Sunday, February 13, 2011

Über Horrific Idea #1

Okay, I love household shortcuts…

Faster ways to do everyday chores, products that cut the work load in half, as well as techniques to effectively threaten bribe encourage preschoolers to pick up their toys or dress themselves in less than a fortnight.

I also love, love, LOVE lasagna…

It’s seriously one of the best pseudo original recipes in my repertoire. It can feed a crowd heartily all evening or my family for three days (which tastes better every time I pull it out of the fridge), and in general, makes me about as happy as any non-chocolate food can.

But this is just plain lasagna sacrilege...a WikiHow article on how to cook lasagna in your dishwasher. Yes, I said dishwasher. Even with detergent and dirty dishes along for the ride.

All the work in making lasagna is in the preparations and layering. For me, it takes about an hour, before cook time, which is also right under an hour for a full pan.

Soooo, don’t most high heat dishwasher cycles take longer than an hour?

Not to mention that cumulatively, it’s can be an expensive dish to put together with all the cheeses, sauce, noodles, meat, and veggies (my recipe averages $15).

And please tell me who has a dishwasher but NOT an oven?

So why, why, WHY would anyone ever risk defiling the culinary sanctity and laborious nature of lasagna by cooking it in the freaking dishwasher?!

My only answer is that this was thought up by a man; the same kind of man that cooks a deer steak and a can of beans on the manifold of a pickup truck, in the woods, wearing camouflage, while drinking beer.

Lots of beer.

Any other theories out there?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Feed Me! Friday: Gooey Butter Brownies

These are a crowd pleaser, and a butt expander. Enjoy!

Gooey Butter Brownies

Basic boxed brownie mix (13x9 or "family size"), baked according to instructions, but in a slightly larger pan (I used my lasagna pan).
Pull brownies out just a couple minutes before normal time.

For Gooey Butter Cookie Layer:

• 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
• 1/2 cup butter, softened
• 1 egg
• 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
• 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Stir in the egg and vanilla. Add cake mix, and stir until well blended. Roll into 1 inch balls and roll the balls in the confectioners' sugar. (Messy but worth it) Try as hard as you can not to eat ALL the cookie dough raw. Place balls almost touching on top of the partially cooled brownie layer. Press down slightly around the edges.

3. Bake another 13-15 minutes until golden

4. Sprinkle with a little more confectioner’s sugar, just to make it a little more purty and tempting.

5. When cooled, cut portions as needed along the rounded lines of the killer gooey butter cookies on the top.

6. Share them with guests so that you don't eat them all by yourself. Like I did.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Friday (ish) Fiction: Don't Poke the Demon

I love my wife. Seriously, I do.

But if you repeat what I am about to say, I will deny it. To the grave.

My wife is possessed. The demon has a name, but if you utter it, you will only anger it. Believe me. Every time I catch myself about to call the demon out, I stop and think, Don’t poke the demon, Greg. Fire will spew from her lips, and she will gnash her teeth growling in that freaky, guttural snarl…

She wasn’t always possessed, at least to this degree. Once upon a time I would only see an annoyance flash in her eyes. Now that flash is the ten second warning. I’ve learned to duck and cover or perish where I stand.
As the years have gone by, just locking myself in the bathroom or banging around in the basement have proved to not be enough protection. If I could be seen, smelled or heard, she’d sense my presence. Many times I’ve heard her familiar growl seeping under doors I was cowering behind. “Grrreg! Are you going to take all day in there!?” I swear, when the demon appears, I get as knotted up as last year’s Christmas lights.

My epiphany came from an unexpected source. I happened to pick up and read the cover jacket on the book on my wife’s nightstand, The Red Tent by Anita Diamante. It seems that back in the Old Testament days, those women possessed by the demon were isolated to a tent of their own. Forehead smackin’ genius.

With a little help from Wikipedia, I discovered that some tribes in Africa have a specific hut for their possessed females.

Of course, this is not the days of Abraham, or the plains of Africa. If I tried to sequester her to a hovel in the yard, she would probably divorce me, if I were a lucky man. It’s more likely that she would brain me and bury me in pieces under said hovel.

What I needed was a man tent. A red hut. My very own cowering cave, completely separate from the main house.

