I flip open the familiar sheet music, time and time again, pounding out
the theme from The Young and The Restless Nadia’s Theme on the piano. Having recently watched Nadia score the first perfect 10 ever in gymnastics at the Montreal Olympics, I am just sure that will be me one day. As I play the music, I can see myself accepting the gold medal. Weeping. For my country. My fans. Nevermind that when I did finally manage to land a back handspring a few years later, I broke my arm and that was the end of my gymnastic career.
My father arranges us just perfectly. Taller ones in back. Smaller in front. The handmade Noel sign as part of the background. My sister and I in matching cream colored dresses and matching Dorothy Hamill hairdos, posing for the yearly Christmas picture. Even my sweet little brother’s blond hair gives a nod to the famous “doo”. Each night I ever so carefully wrap my brown locks up in the pink foam curlers to keep the “undercurl” going day after day. I never could figure out how to get rid of that dratted kink that preceded each curl. Dorothy never seemed to have that problem. But, kinks and all, I smile proudly.
Starving, we dash anonymously across the street for some Chinese take-out. We chuckle that only minutes ago we had entered the hotel with all eyes upon us. He, ever so handsome in his black tuxedo, and me, in the infamous white dress. The one my mother wore on her wedding day. The one with the beautiful fitted lace (or at least, fitted for her.) The one that cried out desperately for some type of support in the brassiere department and yet, not a single “fyi” from dear friends and family before walking down the aisle and so….the sagging will be forever documented. We hop up on the bed with our take-out boxes and watch as Kristi Yamaguchi skates into history with her gold medal in Albertville, France.
We make the hour-long drive from Lake Annecy twice, determined to make it to the top of Mont Blanc. The first day it’s covered in clouds and all rides to the top are closed. The second go around, the mountain is out in all her glory. We leave Nana and the baby at the bottom. No children under 3 are allowed. The air is too thin at the top. We hop on the gondola with a nervous glance toward my father-in-law. Up, up, up we ride. Paragliders sail past us. We leave the timberline behind in our gentle wake. Alighting on the platform, we take in the ominous view of the jagged, powerful alps. I watch as my father-in-law looks down at Chamonix – the site of the first Winter Olympics in 1924 – so far below us. We snap photo after photo of what was to be our last big trip with him…and for that, I am so grateful.
I stand at the stove, quickly stir-frying my carrots, my broccoli, my peppers. I ask myself if this is a proper dinner to mark 18-years together. I ponder on what it means to be married this long and how we arrived here so quickly. “Mom, come on! The Olympics are on!” Breaking my own steadfast rule of “No eating in the living room.”, we each balance a plate of nutty brown rice topped with crisply, stir-fried vegetables on our laps, watching the TV in anticipation of who will forever mark a moment in time for us. My sweetie happily eating his most requested dish from my repertoire. The one he always wolfs down and remarks afterwards, “Mmm, that was a good batch, wasn’t it?” The one in which I can never cheat and try to use a bottled sauce. He always knows it wasn’t mine. And, just to see him, enjoying his dinner, surrounded by his family, with the 2010 Winter Olympics on the television, I decide that it’s the perfect dinner to celebrate our years together.
Ginger & Garlic Stir-Fry to Mark a Moment in Time
This truly is my guy’s most requested dish. The one he would eat over and over again, night after night, if I didn’t find stir-fry to sometimes be a little too much work for a weeknight. But, this weeknight, in honor of 18 years together, I happily fix him his favorite. Now, if you haven’t made the switch to brown rice, let me just give it a little plug. Yes, it takes a little bit longer to cook…but, it leaves you so much more satisfied. It’s much more fulfilling, in the literal sense, and when you are trying to feed teens and pre-teens who seem to have a never-ending appetite, you want them as full as possible, as often as possible. As for the veggies, I tend to mix-it-up with whatever is in-season. Sometimes I may only use two vegetables and sometimes I go all out and use 4 or so….everything from broccoli to peppers to carrots to celery to snow peas to bean sprouts to bok choy to green onions to Chinese cabbage…really the list is endless. I mean, what vegetable doesn’t taste scrumptious with a bit of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and a quick turn in a hot pan?
1 tbsp olive oil or canola oil
1 tsp soy sauce
salt & pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized strips
3 tbsp cooking sherry
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp water
1 tsp corn starch
1 sm red onion, peeled, halved from “pole to pole” and then cut into wedges
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tbsp ginger root, peeled & minced or finely grated
2 med carrots, peeled and julienned
1 red pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch strips
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets (I pop mine in the microwave with a bit of water for 2 minutes to “parboil” them. They seem to work out better in a stir-fry this way.)
more olive oil or canola oil for cooking
Let your brown rice cook as listed on the package while you make the stir-fry.
Slice your chicken breasts up and toss in a bowl with 1 tbsp oil, 1 tsp soy sauce and pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.
Whisk together the sherry, the soy sauce, the water and the corn starch in a small bowl. Set aside, keeping your whisk handy for later.
Mince the ginger and the garlic. Place in a small bowl and set aside.
Place a heavy bottomed skillet over low heat while you chop up your vegetables. A few minutes before stir-frying, turn up the heat to high and turn your exhaust fan on.
Prepare all of your vegetables as listed above. Put them on a large plate, keeping them separate.
When you are ready to start cooking, make sure you have everything else taken care of – drinks, utensils and homework questions out of the way – because you cannot leave your post once you start stir-frying or your veggies will have burned bits on them and I don’t know about you but my children won’t eat burned bits…not even microscopic ones.
When you are ready, heat a tbsp of oil in your skillet, swirling it around to coat the pan. Add 1/2 of your chicken and stir-fry until seared and just cooked, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a clean bowl and tent with foil. Add the second half of your chicken to the skillet, adding to the bowl when cooked.
Add another 1-2 tbsp of oil to your hot skillet. Add the onion and stir-fry until browned but still crisp, about 1 minute. Add your garlic and ginger, stir to combine with onions. Then, add your carrots and stir-fry 1 -2 minutes. Add your red peppers and continue stir-frying for another 1-2 minutes. Add your “parboiled” broccoli and saute until all the vegetables are tender crisp, 1-2 minutes longer. Return the chicken to the skillet.
Push the veggies and chicken to the sides of the pan creating a circle in the center. Grab your bowl of sauce, giving it a quick whisk, and then, pour into your circle. Let the sauce just start to bubble and then, mix it together with your chicken and your vegetables. Serve immediately with warm, nutty brown rice. Enjoy.
NOTE 1: For a vegetarian version, simply omit the first four ingredients.
NOTE 2: A long time ago I read somewhere about keeping your ginger root in the freezer. It lasts longer this way. It’s easy to peel and can be grated up on a fine grater in a snap which is what I’ve done ever since receiving this tip.
Yield: Serves 4 regular eaters and 1 eater who is currently eating like a bird.
All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010