Tuesday, December 4, 2012

2012 Holiday Gift Guide

Dear Reader,

As the holidays approach we all become a bit busy, a bit overtaxed, generally a bit panicked about finding just the right gift for the people on our lists.  Many of us turn to online gift giving guides compiled by tastemakers to ensure your friends and loved ones get exactly what they want.  I've perused these lists myself and while overpriced used tablecloths and granny-style wallets that cost more than you've actually got in the wallet may be your thing, they're not mine.  But don't fear.  I will be happy with almost anything you get for me.  Almost.  Here is a list of things I do not want for Christmas this year, just in case you've got them in your cart and are threatening to push the trigger and click "Order Now."  I think I can speak not only for me, but for all of us when I say that these gifts will not be appreciated, rather promptly handed back to you with a shove toward the door and a "see you next year."

2012 Holiday Gift Guide

This is not an appropriate stocking stuffer.  Nor is it an appropriate food source.  What's it for?  
Hot Dogs?  Yuck.

This ruffled table runner from Pottery Barn can double as a petticoat.  You know, for all the Colonial Times reenactments you like to do in your free time.  Plus, it's got wings.

Hopefully this "Row Boat Salad Bowl" aka "Pi Patel's Fantasy Lifeboat" doesn't float, so when I throw it in the lake I won't have to see it anymore.

Now I know you are thinking, Heather you've gone too far.  Nobody in their right mind would give you a snake for Christmas!  That's absurd.  Well, as a matter of fact this is exactly what a friend gave me one year for my birthday.  Okay fine, it was a ribbon snake and not a boa constrictor as pictured, but really, what's the difference?

Alpaca Hot Water Bottle Cover?  No thanks.  I'd prefer the $96.00 this thing costs.

I don't work at a desk, and this "Tabletop Zen Rock Garden" would look pretty strange on my kitchen table.  The worst part about this gift is that I gave it to my father one year.

Oh sure, I'd love to hang this calendar on my wall for an entire year so that every day I could not only see what the date is, but also be reminded of how lonely and sad is my life, and how those hot royals would probably be mean, or worse, totally indifferent to me if I were to meet them, say at the grocery store, or while waiting for the school bus.

What DO I want for Christmas you ask?  I am desperate for some linen hand towels.  Plain, white linen hand towels with nothing printed on them, onto which I can print something of my own choosing.  Should be easy enough, right?  If you can find them, or even just send me a link to where I can buy them for myself, I will be your absolute best friend.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Get Ready

 Nuff said.  Cheers!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Gimme Shelter on the Rocks

Dear Reader,

You might have heard we had some weather in these parts.  I'm not going to try and say anything funny about Hurricane Sandy, because there's really nothing funny about it.  However, when you are talking about secondary effects of a storm, and primary effects of being the only one in your family with a generator, hilarity ensues.  Or hysteria in any case.  Here is something to calm the nerves left raw and frazzled by family members camping out in your home.  Enjoy.

Gimme Shelter on the Rocks

You will need:

Spare bed/ sleeping bags

First, place all perishables into a chest full of ice, reserving ice to be used in this cocktail.  Then place any elderly relatives in areas near a bathroom if they are functioning, or near the door if they are not, to encourage them to go by themselves.  Leave a trowel by the door to prevent piles in the yard.  Crush the ice using a hammer or other blunt instrument.  Do not crush by bashing your head on the ice - even though it may provide some numbing now, it will hurt like a mofo in an hour.  Likewise do not use size D batteries to crush the ice as you will need these for portable radios, flashlights, or to sell to neighbors who do not have generators and didn't buy enough batteries.  Throw some mint in the bottom of a large glass, and smash it around with anything but the trowel.  Place crushed ice into the glass and top with six ounces of tequila and two ounces of lemonade, limeaid, orange juice, or whatever juice your have on hand.  If your mother-in-law is staying with you, chances are she brought some juice, so take some when she's not looking.  Swirl the whole drink around a bit and find a quiet place where you can be alone, such as a closet, cupboard, or inside the dryer.  Take a deep, cleansing breath and drink with a straw.  Repeat.

To Donate to the American Red Cross relief effort for those affected by Hurricane Sandy,

Monday, October 1, 2012

Mind-Blowing Mac and Cheese

Dear Reader,

Here is how I spent a recent Saturday afternoon.  A brief warning, this was an activity done with the help of children, so excuse the shaky creative camera work.  Also a note:  My son, the resident food police, was horrified at the amount of fat involved in this macaroni and cheese, but what he didn't know is that the cheese, or some of the cheese I used was of the lower fat variety, and the milk was 2%.  I was trying to make a lighter version of a gooey, crunchy-topped mac and cheese, and I have to say, it was divine. I've listed the ingredients below.  Enjoy!