Two problems though:

First of all, Iowa is stupid cold in the winter, and the demon knows no seasons. Coleman doesn’t make a canvas structure that can sustain me for a week in twelve inches of snow.

Second, I needed a reason—and a darn good one—to vanish for days on end. I needed a hobby, no-no, a calling, to justify my absence from the demon’s lair.

While I brainstormed the second problem, I took bold steps to rectify the first. The most important detail of the plan was to approach her while the demon was away…

One Monday morning after a long weekend of snowfall, I slid the blueprints for a two story detached garage across the breakfast table. She looked out at her car buried under eight inches of ice and snow, and then gave me a huge grin. The plan was working.

When the spring finally came we broke ground, and by midsummer, my red-brick-man-cave was almost complete. It was time to implement part two of “Operation Dodge the Demon”. I needed to pull out my secret weapon—an unsuspecting accomplice—our pastor.

It might have been the tensest Sunday morning in our history. The demon snarled me out of bed, told me I could barely dress myself and why was she surprised that I couldn’t help her dress the kids, and screamed that if I didn’t get out of the bathroom we were going to be late for church.

The only time my mouth didn’t possess a Tums was when I held the sacraments of communion in it.

When we filed out to shake the pastor’s hand, he asked how the garage was coming along. I projected my voice sideways towards the fashionable demon that flanked my right.

“I’m ready to get all my woodworking tools out of the basement and into the garage loft…”

“Really? Do you think you’ll have some time and space to devote to our More Than Carpentry ministry?”

Cha-ching. “Honey, whaddya think?” I held my breath.

She offered a taut smile, “That sounds like a real blessing. It’d be nice to get him out of the house. Some days I just can’t stand the sight of him.”

As her talons pulled me into the narthex, I glanced back to my pastor who gave me a knowing smirk and mouthed the words, “I’ll call you.”

He better.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Law and Order: PRESCHOOL Unit

Back-story: For the girls fourth birthday we gave them a big girl room. Twin sized beds and new bedding…the room is a soft pink with brown polka dots. Tis uber cute. Part of this renovation was to purge all the toys upstairs to what is now the playroom. That was a gift to me. It is wonderful to have all that crap the kid’s stuff in a specified area, out of the way, and I place I can send the kiddos to visit their crap toys, also, out of my way. Forehead smackin’ genius.

So...Reagan comes strolling downstairs and casually moseys up next to me at my computer.

Me: “Whatcha guys doing up there? Playing with your Barbies?”

Reagan: “Yes, just playing. Not cutting.”

The interrogation begins. My head whips a quarter turn to meet her eyes, tilts in a disapproving Mom manner, eyes narrowed: “Cutting? What are you cutting?”

Reagan: “Nothing.”

Me: “Did you find a pair of scissors?”

Reagan: “Nope.”

Me: “Are you lying, Reagan?”

The Little Liar: (extremely long pause) “No.”

Reagan turns and heads to the stairs. I rise and follow the lead.

Reagan: “Are you coming up to play with us, Mommy?”

Me: “No, I’m coming up to see what you’ve been cutting.”

Her eyes widen, and she double times it up the stairs. Abby is playing with the giant pink Barbie Brothel.

Reagan: “See, Mom, we’re just playing.”

Me: “Abby, were you two cutting something?”

Reagan looks at Abby, bug eyed. I swear I can see her slightly shaking her head ‘no’.

With a pointing finger, Abby turned State’s Evidence. On the floor beneath the Little Tykes table was a pile of foam nugget confetti from a purple alphabet puzzle, and two pages of a Chick-Fil-A kid’s meal book cut into perfect two inches strips. And a dainty pair of sharp pointed pink scissors. I pick them up and inspect the loveseat, curtains and carpet for damage. Then checked their hair for new, unauthorized coifs. All clear.

Me: “So, who did the cutting?”

Abby (nonchalantly pointing to the defendant’s table from the proverbial
stand): “Reagan did.”

The look on Reagan’s face confirmed the accusation. Her gaze dropped to the floor. I bit my lip, trying not to smile.

The verdict was in. Guilty.

Reagan: “Sorry, Mommy.”

The sentence was delivered.

Me: “Pick up every little piece you cut and throw them away. And you have to tell Daddy what you did.”

