Saturday, August 29, 2015

Pasta Carbonara (without peas)

Okay, I hate to do two recipes posts in a row, but I was talking to someone about carbonara - specifically making a "low cal" version of carbonara, which is just substituting yam noodles for regular pasta, and I offered the recipe.  Then another friend asked for it, so I figured I'd just post it.  I hate making recipes that don't have pictures, so I apologize that it doesn't have any, but I just made it at the beginning of the week, and really didn't plan on posting the recipe until later in the week when we started chatting about it.  Next time I make it, I'll come back her and add a picture.

1)  It's super simple to make.  I'll give you the Jim's Annotated version complete with my recommendations, so it'll look longer and more complicated than it actually is, but if you read my stuff already you know that I make every explanation long and complicated but if you're reading for meaning, it'll make it super easy.

2)  I forgot what two was.  I started on 1, and then I got on a roll, and forgot why I even started numbering shit. 

3)  I'm adding three now because I was just rereading this whole thing and's a place for this one other little tidbit.  And now I feel like I could delete "2" but I won't, because it's cute.  Anway...The reason the title specifically says "(without peas)" is...I don't like peas.  I don't like them alone (unless they're snap peas and they're stir fried or they're raw) and I really hate them in pasta, like pasta primavera or carbonara.  And most carbonara recipes call for peas in them.  I don't know why.  This recipe does not.  Because it's not stupid.  It's awesome. 

Here are your ingredients:
6 tbs butter
1/2 lb sweet italian sausage
1/2 lb prosciutto (finely diced)
2 eggs
1/4 cup shredded asiago
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
1/2 cup fresh parsley (or dried.  I honestly use mostly dried cause it's easier, but fresh is obviously better)
one box pasta (I use angel hair because that's what Emma likes)
It ends up being a lot.

Pre-prep and prep:  When I buy proscuitto, they cut it really thin and they separate each piece with wax paper.  It's annoying as hell and completely unnecessary for THIS recipe.  It's also a pain in the ass for the deli people.  So when you buy the proscuitto (and they'll say stuff you want the fancy-fancyioso 18 month cured or the blah blah 12 month or whatever it is...just get the cheapest proscuitto) tell them not to worry about the wax paper.  You just want it cut thin.  When you start the recipe, you're going to just cut it into really small pieces.  So I actually roll the whole thing together and slice it, then I cut the slices until they're pretty small.  Cut the parsley leaves the same way.  Think about how small and fine dried parsley is and cut it about that small.

I'd start the water boiling and cook your noodles.

While that's cooking, get a kettle...I use a 6 quart kettle.  Okay, brief explanation.  It's not that you need a 6 quart kettle.  You can do this next part in a regular pan, but later when you combine all the ingredients, it's nice if you already have a big pot and you're not dirtying another one.   In your 6 quart kettle, put half your butter in and melt on medium heat.  Brown the italian sausage.  Toss in half of your diced/minced proscuitto. 

When I brown the sausage, I'm constantly breaking it into smaller and smaller pieces.  Like when you make tacos.  Do the same thing with the sausage.  Sausage sticks together more than ground beef does because of all the extra fat, but put in the effort, the prosciutto will help a little.  It's kind of annoying because you have to reach into that big kettle to do it, but you'll thank me later.  Unless you're an ungrateful asshole.  I won't wait for the thanks.

Crack the two eggs into a little bowl and mix them up.

Melt the remaining butter in a Pyrex measuring cup (or whatever you feel like melting the remaining butter in, but I use a measuring cup because it's easy)

When the the sausage is done browning, toss the rest of your prosciutto in and turn the heat down low.

The idea (I guess) is that half your proscuitto will be cooked and browned and a little on the crisp side, like well done bacon, and the other half will be a nice reddish pink color and give it a better texture.  Make it...sorry...more "moist".  Yeah.  I said it.

Hopefully your noodles are done now.  Strain them.  HERE'S why you need the 6 quart kettle.  Dump the noodles on top of the sausage proscuitto mixture.  You're going to be mixing all this stuff together, and lifting the noodles and stirring them up will take a ton of space and make a huge mess unless it's contained in a kettle. help the noodles separate, pour the melted butter over the noodles.  Then dump the parsley over them.  Now mix it all up.

Now you're ready for the egg.  Brief sidebar, you're not going to cook the eggs, and because I never feel SUPER comfortable with that, I like the noodles and pot to still be pretty warm.  Getting the egg on the noodles while they're still hot will cook it to the point where it's done.  You'll know what I meanwhen you do it.  You'll see the egg start to cook and change like you might if you've ever made fried rice.  My point is, don't wait super long before you add the egg.

