Sunday, October 19, 2014

Coming Soon!

Dear Bye-Bye Nesquik readers,

We pause our regular programming just long enough for me to seize the spotlight for a minute. And we have some business to conduct.

Item 1: I wrote a book. Never mind how long it took me, but here we are today, just about ready to foist this thing on the public.  Here's how it will look on Amazon when it comes out on November 7th:

"Welcome to the world of the Runyons and the Feldsteds, two Mormon families in 1970s Maryland. Far from their Western American roots, they cling to each other like exiles clutching a precious box of topsoil from the old country.

"In The Boxford Stories you will meet Ada Runyon who always turns to Ruthalin Feldsted when she needs an ear—sharing her deepest confidences, her everyday musings, and her bits of horrified gossip. Yet Ada dies inside whenever Ruthalin’s country-cousin manners poke out in public.

"Latham Runyon, a history professor, and Erval Feldsted, a hospital engineer, bond every Sunday night over gooey desserts and vigorous religious discussion, a game their children call Stump the Rabbi. Underneath their balding heads and graying temples, each man desperately seeks a sign that God would choose him as a buddy.

"The Feldsted and Runyon children, running breathlessly through each other’s houses and backyards, have long considered each other substitute cousins. However, Ginni Runyon plots to change herself from the girl next door to the girl Marc Feldsted can’t live without.

"And when Boxford’s Mormons mix with the rest of the town, everybody could use a field guide to the other species.

"Laugh, cry, and shake your head with the Runyons and Feldsteds as they make their way through the decade that brought us leisure suits and urban decay."

Item 2:  I'm offering you a little freebie.  Starting October 27th, Bye-Bye Nesquik will post daily installments of "'Atta Boy," one of the stories in this book. Get your reading fix, Monday through Friday that week.

Item 3: Sometime in November, Bye-Bye Nesquik moves to the official author website,  I will let you know when we make the jump, but if you still land here after the move, we will find a way to get you there.

I may make other changes, new name maybe, but I still plan to talk about books and recipes.

Meanwhile, dine on this yummy APRICOT SALSA CHICKEN:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (4 ounces each)
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 jar (16 ounces) salsa
1 jar (12 ounces) apricot preserves
1/2 cup apricot nectar
Hot cooked rice

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the first four ingredients; add chicken in batches. Seal bag and turn to coat.

In a large skillet, cook chicken over medium heat in oil until browned on each side; drain. Stir in the salsa, preserves and nectar; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until sauce thickens and a meat thermometer reads 170°. Serve with rice. Yield: 6 servings, 293 calories each, not counting the rice.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Catch and Release

A few artfully-arranged ponds dot our neighborhood. The powers that be stocked them with fish, then posted the rules.

According to the signs next to the ponds, only neighborhood residents are supposed to fish there. Now, do I know my neighbors? Could I recognize twenty faces? Ten? Barely. But when I see some guy in a t-shirt casting his line, and a truck parked nearby, I'm pretty sure he's not my neighbor. If he was, he could have walked to the pond, right?

We get a lot of these "guests." One woman grew so annoyed at the "guests" near her house that she pulled out her camera and snapped pictures of the offenders and their license plates. Myself, I figure I've got no right to police them, not when I'm a frequent trespasser in a great many other neighborhoods, parking at their pools and playgrounds and walking a few miles on their sidewalks.

Another rule at the ponds is "catch and release." I have no idea if the little fishies get tossed back into the water or not. They could be headed straight for somebody's fry pan (inedible as they are) and I would never hear their cries of panic. I'm just as oblivious to the relieved ones swimming in the depths after a brush with somebody's hook and lure.

Not all the caught-and-released are so happy with their fate, at least not in The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum. Here's a story in which the heroine, a young attorney in Manhattan, senses that her man is about to buy the ring and ask the question. So she throws him back in the pond.

Then she wonders if she did the right thing. Not that her fish is terribly willing to be caught again.

I don't know how it all ends yet, but Buxbaum's story explores why a girl does such a thing. After all, her friends thought he was the perfect catch.  He was a doctor, and handsome, and looked endearing when he took Sunday afternoon naps on her couch, his hands clasped across his chest.

