Food

Southwest Stuffed Wings ~ A Sixpence Sutra

In civilized society, one never promotes a holiday before its season. Seeing as Utopia resided on the edge of civilization, Management flirted with this unspoken decree by requesting that Sister Madly, despite being a swingin’ bachelorette, create a window display for Valentine’s the day after Christmas.

Now, some might say that embracing the pink holiday before the New Year is a bit premature, but no one has ever accused Management of abusing logic; and as she was far from civilized herself, Sister Madly set about creating a Love Fest so romantic it would put Cupid out of business and into months of intensive therapy.

As none of her co-workers were willing to donate their anatomical hearts to fulfill her artistic vision, Sister Madly had to rely upon actual merchandise, including the Lovers Tarot, several copies of the Kama Sutra (including the pop-up edition full of mechanical witchcraft) and more than enough incense needed for chemical warfare. Indeed, one would not look at this menagerie of color and romance without being filled with all the chalky heart-shaped joys of Valentine’s, bypassing the quiet melancholy of January where contemplation over World Peace and whether anyone really uses the word acquiesced* aloud routinely abides.

* Or crestfallen. Nonplussed

It wasn’t long* before the window display worked its marketing magic on a prim and proper spectator, and lured the waif oh-so seductively into its psychedelic love web.

* Approximately 27 days, 3 hours, and 46 seconds.

While it was difficult to discern the woman’s opinion of this glorious masterpiece, the back of her head looked awfully critical. No doubt within this wandering individual common sense reigned supreme, disturbing her soul with the instinct that Valentine’s should never be promoted 7 weeks before its appointed time.

However, the subsequent symphony of tongue-clucking and aggressive sighing assured Sister Madly that this was not the case, as Miss Prim and Proper announced to no one in particular that she was seriously offended by the pop-up Kama Sutra.

Now, one might assume that the person making a fuss over the Kama Sutra is the one who needs it the most; Sister Madly, however, knew better than to make such assumptions. Perhaps the lady was frustrated for another reason, such as the growing price of avocados, or the invention of the banjo; perhaps she was irritated over how the heated sidewalks malfunctioned that day,* leaving them covered in snow and ice.

* Sister Madly, too, was rather piqued over this malfunction: she fell on her bum twice.

Contrary to popular belief, only 20% of the Kama Sutra is about the creative side of copulation. The popup version of this book, however, focuses exclusively on that 20% and is best not left within the reach of children- unless you are prepared to have some rather frank discussions with your offspring.

Then again, when one considers the population of India in comparison to the rest of the world, one cannot help but acknowledge the success of that 20%…

“There is no such thing as KARMA!”

As it turned out, Miss P&P’s distress was not over the playfully explicit material, but the concept of Karma. This tongue-clucking contempt for Eastern Mysticism led to a zealous sermon about the evils of meditation, the dangers of yoga, and would finish in approximately 15 minutes time with a store-wide exorcism that included casting demons out of the stack of Cthulhu* knit hats.

* Actually, it was an octopus- but the hats sold better when the creature was labeled as ‘Cthulhu.’ Marketing.

There was a moment when Sister Madly considered informing Miss Prim and Proper that she had- quite understandably, actually- misread the title; but then Sister Madly would have to explain that the Kama Sutra was not a book regarding the mystical principles of Cause and Effect, but an interactive novelty featuring innovative and often athletic positions of physical intimacy.

It was the classic no-win situation.

Face it, Sister Madly: either way, you are about to be exorcised.

SOUTHWEST STUFFED CHICKEN WINGS

  • 20-24 chicken wings, deboned, tips intact (tutorial here)
  • 1 cup chicken, cooked and diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 chili, chopped and seeded
  • 1 red/orange bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ cup corn, drained
  • ½ cup black beans, cooked, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp chipotle
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 – 1½ cups shred cheese

Sauté onion until translucent: 5-8 min
Add garlic, bell pepper, and chili; sauté 5 min
Add spices; sauté 1 min
Add corn, beans, tomato, and chicken; sauté 5 min
Cook out any excess water
Add cheese; mix until melted and remove from heat

BAKE
Preheat oven to 400*
Spoon mixture into in each wing, filling entire cavity
Secure cavity w/toothpicks
Season wings with salt and pepper
Place wings on greased baking rack in tray
Bake for 45 min, or until cooked through

THEME SONG: Karma Chameleon, Culture Club

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Champagne Chicken ~ The Merchant of Menace

It’s said that, on average, champagne corks kill approximately 24 people a year- far more than the 10 killed by sharks.

Still, Sister Madly decided to risk it with the champagne rather than find sanctuary with a posse of sharks. She likes to live dangerously.

It was the end of October, when the veil between the worlds is said to be its thinnest, and when the living honor those who have passed on through a variety of traditions, including a celebration known as a Dumb Supper.

Now, Sister Madly has attempted a few Dumb Suppers in the past, and with mixed results.* Of course, this could be that the Departed were already engaged in another Dumb Supper across town, or were busy in the southern hemisphere doing southern hemisphere-ish things. Still, she had to consider the possibility that she was completely lacking in the area of social graces, and that the Departed refused to associate with anyone but the elite. Thus, Sister Madly decided to not only host a trial supper, but with a guest.

* Unsuccessful, and even more unsuccessful.

And what Dearly-Departed guest would be more appropriate than Vincent Price?

For a posh dinner party, one must be properly dressed; and for the Merchant of Menace such attire should be both classy and theatrical. Sister Madly has accumulated a most eclectic array of costumes during her Renaissance Faire Days, down to the satin-lined cloak worthy of an Elder god ritual. She admits it may be a bit show-offy for a Dumb Supper, but it would be perfect of the Vincent Price Trial Run. No doubt he would be wearing one as well.

Unfortunately, Sister Madly looked nothing like the sinister, show-offy cultist of her most excellent imagination, but a portable keyhole- something she did not realize during her Renaissance Faire Days. Did she always look like the gateway to another dimension? Why didn’t anyone ever tell her this?

Thanks a lot, fellas.

As for the feast- Mr. Price was a gourmand in his day, and the not-so-sinister Sister Madly couldn’t get away with Frozen Tater Tots and cans of Spaghetti O’s, even if she did garnish it with a lemon wedge and a sprig of parsley. A culinary effort would have to be made on her part, if only to apologize for dressing as a particularly unmenacing Keyhole.

So what could be more appropriate than a dish from A Treasury of Great Recipes, authored by Vincent Price himself?

No doubt he would be pleased that Sister Madly acknowledged his talents beyond The Pit and the Pendulum, and be touched that she was so thoughtful. And should she replicate his recipe to a ‘T’,* Mr. Price would put in a good word for her with gods of the afterlife, who will no doubt permit her to haunt the living willy-nilly. Of course, should she fail, Mr. Price may plague her with wicked laughter, poltergeists, and B-movie dreams for the rest of her life.

