Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut - Almond Joy Yeast Bread

So ... I did manage to take the Strange Yeast Thing to the next stage in its evolution ... a proper, well-risen, frankly gorgeous, slightly sweet yeast bread that is really easy to make, and worth the wait to allow it to cool before slicing.

This is good lightly toasted and buttered

We have had to do so much work around the house lately, just a reminder that this baby is 90 years old, and at the time it was first constructed, there were no building codes nor sneaky little building inspectors snapping pictures with their iPhones and sending you nastygrams in the mail.  Okay, that hasn't happened for a very long time, thank Bast.  The whole damn house has had to be rewired, and the underground sprinkler reclaimed. Sod has been pulled up, and concrete has been fractured in pursuit of proper plumbing. And speaking of plumbing, let's not forget that it wasn't all that long ago when  Josephine the Plumber had to dig up a good part of the front lawn.  Nevertheless,  I love this old house in a way I did not love my other houses, because this house has character. It is imperfect, and that is something I understand all too well.

Speaking of imperfect, I think I lost more weight.  I don't always trust our scale, although I'm not sure why, or perhaps it is that I simply can't believe my weight continues to go down.  I'm sure there are many folks out there who envy me - there was a time I would have envied myself - but clearly, this is not a healthy situation.  Now I have spoken with several friends who also had the gastric bypass about the same time I did, and they have had various complications, some similar to mine.  Then there are a few others I am aware of who had the surgery, but did not lose nor keep off the weight. I wonder if anyone really knows why.

I still can't eat, but I had an oddly enjoyable day.  We went to Home Depot for a few more herbs and vegetables, and then I went home and played in the dirt.  I took breaks, I drank lots of water, I rearranged the herbs in a way that made sense to my obsessive-compulsive nature.  Towards the end,  I found myself telling off someone whom I dislike very much, all in my head, of course, and it was quite emotionally cleansing.  I used to do that quite a bit back when I rode the Long Island Railroad - so much time to kill between Jamaica and Ronkonkoma.  Felt good to pound this person's face into the dirt.  Positively therapeutic.

Waiting under the bread machine

Here's the bread recipe:

1 - 13.5 oz. can of unsweetened coconut milk plus enough water to bring it to 1 3/4 cups
1 - 9 oz. package Jiffy golden cake mix
3 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
1/2 cup sweetened coconut
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

Settings: Sweet, Light Crust

Always follow the bread machine manufacturer's directions for adding ingredients.  I added mine in the order I have them listed, adding even the chocolate at the very beginning.  This made it more like a bread and less like a cake.  If you prefer to add the chips when the machine's beeper tells you to do so, be my guest.  Just let me know how it comes out, okay?

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Strange Yeast Thing - You Make My Heart Sing

1966 was a very good year.

All shall be revealed in the fullness of time

But before I get to that, today is Friday, May 29, and I would like to wish Happy Birthday to my Number Three Niece, Adina, and also to my dear old friend, the absolutely ageless Ron Friedman. And happy graduation day to Jane Wheeler; may you have a wonderful time at college.

I have often written how I am all about disco, that disco is not dead, that disco can never die (sort of like Captain Jack Harkness from "Torchwood". Inadvertently immortal. Until it is time for him to Face the Music, or the Face of Boe.)

Disco was born just as I hit my young adult years, and has followed me all the way to Incipient Old Age, but I really am a child of the sixties. Those were difficult times, both for me and the world in general.  My mother overdosed in 1960 and my grandmother finished losing what was left of her mind; the US officially entered the Vietnam war in 1961, and construction of the Berlin Wall began; I was adopted by my grandparents in 1962, entering the Interregnum of the Great and Terrible Secret; the Cuban Missile Crisis flared; the Cold War got downright frigid; I got my period on April 11, 1963, the beginning of a 40 year close acquaintance with endometriosis; President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963; by 1965 we had almost 200,000 troops in Vietnam and the mood of our country turns ugly; my brother was bar mitzvah'ed in 1967, after which my relationship with my grandmother goes into permanent decline; in 1968 Richard Nixon became President, and both Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are assassinated; in 1969 the Manson Family terrorized California.  And on May 4, 1970, four students at Kent State University were gunned down by the National Guard, related to the Guard being called onto campus because of Vietnam-era student protests.

