The Latest Gadget

December 13, 2015

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You know that friend  who always has to have the lastest iPhone? I am not that person. I have a second-hand Moto X. It will get used until it stops being useful. But I drop phones a lot. In contrast to my curmudgeon phone situation, I was encouraged to find that I’m receiving the very latest in implantable defibrillator technology, soon. I am getting the iPhone 6s+ of ICDs. The plus isn’t a thing, is it? You know what I mean. It’s all new and stuff.

If you have no idea why I’m getting a compact version of the A. E. D. shocky things they have in public buildings put inside my body, read these:

What the Hell is This Crap: Discovering Your Heart Is a Wuss

S%@# My Students Say About Cardiomyopathy

Wow I Must Be LUCKY: Sort of Failing Heart Tests

There were a bunch of tests I had, to qualify for this newfangled device – and I passed them! And I didn’t even study! I wish that my own awesomeness had to do with this, but it has more to do with luck and something called T-waves. I learned that I don’t need a pacemaker at this time.

 

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I get the one on the right, the S-ICD. Note its tininess and lack of full-frontal scarring.

This one is off to the side, can use cell phone technology to monitor 24/7 if need be, and doesn’t actually go into the heart. This last perk eliminates the risk of infection or complications of having the “old” kind, that used a wire that as placed directly inside the heart. Boston Scientific makes it, and they are very proud to brag explain about it here on their website. There is even a slick video. This is pretty cool. The downside?

They have to stop your heart for a minute during the implant procedure, and let the ICD shock you “back to life”.

You know, just to make sure it works. I am not particularly “ok” with this. But there are worse things, right?

So I’m getting this lovely thing installed on January 5th. It’s an overnight or so in the hospital, bedrest for a couple days, and restrictions on movement and carrying stuff with my arm for a month. No horn playing. Boo. But, I will get to extend my Christmas break by going back in for one day to put ducks in a row, then being out the rest of the week.

“Yay…” for killing sick days. Sincere “YAY!” for getting in a permanent state of “safer” with this heart nonsense.

Also, YAY for Netflix. Cause there will be much Netflixing.

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The secret to a happy life is finding the good in everything. In this case, the good is my remote control.

So, that’s the update. Please tell me what I should binge watch that week, after I get my new gadget, in the comments. And wish me luck. While grateful to get this done, I’m not exactly un-nervous.

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Sweet Potato Salad with Broken Glass

August 5, 2015

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The correct name for this recipe is: “Sweet Potato Salad with Carmelized Onions, Watercress, and Guajillo Chile Dressing”. This dish had more oil-everywhere problems than BP. (Too soon?) Ultimately we LOVE this recipe and we’ve already repeated it for friends, since making it the first time. The second time I didn’t even break anything.

Please do not laugh at my lack of knowledge of thermodynamics, or whatever tells you that heat and cold break glass. Who knew?!

I can’t find my pic of the ingredients. The list appeared pretty long for someone who grew up thinking Hamburger Helper was complicated. (Oil, guajillo chiles, garlic, vinegar, red onion, sweet potato, watercress.)

You can buy guajillos at an upscale food market for about $50 per pound. I wish I were kidding. They come in hermetically sealed packages of 6. OR you can buy a big handful of them from the various dried pepper bins at your local tienda (Mexican grocer) for a total of 48 cents. I gave the clerk more than that, because that was ridiculous. Additionally, despite the fact that neither of us spoke each other’s language well, she helpfully explained the heat levels of each pepper to me.

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These.

You put them in heated oil with garlic, and they smell like freakin’ Heaven.

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Caution: The oil is burny and the pepper is burny so either way, you’re gonna get burned.

Tips about oil:

  1. Don’t accidentally use too much oil, like I did.
  2. Don’t get confused about the cookbook wanting the oil to cool.  They mean for you to let it cool in the pan, on the stove top. You are using it for the dressing in a second.
  3. Do not, under any circumstances, decide to speed things up by pouring the  hot oil into a glass and putting that glass in the fridge to cool. (You idiot.)

This will end badly for your pretty glass. Who knew?!

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Clean break, though.

Then you cook a chopped red onion. After that, you discover how a potato peeler works and cube up a million (or 4) sweet potatoes. This will make more than will fit in your largest pan, so you will have to cook them in two separate pans. They will not be uniformly cooked through, but whatever.

