Thursday, December 31, 2015

In the Weeds - Blueberry Bark

Oh my poor garden!  Another victim of fibromyalgia - MY fibromyalgia, that is, which put me practically in a state of suspended animation for most of this past month. The peppers and strawberries did not get watered or sprayed for aphids, a bunch of vegetables never got planted, and those that did get planted are being choked to death by an incredible variety of weeds.  

Over the past 3 days I did manage to water the surviving peppers, making many trips with the small watering can because I can't carry the large one once it is filled. I also made up a bottle of aphid tonic and sprayed like a madwoman, but the aphids have had a free ride for quite a while and are not anxious to leave their leafy homes.

I pulled a few weeds, which sent me reeling back into the house for a handful of Advil and an air conditioned nap. If I limit myself to 10 minutes a day, I can have those weeds pulled in time for Passover, or put another way, after the end of Tax Season. Damn fibromyalgia.

Inasmuch as this is the last day of the year, I took a few moments while dry shampooing my hair (no energy to step into the shower) to become philosophical. This year, 2015, was a Very Bad Year for me, although there have been others - 1960, 1972, 1975, 1983, 1984, 1990, 1997, 2001, and 2013 - which have been Pretty Damn Awful for a variety of reasons. I suppose there is a pretty basic lesson in that factual recitation, and I will live through this as I have before, except this time I have no real hope of ever improving my health. And no, I don't see medical marijuana in my future.

I found these little guys in one of the vegetable beds. You can learn a lot about life from snails, by the way. Like moving slowly is not necessarily a bad thing. That reminds me of a coffee mug from years back:

"Slow and steady our love does grow; I sure do love you, my escargot."

Happy New Year, everyone.

Blueberry Bark

1 pound white candy coating
1 cup Fruit Loops, plus more for topping
1 cup Rice Crispies, plus more for topping
1 cup miniature pastel marshmallows, plus more for topping
1/2 cup dried blueberries (Mariani brand)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet (one with 4 sides) with aluminum foil, and then parchment paper.

Put the whole block of candy coating in an aluminum baking pan, and place in the preheated oven. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat but leave the pan in the oven just until the block of candy coating appears soft and melty, barely holding together.  Remove the pan from the oven, and with a plastic spatula, stir the candy coating until smooth.  Add the remaining ingredients (except the toppings) and stir until they are fully incorporated into the candy coating.  Pour this onto the parchment paper and use the spatula to smooth it out into a reasonably even layer. You will not be filling up the entire baking sheet. Now sprinkle some of each topping on the bark and press down gently. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or until the bark is cooled and firm.

When the bark is ready. remove from the fridge and cut or break up into smaller pieces. Store in the refrigerator. Offer for nibbling with hot tea or coffee. And smile, you're eating Fruit Loops.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Oy, just oy ... Virginia Ham Bone Bean and Vegetable Soup

Wednesday - Oy. I shouldn't have eaten the leftover tres leches for breakfast, I shouldn't have gone outside in the sun for 10 minutes, I shouldn't have gotten out of bed at all today. My head is not working, not at all. I wanted to talk about the denial letter from Social Security, and I can't do that either. I can't get technical. I can't cut my hair, although it needs it, badly.

The sun felt good until it didn't and then I had to retreat to the dark, cool cave of my house. Noisy, though - the dogs never shut up, especially when they are happy to see me, or when someone has the nerve to breathe three blocks away.

I'm having trouble forming sentences and conveying ideas. Let's try this again later, shall we?

Yesterday I took my tai chi class, although I started out feeling dreadful. Somehow I stuck it out despite the pain, and I'm glad I did. I felt a little better physically and mentally. If I could remember the forms, I would probably feel even better, but that is not about to happen. My hard drive is full and I can't put a stick drive in my ear, other than to look ridiculous. Put another way, my memory is shot full of more holes than a good block of imported Swiss cheese. But Sifu Tony is extremely patient, and I can follow him. Saturday, though, I was in agony. Rough class, for me, anyway. Rob and Cory had a very good time.

Yesterday I also threw a bunch of stuff into my largest crockpot and spun my prayer wheel for a fine soup, with lots of leftovers for the freezer.  I love having soup in the freezer, because there are times soup is the only food I can get down and keep down. Since I had just finished off, over the period of a week, a quart of creamy tomato soup,  it was time to restock.          

