White Chicken Chili… Pioneer woman inspired.

I hate baking, but I looooove to cook. I think it’s because, cooking is a lot more forgiving. If I mess up, I can easily tweak here and there to get it back on track. The people I’m feeding are none the wiser.

Here’s what I cooked last night and the adventure that got me to one of the best soups I’ve made… sort of on accident.

8ish cajun grilled chicken thighs (#darkmeatmatters)
3 or 4 cans of Northern beans (or Navy beans, which are also white, it makes no sense.)
1 red onion
A spill of garlic powder (if you’re out of fresh garlic)
8 CUPS of chicken broth or bouillion
1.5 TBSP of cumin or 3/4 tbsp of chili powder if you’re out of cumin because you use it so much
Salt and pepper
1 can of Rotel
3 TBSP of butter (not margarine, are you kidding me with margarine?)
2 TBSP of Masa or cornmeal (because who just has Masa in their cabinets?)
1 CUP of whole milk (It’s almost never ok to use Skim)
5 or so slices of monterrey jack or pepper jack cheese. The jack part is important.

This recipe is loosely based on Pioneer Woman’s White Chili.

As I recall from last night’s soup-making party, here’s how I compiled this soup.

1. I diced up the onion as much as I could until my eyes were burning so badly I was dancing around the kitchen. All parties must have dancing.
2. Toss all those onion bits into the crockpot quickly. Those heathens won’t get the best of me!
Note: My crockpot has a stovetop setting, so if yours doesn’t, better use a pot on the stovetop.
3. Sauté on medium heat with 3 TBSP of butter and a spill of garlic powder. Fresh garlic is preferred but I cook with garlic nearly every night, so I was out. The recipe said 2 minutes but I like to make sure there are no crunchy bits in my soup… so I held out an extra minute or two.
4. I went ahead and started tossing more stuff in. Like, the chili powder (or cumin) and the can of Rotel. Green chilis would have been better, but I always have Rotel on hand. Sprinkle a dash of salt and pepper in the pot.
5. Now seemed like a good time to add the chicken.
6. Then 2 cans of beans.
7. 8 cups of chicken broth. I used bouillion cubes and 8 cups of water.
8. Then I frantically started scooping out some of the water because I realized that my beans are canned and not dried. Then I Kendra that I’ve ruined my soup and am now hoping to save the beans from drowning. Leave about 2 cups of the water in the pot.
BONUS: If you use bouillons like me, you’ll have more concentrated flavor and less liquid… just go with it.
9. I took the temp to high and removed the lid until it started simmering and then dropped the temp and replaced the lid. I set the time for 30 minutes, which gave me just enough time to get Riley bathed and in bed and address 3 post bedtime visits to answer “What is tomorrow?” “Why is that light on?” and “Why do my eyes hurt?”
10. I returned to the pot to find the beans disintegrated. Hm. At this point, I added another can of beans.
11. Then, I let it simmer another 10 minutes while I made sure Logan got to bed and actually brushed his teeth.
12. I returned to the pot to find it disappointingly lean on the beans. I added another can of beans. That did it.
13. Then I went back to the recipe. I mixed (I mean, really mixed) the cornmeal with the whole milk and let it set for about 1-2 minutes.
14. After that I poured the mixture into the soup to help thicken it and to also give it a corn-y flavor.
15. Then I let it simmer for 10 minutes while I cued up Gilmore Girls for Anya and me to watch.
16. I tasted the soup but it was much to hot to determine the flavor so, as a precaution, I added 3 slices of pepper jack cheese. Fun fact: Jack cheese is the best cheese for soup because it melts to a liquid and not stringy.
17. I added two more slices of pepper jack for good measure and kept the soup on low for a little while longer before storing it in the fridge.

So, there you have it! A white chicken chili! So many mistakes… but it still turned out yummy. I love cooking.

Silence is golden-ish.

My yoga instructor tells me in her breathy voice, “Embrace the silence. Breathe deeply and let go of your worries. Put them all in a red balloon and then let go of that balloon. Watch it float toward the horizon. Silence your inner chatter.”

Me. Eyes closed.

