In the Kitchen: “Still Thankful” Turkey Salad

Next-day turkey is kind of sad. It’s pretty dry at the point, white and bland and just sort of there in your fridge.

You could put it on some bread and make a sandwich, but no matter how many toppings you pile on, you’re still going to have this bite of cardboard poultry in there.

The turkey, it needs the salad treatment.

Most turkey salad recipes want you to put fruit in them. My husband won’t touch fruit, ever. If given the choice between eating an apple or giving up football, he’d happily sell his jerseys and his copies of Madden, and begin researching jai alai.

So I had to come up with my own salad recipe this morning, and it was pretty fantastic. Not even gonna fake modesty here, people.

(But there is a little bit of fruit juice in here. Shhhhhh.)

Mamamash’s “Still Thankful” Turkey Salad
(Makes 2 sandwiches)

½ cup mayonnaise
juice of ½ a lemon
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp greek seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
¼ red onion, diced small
1 celery rib, diced small
1 cup chopped turkey, mixed white/dark (I like to finely shred the dark meat in the food processor and then leave the white meat in larger chunks.)

In a glass bowl, whisk together mayo, mustard, lemon juice and seasonings.


Fold in chopped veggies.

Pile on the meat, then give it a few more stirs.

Cover with plastic and let sit for at least an hour before serving.

Chick O Cheat

I gotta tell you, the last thing this mama wanted to do tonight was go trick or treating. I was barely getting by on the three hours of sleep I’d gotten after last night’s Madonna concert and still being waterboarded by my own snot thanks to this lingering cold.

For some reason, my husband was determined that we go, so after a short nap I dragged myself out to the truck to head over to our friends’ neighborhood for what ended up being probably one of the best Halloween evenings ever.

Last year, Monkey dressed as a gnome and rode around in the wagon for most of the night. His dad would carry him up to each house for treats and he’d just stare at all the happy, friendly candy pushers.

This year, he quickly figured out what an awesome deal this whole Halloween thing was.

You mean, I just wear some silly outfit?

And I get to pull the wagon around in the street?

And if I walk up to a house and yell, “Chick O Cheat” they’ll give me candy? (Don’t forget to say thank you! See you later!)

And Mama will let me eat my weight in M&Ms as long as I turn over all these orange square things?

So up and down the sidewalks we went through a neighborhood full of clowns and witches, fairy princesses and well-muscled super heroes. The dads toted small coolers full of autumnal brews while the big kids filled pillowcases with sugar-laden treats to be bartered for extended bedtimes later.

The moms wheeled the smaller kids around in wagons and strollers, stashing the good chocolate in their pockets when no one was looking. Ok, so maybe just one mom did that. Shut up.

After we’d filled the buckets and baskets, we headed back to our friends’ house for some pizza and warmth while the kids sorted their candy and the men chilled on the porch with their drinks and cigars.

On the way home, Monkey was asleep before we hit the highway. His father slipped him quietly into pajamas and under the covers before stretching out to gently snore on the couch.

And Mama is tired, and still feeling under the weather. But she is also round and content and grateful to be able to live such a beautiful, simple life with some truly excellent people.

Pop the Patriarch turns 80

Sometimes when things come together, it’s luck – like my husband needing to go to Texas for work at the same time I needed to go to Texas for a family gathering. He didn’t have to use any vacation days and I didn’t have to drive myself!

But most of the time when things come together it’s because a bunch of people worked their asses off to get it done.

My grandfather’s 80th birthday was last week and my entire family worked closely together to plan a fantastic celebration. From compiling a guest list and sending out invitations and request for letters detailing memories from my grandfather’s past to buying, prepping and cooking enough food for a gaggle of people to providing technical support – we all pitched in.

And what a success! Even with the snags along the way (food warmers that didn’t work, obnoxious building personnel) the party was a happy, sentimental affair.

Folks from all over the country sent in letters for my grandfather telling him about their favorite memory of him. His high school class was very helpful with this. They’re such a close bunch and that makes me happy.

We had guests attend from near and far, and we were so grateful for them all for making the trip.

There had been talk of getting a recliner for my grandfather to sit in to receive guests, but I don’t think his rear end touched even a plastic chair once that day. He went from table to table, from crowd to crowd visiting with his well-wishers and it made my heart grow about 10 times to see the smile on his face the entire day. (And of course I cried when I presented him with the stack of letters. I’ll blame it on pregnancy hormones.)

And although the joy of seeing all these smiling faces was pretty much just indescribable, my favorite part of the afternoon was when everyone was getting ready to leave and several of us stayed back to clean.