Mind-Blowing Mac and Cheese

You will need

1 baguette (most of one)
4 Tbs. butter
1 box elbows (noodles - not actual elbows, bleh)
1/2 cup flour
6 Tbs. butter
5 1/2 cups 2% milk
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. cayenne
salt and pepper
1 8 oz pkg. Cabot Extra Sharp 75% fat Cheddar
1 8 oz. pkg. Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar
8 oz. Gruyere

For Pickle Deliciousness:

1 shallot
Handful parsley
Handful chives
Handful tarragon
Half of a jalapeƱo (I removed seeds for benefit of wimpy kids who didn't try it anyway)
Handful cornichons (otherwise known in my house as, "snack")
Splash Sherry vinegar

Friday, September 7, 2012

Fat Mom's Lunch Fajita for One

Dear Reader,

I don't know if it is the end of summer, the return of election year anxiety, or all of this suburban pudge I have packed on since moving out of the city, but I'm kind of down in the dumps.  A frumpy dumpy mom is what I am, as a matter of fact.  Yesterday I was explaining to my eight year old daughter that her math homework really wouldn't take that much time.  She looked at me in my yoga pants and Aerosmith t-shirt from Target that is now covered in paint from when I decided I could paint the garage, and said, "You know what else doesn't take much time?  Putting together a decent outfit."

If I had the energy or the inclination I might have scolded her for rudeness.  But, she's right.  It takes no more time to put on a casual dress than it does those dorky yoga pants - you know, the ones for people that don't actually do yoga.  After moving I developed some awful thing in my foot - a heel spur and Plantar Fascitis, so gone are the days when I would run five or six miles every morning.  My foot hurt so badly for a while, that I could barely walk, much less run.  But then I went to the Nike outlet in Freeport, ME and bought myself a pair of Nike Icarus running shoes.  They felt different - better even that the fancy orthotics I was told to buy by the podiatrist.  So I ran.  The first day I made it one mile, the second a mile and a half, and on and on until today.  Thanks to those Nike's and the super fun app Zombies, Run! I managed to pound out four miles this morning.  Up hills and everything!  After my shower I pulled on a cotton dress from the J. Crew outlet in Freeport, ME (do you sense a pattern?) went to the regfrigerator, opened the doors and let the icy air waft over me for a minute until I was faced by another problem.  Food, ugh.  See, this suburban pudge I mentioned comes in the form of eight pounds that have settled on me seemingly for good.  No amount of Weight Watchers tracking points or bowls of watermelon have made a bit of difference.  Bleh.  Maybe this is just me now?  Maybe this is me becoming a middle-aged lady.  It's true that I find myself watching Face the Nation most Sundays.  I never did that before.  Perhaps I need to go to the mall and buy myself a nice new outfit at Lane Bryant to cheer me up.  Maybe I'll do that later, but for now, I'm going back to the fridge to rustle up some lunch, and what I feel like is something a little spicy, a little sweet, something healthy but that won't leave me feeling famished in an hour because I have four different cheeses and three kinds of crackers that are actually singing to me the soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar a capella.  So I am armed with a little bit of advice for myself.  It's okay to eat my feelings, but not okay to look like I do.

Fat Mom's Lunch Fajita for One

You will need:

One whole wheat tortilla
Green pepper
White Vinegar
Chili powder
Cooking spray
Black beans

First, take off the old college sweatshirt and pajama bottoms.  If you have nothing better to wear then put on a robe, do not go naked as you might scar your flabby body in the cooking process.  Chop green pepper and onion, place in a large bowl with mushrooms.  Mix together juice of one lime, one clove of garlic, a teaspoon of cumin, and a teaspoon of chili powder, and some pepper and pour over the vegetables - NOT on your face.  This is not an acid peel, although lord knows you could use one.  Let sit for a few minutes while you SHOULD be doing some sit ups, but instead are chopping cabbage and mango.  Pour some white vinegar over cabbage and mango, add a little salt.  Place one quarter cup black beans in a small pot with juice of half an orange, let simmer to heat.  Spray a skillet with cooking spray (duh) and toss in marinated veggies.  Cook about ten minutes, then warm the tortilla either in the microwave, in a pan, or under your fat ass, then fill it with the vegetables, black beans, and coleslaw.  Add light sour cream only if absolutely necessary.  Weight Watchers PointsPlus value 3 as far as I can tell.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Spaghetti for Secret Stoners

Dear Reader,

Oh my, it has been a long time since I posted anything.  This was the busiest summer on record, with camp, vacations, family visiting, and the birthdays! Oh my god, the birthdays!  In one week I made four cakes.  That's not an exaggeration.

A banana cake.

A coconut cake.

Plus two chocolate cakes that I didn't photograph because by that time I was totally over cake.  Also I have this to deal with:

I know, she looks super cute, and she is, but it has taken me forty minutes just to write this because she has been sitting at my foot, staring up at me and BARKING VERY LOUDLY since I sat down.  So I had to get up and take her out for a "walk" which consists of her yanking on her leash until she is gagging and wheezing, chasing every single squirrel, not to mention the moths and the butterflies, and only after all of that is she quiet and sleeping so that I can get down to business and answer some of this damn mail that has piled up in my absence.