This is not to say the sixties were totally without their charm.  True, those were the years of my adolescence, so they had to be heart-wrenchingly rotten - I think there's a law about that somewhere - but there were some moments that were wonderful.  Roger Maris hitting his 61st home run in 1961; Doctor Who starting in 1963, The Man from U.N.C.L.E in 1964, Star Trek in 1966; the Eagle lands on the Moon in 1969 and Neil Armstrong takes humanity's first step onto the surface; and of course, there was Woodstock. (No, I did not go. Seriously. I only knew one person from high school who went, and by that point she was already a pot-smoking, bra-burning hippie, and those were still pretty rare in the Lawrence High School of the sixties.) I met my friend Bethe Gochberg in 1968 at St. Joseph's Hospital in Far Rockaway, and a wonderful young teacher named Ronald Friedman in 1969.  And although I never dated in high school, and did not get invited to the Senior Prom, I had a fabulously busy social life attending Sweet Sixteen parties, Bar Mitzvahs, and even the occasional Bat Mitzvah.

And best of all was the music! Before disco but after Bobby Darin, there were the Beatles and the whole British Invasion, and it was fun.  So this song came out in 1966, by a group called the Troggs.  Not the Frogs, not even the Throgs (like the Throgs Neck Bridge).  Troggs, originally known as the Troglodytes.  Of course they were British.  But 1966 was the year that the American pop bands also showed their stuff, and it was all good - the Monkees, the Mamas and the Papas, the Supremes, the Fifth Dimension, Sonny and Cher - it was a very good year.  Like Frankie sang in '65. I never liked Frankie, but that song wasn't too bad.

Why did I get bitten by this particular ear worm?  Because of this damn (delicious) bread, which started out as a Strange Yeast Thing.  I had no hope that it would ever rise to become a loaf of bread, and so when it reached the third rise and still looked as unbreadlike as possible, I shut off the bread machine, repositioned the Strange Yeast thing so that it sat more evenly between the two kneading paddles, and restarted the machine on something called the Super Rapid setting.  What came out of that black box was more amazing than Paul Atriedes' unhurt hand.  The Bene Gesserit just had a nerve induction box; I have a West Bend 41410 horizontal loaf bread machine.  Much better.  This song from 1966 just makes the whole thing - well, perfect.

Wild thing, you make my heart sing
You make everything groovy, wild thing
Wild thing, I think I love you
But I wanna know for sure
Come on and hold me tight
I love you

You want the recipe, you say?  Oh, well so do I, except right now I only have a vague sense of how these ingredients turned into the Face of Boe, I mean the Strange Yeast Thing.  It's easier to explain how Captain Jack Harkness became the Face of Boe.

This is what I did - I make no guarantees, and I will be retesting it, but if you are feeling food-playful and just can't wait, here it goes:

I set my machine for the small - 1.5 lb. loaf - setting, with a light crust.  First I set it on "sweet", but then as I explained earlier, while it was on the third rise, I reset the whole thing on super quick and finished it that way.  For all I know, if I had left the machine running as is, the bread would still have come out the same.

1-11 oz. container non-dairy coconut milk (unsweetened)
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup yellow cake mix (I used Jiffy)
2 1/2 cups bread flour
(a couple of drops water)
2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
generous 1/2 cup sweetened coconut

Add the ingredients in the order dictated by your particular bread machine. Add the sweetened coconut at the beginning, along with the other ingredients.

It never ceases to amaze me at how quickly my sense of well-being can tank.  Damn.

Friday, May 29, 2015

How Low Can You Go? - Sweet But Messy Turkey Legs (#TBT)

Great Googly Moogly, what the hell has happened to music?  Ludacris stealing Chubby Checker's cheerful lines appropriate for any bar mitzvah reception and turning them - or should I say twerking them - into a dirty piece of woman-shaming muck!  I'm not a prude - well, not a complete prude - and this really pisses me off.