* What is this ‘T’ anyway, and why is it the standard to which everyone aspires?

So Sister Madly settled on a delicacy entitled Poularde Pavilion– that is, Champagne Chicken.* That sounded posh.

* Poularde Pavilion does not translate to Champagne Chicken on Google Translate, but Sister Madly is not one to question the magnificent Vincent Price.

Naturally, merely purchasing a bottle of champagne can bring about delusions of sophistication far beyond one’s station. However, Sister Madly- being most adult- retained enough sense to know she might horribly screw up the opening of said bottle; and as she hoped to get her security deposit back one day- and since she wasn’t quite ready to shuffle off this mortal coil in the most embarrassing way possible- Sister Madly opened the bottle on the fire escape outside.

Science can be a beautiful thing to witness, be it fireflies, the way liquid mercury separates, or the Northern Lights; and while there may be a ‘proper’ way of opening champagne, there is nothing more magical than the moment the internal pressure forces the cork from the bottle, and sends it sailing off into the sunset.

Or, as in the case of Sister Madly, over the fence and into the neighbor’s kiddie pool

Naturally, this left Sister Madly pondering one of the Great Mysteries of Life: how fast does a champagne cork travel?*

* Up to 60mph, it turns out- which is a $435 fine and possible license suspension up to 30 days should that Cork be pulled over in Sister Madly’s neighborhood.

Sister Madly did not replicate Mr. Price’s recipe to a ‘T’.
She gave up when instructed to preheat the oven to ‘moderate.’

CHAMPAGNE CHICKEN

  • 4 chicken thighs, bone-in
  • 1¼ cup champagne or other sparkling wine, divided (¼ cup + 1 cup)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Heavy cream, to taste (opt)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • pearl onions, peeled
  • wild mushrooms, sliced
  • pancetta, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp dried tarragon
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • pinch cayenne, or to taste (opt)
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • Oil, for searing

Season chicken w/salt and pepper
In heated skillet, brown chicken on both sides, 3-5 min per side
Remove from skillet; set aside
Sauté pancetta; 2-3 min
Add garlic, pearl onions, and mushrooms; sauté 2-3 min
Add herbs; sauté 30 sec
Deglaze with ¼ cup champagne
Return chicken to skillet
Add broth and remaining champagne
Bring to a boil
Reduce heat, cover, and simmer: 20-25 min
Uncover; simmer until sauce is reduced by half
Stir in cream (if using) simmer 2-3 min
Remove from heat and serve

THEME SONG: Haunted, Maya Kern


Chicken Shawarma ~ The Atomic Bread-Shepherd

During the first few weeks of summer, a young Sister Madly would wait impatiently for hours to play with her friend Serafina, who was a member of a strict and rather unfun denomination known for its boycotts of various fast-food joints and hosting ‘safe alternatives’ to Halloween. That week, it was Vacation Bible School* that rudely took up Serafina’s mornings, and when Sister Madly showed up at her house later that day, Serafina was trying to draw a picture of Jesus.

* Fortunately, Sister Madly’s mother wouldn’t discover this Summer Vacation Buzzkill for a few years yet.

Now Sister Madly had absolutely no idea what Jesus looked like, aside from the usual pictures of a long-haired, melancholy European holding his pet lamb. After much discussion, she and Serafina were pretty certain that this was an inaccurate depiction, as most of the churches they’ve encountered frowned upon men having long hair. As it was now up to them to right this horrible wrong, they approached the mission like lovely, little know-it-alls of all things sacred, tossing out terms associated with the Divine- such as holy, church on Sundays, and eternal.*

* While she did not fully appreciate ‘eternity’ as a child, as an adult, Sister Madly now flirts with the infinite on a weekly basis.

Since the girls lived in an era a few years after Jesus, Sister Madly decided to ransack the bible for a description of said messiah- she was a bit more of a know-it-all than Serafina, despite not being a member of a strict and unfun denomination at the time.

Nowhere was he described as the long-haired, melancholy European that the art world seems to favor; rather, Sister Madly came upon a host of verses which the artists of yesteryear clearly overlooked:

  • Bread of Life.

Obviously, this was no ordinary loaf of bread; it was alive– which meant the Loaf had a face.

  • Good Shepherd.

To the Smiling Loaf of Bread was added a Shepherd’s Staff.

  • Light of the World.

A magnificent Sunburst was drawn around the Smiling Loaf of Bread-Shepherd.

  • The Alpha and the Omega.

The Inedible End-Slice of Bread was added, which symbolized the Alpha and the Omega.

  • The Resurrection and the Life.

Since Bread rises when baked, there was no need for further artistic depiction. Still, there was concern that merely implying the Resurrection via oven and yeast was too profound and complex for the adult mind; thus they decided to include the baking temp for The Smiling, Atomic, Loaf of Bread-Shepherd.

Sister Madly, however, knew nothing about the joys of baking bread; she only knew the joys of delivering it to the neighbors in a wagon through the snow. And Serafina- well, she only knew the joys of Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwiches.*

* Sister Madly prefers Peanut Butter and Banana.

So Sister Madly suggested they call Information.

Even as a little Moppet, Sister Madly knew that Information was a direct line to the All-Knowing Oracle, as people were always calling it in old television shows asking for phone numbers; but when the Oracle had no answer, Sister Madly asked for the number to a Bread-Making Store. When told that there was no such thing as a Bread-Making Store, it became clear that the Oracle found that Sister Madly & Co. already possessed the information they sought deep within themselves, thus making them wise beyond their 7 years.

Unfortunately, the inherent Bread-Baking Temp Knowledge was hidden far-too deep within their souls to be discovered by 9 AM the following day, so they had no other choice than to depict the Bread actually rising.

And that is what they did.

  • Bread of Life.

Obviously, this was no ordinary slice of bread; it was alive– which meant the Slice had a face.

  • Good Shepherd.

To the Smiling Slice of Bread was added a Shepherd’s Staff.

  • Light of the World.

A magnificent Sunburst was drawn around the Smiling Slice of Bread-Shepherd.

  • The Alpha and the Omega.

Detail was added to indicate that the Smiling, Atomic Bread-Shepherd is the Inedible End-Slice, which symbolized the Alpha and the Omega.

  • The Resurrection and the Life.

The Smiling, Atomic, Inedible End-Slice of Bread-Shepherd pops merrily out of a Toaster.

As you can see, Sister Madly’s artistic skills have vastly improved since she was 7. This pleases her.

