Sunday, January 22, 2012

Today's comforts

I'm really trying not to, but my mind often likes to play the game: So what was I doing last year at this time?

At this point last year, I had been released from the hospital and Jossie was in the NICU. Sundays at the hospital were the quietest. I would typically go in the afternoon to be with Jossie and stay until after her 9 p.m. check-up. I would invariably end up in the cafeteria for dinner because it was too cold to walk to a nearby restaurant and I didn't have the energy to pack a meal. Jeremy would be home with Jack, and on this Sunday last year, he watched the Jets come thisclose to going to the Super Bowl.

The same young guy would always be working at the grill in the cafeteria on Sunday evenings. He was probably the least senior guy and hence he worked this shift, and as I would order a piece of chicken, we would both stand there, feeling sorry for each other, the cafeteria lonely and quiet behind us.

Those were the gray moments of Jossie's NICU stay. I told my friend Marisa recently that I'm glad to be a year beyond those memories, and with each year that comes, we will flutter down a new set of memories atop those days. And I hope my friend Alissa (all of my friends' names do not rhyme, by the way...) doesn't mind me quoting her, but "'s not bad to reflect on hard times, if for nothing but to remember how fortunate we are for what we have."

And so when I shake myself of those memories, I open my eyes to the technicolor of today. Jossie has her adorable crawl on, and Jack is constantly inventing new games to play. "Mommy, we're in a spaceship and Roscoe (our cat) is in trouble," he says as he's hopping on one foot. "We have to put our space suits on and we're going to take this rope to rescue him from the moon."

This particular Sunday was a day of pjs, long naps and toy explosions in the living room. I made a super-simple dinner that made the house smell good all day:

Memphis-style pulled pork

1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 T. yellow mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. paprika
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 t. Liquid Smoke
1 onion, finely chopped
3-4 pounds pork shoulder (bone-in)

  1. Combine ketchup, Worcetershire sauce, vinegar, mustard, garlic, paprika, brown sugar, Liquid Smoke and onion to make BBQ sauce.
  2. Trim any visible fat from pork shoulder; put in slow cooker and coat with sauce.
  3. Cook at least 6 hours and up to 8 hours on low. 
  4. Take meat out to rest. Put sauce into a glass measuring cup and let the fat float to the top top. Skim off fat, then put sauce in a small pan and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.
  5. When the pork is cooled, shred the meat, discarding the fat and bone. Serve alone or on buns.
We ate it with roasted sweet potato and carrots, sprinkled with a dose of our favorite spice blend, Back of the Yards Garlic Pepper. And my friend Margaret turned me on to Trader Joe's cornbread mix so we made some cornbread with our dinner. She jazzes it up with cheddar cheese and jalapenos but we go straightforward in our house. And it's delicious - cake-like and not dry at all. Try it and you'll see! I did top my cornbread with some local honey from the Chicago Honey Co-op, a Green City Market vendor. You haven't lived until you've tried non-grocery store honey. The floral notes were over the top - I could seriously taste the flower petals that the bees danced upon. Also, eating local honey is good for your health, acting as an immune booster, reducing your seasonal allergies against local flowering plants. How great is that?

Happy week ahead...

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