Every limbo boy and girl
All around the limbo world
Gonna do the limbo rock
All around the limbo clock
Jack be limbo, Jack be quick
Jack go unda limbo stick
All around the limbo clock
Hey, let's do the limbo rock
Limbo lower now
Limbo lower now
How low can you go?

Apparently a lot lower than I could have imagined:

She can go lower than I ever really thought she could
Face down, ass up
The top of yo booty jigglin' out yo'jeans
Baby pull yo'pants up
I like it when I see you do it
Better than I ever seen it done before
A lot of women drop it to the ground
BUT, how low can you go

All this because I found myself starting to write about what a low point I felt I am at, and that led to that 1960's ear worm, except when I googled the damn phrase "how low can you go?" I got kicked into Ludacris speed and the 21st century, and yes, that is a Mel Brooks' reference.

I'm seeing red, but they've gone to plaid.

Okay, this is ridiculous - I have been really feeling bad all day, emotionally trashed, down in the dumps, the poster child for chronic depression, really serious, "thinking bad thoughts" sort of stuff.  Pain and aches, the usual. And that somehow leads me to this Ludacris POS and I don't know what the hell to think anymore.

Rob went to jiu jitsu class, and Cory is at work, and I just had to shut off the TV.  The news was driving me mad, and I was already halfway there. Physically - ah ha ha, we don't even speak about physically anymore.

I had it in my head for a couple of days that I wanted to roast a whole turkey.  When I finally got around to looking for one, I realized that it is damn near impossible to find an off-season turkey, even frozen.  I was in Walmart when I had that revelation, and I was already half way into an inexplicable panic attack, so I had to get out of there.  Yes, I walked out of Walmart empty handed.  Somebody take my temperature.  For some reason, I did not want to handle any food - produce, frozen, whatever - I could not bear the thought of getting my hands dirty.

I did attempt to bake another bread today, but it turned into such a bizarre thing, like Living Dead Yeast Creature, that I would prefer if we never speak of this again. Another day, another post without a recipe.  Oh, but wait! Hashtag TBT - and it really is Thursday - let me go back to the old blog, before the Dark Times, and see what I can find.

This is one of the recipes from the March 6, 2011 entry, and it goes along with my craving for turkey. I can't find the photo that goes with it, so I'll just post one of where I'd rather be this weekend.

Sweet But Messy Turkey Legs

3 small turkey legs
garlic salt (with parsley)
lemon pepper
1 large Spanish onion, rough chop
2 medium carrots, cut crosswise into thirds, then lengthwise into sticks
1-14 oz. can whole berry cranberry sauce
1/2 can duck sauce (use the cranberry sauce can to measure the duck sauce)
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Sprinkle the turkey legs all over with the garlic salt and lemon pepper and set aside while you prepare the onions and carrots.  In a small (smaller rather than large) crockpot, put the onions and carrots in first.  Sprinkle a little bit of kosher salt over the vegetables.  Then add the turkey legs to the crockpot.  Combine the cranberry sauce, duck sauce and soy sauce, and pour over the contents of the crockpot.  Cover and cook on the low setting for eight hours.  Remove the lid, turn off the heat, and let the contents cool so the sauce will thicken.  I recommend serving this with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable like broccoli or Brussel sprouts.

How can such a tiny dog snore so loudly?  Chelsea is not only sawing wood, she's constructing a beach house in Melbourne.  There's that and one (or two) more reasons why I don't fall to sleep easily at night.

I had to wait up for the Strange Yeast Thing to finish baking, so I was lucky enough to run into Cory, who was back from work and assembling a plate of food (Cory eats on Korean Standard Time).  I don't know how, but he had me in stitches - I haven't laughed that hard in a very long time.  I didn't even mind the Strange Yeast Thing as much, and while I wasn't ready to whack off a slice and ingest it, I did ask Cory to take a picture.  I will post it in the fullness of time.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Chelsea's Excellent Adventure

Wednesday - I got so confused I thought it was Thursday and Jane was graduating on Saturday.  Good thing I ran into her dad at the office, so he could tell me today was Wednesday and Jane was graduating on Friday. Which means I go to see the vampires on Thursday - tomorrow morning - and hopefully will get to chat with my supervisor on Friday morning.  If this makes sense to you, you may be spending far too much time with me and my blog.  Just kidding.

