Wednesday, November 26, 2014

DIY Thanksgiving Side Dish for the Lazy

My brother is doing all of the Thanksgiving work this year, which makes me pretty thankful in general.  Thanksgiving is considered to be one of the best holidays because of all the food, but it can also be the worst because of ALL THE FOOD.

I've made Thanksgiving dinner several times, and it's eh, okay.  It's not my favorite thing in the world to do.  It's the prep, the expense, the having to make sure you have everything, and that everything is ready at the same time.  It's stressful, people.

And then your company comes over and announces "We skipped breakfast!  Step aside, 'cause we're gonna mow this turkey down!"

And then all your work is destroyed in fifteen minutes, and then your hog family members lie down on your furniture, fart up your living room and take naps while you're up to your elbows in dishes.

So basically if you're not the host of Thanksgiving, you are the winner of Thanksgiving.


Photo credit: Foter / Public domain


I love to bring side dishes to Thanksgiving fiestas, mainly for the illusion that I am actually contributing to the meal, but also because I get tired of the same old foods at holidays, which is why we had an all-appetizer Christmas dinner last year.  

Anyway, I try to make a side dish that is easy because let's face it, I am a punk and like my husband I don't like to work very much at all on the holidays.  So I came up with this side dish that will be a wonderful addition to any Thanksgiving table.  Plus if everyone hates it, who cares?  Take it home with you and eat it all yourself.

I call it Eazy-T Cauliflower Mash.  T for Thanksgiving, Eazy for everything related to being a gangsta, and Cauliflower Mash because of other obvious reasons that will be revealed soon.

Oh, you've heard of it?  Okay, okay.  This is a THANKSGIVING POST.  PUBLISHED THE DAY BEFORE THANKSGIVING.  You do know that all the good Pinteresters have had their meals planned out for weeks, don't you?  Clearly you're here for comic relief only.

So here's my recipe for the lazy gal's side dish:

Ingredients:

Cauliflower.  Get a hunk or two at the store.  Grab the biggest ones if you have hog families like mine, or a medium or small one if your family is more of the dainty eater variety.  What's wrong with your family?  Are they not Americans?

1/2 stick to 1 stick of butter.  DO NOT SKIMP ON THIS.  You must use butter.  Just do it, okay?  I'm more of a butter pusher than Paula Deen, kids.  Accept.

Salt and pepper.  Seriously.  Can we just assume that everything has salt and pepper in it?  Because it does.  Except maybe brownies.  Mmmmmmmbrownies.

Sour cream.  Just borrow some from your neighbor.  You don't need a lot - maybe a tablespoon or two. But ask them for the whole container so you can use it later when you're eating baked potatoes or something.

Instructions:

Get a big pot.  I don't care how big of a pot you use, but it better be big enough to hold all the cauliflower you just washed and cut up into pieces, because if it isn't, you're in trouble, missy. Throw the cauliflower into the pot and cover it with water.  Boil the crap out of the cauliflower until it's soft. I can't tell you how soft because I don't make it a point to touch cauliflower that's been boiling in a vat of boiling water.  Fork it a couple of times to see if it mashes easily.  Drain the cauliflower.

Ha.  Fork it.

Add the butter, salt and pepper, and sour cream.  I usually eyeball everything here, and add as needed.  This is not rocket science. You want this dish to be buttery, creamy, and flavorful.  Get it to that point on your own.  I will not enable a false sense of security by helicoptering your every move.

Get out your little mixer and mix it up a bit so it is nice and fluffy.  Then.  THEN

Spoon it into a casserole dish!  Place in the oven at 350 degrees!  And bake it for like twenty minutes! 

Or more.  Or less.  Just don't burn it, for the love of gravy.

And then eat it.  But serve yourself first, because you know.  Hogs.

Happy Thanksgiving!



Photo credit: Louish Pixel / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND






Monday, November 24, 2014

Six Perfectly Named Products

I’m an easy-going label reader, and choose products based more on their names or brands than what’s in the actual product.  Sue me.  I know that Ball Park frozen hamburgers probably don’t have much real beef in them, but darn it all, pop one in the microwave and in a little over a minute you’ve got a tasty meal.  I don’t know what they put in these things.  Preservatives for sure, and maybe even a little bit of wizardry.