Virginia Ham Bone Bean and Vegeable Soup

First, take out your largest crockpot, the larger the better. Mine is 8 quart. If I was going to make this in my 6 quart, I would cut back on the amounts of vegetables, and possibly reduce the beans by 1/2 cup dried. The day before you plan to make the soup you will need to start soaking the beans.

That is one-half cup each of black beans, baby lima beans. small red beans, and navy beans (which are white, not navy. Jeez ...) I soaked them separately, but you don't have to. If you do not want to buy 4 bags of dried beans, just pick one bean, or a bag of mixed beans, preferably without split peas and/or red lentils. I love them both, but not for this soup. A one-pound bag of beans is approximately 2 cups.

Next, assuming you followed my menu for Thanksgiving dinner, haul that leftover bone out of the freezer and let it defrost overnight in the fridge. You may remember that I prepared a spiral-cut ham using Ina Garten's recipe, so the meat that was still attached to the bone was positively imbued with gorgeous flavor.

So you've got your soaked beans and you've got your defrosted bone. It is now officially the next day, preferably in the morning if you want the soup for dinner. Time to put it all together:

Drain and rinse the beans, then place them in the crockpot, pushing them away from the center. Place one large chopped onion in the center. Sprinkle the following over all:

2 tablespoons turbinado or light brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried celery seed
3 tablespoons dried parsley flakes

Then add:

1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 large bone from a Virginia ham with some meat left attached
1 quart water
4 garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
2 cups chicken stock

Cover the crockpot, cook on high for 2 hours.  Remove the bone with tongs, stir the contents, and replace the bone, reversing top to bottom. Then add:

1/2 cup dried green lentils
3 stalk of celery, rough chop
4 carrots, rough chop
4 medium gold potatoes, cut into wedges, and then wedges crosscut in half
1 large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, rough chop

Cover and cook on low for another 5 hours. Remove the bone, then remove any meat still attached to the bone and return the meat to the crockpot. I pulled the ham off in rather large chunks, but you can make it any size you like. Add:

1 cup frozen cut green beans, run under hot water for a minute
1 cup boiling water

Cover and let cook just until the green beans are done. Taste and re-season with any or all of the original seasonings. Tasty!

I call this a soup, but Rob says it is a "stoup", which is a Rachael Ray-ism for a very thick soup that just misses being a stew.  When  I reheat a thick soup for dinner, I usually thin it out a bit with water, stock, broth, or milk, depending on the soup. But that's me.

The Magic are playing the Nets tonight, and although it pains me to say this, "Go Magic, and beat Brooklyn!" Ouch.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Bitch is Back

Monday - I wish I could report that I had a lovely, fabulous birthday on Saturday, but the truth is that it rated among the worst birthdays of my life. I am, however, profoundly grateful to all of my friends and family who sent me birthday greetings via Facebook, Messenger, and email. You cannot imagine how much you all helped in dragging me out of the depths of Fibromyalgia Pain and Depression Hell.

I haven't done any cooking since Christmas Day because I haven't needed to. There is a ridiculous amount of cooked food in my fridge, an equally ridiculous amount of soups, cookies, and fried foods in the freezer, and even if the cupboard was bare, I could not stand long enough to fuss with food to do more than fry an egg. I feel bad, folks, that's "bad" with a capital "B", and I don't see it passing in the near future.

My eyes and my head hurt so bad I feel like they are going to explode. At some point I decided I had to get out of the house, and decided to do some shopping at Publix, except this Publix was practically in Polk County.  I drove past Celebration and realized yet again that it was one of the eeriest places  in the world (think Stepford Wives eerie) second only to Central Islip State Mental Hospital. It creeps me out to drive past either location. Traffic was ridiculous both ways, but I got out and about and that was fine for me, especially once I got past Celebration.

I ended up buying a dozen Jammie Dodgers and other things that I needed for my bean soup (more about that tomorrow.) But the traffic coming back was so ridiculous I wasn't sure any of those Jammie Dodgers were going to be left by the time I got home.

It's a strange day in Kissimmee. The sky is full of helicopters and the streets are full of emergency vehicles. The clouds are black and white, like a tuxedo cat.