CHICKEN SHAWARMA

  • 6-8 boneless chicken thighs, whole

MARINADE

  • 5-7 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 TBSP sumac
  • 1 TBSP smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp cayenne, or to taste
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup oil, or as needed

Mix marinade ingredients together
Add chicken, shake/stir to coat
Refrigerate 30 min- 24 hours

PREPARATION
Remove Chicken from fridge 30+ min before baking
Preheat oven to 375*
Skewer chicken on metal or pre-soaked bamboo skewers
Lay skewers on greased baking track in baking tray
Cover with any remaining marinade
Bake for 45-60 min, or until cooked through
Slice and serve with pita

THEME SONG: Personal Jesus, Depeche Mode


Arepas Chile Chicken ~ The Sweet Hereafter

So, can just anyone buy a submarine?

It’s not like she isn’t qualified to command one; after all, Sister Madly has a boating license- got it when she was twelve. Officer What’s-His-Name said it was all she needed to operate motorized watercraft- sure, she may have forgotten a few things in the intervening years, but surely beneath the water those laws no longer apply.

The craft shouldn’t be difficult to figure out, no doubt just an ignition key and a bright orange button to make it go forward. It will have no reverse gear, but that won’t be a problem on the ocean’s floor where U-turns are permitted willy-nilly; after all, the Germans call these magnificent vessels U-boats, which is clearly in honor of the U-turn.

But most importantly, one need never parallel park a Submarine between an obnoxious Prius and a wood-paneled PT Cruiser, which is a most unnatural and debauched maneuver straight from the pit of hell.

She doesn’t need all the fancy u-boat upgrades, such screen doors and nuclear warheads; your standard get-out-of-the-way torpedo will do. Sister Madly will, however, insist upon flocked wallpaper, disco lights, and a badass stereo system; David Bowie will sound especially haunting inside a submarine.

As for the intermittent, man-your-stations-you’re-under-attack buzzer (complete with flashing red light,) that will make a most excellent alarm clock for any early morning appointments Sister Madly is foolish enough to make.

Also, a conveniently placed shark’s fin will not go to waste.

It shall be called the USS Sweet Hereafter.

* But secretly, she will call it Myrtle.

There are one or two things that will need to be addressed- her negative sense of direction, for example. Officer What’s-His-Name used to talk about this apparatus called a compass, but Sister Madly finds relying upon magnetic poles so 1987. She would utilize a state-of-the-art navigational system,* not prehistoric tomfoolery.

* A few sober friends and a map.

You may be wondering where Sister Madly will store the vessel when not in use. She is certainly glad you asked! Her elder sister, Tallulah, has a creek running through her back yard- no doubt she would be happy to let sweet little sis park Myrtle at the end of the dock. The HOA doesn’t address the subject of submarines, thus one can only assume that they are allowed on the property.

Also, Sister Madly would be most responsible with the torpedoes: she will only use them on spiders.

But all this is nothing more than a pipe dream if civilian submarine ownership is beyond her reach. Sister Madly couldn’t go on wasting her night glamming up Myrtle if she wasn’t allowed to buy one.

So, at 2:41 AM:

Can just anyone buy a submarine?

Now some of you may cluck your tongues at the 2:41 timestamp, but it’s not like she was texting something frivolous, like celebrity death notices. This was important; Sister Madly’s entire future depended upon it.

And rest assured, she was completely sober at the time.

Why?

Come on, Professor- can’t a person ask about submarine ownership without being accused of plotting something nefarious? Sister Madly encountered the same skepticism last year when inquiring about a steamroller. Have a little faith.

The Professor never answered.

So… can just anyone buy a Submarine?

AREPAS CHILE CHICKEN

CHILE CHICKEN

  • 6-8 boneless chicken thighs, whole
  • 2 sweet onions, sliced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½ cup chicken stock
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp chipotle pepper
  • salt, to taste

Heat oil in Dutch oven
Add onions; stir to coat
Lower heat, stirring occasionally until onions are caramelized (30-45 min)
Mix in spices, stock, and chicken; bring to a boil
Reduce heat; simmer until chicken is cooked (25 min)
With 2 forks, shred chicken in sauce
Simmer to reduce and thicken

AREPAS

  • 1 cup Harina de Maiz (pre-cooked cornmeal, such as P.A.N.)
  • 1 cup water or milk, room temp if possible
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP oil

Combine arepa flour and salt
Mix in oil and water, until mixture is smooth
Knead a few times, dividing dough in four pieces*
Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten about 1/2 inch thick
Heat greased pan over medium heat
Add the arepas; cook until golden brown (about 6-7 minutes)
Flip; cook another 3-5 minutes

* Coating hands in oil will help prevent sticky-dough rage.

TO SERVE:
Split arepas horizontally
Fill with chicken
Top with cotija, guacamole, and sour cream

THEME SONG: Under Pressure, David Bowie/Queen


Perfection Salad ~ DisasterChef Theatre

Let’s face it: one can only spend so much time lounging about, indulging in bubble wrap and drinking from the skulls of thine enemies. Faced with the possibility of becoming merely a husk of a person, Sister Madly decided to confront one of her greatest fears: making a salad.

Having fondly recalled the culinary success of Ham and Banana Hollandaise, Sister Madly returned to the recipe box of yesteryear for the inspiration that would propel her into the world of healthy vegetables.

And she found it.

An array of vegetables encased in gelatin, and stuffed rather glamorously into a decorative mold- or in Sister Madly’s case, a disposable tin.

SHOPPING LIST

  • 2 packets unflavored gelatin.

Unable to find unflavored gelatin (she didn’t try very hard, she admits) Sister Madly headed straight for the Jell-O. Not only does this confection have gelatin, it is available in an array of lovely colors. The lack of pigmentation was the one thing that, in Sister Madly’s most correct opinion, that kept the Salad from being absolute Perfection; thus she rectified this oversight with a package of Berry Blue.

  • 1 cup finely shredded cabbage

Sister Madly saw no reason to waste time and effort shredding a large cabbage when Mother Nature has provided mankind with itty-bitty mutant ones.

  • ½ cup chopped green pepper

Green pepper, which is a formidable piece of produce in its own right, does not have a lot of kick, and Sister Madly needed some spice to balance out the sweetness of the Berry Blue.

So she replaced the Bell Pepper with Thai Chilies. Brilliant.

  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 cup shredded carrots

Since celery is an affront to humanity, Sister Madly omitted this particular vegetable in order to maintain the title of ‘Perfection.’ She had every intention of including the Carrots; however, once at the market, Sister Madly found herself swept up on the winds of whimsy and substituted Cherry Tomatoes.

  • 4 oz chopped pimento

Since the pimento is the heart of an olive, and since produce is at its best when obtained organically, Sister Madly skipped the jar of farm-raised olives and chose to harvest this elusive fruit from its natural habitat: a martini.

And where best to get a martini than at a pub?

24 hours later… Behold, her genius!

