Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary



Lunch Lady Smoothies


Hi boys and girls! This is Michael Gillan Maxwell, The Lunch Laddy, comin’ at ya with a new installment of The Lunch Lady Cookbook. Today we’re gonna do some gustatory galavanting with the ultimate “meal on the go” ~ “smoothies”. These recipes are good and good for you!

Stop all the moaning and groaning! I know what you’re about to say. People write me all the time to say: “ Lunch Laddy ~ W.T.F. dude? What kind of Lunch Lady Cookbook is this anyway? You promised us classic Lunch Lady comfort foods and you keep comin’ at us with whack stuff like vegan dishes, quiche and God knows what all? Where’s the good stuff like Lunch Lady Meatloaf and Lunch Lady Sloppy Joes? And by the way ~ no  Lunch Lady Mac and Cheese? C’mon! What gives?” To which I reply: “Patience Grasshopper. All in good time. I promise. In fact, the recipe after this will be so heart-stoppingly unhealthy, you’ll need the crash cart and paddles to revive you!”

The first smoothie on today’s list is: (Tada!)

Incredible Hulk

  “All-Time Incredible Hulk Monster Behemoth Breakfast Smoothie” 

 For this you will need the following:

  • 1 Banana
  • 1 Mango
  • 1 Handful Blueberries
  • 2 Whopping Tablespoons Low Fat Greek Yogurt (I prefer vanilla)
  • 1 Cup Chai Tea

( I use Bolthouse Farms Vanilla Chai Tea with 59 grams of soy protein per 52 oz. bottle. That’s “Soy Protein”, nimrod, not “Soylent Green” ~ there’s a big difference. It also has 18 amino acids and builds strong bodies in 12 ways like Wonder Bread ~ and no, it’s not  the kind of acid you took at that outdoor music festival last year.)

  •  1 Tablespoon Garden Greens Protein Shake

( This has soy, spirulina and pea proteins ~ that’s “pea” ~ not “pee!” Jeez ~ will you please get with the program?)


Toss that stuff in a blender and whip it into a frothing slosh. (Not to be confused with Old Frothingslosh a prosaic working man’s beer from Pittsburgh)

Old Frothingslosh

Drink heartily. You should be channeling Yule Gibbons within 10 minutes, but take his transmissions with a grain of salt because I think he met his untimely demise from eating pine cones, one of the very things he extolled the virtues of.

Follow with a brisk 40 minutes of nude Tai Chi and a sponge bath on your balcony. The neighbors love that kind of stuff.

Musical Pairing:

Hamza El Din “A Wish”  

Hamza El Din is a legendary Nubian composer and in my humble opinion, the greatest oud player in the world,

Hamza El Din

Now hang on to your hats kids because here comes the next one. I call this the Lunch Lady

“Lunch When You Ain’t Got Time to Munch Smoothie”

You’ll need to hit the produce department at your local grocery store pretty hard for this one. You’ll need:

  •  1 Raw Beet
  • 1 Handful Spinach
  • 2 Stalks Celery
  • 1 Handful Baby Carrots
  • 1/2 Cup Carrot Juice

Again, throw that stuff in the blender and put the pedal to the metal. If you don’t have a blender, you can use a weed whacker or a boat propeller, but it’s not recommended. Whaddya mean you don’t like beets? Quit whining, ya big baby. If it helps, pour a couple of shots of vodka in there and call it a Bloody Mary. Anyway, beets are good for you. Just ask Dwight Shrute. You’ll be channeling Jack Lalane after this one. He lived to be 100 and had like a 26 inch waist. Although, if you hit the vodka too hard you’re more likely to be channeling Jack Palance. In either case, you should be levitating shortly.

Beets Are Good For You

Musical Pairing:

Tinariwen “Amassakoul”  

Tinariwen is a band of Tuareg-Berber musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali. The band was formed around 1979 in refugee camps in Libya but returned to Mali after a cease-fire in the 1990s. Their music totally kicks ass.


The Lunch Laddy is going to throw a bone to all you naysayers out there with one final recipe. The Lunch Laddie is a transplanted Wisconsin boy, die hard ex-pat and life-long cheesehead! This power packed concoction is called:

“The Bucky Badger Cheesehead Smoothie”

Bucky Badger

For this you’ll need:

  • 1 20 oz micro brewed IPA or Stout
  • 1 Bratwurst
  • 1 healthy chunk of Sharp Cheddar

Toss all that in the old Bass-o-Matic and whip it up!

Musical Pairing:

“Live From Camp Randall Stadium: The University of Wisconsin Marching Band Tuba Section Plays the Greatest College Fight Songs of All Time!” 

