Middle Children and Collard Greens

There’s telling stories about your family, and then there’s just excessive complaining to a complete stranger.

I was on yet another date from online dating. To start, I should have know that this date would be awkward, purely based on text messages. Most normal people don’t start complaining to a complete stranger, especially by text. However, the rest of them had seemed funny, so I wrote it off as maybe him just having a bad day.

I really should have listened to my gut.

I arrived at the date location a few minutes early (I can’t help myself- my dad is ALWAYS late, so I always arrive early. Always.). My date of course was a few minutes late (but not as late as a previous encounter).

And that is when the complaining started.

Over the next hour and a half (I literally darted out of there as soon as humanly possible), he complained about

  • that it was raining which of course made him late because someone MUST have stolen his umbrella and then put it back in the closet where he wouldn’t be able to find it
  • that he was sore because he ran earlier to train for a marathon, and he HAD to run a marathon since his little brother did, and of course he had to run faster than him to prove that he was the better brother (phrase actually used)
  • that the weather in Chicago was colder than the south
  • that he was the middle child and therefore his family would never love him as much as his older or younger brother (another phrase actually used)
  • that he liked the restaurant and came there often, but really he only liked one thing on the menu, and only if a particular cook had made it

He complained about more things, but to be totally honest I gave up really listening after the first 15 minutes and watched the baseball game above the bar instead, with occasionally throwing in comments I remember from my psych rotation (you know, when I wasn’t dealing with awkward psychiatrists one and two).

Date: Complain, complain, complain, complain.

Me: Sounds like that must be difficult for you.

Date: Yeah it definitely is because of complain complain complain…

Me: Have you tried talking to anyone about this?

Date: Well I saw a psychiatrist plenty of times but they just didn’t understand me because complain complain complain…

I’m almost convinced that someone else had written the amusing text messages or emails he had sent.

Low Maintenance Collard Greens

Crock Pot Collards

nothing to complain about here

Ingredients

  • 1 ham bone (perfect use of the leftovers from your holiday ham)
  • 2 bunches collard greens (I had approximately 2-3 lbs)
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon
  • 3 c chicken broth
  • 1/2 c apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • Pepper jelly (optional)

How-to

  1. In a large crock pot, mix together chicken bouillon, chicken broth, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add in ham bone.
  2. Wash collard greens very well in cold water. Remove tough stems. Cut into small pieces (or tear by hand, which I did).
  3. Place greens into broth in crock pot.
  4. Cook on low for 8-9 hours, stirring occasionally, until at desired doneness.
  5. Top with pepper jelly or pepper sauce, if desired.
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Childhood Pictures and Sloppy Joes

Parents take a lot of pictures. However, they don’t always realize how embarrassing those can be.

As a kid, my father must have kept every photography store in business in Michigan and New Jersey. There are hundreds of hours of video tape of me crawling around naked in our living room. And I’m not kidding- HUNDREDS of hours. It might have been cute to watch 30 seconds of this footage, but not 300 hours.

There are also pictures. And boy, are there some bad ones.

My parents had taken lamaze classes with the neighbor family four houses down the street, and thus their son and I were destined to become friends (or at least for the first four years until they moved). We did everything together, which my father proudly documented.

Including taking baths.

The most infamous is simply known as the “bath picture,” even though there are two different ones. Both pictures feature my friend the neighbor boy, his 2-year-old sister, and me (we were both about 3 years old at the time). I at least had the sense of decency to try to cover up in one of the pictures with a washcloth, but I failed miserably in that quest.

My brothers first found the picture when I was 10 or 12 years old, and obviously loved teasing me about how naughty I was for being naked with a boy at the young age of 3. (They were the fortunate ones- my father had finally realized by the time they were born that it wasn’t quite necessary to document EVERYTHING). My mother and I kept trying to hide the pictures, but my brothers would always find them and show them to anyone who would look while snickering endlessly.

The true highlight of the story, though, is that I didn’t see my former neighbor for 18 years after they moved, and then we ended up attending the same medical school. And the first thing he said to me after not seeing each other for all that time?

“So, do your siblings tease you endlessly to this day about that bath picture, too?”

That’s right, after 18 years, the first thing he brought up was a naked picture of the two of us. Like I said, some things will always come back to haunt you.

All Grown Up Spicy Sloppy Joes

much better than man’wich

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground meat (you can substitute with 2 14-oz cans black beans for a vegetarian option)
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 c salsa (I prefer hot, but use whatever you prefer)
  • 2 tbsp worchestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 c tomato sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • Hamburger buns (I prefer whole wheat)
  • Cheese of your choice, if desired

How-to

  1. In a large skillet, saute together ground meat (I normally prefer lean ground turkey), onion, and bell pepper over medium heat. If making these vegetarian and using black beans instead, saute the beans (rinsed and drained) with the bell pepper and onion in 2 tbsp olive oil.
  2. When meat is brown and veggies are soft, remove from heat and drain off any grease. If using black beans, saute until veggies are soft and beans are warmed through.
  3. Return to medium heat and stir in garlic powder, salsa, worchestershire sauce, chili powder, and tomato sauce. If mixture is still too thick, add 1/4 cup water. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes for the flavors to develop.
  4. Serve on your favorite buns (I prefer to serve these open face on toasted whole-wheat buns) and cheese if desired.

Dating Disasters and Cold Weather Chowders

I have had many disastrous dates.  However, one guy has the prize for committing so many errors in just one evening.

It is partially my fault, since I hesitantly agreed to this date. I should have listened to my gut feeling…but I thought I’d be nice, give the guy a chance, and agreed.

I was slightly confused when he picked me up and his dog was in the car.  Now, this date was in winter, and I don’t know that many people who let their dog chill in their car when it’s cold outside in Michigan.

Surprise #1: “Sorry the dog is in here- I have to drop her off at my parents’ house before dinner.”

When we arrived at their house, I then had surprise #2– his mother and father both came running outside to meet me.

“Oh, you must be Megan!  We have heard so much about you and we are SOOOO happy to meet you!!!”

Now, I don’t like to meet parents until I have been dating a guy for a while, and I certainly don’t like to meet parents while on the first date.  I also barely knew this guy, and the fact that his parents had already “heard so much about” me was a bit alarming.

When we finally arrived at the restaurant, surprise #3 was right around the corner. “I really want to get married within the next year, and you seem perfect.”

And the piece de resistance, surprise #4. “So it looks like I forgot my wallet at home.  You can pay for your dinner and mine. After all, you’re going to be a rich doctor some day.”

Now I realize that mistakes happen, but at least say that.  I normally offer to pay for my half of the meal, but don’t tell me to pay for your dinner, too. And second, just because I’m going to be a doctor some day, does not mean that I don’t currently have over $250,000 in debt from medical school.

If you’re wondering, after mistake #4, I paid for my half of the meal and called a friend to come pick me up…I figured that he could call his parents to come bail him out instead. 😉

Skip the Date and Stay Indoors Spicy Corn and Pepper Chowder

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 2 bell peppers, diced (I prefer red)
  • 1 bag frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 c cooked chicken, shredded (optional)
  • 2 c chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 c skim milk
  • 1/2 c salsa
  • 5 tbsp tabasco sauce
  • 2 tbsp fat-free greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch

How-to

  1. In a large stockpot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent.
  2. Stir in the rest of the ingredients except for the cornstarch and cook over medium heat for 20-30 minutes or until bell peppers and corn are tender.
  3. Mix cornstarch in 1/4 c cold water and mix into the chowder.  Cook for an additional 10 minutes until thick and creamy.

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.