Monthly Archives: October 2013

This One’s For My Sister

So I was on the phone with Shar trying to juggle a few chores in the kitchen, among them getting the Enchilada Casserole out of the oven, and giving Shar the play-by-play.  The prince had interrupted a few times, checking to see if it was ready and to ask if I was STILL ON THE PHONE.  YES I’M STILL ON THE PHONE, if the phone had glued itself magically/tragically to my ear I would have given my left forearm some badly need rest.

So Shar says, “ooh, Mark (her own royal progeny) would love to eat at your house.”  Well, yes of course.  Young men who don’t know how to cook want to eat wherever there are second helpings, and if you’re serving beer they’ll bring their friends too.

But this is one of the prince’s favorite meals, and it’s a real fridge-and-pantry-cleaner.  Don’t tell the prince I said that.

Enchilada Casserole

Two chicken breasts: start poaching them in four cups of water, in a fairly large sauce pan.  When they’re done, pull them out, let them cool on a plate, and strain the broth (use a fine mesh strainer if you have it) into a big bowl or stylish vessel of your choice

Half a stick of butter: wipe out the now empty saucepan with a paper towel, and melt the butter over medium high heat.  When foaming add

Quarter cup of flour:  using a whisk, stir this into the hot butter and stir for a minute, then add

The reserved poaching liquid: add it a couple tablespoons at a time, letting it absorb and seize up before you add more liquid, and stop at about two cups added.  Toss the remainder of the broth (unless you’re super thrifty then freeze it for another use) then add

A 10 oz can of enchilada sauce: this adds a ton of flavor, a bit of spice, and a nice pink color, then add

Dairy:  some milk, or the last bit of half and half, or the third cup of heavy cream leftover that you didn’t know what to do with, or the smidge of sour cream you don’t want to waste.  This is where you start tasting the sauce and adding

A ton of cheese: NOT the time to use the blue cheese, but a lot of other nuggets will do.  Just shred up your last bits of cheddar, pepper jack, mozzarella, swiss– if you have a small hunk of cream cheese, smush it and toss it in.  A few dessicated wrapped slices of store brand american?  They will love this pool.  I used at least a pound of cheese.  Maybe lots more, I’m not sure and I wasn’t even drinking…that much.  (This is where you can turn the oven on to 350 if you’re sober and can set a timer and do other things, 400 if you’re drinking and you PROMISE to stay in the kitchen and not email or start laundry in the basement and forget the timer and the casserole).  Just keep tasting, salt it if need be (likely not) and keep stirring, then add

The shredded or chopped reserved chicken: now the thing looks like something, like a rich stew or a thin buffalo chicken dip.  You’re tempted to pour it into small bowls with little endive leaves as garnish but you are not done until you line a not-quite-as-big-as-a-9×13-inch-pan-so-if-you-have-something-smaller-but-not-too-small-a pan with

Crushed tortilla chips: how much is up to you.  I would say for a deep 11 inch round casserole I used about half a 13 oz bag of chips, had the prince crush them (I was on the phone, after all, and that crushing shit is NOISY), then used about half to line the pan before I poured half the saucy mass over it, followed by the remainder of the chip crumbs, followed by the rest of the stewy stuff, followed by

Yet more cheese: stop judging, I’m trying to make the prince’s casserole dreams come true.  A modest half pound of shredded cheddar, like Diana used the night she and William went to Target and picked out Pokemon sheets for his big boy bed (it could’ve happened, you don’t know).  It then goes into the pre-heated oven for half an hour or more.  When it’s bubbly and attractive, take it out.  It will be runny, soupy, or gloopy, depending on how thick your sauce was, how much cheese you used, and how many tortilla chips you crushed.  There’s nothing attractive about this, it’s just easy and good.

Addendum: when you add the chicken, add any leftover bits you want to get rid of that won’t offend: corn, black beans, green chiles, cooked red or green pepper or onion, black olives, jalapenos, tomatoes, green beans, zucchini.





