Chaos In the Clouds

The airlines have it all wrong. They should pay me to fly.

I think I’ll write a letter.

After all, I check myself in, I carry my own bags, I bring my own snacks and I even clean the plane.

Yeah, I’ve become one of those OCD people who brings Clorox wipes and scrubs the crumb infested tray tables, arm rests, and anything else my kids might possibly touch while traveling on their Boeing petri dish with wings.

So yeah, I’d like some money back, please.

Furthermore, I don’t understand how half of the stuff in Sky Mall (who’s purchasing a garden troll at 35,000 feet?) makes the cut and I’ve yet to find a crossword puzzle that’s left empty so I’m stuck reading the route map because I forgot my book.

Despite my attempt to cut down on carbs, I think it’s fair to expect at least four pretzels per bag. Tomato juice does not mean Bloody Mary mix and I’m still trying to figure out if the ice they give you is really from the toilet. Oh, and speaking of toilet, is there any way to make that thing not sound like you’re going to get sucked through it? Seriously, does this sound like an experience you should pay for?

But here’s a new one. After dropping my kids at ‘Grandma and Grandpa Camp’ for a week (YAAHOOOOOO!!!) I returned to the airport to make my way home. I discarded my drinks and my four-ounce toiletries, took off my shoes, my belt, my necklace, my earrings (they really should just ask you to come in your PJs…), said “Yes, Ma’am” and “Thank You, Sir” to appropriate TSA staff and still got the pat down anyway, despite the fact that the dude behind me looked like he was auditioning for Al-Qaeda’s Got Talent (sorry, this is not meant to bring up racial profiling…I’m just paranoid).

After finally making it past security I bought a new water and sat down. All this and it’s only…5:45 am! But at least it was over. Oh, wait, no, one more…as I was finally boarding, I was asked to “step aside” from the jetway to have my newly purchased $7 bottle of water examined. “Huh?” Did I do something? “We have to give you a litmus test.” Huh? “I just bought it.” “Step aside Ma’am.” I hate being called Ma’am. Makes me feel old.

Were they trying to test my water for explosives? Pregnancy? Kidney stones? Or perhaps just playing with a newly confiscated science game?

There were LOTS of other people holding waters, but mine was the only one litmus tested. And afterward, I had to throw it out anyway because it was manhandled by two officers putting chemicals in it! Can someone cut me a break here? Has anyone ever encountered this before?

In any case, I made it home. Parched and craving a huge bag of pretzels, I could finally relax. Kids were safe, and I was ready to transition to kidless vacation mode. So I opened the door. And found this:

How's that for a warm welcome?

And almost had a heart attack. Until I remembered. We still have a dog. A dog who likes to eat rugs and faces off of stuffed horses. But man, it scared me to death. Wouldn’t it scare you? I mean look at this thing!

And that’s when it hit me. Kids or no kids, the chaos follows me. I’m like Pigpen from Charlie Brown with a cloud of smoke on my head. Except mine’s chaos.

So to that I’ll take your stupid mini can of Bloody Mary mix and throw it in my overstuffed carry-on, then mix it with some Absolute Peppar, a dash of celery salt, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, a stick of celery and a few other things and call it a day.

Because tomorrow it’s back to the airport!

Whatever You Do This Summer, Don’t See This Movie

What do you get when you cross a really bad script with really bad actors, no plot, no B-story, and did I mention a really bad script? Let’s see…here are your choices:

  1. Robocop 3
  2. Waterworld
  3. Anything starring Keanu Reeves
  4. Judy Moody and the I can’t even remember the rest of the title it was so bad summer ‘blockbuster’ of 2011

And the winner is irrefutably #4. No, this is not a movie blog, but consider yourself $10 richer (or more depending on how many people you were planning on bringing) should you actually be reading this. Hands down, this was the absolute worst movie I have ever seen. And I’ve suffered through pretty much every single episode of The Suite Life of Zach and Cody so trust me on this one. Makes Brenda Song look like Meryl Streep. But Judy Moody…another story altogether.

