Bundle of Joy:
“If your parents never had children, chances are you won’t either.” – Dick Cavett
I always dread that look on people’s faces when we’ve first been introduced and after a few minutes of conversation, they ask me if I have any children. “No, just three furry kids,” I respond with a nervous chuckle and usually add, “Well, four if you count my husband.” Ninety-five, ninety-six percent of the time, the new acquaintance will look at me suspiciously, like I had just sprouted two Medusa heads and flatly reply, “Oh. Well. Huh. Really? That’s okay,” while I sheepishly look down at the ground and unearth an imaginary rock to kick around.
Then, they’ll either give me: A gentle pat on the arm that smacks of pity. Or a scrutinizing stare for what I’m assuming to be jealousy over the perceived kid-less luxury of our being able to sleep in until (gasp!) ten on the weekends. If we wanted to. Not that we do. Much. Okay, occasionally. Fine, often. But, hey, I do get up at that crack of dawn every, single day to let the dogs out. And, yes, sometimes, I crawl back in the bed for another hour of sleeping bliss. Don’t hate me.
It’s not that we don’t like kids. Nay! We love them – well, I love them – and I pride myself on being like a second mom to my nieces and nephews. Heck, they even call us Aunt Fabulous and Uncle Awesome (of course I coined Adam’s alter-uncle ego). But, folks, there is definitely a social stigma attached to people like us who decide/choose to not have children. Even my mom got on the Baby on Board bandwagon several years back and pleaded her case for us to start a family. “But, Cheri, what if I didn’t have you?” she implored, eyelashes batting coyly. To which I intelligently answered, “Well, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation, would we?” I did, however, go through a brief period back in 2008 of really, really thinking (read: obsessing) about having a baby.
I would spend endless hours wondering: What would it look like? Would it have my dark hair and Adam’s impossibly beautiful blue eyes? Would it inherent both our dimples? Is that even possible? Or – God forbid – be saddled with my Virgo-related OCD tendencies? Or my incapacity to not weep salty crocodile tears at the slightest hint of sentiment? If it’s a boy, would it take on Adam’s soul-crushing inability to put his dirty clothes inside the hamper instead of on top of it? Or to put the toilet seat down, dammit? Or the dirty dishes in the dishwasher? Wait, we don’t have a dishwasher.
All this imagining a penciled composite of our phantom love child while examining both our baby pictures, one in each hand, blubbering like a complete idiot. Yes, those were dark days indeed. When I’d beg my husband, “Don’t you ever think about our having a baby?” To which he would respond without missing a beat with a dismissive, “Nope.” I do believe Adam developed a clinical case of the eye rolls during that stint every time he entered a room and saw me deeply entrenched in my neonatal neuroses.
Inevitably, I would fall into a complete breakdown, pointing at the excruciatingly twee bathing baby in the Johnson and Johnson television commercials, splashing and giggling in the kitchen sink, sobbing uncontrollably. As my birthdays kept ticking off, I suppose it was my body’s way of warning me about the rapidly expiring feasibility of my actually becoming a mother, reminding me that, “Hey! There aren’t a whole lot of shopping days left until Christmas, pal.”
But whenever “that” feeling overwhelmed me, I’d just make an impromptu trip to K-Mart or Wal-Mart where, each visit without fail, some awful person would publicly scream at and threaten their offspring with bodily harm (Leland! Don’t chu make me git the hose!). Talk about birth control. That did the trick every, single time. Oh, and side bar, I may be an armchair parent and totally off my nut here to even throw this out there to all you hard-working moms and dads (please forgive me), but the whole counting to three thing to your misbehaving child? I don’t get that. I want to say, “That kid knows he’s got a couple of clicks before the hammer falls.” If it ever does. Who’s in charge here anyway?
