Author Archive

Rustic Chicken Stout Stew ~ A Betta Fish in a Sequined Bag

The problem with having a local business is that it’s often frequented by enterprising locals, all hoping to sell their wares.

Utopia was no different.

Now Sister Madly had heard tales of these free-range entrepreneurs but thought them as mythical as the Sasquatch- that is, until the winter when they descended upon Utopia in droves, pitching products from handmade jewelry to glass-blown bongs suggestive in their design, to local music unsuitable for human absorption. Sister Madly obtained an extraordinary amount of patience in those years, listening to horrific demos while dogs howled from the alley.

But even this did not quite compare to the brainchild of the wayward Fashionista, whose poorly executed British Accent* pitched her personal line of sequined handbags. These bags, each the size of a cigar box, seemed normal enough- that is, until the Fashionista flipped the purse around to reveal the small compartment containing a live, and rather surly, Betta Fish.

* Like many Americans attempting a British accent, the Fashionista could mimic nothing better than southern Alabama.

Now Sister Madly is all for chasing one’s dreams; she herself has aspirations that border the utterly insane- like one day eating a salad- but not one of those dreams include strutting along Bourbon Street with a Betta Fish in a Sequined Handbag. Clearly, her face reflected the WTF that she was thinking, as the Fashionista went on to emphasized certain selling points, including a self-contained LED light (with multiple twinkle settings) and the fact that almost any freshwater* fish from goldfish to guppy could be substituted for the Betta.

* This was blatant discrimination against all saltwater creatures- after all, what femme fatale wouldn’t want to tote a halibut glowing pride?

Being a humble clerk, Sister Madly was no more authorized to make wholesale purchases than she was to dispose of bodies in the company’s dumpster- and she campaigned for both during her employment. In fact, Management rarely purchased anything local, preferring rather back alley transactions and mysterious shipments from China * to the dubious wares of the native psychopaths.

* Sister Madly eventually gained the confidence of Management, who assigned her the task of ripping the labels off all shipments from China in an attempt to conceal the identity of their suppliers. It was useless, really- the return addresses were written in Chinese.

After the regulation We-Don’t-Want-Your-Wares-Weirdo-But-It-Sounds-Like-You-Have-A-Chance Spiel (which Sister Madly delivered most diplomatically,) the Fashionista said something quite lovely in British-Alabamian, smiled in this same language, and sashayed her glamorous self out the door- leaving handbag behind as a ‘sample.’

Make no mistake, Sister Madly likes presents; she likes finding books on the side of the road, or lotion samples in the mail, and has been known to dine quite handsomely toothpicked meatballs at the market. But all these are a far cry from being saddled with a surly Betta Fish by a Fashionista with a bad accent.

Then again, if Sister Madly can properly care for a Betta Fish, she would be prepared for the day the Humane Society drops off a sample Corgi. She would be the first civilian sought to test-ride a luxury Zeppelin cross-country, and would be the prime candidate to care for the sample case of premium Hard Cider expected to arrive the following week. It wouldn’t be long before Sister Madly proved herself worthy of a galaxy or two, with unlimited dimension-traveling privileges.

In the meantime, Utopia now had a Betta Fish who, judging by its disposition, did not like the poky accommodations of the Handbag Aquarium- and Sister Madly knew all about the unhappy conditions of poky accommodations.

So she transferred the surly Fish to a shiny, new, Tibetan Singing Bowl.

But new digs meant little without nutrition in terms of survival; so Sister Madly took it upon herself to feed the Surly Fish and even went so far as to do it with a smile.

But what does a Betta eat? Aside from giving her the evil eye, it’s been rather uncommunicative, and try as she might, Sister Madly did not speak fish. Taking into account the dietary lifestyle commonly found in poky accommodations, Sister Madly assumed (quite correctly, no doubt) that a Surly Fish would enjoy the same fare.

So she bought the Betta two large pizzas and some olives, knowing her coworkers would assist in finishing what the Fish could not consume as to avoid unnecessary waste. Her coworkers were most resourceful when it came to all things edible.

She also bought a small canister of Fish Food- you know, just in case.

RUSTIC CHICKEN STOUT STEW

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4-6 chicken thighs, cubed
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock
  • 1½ cups stout, divided (1 cup + ½ cup)
  • bacon, cooked and crumbled (opt)
  • pearl onions, peeled
  • mushrooms, sliced
  • carrots, cubed
  • 2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp sage
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp cayenne, or to taste
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • heavy cream (opt)

Sauté chopped onion in bacon grease/oil until translucent; 8-10 min
Add garlic; sauté 1-2 min
Deglaze with 1 cup stout; 2-3 min
Mix in spices; 30 sec
Add vegetables; stir to coat
Add chicken; stir to coat
Add stock, Worcestershire, and remaining stout; mix
Bring to a boil
Reduce heat; simmer 1-1½ hour
Add cream (if using); simmer 10 min
Remove bay leaf; garnish with bacon before serving

THEME SONG: Dream On, Aerosmith

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Bourbon Maple Chicken ~ The Power of Cheese

In Sister Madly’s experience, cheeses don’t just pop across the marketplace like champagne corks; so it was something of a surprise when she found herself assaulted by a wedge of Camembert. To find the source of the offending cheese, she had to look no farther than the dreadlocked gent now contemplating the Brie, who gave no explanation other than the Camembert had ‘bad energy.’

Technically speaking, sir, everything has energy, if only potential- Sister Madly learned that much as a wee little thing in Science Class.