It was so bad, so unbearable in fact, that I actually bribed my children halfway through the movie to leave. I started by telling them I’d give them $5 each. “But we like it!” they said. “Really?” Wow. Maybe I’m just out of the loop. Okay, I decided to give it another ten minutes.

Five minutes into the ten minutes, I couldn’t take it anymore. I upped the ante. “Fine, even though you just downed a pack of Sour Patch Kids and a large buttered popcorn you can have dessert for dinner.” What was I thinking? I don’t know. Maybe I was delirious from the bad acting. The lady next to me was out cold. The guy behind me was texting. My husband was practically snoring. Good for him. I had nothing. My cell wasn’t working and there were no other movies I could sneak into for the duration of this one. Yeah, I do that. But only when the movie is so bad that I actually blame the theater for agreeing to show it.

So we left. My kids took the bait and agreed to the ‘dessert for dinner plus $5’ offer. So in the end, we spent $50 for the movie plus the payout which could have been spent on….let’s see…

  1. At least three iced Venti drinks at Starbucks (okay, maybe two).
  2. Forty rentals from that red box outside of the grocery store (of which ten would work).
  3. 1/5600 of the cost of a Hermes Birkin Blue Sapphire Diamond Crocodile Handbag (retail $280,000…yeah, you read it right) not including shipping.
Come to Mama

And what I learned from this experience is threefold:

  1. There is room for new screenwriters in Hollywood (because even the worst script I write has GOT to be better than this) so I’m not giving up the dream. Thank you Judy Moody for this inspiration.
  2. A great book does not always translate into a great movie (ie: Eat, Pray, Love, Bonfire of the Vanities, How the Grinch Stole Christmas Jim Carrey version).
  3. You can always get what you want with bribes. Any age. Any time. It’s a beautiful thing.

The last thing I wanted to do after seeing this movie was cook, so I didn’t. We went out for family style Italian and the kids got Cannolis instead of pasta like I promised. I mean calorie for calorie, it probably comes out even, right? And they stuff those things with Ricotta cheese so I might as well have called it a ravioli.

But man, what a waste. And with the $50 I should have saved had I not paid for this abomination I could have purchased a very large supply of Truffle Oil which works wonders on corn on the cob for a summer barbecue (I have corn on the brain after downing a tub). And had I not wasted two hours of my life that I’ll never get back sitting in a sparsely filled theater with sleeping parents, I would have hosted that barbecue. And I would have made grilled corn on the cob with truffle oil and Parmesan as a side to grilled chicken and flank steak.

Thanks a lot, Judy.

Poach This

To know me is to know that I’ll pretty much do anything for you. Need a kid picked up or dropped off when you’re in a bind? Just ask. Don’t have a place to go for the holidays? Door’s open and food’s a plenty. Having a mommy meltdown? Let’s go for a drink.

But poach my babysitter and I’ll crush you.

It’s probably the number one unspoken rule of mommyhood. You don’t steal another mom’s babysitter. Not surreptitiously. Not publicly. Not on a boat. Not on a plane. Not in a moat. Not in the rain. And especially NOT AT MY POOL IN MY OWN NEIGHBORHOOD WHEN I’M ONLY THREE HOUSES DOWN TRYING TO MAKE AN HONEST LIVING. YEAH. I’M TALKING TO YOU PERSON WHO DOESN’T READ THIS BLOG BUT IF SHE DID SHE’D KNOW BETTER.

Okay, I got it out. At least my babysitter’s smarter than the average fifth grader. She knows when to share information. And she shared it.

“How did it happen?” I casually ask?

“Well, she saw me having fun with your kids and not playing on a cell phone like the other sitters,” replied responsible fifth grader. What? I know what you’re thinking. Fifth graders are very responsible.

“And?” I continue.

“She came over to me and told me I look very responsible.”

“Did you tell her you were in fifth grade and technically shouldn’t be babysitting? And especially not taking children to the pool?” I ask.

“Um, no.” she says.

“So?” I say. “What did she want?”

“She asked me for my number and wanted to know if I was free the rest of the week.”

Pause.  “And then she introduced me to her two kids.”

