I Wanna Marry Anthony Bourdain and Have His Chain-Smoking Babies

Menu Monday: Annoyed Baby Edition

IT IS STILL TECHNICALLY MONDAY, OKAY?

Last week, I made a mistake that led to a good sort of problem: I planned too many meals. Our wonderful neighbor Amanda brought us a pan of venison lasagna Friday night, and there was no way I was cooking once I had that ready-made deliciousness in my hands. And Saturday, I forgot that we were going to a Mardi Gras open house at our other neighbors’ house. This is our first year living on the parade route, and we are happy to report no major problems or inconveniences except for a traffic jam on our street after the Krewe of Centaur parade finished up, which didn’t bother us because we weren’t going anywhere. The Guy had to work late last Saturday, and I’m still too much of a nervous mother hen to do take Harper to things like that by myself (first baby, etc.), but we’re planning to walk down to the Gemini parade this weekend. I’ve been working on teaching Harper to scream and lift her shirt, and I think we’re making some real progress.

(Kidding, Mother. Kidding.)

So there are a couple repeats from last week, but I spiced things up (spiced? See what I did there?) by including a Powell Family Original (TM) recipe.

Menu Monday: Baby Bonus Edition.

Monday: Pork tenderloin tips, sweet potato (we split one) and Brussels sprouts.

Tuesday: The Guy’s Tuna Rigatoni Marinara (recipe below)

Wednesday: Soup and sandwiches

Thursday: Out for Dad’s birthday

Friday: Baked Ziti With Spinach

Saturday: The Guy’s seafood gumbo – this time, we’re trying out a baked roux.

Sunday: Grilled pork chops and broccoli

The Guy’s Tuna Rigatoni Marinara

Look, I know what you’re gonna say: “Canned tuna? And store-bought marinara sauce? Blech!” PREACHIN’ TO THE CHOIR, FOLKS, preachin’ to the choir. The Guy invented this little delicacy one night while I was at Bunco, and when I came home and he told me what unholiness he hath wrought in our kitchen, I fully expected to hate it. But it was good, y’all, I swear (I only tasted it because I am a very nice wife). And it’s turned out to be one of our favorite meals, honest! Of course, it doesn’t hurt that we almost always have all the ingredients on hand, it takes about 20 minutes to make and it’s SUPER cheap.

1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tblsp minced garlic (I actually prefer freeze-dried garlic, but then I’m not usually the one cooking this)
2 small or 1 large can water-packed solid white albacore tuna
1/2 tsp chili flakes (optional)
1 jar tomato pasta sauce (we like vodka pasta sauce)
1 pound rigatoni pasta, or any large pasta you have on hand
Salt for pasta water
Parmesan cheese (if desired)

Heat olive oil, then add garlic; stir for a couple minutes. Add tuna and chili flakes (if using) and cook for five minutes, stirring often. Pour in sauce; cook at least until heated through, but ideally for as long as possible. While sauce is simmering, boil pasta. Cook for one minute less than package directions. Drain pasta, return to boiling pot and pour in sauce. Cook on low heat for 5 minutes more. Serve with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Your can-opening
Kel

A Smashing Burger

Last week, I got an email from the lovely Sara Hebert of Williams Creative Group, a local marketing and public relations firm. She’s working with SmashBurger, a nationwide restaurant chain that’s opening a franchise location, owned by Scott and Mary Quigley, here in Shreveport.

Anyway, Sara was planning a Social Media Luncheon wherein she was inviting local bloggers, tweeters, Yelpers and various other “social media rockstars” to try SmashBurger before it opens to the public and review it via our respective outlets, and would I like to participate?

UH, YEAH.

1. Dude, you had me at “social media rockstar.”

2. Also at “Haagen-Dazs milkshakes.”

3. I toiled in complete obscurity for FIVE YEARS. Call me a spoiled diva, but I feel that a free hamburger is my obvious due.

So this morning at 11:00, I eagerly made my way to 7503 Youree Drive and tried to remember my manners.