Without even being asked, my cousins jumped in to clear tables, put away food and mop the floor. My husband threw knives to pop balloons that had gotten stuck up too high for us to retrieve them. (This was quite the spectacle to behold.) In less than an hour, we had the venue back to its original form. We laughed and cut up along the way, and I was just so in love with my family right then.

Sometimes I worry about my generation of our family – that we’ll lose touch as the older generations pass on. But after Saturday I don’t see that happening. We work together so well and genuinely enjoy each other’s company. I love these guys and look forward to the day when we can get together much more often.

The nostalgia of clean sheets #iPPP

Growing up, my most and least favorite day was cleaning day. Usually on a Saturday we’d wake up to the sounds of our mom scrubbing either the kitchen or the bathroom. We’d haul our dirty clothes out to the hallway and sort them into piles. We’d dust and vacuum and declutter.

When you’re a kid, cleaning sucks. But there was always something so lovely about resting on the couch under the ceiling fan afterward, surrounded by the smells of Clorox and Pledge. There was a peace to the clean house.

When it came time to strip and remake the beds, my sister and I would play a game with our mother. She would go to spread the new fitted sheet over the mattress and we’d climb underneath before she could get it secured. Then she’d continue to make the bed over us and we’d crawl out one corner, fixing it behind us.

It was silly, really, but it’s one of my favorite memories. The breeze of the snapped sheet over your head, the scent of the detergent it gave off.

The giggles as we lay trapped underneath the bedding for just a moment. The feeling that there wasn’t anything else going on in the world at that moment, just us in the bedroom, being together.

It was all part of the magic of childhood, the magic that fades for awhile but is renewed later when you get to be a parent yourself.

Yesterday I was making the bed when Monkey let out a loud squeal and leapt up onto it. He squirmed his way under the half of the sheet I’d already fitted to the mattress.

“I help,” he insisted.

He wasn’t much help, of course. He’d wrap himself up in the sheets, toss the pillows at me, and yank the comforter away each time I’d try to place it.

I would have gotten exasperated with him, but there was this moment. This moment when he was between the sheets, sitting on top of the fitted one I’d finally gotten tucked in, the flat sheet snapped out above his head, floating down in his face.

His face that was lit up from within with happiness at this moment.

Could he smell it, I wondered? The detergent, would he remember its scent years later? Would the softness of that clean sheet always be a comfort to him?

He had no idea of the bridge to my childhood he’d built in those few seconds, of how quickly I was taken back to those essentially carefree days. How for that moment, there wasn’t anything else going on in the world but us in the bedroom, being together.

Did you photograph a special moment with your phone this week? Link up your post with us!

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She wasn’t sure she was going to make it.

The split second she needed to gauge the footsteps – the leaps that would take her further from her pursuer and closer to an escape – that fraction of time might have made the difference.

Her pulse was throbbing in her ears. Could he hear it?

He would catch her again, this she knew.

She could hear his short, shallow breaths just feet away. He wasn’t watching. Not yet. But if she moved, if she made any effort to change her position, he’d be there in a flash.

She decided to go for it.

Uncrossing her legs, she leaned quickly to the left and sprinted up the stairs. Three, four, five steps to make it on the landing, then a quick juke to the left. Through the doorway – there it was! Freedom!

A door slam away.

She twirled around, grabbed the handle. Began to propel the door forward, but too late. Too late.

He was with her, grinning maniacally. He knew he’d beaten her, he knew she was caught.

As did she, so she sat down to pee, defeated, and handed the toddler a roll of toilet paper to unravel, resigned to her fate.

In the Kitchen: Copycat 54th Street Gringo Dip

One of my favorite appetizers here in Kansas City is 54th Street’s Gringo Dip – a white cheese dip loaded with veggies and spice. They serve it with chips or waffle fries and it’s so good that when my sister comes to visit, we have to go eat there at least twice.

I’ve been wanting to make it at home for awhile, but never got around to it until the other day when my husband begged me to.

I peeked around the Internet for awhile and found a couple of efforts to replicate the dip, with one sit actually claiming to have the “recipe from the corporate cookbook.”

Haha, yeah. Right.

None of them were exactly what I was envisioned, mostly because they had too many ingredients or were too complicated in prep.

Anyway, this is my version. It’s not authentic, of course, but close, real close. It makes a lot bigger serving that you’d get at the restaurant, so it’s perfect for the upcoming football season. It requires almost no prep, since you buy everything prepackaged. Also, it has veggies. Sneaky, sneaky.

