Thursday, April 30, 2009

Quickly Now

Quick update as I am short on time.

My computer died so I have had to resort to my travel netbook and borrowing my wife's computer. Bummer.

I made cookies today and will be blogging about that as soon as possible. BUT, I have my neurologist follow appointment tomorrow and then we are taking a few days off to visit friends, my folks and a short stay in Nashville. So time is short but I will get to it.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Have a Sprite and a Smile

Today was a scramble to make dinner. Actually it was yesterday that was a scramble but I fell asleep and didn't wake up until it was too late to fix dinner. But I was determined to get it right today. I had a pack of chicken, what to do?

I started scanning some of my old keepers and settled on Chicken Casserole with Sprite. Yes, Sprite. There was a can in the fridge. I'm not sure where it came from since we only drink diet in our house, probably from my father-in-law. But it was there waiting to be used.

You're probably still stumped on the Sprite part. I have the Classic Cooking With Coca-Cola book. It's rather interesting and I tried this recipe once before and it was decent, worth keeping.

The problem was the ingredient list. I didn't have cream of celery soup, but I had cream of mushroom. I didn't have 16 ounces of Sprite, just a 12 ounce can. But last time the casserole was on the soupy side, so I thought a 12 ounce can would probably be an improvement. I also didn't have 6 ounce box of long grain wild rice, so I used Texmati brown rice. By the way 6 ounces of rice equals one cup. I had a can of cut green beans but as I noted before I didn't think French cut was that important. But I drained the can this time since, as I mentioned, the casserole was soupy last time. I had no pimentos on hand, so I just skipped them. Nor did I have a can of water chestnuts but they've always reminded me a little of raw potatoes. So I took a large red potato, quartered it and and sliced it thin. I thought some French fried onions on top would be a nice touch but I couldn't find any so I took my advice from last time and covered the top with cheese.

So how about that, a completely different casserole! It came out rather good, except, the rice didn't cook through. It took my brain a moment to register how the slivered almonds got in there until I realized it was the rice. That's probably the difference in using "real" rice versus Uncle Ben's. The potatoes were just barely done but then again they were supposed to emulate water chestnuts, so that was fine. I probably should have used a shallow casserole dish instead of a deep casserole dish to get a better cheese to casserole ratio. Next time. I think French fried onions would have been better than the cheese but the cheese was better than not. I'll probably keep the portion of casserole that's covered with cheese and give the rest to the feral cats. I've come to enjoy that ;)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Первый блин комом*

The first pancake is a blob.

I think it's true. That first one is always no good and you have to throw it away. That happened with our first pregnancy in Michigan and then we had a perfect pancake on our second try named Rose.

The blog has been quiet this past week as I've been preoccupied with ultrasounds and bad news and a D&C. We started making pancakes again and once again we had to throw the first one out. In Michigan it was the very first time and so it was devastating. This time it is a little nonchalant, at least for me. I think because we have Rose. I think God looked down and said, "I did such a great job with Rose, this one just won't meet the standard I set, so I'm going to nip it in the bud right now." And I'm good with that. Kind of happy really. I think the next pancake is going to be a really, really good one.

I did actually cook once last week. I made stew. I bought a top round roast with do idea of what to do with it. Stew seemed like a good compromise. I made it from a recipe that I had used before. I'm still tweaking it as the recipe in the book is wrong. For example it calls for a 1/2 cup of garlic powder. Uh no. Tried that last time and we didn't need to fear any undead for a 200 mile radius. This time is went much smoother and I think I had the best sear on stew meat I had ever done. While I was making it we got an invite to go out to dinner so I packed up all of the stew in individual serving containers to quickly cool down in the fridge. Serve Safe, remember? We had it for dinner two days later. It tasted really good but it just wasn't stew. It was more like pot roast. I don't know what happened but it seems like sitting in the fridge the meat and vegetables absorbed all of the liquid so there was no "soup" component. Dinah was home most of the week for obvious reasons and I had lost interest in eating the pot roast stew, so with no one interested in eating it, I've been leaving it out for the feral cats. They LOVE it! Though it could be a raccoon or opossum I'm feeding I don't really know but I like to think it's the cats.

This week hopefully we get back on track, hopefully.

