Friday, May 28, 2010

Proms and Moms

This mothering business is not for the faint of heart.  Yet, all I ever wanted to be was a mommy.  When it finally sank in that I was pregnant with my son some 18 years ago I was honestly filled with awe and terror. Raising a good man is such a feat Lord, do you really trust me?  I must say, my son was so easy to raise, he was my best bud all through his childhood and up until the time of pre-teen angst all the way through the psychosocial stages of identity vs. role confusion; a period I affectionately refer to as the dain bramage years.  Learning how to parent a teenager as intelligent and strong willed as Tony has both affirmed my parenting skills and given me some hard, ugly feedback that I've had to absorb along with tears, dismay and celebration.  I've learned a few things about teenagers. 
Lesson #1: Be firm and stand your ground no matter how agonizing it is and what your child calls you in the process.  I've realized that when I've been the toughest but fairest my son has actually recognized it.  He may not have appreciated the consequences handed down, but he's always acknowledge that they were made in his best interest.  Lesson #2: Never ever, ever, ever give up and always tell your child you love them.  I am proud to say that do this all the time, sometimes through gritted teeth, "I love you and I know you don't believe that right now, but I will never stop loving you even when I don't particularly want to be around you because my hands are inextricably drawn to your neck."  Lesson #3: Even the most articulate and intelligent children need guidance.  Just because children can rationalize and defend doesn't mean they understand or particularly believe what they're saying.  Knowledge is power; wisdom is knowing how to apply it.  It's like wielding a high powered machine gun.  You can study the parts and know how to dismantle it and put it back together.  You can even know the history of machine guns, but if you just pick it up and start shooting you'd probably wind up killing yourself or someone else.  I stink at analogies, I know, but you get the picture.  Lesson  #4: Children appreciate it when you listen to them.  Every parental decision is less of a struggle when you communicate and really take the time to understand.  Lesson #5: Dain Bramage is not forever.  Parenting is no joke, but I hold on to the promise my more experienced friends have made, that at the end of all this, if you'll just support and believe, a wonderful young adult is waiting.  Wayne and I are at the tail end of Tony's teenage years now.  What a roller coaster ride it has been, but what joy to watch a boy become a man.  I am a mother on her toes, so excited to watch as he takes off to find his bliss.  He walked out the door tonight to go to Senior Prom.  He didn't forget to tell me he loves me.
  He has no idea how much I love him back.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Ingredients for a Delicious Life

We recently got together with some long time friends and super cool new ones for the first ever Grill-Off at the Propst Party Pit.  I'm not exactly sure how the idea came about, but we figured it would be fun to gather some friends and practice our love of cooking.  Life in the Marianas revolves around family, friends and what else? Food!  It was an amazing evening and the best part was watching everyone come together to cook, plate and share their dishes.  I'm a very private person who only has a couple of really good friends so I was able to reach outside my comfort zone for a while and guess what?  I enjoyed myself!  Our islands have a wealth of talent, not just culinary, but people who contribute to this society to make it a better place to live.  There is a definite need for everyone to become more involved in the decisions we make for our community, but whether it's political activism or a passionate cause, I learned that we all have something to bring to the table.  We all have a vested interest in the development of areas we specialize in or causes we care deeply about.  When I start to get discouraged, feeling like I am making less of a difference than I used to, things like this happen to keep that fire going.  There were many toasts made this evening, but the ones that remain in my heart are the ones that reminded me that no matter how bleak things get with our economy there are still many things to be thankful for.  Here's to great friends, living in a place that values family, growing up in a culture that nurtures interpersonal relationships!  Here's to Saipan! And, thank you Ed and Daisy for your hospitality!
 Dave & Tracy Guerrero, Wayne & Bon Pangelina, Alex and Nora Sablan, Jay and Joyce Santos and Ed & Daisy Propst

Beef Sirloin Kabobs with Uni Spaghetti by Chefs Sablan
Herb Grilled Pork Chops with Grilled Asparagus and Twice Baked Potatoes by Chefs Propst

Auntie Mary's Carne Asada with Fresh Salsa and Black Bean Salad by Chefs Santos
The winning dish: Lamb Kabobs with Spicy Mint Chutney by Dave and Tracy Guerrero!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Our Almost Winning Recipe

Feta Smashed Potatoes: When I make mashed potatoes I like to use

two varieties: Russet and red potatoes.  Russets are grittier and soak up sauces better and reds are a bit sweeter and creamier.  That's just my opinion and by no means culinary fact.  I like to throw in my garlic clove while boiling my potatoes because it makes it easier to incorporate it into the mix later.

Once the garlic has softened you can just squeeze it out and mash it along with your potatoes.  The smell is fantastic, but without all the super pungency.  Before boiling potatoes I like to score them so that they're easier to peel and I don't have to burn my fingers. Pretty cool eh?  I don't have a masher so I use my meat tenderizer to pound my potatoes and then a hand blender if I want them fluffier.  Ingredients are simple, just add some cream, milk or half
and half.  This dish has feta cheese crumbles in it and about 4 tablespoons of butter.  For flavor, add some sage, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.  If I'm roasting something else I'll make gravy with the juices, but this  is so yummy you won't even miss it.

Basil Summer Sauce actually has spinach in it.  Puree one cup of
fresh basil and one cup of spinach in 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1/3 tbspn of white wine vinegar and about a half cup of Parmesan.  This is the "dressing" for caprese (tomatoes and mozarella).  It's great because you can save the sauce for later instead of wasting fresh basil that might not get eaten.

