Just Another Maineiac Monday

Lately, I’ve had zero time to blog. So I thought I’d quickly throw up a mishmash of the super important stuff that’s currently taking up all of my precious time.

Let’s start with Gordon Ramsay.

Image result for Gordon Ramsay
“Oh, bloody hell.”

My 10-year-old daughter is obsessed with him. She watches all 179 of his current TV shows. Here’s just a sampling:

Master Chef
Master Chef Junior
Kitchen Nightmares

Hell’s Kitchen
Hotel Hell
The F Word*

Satan’s Pantry
Beelzebub’s BBQ Jamboree

The ‘Goddammit, My Face Resembles a Shar-Pei’s Ass, So You’d Better %$#^ing Suck It Up and Cook, You *&^%ing Donut!’ Kitchen

My favorite Ramsay show? It’s Raw! Where top-level culinary geniuses from around the globe forget how to cook a piece of chicken.

While Gordon’s ranting and raving are a bit much, I do appreciate the enlightening cooking tips he dishes out to the contestants like razor-sharp jabs to the nads.
Gems like:
“It’s raw!” and “IT’S RAW!” and “IT’S BLOODY %^%^%$##$%$%$% RAW!”

Image result for Gordon Ramsay
It’s not f***ing cooked properly! Are you not f***ing getting that, you f***ing wanker! Maybe if I crouch down to your bloody level and f***ing scream in your f***ing  stupid face, you’d bloody f***ing catch on!

My daughter and I watch Master Chef Junior, because who doesn’t want to see an impressionable young child have her dreams crushed to paprika in front of millions of people?

Image result for masterchef junior kids crying
[sniffing] [sobbing] [soul dying inside]
And every episode is chock-full of suspense.

[ominous music] Will they cook it right?

[music swells]

…or won’t they?

[dramatic pause]

Image result for Masterchef Junior Judges
“Too salty.”

 

Speaking of salty, what in the bleeping name of Jiminy Cricket is going on with these dagnabbit hoozeewhazzits?

Image result for fidget spinner

 

 

In case you’ve been living in an underground bunker filled with a lifetime supply of Spam and Dr. Pepper, these are Fidget Spinners. Or as I like to call them:

Dum-Dum Doohickeys
Stupid-Ass Shizznitzels
Flippety-Floo F*** ME!s

My kids begged me to buy them one. All the cool kids had one and all the uncool teachers hated them.  They were sold out everywhere. Weeks went by,  and my kids were still sans Zigzag Dilliwackers.

Finally, we stumbled upon a stash at the local pharmacy. I couldn’t wait to see what all the hubbub was about. Is it magic? Is it a game? Is it like a Rubik’s Cube?

I picked one up and asked, “So, what is it?”

Kids: You spin it.

Me: And then?

Kids: That’s it.

Me: [puts fidget spinner back down, then slowly walks away to weep in the car]

 

And how was your weekend?

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*Actual TV show

 

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My Son — aka The Human Garbage Disposal

EmptyFridge1

I like to buy food. I like to eat food. I like to open up the fridge and find food that I just bought still there. Sadly, this is no longer. Why?

Because my son, CJ, is an eating machine. He has the appetite of a cop at an All-You-Can-Eat Krispie Kreme Buffet. And he eats at lightning speed. I’m thinking of entering him into a Coney Island Hot Dog eating contest. I bet he’d eat 100 hot dogs, the plate and the table within seconds.

Here he is trying to grow even more.
Here he is trying to grow even more.

My son is only ten, but he’s as tall as a Redwood, has giant tree trunks for feet and can pack away an entire loaf of bread in one sitting. Sometimes I think he eats the bread’s wrapper because I can never find it–just a lonely plate of crumbs shoved under his bed. Which is also covered in crumbs and dust from god knows what other 50 food items he chose to inhale that day.

CJ’s entire world is food now. Recently, I was sifting through his photos and noticed every last one he’s either smirking at me or eating. Usually, both.