(That reminds me of the joke where the young girl brings home a kitten and it keeps scratching her boyfriend’s brand new couch. “Oh,” she says. “They say to squirt Felix with a little bit of water with this spray bottle each time he claws at the furniture and he will eventually learn to not do that.” Her boyfriend retorts, “Screw that! I’ll get out my BB gun and he’ll learn tonight!”) Probably a good thing we didn’t have kids. But now, as I bow deeply to honor all of you, my dear gentle readers, who went down the family highway and all that must entail (no sleep for years! Diaper duty! Teething! Play dates! Potty training! Barney! Soccer practice! Soccer games! Homework! After school snacks! Sweet Jesus, I need to sit down just thinking about it!), I humbly salute you. Which brings me to this: I know that making family dinner is not always easy, especially if you have a toddler underfoot in the throws of a nuclear meltdown. Even though it’s a daily coming-no-matter-what dilemma, so many of you find yourselves in full-blown panic mode at 5:00 with the dreaded question, “What the heck am I gonna make for dinner?”
I think that’s the toughest stage of the dinner-making process and one of the reasons behind my Planning section in “…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen” segment of every post. It’s to give you a leg up on steps that you can do in advance to help you save a little time so you can stay calm and carry on. I could get all Oprah-esque and tell you that I call it Empowered Entertaining (even if you’re just making dinner for The Fam). And, seriously, what person on the planet doesn’t want to feel empowered? Especially when it comes to preparing and serving meals?
That’s what this recipe is all about. You throw a few ingredients into a Ziploc, toss in your meat and let it marinate in the refrigerator. You can bang it out in the morning before you head out to work and dinner’s only a short grill away when you come home after a long day. Fill your tortilla with tender strips of beef, top it with the good stuff and get ready to wrap your hands around your “other” bundle of joy. A delicious, easy and restaurant-quality dinner that will become a rock in your rotation? Yeah, baby!
Flat Iron Steak Fajitas
- ½ cup orange juice (about 2 juicy oranges)
- ⅓ cup lime juice (about 3 limes)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 to 1-1/4 lb. flat iron steak
- For serving: wedges of lime, thinly sliced onion, bell peppers, warmed tortillas and your choice of toppings (salsa, guacamole and sour cream)
- In a small bowl, combine the orange juice, lime juice, salt, chile powder, cumin, garlic powder, sugar, soy sauce and olive oil. Whisk well to incorporate the ingredients. Place the steak in a zippered bag and pour the marinade over. Press out any air in the bag and place the sealed bag into a shallow baking dish. Refrigerate for at least four to eight hours and up to overnight, scrunching the bag once or twice if you think about it.
- Pull the meat out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature. Fire up your grill (you want it nice and hot; medium-high heat). Remove the steak from the marinade (discard the marinade) and grill the steak, flipping once, until browned on both sides and medium-rare, about 10 minutes total, depending on the steak’s thickness. Remove from the grill to a platter or cutting board and cover with foil. It’s crucial to allow the steak to rest for about 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute. Thinly slice the beef against the grain on a diagonal; spritz a good amount of lime over and serve. The citrus in this recipe is the star and that crucial squeeze of lime over the steak after it’s been sliced makes a huge difference-so bright and fresh.
…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:
Planning: Lots of folks have some hard and fast rules regarding marinating do’s and don’ts. I agree with short soaks for certain things, like fish, since the acid and enzymes can “cook” the food, but for meat, like this cut, I will very often allow the steak to marinate overnight, which gives me even more of a jump on dinner. This is a year-round recipe, too. You can grill it, bake it, broil it, stir fry it…you name it. While the meat rests, sauté up some thin strips of onions and peppers in a little olive oil, salt and pepper (or grill them) to serve with your fajitas.
Product Purity: Freshly squeezed juice is best. Promise me, please, when it comes to lime juice, that you won’t touch the stuff in the green squirt bottle. Please. Ancho chiles are dried with mild heat and a smoky-rich raisiny (new word!) sweetness. I use lower sodium soy sauce without added MSG, like Kikkoman’s brand. If you can’t find flat iron steak, you can substitute flank steak or skirt steak.
Presentation: I love to serve this family style on an old wooden cutting board with wedges of lime for spritzing, a lovely pool of four colors of peppers and onions, tortillas and individual bowls of toppings.