Saturday, October 31, 2015

Double Double Toil and Trouble

Long ago, and far, far away, I was a much younger version of myself and I had the energy and the strength to work like a longshoreman - well, maybe not quite that hard. But I was commuting to the city from our home in Ronkonkoma, two hours each way, to work in the financial district, while going to school in Brooklyn in the evenings for my paralegal certificate, and working double doubles (4 parties each weekend) at the kosher catering hall. Oh, I got tired, but at least there were a couple of good reasons for it. I worked hard and I thrived on it. 

This morning, I woke up feeling as bad as I used to feel back then. All I had done yesterday was help James with the planting - maybe 90 minutes of placing little potted plants in specific locations  - and prepared the oxtails. And there was that bad landing, a single one-foot jump, that jarred every nerve in my body. Crap.

After sleeping ridiculously late, I crept downstairs and somehow got the spareribs into the BIG new eight quart crockpot.  It is 3:00 PM as I am typing this and I still haven't finished yesterday's post. I  also have to bake muffins, and while I managed to grate two carrots I find myself stuck in Stop. Any thoughts I harbored for doing some additional work in the garden got quashed before I made it to the bottom of the stairs.

I've also got that cognitive overload thing going on.  Noise is driving me crazy, and I'm not talking about fire engines tearing down Clyde Street, or two trains passing each other on the tracks down the block, or some stupid lowrider blasting dirty lyrics out the car window. Nope, I'm being driven crazy by the television at the other end of the house and barking dogs.  Hell of a time for my hearing to be working.

Somehow I managed to prepare the spareribs and the carrot muffins. Neither recipe is one I cooked up in my fevered brain. The crockpot ribs are a definite keeper (and I have made them before) but the jury is still out on the carrot muffins.

Recipes tomorrow. Stick a fork in me, I'm done.

Friday, October 30, 2015

As the Worm Turns - Oxtails with Peaches, Carrots and Shittakes

The Magic LOST. First game of the regular season, home court advantage, and they LOST. But wait, it gets better: they lost by one point. One freaking point. A single digit. I hope Coach Skiles took them back to the locker room and gave them hell.

The Mets lost the second game of the World Series. What the hell is going on? I am not even close to being emotionally invested in the Mets, although back in 1969 it was a different matter, even though I was raised by a serious Yankee fan - but I still cheer on the major league New York teams, and damn it, I want the Mets to win.

Well, that was exhausting. Alway great to start the day with negativity. 

Speaking of negativity, check this out:

It was pasted on the back window of a car parked in my therapist's parking lot. Not his car, and likely not one of his patients - I had to park all the way down the lot, which is unusual - but delightfully snarky, whoever the car's owner happened to be.

As you know, I did not watch the third Republican debate (because I was watching the Magic lose instead) so I have to rely on the media for the skinny on what happened out there in Colorado. The news here in Florida is that Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are no longer playing nice. Yawn. But the really big news was not so much the candidate's performance as it was their joint effort in smacking down the CNBC moderators for trying to start what Senator Ted Cruz called a "cage fight." We're hearing that the debate winners were Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Chris Christie. Go New Jersey!!

Today turned out to be a good one, a productive day. If I passed out on the couch for a two-hour nap, so be it. It was worth it.  I prepared the oxtails, and while they took their time in the crockpot, I helped James with the planting. Well, he did all the heavy lifting, while I waved my baton.  I did some measuring, placed each little veggie pot where they needed to go, and wielded a pair of scissors to remove the little plastic liner from the top of the pots.  Not exactly the same as digging and raking, but we were in the sun and after a little while we were feeling it. Once, just once, I sort of lost my balance causing me to have to jump back about two feet, and that, my friend, jarred the hell out my body, reminding me yet again how fibromyalgia forced me to give up Taekwando.

I still have one bed to work on, the one that will contain all of the lettuces and cruciferous vegetables, but the majority is done and gorgeous and I have to show it off:

Onto the oxtails - seriously, do not be freaked out by the name. First of all, this is not "offal", or some kind of innards.  It is a cut of beef, no different from eating a short rib.  This is the kind of eat-with-your-fingers messy dish that can only be described as heartwarming. Sitting around the dinner table, everybody happily slurping, is a picture worthy of Norman Rockwell.

