Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary


April 2012

Lunch Lady Chicken Cacciatore

Lunch Lady Chicken Cacciatore


Hey there everyone! This is Michael Gillan Maxwell, the Lunch Laddy coming to you from La Trattoria della Lunch Lady to bring you a sizzling new recipe from The Lunch Lady Cookbook. Today’s recipe is a spin-off from a venerable Italian country cooking classic ~ Chicken Cacciatore. Original cacciatore recipes descended from a hunter’s stew made from fresh game and fresh seasonal herbs and veggies. Rabbit, wild onion, carrots, tomatoes and herbs were often the foundation for this dish, which was cooked over an open fire. Fire roasted wild rabbit is not exactly a staple in most American public school cafeterias these days, but I think you will like this variation on that theme, and you won’t have to go traipsing through the under brush like Elmer Fudd chasing “that silly wabbit.” It’s also mindlessly simple. Big plus point.

Elmer Fudd Hunting

So ~ without further adieu ~ I present to you:

 Lunch Lady Chicken Cacciatore


6 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs

1 16 oz. Can Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic and Oregano

1 Spanish Onion – Sliced

2 Fresh Plum Tomatoes – Diced

1 Fresh Red Pepper

Parmesan Cheese

1 or 2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – Minced

Basil ~ Fresh (If you got it) otherwise Freeze-dried will have to do, I suppose)

Garlic Powder

Freshly Ground Sea Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper ~ although one of my close friends is allergic

~ you know who you are ~ so I won’t be using black pepper if you are amongst my guests!


  • Slice, dice, mince, shred, tear, bend, spindle and mutilate fresh veggies, herbs and cheese.
  • Drain liquid from canned tomatoes into casserole dish.
  • Lay chicken breasts in there all nice and cozy. Squeeze ‘em in there, snug as a bug in a rug.
  • Season liberally. Don’t mince words and don’t be shy with the minced garlic. How much is too much? There’s no such thing as too much. It should be enough to repel an attack by a vampire. (Or a blind date that’s going badly)
  • Lay in the sliced and diced onion and tomatoes.
  • Add the canned diced tomatoes, spread evenly.
  • If you’re using fresh basil, tear and sprinkle over mixture.
  • Top with freshly shredded parmesan cheese.
  • Cover and bake at 350 for 60 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Serve over pasta or rice. I used Tri-colored fusilli for it’s festive appearance.
  • Dracula Repulsed By Garlic

Music Pairing

Guitar freak that I am, the muse dictated that I create a “John Fahey” Pandora Station for this occasion.  John Fahey is an acoustic guitar god. He is kind of the grand daddy of acoustic guitar finger picking. The station features lush and pristine 6 and 12 string acoustic guitar solo playing from such masters as Leo Kottke, Norman Blake, Martin Simpson, Bert Jancsh and many others. There’s even some chicken pickin’ Tele playing from the late, great Roy Buchanan.

Steel Guitar

Beverage Pairing


Cosme Palacio y Hermanos Rioja Reserva

To tell you the truth, I haven’t actually tasted this yet, but I have two bottles that are calling my name. It got a monster rating from Wine spectator, it’s very affordable, and looks and sounds totally munch-able. A good Spanish Rioja is hard to beat. My Spanish friends tell me you can drink a good  Rioja all day long. Sounds like that makes for an early night though. It goes down smooth and has an earthy quality, like a good French Rhone. As a friend of mine once said: “ A good Rhone should taste like dirt!” If that’s not a good selling point, I don’t know what is!

In closing, all that’s left to be said is Mangia! Mangia! Mangia!

Chicken Cacciatore

Flash Fiction Fridays

Flash Fiction Fridays

Flash Fiction Fridays

Hi there boys and girls! This is Michael Gillan Maxwell bringing you another book report from the Alice B. Toklas Book Journal. Writer, author, teacher and radio personality, Robert Vaughan has delivered the goods with his sparkling debut anthology: Flash Fiction Fridays. Robert Vaughan is the host of the innovative monthly radio show Flash Fiction Fridays, which airs on Milwaukee Public Radio’s WUWM Lake Effect and has put together a truly delightful anthology of 34 stories from local and international authors whose work appeared on its namesake radio show each month during 2011.

