Thursday, January 27, 2011

Eat This Now - Or Don't!

I received a gift card from Barnes & Noble from a friend and without hesitation went right out and bought Rocco Di Spirito's "Now Eat This," a collection of comfort food recipes retooled with lower fat and caloric contents.  Always looking for the magic potion that will equal good food without the naughty stuff, I was hoping I had found the holy grail of cookbooks.

Moondoggy and I are both picky eaters.  I am not a huge fan of red meat.  I know what you are thinking, but it's true.  I have never ordered a steak or roast or anything of the like in a restaurant in my entire life.  I seriously have never considered it.  Moondoggy does not like nor will he ever eat anything that contains a pea, a green bean, a mushroom or an onion.  His onion detector is enviable.  He can look at a pizza and spot the accidental onion, take a sip of soup and tell when there is even an onion flake present.  Moondoggy presents a challenge when I am cooking because I respect his ick factor, but it makes cooking challenging at times as I promised him a long time ago I would never attempt to sneak an onion, mushroom or green legume in his food.  I am, after all, a woman of my word.  With the "no, no's" firmly tattooed onto my brain, I took the daring step of attempting one of the recipes in my new book.

Chicken Alfredo a la Rocco Dispirito-
When I am are going for comfort, creamy and rich, I figured I'd start with an alfredo.  And while I am not going to lay out the recipes here, I will share some of the surprise secrets here that I believe make the dishes really good - or really bad.

The first ingredient listed is. . . . .Onion garlic puree.  Yep onion.  What to do, what to do. . .I decided to forge ahead and make what we, here in our house, call Safety Chicken ( a chicken breast cooked in the oven in case the dish is inedible) and follow the recipe as written.  The onion garlic puree consists of a sweet vidalia onion chopped into pieces and placed into a microwave safe bowl along with 6 cloves of garlic, a 1/4 cup water and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover them with platic wrap, microwave for 10 minutes, then blend or food process until is makes a thick smooth puree (about a cup.)

And THAT is the base for the Alfredo sauce.  Onion.

So, the chicken is pounded thin, dredged through wholewheat flour, egg whites and panko bread crumbs.  Cook it in a skillet with a dash of olive oil until tender and crisp.  Whole wheat pasta cooked in boiling water until done and THE SAUCE:  The Onion garlic puree, some milk, nutmeg and grated parmegiano reggiano cheese cooked until the cheese is melted.  Coat the pasta, place chicken on top and then finish with the sauce.  The aroma is sublime.

And then I did the worst thing I could possibly do.  I fed it to Moondoggy. I did so without warning him that the dreaded onion was laced throughout entire dish. Thank God I had a piece of safety chicken in the oven.  I held my breath and he took a bite. . .and then another. . .and then another.  Finally, he said, "This is good.  You can make this again," and I exhaled.  It was good - it was really good.  And here is the best part. . .

Serves 4 with each serving containing:
320 calories (Yes that's for the chicken, the sauce AND the pasta)
5.5g of fat.

I'm not kidding.  Moondoggy gave it 5 stars until a few days later when I caved due to the weight of guilt that was sitting directly on my shoulders.  I tearfully admitted there were onions involved and he took it to 4 (on principal, he said) and I have now lost all credibility with him.  But, on the bright side, he is willing to try any other recipe that calls for the Onion garlic puree, but swears he won't like it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Kindle Love

I've decided that this is the year I need to take an intrepid step in the blogging world.  Usually, my blog contains an essay or short piece - almost always drawn from real life - and almost always the honest truth (I love the word "almost" because it is a magnificent qualifier allowing me to fudge a bit.)  Sometimes, I even delve into some serious prose, when I am so moved, but I am mostly, well, looking for a laugh.  I am a laugh slut.  But, two things have occurred that seem to be begging to be blogged upon.

The first is my (as in I own it) new cookbook.  "Eat This Now" by Rocco DiSpirito is a collection of comfort food recipes retooled to be healthier, lower in fat and in calories.  I was intrigued when I watched him create his rendition of Macaroni and Cheese with a tenth of the fat and calories and still deem it edible.  So, I bought the book.  I have tried several recipes and can say with the exception of one, they have been pretty good.  So, I am thinking of taking one day a week - say Tuesdays, and writing about one of the recipes and what we thought.  Moondoggy is a harsh food critic and brings forth an honest view that runs from Bleccch to his stellar "This is good" rating.  Tell me what you think.

The next thought comes from my beloved Kindle reader.  I am proud to say that I was  a first adopter of the Kindle the day that Jeff Bezos introduced them on Oprah a few years back.  I had to have it.  It ticked all of my boxes: Instant gratification because I could buy a book on a whim, one small machine that housed hundreds of books, cute with little push buttons.  Sold!