“She introduced you to…THE REST OF THE WEEK???” THE REST OF THE WEEK???? I HAVE YOU THE REST OF THE WEEK!!!”

“Um, I know. Can I go home now? I want my mommy.”

“Oh, sorry, yeah.”

Well isn’t that just special. A seemingly nice mom toting her two precious children trying to show my underaged babysitter who’s too young to even have a cell phone which is exactly why she’s not on it like every other babysitter at the pool, that she’s cooler than me and therefore deserves to have her the entire week without even thinking to ask me if that’s okay.

Well let me tell you something woman whom I’ve seen at the grocery store and might I add I think your hair is wayyyyy too dark for your mousy little face.

NO. NO. and NO.

Just you wait. I know where you live. I’ve seen your kids. They won’t be getting the full-sized candy bars this Halloween. Your house will be casually passed over the next time there’s a little pool soiree that I’m helping to organize. Oops! So sorry about that.

You blew it. You tried to poach my babysitter. And now I hate dislike will shun you forever.

Deep breath. Okay. I’m over it now. But I will remind myself how much I don’t like you on Sunday when I cook this and don’t invite you for brunch:

Poached Eggs with Spinach and Corn Flake Crumb Mushrooms

Oh how I do love poached eggs. But oh how I hate people who poach babysitters.

Ingredients (listed per serving):

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 slices nine grain or whole wheat toast or English muffin
  • Bag ‘o spinach (fresh)
  • 4-5 sliced Portobello mushrooms
  • Corn Flake crumbs (they come in a box…just dump some into a bowl)
  • Parsley flakes
  • Butter
  • S&P
Directions:
  1. Sauté some spinach in a bit of butter. *If you’re making a few of these buy a whole bag and sauté it up with some salt and pepper. It reduces considerably in the pan.
  2. While the spinach is cooking, beat up one of the eggs and dip the mushrooms in it, then coat with Corn Flake crumbs.
  3. Remove spinach from pan and sauté coated mushrooms for a few minutes until brown on each side.
  4. In a separate pot, salt and boil some water.
  5. Toast the bread.
  6. When boiling, reduce to medium-low and crack two eggs gently into the water. The yolks will rise to the top and the whites will magically gather ’round!
  7. Cook at least two minutes (longer if you like harder eggs) and remove with a slotted spoon.
  8. Remove toasted bread, top with spinach, mushrooms and finally your perfectly poached eggs.
  9. Sprinkle with parsley flakes (I don’t do Hollandaise but it’s probably yummy drizzled on top!)
  10. With every stab of the fork, remind yourself how much cooler of a mom you are than anyone would dare poach your sitter.

Nomadic Musings

Wonder who has a better signal out here...Verizon or AT&T?

Being a freelancer is a bit like being a nomad in the desert. You’re always wandering around setting up your tent, working on all kinds of projects with all sorts of interesting (feel free to interpret liberally) people until the job is done, and then you move on. You’re also a bit of a chameleon, changing your colors and outfits to suit various client needs, adapting to assorted office environments, making small talk at happy hours you’re only invited to every now and then, and keeping your space neat and clean in the event of a quick office relocation. It’s certainly not for everyone. But it works for me.

I’ve picked up a lot of life lessons from observing and participating in these various office cultures, some of which I try to implement at home. And since I’ll soon be moving from one tent to another, I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve learned along the way.

1. Always say good morning and thank you, especially to the support staff. Support staff can make or break a work environment. Treat the support staff like they’re inferior and it’ll get you nowhere fast. You’ll look like an ass (Yep, I’m talking to you, xx) and you’ll always be the one talked about during happy hour (the one you don’t get invited to). But the converse is also true. Treat the support staff with respect and your experience at work will be so much more pleasant. And who knows, you may even make a few friends! This can also apply to any other service oriented professional you’d typically ignore in your neighborhood or around town. Call me pollyannaish, but I just think the world would be oh, so much nicer if people just said hello.

