A Vexing Season

What an odd season.

Several milestones were passed or set, among them several sluggers surpassing the 500 HR mark and one closer passing the 500 save mark. Other “big” things happened, too, although I choose not to mention certain players who I feel have brought a black eye to a game I love very much.

But perhaps the oddest thing for this beaten-down, long-suffering Cubs fan is that my team made the playoffs. The Cubs, who have cost me no small amount of pain in the past, managed to pull it together and mess up less than everyone else in the NL Central.

Early on, it looked like a catastrophe in the making. In early June, we were way under .500 and no one — I mean no one — was happy. The players weren’t happy, the manager wasn’t happy, the fans weren’t happy. It was like so many other seasons. In years past, however, a bad Cubs team in June wasn’t something that brought so much anger to Cubbies near and far. To understand why there was so much anger, we have to go back in time …

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Decor dilemma

The kitchen cabinets in our new apartment seem to want me to do some decorating. There’s a big, empty space above them. And it just looks so … empty. I’m not so inclined toward interior decorating, so I’m not sure what to do with the space. Ivy and baskets seem to be popular options for cabinet-tops. I don’t know that I’m an ivy person, though. The baskets are a possibility. Then it would be storage, but in a lovely and decorative way.

I sought advice from Martha Stewart, but she didn’t have anything helpful to say. So I searched Flickr for “top of the kitchen cabinets.” Those results suggest that Marsha T. Cat would be the perfect accoutrement for the kitchen cabinets. As Marsha isn’t living with us now, though, I may just have to go with pottery and baskets.

In the smoking section

I made our first “real” meal in the new apartment tonight. And naturally, I set off the smoke detectors in doing so. What I mean to say is, I wanted to test the smoke detectors. Since I was already making dinner, I decided to take the two birds, one stone approach. Yes. I totally meant to smoke up the new pad.


I’m going to try to double up on at least two recipes a week between now and mid-November (a.k.a. PeteTime!). I bought a copy of “Don’t Panic: Dinner’s in the Freezer” before we moved, and tonight was the first chance I’ve had to take it for a test run.

We had Apricot-Glazed Chicken Tenders, which were very tasty. The “Don’t Panic” theory calls for the cook to multiply the meal for any given night, serving it for dinner and stocking the freezer with the extra portions. Until I realized that the Apricot-Glazed Chicken Tenders were actually in the appetizers section, I was a bit worried that the authors’ families were going hungry. The recipe was purported to serve 4 to 6 people, so I didn’t double the recipe. I think Rockford may have to run out for a burrito or something later. At least I’ll know for next time!

Something else I’ll know for next time: Bake, don’t broil. The “basic” version of the recipe calls for the chicken to be cooked under the broiler for a total of 18 minutes. I’m all for broiling, but the sugar in the glaze didn’t pair well with the intense, prolonged heat. The smoke detectors went off after the first three minutes of broiling.

While the chicken would have been better with its full complement of glazing, I opted not to set off the alarms again. Fortunately, the chicken was fully cooked at that point. And even without all of the glaze, the flavor was great.

The following recipe is for the appetizer version, which supposedly serves 4 to 6 people. As a main dish, I think it would serve 2 to 3 people, with the possibility of leftovers. Be sure to double (or triple) the amounts if you’re feeding more than a few.

Apricot-Glazed Chicken Tenders
2 lbs. chicken tenders
Marinade (recipe follows)
Apricot glaze (recipe follows)

Add chicken tenders to marinade in freezer bag, tossing to coat, and:

  • if freezing, marinate at room temperature for one hour. After marinating for an hour, freeze. Freeze apricot glaze (directions follow) in a separate, smaller freezer bag and store with marinated chicken..
  • if preparing for that day, marinate in the refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.

    Discard marinade and place tenders in a large baking dish. (Thaw first if frozen). Heat oven to 425 degrees and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, basting with apricot glaze and turning every 10 minutes. Shortly before chicken is done, put the chicken under the broil and broil until golden brown and bubbly.

    The Marinade
    1/3 cup vegetable oil
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    1 teaspoon rosemary
    1 teaspoon thyme
    salt and pepper, to taste
    1 small bay leaf, crumbled

    Combine ingredients in a large freezer bag.

    Apricot glaze
    1 onion, minced
    1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    2 tablespoons cider vinegar
    1 cup apricot preserves
    1 tablespoon soy sauce
    2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
    1/4 teaspoon ginger
    1/4 teaspoon cloves
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon pepper

    In saucepan, cook onion in butter over moderate heat, stirring until softened. Add vinegar and continue cooking until liquid has reduced by half. Add preserves, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, spices, salt and pepper. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until thick. Place mixture in a food processor or blender and puree.