Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm Yours

My youngest nephew, when he is in trouble, will say (to whoever is punishing him), "I'm not [yours]!" For instance, if I am bodily removing him from a situation where he is kicking a sibling, he will say, "I'm not Auntie Cornelia's!" Or, if it is his father who is doing the removing, he will say, "I'm not Daddy's!"

When he is in a good mood, he will say, "I'm Mummy's, and Daddy's, and Auntie Cornelia's, and A's (his younger sister)."

The other day, when he was letting us know how much he loved us in this way, his father said, "Yes, but this morning you said you were the garbage truck's!" You have to understand that he is of an age when garbage trucks are very impressive/attractive.

Evidently this reprimand had an impact, because tonight when I was on the phone with my sister, and he was being excited to come pick me up from school, he said, "I'm Mummy's, and Daddy's, and Auntie Cornelia's, and A's, and not the garbage truck's."

"Not the garbage truck's?"

"Not the garbage truck's."

I felt loved.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What I would do with time out time (for me)

Today I was daydreaming about what it would be like if I got an hour of time out per day. (Sorry, guys; the essay admonishing us all to be more patient with small children will come some other day.) I made myself think, for fifteen whole minutes, about what I would do with that time. This is what I came up with:

read the news
read for fun
work on my room
plot how to get the things I want
“shop” (window shop) online
plan vacations
plan my budget
go to the library
teach myself how to make books
look up online how to do things (like scrapbook)
read blogs
go on walks
visit museums
have a mini-vacation, here in the city I live in (plan beforehand) (maybe half of my vacation budget must be saved each year, and half must be saved for some big future thing, like five years out)
become a seamstress to myself and others
write about my goals
learn Calculus (multivariable)
teach myself how medicine works
read philosophy
run and walk for fun
write about Christmas
write about how to be healed
read about Geology
play with paper—maybe make an architectural model of a theoretical house I would want some day
daydream about exactly how to build that house I would want some day
write up the stories I’ve made up for the children I know
learn how to draw better than I do now (learn from the book in the teacher library at my work)
knit socks. Warm socks. Comfortable socks.
read about history, especially the history of the American Revolution (I don’t feel like I know enough about it)
file/go through my papers that are extraneous
write about Book of Mormon stuff/religious stuff
try to write short plays for the New Play Project
take a long walk and then take a long, hot bath in a bathroom which is not interrupted on a regular basis (by children needing to use the toilet)
plan Christmas decorations for the current year; plan celebrations for the upcoming year
film movies (home made)
edit movies (home made)
try skiing
plan menus
make cookies
make other fun recipes that I want to try
go to the temple
do extra scripture study

Sunday Afternoon Soup

I made this yesterday afternoon-- hence the name. I think that I have written down fairly accurately how much of what I used. It might still need more bullion or salt. "Better than bullion" is a bullion alternative. I use it because it is vegetable-based.

Sunday Afternoon Soup (made on 21 September 2008)

3 onions
4 medium pieces of chicken (boneless, skinless breast, but any would be fine, I’m sure)
1 T (?) cinnamon
2 cloves garlic, minced pretty fine
lots of oil (sure, olive oil)
3 quarts of water
4 carrots
2 large potatoes
bullion (1 ½ T Better Than Bullion, approximately)

I chopped the onions and the potatoes big and the carrots small. I fried the onions in oil first (in a frying pan); then I added the frozen chicken (meaning, if you use non-frozen, then don’t put it in as soon); then I put the cinnamon in. I also added the garlic. I put the water on to boil. When the onions and meat and stuff were done (onions were golden-ish and the chicken was browning), I put them in the water. I chopped the carrots and fried them, then added them to the water. I then chopped the potatoes, added them to the water, and added the bullion. I cooked it until the vegetables were done, which was about half an hour after the potatoes went in.

This was darn good, in my opinion, and pretty good in the opinion of others who ate it. I definitely think that it would have been better with a few bones in it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

How I Became the (/a) Tooth Fairy

The other day, my sister and I were discussing the fact that I am the tooth fairy, and her daughter asked how it came about that I was the tooth fairy, so I told her the story, and now I am telling it here.

The Halloween when I was fifteen, I dressed up as a tooth fairy. I had a kind-of-fancy greenish-hued dress, and I happened to have a piece of matching tulle (tulle is a kind of gauzy fabric) and I decided to make a little gold-foil-covered box labeled "teeth". And I did. That was fun, but like the vast majority of Halloween costumes, it really was just a joke.