Marching Band

Bottoms up and until next time ~ Keep on chooglin’!

Lunch Lady Cookbook ~ Lunch Lady Tuna Casserole

Lunch Lady Tuna Casserole


Hey there boys and girls. This is the Lunch Laddy, Michael Gillan Maxwell, bringing you another recipe from The Lunch Lady Cookbook. Today we have a dish that ranks right up there with the All-Time-All-Stars of Comfort Food – a time honored go-to – the venerable Tuna Casserole. I’ve been in many a school cafeteria where the Lunch Ladies were slingin’ Tuna Casserole and this actually is the first legitimate Lunch Lady staple to grace the pages of the Lunch Lady Cookbook. 

Lunch Lady Action Figure

This does come with a caveat  ~ a little tuna casserole goes a long way. Too much of a good thing could even lead to the disintegration of a relationship as depicted in article in the New York Times (April 7, 2012) that examined various reasons for divorce in England, which unlike every state in America does not have a no-fault divorce law. In one case “a man declared that his wife had maliciously and repeatedly served him his least favorite dish, tuna casserole.” A conservative approach relative to the frequency with which tuna casserole graces your dinner table will go a long way towards maintaining a peaceable kingdom. 


No question about it, tuna casserole is a prosaic working man’s special, to be sure. But this is no reason to throw in the towel and go totally lumpen proletariat. All it really takes to class up this dish a little is a little imagination with your spices and garnishes and your beverage and music pairings.  This Lunch Lady workhorse of a dish could be juiced up and spiced up in any number of ways, and this particular spin on Lunch Lady Tuna Casserole does incorporate one or two ingredients that might not be used in a typical Middle School cafeteria. So without further adieu, I present to you



1 12 oz can of White Albacore Tuna in Water

1 Can Campbell’s Golden Mushroom Soup

1 5.5 oz. Can V-8 Juice ~ (Psst! Secret ingredient. Good and good for you)

1 Package Frozen Sweet Peas

1 Small Spanish Onion ~ sliced & diced

1 Small Tomato ~ sliced & diced

1 Celery stalk ~ sliced and diced

1/2 Cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese

12 oz. Wide Egg Noodles Bistro Style

Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs

Worcester Sauce



Garlic Powder

Red Pepper Flakes



Slice and dice fresh veggies.

Assemble your arsenal of spices, sauces and garnishes.

Boil the noodles ~ don’t over do this ~ better to prepare them “al dente” ~ they will cook more with the casserole.

Drain tuna. Feed tuna juice to your dogs and cats. They will love you with a white, hot passion for this.

Combine all ingredients in a 2 Qt. casserole dish, adding spices and a bit of the cheddar cheese intermittently as you gently stir together. Hold half of the tomato in reserve for topping.

Top with bread crumbs & rest of the cheese & tomato.

Bake covered on center rack of oven at 350 for 1 hour. Uncover for last 15 minutes if you like the topping a little crusty. 

Lunch Lady Tuna Casserole

Music Pairing

I dialed in a potpourri of songs from artists including Guy Clark, Old Crow Medicine Show, Steve Earle, Gillian Welch, Jerry Garcia & David Grisman, John Prine, June Carter Cash & others. Songs about working blokes, hopeless romantics, broken hearts, mercenaries,  moonshiners, orphans, vagabonds, drifters & dreamers, hard luck cases & whimsical goofballs. There’s even a gender bending sea chanty in there. These songs all have a familiar feeling. Even if you don’t know them, they somehow sound like songs you grew up listening to, songs that were the background of your lives. This became the foundation for a collection of tunes I burned to a CD and called 3 Chords & A Cloud Of Dust Collection Volume I. But I digress ……

3 Chords & A Cloud Of Dust Collection Volume I

Wagon Wheel Old Crow Medicine Show

Mystery Train Part II   Steve Earle

Dublin Blues               Guy Clark

Galway Girl               Steve Earle

Those Memories of You   Parton, Harris & Ronstadt

Souvenirs               John Prine

Shady Grove               Garcia, Grisman

Ring of Fire               June Carter Cash

Poor Man                         Old Crow Medicine Show

Orphan Girl               Gillian Welch

Paradise                          John Prine

L. A. Freeway                  Guy Clark

Mohammed’s Radio Warren Zevon

Old Shoes Tom Waits

That’s the Way the World Goes… John Prine

Handsome Cabin Boy Jerry Garcia, David Grisman

When I Paint My Masterpiece Bob Dylan

Fish and Whistle John Prine

Mercenary Song Steve Earle

I Was In The House … Warren Zevon

Tear My Still House Down Gillian Welch

Steel Guitar




Ithaca Nut Brown Ale

Until next time ……

Bon appétit !

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

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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