Tag Archives: pesto

Flat chicken and green noodles

Well, this just isn’t going to work out at all. Noah called today to tell me he’d found an apartment off-campus. But clearly he’s not ready to live on his own yet. I mean, just look at him. He can barely see over the counter. An apartment is a lot of responsibility. He doesn’t know how to do laundry. He doesn’t know how to cook. I expect he could figure out how to fit the Eggo waffles in a toaster, but I’m not going to let him use a toaster. He’d burn himself. He’s just a little boy. A wee little boy.

Okay. I know. I’m delusional. But that’s what I was thinking this morning when my wee little boy, who

The real Noah: large and able to accomplish simple tasks on his own.

is edging toward six feet tall, told me he’d found an apartment. With Bunny’s help. His grandmother has been my long-distance goon squad for the last month.  We were in total agreement. Nothing that exhibited evidence of roaches or vermin. Nothing where you could see dirt through the floor boards. Nothing icky. For $400 a month. That was his limit. I truly thought I had him at a standstill because there’s no way he could find something for $400 a month.

Dammit. Dammit Boy. He did. “Uh, the only thing, Mom, is that I have to move in in June,” he said over the phone. “They won’t hold the apartment until August. ” … So that means you’re not coming home this summer? “I hate it, Mom, I was really looking forward to coming home for the summer, but I don’t really have a choice.” Liar, liar, pants on fire.

Oh, hell. I remember wanting to live off campus and the place I found would have horrified my parents had they seen it. It was a former funeral home in Murray, Kentucky, and there was a suspiciously long stainless steel sink in my room. I shared it with four other people. I loved it. It was a total dump, but I loved it. It’s just that it’s different when it’s your baby of almost 20 living in an apartment. On his own. Did I tell you I’m going to turn his room into a guest room? Ha! That will fix him.

So, flat chicken and green noodles. Noah’s favorite childhood meal. I think he can accomplish that in his efficiency apartment. In his spacious kitchenette with a 24-inch stove he can probably reach into the refrigerator for the ingredients, cook the meal, clean up and get ready for bed without moving an inch. He called it flat chicken because I pounded the chicken breasts into thin cutlets. And green noodles? Just pesto and pasta.

Flat Chicken and Green Noodles

2 chicken breasts, pounded into 1/4-inch cutlets

Seasoned breadcrumbs

Vegetable oil

Juice of one lemon

1 4-ounce container pesto

1/2 pound thin spaghetti

Put the breadcrumbs on a plate. Rinse each cutlet with cold water and then dredge them in the breadcrumbs. Heat the oil and lemon juice to medium high heat. Saute the cutlets until golden brown.

Cook the pasta starting in warm water in a shallow pan deep enough to submerge the pasta. Keep moving the pasta around with tongs to keep it separated as the water continues to get hotter. The pasta will be cooked al dente before the water reaches a boil. Mix with pesto sauce.



Filed under chicken, pasta

Comfort food

Canned Tamales, Cold Pork & Beans, Mashed Potatoes. Photo courtesy of Kim Council

My friend, Kim, got some great news last week. Her sister’s Hepatitis C, which she has lived with for 30 years, is now undetectable. Which led to this bizarre meal her mother used to make: canned tamales, cold pork and beans, and mashed potatoes. Kim says it’s her English mother’s tribute to Mexican food. And for Kim this is comfort food and what her sister, Gloria, requested as a celebration meal.

Comfort food. Really more like memory food. Those odd combinations that are just so right, so indelibly linked to our past. Usually created by mothers, who had no idea at the time that their spur-of-the-moment thrown together creations would endure and, yes, comfort.

"Flat" chicken

For me, it’s a peanut butter and butter sandwich. I still eat them when I’m feeling a little blue. My mother probably just ran out of jelly and made the sandwich out of desperation to feed a five-year-old. For Mark, it’s blackberry cobbler. He can still see himself in his mind’s eye picking the blackberries with his Granny Belle. For Noah, it will probably be “flat” chicken and green noodles. Definitely a thrown-together meal with thin chicken cutlets dredged in seasoned bread crumbs and fried in oil and lemon juice, plus spaghetti with pesto sauce from the supermarket.

There is actually scientific evidence that proves that comfort food makes you feel better. Researchers at the University of Buffalo found that not only does eating comfort food elevate your mood, but just thinking about it is restorative. So here’s my other comfort food that I’m thinking about right now. Liverwurst. Yes, liverwurst. I’d tag along with my dad when he went to the butcher, who always gave me a slice of liverwurst as a treat. My mother never made liver so I didn’t know it was supposed to be yucky. All the Mayhews still love a good liverwurst sandwich: mayonnaise (lots of it, Duke’s naturally), thin sliced liverwurst and sliced white onion. We are prohibited from attending social events after eating these.