Pour the beaten egg over the noodles and stir.  Dump all the cheese in and mix everything up really well.  The egg will make the noodles sticky enough that the cheese will stay on them.  Asiago gives it a nice tang with the sausage and the proscuitto.

You're done.  This recipe typically feeds me, Emma, Lily (sort of) and gives me enough leftovers for three days.  I'd say it would serve 6 pretty comfortably.  It doesn't reheat badly, but sometimes I'll melt a tiny bit of butter over it in the microwave to make it less stiff and microwavy and more like it was when you first cooked it.

If you make it, and have notes, critiques or reviews, please let me know!

 Oh...PS...I use that whole "coat the noodles in beaten egg then cheese" in other stuff too.  It's an easy way to make plain noodles yummier.  For example, I have a pretty decent shrimp scampi recipe, and since scampi is really buttery, sometimes I'll just make linguini, dump the entire dish of scampi over the cooked linguini noodles, mix it to get the butter worked into the noodles so they separate, then add egg and parmesan to it, mix it up, and make what I call Shrimp Scampi Linguini.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


People tag me in bacon posts a lot on Facebook.  Like...a LOT.  They also post tons of bacon recipes on my wall.  I don't even really remember why that started, but it's a thing.  So maybe four or five times a week something bacon-related gets posted on my page.

Sometimes it's ridiculous, like the bacon grilled cheese recipe where you take a POUND of bacon and wrap it around a grilled cheese sandwich and pretend the bacon is like a crust?  Ridiculous.  Does it look amazing?  Oh my god yes.  Is it practical for a middle aged man to make a sandwich with one pound of bacon?  No.  Jesus, no.

I just calculated it on  It's a 976 calorie sandwich.  With 2,320 grams of sodium.  That's an entire day's sodium in one sandwich. 

Okay...honestly that calorie count is lower than I would have expected...if I shared it with Emma...NO!  STOP IT!

Anyway...of the four or five bacon posts per week that make it to my page, I pick one every couple weeks or so to try out.  The last one was bacon sushi.  It was really good.  Before that, bacon wrapped fried oreos.  Decent. 

This week I made what I'm calling...the Hellwich.  First, you should watch the video that got posted to my page so that you can see what it was that inspired me to cook it for myself (Neither Emma nor Lily would have touched it)

From Buzzfeed on Youtube: 

So I'm like...okay...I have to have it.

But I made some tweaks.  For starters, I thought, "If this is a breakfast 'burger' why not make it out of a sausage patty?"  Secondly, I didn't like how stuff oozed out of it.  I don't like getting syrup or egg yolk all over my hands.  So I used less sauce, and I cooked my egg a little longer. 

So, here are your ingredients.
1 package Ore-Ida frozen tator tots
3 slices bacon
1 - egg
2 - slices sharp cheddar
1 - sausage patty
some bourbon
some maple syrup
butter maybe.  maybe not.  whatevs.

Alright.  So give yourself a little time to let the tator tots thaw out.  When I did it they were frozen.  It worked great, have to close the waffle iron on the tator tots, and the waffle iron is stuffed full.  The softer the tator tots are to start with the easier it'll be to close the waffle iron.  Grease your waffle iron.  You can use butter or Pam or whatever.

Next, you'll see in this picture that I lined the waffle iron with tator tots, and then in the next picture, magically, you see this waffled tator tot bun, beautifully done and complete.  That's...not exactly how it happened.  The FIRST time I did it I took a picture of the tator tots in the waffle iron.  And there weren't enough.  Essentially I got a waffle iron full of squished tator tots that I subsequently threw out and started over on.  So...see the picture?  You need to fill the gaps.  You'll have to stack tator tots on top of the other ones so they straddle the gaps.  Like a pyramid of tator tots.  A tatormid.
Too many gaps here.  Stack to fill the gaps


While you're waiting for your waffletot (no...not twat waffle) to finish you pour some syrup and bourbon into a pot and then stir and let it reduce.  It is only now, three days after making the sandwich that I see the video has them putting butter in there too.  I didn't add butter.  It still reduces, still gets thick...but REALLY thick.  When I was done it spread like caramel.  Ultimately I ended up with just enough, but I probably only used 2 tablespoons of syrup and 2 tablespoons of bourbon.  I'd double that just so you have more and it's easier to spread.  I wouldn't necessarily USE double.  But it would have been nice to decide whether I wanted to use more or not.