Today Chelsea had an Excellent Adventure - I promised her she could pick out a new collar - and that meant a trip to the new Petsmart near the new Hobby Lobby.  Prime location, yes indeed.  But first James and I consulted regarding the placement of herbs and vegetables.  I pointed, he dug. James is the best.  I still want to pick up a few more plants - maybe lavender, some chives, another tomato plant, another squash.  We'll see. In the middle of everything we are having to readjust the underground sprinklers, which is part of the reason we had to move some of the plants.  It's all good.

Back to Chelsea - of course I couldn't just get her a collar.

Well, I did cook today - bake, actually, in the bread machine.  My favorite white bread, good for sandwiches.  Not that I can eat a sandwich.  Or much of anything else.

Thursday, I went to the vampires and gave more blood.  As I noted on Facebook, I am the Human Pincushion and Marvel should give me my own TV show.  Stan Lee, are you reading this?

Guess not.  Have a good day, folks.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast (Feeling Snarky)

I know where I am, but nothing looks familiar.  It's been that kind of a day.  I took Chelsea for a ride in the car.  She napped, I tried to clear my head. Score, Chelsea-1, Mommy-0.

Best joke ever - I got a letter today, dated May 21, advising me that my FMLA request has been approved from March 2 to May 22.  Yes, I know today is May 26.  I am still in the middle of lab tests, and my "new" medication is still not giving me the desired relief from depression and anxiety.  My doctor would have to complete a form declaring me fit to return to work.  Not sure how he may feel about that, and quite honestly, he's not the only doctor involved in this mess that I call a life.

I also received a packet containing all the forms I need to begin the disability retirement process.  When I feel okay - which is generally for a couple of hours most days - I think it would be good to go back to work. When the golden moment passes, I think - who the hell am I kidding?

I probably should set a time to meet with my direct supervisor and eventually the managing attorney, to discuss our mutual expectations were I to return, but you know what?  I'm still terrified to walk into that building.

Second best joke ever - (oh Google, how I love thee!)  I found this quote in a candidate's statement to the League of Women Voters: "The courtroom should be free of intimidation, emotional instability, judicial whim, pettiness and ridicule."  Why is this so very funny?  You can figure that out, folks. And that is the other problem I have to consider along with all the symptoms of chronic pain syndrome and depression - the deep, dark kind that reminds you of a Brooklyn blackout cake from Ebinger's, just not as sweet. Depression and I have been sharing a bed since I was around seven years old, and it always steals the covers.  Consequently, we are not on good terms. And depression, like fibromyalgia, always wins.  Damn.

The problem with entering your sixties is that you finally have most of the knowledge and wisdom you thought you were going to get the morning you turned twenty-one, which casts great shadows on decisions you made in your forties and fifties.  So now you are filled with doubts and regrets that will haunt you to the end of your days.  Woulda, shoulda, coulda.

The other problem with entering your sixties is that you reasonably expect a certain degree of respect arising from your (slightly) advanced age, and all that knowledge and wisdom stuff I wrote about in the other sentence. So when someone goes out of their way to be disrespectful, it's bad. Because now you've got doubts, regrets, anger, and righteous indignation.

Add that to the basic fact that while "God makes no mistakes", at least according to Lady Gaga,  He does create us humans for planned obsolescence, so by the time you hit your sixties, you've got aches and pains somewhere, maybe even a couple of somewheres. Which makes you cranky, and grouchy, and pissed off because you are being disrespected by someone who should know better, your back hurts most of the time, and you have no patience for this kind of crap. Fortunately, Karma is a patient dude.

No recipes today, kids.  I want to savor the Cavalier's 4-0 sweep of the Atlanta Hawks.  New Eastern Conference Champions - now I just want to see Golden State finish off the Houston Rockets.  Sorry, Dwight - no, not really.

To quote Walter Cronkite, and that's the way it is.

