Tuesday, March 31, 2015

But wait!

Monday, Day 19 - I am looking forward to my colonoscopy tomorrow morning.  No, I really am.  Truly, definitely, and most sincerely. I can't wait. 

In the grand scheme of things, a colonoscopy is practically humorous.  Practically?  Hysterically!  I am laughing so hard I can't drink my Clear and Convincing Chicken Soup.  No matter, this is already my fourth cup.  Not only is it really good, but it is also the only thing I can eat, at least until my green Jell-o is completely jelled.

I wish I could sleep.  I did not sleep more than two hours last night and I am, to quote someone who had to listen to me bitch and moan today, "fretful and grumpy."  I don't expect to get a lot of sleep tonight either.  How can I put this delicately?  Sleeping pills, even something as mild as melatonin, do not play well with laxatives.  And there you have it.

Good grief, I have been totally distracted by Trey Gowdy's newest hair-do.  How can you take him seriously?   He wants to have a "conversation" with Hillary Clinton.  Good luck with that, Trey.

Seven people shot during spring break in Panama City Beach?  MY Panama City Beach?  Location of one of the best restaurants in Florida?  I haven't been to PCB in several years, and we never went during spring break.  Oh, I do miss it!  And that restaurant, "Firefly" ... ah well, that's another time, another place, another blog post.  Another spaceship ...

Monday, March 30, 2015

Clear and Convincing Chicken Soup

Sunday - Sleep late ... yes, indeed, it's Sunday!  Relaxing at home with my best boys while slow-cooking chicken and soup for my two-day colonoscopy diet. Listening to the news, as former military commanders and diplomats decry the pending agreement with Iran.  It's actually a treaty, but the President says it's not a treaty, so he does not have to get Congress' approval.  This is what we call being "disingenuous" which describes the entire Obama presidency.  Watching Cooking Channel and drooling over ... well, just about everything, except for those jalapeño bagels from West Virginia.  Doing more research on cruises to Alaska.

The clear chicken soup came out perfectly - rich, very chicken-y, with an undertone of dill and the slightest touch of lemon.  These are flavors I look for in a Jewish chicken soup, and if I didn't have to stick with a liquid diet tomorrow, I'd be whipping up a batch of knaidlach, also known as matzo balls.  Very appropriate for this pre-Pesach week.  One thing I did do was to chop up the cooked chicken breasts (except for a very small piece I ate with my rutabaga potato puree for dinner tonight), and I made chicken salad.  No celery, no onion, no apple, nothing but Hellman's mayonnaise.

Since 6:30 this evening, I have been working on finishing a 10 oz. bottle of magnesium citrate.  It does not taste as bad as I remember it tasting the last time I had it, which was the night before my gastric bypass surgery.  Still, it is causing an unpleasant heartburn and, try as I might, it is taking me two hours to get the whole thing down.  Woody and Anakin are keeping me company during the whole ordeal, with Woody letting out groans of sympathy for his "Memmy."

The soup recipe may sound a little strange, but it works, so just follow my lead.  Don't put the dill or lemon in ahead of time. The recipe was inspired by one I found on Food Network, but I made some major changes, as you will see.  I used my 3 1/2 quart crockpot and there was more than enough room.

Clear and Convincing Chicken Soup

2 - 32 oz. boxes unsalted chicken stock
2 medium carrots, cut in half lengthwise
2 medium parsnips, cut in half lengthwise
2 stalks of celery (no leaves), cut in half crosswise
4 green onions, cut in half crosswise
1 - 2 x 1/2 inch piece of rind from Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon yellow curry powder (don't leave it out, although it is virtually undetectable)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
3 boneless and skinless chicken breasts
1/4 inch slice of lemon
5 or 6 stalks of fresh Italian parsley
2 nice full stalks of fresh dill

In the crockpot, put all of the chicken stock, the carrots, parsnips, celery, green onions, Parmesan rind, curry powder, kosher salt and white pepper.  Cover the crock and cook on High for 1 hour.  Add the chicken breasts and cook for 2 more hours.  Don't freak if a deep golden film has risen to the surface; I am guessing it had something to do with the Parmesan rind, which still had a bit of cheese attached to it.  Now add the parsley, dill, and lemon and cook for one more hour.  Shut off the heat and use a large metal spoon to remove the parsley, dill, and any of the golden cheese stuff that might be clinging to it.  Remove the lemon slice and the Parmesan rind, and discard with the parsley and dill.