The Social Security Administration has officially turned down my disability claim. I've known that was coming for over a week. I'll explain how I knew another time but let's just say the government is so stupid it makes my eyes hurt. I can't think about it too much because when I do, I feel such a profound anger rising up, I know that I may say such vicious things to certain people that no apology in the world could ever make things right again. That's not who I am, but it is who I can be. The bitch is back, damn it.  Let me stuff her back into the closet with my mother's mink coat.

Besides, that is why I have engaged an agency to assist me with the whole process, including what is now going to be an appeal. According to Social Security, I am capable of working as an attorney. Perhaps I should put them in touch with a certain judge.  Perhaps I should just release the Flying Monkeys.

Donald Trump has to go. I'm just sayin'.

The Magic won big against the New Orleans Pelicans. The BBC is finally broadcasting something other than Doctor Who. And the beans are in for the Big Soak.

Speaking of Doctor Who, I stopped into Hobby Lobby on Tuesday (today) on my way back from having my nails done.  As I was walking towards where I thought the yarn should be (it wasn't) I saw this, front and center:

I am not responsible for this display I promise you that. Apparently no one else recognized it, which struck me odd.  I had to take a picture, although it took me a while because people kept walking in front of it. I was beginning to think I was the only one who could see it.

Bad Wolf. This can't be good.

Monday, December 28, 2015

A Very Late Merry Christmas - Christmas Big Beef and Roast Duck with Orange Sauce

Merry Christmas, everyone!

I still have no definitive answers regarding global warming, but I have noticed that the weather is frankly peculiar for Christmas Day.  I don't expect a White Christmas or even a Freezing Christmas, but after 24 years in Central Florida, I do expect a Cool Christmas, which is anything below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  I do not expect beach weather, or flip flop weather, or wearing shorts weather. All I know is that the air conditioner is working to keep up with the heat. This is starting to remind me of a Twilight Zone episode with Lois Nettleton.  You know the one.

I'm on the third day of a Doctor Who marathon, waiting waiting waiting for the Christmas special tonight at 9:00.  We've been hooked into the BBC for so long, Robert wasn't sure if that was the real Queen giving her Christmas Day greating to Great Britain, or a character on a DW episode.

Inspiration is where you find it, and as I often do, I found inspiration for my Christmas beef in a Paula Deen cookbook. I made a few changes, thus the title of the recipe. I like eye round because it is solid and well-shaped for even roasting. I am also very conscious of the fact that eye round is very lean, and not the most tender cut of beef, so I cook it with extra care and aim for very rare.  This needs to be sliced thin (haul out your electric knives). It has a good, beefy flavor, as long as you do NOT overcook it. I know that my craving for Christmas Big Beef would be best served with a prime rib, but I didn't have time to arrange for a bank loan.

"If It's Not Perfect, Don't Blame Paula Deen" Eye of Round Beef Roast

2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon Lawry's seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1- 2.5 pound eye of round beef roast, well- trimmed

Combine the seasoning and spices in a shaker-top jar or bottle.  Place the eye round on a sheet of aluminum foil. Rub the olive oil over all of the beef's surfaces.  Sprinkle the seasoning all over the beef (use some or all of the seasoning). Wrap the aluminum foil around the beef, and place in the refrigerator for several hours, until ready to cook.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Unwrap the roast and place it in an aluminum baking pan.*  Put the roast in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Roast the beef for approximately 15 minutes per pound, but you must use a thermometer to check the roast and adjust the total cooking time.  By all that is holy, do not roast the meat past 125 degrees internal temperature, which will give you a medium-rare roast. (If you like your beef done more than medium, we have nothing to talk about.) Keep in mind that the shape of the roast will affect the length of cooking. Since my family likes super-rare meat, I'm aiming for 115-120 degrees, then pulling that roast out of the oven to cool for 15 minutes before carving.

*Paula Deen places the beef in an iron skillet for roasting. I have always used the aluminum pan, but since I now own a cast iron skillet, I'm going to try that.

Roast Duck with Orange Sauce (from Mama Leah's Jewish Kitchen by Leah Loeb Fischer)

I adore duck; it is one of my very favorite foods in the Known Universe and all Alternate Universes I have visited during a long life of reading and watching science fiction. It's right up there with lobster, king crab, and chocolate.