The Little Convict: “NOooo….he’ll be upset with me.”

Me: “Yep…”

Then I handed my prisoner over to the warden. Don’t worry—he paroled her in time for dessert. :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

What's Cooking?

It occurred to me earlier this week when I posted the following recipe on Facebook, that I should use my (terminally neglected) blog to post my favorite edible creations, great recipes I discover, as well as posting any recipes you all would like to share. After all, and despite how un-PC this sounds, everyday cooking usually falls into most Mom's to-do column.

I love cooking, but since I am an intuitive cook, I will have to strive harder to give you more precise ingredient amounts and cooking times than in the recipe below, though I will probably still use the term "ish" a lot. "Ish" means: according to your personal taste and what you have on hand:). I also will take pictures as I go along with my real camera, instead of my Forest Gump smart phone (it's not so smart, but it gets the job done).

Anyone that wants to share a recipe, give me a'll get full culinary credit.

So here is my introductory recipe...hope you like it!

Bacony Cheesy Goodness Stuffed Chicken Breasts

3-4 chicken breasts

½ cup low fat Italian Dressing

½ cup white wine (plus a little more;)

Five (ish) slices of bacon cut into fingernail (?) size bits

6-7 (ish) sliced mushrooms

Approximately 1/3 cup of sliced onion (give or take, based on preference)

3-4 tbsp Feta cheese crumbles

3-4 slices of Provolone cheese

3-4 tbsp of butter

2 (ish) cups of Panko bread crumbs

On the straighter side of the breast, carefully cut a slit about 2 ½ inches long, reaching in with the knife and making a good sized pocket. Be careful not to cut through any of the sides.

Toss the prepared chicken into a Ziploc or other container with the dressing and the wine; let them marinate in the fridge while preparing the stuffing.

(If you are as prone as I am to self inflicted clothing stains as I am, remember to put on your apron before you ruin yet another favorite shirt with bacon grease.)

In a large sauté pan (10-12 inches), fry the bacon bits for a couple minutes till they start to brown. Add the onion and sauté for a couple more till the onions start to become translucent. Add mushrooms. Stir a couple more minutes, until mushrooms start to shrink a little. Warning: the aroma at this point will starve you to death. Throw a splash of the white wine in to deglaze the pan. Go ahead and take a "test" drink straight from the bottle.

If you like the taste of the vino, add another healthy splash to the pan. Sauté a minute or two till the wine reduces. Take off the heat; spoon mixture into a bowl and set aside. Leave all the flavored fatty drippings in the pan. We’ll come back to that…

When the bacon mixture cools a tad, mix in the feta.

Preheat the oven to 350*

Remove chicken from the marinade. For each breast, take a halved provolone slice and insert in the cavity, spreading the two halves to cover the most territory. Spoon the bacon mixture in, making sure to tuck it to the corners. When all the chicken breasts are stuffed, coat them in the Panko crumbs. (If you'd like to add more fat/calories/time to the recipe, you can first coat the breasts in flour, and then run them through an egg wash before the Panko crumbs. I've found that an oil based marinade adheres the crumbs just dandy.)

Stop fooling yourself and just pour a glass of the wine.

Add the butter to the pre-flavored frying pan over med-high heat. Sauté the breasts on each side just till golden, and then transfer to a baking dish lightly sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Fiction: Four Flew Over the Cuckoo Tree

I know it's not Christmas-time, but my life recently resembles aspects of this twisted comedic story. :) Enjoy.

Four Flew Over the Cuckoo Tree

As the small band of misfits dribbled from their rooms for breakfast, they murmured amongst themselves about the boxes in the center of the common space.

When Meagan noticed the group assembling, she emerged from the glass enclosed nursing station. She flinched when Clarence sprung out of nowhere; he had used the plastic ficus tree for cover. Mental note: we need to address that blind spot…

“Why are you here? I thought it was your day off? What’s in the boxes, huh? Are they from the government? Is it a shock treatment table? It is, isn’t it?” Clarence narrowed his eyes and raised his right eyebrow suspiciously.

“I am here today because I brought you guys a present.” Meagan said as she approached the boxes and opened one in front of her captive audience.

“Is it booze?” Paula asked, “Please tell me it’s booze…I’ll take anything you got…seriously, anything.”