A few days after Halloween, however, my younger brother, who was five, woke up in the morning, and said, "Cornelia, the tooth fairy didn't come!" I told him to go back to sleep, and once he had gone back in his room, I looked all around our small house in search of a quarter (which was the going rate for teeth in those days). I think I finally got one from my dad. Anyway, I went in L's room, and slipped the quarter under his pillow, and took the tooth, and thought everything had gone just fine. But then, not long afterward, he came in the living room and announced, "That wasn't the tooth fairy, that was you!"

To which I replied, "How do you know I'm not the tooth fairy?" and he got a mystified look on his face, as though he were seriously considering it.

I loved this story and told it fairly often in the next few years.

My older sister had her oldest child five years later, when I was twenty. When I was twenty-five, her family moved to Australia.

A short time after that, her oldest (if you count, he was five by then) started losing his teeth. In a phone conversation with my sister, she mentioned casually that I was the tooth fairy for her children. I said: What? She repeated herself. She said that she tells her children that every family has a tooth fairy, and every family has a Santa Claus, and every family has an Easter Bunny. In their family, the tooth fairy is Aunite Cornelia, and the rest is a mystery for them (the children) to figure out.

I went with the flow. When my sister's next child got old enough to start asking such questions as, "Does Auntie Cornelia come here by magic to get our teeth?" I told her that I could deputize people. It's only in hindsight that I realize that I never explained what "deputize" means, but maybe that's all for the best. She (having never seen me at work, and perhaps only having a hazy idea of exactly what a tooth fairy does) drew me wearing a dress made of teeth. Just for the record, the teeth themselves are not my favorite part of the job. I was a little weirded out by the thought of that picture, but I let it ride.

So, I was just a theoretical tooth fairy, but then my other sister who has children started telling them that I am the tooth fairy, and then I started having to go through with it. I decided that one golden dollar is sufficient, per tooth (the price is double, as it was when I was a child, for teeth with roots-- roots normally mean that the tooth in question has been pulled). I dressed up in the shiniest clothing I could find. My younger sister made me a wand.

So this is how it works. I get a call that goes something like this: "Miss Young Person's loose tooth just came out today at lunch. Can you come down on Friday or Saturday?"

And I say, "I think Friday will be fine." And I pack an overnight bag on Friday, and I take my "Tooth-Fairy Kit," which has two fancy dresses (I let the child who has lost the tooth pick which one I wear) and a wand and, of course, gold dollars. I used to get the gold dollars at the post office vending machine, but then I figured out that I could get them at the bank, so that is where I get them now. The kit also has a light-up tiara, because one time when I was going on a Tooth-Fairy run (as I call them), one of my roommates gave it to me-- a friend had given it to her-- because, in her words, she couldn't think of anyone more fitting than the Tooth Fairy to own such a treasure. The last Tooth-Fairy run I made, I discovered that that particular niece has a light-up tiara almost exactly like mine, only with slightly different colors. She won hers at the library's mother-and-daughter-book-club party, where she won a frog-kissing contest (the game is sort of like pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, only it's pin-the-lips-on-the-frog).

I used to make the children go to sleep first, but now I just make them pretend to be asleep, because it is funner for all involved, and I am here to tell you that there is absolutely no other point to this game than having fun.

Here are some advantages to being the tooth fairy: I always win my round of "liar's club" (a popular game around here wherein a person tells two truths and a lie about themselves, and the others have to guess which is which. As long as I tell a reasonably truthful-sounding lie, no one is likely to believe that I really am the tooth fairy). Being able to announce that I am the tooth fairy gives me immediate cachet with the under-twelve set, in particular, though now that I think about it, it really has a certain cachet with all age groups. I hadn't realized until recently that the coolness factor also extends to the parents of my fairy-ees, as well; my younger sister says that other parents are always impressed that she has an outside tooth fairy. She also appreciates that she doesn't have to do it. The last and best advantage to being the Tooth Fairy, though, is that I get to spend time with my nephlings (word copyrighted by my youngest sister, being gender-neutral term for children of one's siblings) on a regular, if unpredictable, basis.
It makes them happy, and it makes me happy. I can't think of a better reason to perpetuate mythological creatures than for the perpetuation of happiness.

Monday, September 8, 2008

One More Tomato Recipe

A note: I have modified the Pineapple Upside-Down-Cake recipe, and would (again) love feedback. The recipe is findable on the left side of this blog.