Ok. Put my worries in the balloon. I prefer blue, but, she said red so maybe I’ll make sure it’s a red balloon. Poof! The balloon is red. That was fun. I changed it’s color with my mind. Wait. It’s blue again. Balloon: Red. There. It’s red. I just don’t like that color. It’s not right. I wonder if she had a reason for choosing the color red. Is red the color of silence or something? How about purple? Oh well. I get that we need to release our problems into the atmosphere but does she know it’s not a good idea to release balloons into the atmosphere? I’m not sure why. I just heard that somewhere.

I peek at my neighbor.

Dang. She looks peaceful.

I slowly turn my head to my other neighbor.

Is she snoring? What the? Silence is not peaceful to me. It’s nerve wracking. My inner chatter is made of pins and needles (which both pop silly red balloons). I can’t let it go. Has it been 5 minutes yet!? UGH!

Heavy breathing instructor, “Ok everyone.”
I snap my eyes shut and try to appear restful as if in danger of getting caught awake during naptime.
The breather, “Now slowly open your eyes. Enjoy your day. Namaste.”

I jump up. Eyes open. Thinking that meant class was over, I pick up my mat and head toward the door.

The whole class, amidst all the stretching and yawning, turn to watch me leave. Judging. I could cut the inner chatter with a knife at that point. I see several students go up to kiss the Yogi’s feet or whatever it is you do at the end of a yoga class when I’m usually long gone.

I pretend to have somewhere important to be by bursting out the door and speed-walking just past the glass windows until I’m certain they can’t see me anymore. Shamed by the yoga community grandmas, gay guys, a few college chicks on spring break and one super inflexible, muscle-bound dude who always puts his mat in the back of the room (wonder why?).

I just can’t sit there and dawdle. I can’t relax. It can’t be silent. I envy people who sit can sit there for 5 minutes and be all clear-headed. To me, silence isn’t golden. It’s like a poop brown. Silence is poop. And that’s why I don’t like being around it too much.

I once was a Vampire.

Being ever so wise and mature in my early 30s, I often think about how I handled situations as a kid. Usually I end that thought with, “Man that was dumb!” A particular memory comes to mind.

In my adolescent years, when everything was growing at different rates, I often heard comments like, “Don’t worry Danielle, you’ll grow into those monkey arms.” (followed by boisterous, ignorant laughter). Yes I was gangly; I was the epitome of awkward. Even my teeth came in weird. And that’s what my story is about. My teeth. I have always had a love-hate relationship with myself and my teeth were not loved.

You see, my canines thought they should enter through the top of my gums and not down with the rest of my teeth like civilized canines. Maybe they thought they were better than my other teeth and therefore they should sit higher up in my mouth? That is, if canines had brains, which they don’t; everyone knows that. You know which one are canines, right? If you were a vampire, your canines would be the long, razor sharp ones. My canines were not especially long, but they were razor sharp and they were out of place.

At the time, the more inquisitive kids would even ask me if I WAS a vampire. To which I’d reply, very seriously offended, “No. I am not.”

One especially mean kid would often continue with a followup question like, “Well, have you asked your parents? Maybe it’s in your genealogy.”

Kids are jerks. And freakin clever too. Who knows about genealogy at age 12?!

But, because of the constant commenting on my vampire teeth, I became very self conscious about my smile, and my laugh, and pretty much in talking to anyone anywhere that wasn’t in my immediate family. The evidence is in the especially awkward closed-mouth smile in all my old pictures.

It’s ok now to admit that I didn’t handle that, um, criticism very well. I was on the highway of insecurity and there were no exits nearby, not even those partial exits like on the toll road where they have a gas station and a McDonalds. It was a lonely, desolate road with me feeling like a fool and looking like a vampire.

Recently re-living that time in my head and silently cursing those cruel kids from my past, I thought: if I could go back to young Danielle, I’d tell her,

“Hey Kiddo, your teeth won’t be like that forever. And you’re NOT a vampire. I mean, you don’t even like the taste of blood (Ew!). And that one time, it really was just ketchup on your face. Don’t be afraid to smile, laugh, and for Heaven’s sake, speak! I will be thankful… or you will be thankful… or we’ll both be thankful when you thank yourself later. Oh! And your body will catch up to your arms.”

