Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Stupid Animal Stories: Part Tres!

This is exactly what Hammy looked like.  He even did cute things like this.  I loved that little guy!
(Image from Google images)

When we finally moved into an actual house in Pittsburgh, (no more apartment living for us, we were movin' on up), I was able to talk my mom into letting me have hamsters.  A friend of mine had a baby pool full of the little fur balls (yes, a baby pool, these things procreate like crazy) and her mom didn't want them anymore, so I was lucky enough to now be the proud mommy of two hamsters.  What I am pretty sure I ended up with, was a momma hamster and a baby hamster.  One of them was old and frail looking.  The other was the best looking hamster I ever laid eyes on!  I can't for the life of me remember what I named the mom, but I named the baby Hammy (I know, REAL imaginative).  Finally, an animal I could love and pet on.  No more fish for this family! 

A few days into my new fur babies, I noticed that the mom would constantly start fights with Hammy.  And Hammy would squeak and cry until I came to his rescue.  Maybe the mom knew that I thought Hammy was better looking.  We became quick friends, Hammy and I.  I would let him run around my bedroom and he would poop on everything and I would clean it up and hug him.  And my mom would constantly yell at me to put him back in the cage.  But he needed me.  I was saving his life!  His own mother wanted him dead.  Now that I think about it, maybe the mom started to resent Hammy for all the attention I was giving him.  I guess I wasn't as good of a hamster mom as I thought!     

Well, we all know that all good things must come to an end.  And tragically, I woke up to a dead Hammy.  He was belly-up in the cage, his mother sniffing around, looking guilty (for all I know Hammy was the mom...who the hell knows with hamsters).  I had to go to school that morning.  But I wanted to give Hammy a proper burial.  So I picked him up out of his cage, kissed his little dead body, told him I'd be back for him and left him sitting on top of my vanity.  This scared the hell out of my mom when she later went into my room that day to find a dead rodent just sitting out, rigor-mortised to the table.  Ahhh, kids!

That afternoon I came home from school, put old Hammy in a zip lock bag, said my goodbyes and buried him next to our back door.  His mom lived quite a while after.  Abnormally long in our opinion.  We started to wonder if she would EVER die!  Eventually she did, but I didn't give her the same treatment that I gave Hammy.  She was mean.  Me and Hammy were tight.  We bonded.  I spoke Hammy.  And Hammy spoke Jessica.  I obviously was not getting enough attention!

Months passed, and Pet Cemetery came out and I realized how much I missed Hammy.  So I, the deranged child that I was, decided it was time to dig him back up and tell him goodbye one last time.  I knew he wouldn't come back to life.  But I wanted to tell him once more that he was my first real pet love.  Here's how I remember it.  It was raining.  There was a blueish tint to the night sky.  I had waited until my mom went to bed.  There was something very eerie about the wind.  I was obviously doing something I should've been doing.  When I finally pulled the zip lock bag up out of the dirt, I realized it had been a terrible idea.  My sweet, cute, huggable, furry Hammy was no longer cute or huggable.  He was now mushy, squishy, and nothing like the dead hamster I left for my mom to find.  I said my goodbyes, much more quickly than I had planned, I just wanted to get this nasty ass thing back into the ground and go back to bed!  That was the last time I saw Hammy.

I later confessed to my mom that I had dug Hammy up.  She was disgusted.  And probably worried that she may have raised some sort of psychopath of a daughter.  But it taught me a valuable lesson.  Love the things in your life dearly.  And when they are gone, by all means, think of them, write to them, talk to them and sing to them, but for God's Sake do NOT DIG THEM BACK UP!!

**Note: Only 1 bat, 10 fish, 1 eel, 2 lobsters and 2 hamsters were harmed in the writing of this series.  Click to read Part I and Part Deux.         

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Stupid Animal Stories: Part Deux

(Image from google images)

Once upon a time, I talked my mom into getting me a fish tank.  We always lived in apartment complexes in Pittsburgh, so we weren't allowed to have normal pets like cats and dogs.  Nothing I could pet or hug on.  So I decided on getting a fish tank.  But not just any old fish tank.  We like to keep things complicated in our household!  So we got a fish tank with of course, fish and a coupla lobsters.  Yes, that's right.  Lobsters.  Two of them.  They were the ugliest pets you could ask for.  They were see through, to start.  You could see their insides.  All their little organs flopping around.  And they just looked like two big huge bugs crawling around in the tank.  The only pretty thing about the fish tank was the fish we had.  They were silver with a big pink line going down the side of their bodies.  Unfortunately, I would wake up each morning and realize that less and less fish were in the tank.  There were no dead bodies floating around to later flush.  There were just less fish.  So it finally dawned on us that the lobsters were eating the fish.  Those damn see through lobsters.