Finally, a photo that popped up on Facebook - three years ago today.  The last time I saw her.  My childhood friend, my confidante, my conscience.  I thought we would grow old together, but God had other plans.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Some Gave All ... Italian Broccoli and Pepper Jack Chicken Stacks

Monday - Today is Memorial Day.  What can I say that hasn't been said? God bless America, and every service person who gave their lives so that we could continue to live free.

Chelsea having a lavender-scented doggie soak

Sunday was all about shopping for a dish which did not get made, at least not yesterday - and Hoppin' John (what is a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn doing cooking Hoppin' John?) - and taking care of my little princess, Chelsea Rose, in our never-ending quest to get her some relief from those horrible fleas, and that involved additional shaving and trimming and soaking and bathing and combing, and she's so tiny it hurts to see her go through it.

It's also about watching the Eastern Conference Finals; Cleveland ahead of Atlanta by 2 games, and let's go Cleveland.  Sue me, I like Lebron.

Basil, sweet mint, Gtreek oregano; thyme, Thai basil, sage; Italian oregano, rosemary

And it was about checking on my newly-planted herbs and planning on where was the best place to plant the okra, cucumber, zucchini, Roma tomato, and Japanese eggplant.  This is a brand-new experience for me, and I'm having fun, thanks to my husband, who listened to me talk about an urban garden and ran with it.

Monday is about learning to work with the polenta, and that's where I am now, having overslept dramatically because of the medication I took at 4 AM to give me some relief from a bout of insane itching that almost had me in tears.  This polenta comes all prepared, in a tube, neatly sliceable.  I did some research online and found that this was a product well-thought of by many home cooks, easy to prepare - slice and sauté.

I never had polenta or grits until I moved south.  I'm still not thrilled with grits, but I've had some creamy polenta preparations that were pretty awesome. This solidified polenta is a whole new experience.

But before I even get there - I am having a sad day.  Can't get passed the sadness.  Can't eat, can't swallow liquids easily.  Just a crap day.  And tomorrow I have - wait for it - another lab test.  Nothing to eat after midnight. Well, that shouldn't be a problem for me. And then there's my weekly chat with the therapist.

So to go with the pretty Italian style stacks I just invented, I am making some Italian broccoli.  Mostly my grandmother's recipe.

Italian Broccoli

2-3 tablespoons olive oil (garlic, if you have some)
1 -10 oz. frozen block broccoli spears
lemon zest, to taste
2-4 cloves fresh garlic chopped
fresh Greek oregano, to taste, chopped

Put the ingredients in a small pan in the order given.  Turn the heat on high.  Once you can hear the oil sizzling, lower the heat to medium-low and cover the pan. Check it occasionally and rearrange the broccoli stalks.  Don't do what I did, which is to forget about the broccoli while I was building those stacks.  Broccoli is now overdone but delicious.  However, if you are the kind of person who eats with your eyes first, you will probably pass right by the broccoli - your loss, more for me. <insert smilie face>

Now about those stacks - easy, but time consuming.  They do make a very pretty presentation, but I must warn you, each of these is a big portion.  That pepper jack cheese was spicier than I anticipated, and while Rob loved it, there is no shame in making some of them with regular mozzarella or provolone.

Pepper Jack Chicken Stacks

1-45 oz. jar prepared sauce (I used Ragu chunky vegetable)
10 frozen chicken patties (I used Tyson, but Perdue is also good)
10 frozen eggplant cutlets (I use Michaelangelo brand)
1-16 oz. roll prepared polenta, basil and oregano flavored, cut into 10 slices
Wondra flour
canola oil for cooking

Dust the polenta slices with Wondra flour. In a skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons oil then cook the polenta on each side until golden brown. Set aside. Add a little more oil, and cook the eggplant slices as directed on the package.  Set aside. While cooking the polenta and eggplant, cook the chicken patties in the oven according to package directions.

Combine the ricotta mixture:

1-15 oz. container whole milk ricotta
1 egg yolk
kosher salt and ground black pepper
fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Construct the stacks:

sauce just to cover bottom of 2 pans
chicken pattie
sauce (be generous)
pepper jack sliced cheese

Now add some water to whatever sauce is left in the bottle and shake well.  Carefully pour the diluted sauce around the stacks to keep the bottom of the pan moist.  Probably best to do this just before you put on the pepper jack cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes intil the cheese is melted over the stack.

