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*a vagina goes to washington.

Old man terrified.





News at 11.*

(photo credits: Mark Lyons/EPA, Michael O'Neill)

*Put your baby away, jackass.
6 comments

*pisa cake.

Confession: I adore birthdays. What's better than a whole day devoted entirely to your existence (or, in my case, my existence and that of the Big Bro)? As such, I insist they are a big deal. Don't believe me? Ask JLB. The F fam may have singlehandedly cured her of her birthday addiction through sheer overexposure. There was a "How does it feel to be 50???" shouting match on a crowded airplane that I believe she particularly enjoyed.

In this case, the Birthday Girl was turning 30, an equally exciting turning point although perhaps somewhat less rife for public ridicule. It is ideal, however, for chocolate consumption. So I made a cake! (Take a good gander at that photo, my friends. You'll find it bears less than a passing resemblance to the leaning tower I ended up with.)

Ingreedyents:



Sugar, vanilla extract, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, vegetable oil, butter, and eggs—buttermilk was hanging out elsewhere, and no Fresca was harmed in the making of this sweet.

I also brewed some hot coffee.



What? Shut up. Filters are for losers. Or the chronically prepared. You're lucky I had paper towels on hand. No worries, though. I had a pantyhose backup plan.

Again, I must offer my apologies for the rank horror of these photographs. Why are they never in focus? Maybe the Woodside is over a fault line. Or it's the DTs. Hard to say.

I sifted the dry ...



and combined the wet ...



and whirled it all together in Coppertone. Then poured into cake pans, which is where my lack of Boy Scout readiness came into play.



I was out of parchment paper, so I buttered and floured the shit out of the pans and crossed my fingers.



Stupid, worthless fingers.



Vast, sticky, chocolatey swaths of cake glued themselves stubbornly to the bottoms of both pans, requiring de-spackling and jigsaw-puzzling.

Sigh.

I put the darn things in the refrigerator and retired huffily to the boudoir for some rest. I roused at the obscene hour of 6:00 am (people who choose to be awake at that time need some serious help) for icing construction.



Chocolate, butter, vanilla extract, powdered sugar, raw egg (ooh! kicky and poisonous!). It should be noted that I actually woke up at 4:00 am to put the egg out so it would be at room temperature when I needed it. DEDICATION. DEVOTION TO CRAFT. CRAZY ANAL-RETENTIVENESS.

Chocolate. Melted.



Sugar. Sifted.



Mixed together to make silky, buttery choco-love.



And asmeared. Then topped with strange and possibly offensive decorations.



Just tilt your computer a little to the left. Or wink. Or have a martini.
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*spotted.



Most of these terrific shots come from Shonja, who brings us wit and wisdom from Lower Alabama. This is a classic gaffe: The Failure of Phonetics. Many a Southerner has flagged down crotchety Elaine to request a "min-yew."

We also write with pins, look for the min's room, and count to tin.

Special, indeed.
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*frickin' chicken.

Sorry for the brief hiatus. And the lame post title. I haven't felt up to blogging, in part because things haven't been terribly funny 'round the Woodside. Not because I was momentarily distracted by Matt Damon, New! Reduced-fat White Cheddar Cheez-Its, and Dove Rich Dark Chocolate with Almonds.

In these trying times, what is a beleaguered vegetarian to do? Torch a chicken, I say.

Two ladyfriends were descending upon the Woodside for the sacrificing of sorrows at the feet of the almighty fermented potato. I had a very Dinner: Impossible! menu-planning moment mostly defined by the panicky hurling of ingredients into the basket at the grocery. This experience is also marked by frantic pacing of the aisles, passing what I'm looking for a minimum of six times. Where is the peanut butter aisle at the Publix, dammit? Oh, that one? The one that says PEANUT BUTTER above it? Well why the hell would I look there?

BREAKING NEWS: More distressing word, courtesy of my doctor's office (nothing life-threatening—breathe, people. Just irritating/frustrating). I thought bad things happened in threes, not 12s.

End pity party.