With a slotted spoon, carefully remove the vegetables and the chicken.  Strain the soup through double paper towels set into a wire strainer.  Serve the soup on its own, or with the vegetables and chicken added back, or with the aforementioned knaidlach.  The vegetables are also good on their own; cooked this way, they are not soggy and retain their individual flavor.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

So Qrazy About Quinoa - Warm Quinoa Salad with Shrimp and Asparagus

Saturday - So before we get to the good stuff - I have a new recipe I just tried, involving quinoa, rock shrimp, and fresh asparagus - I need to take a look at the bad.

I am not the only person dealing with chronic pain and illness.  This brings me no comfort; on the contrary, it upsets me and angers me.  Whoever coined the phrase "God don't make no junk" should be soundly kicked in the head by a fourth degree black belt.  If the Lord doesn't make "junk", then why did He invent the concept of planned obsolescence?  You get old, you start to fall apart - why?

Whatever the reasons, God has come up with a veritable multitude of diseases, disorders, and syndromes with which to plague the human race. Two that were brought to my attention this week are peripheral artery disease and basal arthritis.  Two people who I care for very much each have one of these diseases.  Both hurt like hell and will likely result in nasty surgery and protracted recovery.  This is, to my way of thinking, intolerable.  These are good people.  Pain should not be an option for good people.  God, are You listening?

Anyway, we had dinner with friends tonight, at Prato in Winter Park.  Oh boy, was that good!  Poppyseed pappardelle with a duck bolognese.  Say that five times fast.  One of our friends had baked ricotta gnudi, which I would love to try - someday.

Good thing I had a great meal, because tomorrow begins the two day preparation for my colonoscopy.  Soft foods (there go my evening chips). Steamed fish or chicken (feh).  And it goes downhill from there - around 6:30 in the evening I have to drink a whole bottle of magnesium citrate. But wait!  It gets even worse on Monday!  Imagine a 64 ounce bottle of Gatorade, which I would never drink under normal circumstances, mixed with an entire 238 gram bottle of Miralax.  Imagine having to drink 8 ounces of this witch's brew, plus another 8 ounces of water.  Now imagine repeating this bizarre ritual every 15 minutes, seven more times!  Plus two double doses of Dulcolax tablets, but that's chump change compared to the water torture.  And doctors wonder why some people (like me) go out of their way to avoid this procedure.

I can't do it, I simply cannot do it.  No really, I can't physically ingest that much liquid, especially during a speed-drinking event.  Even after all these years, my pouch (what remains of my stomach after the gastric bypass surgery) is really really REALLY small.  I am already having problems with the opening from pouch to intestine - so where is all this liquid going to go? Oh hell, I'll deal with that tomorrow, and I promise to spare you the details.

I found this recipe in the Whole Foods Market Cookbook, and while I wasn't sure about the finished product, Rob had it for lunch after it had a chance to chill in the fridge, and he liked it quite a bit, although he said the texture of the quinoa was a bit mushy.  I'm pretty sure that was my fault, as I splashed in a bit more wine at the end, thinking the mixture was dry. Clearly I was wrong. Speaking of wrong, the recipe called for "unreconstituted" sun-dried tomatoes.  I had oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes in the fridge and thought it would be sufficient to pat them dry, but I think they may have contributed a little too much liquid, and next time I will definitely try the dry-pack version.  I also changed the timing for adding the asparagus and the peas, as I think the asparagus needed a little more, and the peas a little less time.