Next time, I may leave out the polenta layer.  It was good; my tasters just aren't sure it added anything to the dish since there was already so much going on.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Last Night I Dreamt of Plumbago - Hoppin' John

Whoo Hoo, Barbecue Pitmasters is back on the air! The official start of summer.

Today is a day for fatigue, and I HATE it.  Muscle weakness - I can't open a package of cheese.  My hands got tired, and I had to give the spray bottle to Rob so he could finish spraying the hibiscus for aphids. Completely washed out. Go upstairs, fall asleep.  Same pattern for most of this week.

Today Rob and I made a trip to Home Depot so I could try to pick up the herbs I hadn't been able to find at Lowe's - Italian parsley and cilantro.  Obviously I want to be growing herbs that I use frequently when I cook, and now I've got them.  I also picked up dill, okra, cucumber, a single Roma tomato plant (gotta try it), zucchini and Japanese eggplant.  Should be interesting to see how they do once they're all planted.

When we were at Lowe's the other day, I learned the identity of the pretty blue flowers that tumble over the fence between our home and our neighbors on Clyde Street.

That's plumbago, my friends, and that left me with a chronic earworm that had actually started while we were on our last cruise, which had included a stop at Belize.

Last night I dreamt of San Pedro
Just like I'd never gone, I knew the song
A young girl with eyes like the desert
It all seems like yesterday, not far away
Tropical the island breeze

All of nature wild and free
This is where I long to be
La isla bonita
And when the samba played
The sun would set so high
Ring through my ears and sting my eyes
Your Spanish lullaby

Every time I look out of my kitchen window, which is fairly often, the ear worm bites. Nice ear worm, though,  Sounds like Madonna. A very young Madonna.

Okay, now about food - no barbecue, sorry.  I do have an idea for an easy stacked entrée that involves minimal work on the part of the cook, namely me.  My first choice for today's activities was to drive to Austin, Texas and eat barbecue at Franklin's.  I was outvoted by the man who would have to drive the 15 hours or so, and then first wait on line at Franklin's for 3 to 5 hours.  Fair enough.  Let's go to BJ's and Publix - I never get tired of that.  No really, I never do.  Besides, I need to pick up the elements for these stacks I'm dreaming about.

The bad news is that my weight went down a bit.  The good news is that I ate breakfast this morning and mirabile dictu, it stayed down. The Lord giveth and The Lord taketh away.  I'm off to buy food.

Just as well we didn't head to Franklin's.  I couldn't have stood on line for 10 minutes, much less 3 hours. Here's the thing about this thing I have to live with - I can start the day feeling normal, no aches or pains, and a reasonable supply of energy to expend on chores and such.  But then all it takes is a ride in the car, a walk through Publix, putting away groceries, petting the cat, watering the herbs - any one of those things can suck the joy out of what I was hoping would be a productive day.  There will be no dreamy stacks today. Too much work, too much pain.  I did, however, manage to make something I suppose is like a Hoppin' John to use up 2 slices of bacon I was loathe to waste.  As you might have figured out, this wasn't one of my grandmother's specialties.  In fact, I never heard of it until I started reading cookbooks. I had a basic idea of what goes into a Hopping John, and then I figured out how I wanted to put it all together.  Very easy, and more important, very tasty.  Totally out of season, as this is traditionally eaten on New Year's Day, and well ...  I didn't get Cinco de Mayo right either.  I am punctuality-challenged, like Bill Clinton.  But I cook better than him.

Hoppin' John

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 slices bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 baby bell red pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Emeril's Essence
1 can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup converted rice (Uncle Ben's)
1 1/3 cup water
chopped fresh herbs, kosher salt, black pepper, cayenne or Raging River

In a skillet, heat the olive oil and add the bacon. After about five minutes, add the onion, red pepper, and garlic.  Sprinkle generously with Emeril's Essence and continue cooking until bacon is done to your liking (it will not be crisp).  Stir in the black-eyed peas and the rice.  Add the water, and seasoning (I used some Raging River and a little chopped parsley and rosemary FROM MY OWN GARDEN! Also salt and a lot of black pepper.)  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes.  At the end of 20 minutes, leave the cover on and move the pan off the heat for five more minutes.  Remove the cover and fluff the contents with a fork.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Flower Power - Meshuggah Kugel

I love the flower girl
Oh, I don't know just why
She simply caught my eye
I love the flower girl she seemed so sweet and kind.
She crept into my mind.