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He’s in the food pantry so much, I finally caved and threw his pillow and sleeping bag in there (after kicking out my husband).

Sometimes I think I’ve lost my mind and forgot to buy something on my grocery list as it vanishes into thin air somewhere between when I lugged the grocery bags into the house and oh my god, did you just eat that entire package of ham and two gallons of milk?  And the receipt?

It’s so bad, I rarely bother to buy food for myself now. This is me grocery shopping:

[throwing cans of tuna into the cart] Hm…okay…that’s fIve, six, seven cans…that should last a day. Oh, and I’d better get the “buy 10, get 10 free” super-sized blocks of cheese…five pounds of sliced turkey… a side of beef….

…oh, and I guess I could buy myself this tiny can of bouillon cubes, that’ll make a good lunch and dinner, right? Hmm…maybe I can thin it out and eat like a queen for a week!….but yeah, who am I kidding, he’d eat that too.

Last week, I went out to dinner without the kids and savored one of the first complete meals I’ve eaten in years — lobster ravioli. I couldn’t finish the dish I was weeping so hard.

“Oh, honey!” I cried to my husband.  “This food is so good! Too salty, but sooooooo good! Because it’s FOOD! Glorious food that our son hasn’t had a chance to annihilate!”

The only silver lining is my boy is easy to please. His palate isn’t refined.  Probably because the food isn’t in his mouth long enough for his taste buds to activate.

“Hey, Mom! Can I have some bread?”

“Oh, you want an egg salad sandwich? Or a grilled cheese?”

“Nope, just bread!” he yells and gallops away, rapidly cramming plain pieces of white bread into his mouth.

Bread. It's what's for pre-snack-snack.
Bread. It’s what’s for pre-snack-snack.

Yesterday I watched him eat ham. Just ham. A big plate of ham slices, nothing else. And this was his pre-snack snack before his first dinner.

I know he’s growing and his body needs massive quantities of food. I realize it’ll only get worse. As it is now when he comes home from school I just hand him a gallon of milk with a straw, a giant stick of beef jerky, a plate of ham hocks and send him on his way.

I wonder if they make lobster-ravioli-flavored bouillon cubes?

So very filling.
So very filling.

Do you also have a human garbage disposal living in your house? Do you have any extra food lying around that you can mail me? Tell me what you’re eating right now so I can live vicariously through you. Thank you.

Firsts and Lasts with Rachel from Rachel’s Table

Food — damn, how I love food. Cooking — damn, how I suck at cooking. But I don’t have to worry, I simply have to visit the red hot food blog, Rachel’s Table and steal all of her recipes.

Like this divine bacon and garlic scapes one. If only I could convince her to become my personal chef.
Like this divine bacon and garlic scapes one. If only I could convince her to become my personal chef.

Rachel, or Rachey-Pooh, or RP — as I affectionately call her — is the master of not only cooking, but good writing (she was Freshly Pressed). Her recipes showcase locally grown, healthy whole foods.

And she managed to scarf down the world’s hottest peppers without blinking an eye. Well, she did tear up a bit. Okay, she might have exploded into flames at one point. But she is the self-proclaimed winner of the Peppermeister Roulette challenge. You owe it to yourself to watch this vlog because she dropped it like it’s hot.

Now it’s time to interrogate one of my fave bloggers with some heavy questions about her personal life. I like to dig deep, exposing any and all flaws so I’ll feel better about myself.

For example, after a little investigating, I unearthed this gem…

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So please give a spicy, red hot July welcome to my Blogger of the Month,

Rachel of Rachel’s Table!

FIRST…
Blog Post: I started my blog, Rachel’s Table, in order to learn more about local food options in my area – I try to eat foods grown or raised within 100 miles of my front door (or at least from the Mid-Atlantic region). I’m not always successful, because I haven’t figured out how to grow an avocado in this climate and the deed restrictions in my townhouse community prohibit backyard distilleries.

Kiss: The year was 1986, the boy was Neil. He had blond, buzzed hair and dreamy brown eyes. I modeled this kiss after all the soap opera kisses and movie kisses I’d ever seen – which means I just moved my head around a lot and closed my eyes. He said, “Why are you moving your head like that?” It was magical.