Do our heroine's problems have anything to do with her distracted daddy, who is busy playing senator in the state of Connecticut? With an absent mommy, who died of cancer half a life ago?

Buxbaum's writing can really sparkle. But in between the great stuff, she tosses in a lot of heroine-wakes-up-late-scrambles-to-throw-herself-together. Also, there are brief but frequent cow patties, totally unnecessary, but so much a part of Buxbaum's world that she would be genuinely puzzled to hear that some of us really don't find them very funny.

So, you are forewarned.

Our heroine, skittish as she is, doesn't seem like the type to bake a batch of MAN-CATCHER BROWNIES. We baked them here at Bye-Bye Nesquik, and we don't have any men that need catching, or releasing either. We just like stuff that is gooey and chocolatey.

30 Kraft caramels, unwrapped
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 15.25-oz. package German chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350' and line the bottom of a 9x13-in baking pan with parchment paper. Melt caramels with 1/3 cup of the evaporated milk in a small saucepan, stirring mixture occasionally; set sauce aside.

Stir together cake mix, melted butter and remaining 1/3 cup evaporated milk to form a dough. Press 1 1/3 cups of the dough into the pan in an even layer. Bake until puffed but not cooked through, about 7 min. Remove from oven and pour caramel sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle chocolate chips over caramel in an even layer.

Top with remaining dough, crumbled into bits and scattered. Return to oven. Bake until brownies are puffy and set, 10 to 11 mins. more. Cool completely and cut into squares.  Makes 16 brownies, 285 calories each.

This recipe appeared in the now-defunct Ladies Home Journal.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Red Hat Doesn't Fit

I can't argue with success.

Haywood Smith has published a decent-size list of books, several of which belong to her Red Hat series.  So, anticipating a tale full of lively menopausal characters like the red-hatted ladies you may have spotted at your local airport, I opened Smith's Ladies of the Lake and commenced her tale of four sisters, Dahlia, Rose, Iris and Violet.

The action jumped from menopause to childhood and back again. I wasn't sure if the point of it all was Mama's quirks, or Grandma's, although if Smith based this on some real grandma, such a lady would have been so over-the-top, you couldn't not write about her.  I mean, if Grandma steals a gun from the neighbor, adheres to Buddhism, and bore Mama illegitimately, that's just too rich to leave alone.

It also might be too rich for even fictional credibility. Along with Grandma's exploits, wacky new facts just kept coming at me.  Before long, the story was like an umbrella with ornaments hanging from every rib.

So let's just acknowledge that lots of readers love Smith's books. I, however, didn't last long.

If you happen to be a Smith fan, don't expect anything new out of her for awhile. She's currently pitching in on the care of a grandchild who suffers seizures and needs medical marijuana. According to Smith, marijuana's wonders can be delivered via nonintoxicating extract. I wish  her and her granddaughter well.

I myself got rather intoxicated with the soup my daughter-in-law made today. I've never posted an untested recipe on Bye-Bye Nesquik, as in something I haven't personally cooked and enjoyed. But I figure that eating up a whole bowl and wishing I could lick the Crock-Pot clean qualifies as sufficient testing.  So even if I haven't made SLOW COOKER CREAM CHEESE CHICKEN CHILI with my own hands, you can bet I will, and real soon:

1 can black beans
1 can corn, undrained
1 can Rotel, undrained (or any brand of tomatoes)
1 package ranch dressing mix
1 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 8 oz package cream cheese
2 chicken breasts

Drain and rinse black beans. Place chicken at bottom of pot, then pour out whole can of corn (undrained), rotel, and black beans. Top with seasonings and ranch mix. Stir together. Place cream cheese on top. Cover with lid and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Stir cream cheese into chili. Use 2 forks to shred chicken. Stir together and serve.  About 7 servings, 275 calories each.

Daughter-in-law got the recipe from here.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Good-Bye Plan A

I listened to a lot of southern accent this week.  So I had no trouble hearing John Grisham's Ford County characters in my head.

Ford County is a short story collection, heavy on lawyers because, as I think we all know, Grisham was one before he made it big in book world.