But Science doesn’t cover Cheese Energy as far as she knows, except with respect to other objects or situations.

Take gravitational cheese energy, for example: Sister Madly can stuff you full of Brie and throw you off the roof; for electrical, that outlet by the sushi bar appears to be rather volatile.* However, if it’s thermal cheese energy you seek, Sister Madly will be more than happy to set the Brie on fire.

Sister Madly is all about helping her fellow man.

* A conclusion drawn by the presence of several bewildered electricians and lots of pretty sparks.

But the Dreadlocked Gent did not want the help of his fellow man, choosing rather to determine the energy himself by meditating with every Cheese- and she does mean every. He immediately bonded with a cheeky little Manchego from the discount basket, but did not jive with the Asiago nor the Double Gloucester with Chives; Sister Madly avoided those projectiles successfully.

Perhaps Cheese has properties she never realized, much like how the cancerous side-effects of radiation were of no surprise, but the subsequent arrival of Godzilla & Company was somewhat unexpected. Maybe Bad Cheese Energy has its own side-effects: it could be the reason why Sister Madly has 2 different-sized feet, or why her hair gets hair-band big after the rain, or why she is perpetually the 5th wheel amongst her friends.* Bad Cheese Energy may have been responsible for the fall of the Roman Empire, or the extinction of the dinosaurs; it could be the reason behind corruption in politics.

* Although that 5th wheel thing might have everything to do with Sister Madly being a proper lunatic.

But upon thinking about it, Sister Madly realized that she has experienced the Power of Cheese: once, a Provolone attempted to enslave her in the kitchen, while not too long ago she dabbled with Stilton, which is said to induce dreams. Sister Madly did dream that night, but it was nothing like the acid trip of pure imagination that was promised. Then again, perhaps Stilton is the LSD of cheeses, and the dreams will manifest as a series of magnificent flashbacks in years to come.

In fact, there’s one now…

Booyah!”

This most sophisticated salutation was accompanied by an insane proposition by the Happy Phlebotomist, who was in the field militantly actively recruiting for the local Blood Drive- at least, he was militantly actively recruiting Sister Madly.*

* Sister Madly isn’t sure ‘Booyah!’ is the best way to recruit souls for a blood-draining ritual… but then, she isn’t a professional.

Since the Phlebotomy Community of America has yet to figure out a needle-free way to extract blood (osmosis, for example- that’s a very science-y thing) Sister Madly was unable to accept his most intriguing proposition (apparently, the draining ritual comes with a free cookie!) but she was just fresh out of blood. It’s one of the more unfortunate side-effects of being a Moppet.

“But you’re all about helping your fellow man.”

Just when did she say that?

“About 10 minutes ago.”

… she was rather hoping you didn’t hear that…

BOURBON MAPLE CHICKEN

  • 6-8 chicken drums/thighs

MARINADE

  • 1 TBSP cumin
  • 1 TBSP coriander
  • 2 tsp chipotle pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP lime juice
  • 3-4 TBSP olive oil, or as needed

BOURBON GLAZE

  • ½ cup bourbon
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 2 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne, or to taste
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp lime juice

MARINADE
Mix together marinade ingredients
Add chicken; shake/mix to coat
Refrigerate 30min – 24hrs

GLAZE
Mix together all ingredients except lime juice
Bring to a boil
Reduce heat; simmer to reduce (glaze will coat spoon)
Mix in lime juice and remove from heat

BAKE
Preheat oven to 400*
Place chicken on greased baking rack in tray
Bake for 45 min
Remove from oven, brush chicken with glaze
Return to oven; bake 10-15 min, or until cooked through
Brush with remaining glaze straight from oven

 THEME SONG: Meltdown, AC/DC


Puppet Master

Nothing
Is More Despicable

Than Respect
Based on Fear.

~ Albert Camus


Images:

1)bee-tea.deviantart.com
2) Pinterest
3) Pinterest


Drunken Shepherd’s Pie ~ Space Cowboy Apollo

Sister Madly has to admit, she’s been having difficulty sleeping as of late- why, just a few weeks ago, she shamelessly punched herself in the face. This time, her angelic slumber became the envy of every Olympian, a magnificent performance ending with a triple-twist, half-pike, supersonic back-flip that landed her spread-eagle, face-first in the mattress.

What startled this sleeping cherub into a routine of otherwise impossible acrobatics was nothing short of a nuclear detonation: indeed, it was a text at 3:37 AM telling her that Art Bell had died.

It’s amazing how deafening the voice of Eric Idle* can be at 3:37 AM.

* She should mention that her text notification is Eric Idle of Monty Python fame, declaring ‘Message for you, sir!’ She thought it clever at the time.
She regrets that now.

To be fair, Sister Madly never outlined the proper procedure on notifying her of the death of Art Bell, so she can’t place all the blame on her PhD friend.*

* She neglected to do the same regarding the deaths of Leonard Nimoy and Stephen Hawking back in the day. Those texts came in at 4:04 and 4:23 AM, respectively.

Clearly, the Professor was having a bit of pillow talk with a Reaper- which is not a bad connection to have. Sister Madly’s connections includes a Phlebotomist, from which she has yet to benefit… but now sees a way in which she can.

It’s not revenge so much as ‘returning the favor.’