(As Todd on Air will solemnly attest, I did a failjob of that.)

I tried the Louisiana Burger (DUH), and I’ll be honest: I was a little wary. While some elements of it sounded delicious (applewood smoked bacon, Cajun grilled onions), other parts of it did NOT (remoulade sauce on a BURGER? And what the heck is an egg bun?).

PEOPLE.

IT WAS AH. MAZING.

If it’s not the best burger in Shreveport, it’s at least in the top three.

I also tried their regular French fries,which were delightfully crispy on the outside and mealy on the inside, as all good fries should be. I was dying to try the SmashFries tossed with rosemary, olive oil and garlic, and I actually prefer sweet potato fries, which they also have, but I judge burger joints on their regular fries . One of my dining companions and fellow “social media rockstar” Danielle Griffith had the Veggie Frites (flash-fried asparagus spears, carrot sticks and green beans), and while I didn’t taste them – I have this thing about bumming food off people I just met and who I want to like me – they looked delicious.

Oh my GOD, please stop babbling about frites or whatever already and TELL ME ABOUT THE SHAKES. I know you had one, you glutton.

Darn skippy I did, and it was everything I hoped it would be and more. I’ve been sitting here for, like, 10 minutes, trying to think of a way to describe it, and I have just three words for you:

1. Bread
2. Pudding
3. Milkshake

YES.

Why oh why did I have to discover this awesomeness three months before I have to stuff myself into a wedding dress?

This will be my undoing. If I look chubby on my wedding day, blame the shake.

Fortunately, though, SmashBurger also has reasonably healthy and surprisingly sophisticated salads and grilled chicken sandwiches on the menu. In the near future, I will go back with the noble intention of ordering a salad – probably the Harvest Chicken – and water. If I can just stay away from the shakes and the beer…

Obviously, the day was a smashing success.

(Heee. See what I did there?)

In closing, I’d like to give a big shout out to my fellow blogger Kathryn Usher for teaching me the Word of the Day:

“Man-panties.”

Use it often.

Your hungryhungry
Kel

Bachelor Girl on Tour

I leave today at noon for my first-ever writing-related business trip, the Louisiana North Farm to Table Media Tour. (Katie Ett’s already been to Atlantic City on somebody else’s dime, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s MY TURN.) I’m pretty amped about eating nonstop for four straight days, but I’m really nervous about traveling with strangers. Actually, “pants-crappingly scared” is more like it.

Jessica the Web Mistress and I both have a love-hate relationship with travel. We love seeing new sights, meeting new people, eating new foods and the challenge of finding our way in unfamiliar places, but we’re both obsessed with being prepared for anything and terrified that if we forget something, the Zombie/Velociraptor Apocalypse will break out and there we’ll be with no travel-sized packets of nail polish remover with which we can fashion torches and no hot rollers that we can trade for food. Not surprisingly, this particular neurosis leads to rampant overpacking.

Not this time, though! I downloaded the world-traveling Maggie Mason‘s Master Packing List, so now I know exactly what I need and what I can leave behind (hot rollers, I’m looking at YOU). Packing lightly is of the utmost importance on this trip, since all the journalists and our guides are traveling together (with our luggage) in one SUV. So basically, I get a purse and a carry-on-sized suitcase.

The purpose of the trip is to showcase locally-grown food (awesome!) and promote North Louisiana as a tourist destination. In other words, there’s more to Louisiana than barfing up vile, sugary, overpriced drinks in ridiculously-shaped plastic vessels on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. And while NOLA is justifiably famous for its cuisine, North Louisiana has a lot to offer as well.

They said I could blog the whole thing, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Additionally, I’m going to take photos of what and how I packed so we can see how I did as far as preparation at the end of the trip.

(Unless the Zombie/Velociraptor Apocalypse breaks out, in which case I will be busy making a torch.)

But before I go, here’s the photo everybody’s been waiting for:

Ring-a-Ding-Ding.