This is the only way I prepare whole duck. (Boneless duck breasts are another matter, but I have been denied reasonable access to them which causes me much anguish and annoyance at least several times a year.)

Now, you will notice that I do NOT prick the skin. Therefore, should you choose to try this recipe, you shall not prick the skin.  Trust me, and if you don't trust me, trust Mama Leah.

I'll be honest, I haven't the energy nor patience to type up the recipe right now, but I did find A LINK to the recipe exactly as it appears in the book.

If you can find this book, buy it - it is a lovely, hamisch Jewish cookbook. If you have this and Mimi Sheraton's book From My Mother's Kitchen, you can spend an afternoon in Flatbush whenever you feel the need.

Friday, December 25, 2015

I Have a Little List - Christmas Eve Bread Pudding

Thursday - Tonight I am making shrimp scampi for dinner to celebrate Christmas Eve.  These last weeks I've been doing a fair amount of cooking and baking, breaking up the projects across days. It may not bother you, but it is surely bothering me that I cannot get them all typed into the blog to publish with the not-so-daily posts.

Potato Latkes
Perline Pasta with a Dry Sauce
Key Lime Sugar Cookie Cups
Christmas Fruitcake Cookies
Rice Pudding
Italian Meatloaf with Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
Oatmeal Cookies with Pumpkin Spice Chips

Geez, I feel like I'm back at the office with a stack of staffing forms to catch up. Not a great feeling. I blame it on fibromyalgia and the BBC.

The scampi recipe will have to wait in the queue along with the others, but here is a wonderful bread pudding recipe I developed by improving on another one of my recipes from severl years back. In my opinion, the bread pudding just keeps getting better.

Christmas Eve Bread Pudding

2 loaves Pepperidge Farm French Toast Swirl Bread
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1-15 oz. container whole milk ricotta cheese
2 sticks butter, melted, divided
1-14 oz. can coconut milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon coconut extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1-15 oz. can Very Cherry Fruit Cocktail, drained
1-15.25 oz. can peach chunks, drained
1-6 oz. bottle maraschino cherries, drained
1 cup cherry-infused dried cranberries
1-18 oz. jar Smucker's Cherry Preserves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the bread into smaller pieces; eighths work well. Divide bread into two aluminum pans, then place in oven for up to 10 minutes, just to dry out. Set aside.

Pour about 1/4 cup of the melted butter into a large deep casserole dish - I found a 10 x 10 x 3 1/2 inch aluminum pan for this, or the standard 9 x 13 x 2 works as well - and spread it to cover all surfaces of the pan.

In a deep mixing bowl, add the sugar to the eggs and beat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the ricotta and beat again to combine. Now add the remaining melted butter, coconut milk, extracts and nutmeg and beat until combined. Pour this over the bread cubes, stir gently so all the cubes are covered iin liquid, and set aside until the bread is well soaked.

In the buttered casserole dish, layer the soaked bread with the drained canned fruit, drained whole maraschino cherries, and the dried fruit. Repeat until all ingredients are used up, ending with a layer of bread, then pour any remaining liquid over the top.

Bake for 40 minutes, then remove from the oven and carefully spoon the cherry preserves over the top. Return to the oven for another 20-30 minutes, until the center is set, and the internal temperature is at least 140 degrees (the edges will register higher.) Remove from the oven and let cool a bit. This is best eaten warm or room temperature ...

... with whipped cream or ice cream or both, because anything worth doing is worth overdoing. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Spoonie Does Roll That Way - Maple Pecan Sugar Cookie Cups

Thursday - As you may have guessed, it is becoming more difficult for me to type and publish a daily blog post (insert frownie face here). My wrists are hurting fairly often, my head is fuzzy, and I am frankly exhausted. So although this is Tuesday's post about Monday, I have stepped into the space-time continuum to jump ahead to Thursday because in a few hours it will be Christmas Eve, one of my favorites, and I want to wish all my Christian friends the very best, and may all the blessings of the holiday be yours. I especially want to send love and happiness to our dear friends Kathy and Al, and to say a heartfelt "thank you" for sharing your Christmas Eves with us for so many years - from the year you got married to the last Christmas before we moved to Florida. In your honor, I am preparing shrimp scampi for dinner (insert smiley face here).