*I actually took Russian in high school. I was close to fluent but I don't remember much though I can still read it. Someday I'll revisit learning i.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Nothing Says "I Love You" Like Food Poisoning

Growing up, 8th and 9th grade, my best friend and I had a routine every week. Friday night we'd spend the night at one house, staying up late, being goofy, playing games, watching David Letterman. Saturday night would be at the others house, same thing, watching Saturday Night Live. We always got pizza from Dominos, only Dominos, both nights. Back then it was two large one topping pizzas for ten bucks. We always got pepperoni, only pepperoni. We also would get an 8-pack of Coke in bottles for both nights, four for Sean, four for me. Remember returnables? Coke tasted better in glass. We'd eat one and a half pizzas probably, all four cokes, and leave the remaining pizza in the box on the stove to sit over night to be eaten for breakfast. No, we never refrigerated it. My Mom was horrified! I'm not kidding, we did this for two years, 90% of the weekends in that time. And not once did I ever get sick on the leftover pizza.

In college I did the same thing, except I left the pizza on top of a gas stove. Boy was I smart putting a cardboard box right above gas pilot lights. But this kept the pizza a little warmer and gave a soft pliable pizza and a neat congealed cheese the next morning that was oh so tasty. Again I never got sick on left over pizza.

I've eaten raw oysters as long as I can remember. Love 'em! Belly up to the bar at Acme's or Felix's (I like Felix's better). Dinah treated me to a birthday treat by taking me to Apalachicola just to eat as many as I could. Never gotten sick on oysters.

My ex-mother-in-law gave me food poisoning three times though. First time I vividly remember being leftover clam dip, one of my favorite treats. I think the second time was coleslaw or pasta salad. Can't remember the third. All three times I never threw up so much in my life. I threw up until there was nothing left to give and still I continued to heave. The first time I went to the hospital and the ride over there was brutal. Every bump made me heave again and I was having second thoughts about getting help. All three times I just wanted to die, just to make it stop.

I often hear people say they think they have food poisoning, their stomach is a little queasy. No, you don't. If you aren't praying for the end, it's not food poisoning. Food poisoning is brutal, not uncomfortable.

I experienced a new form though last night.

Dinah often has outside vendors bring in lunch. On Thursday she called wanted to know if I wanted her to bring the leftovers home for dinner. Hell yeah, you don't have to ask if you can bring home food. I can at least eat it for lunch if we don't eat it for dinner. So she brought home some left over club sandwiches and chicken tenders. It made a good dinner. And within an hour, my stomach was upset. But I wasn't praying to die. I wasn't nauseous, so I wasn't worried. I had the remainder for a late breakfast Friday morning.

And then it started. Never was I nauseous but I did have pain in my stomach. Almost like an incredible hunger pain or acid reflux. I had an appetite and no problem eating. We even went out to dinner last night. But I was shitting my brains out. I didn't sleep at all last night, it was every 10-15 minutes. After I started the third roll of toilet paper for the day (and these are mega rolls of Charmin) I wasn't praying to die but I was definitely praying for something.

I asked Dinah, did the leftovers go into the fridge after lunch or did they sit on the break room table all afternoon until time to go? They sat for a while, maybe an hour and a half. Dammit. There's basically a two hour window starting from the time the food came up at the restaurant. Oh well, it's not her fault, based on what I had someone at the restaurant is probably sick and didn't wash their hands well.

So let that be a lesson to ya'll, put those leftovers in the fridge right away.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Almost Vegetarian

But not quite. As I said, the other night we had black bean burgers and tortilla soup for dinner. Substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock in the soup and you're all the way there though. Be proud of me Amberly.

I do like black bean burgers though. I really like the ones made by Boca (from Madison Wisconsin, Go Badgers!) and the ones made by Morningstar Farms (formerly Worthington Foods from Worthington Ohio, my hometown). I eat two at a time for lunch, with or without a bun. Both Boca and Mornigstar use textured soy protein in their black bean burgers which gives them some body that this recipe doesn't have. The burgers that I made had a quite mushy texture, but once you got past that first bite, it was all good. Besides, I'm not so sure that soy is as healthy as everyone has made it out to be and my wife can't eat it anyway since she's allergic to soy beans. No more Morningstar Farms sausage links, her favorite pancake adjuvant. Sigh.

I have to admit that these burgers are stupid easy and quick to make. I think the longest part of the recipe is to heat up the frying pan. No excuse not to make these. Here's my rewrite.

I think I have mentioned before that I am not really a soup eater. I don't crave it or go out of my way for it. Nor do I have any association of soup with weather. I'll eat it whenever I damn well please. As a general rule of thumb, if it is chunky, a stew, or a bisque, chances are I will eat it. Dinah on the other hand loves soup. She eats it every week at work. Well that's mostly because we are broke and it is simple and quick to fix in the office but she loves it nonetheless. So I make soups mainly for her benefit.