But just as she was romanticizing phlebotomic revenge upon the nocturnal Professor, Eric Idle announced but another special delivery:

And just what, exactly, is she meant to do with this information? Why is the water high? Does it have the munchies? Perhaps she is supposed to bring it treats…

So, the Puddle wants Dim Sum. It’s got fancy, hipster munchies.

“… 1:30???”

Sister Madly was beginning to miss the good ol’ days, when messages were delivered via carrier pigeon- not that she was around in those days, but she misses them nonetheless.

Then again, that means a flock of pigeons would, at this moment, be cooing outside her window, with messages inviting her to join a Puddle with the Muchies for Dim Sum to commemorate the life of Art Bell- and pigeons have even less respect for windows than they do statues.

On the other hand, Sister Madly does have a few recipes for pigeon, and she’s been wondering where to procure such a beast… no doubt that is the tasty origin of the term “shoot the messenger.”

“UFO PIZZA!!!”

Sister Madly is pretty certain that Art Bell covered that topic at least once in his career, Professor, so she sees absolutely no reason to bring it up now.*

* 4:15 AM.

And if there is a pizza flying over your house, Professor, it is not a UFO.

“Space Cowboy Apollo.”

Tallulah… was your dear, sweet, angelic-younger-sibling-who-knows-where-you-sleep-and-has-access-to-a-spare-key-and-a-Phlebotomist just as maddening in days of yore? Be honest now… Sister Madly is trying to find the source of this Karma.

“Danger Bird on Ellipses!”

Update: Sister Madly has just fired Eric Idle as her messenger and switched to something called “Pebble.”

“Lunar Luau!!!!”

People throw pebbles, you know…

DRUNKEN SHEPHERD’S PIE

  • 1 lb lamb, cubed
  • 3-4 cups beef stock
  • 1½ cups stout, divided (1/2 cup; 1 cup)
  • Shot of whiskey (opt)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Assorted vegetables, chopped (carrots, mushrooms, green beans, etc)
  • 3 TBSP Worcestershire
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp sage
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp cayenne, or to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • 1lb (approx.) potatoes/cauliflower, cooked and mashed*
  • cheddar cheese, grated

* Follow favorite mash recipe

FILLING:
Brown lamb on all sides; set aside
Add onions; sauté until translucent; 8-10 min
Add garlic; sauté 2-3 min
Add spices; sauté until fragrant; 30 sec
Deglaze with ½ cup stout; 2-3 min
Add lamb, vegetables, Worcestershire, whiskey, and remaining stout; bring to a boil
Reduce heat; simmer 1½ – 2 hours

TO SERVE
Divide stew amongst oven-proof ramakins (remove bay leaf)
Top with mash; sprinkle cheese over mash
Bake @ 400* for 25-30 min, or until mash is crispy

THEME SONG: For Whom the Bell Tolls, Metallica


Images:

2) Chris Clor


Authenticity

Man
Is the Only Creature

That Refuses to Be
What He Is.

~ Albert Camus


Images:
1.) Fixstay.com
2.) Marko Popadić
3.) Flickr


Island Pulled Chicken ~ A Mean Case of the Grumpies

Mornings are not always sunshine and good cheer; in fact, they can be downright sadistic. Take last week, for instance: upon fighting the blankets with her usual morning petulance, Sister Madly was assaulted by the blinding flash of a Near Death Experience.

That’s right: she punched herself in the eye.

It is only natural that, in the few moments following a Near Death Experience, one considers the life choices that eventually led to this moment. Sister Madly can’t say that her 5-Year Plan had been ambitious, but it was adequate:

Now that she had been given a second chance in life, Sister Madly was left with a newfound sense of purpose; having long-since accomplished nothing on the above list, she decided it was time to fully embrace the dream of And-Then-They’ll-All-Be-Sorry by playing the role of a mature, responsible adult.

Not that she knows how to be an Adult, let alone a responsible one; as for maturity- face it, there are cheeses more mature than Sister Madly. But ‘fake it until you make it,’ as they say, and Sister Madly started by faking her way to the market; all she found in her pantry that morning was a jar of capers and a sweet potato growing tentacles- epic tentacles. After all, Adults don’t let their cupboards go bare, lest they come down with a mean case of the grumpies.

But once at the market, Sister Madly found no shopping baskets, no carts, not even one of those motorized scooters she has no business using- nothing, but this seething, diabolical dirigible:

The idea of using this apparatus without a flock of squawking children was out of the question. As a single individual well-over the tender age of 25, Sister Madly’s only choice was to purchase whatever she could fit in her arms and forego the rest. But as her pocket-sized physique can carry only so much, it meant either foregoing cleaning supplies, or food.

Her natural inclination was to forego the cleaning; her apartment is tiny- it’s about 80% bed, which means only 20% biohazard. That’s a ratio she can live with. Besides, Sister Madly can’t spend another night with the Tentacled Potato in her pantry; she’s pretty certain it plans to murder her in her sleep, and Adults don’t like to be murdered.

Then again, how do you plan on ridding yourself of the Potato, Sister Madly? If you eat it- thus risking turning into a mutant- you will need food in the morning; but if you throw it away- thus splitting the Earth in two- you will need cleaning supplies. No doubt it’s gooey inside of the Earth.

There is no way around it: all of your groceries are essential.

So Sister Madly tossed aside the threadbare remains of her self-respect, embraced this thing called Adulthood, and with the Despicable Dirigible promptly plowed into a massive display of Cadbury Eggs.

And nearby, a child started to cry.