Product Endorsement

eos is a lip balm I bought today– it’s a little roundish thing like an egg and it was scarcely more expensive than the 7 other balms/sticks/pots I bought today.  Not a typo, I bought eight (8) things of lip stuff today because my FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR must have some fly in the ointment, some thorn on the rose, some partial thumb in the chili:  oh the chapped lips and hands are the scourge of winter, for both me and the prince.  The prince, given his age, cannot be seen wearing or applying stuff because it would pierce a hole in the space/time continuum or, like, totally ruin his rep yo, harsh his street cred, yo.  So it’s my goal to have lip grease on every horizontal surface of the house so neither of us has a reason to scream in agony if we happen to laugh or smile.

eos is wonderful– it glides on super smooth, the surface is a big hemisphere, all ample and chubby and generous, and the flavor/scent (sweet mint) is pleasant.  Today my lips died and went to heaven and that right there is a lot to get for a buck ninety nine.

Consider Two Eggs

What was in your omelet this morning?  What?  No omelet?  Acceptable only if you don’t care for eggs (WHAT?  You don’t like EGGS?  Unacceptable.).

Two eggs, 150 calories, 10 grams of fat.  OK, the fat’s a little high– toss one of the yolks and add an extra egg white or two.  Whisk vigorously– I find this easiest in a taller plastic cup.  Add a tablespoonish of water or milk (or sour cream or heavy cream or even mayonnaise, seriously do not turn your nose up) and a good pinch of salt.

Pour into a ten inch non-stick skillet that you’ve slicked with butter or olive oil and heated to medium high, then immediately turn the heat down and begin lifting the edges to get the bulk of the egg cooked.  When there is no more runny egg but it still looks quite moist (sorry for those readers who DETEST that word moist), take off the heat and cover with a plate while you pick out what it will envelop.

This morning mine had: a couple TBLS guacamole, fresh salsa, two tortilla chips crumbled up, and about an ounce of cheddar cheese.  Once that was slathered onto the egg I folded it up up, put it back on the still-quite-hot burner, covered it again, and let the filling warm through on low heat while I toasted a piece of rye bread.  It all was too delicious to speak of.

What can’t go into an omelet?  Personally I can’t think of much. Peanut butter, maybe– but that could be just me.  Here’s a partial list of what can:

Leftover: macaroni and cheese, spaghetti sauced with marinara, tomato salad, tortellini, anything from Olive Garden (including the bread sticks– seriously, tear into small bits, sprinkle with more garlic and add some melty cheese like jack or even velveeta), taco meat, black beans and corn, that last bit of green beans from last night’s dinner with a sharp cheese like fontina, mashed potatoes, cold french fries (chop, warm in the microwave for ten seconds and then pepper liberally) the leftover fixings from burger night (all the veg like tomato, onion, pickle- chop uniformly and sprinkle with cheddar).

The omelet takes homely stuff and makes it je ne sais quoi, Francais?  I mentioned peanut butter as a dud, but though it’s not my thing I know plenty of people who dig sweet omelets and if you’re there, PB and nutella in an omelet really does not sound bad– or cream cheese and cherry jelly– OK, now I’m starting to rethink my aversion.  Cream cheese, caramel drizzle, and a few chocolate chips.  A couple of halved marshmallows and a leftover halloween chocolate?  If you’re into it that would make for a helluva November weekend breakfast for the twelve and under set, who will remember the crazy breakfast more than they’ll remember the costumes they wore.


Grow Up, and a biblical lesson of sorts

“Grow up” is an interesting exhortation.  It’s not meant literally, obviously, when leveled toward anyone over the age of 25.  So I think it says more about the person who proffers the charge.  When you say “grow up,” what you mean is, “your behavior is tiresome.”  What you’re addressing is the difference between how you would handle things and how a given person chooses to do so.  But whereas, “I think you should do this” makes your view clear, saying “grow up” makes your dismissive impatience clear.  And that’s completely valid.  You have run out of patience and you’re done abiding another’s dithering or antics.  You want to see solemn action, not indecision, not frolicking.