This is my second version of this dish. The first used apricot nectar and dried apricots, and included a sweet red bell pepper and jalapeño. If I'd had the peppers available, I would have included them, but even without, this version came out (cue Christopher Eccleston voice here) "Fantastic!" The first time I prepared oxtails, I did everything on top of the stove,  but this time I had to rely on the crockpot to babysit the dish while I worked on the garden.    

Oxtails with Peaches, Carrots and Shittakes                                                                                                           

2 whole heads of garlic
3 1/2 - 4 pounds oxtail
Dry Rub for Lamb
Olive oil (if you have garlic-infused oil, use it)
2 large yellow onions, chopped
2 large yellow onions, halved and sliced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried thyme
4-10.5 oz. cans Campbell's beef consommé
2 cups V-8 fusion peach mango juice
3 tablespoons chipotle sauce (La Costena brand)
honey, to taste
4 oz. box of shittake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1/2 stick of butter
1 teaspoon sugar
4 carrots, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1/2 pound dried white peaches (Trader Joe's), cut in quarters

First, roast the garlic: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Cut the tops off of the garlic heads. Put a small amount of oil in a pan, and set the garlic heads in there, cut side up. Drizzle more oil over the top of the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes or until the cloves are soft and light brown.  Set aside to cool. You can do this well in advance.

Season oxtails on all sides with the dry rub.  Cover and set in the refrigerator for at least an hour. (I actually triple-wrapped the seasoned oxtails months ago and stored them in the freezer.) Heat olive oil in a large deep skillet over medium high heat, and brown the oxtail on all sides.  Remove the oxtails when browned and set aside. Add the chopped onions and lower the heat to medium. Add the bay leaves and the thyme and stir. Add the beef consommé, the peach mango juice, the cloves of one head of the roasted garlic (easiest to squeeze them out)and the chipotle sauce.  Stir and scrape up the bottom of the skillet.  Taste the sauce, and drizzle in a small amount of honey, to taste, to counter any excess heat from the chipotle sauce.  Bring to a boil, then shut off the heat.

Spray the inside of a six quart crockpot with some no-stick stuff.  Place the oxtails into the crockpot, and pour all of the sauce over them.  Cover the crockpot and cook on low for 2 hours. Now add the cut-up carrots and peaches, cover and cook for another hour.  As soon as you have added the carrots and peaches, melt the butter in a skillet and add the sliced onions. Season the onions with some salt, pepper, and the teaspoon of sugar.  Cook for a while until the onions begin to caramelize.  Add the cloves from the remaining head of garlic and the shittake mushrooms. Cook until the onions are caramelized and the mushrooms softened.  When the hour is up, add the contents of the skillet to the crockpot, cover and cook another 2 hours.

Remove the oxtails to a baking pan, and with a slotted spoon, do the same thing with the fruit and vegetables.  Pour the sauce into a pan (I used the same skillet throughout) and place it in the refrigerator to cool for several hours.  Skim the fat off the top of the pan and discard it. Put the skillet back on the stove. Over medium high heat, cook the sauce until it is reduced by half. Taste and reseason.  Spoon the sauce (which is now rich and glossy and full of flavor) over the oxtails. You can serve immediately or refrigerate overnight.

Okay now - don't skip the fat skimming stage. Very important with this cut of meat. Do reduce the sauce, even just a bit, to bring out the best flavor.  First time I served this I accompanied it with store-bought potato gnocchi.  This time I'm going to serve the homemade gnocchi in my freezer. Or you can make mashed potatoes, which are perfect for this dish.

This is also screaming out for a green vegetable, like green beans. If you make the mashed potatoes, the vegetable has to be green peas. I think it's a law or something.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


This morning, my mind drifted to politics and from there to another Donald. He calls himself Don, and he is a very well-known and popular stand-up comedian who specialized in the genre of "insult comedy." Don Rickles could be a vicious mother*** but ha ha, everybody laughed.  If I remember correctly (and who knows) there came a time that he had to tone down the venom because for a lot of people, being insulted just wasn't funny anymore. The age of political correctness followed, and you know how well that has worked. But he is still, at age 89 no less, a very active comedian and actor. Just not as mean as he used to be.

I bring this up because I sense a shift in the political fortunes of front-runners Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson. I didn't use a divining rod or anything - I read the polls, same as you - and it seems that some Republican voters are drifting away from the Donald and drifting over to the Doctor (not The Doctor) very possibly because the Donald's meanness, initially refreshing, is beginning to wear just a little thin. At the complete other end of the meanness spectrum is Ben Carson, who is conducting his campaign using his best bedside manner.  I am not unaware that Dr. Carson has expressed some opinions that are making Democratic heads explode, but he delivers his messages in such a calming way, he's positively Zentastic.

