Who is Kenny? He’s someone I don’t know very well, but I will tell you that he makes me smile every time I see him.

You see, I am one of those rare grocery shoppers that makes a weekly meal plan, a corresponding grocery list and a weekly trek to the store (this usually occurs on a Saturday or Sunday). I want to get it done all in one trip and never go back (well, until the next weekend). I really hate grocery shopping – as much as I hate cleaning the bathrooms.

I described myself as a rare grocery shopper because I don’t usually see many others in the grocery store filling their carts to overflowing and then, watching their baggers navigate two carts across the parking lot. I feel like a rare breed. One time, a fellow shopper asked me if we were having a party and I said, “Nope. This is my normal weekly grocery trip.” She looked horrified (really, I’m not kidding). I wasn’t sure how to respond to that so I didn’t. We just waited in uncomfortable silence in the checkout line until my groceries were bagged and ready for transport.

So, you’re still saying, “Who’s Kenny? And, what does this have to do with food?” Kenny is my grocery bagger. Okay, he’s not really MY bagger, but the poor thing is usually the lucky duck that ends up bagging the seemingly endless stream of food that I buy.

I want to say that while bagging groceries isn’t rocket science, it’s still a science of sorts. Not everyone is good at it. You have to have good spatial skills. There are definitely great ones (fast, efficient use of bags, perfect food placement within the bags and smash-free bread & chips), good ones (somewhat fast and efficient, okay food placement within the bags and smash-free bread & chips) and bad ones (slow, wasteful with bags and smashes your bread & chips). When picking out my checkout lane, I’m not looking for the shortest lane, I’m looking for a good to great grocery bagger. Since I shop at this store every week, I know who’s who and what’s what.

Kenny makes the trip worthwhile. Besides being a fantastic bagger, he is always happy, always has a smile on his face and always has really nice things to say. For example, he often asks about my kids and when I tell him their ages, he always responds with, “Wow! You look too young to have kids in high school!” (Thank you, Kenny!)

Kenny is probably in his early 50s and I think has been working at my local O’Malia’s for about 25 years (give or take a few years). In making small talk out to the car, he will be the first to tell you that he was hit by a car when he was a toddler (2 or 3) and suffered a brain injury in that accident. He loves skiing with his aunt in Colorado because they have a great skiing program for the disabled. He also has a sister in Dallas whom he visits at least once a year (from what I have gathered). His sister has three or four kids and he LOVES them tremendously. He talks about them as if they were his own.

I really admire him – his outlook on life is wonderful despite the cards dealt to him and he seems to find the joy in the moment.

I strive to mimic his perspective and his ability to live in the now.

He always ends the visit with a “Thank you for shopping at O’Malias!”

I hope that Kenny’s coworkers see what I see and take away something positive after a Kenny-encounter. I know I do.

My Cooking Mojo is Slipping Away

Okay, I have to say that I’ve been pretty successful in preparing yummy, well-received meals day after day and week after week.  I have been on a roll, baby!  And, I’ve been getting a little spoiled.  It is has been awhile since I’ve made something that the family has requested to be placed on the “Never Make Again List”.   That completely changed this week.  Why?  I’m off my game and I’ve been mulling over why ever since dinner this evening (I’ll get to that in a minute). I’ve traced it back to the day that I found out my grocery store (O’Malia’s) was closing.

I wasn’t able to do my entire shopping trip at one store this past weekend because my store was closing and the shelves were bare – it really threw me off.  Usually when something did not make my carefully crafted  shopping list, going up and down the familiar aisles always triggered the “oh, yeah, I need that” reflex and I magically left the store with everything I needed (Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit).  Well, I finished part two (part one being the trip to my naked O’Malia’s) of my fateful grocery extravaganza of Sunday, March 14th at Whole Foods because it was the closest grocery store and I didn’t know where else to go.  As you know, Whole Foods is an organic shopping experience and I’m completely unfamiliar with the store (layout, what’s available, etc.)  I have to admit I was a little discombulated.  During the week, I had to go back to the grocery store 2 additional times because I missed some items on my list:  ketchup (Th meatloaf), chicken, orzo, arugla, lemons, yadda-yadda-yadda-blah-blah-blah!  I HATE grocery shopping!!

