I die), the reality is that the grass has brown spots on both sides of the fence…for parent and child. I am continually in awe of all the beautiful green grass you have so creatively grown and nurtured on the side of the fence that you got thrown into. And your friend, Hannah, hasn’t done such a bad job either!
In the meantime, thanks for suggesting that I host a concurrent Bham/Israel Shabbat dinner. It turned out to be great fun and an idea worth repeating. We hosted the Birmingham parents who have children living in Israel while you hosted their kids eight hours earlier in Jerusalem. There were a few parents and kids missing at both of our tables, so we’ll have to plan a repeat. I apologize for the fuzzy pictures.
The food and drink were amazing thanks to everyone’s efforts. We had matzah ball soup, roasted Eggplant, classic Israeli salad, carrot salad, kale/vegetable salad and Challah and wine, of course.
I made hummus with the tahini I brought home from Israel, your zesty herbed rice salad with dried cut-up figs instead of raisins, roasted green beans and chicken piccata with mushrooms and capers. Dessert was lemon pound cake, cherry hamantaschen (still some in the freezer waiting for you), and Naomi’s famous chocolate streusel bars. It was the perfect collaborative feast and a very special Shabbat for all of us!
Now on to Passover. I just ordered my fish. I am hoping to perfect my gefilte fish this year. And when exactly will you be arriving in Birmingham (speaking of being clueless)? I am always the last to know!
Safe travels and I can’t wait to see you…whenever it is!!
Let’s begin with Dessert!
Naomi’s Favorite Chocolate Streusel Bars
Every time Gail or Naomi (when she’s here) make these, people inhale them (even non-chocolate lovers) and want to know the recipe. Here it is…
- 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup Cocoa
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
- 1 egg
- 1 can(14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
- 2 cups(12-oz. pkg.) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, divided
- 1 cup coarsely chopped nuts
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 13x9x2-inch baking pan.
2. Stir together flour, sugar and cocoa in large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg; mix well. Set aside 1-1/2 cups mixture. Press remaining mixture onto bottom of prepared pan.
3. Bake 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in medium microwave-safe bowl, place sweetened condensed milk and 1 cup chocolate chips; stir. Microwave at MEDIUM (50%) 1 to 1-1/2 minutes or until chips are melted and mixture is smooth when stirred; pour over crust. Add nuts and remaining chips to reserved crumb mixture. Sprinkle over top.
4. Bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes 24 to 36 bars.
For the non-vegetarians
Easy Chicken Piccata for a Crowd
Makes enough for 12-14 plus leftovers
- 6-7 whole skinless and boneless chicken breasts (2 chicken breast halves per whole breast)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh black pepper
- 1/2 cup flour *
- 1 tsp each dried tarragon, parsley and basil
- Olive Oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
- 1 pound mushrooms sliced
- 1/2 to 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 – 1 1/4 cup white wine like sauvignon blanc (not sweet wine)
- 1/2-3/4 cup chicken broth
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/3 cup capers
- Fresh parsley
- Lemon slices for garnish if desired
*Matza meal or potato starch can be substituted for Passover, Potato or corn starch can be used to make this dish Gluten Free.
This recipe can be partially prepared ahead of time to minimize mess and preparation time on the day you will be serving it.
Place chicken breasts, one or two at a time, between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound with the non-tenderizing side of a mallet into cutlets about a 1/4 inch thin or a little thicker if you prefer. Depending on the size of the breast, after pounding it down, you can cut it into serving size pieces. Lightly salt and pepper the chicken and set aside.
Mix the flour with the dried herbs in a shallow bowl.
Heat a large sauté pan and pour a little oil and some of the garlic into the pan. Sauté the garlic lightly. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture and sauté for 1-2 minutes on each side in the oil and garlic. Set aside the lightly browned chicken in a dish that can be covered and stored in the refrigerator. Add more oil and garlic as needed to finish sautéing all the chicken. Once you have sautéed all the chicken, cover and refrigerate.
Place the sliced mushrooms in the same sauté pan that you used for the chicken. Add oil if needed and sauté until mushrooms are cooked through, but not overdone. There should be juices from the mushrooms and deglazed chicken remnants in the pan. Remove mushrooms and all liquid from the pan and store in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate.
Squeeze fresh lemons to make about 2/3 cup of lemon juice and refrigerate in a covered container.
About an hour before serving time, take chicken, mushrooms and lemon juice out of the refrigerator. Wash and chop the parsley and thinly slice a lemon if using for garnish.
Using a large sauté pan or two pans, place chicken in the pan. Add mushrooms with juices, 1/2 cup lemon juice and 3/4 cup wine and cook over medium heat. As the sauce thickens, add 1/2 cup chicken broth. Add more as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings (garlic, salt and pepper) and lemon juice, wine and broth to taste.
Cook until chicken is browned and cooked through and all flavors are well-blended. This could take 20 – 40 minutes depending on how much chicken is in the pan. Toss in capers. Serve immediately or keep warm until serving time.
Garnish with thin slices of fresh lemon and chopped parsley.
I made mine in a large (16”) electric frying pan that I was able to use as a serving dish while keeping the chicken warm. Serve with green beans roasted with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.