2. Don’t bring tuna sandwiches to work. Tuna sandwiches are meant to be eaten in one place only: the diner. Fresh, white meat albacore with a side of extra crispy french fries. Homemade tuna is absolutely disgusting and homemade tuna that you throw in a sack and bring to work then fish out of the office fridge (or worse, leave out in a bag on your desk) around 1 pm is almost worse than hanging your sweaty gym socks on your door before a meeting. Nobody needs to smell that. Not now. Not ever.

3. Please, please, please, don’t imitate your two-year-old’s voice at work regaling coworkers about his exciting poopy on the potty yesterday. I cannot stress enough how unbelievably annoying it is. I love your kids, don’t get me wrong. But man, there is a time and a place for poopy potty imitation. And it ain’t here! Not to mention that part of the reason I come to work in the first place is not to hear kid voices, especially bad imitations.

4. Bring the tech support guy brownies. Befriend the tech support guy and your computer woes will be forever solved. Because when the network goes down guess whose computer will be up and running first?

5. Every now and then eat lunch with some colleagues. Even though this can be annoying and phony, face time not discussing work stuff (please adhere to tips 2 and 3) is very beneficial. Laugh at their jokes, sympathize with their ‘my life is so much harder than yours’ stories by nodding with a concerned look.

6. Don’t bring your Halloween candy and leave it in a bowl in your desk. You didn’t want to get fat at home. And I don’t want to get fat in the office. Toss it sister.

7. Don’t use your work email account for personal emails. Duh. I just think it’s funny to watch people get busted for that.

8. Always keep your tent open. You never know when you’ll run into your old tribesmen somewhere down the road.

The Fulani people of West Africa are the largest nomadic group in the world, primarily nomadic herders and traders. Through their nomadic lifestyle, they established numerous trade routes in West Africa. A typical West African dish has loads of starch and tons of fat with just a hint of meat. Which means I won’t be making it.

But in honor of nomads everywhere, I will make a variation of a traditional Fulani dish filled with onions and tomatoes (and a lot less fat) called Jollof Rice because I know everyone will like it! Personally, I think it tastes exactly like Aroz Con Pollo. Such a small world, isn’t it? Nomads, Mexicans and freelancers. We’re all one big happy wandering family!

Chicken and Jollof Rice

Ingredients:

  • One package boneless/skinless chicken
  • Appx. 1 1/2 cups Basmati or Saffron rice (Saffron gives it a more Aroz Con Pollo taste)
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1 bell pepper (diced)
  • Heaping spoonful of tomato paste
  • 2-3 cups chicken broth
  • Paprika (at least a few spoonfuls – I love this stuff so I really heap it on. It adds amazing flavor)
  • One garlic clove (diced)
  • Flour
  • Pepper (you don’t need extra salt in this dish)
  • Olive Oil
Directions:
  1. Cut chicken into strips.
  2. Dredge in flour, pepper and paprika (which is fancy for just throw all that stuff on top of your chicken so it’s all covered)
  3. Heat olive oil (just a little!) on Medium in a large pan and cook chicken just until brown on each side (appx 2 minutes per side).
  4. Remove chicken from pan. Keep drippings in heated pan.
  5. Pour dry rice, onion, pepper and garlic in the pan and let brown.
  6. Add chicken broth and heaping spoonful of tomato paste and mix thoroughly.
  7. Bring to a boil and then to a simmer.
  8. Once simmering, add chicken and cook, uncovered for approximately 25 minutes or until rice and chicken are cooked thoroughly. *If chicken is done before rice, remove first and let rice continue cooking. And if the rice gets dried out and still needs more time, add more broth.

Kufurahia! (means ‘Enjoy’ in Swahili for those of you who don’t know this or didn’t Google it like me)

Card Me

I’m not a card-carrying member of much but I do carry a lot of cards. Mostly in the form of Nordstrom, American Express, Starbucks and Jersey Mike’s (one more sub and I get a free sandwich!). Flaunting my membership affiliations isn’t something I typically do (save the occasional single school magnet) so I’m always a bit taken aback when I come across this…

There’s a lot going on here. Let’s see if we can decipher…

Nice big happy family with three kids. They’re all smiling with their hands on their hips, Partridge Family style. Don’t we all do this? Looks like there are about nine activities on display so let’s assume three per kid. A generous family. A rich family. And it seems as if someone won something in ’08, ’09, and ’10 so congratulations are in order!