And then I’d say something really deep and philosophical that serves no purpose other than to impress my young self with all my wisdom and knowledge of big words.

Country concert or Fight night?

Last night, we were lucky enough to watch the Jason Aldean concert from great seats at Intrust Bank Arena. You can’t really tell from this picture because Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan walked all the way to the to the other side to give those peeps some attention.


As you can see, the place was packed!

It’d be great if the story ended there, but sadly, it doesn’t.

You see, my husband Donnie is a very tall man (6’9″) and constantly self conscious about his height, which I usually make light of and try to get him to do the same.

Having the great seats we did, he was worried about blocking someone’s view. I said, “Oh those stadium seats make it to where almost anybody can see over you.”

So we get to our awesome seats and we’re sitting, waiting for the show to begin. Luke Bryan comes out first and he friggin’ rocks! Everyone stands up. It looked almost like the wave. Row 1, then Row 2, then Row 3 and so on. Pretty cool effect considering it wasn’t choreographed.

When it was our turn, we stood. I turned around just to see if the people behind us could see. No one was there. Yes! What are the odds? Were those the only 2 empty seats in the house? We continued to rock out.

Randomly, I turned around again about 20 minutes in and saw two women sitting. The only two people sitting in the entire arena. Donnie said, “They probably think it doesn’t matter if they sit or stand because they can’t see over me.” I’m thinking, “Please. All these 5’7″ guys can see over him at this angle. No problem. These people are just party poopers.” (They had stink faces on).

Then, there was a lull in the performance. Everybody sits down almost simultaneously. From behind, I hear, “Finally, we can watch the show, sh*t!” I ignored that. Then, “F#c%!n& a-hole!” I’m thinking, did I just hear that?

I told Donnie. Immediately he stood up. (This is the guy I’ve seen sit through entire concerts to make sure people behind him could see, but they pissed him off).

I saw him take a glance as he stood, the little lady yelled out, “You’re an a-hole!” Donnie’s glance darted back and he said, “Just don’t talk to me. Why don’t you just enjoy the show and leave me alone.”

The lady continued to belt out expletives and derogatory comments as we stood with our backs to them, trying to enjoy the rest of Luke Bryan’s performance.

Donnie’s mom Annette was sitting next to me and leaned over, “What’s going on?” She could tell something was up but it was so loud in there, she couldn’t hear anything. I told her, “These ladies are bothering Donnie. They’re calling him names and being jerks. He’s just trying to ignore them.”

Suddenly, Annette pushes me forward and reaches over to the “ladies” and gives them a talkin’ to.

Annette is in a heated “Mind yer business” “He’s my son, he is my business” screaming debate them. Annette took off.

Donnie’s used to mama bear getting involved. She is very protective mom. Donnie was mad, “What is my mom doing? OMG.”

I turn around and they say, “What are you doing with him? He’s an a-hole.” Being a lover, not a fighter, I’m tongue-tied, “Because he’s awesome and you’re stupid.” Good one Danielle.

The fighting continues. Donnie’s like, “Can’t you just enjoy the show?” Then a bunch of fighting words were exchanged between Donnie and one of the ladies. She flashed her tattoo while the other one yelled out “5-O, 5-O.” Not sure what that meant.

One of them kept pounding her chest saying, “Let’s go! Let’s go” Donnie’s like, “Please.”

Annette returned and said she’d asked security to watch them. I wasn’t worried about these 5 foot nothing ladies but, the whole 5-0 thing and the fact they didn’t search any women in the search lines, had me thinking I was going to get stabbed in the back the rest of the show.

Annette asked if Donnie was mad at her and I said, “Well, he was trying to take the high road by ignoring them.” She said, “Well, when you told me that, I looked over and they were throwing popcorn at him and they opened their pop like they were gonna pour it in his seat or, worse, down his back.”

What’s with people? Donnie cannot help being tall, just like they couldn’t help being short. One step to the left or right and they could’ve seen just fine, but they had to be biotches about it.