As magical as THIS kiss, Rachel?
As magical as THIS kiss, Rachel?

Love: When I was fourteen, I fell hard for one of my older brother’s friends – Mark. He was a senior and I was a freshman, so you can imagine my surprise when he asked me to Prom. I wore a peach dress covered in lace, had a bowl haircut, and was the happiest girl alive. About a month later, he broke up with me to date Tammy, a senior with the biggest, most magnificent hair around. I cried so hard my eye lids swelled shut and covered my face with a notebook every time I saw him at school. Somehow I still think about him with fondness – I loved him with everything that was in my fourteen-year-old heart.

Childhood Memory: On the first day of kindergarten, I hid from my parents by climbing into the oven of my kitchen play set. I was SURE I would never have to go to school if no one could find me. My parents were not outwitted, so off to school I went where I played Dukes of Hazzard underneath the tables with Timmy Morgan.

Moment I met my significant other: I met Mr. Rache when I was 12 and he was 6. He was my little brother’s best friend and would come to our house to play video games while wearing basketball shorts and no shirt. I had no tolerance for him in my tween years.

Who wouldn't love a kid in aviators?
Mr. Rache in kindergarten – who wouldn’t love a kid in aviators?

Fast forward twenty years and I’m back in my childhood hometown, where he still lived. We connected on Facebook first and exchanged witty banter via private message. When we finally met (again) for the first time, we saw a movie, stayed up all night talking, went to breakfast, and walked in the park. We got married exactly one year later.

Possession I would take if my house were on fire: My cats Willow and Zuzu, of course.

Job I had: My first “real” job was at my college library. I answered questions, helped students with the card catalog (I’m old) and counted stacks, which means I went down rows making sure all the Dewey decimals were in the right order. There’s no greater thrill than finding a book out of order and putting it in its rightful place.

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Time I got pulled over by a cop: So one of the first times I had dealings with a cop was because I hit a drunk guy. Not with my fists – with my car. Let me set the scene: Eight lanes of traffic, divided in half by a median. I’m making a U-turn, drunk guy walks out of Hooter’s and stands on the median. He looks like he’s staying put (and at the time, I didn’t know he was drunk) so I continue my U-turn. Just as I’m speeding up, he starts walking. I slam on my breaks too late. The car slides, drunk guy bounces off the front bumper, and I grip the steering wheel in horrified disbelief. I get out of the car, someone calls 911, two salesmen from a nearby car dealership comfort me by saying, “Don’t be upset. He’s just an old drunk guy. This happens all the time on this road. I think he’s homeless.” That did NOT make me feel better as drunk guy attempted to stand up, then fell down – several times. Later that night, the cop taking care of the incident called me to report that drunk guy was unscathed, because he was “drunk out of his mind” when I hit him. “He went down like he didn’t have any bones.”

LAST…
Blog Post: In Food Snobs Anonymous, I wrote about boring a friend to death while talking about cubing meat, and how in that conversation I realized I’m a food snob. While the masses may call me a food snob, I say I have food values. I’m starting a club. Food Snobs. Named and Known. Click here if you want to join!

Thing I cooked: Shrimp and Fava Beans – both local, of course.

Delish
Delish

Song I listened to: That would be all the songs Counting Crows and The Wallflowers performed at a concert in Atlantic City last night. (90’s music rocks!)

Book I read: I would like to say it was something classy and academic like War and Peace, but it was Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw. I love me some Tony. [editor’s note: She does. See above photo.]

Reality TV show I watched: Chopped. It’s the only food competition I really appreciate. I tried to watch The Taste, because Tony was a host. I can’t believe he put his name on that drivel. It was horrifying.

Person I kissed: That would be Mr. Rache.

Proof
Proof

Time I laughed hysterically: Yesterday when Mr. Rache got dressed, he asked if he should wear plaid shorts with a certain shirt and then put a hat on, too. I said, “Sure. If you want to look stupid.” For some reason, we both laughed hysterically. [editor’s note: I would have laughed, too.]