The other day, I ran in to one of my Spanish students from last semester (she is from Spain; I taught her English), and seeing her reminded me of one of my all-time favorite tomato recipes, one which is imperative to make during tomato season, and is so delicious that I often succumb to the temptation to make it even when the only tomatoes available are barely-pink watery-tasting Romas.

It is a sort of fancy meal, but it is also wonderful because it is made of some of the cheapest ingredients around. The cost comes with the time and care required to prepare it. I personally know people who grow every single one of these ingredients, to eat (except for the salt). I have tried to separate out the recipe from the commentary, so that more experienced cooks don't have as much to wade through the first time through. As usual, I would love feedback.

Spanish Omelette (also, authentically, known as "Spanish tortilla")

Time: up to 45 minutes; can be as short as 20, if you chop stuff small enough and pay attention so that you don't burn things you are cooking on high heat and also if you don't mind using a little extra oil (again, so things don't burn).

One Small Potato
One Small Onion
Olive Oil (Spanish, if you can, just for the sake of authenticity, even though we all know that both tomatoes and potatoes originally came from the New World. But I guess that Ferdinand and Isabella did fund Columbus, so Spain probably has as much right to claim New World agricultural goods as as the next country.)
An egg
A tomato
a little bit of fresh Parmesan, if you have it and have time to use it (this is NOT authentic, as far as I know, but it is very yummy)

Chop the onion first, and then chop the tomato while the onion is frying in some olive oil.

I will not tell you what size to chop your vegetables, but I will tell you that the smaller a piece of produce is, the more quickly it cooks, and the more evenly a bunch of vegetable pieces are chopped, the more evenly they will cook (translation: smaller pieces cook faster, and if your pieces are all the same size, you are less likely to burn the ones that are smaller than all the others, because there WON'T be any that are smaller than all the others).

When I am having an averagely busy day, I chop my onions into approximately 1/8" thick half-rings. I chop the potatoes approximately the same size.

When I am having a very busy day, I'm not so careful about making my slices thin, and then I compensate by chopping the flat slices into smaller pieces. (Please tell me this makes sense. Darn, I really need to get a camera.) The other thing you can do, at least on the potato front, is to either 1) grate your potato, or 2) buy grated potatoes, which are ridiculously cheap at the grocery store (no, really, ridiculous is the word, but here is not the place to go in to U.S. farm subsidy policy). The advantage of grated potatoes is that they quickly achieve our two desired attributes: they are small, and they are evenly sized. The only disadvantages happen if you don't like the texture of grated potatoes, or if you have difficulty (as I sometimes do) in grating potatoes without also grating your fingers.

If you want to broil this at the end, you can either use something that can both be fried and broiled in (like a cast-iron skillet), or else plan to transfer your omelette to something broil-able at the point in the recipe where you broil.

So. Fry your onions until they are (pretty) soft and (pretty) brown-looking. Either one of these things can happen without the other. Soft comes from cooking on low heat and with the lid on; brown comes from cooking with higher heat, with the lid off, and it is also a good idea to stir your onions with something that can scrape the bottom of the pan while you are browning them. I normally go for soft first, then brown, but I'm not too picky about making them completely soft because they get a second chance when I cook them the second time around. If I'm in a hurry, I just go for even a little less soft before browning them.

Scrape the onions out of the skillet on to a plate.

Fry the potatoes. This time, don't worry quite so much about soft, since this seems to come more easily to potatoes than it does to onions. Once the potatoes are mostly cooked, add the onions in again. Cook 'em until they smell so heavenly that you are strongly tempted to just eat the whole mess without finishing the rest of the recipe. If you choose to cave to this temptation, I beg of you to please try again later to finish it-- it really is worth it.

Crack the egg in to a bowl. Whisk it with a wire whisk, if you have one (I don't, and am quite adept at doing this with a fork) until the white and the yolk seem pretty well mixed together. Pour the egg over the sizzling potato-and-onion mixture. Turn the heat down just a little. If you want, swirl the pan a little so that the uncooked part of the egg goes into those parts which are more cooked, thus making the whole thing cook a little more evenly.

Grate some Parmesan on to the cooked omelette. That's right, "some". That is how much. I don't know; pretend it's a really sparse pizza or something. Put the whole thing in the broiler. (Wait. Did I say to use a cast-iron skillet or otherwise oven-proof pan? OK. Now I have.) If I recall correctly, about two minutes will do you. You just want the cheese a bit toasty-golden.