Russell Brand just had a piece in the New Statesman about how the left needs a revolution, but how going about it in a “grown-up” way makes prospective joiners lose interest.  Russell Brand’s whole raison d’etre may be the opposite of “grown up;” what’s wrong, he thinks, with a bit of fun, a bit of a flirt or frolic, while we’re at the task of changing the world or making an important decision?  Can’t we get things done with a few jokes or pokes to lighten the mood?  In his piece he mentions John Cleese’s take on what’s considered grown up: there is a difference between serious and solemn.  Serious things can be considered, talked about, and solved without being so gravely, maturely solemn.  This may be a peculiarly British way of thinking, while we Yanks toil at being puritanically decisive, active, and straight-faced.  Grown up.

With true maturity comes wisdom enough to know what’s effective.  Telling someone to “grow up” is usually a taunt, not a challenge.  An insult meant to hurt, not to inspire.  Not effective, and ironically not terribly grown up.

In other news: At the library today, the prince and I ran into someone who we may have entertained unaware he was an angel (Hebrews 13:2, look it up).  This was a black man, maybe 60 years old, grizzled of face and sartorially challenged, talking much too loud for the library, bringing his books and movies back.  I wanted to pay his ($29!!) fines for him but I only had a dollar and change on me.  “God,” he said, “God is not begging to use us–we must do good works of our own accord and not wait for God to use us, for when we do the devil sneaks on in there.  Young man” (he addressed the prince)– “don’t ask for forgiveness, ’cause you don’t deserve it nor do I.  Instead, say you’re sorry.  One’s about you, the other’s about respect.  It’s not all about you.  It’s not all about me.  It’s about others, always others.  That’s your ‘add-a-lesson’ for the day, for the Ah-doh-less-cent!”   He chuckled aloud at his joke.  I was proud of the prince, and in fact proud of all of us present, for allowing the man his due.  No one chided or rolled eyes or hushed him.   He gave more reason in 90 seconds to consider that there is a god than a month of Sundays in church.



Just Like Kibble

A friend has pointed out that she was not aware of certain sides of me until she started reading here.  I admit that not everyone knows every side of me; a queen would explain it as one’s being a many-faceted precious jewel, with each unique facet having a chance to reflect light.  The clown says, it’s just like kibble. There are crunchy bits and chewy bits.

I’ve long been a hater of the Christmas letter, sent to Aunt Sophie and one’s best friend alike.  It’s a boring amalgam of bragging and stuff that won’t offend, the birthday spent in Athens, the new promotion, little Carl competed in the All State Music Competition, Woodwinds category, and he placed second!  In the whole state! The second best oboist in the seventh grade in the entire state of Maryland!  The lord has blessed us richly indeed.

The Christmas letter is like taking all your aspects and putting them in a blender with some melted vanilla ice cream.  When you pour it into the envelope and mail it it’s very sweet and thick and it has some color but that color is indefinable: a little gray, a little mauve.  Nothing for my eyes only, just a slurry of G rated blah.

I have explained to the prince that what you express and how you express it is up to the context.  It’s perfectly acceptable to use curse words with your friends.  Not so with your teachers.  The prince’s grandmother happens to be a world-class user of the F bomb (her cat’s nickname is “little fucker”), so despite my careful editing he has been exposed to it his whole life (I’ve always hated the hilarity following a two-year-old’s saying “fuck” from having heard the parents use it so much, but that’s me running desperately from my white trash roots and fodder for another post another time).  He refers to curse words with me (discussing an Eminem song, for instance) as “the s h word,” ‘the F-bomb,” etc.  And now that he’s older we all curse in front of him, not flagrantly but no longer editing carefully either.  Yesterday for example I was telling his grandmother, in front of the prince, about a brilliant and funny post over at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and I said, I apologize, I’m going to curse, it’s called “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers.”  The curse word is necessary to get the title correct, but it’s also what makes the whole piece funny.

