This is: Spicy Chipotle Salsa with Pan-Roasted Tomatillos

This is a tomatillo with the husk on it:IMG_20150708_111535385

This is a tomatillo without the husk:IMG_20150708_111451795

This is how you roast them in a pan with garlic:


This is how you blend them with two chipotle peppers:

This is the other goodness that your sister makes while you make the tomatillo salsa:IMG_20150708_112345879

This is the fruits of your labor (chipotle tomatillo, red pepper pico de gallo, mango cilantro salsa, guacamole):


This is how you eat it (adorable children not necessary):


What we have learned:

  • You cannot screw up salsa.
  • You do not need to have salsa music playing while making salsa, but it helps.
  • A tomatillo is actually an armadillo-like tomato.

Spice, Pain, and Ventilation; Chipotle Beef Tacos with Carmelized Onions


Who doesn’t love spicy? Lots of people, including my husband, but we won’t talk about how I married a flavor wuss. 

This recipe in Everyday Mexican by Rick Bayless seemed very straight-forward and easy, so I figured it would be no-stress way to start the book. There was even an accompanying tomatillo salsa recipe with like 4 ingredients – how could I screw that up?

Skirt steak on sale from Walmart (#dealwithit), corn torts, one onion (it was supposed to be two but apparently I can’t count that high and shop at the the same time), hot sauce for garnish, and fresh cilantro.

I am one of those people for whom cilantro makes everything better. There are people who are genetically pre-disposed to hating the stuff, and I feel very, very sorry for them. NPR Cilantro/Genetics article here.  No cilantro was called for, probably because it’s not authentic or whatever. Sorry, I am HUNGRY, not authentic.

Oh yeah, and most importantly, one can of Chipotle peppers, in canning sauce.

I have to apologize, I got a new phone that is wonderful and takes absolutely crap pictures.

The book said to choose a “heavy skillet”, so I grabbed the cast iron one with two hands and didn’t drop it on my bare feet. Already, I thought I was winning. I cooked the onions in oil in this skillet, and didn’t burn them. Life was good.

This is all the onions I made, because I can’t read.

Then I used a “food processor” (tiny round chopper machine I use only when it’s 9 AM and I don’t know where my salsa is) and I processed the chipotle peppers and their sauce. The mixture looked slimy but delicious. After spreading a “thick patina”, #douchey, on the steak and prepping the pan with oil (nobody said this was healthy), I had leftover chipotle sauce. It looked like salsa. It smelled like Heaven. SO, naturally, I ate a big spoonful.

And almost died.

Now, it is believed that there is a connection to loving spice and loving pain. Wall Street Journal writer John McQuaid visits the masochistic concept here. I pride myself on not being a spice wuss. I also pride myself on having a high tolerance for pain. I had completely natural childbirth with my first. It was stupidly unintentional, but now I crow about it like I’m Wonder Woman, or something.

I’m not into pain any more than anybody else, but I was in paaaaaaaiiiin, after that bite. No, really. I was not ok. Tongue, nose, and throat all cried out in protest. I was blinded, my eyes welled up so fast.  Who knew taking a big bite of pure ground peppers would be so hot? DUH, Meg. Just… DUH. After chugging some half & half (milk products fix spicy, not water), I realized that the steaks were going to offend my mild-loving husband and children’s tongues. I scraped most of that “patina” of my skirt steaks, figured it was fine now, and put them in the hot skillet.

“Steak?” “Money’s too tight for steak…” “Steak?” “Suuuure…’steak’…”

And then the smoke bomb went off. When you cook in a cast iron skillet, it apparently smokes a little. Or a lot. It would also seem that I did not remove enough of the chipotle “patina”, or else it has patina’ed its way into the meat already.  The cloud of smoke that arose from the pan threatened to melt my eyeballs. My kids in the next room started coughing and complaining. I turned on the whole-house fan, sent kids and dog outside, and wondered if hubby keeps a gas mask under the sink for emergencies.

This was supposed to be a safe, easy meal, damn it.

Mmmmm, steak. And with two fans on, nobody died.

This dish actually turned out beautifully, and the steak was not too spicy for the family. I cooked it to a medium pinkishness and, after letting it rest, cut some off for the girls and cooked that a little longer. I will teach them to appreciate a medium steak someday. Right now we’re still working on everybody remembering to flush the toilet.

Important Factoids:

  • Cilantro makes everything better and the people who think it smells like stink bugs are genetically inferior unfortunate.
  • Pain and spice receptors are closely linked in your head.
  • Chipotle peppers are hot.

