Black Bottom Lemon Pie

I went to cuddle with Michael last night in bed and grabbed him too tightly around the stomach. “Oh baby!” he groaned. “Be careful. I’m all filled up with pizza and pie!”

That was no lie. Earlier in the day as I was rolling out the butter crust and simmering the chocolate ganache, a jauntier (and lighter) Michael held up a shiny sheet of coupons from an Italian joint we’d never heard of called “Pepe’s.”

“Maybe we should use one of these coupons and order a pizza tonight!” he suggested brightly. When I didn’t answer immediately, he turned sheepish and added, “…or tomorrow night.”

I didn’t know my delay in responding while I patched a crack in the dough would throw the whole scenario into jeopardy. “No!” I quickly threw in. “Let’s do it tonight! We haven’t ordered a pizza since…”

I stopped. I had to think about it. When was the last time we had ordered a pizza?

“…two nights ago.”

I keep hearing the way I eat is gonna catch up to me someday. People continue warning that I’ll end up weighing a thousand pounds. “It’ll happen before you know it,” adds my mother, “and it’s not like when you’re twenty. Once it gets on, it’s impossible to get it the hell off.”

As I was breaking down the empty “Pepe’s” pizza box later that night, piling it into the recycle bin on top the empty “Big Papa’s” pizza box from earlier in the week, I thought all this over. Maybe I’ll wake up one morning and my waistline will have gone from a 32 to a 47 overnight. And maybe someday my fat cells will expand like an army of over-filled waterbeds. Maybe they’ll have to bury me in a Union Pacific boxcar.

But here and now… it’s just not happening.

In fact, at my last doctor’s visit, he said I was in phenomenal shape for a man my age! True, it was the optometrist, but he has terrific instincts about these things.

So if you ever come over to the GreenBerry TreeHouse and you see me eating a sliced red apple on a piece of melba toast, or a big spinach salad with raisins, or a bowl of non-fat yogurt covered in blueberries and wheat germ, don’t be fooled. It only means one of two things: either the pie isn’t out of the oven yet, or Michael’s all out of coupons.

Now for the mother-fucking pie! GET THE RECIPE FOR BLACK BOTTOM LEMON PIE HERE

Dispatch from the GreenBerry TreeHouse: Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars



It was only a matter of time before the skink living in the yard and featured in a previous post was finally captured on camera. As I was measuring out the peanut butter and the sugar, Michael came into the kitchen from the yard, tip-toeing like Elmer Fudd through the middle of the Looney Toons forest and whispered, “Put on yuh swippers and fowwow me! Huh-huh-huh-huh-huh!”

Cut to the backyard where he was pointing into the middle of our hillside of ivy and saying, “Can you see it?”
“No.”
“Right there.”
“Where?”
“Okay, lean down a little.  Now… see that one leaf that’s kind of brown and tilted to the side, just in front of all the green leaves and that little open patch of dirt.”
“Yes!”
“Well, that’s where it was, but it’s not there anymore.” GET THE RECIPE / SEE THE PICS –>

Dispatch from the GreenBerry Tree House: Blueberry Almond Muffins

 

Michael bulleted in from the backyard to report the good news. “I just saw a rainbow skink!”

“Wow!” I said as I turned down the volume on Rhoda. Michael’s eyes were wide as quarters and his mouth was hanging open like a man stung with bright, new enthusiasm, or the comic strip character Cathy when she finds surprise chocolate in her house.

“It’s beautiful!” Michael said. “Have you ever seen a skink?” He of course already knew the answer, so he didn’t bother waiting for me to provide it. “It looks like a long snake and it moves really fast! I saw it just dart under the woodpile!”

My “boyfriend instincts” told me, “Be excited!”  So I was.  But my “Orange County city-boy” instincts were throwing up red flags. They spelled out their concerns in a memo and delivered the talking points to my brain.