Because I’m sort of lazy overall, I really appreciate when a product is named in such a way that the name completely describes the product I’m buying.  A perfect moniker is hard to come by, and sometimes the name is enough to throw me off, as in the instances of Kaboom or Murphy’s Oil Soap, or even Chick-O-Stick, which I have since found is delicious and not made with chicken.  Or V8 Splash, which always concerns my kids in terms of sweetness, resulting from an unfortunate regular V8 incident.  Or cheesecake, which is more pie than cake, and not cheesy at all.  But who doesn't know about cheesecake?  I'll tell you who.  People who don't know what's good.

Let’s break here and go back to the vegetable juice discussion.  Does anyone here know realize that Clamato actually contains clam juice?  Why would they advertise this in the name?  WHY WOULD THEY MAKE IT AT ALL

Because my job is to always be on the lookout for things that will make life easier while shopping, I appreciate when a product name matches its product perfectly.  It’s like the research and development team had a smash hit and I imagine them all standing around slapping each other on the back and shredding hundred dollar bills just for the fun of it.

Here are six home run names:

Perfect Brownie Pan – I’ve had this pan for two years.  I just used it for the first time.  You know what?  The brownies are perfect.  I can’t get over it.  I just can’t.  Neither can the kids.  We eat brownies and remark on how perfect they really are.  Get yourselves one of these mothers.



Miracle Blur (from Revlon) – When I apply this to my face it becomes smooth.    I don’t know how this works.  It sort of fills in all the lines and pores and makes my facial skin smooth like a Barbie doll’s face, or even Meg Ryan’s.  I’m okay with this.  It blurs lines miraculously.  

Mix ‘N’ Chop (Pampered Chef)  – This thing.  I will rummage through the bottomless pit of the kitchen utensil drawer for minutes – minutes! – to find it to use it while cooking ground meat.  It really does mix and chop the meat while you are cooking it!  No more “no kids, those aren’t meatballs, it’s just a clump of hamburger in the sauce” on spaghetti night.



I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter – I think the benefits of this product are well-documented, since it’s been around forever.  I actually remember it coming out and my mom buying it once.  Alas, we were a Fleischmann’s family and I was so unprepared for the butter-ness of the taste and I hated it.  In my house we eat butter like we eat candy, and once in a while I will have some I Can’t Believe It’s Not and it is pretty remarkable how much it does actually taste like butter.

Easy Readers – So easy!  They are everywhere, too.  These are your basic, run-of-the-mill dollar store reading glasses.  Why would anyone spend the time and money getting regular reading glasses when there are so many easy options available?  I wouldn't, that's for sure.  Plus, these are READING GLASSES.  That old people wear.  You don't want them to look too cute, or else you're building your wardrobe around them.  It's a slippery slope, friends.


Smooth Move Herbal Tea – Just like its name suggests, it makes everything move smoothly.  Like bowel elimination.  Because Smooth Move is a laxative.  Drink it before bed, not before you go out to the bar, silly!  You’re welcome.


What else you got?  Leave me some perfectly-named products in the comments!

*******

Disclaimer: I have not been paid to hawk these products.  I just really admire them.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

It’s Time for Some Poetry

When I was in elementary school we did a poetry unit and had to write a haiku.  All of our haikus were published in a mimeographed book that each student got to take home at the end of the year.

I, like most of the other students, wrote a haiku about Dogs.

I don’t know why I wrote about Dogs.  I don’t particularly like Dogs now, and I didn’t particularly like Dogs then.  Probably I wrote about Dogs because everyone was writing about Dogs. 

One thing I remember about that book is that I misspelled a word in my haiku about Dogs and I was so embarrassed because now everyone had a copy of the book of haikus and mine had a misspelled word in it and probably everyone thought I was stupid.