Time I swore like a sailor: Yesterday afternoon while doing Insanity. Damn you, Shaun T!

Embarrassing moment: Yesterday while doing Insanity. Do I need to explain? [editor’s note: Maybe I can help.]

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Good deed I did: I picked my friend up and gave her a ride to work today, if that counts. She bought me coffee, so it wasn’t completely selfless.

Indulgence: I probably indulge too much, but right now I’m doing this Insanity thing and eating only lean proteins and veggies. I just ate sautéed rainbow chard and two eggs for breakfast. So I’m due for an indulgence, but I’m saving it for this weekend when I will eat all the seafood and all the pizza while on a mini-vacation to my home state of Massachusetts.

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Thanks, Rache! Be sure to visit her blog and all the other fantastic bloggers I’ve interviewed for my Bloggers of the Month.

Life is Better with a Pint of Vermont’s Finest

You came to me much like a dream,
bold yet sweet, you reigned supreme.

One tiny taste and I was sunk,
this crazy lust, I willingly drunk.

With promises of sugar and spice,
I gobbled you up, my wicked vice.

Thoughts of you would enter my day,
I had to be with you, there was no other way.

My lips–they’d tremble, my heart would swoon,
Quick! Off to the kitchen to grab a spoon!

I’d rip you open and plunge so deep,
your velvet cream, it made me weep.

Guilt be damned! Your love was mine!
We melted together–it was divine.

My life was over; this burden I’d carry
for I was in love with Ben and Jerry.

Oh, how I love a man wearing glasses. And holding a triple-scoop cone. You guys rock my world.

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About 14 years ago, before we were married and had kids, my husband and I traveled as much as possible. Did we go see the Grand Canyon? Mount Rushmore? Niagara Falls? The World’s Largest Ball of Twine?

Please! Why bother with those tired old tourist traps when you can visit the
Ben and Jerry’s factory in Vermont?

We took the factory tour and I think I might have asked the question, “Soooo annnyway… do we get free samples or what?” about a thousand times. Maybe I managed to tick off the tour guide a little. Especially when I kept interrupting her, insisting she interview me on the spot for the full time Taste Tester position. And asking if the salary was paid in giant vats of Chubby Hubby. Or if the employee gym featured showers that spouted nothing but caramel and chocolate syrup.

We did get our free samples at the end–after she escorted me outside–and we had a chance to taste a brand new flavor they were in the process of developing back in 1998:

Peanut Butter and Jelly!

And it was disgusting.

Sorry, but major flavor fail on your part, Ben and Jerry. (I forgive you.) Certain combinations probably should never be mixed with ice cream. Say, cottage cheese and pimentos. Or asparagus and Tabasco sauce. I would have rather tested those flavors. Wisely, the good people at Ben and Jerry’s retired the PB&J flavor after limited release and buried it where it belonged, six feet under in their ‘Where Bad Flavors Go to Die’ cemetery.

Here I am, desperately trying to resurrect the flavor “Nighty-Night”– vanilla ice cream with swirls of strawberry-flavored Benadryl and chunks of tangy Nyquil nuggets. (I may or may not be discreetly dumping my tiny sample cup of PB&J behind the tombstone…)
Ah, memories! The day we toured the Ben and Jerry’s factory in Vermont was the single best day of my life. Well…right behind the birth of my kids. And my wedding day…I guess….but really, who can compete with FREE SAMPLES!!

So tell me…what flavors would you crawl over hot coals for?

Mine are Phish Food and Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. I think I ate an entire pint of Coffee Heath Bar Crunch every single day back in college. (…and they say the ‘Freshman 15’ is a myth.)

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Drooling over this post? Feel free to visit the following bloggers today for more calorie-free sweetness as we celebrate all things ice cream.