I’m thinking about a good stinking liverwurst sandwich right now and feeling pretty happy about it.


Filed under chicken, snacks, Uncategorized, veggies


Palm-Yea! That’s how you pronounce these things, which I am ending the year on because even if you can’t cook a lick you can make these for a New Year’s Eve gathering and look like Julia Child.

Palmiers are the easiest thing to make and they look like you’ve spent hours doing them. All you need is a sheet of puff pastry, which you can find in the dessert freezer section, and whatever you want to fill them with. For the sake of this demonstration, I used store-bought pesto, ham slices and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. I’ve always hated those blogs that show you photos of every step in a recipe like you’re such an idiot you can’t figure out how to put something in a bowl and mix it up. But this probably requires those photos, so here goes. If I don’t have enough to say, I’ll just ad lib while I put the photos in.

Start out by thawing the puff pastry, but still keeping it cool or else it will be hell to roll up when that step comes. Lay it flat on a cutting board or your counter and spread a layer of pesto on it. Then follow that with thin slices of ham and the grated cheese. Did I ever tell you about my worst New Year’s Eve date ever? I got “fixed up” (always a bad sign) with a guy who lived across the street. Kevin Herbert. I hope he doesn’t read this. Zero personality. We went to a college “party” at which there was no booze, which is entirely the point of New Year’s Eve. I couldn’t wait for midnight so I could get out of there. We won’t even go into the kiss. Yuk.

So, after you spread your puff pastry you want to roll it up halfway from either end. If you let the pastry get too warm stick the entire thing in the fridge. Otherwise, it will just be a mess and you’ll be mad at me. Here’s the pastry rolled up halfway. Now you just roll from the other side so you have something that looks like a palm leaf, which is the other name for these things. When you get done with that, cut them into half inch pieces.

This is what the palmiers look like rolled and cut. So, did I ever tell you about my best New Year’s Eve date? I’m going to get in trouble here but it wasn’t with Mark. By the time I met him, I was kind of over New Year’s Eve. It was with my first real boyfriend, Tommy, who took me to this swank restaurant at Redington Beach. Steak and champagne and a pretty good kiss at midnight on the beach. That’s what I’m talking about.

Now all you do is bake them at 400 degrees for 12 minutes or until they’re puffed and golden. You can serve them warm or at room temperature. The great thing about palmiers is that you can stuff them with anything. Butter, brown sugar and chopped pecans for a sweet version. Or roasted red pepper pesto, prosciutto and fontina cheese for another savory one.  So, sad to say, New Year’s Eve is not a major holiday at the Mayhew house. Yes, I have a bottle of champagne that I will crack around the time that Greenland rings in 2012. I will watch Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin celebrate in Times Square because I’m just so tickled at how thoroughly she embarrasses him. And then I will hit the sack. Woo-hoo. What a wild woman I am.  I almost forgot. One last thing. Before I go to bed, I will put some coins outside the front door and then bring them back in on New Year’s Day. I have no idea why I do this, but it is required of all good Southern women and if you don’t you will have hell to pay the whole next year.


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Filed under breads, cheese, snacks

My $135 head of lettuce

It is Sunday morning and I’m heading to Aldi after church to get Noah some fruit. That boy is eating me out of house and home right now, but he has exhibited a slight inclination to eat fruit and I am indulging him. Aldi speaks to my cheap thrifty nature as it stocks alternate versions of brand names at half the cost. After spending just $21 on apples, bananas, cereal, stuffing mix, coffee, butter, mustard, facial tissue and orange juice, I head home. Then I realize I have no lettuce. So I decide to stop off at Whole Foods because it’s on the way.

I walk through the doors and OMG. What is going on? There are lines 20 carts deep leading to every checkout. I grab my lettuce, get in line and ask the nice lady in front of me why the lines are so long. “Whole Foods is moving and everything in the store is 20 percent off.” Oh, dear. If you are a proper Southern woman it is imbedded in your genes: Never buy retail. Twenty percent off everything. How can I resist? If you’re going to stand in line for 45 minutes to buy a head of lettuce you might as well add a few other things to the buggy.

