Cut It Out!

Poultry shears

These are my Cutco Poultry Shears.  These shears are my favorite kitchen gadget in the universe.  Yes.  I said “universe.”

I’m actually not a gadgety-girl.  Some foodies are, but I’m a little too cheap and I often have a dickens of a time locating the gadgets I’ve already got, so if I can make due with what’s in my drawer, that’s my plan A.

(I interrupt this post with a tiny notification: you should know that I have no affiliation with the Cutco Company–including being related or even acquainted to/with anyone else who does.  I just really like this product and so I’m going to tell you about it.  Thank you for reading my disclaimer and have a nice day.)

OK.  These poultry shears were a gift.  This is a very good thing because they cost around $100.00.  I know, right?  That’s a lot of money to cut a dang chicken.

Here’s the thing though: they do soooo much more.  I use these shears at least five days a week.  I cut salad greens, sometimes fruit, the tips off green beans, I cut pizza slices–and even occasionally use them to cut poultry!

These little honeys are strong.  The knife set I got when Mike and I were married 14 1/2 years ago came with its own poultry shears.  I used to use them if my Cutco ones were in the dishwasher, but they broke so long ago I can’t even remember what they looked like now…  I replaced those cheaper shears with some (from Bed Bath & Beyond, maybe?) thinking that I should have that extra pair for emergency situations, but they eventually broke too.

My Cutco Shears can cut through bone and probably even a car door if I had the strength to propel them.

So, the hundred bucks might sound like a lot of money (OK, yes it is a lot a money) but I have had my Cutco Poultry Shears for around twelve years, use them constantly, and they are still goin’ strong.

If you don’t want to cough up such big bucks, at least make sure that when you get some poultry shears, they come apart for proper cleaning like this:

Shears apart

Yeah… You don’t want your poultry tidbits to get left behind in a little corner of the hinge or anything.  Gross!

If there’s ever a night-time emergency in our home (this is southern CA, take your pick of possible options), Mike and I have our assigned duties: He gets the girls, I get Grayson, we make a grab for the laptop with our family photos if it’s handy–and the Cutco Poultry Shears on our way out the door!  (Who knows how they might come in handy in an emergency situation?)

Whew!  Made it.

So, Anyway… Yo Hablo Espanol

Spanish sign

I haven’t been keeping secrets, but the fact that I’m bilingual just has never come up yet.  Although I’m from Minnesota, you may have noticed that the “Calva” part of “Calva-Despard” is not exactly Norwegian bred…

It’s Mexican.  My dad’s name is Jose Ruben Calva Pellicer.  See?  Mexican.  He doesn’t look like he’s going to rest up against a saguaro cactus draped in a sarape, but my dad is the eighth child of his Roman-Catholic Mexican family, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico two years before he was born.

I won’t go into the long, loooong, story of how we didn’t exactly speak Spanish in my home growing up (as my mother doesn’t speak it) but I heard it a lot, studied it in school and then finally attended a year of college at the Universidad de Costa Rica where I sink-or-swim perfected my espanol.  (Sign up for a few courses where you have to write college term papers/make oral presentations in Spanish–it’s very motivating!)

Besides learning to dance Salsa, and make banana leaf tamales, Costa Rica was where I fell deeply, deeply in love with beautiful fresh what-is-the-name-of-that-gorgeous-thing produce.

I’ve traveled throughout the entire country of Mexico, visiting family and just generally checking things out.  Once I spent three months zig-zagging from the west to east Mexico.  I visited relatives I hadn’t seen in years and even met up with third cousins of my dad’s sister-in-law-kinda-type-relatives which sounds like a stretch by American standards, but in Mexico we were familia.

I also lived and worked in Madrid, Spain for five months.  In Madrid I learned that there’s no such thing as too much red wine or guests at the dinner table, and that fried calamari sandwiches are the perfect hangover remedy.  I acquired the most eloquent vocabulary of curse words and realized that I like the tropics a lot :), and that big city life is not my thing.  (I also discovered that the word for “mushrooms” in Latin America only refers to unwanted fungus in Spain, but that’s a whole other story… )

English sign

Like most homes, my mother’s culture is the one that defined most of my upbringing, but I’m equally proud of all my heritage.  It was my Mexican heart that pushed me on these rewarding adventures, spurred my interest in becoming a bilingual teacher, and opened my palette to a world of culinary delights.

Today I appreciate living in a place where I hear Spanish, English and a boatload of other languages on a regular basis.  And get out’a here with your multicultural food scene, Los Angeles County!  Baby, I’m home.

My kitchen decor (so that’s why she has blue cabinets…) is a reflection of my language influences, a celebration of melding many cultural practices and love of kickin’ it in the kitchen.  Round here we speak English and Spanish, enjoy a table full of friends and family and eat foods from as many places as I can get my hands on (and are always on the prowl for more.)  Our tongues want to taste it all!

Kids' art

Si quiere, manda me una nota en espanol un dia y podemos charlar!

Here I go!

Welcome to my little corner of the world!  Thank you, Noeleen, for setting up my stellar blog and BIG gracias, amigas, for reading my entries, nodding politely while I shamelessly promote my workshops, and telling everyone you know (please, please, please…) about how cool it is to “kick it in the kitchen” with me!

After 8 1/2 years of dedicating most waking moments to raising my three amazing kiddos, I’m using some new-found time to realize the vision of sharing a few tricks, promoting a good-food life with family and hanging out a lot more with fun mamas.  Woo-hoo!

I hope ya’ll can find some inspiration from what pops up on this page, and if you like, from my workshops and future endeavors.  Ideally this blog will soon provide a path toward connecting with the many new friends I haven’t yet met!

I’ll do my best to write clever, unique entries, and share some of my favorite recipes.  Overall my mission is to offer something useful to the lives of busy mamas.  And so for my first trick, I’d love to warm up with something simple and savory: a simple recipe for homemade croutons…

Tasty Croutons

Ingredients:

Bread.  Any kind.  Old is better than new.  Crusty is better than not.
Olive oil
Garlic salt

Directions:

Set oven to broil on high and place rack at highest spot.
Slice bread into long slices, about an inch or two wide.
Lay slices on a cookie sheet close together.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt.
Broil bread for 2 mins and check.  (your broiler may be stronger than mine, so you may need to check sooner)
When bread is toasted, remove tray and flip pieces over to toast other side.  You’ll save time flipping by having cut the bread in strips rather than smaller cubes.  Place back in oven for 2 or so more minutes. 
That’s it!

Croutons can be frozen in plastic freezer bags for a couple of months.  These little honeys are great with soups, red sauces, salads, as incentive for someone little to finish his beets…  It’s a great way to use up old bread!