OMG, YOU GUYS! SOMEBODY THINKS I’M PART OF “THE MEDIA!”

Your nervously excited
Kel
An official member of the Fourth Estate

A Moment on the Lips

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, but I was afraid you guys would think I’m just a hater. But then I thought, well, most of you (those of you who’ve been reading for a while, anyway) know better, so here we go.

Food blogs. I have a love-hate relationship with them.

I love food. Looooove it. I love cooking it for myself, I love making it for other people, I love watching programs about it on TV, I love reading about it, I love looking at photos of it, and I especially love eating it.

Fortunately, I’ve never had any sort of eating disorder or issues with food, and I have a pretty good self image. But those illnesses are not hard for me to understand – I danced for 15 years, and an extended foray into the Deep, Dark, Sordid World of Ballet will teach you a thing or two about the lengths people will go to in order to be thin.

(Please excuse me while I shudder.)

So I guess it shouldn’t come as any surprise that, a while back, I started reading food and restaurant-review blogs. My favorite is Donuts4Dinner, which is authored by my BBFF Katie Ett. But I also like recipe and healthy-living sites like I’m No Expert by Cassie and From Candy to Carrots by Andrea and Lindsay. Soon, I wanted more, so I Googled something like “Healthy Living Food Recipes.”

And what to my hungry eyes should appear but the Deep, Dark, Sordid World of Food Diarists.

I’m not going to call anybody out, but if you’re unfamiliar with the general concept, allow me to explain. These are bloggers who, under the guise of promoting “healthy living and healthy eating,” photograph and blog about every single thing they eat every single day. One of them boasts proudly, in the “About Me” section of her site, that she has blogged every single morsel she’s eaten for the last three years.

I’ll just let that sink in for a minute.

This girl will write, for instance, about going to a party, and she’ll brag about everything she didn’t eat. She eats the same breakfast (oatmeal) almost every single day. Her lunches generally revolve around salads with no dressing. On a roadtrip, she and her husband stopped at McDonald’s for diet sodas, and she wrote about eight paragraphs on how much the experience grossed her out.

Even better, this chick’s getting a master’s degree in nutrition so she can become a registered dietician. In other words, this person who (from my perspective) is so clearly unhealthily obsessed is going to have a MEDICAL LICENSE that gives her permission to tell other people how to eat.

But she’s far from the only one. There’s another one who has a couple of degrees but no career, just a part-time job at a grocery store (yes, a GROCERY STORE), so she spends most of her time cooking and photographing her food. Another espouses a “totally raw” lifestyle (i.e., she doesn’t eat cooked food) and describes, in much detail, the great lengths she goes to in order to avoid eating anything cooked, non-vegan or “miscombined,” accompanied, of course, by the ubiquitous photographs.

(I won’t even go into the cringe-inducing slang they use in almost every post: “sammy” for “sandwich,” “mater” for “tomato” and “loupe” for “cantaloupe.” I’ll tell them like Katie tells her kids: Use your words, girls.)

Now, I’m not saying that eschewing the crap most people eat at cocktail parties, avoiding McDonald’s, photographing some of your meals or even eating uncooked food are necessarily unhealthy in and of themselves. But when your WHOLE LIFE revolves around your food and the self-imposed restrictions you place on it, to the point that YOU WRITE AN ENTIRE BLOG ABOUT IT and photograph almost every meal, then yes, I believe that is the very definition of disordered eating.

To be totally fair, I must say that the first two bloggers I mentioned appear, in their photographs at least, healthy. The raw vegan, though, looks like a concentration-camp victim (an employee at the gym she frequents complimented her on filling out a little, and the girl gave her a dressing-down of epic proportion). But I don’t think physical appearance is the only indicator of whether or not someone is truly healthy, especially when we’re talking about psychological health. On the other hand, all of this is coming from a blogger who drinks a gallon of diet soda each day, is totally immune to caffeine, enjoys the occasional cigarette and sees nothing wrong with having a Big Mac every now and then. So maybe I’m not the best judge.

