Mimes and Babies

Maia and I were watching this commercial this morning:

Maia (laughing): Papa, the baby is talking.

Me: I know. That’s freaky too, huh?

Maia: That’s not freaky. That’s silly.

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March Madness

Let’s get this out of the way at the start: I suck at picking NCAA tournament games. I think there was a time in my youth when I would occasionally do alright in bracket pools, but it was so long ago that I can’t really remember. All I know for sure is that I have struggled to stay out of last place the past three years in a pool with friends.

Okay, now that the disclaimer is out of the way, here are my picks for the 2014 NCAA Tournament:

NCAA-Bracket

 

The 2014 National Champion will be … the Arizona Wildcats.

Or so I hope.

My method for this madness is to do a little bit of research and then combine it with a theme or feeling –¬†which is almost certainly the part the screws up my bracket.

This year, my theme is that the Pac-12 is pretty good. Thus I have Arizona winning it all, UCLA making the Final Four, and Oregon upsetting Wisconsin in the second round. I was tempted to pick Stanford over New Mexico and may end up regretting not doing it, but I wanted to limit the number of upsets I picked because I’m in a small pool. As for Arizona State, well, they’ve lost five of their last seven games since defeating Arizona in double overtime. I just don’t see them advancing.

I picked UCLA to the Final Four based on the momentum factor. I believe they are a good team and they are most definitely hot. I’ve got them upsetting Florida because, while I think the Gators are a very good team, I think the SEC is overrated and the relative lack of competition will come back to haunt the #1 team in the country. (Yeah, I know, their 26-game win streak fits the “good and hot” profile.)

My Michigan State pick follows the same logic as the UCLA pick – I think they’re good and they are on a roll. I like Virginia a lot, but I just don’t think they are quite ready for the biggest stage. This could be another pick that I regret making. Hell, let’s be honest – there will likely be all kinds of picks that I’ll regret having made.

I’ve got Wichita State in the Final Four because I remember how well they played last year. They are a very physical team and all indications (a 34-0 record, for starters) are that they are better than last year. That said, Louisville is one of my teams – they always have done well for me in the tournament – and I may just regret not picking them and their latest hot streak.

The region that I think may completely blow up is the West region. A lot of shaky teams there, in my opinion, which is another reason for picking Arizona to win it all. I think they have the easiest route to the Final Four.

One more item of note: I think this may be the first year in a decade that I haven’t picked Gonzaga to win at least one game. I hope they prove me wrong, though I don’t want them to take out my champion pick of Arizona … unless they go on to win the whole thing; then it’d be worth it.

“Almost” Lasagna

As part of my revamp of this blog, I am going to occasionally add recipes of new dishes that I try to make.

Beginning this week, I decided to start creating a weekly dinner menu. I have found that when I have a lot on my mind, I have a hard time coming up with ideas for what to cook. If it were just me, I wouldn’t sweat it so much – the freezer is loaded with frozen food that I can pop in the microwave on a minute’s notice. But since I am also cooking for my daughter, I want to make a concerted effort to ensure she’s getting the nutrition she needs. So last Sunday I searched the Internet for recipes and made a menu. (By the way, I should add that this makes grocery shopping¬†a lot easier.)¬†On Monday we had chicken tacos (which I really should have documented with photos because they turned out really good). Yesterday we had something called “Almost” Lasagna. It’s “almost” because the recipe calls for elbow macaroni instead of the traditional lasagna pasta.

I started by slicing up two small carrots and dicing a zucchini (tip: cut the zucchini into smaller pieces than you see in this photo):

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After preparing the vegetables, I boiled water with a small amount of olive oil, then added the elbow macaroni. Boil for 7-8 minutes.

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While the pasta’s cooking, start frying about a pound of ground turkey. You could use any kind of meat, but this recipe called for turkey and I quite liked it.

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Next was the ricotta cheese mixture, which was a 15 oz. container of ricotta, a handful of Parmesan, and salt and pepper. Set it to the side when finished.

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When the turkey and pasta are finished cooking, drain the oil and water, then mix both together with the vegetables and a pasta sauce. Any kind will do, but I prefer Classico because a) I like the taste; and b) they make for cool mason jars afterwards.

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Add the ricotta mix to the pasta, meat, and sauce and stir thoroughly, then add a layer of the whole mix to the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.

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Sprinkle a cup of mozzarella cheese and then a healthy amount of Parmesan on top of the first layer.

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Then add the remainder of the pasta mix and add another cup of mozzarella and more Parmesan.

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Wrap in aluminum foil and cook in the oven for twenty minutes at 350 degrees, the remove the foil and cook for another 10-20 minutes until the cheese on top is browned. (To be honest, I cooked it for another 15 minutes and the cheese didn’t show the slightest hint of browning, so I turned on the broiler for three or four minutes and that did the trick.)

And “voila” – here is the finished product:

"Almost" Lasagna

“Almost” Lasagna

There you have it, a nice high-carb, hidden-vegetable dinner. Personally, I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars on the Scott scale because I cut the zucchini into too large of pieces – leaving them oh-so-slightly under-cooked – and I prefer traditional lasagna noodles. I think Maia gave it a 3 out of 5 on the Maia scale as well because of the zucchini … and she’s not a fan of carrots. Not bad, considering she did get her vegetables.

Thanks to Anne Coleman (aka “Short Order Mom”) and Disney’s family.com for this recipe.