Warm Quinoa Salad with Shrimp and Asparagus

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, unreconstituted, julienned
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
kosher salt to taste
1/2 cup quinoa

1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (I was lucky enough to find rock shrimp)
1/2 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup frozen green peas (next time I'm going to go to 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup roasted cashew pieces
6 green onions, white and light green parts, minced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Sauté the onion and garlic for 3 minutes.  Add the sun-dried tomatoes and simmer for 1 minute.  Add the water, wine, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the quinoa is almost tender to the bite.

Add the shrimp and asparagus to the saucepan on top of the quinoa, cover and simmer for 6 more minutes.   Take the pan off the heat, stir in the peas, and top the dish with the cashews, onions, and parsley.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve warm, or chilled.

I got to taste it both ways and I much preferred it chilled overnight. Delicious, even with (or maybe because of) the oil-packed tomatoes.  If you want to serve it chilled, wait until just before serving to sprinkle on the nuts, and also add more chopped parsley.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Say Has Anybody Seen My Organic Rutabagas? - Rutabaga Potato Puree

Say, does anybody remember Tony Orlando and Dawn?  Have a happy ear worm!

Say has anybody seen my sweet Gypsy Rose
Here's her picture when she was my sweet Mary Jo
Now she's got rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
Say has anybody seen my sweet Gypsy Rose
Oh, I got wind my Jo's been dancin' here in New Orleans
In this smoke-filled honky-tonk they call the Land of Dreams
Whoa, here she comes a-struttin' in her birthday clothes
Say has anybody seen my sweet Gypsy Rose

Friday, Day 18 - While my back still aches a bit, it is a better day.  A good day for rutabagas.  Please note that I have yet to look at the news.  I'm in a good mood.  I have made up my mind on the relative merits of Reese's peanut butter cups versus Lindt's peanut butter-filled truffles (Reese's won).  I came downstairs to a clean sink and humming dishwasher, thanks to my awesome son.  Chelsea and I shared a secret cookie.  My cousin Maura has already completed an awesome amount of research for our cruise to Alaska.  Rob and I have dinner plans tomorrow evening with our friends Marc and Kerri, and we've got a Passover Seder invite from Jay and Laura.  I got to talk with my cousin Steve-from-Brooklyn and had a really good conversation.  Only 29 days until our post- tax season cruise to the Caribbean.  Soon we'll be walkin' on Sunshine!

I love rutabagas, unlike the rest of my household.  They have a wonderful cabbage-y, peppery, almost buttery taste (the rutabagas, not the other members of my household).  After much experimentation, I find that they taste best on their own and not slipped surreptitiously into a beef stew (yes I have).  Their own flavor is delicate enough that it gets lost in a stew or highly flavored sauce.  I loved these when my mother-in-law would make them, just cubed and boiled and buttered.  I like them mashed on their own or mashed with potatoes.  I have two delicious rutabaga recipes I've been preparing for many years, both of them of the mashed variety.  Since yesterday's recipe for the Sephardic Sofrito was extraordinarily long (but worth it) I am opting to share the easy one with you.

If you do your vegetable shopping in a regular supermarket, you probably think of rutabagas (if you give them any thought at all) as big, honking edible soccer balls dipped in wax, wearing a purple ski hat.  They are hell to peel, and after several decades of rutabaga resistance, I found a method that is the most effective and least painful.  It involves a cutting board and a very sharp chef's knife (I use a 7 inch santoku, not just for rutabaga but for everything, except bread and tomatoes). Cut across both ends so that the rutabaga will sit flat on the board, then start cutting downwards with the knife held close and almost flat against the surface. Remember to rinse off any wax that may be clinging desperately to the surface, before cutting the rutabaga for cooking.

Right about now, I am missing Doctor Who.  Does anyone know when the new series (BBC-speak for "season") will be starting?

Back to rutabagas - imagine peeling these with a regular old vegetable peeler, like you would use for a carrot or a Russet potato or an apple. Would you?  Could you?

Yep.  You can, and you should, and I did.  These are rather small, organic rutabagas, unwaxed, root end mostly intact.  I picked them up at Whole Foods, and damn glad I did.  As you can see, all you need to do to peel them is to whip out your favorite vegetable peeler, cut off the flat top and the tip of the root with a sharp knife, and peel like a potato.