But here’s my question.

Why? Why is this necessary? I mean this is just wrong for so many reasons. First of all, companies and organizations listed on said magnets are certainly not giving us discounts on these places so why the free advertising? Secondly, why does every single person driving behind me need to know where my kids are going after school? Isn’t that dangerous in this day and age? And lastly, is there no consideration for the single woman in the next lane who’s already had a bad day and then has to look over from her car and see this?

"Hey Girl! I've got four kids and you're still single!" Ha ha!

It’s just so mean-spirited, don’t you think?

My daughter carries a lot of cards in her wallet, too. I’m not sure where they come from but I’ve been looking for my ATM card so I should probably check and see if she has it. She doesn’t. But I did find this inside:

Note to self: Look for all forms of Fake ID in daughters' wallets before they leave home from now on.

Woops. Probably not the best idea to have your eight-year-old carrying around your fake ID from high school college last month. See, I’m younger than you thought!

How she found this I have no idea. I’ll confiscate immediately. Who would ever carry such a thing around anyway?

I have a recipe box that I got at an art festival years ago. It’s about as organized as the rest of my life but the cards that it holds are priceless since some are from family members who are no longer with us. I especially love to read the titles on the cards because people try to exercise superiority and ownership (with just a touch of condescension) with their recipes. As in “Aunt Dorothy’s Super Duper To Die For Chocolate Cake.” Or “Cousin Mandy’s Ultimate Best Ever Chicken Parmesan.” And “Dorrie’s Delectable That’s Ten Times Better than Anything You’d Ever Make Apple Pie.” I’m calling the bluff on that one. Isn’t it up to us to decide whose recipe is worthy of such titles?

In case you’re wondering, my recipe box looks like this:

Where am I going with this? Not sure yet. I’m actually still thrown by the fact that Talia has been carrying my fake ID around for a year without my knowledge. It’s survived 15 moves in four cities which is impressive. But clearly it’s time for me to shuffle her cards and get her some new ones. For now, I’ll throw a really good recipe card out there for you. It’s an old neighbor’s chicken marinade for the grill that she made when I was in high school. She brought me the recipe card herself. And here’s what it’s called. I guess some people just need to flaunt it.

Sandra’s Superior Grilled Chicken 

Ingredients:

  • One package bone-in chicken with skin
  • 1/2 jar orange marmalade or Apricot Jam
  • 4-5 squirts honey
  • Appx. 1/2 cup orange juice (or three healthy splashes)
  • 1/2 bottle Italian dressing
Directions:
  1. Mix up all this stuff.
  2. Marinate chicken.
  3. Grill on Medium then crank it up for a few minutes at the end so you get those cool lines that make you look like a pro.
  4. Write the recipe on a card using some form of alliteration showing how great it is you are and give it to a friend.

Today’s Post Brought To You by the letter “C”

… as in ‘C’rap, I have no idea what’s for dinner. And ‘C’lutter, since that’s all I see.

A daily occurrence, really.

It usually hits right around 4 pm when everyone descends upon me.

And, unlike my other friends, I haven’t done my grocery shopping for the week because I still have a city mentality and pretty much go to the store once a day at the most inopportune of times.

I’m not sure how long it takes to actually live in a place where you have enough room to store stuff and be able to go to the store once a week like a regular person before you actually start going. I guess it’s kind of like 80-somethings who still take the Sweet ‘n Lows from the diner or wrap up brownies in paper napkins at community functions because they were children of the great depression era and always feel deprived. Some things you can’t change. So, I guess I’m just one of those people who’ll continue to go to the grocery store at inopportune times every day. No coupons, no lists, no plan. Yep, that’s me. Disorganized me.

