Yay birthday lunches!

7:52 – 8:07 Arrive at work.  Visit break room and acquire 2 chocolate chip cookies (breakfast).  Return to desk.

8:09 – 8:13 Check email.

8:15 Return to break room for 1 2 additional cookies.

8:16 – 8:20 Participate in a spirited discussion about whether or not a co-worker could “pull off” leggings.  Publicly declare your belief that she could, as long as said leggings were not employed as a substitute for pants.  Inwardly hope she does not attempt this fashion at work.

8:21 – 8:23 Furtively consume above mentioned cookies.

8:24 – 8:35 ???  (perhaps more cookies?)

8:35 – 11:00 Staff meeting/doodling. Fantasize about planting sunflowers.  Accidentally look at co-worker’s crotch.  Blush.

12:00 – 1:30 Co-worker’s birthday lunch.

I would like to stop here and interject a few details.  The first detail being that the very funny birthday card featuring a fortune-telling chimpanzee that I’d picked out for my co-worker did not make an appearance at this lunch, since it was still sitting on my boss’ desk awaiting his signature.  This gave me enough time to think that perhaps a chimp foretelling a year filled with either good luck or more bananas (he couldn’t be sure) is not an appropriate card for a co-worker’s 51st birthday.

I’d also like to mention that we were the only people in the restaurant, which wouldn’t have been so bad except it was a Japanese steakhouse.  So all 6 of us sat around the hibachi grill with nothing to distract us from each other’s company except our chef/entertainer.  I drank a LOT of water and clapped enthusiastically (perhaps too enthusiastically) as our chef, Terry, threw knives and constructed a volcano out of onion slices.  Because I drank a lot of water, I was in the restroom when the staff brought my co-worker her birthday sherbet*.  Luckily they stopped the regular music to play the birthday song (apparently sung by asian school children) over the restaurant-wide sound system, so I was able to follow along from my seat in the restroom.

In the interest of keeping my blood pressure at a healthy level, I won’t go into the details of the check-paying.  Suffice to say…FUCK.  Nothing says “Happy Birthday!” like arguing over how to split a check 6 ways.

2:00 – 5:00 Blissfully uneventful

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*Spell-check is telling me that this is spelled sherBET but I have always said sherBERT.  Oh the shame!

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Stuff to Put in Your Mouth Friday

Introducing Stuff to Put in Your Mouth Fridays.  Every week my girlfriends and I get together to watch NBC’s Thursday night line-up, drink some delicious concoction, take turns cooking dinner.  I am going to attempt to collect, report, and review the recipes here, partly for your enjoyment but mostly for my own.

For the inaugural recipe of 2010, I present to you:

Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon with Pasta
Original recipe from Cooking Light
Bad Mutha Fudruckin’ rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

I guess I should start out by mentioning that the theme for this month is “Jump-start January,” or as I like to think of it, “Just Can’t Fit Into My Jeans Anymore January.”  I still don’t understand how a pasta recipe with bacon could possibly end up in a magazine entitled “Cooking Light,” but I guess that’s just my ignorance showing.

Ingredients
3/4 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
Cooking spray
6 sweet hickory-smoked bacon slices (raw)
1 cup thinly sliced shallots
8 ounces uncooked mini penne pasta
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
3/4 cup (3 oz.) shredded sharp provolone cheese
1/3 cup (1 1/2 oz.) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Preparation
Several days before you plan on cooking this dish: Buy the largest butternut squash you see at Harris Teeter.  Parade it proudly around the store, sure in the knowledge that anyone who sees you with said squash is completely unaware that you have absolutely no clue how to transform the decidedly phallic-shaped gourd into anything remotely edible.  Upon returning home, call your mother in a mild panic.  Breathe.

Following your mother’s advice, stab the squash a few times with a knife and microwave it for a few minutes.  With your sharpest knife, hack cut the squash into 1 inch thick slices.  Cry.  Continue cutting, dicing the slices into vaguely cube-like shapes, taking breaks as needed.  After you’ve cubed all of the squash, or an hour has elapsed (whichever comes first), store the cubed squash in a gallon-size resealable bag and put it in the refrigerator.  Realize you have much, much more than 3 cups of cubed squash.  Decide you don’t care.

Fix yourself a drink.  Repeat as necessary.  Go to bed.

3 hours before dinner: Gather all of your ingredients.  Load all of the ingredients into your car, and travel to your host’s house.  Upon arrival, realize you have forgotten the flour, the Parmesan, and a casserole dish.  Resign yourself to a return trip.  Inquire as to whether your host might have the items in question.  She does!  Rejoice.

Combine 1/4 tsp salt, pepper, and oregano-substituted-for-rosemary in a very large bowl.  Worry that the pitifully small mound of spices is no where near enough to season the mountain of squash you’ve spread out on a foil-lined cookie sheet (greased with cooking spray).  Double the amount of spices.  Lightly spray the cubed squash with cooking spray and sprinkle with the spice mixture.  Put in a pre-heated 450° oven.  Briefly consider setting a timer for 45 minutes, but decide you’ll just keep an eye on it.

