About 3 years ago, my brother-in-law Serge was dating this girl he was madly in love with. She was on the scene for almost a year when the entire fam was in Toronto. We were all so excited to finally meet Andrea. Honestly, to this day I can’t tell you with 100% certainty if it’s ANNE-dree-ah, AHN-dree-ah, ahn-DRAY-ah...and honestly I barely care. She was entitled. She was rude. She had a habit of interrupting conversations that everyone was participating in, to recant these [what she thought to be] interesting stories. In fact they were ridiculous, sometimes borderline inappropriate, and certainly had NOTHING to do with what we were talking about in the first place. Look, I can get along with anybody. Well, no actually that’s a huge lie. But I truly WANTED to get along with her. Serge thought she shit gold and I love Serge like my own brother and I wanted to give her respect and a real chance. And I feel like I did try. (Quick side note: She’s actually-on paper-quite intelligent, and is doing good for poor kids in other countries. Or something. Whatever. Beside the point.) So yeah, we’re all in Toronto and my in-laws are meeting Ahhhndrea for the first time. They had dinner at Serge’s house, and we all met up later at one of our favorite pubs. Obviously, a few bottles of wine had been killed during dinner. When we showed up, this was glaringly apparent by Serge’s rosy cheeks, my Mother-in-law Gail’s knowing look (she never drinks), my Father-in-law Craig’s (aka Pop's) perma-grin and Ahhhndrea’s...um...coziness? She was buddied up to Craig like he was the captain of the football team giggling about what bottle to order next. At a pub. Ew. Girlfriend, you're like 25. Just order wings and a beer and shut up already. We asked how dinner was, and then rang out the sentence that has since become an inside joke and a metaphor for SO many things: Pop says, “Ahhhndrea made a delicious quinoa salad!” Ahhhndrea beams with pride, her eyes half closed like she just won the Nobel Prize or a Daytime Emmy. Jeremy and I raise our eyebrows as high as they can go to keep our balls from rolling out of our heads. I look down the table at my now sister-in-law, Melody. (She’s married to Jeremy’s other brother Bryce. At the time they had been together since 8th grade. About 16 years, but not yet married.) She gives me a little smile, although I’m not positive she heard what was going down at our end of the table. QUINOA SALAD?! Who makes a fucking quinoa salad the first time you meet your boyfriend’s parents? I have nothing against quinoa, but...WHAT? It’s autumn in Toronto. I don’t know...something about it seemed so pretensious and so crunchy granola and weird...I just...UGH! And WHY to this day does this bother me so much??? Melody has, in all essence, been a part of the family for 16 years. And I...I was the WIFE. The first legal daughter-in-law. I was the one that gave Craig what he wanted. I gave him the daughter he never had. She gave him...quinoa. No WAY this ‘ho is gonna swoop in and snag what I’ve rightfully earned! And then I figured it out. It’s not about some gluten-free grain. It’s, once again, about approval.
In-laws...it’s a tricky business. Next to finances and the Karadshians, it’s probably the number one hot button issue causing strife in marriages. They say, when you marry a man you marry his parents. I always thought this was bullshit. Then I got married for the first time. And I married 3 of the craziest motherf%&#@rs on the planet. So, this time around I wanted to be smarter. And I hit the in-law jackpot! For real. And I’m not just saying that cause I know they read my blog! They are truly the chillest, most supportive, most generous second parents I could ever hope for. They love me for me. And I love them for them. And as grandparents, they are simply a dream. Really. Now, I KNOW some of you are not as lucky as I am in the in-law department. Some of you are in situations that are VERY specific and VERY fucked up and I’m not trying to fix that for you. I’m not a doctor. Buuuut... holidays are upon us. And you’re gonna have to face them one way or another whether you like it or not, and here’s the deal: they want to be your FAMILY. Forget about who’s being passive aggressive and who’s being nit-picky or petty and just step up and be the matriarch. WWCMD? (What would Caroline Manzo do, right?) Don’t forget you’re also setting an example for your kids. And they hear and see EVERYTHING. This became quite evident to me recently, when 3 times last week Nora tried to french kiss me at bedtime and added “Carrie” into her goodnights. Carrie...Bradshaw??? Really? Oy vey. I guess I officially can no longer sneak "Sex and the City" reruns while she appears to be just coloring. Back to the in-laws: Stop treating them like your boyfriend’s parents and start treating them like your family. Stop tip-toeing around and making it awkward and uncomfortable and kick off your shoes and let your mom-in-law see you in a ponytail and no make-up. Stop trying to prove that you can do it all, and be honest about being up to your ears in gift wrapping and pee-wee football practice and holiday cookie party madness and she will step up. She will. I promise. Don’t forget: she has (or once had) a mother-in-law, too! We’re all JUST PEOPLE. And you happen to be a person who loves her son. And that’s all she’s ever wanted in the whole wide world. For her kid to be happy. Isn’t that what YOU want? For your kids (or future kids) to be happy? I do. And personally I don’t care if Nora or Pats came home with a man, a woman, a conservative wall street tycoon, or a quinoa-eating hippie. I want them to be happy. And stress-free. I want them to feel accepted and I want the person they’ve dedicated their life to to feel the same.
