Talking and Sandwiches

Some people talk.  Some people talk a lot.  And other people talk at inappropriate times.

A truly memorable experience, and not in a good way, was the Detailed Talker.

This guy had a running commentary to everything he did the second he started kissing you.  “Oh baby [and to start, I HATE being called baby], I’m going to do this to you now.  And then I’m going to do this.  And after that this is going to happen. I’m going to treat you so right because I’m so awesome at all of this.”

During this one-sided conversation, where I was told how great this guy thought he was at the things he was doing and about to do, all I could think was “SHUT. UP.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, some talking is good, but TOO MUCH talking makes me want to scream. And not in a good way. Plus it’s great that you have self-confidence in what you do, but let ME tell you if it’s good- I don’t want you to tell me it’s going to be good (which even more disappointingly, it wasn’t).

Do I even need to say that it only took one detailed talking experience for me to know there wouldn’t be another?

Keep Them Quiet Tomato-Turkey Panini

Ingredients (makes 2 sandwiches)

  • 2 tbsp light olive-oil mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 regular Roma tomato, thinly sliced
  • 4 slices turkey breast
  • 4 slices french bread
  • 1 oz mozzarella, shredded (optional)
  • Cooking spray (preferably olive oil in a spray bottle)

How-to

  1. Mix together mayonnaise, parmesan, garlic powder, parsley, and pepper and spread on bread.
  2. On top of the cheese mixture, place 2 slices turkey breast and half of the tomato slices. Top with half of the mozzarella and the other piece of bread. Repeat for the other sandwich.
  3. Spray each sandwich on both sides with a quick squirt of cooking spray (I prefer olive oil in a spray bottle but feel free to use whatever you have)
  4. Place both sandwiches in a preheated panini maker or a fry pan over medium heat. If using a fry pan, start with the tomato side down.  Cook until the bread is golden brown (normally 3-5 minutes in a panini maker, or 2-3 minutes per side on a fry pan).  For the fry-pan version, weigh down the sandwiches with another pan topped with a can of vegetables to achieve a more panini-style sandwich.

Lipstick and Lasagna

I dated this Italian guy for a bit…very polite, good sense of humor, extremely nice…if anything, I couldn’t figure out why he was still single.

Then we finally hooked up, and I immediately understood why.

First off, I’m going to give you the mental image of a lipstick case, and I really don’t think I need to add any more details.  Secondly, if you’re cursed with that one normally finds a way to compensate, and he hadn’t.  It was HORRIBLE.  Remember when you first started hooking up and thought that everything was great, but then you realized that there was good and bad?  This guy hadn’t progressed beyond that first stage yet, and considering that he was older than me, he definitely should have.  Or at least you would have expected him to.

I then was put in the awkward situation where I had to end it with the guy without him realizing the reason why (yes, the entire experience was that horrible).  I’ll admit I totally did the “guy method”…just started contacting him less and less until it ended…which actually worked wonderfully (no wonder people use it!).

I still can’t see a lipstick case without it bringing back bad memories…

Always Satisfying Vegetable Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 1 regular sized eggplant
  • Olive oil spray and olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 box whole-wheat lasagna noodles
  • 6 c tomato sauce (homemade or use 2 regular jars)
  • 16 oz container part-skim ricotta
  • 16 oz fat-free cottage cheese
  • 3 tbsp pesto
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 egg
  • 12 oz part-skim mozzarella, shredded or sliced
  • Parsley (optional)

How-to

  1. Cook lasagna noodles according to package instructions (you probably won’t use the entire box), drain, then toss with 1 tsp olive oil to prevent sticking.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and coat 2 cookie sheet pans with olive oil spray (buy a small spray bottle just for olive oil, or buy olive oil cooking spray at the store).
  3. Slice eggplant 1/4 in thick and lay on cookie sheets, then sprinkle with salt and pepper and spray tops with olive oil.
  4. Roast eggplant for 15 minutes or until golden brown, spraying again with olive oil halfway through.
  5. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. In a bowl, mix together ricotta, cottage cheese, pesto, garlic salt, garlic powder, oregano, pepper, and egg until well-combined.
  7. Place one layer lasagna noodles in the bottom of the pan. Top with 1/3 sauce, 1/2 ricotta mixture, all of the roasted eggplant, and 1/3 of the mozzarella.
  8. Top with another layer of lasagna noodles, followed by 1/3 sauce, the rest of the ricotta, and 1/3 mozzarella.
  9. Top with a final layer of noodles, the rest of the tomato sauce, and the rest of the mozzarella.  Sprinkle parsley on top for color.
  10. Cover with aluminum foil and cook for 30 minutes.
  11. Remove aluminum foil and place lasagna back into the oven for an additional 10 minutes uncovered for cheese to melt and brown.

