Sunday, January 25, 2009

Buffalo Chicken Dip (or, "Ode to Texas Pete")

More than a year ago, Randy was assigned to shoot portraits of Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall and his family for the WSU sports department. While at the Marshalls' home, he was served what he later told me was the best dip he has ever eaten in his life.

"Did you get the recipe?" I asked.

"No," Randy said, incredulous. Like he would *ask* Gregg Marshall for a recipe! Puh-leeze.

"How good was that dip?" I asked.

"OK," he reconsidered. "I'll get the recipe."

He got it, on an index card in Lynn Marshall's handwriting: "Buffalo Chicken Dip." And I knew it was, in fact, an awesome recipe when I saw "Texas Pete" listed as one of the ingredients. I didn't realize until later -- when I shared the recipe with a few friends -- that not everyone around here knows what Texas Pete is.

Where I come from, Texas Pete is like Kleenex or Q-Tips. You wouldn't say you needed a "facial tissue" or a "cotton swab," and similarly, in North Carolina, where Texas Pete was created, you don't say "hot sauce." You just say Texas Pete.

So here's the recipe, perfect for Super Bowl Sunday or March Madness or book clubs (I'm taking it to mine this week) or any kind of gathering where you might want the most awesome dip ever:


1 package cream cheese
2 cans (10 oz. each) white meat chicken
1/2 cup Texas Pete
3/4 cup Ranch dressing
1 cup monterrey jack cheese, shredded

Spread cream cheese in Pyrex pan (8x11 or so). Combine Ranch, Texas Pete and chicken and spread over cream cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with monterrey jack. Let sit for 10-15 minutes to cool down. Serve with Tostitos or Fritos scoops.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cheese Whiz

Friday was Pinewood Derby night for Pack 506. Jack's vehicle this year was a super cool wedge of cheese with a mouse driver crafted from pompoms, beads, wire and google eyes. He named it Cheese Whiz.

Much of the appeal of Pinewood Derby involves sitting on the floor -- way too close to the track for the track operator's comfort -- and chatting with fellow Scouts about whether to beg Mom for nachos, hot dogs or caffeinated pop from the NASCAR Cafe. Jack ended up getting a hot dog *and* nachos *and* Sprite, but I ate most of the nachos.

Just before Race #1, Jack checked out his wheel alignment and made some minor adjustments. Then he said a prayer.

Cars on the starting blocks...

In this shot, one of the assistant den leaders is giving the boys their instructions before letting the cars go. Basically, they were supposed to walk (not run!) down to the finish line and wait for the end of the heat (about five seconds), then carefully pick up their car and return it (walk, don't run!) to the starting table. That happened about ... zero times.

The photo is blurry (it was dark as a dungeon in that church basement), but you can clearly see the bright yellow Cheese Whiz moving out into the lead.

Waiting, not so patiently, at the finish line.

"Number One!" Jack screamed after the first heat. "First place!" He really came in third place in the heat. But his car was in Lane 1, and when the results flashed up on the screen, he thought he was in first place. I didn't bother to correct him.

Parting shot. Jack finished solidly in the top half of the pack -- No. 22 out of 54 cars. He also received a "Cheesiest Car" certificate, which he quickly and proudly displayed on his bedroom wall. He's already making plans for next year's car, which he thinks will be either a dog or a pencil.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Happy house things

Little things about this new house make me exceedingly happy. This thing, for instance, which is near the windows in Jack's room and holds the cords for his blinds.

Jack loved the room from the moment he saw it -- we did, too -- because he said it "looked like a pirate ship." Wood floors, wood molding and a large built-in desk under a wall of windows, which has become Lego Central. This blind-cord-holder thing (EDITED to add my new vocabulary word for the day -- this is called a "cleat"!!) just adds to the appeal. You wrap the cord around it like you're docking a boat. Takes a little extra time, but charming and totally worth it.

Jack's new skull-and-crossbones room alarm (a gift from our St. Louis friends, the Andersons) adds to the pirate flavor. When you walk in front of it, it screams out pirate warnings and basically scares you to death. Effective.

Here's something that made me smile in Hannah's room: her calendar, with Inauguration Day happily noted. :)

This little work of art is hanging in the laundry room (much to Randy's chagrin). I know it's sickeningly sweet and cheesy, in that Precious Moments kind of way, but here's the deal: It was painted by Mrs. Witwer, the lady who lived in the apartment above us when my family was stationed in Germany. I was in kindergarten when she gave it to me, and it was hanging in my bedroom for most of my life. Mom and Dad brought it the last time they visited, and I quickly and happily hung it near the laundry room door shortly after we moved to the new house. Whenever I look at it, which is every time I let the dog out, I think about Mrs. Witwer and her yappy little miniature schnauzer, Boots. (Don't you love that plaid wallpaper, too? I know I do.)

I've never owned wind chimes. It's not that I have anything against them, it's just that they seem like such a luxury item. ("I have some extra money, so I think I'll buy this contraption that turns the wind into music, just for the hell of it.")

Anyway, because we know the previous owners of our new house, they felt comfortable leaving a few little things behind, and we are grateful they did. This little chime in the back yard is one example. Such a simple joy. I had to get used to it at first (whenever I sat in a certain spot in the living room and heard the chimes, I'd think a cell phone was going off), but I love it now.

I think I'll post some more happy house things this weekend. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

You learn something (or three) every day

Three things I discovered so far today:

1) The Target generic version of Aveeno lotion is great.

2) L'Oreal True Match makeup is not so great -- and definitely not an equivalent of my usual Clinique foundation.

3) A 50-sheet variety pack of craft foam and some Tacky Glue can keep my daughter happy for hours.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Jack: "Did you know that Native Americans discovered the first strawberries?"

Me: "No. How'd you learn that?"

Jack: "I read it in a book."

Me: "That's cool. What book?"

Saturday, January 3, 2009


"The details make life holy. If you want a little happiness in life don’t forget to look at the little things.

"It is a poet’s work to see the incidental, pluck it, place an appropriate silence around both sides and see the profound in what passes for a passing moment. It is an artist’s job to as much discover art as create it. Prayer is a way of making the common profound by pausing, tying knots around a moment, turning our life into a string of pearls."

-- Noah Ben Shea