Perhaps it is time for Donald Trump, like Don Rickles before him, to tone down the snark just a bit before more Republicans cozy up to the delightfully snark-free Ben Carson. It doesn't matter to me, I'm still voting for Hillary, provided she's not indicted (what a country, eh?), but I used to be a Republican, and just sayin'.

Speaking of the Republicans, the third debate is taking place tonight, and while I normally love to watch the presidential debates, the Orlando Magic are playing their first televised game of the regular season and that is that. We are Fox Sports! We are Florida! I want to see if Scott Skiles has worked his coach magic with the Magic. Go Magic! Go Mets! Go Today's Earworm!

Last night I didn't get to sleep at all, no, no
I lay awake and watched until the mornin' light
Washed away the darkness of the lonely night, lonely night

Last night was a terrible night for Chelsea; she didn't sleep, and neither did I. Rob and I are at our wit's end trying to bring some relief to all four of the dogs, but especially Chelsea, who are all being tortured by the damn fleas. We've bombed the house twice, tried commercial sprays, collars, shampoos, organic sprays and capsules, 1/4 of a Benadryl tablet, and nothing works for any length of time. Woody and Chelsea are both apparently allergic to the flea bites and they have both chewed themselves raw. She cried and whimpered and scratched like a whirling dervish. Woody was restless, walking all over the bed, the pillows, our faces, stopping to scratch so energetically, the bed shook. I am never well-rested under the best of circumstances, which these were not. I used a terrycloth washcloth to gently rub Chelsea's skin, sort of like scratching without the skin-shredding. She eventually calmed down and slept with her face buried in my side. Tonight I'm going to try a little Gold Bond medicated powder.  I hate to see the babies suffer.

Time to get philosophical - which I wasn't planning to do, but there's a thunderstorm outside, totally ruining my planting project (I finished the plan, though), and I don't have any of the ingredients to prepare my oxtail recipe, except the oxtails themselves. (Yes, I said oxtails, get over it. Wasn't I right about the beef heart and the goat?)

So I was on Facebook and came across this article (I recommend that you read it) which had been shared by a friend from high school. I shared it, with the accompanying paragraph:

"If there is one phrase I tend to overuse, it is "everything happens for a reason." On the other hand, I believe that God does not usually share that reason with us. But I would never suggest that my statement would preclude grieving a loss, for as long as necessary, perhaps forever. Because I believe in God, I believe He has a huge master plan that often causes Him to set terrible wheels in motion. That phrase, at least to my mind, is never intended to be used as a palliative for those who are suffering."

But of course, I had more to say, and that was best-suited for this blog. So here we are, at least here I am, explaining myself.

My grandmother never used this phrase, and she wouldn't believe it if somebody said it to her. God Himself could come down to explain to her, and she would still not accept that He had a good reason for taking her daughter, my mother Joyce, from her at the age of 29.  No one should ever have to outlive their own child, and I saw what it did to my grandmother. At the end of her life, lost in the fog of senile dementia, having forgotten everyone else, she remembered Joyce.

Personally, I have the biggest problem accepting the reason for children to be born with terrible congenital defects, or to be viciously abused, to have their childhoods stolen. So many times during the past quarter century I have asked, "God, why do You let this happen to little children?" So far, He hasn't answered me. But even if He did, it would bring no comfort. All that God can do is give each of us the strength to keep on living.  So perhaps it is the wrong thing to say to a mourning parent, but the phrase is not going to fall out of use, because it happens to be true. Platitudes like this one persist because they all have a kernel of truth.

I think the author of the article is angry at the wrong people. How many of us know the right thing to say when a friend or relative has suffered a loss? I certainly don't, and I'm sure I've said the wrong thing in the past, but never with the intention of hurting someone or implying that there was no reason or right to grieve. Grief and the process of grieving is as vital as breathing. The pain never goes away. Recognizing that each human tragedy is part of a greater plan doesn't take that away.

And that's my opinion.

At the end of the day, I got no cooking done. Tomorrow will be an epic cooking day, God willing, the crick don't rise and the puppies let me sleep. Potato Soup with Spinach; my overly-complicated recipe for Oxtails (but so good); a muffin of some sort; crockpot spareribs. In the meantime, nobody will starve, I ga-ron-tee! 