Sister Madly will be sleeping in the sock drawer tonight. She suddenly finds herself with a mean case of the grumpies.

* Good news: Annie’s Mac & Cheese is 10 for $10 with your shopper’s card! You’ll find the deal scattered along the entire length of aisle 7.

ISLAND PULLED CHICKEN

CHICKEN
6-8 boneless chicken thighs, whole
2 sweet onions, sliced
2 TBSP Ginger, minced
1 TBSP Garlic, minced
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cumin
2 star anise
1½ chicken broth
¼ cup oil, or as needed

SAUCE
1 cup guava jam (used Mango, Guava, Passion Fruit Preserves)
6 TBSP pineapple, crushed
2 TBSP ginger
4 TBSP Worcestershire
1 TBSP rice wine vinegar
1 tsp gochujang/other chili sauce, or to taste
Salt, to taste
1 TBSP lime juice, or to taste

TO MAKE CHICKEN
Heat oil in Dutch oven
Add onions, stirring to coat
Lower heat, stirring occasionally until onions are caramelized (30-45 min)
Add ginger and garlic; stir to coat; 2 min
Mix in spices, broth, and chicken; bring to a boil
Reduce heat; simmer until chicken is cooked (25 min)
With 2 forks, shred chicken in pan

TO MAKE SAUCE
Mix together sauce ingredients EXCEPT lime juice
Add sauce to chicken; mix
Simmer to reduce and thicken; 10-15 min
Add lime juice; stir and remove from heat

THEME SONG: When I Grow Up, Garbage


Hey There, Cthulhu

Hey there Cthulhu, down there in your sunken city
You’re a billion light years distant and the stars look very pretty
From R’lyeh
So close and yet so far away
Iä, Ië

Cthulhu Fhtagn, or is that k-THOO-loo fuh-TINE?
I can never quite remember, ’cause I’m not in my right mind
Since I met you
No one corrupts the way you do
You know it’s true

Oh, it’s what you’ll do to me
Oh, and all humanity
Oh, you’ll rise up from the sea
Oh, kill everyone slowly
Except the ones like me

Hey there Cthulhu, I’ve been studying your gospel
The Necronomicon, it gives me nightmares something awful
Where I see
The death of all reality
It fills me with glee

So when the stars are right, you’ll come and do your worst
But that’s okay because I know you’ll eat the cultists like me first
When you get here
I know that day is drawing near
I have no fear

Oh, it’s what you’ll do to me
Oh, and all humanity
Oh, you’ll rise up from the sea
Oh, kill everyone slowly

A billion light years seems so far
Below the sea, beyond the stars
Of these humans’ putrid souls you’ll drink your fill
The fools will all make fun of me
But I’ll just laugh maniacally
’Cause no one’s ever suffered like they will

Cthulhu, I can promise you
That by the time this cult gets through
The world will never ever be the same
Praise your dark name!

Phn’glui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wagh’nagl fhtagn
Boy, that’s really quite a mouthful, can’t quite cram it in my noggin
Not today
I try to say it anyway
I feel my soul being to fray
Still I away that frabjous day
Cthulhu calay!

Oh, it’s what you’ll do to me
Oh, and all humanity
Oh, you’ll rise up from the sea
Oh, kill everyone but me
Everyone but me…


Original Music by : Plain White T’s

Satirical Lyrics by: Eben Brooks

Images: 1) Pinterest
2) tumblr
3) tumblr
4) DanielBDemented @ Redbubble


Happiness

You will never be Happy
If you Continue to Search

For what Happiness Consists of.

You will never Live
If You are Looking for

The Meaning of Life.

~ Albert Camus


Images:

1) Flickr
2) Patrick Hübscher
3) Pinterest
4) Pinterest
5) WeHeartIt


Consistency

The Truth
May Not Be Consistent


With What You Desperately Want
To Believe.


Images:

1) weheartit
2) adipose620.deviantart.com
3) tara mckinney


Jamaican Beef Patties ~ The Darkside of Suspended Animation

Don’t set your wit against a child. ~ Jonathan Swift

There was a time when Sister Madly was convinced that people ceased to exist when she was not with them. It was not that they simply disappeared to some mystery kingdom – a nightmare that plagues children from time to time – but that they were plunged into a vortex of suspended animation. Nothing existed nor came to pass unless she was near; nothing really mattered unless she decided that it mattered. The progression of life itself depended entirely upon her presence.*

* Sister Madly should probably mention that she hasn’t believed this for a long time now- that is, for weeks. She is an adult, after all.

While not everyone was familiar with the Laws of Suspended Animation, every child was familiar with the never-ending appetite of the Dark. It’s well-known that when one turns off the light in a basement, one has only 10 seconds to make it up the stairs- otherwise, the Dark will devour you. Losing children to the Dark is unfortunate, that much is true; but those children could be easily replaced. However, the same could not be said about Sister Madly. She had a responsibility to the human race: they only exist if she exits, and if the Dark wins, it would mean the end of all mankind. Sister Madly was well-aware that she was placing humanity in danger every time she ventured downstairs.

It was during one of these expeditions to the basement that a 6-year-old Sister Madly came across a sheer, red and black babydoll tucked away in a shoe box. She had never seen anyone in her family wear this strange nightie before- besides, who would want to? It was see-through, which meant it would be plenty chilly in the winter, and there didn’t seem to be any pants! No outfit is complete without pants. Pajamas are meant to be sensible and comfy, like the footed-sleeper that Sister Madly wore every night, zipped up tightly under her chin.