I attempt to procure a buggy. There are none. I follow a nice gentleman to his car and gently urge him to unload so I can take his shopping cart. And then I enter the battle. I have shopped the sales at 4 a.m. the day after Christmas. I know how to do this. People, however, are unfailingly nice and polite. Maybe there’s a difference between shopping for marinated artichoke hearts and animated Santa displays.

My rule of thumb when sale or coupon shopping for food is never buy anything you wouldn’t ordinarily purchase. When I watch Extreme Couponing, which is strangely addictive, I am struck by the huge quantities of rarely used items these women (and they’re always women) purchase. How much nail polish remover and Pam can you use in a lifetime?

So here is what I put in the buggy, sometimes with great difficulty elbowing my way down the packed aisles: instant polenta, roasted salted cashews, bulk granola, pesto, buckwheat groats, sparkling mineral water, sesame snack sticks, sesame oil, honey whole wheat bread, salt and vinegar potato chips, paella rice, demi glace, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, linguine, mayonnaise, sea salt, grape tomatoes, grapes, garlic, bell peppers, ground bison, bison sausage, bacon, muenster and colby cheeses and, wait for it, lettuce.

I will use all these things. But first I have to get them out of the store. I join the end of the long line snaking its way down the bulk spice aisle. I add a jar of oregano to the cart. I chit chat with the older lady behind me and the young mother with a 3-year-old in front of me. There is a kind of hostage mentality in situations like this. You bond with total strangers who are in your same sad position of inching forward every five or six minutes. After about 45 minutes, I reach the checkout. The total is $165.88. However, with my 20 percent off, I pay only $135.10. Yes! Victory is mine.

When I get home I have to rearrange my entire pantry to get the newly minted five grocery bags of stuff put away. Then I decide to make bison burgers to celebrate. I have eaten bison before but never cooked it at home. Bison is much leaner than ground beef but tastes similar. I get the cast iron skillet smoking hot, add butter and the bison patties seasoned liberally with salt and pepper. Cook to medium well. Nestle in toasted English muffins with red onion, cheese, mayonnaise and, yes, my lettuce. Delicious. A bargain always tastes better.


Filed under breads, breakfast, cheese, pasta, salads, snacks, veggies

Roasted cherry tomatoes with pesto pasta

Ya’ll, I am not even going to back into this one. I have invented (I think) something that is so indescribably delicious, I just have to share it right away. So my friend, Bobbie Cox, gives me way too many cherry tomatoes. It’s part of her master plan to foist all her excess vegetables from the garden onto her friends.

I cannot eat a gross of raw cherry tomatoes. So I roast them. Cherry tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of salt in a 300 degree oven for about two hours. I did this last night and just stuck them in some Tupperware on the counter. No need to refrigerate.

I boil some fusilli pasta I got at Trader Joe’s for 99 cents a pound! Liberally salt the water first. Then, when it’s al dente I add in an 8-0unce container of pesto, a liberal handful of toasted pine nuts and some Parmesan cheese.

Mark does not like pesto and he’s not that wild about pasta either. “Honey,” he said after supper, “if you add in those tomatoes I’ll eat this every night.” Good boy.

I now know that I will not be defeated by Bobbie Cox this summer. She’s already given me a bushel of corn (shucked, cut off the cob and in the freezer), a pile of zucchini (zucchini bread made – sorry, Betsy, I am getting it to you at some point) and enough crookneck squash to choke a horse (squash casserole). Is there anything better than summer? I think not.

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Filed under casseroles, sides, veggies

Green noodles

I am offering one of my rare simul-blogs tonight, writing the same blog post on the south in my mouth and two chicks in a warehouse. It is because my worlds intersected today. And, at the end of the day, I needed green noodles.

I am in FEMA land. It is not a bad place. Just mysterious. The folks from FEMA are trying to help me fix my broken warehouse. They are really trying hard and are nice about it. Lessons learned from Katrina? I don’t know, but in Nashville FEMA is very much a friend. A candidate for governor ran some television ads proudly proclaiming that he would give Washington the boot if elected while displaying a garish cowboy boot with the state seal of Tennessee on it. He’s not doing so well in the polls right now.

So FEMA has questions. Questions I had not considered. I turn in a bill for remediation, the clearing out of the House of Toxic Poo. How many cubic yards were cleared out? I don’t know. There were bulldozers. I do remember that. Where did all the debris go? Hell? I don’t know. I find the answers. It turns out they are there if you know where to look.