Rutabaga Potato Puree

3/4 pound rutabaga, peeled and cubed
3/4 pound buttercream or similar new potato, cubed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes, room temperature
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put the rutabaga and potato in a medium saucepan, add just enough water to cover.  Put the lid on the pan and bring the contents to boil over high heat.  As soon as it boils, lower the heat to medium-high and cook covered for about 20 minutes until the rutabagas and potatoes are fork tender. Drain well and return to the warm pan; add the butter.

You can mash by hand or in a food processor (do not overprocess) but this time I opted to try a stick blender, which worked perfectly.  Stir in the Parmesan cheese, and season to taste with the salt and pepper.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Oh, so Frito! Nofrito Sofrito - Sorta Sephardic Meat Stew

Oh, so Frito!

Thursday, Day 17 - I spoke too soon.  This morning has been dreadful, an unpleasant throwback to pain and mental fuzziness.  Crap, I hate this.

The news is so bad I want to cry.  The Middle East is imploding.  A plane goes down in the French Alps killing 150 people and it appears the co-pilot crashed it deliberately.  The President gave away five very dangerous terrorists in exchange for a deserter.


I'm trying to peel garlic cloves and I am starting to shake.  My vision is foggy, and that is with the stronger eyeglasses. I am finally starting to prepare this beef stew, and anything I ever knew about mise en place has flown right out the window.  My kitchen looks like the Spice Agent ran through and tossed a bomb in his wake.  I set a dishtowel on fire.

Yehezkel Mizrahi, the Spice Agent

I took a perfectly straightforward recipe for a Sephardic meat stew and turned it into a complicated affair worthy of Mario Batali.  That's one of the reasons my kitchen looks like somebody's Ground Zero.  But as I am typing this, the sofrito is in the oven on the last leg of its cooking journey. I'm not even sure it's a sofrito anymore.  But it smells good, whatever it is.

I found the recipe on a blog called "The MuffinTin Post", and I got hooked by the spices.  As I read through the post,  I noticed the author referred back to the original recipe  and its author, Janna Gur.  The main difference between the recipes was that the MuffinTin did not fry the potatoes.  Fry the potatoes before adding them to a stew?  Ooh, yes!  Let me find that original recipe, please!

Ah, but this morning I couldn't see right, much less fry right.  Which is how I decided to oven roast - the potato wedges, the rainbow carrots, and some mushrooms.  Never mind that neither recipe included carrots or mushrooms.  Mine does, along with a chopped red onion.  So, no sofrito, technically speaking.  But I have now had the opportunity to taste the finished product and it tastes good.  Really good.  Awesome freaking delicious.

Nofrito Sofrito - Sorta Sephardic Meat Stew

4 tablespoons roasted garlic extra virgin olive oil, more as needed
2 1/4 pounds beef stew meat
1 medium red onion, rough chop
2 tablespoons sofrito spice blend - recipe below
1 cup water
10 whole cloves garlic
20 frozen white pearl onions
Oven Roasted Potatoes - recipe below
Honey Roasted Baby Rainbow Carrots - recipe below
Oven Roasted Button Mushrooms - recipe below

So, this is kind of a sofrito, which is a dish that Sephardic cooks prepare any time of the week, and sometimes for Shabbat, as it will hold for a number of hours like hamin, which is the Sephardic version of our Ashkenazic cholent.  It is kind of a stew, but not a stew like I usually make. There is no copious amount of fairly thin gravy, although there is an amazing sauce sufficient to keep the meat moist.  The root vegetables are layered on top of the sofrito, instead of being stirred into the gravy along with the beef chunks.  The textures are different.  The spices are wildly different and wonderfully exotic, and they pair well with the touch of sweetness from the honey roasted carrots.

Sofrito Spice Blend
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon turmeric
1/2 tablespoon curry
1/2 tablespoon white pepper
1/2 tablespoon allspice
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper

Combine the spices and stir well to blend.