The logical conclusion was that some wayward sleepwalker managed to defy the Laws of Suspended Animation, break into her basement, and was immediately devoured by the Dark. Her parents then tried to cover this up by hiding the evidence in a shoebox. Judging by the size of the strange nightie- which, of course, was meant to be ankle-length- that someone had been a munchkin.

Sister Madly made it up the stairs in record time that night.

The awful truth about the babydoll was revealed some years later, when her mother cheerfully confessed that the lingerie was hers and had been worn only once- however briefly- on a night that resulted in Sister Madly.*

* No doubt this lingerie was set aside in order to remind her mother not to do the things that eventually resulted in the aforementioned Sister Madly. The world doesn’t need any more of those.

Sister Madly found this absolutely horrifying. Her mother, in this see-through, no-pants nightie, did some sort of ritualistic dance which summoned the Stork to drop Sister Madly on her doorstep!

You know what that means, don’t you? It means that it doesn’t matter if Sister Madly makes it up the stairs in under 10 seconds; it doesn’t matter if she is devoured by the Dark. The human race existed- even thrived- before she was born! And if it did so before she existed, it certainly will do so after.

But that was nothing compared to the utter horror of discovering what that ritualistic, Stork-summoning dance turned out to be.

JAMAICAN BEEF PATTIES

  • oil, for sautéing
  • 2 garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 chili, seeded & chopped (opt)
  • 1 lb minced beef
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 sheet puff pastry, thawed
  • shredded cheese (opt; not traditional, but… cheese)

FILLING
Sauté onion until translucent; 5 min
Add garlic and pepper (if using) sauté 2-3 min
Add spices; mix until fragrant; 1 min
Add beef; sauté until cooked through
Add broth; simmer until evaporated

BAKE
Preheat the oven to 400*
Roll out pastry sheets; cut into squares/rounds
Add filling to pastry
Top filling with cheese (if using)
Fold pastry over filling; seal edges
Brush with egg wash; bake 20-25 minutes, or until golden

THEME SONG: Dancing in the Dark, Bruce Springsteen


Medicine Show

Charm is a Way
of getting a ‘Yes’

Without asking
a Clear Question.

~ Albert Camus


Images: Mark Osterman


5-Spiced Apricot Chicken ~ Forbidden Fruit on Rye

It wasn’t long ago that Sister Madly, after several gastronomical no-no’s which included the Great Ham and Banana Hollandaise Debacle, was indefinitely banned from the culinary process of party-planning. But this did not preclude her from being recruited to run essential errands, such as “picking up a couple of Swedes.”

Why Swedes specifically? Is not Sister Madly’s own Scandinavian heritage, as slight as it may be, enough of a cultural contribution to the party? Is it even possible to tell a Swede from a Norwegian? If she should bring home a Finn, would she be horribly punished?

Then again, just what kind of girl do you think she is? Do you think she routinely struts about in stilettos and a feathered boa down at the local Ikea? Sure, Sister Madly recently required that every single one of you be her Valentine– some of whom even had the audacity to question her technique- but there is a world of difference between demanding your companionship and wooing you with her dubious charm.

Besides, if Sister Madly was any good at wooing, would she resort to demanding?*

* Yes, actually. Sister Madly is lazy.

Naturally, her friends anticipated her childish tirade, and followed up with a clarifying text: Studebakers.

Well, maybe the Swede would be driving one.

Dammit… Rutabagas!

Rutabagas are a funny thing. Sister Madly has a hard time believing that the fool who first dug one up said, “Well, Son-of-a-Biscuit! What a delicious-looking thingamabob!” No doubt its history is more complicated, perhaps even stemming back to biblical times. It’s quite possible that something was lost in translating the Torah, that Eve was not tempted with the Forbidden Fruit, but the Forbidden Root.

But let’s face it: it would take an awful lot of sweet-talking on the part of the Snake to get Eve to chow down on a straight-from-the-dirt Rutabaga. Perhaps a verse was omitted from the original text in which God cursed the Forbidden Fruit by upping its carb count and reducing it to a Root, much like how the Walking-Talking Serpent was reduced to a slithering, hiss-happy Danger Noodle.

From a divine viewpoint, a Fruit-to-Root curse would have been absolutely necessary. No doubt the Forbidden Fruit would devastate the future of humanity by being a hit at the Farmer’s Market- why, just think of the incredible smoothies one could concoct, or all the lovely jams. Forbidden Fruit on a lightly-toasted rye would, without a doubt, be a most unholy way to start the weekend.

Being the cheeky little moppet that she is, Sister Madly brought up the subject to a Seminary Student later on at the party, one who got his kicks from taking himself much too seriously. She was curious as to what he had to say about her most excellent Rutabaga Theory.

He did not think it most excellent.

“If you consider the region and the climate of the Garden of Eden at the time, the Forbidden Fruit would have been similar to an Olive.”

And just what is so tempting about an Olive? It’s the only thing on this planet that can further contaminate a perfectly ghastly loaf of bologna! Olives have their place in the culinary world, make no mistake; but to bring about the downfall of all mankind- quite frankly, that tasty little wart just did not have the gumption. There is simply no way that a Serpent could seduce Eve with a beady-eyed little olive.

Unless it was in a martini.

Then again, who can say it wasn’t in a martini? How do we know that the Serpent wasn’t the local mixologist, wooing Eve with a posh cocktail? Savvy barkeeps have been making the same moves for generations- they must have picked it up from somewhere.