I'm 8ish.  And I really want some pretty fish to look at.  So after the lobsters successfully finished feasting upon all my pretty fish babies, we went to the pet store and asked the pet attendant what type of fish might be able to outrun these pesky little lobsters.  The lobsters that wouldn't die even if I had fed them nail polish remover.  (Something I never told you, mom.)

So the pet attendant recommended that we get an eel.  Yippie!  An eel!  Eels are cool.  They're graceful.  They're pretty.  And they're fast!  But not fast enough for a lobster.  I remember being sent to bed one night and seeing the most disturbing act an 8 year old might witness.  My eel was apparently not fast enough, but he was long enough that when he happened to swim by my asshole lobster, his tail was grabbed by the jerk of a bug.  So when I went to wish my fishes sweet dreams, I saw the lobster, happily eating the eel from the tail up.  The eel was bashing his head back and forth, trying to free itself from the grasp of my lobster, but there was no use.  The stupid lobster feasted upon the eel in the most inhumane way possible.  And my 8-year-old eyes watched in horror as my last ditch fish was murdered.

And my lobster sat in the corner of the tank smiling, as if he knew he had won the eel challenge.  I don't know what happened to the lobsters.  I imagine my mom never told me that she TOO had been secretly pouring nail polish remover into the tank to kill the evil bastards that scarred her child's love of sea creatures.  But one day they were gone.  The fish tank was packed up, and we went about our merry way.  And still to this day, when I see lobster on a menu, I have flashbacks of the terrified look on the eels face, being eaten from the butt up, while my mean old lobster enjoyed his unagi sushi.  I never gave up loving the taste of lobster, but I will never have one as a pet again.


Friday, March 22, 2013

Stupid Animal Stories: Part I

(Image from Google Images)

As you may have read from my previous blog, (thanks to all the new readers, I love you!) my mother worked a lot when we were growing up.  So sleep was precious to her.  Very precious.  If for some reason she was woken up by us we knew we were in BIG trouble.  We knew that if one of us wasn't dead or bleeding, to shut the hell up and not wake up mom.  Because of her need to sleep soundly, she has, as long as I can remember, slept with a fan running, so as to block out any peep of noise that might rouse her.  She also made sure we slept with fans running in our room, so as to drown out any noise we made, so guessed it, we would not wake her up! 

So imagine how distraught we must have been to discover a bat flying around our bedroom in the wee hours of the night.  We shared a room.  I think we were 4 and 8...MAYBE 5 and 9.  But regardless we were scared shit less when we saw this black shadow flapping around the ceiling, screeching like bats do.  Did I mention we were 4 and 8?  We grew up watching Salem's Lot...not this wussified Twilight stuff (and yes, due to one of our many brilliant baby sitters, we watched Salem's Lot at 4 and 8).  Do you realize what 4 and 8 year olds think bats are capable of?  We were SURE we would both become tangled-haired vampires come sunrise.  So we did what we both knew was sure to get us killed.  But we had no choice.  Be killed by a vampire bat or be killed by our mother.  At least let her get some satisfaction!  So we SCREAMED!!!

We screamed so loud that our mother raced into the room, flung open the door, turned the light on and growled at us, "THIS BETTER BE GOOD!"
"There's a bat in our room!" Leigh cried.
"Show me," she stood her ground, peering at us with I'm gonna murder you eyes.
"It was flying around, I SWEAR," Leigh looked toward me for back up.  I had one eye out of the covers.  I was terrified of all of them.  I didn't know which one would kill me first and for what reason, so I just shivered in fear under the covers.
"There's nothing in here, now go back to bed," our mother shouted.
"Bats are afraid of light, turn off the light and you'll see!"  Leigh begged!  So she did.  She turned off the light and slammed the door.
(PS - don't fault me for my inaccurate usage of quotes, punctuation, and what not.  I wasn't paying attention in class that day).

What happened next, you wonder?  Well, let me tell you.  The damn bat came out of hiding and started swooping down at us again!  Trying to kill us.  So, like any 4 and 8 year old, we screamed again.  And our mom came in, turned the light on, told us that if she had to come into our room again she was going to GIVE US SOMETHING TO SCREAM ABOUT, turned the light off and left.  Left us.  For dead.  With a vampire bat that was hair and blood hungry.  And it was summertime.  Our fan was in our window to keep us from dying of heat in our sleep.  So we both covered our heads and sweated our asses off all night, praying that we would wake up to see the sun. 