Attention Gary Green:

Point A: A “skink” sounds like the marriage of the words “stink” and skank,” neither of which you should be around.
Point B: Anything that can be described as having a body of a snake, yet not be a snake either needs to be in a Sinbad movie or stomped out with a boot heel.
Point C: It “darted.” Things that dart do so because they want to kill you.
Point D: It lives under a woodpile. That’s the brown fort-like structure in the corner you pretend doesn’t exist because you’re afraid of splinters and knee dirt.
Point E: We, your Orange County city-boy instincts have never steered you wrong. We’ve kept you away from things you should have no part of, like overnight camping, rock-climbing, bungee jumping, Burning Man, corn mazes, and peeing inside an Andy Gump portable restroom. So trust us when we say… there is no missing piece in the puzzle of your life that reads “Get to Know a Skink!” GET THE RECIPE / SEE THE PICS –>

2013 “Use Up the Flour” Goodwill Tour: Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

It’s August 5th, and in a mere ten days, Michael and I will be moving into our very first house together.  It’s located in the foothills of Studio City.  Actually, if you go by the realtor, it’s nestled in the foothills of Studio City  But being longtime Hollywood boys, Michael and I have yet to adopt that high-falutin’ kinda talk they brazenly show off in the San Fernando Valley. GET THE RECIPE / SEE THE PICS –>

Almond Cherry Cake OR “The Buff Shirtless Neighbor Has a Wife”

Across the courtyard from me moved in a couple, and the guy is the most ripped person I have ever seen who wasn’t in the military or the sex industry. I suppose I have seen guys with better physiques at the gym where I generally catch up on e-mails and scroll through pictures of my cat. But since those guys always have their upper bodies at least partially covered with t-shirts or tanks, I’ll award the “Most Ripped” title to this new guy across the courtyard, who is forever walking around shirtless. He’s always shirtless when he’s out on the balcony, but parades around in the living room and kitchen bare-chested too. If you don’t believe me, come to my house and I’ll show you all the pictures I took. READ MORE –>

Trisha Yearwood’s Iced Italian Cream Cake and “You Only Live Twice” (James Bond 1967)


This weekend, my friend Laura and I are watching the seven James Bond films she has yet to see.  I flew from Los Angeles to her house in Sacramento especially for the occasion.  “What else will you be doing while you’re there?” Michael asked as I shoved sweatpants and wrinkled t-shirts into a bag.  I was annoyed by the question. When you tell someone you plan on watching 18 hours of 007 movies in a single weekend, you don’t expect that person to come back at you with, “And…????

Laura and I opened a box of Cheez-Its, tucked blankets under our legs and started the weekend off with 1967’s You Only Live Twice, in which Bond goes to Japan and teams up with a beautiful female agent to solve a series of “space-jackings.”  In the movie, none of the characters refer to them as “space jackings.”  That’s a term I made up myself.  Laura and I giggled at it.  We have been friends for thirty years now, and really haven’t matured much since the age of 12.  If you don’t believe me, ask my therapist and Laura’s ex-husband. They’ll both confirm.

“I feel like I’m watching Austin Powers!” Laura said as the dated special effects lumbered across the screen.  It’s true, the giant villainous orbiting ship that sneaks up on American and Russian rockets from behind to swallow them doesn’t really hold up 50 years later.  It looks more like an early prototype of a Jim Henson crocodile Muppet.

After the rockets are swallowed up, the American and Russian leaders accuse each other of sabotaging their spaceships.  Again, Laura laughed.  “Why are they calling it a spaceship?  No one launches a spaceship.  You launch a rocket. You launch a shuttle.  You go up to a space station.  Only cartoon Martians have spaceships!”

After faking his own death in order to throw the enemies off his scent (and justify the name of the movie), Bond is launched to the shores of Japan out of a torpedo tube to begin his mission.  Within two minutes he’s already been identified by a sexy Japanese agent who talks into a secret microphone inside her purse, which even though it’s supposed to be secret, is approximately the size of Wal-Mart.

Later, Bond chases another sexy agent into an abandoned underground rail station where he ultimately falls through a piece of walkway that drops open and sends him down a long tunnel, landing him in a snazzy lounge chair on the other end.  Laura perked up.  “Oh, I gotta get me one of those!  Just watch for hot guys up on the sidewalk and when I find one, push a button and BOOM! He’s all mine!”

No one seems to remember anything about You Only Live Twice even though it has one of the most famous villain lairs in all of the Bond series.  Turns out that Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the white cat-petting leader of the evil SPECTRE crime syndicate is doing all his “space-jacking” from a hollowed-out Japanese volcano that can open and close to allow rockets to enter and leave at will. Laura and I agree, as secret lairs go, this crater one is pretty swell.