My Magic are doing swell keeping up with the Washington Wizards. Let's see if they can keep up the energy in the third quarter.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Good things from the garden - Knockwurst Lentil Soup

I could crawl back into bed, I really could, and be done with the day. This is a TBA day (Total Body Ache) and it has me feeling sad before I even get started. Having said that, I am very glad I did haul this creaky old carcass out of bed, into clothes, and down the stairs. Road trip!

We - Rob, James and I - took one giant step closer to completion of my urban garden. Another trip to Home Depot for all kinds of practical stuff, like trellises and plant stakes. And then the plants, oh the plants!


The bougainvillea and the crotons are going to give a finished look to the front corner closest to the parking lot. The other plants, together with the other vegetables I picked up last week, are going to feed my family. No, really.

Green peas



"Never rub another man's rhubarb"

Ichiban and Black Beauty Eggplants

Tomatillos and Onions

And of course, tomatoes, eight kinds in total, including Mr. Stripey. I hope to be able to get both ripe and green tomatoes.  Fried green tomatoes, oh my.

That's as far as I got today; there are limits, and I reached mine pretty rapidly, without doing any lifting heavier than a tomato plant. I did prepare a favorite soup, incorporating the first vegetable harvest of this planting season, one perfect jalapeño.  I'm also in the midst of revising and finalizing the planting chart so my helpers can place things where I think they ought to be.

Knockwurst Lentil Soup:
I have been making this soup for 40 years and it never fails me. I originally got it from Weight Watchers, the really old, pre-Point Weight Watchers when Jean Nidetch still owned the company and if we wanted to bake anything we started by turning our daily bread allowance into crumbs. This recipe stands out among all the other WW recipes we collected, because it was so normal; there's no trickery or transformation. There is also not a drop of oil added. Even though my Weight Watcher days are over, I love this soup.

I admit to you now that this is the 2015 version; the jalapeño is the giveaway. I had never bought, much less used a jalapeño in my cooking, circa 1975. Same for the fresh herbs. In fact, the only fresh herb I ever saw my mother use was dill for her chicken soup, and back then, the grocer gave the dill away. Now that was service. I still occasionally pine for Waldbaum's, especially their deli counter, full of pickled herring and lox that was sliced right in front of you. Yeah, I love New York.

1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 large stalk of celery, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
1 - 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 Knorr chicken bouillon cubes, broken up
1 teaspoon chopped lemon thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 pound of lentils, cooked according to package directions, drained and cooking liquid reserved
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
2 Hebrew National knockwurst, thinly sliced
kosher salt
ground black pepper
flat leaf parsley and additional lemon thyme leaves, chopped

In a large pot, combine the first 10 ingredients and cook on medium-high for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Stir often, and if this looks dry, add a small amount of the liquid from the lentils to prevent it from burning. 

Add enough water to the reserved cooking liquid to equal 5 cups, and add this liquid to the pot along with the cooked lentils, wine vinegar, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the knockwurst, cover the pot, and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the cover and taste to adjust seasonings, including the salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley and lemon thyme.

If you can't get lemon thyme, use the regular fresh thyme, or just use a little more of the dried thyme.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Would you be my neighbor? - Yellow Squash Soufflé

A beautiful day for a neighbor,
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
It's a neighborly day in this beautywood,
A neighborly day for a beauty,
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,
I've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

That lovely house next to mine, fronting on Clyde Street, is for sale. My neighbors moved out so fast, it was like watching an episode of The Flash. People, lights, and vehicles zooming about at super-speed. The day after the cleaning crew left, the sign went up. I hope the move was for a happy reason, like a well-paying promotion, but I guess I'll never know. Yes, none of my business and all that. If you are looking for a home or office space in downtown Kissimmee, it's worth a look. Olde Kissimmee Realty.

Today was the day I set for myself to work on my disability paperwork, and I did, and most of it is headed to their intended recipients.  I did not go to pieces, or walk away, or scream amd beat my breast. There was a brief moment that I wanted to spit back snarky answers, but I got control while laughing and treated the forms like the serious matter they are.  Endless questions - but almost all of them were relevant.I took my time, answered truthfully, and while rereading it, was surprised how screwed up my life has gotten because of my illnesses. 