I want to thank each and every one of you who has written to me either with encouragement or complaints.  You make my life a sunny day.  Not really.  But it is ever so comforting to hear about the misfortune of others, isn't it?

This email arrived way back in the beginning of August, and it is from someone who goes by the name of DoobyDebbie, from whom I do not expect great things.

Got any recipes for what to eat when you are stoned out of your mind but told your boyfriend that you quit smoking pot months ago and then didn't even though you thought you were going to but then your friend came over and had a stash of weed that she got in vancouver so you smoked and she left it at your house and you smoked it all yourself after she left and you're super hungry but know that if you crack open the box of teddy grahams he's going to totally know what you've been up to?

I certainly hope you're not still high, but I'm pretty sure you are.  This one is for you.  It may help, but I doubt it.  Enjoy.

Spaghetti for Secret Stoners

You will need:

Peanut Butter
Red Wine Vinegar
Olive Oil
Crushed Red Pepper
Cherry Tomatoes
Eye Glass Repair Kit

First, you need to say something that you would never normally say if you were as high as a kite.  Avoid phrases like, "Dude, you have got to be kidding me," and, "Wouldn't it be cool if your car ran on slushies?"  Try instead, "Did you know that recent studies challenge conventional medical thinking about CPR?  It turns out that prolonged resuscitation for patients does not lead to permanent neurological damage.  No!  In fact, patients who underwent CPR for a long time fared just as well as those who were revived quickly," which I just read out of today's New York Times, or look to your own paper for ideas.  Then ask if he's ever performed CPR, and as he muses, put on a pot of salted water to boil and toss in the spaghetti.  If it is not time for spaghetti eating, say if it is nine o'clock in the morning, tell him that you are trying out a new Asian Breakfast Pasta you read about in Saveur Magazine.  Be careful saying "Saveur."

Just before the spaghetti is finished, toss some broccoli florets into the water.  In a large bowl, mix one half cup peanut butter, one glug red wine vinegar, one quarter cup tamari, one glug olive oil, and two squirts from the Honey Bear.  Resist urge to talk to the Honey Bear, or apologize for squeezing out his brains.  Crush one small clove garlic and add to sauce.  Drain pasta and broccoli and add to the bowl containing the sauce.  Chop some cherry tomatoes.  Do not say, "Fuck it all," and throw the tomatoes in whole.  That would be so obvious!  Patiently chop them and toss them into the pasta.  Sprinkle on some crushed red pepper flakes.  Do not eat pasta directly from the bowl in which is was prepared.  This is very important.  Find a normal, human serving-sized bowl and fill it with a small mound of pasta.  Do not attempt to use a plate.  A plate offers no sides against which to press the fork thereby easily getting slippery noodles to your mouth, and you will just wind up with peanut butter and spaghetti all over yourself.  Use a napkin.  Have something to drink.  Perhaps an iced tea.  When you are finished, clean off your dish.  If you sense he might be on to you, consider if it might just be marijuana-induced paranoia, and pretend to repair your eye glasses, a task requiring such nimbleness and agility, sure to convince anyone of your sobriety.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Summer Birthday Plates Bonanza

Summer birthdays.  My daughter has one.  Unfortunately for her, each summer many of her friends are away and unable to attend a birthday party.  So we end up including a whole bunch of adults, which creates the problems of what to serve? How to decorate?  What sort of plates do you use when half the guests are under ten and the other half are over forty?  Lucky for you I have the answer. These adorable cupcake plates, napkins, and gift wrap are perfect.  Cute enough to satisfy little girls' desires, adorned with yummy looking cupcakes so boys won't have to eat off of Barbie's face, and elegant for the grown ups.  Oh, and there's another reason to love these. My mother Carolyn Bucha did the artwork!  I know you were under the impression that I must be the most awesome member of my family, but my mother is a wonderful artist.  Just look at these plates!

You can buy them on Amazon, so there's no need to drop everything and run to the nearest party store. Just click here!

What to serve on these plates?  Here's an idea.

And now here's this...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Totally Forgot About Swim Suit Season Garlic Bread Pudding

Dear Reader,

It has been raining for what seems like weeks.  This cold grey weather feels more late September than early June, which perhaps explains my lack of judgment in preparing last night's dinner.  Smart gals plan June menus with an eye toward fitting into a bathing suit at the beach rather than having to wrap yourself in two garbage bags tied together with duct tape.  But I kind of don't care because what I made was so freaking good.  Real good.  I had almost an entire loaf of garlic bread left over from the night before, and maybe I've been watching too many episodes of Chopped, but my mind immediately went to bread pudding.  Holy cow.

Totally Forgot About Swim Suit Season Garlic Bread Pudding

 I had some mushrooms, so I sauteed them in my skillet with a little butter.

 I also had some soy sausage, so I fried that up as well.