Just as professional culinarians enhance their creations with decorative sticks and sprigs, Sister Madly, too, opted for garnish; but her garden yielded little more than slugs and rocks. She did come across a bit of herbal greenery in the backyard, but her neighbors were smoking it at the time.

In the end, she need look no further than her own pantry: indeed, all the culinary masters would agree that brown onions and garlic are the perfect accompaniment to Berry Blue Jell-O.

Even Sister Madly could not conceive what sort of mind would consider this anything other than absolute perfection. It was guaranteed to be called a work of art amongst those blessed with the gift of sight!

Having determined that her Salad was exquisite in every way, Sister Madly decided that it would be cruel not to share this gastronomic masterpiece with the world- and what better way than to present the Salad as the main course at a neighbor’s birthday celebration?

All she needed was a birthday candle.

Sister Madly, as you can see, is the soul of generosity.

Happy Birthday.

PERFECTION SALAD

  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 12 oz apple juice
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 2 TBSP vinegar
  • 1 cup carrot, shredded
  • 1 cup celery, sliced
  • 1 cup cabbage, shredded
  • ½ cup green pepper, chopped
  • 4 oz. pimento, chopped

In small saucepan, combine gelatin, sugar, and salt; mix well.
Add 1 cup water.
Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar and gelatin are dissolved. Remove from heat.
Stir in apple juice, lemon juice, vinegar, and ¼ cup cold water.
Pour into medium bowl.
Refrigerate 1 hour, or until mixture is consistency of unbeaten egg white.
Add carrot, celery, cabbage, green pepper, and pimento; stir until well combined.
Turn into decorative, 1½ quart mold.
Refrigerate 4 hours, or until firm.
To unmold: Run small spatula around edge of mold; invert onto serving plate.
Place hot dishcloth over mold; shake gently to release. Repeat, if necessary.
Lift off mold; refrigerate until ready to serve.

~ From McCall’s Great American Recipe Card Collection

THEME SONG: Sweetest Perfection, Depeche Mode


Pork Udon Curry ~ The Coquettish Maiden Fair

So apparently, this is a thing now…

…which is totally unfair. No one has ever made Sister Madly into a beer.

She knows how this happened; she need look no further than to a Renaissance Faire some 10+ years ago, when her friends stole her Medieval Love-Finding Bingo Rock and gave it to the Dodo.

Everybody knows that Bingo Rocks are enchanted; after all, they’ve united love-seeking desperados across many millennia who might otherwise have never realized that a talking tree was their Soulmate. Sister Madly’s willy-nilly selection of Rock 88 was no mistake in the Love-Finding Universe; the Fates knew that she was just as likely to read the stone upside-down as right-side up- 88 would all but guarantee that Sister Madly connected with her Soulmate instead of a wandering pudding.

However, after a tedious encounter with a cheeky Thyme Lord, Sister Madly began to suspect her friends had not been forthright with her. It was only a hunch, of course, but that is the best way to solve a mystery- clues and evidence be damned, a hunch is always the preferred method according to the movies- and Sister Madly had a hunch that this scheme was the brainchild of a master scam artist.* The Scott’s claimed they gave her Medieval Love-Finding Bingo Rock to the Dodo, but Sister Madly had seen neither hide nor hair of the Ol’ Bird all day.

* Although ‘artist’ may be a bit generous… More like scam finger-painter.

So she thought to herself, Self… do you really want to place all your starry-eyed dreams on the whims of a Ye Olde Bingo Rock? Let’s face it: that’s a few steps away from seeing the Virgin Mary in a Poptart. Are you so far removed from society that you don’t understand how Romance works?

Probably.*

* Sister Madly always responds to her own questions, otherwise she gets miffed at herself and will refuse to speak to herself for days.

But even though she bailed on her own Romance, Sister Madly was no less curious as to what the Fates had in store for everyone else. Thus she began calling out numbers at random- perhaps luring a few unfortunates with the false hope of her siren’s song- but that is the risk one takes when dipping a toe in the dating pool. During the course of this lovey-dovey investigation, Sister Madly learned that the Fates paired Bingo Rock 45 with a Spanish Inquisitor:

… 67 with the Living Embodiment of Dark Matter:

… and lucky number 13 with what can only be described as a Lump:*

* It might have been a Troll.

Having been most successful in locating the Soulmates of those unfortunate chumps, Sister Madly decided not to give up on love altogether, and took a crack at finding her own- she may not have the Medieval Love-Finding Bingo Rock on her side, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t win her True Love over by playing the coquettish maiden fair. Apparently, flirting was quite popular in days of yore.

But Sister Madly was created with a bit of a design flaw: she is completely incapable of playing the Coquettish Maiden Fair without looking like a psychotic Miss Piggy with a bad case of the collywobbles, and that had a catastrophic effect on flirting… never before had a Reaper dropped his scythe and run like that…

She blames it on her recessive genes.

Sister Madly didn’t know it that day, but had she retrieved her Rock, it would have been she – not the Dodo – who met her True Love, who frolicked happily around a maypole, and who would now be a local beer.

Instead, she contemplated the clouds while lying in a field of buttercups- having properly filled herself with cider, of course.

PORK UDON CURRY

  • 1 sm onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1 chili, chopped and seeded to taste
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1 bay
  • udon or ramen noodles
  • sliced pork
  • 1-2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1½ cup chicken broth
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • lime juice, to taste
  • chives, for garnish

Saute onions in hot oil until translucent
Add garlic, ginger, and chili; saute 2-3 min
Add spices; saute 30 sec
Add pork; brown slightly; 2-3 min
Add broth, coconut milk, and fish sauce; bring to a boil
Reduce heat and simmer until pork is cooked through
Add udon/ramen; simmer until tender
Remove from heat; add lime juice and garnish with chives

THEME SONG: Lover, Lover, Lover, Leonard Cohen


IMAGES:

1) Black Plague Brewing
2) Christopher Lovell


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Desperado

Learn the Rules
Like a Pro ~

So you can Break Them
Like an Artist.

~ Pablo Picasso (attributed)


Images:

1.) Carved by Daniele Barresi
2.) Flickr
3.) Carved by Sachiko Ishikawa


Tandoori Chicken Samosas ~ The Chair that Sought World Domination

It was over 5 years ago that the Chair first appeared on the sidewalk, and Sister Madly wanted it. She didn’t need another chair and the thing was as ugly as incompetent gumbo, but by golly it was free, thus worthy of bragging rights- much like her CD single of Milli Vanilli’s Girl I’m Gonna Miss You once found in a free bin. Sister Madly’s a sucker for nostalgia.

She spent the day watching the Chair from the window, her wide eyes and polished halo assuring those passing by that she only wanted to make sure the Chair returned to its rightful owner; however, what Sister Madly really wanted was to be sure she was the one to claim it.

