That One Time Charles Barkley and I Were Basically Best Friends (and Italian Sliders)

In case you haven’t heard, it’s MARCH MADNESS. AKA the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament where in the first round a billion teams play at the same time and before you even know one of your Elite Eight bracket picks is playing, they’ve already lost.

I genuinely enjoy most sports because I am an insanely competitive person and anything that allows me to channel that energy into an external entity as opposed to into games I play at home with my loved ones during which, in the event of a loss, I may throw pillows around and wake up Tater from his fourth nap of the day, is a good thing.

It also allows me to live vicariously because I once had aspirations of playing college basketball. I played for several years in school, and was one of five (yes, five — as in, just barely a team, as in, we played every single second of every single game) girls on my high school team the single year we had one. Despite never quite reaching 5’4″ (that last quarter inch was too much to ask of my genetic makeup) and that even if I had been able to play in college I never would’ve been in on the madness, I still look at them all and go that could’ve been me.

At which point Bryce rolls his eyes, but whatever.

This year one of our friends decided to organize a group where we could all submit our brackets. Two days into the tournament and I am convinced he did this because he is some kind of wizard with eerie basketball foresight. Actually, practically everyone is doing better than me because instead of basing mine on any type of statistics-based system, despite the fact that I generally follow college basketball, one of my brackets was just a “well, wouldn’t this be interesting to see” type situation.

For a brief, beautiful moment, my bracket was perfect. I was in with sports royalty, y’all.
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I was raised close to Lawrence, KS, and we were big KU fans, so this was my pick for if truly crazy things happen. And look! Me! Mookie Betts! Charles Barkley!

About 2 minutes after I took this screenshot one of my picks lost and I plummeted from a first-place tie with Charlie to… um… the unspeakable. It turns out that perhaps I am not the best at predicting sporting events involving a lot of teams I don’t follow.

Because the basketball tournament isn’t going so well for me, I have turned my attention to another, highly competitive activity: winning the love and attention of my pug. This one is going splendidly. After coming in at a high seed, I’ve been performing admirably in Tater’s bracket.

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thanks to printyourbrackets.com

I know what you’re thinking. Teresa, you rigged this! Tater can’t write. You clearly did this for him. 

Well, to that I say how about some photographic evidence?

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Tater WITH THE PEN and freshly inked bracket

Also, if I were to rig it, I never would’ve ended up facing cheese in the final round. But all of the seeds and the picks were based on pure scientific observation. I’d haul out the statistic books, but they’d bore you.

Exhausted from filling out his bracket, Tater ran off to take a nap somewhere, so time will only tell when the final matchup will be. In the meanwhile I’ll be doing crunches and wind sprints devouring these delicious Italian sliders in preparation.

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I threw this recipe together after skimming through about a dozen slider recipes. The great thing about these is you can make them however you like! We used spicy brown mustard because we like it, though you could certainly use whole grain, and added in banana peppers for a little tang and crunch.

Italian Sliders
makes 6 sliders

6 dinner/cocktail buns
6 slices salami
6 slices provolone
12 slices thin-cut ham
spicy brown mustard
banana peppers (regular jarred pickled ones)
about 1/2 Tbs (think a pat) butter, melted
1/4 tsp garlic powder
dried parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

With a bread knife, cut the buns in half. Slather both sides with spicy brown mustard. Working from the bottom bun, layer on salami, banana peppers, ham, and provolone cheese. Top with other bun. Arrange buns together in a baking dish.

Depending on the size of your buns and the size of meat and cheese slices you have, they may overlap. If you’re using a whole sheet of buns, like Hawaiian rolls, this won’t be too much of an issue. If you’re using single rolls and you’re a little bit OCD like me, you can cut the salami and provolone into quarter pieces and layer them on the bun to get a good, neat fit. Letting the excess hang over the sides is totally fine too.

Once all the buns are filled, combine melted butter and garlic powder in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of the buns with the mixture. If desired, sprinkle on some parsley flakes.

Bake in the oven about 13 – 16 minutes (depending on how hot your oven runs) until the sandwiches are warmed through, the cheese is melted, and the bun tops are crisp. If you don’t want to toast the tops, cover with foil while baking.

 

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