I put these things in a dish with my torn up garlic bread.  Everything was looking a little brownish, so I threw in some sliced sun-dried tomatoes because I don't care if it's not 1994 anymore, I still love the damn things.  I mixed three eggs and three egg yolks with two cups of milk, salt and pepper, and poured it over the whole mess.  Then I waited about 45 minutes.  I didn't really just wait for 45 minutes.  I was doing other things during that time.  That would be pretty sad if I just sat and watched the bread sopping up the custard for 45 whole minutes while I cried deep down on the inside that I had nothing better to do.  What I should have done is filled up on carrot sticks or broccoli to avoid the coming feeding frenzy.  I sprinkled on a generous handful of grated parmesan and baked at 350 for about 40 minutes.
I know, it doesn't look like I ate much, but this was the plate I served to my son, who almost gagged literally to death on the sun-dried tomatoes, but otherwise thoroughly enjoyed this dish.

To make up for this decadence, I offer this musical sampling, perfectly distracting for the long slog on the treadmill.  And this dude kind of looks like a musical theater version of my husband.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Suburban Salad

Dear Reader,

I know I have been silent for a while, but with good reason.  I moved!  Goodbye NYC, hello rabid raccoon chewing on my garage door!  There are many ways in which a move can enrich one's life, lessons to learn, new friends to make, but the most important lesson of all is this:  moving sucks.  First there were the heart wrenching goodbye ceremonies for my children in their classes.  My kids were crying, other kids were crying, it was an emotional Hunger Games.  Then the stress of hoping that the people who are buying your house won't suddenly change their minds so that the kids have to go back to school on Monday after all the farewells.  The worry that there might be poltergeists or radon (God, the radon!) lurking in your new basement, and then, once you move in, what the hell is that noise coming from under the living room floor every night at three in the morning?  It sounds like squirrels are bowling under there.  But to every cloud there is a silver lining, and today it arrived in the form of a mouse stuck to a glue trap just outside a previously undetected gap from the garage into the floor of the living room.  Gotcha.  It's amazing how blood thirsty you can become after a few nights lost sleep.

I thought I would miss NYC more than I do.  Of course I miss friends, but in this day and age, people are never really very far away.  For instance, I knew the moment my friend Sophia was egged in the head by neighborhood hooligans, and she lives in London.  I do miss bumping into people that I know walking down the street.  Hell, I miss walking down the street.  But I love my car and it costs less than we used to pay for our parking space in NYC.  Nobody ever tells you that life in the suburbs is a paradise for parents.  In New York mornings began with a 7 AM leap out of bed, hurrying the kids into their clothes, force feeding them freezer waffles and then everybody hustling out the door to wait for the elevator, because you can't take the stairs, not when your neighbor leaves used condoms between the second and third floor landings.   Then rushing down the street for a cab, or to the subway, then rushing down another street to the school, avoiding traffic, then being swept up into a sea of parents and children all funneling into a mouse-infested, lice-ridden old building, kissing goodbye while avoiding eye contact with other parents who might try and lure you into volunteering for mouse turd clean up duty.

This morning, we woke to the sound of birds singing. The kids got dressed and came downstairs for egg sandwiches and french toast, and I'm not making that up.  Then we all walked to the end of the driveway where we said hello to the neighbor, then to the friendly bus driver, who whisked my kids off to their idyllic school which is surrounded by forsythia and has two gyms and two music rooms and where the lunch room has windows!  I then went back to my house and ate a bowl of cereal.  Then stared at the wall until The View came on, which I listened to just for the sound of their voices.  No.  I'm kidding about that.  Except the cereal.  Newman's Own Vanilla Almond with a banana.  Then I found the dead mouse, jabbed my finger at it and said, "Fuck you, you noisy little fucker."  You can take the girl out of the city...

In honor of my new life here in the country, I offer you a salad on account of I've gained about ten thousand pounds because it's too damn hilly here to run very far.  Enjoy.

Suburban Salad

You will need

Glue Traps
Butter Lettuce
Vidalia Onion
Blue Cheese
Cherry Tomatoes
Hard Boiled Egg
Professional Window Cleaner
White balsamic vinegar
Olive Oil
Dry mustard

When woken in the night by animals scampering in the attic, the garage, the nearby woods, or gnawing on your apparently tasty garage door, do not freak out!  Go to refrigerator, remove watercress and butter lettuce, tear into a bowl.  Slice Vidalia onion as thin as the deed for your new home.  Sprinkle on blue cheese, which is the most prevalent cheese in WASP country.  You might find some growing right outside on your blue cheese tree.  Halve cherry tomatoes.  While looking out the window, notice that the lawn guy didn't finish mulching the flower bed.  Realize that you have spent more on mulch, a product which you heretofore did not even know existed, than you spent on three years of nursery school for your firstborn.  Notice the warp on the window sill.  Slice and chop an avocado and add "fix old window sill" to the ten page list of jobs for the carpenter, while resolving to learn how to fix things for yourself.  Surely it can't be too hard to replace a faucet?  Right?  Chop a hard boiled egg and place in the salad bowl.  While staring in the direction of the noise coming from the attic, notice that the absurdly tall window in the foyer is filthy.  Realize that whoever installed this window must have been in cahoots with a professional window cleaning company because only they would be in possession of the tools required to clean it.  Wonder if you could call the volunteer fire department and pretend there is a fire around that window so they might squirt it with the high powered hose.  In a small bowl mix together white balsamic vinegar, dry mustard, salt and pepper.  Toss together and enjoy before setting glue traps.  When finished, empty remaining contents into sink and listen to the sweet sweet sound of the garbage disposal as it grinds up all your scraps along with your worries.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fat Breanna's Girls Night Sex Fest Queso Dip

Dear Reader,

Another day, another email.  This one comes from someone who calls herself, "Fat Breanna," which is a big part of her problem in and of itself.

