Saturday, February 26, 2011

Grams Made Pizza Casserole

When Nick was in primary school, the class made cookbooks for Mother's Day gifts. As part of the assignment, each child listed their mom's favorite foods. This was not a problem for Nick. He only put two items on the list of my favorite foods ... pizza and chocolate. And may I say that he was spot on. Those are still my two favorite foods.

Grandad and Grams both love pizza. When we heard the story this week about the lady who was saved by her pizza delivery person, I thought to myself "that could be us." We used to order pizza every Thursday night. We would watch Survivor and eat pizza. We ordered the same pizza with such regularity that, on the rare week we didn't order, the pizza delivery guy would tell us the next week that he had been worried about us. We've given that up, although we do occasionally still order a pizza. We try to eat something a little healthier.

This week, when Thursday rolled around, I had my Thursday night pizza craving.  Then when I checked my computer I saw a recipe for an Italian casserole in my inbox. Both of these combined made me decide to come up with a recipe for a pizza flavored casserole.

Pizza Casserole

2 cups uncooked Rotelle pasta
½ pound mild Italian sausage
1 package sliced Pepperoni
1 package (8 ounces) Velveeta
2 cups grated Italian blend cheese
1 can sliced black olives
2 jars (8 ounces) pizza sauce
1 can sliced mushrooms

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Spray a 9” x 12” casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray and spread half of one jar of pizza sauce in the bottom of the pan.

While the pasta is cooking, remove sausage casing and brown the sausage in a skillet with a little olive oil. Add mushrooms in the last few minutes of browning. Drain.

Cube the Velveeta and cut half of the Pepperoni slices into quarters.

Drain pasta and return to pan. Stir in Velveeta, olives, sausage-mushroom mixture, the quartered Pepperoni, one cup of the grated cheese, and the rest of the pizza sauce.

Pour the pasta mixture into the casserole dish and top with remaining cheese. Spread the remaining slices of Pepperoni over the top like a pizza. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.

I used Pepperoni, Italian Sausage, mushrooms and black olives because those are our favorite pizza toppings. You can substitute your favorite toppings for any of these.  

This turned out to be so delicious that I'm definitely making it next time Our Little Princess visits.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Short People Should Shop at Walgreen's

Anyone who knows me in real life will have noticed that Grams is only 5'1" tall ... if I stand up very straight. That's right, I'm vertically challenged. I'm also nutritionally enhanced, but that's beside the point.

These are my cousins and siblings. We're not tall.
I came from a family of short people. We're all short ... my parents, my siblings, my grandparents, my cousins ... not a single one of us even approaches six feet tall. On the other hand, Grandad's family is tall. They're all tall ... parents, siblings, cousins ... everybody is tall.  Even his sisters are around six feet tall. I feel like a dwarf at the family reunions.

When Grandad and I rented our first home, I was extremely impressed when he could change light bulbs without the assistance of a chair or ladder. It was something else to love about him. I've spent my entire life unable to reach things. I learned to deal with being short early in life. I always have a step stool handy around the house. And, I've come to rely on my tall family.

By the time they were 12 or 13 both of our kids towered over me. I found it to be extremely handy to have three tall people in the house. I would often call one of them to reach something from the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet or the shelf in top of the closet.

I remember one time in particular when I had called Katy from the other room to reach the top shelf of my closet. She walked in and acted like she was going to oblige me, but when she got to the door she turned around, blocked the door, and put her hands on her hips in the Superman pose. Then with an evil laugh she said, "No, I won't ... and you can't either," followed by more evil laughter. She did eventually reach up and hand it to me.

My husband and kids are tall ... I'm the one who's not.
Our height difference is so marked that once, when we were having a family portrait taken, the photographer asked me if I was with the wrong group. I was not amused.

Like I said, I've learned to cope at home. The more difficult challenges take place in public places, particularly in retail stores like grocery stores and pharmacies. I've been threatening for years to carry a step stool with me when I go to H-E-B. There are so many items on high shelves that I can't reach. I often just stand around and wait until someone taller than me comes along and ask them to reach something for me. I also struggle with their dairy cases. The shelves are too deep and my short arms won't reach all the way to the back. It sucks!