I get it. The holidays are sooooooo stressful. But...why? I’m friggin’ over it. They shouldn’t be. Tis the season to be CELEBRATING. To be giving thanks for all the amazing blessings in our lives. To be rejoicing in the reality of MIRACLES. So if there’s two more people who want to spoil your kids, let them! If your father-in-law wants to talk about dry wall, or the Eagles, or Occupy Wall street...pour yourself another glass of pinot and let him. If your mother-in-law gives you shit about your gingerbread, suggest she make it this year. Or make it together. Swap recipes. Who knows? Maybe you can come up with an AMAZING pretencious peruvian tree bark dish together. Let’s band together as women and wives and mothers and vow to not get crazy this year. As Obama/Bob the Builder says YES WE CAN! (I mean, but really Obama? Sorry...but Bob said it first. And anyone with a pre-schooler knows you just straight up stole it. Boom. Busted.) And...maybe you just can’t. Or maybe you can but you just need a little help. So if you are at the end of your rope and your kids are safely in bed or there’s at least one sober adult eye on them, start rummaging through your bathroom. You MUST have at least one post c-section percocet hiding in there somewhere.
PS: Ahhhndrea is long gone, but I still cringe at even the THOUGHT of quinoa. Bitch. Fa la la la la la la la la
|My sexy and SINGLE brother-in-law Serge.|
|My awesome in-laws, Gail and Craig|
Baba and Gigi with Nora and Pats
Toronto, August 2011
So, what to cook for your in-laws when they come over on a random night??? Whether you’ve been married for 30 days or 30 years, I think this stresses most gals out. I’ve thought a lot about this. Again, I’m not trying to brag, but this isn’t a huge issue for me. My in-laws (Baba and Gigi to the girls, and now to you) LOVE to eat. They aren’t picky and are always willing to try new things. Here’s my advice: cook what your COMFORTABLE with. Something you’ve made before or have confidence you can master your first time up to bat. The fewer ingredients and pots and pans needed, the better. It’s really about the gesture. Now, should you go SO far with the gesture to try and cook something from They’re not judging you to be the Next Iron Chef. Again, stop stressing. And if you really just can’t take it and want to order Chinese, then order Chinese. But if you do at least make dessert. Show them you’ve gone through a little effort just for them. It’s nice. This is kind of a fool proof recipe and maybe the easiest thing ever. You can adjust the spice level depending on everyone’s tastes and its easy clean up and even better as leftovers.
A little over a lb of chicken. Maybe 1 1/2 lbs. depending on the amount of people. Now theres several ways to deal with the chicken. You can use chicken breasts or chicken thighs. On the bone or not. With skin or without. OR you can go the grocery store and buy a rotisserie chicken for like $7.99 or whatever and take all the meat off. If you’re stressed about cooking, just do this. Nobody cares.
10-12 medium tortillas or wraps not the HUGE burrito ones or the teeney tiny taco ones. There should be one in the middle. I usually go for the whole grain ones. There’s so much flavor in these guys that you might as well sneak in a little extra fiber. But if you like regular flour ones, go for it. I just wouldn’t use corn.
2 cups shredded cheese, this would be one bag of the pre shredded or about a regular sized block from the dairy case. Monterrey jack, pepper jack, white cheddar, queso blanco, whatever. I use pepper jack when I make them. Use what you want, but I do think it should be a white cheese for this.