Gringo-ish Dip

1 lb Velveeta Queso Blanco, cubed
1 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded
½ cup shredded parmesan
16 oz container pico de gallo
1 cup milk
1 tsp cayenne
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

In a saucepan, warm the cheeses, pico, milk and cayenne. Stir well until completely melted.

Add the spinach, taking care to separate the leaves.

Serve with chips, on nachos, or with waffle fries.

*Welcome Pinteresters!  For more tasty noms, try my Chicken Spaghetti. It’s a failproof kid pleaser. Or my Cheesy Chicken and Spinach Lasagna, guaranteed to get as much cheese in your mouth as possible. Wash it all down with my Mama’s Amaretto Slush for a frosty adult treat. Thanks for visiting!

Kansas City, let’s go steady

I’m from Texas. Part of my heart will always belong to the Lone Star State. But I have a confession.

I’ve been having an affair with Kansas City, and it might be getting serious.

I’ve written before of my love/hate relationship with the place I’ve called home for going on four years. There’s plenty to do, but the weather aggravates me. The Kansas Prairie has given me a best friend whom I love like a sister, but I’ve also met some really craptastic people. The BBQ is amazing, but there’s no Wienerschnitzel.

There’ve been many, many moments over the years that I’ve wanted to throw my hands up in the air, burn down the house and move back to Texas. I pine for my family sometimes. There are occasions where I’d like to climb to the top of the Liberty Memorial and shoot the whole city the finger.

But there are also times like these.

Times where I see how beautiful the city can be when it struggles to experience a rebirth. Times where I drive down one of our scenic highways and breathe deeply of the clean air. Times where it seems like the city unites into a family against a common enemy. (Yeah, I’m talking to you, Robinson Cano.)

This weekend, I expected to be bummed and depressed. I expected to be missing my family now that they had gone back to Texas and to be worried sick about their recovery after the accident.

And on Friday night, I was. I wallowed a bit.

But then my husband came home with two tickets for the All Star Game Fan Fest, and…I wallowed ever harder.

“Man, eff baseball,” I thought. “I don’t even like it that much. And the Royals are terrible.”

But I went, mostly because of the shining joy in my husband’s eyes when he talked about who and what would be there. And I had a surprisingly great time.

We took lots of silly pictures, got to see a few of the women who played ball during WWII – I totally teared up during this, those women are amazing – and hubs got to test drive a Chevy Volt.

We ended up with bags of swag (that word makes me laugh) and my husband got a new hat and had fancy ASG logos put on it right then and there. He was on cloud nine, and I was thrilled to see him so happy.

The Monkey had a pretty great time too.

Then today while hubs was at work Monkey and I met some friends at the zoo who we hadn’t seen in over a month. The weather had finally cooled off and the clouds gave welcome relief from the sun. As I walked the miles between the cages and enclosures, I felt like I belonged.

No, not at the zoo, smartass.

I felt like I was at my zoo. In my city. That I wasn’t just a tourist. I wasn’t just passing through.

I felt a feeling of permanence, and it didn’t make me go running for the closest exit.

Later that day, I got the good news that a Freebirds was finally open in our area. It was just a “preview” opening, but for a $5 donation to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, you could get an entrée and drink.

We had to wait in line, of course, but the whole experience was a freakin’ blast. It was breezy, everyone was in a great mood, and the atmosphere inside the restaurant was as one would expect at a Freebirds – funky and fun.

When we got home to eat our burritos, we sat down to watch the Home Run Derby on TV. There was quite a bit of controversy concerning Cano and his remarks about choosing Billy Butler to hit for the AL, then not choosing him after all. Then he made a comment about loving to come to KC because there were always more Yankees fans in the stadium than KC fans.

And that pissed me right off.

I wasn’t the only one either. A sea of powder and royal blue booed Cano as he stepped up to the plate and hit ZERO home runs during the derby. They cheered every time a hit fell short.

And yeah, it was rude of them to do that. But they were rallying around something important – not just a sporting event.

People here are proud of their city. Sure, they bitch about it from time to time. They fight and make up with it, just like family – and nobody talks shit about your family.

I was proud of KC tonight. I was proud that they didn’t just sit there and twiddle their thumbs and put up with yet another insult. I was proud that they had a little fire in ‘em, a little attitude.

I’m proud to be one of them. I’m proud to be a Kansas Citian.

More KC love here.

In the Kitchen: Kitchen Sink Pasta Salad

Man, it’s hot.