About a year ago I was coming home after a night out with the girls.  I had drunk about six tequila shooters, cause it was a girls night, and then had lost my keys. So I climbed in what I thought was my window, but was really the window of my next door neighbor, and I climbed right into his bed and woke him up.  I always thought he was hot, and I wasn't shy on account of all the shooters (it was a Mexican restaurant where we were hanging out) so I had sex with the neighbor.  Now I have sex with him all the time when I'm drunk, or when he's loaded, which is almost as often as I am! LOL! I love to party! Anyways, he won't even ever look at me when he's straight.  Like he don't know me from a hole in the wall, and I really like him. Can you help?
-Fat Breanna


You say he "don't know you from a hole in the wall" which is exactly what you are to him.  A glory hole.  You know, one where he can stick his- you get the idea.  I'm not going to tell you that it is impossible to move your relationship from glory hole to girlfriend, because supposedly a man walked on the actual moon, so clearly a lot is possible in this world that may seem, at first glance, entirely impossible.  So.  How about talking to him?  Next time you see him, just say hello?  Start there.  Because you never know, he might be totally dull and not worth your time anyway.  Lord knows there are many many people that you might enjoy fooling around with, but with whom conversation would be no more desirable than a hot poker in the eye.  And find a place to hide a spare set of keys.  Meanwhile, enjoy some Queso Dip.

Fat Breanna's Girls Night Sex Fest Queso Dip

You will need:

1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1/4 cup cream
1 scallion, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs. cilantro, chopped
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
1/4 cup chorizo

First, have condom at the ready, don't count on him having one, because most people don't have one in their pajamas pocket.  Saute chorizo until reddish and glistening, like your nipples when you peel off the pasties.  Heat cream in a sauce pan, add in the shredded cheese, grabbing great handfuls of cheese like you do his hair while he's sleeping, stirring until melted.  When the cheese is melted, add in the scallion, cilantro, salt and chorizo.  Finely dice the chili, being careful to thoroughly was your hands after or else you will leave him with a burning that will never end.  Mix all together and enjoy with chips.  Serves 2.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Dear Reader,

I don't think it is accurate to say that most, if not all people experience some sort of mid-life crisis.  Rather we experience three or four in close succession.  I have made no secret that I turned 40 a few months ago, though you'd never know it to look at me.  Just kidding.  Along with turning 40 I ran a half-marathon, lost fifteen pounds and cleaned out my closet in the most major way imaginable.  It is not possible, or at least not reasonable to wear t-shirts with stupid sayings on them after a certain age.  That age should be sixteen, but for me it came a little later.  Nor is there a place in my life for a t-shirt with a rainbow cheetah head on it.  Not anymore.  It's time to take stock and think about what I'm doing with my life.  I would like to contribute something to the world other than snarky recipes, however delicious they might be.  I'm not sure how I might do that, but I do know that I've always wanted to open a sandwich shop.  I know exactly the sandwiches I would serve, and I would offer two salads and one soup each day, I know how the shop would look, and what the kids working behind the counter would wear.  I would call my shop, "Sammy's" or maybe "Sammies."  Perhaps someday I will own that sandwich shop, but today I've got to get a mammogram.


You will need:

Honey mustard
Pineapple juice
Good magazines

First, shower.  For some reason you can't wear any perfume, deodorant or lotions to the mamogram, and it's gross to try and wipe it off with some depressing paper-wrapped moist towelette.  Open Spam and slice into thin strips.  If the thought of Spam fills you with as much disgust as it does me, opt instead for pork loin.  Fry in skillet until no longer dangerous to eat.  Mid-way through cooking, pour pineapple juice over Spam, letting it reduce to a nice syrup.  Slice bread and rub one side with honey mustard, and the other with mayonnaise.  Place Spam on bread and top with watercress.  Pack into a lunch bag, and grab your magazines.  I recommend Lucky and Allure because they feature stuff normal people can afford.  If I so much as flip through Vogue I am left with a deep feeling of inadequacy and failure, not at all what is needed for a mammogram.  Go to your appointment.  You will, inevitably be forced to wait for at least forty-five minutes.  Enjoy sandwich while trying not to think about your breasts being squeezed until they are as thin as loose leaf paper in a vise that was most likely devised by a sadistic seventh grade metal shop student.  Remove top and adorn paper gown.  Even though the nurse won't ask you if you have mayo on your body, know that it is entirely possible, so use moist towelette anyway.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Panic Attack Casserole