The waffletot takes a while, so while you're waiting for it to cook, and the syrup to reduce, you can do the easy stuff.  Toss three strips of bacon in the skillet or on the griddle, or wherever, and cook them.  Then make yourself a fried egg.  I was winging the whole process, so I cooked the bacon, then fried the egg in the bacon grease.  Because that's how you SHOULD do it.

Last is the sausage patty.  I seasoned mine with some grilling spices (I was worried it all might end up being too salty, but it did not) I put it in a pan, browned it on both sides, then slapped two slices of cheddar on it, put a couple tbsp of water in the pan and covered it for a couple minutes.

The maple bourbon sauce is probably done.  So are the waffletots.  Put one waffle tot down on a plate, add the cheese sausage patty, put your bourbon maple sauce on top of it.  Add your fried egg.  Add your bacon.  Top with your other waffletot.

What you have now is a completed hellwich.  And listen...I'm not going to lie to's not good for you.  Please consult your doctor before trying Hellwich.  That said, it is without question the greatest sandwich I've ever tasted.  I ate half for supper.  I ate the other half for breakfast the next day. 
The day after I posted pics, people were making grocery lists.  They made their own versions...they were the greatest sandwiches THEY'D ever eaten.  Everyone's tastes are different, but...come on.

It.  Was.  Worth it.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Inclusive Sensory Park and Playground

"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood."
  - Fred Rogers
Alright...this is blog post about Glade Run's newest project, with some personal bits thrown in for flavoring.  First of all, I need to tell you that I was asked by someone at Glade Run if I could give this project a plug on my blog.  I didn't get paid to write it, though, nor would I have written it if I didn't think it was a great idea. But it here's the "plug".

I'll ramble around in circles that slowly spiral inward until my point is revealed.  As is the custom of my people.

(outskirts of the circle)
A few years ago a friend of mine did a crowd-sourced funding for a project of hers.  It was a sensory gym.  Essentially it was (in my words) an OT's view of what a children's play area should be for kids who want, no NEED, sensory input to help regulate themselves.  You might compare it to a sensory room, but turbocharged.  Bigger, more stuff, more feedback.  I loved the idea.  I wished we had something like it in the area.  We could brave Chuck E. Cheese, or hang out in the kiddie section of the amusement park, but Lily keeps getting bigger, and her presence is less and less welcome in the areas of those places where she looms much larger than the 2 and 3 year old children it is truly geared for.

(inching closer)
A year or so ago (because my wife worked there) I learned about Jeremiah's Village.  This was a project that Glade Run is undertaking right now to design and build an entire community specifically geared toward accommodating people of all abilities, and including them.  It's being built right now.  The local paper did an article about it, and my daughter got sneezed on by a horse in the picture section (she volunteers in the animal program at Glade Run).  For more on that click here: Jeremiah's Village

When it was first introduced, they talked about housing where caregivers could live together with, side-by-side, or in the same community with their loved ones in an apartment style setting.  And I immediately had visions of one day retiring to an apartment where Lily could live in an adjoining apartment; it was every autism parent's commune fantasy come true.

(crawling a teensy bit nearer my point)
This inclusion really seems to be central to Glade Run's thinking.  Jeremiah's Village seems to be all about inclusion.  It almost seems like it would be "easier" to build something that catered solely to those autistic people who needed it.  This vision seems broader.  This vision seems more in keeping with what my understanding of "acceptance" is.  Acceptance isn't recognizing that some people have different needs and creating specific programs just for those kids/adults who need them.  Acceptance is creating opportunities for those people to join everyone else doing what they're doing.  Acceptance is recognizing that the playing field is tilted and instead of building a new playing field for those who struggle with angles...untilting it. 

(nearing my point)
One reason many autism parents (and I'll speak for all autism parents here knowing full well that there are almost as many different viewpoints among autism parents as there are autism parents) struggle with inclusion on the tilted field, is because of the stares.  Because people by and large judge and make assumptions about behavior without knowing the story.  Every does it.  That won't ever change.  I have been told I shouldn't have taken Lily to a movie theater unless I could keep her quiet.  I have been asked to leave a church because Lily's volume was disrupting the organ player's Easter music.  I have been asked to move my seat during a school talent show because Lily was too loud and was hurting her child's ears.  Every time something like this happened, it drove me further and further toward not taking Lily with me anywhere.  Every time I felt ostracized.  Every time I felt judged.  Every time I felt excluded.  And it drove me further and further toward just excluding her from everything.