But I want to know what you think: Is this disordered eating, or am I just a hater?

Your miscombined
Kel

Pride Goeth Before an Underbaked Lamb Cake

The majority of the time, I make good decisions.

Well, put it this way: The majority of the time, I don’t make BAD decisions.

This week is a notable (and very unfortunate) exception. People, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. On top of my part-time job and my freelance writing job(s),

–The Guy’s birthday is Saturday, and because of the many family members and friends who want to celebrate with him, the latter half of this week is essentially the Festival of The Guy, i.e., we have plans every night from Thursday until Sunday.
–Easter is Sunday, and on that day, we not only have church, we also have TWO celebratory Easter meals in TWO DIFFERENT TOWNS.
–Oh yeah, and I’m MOVING.

So what do I decide to do?

–Make everyone’s Easter gifts BY HAND.
–Bake and decorate two lamb-shaped cakes FROM SCRATCH.

You know how the self-help books always say you should treat yourself as you would your best friend? Well, if my best friend told me that’s what she was planning to do, I’d say, “Girl, your cheese done slid off your cracker. Sit down, have a drink and stop trying to act all Martha-F&#@(!^-Stewart or whatever.”

But instead, I was all, “This is clearly the best idea EVER. This is totally gonna work out GREAT.”

What do you think the chances are that this totally worked out great? That’s right: slim to none.

The lambs were an utter disaster. I’ll spare you the long story, but suffice it to say I got exactly what I deserved for trying to salve my wounded ego (plus I wasted four sticks of butter and 10 eggs).

I don’t know why I thought the lambs were so important in the first place. Actually, yes, I do: In the dark recesses of my neurotic mind, I thought The Guy’s mother (to whom I was bringing one of the lambs) would take one look at this culinary masterpiece and exclaim, “OH MY GOD! YES, YES, YES! You absolutely are the perfect girl for my son! You alone are the only woman who could ever care for him like I do, for you can bake an adorable lamb cake! A cake that is a testament to your competence as a human being! If you and my son were to get married and have babies, your family would be the family all good families strive to be: ‘Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.’”

And where all the crazy Bachelor-Girls-cum-Suzie-Homemakers bite off more than they can chew, so to speak, with m#%$*@f#^$*%g lamb cakes.

Sigh.

Last night, as I was sewing the last bit of my mother’s Easter gift (BY HAND), The Guy asked me, “Kel, why on earth didn’t you just buy the presents and the cakes? Why are you putting so much pressure on yourself?”

I told him that, to me, the woman who can competently juggle all these things is the ideal. Like my friend Katie: She was an executive with two kids who read David Mamet plays and made her children’s (matching) Easter outfits with her own two perfectly-manicured hands. She worked all day, then came home and canned marmalade while teaching Harrisen and Evangeline sign language. Then she read a little Proust before bed.

(I’m talking about Katie in the past tense not because she died of exhaustion, but because she’s no longer an executive. She’s now a nursing student.)

(I KNOW, RIGHT?!)

Anyway, to me, the ability to do all those things and do them well is True Womanhood. Now, my feminist friends would say this distorted image of perfection is the result of the media and insecure men making me feel like I have to be a Stepford Wife in order to be considered “good enough” (and they’re probably right), but I don’t know if anything will ever change the fact that in my brain,

Woman = Competent, Capable and Always Calm

I guess it’s better than thinking I have to have big boobs.

And I think it’s even more important to me because I’m a bachelor girl. Many people seem to think “single” is only one step above “feral,” and it means a lot to me to be able to show them that I might be single, but I’ll match the Montessori Moms cupcake for cupcake and craft project for craft project any day.

In the end, though, I followed Katie’s wise example and realized I had to let some things go. I finished making all the Easter presents, but they’re not perfectly wrapped. I made two replacement cakes, but I used a mix, and they’re (sadly) not lamb-shaped. I will decorate them and make them really cute using canned, not homemade, frosting.

But now I’m curious:

What’s your version of perfection?