Landscaping at Ye Old Homestead:  So, we head over to Lowe's; I point, Rob pays, James does all the heavy lifting.  We have very little property to work with, which is fine with me.  We have no backyard or side yard for that matter.  We do have a rather nice parking lot with a handicapped slot and everything.  Part of the little bit of lawn we do have is devoted to being a ditch for proper water drainage.  Somehow, with all those restrictions we still managed to plan out some pretty planting beds with hibiscus and crotons, my favorite trees, magnolia, kumquat and crape myrtle, a gorgeous bougainvillea, and best of all, an herb and vegetable garden.  It's not done yet, but the herbs are in and I can't wait to go out and clip some rosemary or basil to use in cooking.

One thing I managed to do was organize my refrigerator, and while checking on cooked foods, I realized there were no starchy-type side dishes.  Vegetables, yes. But no potato or pasta or rice or noodle dish.  I watch enough Fox News to know that is neither fair nor balanced.

So I made a kugel.  New recipe, out of my own fevered brain. So very good, and pretty easy.  Not overly sweet, so it works as a dessert or a side dish.  I've made a lot of kugels during the course of my cooking life.  It's one of those things you do if you do Jewish cooking, and God knows I do Jewish cooking.

My grandmother was more likely to make a potato kugel (kugel translates to pudding) than a noodle kugel.  She could make a mean potato kugel, and I learned it directly from her, which was a rare treat.  She was a great cook, but a lousy teacher, so if I wanted to learn how to cook a particular dish, I had to hang out in the kitchen, keep out of her way, and absorb whatever information she chose to share.

Noodle puddings - lukshen kugels in Yiddish - are an entirely different breed of recipe.  Every Jewish cook has her (his) own recipe which they will swear is the best because they got the recipe from their mother, grandmother, or favorite aunt.  I got my noodle kugel recipes from a favorite cookbook, from another cookbook because that recipe sounded exactly like the one prepared by the cook at the kosher catering hall, and another from the back of a box of noodles.  I was supposed to get the recipe for my Aunt Anna's noodle pudding, but unfortunately that didn't happen, I think because I moved to Florida and forgot to follow up with Aunt Anna's daughter, my beloved cousin Marcia.  Then there's my mother-in-law's Hungarian noodle pudding and one of my ex-sisters-in-law's (I have more than one) very rich, very sweet noodle pudding.

My friend Terry would rather have one of my noodle kugels over a regular cake for her birthday.  Now that's a compliment.

Meshuggah Kugel from a Fevered Brain

12 oz. medium egg noodles, cooked according to package directions, drained
8 oz. can pineapple tidbits, drained
11 oz. can Mandarin oranges, drained
14.5 oz. can tart cherries, drained
1 stick butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese (Philadelphia soft pineapple)
8 oz. large curd cottage cheese
8 oz. dairy sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
5 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
teaspoon sugar
pinch of salt

Place the butter, cream cheese, cottage cheese and sour cream in a medium mixing bowl and beat for about a minute.  Add the sugar, beat until completely incorporated.  Add the egg yolks and pinch of salt, and beat them into the mixture.  With clean beaters, whip the eggs until peaks form.  Add the teaspoon of sugar about halfway through.

Both the golden brown and white parts of the topping are done. Some of the egg whites have baked up like a proper meringue.    Looks good, tastes good.

In a 9 x 13 aluminum baking dish that has been sprayed with some no-stick stuff, combine the noodles and the drained fruits. Use your fingers to gently combine them so that the noodles don't stick together and the fruit is evenly distributed.  Pour in the beaten egg yolk and dairy mixture and fold into the noodles with a rubber spatula.  Then fold the beaten egg whites in, very gently, to lighten the kugel.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 60 minutes.