Luckily they left before the encore (probably to round up the other 5-0 gang members roaming downtown with crowbars and pocketknives). Donnie turns to me, “You see why I’m self conscious now? I’ve been dealing with people like this my entire life.”

I felt bad. But, really, Donnie did not let those fun sponges ruin his night.

See? He even took a selfie of us after they left.

So, yeah, I had a good time at the concert, but if nothing had happened, this blog post would’ve been way shorter and way more boring.

Hollyweed

Is it just me or is there a more casual use of marijuana (and other drugs) in movies recently?

I know there have always been movies about drugs but it seems I can’t watch a decent comedy without there being at least one scene where the main character succumbs to an offer of some type of drug. (This is 40, Knocked Up, Hangover, Zoolander…)

Sometimes, it glamorizes the life of a pothead. It’s a false portrayal. “I’m ok, you’re ok and we’re all happily smoking pot every day with no job, no responsibility and yet we can somehow continue to afford this lifestyle.”

I feel like these movies send the message that blazing up or even selling a dime bag is no big deal (and legal for that matter). I’m not for or against the legalization of marijuana because I don’t think legalization will affect me and my family directly. (I could be wrong).

But, to me, it’s not a good message to send teens that are watching these movies that promote no-consequence drug use. I know where a lifetime of drug abuse leads, and it’s not pretty. People lose their jobs due to failed drug tests. No one in Hollywood… But people, real people pay consequences.

I know it’s up to me to make sure the right message gets to my kids but I can’t help but worry when I see some of my favorite actors smoking pot and taking ecstasy like it’s just another day.

Infrequent flyer miles

I woke up this morning 4 hours before my alarm. I’m flying to San Francisco today and I’m a bit of a nervous flyer.

I double check my carry-on to make sure I’m following all TSA regulations. I do not want to be singled out.

I pee. And then again about 6 more times before I leave the house. What is it about nervousness and the need to empty my bladder?

Donnie loads my suitcase in the car while I check my purse for the 10th time.

As we drive up to the airport Donnie points out all the construction. The incomplete state of the airport only heightened my nerves as I imagine balls being dropped by shady contractors and that somehow that may affect my flight.

I couldn’t figure out how to pre-check-in from the itinerary I was sent because there was no confirmation number. I had to wing it (pardon the pun). I hate winging it. Donnie told me to make sure to let him know when I had checked in that all was good. I think all the pacing and peeing got him a little nervous too.

I walk up to United self check in. I’m not sure I’m qualified for this but I proceed. And by proceed I mean, read and re-read the instructions while I fumble through my purse to find my ID. Sensing my pathetic incompetence, a latino man offers to help. “Thank you for choosing United. Ju have a beautiful smile, can I help you?”

I accept, trying not to look too stupid. He shows me how to use the incredibly simple device and says “Ju got it from here, right?”

I nod, looking at the two questions on the screen and having no idea whether I’m over 13 or if I am traveling with an infant. I panic and hit the answers, remembering that I am an adult and looking around to make sure I didn’t have Riley. He checks on me again and asks if I know where I need to go. “Yes” I say in my big girl voice. Wow, I’m a blubbering idiot.

I run outside to tell Donnie I’m good, kiss my babies, and feeling naked without my 40-pound suitcase, I head up toward my gate.

But wait.. There will be no relaxing at the gate yet. It’s TSA time. I know it sounds like a fun song like “It’s Hammer time!” But I assure you, this was not fun.

I show my ID and ticket and he tells me “Don’t worry about removing your shoes and jacket. This is a special line and we have Ninja technology” (It wasn’t actually called that but I can’t remember what it was called).

So I confidently step toward the Ninja scanner 5000. The TSA agent tells me to put my shoes and jacket in the bucket. “Oh and your scarf too. And probably your belt and watch.” I want to question the Ninja technology but I’m on a mission to not be singled out. I comply.

I walk through the metal detector unscathed! I made it! I look around. No one cares.

I go to grab my belongings from my buckets and the ray-of-sunshine TSA lady slides my bucket out of my reach and says unapologetically, “Sorry. We need to keep the line moving.” As if I were wandering aimlessly through the airport bottlenecking her line.