Also I really prided myself on my spelling prowess in elementary school and I couldn’t believe that I misspelled a word on my haiku, which is like a form of poetry that uses the least number of words and how could I have misspelled one of them?  Idiot!

The word I misspelled was “barking.”  I spelled it like this: f-a-r-t-i-n-g

Ha ha, no I didn’t.  I just left out the “n” – “barkig”

What a dummy.

Note: During the writing of this post I was curious about whether my memory was correct and I actually did misspell the word I was thinking about, or if it was someone else.  How much more embarrassing would it have been if the young poet I remembered and am now skewering for having terrible spelling skills was not me but in fact one of my classmates?  Who has found me on the internet and secretly reads my blog and is about to connect with me by leaving a comment or a note on Facebook or even an email that says Hey, Andrea! Remember me from elementary school?  I read your blog and think that you are truly a gifted writer!  Let me pay you a million dollars!  They would be offended and that would be tragic for me.

I found the book.  It was just two pieces of paper stapled together.  Not quite a book, you see.  Imagine my surprise when I saw that they weren’t even haikus!  They were Cinquains.

Do you know the art of Cinquain?  Well according to my research*, it is a form of poetry that uses the subject of the poem as the title and first line, and also the last line.  In between there are three other lines that describe the thing you are poem-ing about.

Settle down, now.  I was not a poetry major, okay, Angie Dickinson? 


Clearly I meant Emily Dickinson
photo via Doctor Macro

Here is my Cinquain:

If someone didn't know what a Dog was and only had this cinquain to describe one,
that person would think that a Dog is the most annoying animal ever.
I say that's fair. 

But this post is about haikus, not cinquains, and certainly not about me reminiscing about my life as an elementary school student fifteen years ago or slyly asking people to send me money.  I am reminded that haikus are “short poems that use sensory language to capture a feeling or image. They are often inspired by an element of nature, a moment of beauty or a poignant experience.” (from wikiHow) 

They are also specific in their use of syllables, specifically in a five-seven-five pattern.  And they typically have just three lines.  But I can’t stop at three lines.  I could never stop at three lines.  It’s a good thing I never tried cocaine.  OMG THAT SOUNDS LIKE CINQUAIN

I was inspired today by the leaves that I still see falling outside, despite the trees possessing no leaves to speak of.  It’s a mystery of nature, the falling of the leaves.  It’s also sort of maddening.


Haiku Series about Leaves
by Andrea Mowery

The trees are all bare
We raked the leaves just last week
More are falling down.

I wish I was rich
So I could hire someone
To rake all those leaves.

Ha ha, just kidding.
I haven’t raked any leaves
Raking is man’s work.

My husband does it
Sometimes the kids will help him
While I hide inside.

I don’t even care
Because they haven’t helped me
Clean the house this month.



*information obtained by reading through two pages of elementary school cinquains from 30 years ago.

*******

This post inspired by:


Mama’s Losin’ It


Prompt #3: Write a haiku about what you see out your window.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Trying to Hang On

This past weekend went by so fast.  Like most weekends.  Like all time these days.

The kids had sleepovers and spent time at other activities.  That meant drop-offs and pick-ups at times that aren’t convenient for anyone, packing and unpacking bags that never seem to be fully emptied, calling for left behind phone chargers and bringing home stories and exhaustion and videos of playing with friends’ pets and why can’t we have one of our own?

We shopped for Christmas presents, which these days looks like me tailing my kids into stores and taking pictures of them holding up articles of clothing they HAVE to have and asking the salespeople if they think these things will be on sale next week.

I took my time making dinner on Saturday and watched the movie version of the book my son is reading in English class.  We talked about school and assignments and he reminded me twenty times that he had to write a blog post.  As I shooed him upstairs to write I smiled at the irony that he is doing the very same thing I tell myself I should be doing every day but I don’t.  I wonder – if someone gave me an assignment to write blog posts, would I write more often?

I taught Sunday School to a group of junior highers and was grateful for their good behavior because I felt like I repeated myself too much.  They were grateful for the leftover Halloween candy I fired across the room when one of them answered a question.  Chocolate is a wonderful unifier.