If you don't use the Parmesan, you will want to salt your omelette. Either way, the last step is to slice the tomatoes as thick as you want (both thick (up to a quarter of an inch) and thin (about a sixteenth of an inch) slices taste good in different ways, so try what sounds good and see what happens) and then spread them in a single layer over your omelette.

I eat this with a fork, from a breakable plate, with a cloth napkin on hand if I can.

[Food purists may want to plug their ears for this next sentence.] Occasionally, when I am forced to make this with dreadful, store-bought winter tomatoes, I will eat this meal with ketchup.

Happiness-Inducing Childrens' Books: An Incomplete Annotated Bibliography

I'm sure I'll miss some, but I wanted to share what I can remember, at the moment. These will be approximately in age order, from youngest to oldest (of the person you read them to).

Note on Cornelia's idiolect ("idiolect" is linguistics-ese for the way that you, and you alone, talk): "little people" means "children".

Sandra Boynton used to write Hallmark cards (gaak!) but has gone on to a distinguished career as a writer of some of the most hysterically funny board books you have (n)ever laid hands on. Three of my most favorites at the moment are:

What's Wrong, Little Pookie?
The story is a simple one of a little child (maybe two or three years old) who is upset, as his mother tries to calm him down. For any of my readers who may not interact with small children on a regular basis, I have to say that this book is very, very realistic in its dialogue and resolution. Well, it's pretty close, anyway.

Dinosaur's Binkit
I bought a copy of this at DI, ended up giving it to my nephew because he liked it so much, and then ended up getting another copy for myself. In the story, the dinosaur has to go to bed, but is upset because he can't find his blanket. I won't tell you the ending, but I will tell you that it's happy. This book has one shiny/mirror part (little people like these a lot-- they like looking at their eyes in the mirror), fuzzy parts, AND flaps.

Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy
Last Christmas I wanted to get my youngest nephew a "feely" book for his present. I saw several options, some of which were eminently acceptable, but when I saw that Sandra Boynton had written one, I knew that my search had ended. ["Feely" books have unusual textures incorporated in to the pages: sponges, faux fur, plastic, sandpaper, etc. I have to admit that these are more enjoyable to read in the presence of the little people they are intended for.]

I cannot leave the topic of Sandra Boynton without mentioning that she is also the lyricist for such classic songs as "Philadelphia Chickens," "Go to Sleep, My Zoodle," and "I Want to Be Your Personal Penguin," which is my just-younger-sister's theme song, because she is (mediumly) obsessed with penguins. You can find a recording of the penguin song here:

(I hope that is it. I'm at work-- not on the clock, just so you know-- and at work, youtube is blocked, so I don't know for sure that the link is good. But I got it by googling "I want to be your personal penguin".)

Goodnight, Gorilla
by Peggy Rathman
Follows the touching saga (OK, just kidding) of a zookeeper who thinks he is putting all of the animals to bed, but in reality the mouse has stolen his key, and handed it to the gorilla, who lets out all of the animals in turn right after the zookeeper passes their cages. It's just a classic. That's all I have to say. Well, that, and that this book is happiness-inducing because it is so silly.

Warning: age jump. We are now entering the realm of books with rippable pages.

Duck Soup
by Jackie Urbanovic
I ran across this at Borders, one day when I was trying to decide how to spend my Christmas Present/ Gift card. In retrospect, I should have spent it on this book. It's about a duck that is making soup, and he decides to go out for something-- maybe it's another ingredient, I can't remember-- and when his friends wander in, they think he has fallen in the soup. Reading this now, it really doesn't seem that funny at all, but I promise that it was quite-- well-- happiness-inducing. The book even won an award of some kind. Plus, Jackie Urbanovic lives in Maryland, which means that the book has to be good.

Mouse Tails
by Arnold Lobel
This book of short stories is by the same guy that wrote the Frog and Toad series. I'm putting it at this point in the age-sequence because, even though it is more of a chapter book, the stories themselves really appeal more to the five-to-seven-year-old set. But a grownup with a properly developed sense of humor will also find them amusing. Really.

Books that are not so much hapinesss-inducing as just plain cool, and which are mostly pictures:

by David Wiesener
Probably no one reading this blog has not read and loved this book, but if I didn't mention it, someone would be sure to comment and mention it. (Hey, wait a minute...) Brief plot synopsis: one Tuesday night, the frogs in a particular town start floating. This is unexpected to all. Both oddness and hilarity ensue.

by Rufus Seder
This is another book that I bought for nephew, and then ended up getting for myself. Through a technique that is hard enough to explain when the book is in front of you (and possibly impossible when it isn't, so I'm not going to try), the black-and-white illustrations in this book really look like they're moving when you turn the pages.