And I have coveted my Kindle ever since.  So, when my book came out last August, while I was pushing sales all over the place, I was secretly prepping it for Kindle use and it came out in September.  It's a no-brainer really, buy the paperback for $14 or the Kindle version for $2.99?  I know what I would choose.  I have spent a lot of time marketing for Kindle and have had a pretty good run so far and in that time, I have discovered some really talented indie writers, who also have some pretty good books out there.  I am going to take a day and write about whatever book I am reading on my Kindle.  In most cases the books are all less than $4.99 and in many cases they are $2.99 and 99 cents on Kindle but also available at Amazon in paperback.  These writers deserve some shout outs and you might find some books you really enjoy for not a large investment.  Just sayin.

Weigh in, please?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Laughter All Around

Normally, on any given day, I make myself the butt of a good joke or funny story, that's just how it always seems to come out.  However, it would be unfair of me to steal all of that dubious thunder, without acknowledging the natural comic talent all around me.

Over the years, I have had opportunity to witness some of the funniest schtuff tumble out of the mouth of the people around me.  Just last week, I had the opportunity to drive my Younger Son and a female friend of his to the train station (they were headed to Chicago.)   Female friend was sitting in the back seat chattering away about, oh everything, including some of the things she has done while away at school.  And amidst the parties and classes and roommate issues came this gem:

Female Friend - Oh My Lord!  You would not believe how irritating people can be.  How Rude they can be - especially theater people.   I was sitting at the "Glee" (as in the show) auditions waiting for my turn and without provocation, the guy next to me starts to sing this song - REALLY  loud.  And then, all of these other people spontaneously join in and they're all singing like they are already on the show.  One person would start a song and then everyone would join in.  I actually had to go out into the hall to have a conversation on my cell phone. Where did they think they were?

I looked at Youngest Son.  He smiled and said, "yeah, she really just said that."

My friend, Erstwhile Earthmother Kim and her spouse, the Great Dane are known for "their" song.  Whenever we are all together, the Great Dane will somehow get "Love Shack" to be played by whatever band, Dj or Jukebox is around.  The last time, the band mentioned that they also loved the B-52's (the song's artists) and Erstwhile Earthmother Kim looked at me and said, "Is that the name of the band?  I always thought that was the song number on the jukebox!"

My Older Son has a friend who is the King of mashed up unintentional one liners. I have come to call these pearls Cameronisms.  I'll just leave you with a few and let them sink in.

"I found a new allergy drug.  It really knocks you up."

"I want to study a broad.  Who wouldn't?"

After a discussion about males finding their feminine side:
"Yeah, I like to touch my manhood"

In a college class at the chalkboard describing a business problem, he wrote:

. . .and that would leave 79 younits in stock.

Upon getting a part in "Seven Brides for Severn Brother's"-
"They cast me as a "suitor" in the play!  I can't wait to take those girl's measurements!"
(umm. . .a suitor is NOT a tailor, or a seamstress!)

When you are surrounded by that kind of comic genius, you really can't go wrong.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The $2000 Fish Part 2

And there we sat in the intersection with the morning patrons of Union Street Station gaping out the windows as they sipped their breakfast beers.  I had come to terms that all the children were ok as was my prized Betta fish.

I focused on the car I had hit; a brand new Mustang and the driver frantically running over to make sure everyone was ok.  Everyone was, I assured her, but her car was totaled.  I mean obliterated.  My Volvo front quarter panel was merely crunched.  And the full realization of what had happened was sinking in.

Cars whizzed up - first the father of the other party. . .and being a small town, I can tell you it was my favorite carpet cleaner.  Oh crap!  She ran up to him and he threw his arms around her asking what had happened.  I knew not to admit fault (but duh, I'm turning into her lane - it was kind of obvious) and then out of some other car pops the insurance guy who conveniently serviced both the Mustang and the Volvo and just happened to be driving by with his camera handy.  He wanted the story.  At that moment, and because we were located almost directly in front of the police station, out comes the local constabulary to control the scene.  In hindsight, I am pretty sure that the police conducted a formal game of rock, paper, scissors to decide who had to go out and deal with the whole mess.

So, Insurance Man is clicking away on his camera, Carpet Cleaner is consoling his daughter as she cried over her, BRAND NEW, only owned it 24 hours totaled Mustang, the Beer Gang at Union Street are applauding and whooping and hollering and I tell the story to the cop.