Over an hour on Sunday was spent slipping school pictures into envelopes and writing notes to family members, remarking on how grown the children are.  I didn’t properly convey my amazement and dismay at this in those few lines.  By the end, my hand hurt and I hoped they could read my worsening scrawl, but then realized that the pictures would far outshine the notes anyway.  As they should.

I made to-do lists and went through a pile of mail that had been languishing on my desk, walked through the house and reminded my family again that I am not a maid and that their things need to be put away, that dishes need to be washed, that sweatshirts need to be hung up and that I am not going to clean up this mess.  My blood pressure rose when nobody moved and I felt invisible and petty so I poured a glass of wine and curled up on the couch to be still with them. 

The messes were gone the next time I walked through the house.

I read the words of friends who write.  I hadn’t done it in a while and it was good for me.  Inspiring.  Funny.  Uplifting.  My friends are good writers.

I spent this weekend thinking it was a whirlwind.  It wasn’t really; just full.  I can’t stop myself from thinking that it will all end, when the kids are gone and there’s no one doing school assignments or needing to be picked up or showing me what shoes they want for Christmas.  There will be a time when there won’t be school pictures to send.  And that’s okay.  It’s the natural progression of a life.

I can’t stop any of it.

*******


Thursday, November 13, 2014

1989

When I was sixteen it was 1989. 

I vaguely remember the news stories of that year.  The opening of the Berlin Wall, the tragedy of Tiananmen Square.  Names like Manuel Noreiga, Oliver North, and Mikhail Gorbachev were on the lips and in the minds of everyone in 1989.  The news didn’t matter to me much, though I remember learning about current events in school and hearing the adults talk about them at home and I remember wondering if we were going to have a nuclear war.

I always thought about nuclear war.





I was a sophomore in high school, actively finding my place among my peers.  I was failing Algebra but acing English and Drama, and wondering why we weren’t covering the Holocaust in History.

And I was listening to my brother’s music and finding my soul.

In the early 80s I listened to Michael Jackson, Prince, and Madonna, along with everyone else in the world.   I thought little about what wasn’t playing on the radio, but MTV told me there was something else out there.  My brother, twenty months older than me but two years ahead of me in school, was a senior in 1989 and my ticket to all things post-punk.  The local radio station that played anything alternative to pop or oldies had shut down, but we had tapes and CDs.  By the time I got wind of the songs, most of them were old, had been out for years.  

I found Love and Rockets and The Jesus and Mary Chain.  I went to England on a school trip and brought back Elvis Costello, Thomas Dolby, and Big Audio Dynamite.  When I got my driver’s license my friends and I would ride around town, scream-singing Blister in the Sun and everything The Police recorded until we were hoarse.





I memorized every lyric and rewound the cassettes again and again to hear the haunting melodies and melancholy tones of the songs that sang to me.  Despite my average appearance, I wasn’t a cheerful teenager.  I hummed along with The Smiths and was grateful for The Cure.  I also listened to Bon Jovi and Janet Jackson and Milli Vanilli, but the new wave was my spirit guide.





When I hear this music today, I love it just as much as I did when I listened to it for the first time at sixteen.   Age has softened the angst, given my high school years a rose-colored glow.  At the first familiar notes I am 16 again, driving through town with my girlfriends, singing terribly and loudly with our hearts wide open.

Now 1989 is the name of an album by Taylor Swift.  I know this because when I Googled the year to jog my memory of its music, her name was all over the search results.  That’s fine with me.  I like Taylor Swift.  My kids do too, and will likely remember her name when they look back twenty-five years to recall what they listened to when they were teens.

I hope they can look back on their teen years with fondness the way I do.  I hope they find the music that speaks to them, that the songs they memorize now bring them happy memories later. 

I hope they have their 1989.  

*******

This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #6: What was your favorite song when you were 16 years old…is it still a favorite?


Monday, November 10, 2014

DIY Stuffed Peppers To Stuff In Your Belly This Fall



It’s fall, you guys!