BUT. I interrupt this blog to introduce the following question: Why oh why does the Food Network suck so hard right now? I want to see interesting, sane people make good food. I don't care if the Neelys are on a road trip or Paula's doing cackling cartwheels.

Then again, odds are I'm just cranky.

I started with the hummus because: easy. I won't bore you with the gory details, because I've bored you with them before. I put the whole shebang into white dishes



and snorted a little because that fishy dish from the Big Bro was meant as a nod to my place of work but really comes out making me look like a Christian. Thank you, Jesus, for the pita chips.

(I will bake cupcakes for anyone who can find me that clip from "Saturday Night Live" where Jesus comes to the woman's kitchen to ask her to stop praying for frivolous things like keeping the rice from sticking to the pot. Because that was seriously hilarious, and I like to say "thank you" with inadequate, sloppy baked goods.)

I dressed up some rather banal tomatoes, cucumbers, and kalamata olives by putting them on long skewers. I debated making a dressing, but decided I shouldn't because I suck at it. I'd end up like Rachael Ray, putting pig parts on a salad and dressing it with mustard PLUS vinegar. Because you know mustard doesn't have enough vinegar in it already. Idiot.

So I put the pretty pretty skewers on a tray, sprinkled them with red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper, and called it a day. Most of them ended up dunked in the hummus come snacktime.



To round out the appetizer portion of the meal, I decided to try to re-create (read: badly approximate) the baked feta with focaccia and spicy marinara from Bottega Cafe. Theirs always comes out spicy and briny and golden. Mine went in like this:



and came out like this:



I served it with toasted baguette slices, and it was pretty good. Because I put it in the oven alongside the chicken, I couldn't get a proper broil on it, so it lacked the aforementioned goldenness. But the spatters on my beloved Le Creuset (thanks, JBSH!) prove that I managed to achieve appropriate bubbling yumminess. I don't know about B and S, but I for one ate my weight in it. No small feat.

Bring on the bird!



Hello, you. You're adorable! A hen, to be exact. Lemons, thyme, and garlic are pretty much all you need. You shove them into the chicken and scatter them around the pan. Tie his li'l legs together and tuck his wings under. THEN



Brushwithmeltedbutterandcoverwithbacon. Aherm. I had the bacon in the freezer—hooray for resourcefulness! If you roll them in individual slices, it's not hard to peel them apart when they come out of the icebox. Into the oven for one hour, whereupon it looks like this.



You can see why that bacon is so important. It seals the chicken juices in without letting the skin brown. That happens after the bacon comes off and the chicken roasts for another 30 minutes. Et voilà!



An imperfect tan. That is some crappily uneven heat, sad sad oven. White wine, some chicken stock, and 2 tablespoons of the chicken juices go into a pan to reduce and become a sauce. But that didn't really happen. The reducing, that is. I sort of ended up with watery winey stock. Although that can't be too bad, right?



S and B were duly impressed, albeit a smidge confused as to why I'd made them an entire animal for dinner. B had to bring her surgical skills into play to carve the GD thing, because I couldn't pull that bitch apart to save my life. Wüsthof, thou must get thee to a sharpener, STAT.



S helped with food styling. She's all magaziney like that. Mostly she wanted to try to hide some of the pinker juices for my more squeamish readers. But that is good business! It was juicy and tender and delicious.

I hear. I, of course, had none.

The leftovers went to Bonita, where JBSH served it up to the padre in a completely spontaneously invented chicken salad.



I am going to take ALL of my pictures here from now on. This blog will change its name to On the Bonita. Have you ever seen more beautiful natural light in all your life? That is some annointed mayonnaisey goodness right there.

So here's to you, my carnivores. And here's to me. The law of averages says I have good things coming my way. Aaaaaaaaaaaany minute now.
2 comments

*gratuitous.

2 comments

*spotted.



Freshly picked from the forest.

(Thanks, JBSH!)
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*spotted.



A roving reporter (thanks, S!) caught this delightful moment. I believe this is a Muslim mix, although I fear salid will be somewhat less fresh post-Ramadan. Despite its being a time-traveling salad, packaged 10 days from today.