Watching me, watching you

Saturday, May 23, 2015

They took you for a working boy, Kiss them goodbye - Creamed Southern Greens

Shout, shout, let it all out
These are the things I can do without
Come on, I'm talking to you, come on
Shout, shout, let it all out
These are the things I can do without
Come on, I'm talking to you, come on
In violent times
You shouldn't have to sell your soul
In black and white
They really really ought to know
Those one track minds
They took you for a working boy
Kiss them goodbye, you shouldn't have to jump for joy
You shouldn't have to jump for joy

I have no idea of what to talk about today.  Perhaps we could go over my bucket list, wouldn't that be fun?  Okay, here goes:
  • Cruise and Land Trip through Alaska.
  • Travel to Israel and spend a couple of weeks there.
  • Drive cross-country, following the route that takes you through each of the Lower 48.
  • Drive to Brooklyn, stopping to eat barbecue and see friends and family along the way.
  • Finally get to meet all my Osher relatives
  • Have the Doctor pick me up in the TARDIS and travel through time and space.
  • Finish all my unfinished knitting projects.
  • Be able to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" like Whitney Houston.

  • Bill O'Reilly from Fox News has a TARDIS iPhone case (didn't see that coming).
  • Alton Brown would rather binge-watch Doctor Who over any other TV show.  That makes him a Thyme Lord.
  • Both Queen Elizabeth II (not to be confused with Queen Elizabeth I, who actually married the Tenth Doctor) and Patrick Stewart are great fans of the show. Hail Britannia! Or is that Pandorica?
  • Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor) played a priest gone astray in the 1986 mini series "Lives and Loves of a She-Devil."
  • The Fifth Doctor's son-in-law is the Tenth Doctor.                                            

REALLY GOOD NEWS:  Welcome to the world Easton Michael, second child for my Number 1 Niece and her husband, and new little brother to Bailey!  Happy family!

Funniest thing I've seen in a long time, posted by my son:

If you dune get it, I can't help you

I am officially investigating disability retirement.  I did not know such a thing existed; I thought it was one or the other,  I guess that means I am about to get an education.  Possibly a rejection.  I have issues with rejection.  But I have to Do Something - being in Limbo these past three months has been enlightening, if only to show me, once and for all, that I am not invincible.

I think I mentioned that I was unimpressed with Trader Joe's, the one that just opened in the Dr. Phillips/Bay Hill area. It reminded me of shopping in the grocery section of a Super Target.  It did not help that I was in the middle of a fibro flair; for once, walking around a food store did nothing to improve my mood.  I did not walk out empty-handed, however, but the bag of mixed greens and bottle of garlic olive oil were slim pickins indeed.

I initially planned on cooking the greens as I usually cook collards (you may ask: what is a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn doing cooking collards?) with some sort of smoked meat in the cooking liquid, but once I got them home, I started thinking about creamed spinach.

Creamed Southern Greens

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons roasted garlic olive oil
1-16 oz. bag Trader Joe's Southern Green Blend (Mustard, Turnip, Collards, Spinach)
1 very large clove garlic, chopped

Melt the butter with the oil in a large skillet.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, add the greens, gradually, as they wilt.  Season with a small amount of kosher salt and black pepper.  Lower the heat and cook the greens, stirring often until the stem pieces are tender but not mushy.  Remove the green from the pan and set aside while you make the sauce.

6 tablespoons butter
8 tablespoons flour
3 medium shallots, halved and sliced
3 - 5 cloves of garlic, depending on size, chopped
1-10 1/2 oz can Campbell's chicken broth
1 soup can of half-and-half

salt, white pepper, ground nutmeg, cayenne, granulated garlic

Melt the butter in the same pan.  Add the shallots and garlic and cook on medium high until just starting to show golden color.  Add the flour and cook, stirring well, for several minutes.  Add the chicken broth and the half-and-half, and stir until the sauce is thick.  Add a bit more half-and-half if too thick.  Add the cooked green and stir well to totally incorporate into the sauce.  When you adjust seasoning, don't go hog wild with the salt - the chicken broth is already somewhat salty.

Unbelievably good