FALL!   The leaves have changed and are fallllllling, Halloween has come and gone, school’s in the groove, and we are wearing jeans and boots and scarves EVERY DAY!

Every.  Day.  From now until Easter.  Every day I will be covering all my skin-covered parts except for my face.  Every day I will be crushed under layers and layers and layers of clothing.  Warm, fleecy, strangulating clothing.

And all the warm-climate dwellers said:  Ha ha.  We wear bikinis all year long, and you are dumb.

Warm-climate dwellers.  Sigh.

Do you know what else fall means?  Comfort food.  In this house we rely on it to keep us warm from the inside out.  Or at least we rely on it to make us heavier for insulation purposes when the cold outside threatens to freeze bones and suck all the moisture from skin and ruin lives.

One of my favorite comfort food meals is Stuffed Peppers.  My mom made it when I was a kid, and I have to be up front and tell you this: it was not one of my favorite meals growing up.  Not even a little bit.  But something happened on the way to adulthood and now I love it with the fierceness of an Amazon Warrior Princess.

And my kids love it too, so score one for me, and score zero for my mom.

Don’t feel bad for her.  She can handle it.

I made it for dinner the other day.  When the kids came home from school, they were all “What’s for dinner, Mom?” and prepared to make gagging noises and run screaming through the house, tormenting me for my dinner decisions like they usually do.  I was all “Stuffed Peppers, chumps” and they totally changed their tune and fell to floor, drooling on themselves and rolling around with pleasure.

Yes.  They did this SHUT UP

And whilst I was making the deliciousness that is stuffed peppers, I took pictures so I could share my recipe, process, and genius with you.  Yes, you.  Do you like stuffed peppers?  Or at least need an extra layer for the cold?  No matter.  Join me.

Looks gross; tastes good.
Trust.

Here we go, nerds:

Ingredients:

4 green bell peppers. Cut off the stems and then cut each one in half lengthwise and remove the membranes and seeds.  Is there anything worse than green pepper seeds?  Those things are so sticky and they get everywhere.  There are probably five hundred rogue green pepper seeds all dried up under my oven and in the cracks between the tiles in my kitchen floor.  Those things hang on like herpes, or an umbilical cord stump.  My daughter’s was on there for six weeks afterward.  SIX WEEKS!  I wanted to yank it off but my husband was afraid her intestines would spill out and he didn’t let me.

Yeah, yeah.  There are only three here.  Take it easy.

1 ½ pounds of ground beef.  You can use a combo of ground meats here if you want.  I have never done so.  I am a ground-beef-in-stuffed-peppers purist.  Maybe that makes me old-fashioned.  I will also claim that description.

½ of an onion, chopped.   I use individually selected sweet onions in all of my cooking.  I used to buy yellow cooking onions in the little red mesh bulk bag, but I don’t anymore.  You know why I don’t?  Because I hate those red mesh bags.  You cut off the tops and those bags disintegrate and little pieces of red mesh spread everywhere like you know what else?  That’s right.  Herpes.

15-oz CAN OF DICED TOMATOES.  Oops.  I accidently hit the caps lock when I typed that. Let’s move on.

2/3 cup long-grain rice.  Confession: I grabbed the wrong type of rice at the grocery store and used medium grain instead of long grain for this recipe.  I will have to say: there is a difference.  It’s like medium grain is the grade B of rice products.  It’s like broken up bits of rice.  You totally couldn’t get your name carved on a piece of medium grain rice at the state fair.  It would be pretty hard to do and the carny would charge you twice as much and you wouldn’t be able to see your name anyway so you’d live the rest of your life wondering if you got hoodwinked.

About 1 cup water.  There’s nothing to say about this ingredient.  We need water.  75% of our bodies are made of water, as is 75% of the earth.  Coincidence?  I think not.  I think our bodies ARE the earth.  It’s the circle of life.  Ashes to ashes and dust to dust and all that.  I don’t know.  I don’t know what I’m saying.

Salt ‘N’ Pepper.  Push it.