Oven Roasted Potatoes
8 buttercream potatoes, cut into 4 wedges
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 tablespoon Sofrito Spice Blend
granulated garlic
dried thyme

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Put the potatoes into an aluminum baking dish, and pour the canola oil over them.  Stir so that they are well coated with oil.  Add the spices.  Turn the potatoes so they are all skin side down. Place in the oven and roast for about 60 minutes.

Honey Roasted Baby Rainbow Carrotssource
1 pound baby rainbow carrots
1 tablespoon orange blossom honey
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground mixed peppercorns
dried thyme

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine all the ingredients in an aluminum baking dish.  Spread the carrots out evenly in one layer.  Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, turning halfway through.  Drizzle on a bit more honey after turning.  Carrots should be soft and sweet.

Oven Roasted Button Mushrooms - source
8 oz. white button mushrooms
1 tablespoon roasted garlic extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed
kosher salt
freshly ground mixed peppercorns

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Cut off the stems flush with the cap of the mushrooms, discard the stems.  Put all of the ingredients into an aluminum baking dish and mix together.  Add more oil if needed.  The mushrooms should be lightly and completely covered with the oil.  Turn the mushrooms stem side down and roast for 30 minutes.  Turn over and roast another 5 to 10 minutes.

Now, the sofrito:

Heat the olive oil in a large, ovenproof skillet.  Brown the beef cubes on all sides in two batches; remove to a baking dish and set aside.  Add the chopped red onions and cook them until they start to soften.  Add more oil if needed.  Add 2 tablespoons of the spice blend and stir well, cooking another minute.  Pour in the water, and stir, and start bringing the liquid up to heat.   Add the garlic and the pearl onions.  Return the beef to the skillet along with all cooking juices.  Bring the liquid up to a boil, then lower heat and cover.  Simmer for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Stir the sofrito to baste the beef.  Add the mushrooms to the sofrito. Layer on the potatoes.  Baste them with the the cooking liquid.  Layer the carrots on top of the potatoes.   Cover the skillet and place in the oven.  Cook for 2 hours.  Once or twice during the cooking, baste the potatoes with the cooking liquid.  When done, the beef should be very tender and the potatoes should be soft, but still hold their shape.

You will have leftover spice blend.  I am saving mine for another sofrito, or for chicken, or just to make oven roasted potatoes.

Nofrito Sofrito

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sound and fury, signifying nothing

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
Macbeth Act 5, scene 5, 19–28

Wednesday, Day 16 - Ahhh, my peeps miss me - I have emails to respond to.  I miss them so very much, but I can't go back.  Not yet.  I find the thought overwhelming.  I want to go back, but I am very concerned about losing whatever improvement I've managed to garner.  Reportedly, the judicial transition is still not going well, and that is a very big issue, for me and for my peeps.  As hard as we all work, for all that we sacrifice, we deserve better.  This is not the only contributing factor to my extreme stress and resulting meltdown (think of Dorothy throwing that bucket of water) but it is a big one.  Before I even think of taking this on again, I need to deal with my multitude of unresolved medical issues.  I need to find out what my leave status really is, and if it is realistic, given the sneaky nature of the CPS.  I need to look within myself and decide if I can face down the major source of the stress and come out of it with my license to practice law still intact.                  

So when we last met, I was considering how to best utilize a 4 pound package of beautiful stew meat.   First I researched Belgian stews, feeling close to my Dutch roots. The timing was good, as Cory had just arrived home with a 12-pack of Stella Artois.  I am enamored with a recipe for Hachee, Dutch Beef and Onion Stew, but I have a wandering eye which led me to a recipe called Sofrito, a Sephardic Meat Stew.  The flavor profile created by the many spices in the Sofrito is unique and won my vote, if not my heart.  So maybe tomorrow.  Today I did food shopping and it was fine. Spent a good amount of time in Whole Foods, really just to pick up my smoked whitefish salad, but I can never resist a peek at everything else. That's where I found these impossibly cute baby rainbow carrots, which will find their way into a saucepan or a crockpot. Definitely tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Schrödinger's Cat Doesn't Live Here Any More Or Maybe He Does

Tuesday, Day 15 - So after several week's wait, today is the day I have a pipe shoved down my throat.  I am, through my insurance carrier, paying for this privilege.  Now at the Outpatient Surgery Center, I am waiting again - or still.  I can't wait until I have to wait for the colonoscopy.