Eat a jello shot.

Thinly slice 2 large shallots.  Cry–but only because of the shallots, not because you’ve just realized you are less than half-way through the recipe.

Locate a cheese grater and start grating the sharp provolone.  After you’ve shredded about half, enlist a dinner guest to shred the rest.  Check on the squash.  Wander about your host’s apartment aimlessly until all the cheese is grated.  Set it aside.

Cook 6 slices of bacon on the stove top.  Say a brief prayer of gratitude that your host has disconnected her fire alarm.  Turn the exhaust fan to high.  Decide that you are going the double the recipe as written, as the 6 slices of bacon do not seem adequate to the the sheer mass of squash happily roasting in the oven.  Cook the entire package of bacon.

Check on squash; noting that it is “tender and lightly browned” as indicated in the original recipe, remove it from the oven and set it atop the stove.  Eat test a few cubes for done-ness.  Test a few more.  Turning back to the task at hand, discard the bacon grease, reserving just enough to coat the pan.  Sauté the shallots in the reserved bacon grease until tender.  Eat a bit more squash.  Realize you’ve forgotten to cook the pasta and hurriedly set a salted pot of water to boil.  Cook pasta according to package directions.

Tackle your least favorite part of the recipe – making the cheese sauce.  Locate what appears to be flour in the pantry.  Measure out a cup.  Learn that you have measured out a cup of pancake mix.  Laugh.  Wonder if pancakes would be have been a better choice.  Allow your host to locate and measure out a cup of flour.  Consult the recipe just in time to realize you only need 1/2 cup of flour.  Mix flour and salt together in a medium pot.  Set pot on medium heat and splash in milk clumsily while whisking wildly gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Bring to a boil.  Cook for 1 (or 2) minutes until thickened.  Note that roux is very thick.  Remove from heat and add cheese.  Stir.  Realize you’ve only added 1/2 of the necessary milk.  Return sauce to heat and add 2 additional cups of milk.  Breath a sigh of relief as it incorporates without a fight.  Add pasta to cheese and stir to coat.

Mix squash, crumbled bacon, and shallots together in a large bowl.  Into greased casserole dish, dump 2/3 of the pasta/cheese mixture.  Top with 2/3 squash mixture.  Dump in remaining pasta and cheese, and top with remaining squash mixture.  Wonder if you shouldn’t have said fuck this layering shit and just mixed it all together.  Top with shredded Parmesan cheese and stick in the oven for 10 or so minutes.

Fix yourself a drink.

Hastily assemble a salad and announce that dinner is ready.
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And that’s it, my friends.  After all that work, dinner was just so-so.  The cheese sauce was pretty bland.  Honestly, the best part of the meal was the bacon.  Come to think of it, the squash was pretty awesome, too.  If I were to make this again, I’d just toss the squash, bacon, and shallots with the pasta and some olive oil and omit the cheese sauce altogether; maybe I’d sprinkle some of the cheese on top.

Missed Connections

I’ll be surprised if anyone shows up today after the cliff-hanger I left you with yesterday.

Breaking news!  My car broke down!  And then it got fixed!

Halt the presses!  I diced a butternut squash!

Jeez louise.  I deserve to lose the first knuckle of my right index finger for that bullshit.  Hopefully it won’t come to that but if it does, rest assured I will accept my punishment with minimal complaint.  Reaching the ‘y’ key will become a more difficult task, but I’m not one to complain.

Right.

Moving along.  Yeah, my car broke down 2 hours into my return trip from MI to NC, but really, other than waiting for the tow truck and the actually paying for the repairs, it was pretty painless.  As my saintly mother paid for the repairs, I really have no room to complain.  Speaking of no room, I did have to ride cross-legged in the back seat of my mom’s Ford Focus with 150+ pounds of pit bull, a cooler, and assorted snacks and Christmas presents, but hey – they are my (remarkably, blessedly well-behaved) dogs, and other than the time I had to reach over my crossed legs to grab a Coke for my sister from afore mentioned cooler (remember when you were in 10th grade and had to pass the Presidential Fitness test?  and you had to sit on the floor with your legs stretched in front of you and see how far you could reach?  It was kind of like that, but I’m 27, not 17) it wasn’t bad at all.

HOWEVER, I did see my old teacher at Food Lion while I was visiting my sister over Christmas break.  You may remember this post where I professed my undying love for my high school History teacher, Mr. Tucker.  Well, I’ve been waiting 10 years for him to realize we are meant to be together but now I know it shall never be.  How do I know this?  Because I am socially inept.

Let me back up, because this story is actually a good one.

All 3 of my sisters and my mom were at my sister Lauren’s house (she of riverboat gambling fame) to celebrate late Christmas together.  My mom sent two of my sisters (Annie and Beth) and I to Food Lion to get a couple of bottles of wine.