What we have learned today:

  • You should remember to make the tomatillo salsa recipe with this, because I forgot, and it sounds wonderful.
  • If it gets a chance, spice will kill you and everyone you love.
  • “Patina” is not the Spanish word for a baby duck.

Why I Don’t Miss Church, But Also Really Do

We don’t go to church anymore.

Let me attempt to explain the morality, silliness, and probable hypocrisy of our decision to stop being “church people”, as if I am solidly decided about any of it.

Background: We were very churchy people a few years ago. Hubby ran groups at the same Presbyterian church he’d gone to since high school. (He’d been pulled in by the music program there.) We had the girls baptized there. We felt very welcome and safe with our kids there, trusting the nice people around to keep half an eye on them, if we were in conversation or performing with the music department. Our kids’ first social interactions were in the church nursery. We were practically God-cheerleaders, running music for vacation bible school. I did the (I’m sorry, deadly dull and not particularly meaningful) membership classes. We met friends there.

Then one day Hubby gave them plenty of notice one day that he would no longer be running the programs that he’d run, so they could get replacements, and suddenly we were free on Sunday mornings. (I am an earlier church drop-out than Hubby, having stopped going most Sundays in favor of using that time to clean and/or spend time with my kids. I could do neither of those at church.)

Here are my reasons, and why they’re not quite right:

Reason: “Does God really send people to Hell?” “Can men marry men or can women marry women?”  “Were men really made first?” Oh, I should mention we’re liberals, and there is no way in Hell that ‘man is made like God and woman is a side project’ crap is being preached as truth to my daughters. Our big kid started to ask questions and understand the answers, and we weren’t sure we would like what she’d hear if she asked them of a church leader or Sunday School teacher.  I visited my grandmother’s church once and was told that TV was a tool of the devil and I was going to Hell if I watched Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles again. I was 8.  

But: There were some great people there. I honestly have no idea what they would have really said to my kid. A couple of them, Sunday School teachers – I could guess.




I feel like this is such a ‘duh’ issue, but I know it’s still coming about for half the country. We knew people who weren’t comfortable letting church friends know some pretty important things about them, for fear of judgement. The official view of the Presbyterian church may be acceptance, but we strongly doubted that ran throughout that particular church. A lot of that had to do with the general age of the congregation; civil rights for the LGBT community is really an age issue. More about that later.

But: The Presbyterian church of the USA (general governing body) voted to allow ordination of pastors regardless of sexual orientation in 2010 and voted to allow marriages in 2014. (Very late to the party, guys! But better late than never. We were already gone at this point, though.)  I don’t know for sure how individual people would handle this at any church, I shouldn’t presume to know.

Reason: We felt pulled in many directions, with work and family. I didn’t want another commitment. I also wanted more time with my kids. Yes, I joke about sending their butts outside constantly for “Don’t Bother Mommy” time. But on weekends, I didn’t want to be shipping them off to a nursery while I sat, not really interacting with my husband, in a church service.

But: I realize how selfish this sounds – Oh, I know how I sound . This cut a generally positive social situation from my kids’ lives. This is why I finally agreed to sign them up for soccer. I miss the social-ness of church too. We met some really great people who we would totally still hang out with, if not for feeling very awkward about leaving. Having places to go and people to see is a good thing in my book, usually!


We did try going to several other churches. For a about a year, we were “church shopping”, mainly Episcopal and a couple Lutheran. You get wooed really hard, when you walk into a new church with your little kids in cute dresses. The cookies come out very quickly. We spent six months going to one church that was great as far as the concerns I listed above, but had so few children that some days nobody would show up to teach Sunday School. And eventually stopped going there too, and relished the quiet Sunday mornings with nowhere to go and time to sit around, drink coffee and juice, and play and talk with each other.

I really miss the music of church services. Music and God just go together. I got most of my musical experience at the Lutheran church where I grew up. Some quality music education reached me there, and well as some good friends. It’s for this reason that I feel like my kids are (going to be) missing out, and I should probably do something about that.

You’ll notice I said nothing about actual theological beliefs. Or God. Every one of us could write a giant essay about whether they believe in God (I do, kinda) whether they pray (I do, kinda), and whether they are down with that whole no-wearing-two-different-cloths thing. (Really, Deuteronomy?)

I said something about this vaguely back at Christmas, but I’m basically not presuming I know anything, other than the fact that we should be as good as possible to each other and to trust that everything is going to be ok in the long run. I feel like that didn’t change for me, while going from one church to another, to going to no church. I’m good.