This is the easier procedure; I was able to eat and drink up until midnight, and did not have to engage in any cleansing rituals.  Still, I wish I could have had a cup of coffee.  One single, caffeine-laden cup of coffee.  I really missed my cup of coffee this morning.  No caffeine = crankiness.  Food is not an issue.  Coffee is always an issue.  Must. Have. Coffee.

Well, I waited but I was warned, and the wait fell well within the warning.  The staff was excellent, the procedure without incident.  No reaction to the anesthesia, which is kept very light.  I also received a written report of the results, which I deeply appreciated.  Very professional, and the colonoscopy is already set for March 31.  There's a 2-day cleansing ritual for that one; I can't wait.  Looking forward to it like root canal.

First thing I did when I got home was make myself a cup of coffee.  Then I read the endoscopy report and did some research to help me understand the findings.  There were three biopsies taken - one appeared to be S.O.P. (standard operating procedure); the second one seemed to be A.O.C. (abundance of caution - yes, I just made that up); and the third one was indicative of a genuine concern for something potentially serious.  So now it is my gastroesophageal junction as well as my right ta-ta enjoying the same existence as Schrödinger's cat.  I will know more - and understand it all better - after the colonoscopy.  That's when I will meet with the doctor.  

My PCP sent me a message letting me know that the CT brain scan came back fine.  Good to know.

So I've got the colonoscopy on March 31 and the mammogram and breast ultrasound on April 2.  Multiple follow up appointments in my immediate future.  No real answers as to how to manage the CPS. No idea as to when or if I can return to work.  I've got to get all of these medical issues resolved first, at least to the point of knowing if I will require any kind of treatment.  I am feeling lucky, but not wanting to give myself a kinehora (Yiddish for "evil eye"), that's all I'm going to say right now.

I'm tired of dwelling on health issues so I'm going to dwell on food instead.  What shall I do with 4 pounds of lovely stew meat, eh?  I found a recipe with an interesting collection of spices.  But that's another blog post.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Waking Up Is Hard To Do - Shiny Spaghetti Sauce and Soapboxes

Monday, Day 14 - I did not vote for Barack Obama.  Not because I am a Republican - I'm not.  Not because I'm a racist -  seriously, dudes, look at my family portrait.  Not because he has conducted his rather short and unspectacular political life with more lies and subterfuges than Bill Clinton - what kind of president fights to have their college records sealed?  Who plays fast and loose with their birth certificate?   Not because I'm suspicious of any politician out of Illinois, although that might be closer to the truth.  Not because I was a gung-ho supporter of John McCain and Sarah Palin - it actually hurt to cast a vote for that ticket, and if memory serves me correctly, I walked out of the voting both without doing so. I liked Romney and Ryan quite a bit, so that preference is definitely close to the truth. I felt, and continue to feel that Barack Obama was horribly inexperienced in both domestic and foreign affairs.  A law school professor?  I've known quite a few of those in my day, and the only one who might have qualified to run for President was former Dean Howard Glickstein.  I also felt that after eight years of George W. Bush, we the people deserved much better, not a second term of Jimmy Carter. I felt that Mr. Obama was no friend of Israel, and it turns out I was right.

In conclusion, I feel that Barack Obama is a childish, petulant, ill-tempered man with a pen in one hand, a cell phone in the other, the proverbial stick up his nether-region, and is dangerously unsuited to be the leader of the free world.

I read the news this morning, and it pissed me off, and so did the President.  And that's all I'm going to say about that, except - if you are a regular reader, and also a strong supporter of this President, anything I say is not going to change your opinion.  All I ask is that you respect my right to express my own.