My friend told me about a person who comes in and helps you get organized. She’s a clutter expert. I called her. She’s supposed to be coming this week. But I’m embarrassed. And competitive. I have to de-clutter before she gets here so she doesn’t think I’m a hoarder. Kind of like those people who clean up before their cleaning service comes. What’s the point?

I wonder where she’ll start? There are so many places I’ve been using to stash away junk. I’m actually a little scared. And I’ll get in trouble with my daughter if I throw away this:

You never know when you need a staked ribbon for those impromptu floral arrangements.

Or this:

What better way to remind yourself that you need to play more Candy Land than when you're grabbing some aluminum foil? Keeps me in tune with my kids when I'm cooking.

You know those people who “change over their winter clothes to their summer clothes” annually? Yeah, I don’t do that. What happens if we get a cold spell mid-July? You always need to be prepared.

Oooh, or what about the people who take in their outdoor furniture cushions the minute it’s about to rain? You know, to preserve them for like an extra week? Yeah, I actually forgot we even have outdoor furniture so that doesn’t happen. Plus, it’s more fun to buy new cushions every season! Out with the old!

So maybe I don’t need this organizational lady after all? Maybe she needs me! To go into her home and spruce up her drawers with things like this:

Hey, don't judge. They all go to something. I think.

Well, it’s nearing melt-down time and we have no more nuggets left in the bag. But, alas! The bag remains empty in the freezer. Now who would ever think to do a thing like that?

Let’s see. Sticking to today’s theme…things with the letter “C”…

Catering is an option. Nah.

Cauliflower. Nope. Never figured out how to cook that stuff. And let’s just say it does a number on the gastrointestinal tract.

California Pizza Kitchen? Always a trusty back-up plan, no matter how many crayons are on the floor.

Caesar Salad. Hmmm…. Eggless. A must. Super yummy. Super easy. Kids like it. Adults like it. Now we’re talking. Top it with some chicken if you want more Cs. And don’t add the croutons if you want less Cs (carbs). Okay, I’ll stop.

Caesar Salad



Ingredients:

  • 1-2 heads of Romaine Lettuce (or bagged…but I don’t like the taste of bagged salad so I always chop my own lettuce even though it takes an extra few minutes)
  • 3-4 splashes of Olive Oil
  • 3 squirts of Anchovy Paste (I measure a squirt to be the equivalent of a teaspoon)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 spoonful of reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 1 squirt of Dijon mustard
  • 1 splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Sprinkle of pepper (don’t use salt…the Anchovy paste is very salty!)
  • Flaked Parmesan cheese (as much as you want)
  • Croutons
  • Add Grilled chicken if you want (see recipe for grilled chicken on previous post and then just slice into strips)
Directions:
  1. Mix everything up (except for cheese and croutons)
  2. Chop and wash lettuce carefully (really carefully as Romaine has lots of bugs! Yuck!)
  3. Toss with dressing immediately before serving or salad will get soggy.
  4. Add croutons after dressing.
  5. Serve in a wooden bowl to look extra professional.
  6. Enjoy with another favorite “C” of mine….Chardonnay from Cakebread Cellars.

A Mother’s Day Thought

Since this is both a cooking and a parenting blog I should probably offer something up for Mother’s Day.

Okay.

My hope is that I’ll be doing neither on Sunday (cooking nor parenting).

My cooking recommendations are as follows:

Breakfast: The Four Seasons

Mid-morning snack: Haagen Dazs

Lunch: The Ritz Carlton

Afternoon Snack: Payard

Dinner: Daniel

And one last before bed treat just because you can: Sour Patch Kids

Cheers!

Another mom who's probably neither cooking nor parenting this weekend. Makes me feel like a rock star.

p.s.

Sorry. I lied on yesterday’s post. You don’t have the recipe for the yummy chicken burgers. My bad. So how in the world are you going to be able to celebrate your {insert type of pride} pride without the chicken burger recipe? You can’t. It’s impossible.

So, here it is.

Happy BBQing.

*Note* this does not count as an official post. Just a chaotic add-on while I’m still drinking coffee and can’t even think about making a burger right now.

Break Out Your Pride

Since historical events usually happen in threes, I’m waiting for one more to be announced.