Dear Reader,

I have a friend, let's just call her Sally, who is going through a period of terrific angst at the moment.  There is angst in her career, anxiety at home, and she's basically tied up in knots of gordian proportion all around.  She was coming for dinner the other night and had specifically requested something cheesy and warming, to calm her frayed nerves.  Problem was, she invited herself, and I didn't have time to go to the store.  But no matter!  I am the MacGyver of comfort foods.  I quickly checked my cupboards and saw that I had rice and broccoli, as well as a pack of Quorn tenders.  It is no secret that I am a fan of the mysterious Quorn.  Anyhow, you could make this same thing with chicken, if you wish.  My mind went instantly to a casserole, but I had no cheese, and only skim milk, which would amount to a pretty weak casserole, not at all what Sally required.  Then I found, tucked behind my thousands of vinegars, exactly what I needed.  Sally wasn't going to get some nasty broccoli mushroom soup casserole.  No ma'am.  For Sally, only the pseudo-French would do.  Thus was born this conciliatory dish.  Enjoy.

Panic Attack Casserole

 Here I sauteed shallots and some of an onion in some butter.

And here's the part where I lightly steamed some broccoli.

Did you hear the one about when I threw this bag of something chicken-ish into  the pan with the shallots and onions?  No?  Well, I also added a splash of vegetable stock!

 I boiled 1 3/4 cup water and added 1 cup basmati, lowered heat, covered, and simmered for fifteen minutes which is a pretty standard way to deal with a cup of basmati.

 Voila my secret ingredient!  I made the "Bearnaise" according to the packet directions, and slopped the whole thing together because nobody was looking.  If someone had been present for the event, I would have gingerly mixed all the ingredients, and used a nice wooden spoon to spread out the casserole in the dish, while wearing my adorable apron and listening to Edith Piaf.

 I toasted a couple of slices of whole wheat bread, whizzed them in the processor, mixed with a little parmesan, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and sprinkled on top.  Then I baked at 350 for about 20 minutes.  Actually I don't know how long I baked it for because Sally arrived.  I opened some wine and listened to her rant, cry, and hyperventilate simultaneously, which only made me drink more wine, and I totally lost track of time.  Also I forgot to take a photo of the finished casserole, so the one above, taken after we ate, will have to do.  Let me tell you one thing.  That mofo was delicious.  Sally left in good spirits, which may have been due to the wine, but I like to think my casserole helped.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Eggplant Extravaganza

Dear Reader,

Living in New York City provides myriad opportunities for someone who likes to cook.  Specialty grocers, farmers markets, exotic spice bazaars, and whole buildings devoted to nothing but cheese abound.  I tend to decide what I'm going to make for dinner sometime just after lunch, and then go pick up whatever I will need for that night's meal.  I don't need to tell you how expensive this can be.  In effort to be more thrifty, and clean out some of my cupboards which are in danger of falling off the wall, my husband and I decided to try something.  In one afternoon we would pick up all the produce we would need for the entire week's worth of meals.  I know that a lot of people do this as a matter of course, but we're a bit new at it, and as a result, one of us thought that we would definitely need at least six eggplants.  We never eat eggplant, although I like it very much, and found myself at the end of the week having to make a meal for my family that used six eggplants.


 I was inspired by Jaime Oliver's Eggplant Parmigiana, so began with his sauce which you see in the picture above.  Doesn't it look delish?  It was.  Olive oil, onion, garlic, oregano, tomatoes, wine vinegar.  I didn't use the suggested basil, as I didn't have any, and this was a strictly use-what-I-have kind of affair.

 I sliced and grilled the eggplant in my grill pan.  I should have cut the eggplant more thinly to minimize the slime factor.

Lovely parmesan made soft and fluffy with my microplane grater.

 I made breadcrumbs with the ends of whole wheat sandwich bread, toasted and tossed with a bit of olive oil.

 I layered the sauce, the eggplant...

 ...and the cheese, until it reached the top of this lovely dish which was a wedding present ten years ago.  I can't recall who gave it to me.  If it was you, I thank you again, and you'll be happy to know that I use it frequently.

 Ok, here's where I went a little crazy.  I wanted something filling, but still easy on the old Weight Watchers points, so I topped the whole thing with a pint of fat free Ricotta, mixed with an egg.  I added some salt and pepper, then topped with more sauce, the breadcrumbs and more cheese, then baked it in the oven for longer than I was expecting it to take.

I was a little excited when the dish was finally done, and forgot to take a picture before we ate it.  It was delicious, and my kids enjoyed it, too - even if they said they didn't.  The best part was all the room I had in the fridge after getting rid of those eggplants.  I wonder what he'll bring home this week.  Truckloads of turnips?  Mountains of mustard greens?  Or better yet, a bushel of beets.  I like beets.