Can I stop here to mention that we saw a boy peeing out of the open driver’s side door in the parking lot?  I know, let she who is without sin cast the first stone, and I have peed in my fair share of inappropriate places, but this kid was something else.  I have never before witnessed a daylight, outdoor pee of this magnitude.  Honestly, at first I thought he was filling up water balloons with a hose – and this is not a comment on the size of his hose, which I (thankfully) did not see.  He was peeing in such a way as to arc the stream almost to the height of his head.  Before I realized it was pee I was afraid he would end up soaking his face.  After I realized it was pee I was hoping he’d end up soaking his face.  All I could do was shake my head and curse the small town.  And of course, keep watching.  I’m only human.

So it is in this state of mind that I entered the grimy, small town Food Lion.  As all Food Lions have the same general floor plan, I aim myself toward the beer/wine aisle.  Who do I see rounding the deli counter with a cute redhead on his arm?

Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh I think that’s Mr. Tucker.  Yeah, it’s definitely him.  Annie!  Is that Mr. Tucker?  It is.  It is!  Quick–hide. This I mutter as I fast-walk past Mr. Tucker and crouch behind a display of $2.99 bottles of North Carolina wines.

“Sarah, your face is really red.”  Thanks, Annie.  At least now I know my instinct to flee was a sound one.  So there I am, hyperventilating among the light beers, while Beth is laughing loudly at my predicament.  So help me God if he hears you and comes to investigate, I think.  I peeked around the corner and watched him stroll down the next aisle.

My blood pressure continues to rise as I shadow him around the store, ostensibly looking for a wine tool but really just trying to stay out of his line of sight.  I can’t bring myself to even get behind him in line because I can’t envision a conversation that goes beyond, “Hi, Mr. Tucker.”  I probably wouldn’t even get that much out.

And really?  I’m 27.  I don’t address people who are, at most, 6 years older than me as “Mr.”

The truly sad part of this story is that EVERY SINGLE TIME I return to the town where I graduated high school I fantasize about running into Mr. Tucker, pumping gas or picking up some groceries.  Of course, in these fantasies HE notices ME and strikes up a conversation, which inevitably leads to a romantic motorcycle ride along the coast and ends with…well, not with me crouched behind several cases of muscadine wine.

In which Dexter discovers he loves the taste of deer poop.

Work sucks.

There, I said it.  Coming back to work after 16 days off blows.  As I’m sure this is news to no one, we’ll be moving right along.

We had a surprisingly uneventful road trip up to Michigan.  I packed my baby sister and the dogs into the car and, leaving Hemo at home to be looked after by my neighbor/co-worker, started the 15 hour trek to the outer suburbs of Detroit.

Why, you may ask, did Hemo get to stay home, most likely licking her kitty vagina on  my pillows and gorging herself on treats I bought in a fit of guilt?  It is not because she is a poor road tripper – on the contrary, she is an excellent road tripper.  On one trip from NC to MI she sat stoically in her (soft-sided, collapsible) car carrier while Ernie sat on her for who knows how long until I happened to glance in the backseat and shoo him off.  No, Hemo is just a horrible, horrible house guest.  Hissing at babies, scratching couches, peeing in inappropriate places — she has long since worn out her welcome at my mom’s house.

Our ride up was uneventful.  After Dexter stopped mouth-breathing all over my sister and followed Ernie’s example by falling asleep in the backseat, it was clear sailing.  We did have to listen to Jason DeRulo’s “Whatcha Say” about a million times, but the song kind of grew on me and it ended up being not so bad.

The week and a half I spent in Michigan with my mom and her family went by too, too fast.  It was a blur of snow, food, sleeping in, Harry Potter yarn, hot chocolate, food, wine, and delicious food.  Ernie and Dex had a grand time playing in the snow.  It’s a shame the only picture I have of my time up there is the following, in which I tried to get a family portrait of my dogs along with my mom’s pit bull, Callie.  Well, she’s not actually my mom’s dog, she’s my stepbrother’s, but after he bought her and had her ears clipped, his drug habit caught up with him and he spent several years in and out of shady rental homes with no-pets policies before finally ending up in jail (he’s out now).  So Callie lives with my mom and stepdad, and protects my sister from chipmunks.


Wow.  What a photogenic bunch.

Callie (left) Poor Callie, she looks like she is losing a piece of her soul to the camera.  Honestly, for all her 100+ pounds (my sister steadfastly claims that Callie is 90 pounds, but come on…she makes Dexter look slim), she is the sweetest, most insecure sensitive dog I have ever met.  And she smells like Doritos.

Dexter (middle) looks like he just suffered a stroke.  I love you Dex, but you are out of the running to become America’s Next Top Model.

Ernie (right) has not, to my knowledge at least, been taking any steroids, nor was his father a giraffe.  This picture, however, argues otherwise.

I guess they come by it honest, as I have not taken a decent picture since approximately 1983.

Coming up, I have a lot of stuff to tell you, including how my car gave me the middle finger on the Ohio Turnpike and my adventures converting a monstrous butternut squash to monstrous mound of cubed butternut squash.  Stay tuned!