Would we go back again? Sure. If we found the right place for us. But we’re in no hurry, and we don’t think it’s bad that we’re choosing not to go at all, at this point. I would really love to hear some thoughts on church, choosing one, or your thoughts on religion and social issues, including the above. Please comment! If it’s too personal, use the contact info on the left sidebar over there, or message me. Ha! Look at me pretending people read this who don’t have my cell # or fb contact info. Hilarious!

But seriously, I’d love to hear your ideas.

Chalk is Erasable: The Summer Schedule

Let me begin by admitting that this is totally not what I’m about, as a parent, and I’ll probably ditch it in like two weeks.

I stumbled upon the challkboard summer schedule thing on Pinterest (meggyrd). You know that over-achieving nutjob mom in your head who convinces you that theme parties and carefully coordinated Christmas picture outfits are a great idea? Yeah, she gets ahold of me from time to time.

Pinterest’s Summer Schedule:




Aw doesn’t that look nice? Now, allow me to translate for you:

7AM – Screen Time – They may play (quasi) educational games on the tablet. Or watch Super Mario Bros. Super Show on Netflix for the 200th time, whatever.

8AM – Breakfast, Clean Us, Rooms – Hubby and I will hopefully be awake by this point. Otherwise, they will forage, like wild animals, for Poptarts. Hubby and I will try to sit at the table with them, because we actually do value the whole morning-family-gathering thing. My stomach and I are not into breakfast, but I will be sure to drink coffee, so no one dies later. Showers and clothing will be applied to the children, probably by Hubby. I will briskly walk the puppy a few miles at this point, at least in the fantasy in my head. And then bluebirds and squirrels will help me get dressed, while the children pick up their rooms. Ha. 

9AM – Play School – Hubby leaves the house at this luxuriously late hour. The “Play School” thing is where, I imagined, we’d do little science experiments, word games, or I’d go all Maria Von Trapp on them.  This time will undoubtedly amount to them doing one page of whatever page they want out of some grocery store workbook and then ditching, while I check facebook on my laptop and drink more coffee. I predict this will be the first thing to get erased from the chalkboard.

10AM – Outside: Pool/Bikes – Shoot, why did I write “pool” on there?  That has to involve me. At least we’re using it. I am designating “outside'” play here because later on, “GO PLAY” can mean inside too. As long as they Don’t Bother Mommy. 

11AM – Read/Draw/Write – They do this anyway. What this should really say is “Don’t Bother Mommy.”

12PM – Lunch, Chores – I manage to prepare whatever single food has been deemed acceptable by the little one this week. They have a list of stuff they have to do for chores, while I clean up lunch, lay out art stuff, and figure out what the heck to do for the next slice of the schedule… 

1PM – Fun w/ Mom – Crap.  This involves me again. Over-achiever Mommy is going to lift ideas right off of Pinterest, or take them to a park if I don’t feel like using my brain. 

2PM – GO PLAY – Please note: This activity is subject to start early and go long, without notice. And be happy the entire chalkboard doesn’t say this, because this is what summer should look like all-day, every day, to you kids. People my age remember being outside, unsupervised, for like 6+ hours a day. Now GO PLAY.

3PM – Art Time – This is just because we have a dresser full of arts and crafts stuff. Come on over, I could run a camp.  “Yaaaay, let’s make some more stuff we have no place for but guilt and/or children won’t let me throw away later!”

4PM – Snack Time/GO PLAY – You may NOW ask me for mid-afternoon food. Not before. Then, GO PLAY.

5PM – Read/Draw/Write – See above. Unless you’re still playing somewhere. Then, as you were. 

6PM – Screen Time – AKA “Mommy Gives Up.”

Then it’s make-dinner time. (Sometimes, some Mexican loveliness, I hope.) We don’t have dinner till Daddy gets home around 7:00. Then, it could be more pool, going somewhere for ice cream (what is the summer for, if not general slothiness and comparing various ice cream places?), or God Only Knows. That is the beauty of summer.

Now, this next part is me telling myself that this will all be fine and I will not be bored and desperate for adult interaction by the 2nd week. Can you tell I’m a little nervous about this? Just ignore the pep talk:

This is wonderful, beautiful, freeing SUMMER, the only difference is that Hubby will not be around 10 hours a day.  I have had one Hell of a year, and I need a break. We will hopefully have family and friends over a lot. We will visit family out of state. There will be playdates. We will meet Daddy in the city for dinner. We will go to the beach and museums and do our Playground Tour. We will sit on the couch and do nothing, like I’ve done all weekend. It’s been beautiful. 