Feel free to substitute as you wish…perhaps using 1 lb zucchini (roasted in the same manner) or 2 c drained, cooked spinach in place of the eggplant, meat sauce in place of regular tomato, et cetera!

Swimming in Potatoes

You can tell a lot about a guy by his taste in food.  During one first date, I could tell there wasn’t going to be a second.

I had met a guy who was a former state-champion swimmer and agreed to go out to dinner.  To start, we went to a Ruby Tuesday.  I’m not saying anything bad about the restaurant, but it’s not exactly what I would picture for first-date material, especially when you take into mind the conversation that follows.

Ordering food was a disaster.  I couldn’t tell you what I ordered for my main dish, but I do remember it came with a side of potatoes.  Now, when it comes to my heritage, I’m a European mutt, which means I love potatoes cooked practically any way (it’s rare for me to meet a potato I don’t like).

Guy: “You’re really going to eat potatoes?”

Me: “Yeah, why?”

Guy: “Potatoes have too many calories.  I can’t keep this swimmer’s body by eating those.  Why don’t you order a salad like me?  It’s better for your waistline.”

Now, there are rules that guys should follow, especially on a first date.  First, never critique my food choices. And second, don’t mention your weight or mine.

Needless to say there was no second date.

Safe for Swimmers Potato Gratin

Ingredients

  • 1lb Yukon Gold potatoes, washed (I’ve also used a mix of regular and sweet potatoes)
  • 6 oz grated cheese (I used a low-fat Irish Cheddar from Trader Joe’s that I grated myself)
  • 1/3 c milk (I used 1/2 %)
  • Salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Pepper
  • Parsley (dried)
  • Cooking spray

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Slice potatoes thinly and shred cheese, if needed.  I tend to leave the skin on because I think it makes for a prettier presentation, but feel free to peel if desired (and definitely peel sweet potatoes if you’re using a mix).
  3. Coat 8×8 in glass baking dish with cooking spray (makes for easier clean-up).
  4. Layer 1/3 potatoes into the dish and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder (think a light sprinkle).  Reserve 1 oz (a small handful) of cheese, then divide in half.  Sprinkle half the cheese onto the first layer of potatoes.
  5. Layer the second third of potatoes into the dish, season again with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and again top with the cheese.
  6. Layer the final layer of potatoes on top of the dish and pour on the milk.  Top with the reserved small handful of cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes until the potatoes pierce easily with a fork and the dish is bubbly with golden cheese on top.

Kisses and Peppers

I had a friend that is a really attractive guy who on the surface appears like the total ideal package.

Then I discovered a pretty significant hole in the tapestry…

…he kissed like a bird.  Specifically, imagine making out with a parrot.

We had both gone out with a group of people, one thing led to another, and next thing you know we’re making out.  I’ve had some awkward kissers in the past (I’ll tell those stories later), but this wins, hands down, for being the absolute worst I’ve ever experience.  Ever.  It felt like I was being attacked by a parrot’s beak over and over again and you couldn’t escape from it.

I quickly came up with some excuse to end the misery, but to this day I still shudder a bit inside whenever he pops up on my facebook news feed.

Sweeter than a Kiss Roasted Peppers

I think that any vegetable is made better by roasting it in the oven.  These are great as a side dish or they really help dress up leftovers- I’ll chop them up, add in some leftover chicken or seafood, and mix with rice or pasta for a quick and healthy meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb sweet baby peppers (normally sold in 1-2 lb packages for ~$3 per lb)
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic salt
  • Pepper

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Clean peppers with a damp paper towel and place in a shallow roasting dish (preferably one with a rack)
  3. Drizzle olive oil onto peppers, followed by freshly grated pepper and a sprinkling of garlic salt.
  4. Roast in the oven for approximately 30 minutes until the peppers give to touch and the skin looks slightly wrinkly.

Porn and Peppermints

With holidays, come gifts.  And, inevitably, there is always the worst gift you’ve ever received…

porn.

And it gets so much worse than that.

To start, I’ve dated my fair share of former Catholic altar boys.  It’s never on purpose- I just always find out by the third or fourth date that they used to be Catholic altar boys.  It at least isn’t as bad as my habit of dating guys whose name normally has 4 letters and usually starts with J…or with middle names of “Michael.”

Anyway, so I was dating this guy.  And this guy was a formerly repressed altar boy who thought that porn was the pinnacle of sexiest things you could ever buy a girl, which I later learned.

Oh did I mention I ended up paying for this as well?

I should have known this was a bad idea from the start.  My birthday, per tradition, always sucks on the actual day. Without fail. So earlier that day, the guy I was dating asked me to borrow $20 since he had to go somewhere that took only cash (not uncommon in my college town).  He then said he had a “surprise” for me for my birthday.