A few years ago, Walgreen's built a new store in our Northwest Corpus Christi neighborhood. We quickly moved all our prescriptions there and have been delighted with their service and stock. But, alas, they suffered from the same thing as H-E-B, lots of tall shelves that I can't reach. Until recently, that is. Walgreen's has just finished remodeling our still "new" store. And, here's the best part, they've made all the stock reachable. They've widened the aisles and removed the top shelves. It looks good. It's brighter and easier to find things and I can reach almost everything.  It's very convenient. I love it!

I'm thinking of crossing the street to H-E-B and telling the store manager that he should go check out the new and improved Walgreen's. Who knows, maybe he'd take the hint.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

One of those subjects we should avoid ... Religion

Grams has spent several days writing and re-writing this post.  I realize that it will not be popular and will probably tick some people off to the extreme. But I'm going to publish it anyway, because sometimes you've just got to say what you've got to say. This is one of those times.

Grams was raised in the Southern Baptist Church. When I say that I mean, if the church-house was open, we were there. We went to Sunday School and church services on Sunday morning. We went to training union and evening services on Sunday night. And we went to prayer meeting on Wednesday night. As teenagers our entire social life was centered on the church. We had youth group on Tuesday and sometimes Thursday nights, youth choir on Sunday afternoons, and youth fellowship on Sunday nights. We went to church camp in the summer and usually one or two weekend retreats during the year. Most of my friends were from the church and virtually everyone I ever dated I met at church. By the time I was in high school, I started teaching Sunday School.

Grandad was the only guy I ever dated who was not Baptist. Grandad is Roman Catholic. He never misses mass on Sunday or on Holy Days.  He goes to confession regularly and has, at various times, served as a lay minister and director of several parish programs. He even went to the minor seminary with the intent of becoming a priest. Basically, he's as Catholic as I was Baptist.

After we married, we tried attending both churches but it was short-lived. Honestly, every time Grandad walked into a Baptist Church, he acted like he was about to be struck by lightning. After a couple of years, I realized that the basics are the same, it's the trappings that are different. Baptist churches are generally plain and unadorned, Catholic churches are ornate and highly decorated. Catholic priests wear vestments, Baptist ministers wear suits.

As a young bride and before we had children, Grams converted to Catholicism. I just couldn't see trying to raise kids in both churches. I think religion is confusing enough if you're getting the same message all the time. Trying to teach both to a kid ... that's just too much. So after a few months of instruction from a priest, I was confirmed in the Catholic Church on Palm Sunday in 1978.

I said all that to say this, I have spent my life around people who profess faith in God. Most of my friends and acquaintances are self-professed Christians. But I can't help but wonder if they really believe what they claim to believe. Do they practice their religion because that's how they were raised or have they really thought about what they believe and why they believe it?

For example, Catholics believe in "transubstantiation." That means they believe that when the bread and wine are blessed by the priest during mass, they actually become the body and blood of Christ. Let me be clear, they don't believe it represents the body and blood, they believe it becomes the body and blood. But, it has long been my contention that most Catholics don't really believe in transubstantiation. I think that if they really believed that transubstantiation was real, churches would not hold everyone who would want to receive communion. If the faithful really believed that they could receive the actual body and blood of Christ, they would not be able to stay away.

With the exception of about a year in 2003-2004, there has never been a time in my life when I didn't attend Sunday services of some type every single week. Over the past several years, I've come to realize that I'm a product of both my birth and my circumstance. I worship as I do because that's what I've been taught and where I've been, not because of my own investigation or understanding.

I know there are many other religious groups who believe many things and follow different doctrines ... some I agree with and some I don't. But, what I have come to believe in recent years is that modern religion is mostly designed as a control mechanism. It's all about someone controlling someone else. Whether it's birth control, abortion, dancing, or any of a plethora of other subjects, it really is about control.

I'm trying to become more conscious of my own beliefs and my own thoughts. You see ... the bottom line is that I have my own brain and my own conscience and I can think for myself. I don't need the church or anyone else telling me that I have to do this or not do that. Maybe I'm just burned out on church ... or maybe I'm just moving on to the next step. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I've lost my faith, but I'd willingly lose my religion!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Grams Made Crock Pot Creamy Chicken Soup

Grams is in the habit of making a one-pot meal to eat anytine Grandad spends a few days working in Houston. I don't really get bored eating the same thing several meals in a row and I love only having to cook and clean the kitchen one time. Today, I made chicken soup. I had everything on hand except a rotisserie chicken and the frozen peas. We made a quick trip to HEB after church this morning, but they were already sold out of rotisserie chickens. I'm thinking it might have been because of the Super Bowl. Since they were out, we had to make a second trip about an hour later. Fortunately, it's not a long trip.

