What’s for Dinner

The past couple weeks, for many reasons, we’ve had a lot of shameful dinners. Either we’ve run aground on our budget or I’m traveling for work or we just didn’t have the will to get it going because no one eats it anyway. We’ve had a lot of Tombstone pizza (or ‘Timstone’ as Greta calls it). Water’s Edge Pizza. Stouffer’s pizza. Notice a theme?

Barrak’s go-to dinner during sorry weeks like these is a microwaved cheese tortilla filled with jarred, jalapeno slices and whatever lunchmeat we have. I like to cut up an apple and sidle up to the island with a butter knife and a jar of Skippy Natural.

But we did have one good homemade dinner: ‘Casa Lupita’ chicken.

This dish is what I call a ‘slop.’ A slop is served with a ladle, usually on rice, most times in a bowl. It usually involves a creamy sauce and vegetables cooked well past done. There’s no knife and fork action. No tedious sawing. Just you and your spoon. I love a good slop.

Casa Lupita chicken gets its name from a Mexican restaurant we used to go to when I was in junior high. The place was a decent drive so my mom set out to re-create the dish at home. She made it many times and now it reminds me of home, not some Mexican joint. She dictated the recipe to me over the phone when I lived in L.A. I took it down on one of those little recipe index cards.

It’s basically a tomatoey, creamy stew of white chicken, a package of fresh, sliced mushrooms and onion slices made fragrant and spicy with palmfuls of cumin, oregano and cayenne, one critical bay leaf, a 1/3 cup of sherry and the juice of one lemon. The sauce is made with chicken broth and a whole can of tomato paste (probably a cup or less). At the end, you stir in a big dollop (OK, like half the carton) of sour cream to turn the stew from juicy red to orangey.

The sherry and lemon juice are key to give it depth and tang.

Lately I’ve been making this dish with a package of chicken tenders instead of three chicken breasts. True to their name, they’re more tender! It all gets chopped up anyway so no one is the wiser.

Also, for the first time, I made the dish one night right up to the sour cream part, then dumped it all in the slow cooker, and let it stew all the next day. Then I added the sour cream when I got home. The chicken was super-tender.

You serve this delectable slop on rice. I like to throw chopped cilantro on top if I have it. Also, dipping a buttered Hawaiian sweet roll in the spicy Mexican sauce never hurt anyone.




Go Bucks!

Here’s Mag and me with Ohio State defensive football player Josh Perry. He’s starting in the game today against Florida A&M. He lives in our neighborhood and got roped into taking pictures with strangers during a graduation party over the summer.

Delaware County Fair

Yeah, I’ll admit it: we enjoy a good fair.

I was not a 4H kid. In fact, when we moved to Olentangy from big-city Reynoldsburg my freshman year, it was the first I’d ever heard of ‘4H.’

The smell of the pig barn makes me gag. I can’t stop my face from scrooching up from the stench. I’m sure the kids sitting around the barns in folding chairs waiting to show their animals think to themselves, Who’s this stuck-up lady with the sour-puss face?

Other than that, I dig the fair. I like the creepy carnival lore, the fried food, the smells, the rides that you think might fall to the ground any minute, and the memories it brings of walking around the Tomato Festival at night as a teen back in the ‘burg, and winning myself a ZZ Top mirror.

What’s a ZZ Top mirror you ask? Why, it’s a small mirror about the size of a license plate with a ZZ Top decal on it.

A couple years ago, we were on a fair tear. We hit the Ohio State Fair, the Champaign County Fair, and the Delaware County Fair in one season. This year, it hasn’t worked out for one reason or another. But we made it to the Delaware County Fair this past weekend.

Here’s the photo recap:

All the animal owners are great about inviting you to pet their animals.

All the animal owners are great about inviting you to pet their animals.

Mama, I'm comin' home...

Mama, I’m comin’ home…


The kids were obsessed with taking pictures of the animals. I just don't know where they get this obsessive behavior!

The kids were obsessed with taking pictures of the animals. I just don’t know where they get this obsessive behavior!

Two cute baby goats!

Three adorable baby goats!

You definitely don't get rides like these at Disney.

You definitely don’t get rides like these at Disney.

I'll start lunch off with a corn dog...

I’ll start lunch off with a corn dog…

Then I'll round out my meal with some rainbow sherbet Dippin' Dots.

Then I’ll round out my meal with some rainbow sherbet Dippin’ Dots.

Greta rode the rollercoaster twice.

Greta rode the rollercoaster twice.


Mag joined her on the second run.

Mag joined her on the second run.


Greta and her cousin Emerson conspired by the fire pit at Grandma’s on Saturday night. Their plot? To pick all the candy corns out of the peanut dish Grandma had set out.

CORRECTION: Greta let me know tonight when I was tucking her in that she and Em were not picking the candy corns out of the peanuts. They were, in fact, eating the peanuts out of the candy corns. We’re the Mini-Van regrets the error.

"Em" and 'Gretty"

“Em” and ‘Gretty”

Lunch with Greta

Last night as I was tucking Greta and her 147 stuffed animals into bed, she said, “Mama, can I tell you something?”

This sounded serious.

She was gripping her pink blanket, and I could see her little face in the light given off by her nightlight, which I sneak in and unplug every night after she falls sleep.

All the other mommies come to lunch at school,” she said.

Stab through the heart.

They do???” I said. “I didn’t know that!!!” I am a horrible mother. How could I have missed this?

Without stopping to think what meetings I might have around the lunch hour on Thursday, I immediately promised her I’d be there. I marched downstairs and promptly packed a PB&J to match the one in Greta’s Monster High lunch bag.

She asked me again this morning. You’re coming today, right?

In the past, I’ve said, ‘I’ll TRY to come, honey.’ Most times I make it. Sometimes an urgent issue comes up at work that can’t be helped. But this morning I would be damned not to make it. I committed. ‘Yes, I’ll be there,’ I said.

And of course, it was POURING rain today and I had about five urgent things due before noon. But I was determined, and I went.

As I was walking toward her classroom, I could see her lined up for lunch – she was second in line and they were spilling into the hallway. As soon as she saw me, I could see a big smile and her mouthing, ‘mama. mama.’

In kindergarten, lunch is served at 10:45 a.m. – breakfast time. I noticed one kid’s mom packed a toasted waffle, syrup and strawberries for her daughter. Good thinking.

All the kids were fascinated. ‘Are you her mom?’ one asked. I sure am! ‘Will you open my Pringles?’ another asked. Sure will!

Then we played Simon Says, lined up, and parted ways. Greta was so happy, I could see it. So glad I went.

Hamming it up in our selfie.

Hamming it up in our selfie.

I hope to have a ladies lunch again soon.