I did not cook - my back went out, and that is that - but nobody is starving here. I did not do any planting - same back problem, and besides, I need someone to take care of the 10-10-10 fertilizer - move a deceptively heavy bag, distribute it among the beds, and rake it in. Maybe I'll start tomorrow. Soon.

The squash soufflé was awesome! The only thing I would change is to increase the amount of squash I used. The original recipe called for 2 pounds, but I went forward with just the 1.5 pounds in the Green Giant package.  I would have liked that extra half pound to up the squash flavor. Despite that, it was delicious; the texture was exactly what I wanted.  Don't skip the steps separating the eggs and beating the whites, it makes a difference.

Yellow Squash Soufflé 

1 1/2 to 2 pounds yellow summer squash
2 tablespoons butter
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
24 Ritz crackers, crushed (I put them in a ziptop bag and use my hands to break them up)
1/2 pound grated cheese, Mexican blend (or cheddar)
4 extra-large eggs, separated
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
ground black pepper, to taste
cayenne pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. With butter flavor no-stick spray, coat an aluminum baking dish.

Cut the squash into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Cook in boiling, salted water until softened, about 20 minutes. Drain. Purée with an immersion blended.  Drain again, using a fine mesh colander. Let it sit in the colander until ready to combine with the other ingredients.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the olive oil to heat up. Add the onion, garlic, bell peppers, and jalapeño and cook until the onions are brown and tender.

Beat the egg whites with an electric beater until you have fairly stiff peaks (add a bit of cream of tartar during beating). Set aside. With the same beaters, mix the egg yolks for just a few seconds. With a wooden spoon, mix the squash purée, onions, peppers, garlic, cracker crumbs and cheese. Stir in the egg yolks, milk, sugar and seasonings. With a rubber spatula, fold in the beaten egg whites. Pour into the baking dish and bake until the top is lightly browned and the center firm, about 50 minutes.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Passed Out On a Sunday - Cheatin' Eggplant Parm

I just inadvertently erased two whole paragraphs, damn damn DAMN! All about Chelsea suffering from terrible itching throughout the night, and me up with her trying to make her comfortable. Bottom line, I woke up later than I would have liked, in pain, in minor panic, and not able to do much of anything. So no shopping trip to the garden center, and certainly no planting.

Cooking? Well now that's a possibility, but even that is a stretch.  As you may have seen at the end of yesterday's post, I picked up the new Pioneer Woman cookbook that I had been waiting for, mostly patiently, to show up at BJ's. I definitely want to take my time going through all of her recipes, and who knows what will pique my interest?  I also have a couple of projects buzzing around like bees in my head.  Bees ... I need even more flowers to attract bees to the garden.

I'm definitely going to make my knockwurst lentil soup. And cheatin' eggplant parm.  Beyond that, I couldn't say. Well, maybe I could - squash casserole.  Crockpot spareribs. Oxtails? Paella?

The cheatin' eggplant parm gets its name because I bypassed the most labor intensive part of the process, the eggplant itself. No peeling, slicing, salting, rinsing, breading, or frying.  I buy a nice big box of good quality breaded eggplant slices - I think it's Michelangelo brand, available in BJ's - and I bake about 18 of the best-sized pieces in the convection oven at 400 degrees, after spraying the pan and the top side of the eggplant with a no-stick olive oil, until the slices are done and brown.

Layer the eggplant with sauce (and I use Hunt's, which is cheap and perfect for this dish) and a couple of cheeses - I had grated Romano, shredded mozzarella, and thinly sliced provolone - and bake until the cheese is melted.  Seriously, this is college dorm cooking, as good and easy today as it was 40 years ago.

Can anyone explain to me why I am having a panic attack? Damn thing snuck up on me while I was working on the squash casserole - squash soufflé, really, since we're down south and all. Why now, why me?

It was a good day, although not totally what I expected it to be. I got things done, not just cooking. I caught up on last night's Doctor Who (excellent!) and even had Breakfast with Baker. James finished filling in all the dirt, and also power-washed the house, so everything is ready for me to start planting. Before planting, however, I have to go through paperwork, both for state and for federal disability benefits. After much thought, I have decided to appeal the decision of the state, so there are some forms to deal with for that. Then I have extensive forms to fill out for Social Security. Huh. Maybe that explains the panic attack.