We did sleep that night.  And we woke up the next day (obviously).  Eventually at some point during many hours of being terrified, the bat stopped.  It must have found some other blood-filled, hairy children to prey on.   And Leigh, the smart little detective that she was, wanted proof to show our mom that we weren't just playing an evil trick on her.  Nor were we crazy.  And she found it.  In the fan, in the window.  The bat had flown into the metal propeller of the fan, that was now covered in blood and bat fur.  So she ran in to tell our mom that there WAS a bat in our room.  We had proof.  And EVERYONE knows that bats don't like light (except apparently our mom).  So every time she turned on the light in our room, the bat hid.

Luckily we all lived that night.  Well, everyone but the bat.  And our mom from then on started to take our word when we'd tell her seemingly outrageous stories.  But Leigh, poor Leigh was the one who got stuck with taking the bat guts out to the trash that next morning.  And she never let our mom live it down.  Do you blame her?    

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My mother, my hero

Look at that bangin' little body!  She is about 38 here, mind you!

My mother worked her ass of when we were little.  Well, hell, she works her ass off now.  Always has.  She's a worker bee.  She thrives off it.  And she's good at it.  But when we were little, it was a necessary means to provide for herself and her two crazy little girls!  So she worked a lot.  So much so, that when I had a last minute breakout of chicken pox, and she didn't have time to get a known babysitter, she called a sitter out of the phone book.  The freakin' phone book for Christ sake!  You couldn't pay someone to do that in this day and age.  But she had to work.  A day off was not in the cards back then.  Needless to say, we welcomed our fingerless babysitter into our home to rub Calamine lotion on my back with her stumps, while my mom made dem benjamin's so we could eat and have clothes for school and learn to play the flute (that I never actually learned how to play) that cost an arm and a leg!

When we were little, my sister had a friend named Edie.  Leigh would spend the night with Edie sometimes and when she'd come home, she'd tell us about the elaborate breakfasts Edie's mom would have ready for them when they woke.  Eggs, pancakes, sausage, bacon, the whole shebang.  Breakfast at our house was pop tarts, a bowl of cereal, etc.  Once I heard about this elaborate breakfast Edie's mom would make, we started asking our mom why we didn't have breakfast made for us on the weekends when we woke up.  I think it upset our mom.  She was an awesome mom in every way shape or form.  The only thing I wanted more from her was her time, which she couldn't give us every second of, because she was taking care of us.  I don't fault her one bit.  She was doing what she had to do.  And when she had time, she spent it with us.  And it paid off!  She is the best mom a daughter can have.  Except she wasn't Edie's mom.  Edie's mom bought Edie a monkey.  Yep...a monkey.  Edie had a monkey in her living room.  A monkey that would masturbate.  But a masturbating monkey we did not have!

So it became a running joke in our family.  We'd say, "Edie's mom makes breeaaaaakfast!! (like the whiny little bitches we were)"  To which my mom would grunt, "Well good for her, I'm not Edie's mom."  But one morning we woke to a breakfast of eggs, pancakes, sausage, bacon, the whole shebang.  We were flabbergasted!  We looked at our mom, who was drinking her coffee at the table, reading the newspaper and she looked back at us and said, "Edie's mom stopped by!!"  Damn that woman is fucking amazing.  We got a really good laugh out of that one!  And then after that, every time our mom would make breakfast we'd joke that Edie's mom came by!

I talked to my mom the other day.  She has had my sisters kids for the week, while my sister is learning new and exciting things in the photography world at WPPI in Las Vegas (Like mother like daughter).  My sister is an awesome photographer. Check her out here.  Any ways, my mom called me to tell me that she's been playing Edie's mom all week for my niece and nephew.  She even said she made them smoothies.  I mean seriously?  Smoothies.  I didn't have a smoothie until I was 25.  Where the hell was smoothie-making Edie's mom when I needed her??

I love my mom with my whole heart and back and wouldn't trade her for Edie's mom...even IF Edie's mom came with a masturbating monkey.  No sir-eeee Bob!     