Oma and his Blurt Blog
Lenore’s Thoughts Exactly
Georgette Sullins’s Blog
Pegoleg and her Ramblings
Blogdramedy
Katy over at k8edid
Jacquelin Cangro’s blog
Lisa from publikworks
Kim of The G is Silent
Julie True Kingsley’s Blog

Confessions of a Bad Cook

When I was a child, the kitchen was always a mysterious place. My mother would tie her “Kiss Me, I’m Irish!” apron on and disappear in there, banging around the pea green and pale yellow cupboards for hours. Eventually she’d emerge, and huge platters of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans would magically appear. I’d only venture in there occasionally, usually to steal a juicy sliver of roasted turkey or snatch a piping hot fried doughnut, fresh out of the oil. I was usually met with my mom’s frowning face. “Get outta here!” she’d scold, waving her wooden spoon at me, and I’d zip back into the living room to do the one thing I was good at: wreaking havoc with my brothers.

Maybe it was because my mom banned me, or maybe it was because I had zero interest in the endless stirring, sifting and rolling of ingredients–I simply never learned how to cook. Eating was my forte. After keeping this shameful secret for so long, I can finally stand up and admit:

I am a bad cook.

It wasn’t until I was living far away from home in a college dorm when I realized just how terrible I was at cooking–cooking anything. If it wasn’t microwavable, I was stumped. My roommate was understandably stunned when I confessed to her I didn’t even know how to make the basics, like hot dogs or Ramen noodles–the staples of any starving college student. After she finished laughing–and this went on for a good 30 minutes or so–she patiently showed me how to do complicated things, like dump a jar of sauce into a pan and stir in the frozen meatballs. “You mean, I just keep stirring, like this?” I’d sheepishly ask her, turning red from embarrassment. I was 17, and my first few cooking lessons were: 1) How to boil water 2) How not to burn the sauce. I barely succeeded.

I continued on with my pathetic cooking skills up until the present. I would love to say that now, over 24 years later, I am a culinary genius; that I put Ina Garten or Julia Child to shame. Well, if all three of us were in a Deviled Egg Contest, I might win. (It helps that one of them is no longer living.) Deviled eggs was the one recipe I perfected over the years. At every holiday or get-together my relatives could count on Darla’s Damn Delicious Deviled Eggs to make an appearance.

My husband would walk into the kitchen. “Ooh! God! Blech! What
smells in here?” he’d ask, his face scrunched up in disgust.

“Deviled eggs!” I’d gush. “I’m making them for the Fourth of July picnic!”

And for Thanksgiving? Why, deviled eggs! Christmas? Eggs! New Year’s? Guess. Oh, there was the one time for Easter when I went out on a limb and made deviled eggs. Apparently, I can handle boiling water on the stovetop. On the other hand, it seems the oven is still a scary place for me. Being a klutz, I have a ridiculously intense phobia I will burn myself. If my husband wants nachos, I have to put on a full-body oven mitt to even come close to that burning inferno of salsa and melted cheese.

Thankfully, there are three things I can do very well, and this has saved my butt in the kitchen on many occasions:

1) I can read. Even better, I can follow a recipe. Hallelujah! And if I can read the steps a few dozen times in preparation, then carefully refer to each step a few more times while I am doing them, I am usually able pull it off. Usually. More often than not, re-reading the steps just push me over the edge quicker. My cooking sessions end up ugly; full of imagined taunts from the real chefs and unbridled swearing from me. For example:

Paula Deen’s Southern Cornbread Stuffing
(why is it that the first time I read her recipe, her voice is all syrupy sweetness in my head, but with each re-reading, her southern twang takes on a more irritated tone?)

In a large bowl, combine crumbled cornbread, dried white bread slices, and saltines; set aside.  Okay, crumbled, she says. I can do crumbled! Umm…like this?

I say-ed CRUMBLED y'all!

Okay, okay, I hear you Paula, jeez, don’t get your panties all in a bunch! You don’t have to smirk at me. I’ll try to crumble. Wait a minute, the bread is lumpy now. (I frantically try to find my husband) Honey, come over here and help me! Do I use a knife to crumble the bread or my hands? For the love of God, what does “crumble” mean? I can’t measure anything that’s crumbled! Why, Paula, why? (This is usually the point where I rip off my apron and toss it into the oven.)