His tales, set in Clanton, Mississippi, introduce us to a disgruntled plaintiff, to an unambitious lawyer who wants to chuck it all, and more.  In a story that still leaves me smiling, the biggest hustler in the county matches wits with the blandest man in town. And then there's the cigarette-puffing family that piles into a van to visit little brother in jail.  Little brother has been busy behind bars, working on his literary career, his music career and his exoneration.

Just think how much poorer the world would be if John Grisham's Plan A (Be a baseball player!) had worked out.

Speaking of foiled Plan A's, the woman who submitted the following recipe to Taste of Home said she aimed to make a chicken caesar salad but looked in the freezer and found herself short on chicken. So she got creative and threw together:


8 to 10 frozen breaded chicken breast nuggets
6 cups torn romaine
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
3/4 cup creamy Caesar salad dressing
3/4 cup Caesar salad croutons
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Bake chicken nuggets according to package directions; cut into fourths. In a large bowl, combine the romaine, mushrooms and chicken. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat. Sprinkle with croutons and Parmesan cheese. Yield: 4-6 servings at 225 calories each.

I improvised on it myself, since I was missing a few supplies today.  I baked 4 Tyson's chicken patties, divided a Caesar salad kit between my husband and myself and served the cut up patties on top.  That takes the calorie count up to 605.

Added King's Hawaiian rolls. And we were happy.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

What Keeps Us Up at Night

Like turning down the wrong hallway in a bad dream, I opened a book that tossed me right back into my sophomore year.

Joan Bauer's Peeled follows an eager reporter at the high school newspaper who investigates the threatening signs that appear at the town's haunted house. Our girl reporter wants to get the story before the town newspaper breaks it, yet no one takes her seriously.  (Honey, it's because you write for the high school paper.)

The town's claim to fame is growing apples.

I'm not sure how this story ended up on my list, because I get my book hints from sneering hipsters. Every title takes years to work itself up to the top of my list and, by then, I simply have no idea where I ran on to it.

I can't speak for the rest of Peeled, but from what I read, the author missed no chances to toss in an apple pun, or an apple place name.  In any case, I need to get this thing back to the library post-haste, where it can be found by some young, eager reader who will appreciate it more than I did.

In its place, I picked up Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder.

The fist you're looking at is painted like the flag of Burundi, one of the least fortunate countries in the world.  It's right next door to Rwanda, if that tells you anything.

In Strength, a young man named Deogratias arrives in New York City from war-torn Burundi and begins to make a living delivering groceries. If I had met him, I would have mistaken him for a lowly cowherder, completely missing the fact that he once attended medical school. Not only that, but an emaciated cowherder whose pants can barely hang on to his sunken hips.

People who knew Burundi wondered how he managed to make it out of that hellish country. All I will say is that story includes a lot of fleeing the by the dark of night and a lot of stepping over dead bodies. As you might guess, Deogratias hates to go to sleep. The nightmares that wake him up--oh my!

How does one make sense of so much evil in the world? people ask. "But look at all the good," Deogratias tells them.  Look at all the small miracles that helped him along the way--the remarkable woman at the Burundi/Rwanda border whose cool stealth saved him from getting herded into yet another massacre, or the former nun in New York who placed call after call until she secured him a place to live and a chance to resume his education.

Kidder reigns as the master of nonfiction. If I were you, I would not miss some of his other highly engaging books, such as Hometown and House.  Everybody has a story and Kidder is the man who hangs out and takes notes until he can discern the central drama of his subjects' lives.

Now, just in case your own life takes a bad turn, you might want to pick up 100-Day Pantry by Jan Jackson and try a few of her ideas.

Jackson offers up 100 recipes that can be cooked with shelf-stable foods.  You can cook the everyday versions--using fresh onions, celery and peppers.  If you like one dish, stock up on the canned and dehydrated ingredients, then thumb your nose at ice storms, unemployment and whatever else bolts you awake at night.  Go at it full tilt, stocking up for each recipe and you have--ta-da!--a 100-day pantry full of potential comfort food. 