All afternoon, she paced back and forth through the kitchen, carrying on imaginary conversations with potential rivals while boxing mosquitoes and strumming her lips in utter boredom. After midnight, she and Tallulah hauled the monstrosity inside.

It soon became clear that not only did the Chair want the apartment to itself, that had been its intent all along, letting such wishes be known by the most satanic stench that only a Chair of that pomposity could produce: cigars, swamp gas, death, and tuna-marinated soccer feet. It happened overnight, making much of itself in the apartment like an unwelcomed uncle. Never once did Sister Madly think that there might be something wrong with the Chair as it was cheerfully lugged into the flat- it was absolutely hideous, sure, but Sister Madly had convinced herself that it was in a delightfully tacky sort of way.

It wasn’t long after that Sister Madly came up with a plan, one that included Tallulah, an abandoned truck, and just enough detail to make the lives of those involved thoroughly inconvenient: said truck- and everything that just happened to be inside of it- was to be towed within 72 hours per the obnoxious sticker on the window. If all went as planned, both Chair and truck would be happily tucked away in some impound lot within a week’s time.

Tallulah, however, thought it best to leave the Chair on the side of the road as it was found, albeit after dark. This sister/roommate/she-who-is-often-not-around-when-disaster-strikes was sometimes grown-up and unfun like that.

After successfully begging, sulking, and plying her with wine, it suddenly made sense to now wise Tallulah to leave the Chair inside the Soon-To-Be-Towed Truck at midnight- a plan that was ruthlessly thwarted by the City, who had towed the truck earlier that day during the plying-with-wine fest.

The entire block was then circled as the two tipsy yet wise siblings attempted to abandon the neon-striped horror in a place that was not in full-view of twenty apartments; there was even talk of burying the beast in the cemetery, as it already smelled of death and would probably go unnoticed. But the Chair had become quite attached to Sister Madly, refusing to roll over the cracks, clinging desperately to the curbs, even sacrificing a wheel to the sewer grate in an attempt to remain with its true love.

It was at the sight of an old man watching from his window the siblings realized that, wherever the Chair ended up, someone would know exactly who was responsible, and that put an almighty damper on the evening. When the lovable curmudgeon made the expected “What the hell…?” inquiry, Sister Madly said that they were taking their easy Chair for a walk, and there was no city ordinance against that.

For tonight, Dancing Eyeball will be standing in
for Lovable Curmudgeon.

The Chair returned home with them that night, locked away once again in the spare room. It was frequently bathed Febreze and other ritual oils in an attempt to keep it smelling fresh, so that when some psychotic recipient finally stands up and exclaims, “Hullo, I want that hideous thing!” he would not know of its Pit of Hell origin.

But it was the Goodwill Donation Truck that wound up with the Chair in the end. But that doesn’t matter, really; Sister Madly got it inside a truck after all.

TANDOORI CHICKEN SAMOSAS

  • 6 boneless chicken thighs, whole
  • Paneer, cubed (opt)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • 1½-2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3 tbsp Greek yogurt, tempered*
  • Ghee/Oil
  • 2 sheets Puff Pastry
  • Egg, beaten

Saute onion until translucent; 8-10 min
Add garlic and ginger; saute 2-3 min
Add spices; saute until fragrant; 30 sec – 1 min
Add puree, chicken, and stock; bring to a boil
Reduce heat; simmer until chicken is cooked; 25 min
Shred chicken in sauce
Mix in paneer and tempered* yogurt; 3-5 min
Remove from heat; discard cinnamon stick and star anise

TEMPERING YOGURT
Start w/yogurt at room temperature if possible.
Gradually mix in hot cooking liquid
(Slowly heating yogurt prevents curdling/separating from shock)
After the yogurt’s sufficiently heated, add to the Tandoori.

PREPARING SAMOSAS
Preheat oven to 400*
Roll out pastry sheets; cut into 9 squares (approx 4”x4”ea)
Add filling to the center of each square
Fold pastry over filling
Brush egg wash over pastry
Bake 20-25 minutes, or until golden

THEME SONG: Girl I’m Gonna Miss You, Milli Vanilli


Sriracha Mango Chicken ~ A Game of Thrones

“What are quantum mechanics?”
“I don’t know. People who repair quantums, I suppose.” ~ Terry Pratchett

Quite frankly, Sister Madly knows more about the mechanics of a toilet than she feels is necessary.

But this was not always the case; while weekly chores were implemented early in life, basic home repair was never a part of her childhood rearing- apparently, that’s what dads are for. Responsibility was given to her in the form of a psychopathic alarm clock- indeed, Sister Madly doesn’t know how to change a tire, or why the refrigerator makes that funny noise, or how to light the pilot (probably for the best, that last one) but make no mistake: she knows exactly what to do when the alarm clock detonates beside her when she is asleep.

However, these death-defying, skillet-wielding, alarm-silencing ninja-skills are totally useless when it comes to fixing a toilet.

Some 10 years ago, Sister Madly came home to the sound of water running in the tank. While this wasn’t a particularly new phenomenon on planet Earth, Sister Madly never really understood why it happened; thus she decided to investigate.

When she lifted the lid off the tank, so much steam was released that Sister Madly was certain Vincent Price was about to emerge from its depths to Tchaikovsky’s Lake in the Moonlight. When that did not happen- and a bitter disappointment, it was- Sister Madly investigated further to find that the tank was filled with hot water.

Somewhere deep within her twisted psyche was the inkling that this wasn’t suppose to be; however, a tank full of hot water may come in handy should she ever need to thaw a cryogenically-frozen chicken’s head at a moment’s notice. Sister Madly is practical like that.

Still, this did not explain the running water. So upon visiting her parents the next day, the Pater Madly gave her a brief lesson on toilet repair, making a point to say that if the screw was stripped, she would have to bend the float manually.*

* Despite his staggering intellect, the Pater Madly failed to mention certain key phrases, such as ‘call maintenance to fix it for you’… alright, he DID say that, but he should’ve put more emphasis on it.

Now Sister Madly has seen some weird things in her life, but the inner workings of her toilet were just so alien that she was pretty certain it was from another dimension entirely. Still, she managed to find the offending float amidst the fog and, since the screw was stripped, bent the float as directed- well, not bend the float so much as break it off completely.

A note for those smart enough to have called Maintenance in the first place: when one breaks the float off, the tank begins to fill with water.

And it does not stop.

Now the typical Sister Madly response to when something goes horribly wrong is to stare at the disaster and wonder just how long she can live with it. Unfortunately, Sister Madly couldn’t approach the Broken Float Situation with the same devil-may-care attitude, as the risk of a global flood was clearly imminent. Since she could not fix the toilet by staring the hell out of it (she tried) Sister Madly decided to call the Pater Madly, 1AM or not.