Your cake-baking
Kel

Desperate Bachelor Girls

DAMN IF THOSE CHURCH LADIES DIDN’T DO IT AGAIN.

Agnus Dei.

SON OF A NUTCRACKER! Just what in the name of Mary Magdalene does a girl gotta do to win at the Unofficial St. Joseph Altar Death-Match Bake-Off?!

“I cannot believe you just cursed in a church fellowship hall,” The Guy lamented.

Well, he’s not the one who waited five years for his big comeback, only to be bested by a Bible-shaped cake with a portrait of St. Joseph airbrushed onto it.

Airbrushed.

That’s just dirty pool, am I right?!

This will not stand, people. Mark my words, I am gonna blow everybody else outta the water next year or die trying. Ideas submitted so far include:

–A red velvet cake in the form of the parted Red Sea adorned with plastic Moses figurine (Intern Rachel)

–A Noah’s-Ark-shaped cake with a veritable menagerie of marzipan animals (Holt)

–A cake resembling the burning bush with pulled-sugar flames leaping upward (Andrew)

–You really don’t want to know what Katie and I came up with. “I’m not even a Christian,” Andrew said, “And I find that offensive.” Let’s just say it involved a lot of red jelly and leave it at that. What can I say? The spirit of competition got away with us.

“You are so Bree Van de Kamp right now,” Holt said.

All I know is, I think I’m gonna need a set of those biblical Legos.

On the whole, though, despite my initially very un-Christian attitude toward my fellow bakers, The Guy enjoyed his first St. Joseph Altar experience. The braided bread shaped like the crown of thorns (complete with toothpicks representing the thorns) creeped him out a little bit, but other than that, a good time was had by all.

St. Joseph Altar.

Catholica.

Sandals and a Saw.

Oh, it is SO ON next year.

——–

1. Are you a sunrise or sunset type of gal? Or neither?Cristy

I want so, so badly to be a morning person, but I’m just not. The schedule my body seems to like best is going to bed at midnight or 1:00 a.m. and waking up around 8:00 or 9:00. Apparently, I’ve always been a night owl; my parents said that even as an infant, if left to my own devices, I would go to sleep at 11:00 and wake up at 7:00.

So sunset, definitely.

2. Name your top three websites and why. - Jennifer

WOW. This one is MUCH harder than I expected it to be. My three favorite websites change almost as often as my three favorite books, but I’ll give it a shot.

1. Personal blogs. This is a total cop-out, I know, to lump them all together like this, but I love personal blogs for so many reasons. They’re entertaining; I’ve met some of my best friends through blogs; other people’s views on the world give me a totally different perspective; and I learn about a lot of issues that I would otherwise kind of gloss over in the news.

2. Lifehacker. Though some of their items are so far over my head they might as well be speaking Farsi, I’ve learned COUNTLESS cool new things from this site.

3. Fashion Under $100. This girl, Dana, started a site wherein she recreates celebrity and designer outfits piece-by-piece, and no outfit costs more than $100. Lately, she’s started showcasing looks for different occasions (think bridal shower or class reunion). She also includes lots of plus-sized options, which I think is really cool.

——–

Your foiled-again
Kel

On the Move

For the last few days, I’ve been referring on Facebook and Twitter to The Great Cookie Debacle of 2005 and my redemption therefrom. (Yes, “therefrom” is actually a word. I checked.)

Long story as short as possible, I joined St. Joseph Catholic Church five years ago. (This was long before I learned to cook. Trust me, this detail will soon prove relevant.) Anyway, each year on or around the feast of St. Joseph (Jesus’s foster-father, of course), the fine folks at St. Joe’s celebrate with a St. Joseph altar. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this, you can read about the significance of St. Joseph altars here. They’re much more popular in South Louisiana, but St. Joseph being our patron saint and all, we keep the tradition going here in Shreveport.

In a fit of…industriousness? Piety? Domesticity? Displaced maternal instincts?, I volunteered to bake five dozen St. Joseph cookies when The Church Ladies put out the call.