Before I read the news, however, I woke up and remembered that I go for the endoscopy procedure tomorrow morning.  This left me feeling sad and scared at the same time.  Definitely made it hard for me to crawl out of bed.  Walking up is hard to do.  Oh, and did I mention it was raining?  On a Monday? As my grandmother-who-raised-me would pronounce, this is a Mizzo Day.  As the Carpenters would sing, Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down.  Pick your own ear worm today, my friends.

Speaking of my grandmother - well first, let me explain that after careful kitchen courtroom direct examination on my part, I discerned that the meatloaf, having been reheated for Robert's lunch, was a trifle dry.  Fair enough, and I am ALWAYS on the lookout for dry meatloaf.  It is a relatively easy matter to cure, and given the prominent role that Campbell's tomato soup presented in the original recipe, I thought I would turn to my grandmother's recipe for - ahem - shiny spaghetti sauce.  Except it wasn't shiny and that's not what she really called it.  What she called it was ethnically self-deprecating, in a humorous, Mel Brooksian sort of way, but even Mel couldn't get away with it these days, nor should he even try.  I am not one who believes anyone should use any word that is derogatory to any ethnic or racial or religious group, even if you happen to belong to that particular group.

Will someone PLEASE get me off this soapbox?  First President Obama, and then President Skroob.  Enough already.

I like this sauce, but I like anything that involves fried onions.  I also like Campbell's tomato soup, and have been known to actually eat the stuff, besides cooking with it.  Since I dislike eating most canned soups, that's fairly extraordinary.  This sauce is ridiculously easy to prepare; try it over spaghetti or with this meatloaf (or any meatloaf) or on mashed potatoes.

3-4 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 can Campbell's tomato sauce
kosher salt
ground black pepper
granulated garlic
a pinch of sugar

Cook the onions in the canola oil until tender.  Add  the salt, pepper, the sugar, and very small amount of the granulated garlic. Continue to cook the onions until they start to turn brown around the edges.     Stir in the soup, and thin with about half a soup can of water.  Let simmer about 10 to 15 minutes; taste and re-season if necessary.  The flavor is all about the sweet caramelized onions.  Let simmer a few more minutes.  Spoon over the meatloaf, or serve on the side.

Monday, March 23, 2015

I Love The Flower Girl - Crockpot Meatloaf Cordon Bleu

Kissimmee street sculpture from yesterday's walk

Sunday - Another quiet day, spent with my favorite husband.  I have convinced myself that the lump on the side of my right ta-ta is nothing but a fluid cyst. I've had them before.  No big deal. Stay tuned.

Flashback to an ear worm from December 6, 2014 - "flowers in her hair; flowers everywhere"

My gorgeous hibiscus, just planted and already blooming!

All seafood buffet - yes.  All dessert buffet - hell no. (Watching the Travel Channel.)

My sweet Magic are playing the Denver Nuggets, whose record is as bad as ours.  (Our record was a lot worse, but then we got rid of Jacques Vaughn). Should be a great game, especially as Jameer Nelson, one of my all-time favorite players, is playing for the Nuggets tonight.  We saw him a few months ago at Amway when he was playing for the Celtics.  Before that, he was playing for Dallas.  Three teams in one season - after 10 years with the Magic, and he would still be here if some loser in the Main Office hadn't traded him.  And that's tonight's rant.

A better shot of that misplaced plaque 

I have no idea why, but the thought of making meatloaf invariably sends me running to my pantry and grabbing cans and packets and collection of crumbs.  I've also got this thing about stuffing meatloaf - with hardboiled eggs, mashed potatoes, hot dogs, kielbasa, cold cuts, and/or cheese. My grandmother-who-raised-me made the best meatloaf and did none of these things.  She also cooked her meatloaf on top of the stove, so as to not heat up the kitchen by turning on the oven.  All of these factors swirled around in my head (which has been working a little bit better the past few days) and this is what I came up with.