Meagan rolled her eyes at Paula as she plucked the top third of artificial Christmas tree from a box. “I bought a new one, so I talked the doctors into letting me donate my old one to the Ward.”

Sherry squealed, ”Oh, goodie-goodie-goodie! I love Christmas trees!” Without any prompting, the group began pulling the branches out of the boxes and assembling them.

“Let me check it for bugs,” Clarence snatched the tree stand from Sherry, “This is probably just a ploy to listen to our private conversations, ya know.”

“What’s that?” Josh’s head snapped to attention as he wiped the drool from his chin.

“Nurse Meagan brought us a Christmas tree!” Sherry clapped her hands as she delivered the news.

“Hey, that’s great. I’ll help, too…” but before he could get off the couch, his chin slumped back down to greet his chest, and the soft snores started immediately.

Clarence pointed at Josh, “See, that’s what the government does to ya when you register to vote, they plant a little chip in your…”

“Nah, that’s what can happen when you mix bourbon with your meds,” Paula oozed nonchalantly as she lit a cigarette, “so you all should be making sure he ain’t getting my mail.”

Sherry began to dig through the last box, “Hey, where are the ornaments? And the garland? There’s nothing in here but old craft supplies.”

“Well guys, here’s the thing,” Meagan began laying the supplies on the table for them,” after the incident last year they gave the Ward’s Christmas tree to Oncology. We had to make some serious concessions to get them to agree to let you have a tree at all. That means definitely no lights, and no glass ornaments either…though we can make some with the craft stuff. We have glue and construction paper, some popsicle sticks and stuff like that. You can even use photos of your family if you want to. The only thing is that the charge nurse has to approve them to make sure that they are all safe.”

“Yippee…Nurse Ratched gets to be the fun police. Imagine that…” Paula blew rings of smoke like she was already bored with the whole project, “I guess I’m out of the loop. What happened last year?”

“Well, without going into too much detail, a patient…” Meagan unconsciously swallowed hard, “…a patient ate all the light bulbs from the tree and had to have emergency surgery on Christmas Eve.”

Clarence snorted, “Come on…no one’s that crazy!” All eyes suddenly wandered over to Josh, who was on his feet and standing in front of the bathroom holding the door open wide.

“Well, we all have our issues, don’t we?” Meagan caught Sherry’s attention and emphatically brushed her bottom lip. Sherry’s eyes bulged as she quickly wiped the glob of school glue off her mouth. With most eyes on Boris, everyone missed this exchange…except for Clarence.

“It was you!” he barked at Sherry, “You are certifiably crazy!”

“Yep, and I got the papers to prove it…” Sherry defiantly scooped up a tube of glitter and stomped past Josh to go sulk in front of the television.

Meagan went over to Josh to see what he was staring at, though nothing looked out of place. “Do you need some help, Josh?”

“I’m just looking for bacon and eggs to cook for my wife. It’s my day to make breakfast.”

As Paula sashayed past, she paused, “If he’s looking for food in the bathroom, perhaps we should put the Christmas tree up on a table. Heaven forbid he dreams that he’s taking a walk in the woods...”

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday Fiction: Among the Ancient

The air carries a familiar scent, and I gaze up to the sky. The expanse above me is adorned in shades of hyacinth; the horizon beyond the city is framed by bulging white clouds, towering to the precipice of heaven itself.

The hour is surely near…

Though I tremble in anticipation of His arrival, I am just a fragment of the remnant who witnessed His departure. From this very garden—in the shade of the Mount of Olives—I watched Him go up to the clouds like a bird on the wind; the angels told us He would come again.

This I believe…

I was so young then; barely mature enough to provide fruit; my silvery leaves offering a paltry canopy of shade; a mere sapling in a garden grove of ancients; a shoot from one who had seen the days of David. Unworthy of His presence. Yet He chose me. He often knelt beneath my branches to pray. His back leaned against my already gnarled trunk as He taught His followers. I can still feel Him resting between my exposed roots.

He was truly God among us…

They laid their garments on the ground before Him, bowing down with palm branches in hand. Not a stallion did He ride, but a humble donkey. As He rode over the Mount, and past me in the garden, they worshipped Him as their king—their Messiah. Hosanna.