Keep your eyes on the horizon for misspelled and/or funny food. Examples may showcase redundancy, misspelling, hilarity, strangeness, or abject stupidity.

E-mail me your finds at onthewoodside@gmail.com!
2 comments

*gas? wow. intense.



So. No blog this eve. Turns out the Evil Empire at the gasco decided I need a new meter for the purpose of ... metering. I have no idea what happens on the Woodside. There could be hamsters running the air-conditioner. In fact, I'm almost certain there's an elf keeping the plumbing from imploding. Unfortunately, I think the elf is dead.

Regardless, no gas means no oven, and no oven means no cooking. BAH. Humbug.

But! Good news! The (former) Non-Reader fed me, and damn was it good. In fact, not only did she feed me, she single-handedly cured me of my anti-tofu stance. This was delicious. And T(f)N-R is a strict advocate to the simple/easy rule, so you know it's a winner.

She used firm instead of extra-firm, which it turns out is my texture threshold for foodstuffs. All that "extra" just lends a mouthfeel akin to flavorless Peeps. My verdict? Delicious. I may have some competition soon.

Whaddya think, Yaya? The dark lord of the kitchen, Darth Vardar, coming soon to an Interweb near you.

Due purely to her powers of persuasion, the sis also lured me to Wal Mart, more than once the scene of my undoing. And while I still abhor the place, I did manage to get dinner, sundries, and some ridiculous sunscreen for less than 50 bucks. I also got to overhear the greatest one-sided cell phone conversation of all time:

Woman in hair-dye aisle: "Hello?"

Pause to listen.

"Come pick you up? Where are you?"

Pause.

"In jail!?"

Looooooooong pause.

"Well I can't right now, hon, I'm at Wal Mart."

Click.

K, inside her head: "HE ONLY GETS THE ONE CALL, WOMAN!"

Maybe I'm underestimating Wal Mart. I just need to approach it like it's a nutty reality program where none of the participants are aware they're on TV. Like The Joe Schmo Show, with all the obliviousness but none of the ethical disintegration.
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*uncle.



All right, I'll blog tonight! Please stop giving me that face.

[Photo Credit: The (former) Non-Reader]
3 comments

*roscoe's chicken n orzo.

I whipped up this little smorgasbord (I find it's always best to cook in vast, vast quantities. Ina's recipes are perfect for this purpose.) at JLB's to celebrate the Opening Ceremonies. I know, that was days ago. I try to stay just enough behind schedule to cause a sense of constant, latent panic to reign in my life.

First, I took some goat cheese and added a splash of half & half (fat-free, but it was just to loosen things up a bit, not for added flavor) and black pepper. Then I stuffed that into some sweet peppers. Unfortunately, I think the Western had them on the shelf for a bit, as they were rather leathery. That does not explain away someone giving me the vomit face about them, but I'll let it slide on account of I think it was her cranky uterus talking. Still. HARUMPH, rastanky. HA-rumph.



JLB and I found them quite delicious! And necessary, in that it kind of took me an inordinate amount of time to finish dinner. I think even the pups ate before we did. After which J retired to the sofa to adopt his best pinup pose and watch the Chinese perform unfathomable feats of synchronization and debt accumulating.



Look at him, he even took his collar off. I think the occasion got him a little hot and bothered. Either that, or that stare means "Don't you dare take a picture to me after I have suffered the GREAT indignity of having been both shampooed and conditioned. There is a stink-pile of revenge in your future, my friend."

Whilst he pouted, boudoir-style, I gathered my ingredients for Dish Number 1: Orzo Salad.



That's honey, red wine vinegar, olive oil, garbanzo beans, grape tomatoes (I only needed 1 pint, but they were a twofer deal!), lemon, basil, orzo, and red onion.