By modern suburban standards, I guess I should have signed them up for camp, Vacation Bible School, soccer, or something. I didn’t. Oops. I think they’ll live.

But hey, at least we have a schedule. Subject to change without notice, because hey, it’s only written in chalk.

And Forgive Us Our Trespasses

Hubby and I used to have an on-going joke about the Lord’s Prayer. We would snicker and/or poke each other when the debts or trespasses thing went by in the middle. Because we’re very reverent people, clearly. Actually it was because we had two different churchy-upbringings, and we disagreed about whether the line is “forgive us our debts” or “forgive us our trespasses”. It is trespasses. Sounds way cooler. God would agree. 

We don’t do this much anymore, because we don’t go to church anymore. More about that at a later date.

Because I spent the last post judging other people for the petty and annoying crap they do, #judgementalbiotch, I will now list (some of) my postable transgressions. Rest assured there are many, many more. You are not learning about them.

  • The skin on the outside (and inside) of my nose gets dry and itchy. I totally pick. Deal with it.
  • When I am in a meeting or grad class and I am supposed to be working or taking notes on a laptop, at least half the time I’m not really working or taking notes. #Facebook
  • I speed. Like, always.
  • I am still (I think?) supposed to eat a very low sodium diet, and I totally cheat when I feel like it. #heartcrap
  • I make fun of what other people name their children. Sometimes. Just the dumb names, though. Yours are beautiful.
  • I make fun of children. Although they are still better than many adults.
  • That “red wine is good for you” thing is my new favorite medical tidbit, and “special occasions”, where I am allowed to consume various other alcohols happen so often that they can’t possibly be that special.
  • Screw singing the ABC’s; often I wash my hands for only like 5 seconds and dry them on my hair. (Wetting it down discourages the frizz.)
  • I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to be drinking so much coffee. But nobody wants to see how that story ends, so I conveniently forget to ask about that every time I see my doctor.
  • I swear a lot.
  • I know that I should keep cash in my wallet for the collection for this, and the collection for that, but I never manage to keep cash in my wallet.
  • I yell at my kids for their messy rooms, but mine generally has crap all over the floor.
  • The 5 second rule applies around friends and family, but around strangers, I pretend like I’d throw it away no matter what, for germs & stuff’s sake. But if nobody is around…eh.
  • For social reasons, I pretend to care about a lot of stuff that I actually don’t. But I believe that’s called “Being an Adult”, so again…eh.

People Who Judge People

  • People who make you wait behind them while they back into parking spaces. Explain to me how it’s easier, please?
  • People who drive slowly in the left lane. It is called the “passing lane”,  not the “I like this lane better so who cares about the driver behind me who just wants to pass” lane. 
  • People who take more than 2 minutes to order at a drive thru. You are eating fast food. Please don’t over think it.
  • People who complain about politicians, but don’t vote.  I know….but find the lesser of two evils. Or write-in Leslie Knope.
  • People who park their grocery cart in the middle of the aisle and wander far away from it.
  • People who give their child a very unusual name or name spelling, and get ticked when it’s mispronounced. It’s fine, but you asked for it. Be patient. 
  • People who blast their music through open car windows. I like bass, too. MY song’s bass.
  • People who first demand an explanation of a poor grade from the teacher, not their kid.
  • People who drop major swear bombs in public when they know children are present. I may not have the cleanest mouth either, but $&%*# you, it’s my choice when my kid hears that word. 
  • People who say, “Must be nice to have the whole summer off!” to teachers. It’s sad how someone forbade you from becoming a teacher when you were choosing a career. Oh, you wanted better pay and no kids all day long? Must be nice. 
  • People who post vague Facebook statuses so that other people will ask them what’s wrong.
  • People who have not yet figured out the whole “turn signal” thing. You see, there’s a magic stick – right there by your steering wheel! It lets other drivers know what direction your crazy butt is turning, so they don’t hit you! Try it!
  • People who judge other people. (Oops…)


To be continued. (Preview: I am not perfect.)

(I know. You’re shocked.)


Every day they come in and act like monkies.

They smell. Haven’t we had the deodorant talk yet? 

They wear inappropriate shoes – we told them to wear sneakers from here on out, darn it! Mostly little girls in pretty sandals.

They ignore us and do what they want; talking, goofing around. Then they tattle on each other. They skip out on homework. Aren’t we done with homework yet?

They get fresh. They get hot and lazy, and participation sucks. Get up. Off the floor. Now. 

They act like they’ve forgotten all the rules we’ve carefully enforced all year.

They act like they’re already on Summer Vacation.