(PS - I will one day write a book based on our babysitter experiences alone!)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Purple Haze Smoothie

This is the breakfast smoothie I made the other morning.  It's delicious.  I will probably wait until summer or warmer weather to make another one, seeing as how sipping on a freezing cold smoothie in a freezing cold house is a sure way to get the most severe brain freeze you've ever experienced.  I named it Purple Haze because, well, it's purple and it has a special hazelnut honey that I bought in the Dominican Republic in it.

Purple Haze is GOOD.  And it fills you up.  AND...and this is the best seems like a dessert but it's GOOD FOR YOU!  HOORAY!  Something that's good for you that doesn't taste like a cardboard box!!

Here's What I Did:
1 cup of frozen blueberries
1 1/2 cups frozen peaches
1/2 cup chocolate almond milk
1/2 cup unsweet almond milk
1/2 cup of Greek yogurt, plain
6 ice cubes
A good drizzle of Hazlenut honey
A scoop of Almond Butter (because I am so in love with this stuff, I put it in everything.)

Blend everyone up and go to town!!  You can substitute regular honey for the hazelnut honey.  And you can throw anything you like into the mix.  Flavored juices, flax seed, any flavor nut butter, etc.  The world is your smoothie.  Suck it up.  And GO STEELERS!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Avoca-DO IT

I love avocados.  I'm afraid of people who don't.  It's like people who don't like cheese or bread.  I understand being allergic or "sensitive" to cheese and bread.  But downright not liking cheese or bread is freaking LUDICROUS!  And the creamy, meaty, earthy taste of an avocado is so delicious, I can't understand people that don't like them.  But maybe, JUST maybe, you haven't had an avocado as good as this one.  I'll admit...I get a little tired of cutting open an avocado, slicing it up, splashing it with lime, sprinkling it with salt and then eating it all by itself.  It's amazing this way.  But I was looking for a new thing for my little green globes of goodness.  And I found it in Eating Well magazine.  

Here's What You Do:

Here's Why You Do It:
Because you love avocados and want to try a new spin on the little mushy, masses of meatiness.  Because you hate avocados and you are a lunatic, but you are willing to try it prepared in another way to see if there is a part of you that harbors a little love for the fancy, fleshy fruit.  You choose.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Garlicky Goodness

 Look at that caramel-y goodness.

If you have never roasted garlic, you are missing out on life.  It's the nuttiest, creamiest, most flavorful little nugget of love your mouth has met.  Use it in pastas, spread it on bread, make a garlic aioli to dip french fries in or to spread on a sandwich.  It's easy.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Then, take a head of garlic (a head is that huge knuckle of papered garlic you find in the grocery store.  You may think I'm treating you like a kid right now, but I've had many people ask me what a head of garlic is...hence my explanation).  Cut the head right in half, leaving the skin on.  It will look like this:

Drizzle olive oil over the exposed cloves, salt and pepper and then wrap in aluminum foil. Throw this little foil ball in the oven and in about 35-40 minutes (depending on how big your head is...That's what she...never mind), open up this flavor pack and gently squeeze the garlic from the bottom.  The cloves will easily pop out.  Add to your favorite recipe for a nutty garlic flavor, rather than that bitter garlic taste (which I also love, so don't knock the bitter garlic).

For an another method, buy whole cloves in a container like this:  

Place about 30 cloves in an aluminum foil pouch, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper and do the same as above.

You can also put the cloves in a saucepan, cover them with oil and slowly roast them on the stove top.  I never succeed in this method.  I always burn my garlic.

Garlic like this sits around in oil for who knows how long, harboring bacteria.  Also, most jarred garlic contains additives.  I don't know about you, but I want to additive my own additives.  I don't trust what other people do to food.  Especially in this day and age.  So if I want something added to my garlic, I will add it myself...thanks! 

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Something's Fishy

You probably didn't know this, but in my past life, I lived on the Mediterranean Sea.  Yep.  I was a fisherwoman.  My family will attest to the fact that I merely have to place a fishing line in the water for fish to happily impale themselves upon my hook.  Which must be why I have such a love and respect for seafood.  You know, because of my former fisherman lifestyle.  My newest seafood love, you ask?  Sardines.  You should try sardines.  They are inexpensive, they are SOOO good for you, and they are delicious. And if you want to be one of those whiny people that claims that sardines are TOO FISHY....then fine, your loss, more for me.  But I challenge you to at least TRY them before you make some silly assumption about something you've never even put into your mouth.  (Sorry...I could rant for days about how irritated I get at people who say they don't like something they've never tried). 