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The dressing is made from the sauteed garlic and peppers, blended smoothly with a vinegar – either sherry, balsamic, or, as I used, champagne. #fancy

The recipe called for the cooked, dressing-covered potatoes and onions to be served over a “bed of watercress”. I discovered that this is actually a kind of lettuce! Who knew?!  The recipe said to remove the stems from the watercress. I see from the picture below that I missed one. I thought this combination of foods sounded rather odd, but it was, upon tasting, kind of amazing.

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Otherwise? I would eat this weekly. The dressing would probably make it ok to eat salad for a year.

However, R. I. P. to my blue, coincidentally Mexican margarita glass. You were shattered before your time.

What We Have Learned:

  • Glass breaks when you change its temperature quickly.
  • Entire sections of common sense-type knowledge were taught when I was apparently absent.
  • Learning to “adult” is satisfying and good. And so is this potato salad.
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How To Do Your Homework

July 30, 2015

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Preface: I am a grad student during the summer, working on a Master’s in Music Education with a concentration in French horn performance. This is less glamorous than it sounds. It sounds like I’m spending a ton of money on something I should have done 10 years ago? Yeah, that’s how I hear it, too. I love horn, but I have not played lately because of health issues. All classes in the Master’s program are considered “accelerated”, cramming the usual semester into 4-5 weeks. They emphasize this ahead of time, so you forfeit your right to whine about the workload. Boo. While it’s been fun, it’s also been…”fun”. But it’s getting done. I am dead set on balancing this endeavor with the need to experience a lovely, rejuvenating summer with my family and friends. So naturally, I leave class work until the due date and do it all at the last minute.  #responsibleadult

As the expert, I will now share the important process of:

“How To Do Your Homework”

  1. Make coffee, do morning things, hug & kiss Hubby goodbye.
  2. Instruct children to please pick up their rooms and go play, because Mommy is working.
  3. Go into kitchen to get coffee mug first. Become concerned that the pile of dishes in the sink will attract ants. Do dishes.
  4. Head downstairs (split level) to office, with coffee. Scroll through Twitter, check Facebook, read The Skimm, play Crossy Road and Brain Dots on phone, because ‘all work and no play’…
  5. Break up argument between children in the laundry room. Notice that laundry needs “flipped over”. Do that.
  6. Upon returning from laundry room, look longingly at the lovely curled form of the horn on its stand, in the office. No. Not right now. Decide that it’s time to work.
  7. Play horn anyway. Marvel just a little that high C still comes out fine, after months off.  Gloat a tiny bit. Feel very happy and almost decide to text brass-people friends, but try to rein self back in and get to work. Actually open a text book.
  8. Discover that there are actually no less than five separate assignments due. Re-evaluate whether a Master’s degree is really that important.
  9. Untie, open, peel, and fix something for each kid, a minimum of 3-4 times.
  10. Realize that the correct Spotify station is essential for concentration, child noise-coverage, and ambiance. Spend 10 minutes deciding on which list and another 10 trying to find the one pair of earbuds left in the house that works.
  11. Sit down. Get back to work. Wait, where is coffee? Go find mug.
  12. Focus and complete the first of five assignments, like a boss.
  13. Play with hair. Wonder if French braiding own hair is still in personal skill set. Braid own hair, enjoying the fact that ‘dos like the popular girls at that 1992 Girl Scout camp are now finally within grasp.
  14. Swivel aimlessly in desk chair while playing with hair. See horn. Think of playing again but turn around to get back to work.
  15. Realize that coffee is cold. Realize that this whole routine has been going on for quite a while and only one out of five assignments are complete. Realize this is not ok.
  16. Respond to texts from Hubby, friend, and sister, and play new Monument Valley levels.
  17. Decide that now it’s very seriously time to do the other four assignments. But first, coffee.
  18. Heat up coffee in kitchen where the dog has found a My Little Pony toy to chew to bits. Clean that up.
  19. With coffee, half a grapefuit because breakfast never actually happened, and a new mindset to be productive, go back downstairs. Sit down, resolved to knock out those other four assignments. Right. Now.
  20. Blog about the process instead.
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This is: Spicy Chipotle Salsa with Pan-Roasted Tomatillos

July 11, 2015

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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:

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This is how you blend them with two chipotle peppers:
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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):

IMG_20150708_114146430_HDR

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

Capture

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.

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

July 6, 2015

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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

July 3, 2015

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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.

Reason:

Gaymarriage1

Gaymarriage2

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.

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And Forgive Us Our Trespasses

June 26, 2015

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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.
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Mexican Everyday: Chipotle

June 11, 2015

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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:

IMAG0459
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:

IMAG0463
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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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