"And then, officer, the fish jumped out of the water onto the back seat floor, and I turned to see because I knew the fish would die if it didn't get back in the water, and I was turning onto Union and then veered into the oncoming lane and hit her car."

"So, your saying," the officer was suppressing a laugh, but I could see his mouth twitching, "that the fish caused the accident?"

"Yes."  That was my story and I was sticking to it.  The cop smirked and said I would be getting a ticket.  I knew this might take time and had to get the older boys to pre-school so I pulled the baby out of the car seat handed him to the officer and said, "I have to take the boys to pre-school.  I promise to come right back - I'll leave the baby to prove it!"

"That's ok, I believe you!" said the officer trying to hand the baby back.  "Are you sure?" I asked.
"It's not like I have to haul you to jail - please take your baby back!"  Panic was slowly creeping over his cool as a cucumber cop face and I thought, for a minute, about leaving the baby anyway.  I mean what better to place than the police station, right?  And perhaps, the officer would take pity on me. But, I didn't and did return to collect my ticket and the subsequent jump in insurance premiums.

And the fish?  It survived the ordeal.  The car?  Bob estimated the cost at $2000.  Expensive fish.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The $2000 Fish Part 1

I have a Safe Driver Certificate.  I got it when I renewed my license a few years back.  And while most of you get that as a matter of course, I covet mine.  You see, I had a bad streak during the 90's .  I'm not going to go into chapter and verse concerning all of my accidents, suffice it to say that Bob's Body Shop had a shelf especially for me.  And on that shelf were the array of paints used on my vehicles over the years.  It's possible that I, singlehandedly, funded the first two years of Bob's son's college.  I'm not proud of that, it's just a fact I can't deny.

In 1991 I drove a burgundy Volvo 240 sedan.  Your typical utilitarian boxy style, it also had heated seats and a front end that screamed tough.  I loved that car.  In 1991, we also made our first (and last) foray into owning an aquarium.  We had grommies, sharks and a beautiful deep pink Betta with a plume of a tail.  I loved that Betta.

About a week after we got the Beta, it's tail, the once proud and fluttering plume, had begun to clump, resembling a greasy comb over.  And being a good pet owner, I called the pet shop owner uptown who told me to bring the fish in so they could make a proper diagnosis.  No problem, I thought.  I put the fish is a cup of water, put the baby in the car seat (located properly in the back seat), loaded Oldest Child (who I was going to drop off at preschool) in front and stopped to pick-up a neighbor boy who was in the preschool carpool.

Off we headed to town where I was going to make a quick stop at the pet store before heading to preschool.  So, Oldest Child being tallest, sat in front while Neighbor Boy held the fish in the back seat with the baby, safely belted, buckled, tied and otherwise tethered to the other seat in back.

I was sitting in the left turn lane at the intersection of Hwy 2 and Union St., waiting for the light to allow me to turn.  I am careful that way.  As the arrow appeared and I began the turn, Neighbor Boy, holding the fish yells, "Hey!  The fish jumped out!" at which point, I turned to look and ran smack into a car that was sitting at the stop light on Union. . . which was also in front of the police station and Union Street Station - take your pick, neither place invoked warm fuzzy feelings for me.

Upon realization that all of us in the car were fine, still belted and all limbs were accounted for, Neighbor Boy shakes his head and says, "Boy! Is your husband gonna kill YOU!"  Now, I'm thinking a thousand things at this point but the truth is, what I really wanted to know was why, if the fish jumped out, was it STILL IN THE CUP HELD TIGHTLY IN NEIGHBOR BOY'S LITTLE HAND!?

Stay tuned.  As the saga continues and I face my crime.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

I am thrilled to announce that the two lucky winners for my book giveaway - a contest open to anyone who became a new follower of My Life In A Nutshell by the deadline of January 5, 2011, have been chosen.  It was a daunting process that required a long mulling over of how to fairly choose the winners.  Do I put all the names in a hat?  Do I make a list and close my eyes to choose the two lucky winners?  Throw darts?  I seriously wanted to make it fair and equitable for all the contestants.

Here's how it shook out. . . .drum roll. . . . after announcing the contest here, on Facebook, Twitter and other literary and book boards, after 5 days to enter, after collecting all of the names, I decided to pick the first two who became followers believing they were the most eager to win my book.  I have that power - it's my blog, my contest, my book. So Na Nana Boo Boo.

The LUCKY winners of my book giveaway are. . . .


Larry Enright, author of Four Years From Home

Congratulations to both Bill and Larry Enright!  Please contact me with an address of where to send your valued signed copy of Is It Just Me? or Is Everyone a Little Nuts!
I'm sure you are wondering how many new followers I received from this contest.  The answer? Two.