I have friends that are bored, eyes glazing over, to hear me or anyone talk about children, babies, report cards, sports leagues, PTO meetings.  I have friends who don’t curse, would never curse, who go to church and are proper.  I have friends, and a mother-in-law, who can’t get through a clause of language without saying “fuck.”  There are people uninterested in politics, or very conservative, or who find discussing food and cooking tedious, for whom some of these blurbs are offensive or stupid.  And they can read elsewhere or stay to comment and argue with me.  This tiny spot on the internet is not for all audiences.

None of us is just one thing.  We’re not hiding anything, we’re just presenting an edited self.  Writing in public exposes more edited selves but you’ll still only ever see what I put up here– there’s a lot more kibble in the bowl.



A Woman of a Certain Age

I have an acquaintance, of blood relation actually, who has said of menopausal women that they can be irritable– to which I say, you may have had it coming, dickhead!

Sometimes women of a certain age finally find the courage to say what they’ve been thinking all along.  Like these two:

A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick

Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout

Both excellent reads.

(Dedicated to Harry.)

Snake Oil

When we consume it’s good to know what’s being sold, and what we’re actually buying.  It’s all processed; the tomato is either from your clay pot on the back porch (minimally processed, maybe a few bugs have had at it or it’s absorbed some pollutant, airborne or critterborne), or from the grocery store in February (best case scenario, hydroponically grown, worst case, genetically modified, or bred to be not tasteworthy but travelworthy).  The homegrown tomato is a pretty straightforward transaction: you buy seeds, you invest labor and water and offer the environment of your back porch with its attendant sun, insect, rodent, and outdoor cat exposure.  You get a real tomato.  The store-bought winter tomato is a different thing.  You give money to get a tomato, but you are sold only the promise of wholesome nutrition and summertime juiciness.  You pay actual dollars for a piece of crap.  Why?  Because the commercial, the processing, the packaging, is that good, and because it requires no actual work.   Why is the tomato so pretty, so red, why does it mimic the homegrown tomato so well?  Because the manufacturer (with the use of chemicals and hybridization it’s nothing short of a factory) wants to make money.  The manufacturer does not care about your health; the manufacturer wants to do everything in his power to make you buy, and if that includes practically lying, he is more than willing to practically lie.   And you are more than willing to buy, because it’s EASY.

We have become cynical about being sold to, yet strangely unaware of it most of the time.  If a breakfast cereal is found NOT TO BE the best possible start to your kid’s day, and it’s company is forced to change it’s commercial slightly so as not to outright lie but only to practically lie (“keeps ’em full, keeps ’em focused,”), we don’t even register that.  We don’t even say, “hey, they just completely lied, they just took a bunch of wheat and sugar and called it a perfect thing despite all kinds of evidence that kids eat too many carbs and too many sugars.”  Where’s the outrage?  They have zero interest in your kid’s health; they have 100% interest in turning profit.

When the prince tells me about something heard or told, a conspiracy theory, a political agenda, an urban myth, I ask him to think about who is selling what and why.  Who stands to gain something?  Who is deflecting scrutiny away from himself?  Who is trying to look wise or pure?  Virtually nothing comes to us untouched, without a spin. without repackaging.  When a friend says, “you’ll never guess what happened,” the friend is heightening the importance of the tale and gains the cachet of having delivered scandal.  When the news anchor states “Tragic circumstances led to the death of” whomever, she has already told us how to feel about the death– that it’s a tragedy.  Is it?  Maybe it was fitting, not tragic.  Maybe it made perfect sense.  Maybe it was justified, and not tragic a bit.

Trying to separate fact from spin is a skill most adults don’t cultivate.  We prefer to have stuff come to us pre-digested, spun, painted, packaged, sold.  If there are directions and extra bolts and screws, if it requires any effort at all, if we’re required to think and come to our own conclusions, we give it up as being too difficult and turn again to Fox News for something already mechanically processed, pre-chewed, shaped, and deep fried.  Something carb-loaded, high-glycemic, a zinger to the brain.

The instant, easy high– it’s the consumer’s cocaine.  And we’re all addicts.