The recipe is adapted from Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup. I made it without the noodles. Instead I cooked both rice and noodles separately so I can have either Chicken Noodle Soup or Chicken & Rice Soup. I also changed the herbs, because I wanted to use dried herbs that I had on hand.

Here's my recipe:

1 rotisserie chicken
1 cup onions, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup frozen peas
7 cups low sodium chicken broth (4 cans)
2 (10 ¾ ounce) cans condensed cream of mushroom soup with roasted garlic
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
¼ teaspoon ground sage

Remove skin, debone chicken and chop the meat. Put the chicken into a slow cooker with the onions, celery, carrots and peas. Stir in broth, mushroom soup, and herbs.

Cover and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or low for 8 to 9 hours.

Serve over cooked egg noodles or cooked rice.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What's In A Name?

Photo credit
In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Juliet says, 
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
A couple of months ago Grams and Grandad were visiting Our Little Princess and her parents for the weekend. She's about to turn two years old and is talking pretty plainly now. We were sitting at the dining room table having dinner and somehow got on the topic of names for private parts, specifically what parents teach kids to call their private parts.
I would like to point out right now that our son-in-law reminded us that this was hardly proper dinner conversation, but, as usual, we were not deterred.
I was one of those moms who was determined to teach my kids to call it what it is. And I did try. What I didn't take into consideration is that they would be influenced by other kids and other adults.

My daughter arrived at her own terminology. Instead of vagina, she called it her pooch. I have no idea where that came from. It has been suggested that perhaps it came from a Spanish-speaking child care worker, but I'm just not sure.

When he was very little (under 3), instead of penis my son called it his pee-pee. As he got older, the terminology evolved into the usual slang words.

In thinking about this topic I realized that I've heard some strange terminology over the years.
  • I know a grown woman who calls it her "cookie-wookie."
  • I know a young woman whose parents actually taught her to call it by a four letter slang word that starts with "c" and ends in "nt." If I had said that word, my mother would have slapped me in the mouth.
  • My brother-in-law and sister taught their boys to call their penis a "stem."
  • The term "va-jay-jay," used by both Oprah Winfrey and Grey's Anatomy, is my all-time favorite. It just makes me giggle.
  • I've heard little boys call it their "bat."
  • I've also heard male anatomy referred to as "sausage."
This is by no means a comprehensive list. It's just a few that stand out in my memory.

By the way, the preferred terminology for Our Little Princess is "lady business." What can I say? My kids are Saturday Night Live fans.

What did you teach your kids about terminology for their body parts? And, just as important, what terms did they arrive at on their own?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Winter Settles In ...

Regular readers may remember that Grams resides in balmy South Texas. In February we average a high temperature of 66 degrees Fahrenheit and an average low of 46. I love winter in South Texas. It's the best time of year. It doesn't get cold very often and when it does the days are crisp and clear and the skies are the most beautiful color of blue. Summers are hot and humid with highs in the mid-90s and lows in the upper 70s. Humid is an understatement, it's sometimes referred to as "air you can wear."

As I write today around 3 p.m., the temperature has just now risen to 30 degrees and it's starting to drizzle. School closures have been announced for both Thursday and Friday. There is actually snow in our forecast for Friday morning. All of that means, after walking next door for bunco tonight, Grams will be snuggled with a down comforter in front of the fireplace until the weather warms up on Saturday.

As I was cooking dinner last night, just before nightfall and just before the temperature hit freezing, I noticed one remaining bloom on one of my rosebushes. I grabbed a pair of shears and ran out to snip it so we could enjoy the last spot of summer for a bit longer.

It's a lavender rose called Angel Face and it smells divine. It's bloom was almost spent by the time I noticed it, but I think it will last a day or two. It reminds me that, although winter has settled on South Texas for a few days, it will be warm and sunny again soon.

Wherever you are, stay warm! Winter won't last forever. No matter what the groundhog says ... Spring is coming.