For a parent receiving a call in the middle of the night, her dad was remarkably unconcerned; there was more anxiety when she asked him about the Birds and the Bees back in the day.  After being a good father by not saying “I told you to call Maintenance!” he informed her of the life-changing, humanity-saving apparatus lurking beneath the fog: the shut-off valve.

While this did not work completely, it did reduce the imminence of a global flood (you are welcome, human race!) by requiring Sister Madly to flush the toilet every 2 minutes instead of the previous 12 seconds. This of course was cause for celebration, and Sister Madly invited over her neighbor, Velma, where they spent the next 3 hours drinking Bailey’s and flushing the toilet, while rehearsing lines for Velma’s upcoming play: Arthur Miller’s The Creation of the World and Other Business.*

The plumber had never seen 2 such chipper near-victims of toilet tank drowning.

* The ‘Other Business,’ no doubt, being adventures in toilet tank repair. Very perceptive, that Miller fella.

SRIRACHA MANGO CHICKEN

  • 10-12 chicken drumsticks/thighs
  • Yogurt/Sour cream, to serve (opt)

MARINADE

  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp sriracha
  • 1 tbsp fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 3-4 tbsp oil

SAUCE

  • 1 cup mango, cubed
  • 1/4 cup sriracha
  • 1 tsp fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp butter

MARINADE
Mix together ingredients for Marinade
Add chicken; shake/mix to coat
Cover; refrigerate for 30 min – 24 hrs

SAUCE
Puree together mango, sriracha, and garlic
Transfer to saucepan
Add butter and water; heat for 15 min, stirring occasionally
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 sauce
Return to oven; bake for 10-15 min, or until cooked through
Brush with remaining sauce straight from oven
Serve with yogurt or sour cream

THEME SONG: Lake in the Moonlight (Swan Lake), Tchaikovsky


Pambazos ~ Doomsday Steppers

Is it too much to ask that bandits not steal the fire escape in the middle of the night?

This isn’t the first such heist in the Madliverse; once a tree outside her window disappeared for no good reason that she could tell, and Sister Madly has endured the morning kiss of the nuclear sun ever since.

For those psychotics who are contemplating a similar caper, do have the courtesy to leave the unfortunates some sort of warning- such as caution tape, or employing a limbless, black knight declaring that ‘none shall pass’ at the site where the staircase used to be. Had the aforementioned bandit embraced these basic underworld civilities, his feat would have appeared as a cozy little blurb in the apartment newsletter to be marveled by the tenets over a cup of cocoa.

Instead, Sister Madly and Co. discovered the architectural deficiency in the most astonishing manner possible.*

* T’was even more astonishing to the tenet below, at whose feet was dropped a bag of putrid trash, along with Sister Madly’s shoe.

Judging by her neighbor’s slit-eyed glare, it would seem that Sister Madly, herself, was widely considered responsible for the heist. Sure, some say that her mind is as twisted as a pretzel, and she has been known to have a teeny-tiny problem with pyromania*- hardly worth mentioning, really- but that doesn’t mean she has the capability to waltz off with a fire escape at a moment’s notice. In fact, such a heist would be nearly impossible for anyone shorter than a Sneech- and Sister Madly is hardly a Sneech.

* The untimely flambéing of that lone corn fritter, that German Christmas Pinwheel Thingy, and New Year’s Day 2014 were all accidents- happy little accidents.

But that doesn‘t mean such allegations are unfounded. As the more devout amongst you know, August 8th is the most significant festivity of the year: Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Night, and Sister Madly can be counted amongst the faithful.

Now if our dear Moppet took the term ‘neighbor’ literally, she need only open her door and chuck a zucchini across the hall- an act that has been deemed ‘less-than neighborly’ by tenets in the past. Zucchini Night is one of the few times a year that Sister Madly embraces the ‘all mankind is your neighbor’ metaphor, before reverting to that customary petulance that is much beloved.

However, due to a recent trip to the coast (in which she overstayed her welcome) Sister Madly was obliged to celebrate this sacred holiday a few days late- and in daylight. Although her impeccable stealth guaranteed the ceremonial Leaving-of-the-Zucchini went off without a hitch, Sister Madly was unable to bask in the satisfaction of a job well-done as there just happened to be a crucial witness bumbling down the street:

Google.

Sister Madly knew these sort of things happened, but they happen to other people: desperadoes busted for their negligence, for flinging their DNA over murder scenes willy-nilly while the BBC watches from a nearby Pringle can. Moppets are much less sloppy, crushing all Pringle cans before embarking upon a murder most foul; but Google does not heed the way of the Moppet, choosing rather to defiantly photograph humanity without so much as a how-do-you-do, and this peeves Sister Madly.

Now it’s well-known amongst the local demimonde that it’s best to ‘do away’ with a witness rather than allow said witness the liberty to resort to extortion- blackmailers, you see, can never be bought; one can only hope to even the score. So Sister Madly engaged the intrepid Itty Bitty*- her trusty accomplice, lookout, and sleepy-eyed assassin- to properly attend to the matter.

* A handsome Smart Car.

And so it came to pass that she and Itty Bitty embarked upon a mission to silence Google, dodging speed bumps and toddlers lurking in the fray until foiled by a family of ducks crossing against the light, behind which the Duo watched Google peter off into the summer haze with a nonchalance that bordered upon the sinister. Yes, Sister Madly is an extremely ineffective do-away-with-er.

But not all hope was lost; due to its inability to mind its own business, it is possible that Google witnessed the heist of her fire escape, and for that Sister Madly would pay a pretty penny- or at least, a very shiny one. Google would be coughing up the info in no time; Sister Madly can be a sadistic interrogator, you know.

Then again-

PAMBAZOS

  • 1 regular or sweet potato, peeled, cubed, and cooked
  • 1 lb chorizo, casings removed and crumbled
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Salt/Pepper, to taste
  • Red enchilada sauce, homemade or store-bought
  • Brioche/Kaiser rolls, or similar
  • Oil
  • To Serve: sour cream, guacamole, queso fresco, lettuce

FILLING
Cook chorizo in skillet; approx 5-7 min
Add onion, cook until softened
Add potatoes; mix, crushing slightly

ROLLS
Heat oil in clean skillet
Brush outside of rolls with enchilada sauce until well-coated
Pan-fry rolls in skillet, coated side down, until browned
Add filling and desired toppings
Serve immediately

THEME SONG: The Last of the Secret Agents, Nancy Sinatra


Sweet Potato Lamb Samosas ~ Book Club Phlebotomy

It was another Saturday night, and another encounter with the Happy Phlebotomist, a human mosquito known for his fanatical devotion to the job and a happiness borders upon sinister. That night he was feeling particularly highbrow, lamenting about the one time he attended a Book Club, the evening ended in a conga line.