1 jar (16 oz) Salsa Verde or tomatillo salsa whatever you prefer, but it should be green. Salsa verde is sometimes not with all the regular salsas, but with the taco sauce near the Taco Dinner kits in the International aisle. I found an amazing tomatillo salsa at the farmer's market where we're staying here in La Jolla, CA. Santa Fe Seasons. Delicious.
2 cups chicken stock or water
Wondra, superfine flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
OK, if you’re using the store bought chicken:
Shred all the meat off the bones into a large bowl. Heat your chicken stock on the stove in a medium saucepan till it starts to simmer. Shake in the Wondra while whisking till you get a thin gravy. Taste it and add salt and pepper if need be. Toss chicken with gravy. You might just wanna eat this with a spoon.
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts:
Cover chicken with stock in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. (breasts: 15-20 minutes).Take out chicken pieces and set aside. Thicken sauce and continue as above.
Place about 2 tbsp or so into the center of each tortilla. Fold the top over a bit. Then the bottom up. Now roll 1 1/2 times and place in sprayed baking dish seam side down. This is hard to explain, sorry. (We shot a video of all this and I was so excited! But...surprise, surprise...we couldn't get our shit together this week to finish editing. But videos will be coming soon! Pinky swear.) Once all your little yummy bundles are in your baking dish, cover with salsa. You may not need the ENTIRE jar after all. I like some of the tortilla still exposed, cause I like the crispy edges. Then sprinkle with cheese. Pop ‘em in the oven for about 15 minutes. We’re just really heating through and melting cheese. Chicken’s fully cooked. These are SO GOOD!
1)These freeze amazingly well. If you KNOW you’re going to freeze them ahead of time for YOUR family, I’d suggest stopping before topping them with the salsa and cheese. Then after the enchiladas are defrosted, top and bake. If you have leftovers, or you’re bringing them to a new mom or sick friend, don’t worry- they’ll still come out delish. Salsa might be a LITTLE watery, but nothing catastrophic.
- This is actually a pretty healthy meal. Especially if you do opt for the multi-grain tortillas. If you sub low fat cheese and chicken breasts, SUPER low in fat, and high in protein. So if you’re carefully watching what you eat, there ya go! And OBVI...these would be beYOND perfection with a Skinnygirl Margie.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX!
Ok, so you can’t get your shiz together and Bamboo Dragon it is. At least take a few minutes and make dessert. Here we go:
SWERVE THE SCURV POUND CAKE
This zesty citrus cake is a no brainer and a winner every time. My older sister, Judy, taught me a trick to make regular box cake into “wedding cake.” Sub milk for water and double the eggs. I started experimenting with this formula and here’s one of the gems!
So follow the recipe on the back of the box, making those adjustments. Here’s how mine went down after a little glitzing up:
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup milk I used skim ‘cause that’s what I happened to have in the house. I’m not sure it matters what the fat content of the milk is.
1/3 cup veg oil (canola, corn, veggie, whatever. Just prob not olive oil for this one. You want a flavorless oil for baking. Although...I have in the past used olive oil for dark chocolate brownies and they were off the chain delicious.)
1 small lemon
1-2 tsp each lemon, lime, and orange zest Those little clementines or satsumas you have laying around for the holidays would work fine too. A little harder to zest, but not a nightmare.
1 cup powdered sugar I know it sounds like a lot. Trust me. It’s how ya make glaze.
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp orange juice
1 tsp lime juice
Preheat oven according to package directions. Probably 350 degrees.
Mix cake ingredients in large mixing bowl for 2 minutes with electric hand mixer or whisk. Pour evenly into two small loaf pans. When I made this yesterday I used the throwaway foil ones that you would put banana bread in for your neighbor. Bake for 1 hour. You have one cake for your guests and 1 cake to freeze for a later date or stuff into your face later that night if someone’s mean to you. This glaze recipe is for 1 cake.
Prepare glaze by mixing sugar and juice in a small bowl with a fork or baby whisk. When cake is totally cooled, poke the top several times with a fork. Pour glaze over the cake. It will drip down the sides and soak into the cake. The drips look cool. The glaze will harden a little. Slice and serve. Yummmeee. And you’re getting your Vitamin C!