Back to the little fishies.  The very first time (in my current life) that I ever really tried a sardine was inspired by Alton Brown.  He did an episode about his 50-pound weight loss and he made a sardine and avocado sandwich that looked so delicious, I had to try it.  And that, my friends, is where my (current life) love of sardines was discovered! 

I was fortunate enough to come across this stack of sardines at Costco a few months ago and they were only 5 bucks for 5 packages (the above picture is minus a package...the very package I used to write this blog, yes).  They're very versatile.  You can turn them into fritters (who doesn't like fried fish balls?), mix them in with pasta, cook them with eggs, put them on pizza or add them to salads, etc. 

Here's what I did in my frantic rush to eat something before a long night of work.

My sardines were boneless and skinless.  This really is the best way to buy them if you don't want to skin and de-bone them.  Or if you don't want to chew through the bones. They have little annoying bones that can be quite sharp.  So if you can find them skinned and boneless, for heaven's sake, do yourself a favor.  Also, having them canned with olive oil makes them taste so much better.  

Here's What To Do: 
Open your sardines and pour them and the olive oil into a small bowl.  Flake with a fork to break the fish up.  Chop some garlic (I used a clove for 1 can) and add it to a hot pan with olive oil and cook it until lightly browned to get rid of that bitter, raw, garlic taste.  Add crushed red pepper to the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.  Add in the fish and olive oil mixture and just mix it all together with a little squeeze of lemon.  Then top your favorite cracker with the sardine mixture and eat. that I'm typing this, I had a new thought.  If you mixed this sardine mixture in with some goat cheese or cream cheese, it would be even BETTER on a cracker.  OOH, and if you added parsley or chives to that mixture!!!

Oh sardines, you just keep coming up with better and better ideas!  I love you.  See you on the seas, good buddy!


Friday, March 01, 2013

Almond Love

Well, I finally did it.  After much thought and consideration, I finally made a batch of almond butter.  And I can't tell you how freakin' good it is.  It's a little grainier than peanut butter, maybe I underprocessed it, but the flavor is SO much better.  And maybe I just say that because I'm sick of peanut butter.  I know.  Me?  Sick of peanut butter?  Peanut butter is an integral part of my most favorite dessert on Earth.  Hershey's chocolate bar, dipped in peanut butter, with an ice cold glass of milk to wash it all down.  It's one of the most comforting feelings I have found in the food world.  It ranks right up there with chicken and dumplings or mashed potatoes topped with collard greens and corn bread (this is my newest love).

I remember stumbling across an episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood... Here's something I've always pondered.  Why would one of the main characters of a children's show be named Mr. McFeely?  Kinda makes you wonder what sicko decided on that name... Anyways, Mister Rogers visited a peanut plant on an episode and made peanut butter.  I found it to be so interesting that I stopped to watch.  Afterward, I immediately went to the kitchen, found some peanuts, put them in a plastic bag, smashed them with a rolling pin, added actual butter (Mister Rogers said to) and smashed them some more.  I was so proud of myself.  I had made peanut butter exactly the same way that Mister Rogers had made peanut butter.  Except that it didn't taste like peanut butter.  It tasted like peanut-flavored butter.  Which was good, but not what I had hoped for.

So I did some research as to how to make almond butter and was surprised to find out that there is not butter involved at all.  You see, almond butter is made of almonds.  That's it.  Almonds.  You take some almonds, throw them into a food processor and viola...creamy, smooth, nutty, almondy, buttery almond butter.  It's really easy.  It takes maybe 10 minutes.  And I'm sure you can do it with any nut.

Here's What You Do:
Take how ever many almonds your food processor will hold with room (I used about 2 1/2 cups of almonds).  You need room so the almonds can move around a bit when they are in their awkward phase.  Process your almonds on low.  After about 2 minutes they will look like very fine breadcrumbs.

After about 6 minutes, you will notice that the almonds are starting to fight over which ball gets to spin around the food processor first.  This is the awkward phase because at this point you worry that you are hurting your machine.  You are not.  You will want to add water.  Do not. 

 Awkward, dry phase

Keep it on low and the almond oil will come out and the almonds will start to become warm from the machine and, like a caterpillar, they will turn into a beautiful butterfly...or in this case, butter.

Getting Smoother!!

Keep processing until it's to the consistency you prefer.  I kinda like mine on the thicker side.  And there you have it....Almond Butter.  I added a little salt, because my almonds weren't salted and it was perfect.  I'm surprised I had any leftover to refrigerate.


Final Product

Doing this forced me to create a list of things I've always wanted to cook/make/ stay tuned!!