These present times can be unrelentlessly grim, but as long as I have such rich and happy memories to cherish, life ain't so bad.

Tuesday - The Magic beat the Knicks at Madison Square Garden last night.  Sorry, Phil (Jackson), but I needed that win after a crazy afternoon in a strange Walmart (oxymoronic, I know), and after dealing with the kind of traffic that drives lesser mortals (non-New Yorkers) insane. People were stopping in the oddest places, blocking aisles and herding children. None of the other customers spoke English. Nor Spanish. Nor German, French, Italian, Portugeuse, or Korean. I felt like Someone had picked me up and dropped me in a very foreign country. The people were not rude, but they seemed cheerfully confused by the bounty laid out on the shelves.  I cover the aisles in Walmart in a well-established pattern, and these happy, snappy Slavic types were messing with my mind. When I finally finished shopping and paying, it was dark outside. Now I got really freaked out, because I was having a Bad Vision Day.

But you know what? Yesterday was a good day, because I got out of the house, saw the therapist, did my shopping, and got home in one piece, even if it did take me an hour and a half to get from the corner of John Young Parkway and Sand Lake Road to my house, normally a 20 minute ride. Oh, and before all that, I'd baked up the Maple Pecan Sugar Cookie Cups, taken them out of the tins to cool on racks, and generally speaking, spent my spoons wisely. My pain was contained, like ISIL (at least according to President Obama).

But that was yesterday and this is today, and I've got a different bunch of spoons to spend. I've been up and about since 7:30, which is unusual for me, at least these days. I sauteed some greens I picked up at Trader Joe's, and then I tackled today's Big Project: Potato Latkes. Yes, I know Hanukkah is over, but so what? It's December. Christmas is this Friday. My birthday is this Saturday. Who needs an excuse to eat potato latkes? And who doesn't need another miracle?

Making latkes is a cooking project I generally enjoy, as long as I'm not being rushed. Once I get into the rhythm of frying, it is very soothing, and frying up a tall tower of golden-brown, oniony, crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside perfect potato pancakes, it becomes entirely clear why I was born Jewish, in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, my back and legs are protesting the long hours on my feet, so I'm 3 Advil down and ready for more. I'm also chucking the idea of using the remaining hot oil to fry some corn fritters; I'd be squandering good spoons on a dish we don't really need right now.

I'd like to give you today's recipe - I really would - but I've been making potato latkes at least twice a year for over 40 years, and I've never really made it the same way twice. So much depends on the precise size and water content of each potato, what kind of onion is used, and whether or not it's Passover. You have to look at the bowl of mixed ingredients and use your judgment. Let's face it, my judgment is different from everyone else's. I was taught to cook by someone who did not own a set of measuring cups or measuring spoons, who cooked with kosher salt before it became popular, who thought Log Cabin was better than real maple syrup (it is) , and rarely fried anything, and then only in Mazola corn oil. Again, this was long before everybody got nuts about hydrogenated fats and high cholesterol. My mother was an excellent home cook of strong opinions. There is a reason I only use Hellmann's mayonnaise and Heinz ketchup, and that reason just happened to have had a personality disorder (my therapist insists Mom had narcissistic personality disorder, but I stand firmly behind my diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.) I wonder if you carry your personality disorders with you into the Afterlife?  I sincerely hope not.      

No Tai Chi class tonight, as my instructor is out of town. I have to admit, I threw around today's spoons with gay abandon, but I saved a few just for class, and I am sorry to miss it.  The next few weeks are going to be crazy when it comes to missing two important linchpins of my tenuous sanity, namely my therapist and my Tai Chi class, but I am determined to hang on, Sloopy, Sloopy hang on. You don't have to thank me for the earworm. Besides, I have a 5-day cruise on the Carnival Sunshine coming up. That should make me right as rain, or left as Bernie Sanders.

Maple Pecan Sugar Cookie Cups

2-16 oz. flat packages Pillsbury sugar cookies
48 pecan halves

3 extra large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup Log Cabin syrup
1/2 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 48 miniature muffin tins with Pam for baking. Place one piece of cookie dough in each muffin cup, and leave at room temperature just until soft enough to press the dough into and up the sides of the cup. The best way to do this is to use the handle end of a large wooden spoon or wooden mallet. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove and allow the cups to cool. They puff up in the oven, but they will sink down and act like a proper pie crust once they cool. Place one pecan half in each little cup, using the slightest pressure.Set aside while you prepare the filling.