Every day we come in and act like zombies. Who wants to go on a Dunkin Donuts/Wawa run? 

We wear flip flops. Isn’t that against teacher dress code? Oh well.

We text each other how many days we have left. We text each other lunch orders and inside jokes. We text in class and in the hall.

We can’t believe it when there’s not an assembly or end-of-year festivity to take up class time, today. Aren’t we done with class time yet?

SGOs, APRs, PDPs; we turn nothing in by the due-date. We don’t even start them by the due date. That was due when? 

We get hot and crabby and bitch about stuff. We act like it’s an imposition that we’re still here.

We act like we’re already on Summer Vacation.


Personally, in the last two weeks since hubby isn’t home and the pool is open, I generally have the girls in suits and wine or beer on the pool bar by 5PM. Today I also ate a hotdog, leftover from a weekend pool party. With mustard. Yes, in the pool. What? Just cause know how to live…


How is it not already Summer Vacation?

Mexican Everyday: Chipotle

My Mexican Everyday cookbook (by Rick Bayless) came from Amazon today. I haven’t even cracked it yet. It’s a weeknight, we spent 2 after-school hours in the pool, and have I mentioned I suck at cooking? I did mention that, right? Go back and read.

To preface my dinner choice explanation, I would eat Chipotle for one meal a day, every day. Forever. And ever. Amen. So, I decided to celebrate my fancy Mexican cookbook arriving and kick off my adventure in Mexican cooking with… a little fast food. Since public opinion says that taking the lid off a take-out container doesn’t count as cooking, I made an attempt a cook a Chipotle Burrito Bowl. What, like it’s hard?

Hubby schooled me the night before on how NOT to overcook chicken:

Did you know they make thermometers for meat?! What will they think of next? Chicken is supposed to hit 160. Then you take it off the pan, or you eat white rubber.

I accidentally started the chicken way before the boy (who was doing some wife-approved, after-work, guy-bonding  in Philly) was on his way home.  No worries! Turns out you can keep chicken warm in the oven on a covered plate in a 170 degree oven. Then you can take the plate of chicken out later, good as new, and burn the ever-lovin’ CRAP out of your hand on a hot plate. Good times.

The rest of my Chipotle assembly line ingredients were as follows:

Weeknight = ready-made guac and salsa. The boy makes his own killer versions of these, when time permits. I do not. Black beans must be rinsed or they have a buttload of sodium, and make my congestive heart failure get uppity. And yes, that is Great Value brand you see. And YES, there is a Whole Foods, Rastelli’s, and Trader Joe’s 10 minutes from my workplace. We shop at Walmart for basic groceries. I know. We’re heathens.

Important Factoids:

  • I only ate the guacamole verde with a fork 4 times during the meal prep. #selfcontrol
  • Herdez is our favorite salsa, and we’ve noticed that it’s seems to be the favorite of the people in the Hispanic Foods aisle who actually appear to be Hispanic.
  • Speaking of hearts, cut open a plum tomato long-ways sometime, and tell me if it doesn’t remind you creepily of a human heart. Freaky.
  • Shredding cheese is dangerous for your fingertips, fyi.
There are no bits of shredded fingertip in there. Probably.

I cooked the Minute Rice as per the package directions, but I don’t usually remember to note the time that foods are on the stove top, so….it may have boiled over twice. This dish also required math and reading a chart on the side of the box, so I would like extra credit now.

All good. Not ruined! Just messy.

I mixed in chopped fresh cilantro, pepper, and butter. (I was careful to put aside some of the unseasoned rice for the girls, because God forbid they should eat something with flavor.) I discovered after some research that Chipotle calls it “cilantro lime” rice, so I should have probably bought limes. And made margaritas, clearly.

When hubby got home, I took his order. I did not greet him at the door wearing the Chipotle crew member apron and hat, sorry. He did not get to choose between “for here” and “to go”, either. (The cherubs were in need of some Daddy time, and I was in need of them not needing me for like 15 minutes, so he was not going anywhere.) He asked for everything except salsa. He is a reformed tomato hater; he didn’t want to over-do it.

The final product. “For here”, Burrito Bowls, pretty darn close to Chipotle quality, too. *patting self on back*

What we have learned today:

  • So maybe the hubby’s insistence in the value of digital thermometers is real. The chicken was so much better than Chipotle’s.
  • The rice, not as much. Apparently you should actually follow those directions on the side of the box.
  • You pretty much can’t screw up the rest of these ingredients, in various combinations. This is why “Mexican” food is the best food.

Next time: Meg stops imitating take-out and opens the actual cookbook.