Thought-provoking, but still happy, in a quiet sort of way:

The Gardener
by Sarah Stewart and David Small
My oldest nephew really loved this book when he was about four. It's about a little girl who goes to live with her uncle in the city during the great depression. The story is close to as sad as the premise indicates, but it is also, as its inclusion on this list indicates, happy.

I really like Sarah Stewart and David Small. {Warning: irrelevant story in the rest of the paragraph.} They came and gave a talk at the HBLL a couple of years ago (which I quite enjoyed), and after the talk was over, I happened to overhear Sarah Stewart saying she was hungry, and I just so happened to have a couple of homegrown juliet tomatoes with me, which kind of tomatoes are the most delicious in the world that I have tasted thus far. So I offered them to her, and she accepted, and that's all there is to that story.

They also wrote a book together called The Friend, but that one is far more thought-provoking than happiness-inducing, so it goes on another list.

The Three Questions
by John J. Muth
is based on a short story by Leo Tolstoy. I actually liked the original story better-- OK, what I know of the original story from the note in the back of the book-- but this story is way and definitely wonderful, leaving you feeling like you might be a better person than you thought you were, and that you just might be able to save the world by small acts of kindness after all. Or something like that. It probably depends on your mood. I encountered this one on that same buying trip wherein I found Duck Soup, and no, I didn't buy this one, either. I was determined to buy some music, but was disappointed in the musicality of the musicians on the recording I got. Anyway. I was already familiar with Mr. Muth because I owned Zen Shorts, which is also very, very good. And which I maybe should have put on this list, too, but it is getting to be a very long list.

The Big Little Book of Happy Sadness
by Colin Thompson
This is the book that inspired this whole blog. It's on sale RIGHT NOW at the bookstore (notice that around here, just as "the church," uncapitalized, means "the LDS church," "the bookstore," uncapitalized, means of course the BYU bookstore) and the only reason why I haven't bought it is because of a lack of funds. Which I may just choose to ignore and, as I regularly tell my best friend, eat potatoes for a week (i.e. take it out of the food budget). I have to say that putting staff picks on sale is one of the most brilliant ideas anyone around there has come up with in some time, and if they stole it from someone else, so much the better.

Here's a very brief synopsis: "George lived alone with his grandmother and an empty place where his mother and father should be." (That is from, I think, the first page, and it is on every synopsis I have seen of this book, including the inside front flap.) After this sad beginning, we see that George adopts an unloved puppy.

Think it sounds boring? Think it sounds only mildly happiness-inducing? I dare you. Just read it.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Jeremiah 10:4

Sorry. Decided not to put this one up after all. I may choose to email it to you if you ask me to; I just realized that it was not something I wanted in this public place.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A few good tomato recipes (for one hungry or two not as hungry people)

Garlic toast [time: 5 minutes, sometimes including eating]

1 clove garlic
olive oil
yummiferous tomato

Toast your bread, in the skillet if you want something really yummy. Rub it with a piece of cut garlic. Dribble on some olive oil. Put on slices of the yummiest tomato you can find.

Pasta Salad [time: 20 minutes, including pasta boiling time, and then half an hour for chilling]

(All measurements are approximate, since I never measure for this recipe anymore, and I don't remember where I got the original. Please comment with corrections, if you find that different proportions work better.)

2 c. cooked pasta
1 T olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/8 t. salt
1 or 2 as-delicious-as-you-can-find ripe tomatoes, diced in to 1/4-inch pieces (approximately)
1 1/2 T snipped parsley
juice from half a lime

Combine the ingredients and chill. It is important to use fresh lime, fresh garlic, and fresh parsley. Adjust seasonings to taste. (In particular, you might want more salt and/or lime juice; I didn't want to over-guess on those.)

Notes on the ingredients:

These days I use spaghetti for the pasta, but the original recipe called for shell. I also use whole wheat pasta, these days, to make it more healthy.

I snip the parsley with scissors. Books always say to use kitchen scissors (which are specially made for use in the kitchen) but I don't have any, so I use regular scissors and call them kitchen scissors because I use them in the kitchen. Remember that the stems have more flavor, and snip accordingly. I think that I snip it off about a quarter of an inch at a time. I have also substituted cilantro for parsley in this recipe, with success.