Corned Beef Hash for the Hippocampus

I woke up early this morning then fell into a dense efficient second sleep, for an hour or long enough to have a cool dream.

This was in my dream.  This is the huge (15 ft?) verticle sign on the side of an old brick building I pass on the way into the city.  It’s been renovated in the last year and everything is slick and crisp.  On the left side of the building facing the street, the vestibule there looks like a diner– the lighting, the mood, the furniture–and I’ve since found out it IS a cafe–and on the right side are the offices of Ponessa.
 TW Ponessa is a behavioral health provider. So in my dream it was combined into both diner and MH provider, and it was the scene from the famous Hopper painting of people in a diner late at night, a soda jerk behind the counter.
 I woke up thinking –people go into a diner, especially late at night, for comfort and familiarity– it could be a diner in Boise but you still want the same things: people to take care of you and a sense that everything’s ok. A good diner sets things to rights.  Which is also what you want when you seek MH help.  Not chicken soup for the soul; maybe Meatloaf for the Limbic System.
Just needs a rotating glass display case, but instead of pies it would feature SSRIs and benzodiazepines.

Food for the Poor

Sometimes it’s the day before payday and you have next to nothing.  Sometimes it’s just been a really hard week and you’re tired of hearing bad news.  So, poor, or just poor in spirit, you must eat something that doesn’t require a trip to the grocery store or a lot of effort.

Soup.  Cheap.  Comforting.  Easy.

This is soup for one, so just multiply if you’re feeding more than you.

Peel a potato and cut into large chunks.  Add a quarter of a peeled an onion.  (How big a potato?  How big an onion?  Don’t worry, doesn’t matter, you’ll see).  Put into a pot and add enough water to not quite cover.  Bring to a boil then simmer until tender.  While that is simmering, think about what else you can add.  Do you like broccoli or cauliflower?  Spinach, kale?  Corn?  The cruciferae you’ll want to add after the simmer has been going for a couple of minutes, because you’ll want those to be as tender as the potatoes, but fresh kale or spinach or corn won’t take but a minute or two.  If you have greens that will do well with a longer simmer (mustard greens, collards) you might want to (wash, chop, de-stem, and) boil those separate from the potatoes and add at the end.

If you don’t want to add anything, take the cooked potatoes and onion off the heat but do not drain.  You’re going to mash or puree as is (an immersion blender is perfect for this to get a smooth texture but not necessary).  Then add some milk or cream, then add salt and pepper.  That’s it.  Return to the heat just long enough to get it to the temp you want, and then eat, from the pot if that’s where you’re at on a given day.  Or, set the table, light a candle, pour a glass of wine.

This is a lovely little lily of a soup that can be gilded in many ways.  You can add broccoli or a cousin, and puree when all is tender.  A splash of vinegar or lemon juice helps here, I’m not sure why.  You can add corn or spinach, as mentioned, after the puree.  A sprinkle of cheese is not unwelcome.

Taste of it, as Mom used to say; be kind to yourself and have a nice hot bowl of simplicity and frugality.

Summer is a 17 year old boy

Summer was given ample time to finish up 11th grade here.  He screwed up all season,  was late to class, handed in assignments whenever he felt like it, and was surly (what’s new?) at every opportunity.  He should have graduated September 21 and was, I’ll admit, a bit chastened that weekend.  But since then he’s been back every day, taunting the new season and acting like an asshole. Temps in the mid-eighties today– you KNOW Autumn had no part in that.

So while Autumn tries to do her thing with some decorum (and she has ever been a poised and pretty girl), Summer continues to catcall and display both middle fingers.  So rude.  He hot-dogs around on a banana seat bike, cards flapping in the bike’s spokes, wearing cut-offs so short the pockets are exposed; his bare and muscled torso is tanned and shiny with sweat.  I yell at Summer, “Get off the damn lawn!  Go away you hooligan!”

I grumble as I close the door so the air-conditioning doesn’t escape; “…back in my day seasons had manners…”   From inside I can hear his insolent reply, “Hey lady, fuck you!”