Drunken Steak Marinade:  1 diced onion, 3 tbsp. butter, 3/4 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/2 cider vinegar, 1/2 cup bourbon, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup molasses, 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, 1 tbsp. paprika, salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme to taste.  Bring all of these ingredients to a boil and then blend until smooth.  If you're using good steak (Rib eye, portherhouse, etc.) marinade for 4 hours at the most or your meat will turn to mush.  *The alchohol serves as a tenderizer as well as flavoring, but good meat doesn't need much done to it.  Grill your meat to your preference and baste with remaining sauce until cooked. 
  Oh, the caprese! Cut your tomatoes in three horizontal slices (actually four - cut a bit of the bottom so it sits on a plate nicely balanced).  Drizzle with olive oil and salt.  I sprinkled some rosemary leaves on the tops.  You'll want to grill the tomatoes, turn them over and place the mozzarella on top of each piece until it melts.  Do not flip the tops and leave the stems on.  Don't forget to let your meat rest before cutting into it or all the nice juices that make your taste buds dance will merely drain sadly away and leave you with icky, dry meat on a puddly plate. 
If you're plating for guests, use a neutral colored plate so that there is lots of negative space to draw the eye to each individual dish.  There are balancing techniques for plating too, but I think that as long as you add the most important ingredient, whatever you make will be fantastic.  So, don't forget to add a dash of love to everything!  Allez cuisine!!

*Alcohol doesn't actually tenderize meat, that's a myth busted (duh, don't you watch Alton?).  Marinades don't penetrate meats enough to make a difference and can actually break down the meat if absorbed for too long.  What the marinade will do is create a tougher outer coating, therefore keeping all the juices nicely tucked inside. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

We're prepping for a grill-off with great friends

Mmm..peppercorn dry rub...spinach, basil, cider vinegar and parm caprese dressing...bourbon and brown sugar steak marinade...and more to come in a couple of days!


Hope wrote this for me on Mother's Day.  
My mom is a spectacular person. She is beautiful inside and out. I don’t even know where to start and I almost thought I couldn’t express how much of a good mother she is. There are too many things she’s done to say everything. My mom, my friend, my mentor. I look up to her in so many ways. It blows me away at the thought of my mom giving up everything to give her children what they need, to provide for us. Even if she has to suffer. Sometimes I don’t understand my mom, and I can be rebellious and stubborn but in the end I realize I’m caught up in my own ways of selfishness and laziness without thinking that all she wants is what’s best for me. In a heartbeat, my mom would do anything to protect us. She’ll do what she can to make us happy, even the smallest things. I barey ever show my mom that I appreciate what she does, but I do. I smile when I think about the happy times I’ve had with her and I regret not being the best daughter I can be. Sometimes I feel ashamed to have her as a mother when I behave in an ungrateful way. No matter what I seem to do or say she still loves me even though I don't deserve her love. I hope she knows deep down that I love and appreciate all her hard work and she makes me happy. She is such a hard-working person. I want to be just like her when I grow up. She taught me so many things, she taught me what I need in life and she will continue to. I’m strong because of her. Thank you mom, I love you so much.

Pacific Women's Voices

I'm fighting the urge to say something stupid.  The Marianas Variety ran a story today about how women need to make their voices heard regarding the impending military buildup on Guam.  If they're implying that women need to stand up and rally against the influx of military men, then I'm offended by the shallow implication.  Why is this a women's issue? Isn't this an economic, cultural and government issue? Or, is this an issue because thousands of women might find themselves somehow entangled with young, burly men and by process of fornication dilute the Chamorro bloodline?  There...I said something stupid. I understand that there have been crimes against women on these bases and that there will be long range effects of the sex scandals for years to come, devastating effects that are not easily erased by an apology.  There is just something that makes me feel uneasy about the article.
Everyone should have a say about how they feel their community might change when this happens.  There should be programs put in place to boost the local economy and perhaps even to augment existing cultural heritage efforts by fostering understanding and tolerance, not animosity.  But, if women are going to be asked critical questions, let's not limit it to whether or not we think we'll be able to hold our marriages together when the troops come to town.  Ask us about what we think can be done to support entrepreneurship, especially among women of lower socio-economic status and those who may have to compete with a new labor force with greater skills.  Ask us what measures should be put in place to protect our children from the dangers of drugs and how we can help bring awareness of cultural priorities. We've got a lot of ideas about creative curriculum in the schools and we can probably tell you a thing or two about balancing the government budget too.  As much as I appreciate the attention to women's rights, I'd like to know what the discussion really entails.  What is it you want to hear from Pacific Women?
"I strongly object to the primeval notion that women should consider their college years as an opportunity to find a husband. Women, regardless of age, should have an intellectual curiosity that goes beyond wondering if their shoes match their purse."
-- HBI Member, Laura

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Our Cherry Tree

The mansanita berry.  We called them cherries when we were little, but they're really plump little berries with tiny little seeds the pop in your mouth like fruit caviar.  I spent many days in Chalan Lao Lao climbing mansanita trees with my cousins as a little girl.  

Sommer, my little monkey.  We planted this tree a year and a half ago.  Now it's taller than our house.  It's such a great feeling watching the girls get active climbing and playing in the yard.  Who says all kids do nowadays is play video games and watch tv? Phooey :)

Peyton got almost two palms full of "cherries".  She ran in the house to share with everyone.  

Sometimes you don't get to enjoy the fruit of your labor until you get your hands and knees dirty.  Then one day, when you least expect it, boom!  Your palm runneth over.