Sunday, March 14th Dinner:  Corned Beef and cabbage  / Green Beans.  I know, I should have had the corned beef on the 17th, but I didn’t!  Well, green beans are one of the few veggies 2 of my 3 kids will eat, so we eat them a lot.  I got online to find an interesting green bean recipe.  I had my 2 lbs of fresh, organic green beans and did something so awful to them that  my husband would not even eat them!   If Mike won’t eat them, then that means they are BAD!  (Here is the recipe so you know to avoid it (Green Goddess Green Beans).  I can’t describe how I felt after that dinner.  I got the “Hey, I really like that you are trying new things” pep talk.

Monday, March 15th Dinner:  Chicken Monte Cristo / Rice / Broccoli.  The Chicken Monte Cristo is a dish that I assembled at Dream Dinners.  After assembling meals at DD, you take them home and put them in your freezer.  Well, I forgot to pull it out of the freezer to thaw!  They do have “If Frozen” directions, so okay, I still fixed it.  I overcooked it – they were stuck on the bottom of the pan!  How did that happen?  I cook these things all of the time!  They were still edible (kind of ) and my family was gracious about it.

Tuesday, March 16th Dinner:  Not-sagna Pasta Toss (stove top lasagna – Rachael Ray Recipe) / Salad.  I make this every two weeks because my entire family loves it and it is easy.  I could make this meal in my sleep! Well, It was a little runnier than normal, how did I screw that up?  Also, the consistency wasn’t the same because I bought low-fat ricotta cheese.  I am trying to cook healthier at my house for all of us, but I’m never using low-fat ricotta cheese ever again.  My son, Jack, left a lot on his plate – he NEVER does that. 

Okay, so what the hell was going on this week?!  Every meal seemed to be getting worse.

Wednesday, March 17th Dinner:  Lemon Roasted Chicken / Dilled Orzo / Arugula Salad (click here for recipe).  The Roasted Chicken?  It was a hit and easy to make.  The Arugula Salad?  Also, another hit (my oldest suggested adding roasted pine nuts).  The Dilled Orzo?  See the note on the Sunday Green Bean disaster!  At Whole Foods I bought organic, whole wheat orzo.  My family was NOT a fan of the whole wheat orzo or the dill.  Again, my husband left it on his plate! 

I can’t remember the last time Mike left this much food on his plate!  I am really rattled at this point.  Well, Thursday is another day! Right?

TODAY, Thursday, March 18th Dinner:  Meatloaf (Bobby Flay recipe) / Bleu Cheese Mashed Potatoes / Asparagus.   I have made the Bobby Flay meatloaf recipe many times, but today I burned the top of it and possibly ruined a pan (it is soaking as I write).  Okay, distracted by helping my son with his Independent Study Project (another topic for another post), I almost set my kitchen on fire!  I’m helping Jack with his ISP and my middle one says “What is THAT smell?”.  “Well, honey, that would be scalding, burning potatoes that I was boiling for our bleu cheese mashed potatoes.”  My 3-quart Wolfgang Puck sauce pan is now junk!  I have made mashed potatoes a ton of times!  So, now we had charred meatloaf and no potatoes with dinner.  We had leftover rice instead.  At least the asparagus was unharmed 🙂

My sauce pan was burning, smoke was billowing everywhere and the downstairs smoke detectors were going off!  What an exciting afternoon.  I took the smoking pan outside and set it down on the deck in a panic because I had to run back in to tame the smoke detectors.  Once the noise stopped, I went back outside to get the smoking pan – I picked it up and guess what?  There is a nice round charred spot on the deck left by my sauce pan – Great!  Now, I’ve ruined my deck and my sauce pan.  Oh, brother.

After dinner, we were on our way to my middle daughter’s choir concert and I realized that I smelled like smoke (my shirt, jeans, hair, etc).  It wasn’t smokey bar smell, it was burnt food smell.  Another, Great!  I felt sorry for the people who had to sit next to me in the auditorium this evening.

What a week!  I’m afraid to go back in the kitchen –  I need to regroup before my weekend grocery trip on Saturday.   I need my mojo back 🙂