You want crumbled? I'll give you f#@*ing crumbled!

Add the celery and onion and cook until transparent, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Okay, I’m cooking the celery and onions, but are they transparent? They still look kinda opaque. Is opaque good? No? What the hell does opaque mean anyway? Transparent means clear? What? Good lord, where is that &*%ing dictionary? Calm down, Darla. Deep breaths.  I’ll read the recipe again. Yep, Paula says they have to be transparent. Oh god, why does she insist on these things? Approximately 5 to 10 minutes, y’all. Approximately? Does she mean five minutes or seven? What if she means 10? I’ve cooked them for 11 minutes now and they still aren’t transparent. More like a deep rust color. Is this bad?

I say-ed APPROXIMATELY, sugar! Just pick a goshdarn number, darlin'!

Dammit, Paula, shut up! I’m not your darlin’! I’m just trying to cook some  @#$%ing onions and I’m crying already! (I frantically try to find my husband) Honey? Honey! Can you help me? Honey, where are you?

2) I can measure. I am a very meticulous measurer. Every ingredient has to be exact. There will be no spontaneous or questionable “eh, it kinda, sorta looks like a tablespoon…” or “I don’t have salt so I’ll mix in some Mrs. Dash instead” cooking in my kitchen. I would never dream of dumping sugar into my hand like Rachael Ray, then casually tossing it into the bowl like I’m throwing confetti in a parade. Oh, no. I will pour that sugar into a measuring cup and eyeball it to death. If someone ever invents a new kitchen gadget that resembles a tiny leveling tool, I’d be all over it.

Wow! You really ARE a bad cook, Darla!

Oh, shut up, Rachael. Who invited you? Why don’t you go throw some salt all over the place,  dump some of your precious EVOO all over it, then “pop” some food in the oven and leave me alone to cry in my onions.

3) I can use my secret ingredient: Love. Whenever I make dinner, I never hesitate to inform the innocent victims at the table that my dish was made with it; I heaped it on there like my life depended on it. Without love, I’m afraid my cooking would be even worse, if that were possible (and it isn’t).

Mmm...yes...well, Darla, your soup needs more love. Truckloads of it.

Miraculously, these few cooking abilities have enabled me to pull off a casserole dish or two. I (barely) managed to make a delicious (homemade!) stuffing for Thanksgiving last year (from scratch!) And nobody died after eating it. Did I mention it was homemade? I spent hours cutting bread into mind-numbing cubes with my own two little klutzy, clueless, oven-mitted hands (you try holding a knife with mitts on).  Everybody raved about my stuffing. I think most of us were in shock it was so delicious–the turkey was all but ignored.  The success of my stuffing ranked right up there with completing my college degree. I was so proud and made so much of it, we were eating stuffing with every single meal for an entire week. But dammit, it was tasty. We still talk about it. “Remember that stuffing you made last year?” my husband will ask with a dreamy look in his eyes. “Oh, yeah! It was good, wasn’t it?” I’ll sigh while scraping burnt tomato soup out of yet another ruined pot.

Even though I am a self-confessed bad cook, my husband is not. (God brought us two together for a reason.) He is a phenomenal cook and, even better, he loves to do it. Whenever I tell my friends, “Oh, Jim’s getting dinner ready,” they tell me how lucky I am. I always point out, he’s lucky I don’t cook. It all works out for the best.

So this Thanksgiving, as you’re slaving away in the kitchen, elbow-deep in roasted rosemary turkey with sprigs of thyme and carving cranberries into tiny Mayflowers, think of me.

I’ll be making stinky eggs.

Bon Appétit!

Happy cooking and joyous eating, my friends!
Eat, drink, and be merry with the ones you love!
Be grateful I don’t cook for you! Oh, and–
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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I am taking an extended break from blogging…hopefully I’ll see you all around the New Year (if I survive the holidays)