He took me to the store off campus that sold the largest variety of DVD and VHS porn (it was also the only store that sold porn within a hundred miles, unless you want to count the ability to buy Playboy at Walmart). And this was early 90s style porn, according to the date on the back of the DVD.  Which he had already picked out. And then used the $20 in cash I had let him borrow earlier to paid for it.  And he was so proud of himself for his brilliant idea.

Needless to say, I didn’t keep that “birthday gift.”

Anyway, if you’re looking for a last-minute gift for the holidays (and don’t want to make the same mistake), I suggest you make the following…

Better than a Gift of Porn Peppermint Bark

Ingredients

  • 1 12 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 package of 12 candy canes (or 6 oz peppermint candies)
  • 1 12 oz package white coating chocolate

How-to

  1. Cover 2 half-sheet pans (your average cookie sheet pans for those non-bakers) in either aluminum foil or parchment paper (whichever you happen to have on hand)
  2. Unwrap the candy canes or peppermint candies. Place into a ziplock baggie and place underneath a towel. Using either a rolling pin or frying pan, get out all of your aggression over bad gifts by beating the candy into small bits (you’ll have a lot of dust but that’s okay!).
  3. Dump the chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and toss into the microwave, microwaving for 20 seconds at a time until the chocolate appears to be just melting (normally takes ~1 min in my microwave)
  4. Stir the chocolate chips until smooth, and then evenly divide the chocolate between the two sheet pans and spread thin.
  5. Break up the white melting chocolate into a separate bowl and microwave again for 20 second intervals until just melting (like before), then stir until smooth.
  6. Mix in the candy with the white chocolate, then divide up the white chocolate-peppermint mixture by spoonfuls onto each baking sheet.
  7. Using a knife, swirl the white and semi-sweet chocolate, then tap the pans on a countertop to settle.
  8. Place both sheets into a fridge under the chocolate sets, then break up into pieces and package into decorative bags or boxes.

Religion and Cranberries

It’s the holiday season, which means my apartment smells like peppermint bark and gingerbread.

However, holidays are also about more than food and friends…many of our “traditions” come down to religion and pagan practices.  Which reminds me of my nickname for my first six months of life…

Pagan Megan.

Yes, you have to say it so that “pagan” rhymes with “megan,” which means my first name sounds more like “may-gun” for nickname purposes. (I actually taught a kid at summer camp with that spelling, but that’s another story.)

And who gave me this nickname, you ask?

Oh yeah, the PRIEST at my church, good ol’ Monsignor M.

Like good Catholics, my parents decided to have me baptized.  However, between family schedules and whatnot, it wasn’t “convenient” for this to take place in the spring…or the summer…nope, the date of my baptism was two days shy of my six month birthday.  However, it was convenient to bring their darling screaming infant daughter (my case of colic was so legendary, my now 85-year-old pediatrician still calls me her “little colicky baby”- I was the worst case of colic she has seen to date) to church every week.  Therefore, one plus one does equal two, and as an encouragement for my parents to finally buckle down with the sacraments, Monsignor decided that a winning nickname would be the best way to take advantage of Catholic guilt.

In honor of my nickname, and not to mention the holidays, here is my recipe for cranberry sauce…perfect for serving with turkey, as a topping for steak and goat cheese, or as a sauce for ice cream.

Non-Denominational Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 12-oz bag fresh cranberries
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • Zest and juice from 1 orange
  • 2/3 c sugar (can add more to taste if cranberries are extra-tart)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c water, plus 1/2 c for later
  • 4 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (secret ingredient!!)

How-to

  1. Rinse cranberries and dump into a nonreactive saucepan (I prefer a larger size, but have made this before with a 2 QT one)
  2. Add the zest and juice from the lemon and orange, sugar, vanilla, and water to the cranberries.
  3. Turn on your burner to medium-high heat and cook for approximately 10 minutes.  The mixture will start to boil and the cranberries will pop, so don’t wear your best light-colored shirt while making this unless you’re aiming for a red-spot look!
  4. When about half the cranberries have popped (this may take longer than 10 minutes, depending on the weather and your elevation), mix 1/2 c cold water with 4 tbsp cornstarch and add to the cranberry mixture.  Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes until the sauce has reached your desired thickness (remember it will thicken more as it cools, but you’re aiming for something that does have a consistency of runny gravy).
  5. Turn off the heat, and add 1/2 tsp nutmeg (or more to taste).  DO NOT make this sauce if you don’t have nutmeg, in my opinion…the nutmeg gives it a spiciness that sets it apart from other cranberry sauces!
  6. Let cool for approximately 5-10 minutes.  Serve warm or cold on nearly anything (turkey, chicken, steak, ice cream, crackers, cheese…the list goes on and on!).