There are numerous versions of tortilla soups out there. The aforementioned Amberly has her own that I remember being quite excellent, even if it was vegetarian. I've never made it before so this was my first attempt. I did take the time to make my own tortilla chips. It's not hard, adds a little special flair, but there's nothing wrong with buying store bought tortilla chips (is that redundant?). I used up all of my turkey stock on this recipe. Time to make more stock. I think because I used real homemade stock Dinah declared the soup to be meaty, even though there was no meat in it. I felt the magazine's recipe was not well written, and doing the tortilla chips first gave the recipe better flow and used one less pan. So here is my rewrite.

Thankfully we do have a Mexican grocery so it was easy for me to find the chiles and I even bought crema instead of sour cream. I foolishly did not buy the cheese there since I assumed the grocery had it, but they didn't. In the future I will look at a crock pot version of this and I like to find a way to simplify recipes that call for toasting chiles for those that don't have the access.

Every time I stop into a Mexican grocery I buy a bottle of Coke because in Mexico it is made with sugar instead of evil high fructose corn syrup. It tastes just the way it did when I was a kid with a crisp aftertaste instead of coating and clinging to your tongue. DAMN IT, they've changed the recipe. Now the label says made with corn syrup or sucrose and damn it if it doesn't taste just like the American crap we have here. I'm hoping Canada still uses sugar. My fingers are crossed.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Last night I made black bean burgers and tortilla soup for dinner. It was good and I'll be writing about it but for whatever reason today I just don't have any ambition or energy. So be sure to check back later.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

No School for You!

Classes resume tomorrow. I looked at the schedule and they are only offering three classes next quarter thanks to budget cutbacks (they let Chef McKenna go too). Two of the classes I have already had and the third class I don't have the prerequisites for. Mar. :( I even called Chef Drake to confirm. There wasn't even a class in another subject that looked remotely interesting. No surprise I guess since the two main programs are medical assistant and cosmetology. So I'll have to wait until the summer quarter. I'll just keep practicing at home I guess.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Sexual Assault Awareness Month - No Food Today, Sorry

If you tuned in today then you are listening to Evil Stig in Today's Kitchen Music. And if you are wondering if that isn't Joan Jett that you hear, yes it is. This is one of my favorite albums of all time. Top Five. I fear I may wear this CD out but thankfully this disc is still available, for now.

Evil Stig is The Gits spelled backwards. They were a punk band on the Seattle scene in the early 90s, on the verge of making it big. Then in 1993, while walking home, the lead singer Mia Zapata was brutally raped and murdered. At the time there were no leads. The band got together with Joan Jett on lead vocals and began a benefit concert tour to raise money to fund finding Mia Zapata's murderer. This CD was released of that work and proceeds from its sales also went to the search. I'm pretty sure I bought it when it came out in 1995. Thank God, thanks to DNA, the murderer was finally found in 2002 and convicted in 2003, ten years after. Now I believe sales of the CD go to benefit Home Alive (though I think when I bought it part went to RAINN but maybe that was another CD).


I can't tell you why sexual assault bothers me so much, why it makes me so angry, makes me grit my teeth, even send me into a rage. I have no personal experience with it. I've never been touched by it directly, only third or fourth hand. But it makes me seethe. I imagine my eyes turn just like Anakin Skywalker's did in Revenge of the Sith regarding the subject.

It's on the short list of things that make me hate. There is just too much ignorance and too much apathy regarding sexual assault and domestic violence (I don't separate the two). People just don't give a shit. When we moved to Bainbridge I was gung ho about getting involved in the community. I wanted to make a difference. So Dinah and I both joined the Decatur County Family Connection group. Because of my deep seated feelings I immediately felt compelled to join the Domestic Violence Task Force committee of Family Connection (I was briefly chairman of the task force, cut short only because we moved). It was an eye opening experience.

Things moved slow as they often do in committee work, especially when you only meet once a month. But I felt like I was getting involved. We met and worked with the Stepping Stone house which was a half way shelter for women recovering from substance abuse. We tried to help the Halycon Home which was the local domestic violence shelter. We put awareness inserts in student report cards about child abuse. We sponsored some town hall meetings about problems at the high school level. We had a rally for awareness (since we left there has not been another rally, sad).

What I found was people didn't want to hear about these problems. They didn't want any light shown on these issues. Bringing attention to it was criticizing what a wonderful community we have here and we just don't like what you are doing. No one from the city government wanted to participate in our task force. No one from the city police department would participate. The churches all refused our invites. Not a single one of the largest employers in the county would participate and certainly not make any donations to help us fund our projects. Not even the hospital. I should point out that we had excellent support from the county government and the county sheriff's office. Go figure.

