“Bravery is not the absence of fear. It’s the ability to act in spite of being a big chicken.” -Me
Growing up, I never really had a Superhero crush (I was more of a Scooby Doo fan). I didn’t buy into the whole League of Justice thing, either, although I thought Wonder Woman was pretty cool with her bracelets and the ability to make people tell the truth via her magic lasso. Side note: If you are going to be a fantastical crime fighter, doing it in a smokin’ hot bathing suit and red go-go boots is the way to go! I draw the line at the invisible jet, though. Seriously? Anybody else ever wonder how she could find that thing? Especially if she forgot where she parked at the mall. Happens to me all the time. Anyway, needless to say, I never even pretended to be a Superhero (except for the brief Bionic Woman phase, but that’s a different story). So, imagine my shock when I became one. You didn’t know? Well, how could you possibly? I mean, I don’t wear a cape or anything anymore (at least no longer in public). But, yes, it’s true. I am Super Cher! Savior of dogs in distress! Or at least dog. Here’s the back story.
One evening, nearing twilight, I was relaxing inside with a glass of wine (now, there’s a big surprise). I had already changed into my pajamas when I heard the baying of several roaming hound dogs – not an unusual occurrence on the property, no big deal. From the sound of it, they were having a grand old time, playing and running around in the distance, yelping at each other. But, then, something changed. There was only one dog barking now and somehow, having three dogs of my own (that were miraculously not barking, by the way), I knew the call was different. It was baleful. Like it was searching. Or calling for help. It made the hairs on my neck stand up, so I slipped on my Crocs [shudder] to go out on the deck and look around. I scanned towards the orchard. Around the rocks. The waterfall. The pond. Nothing. I looked around a second time. Still nothing. Then, I saw her. One of the dogs had fallen into a deep, almost hidden crevice on the left side of the falls.
I watched her desperately try to jump out of her stone prison, but with each effort, the force of the water swept her back in. I can’t emphasize enough how upsetting this was for me to watch. She was scared. I was scared. I was yelling encouragement, on the verge of tears, promising, “You can do it, girl! Come on, you can do it!” After her fourth failed attempt, she gave up, shivering. Being the animal lover that I am, I couldn’t stand to see her suffering, so my protective instinct trumped my fear of traipsing in the woods. I drove/flew down the hill and ran to the glade overlooking the pond. How was I going to get to her? My mind was racing. How can I do this? Jump in, swim over and try to pull myself on the rock? My God, the water’s freezing!
That’s when I realized the only way was to hike through the really scary path of rotted tree trunks and high weeds. Great! Now, I’m a trailblazer in sandals and p.j.’s. Please, God don’t let there be a snake, I’m doing a Good Samaritan thing here. Somehow, I climbed to the dry rock face and started to shimmy my way down to the cleft. The water was rushing fast and furiously. I knew this was a very grave situation and I was in real danger. And I was alone. Think! Think! As I got closer to the chasm, I called for her as sweetly and as calmly as I could. But truthfully, I was terrified. I crawled on my stomach to the edge of the rapids and steadied myself with a tree branch that was growing under an adjourning boulder. The water was pummeling my face as I craned for breath. I stretched to grab her, but each time I extended my hand, she shrunk back, just shy of my fingers. Terror took a turn – I guess all those childish Bionic Woman play sessions paid off because some kind of superhuman strength must’ve kicked in. At that moment, I mustered every ounce of my determination, thrusted myself forward, latched onto her collar and flung her out of the hole. She lazily shook off the water, pranced to the top of the hill and disappeared. Soaked and exhausted, I tried to follow her. When I came out of the woods, I couldn’t believe what I saw.
Being in such a panicked state when I arrived, I had inadvertently left the car door open and there was the dog, sitting straight up, tail wagging, in the passenger’s seat with, what I still believe to be, a smile on her face that seemed to say, “Okay, I’m ready to go now!” Well, I lost it. I boo-hoo’ed like I haven’t done in a long, long time. The dog was shaking violently from the cold water, so I got an old blanket from the studio and wrapped her up like a newborn. She licked my nose – just one quick little lick – as if to say, “Gee, thanks, lady!” Cue the waterworks. Again.
That’s when Adam drove up. “You won’t believe what I did!” I said, limp as an overcooked noodle, my words trembling between bouts of weeping. My recounting the very traumatic event went on for several minutes before he, with both his hands on my shoulders gently, but firmly, shaking me, saying with increased volume after each term of endearment, “Honey…Babe…Cheryl!”
He only calls me Cheryl (a). When he’s mad at me. (b). When we’re working. Or (c). When I’m acting like a complete lunatic.
“You have to calm down! That was incredibly brave, but…”
Sobbing, the double-pump kind of cry (you know the one, ladies – two sharp breaths for every wail), I repeated my story since he couldn’t possibly grasp the scope of my feat without reiteration, “You won’t believe what I did…I had to (whimper)… and I (snivel)…then…(full-on blubbering) Oh, you won’t believe what I did!”
“Yes, Angel, I know. Yes, it was scary. But you’re fine now!” he dished with a side of mild irritation.
“No, I’m not!” I protested. “Oh, no, I’m not! You won’t believe what I did…”
Thank God one of us was rational. He went in and called the number listed on her tag. The grateful owner said he lived “just down the street” and could meet us in five minutes. He showed up and I immediately recognized him as the man from the garbage dump. Nice guy, too. He thanked us profusely (well, as profusely as I think he could) for saving Sally. Sweet, sweet Sally. After that day, whenever I drop off my trash, he jokingly asks, “Save any dogs lately?”
Thankfully, no. Later, when I recalled the story to my good friend, she exclaimed, “Oh, my God! You’re Super Cher!” and then asked, “So, tell me, Super Cher…what does a Superhero eat for dinner?”
Well, this Non-Caped Crusader thinks that after any daring rescue or extraordinary act of heroism, comfort food is definitely in order. Chicken, I think. Well, because as a possessor of superhuman powers, you can’t be chicken, but you can certainly eat it!
Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
- 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Unsalted butter, for the pan
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise
- ⅓ cup sour cream
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- Pinch ground red cayenne pepper
- 3 cups broccoli florets, coarsely chopped
- 2 cups shredded extra-sharp Cheddar
- ½ teaspoon ground paprika
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ½ cup grated Parmesan
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken on a large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle each with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until the chicken is cooked all the way through, about 45 minutes. Butter a 9-x-13 casserole dish. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and shred the meat. In a large bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream until smooth. Add in the stock, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne.
- Fold in the chicken, broccoli and cheese. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth with a rubber spatula. Evenly sprinkle over the paprika. In a small bowl, combine the panko and Parmesan and evenly sprinkle over the top. Drizzle a little olive oil over the topping and bake until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes.
…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:
Planning: You can assemble the casserole the night before. Just hold off on the bread topping until you’re ready to bake. You may need to tack on a few extra minutes if it’s straight out of the fridge.
Product Purity: To make this dish even faster, pick up a rotisserie chicken (or two – depending on the bird’s size) to save you time. You’ll need about 4 cups cooked chicken. Check your labels on panko – many brands are made with hydrogenated oils.
Presentation: A casserole is messy. A casserole is gooey. That’s what makes it real food. A pretty and practical casserole dish like the one pictured is a smart investment. Not only does it perform beautifully, it also looks great oven-to-table for a family style presentation.