I love (my own) children. Dogs too.
My little angels are reminders of what once was. Except this time around, I get to watch and enjoy … for the most part. And the dogs? Well, they’ve never told me that they hate me. And they rarely complain.
But everything in life comes at a price. Children and dogs are among the most expensive.
Like most people, I like nice things. I’ve managed to acquire a few nice possessions here and there in my 40-plus years. I’ve never, however, managed to keep the bulk of them in nice condition.
Blame the kids. And the four-legged barkers.
Examples of ruin seem to rear their ugly heads all too often. During the past year, dogs have been responsible for chewing to pieces my Bose headphones, digging up part of my garden and destroying a patch of St. Augustine outside our back doors. In all fairness, Maggie (our older border collie mix) hasn’t wreaked much havoc since her puppy days — other than spreading trash around the kitchen and chewing up a few ketchup-stained paper plates. But Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (an English Bulldog/boxer mix) is at least as naughty as the dog in ‘Marley & Me.’
And then there is the wreckage left behind by the upright walkers who share our last name.
Just this past week, as my wife was folding our brand new plush bath towels, she came across a large dark stain — about the size of a football.
“I can’t believe this,” she said, holding the towel so that I could see the stain.
“Is that a stain?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she responded “and this was the first time I’ve washed these.”
“Well, one of our kids or the damn dogs … you know we can’t have anything nice.”
And, while my proclamation may be a bit extreme, it’s often how I feel.
My night stand has, for years, featured the carved initials of our oldest daughter. The same daughter, years ago, fell asleep in the backseat of the car. But before she nodded off, she placed a large unwrapped Tangy Taffy (now sold as Laffy Taffy) on the grey cloth seat. As the story goes, no one saw the candy as we unbuckled her to bring her in the house. It began to melt and become a permanent part of the interior as soon as the sun rose the following morning.
The youngest daughter has carved an equally ruinous path, including burned and warped pans (she’s an aspiring chef) and what seems like dozens of cracked iPod screens. Her computers through the years have been infected with more viruses than your average refugee camp resident.
Our son’s calamitous claim to fame, other than the doors he destroyed during the temper tantrums of his terrible twos, threes and fours, was the power button of our family room television. He pressed it so hard, it ended up disappearing into the TV. I’ve still not figured that one out.
The grandson, whom we are raising, is eons ahead of everyone who came before him. Just in the past few months, he’s managed to rip down the (ceiling installed) TV in my wife’s SUV, and leave his mark with a Sharpie pen throughout the property. Our garage door seriously has the appearance of rail boxcars, with graffiti and gang symbols.
We’re not entirely sure which child decided to paint something (with rust-colored spray) on the concrete curb in front of our home. But I do know that our vehicles have been marked with deep scratches that were, interestingly, the same height as everyone’s bicycle handlebars. Oh, the humanity!
If memory serves me, my parents had similar feelings.
As a 7-year-old, I decided one day to explore the family car — a blue Datsun 610 station wagon with white vinyl interior. I quickly found the cigarette lighter and learned how to make it glow red-hot. I can’t for the life of me remember what next went through my mind, but I do remember making four burner-sized holes on the dashboard.
My wife has a similar recollection of her destructive action having lasting effects. At age 6, she graced a neighbor’s new concrete patio with her initials.
What were we thinking? Probably the same thing as our children.
A version of the following recipe was featured in Cuisine at Home about 10 years ago. While my breading recipe/technique is almost identical to theirs, I jazzed up the sauce with basil and garlic. The biggest difference between our versions is that I use thick bone-in pork chops, whereas they use skinless chicken breast halves. If you decide to replace the pork with chicken, use either bone-in split breasts or dark meat — unless, like the Cuisine at Home folks, you prefer your chicken on the dry side.
Sun-dried Tomato Crusted Pork Chops w/ Butter-Caper Sauce
4 – Pork loin rib chops, bone-in, about 1 inch thick
Black pepper and Kosher salt
1/2 cup – All-purpose flour
2 – eggs, beaten
2 TB – water
All-purpose flour (about 1/2 cup)
Vegetable oil (about 1/8 cup)
2 cups – Coarse bread crumbs, made from French bread
1/2 cup – Sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and sliced
4 cloves – Garlic, peeled
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a food processor, pulse coarse bread crumbs with sun-dried tomatoes and garlic until combined. (Crumbs will have a red tint.) Place mixture in large bowl or disposable bag. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and water.
Heat skillet to medium-high (I use cast iron)** with vegetable oil.
Season chops with salt and pepper, as desired, then dredge in flour. Dip dredged chops in egg mixture, then transfer to sun-dried tomato breadcrumbs, pressing to coat all sides.
Carefully place chops in preheated skillet. Cook for about 3 minutes and turn. After another 3 minutes, or so, place skillet on the middle rack in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes, carefully flipping chops about halfway through. Remove from oven and allow chops to rest in skillet while making the sauce.
**Using a standard non-cast iron skillet is fine. Just use a glass baking dish to finish off chops in the oven, and be prepared to allow them to cook for additional 5-10 minutes.
1 cup – Dry white wine
2 TB – Capers, crushed
2 TB – Lemon juice, or Meyer Lemon juice
1 tsp – Dried basil (or 1 TB fresh basil, chopped)
3 cloves – Garlic, minced
1/4 cup – Sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and sliced
1 tsp – Kosher salt
1/2 cup – Unsalted butter, cold and sliced
In a medium saucepan, bring wine and basil to a boil. Reduce by about half. Add capers, lemon juice and garlic, then turn heat to low. Add sun-dried tomatoes and salt, then add butter — a pat at a time — whisking each one to melt.
Top each chop with a healthy ladle-full of the sauce. Tastes great with a side of angel hair pasta and fresh tomatoes and a green vegetable. Combined prep and cooking time is less than an hour. Serves four people.
This recipe was inspired by ‘Cuisine at Home.’