In a medium bowl, using low speed throughout, beat the eggs just to mix. Add the sugar, Log Cain, flour, and salt. Beat together until combined, then stir in the melted butter. Divide the mixture among the 48 cups, filling close to but not all the way to the top, 2-3 teaspoons each cup. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, reversing the pan front to back halfway through. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully loosen each cookie using the tip of a small, sharp knife, and remove to a wire rack to finish cooling. These should be held in the refrigerator, and they can be frozen for other occasions. The shell will absorb some of the filling, so the texture and appearance will be different from a traditional pecan tassie, but who cares when something is this delicious? Not me, pilgrim, not me.

If you simply cannot bring yourself to use Log Cabin, do not try it with real maple syrup - instead, use an equal amout of light corn syrup, which is what the oringal recipe (my recipe for Southern Pecan Pie) uses.  Log Cabin is nothing more than maple-flavored corn syrup, so I felt comfortable in substituting with Log Cabin.

Towards the end of the day I crashed, hard. Standing on my feet for hours, something I used to do every day in court, has set my nerve endings on fire. Perhaps I should not have done all that kitchen hand washing after frying the latkes. Aw, hell.

Monday, December 21, 2015

How Fry I Am - Hungarian Pork Paprika and Better Than Take Out Crab Rangoon

Sunday, and we are staying home. No running around doing errands, no Publix (that was yesterday), no BJs (that doesn't sound right), no CVS, no nothing that would require I slip into a sweater and clutch Horatio Cane to get around. No bitching about fibromyalgia, either. You may take judicial notice of the fact that I have some sort of pain, and move along.  I am tired of hearing myself complain. I am going to adopt a Positive Mental Attitude, at least long enough to get some cooking done.

First I have the recipe for Hungarian Pork Paprika, which I prepared days ago but failed to add to the blog, because - well, you know. The pain I'm not supposed to mention today. Anyway, it is an easy dish to prepare even on a weeknight; add some cooked egg noodles tossed with butter, peas, and poppy seeds. and you can feed four. Well, throw in a salad and some bread. A veritable weeknight feast.  

Hungarian Pork Paprika

Wondra flour for coating the pork
olive oil for cooking
1 pound pork stew meat
1 green bell pepper. roughly chopped
2 cans stewed tomatoes (Del Monte, 14.5 oz. each)
kosher salt
ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup dairy sour cream, brought to room temperature

Place the pork cubes in an aluminum pan, in one layer, and sprinkle on all sides with the Wondra flour. Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Brown the pork in the hot oil until golden brown on all sides. Add the green pepper, the salt, pepper, and both paprikas and stir fry for just a few minutes. Add the stewed tomatoes, then cook with a cover slightly askew, for at least 20 minutes or until the pork is very tender.

Anakin uses his Jedi powers to guard the dinner from the dogs

Remove the skillet from the heat. mix 1/2 cup of the sauce mixture with the sour cream. Gradually return the sauce and sour cream mixture to the skillet, blending well. Do not boil the sauce.  Serve with sour cream, guacamole, the Usual Suspects.

Better Than Take-Out Crab Rangoon

1-8 oz. package imitation crab, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 green onion, white and green parts, chopped fine
1-8 oz. bar cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper
a few drops of sriracha sauce
1-12 oz package wonton wrappers (I highly recommend Frieda's brand)
1 egg, beaten
canola oil for frying

Melt the butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the imitation crab and cook for 2-3 minutes. Set aside to cool. This step helps bring out the crab flavor and makes the dish taste so rich.

In a medium bowl, combine the softened cream cheese, green onion, garlic pepper and sriracha sauce. Stir well to combine. Fold in the cooled imitation crab, then cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Working 8 at a time, brush the edges of each wonton with the beaten egg. Always keep the remaining wonton skins covered and refrigerated; only take them out when you need them.

Place a small scoop of filling slightly above the midline of each wonton.