2 T. Worcestercestercestercestercestercestercestercestercestercestershire sauce.

1 t. dried oregano.  You may also use dried basil or dried Italian seasoning here.  I used oregano, and then wrote on my grocery list to pick up dried basil, because we were out.  I think I used the last of it when I handed out little ‘dime bags’  in lieu of candy to the teenage trick-or-treaters on Halloween to take home and freak out their parents.  Ha ha ha, totally joking.  I gave out condoms to the teenagers on Halloween.  NO I DIDN’T.  We were just out of basil, okay?

About 6 slices of American cheese.  Be a man and get it sliced at the deli.  If I found out you used Kraft singles to top your stuffed peppers then I will cross the street when I see you coming.

Okay.  It took you a long time to get all that stuff together, didn’t it?  Well, get used to it, Barbara.  Didn’t you know that comfort food takes time?  It does.  But you’re in it, now.  Stay with me.

Instructions:

Boil a pot of water and put the green pepper halves in the water for three minutes.  This takes the bitterness out of the pepper.  Just three minutes, okay?  You’re not trying to cook the peppers – you’re just taking out a little strength of the taste.  When you’re done torturing the peppers, sprinkle the insides with a little salt and invert them onto paper towels to dry.  Ignore their tears of pain.

If you're bitter, you get boiled. Simple as that.

Cook and stir the meat and onion in a skillet until the meat is cooked and the onion is tender.  While this is cooking, go ahead and do a couple of tequila shots or give your children a warning about neighbors offering marijuana on Halloween.  Drain the fat when it is done and stir in the undrained tomatoes, rice, water, Wor. sauce, oregano (or basil), and s & p.

Note: I usually just use the tomato can for the water.  That way, I get the little bit of tomatoes left into the recipe and I don’t have to get out another measuring cup.  By the way, this might be a good time to tell you that all the ingredients listed here are approximate.  Don’t be mad, sheesh.  Is Beyonce coming over?  No.  She isn’t.  If this doesn’t work out then just call for pizza or something.

Bring this concoction to boiling, and reduce the heatCover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the rice is tender.   Stir it a few times.  Yell at your children to set the table because you know they’re just sitting around playing on their phones waiting for you to fill their pie holes.  OMG your kids are so lazy!

Stir in ½ of the cheese until melted.  Place the peppers in a single layer in a 13x9 baking dish, and spoon the meat mixture into each of the halves.  Just spoon any remaining meat mixture around the peppers in the dish, because you’ll want to cook that up too.

No cheese yet, because when this picture was taken I was getting busy stuffing slices into my mouth like a starving child at the deli counter in any grocery store in the US.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes or until heated through.  Remove from the oven and put the rest of the cheese on top and watch carefully as it melts.  Invite your kids over to watch and ask if it reminds them of that part in Raiders of the Lost Ark where the Nazis’ faces melted because they looked at the Ark like the greedy thieves they were instead of covering their eyes.  Then tell them that that’s what will happen to them if they take drugs, have unprotected sex, or smoke cigarettes.

Eat this with mashed potatoes.  Oh, did you forget to make mashed potatoes while you were cooking this dish?  Huh.  Well, if you were a true comfort food aficionado then you would always have several containers of homemade mashed potatoes on hand.  Or just mix up some instant ones.  Or get the ones already premixed at the grocery store.  Mmmmm, those ones are the best. 


Enjoy – and Happy Fall Comfort Food Eating!  Don’t forget your stretchy pants.  You’ll need them.

Hey - where did that shredded cheese come from?
From the bottom of an almost-empty cheese bag, people.  Where all good things live.

*******

I adapted this recipe from one I found in an ancient Better Homes and Gardens cookbook that one of my old lady relatives gave to me.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Lament

Some days I’m tired.

I’m tired because I woke up at five.

I’m tired because I went to sleep at eleven.

I’m tired because my first job ended at three.

I’m tired because my second job started at three.

I’m tired of running.

I’m tired of household tasks.

I’m tired of repeating words.

I’m tired of being the seeker.

I’m tired of being the finder.

I’m tired of being the knower.

The thing I’m most tired of on these days?  Myself.

*******

This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #5: Write a post in just 12 lines.