Speaking of which- would you like a drink, Soon-To-Be-Reverend No-Fun?

“There’s a reason they’re called spirits: being drunk with liquor is like being possessed by the devil.”

Spoken like a true fart.

5-SPICE APRICOT CHICKEN

  • 6-8 chicken drums/thighs

MARINADE

  • 3 TBSP soy sauce ~ or ~ coconut aminos
  • 2 TBSP sesame oil
  • 2 TBSP garlic, minced
  • 1 TBSP ginger, grated
  • 2 tsp Chinese 5-spice
  • 1 tsp Sriracha sauce
  • 3-4 TBSP olive oil, or as needed

APRICOT GLAZE

  • 1 cup apricot jam
  • 3-4 TBSP soy sauce ~ or ~ coconut aminos
  • 3 TBSP rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp Sriracha, or to taste
  • salt/pepper, to taste

MARINADE
Mix together marinade ingredients
Add chicken; shake/mix to coat
Refrigerate 30min – 24hrs

GLAZE
Mix together glaze ingredients
Bring to a boil
Reduce heat; simmer to reduce (glaze will coat spoon)

BAKE
Preheat oven to 400*
Place chicken on greased baking rack in tray
Bake for 45 min
Remove from oven, brush chicken with glaze
Return to oven; bake 10-15 min, or until cooked through
Brush with remaining glaze straight from oven

THEME SONG: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Iron Butterfly


Image

My Funny Valentine


Fortitude

He was a Bold Man
That first ate an Oyster.

~ Jonathan Swift


Art by Gregory Halili


Lamb Masala ~ Voodoo Child

It’s said that everyone should work in Customer Service at least once in their lifetime, to appreciate what it’s like to work on the other side of the counter, to understand it’s about mutual respect not entitlement, and to master the art of maintaining a professional demeanor when you and your coworkers start toppling over like a flock of Fainting Goats.

Sister Madly never did achieve that last one.

It was at Utopia, and as was the winter custom, Sister Madly and Co. were passing around the common cold like a freshly-lit peace-pipe. These colds were typically nothing more than a nuisance, and this time would have been no different if it weren’t for one thrilling side-effect:

Vertigo.

Imagine, if you will, Sister Madly going about her day, selling crystals and reaping the souls of the righteous, when the floor beneath her right foot suddenly falls away into the abyss. Now imagine this being accompanied by a crushing bout of dizziness, resulting in a full-on face plant into the patchouli incense.

Or into a customer.

Or the Voodoo Fetish.*

* Nkondi, a grotesque statue covered with nails, whose function was to protect villages of the Congo by housing a spirit that hunts, harms, and punishes witches and other enemies of the tribe. Best not to anger it.

Feeling that she was entitled to a little sit-down after that whole ‘face in the Fetish’ incident, Sister Madly lingered amongst the beads and mystery dust, wondering if she owed the Fetish an apology. She’d hate for it to foster a lifelong grudge over this little incident- that sort of thing is not healthy! Particularly not for the angelic, oh-so-plucky, shorter-than-she-deserves-to-be Sister Madly.

But her heartfelt apology was interrupted by Victor, who was crawling across the floor, pushing a shoe box ahead of him with a wooden dowel as though it were a fresh batch of nitroglycerin.

DON’T TOUCH THE BOX!”

Victor, being the throes of vertigo himself, refused to carry the box lest he drop it, refused to slide it along the floor with his foot lest he fall on top of it, and certainly didn’t want Sister Madly- who had violated the Fetish, uninvited- handling it, lest he be cursed by proxy.

It wasn’t nitroglycerin in that box, but it might as well have been to Victor: a fertility god the size of business card, carved from a single opal. Victor had a pathological fear* of fertility gods, afraid that he would upset one and be cursed with a litter of children without engaging in the enjoyable process of making those children.

* He also lived in fear of the Giant Squid.

Normally, Sister Madly wouldn’t be too concerned with angering the Fertility God- after all, she routinely used the African gods to fan herself when she was hot and has yet to give birth to anything other than some incredibly bad ideas. Still, she had to admit that she, too, didn’t feel much like having children at the moment. There was still so much she did not understand about the universe, like tire treads. Why are they so blasé? If Sister Madly had a monopoly on the tire market, she would implement a line of designer treads, like Celtic Knots. She’d like a set of tires with Celtic Knot tread. Or a string of poetry- just imagine all the joy of happening upon Lovecraft written in the snow.

That is not dead which can eternal lie…

Or perhaps Poe- the entire tread nothing but the word Nevermore in slick, gothic lettering.

Or Dr. Seuss.

I do not like green eggs and ham…

It was absolutely brilliant, this idea of Poetry Tire Tread- but a brilliance the world would never know if Sister Madly ended up annoying the Fertility God. She could combat whatever curse the Fetish was about to dish up- endless William Shatner on the radio, a plague of creepy-crawlies, cucumbers- by hiding in her sock drawer, but children could easily break through this line of defense (she ought to know, having once been a child.) Indeed, a litter of Sister Madlys would be a nightmare.

Victor chose to continue on his own. He didn’t want a litter of Sister Madlys either.