And the above isn't meant to reproach any of the people involved in it.  I was plenty pissed, don't get me wrong.  But ultimately, the theater wasn't an inclusive environment.  People paid money to enjoy the movie and were irritated that they thought Lily would drown out the show.  The organist playing the packed Easter mass was sitting right next to the overflow seating in the balcony where we had to sit.  She couldn't focus on her job with Lily next to her.  The woman sitting right in front of us at the talent show had every right to be concerned about her son's ears.  She had sat down before us.  She and her family had every right to enjoy the talent show just like mine.  (Honestly though, she was sitting directly in front of the speakers, and Lily's volume was nowhere near the loudest thing assailing the poor boy's ears.  Some people are just assholes)

(Okay...we've arrived)
Glade Run is building an inclusive park.  This is a park with a level playing field.  It's not for autistic kids.  It's not for neurotypical kids.  It's for everyone.  And the needs of everyone have been weighed and incorporated where practical for everyone.  They're calling it a Sensory Park and Playground, and a sketch from their crowd-source webpage is here... looks like a playground, right?  It IS!  So what makes it "inclusive"?  How is this park any different than any other park?  Why is this park exciting to Jim Walter, "Target Guy", "flusher of sporns" and autism parent visionary??

Here are some design bullet points. (See the link below for a more thorough explanation)
  1. enclosed to help prevent bolting
  2. organized separated play zones
  3. retreat spaces, quiet zones, and separation to minimize overstimulation
  4. incorporates sensory elements:  touch, scent, movement, sound
  5. play elements designed to aid body awareness and improve motor skills
  6. social opportunities.  play equipment designed for use by more than one child.
  7. ammenities.  restroom, lighting, landscaping, shelters, picnic areas.
I really hope you click the link below.  I think this vision of inclusion and acceptance is one worth rewarding.  And yeah, many, or even most of you are reading this from far away from buccolic Zelienople.  To you I would say, support this park, and then encourage your own local charity, foundation, school board, or community to use it as a blueprint for your OWN park.

Check out the link "Glade Run - Inclusive Sensory Park and Playground"

Monday, August 10, 2015

Hi Again

It's been a couple weeks again.  Some of what I've been thinking and feeling and observing just seems like a lot of repetition.  Ups and downs, more good than bad, yadda yadda.  And there are times where what I'm wanting to write about seems like stuff I've already written about, but my memory is crap, so I no longer can figure out what I wrote about here, posted on Facebook, or just talked to friends about.  It all seems like the same thing.

shh...the show's about to start
Emma had her performance of Annie Jr.  It was really good.  Like...REALLY.  I was telling my mother that we've been doing this since Emma was 6, and she said, "Has it really been that long?" so we started counting backward through the years...

2015 Annie Jr.
2014 High School Musical
2013 Hairspray (and Peter Pan Jr.)
2012 Legally Blonde
2011 101 Dalmations
2010 Charlie Brown
2009 Jungle Book

the full cast
And I guess because the productions are age-based you'd expect them to get better and better the older the kids get.  And they have.  This was far and away the best production we've watched Emma in.  The ensemble sang "Hard Knock Life" and the whole time I was thinking..."this is as good as the version I've heard recorded."  It really was.  Some of the performers (predominantly girls) are developing their own areas of specialty.  Where Emma is sort of a Jill of all trades, a few of the girls are competitive dancers, and the production made use of those sorts of skills, incorporating them where appropriate.  It was very very entertaining.

Emma as "Lily"
Emma was Emma.  She possesses a gift for comedic timing, and she is very at home on stage.  Her part of "Easy Street" was clear and in-tune and lovely.  I always worry about those first few notes, but there was nothing to fear.  She was dead on.

She struggled the week leading into the performance, though.  She was very nervous.  Felt unprepared.  Really appeared uneasy.  And I tried talking to her about it.  I tried to help her with the idea of compartmentalizing.  I think she has that tool in her toolbox already, but I thought maybe I'd try to reinforce it a bit.

Her thing:  I just want it to be a good show.

"Emma, you need to worry about your performance.  Only yours.  Make your performance the absolute best it can be.  Know your part, know your dance, know your positions.  You don't worry about the rest of the performers.  Let the director do that.  Your job is just to worry about you.  His job is to worry about all of you."