The squash soufflé came out pretty darn delicious. Recipe and commentary tomorrow. Oh, and there is a cruise or three in our future. Things are looking up. I ate the squash for dinner and it stayed down. Booyah!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Keep Calm and Get a Pedicure

It has been a long time since I threw you folks an earworm - I guarantee you will be hearing Marni Nixon's sweet voice in your head for days.

I feel pretty, oh so pretty
I feel pretty and witty and bright
And I pity any girl who isn't me tonight
I feel charming, oh so charming
It's alarming how charming I feel
And so pretty that I hardly can believe I'm real
About once every six weeks I allow myself to be pampered by Tammy at Decent Nails with a pedicure. I don't consider the nail fill to be pampering - that's a necessary, like a haircut, but unlike the self-administered haircut I can't apply my own acrylic nails. The pedicure, though - I could do that myself, but then I wouldn't get to sit in the massage chair while the nice lady applies moist heat and massages my feet and lower legs. Also she has that exquisite patience necessary to properly nip and shape my ugly little toenails, whereas I am likely to whack them off to the quick because they annoy me. When I leave here at the end of 2 hours, still unable to speak one word of Vietnamese, I will feel relaxed and pretty and for a little while will have forgotten about fibromyalgia, anti-semitism, and Trey Gowdy's hair.

I came across this article today on Facebook and I will tell you that I was so horrified I did not click on the link. In fact, I changed the title of the article for the purposes of this blog, and I am not providing the link: "Woman Defiles Jimmy Dean Sausage in Walmart Bathroom."

At one level, it is hysterically funny - typical Walmartian behavior, I can hear some people chuckling - but then I realized this spoke to a much bigger social problem, maybe more. First, chances are this woman is seriously mentally ill - okay, I'm stating the obvious here, but that being the case, does she really need to have her name and embarrassing behavior headlined by the media, and made to go viral over the Internet?  How does a therapist help her deal with that?

Second, and perhaps more importantly, why are our young people being exposed to articles like this, in the mainstream or even tabloid media?  How do we raise our children to respect privacy and modesty when we're all okay with prurient details like this being published? I am reminded of my abject horror, courtesy of the Supreme Pervert, Kenneth Starr, when a generation of very young children learned about oral sex leading up to and during the impeachment proceedings of President Bill Clinton.

I also remember a time when woman's sanitary products could not be advertised on TV, and when the media did not report on a President's personal peccadillos. Ads for Viagra and Cialis, with their blunt talk about 4-hour erections, or obsessing on the nitty-gritty details of presidential affairs, this offends me. Yes me, a child of the sixties, raised in the era of free love and cheap drugs.  I remember that there were always rumors, but they were not reported in the media.

We baby boomers may have invented the phrase "let it all hang out" but all the wildness was for the very young, and then we all outgrew the silliness. Baby boomers grew up, graduated college, got jobs, got married, and raised children without allowing them to be exposed to the sex lives of strangers. We got old. We retired.  Some of us got downright crotchety (mea culpa).

Did the President really veto increases in pay to the armed forces? Well, two out of three ain't bad ... what I am referring to is the President's remarks expressing concern over the death penalty and his request to deemphasize testing in schools. On these matters, I can get behind him 110%, which is totally unusual for me. But denying pay adjustments to our military? He just slid back into the "big dope" category.

The birthday party was lovely ... I certainly did not look as good at fifty as my friend Laura.  I had to take a nap earlier in the day to ensure I could make it to the party. So I did, and I did, and it was grand.  

No cooking today, but we did do a bit of shopping at BJ's earlier in the day, and I have Plans.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Rage of Angels - Go Scratch Green Bean Casserole

Wednesday - Nothing went the way I planned. Oh, I got things done, but totally out of order.  And while I was out shopping, the pain hit in a new location, and proved itself resistant to Zantac. Always pain of one sort or another, and pain is a distraction. But I'm not disabled, says the State of Florida. Pain and fuzziness shift from hour to hour; oh sure I can do a TPR trial! Good thing I won't take opioids, eh? Oh sure, I can draft a Final Judgment from a two week trial, to be checked and criticized by Attila the Hunny.  And I can certainly put in day after day of court hearings and be expected to stand there with a poker face, parroting back every single thing that ever happened in the case, causing us to have to work 2 hours late every day, because I have my cane to lean on. And when Attila throws one of her patented hissy fits, I've got 25 years experience and some drug with a weird name to keep me from having that panic attack which is going to fracture whatever composure I have left ... except the drug is really for depression, so at least I won't be depressed about going to pieces in a public arena.