Of course you can use a lemon instead of a lime, but limes are always a little cheaper, and sometimes a lot cheapter than lemons, so I have taken to using limes. I also find that if I let them sit on the counter and get a bit hard before I squeeze them, the juice comes right out, which is most handy. If you can't get decent tomatoes and you are really craving this salad, you can add extra salt and extra lime juice to make up for the cardboard-type taste of bad tomatoes.

Stuffed Tomatoes

[time: five minutes, then two hours (or overnight), then 10 minutes]

The excuse for this recipe's lack of exactness is that the cookbook is in a storage unit at the moment, but I must admit that I had stopped measuring for this recipe before I sent the book off to boarding school, anyway.

some ripe, delicious tomatoes, big enough to hold stuffing
good bread (a little stale is OK) (maybe a slice, wonderbread-size, for every two tomatoes, which is of course four tomato halves)
herbs, like parsley or basil or dill or rosemary (1 t of dried or 1 T of fresh, cut up, per slice of bread)

Cut the tomatoes in half. Score each cut side with a knife (i.e. make little teeny cuts, like paper cuts, on them). Salt them and then put them in a colander with the cut side down, then leave them to drain for at least a couple of hours.

Also, put some garlic and olive oil on the bread and leave it to-- er-- marinate, while the tomatoes are draining. It's fine if the bread somewhat dries out during this process. (Use the instructions for the garlic bread up at the top, to figure out how to put the olive oil and garlic on the bread.)

When the tomatoes are all drained, scrape their guts out with a spoon (a-la Halloween pumpkins). Save the guts to use in Ratatoullie (recipe below).

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, cut the bread in to small cubes-- small enough to be spooned in to the tomatoes at the proper time. I think that 1/4 inch is pretty good, but if you are in need of something finer-- like, you decided to try this with cherry tomatoes or something-- then make sure your bread is nice and dry and toasty (this can be accomplished with a skillet) and then grate it on a cheese grater. If the bread isn't toast when you try to grate it, then you will get some crumbs, but you will also get larger, rolled-up bits of bread that aren't good for much, so remember to toast them first. Not that I know this from experience.

Mix the olive-oil-and-garlicky bread bits with a teaspoon of dried herb or tablespoon of fresh, per slice of bread. Add a little more olive oil to make it nice and shiny, and then spoon it in to the tomatoes.

Broil the tomatoes for a slightly shorter period of time than I always do. Try a minute and a half with a preheated broiler. I always forget them and have to take off the burned bits on the top.

I suspect that this recipe would be pretty good with cheese on top, but I have yet to confirm this suspicion.

Ratatoullie [time: 20 minutes. I think.]

Just for the record, I loved this and was in the habit of making it some time before the movie was made. I'm just thankful that the movie made everyone aware of at least the name of this delicious food. I never had a recipe for this. I just made it after my sister did.

tomatoes (sure, let's say two of them), diced or sliced
zucchini (one medium. Meaning less than 8 inches long.), sliced to maybe 1/8 inch thick
olive oil

Other potential ingredients:
minced garlic (bottled is fine)
yellow squash
mushrooms (button, rehydrated shiitake, whatever)
lima beans
other summer vegetables that look promising
mediterranean stir fry mix (frozen. Yes, I know it's a travesty, but it does taste OK, and it brings vegetables in to my diet.)

Preheat the olive oil. Oh, yeah, you want amounts. Cover half of the bottom of your skillet, and don't add more than a layer of vegetables at a time. Add zucchini slices, and depending on how meticulous you are feeling that day, brown them to perfection, or else just take the edge off that summer-squashy taste. Remove them to a plate. Heat a little more oil. Start frying the tomatoes. It is important that the oil be hot before the tomatoes go in, or they won't brown properly and it won't taste half as good. Once the tomatoes are a bit brown (you do have to look closely to ascertain this-- it isn't very obvious), add back the zucchini and whatever else you want (I definitely recommend separate cooking of mushrooms, if you want to add them) and cook until-- mm-- done. I mean, until the zuchhini isn't crunchy whatsoever, and the tomatoes are most delicious. If you were feeling meticulous at the beginning of this recipe, the combining stage will take anywhere from ten to thirty seconds, depending on how fast you are at scraping zucchini from a plate in to a skillet and then stirring things together.

When the ratatoullie is on your plate, add some salt. I recommend eating this with the best bread you can muster.