(A funny thing happened on the way to the ingredients: I'm not familiar with JLB's neighborhood market, so she acted as tour guide. Probably good, as mapping my route through an average grocery store trip would be a study in Attention Defecit Disorder. I was barking items at JLB—"Basil?!" "Garbanzos?!"—and she was gamely pointing me in the right direction and enduring my whirligigishness. We stopped on an aisle alongside a nicely dressed single fella staring mournfully at the soups while I taught JLB the finer points of budgeting. She reached for the $2.19 can of garbanzos until a bossy dressing-down directed her to the $.89 can. At which point I, consistently unaware of my surroundings, gently asked, "honey?"

SILENCE.

"As in the bee product, not the term of endearment."

I made a nicely dressed, mournful, single dude snort at the Western.)

Orzo gets a swift boil, drain, and cool.



Then topped with beans, tomatoes, basil, and onion.



I whisked up the dressing (honey, red wine vinegar, oil, lemon juice, and salt/pepper), and tossed the whole bit together.



This will become your No. 2 go-to salad of the summer. After this one, of course. It's easy, fast, and delicious. JB once called it the best salad ever. It's full of pasta, so that helps. And it's rather light on the veg—everyone's favorite kind of salad.

Even rastanky loved it, despite the threat of sticky congestion! High praise, indeed.

Next, I had to please the carnivores. I picked this because I wanted something easy, and Ina never fails me.

I pounded out boneless, skinless chicken breasts



that were allegedly supposed to be 1/4-inch thick. Frankly, I can never get them that thin, no matter how much I beat them into submission. I think I lack either the muscle, the will, or the violent tendencies. I'd put money on the first two.

I prepared the dredges: flour, egg + water, and breadcrumbs + parmesan.



Into the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumb mixture.



Three minutes on each side in a touch of olive oil (mine went a minute or too longer because of the over-thickness, but you can't beat that for swift, regardless).



Topped with a salad of mixed greens dressed with olive oil and plenty of tart, sticky lemon juice.



Ceremonious, no? I thought so, though it lacked a little something in the presentation. It's not 2,008 drummers banging away in unison or anything.

JLB's house makes such a lovely backdrop. The black counters and white plates make everything look ... edible. I don't quite get the same effect under the scorching spotlights on the Woodside, where the backdrop is light blue and covered in glued-on tomato seeds and an Easter Island of Fresca cans.

So this one is dedicated to JLB. For bankrolling the event, tasting everything I make, and remembering to keep her gag reflex reaction on the INSIDE. Thanks, honey!
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*oh, lympics.

How do I love thee? You rock my ever-loving socks. Rarely do I get to see such a spectacle of camaraderie, fraternity, and self-congratulation all wrapped up in such a schmaltzy package. J'adore.

This year's hosts have courted controversy and censorship in equal stride, but for serious—the news that has come out of these Games so far has been bizarre. This is a country that wants to put buttercream frosting on its human rights violations and call it a cupcake. So they Photoshopped in some fireworks. Big woo. As though we Americans have a moral high horse on that front. I mean, am I right?



I'm right.

This cracked me up a little, though, I'll admit. If only for its righteous indignation: "Pigtailed Lin Miaoke was selected to appear because of her cute appearance and did not sing a note." That's infuriating! I can't believe a country would stand for that, and I think we can all agree. Can I see a show of hands?



Never mind.

This didn't amuse me in the slightest, though. I'm no doctor, and even I could tell something was wrong there. To paraphrase a certain tiny Einstein I know, "Sit down, Yao!"

The Olympiad has been popular this year, in part because of this guy:


Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

who—RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND on the Apex TV of High Technology on the Woodside—won another gold medal, making him the winningest Olympian EVER. EHVV. ERR. Which may be why he looks something less than human in the above photo. (According to EXPERT Bob Costas, Mikey eats "three sandwiches of fried eggs, cheese, lettuce, tomato, fried onions, and mayonnaise; one omelet; a bowl of grits; three slices of French toast with powdered sugar; and three chocolate chip pancakes" for breakfast. Word to the wise: I have tried this diet, and it works best if you have a 6'7" wingspan and swim 44 miles per week.)

He does display one of my absolute pet peeves though, leading me to yell, "CLOSE YOUR MOUTH!" at the screen at a volume that the pupster does not find appropriate. But come on, man.


Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images AsiaPac


Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images AsiaPac


Clive Rose/Getty Images AsiaPac



Get it together. You look ... well, fabulous, actually. From the neck down. Above the chin you look like you might drink a lot of overchlorinated pool water.

But I can't fault you too much. You're giving the United States so much to be proud of. You know, aside from this dude.


REUTERS/Larry Downing
3 comments

*oh, canada.

Looks like Kentucky Fried Chickens in the land of our neighbor to the north will now be offering a sandwich made with fake chicken!


Credit: George Pimentel/WireImage

A decision lauded by a fake woman.

Vegetarianism is healthy. PETA is scary.
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*guac of ages.

That's right, I'm very religious. I'm surprised you didn't know. Five times a day I pray to Our Lady of the Avocado. Except on the High Holy Days, when we have the Feast of the Frijole, natch.

I am an admittedly horrible (and blasphemous, apparently!) menu planner. I get all bogged down in the picky proclivities of my guests and spend hours trolling recipe sights for the Perfect Dish even though I just slaved over dinner and those ingrates should be DAMN HAPPY with whatever I plate up and not complain about little things like "botchulism" and "allergies." Sheesh.

So when I stumbled across this lovely salad, I knew I had to make it for myself. Unlike some people, I will eat anything that stands still long enough. But this has all of my favorite things in it. Looky:



Salad: avocados, lime zest, jalapeño, shrively yellow bell pepper, and tomatoes (some cherry, as called for, others plucked from the Crisper Drawer of Questionable Produce). Red onion was being pouty about having his picture taken. I try to always leave something out, anyway. It keeps my loyal readers from entertaining the illusion of my perfection.

Dressing: cayenne pepper, lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and speeding garlic (I don't know why that garlic is on the move. I have a hunch I need photography lessons.)

Choppity chop. Then, chop some more. I find the very act of chopping soothing. It's repetitive, which appeals to my Rain Main tendencies. And it's accomplished in the privacy of my home, which appeals to my tendency to be spectacularly bad at it. Guacamole Salad! This time with 40% more bloodshed!

Ooooh! Guess what else I did? I planned ahead. I know, right? I can't believe it, either. The avocados at the Pub were proper hockey pucks. Green as Obama. So I used a little TRICK up my sleeve (I'm clever) and put them into a paper bag to ripen. Just 36 hours later, they were perfection:



(That tool you see is an "avocado scooper." Want one? It's worthless.)

Into the bowl with you rangy bits.





Unfortunately, that gave the bell pepper just enough time to get all Saggy Baggy Elephant on me. It looked like it'd sighed all its verve out. Old as McCain.

Avocados into the (GENTLE!) mix. This is no time to go all Lennie.



It's so delicious. This will become your go-to summer salad. Why, I can think of at least six people just off the top of my head who wouldn't eat it if I served it to them! That's about the level of success I aim for.

Crunchy, spicy, and tart as the dickens. You have to eat it in one sitting, because every day it gets progressively limier until your head implodes. Or you look like this:



Thank you, baby Jesus.

POSTSCRIPT

In the spirit of shameless familial bragging, I bring you my new reusable shopping tote!



Courtesy of the genius padre. That's the best-looking shopping bag I've seen on the market, no lie. He also had the soul-sucking experience of Web site redesign (bamm.com!), so I think he'll be sleeping for the next six months. But isn't it lovely? Note: When I emerged from the store, my bag contained nary a book, egg, milk, nor bread. It was mostly frozen goods and Cheetos. But I did load it into the Prius rather sheepishly. That image of my environmental stewardship gets a little shattered when you consider that my idea of recycling is keeping the corks from my wine bottles.

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I am a work in progress. I perpetually need a hair cut. I'm totally devoted to my remarkable nieces and nephew. I am an elementary home cook and a magazine worker bee. (Please criticize my syntax and spelling in the comments.) I think my dog is hilarious. I like chicken and spicy things. I have difficulty being a grown-up. Left to my own devices, I will eat enormous amounts of cheese snacks of all kinds.

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