Moxie’s Resolutions for Everyone Else: The 2017 Edition

What a crazy clusterf**k of a year it’s been. I’m ready for 2017, but there are a few things I’d like y’all to do better, okay? Hence my annual resolutions for everyone else. On with the show.

Stop using “Ch-Ch-Changes” as an editorial or article title (editors and journalists). If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen this popular David Bowie song used as a title for an op-ed, editor’s note or even an article, I would not need a day job. Now that Bowie is no longer with us, how about honoring his memory by NOT using this song as an article title anymore?

Participate in the 2018 California State Fair by having an exhibit in the exhibition hall (California counties). 

Create a buddy movie or sitcom starring Gwendoline Christie and Miranda Hart (British film/TV industry). If you’ve watched “Game of Thrones”, you’ve likely seen actress Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth, the tall, powerful female knight who has sworn to serve the House of Stark. She’s fabulous.

Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth on

Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth on “Game of Thrones.” Strong, powerful, flawed character and one of the reasons I keep watching.

 

Gwendoline Christie, actress, British actress, Brienne of Tarth, Game of Thrones

Gwendoline Christie all dolled up for awards show.

Just as fabulous is the statuesque actress and comedian Miranda Hart, who had her own sitcom on BBC and has been in several films, as well as on PBS’s series “Call the Midwife” as Chummy.

Miranda Hart, British actress, British comedian

Miranda Hart, British actress and comedian.

Why not put these two tall, lovely British ladies in a buddy movie or sitcom? Rumor is that “Miranda” is returning – how about a guest spot for Gwendoline, hmm, Miranda? Maybe Miranda dresses up as Brienne for a fancy dress party and ends up in some wacky situation where she is mistaken for Gwendoline?

Make US Postal Service-compliant stationery and cards (stationers and greeting card makers). 

Declare a moratorium on remakes of movies that are less than 50 years old (Hollywood). I feel like I’ve made this resolution before but once again in my life, I am freakin’ Cassandra yelling at the Trojans to not let that damn horse through the gates. Reading this round-up at Den of Geek got me extra annoyed. I get that there’s an assumption on the part of film producers and major studios that a remake has much better luck at doing well at the box office, but come up with some new material, okay? Or just make another sequel or prequel to an existing property, since you’re doing that already.

Accept that email is not a secure form of communication (federal government, Democratic National Committee, and, really, everyone). If we learned anything in 2016, it’s that email servers can be easily hacked. Honestly, I think there’s a lot of ignorance on the part of politicians and others about email security. Unless you work for the NSA, CIA or FBI, or you’re intentionally using email encryption software or services, assume that none of your emails are safe from prying eyes, and act accordingly.

Create/produce a TV drama about Baltimore that’s positive & uplifting (Josh Charles).

Kill Flash Player already (Adobe). I feel like this has been a resolution in years past and yet this stupid thing continues to exist and slow down everything on my computer. Please, for the love of Steve, just kill Flash already.

Get a smartphone already (Pops). He’s had an iPad for a few years now, and the iPhone is not that much different, yet Pops refuses to get a smartphone. He says “my phone is smart enough to work,” and I appreciate that, but the moments when you are dealing with crappy traffic because your Garmin doesn’t tell you about road closures are moments you can avoid with a smartphone that’s equipped with Google Maps and Waze.

Restore Jerry’s Subs & Pizza to its former glory (DC, MD and VA sub-loving citizens).

What are YOUR resolutions for everyone else?

Still a Sammich, Any Way You Slice It

So I’m just sitting here, faffing about on the Internet (how I love that phrase, “faffing about” – it sounds so inappropriate yet is innocuous compared to other words beginning with the letter “f”) in between working on other projects. Because it’s close to lunchtime I start thinking about sammiches, which is way more fun to say/type than “sandwich.” So many types of fillings, so many types of bread. But there’s really only two ways to cut a sammich, unless you’re like the mom in Mermaids who insists on using cookie cutters.