Scorned by the ones he came to save…

With glints of moonlight gracing the garden path, he laid prostrate on the rocky soil beneath me. He cried out to His Father; he spoke of a terrible cup—a cup of wrath—and prayed for it to pass over Him. Above that, He prayed for the Father’s will to be done. The soil is still tinged by the blood of His sweat. I yearned for lightning to strike me down so that I might crush those who came to take Him away.

The unblemished Lamb of God…

When the cup was poured out on Him—over and beyond on that dreaded hill of the skull—the foot of this holy hill felt the chill of darkness instead of the warmth of the sun; this garden shuddered in unison with all of creation. The ripe olives fell from my branches in mourning; the wind whined a dirge through my leaves. It was finished.

Sacrificed for the sins of the world…

But death held no power over Him; on the third day the tomb was empty; the shroud fell limp and vacant on the cold stone. He is risen.

He is risen, indeed…

And now I am an ancient myself. I can still hear His words being carried down the gentle mountain slope; He once foretold to His flock that this Holy City would crumble and fall. Yea, hardly a single temple stone was left in place, and the soldiers decimated this Garden of Gethsemane—we were trampled as the spoils of war. Though singed and scarred, I somehow survived. I survived to see many more wars and rumors of war, plagues and famines, earthquakes and great sorrows.

Come quickly, eternal Temple…

So as the last glimpses of twilight illuminate the clouds in shades of crimson, I search them earnestly for His familiar face; His hair blinding white like new wool; His feet like fiery brass. He will set His foot down above me on the Mount of Olives, splitting this holy hill in two. Every knee shall bow, every tongue shall confess. The rocks will cry out in praise, and the trees of the field will clap their hands. New Jerusalem will descend from the heavens in all its glory.

Oh, Ancient of Days, come restore Your Garden…

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"You Make Me Feel So Young..."

The girls Aunty Marsh sent them a vintage circa 1973 Fisher Price Little People “Play Family Village” for an Easter gifty.

Complete with a firehouse (and wind-up siren), post office, theater, police station (with a jail cell, lol), barber shop and an auto repair garage with a lift and gas pump.

And all the Little People accessories.

It’s identical to the one Marsh and I played with, and probably every other child born anytime in the 70’s. I have a time machine in my living room.

EBay rocks.

So does Aunty Marsh. :)

Thank you Easter Bunny! Bawk, Bawk!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Another One Bites the Dust

It was a beautiful sandwich. A Dagwood for a lady. Thin turkey, Colby jack cheese, little bit of mayo and brown mustard, all stacked between two slices of multigrain bread from Joe Fazio bakery (via Sam’s).

I was almost done assembling my lunch when Abby streaked down the hall saying, “I have to POOP!”

I giggled and told her I’d be right there to help.

Not thinking much about it, I left the empty kitchen and headed to the bathroom, where Abby was already finished with her business. I patted her front dry with tissue, but while I was busy trying to separate a wet wipe from the container, Abby‘s neked little tushie bolted down the hall to the living room.

“ABIGAIL! You need your butt wiped young lady!” I had no choice but to chase her with a wipe in hand.

As I passed the kitchen, from the corner of my eye I saw black. I looked in horror to see Zoe, aka Dogzilla, devouring my dainty Dagwood in one gulp.

“ZOE! You %^@&!#) $!^@#!” Surprised by getting caught, she retreated back up the stairs, mouth full, with a What? Me? I’m innocent! look on her face. My husband, Jerry appeared at the top of the stairs, and I proceeded to tell him what HIS dog did to my lunch. I stomped back through the kitchen, butt wipe still in hand, to find the elusive Abby monster.

As I approach her she points to my once beautiful cream colored couch cushion. “Looook, Mommy. Brown poop!”

Three skid marks embellished the lovely brocade pattern. I looked at the ceiling and screamed like the woman on the edge that I was. Jerry came running to find me wiping Abby’s tushie, but as I pointed to the poo streaks and told him what she said, I started laughing.

Lysol wipes removed Abby’s butt painting, but I’d strongly advise against napping on my couch. Especially with your head facing south.

And if there is any justice in the world, that stupid dog got horrible indigestion from eating my sandwich in one giant Dogzilla mouthful. She’s up for adoption if there are any takers out there.

No? Didn’t think so…