LAMB MASALA

  • 1lb lamb, cubed
  • 1 14oz. can coconut milk
  • 1½ TBSP ginger, minced
  • 1½ TBSP garlic, minced
  • 1 sm onion, chopped
  • 1-2 chilies, chopped
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • ghee, for sautéing

Brown lamb in heated pan; set aside
Heat ghee in pan
Add mustard seeds; roast until seeds start popping all over town
Add onions; sauté until translucent
Add chilies; sauté 2-3 min
Add ginger and garlic; sauté 2-3 min
Add spices; sauté until fragrant; 30 secs
Add tomato paste; stir to coat
Add lamb; stir to coat
Add coconut milk; mix, and bring to a boil
Reduce heat; simmer until lamb is tender, stirring occasionally; 15-20 min

THEME SONG: Voodoo Chile, The Jimi Hendrix Experience


Evolution

We are not the Same Persons
This Year as Last,

Nor are those we Love.

It is a Happy Chance if we,
Changing,

Continue to Love
A Changed Person.

~ W. Somerset Maugham


Images by Bobby Neel Adams


Wild Mushroom Stew ~ A Confederacy of Mukluks

During the time Sister Madly spent in their employ, Utopia obtained a reputation of small-time intrigue, from back alley business deals to  Kinder Egg transactions, to smuggling contraband inside of Russian Nesting Dolls. In spite of these rumors,* Utopia decided to venture into the seedy underworld of Alpaca Sweaters.

* Sister Madly might have been responsible for spreading those rumors.

Now Sister Madly knows that there are certain risks one takes when fraternizing with the Knitting Demimonde, from products of questionable origin (i.e., “Made in the Hinterlands”) to defects in the sweater itself:

As with all art, beauty is in the mind of the beholder. Clearly this was not a Backwards Flag; this was something deeper: a masterpiece of hypoallergenic fleece symbolizing the all the hardships a weary Knitter endures during a strong, eastern wind in the Hinterlands.

Eastern winds contribute to sweater-wearing, after all.

But Management, bereft of soul as is their wont, cast aside Sister Madly’s magnificent critique in favor of a far greater concern over why the whole of West Michigan refused to show their patriotism with a Backwards American Flag Sweater in the middle of July.

After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, Management concluded that the only way to rectify this horrible situation was to bundle the American Flag Sweaters with matching American Flag Mukluks, thus revolutionizing the fashion industry, winning a Nobel Prize, and retiring to a luxury hut in the Maldives. And no doubt they would have done just that, had it not been for a slight deficiency in Old Glory.

Let’s see if you can spot the error:

This sent Management into the throes of an existential crisis.

Fiddlesticks!” *

* Sister Madly apologizes for the graphic language.

While nobody could deny that the Flag had American roots, it would have, perhaps, behooved Management to have been a bit more specific when placing the order.

Upon being promoted to Marketing Director a few seconds prior, Sister Madly was enlisted to find a way to promote the Confederate Mukluks in a positive light, as Utopia would rather utilize the errant Mukluks than complain about the product- Knitters, as you know, can be particularly cutthroat.

Not wishing to be shish-kabobbed on the nearest knitting needle, Sister Madly pitched her usual poppycock: Sweetest Day was just around the corner, after all, and what better gift for your sweetheart than this knitted ensemble depicting America’s Civil War?

Then again, why not bundle the Sweaters with a full-length mirror (gilded frame optional) as the Flag would no longer appear reversed in this reflective apparatus? As for the Mukluks, they could easily be marketed to some disgruntled butler as cheeky little dusting cloths- knitted Mukluks clean up dust almost as efficiently as they create it.

Sister Madly even enlisted herself as visual aid, modelling the lovely* ensemble in a beam of sunlight.

* In marketing, even the most hideous of products becomes ‘lovely.’

But even as Sister Madly pitched this most excellent campaign, the sight of her posing most artistically in the latest Civil War Couture*- thus violating every city ordinance in the process- was enough to convince Management to donate the ensemble to the local shelter down the street. Utopia, despite its questionable reputation, was nonetheless generous with its clutter.

* Sister Madly also apologizes to the lady passing by the window during this unfortunate exhibition: you didn’t deserve to witness that.

WILD MUSHROOM STEW

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 16oz wild mushrooms
  • rainbow carrots, chopped
  • pearl onions, peeled
  • baby potatoes, quartered
  • 3 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 cup Marsala wine
  • 3-4 cups veg or mushroom broth
  • 2 TBSP Worcestershire (vegan substitutes here)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • oil, for sautéing

Sauté chopped onion until translucent
Add garlic; sauté 1-2 min
Add spices; sauté 30 sec
Deglaze with Marsala Wine; 2-3 minutes
Add tomato paste; mix
Add potatoes, carrots, pearl onions, mushrooms; stir to coat
Add broth
Bring to a boil
Reduce heat; cover
Simmer until veggies are almost tender, stirring occasionally
Uncover; simmer to reduce/thicken
Add Worcestershire; mix
Adjust seasonings to taste

THEME SONG: Quiet Americans, Shearwater


Grand Illusion

Losing
An Illusion

Makes You
Wiser

Than Finding
A Truth.

~ Ludwig Borne


Artwork by Guido Daniele


Pomegranate Glazed Chicken ~ To Hobnob with the Dead

It’s said that around the end of October the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest, allowing the Living to hobnob with the Dearly Departed. One unsettling tradition this time of year is a Dumb Supper: a silent dinner held in honor of those who have passed on. Since there would be many such delightful celebrations on Samhain, Sister Madly decided to host hers early.