No, it’s either a vertical cut or diagonal, and in certain circles the cut makes all the difference. Margaret over at Nanny Goats in Panties, one of my favorite humor blogs written by one of my favorite people, wrote a post a few years ago how one cuts sandwiches. As a kid she was frustrated by her mother’s determination to cut sandwiches on the vertical, when everyone else had theirs cut on the diagonal.

sandwiches, diagonal cut, sandwich, Nanny Goats in Panties, lunch, lunchtime, school lunches

Photo courtesy nannygoatsinpanties.com

What’s funny is that when I was a kid, Momcat always cut my sandwiches on the diagonal, and I felt like the odd one out at lunchtime. To battle my insecurities, I decided in my little Moxie brain that the type of cut had to do with socioeconomic class. We were obviously upper middle class and I was obviously surrounded by peasants. (I also decided that the use of Wonder bread or grape jelly was also an indicator of income level. I was a weird, snobby kid.)

As an adult, I don’t eat as many sammiches anymore. But when I do, I always notice the cut and my ego starts railing about the rabble not knowing any better. Yeah, I’m now a weird, snobby adult. Quelle surprise.

Turns out there’s more to the diagonal vs. vertical debate than I thought. A 2009 NPR story suggests it’s about the appeal of triangles, and the illusion of a sandwich being bigger when cut on the diagonal. And apparently I’m not the only one who thinks it’s a class thing when it comes to sammiches. Here’s an excerpt from the NPR story:

But triangles aren’t just for haute foodies. You won’t catch short-order cook Nathan “Spanky” Lewis cutting a sandwich into rectangles. He’s been making sandwiches at the Tastee Diner in Bethesda, Md., for 16 years and has one word for why triangles rule: “Reputation.”

Especially on a BLT or a club sandwich, he says. “If it’s squared off, it doesn’t even look like a sandwich.” Tastee customers and waitresses rush to agree. “Sailboat sandwiches” are just the way to go.

So there you have it: a sammich is more of a sammich – or sandwich – when it’s cut on the diagonal. We’ll save the mayo vs. Miracle Whip debate for another post.

Friday’s Hot Tip: Homemade Salsa

When I was growing up, my parents and I would frequently go out to lunch on Saturdays. It was a post-church treat as Momcat didn’t have to cook or clean anything up. One of our preferred lunch spots was Alamo, a Mexican restaurant with a more Tex-Mex flair. The salsa came to the table in a big Melamine bowl and was the perfect consistency: finely blended fresh tomato, onion, garlic and cilantro. This is the place where I first heard Pops say “Don’t fill up on chips! You’ll be too full to eat your tacos.” But they were so good, and the salsa was so tasty, it was hard to stop.

For many years I have searched for the perfect salsa like Alamo makes (yep, they are still in business), without much success. Sure, there have been some strong contenders – I particularly like Trader Joe’s Salsa Especial. Only in recent years did I consider the possibility that making my own salsa could bring me to that same blissful state as Alamo’s chips and salsa did so many years ago.

A few months ago, I had lunch with a friend who makes all sorts of fabulous sounding dishes at home. I mentioned wanting to make salsa and she whipped out a notebook and started writing down a recipe a friend had given her years before. I believe its origins are from someone’s Mexican grandmother. Todo del mundo ya sabe that abuelitas make delicious food, and this salsa is no exception. Even better? It’s super inexpensive to make and all you need is your blender or food processor. I’ve even made a short video to show you how easy it is.

You can easily adapt this recipe to suit your tastes. Can’t get fire-roasted tomatoes? Use regular instead. Don’t like cilantro? Leave it out. (You have made abuela cry, but she understands.) Too spicy? Use mild chiles instead. No lime? Use a lemon, or, if you must, use ReaLemon or ReaLime in the plastic container.

Homemade Salsa

  • 2 14-oz cans fire roasted diced tomatoes (Make sure there’s no added garlic, onion or chiles in the can. Trust me on this. You’re going to be adding fresh garlic, onion and chiles anyway, so why do you need it here?)
  • 1/4 C onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 4-oz can diced jalapenos
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, rinsed (jam the cilantro – leaves, stems and all – into a measuring cup)
  • 1/2 lime, juiced

Put all ingredients in food processor or blender. Process/blend on low speeds until ingredients are combined. Makes approximately 4 1/2 cups.