And I think she mostly got that.  I told her to focus on those things that were within her control.  To figure out everything she could improve or alter.  Anything she could directly impact.  And everything else, she just needed to put away in a box inside her brain so that she could get some sleep.  So she could relax when she steps away from the stage.

I wondered too if maybe mommy not being there had something to do with it.  And we talked about it one evening.  We shared some tears in her room at bed time.  It's hard knowing that a lot of the reason she is participating in CLO at all is because her mother was so passionate about making sure she had opportunities to get on stage if that was what she wanted.

And so I told her a bit about some weirdness I've been experiencing.  More of that type stuff.  And let me back up for a minute to sort of explain myself, because I've been thinking about it for a couple weeks.  If you follow the blog relatively closely, then you know that I shared my weird feeling about being happy about being sad and being sad about being happy.  Just that while I'm grieving for Leslie I've been doing this...weird...finishing projects thing.

There are all these things that Leslie and I talked about doing...hardwood on the stairs and hallways, putting together a will, starting a special needs trust for Lily, figuring out our retirement, setting up Emma's 529 plan.  And I've been doing all of them.  And not just that, but trying to keep our room clean and the bed made every day and trying to keep the counter clean of dishes for the following morning, changing the bedding...all stuff she used to nag the shit out of me to do...I'm doing.

And so on the one hand, I feel like Leslie would be all..."Wow, Jim, you're really doing a nice job with the house." and on the other hand I feel like Leslie would be all, "I had to DIE for you to change the fucking sheets?"

Except Leslie wouldn't say that because she was a lady of breeding.  Still.  It's weird to think that all the things she used to be forced to bug me to do, I'm really careful about doing.  And I justify it to myself that it's Leslie's voice, or Leslie's influence, or it's an homage to Leslie that it's all getting done.  And that's part of it.  But I think the other more practical part is that I literally KNOW that Leslie won't be picking up after me, so if I don't want to live in squalor, I have to do that stuff.

Okay, so back to Emma.  I know she was sad about mommy not being there to see her in Annie.  God...she'd have been SO proud, and there were many times during the performance that I felt my eyes well up thinking about how much Leslie would have loved to see I told Emma, "Em, every time that you and I do something that we know mommy would have wanted us to do, or that we know she enjoyed doing with us, or that she had fun watching us do, we honor her memory.  It's like remembering her and remembering her love and letting that memory guide our actions and shape our lives.  And when we do that, we include her in our lives even though she's passed."  I explained to her that I know it still sucks.  And I know it's still not the same...that it can't be the same.  But I tried to explain to her about me and the housework and redoing the stairway and explaining that every time I do all the little things that Leslie always harped on me to to, every time I finish a project that Leslie always wanted to finish, every time I go enjoy time with friends like she always encouraged me to do...I'm remembering Leslie's voice.  I'm honoring Leslie's memory.

And even though Leslie wasn't going to be sitting in a chair next to me at the performance, I told her that I believe she'd be watching Emma perform if Emma wanted her to watch her perform...and that doing her best to put on a good show would be a nice way to honor mommy's memory, and listen to her mother's voice in HER head.

Meanwhile, Lily has been a bit off lately.  Defiant.  Anxious.  And it's difficult to tell whether it's related to:  summer, her mom passing, growing up, etc.  The BSC is looking at the data trying to help us figure it all out.  She seems happy enough most of the time, but lots more "noes" than I'm accustomed to.

Anyway.  Sorta dry stuff.

Less dry...

Friday Tryday was more or less a success.  A friend did caution me not to make Emma feel like she was solely responsible for the variety of our menu, and after mulling it over, I talked to Emma about it and explained to her that I hadn't meant to put the weight of our eating variety on her.  And then I relaxed Tryday to every other week (this week...chicken wings).  But the first Tryday was a success...fried fish.  Not horrible.  Actually sort of liked it. 

And, not wanting to be outdone, Lily ate baby back ribs that I slow cooked.  I stripped the meat from the bones for her, and didn't add barbecue sauce, but she ate everything I gave her.  I was amazed.

What else...

Oh! Emma's Aunt Lauren was in town for Pappy's birthday, so Emma and Aunt Lauren made some Adventuretime (mostly) themed cupcakes.  I think they turned out great!

Finally...the newspaper did a story about the volunteers at Glade Run (where Emma volunteers).  They had a little slide show that accompanied the online article, and there were several pictures of Emma included.  One of them...(this gem below)...I'm having blown up and framed for our home.