It’s hotter than two squirrels screwing in a wool sock. It’s so hot birds have to pull worms out of their holes with potholders.

It’s SO hot that I tied my mule in a field of corn, and the corn started popping and the mule thought it was snow and froze to death!

Just kidding. I don’t have a mule. Or corn. But damn, it’s hot.

I don’t remember the last time I turned on the oven, in fact. Everything we’ve eaten this summer (since mid-June at least) has either been nuked to within an inch of it’s life, slightly warmed over on the stove top or prepared by a chef in someone else’s kitchen.

Actually, I did end up having to boil some water the other day. I glared at the fire under the pot though, and I can tell you that a watched pot will boil, if it feels you staring at it with menace.

I had originally planned to feature my aunt’s Champagne Pasta Salad that my mom made when she was here last week, but I forgot what she did with the recipe, and seeing that she was in a wreck and all I figured I wouldn’t call and bug her for it.

She’s so high on pain meds anyway, it would probably come out like, “Boil two cups of mayonnaise and put the pasta in the toaster.”

Anyway, I made a pasta salad on Friday with that boiled water, but it wasn’t of the Champagne variety. It was more of a “Clean out the crisper before it all goes bad” sort of pasta salad.

And it was really, really good.

Kitchen Sink Pasta Salad

½ box bowtie pasta
1 box tricolor rotini
1 stalk celery
4 hearts of palm
1 zucchini
2 Roma tomatoes
1 onion
1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts
1 can black olives
6 pepperoncini
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2/3 bottle Italian dressing
Shaved Parmesan
House seasoning (I used Mrs. Dash this time)

Set a large pot of water to boil. Don’t forget the menacing glare.

Finely chop all the veggies, except for maybe the olives.

Boil the pasta til cooked but firm. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water, set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the mayo, mustard and a little bit of the Italian dressing.

Pour the rest of the dressing over the pasta in the colander, distributing evenly.

Toss the veggies in the bowl with the mixed dressings, and coat evenly. Pour the pasta over that, and pull the dressing and veggies up through the middle with a wooden spoon. Be patient, it’ll get mixed.

The resulting salad will look a little bit watery at first, but the pasta will soak up more of the dressing while it chills.

Chill for at least 30 minutes, then season with house seasoning and cover liberally with parmesan.

Ain’t no party like a MonkeyMash party…

In nine days my son will turn two and like all other parents I’m left scratching my head and wondering where that time went.

I brought home a little squeaky thing in the summer of 2010 and I’ve watched him grow into a great kid. He loves his friends and family. He’s affectionate and silly. He enjoys conversation, food and playing – all with contagious gusto.

To celebrate the two years we’ve spent loving him, we decided to throw a combination Fourth of July/Birthday party, timed perfectly with the visit of his MawMaw and cousins. In an effort to keep things on a smaller scale, my husband and I each only invited one friend. Of course, when you add in spouses and children, we still ended up with a house (and yard) full of love and laughter.

My husband manned the grill while the big nephews and I worked on a little science experiment from Pinterest. Supposedly, pouring in juice in a certain order causes the colors to stay separate from each other.

We followed the directions on the Pin and ended up with purple juice. Tasty purple juice, but not the effect we were going for.

It was The Gamer’s idea to change the order of the juices and TADA! It worked! Even the adults wanted the pretty drink, so I got quite skilled in my presentation by the end of the party.

Outside, it was complete soggy insanity as nine kids ranging in age from one to 11 ran through sprinklers and wading pools.

Our poor bubble machine tried in vain to keep up, but the best it could do was sputter a sad little sphere here and there.

As the sun began to set, Monkey’s friends “helped” him open his gifts while sitting at the cute little picnic table his MawMaw sent him. When his Daddy wheeled out his gift from us, a shiny new Radio Flyer tricycle, the gasp from the short crowd was audible.

They helped him onto it and patiently waited for their turns. And oh, the silliness.

Later we did the usual ice cream and cake, then brought out the glow sticks for a mini-rave in the front yard. We tried glow bowling, which is harder than it looks in the dark, and then tromped up the hill to see the fireworks from the amusement park next door.

Monkey loved the fireworks, shouting “BOOM BOOM” with glee each time a new explosion lighted the sky. He’d scream, “Get it! Get it!” and reach out to try to grab the colorful bursts.

When the evening was finally over, we said goodbye to our friends and trudged home. While my husband snuggled with Monkey and waited for him to fall asleep, I chatted with my mom and nephews and helped them prepare for their journey back to Texas.