Every time the crater needs to open, Blofeld calmly orders, “Open crater!” and then his second in command yells over the volcano P.A. system, “Open crater!” and a guy pushes a button to make the crater open.  Later, Blofeld yells “Close crater!” and his assistant again repeats the command and the same guy pushes a button to make the crater close back up.  I would love to have that job!  I’d get to just sit around in some fancy 1960’s volcano lair all day, watching The Beverly Hillbillies on a black and white 14-inch television with rounded edges, just waiting for someone to yell “Open crater!”  Then I flip a button and make the whole damn billion dollar operation come to life!  You know I’d be strutting around like a stud at my high school reunion, that’s for sure! Of course, if I ever got fired I don’t know if The Japanese Employment Department would consider “Volcano Crater Door Opener” a legitimate job, and they’d probably deny my claim for benefits.  And in the long run I’d look back and think, “Yeah, I just took that job because the office space was cool.  What was I thinking?  A daily commute to a crater? Only in my twenties.”

Eventually, Bond and a team of Asian frog men (and one chick in a bikini) infiltrate the volcano and start shooting up the bad guy Army.  “They’re messing up his crater!” Laura shouted angrily.  Though she’s a fan of James Bond, her sympathies tend to lie with the villain.  She’s definitely got the instincts of a maniacal egomaniac bent on world domination.  But don’t tell her I said that.  She promised to make me a frittata later.

Bond’s goal is to locate the “exploder button” and push it so that the giant Muppet crocodile orbiting Earth blows up before it swallows another spaceship and holds the world ransom.  But first he has to get past Hans, the burly indestructible henchman that Laura keeps calling “Stamper,” even though Stamper is the burly indestructible henchman in Tomorrow Never Dies from 1997.  There’s a big difference between blond Aryan henchmen from the 1990s and the ones from the 1960s.  Stamper was ripped from head to toe and looked like he spent a lot of time doing CrossFit, definitely an elite fighting machine. By contrast, Hans is kinda bloated and looks like he might have a little narcolepsy.  His physique suggests he might do a few jumping jacks in the morning, and maybe hold up a medicine ball now and then.  But other than that his workout regimen seems to consist mostly of eating a lot of eggs.

Bond eventually dispatches of Hans by tossing him into a pool of piranha, then blows up the giant space crocodile, and escapes just before the volcano lair explodes in a giant fireball. I just re-read that sentence and feel I now owe apologies to the people I made fun of last night for watching Sharknado on TV.

By the way, even though Bond technically did succeed on this mission, Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his cat still got away and moved to Switzerland where they set up shop at a revolving mountain top retreat disguised as an exclusive allergy clinic.  Then they hatched a plan to hold the world ransom by waging biological warfare on crops and livestock in the next film, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  “Wow!” says Laura as the credits for You Only Live Twice rolled, “I liked this movie and all, but if that dude would just spend less money on all his fancy lairs, he might have more of the money he’s trying to get.”

She’s right, as always.  And I’m not just saying that because I’m getting a frittata.

Click here for the Recipe for Trisha Yearwood’s Iced Italian Cream Cake

Trisha Yearwood’s Lemon Squares




Someone I work with who shall remain nameless (but whose name is Rob), told me last week about a thing called “The Emmy Curse” whereupon you win an Emmy and then after your current show shuts down production for the season, you can’t get hired anywhere else in town.

“It happens, dude!” Rob said. “I’ve seen it. You get an Emmy (I won mine for Trisha’s Southern Kitchen) and you think, ‘Oh, they’re gonna be lining up to get me on board their projects! I’ll have the pick of the litter!’ And then… nothing!” And when he said the word “nothing,” he made that “finger-across-the-neck” gesture like movie mobsters do when they want their henchmen to throw the piano player out the window because he squealed to the Feds.

Coincidentally, the show I’m working on ends production for the season in less than seven days, and a slow sneaking sense of dread has inched its way into my brain, along with the distant echoing voice of my mother, “You should have gone to law school like I told you! Community college isn’t enough!” Of course what she’s never understood is that in television, community college is actually more than enough. You could end up running an entire studio based on nothing more than a half-semester at The Phoenix Rodeo Clown Institute. But that still doesn’t guarantee that you’ll keep working after you win an Emmy.