Now, I don’t care if you’re Catholic, Baptist, Mormon, Wiccan or Buddhist, Church Ladies are Church Ladies no matter where you go. And no matter what religion or denomination they are, Church Ladies don’t like johnny-come-latelys such as myself horning in on their territory.

The recipe they gave me for St. Joseph cookies was so bad, Martha Stewart would’ve run herself on her icing knife. But, see, I didn’t KNOW this because I didn’t know how to cook yet. So when the recipe called for, like, five pounds of flour and two cups of liquid, I was all, “Okey dokey! Looks like I’m gonna need a bigger mixing bowl!”

After mixing up this…concoction in my mother’s lead-crystal punch bowl (the only vessel large enough to hold it in its entirety) then giving up and pouring the whole mess out on the kitchen table, not to mention crying a holy-water font of tears, I called my friend Emily, who demanded I read the recipe to her.

“You’ve been duped by The Church Ladies,” she announced.

For the next four years, when they asked for volunteers, I just wrote The Church Ladies a check.

But this year, they got so desperate they emailed everyone. And being the sucker that I am, I volunteered once again. THIS time, however, they told me all I had to do was bake two cakes. Any kind. Using my own recipes.

Hot damn and hallelujah, we’s back in business, folks!

My mother, desiring, as she put it, to have at least one Catholic star in her Methodist crown, volunteered to bake one of the cakes (a pineapple Bundt cake that my Dad had to use all his Catholic restraint not to dive into face-first). For the other, I made a carrot cake.

Redemption.

TA-DA!

(Please note that there are three carrots in the center. These represent the Holy Trinity. The 12 carrots around the edges symbolize the 12 apostles.)

(I’m a freak.)

“You’re a freak,” said The Guy.

“Jesus would LOVE my cake,” I shot back. “Jesus INVENTED going outside one’s comfort zone.”

“You’re still a freak,” he retorted.

But I’m a freak who’s been REDEEMED!

——–

I shouldn’t brag on my newly-acquired domestic skills too much, though. This is what happened the last time I tried to bake cookies:

Contamination.

——–

And the last time my friend Katie brought over her children, her daughter Evangeline got really sleepy. No big, right? Just put her down in my bed and go on about our business.

Wrong.

Evangeline can’t go to sleep without a binkie (pacifier).

Just what do you think the chances are that I have something child-appropriate in this apartment that even remotely resembles a binkie?

Yep. Slim to none.

“WAIT,” said my friend Holt. “Just what do you have in this apartment that resembles a binkie that’s NOT child-appropriate?”

Finally, the lightbulb came on!

Improvisation.

A dog’s medicine dropper.

WHAT. I washed it with hot water and soap first.

Look, it was probably way better for me to give her a dog’s medicine dropper to use as a binkie than to try to sing her to sleep with Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue,” which I also did.

——–

Do you have some, um, interesting ways to get the creative juices flowing when you’re trying to write? Do tell. - Cristy

I really wish I had some Hemingway/Fitzgerald/Thomas-esque answer to give you here. Truth is, I tried a couple times to write under the influence. At the time, I thought, “This is brilliant! The words are like magic jewels dripping straight from my brain to my fingertips!”

The next morning, I realized the words actually read like a Dick and Jane primer.

Sigh. At least I didn’t succumb to the overwhelming urge to click the “Publish” button.

There are four tried-and-true methods I use to give the engine of my creativity the equivalent of a quickie-lube oil change:

1. Spend time with my friends.
2. Work on a creative endeavor that’s NOT writing (e.g., sewing).
3. Go look at/listen to/watch somebody ELSE’S art.
4. Read something important. Think Tennessee Williams plays or Susan Sontag’s speeches.

Very rarely does one of those not do the trick.

That’s a little boring, I’m sure, but I figure it drastically reduces my chances of making my final exit via blowing my brains out, sticking my head in the oven or walking off into a river with rocks in my pockets.

——–

Your domestically-challenged
Kel