Every few weeks, I've slipped some of Jackson's dishes right under the noses of my handy subjects who may or may not suspect what I'm up to.   So far, the score is 3 yeps and 1 nope.  This one was surprisingly good:

(everyday version)

2 (12-oz.) cans roast beef with gravy
1 (15 oz.) can green beans
1 (15 oz.) can corn
1 (15 oz.) can peas
2 (15 oz.) cans carrots
2 (15 oz.) cans diced potatoes
1 (10 oz.) can tomato soup
1 (10 oz.) can cream of celery soup
1 (10 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 TB Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp.salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Do not drain cans. Mix all ingredients together in pot and heat through.  (My goodness, what laborious cooking this is!)  Makes 12 servings @ 190 calories each.

Consult Jackson's book on ingredient substitutions for the emergency version.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Down the Bloodline

We finish Bryan Burrough's Big Rich with tales of the great oilmen's posterity. As you might guess, the children of the rich can range anywhere from responsible and handsome fellows who grow the business and get invited to join the best clubs in Dallas, to cocaine-snorting ne'er-do-wells who own great football teams and attend cheerleader tryouts for all the wrong reasons.

My own brush with oil heirs was my first job out of college. Some library I had never heard of offered me a job.  They were attached to Southern Methodist University, but they weren't the main library where students crammed for finals, or where you hunted down a novel, took it home and stayed up all night with it.

No, this was a Special Collections library.  In Special Collections, the books never leave the building.  Professors, writers, researchers come to these temples of knowledge and scribble notes from the books therein, filling up on material for their own books.   Burrough himself probably sat in a few of these research libraries.

"Special" means the library concentrates on a narrow band of knowledge, say Great Lakes history, or history of labor unions.  My library at SMU had its beginnings as the personal collection of Mr.D., an oilman I had never heard of in my life, and his pet subject was Western Americana.

As a side note, all his books about the settling of the West, the water issues of the West, ad infinitum, would not be complete without including some of the big players in the region which means the Mormons. We dusted and tended a good deal of shelf space given over Joseph Smith and everything that came after him.  And deep in the temperature-controlled vault, where they kept the really valuable stuff, we stored original editions of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, which we were never to handle without first donning cotton gloves.

Anyway, the original collection was in Mr. D's home.  He willed it to the university upon his death. Perhaps it was was Mr. D's money that built the building, too. Now, my job was just a job, but walking into that building, entering a vast hall of fossilized limestone and walking up the forty or so steps to the hushed confines of library-ness, left me awestruck every day.

Mr. D was such an obscure oilman that I never expected to run across him in Burrough's book.  But there he was on page 152, playing a walk-on role. In the postwar years, Texas was the king of oil the world over. Then rumors popped up about the Mideast and what just might lie under all that desert sand.  A top Roosevelt aide chose Mr. D to cross the world and camp out with the Bedouins. His top-secret mission: investigate the rumors; see if American companies could get a piece of the action.

Evidently, he survived the mission.

But back to his library. Mr. D's son, Mr. D the Second, also added his hobby collection: railroad history.  In addition to books, we kept file drawers of his train pictures.  To my eye, each one was indistinguishable from the next. But train buffs the world over knew that if they wanted really good stuff, we were the library to track down.

Then there was Mr. D the Third.  He was still a young man when I worked there, a student at library school. His contribution was to come in every so often and sort train pictures.  One day, he hinted that when he finished library school, he would no longer be willing to work gratis. I'll never know if Mr. D the Third achieved this professional status. All I know is that he was in his fifth year of study, and library school is only two years long.

So, as far as the D bloodline was concerned, they landed somewhere between solid billionaire status and losing it all to cocaine and cheerleaders.

And we will now celebrate the end of oilman stories with a nice bit of:


1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup chili powder
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1-1/2 pounds pork chop suey meat or pork tenderloin, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
3 medium green peppers, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
12 sandwich buns, split
Lettuce and tomatoes, optional

In a 5-qt. slow cooker, combine the first six ingredients. Stir in beef, pork, green peppers and onions. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until meat is tender.

Shred meat with two forks. Serve on buns with lettuce and tomatoes if desired. Yield: 12 servings. One sandwich equals 444 calories.