I was the only male on the task force. I think that summarizes a lot of the problems with domestic violence in the country. We are still a male dominated society and my belief is that as a whole, males don't care. I remember telling the director for Halycon Home that if it was a shelter for battered men, she'd have no problem with funding. No one disagreed.

I used to believe that ignorance led to fear and fear led to hate and that education would solve all the problems. Bainbridge taught me that there is no cure for ignorance. You can educate as much as you want but you can't change the ignorant. I witnessed people supporting a community leader who sexually molested a teenager. I witnessed a community that believed that if you were raped and were dressed provocatively you deserved it. I witnessed a community that supported a high school teacher who slept with one of his students because she was 16 and knew what she was doing. And those are just the ones that made the paper. And no matter how much I railed against this ignorance, nothing changed.

When we moved to Blairsville I didn't seek out a similar group. I'm still too sick to my stomach and discouraged. I don't think I can do it again. I need to find another way to get involved though but the task forces and working with the general public aren't for me. But I don't know how. I just can't spin my wheels and not make a difference. There has to be a better way. I wish I had influence, like celebrity status or wealth, then maybe I could move mountains.

Which brings me to the past election. I really didn't want to see Hillary Clinton as president but there is one reason I did. If she were president, then I would try to get one of my dreams accomplished. In our society we treat murder as the most heinous of crimes; it has the steepest of penalties, 25 to life or the death penalty. It's not the worst of crimes. Sexual assault is the vilest, evilest of all crimes. With murder the victim is dead, the suffering is over. Sure friends and family have a burden to carry but the crime is done and the victim doesn't have to endure. Not so with a sexual assault. Rape/assault/molestation is carried for life. The damage never goes away. The suffering endures. Maybe over time it eases and the pain is less and the memories duller, maybe, but it is still always there. Just like a scar. And not only does it affect the victim but also everyone the victim knows. And the crime will have impact of some type on everyone the victim will know in the future. Behavior changes, relationships change. Life changes, emotions change. Personality changes. Murder seems rather benign comparatively speaking.

But the penalties for rape and sexual assault are a pittance compared to those issued for murder. The penalty for rape in Georgia is 25 to life with parole eligibility. That's not more sever than murder yet the crime is clearly more severe. By the way in Georgia rape is defined as being only perpetrated by a male on a female victim. Ponder that for a while. What about the penalty for a younger victim? We feel better about calling it molestation even though it's still rape. Now the victim, being younger, has to carry the scars of the crime for an even longer period of time. And being younger and more innocent, the trauma can be even greater. Should not the penalty be even more severe? It's not.

So if Hillary was president I would try to push for maximizing the penalties for sexual violence at the federal level to be more severe than than for murder. I want minimum of 35 years, no parole. My belief is that as long as our government is dominated by a male majority, it will never happen, but a female president would be the trump card that might make it happen. I just don't know how to push it.

Damn this is a disjointed rambling. I get that way on this subject. I get too worked up. My apologies for not being better structured in my writing.

If you don't know it April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Please, support a domestic violence awareness organization. Sexual assault and domestic violence are together the most insidious problem we have in this country that no one knows about. These groups work to at the minimum bring awareness to the cause all the way to fighting for the rights of victims. Support a local group, a local shelter or a national organization like RAINN. Please don't forget about it this month and try to do one thing proactively to help fight for the cause. Thanks.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Stir Crazy

Tonight I made a simple pork-mushroom-snow pea stir fry. Of course I got the recipe out of my magazine, I'm maximizing my subscription fee, but I would not say that it is authentic anything. There's really no point in writing this up as stir fry is quite simple and like I said, it's not like this was an authentic dish of any type, but I thought I'd relate a few notes I made along the way.

I haven't made any stir fry in over ten years. I debated about getting my wok out for this or not. Maybe I'd use the electric wok? I got that from my parents. They were going to throw it out. I bet they got it as a wedding gift. No. Maybe I'd just use a big skillet. My low sided non-stick pan actually works pretty good for this. No. I'll get the wok out. I mean, I bought a real hammered steel wok all those years ago for a reason.

I used a little more than a pound of pork. This is either the third or fourth recipe I've gotten out of that big pork loin that I bought, capitalizing in buying when things are on sale. I trimmed the fat of with my petty knife, saving it for something else. Man I NEED to sharpen my knives. I have a super-duper salmon slicer so I sliced the pork down very, very thin with ease.

The recipe called for a 1/2 pound of snow peas. No problem they come in an 8 ounce bag. I buy them all the time because I snack on them like other people eat chips or popcorn. The recipe called to remove the strings from the snow peas. Hmmm, never heard of that with snow peas. OK. I ended up doing about half. It doesn't work very well, especially not like string beans. Sometimes the strings came off, sometimes not. Like I said, I eat snow peas all the time and the strings have never bothered me. And as I said, I left half of the peas with strings intact. I couldn't tell a difference when cooked.