We’ve already celebrated the Royal wedding ad nauseam and now Osama Bin Laden is dead.

Hard to top the last one but am hoping the third will have something to do with backass Georgia finally agreeing to sell alcohol on Sundays. Who knows?

Amidst all of the chaos of the past few months (earthquakes, tornadoes, violence in Egypt and Libya, Arizona shooting spree, budget crisis, Star Jones STILL on Celebrity Apprentice…) we were definitely due for something that unites rather than divides. Okay, I’m getting too serious for this blog. But this is a monumental day in history people. One where Rush Limbaugh actually praised Barack Obama! Now that’s big. Huge. Unprecedented.

Okay, back to the food. Since I truly didn’t pay much attention to the Royal wedding and the Brits can’t cook for squat, I’ll choose the latter (and more important) event and celebrate my American pride by making something for a backyard BBQ, the quintessential American culinary pastime.

I’ll take out my flags and praise Obama for the genius that he is despite the fact that everyone thought…oh, forget it, won’t go there, and listen to George Gershwin and make hamburgers and be ever so thankful that I don’t live in any country that has ‘STAN’ at the end  of its name.

To take it one step further, I’ll even show my Southern pride. I’ll take out my guns, start shooting skeet, whip out my signed picture of John Schneider and the General Lee and let my kids run barefoot in the streets. I’ll get drunk at 2 pm, eat mayonnaise from the jar, wear a bikini top with jean shorts, listen to Brad Paisley…wait a minute, I think I’ll just stick with my American pride on this one.

Along with your delicious hamburgers or chicken burgers for which you already have the recipe (see previous posts) there is nothing more backyard-friendly (and more American) than fresh roasted corn salad. I’m talking go to the Farmer’s Market and shuck your own or stand there at the grocery store like an idiot over the garbage can pulling off all the husks and then putting them back because you see one tiny bad part while your kid begs for a free cookie kind of salad. Now that’s American. I’ve tried lots of different recipes but my favorite always includes cider vinegar and fresh basil. And Kosher salt. And garlic. And chewing tobacco. Just kidding.

Now’s the time to celebrate your freedom. American pride. Gay pride. Religious pride. Black pride. White pride (wait, is that allowed?) and my personal favorite, Chaotic pride. Introduce yourself to a new neighbor. Or take the backyard BBQ to the front yard and see who shows up.

God Bless America!

Roasted Corn Salad

Slap on your best Daisy Dukes and you're All American!

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 pieces of corn
  • Red pepper
  • Yellow pepper
  • Red onion
  • Clove garlic (minced)
  • Fresh basil (handful)
  • Pinch of dried parsley
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • Big pinch of Kosher Salt
  • 3-4 splashes of Apple Cider vinegar (a splash consists of quickly pouring the liquid into a cup, probably measures out to 2 Tablespoons, but a) you can’t go wrong with more and b) I don’t measure)
  • 3-4 splashes of good Olive Oil
  • 1 splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 squirt of Dijon mustard
Directions:
  1. Clean corn and get those annoying strings off.
  2. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with Kosher salt.
  3. Roast corn on 400 (or grill) for 20 minutes, turning twice.
  4. Cool corn.
  5. Meantime, dice up onion and peppers in one bowl.
  6. In another, mix up oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, parsley, mustard and garlic. Add some lemon if you want. I didn’t have any that day and it was still good.
  7. When corn is cool, slice it off and mix with veggies. Add dressing.
  8. Chill (you and salad).
  9. Chop basil right before serving and add to the top so it doesn’t wilt while in the fridge.
  10. Crank up the country tunes and grab a Coors, baby. You’re in the best country in the world!

What’s Old Is New Again

Trying to reinvent recipes you’ve cooked for years is not an easy task. But if you’re someone who gets bored easily (read: me) with food (subtext: routine, life, work, etc…) it’s up to you to find ways to bring those recipes back to life.

Sometimes it works organically and you get divine inspiration to make a totally new and inspring dish that wows. Other times (read: now) it doesn’t. But now that I have a cooking blog that more than nine ten people actually read (thanks guys!) I’m faced with a double whammy: writer’s block and cooking block.