Bitter? Hear that hollow laugh!  Why yes, I put a little makeup on my face and look a little better, so how can I be sick? What the fuck does "sick" look like?  What job can I do, oh might Division of Disability Determination, if I clearly can no longer function consistently and efficiently as a lawyer?              

I don't usually know where the rage comes from, but when it's there, it's not easy being me. This is killer anger, and when I hold it in to avoid being arrested on possible charges of aggravated assault or battery, I feel like my head is going to explode. That's where I am now, and that's where I was a half hour ago when I posted this on Facebook:

"Despite 10 hours of being grilled, yelled at, insulted, and lectured to by partisan Republican hatchet men (and women), Mrs. Clinton remained calm and non confrontational, answered every question put to her by this travesty of a committee, never trying to avoid the tough questions, even though there were many times the person barking the question at her began hollering over her answers so that it was hard to hear her. I don't know why anyone would rhapsodize about Trey Gowdy's skills as a federal prosecutor. I would say, however, he has proven himself to be an able persecutor. This travesty of an interrogation has to end before the Republican members of the committee do additional damage to US reputation abroad and at home."

It's not just the Benghazi committee-from-hell, you understand; when this happens, anything and everything sets it off. I don't know if this is a symptom of the fibromyalgia or something from my long-term emotional issues. I do know that it interferes with my ability to function. I hate this.

Boy, the mood of this blog post went south all of a sudden. Let's change that ...

Today (Friday) is my cousin Cary's birthday.  Happy birthday to my brother from another mother, one of the nicest guys around. Love you, cuz!

Go Scratch Green Bean and Mushroom Casserole

That should be "from scratch"- there's no cream of mushroom soup nor (sob!) French's French Fried onions in this multi-step, multi-pot casserole. Is it worth all the work? You be the judge (just not THAT judge. You know who I mean.) If it's not, I suppose you could tell me to "go scratch" or drop dead or even f**k off.  But I think you will be pleased, I really do.


1. Ree Drummond's Onion Strings (includes a soaking period, so start these first)

  • 1 whole large onion, sliced super-thin and separated into rings
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • Crystal Hot Sauce, to taste (this is my addition to Ree's recipe)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon (scant) salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon (to 1/2 teaspoon) cayenne pepper
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1 quart (to 2 quarts) canola oil
Go to her blog by clicking on the link and then follow her directions.

2. Green Beans
  • 1 pound of fresh green beans, trimmed and cut crosswise into thirds or quarters
Blanch in boiling water for five to six minutes, drain in a colander, and plunge into a bowl of ice-cold water to stop the cooking. Return to the colander and drain well. Set aside.

3. Mushroom Bechamel Sauce
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound cremini or button mushrooms, trimmed, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 Knorr chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • ground white pepper
  • smoked paprika
Melt the butter in a large skillet, and add the olive oil. Next add the mushrooms and cook on medium-high for about 10 minutes.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent with some browning around the edges. Do not let the garlic get too dark.

Now add the flour, sprinkling it over all of the vegetables.  With a wooden spoon stir while cooking so that the flour coats all of the vegetables. You are making a roux here, so the flour will need a few minutes to cook out the floury smell.

Once that is done, add the wine and the Knorr cubes, and bring to a boil. Stir constantly; when the liquid has thickened, lower the heat and add the half and half and the remaining ingredients.  Cook until the sauce is heated through and well-thickened.  If it is too thick, add a small amount of half and half to thin it out.  Fold in the cooked green beans, and transfer to a baking dish.  Top the dish with about half of the onion strings, then cover with foil.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes until the casserole is bubbly.  Take the foil off for the last few minutes of baking if you like the onions extra crispy.

Yes, it is more work than the traditional casserole, but a real showstopper for your holiday table.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Ashkenazic Soul Food - Kasha Varnishkes

Tuesday - Damn, Damn, DAMN sneaky son of a bitch. I hate you fibromyalgia!

On Tuesday, after struggling to finish and publish the blog post I mostly wrote on Monday, that back pain blossomed into a total body experience which completely unravelled me. Fortunately I was already sprawled out on the couch, because if I'd had to actually walk to it, I wouldn't have made it.  My head became totally fogged up and I could not think straight, dithering with myself about buttermilk until I realized I had no chance of getting to  my car much less driving it to the market. I stayed in pain for hours after passing out on the couch. (Expletive deleted).