As the clock ticked its last few minutes before midnight, the house was blessedly silent, save for the occasional blast outside from those last few fireworks people just had to set off.

We slept, exhausted and content.


More Red White & Two photos here!

The Invisible Elephant Saga, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Zoo

On Tuesday I’ll be 33. According to some think tank in the UK, that’s the age most people report to have been the happiest.

I certainly plan on doing my best to support that position with the help of some silly, smart, spectacular people in my life. Several of those people accompanied me to the Omaha Zoo on Saturday, a trip that’s been on my “Midwestern Bucket List” for some time.

The zoos of today are a far cry from the rows of caged, stressed out animals from my youth. Zoos are heavily involved in education and conservation and have made many improvements in their animal display areas.

One such improvement is adding in more space – more space for the animals as well as more space in between them. And that means more walking for us, which, in most cases, we can totally use.

The Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha is a great sprawl of a place. When we arrived we were instantly dwarfed by the huge desert dome at the front. Inside the dome, I stood face-to-flapping-wings with a cave full of hundreds of bats. I walked through a dark swamp with alligators and nutria and felt like I was back at home in Southeast Texas. (Not that I ever actually walked through a dark swamp there. Alligators don’t tickle when you disturb their naps, even if you try to pacify them with marshmallows.)

We visited giant apes, some who were curious about us…

And some who were too busy contemplating the complexities of life to bother with our stares.

*Sidenote: Have you ever looked into a gorilla’s eyes? I got to, and the intelligence behind them was almost overwhelming. I wanted to hug this guy and tell him I loved him. I figure he’s not a hugger though, and I get that.

We took a little time to let our Monkey attend to some, uh, monkey business. He was in such a mood all morning, wanting nothing more than to be left alone in his wagon to eat. He ate nonstop for the first two hours of the visit, but eventually wanted to get out and look around.

Now here is where the aforementioned saga actually begins.

The entire first couple of hours at the zoo were spent in a descent through ramps and elevators, through the desert and swamp and apes and all, until we reached this guy.

At first it looks like he’s all, “Hai! I’m a bear!” but really he’s laughing at us. He’s laughing his dirty bear butt off because he knows what comes next.

The zoo map tells us that up the hill are rhinos and elephants and sea lions, oh my. The kids want to see all these fantastic creatures and so do we, so up the hill we hike.

We see the rhinos, muddy and quite fat. We watch the sea lions swim around in their pool and wish we could jump in because the temperatures are climbing. Then we begin the trek up yet another hill to see the elephants.

Only, the elephants aren’t there. Instead there’s a pretty sign that announces, “Future Elephant Site.”

By now we’re hot and sweaty and pissed because nobody likes invisible elephants. They’re useless. Our friend Tyson quipped that all of Nebraska must be uphill and it occurred to me later that this must be where all of our grandparents lived when they had to walk to school.

Monkey studied the map for awhile as we took a break to recover from the hill hike. I love his friends’ faces here. You cannot imagine the immensity of the effs they do not give at this point.

One of the older members of our crew, obviously seasoned in the ways of the zoo, suggested a train ride so we could rest our haunches and cool off.

I could have hugged this man. Not only did he do most of the pulling of the children up the hills in the wagon, but he saved our sorry selves with that suggestion.

The train route took us back up the hill so we got to enjoy the sights without huffing and puffing.

Little prairie dogs scurried up out of their burrows alongside us to stare as we chugged past. Monkey and I snuggled, waved at them and mugged for the camera.

When we left the train, we were reinvigorated and ready to finish our trip. But then the clouds rolled in, the temperature dropped about 15 degrees and it looked like it might storm, so the entire visiting population of the zoo crowded into the aquarium.

Our reactions to the massive mob were quite different. Some of us (the smart ones) moved quickly through and ended up on the other end enjoying sno cones.

I was not one of the smart ones, and ended up in a human traffic jam with my little six-year-old sidekick. We made the best of it though and got to see monster crabs, deadly jellyfish and happy stingrays.

One of our crew didn’t make it through though. Yup, that’s my kid, passed smooth out in his wagon where he stayed until we picked him up to put him in his carseat. Homedude was done, y’all.

The best days are those where you’re too tired to walk at the end, but you have a head full of memories and a disc full of pictures that will always remind you that you’re loved. Thank you Greta, Tyson, Henry, Ivy, Essie, Ervin, Maggie and Jim for joining my family as we visited all the wild and wonderful creatures Omaha had to offer.

Now, can someone please tell me WTF this is?