Now here is something to entertain you on this Monday.   I forgot how weird this video is.  That's probably because at the time it was made I thought it was the decade's greatest artistic achievement.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Gingrich Spinach

Dear Reader,

Can you imagine folding the laundry, putting away your husband's socks and finding a whole bunch of girlie magazines in his drawer?  Yes?  Well how about finding a whole bunch of Newt Gingrich paraphernalia?  Horror!  That is exactly what happened to Steffi in Jacksonville, Florida this week.  Here you go, Steffi.  I wish you luck.

Gingrich Spinach

You will need:

3 pounds spinach
1 cloves garlic
1/4 cup flour
1 cup cream
1 1/4 cups milk
One small onion, diced
1/4 cup butter
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
handful breadcrumbs

Steam or boil the spinach until just cooked (or unfrozen as the case may be), then drain and squeeze all the water out, like you'd like to squeeze the brains of your husband if he thinks he's going to have some sort of new fangled "open" relationship.  Give. Me. A. Break.  Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan while you saute the onion and garlic in the butter.  Whisk in flour and cook for a few minutes to create a roux.  Add the warmed milk in a thin stream, like the thin stream of consciousness that must exsist somewhere in the head of the man you married.  Whisk constantly so that you don't get any lumps, you've already got one of those, no need to add more.  Stir in spinach, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Top with breadcrumbs and enough grated gruyere to make you feel better, and bake at 350 until golden brown and bubbly.  Go to www.newt.org and make sure your husband's name is first on the list to visit the moon base in 2019.

Now here is some music to help get you through these last six weeks of winter.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The I Love America Diet

Dear Reader,

It should be obvious that there is little I love more than a weird cookbook.  After all, I wrote one myself.  I have one that I have been meaning to share with you.  I bought it at a bookstore in Ithaca, New York, and it is from the mind of the one and only Phyllis Diller.  No just kidding.  That would be really awesome.  This one is from Phyllis George.  It's called the I <3 America Diet.  The premise behind this patriotic cookbook is that if you really love America you won't be a lardass.  America needs skinny citizens, not only to look good, but fatties cost too much

Here is what Phyllis recommends a woman eat in an average day, in effort to "reduce."

1 medium orange
1 medium egg, scrambled
1 small bagel, with
1 tsp. margarine, soft
1 cup skim milk, fortified
     coffee, tea or water

(You can brown-paper-bag this one)
1 cup tomato juice, preferably with no salt added
1 salmon salad, consisting of:
     2 ounces canned salmon, packed in water, served on a platter, with
     1 1/2 cups combined Romaine lettuce, watercress and sliced radishes, and
     2 teaspoons Italian dressing
2 slices whole-wheat bread
1/4 medium cantaloupe
     coffee, tea or water

1 cup fresh fruit cup (suggested ingredients: slices of banana and apple, grapes and orange sections)
3 oz. roast chicken, preferably white meat
1/2 cup lima beans, fresh
1/2 cup spaghetti, enriched, with tomato sauce
1 1-inch cube natural Swiss cheese
     coffee, tea or water

1/2 cup broccoli, cooked or raw
1/2 cup cauliflower, cooked or raw

First, that's one mighty big brown paper bag she brings her lunch in.  Ms. George may have servants to rinse off her platters, but the rest of us have to make do on our own.  Second, if I ate like that I would be as big as a house.

There was one nugget in this book that I found extremely enlightening.  You know how people are always saying we should eat slowly?  I've always taken that to mean chewing slowly, which is kind of disgusting.  Phyllis advises, "Bring your food to your mouth slowly.  Count 1-2-3 from plate to mouth.  You'll soon forget you ever shoveled it in at high speed.  Your dining partners will appreciate the change to a more graceful you."  I'm absolutely sure my dining partners would appreciate a more graceful me.  I'll try this one at home!

Here are some more of Phyllis' pearls of wisdom:

*  When you dine with thin people, observe how much faster you finish your meal than they do.
       This is especially true if your thin companion is going to the bathroom to vomit between courses.
*  Bring a mirror to the table and watch yourself eat.
       If you want to look like a total idiot, this is a great idea.
*  If you have a motion-picture camera or a video recorder, take pictures of yourself eating.  You may not smile when you see yourself on candid camera.
      Andy Warhol did this.  He ate very slowly.

*  Eat with your knife, fork and spoon - never with your hands.  That applies when you eat anything - a sandwich, a slice of bread, a roll or a piece of fruit.
     Again, a good idea if what you're really after is to look like an idiot, carving up your strawberry with a knife and fork.  Paging George Costanza.
*  Put only one kind of food in your mouth at a time.  Not steak, potatoes and onions in one mouthful.  But one mouthful of steak.  One mouthful of potatoes.  One mouthful of onions.  That's three mouthfuls instead of one, and that takes three times longer to consume.
      Does she suggest you deconstruct your sandwich before eating?  I'm highly opposed to that idea.  Especially if you then have to eat it with a spoon.

I want to leave you with a recipe from Phyllis George, and as it is Monday I will advocate for Meatless Mondays and pass on her "Frank Kebabs" (yes, hot dog kebabs are good for America) and "Oriental Beef."  Enjoy.