Wednesday - Good thing I typed up the kasha recipe the other day, because otherwise I would have nothing to offer you in the way of food.  Today I have to concentrate on a pile of disability paperwork before anything  else. (Ha ha, right. Maybe tomorrow.)

Uh oh, it seems I did not yet type up the kasha varnishkes recipe. You get the chicken wings today, the kasha on Thursday and the green bean casserole on Friday. That's my plan, but with fibromyalgia on the loose, who knows?

Thursday, and I'm still trying to pull myself together enough to publish a post with a recipe.  I think perhaps I need not to discuss politics or the Middle East, as both topics pull my mood down to the depths of Hell.  I fear for Israel to the point I feel sick over it.

Let me talk about happy things - slowly but surely my garden is pulling together. The rain is slowing us down a bit, but I hope to start planting this weekend.  I could have never done this if we had stayed in Hunter's Creek because of the strict covenants. Everything happens for a reason. It looks like the reason we had to leave that house was okra. And fresh herbs from my garden rather than from Publix. And a tomato named Mr. Stripey.

The wood frames are complete and almost all are filled with clean dirt

Look carefully - that's a jalapeño 

Kumquats ripening on my tree, just in time for fresh cranberry relish

Lettuce entertain you

Tomorrow is my cousin Cary's birthday. He is exactly my age plus eight weeks, and as I've often explained, he's my brother from another mother. Since our mothers were sisters, two crazy peas in a pod, no one understand our dysfunctional childhoods like we understand each other's. I love him dearly as I do his wife Maura and can't wait till our Alaska cruise next summer.

Now it can be told: the answer to the question "what do Emeril Lagasse, Ina Garten and Guy Fieri have in common, if it's not Food Network?"

Three different dates, a series of appearances at the Dr. Phillips' Center, and we have tickets.  I am totally excited to see them all. We got fairly decent seats, too.

Saturday we are going to a special 50th birthday party for our friend Laura. Since I've had to miss the last few social engagements because of ill-timed miserable fibro flairs, I am determined to make this one if I have to be wheeled in on a borrowed golf cart (it would have to be borrowed because neither Rob nor I play golf). I am crazy (as in crazy good) about the concept: we all go to a rather nice restaurant for dinner together, and in lieu of gifts, we go "Dutch." I love love love the idea. And after dinner we all go to a special suite - not sure what that's about, perhaps the birthday cake or an after-dinner drink.  Adults only. I love it! Did I tell you I love it? Why do I love it? Because picking out birthday gifts for adults is ridiculous. Chances are the adult doesn't really need anything, unless you are the type to buy cars and expensive jewelry for close friends. I would rather pay for my dinner and enjoy everyone's company. Very happy. I realize some people may be offended by the concept, but not me. Or Rob. I think it is brilliant.

I finally worked out the recipe for the green bean casserole. Thanksgiving will never be the same. Instead of cream of mushroom soup and some milk, my sauce is made from crimini mushrooms, fresh onions and garlic, mo' butter, fresh herbs, half-and-half, and wine, baby, wine, a nice bright Chardonnay. God willing and the crick don't rise, you get that recipe tomorrow.

Just a preview

And now finally, true Ashkenzic soul food - where else can you get so much satisfaction from a bunch of onions?

Kasha Varnishkes

1 cup coarse kasha (buckwheat groats)
1 extra large beaten egg
2 cups boiling water
4 onions, chopped
canola or corn oil
1 - 8 oz. package bowtie egg noodles (Manischewitz brand)
kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper

In a large pot, boil the noodles according to package directions, rinse under cool water, and drain well.

Put the kasha into a heavy skillet; stir in the egg, coating each grain. Turn the heat to medium-low and stir the kasha until just dry, with each grain separate. Pour in the boiling water; cover and cook on low until all the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.  Fry the onions in a good amount of oil until soft and golden brown.

In the large pot you used to cook the noodles, combine the kasha and the noodles together.  Add in the onions and all the cooking oil. Add the salt and pepper to taste.  Mix everything together; add a very little extra oil if dry. Heat together over low heat. Serve immediately or transfer to a baking pan, cover and refrigerate. Reheat in oven, still covered, until warmed all the way through, for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

This doubles easily; yes, I know that's eight onions to peel and chop and fry but it is totally, completely, indubitably worth it.