Stay Hydrated, My Friends

Tonight I went to happy hour with Margaret from Nanny Goats in Panties, Ms. Chick from Limit Reached, and Joan*, a woman I know from Twitter. Originally I was hesitant about going because I have been so irritable lately that I didn’t want to subject my friends to my attitude problem. When I’m in those moods it’s much easier to stay at home and grumble at my computer than to risk going out and shooting my mouth off about whatever is bothering me at the moment. I am fortunate, though, in that my friends allow me to rant and rave and don’t take it personally. Well, that’s what they told me, anyway.

Even with my pervasive attitude problem, it was a fun time. We talked about everything from online dating to prostitution in the Central Valley. Those are the kind of friends a woman needs, I tell you, where you can discuss the big issues interspersed with comments about dried out nachos and whether or not your chicken quesadilla did, indeed, have chicken in it.

water, glass

Water, water everywhere.

After one Cape Cod, I was a little buzzy and more sassy than normal, so I switched to water, as did Ms. Chick. Once we all got glasses of water, I noticed that the servers were coming over a lot more often, more so than I thought they were when we were actually buying food and beverages.

Which brings me to my point. In recent years, I’ve noticed at several restaurants that the wait staff are committed to proper customer hydration. Sometimes they will hover over your table, pitcher of agua in hand, ready to refill your glass. It’s a little frightening. When I lived back east, there was a restaurant I frequented that was notorious for this. The bus boys would stand by, just waiting for you to put down your glass so they could refill it. One time I went there with Mr. X and a friend for dinner. When we saw the water boy head to our table, we agreed to keep drinking and not put down our glass, just to see what would happen. Do you know that guy glared at us, just waiting for one of us to break? (In case you were wondering, I was the first one to put down my glass. I’m not a champion water chugger.)

We decided that this would be a great headline for an online ad: Single Woman Seeks Well-Hydrated Man. The only downside, though, is that most men would think it said “hung” instead of “hydrated.” Which isn’t a bad thing if you are looking for a hot date.

*Not her real name. She likes “Mad Men” so I figured I’d give her a Mad Men- related pseudonym.

Remembrance of Lean Cuisines Past

Lean Cuisine

Flickr image courtesy of William Couch

Many years ago, when I was a young, impressionable but still extremely sassy Moxie, Lean Cuisine came on the scene. An alternative to frozen dinners laden with calories and fat and sodium, Lean Cuisine promised flavorful, quick meals that didn’t ask you to compromise your diet.

I remember a couple of their meals with fondness, such as the glazed chicken with mushrooms and wild rice. This dinner came in two plastic bags that were to be placed in boiling water for a set amount of time. The meat was moist and tasty, the glaze savory, and the rice was mixed with crisp julienned green beans and slices of mushroom. Another favorite of mine was the spaghetti with meat sauce: Momcat only cooked vegetarian meals, so I had to get my meat fix via this entree’s bag o’ sauce, which featured big chunks of ground beef simmered with tomatoes and spices.

When microwaves became more commonplace in the mid-80s, the powers that be at Stouffer’s decided it was time to offer preparation instructions for microwaves. Now it was possible to prick the bags with a fork and nuke ’em on High power for several minutes. The packaging didn’t change, just the prep options. The taste stayed the same, though I remember being able to tell the difference between nuked and boiled-in-bag. My preference remained boil-in-bag, even if it took longer to prepare.

After a few years, cooking instructions became exclusive to microwaves and the pouches changed in size. We were paying the same amount yet getting much less food. This didn’t bode well. The food quality had gone up a bit, as the Lean Cuisine chefs on staff had obviously gotten the chemistry of microwave cooking right, but the portions were smaller. There were many more options for entrees, too, and some of them were pretty good, but my favorites remained the glazed chicken and the spaghetti with meat sauce.