Now that’s an affair Sister Madly would consider! Book Clubs these days are bogged down by the most ridiculous of frills- such as cucumber sandwiches and, you know, books- that they have forgotten their humble roots in Cuban dance.

The Happy Phlebotomist (HP) however, was so devastated by the incident that he made an unusually bold declaration: yes, somewhere between depleting people of their life source and pushing natural supplements, he was going to start a book club of his own- a respectable book club, a proper book club. You see, he just loves the smell of books!

You’re not suppose to smell books, Sunshine, you’re suppose to read them; that’s what books are for! No doubt you know there are books which have been banned due to their content- suppose you should happen to huff one of those?

Sure, it’s just a snort here and there, but soon you’ll be wearing thick-rimmed glasses and tying your hair up in a bun, and in no time flat you’re insisting that Oreos are vegan while listening to music on ‘vinyl…’ it’s the gateway drug to hardcore hipsterdom!

It was of no use; soon they will all be card-carrying members of Book Club Phlebotomy, extracting blood and smelling books by candlelight. But even worse than this was that HP was determined to take Sister Madly along with them, handing over the book list and asking her to choose which should be their first:

  • Dianetics
  • Interview with an Exorcist
  • The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales
  • Beowulf
  • The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants
  • Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World
  • Atlas Shrugged

What Frankenstein stitched together this literary goulash? It’s enough to reduce anyone to a fetal position in a padded cell- even her spirit animal* is undergoing therapy for the trauma! And though Sister Madly admits that The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants would come in handy when landscaping the backyard, it’s hardly a book she would curl up with at the local coffee shop (mostly because she doesn’t like coffee.)

* Cookie Monster.

HP didn’t understand the fuss. After all, Sister Madly has been known to eat cod now and then- has she ever wondered about its heartbreaking journey from dreamy-eyed minnow to delicious fish ‘n chips? As for the Encyclopedia- why, it’s shorter than War and Peace by a few hundred pages! And just think of all the pointers she’d pick up from the Exorcist…

Exactly what pointers would those be, Sunshine? How to make your own holy water? A DIY crucifix out of dust bunnies and lemon peels? And what makes you think that Sister Madly needs pointers in the first place? Maybe she’s happy with her demons, ever think of that?!?

HP, however, was most accommodating. If Sister Madly didn’t find the list suitable, she- and her demons- were free to add to it.

And that’s just what they did:

  • The Doubtful Debutante
  • All of Them Witches
  • Higgins’ Universal Language
  • Blood on Their Hands: The Crime of It All, A Study of Some Selected Abuses in Sixteenth Century Europe
  • The Isle of Naboombu
  • To Serve Man*
  • Necronomicon

* In the original Kanamit, of course.

HP was absolutely delighted; finally, Sister Madly was showing some enthusiasm for the project! He even went so far as to buy her a pint- that is, until one of the Professors put that PhD- and smart phone thingy- to good use.

“None of these books exist!”

What can she say, Professor? Her devils made her do it.

SWEET POTATO LAMB SAMOSAS

PASTRY

  • 2 sheets Puff Pastry, thawed
  • Egg, beaten

SWEET POTATO

  • 1 sweet potato, peeled, cooked, and cubed
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1-2 chili peppers, chopped (or cayenne to taste)
  • 1/2 cup fresh peas

LAMB

  • 1 LB minced lamb
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp sumac
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • Oil/ghee

* ~ *  FILLING PREPARATION * ~ *

~ SWEET POTATO ~
Heat oil/ghee in pan
Add mustard seeds; roast until seeds start popping all over the kitchen
Add sliced onion; saute until translucent; 5 min
Add turmeric and chilies/cayenne; saute
Add potatoes and peas; stir to coat; approx 2 min
Remove from heat and set aside

~ LAMB ~
Saute chopped onions in oil; 5 min
Add garlic and ginger; saute 2 min
Add cumin, sumac, garam masala, salt/pepper; mix 30 secs
Add lamb; saute until cooked through
Add sweet potato preparation; mix thoroughly
Add stock; simmer until thickened
Stir in mint; remove from heat

PREPARING SAMOSAS
Preheat the oven to 400*
Roll out pastry sheets and cut into 9 squares (approx 4”x4”ea)
Place a tablespoon of mixture at the center of each square
Fold the pastry over filling to form a triangle
Brush egg wash the top of each samosa
Bake 20-25 minutes, or until golden

Book of Longing, Leonard Cohen w/Philip Glass


Madeira Lamb Stew ~ Monastic Skullduggery

They say nirvana is a state of perfect serenity; the highest happiness. Some believe it is impossible to achieve, but the truth is quite the contrary.

It began some years ago at Utopia, bazaar of sorts once described as ‘a bunch of weird people doing weird things.’ Sister Madly was in the middle of one of those weird things* when Management announced that Utopia would be hosting Tibetan Monks from an unpronounceable Buddhist monastery, who would be making a Sand Mandala at the store.

* Washing soap (don’t ask…)

Naturally this announcement came with a lot of unnecessary protocol, which ranged from limiting the music to Tibetan Chants, to locking the store’s mascot- a fat cat named Sinner- in the basement lest he turn the Mandala into his personal litter box; and while they did not forbid the employees from eating meat, Management strongly encouraged them to not eat it in the presence of the Monks as they were strictly vegan.

They wanted the week-long event to be a completely ‘spiritual’ experience.

Now Sister Madly has a confession to make: she does not like leafy green things. At all. She likes them on the trees, sure, and feeding them to the garbage disposal delights her to no end, but personally consuming them guarantees a night chock-full of healthy nightmares. She might be able to maintain this strongly-suggested vegan facade for a few hours a day, if not hallucinate while trying- which could be fun, now that she thinks about it…

And so the day came when the Monks from the Unpronounceable Buddhist Monastery arrived on their doorstep in saffron robes and buckets of sand, signifying the start of Sister Madly’s 8 Hours-a-Day Vegan Charade- the thought of just pretending to like leafy green things was enough to send her into fits. Indeed, the Road to Enlightenment is a twisted one.

It was on Thursday that nirvana was finally realized. Management had run off to another mysterious business meeting, leaving behind a long list weird to-do’s (wash candles, inventory all defective sparkle beads, etc) and a note stating that there was a snack plate* in the fridge in case the Monks felt ‘peckish.’

*…if one can call grass-clippings and spongy white things on toothpicks ‘snacks’…

However, the Monks from the Unpronounceable Buddhist Monastery were not the slightest bit interested in the Snack Plate; no, they wanted Chinese food from the restaurant across the street. With considerable effort, Sister Madly broke through that language barrier to find that they wanted 8 orders of Steamed Dumplings and 8 orders of Kung Pao Pork, which is slightly incompatible with a ‘strict vegan lifestyle.’