Crockpot Meatloaf Cordon Bleu

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1/2 can Campbell's tomato soup
2 extra large eggs
1 packet Lipton Recipe Secrets Vegetable Soup and Dip Mix
1 tablespoon dried thyme
kosher salt
ground black pepper
1 - 5 oz. bag Chatham Village Garden Herb Croutons, crushed

6 slices Virginia ham
6 slices Swiss cheese
1/2 soup can red wine

Combine the first nine ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Mix well.  Pat, then roll out the meatloaf between two pieces of wax paper, using your judgment as to size based on the size of your crockpot.  Mine came out to be around 12 by 16 inches,, with 12 inches being the intended length of the rolled meatloaf. The final result should be about 1/4 inch thick.  Lay the sliced ham first, and then the Swiss cheese.  Using the wax paper to assist, roll the meat over and around the ham and cheese.

You should still have a can of tomato soup with half the soup removed.  Pour in just enough wine to fill the can back up and stir together with the soup.  Set aside for just a moment.

Line the crock with aluminum foil with ample overlap, so that you can lift out the finished meatloaf.  Pour about 1/3 of the soup wine mixture and use the back of a wooden spoon to spread it across the bottom.  Carefully move the meatloaf roll into the prepared crock, seam side down.  Pour the remaining soup wine mixture over the entire meatloaf.  Cook on low for 6 to 7 hours or until internal temperature registers 155 to 160 degrees.  I needed the full 7 hours.  Baste the meatloaf several times during cooking.  When the meatloaf is cool enough to handle, use the aluminum foil to lift it out of the crockpot, and move it into a serving dish, topped with any remaining sauce.

I find that meatloaf is particularly difficult to photograph ...

... but that flowers are not.

Beautiful 100+ year old oaks next to the Old Courthouse:

Including the infamous "Hanging Tree":

During the terrible hurricane season of 2004, downtown Kissimmee was left looking positively post-apocalyptic - trees broken in half, lying in the street and on top of houses.  The Hanging Tree was practically untouched, just a single branch cracked and was easily removed.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Places to go, people to see - Next Year in ...

Saturday - What the frog is wrong with this blog today??? I have had to delete my last two attempts to start the paragraph with the letter "I".  The damn thing keeps freezing - in Florida, no less!  Sheesh - all this just to tell you I am roasting a whole tomato. Not any tomato, mind you, but a yellow heirloom that has been sitting around at room temperature for at least a week, waiting for its proper disposition.

While the tomato is giving its all for culinary science, my mind wanders to Passover, the quintessential Jewish Eating Holiday.  This year, the first night of Passover falls out on April 3, 2015.  All Jewish holidays start at sundown, as does Shabbat (our Sabbath).  Why? The answer is in Genesis  1:5 (And there was evening, and there was morning, one day). There is no Passover service that takes place in temple; this is a home service, and it is all about eating.  Food is always symbolic, but never more so that for Passover.  It has been a long time since I planned a proper seder and under the circumstances I'm not even up to an improper one. One box of matzo should do us for the entire holiday, yup.

By the way, the roasted tomato was a bust.  Feh.

At the conclusion of the seder, we say "next year in Jerusalem."  At the conclusion of  this year's "seder", which will probably be meatloaf eaten at the kitchen counter, I'm going to say "next year in Anchorage!"  My cousin Maura and I are planning this for 2016, and God willing we are going to make it.

Today it was Indiana's turn to accompany me on my walk.  It was a rough day, as the humidity was much higher than I anticipated.  He wanted to walk on the leash rather than ride in the stroller, but he's not a great walker, pulling me this way and that to look at things.  I got some good photos, though.  No cooking today.  Rob and I had cheese and crackers for dinner, and I gave Chelsea a much-needed bath.  She loves her bath, but hates the blow dryer.  I'm not sure she's speaking to me.  A quiet day.

Some different views of the Old Courthouse

The angles caught my eye, and my camera caught the angles

The site of the last execution in Osceola County

An odd place for this plaque

I never tire of looking at this building

Indiana Jones, setting hat fashion yet again