So come July first, I’ll have to make a decision: enjoy my time off and be grateful it’s happening smack dab in the middle of summer, or indulge in what is commonly known as “Producer Panic,” whereupon you might find me at a freeway exit peddling day-old carnation bundles and some lop-sided grapefruits with an Emmy on a leash where a stray dog is supposed to be.

But whichever way it goes, I’ll do my best to remain brave, stalwart and above the petty vindictiveness that so many Hollywood types indulge in when the phone doesn’t ring.

This of course will only happen only after I crush Rob’s career completely by trashing his reputation all over town. The “finger-across-the-neck” gesture works both ways. If I were that ass-panda, I’d start looking into a good Rodeo Clown Institute.

Recipe for Trisha Yearwood’s Lemon Squares – CLICK HERE

Homemade Blueberry Sauce OR “Why An Intruder Will Never Be Able to Murder Me”


I once wrote a story about a nice guy who ended up breaking into the home of his boss and strangling the maid when he unexpectedly found her there, innocently cleaning the inside of a giant vase with a vacuum hose. He snuck up behind her, yanked the hose from her hands and wrapped it around her throat. She twisted and kicked for a while, but he just dragged her around the house, tugging her along backwards from one room to the next to keep her from re-gaining her balance and putting up any real fight.

After she was dead, he kept his grip around her throat for another few minutes because he had seen so many movies where characters who are certain to be dead turn out to not be, and come back in the third act to surprise the killer who then stumbles down some basement stairs in shock and bangs their head against a water heater and dies.

Of course, the killer then never comes back to life in the same unexpected way the original victim did because they’re after all, a killer, and we expect fairness to prevail in our movies, unless the movie is directed by Robert Altman or someone German. But in real life, I know for a fact that you’re less likely to die from hitting your head against a water heater than you are if an intruder drags you around a house backwards by your neck with a vacuum hose. Ask anyone off the street about this; you’ll get the same answer.

When I was a kid and my parents let me stay home by myself, I would pull the largest knife out of the kitchen drawer and stab a cardboard box in my toy closet repeatedly, honing my aim and fortitude in case a burglar broke into the house and tried to kill me. Looking back, perhaps I should have asked myself why I thought a burglar might break into the house between 2 and 4pm on a Sunday afternoon, but ever since the time I was first able to pull myself out of my playpen, I have lived feverishly by the motto that you can never be too prepared.

As an example: I don’t wait until the end of the day to buy tickets for a movie Michael and I are planning to see that night. I buy them first thing in the morning. And if Michael is in charge of buying the tickets and plans on waiting until the end of the day, I try to warn him. “Maybe they’ll be sold out by the time you go to buy them. And then where will we be, hmmm?” But Michael just does what he wants. And almost always, there are good seats left. But sometimes there aren’t, and when that happens I don’t wag my finger and look at him with crooked lips, even though I could. It’s the same thing with being ready with a giant knife on a Sunday afternoon. “Maybe someone will crawl in through the doggie door and kill me when I’m home alone. And I won’t notice in time because I’ll too busy playing UNO against myself at the kitchen table. Then where will I be, hmmm? Dead. Dead with three Skips and a Draw Four card still unplayed, that’s where! And then people could say, “He should have been ready with a giant knife just in case,” and wag their fingers at each other during my funeral. Who wants that? Not me. That’s why I’m always ready: buying movie tickets, avoiding being murdered, and everything in between.

Needless to say, Michael is not fond of this paranoid quality of mine. When he’s supposed to call me at a certain time and doesn’t, I get panicky and start dialing his phone over and over, then hanging up before I leave a message, so he can see I’ve called fifteen times but won’t actually be met with the desperate voicemails I used to leave him, such as, “I need to know that a serial killer hasn’t gotten you. I’m worried. Plus I don’t understand how people are identified by dental records and I won’t do it right. PLEASE CALL ME BACK!”

Michael sighs sadly and presses his eyelids together dramatically whenever I start acting this way. Sure, I may sometimes walk down the street with my head facing the sky in case a piano is about to fall out a window. And when we hear about a trainer being pulled into the water by a whale at a marine park, I may look over at him and state plainly, “And THAT is why I want a harpoon!” I think secretly Michael believes I need help for this. But I don’t care. Sometimes, when we’re leaving the movie theatre he goes down the stairs without holding the handrail, and I say to myself, “We’ll see who gets the last laugh, buddy.”

Click here for an AMAZING Blueberry Sauce Recipe!