I don't think I had enough oil for the garlic and I should have added it after the peas not before. I think I burned some of it though I never noticed any bitterness in the dish from burnt garlic. What I did notice was that the three cloves of garlic seemed to be about six cloves too few. I couldn't taste any.

Same with the teriyaki sauce. When it comes to Asian food I do prefer to buy from Asian groceries rather than from the regular grocery store because I want something authentic and I'm not always sure that the Kikkoman brand or La Choy brand are really the real thing or Americanized. Besides there's the extra excitement of buying something with a label you can't read. I avoided the two popular brand and bought the one other one that Ingles had, a Korean teriyaki. It was good but the two tablespoons seemed like I should have at least tripled it.

Also any recipe that calls for crimini mushrooms I just buy baby portobello mushrooms. I'm pretty sure they are the same thing. That and I can buy an 8 ounce container of baby bellas already sliced, just what the recipe calls for. Perfect. Done!

Maybe this recipe was written for the wusses out there who don't like much flavor, are afraid of anything ethnic or need the "intro" version to get started. It was really a great dish, just a little on the bland side. Didn't stop me from eating until I was full though.

One other note, I certainly didn't use an appropriate rice. I used Texas basmati rice, a brown rice because it is a healthier option. I've been using it for awhile now for any dish that calls for rice. It is interesting because it has a very creamy texture. Not correct but it was tasty.

Rose threw a temper tantrum of grand proportions this evening unlike any we have seen before. It started during dinner and continued well past until we said enough, you're going to bed. That's when she took it to another level. Then she tantrumed until she puked. Now THAT'S a temper tantrum!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Eat More Broccoli, and Some Fish Too

Yes more broccoli. I must be on a broccoli kick. My parents would be shocked. I especially enjoyed last night when Rose told me she didn't want any broccoli, even saying the word and pointing to it. It's funny because she has never had it before.

Last night we had Broccoli-Parmesan Gratin, a tuned up Italian casserole and Cilantro-Chipotle Tilapia, a spicy Latin inspired dish . Two dishes that really don't pair together well, but I didn't care, it's what I wanted.

Both of these dishes are quick and easy. I even got lucky in my lack of planning because I made the gratin first which finishes under the broiler which I then used to cook the fish while the gratin rested. Sometimes you just get lucky.

If you put steamed broccoli on my plate, I'll look at it, chop the stalks off, salt it and eat the florets happily. You make it into a casserole, especially with CHEESE, and I'll devour it. This one was no exception. If I had any complaint it was that there wasn't enough of the cheese sauce, maybe next time I'd double it. And maybe because it seemed under-cheesed it seemed like too much bread crumb. But really I'm nit picking, it was delicious.

But the star of the meal was the fish. I love fish even if I rarely eat it. I ate a lot as a kid. I'll go out of my way for smelt, perch or pan fried bluegills, but I find most restaurants' fish choices to be ho-hum and stuffings and breadings on top do nothing for me. But I really dislike cooking fish. I find it messy and it stinks the house up.

Not so with this dish!

To me this was the kind of dish that you would be served in a restaurant. It tasted like I had hit a home run out of the park. I know I blew Dinah's socks off. But there are a couple caveats. I have learned there are two types of people in the world, those that love cilantro and those that hate cilantro. We LOVE it, can't have enough. This dish is packed with it, especially since I made a cilantro rice to serve the tilapia on. Also, we love hot and spicy food. This dish did pack a punch, it was WARM. Man it was good. The only reason I didn't have seconds was that I wanted to send leftovers with Dinah to work in hopes of getting another opinion.

If you want to give either of these recipes a shot, and they are worth it, especially if you are entertaining or need to bring a dish, here is my version of the Broccoli Parmesan Gratin and my version of the Cilantro Chipotle Tilapia.


Mixed Review on the Butternut Squash Soup

I think I'm going to have to attempt to try this again at a later date. Everyone in Dinah's office was too cowardly to try it. Wusses. Dinah said the flavor was great, the bacon made it meaty and savory and not too sweet. The texture was right on. She did not add the REAL bacon crumbles that I gave her (sacrileg!) but said it was great with the crumbled crackers she had.

Unfortunately Dinah got nauseous afterwards so I can't say the soup is a keeper yet. Who knows why she felt vomitous. She said she got the same feeling driving home so it probably wasn't the soup.

On another note, last night's dinner, I hit a home run out of the park. More on that later.