Now last year’s attempt was fraught with problems, including an uncertainty as to how to invite the Dead to dinner, and not having enough space to accommodate the guests. The latter of these issues was easily solved this time around as Sister Madly would be house-sitting for her sister – the impeccable Tallulah – and her husband while they venture off and do saintly anniversary things.

As for inviting the Dead… there are Spells specifically tailored for summoning the spirits, but spelling was one of Sister Madly’s weaker subjects when she was a school-aged brat and she is proud to say that she hasn’t improved much since. And as neither the Dead nor Sister Madly is on social media, she resorted to verbal invitations, arbitrarily shouting them out these last few months regardless of the hour, especially when passing a cemetery.*

* She also invited a cow, a vagrant in plaid pants, a scrub jay, and a tow truck while utilizing this method.

The arrangements were nearly perfect: the house is set back from the street, thus away from the prying eyes of the HOA should calling up the Dead be in violation of the Bylaws. Also, should the more impish of the Dearly Departed choose to stick around after the Supper, they will be haunting Tallulah and possessing her 2 toffee-nosed cats.

And perhaps an appliance or two.

When hosting a Dumb Supper, one is required one to feed the guests; not only is it polite, it speaks well of one’s upbringing. Naturally, Sister Madly decided to raid Tallulah’s pantry to fulfill the menu- no doubt Tallulah would be pleased to find her cupboards stripped bare for the sake of the Dearly Departed, just as she would be happy to find that her humble abode ransacked for the event.

However, this did not go as planned. The only fare that had potential was a can of Spam,* a post-ripe mango, half a bottle of vodka, and a tin of Oh, My Cod! cat food- it was not unlike the Peanuts Thanksgiving of jelly beans, popcorn, and buttered toast- and that was unacceptable. After all, the Dead might be gluten-free, and it would be inhospitable of Sister Madly not to accommodate the dietary needs of her ephemeral guests. It was most impolite of the impeccable Tallulah to have not been more prepared for the Dumb Supper she didn’t know Sister Madly was going to host.

* The Spam was a wedding gift to Tallulah 3 years prior, and manners forbid Sister Madly from revealing the giver.

Just as she was mentally rehearsing her Why-Is-There-No-Food-For-The-Dead Reprimand (complete with dramatic eyebrow-arching at appropriate intervals) Sister Madly became aware of a low and oh-so mysterious hum somewhere at the dark end of the house.

Sister Madly does not like the dark end of the house, not when there’s mysterious hums and no curtains on the windows (seriously, Tallulah, that last one- what gives?)

But then, she became indignant: the Supper was not for 2 days yet! While simple etiquette tells us that fashionably late to a party is acceptable, 2 days early is nothing more than outrageously boorish, regardless of one’s mortal state. Sister Madly will have to see about leaving a Book of Manners at the cemetery the next time she passes by.

Armed with the adorable Ebenezer (ghosts, she decided, become weak in their nebulous knees at the sight of a grumpy Persian,) Sister Madly investigated this ghostly transmission and soon discovered the source: standing upright at the edge of the bathroom sink was Tallulah’s electric toothbrush, at full-power on its own accord, slowly rotating in its place.

If this was not the early arrival of the Invite, then this must be a transmission* of a wretched soul who had passed on in this very room. Everybody knows that ghosts commonly haunt the place of their death, particularly if that death was tragic.

And Sister Madly knows exactly how that happened:

* The transmission was a request of Chinese Takeout. Sister Madly, of course, obliged.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
~ * ~ * ~
~

POMEGRANATE GLAZED CHICKEN

  • 8-10 chicken drumsticks/thighs

MARINADE

  • 1 Tbsp sumac
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

POMEGRANATE GLAZE ~ (yields approx. ½ cup)

  • 2 cups pomegranate juice
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp ginger powder
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2-3 Tbsp honey (to taste)
  • ¼-½ tsp harissa or sriracha (to taste)
  • ½ tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • salt, to taste

MARINADE
Mix together marinade ingredients
Add chicken; shake/mix to coat
Refrigerate 30min – 24hrs

GLAZE
Mix together all ingredients except Worcestershire
Bring to a boil
Reduce heat; simmer to reduce (glaze will coat the back of spoon)
Add Worcestershire; mix and simmer 2-3 minutes
Adjust honey and harissa/sriracha to taste
Remove from heat; set aside

BAKE
Preheat oven to 400*
Place chicken in a baking tray (for crispier chicken, add baking rack to tray)
Bake for 45 min
Remove from oven, brush chicken with glaze
Return to oven; bake 10-15 min, or until cooked through
Brush with remaining glaze straight from oven

 THEME SONG: Ghost Story, Charming Disaster


Book of Longing

I can’t make the hills
The system is shot
I’m living on pills
For which I thank G-d

I followed the course
From chaos to art
Desire the horse
Depression the cart

I sailed like a swan
I sank like a rock
But time is long gone
Past my laughing stock

My page was too white
My ink was too thin
The day wouldn’t write
What the night penciled in

My animal howls
My angel’s upset
But I’m not allowed
A trace of regret

For someone will use
What I couldn’t be
My heart will be hers
Impersonally

She’ll step on the path
She’ll see what I mean
My will cut in half
And freedom between

For less than a second
Our lives will collide
The endless suspended
The door open wide

Then she will be born
To someone like you
What no one has done
She’ll continue to do

I know she is coming
I know she will look
And that is the longing
And this is the book

~ Leonard Cohen


Images:

1) manicowl.com
2) flickr
3) pinterest