Fold each wonton bottom to top corners, using your fingers to press all sides together. The egg will help them to stick together - none of my rangoon opened up during frying.

Now go back and flatten each rangoon slightly, pressing out excess air.

Over medium high heat, heat about a half inch of canola oil in a heavy skillet to 350 degrees. Fry the rangoon four at a time, checking after a minute and turning as necessary to evenly brown the wonton. Add more oil as needed, and do not be afraid to lower the heat if the wonton brown too quickly.

Place the fried rangoon on paper towels to drain excess oil. 

This made exactly 52 rangoons, so there were no wasted wontons or filling.

Serve hot with your favorite dipping sauce. My husband asked for my Louisiana remoulade, so I made up some for him. Chinese-Creole fusion!

Leftovers should be frozen in a single layer, then sealed into a ziptop freezer bag. Reheat straight from the freezer in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Day Late

As far back as I can remember, I've always been an introvert. Working outside my home provided me with plenty of friendship and human interaction. Now, though - this is ridiculous. Fibromyalgia, I mean. I don't work, I don't see people during the day, unless it's time for my weekly visit to the therapist, or a tai chi class. So what happens when I can't make it to tai chi class? Oh, and did I mention I've been looking forward to the office Christmas party for weeks, only to have to email Terry and Brenda at the last minute that I wasn't going to be able to make it?

I'm not sure that paragraph made a lot of sense, and the grammar police are going to have a heyday, but here's the bottom line - I had a flare this week that was so freaking bad, my life literally stopped. I made some cookies yesterday, and what should have taken me one hour, including the baking, took 3 1/2 hours and left me exhausted.

These are Maida Heatter's Christmas Fruitcake Bars, and if there is one cookie I absolutely have to bake for the holidays, this is the one. So they are done, and in the freezer, and I am a dreadful, hurtful, angry mess.  There is a lot more that I wanted to accomplish, but there were at least two days when I could not get out of bed, and other days when walking downstairs left me so drained, all I could do was lie down on the couch and go back to sleep. My garden is sadly neglected, and we won't discuss laundry.

Despite that, there have been bright moments. My Magic have been winning so consistently, it reminds me of the halcyon days of Shaq and Penny Hardaway, or Dwight Howard and Hedo Turoglou (before the Dark Times; before the Dwightmare). We got caught up watching "Marvel: Agents of Shield" (this is a big deal). I decided what I was cooking for Christmas Day. I reorganized my freezers and cleaned my refrigerator. I haven't had too much insomnia to deal with, but I do have narcolepsy. Ha. No happy medium. I watched the fifth Republican debate and laughed and cussed and gave myself a headache. I even got some baking and cooking done, albeit with some scandalous shortcuts.  I made it to my Monday psychiatrist appointment by way of the wrong office; to my Tuesday night tai class, and so excited that 2 young women have joined our class; and Wednesday, as always, to my therapist, who claims his grandma made the best potato latkes. The truth is that I make the best potato latkes, but I didn't want to burst his bubble. God willing, I will be preparing potato latkes to go along with the duck and perfect eye round. If I have another bad flare, it's leftovers. Merry frelling Christmas.

Well Hello, Dolly

Everyone knows these cookie bars and almost everyone who bakes has made them at one time or another, probably under another name. Magic Cookie Bars or Seven Layer Bars or Hello Dollies, it's all the same, except, if you look a the basic recipe, you can see the possibilities.

I doubled the recipe to bake in a half sheet pan, but the only ingredients I can give you exact amounts is the butter and the sweetened condensed milk.  I combined graham cracker crumbs and pecan meal for the crust, and I'm going to guess the total amount between 3 and 4 cups.  It covered the bottom, about 1/4 inch thick.

So that's 2 sticks of melted butter, about 4 cups of crumbs, 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk, and whatever toppings struck my fancy. Raisins, 4 kinds of chips (semi-sweet, milk chocolate, butterscotch, and white), 2 kinds of coconut (sweetened and unsweetened), and an extra can of sweetened condensed milk.

These are really good, but nowhere as sweet as the original. Which is a good thing, as my taste for sweets has changed over the years. But, these cookies - and I cut them very very small - are rich from the extra condensed milk. All I needed was a cup of hot, black coffee.