Inventory. What was in the building? When I left the Friday afternoon before the flood, I failed to take inventory. I did not take notes. What is equipment and what is contents? What is the difference, I wonder? I call my FEMA project specialist 14 times in one hour. Is shelving contents or equipment? Equipment. Is copy paper equipment or contents? Contents.

There are many more questions. I spend from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. amassing paperwork. I feel strangely comforted by the government. They want to help, but they want to follow the rules. As a taxpayer, I appreciate that. As a flood victim, I want a gin and tonic.

So tonight, I make my comfort food. I make green noodles. They are simple. Not like my life right now. They are easy. Also, not like my life right now although I consider the people who lost their homes and feel like an insignificant fool. I am not sleeping on an air mattress in a shed in the backyard while my house grows mold by the minute. Shame on me.

Green noodles. Nothing more than eight ounces of thin spaghetti cooked al dente and mixed with a seven-ounce container of pre-made pesto. Top with toasted pine nuts and shaved Parmesan cheese. If you are truly weary, please eat it out of the pot. I had enough energy left to put it on a plate.

I did have good news today. We found a temporary warehouse for furniture. Yea, furniture. Hopefully, when that poor woman sleeping on the air mattress comes back to her house she will have a sofa and a table and a few chairs. Yea, furniture. I talked to a woman who is part of a consortium of nonprofits getting new books for school children who lost theirs in the flood. She has no place to store the abundant donations she’s been offered. We just got a second warehouse, I tell her. Bring us your books. We can work together.

I learned a lot today. I learned how to hold a tape measure with my big toe while retracing the lost rooms at the CRC warehouse for FEMA. They will pay to put things back as they were. If only you could remember how they were. I learned the difference between equipment and content. I learned that my multi-tasking skills are fairly awesome, balancing as I did copying a multitude of papers with arranging a furniture delivery from North Carolina.

And at the end of the day, I ate green noodles. Warm. Cheesy. Simple. Easy.

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Filed under casseroles, cheese

Why is pizza so expensive?

I have never figured out why a disc of dough, some tomato sauce, a little cheese and a smidgen of sausage costs more than my mortgage. I think it’s because the pizza companies know that by the time you get ready to order a pizza, you are desperate. It’s either a week night and you have nothing in your refrigerator except lettuce and leftovers from two weeks ago or it’s 20 minutes before the football game starts and there are a dozen people in your house looking at you and silently asking the question: “What’s for dinner?”

So you pay through the nose for a substandard pie. I started making my own pizza about two years ago. The Publix, the best supermarket in the world, sells pizza dough. But I learned the hard way that making pizza at home can also be expensive if you ask your loved ones what they want on it. This is not a good idea. It can also be incredibly time consuming because you have to cook all the toppings before you make the pie. However, the other night, I decided not to ask about pizza preferences. I just looked in the fridge and freezer and made a mental rule that if I didn’t already have it, it was not going on the pie.

So here’s what I came up with – and I apologize for these paltry photos. We were so hungry we ate most of the pizza before I remembered to take pictures. The whole pie was much more photogenic.  But I digress.

This pie has pesto, which I had a tub of in the refrigerator, mozzarella cheese and mushrooms, which you really do need to saute before you bake the pie. 

The other pizza I made had barbecue sauce, precooked chicken that I had in the freezer from the time I had to make emergency chicken salad for a P.E.O. tea and had to buy that chicken in a plastic bag in the deli case (not recommended, but it works in a pinch), sauted red onion, and Cheddar cheese.

So here’s the thing. This whole process takes about 30 minutes if you use stuff you already have. Preheat the oven to the highest it will go (mine goes to 525 degrees). Roll out the dough, top the pizza and put it on a cookie sheet if you don’t have a pizza stone (which, naturally, I have because I’m a classic over achiever).  The pie will take no longer than eight minutes to bake. Watch it through the oven window. These pies can go south in a New York minute (which I’ve never actually figured out what that is).

I have to tell you that I’ve resorted to a number of these quickie meals in the last few days. This is Christmas Giveaway week at the Community Resource Center and we are going at lightning speed to satisfy the needs of thousands of people in crisis at this time of year. If you want to see what I’m up to on the flip side of my life, visit the two chicks in a warehouse blog.

One last thing and then I’m out of here. Do you know what I got from one of our nonprofit partners at the giveaway? Bless her heart, Bobbie Cox, who works like a dog to help the most marginalized people in Tennessee, brought Betsy and I a “drunken” orange cake and a bag of sweet potatoes today. It just doesn’t get any better than that. It really doesn’t.


Filed under pizza, Uncategorized