Image courtesy of Suat Eman at

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Finding the Next Best Thing

I wish I had kept count of the miles I have walked this summer.  We have got to be talking over five hundred.  

And oh, the things I see!  The neighborhoods I want to move into! I used to suffer from house envy, but now I've calmed down to mere neighborhood envy. 

Then again, if I picked up and moved, I would have to give up something I love, something I have never had before and will never find again--the view out my kitchen window:

It is all curved lines, and people-watching.  I can see the main boulevard through the neighborhood.  I can see the walking paths, and everybody strolling, biking or hauling their children in little red wagons.  

Up until Thursday, this wonderful view was marred by a window like this:

That middle bar sat right at eye level.  I either had to stretch or slouch to look out on all the backyard beauty.

But, all fixed now.  New window.  Thank you, Mr. Nesquik.

Of course, if I had a bathtub full of money like the folks Bryan Burrough writes about in Big Rich, I could keep the view from my kitchen window and add, oh, seven more kitchen windows, hopping from one to the other in my fleet of private planes.

In other words, I have advanced from the chapters where the tycoons discover the oil, to the part where they figure how to spend all the moola.

When we lived in Texas, my husband once sat on a plane and listened to a woman from Lubbock, "just flyin' to Dallas to get mah hair done."

With that kind of money, you don't have to choose whether to buy yourself a ranch in Montana or in Mexico.  Just buy both.   

Of course, when you move up into this league, you acquire a whole new set of problems.  One of Burrough's chapters begins with this gem somebody overheard one day in Houston: "It's been a hard day all around.  First, my wife's pet kangaroo has to go and get poisoned, and then somebody stole my midget butler's stepladder."

Back in this heyday, oilmen liked to own a few airplanes but didn't much care about buying yachts.  What cruises they took, they complained about all the wine, preferring, instead, more bourbon, more "barbecue, greens and black-eyed peas." 

Little wonder old money looked on and called these people "Texicanus vulgaris."  But who cared what old money thought?  Texans just went on throwing parties where champagne flowed out of miniature oil derricks.

In my Dallas days, I was the ward organist, just like now, and I had no car.  I had to walk to the church every Saturday, which meant meandering through Highland Park and University Park, two millionaire enclave cities surrounded by Dallas itself.  Oh, the pink marble mansions!  The broad circular driveways!  The magnolia trees and azalea bushes, everything professionally tended!  The gleaming Mercedes, Beemers and Porsches!

I could've taken dozens of different routes through this wonderland, and I aimed to try them all, no matter now hot those Texas afternoons got.  I mean, I was already hooked on walking before I arrived, but the Park Cities were like smoking walker crack. 

My walks these days are probably about finding the next best thing to Highland Park.  Pockets of loveliness abound out there.  I see beautifully terraced backyards, perfect for entertaining all one's friends.  And I covet.  I see streets where everybody can walk to the library, the grocery store and the ice cream parlor.  And I covet.  I see houses convened around darling little parks with pretty benches and paths.  And I covet.

But if I traded what I have for what I don't, there goes my perfect kitchen window, with its inimitable view.

So that's where I'll be, inside my kitchen, looking out.

Oh, and cooking things.  This week, we get:


4 cups all-purpose flour
 4-1/2 teaspoons quick-rise yeast 
2 teaspoons brown sugar 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1-1/2 cups water 
3 tablespoons olive oil 
3-1/2 cups cubed cooked turkey 
1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese 
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard 
1 egg, beaten

In a large bowl, combine 3 cups flour, yeast, brown sugar and salt. In a small saucepan, heat water and oil to 120°-130°. Add to dry ingredients; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. 

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes. Cover and let rest in a warm place for 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the turkey, cheese and mustard. Divide dough into eight pieces. 

On a floured surface, roll each piece into a 7-in. circle. Place filling on half of each circle. Fold dough over filling; pinch seams to seal. 

Place on greased baking sheets. Brush with egg. Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Yield: 8 servings, 435 calories each. 

One reviewer said the filling was a little bland, and I agree.  She suggested using a sharper cheese.  I thought about adding more salt to the dough.