I am a Milwaukee expatriate, born and raised there, now living in exile in upstate New York. However, I’m still a hardcore fan of most anything that comes out of Wisconsin, except for the current governor. So soon as I heard that Robert Vaughan had put together this collection of short fiction I ordered it immediately, not only to support the home town team, but also because I knew it would be great. A prolific writer and accomplished author in his own right, Robert Vaughan is on his way to being one of the preeminent authors of flash fiction today. In this anthology, he has assembled a collection of some of the best flash fiction written by the rising stars working within the context of this genre.


Don’t let the label “flash fiction” fool you into thinking that these pieces are like light snacks without substance. Brevity is power. This is the undiluted stuff. Each piece is a little package of dynamite, full of vivid imagery, emotion and humanity. Flash Fiction Fridays is available on and The physical book is a slick and professional, aesthetically pleasing, high quality volume and it was on my doorstep within three business days. If you want to read some of the freshest contemporary flash, this is a must-have book for your library. It will leave you wanting more. I can only hope that Robert Vaughan is already working on this year’s collection because I’m already looking forward to Flash Fiction Fridays: Volume II, and I think that you will too!

Flash Fiction Fridays

Rock Stream Rockin’ Tostadas


Rock Stream Rockin’ Tostadas

Greetings fellow closet epicureans, back yard barb-b-que baristas and gustatory guerillas! This is Michael Gillan Maxwell, the Lunch Laddy, bringing you a new lip-smackin’, finger-ickin’, chicken-pickin’ dish from the Lunch Lady Cookbook. Today’s recipe is for titillating, toastalicious Rock Stream Rockin’ Tostadas. This delicious dish is nutritious, mindlessly simple and can be concocted as everything from virginal vegan to vicious vegetarian to carnivorous carnival, depending on guess who’s coming to dinner. It can also easily be proportionally transformed into a feast big enough to feed Coxey’s Army or reduced to a romantic, candle-lit dinner for two, after which, you might just get lucky, providing that Mercury is not in retrograde and that you don’t hit the refried beans too hard. But no matter how you choose to slice and dice it- it’s good and good for you. And so – without further adieu ~ I present to you:

Rock Stream Rockin’ Tostadas

You will need the following ingredients to serve a party of four:

The Foundation

8 Tostada Tortillas (Purists will insist on100% whole kernel corn)

2 Cans Vegetarian Refried Beans (Frijoles Refritos)

16 oz. Lean Ground Turkey




Garlic Powder

Red Pepper Flakes


1 Package Taco Seasoning


1-2 Tomatoes – Diced

1 Cup Green and Red Onion – Diced

1 Cup Red Pepper – Diced

1/2 Cup Black Olives -Sliced

1 Avocado – Sliced or Diced

2 Cups – Chopped Lettuce

2 Cups – Cheddar Cheese – Shredded

1 Cup – Sour Cream

2 Cups – Black Bean and Corn Salsa (Muy caliente por favor!)


Cook the ground turkey in a pan over low heat with a dash of olive oil. Drain fat.

Season as desired.

Transfer refritos to a microwave container and nuke for a couple of minutes.

Lay the tortillas out on a couple of lightly greased baking dishes. (Recommend butter instead of axle grease)

Spread a healthy dollop of refritos on each of the tortillas.

Add a healthy dollop of ground turkey and press into the refritos.

Cover with shredded cheese.

Pop into the oven – preheated to 350 degrees – for 15 minutes.

Arrange garnishes buffet style in assembly line fashion.

Tell your dinner guests to grab a plate and get their asses into the kitchen.

Assemble as desired.

Serve with Rock Stream Red Beans and Rice. (Recipe 1 ~ Lunch Lady Cookbook)

Beverage Pairing

Two Goats Brewing IPA

One Growler (.5 US Gallons) – Two Goats Brewing IPA 

This nectar of the Gods is brewed with local hops. It’s out of this world, and flows down easy, but be careful, because it packs a surprising wallop and can sneak up on you. You’ll have to come to Seneca Lake to get this. Oh quit whining about the distance. My brother drove all the way from Wisconsin and made it in 12 hours. We had a pint with three travelers who had come all the way across the pond from London. If they can do it, then so can you, for God’s sakes!