Fast forward to the new millennium, where we don’t need no stinkin’ bags of frozen meat and veggies and carbs – we’re gonna put your meal right in a tray and all you need to do is poke a hole in it or peel it back, stick it in the microwave and BAM! Lunch is served. For those schlepping these meals to the office, the tray style made it much easier as you didn’t need to open up the pouches onto a plate. It wasn’t aesthetically pleasing, but it was edible and there are tons of options and hey, it’s less than 500 calories, wow! But the flavor wasn’t quite the same as I remembered. The pieces of glazed chicken had been hit by a shrink ray and looked woebegone in the little black plastic tray, next to a shotglass-sized amount of rice. The green beans were limp; the mushroom slices were tiny. Apparently the “lean” in the name now referred to the portion sizes.

I’ve never had the bite of a madeleine dipped in tea take me back in time, but I imagine that famous cookie was just as wonderful as the one Proust ate as a child – otherwise how could it prompt him to write so much about his childhood? In my case, I don’t think I’ll ever be hit by nostalgia courtesy of a frozen dinner. They’ve changed way too much, and, for that matter, so have I.

Weird Things Seen on the Street #36

Slices of bread on the sidewalk

Saw these slices of bread next to a covered water main near Giles’ place. As I was taking a picture of it he came out to dump his garbage and said, “Oh, that’s been there since yesterday.” I’m surprised no rodents had carted it off yet. Templeton would have.

Send your photos of weird things seen on the street and I’ll post ’em here!

Please include the city & state where you found it, and a link to your website/blog so I can give you credit.


Friday’s Hot Tip: What’s Cookin? Penne with Spinach & Chickpeas

The hardest part about giving up a lot of wheat and gluten is giving up pasta. Fortunately there are several companies who have come up with rice pasta. Tinkyada makes excellent gluten-free pasta but at $3.99 or more a bag, it can be quite expensive. I buy Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Pasta and find it to be just as good. By using rice pasta I don’t have to stop making my favorite pasta dishes, such as this incredibly delicious penne with spinach, chickpeas and tomatoes tossed in an olive oil-based sauce.

This recipe is a very slight variation on one I got from Kirsten over at NilsenLife. I love chickpeas and especially love them in this dish, which is so full of garlicky tomato-y chickpea goodness that I often eat more than I should in one sitting. I use baby spinach leaves instead of frozen – while I’m loving spinach more now as an adult, I still have issues with frozen spinach. It’s just not aesthetically pleasing.

Earlier this week I visited Kirsten at her home and we briefly discussed our love of this dish. We were in agreement about the addictive qualities of this dish, but couldn’t quite define what makes it so…craveable. The olive oil? The garlic? The combination of flavors? Whatever it is, this pasta dish is well worth turning on the stove for, even during these hot summer days. Pro tip: if you have leftovers, try them cold or at room temperature – still tastes fabulous.

Penne with Spinach and Chickpeas in Garlic Sauce

5-6 oz. loose fresh spinach OR 1 small pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed
8 oz. penne pasta
1/3 C olive oil
3-6 garlic cloves (depending on how garlicky you like your food, or if you are trying to ward off vampires)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can of chickpeas, drained but not rinsed
Kosher salt & ground pepper
1/4 C grated Parmesan (optional)

Clean spinach, discard stems. (Chop leaves if they are on the large side.) Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 2 minutes. (Don’t let the garlic burn!) Add the tomatoes and chickpeas and cook 2 minutes more. Add freshly ground pepper for added zing. Throw in the chopped spinach, add kosher salt and stir well. Turn off the burner and allow the spinach to cook on its own – it will be much fresher & bright green in color.

When the pasta is done, drain it thoroughly. Add pasta to saucepan or mix pasta with sauce in a separate bowl. Sprinkle on the Parmesan, and toss again. You can have this pasta without the Parmesan if you have issues with dairy products, but the cheese adds another lovely flavor to the dish.

Serves 3-4 (Pro tip: use entire bag of penne and spinach if you’re feeding a larger group.)