Experts say you should take a break when faced with writer’s block.

Okay, I’ll take a break.

Wow, looking at those curtains on Overstock.com really inspires me to…buy curtains. So not only did that not work but I’m out $125 for curtains that I don’t need. How the hell does Madonna do this? She’s like what, 60 and still wowing audiences in their teens? I want to be her. I want to be Madonna. Now that’s realistic. Let’s reel it in here. Not gonna happen. Fine, I won’t be Madonna but can I have another glass of wine while I try to figure out how to reinvent this pasta?

I know, I’ll Google some quotes about reinventing yourself to see what comes up. Let’s see…

I do not think I reinvent myself. Wearing my hair differently or changing my style of dress is playing dress-up. I don’t take it too seriously. – Mariah Carey

Oh god. Really? That woman should go away. Next.

We’ve been fortunate to be able to make music as Depeche Mode for 20 years. – David Gahan

This is the second quote about reinventing yourself that comes up in Google? Maybe Google needs to reinvent itself. For those who aren’t well versed in 80’s rock music, this is the guy from Depeche Mode who hasn’t put out an album in like, 100 years. So, clearly who’s in the need of reinventing himself here?

It is smarter to borrow from nature than to reinvent the wheels. – Philip Emaegwali

Who the heck is Philip Emaegwali? Wait a minute…I’m liking Google again. Oh, should have known. Philip Emaegwali is a computer scientist known as the Bill Gates of Nigeria. Duh.

Well at least he makes sense. Borrow from nature. I can do that. Where’s the basil for crying out loud? I’ll borrow some of that. I’ll throw in some mushrooms and some frozen broccoli (nature created it, Green Giant just froze it so that counts). Where’s the garlic? The wine? The butter? All natural. Wine comes from grapes and I’m on my second glass which is a natural thing for me to do around this time of day so shut up.

Can you tell I’m headed toward a big birthday? One that may just call for reinventing oneself? All that 30 is the new 20 and 40 is the new 30 crap…yeah, that’s a bunch of hooey. 30 is not the new 20. 30 is 30. 40 is 40. I learned that in first third grade. Let’s call a spade a spade. But heck, if Madonna can do it, so can I. I’ll be back later to let you know how. But for now Philip Emagwali has saved my dinner and my blog. I have finished an entry and made a pasta that actually tastes pretty really good. And I just discovered this cool cross-out tool in my blog’s word processing page which makes me feel like Mark Zuckerberg with my technology savvy. Both of my kids are taking a little “time for themselves” after having a heated discussion over a piece of chocolate and I’ve ignored five calls from my client’s son who now feels that he can call me twenty times a day. I feel like a new woman. I’ve reinvented myself. Okay, not really. But at least the pasta is ready…and different.

Oh, and to pay homage to today’s Royal festivities, if you read this blog with an English accent you’ll get extra credit.

Linguini with Broccoli, Mushrooms and Fresh Basil

Ingredients:

  • Box of fresh linguini (in the refrigerator section)
  • Butter (just hack off a chunk, don’t measure…it’ll depress you)
  • Bag of frozen broccoli or fresh, if you have it
  • Box of sliced white mushrooms
  • Splash of white wine
  • One garlic clove (minced)
  • Handful of fresh basil
  • Chicken or vegetable stock
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh Parmesan cheese
Directions:
  1. Saute mushrooms and broccoli (thaw if frozen) in the butter that you didn’t measure.
  2. Throw in a pinch of salt.
  3. Add some chopped basil after appx. 5 minutes.
  4. Saute until mushrooms are soft.
  5. Add splash of wine and heat for a minute or two.
  6. Turn off heat.
  7. Meantime, boil water or broth and cook pasta al dente, according to directions.
  8. Reserve a ladle of starchy water/broth when pasta is done cooking.
  9. Drain pasta but do not rinse.
  10. Add pasta and ladle of liquid to veggie mixture and toss.
  11. Add tons of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
  12. Serve with crusty bread and wine, of course!