But then, who is she to judge?

There was some hesitation on the part of Victor, who felt that by calling in this order he would be contributing to the corruption of their humble souls. So Sister Madly made the call, and merrily launched the Monks down the path of sin.

It turned out that the Monks were no strangers to transgression: not only were they avid fans of meat -pork, no less- they also had email, a cell phone each, played a wicked game of ping pong,* and would routinely break from Sand Mandala-ing to challenge the kids on the street to skateboard races (albeit through an interpreter.)

*And billiards. And badminton. And volleyball. It was quite unfair, really.

Yes, when Management’s away, the Monks will play. They released Sinner from the basement, fed him massive amounts of pork, and took an immediate- if not unfortunate- liking the Miami Vice soundtrack. But the highlight of this monastic skullduggery was the moment Sister Madly broke out the ultimate forbidden fruit:

Pop Rocks.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said that music is the universal language of mankind; yet there is another phenomenon that transcends all cultures and dialects: the wide-eyed, giddy wonder of experiencing Pop Rocks for the very first time, and the numbing bliss that immediately follows.

The highest happiness.

A state of perfect serenity.

Pop Rocks.

MADEIRA LAMB STEW

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • baby carrots
  • baby potatoes, cubed
  • cipollini or pearl onions, peeled
  • mushrooms
  • 1 lb lamb, cubed
  • 1 cup Madeira wine, divided (1/4 cup + remaining)
  • 4 cups beef or lamb stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 2 tsp rosemary
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire
  • 1 tbsp Dijon
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Oil/ghee

In Dutch oven, brown lamb on all sides; set aside
Saute chopped onion until translucent, adding oil if needed; 5 min
Add garlic and carrots; saute 3-5 min
Add bay leaves, rosemary, and thyme; saute until fragrant; 30 secs
Deglaze with 1/4 cup Madeira wine; bring to a simmer
Add lamb, potatoes, cipollinis, and mushrooms; stir until coated
Add stock, Worcestershire, and remaining wine; bring to a boil
Reduce heat; cover
Simmer, stirring occasionally, until meat and veggies are tender; 1-1.5 hours
Uncover; simmer to reduce and thicken (if desired)
Add Dijon; mix thoroughly
Remove bay leaves before serving

THEME SONG: Happy Together, the Turtles


Curried Sumac Pulled Chicken ~ The Perks of Being Invisible

When she was young, Sister Madly thought her looks were ordinary; she couldn’t understand how people even recognized her. There was nothing special about her hair or her eyes, she was short, and her nose was simply there- in other words, she was that typical, run-of-the-mill moppet that couldn’t be distinguished from any other.

In fact, her looks so ordinary, it practically made her invisible.*

* She could, however, throw a tantrum of epic proportions, which would render her invisibility temporarily null and void.

Now invisibility had its perks: she could make faces at passing strangers, not eat her vegetables, even get away with murder (once she figured out what murder was and why she would want to get away with it) all without consequence. Of course, Sister Madly would grow up being overlooked and trampled underfoot, a plight for which her mother must have some secret sympathy, enough at least to compel her to buy her daughter the mercury she’d been begging for the past week.

At is turned out, her mother hadn’t much sympathy at all, which left Sister Madly sulking in the basement with a coloring book and not an ounce of mercury to her name (nor a hammer- one simply cannot play with mercury without a hammer!) She wasn’t completely heartless, though, as she invited Serafina over in hopes of cheering Sister Madly out of her no-mercury funk.

After getting the Hula Hoop stuck in a tree yet again (a favorite pastime in the Madliverse*) the girls wandered down to the corner party store for candy cigarettes, which naturally resulted in the two deciding to cut their own hair. Serafina’s decimated lock ended up being easily tucked behind her ear, but Sister Madly’s- well, her lock stuck straight up in the back, much like the fuse on a cartoon bomb.

* Not so much for the Pater Madly, who had to retrieve said Hula Hoop.

The impromptu makeover was not a particular blow to her vanity, as Sister Madly lacked a certain awareness at that age. Surely the Mater Madly would agree that this ‘new do’ was an improvement, as Sister Madly was sporting a rather unflattering pixie cut* at the time.

* Aka, a ‘Dorothy Hamill,’ named after the only individual on the planet who could pull off such a style.

As it turned out, the ‘new do’ was as subtle as a brick through the window. There was a lengthy lecture that evening, during which the Parental Madlys explained exactly why they didn’t want their daughter personally modifying her pint-sized physique: she could harm herself, it wasn’t a necessity in order to survive, and heaven knows she wasn’t doing it for a worthy cause. It would grow back, sure, it was only hair- but it was only hair this time. They didn’t want to know what would happen next time, and sought to discourage further experimentation before Sister Madly emerged from the basement one Sunday afternoon with various piercings and badly executed tattoos.

The Mater Madly was particularly frustrated: not only were Sister Madly’s class pictures upcoming, she was also to be in her cousin’s wedding the following weekend.

Still, Sister Madly didn’t see why they made such a fuss; she was invisible, after all. Had her mother been in a slightly less end-of-the-world frame of mind, Sister Madly would have pointed out the likelihood of her pictures turning out blank- it is impossible to photograph the invisible, that’s just common sense. She also would’ve suggested that Tallulah take her place in the wedding- Sister Madly wasn’t exactly sure what a wedding was or its purpose, but her mother made it sound important, and her cousin would probably want a flower girl who could be photographed.

About a week after the wedding, the pictures revealed something rather shocking: Sister Madly was clearly visible in the photos, right down to the wispy, fuse-of-the-bomb hairdo. While initially perplexed by this development, the answer was suddenly so obvious that she felt silly for not recognizing it: Sister Madly, you see, was invisible to the world, not to herself. Therefore, just as she could see herself in a mirror, she would be able to see herself in a photo. No doubt her class picture would reflect the same.

This is the rationale that has sustained her into adulthood. Logic is a dying art.

CURRIED SUMAC PULLED CHICKEN

  • Ghee/Oil for sauteing
  • 1 1/2- 2 cups chicken stock
  • 6 boneless chicken thighs, whole
  • 2 sweet onions, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • 2 tsp curry powder (used Japanese Curry)
  • 1½ – 2 tsp Harissa
  • 1½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • salt to taste

Saute onions until caramelized; 45-50 minutes
Add garlic; saute 3 minutes
Add spices; saute 30 secs
Add chicken; stir to coat
Add stock; bring to a boil
Reduce heat; simmer 20 minutes
Shredded chicken w/2 forks in sauce
Simmer to reduce/thicken (if needed)
Let stand 2 minutes; serve

THEME SONG: Invisible, U2


Image 4.) Anna Spencer Photography