Irritated at my choice of tennis shoes over slip ons, I contemplated walking all the way to my gate in my socks. Instead I sit down on the paper thin carpet and put on my shoes. As I drape my scarf and pull on my jacket I’m wondering why I even got dressed before I came to the airport.

I trudge on. Checking my purse three times on the way to my gate.

I see a friendly face. Yes! The meeting planner booked me with another coworker because she knew I was a nervous flyer.

She asks me what seat I’m in, I check my ticket. It says, “See agent.” Shit! She says, “You better check in, it’s an overbooked flight, you may not get on.” I go into panic mode and hit the bathroom again before asking about my seat. It was no big deal, I just went up there and got an actual ticket, not a stupid “means to a ticket” with no seat number and no hope to get on the plane. Thank you friendly face for the unnecessary uncertainty.

Finally, I’m on the plane. I stow my purse and electronics. I look for my seat belt thinking I had to get buckled quickly. I mean, I only have 20 minutes. I don’t have a seat belt. What the hell?! There is no seat belt on my seat?! Noticing my short breaths, the guy next to me unbuckled his seat belt and handed me mine, which he was sitting on. the. whole. time.

I’m buckled. My things are stowed. I’m holding a water. “Is this legal?” Oh well, I’m thirsty… and now I have to pee again.

The pilot talks over the speaker. He sounds like a guy I dated in high school. I have no confidence in this pilot. Since when do we let people my age fly airplanes?? He’s saying something about possible turbulence (gulp) and names some ungodly number of feet that we will soaring through the air. Why do they do that? As if I’d be like, “um… I wondering how many thousands of feet we’ll be up in the air this time.” It’s useless. It’s only purpose is to reassure me that, if we crash, I’m a goner.

We take off. Suddenly, I can’t hold my head up. How is everyone holding their heads up?! I lean back trying not look nervous, which may be making me look a little more constipated than the “relaxed” look I was going for. “It’s ok. It’s just a normal day everybody.”

I’m lightheaded. Am I breathing? There. I breathed. It’s was one of those breaths that stay in your chest. I try to see the ground from my crappy, last minute aisle seat. The guy next to me is reading, all nonchalant. He probably thinks I’m into him because I keep looking his way, around him and out the window. Breathe. There’s the ground. This is helping. There’s no way that’s 35,000 feet.

The flight chick bumps my elbow for the 18th time without apologizing. I know she feels it. I have sharp elbows meant for a basketball player. However, my sharp elbow is inside the armrest. How does this keep happening? It’s ok, keep walking. No problem. I’ll get her next time, we’ll see if she keeps walking.

The 30-year-old I once saw do a keg stand announces over the speaker that I can now use my electronics and mentions the thousands of miles again. Is this a point of pride?

I pull out my phone to listen to a funny book I bought to ease my flying tension. A message on my phone reads, “You must have internet connection to use this app.” Really Audible? Really?!”

As the flight waitress spills and then proceeds to wipe water from her cart into my hair (now I have to pee again) I pull out my iPad thinking, “I guess I’ll just write a blog post.”

The accident

Today, I drove down Kellogg like I do every day. The sun was tauntingly shining just below my sun visor, directly into my eyes, like it does every day this time of year. The traffic wasn’t too bad (no accidents for the rubberneckers).

I scoot to the far right lane because to prepare to exit in about a mile. Almost to a fault, I typically give myself an ample amount of time to get to the exit lane.

Somewhere between my over-prepared lane change and my actual exit, a red Subaru Impreza hatchback – positioned just to the front of my driver’s side bumper – teeters over the white dotted line.

Whoa.

I swerve slightly. “Yep, on his phone.”

I start to slow down, but not soon enough, he swerves into my front bumper with just enough force to send me into the rail on the bridge.

I’m still going about 50 miles per hour along the rail. The screeching of metal on concrete is nightmare-ish.

I lose control of my car. I brace myself as my car topples over the rail and barrel-rolls in the air a couple times before smashing on the asphalt below.

My air bags inflate. The side of my face is severely burnt by the air bags, but nothing a little plastic surgery can’t handle.

Then I exit Downtown and continue heading to work thinking, “That totally could’ve happened.”