Mexican Chicken

This is one of my favorite easy-cheating recipes. It is from Paula Deen's first or second cookbook and it is good as is, Mexican Chicken recipe, but after so many years I had to mess with it. I field-stripped a whole rotisserie chicken, used a lot of cheese in between each layer as well as on top, threw cumin, smoked paprika, and garlic pepper into the sauce plus a 4 oz. can of green chilies and 3 green onions thinly sliced. I also poured a 10 oz. can of red enchilada sauce over the top layer of tortillas, and then finished with more cheese. Think Mexican chicken lasagna. Yum.

Anakin guarding the Mexican chicken "so the dogs don't get it."

Friday, December 18, 2015

Statuary Progress - Bratwurst and Potato Salad

Today has been A Bad One, damn it.

Bad, as in "I can't fucking get out of bed even though there's a whole pizza from Al's in the kitchen". I slept like I hadn't slept in a month - which I hadn't - and when I finally gave in to the imprecations of a cranky bladder, I was one hot mess.             

Fortunately yesterday was A Better Day, and I managed to snap a few photos of Kissimmee Statuary, which will stay on display for some preset time.  I have to say that with one notable exception, this group of sculptures did not come close to the quality of the last few displays:

Going back to yesterday's blog post, I read today that the Grinch Principal from Brooklyn, the one who outlawed Santa Claus, Thanksgiving, and the Pledge of Allegiance, has been set straight by someone with a higher pay grade in the New York City Department of Education. Apparently the Assistant Grinch, acting under instructions, had sent out a memo that exhorted the staff to be "sensitive of the diversity of our families" and once the policy went into effect, including referring to Thanksgiving as a "harvest holiday" a whole lot of folks got upset, including a number of those "diverse" families.  My answer to the issue of diversity is to embrace it, not by exclusion but by inclusion.

But first - regarding the Pledge of Allegience - what the hell is the problem? Who is objecting to this? If the objectors are folks who do not believe in God, well big surprise, we had those folks around when I was in elementary school (and God knows that's a hell of a long time ago) and they simply stayed silent when the words "under God" were spoken. 

If the problem has to do with the student's feelings towards this country, then simply stand silent. Or move to another country. Let your conscience be your guide. But, do not force the majority to give up the opportunity to participate in this simple but powerful daily classroom ritual. Yes, I am the mother who 23 years ago damn near decapitated my son's blobbish kindergarten teacher when she could not explain to me why, after 3 weeks of school, there was no American flag in that classroom. Call me crazy, everyone else does. I am also the mom who almost got killed at a Tae Kwan Do tournament in Miami by some thuggish POS because he and his family refused to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance and the playing of the National Anthems of the U.S. and the Republic of South Korea, and I said something. Since the ATA is all about teaching and demonstrating respect, I can only assume his overprivileged spawn rarely attended classes and lolly gagged on the floor while everyone else spoke the bowing in and out oaths while facing the U.S. and South Korean flags.


Well ... it's been three days since I wrote that- maybe two, I can't remember anymore.  I couldn't really leave the house except to see my therapist. I had to miss a Tai Chi class. I could not cook, bake, or write. My body hurt all over, as if I had the flu. I don't get the flu, never have. My brain took a long leisurely trip to the Ninth Planet (Pluto, damn it!) and left the rest of me behind. I apologize for late posts and missed days. Here's a quickie recipe to remind us all this is nominally a cooking blog. Do not be put off by the canned German potato salad - it works well, tastes good, and fills up hungry people. I usually double it, as my boys love it.

1 pound cooked bratwurst, cut in slices
no-stick cooking spray
1 smallish onion halved and sliced
1 red or green bell pepper, seeded and sliced lengthwise
1 - 1 pound can German potato salad
Real bacon sprinkles (Hormel) - optional
Dried parsley flakes

Spray a nonstick skillet with Pam or one of her generic siblings and place over medium heat.
Add the bratwurst and stir fry until lightly browned on the cut sides. Add the onion and bell
pepper and cook another 3 to 5 minutes, until they are crisp-tender (I like them more tender
than crisp, but use your judgment). Stir in the potato salad, parsley and bacon sprinkles,
then cover and cook on medium low until the sauce bubbles lightly and everything is heated
through evenly.  Sprinkle with more parsley.