Archive for December, 2013

How My Kids Ruined Christmas Eve Dinner

Around ten years ago, my wife and I started a holiday tradition: we put together a Christmas Eve dinner menu that we loved and decided to use it every year.  We selected lobster tails as the primary component of the dish.  We so rarely ate lobster, and it seemed like a nice way to treat ourselves.  Plus, while they’re expensive (especially if you buy massive ones like I did!), they are actually straight-forward to prepare.

But what to serve with it?

Around the time when we first started this tradition, we had just discovered something amazing: fried spinach.  One of the restaurants we used to frequent served spinach that they fried briefly in peanut oil until it became translucent and paper-like.  With the addition of a bit of salt and pepper, the spinach transcends its mundane vegetable status and becomes something truly awesome.  Fascinated, I  tried to replicate this recipe at home, and I was happily surprised to find it wasn’t that difficult.

To round out the plate, we decided to make horseradish mashed potatoes with scallions — a recipe we’d already perfected and enjoyed.  (Pro tip: you can use a forkful of the mashed potatoes to blot your plate and pick up all the flaky little bits of fried spinach you missed!)

Dinner for two?

Dinner for two?

(You’ll have to pardon the crappy photo – years of Instagram-ing my meals have trained me to take better food porn pictures than I did back then.)

Over the years, we tweaked and modified these three recipes to the point where they weren’t even separate recipes anymore, but one recipe (to rule them all!) for the entire meal, optimized so all the components could be plated and served together  at the right temperature.  Ah, how satisfied we were with ourselves.  <Sigh>

Enter children.

We were able to maintain this tradition for a while once we had kids, but it became apparent that it wasn’t really going to work.  We tried serving them lobster, which resulted in us spending a bunch of money only to have them turn up their noses at it.  I considered cooking them something different, though the thought of serving hot dogs alongside our very elegant meal made me cringe.  Then I realized that our dinners had ceased to be elegant a long time ago, so who was I kidding?

Still, I didn’t like the idea of excluding them from our holiday tradition by serving them something else.  It seemed… unfair.  I began to imagine a future in which our despondent, Christmas-hating children whined to their therapists about how their parents never included them in their holiday traditions.  I knew I had to figure out something we could all enjoy.  I was determined, however, not to revert to something pedestrian.  I didn’t want to make something from the standard dinner rotation.  I still wanted it to be special.

In the end, I selected stuffed chicken breasts.  It’s a recipe my wife and I love, though we avoid it because it’s simply too much work for a typical evening.  There are a variety of choices for the filling, but we picked our favorite: smoked mozzarella with broiled asparagus.  It’s a rather complicated recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, but it’s worth the effort.  (This is true of most of their recipes, by the way.)

Okay, they usually look sort of like this.  (Photo credit: Cook's Illustrated)

Okay, they usually look sort of like this.  (Photo credit: Cook’s Illustrated)

Believe it or not, the children eat this.  Sort of.  To the extent that they eat anything I make, I suppose.  We decided to stick with the potatoes and spinach as sides because we love them and DAMMIT, STOP RUINING EVERYTHING.

So, we have a new holiday tradition – at least until the kids learn to appreciate lobster.  Problem solved.

And that’s when I realized my kids had tricked me into making chicken nuggets (albeit fancy ones) for Christmas Eve dinner.

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How Barbie Ruined Christmas

On Christmas morning, there will be sadness. This sadness will be because of the Barbie Dream House. More specifically, it will be because of the absence of said dream house in our present pile on Christmas morning.

The Bean has been asking for the Barbie Dream House for Xmas for quite some time.  In case you have managed to escape the advertisements for this monstrosity, allow me to initiate you:

So, ignoring the obvious reasons for hating this toy, here are my specific objections to getting this thing for the Bean for Xmas this year:

1. She has Barbies and other dolls, and she doesn’t play with them.

Seriously, this girl has all sorts of Disney Princess dolls and other Barbies that have been collecting dust in a drawer for months.  She NEVER plays with them.  I have no reason to believe this thing will change that.

2. The Barbie Dreamhouse is an overpriced piece of junk.

I actually entertained the idea of buying her this thing for about three minutes… until I read the horrible reviews.  Apparently, the elevator that they talk up so much in the commercial is a piece of crap that never works. Also, it’s difficult to assemble.  And it breaks easily.  The complaints go on and on.  Seems like it’s not exactly the best use of our Xmas funds.

3. Did I mention it’s overpriced?

Thanks to the usual and totally planned supply shortage combined with opportunistic Xmas price gouging, you can’t actually buy this thing anywhere for less than about $400.  I’m not kidding.

4. The Ghost of Christmas Past won’t let me forget the Fijit.

Eff you, Serafina.

Eff you, Serafina.

The Bean begged and begged for this ridiculous toy back in 2011.  So we got it for her.  This was no small feat, I might add; it was hard to find and I visited several stores before I found the one she wanted.

Fast forward to Xmas day.  The Bean was very excited about the Fijit… for about ten seconds.

Can you spot the unceremoniously discarded Fijit in this mess?

Can you spot the unceremoniously discarded Fijit in this mess?

So, my gut is telling me that the Barbie Dreamhouse isn’t going to be a smart purchase, no matter what the Bean is saying now.

Unfortunately, none of that will matter on Xmas morning.  We better get ready for the wailing and gnashing of teeth now.  Wish us luck.  😦

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