You will need:

Wheat germ, unsweetened
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. thyme
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup natural cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup walnuts
3/4 cup wheat germ, unsweetened
3 eggs, slightly beaten

1.  Preheat oven to 350.

2.  Grease 8x8x2-inch baking pan.  Coat with wheat germ.

3.  Cook vegetables in fat until onion is tender.

4.  Stir in flour, salt, pepper and thyme.  Stir in milk.  Cook and stir over moderate heat until thick.

5.  Stir in cheese, nuts and 3/4 cup wheat germ.  Add eggs.

6.  Pour into baking pan.

7.  Bake about 40 minutes or until well browned and firm.

8.  Let stand a few minutes; cut into serving-size pieces.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Egged in the Head Chocolate Chiffon Pie

Dear Reader,

You know how sometimes you're standing outside your house, talking to the fishmonger, and some neighborhood yahoos drive by and hurl a bunch of eggs and one orange at you?  No?  Well my friend Sophia does.  This chocolate chiffon pie is for her.  She needs it.   So much for "jolly old England."

Egged in the Head Chocolate Chiffon Pie

You will need:

Graham crackers
Unsweetened chocolate
Cream of tartar
Heavy Cream
Dark Chocolate

The first thing to do is help up the poor fishmonger, then place a really large order for fish just to get him out of there. Then scoop up whatever eggs you can find and bring them in the house. From your ear remove one egg yolk and reserve. In a food processor, whiz up graham crackers to make 1 1/2 cups crumbs. Mix these with 2 Tbs. sugar and 5 Tbs. melted butter, which you can easily melt right in your hand because you're boiling mad. Press mixture into a 9 inch tart pan and bake for 10 minutes at 375. Look out the window to see if the kids are back. Place at the ready four eggs, so that the minute you see them you can retaliate. Fashion an egg slingshot from a heavy rubber band and salad servers to maximize both velocity and trajectory.

Pour gelatin over 1/4 cup water, and let stand for 5 minutes while you go look for that orange. Heat 2/3 cup heavy cream in a sauce pot until simmering, then take off the heat and add 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate and 1/4 tsp. vanilla, stirring till the chocolate is nicely melted like the egg running down your back. Whisk in the gelatin.

Scoop up two more yolks and beat these with the one from your ear and 1/2 cup sugar and a pinch of salt. Slowly add in the chocolate mixture, beating as you would like to beat those egg thugs. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for fifteen minutes while you take a shower.

Beat the egg whites and 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar until you have formed soft peaks. Add 1/4 cup sugar. Beat the chocolate mixture for a minute just to feel better, and then fold the egg whites into it. Pour the whole thing into the pie crust. Beat one cup heavy cream with 2 1/2 Tbs. confectioners sugar slather over the top of the pie. Grate dark chocolate over the top and sprinkle on some zest from that orange.

Chill for two hours. Place remaining eggs from carton in pockets of jackets, should you see hooligans whilst out and about.   If they are with their mother, make sure you have an egg to toss at her as well.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Boy am I glad that's over! Who knew that Central Park had alps in the northwest corner?! Here are a few photos from Saturday morning when I was a long distance runner.

7 AM, trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do with these orange tags.  Turns out they go on your shoe.

In a cab, freaking out because of the doom and gloom coming from the sky.

At the park.  Other runners heading for the starting line.  Are they faster than me?  Will they notice that I'm wearing sandwich bags over my socks to try and keep my feet dry?

Everybody ready for the race to begin.  At this point I'm freezing from standing around in the snow and am looking forward to running just to get warm.

I didn't stop for water here.  Mostly because I was afraid that if I drank water I'd pee in my pants.

For some reason I kept finding myself behind these two guys.

Close up of the conditions - everyone was sliding around with each step.  I've never prayed so hard for a stinking snow plow.  It never came.  Needless to say my ankles are still aching.

These dudes again.  Nice pom pom.

I got a little choked up at this marker, but not so much that I couldn't snap a quick picture and send to Facebook.  Priorities.

Yahoo.  I took this photo after I had finished, gotten the freebie apple as well as a delicious Gatorade, then walked back around to photograph the finish line, so this does not accurately reflect my time.  Just so you know.

Hobbling out of the park, shivering because I was sweaty and without a proper jacket in the middle of a snowy park, and what happens?  This bozo on the bike stops me to take a picture of him in front of the Dakota.  Actually he wanted me to take two.  Tourists.

Sandwich bags no help whatsoever.

Not only did I consume a whole loaf of French Toast, a few hours later I had this bad boy lasagna.  Yes, that is the Garfield-sized piece I ate. 

Now that my legs have stopped shaking, and my hip flexors can move again, and my knees are less creaky, and my ankles are only hurting a lot instead of a whole hell of a lot, I can say that this was an awesome experience.  It did occur to me that if I were running a whole marathon, I would have to turn around and run the damn thing again, a feat which for the moment seems impossible.  

But never say never.