Music Pairing

Dial in a “Steve Earle” station on Pandora Radio. This will provide you with a stream of Americana singer/songwriter music from Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams, Robert Earl Keene, Gillian Welch, James McMurtry, John Hiatt, Lori Mckenna, Emmy Lou Harris, The Be Good Tanyas, Guy Clark, Todd Snider and a whole shitload of guitars, mandolins, banjos, fiddles and enough ringing, chiming steel guitars to keep you dancing and singing along for hours.

My New Toy

Follow Up Activity~ Playing  Ukeleles ‘Till Dawn. 

Adjourn to the music room and play ukeleles ‘till dawn.  Switch to whatever other substances help to move the evening along. Viewer discretion is advised.

Sonny Terry (obscured), Woody Guthrie, Lilly Mae Ledford, Alan Lomax, New York, 1944. Photographer unknown.

The Lunch Lady Cookbook ~ Real Men Eat Quiche

The Lunch Lady Cookbook


Real Men Eat Quiche

Hey everyone! This is Michael Gillan Maxwell, the Lunch Laddy, bringing you another recipe from the Lunch Lady Cookbook. Today we’re whippin’ up a wicked batch of Lunch Lady Quiche.

I must admit that I’ve never actually seen a real lunch lady serve quiche in a school cafeteria. Nevertheless, I think it deserves its place in the pantheon of all-time Lunch Lady comfort foods, right up there with Lunch Lady Mac&Cheese, Lunch Lady Meatloaf and Lunch Lady Sloppy Joe’s. Quiche got kind of a bad rap in Bruce Feirstein’s ironic and humorous send up of this time-honored tart with roots dating back to the Middle Ages. (See –  “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche, by American Bruce Feirstein, is a bestselling tongue-in-cheek book satirizing stereotypes of masculinity, published in 1982 (ISBN 0-671-44831-5). “ (Wikipedia)

However, as someone who is comfortable in his own skin and secure in his identity, the Lunch Laddy is here to tell you that real men DO eat quiche. It’s mindlessly simple to make and could easily be utilized as the ultimate back-of-the-refrigerator utility player combo in which all bets are off and anything goes, as long as it’s contained in a crust and baked in a mixture of eggs. However, let’s not go hog wild here. Lunch Lady Quiche is a humble and even (gasp!) healthy concoction, because even a moral reprobate like the Lunch Laddy has standards.  “I have my standards. They’re low, but I have them.” Bette Midler.

And so, without further adieu, I present to you Lunch Lady Quiche.

Bowl of Eggs

Lunch Lady Quiche

Basic Ingredients:

1 Dozen Organic, Cage Free Jumbo Brown Eggs

2 cups shredded double cheddar

2 Dashes Skim Milk

2 Healthy dollops Worcester Sauce

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil (Extra VIRGIN, of course)

Sea Salt, Black Pepper, Garlic Powder, Paprika

4 Scallions

1 Cup Chopped Portabella mushrooms (Baby Bellas are easier)

1 Cup Chopped Red Pepper

8 Oz. Package Chopped Broccoli

8 Oz. Package Chopped Spinach

2 Frozen deep Dish Pie Crusts ( A REAL man would learn to make his own pie crusts)

Wash and chop scallions, mushrooms and pepper – sauté lightly in olive oil

Put 6 eggs each in two separate mixing bowls, add Worcester Sauce, milk, salt, pepper, garlic powder – whisk vigorously

Add chopped broccoli to one bowl

Add chopped spinach to the other

Add 1/2 cup cheddar to each

Add sautéed veggie mix to both

Mix thoroughly

Pour ingredients into separate pie crusts

Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheddar over top of both quiches

Top with paprika

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour

Let stand for 15 minutes before serving


Obviously there are as many variations as you can imagine with different combinations of veggies, cheeses, meats, or, it should go without saying, a solid foundation of bacon.

Musical Pairing: Waylon Jennings Honkytonk Heroes

Waylon Jennings Honky Tonk Heroes

Wine Pairing: Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin

Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin


Bon appetite!

Until next time……..

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