Saturday, January 30, 2016

Bummer - Chicken with Mussels and Clams

Ireland has edged out Russia as the foreign country most frequently visiting my blog. I still don't know exactly how this works. I don't know anybody in Ireland (I still think the Russian Osherowitzes and Osherofskys are searching for me) nor do I have any connection to Thailand or Indonesia.

It's 2 in the afternoon and I am sitting up in bed. I haven't been able to sit up and stay up until now, although I tried several times during the day. I totally missed my tai chi class. My muscles all seem as heavy as though wearing lead pajamas, or trying to take a walk across Jupiter. I'm out-of-sync with earth-normal gravity. My right hand is heaviest of all, making it difficult to manipulate the iPhone without inadvertently tapping all over the screen, raising posts in which I have no interest. The iPad is also a problem, but since I use a Zagg keyboard, I can rest my palm some distance from the active screen.  In other words, this day sucks.

Spain and Australia have joined the list of foreign countries peeking in on the blog, along with the usual suspects of France and Germany. I wonder if I should be adding Ukraine to Russia?

As you may have guessed, I haven't done a lick of food shopping or cooking today. Hell, I haven't done any eating today. Now both hands keep flopping down on the keyboard causing me to type extra letters. What the hell??

I made it downstairs, my hands full of papers and girl puppy, by sliding against the rail. I managed to pull together a shopping list. Arancini and cream of wild mushroom soup are going to have to wait. Today all I am going to cook is the Chicken with Mussels and Clams. The Burgundy Beef Stew is next, a tomorrow project. After that I'll see just how many spoons I've got.  It's going to take me 3 days minimum, more realistically 4, as I've added potato salad and cauliflower with cheese sauce to the list. This all may sound like too much food, but there is nothing cooked up in the fridge other than 2 lasagna rolls and a handful of broccoli.

Today has been a mostly crappy day; I feel positively fragile, unsteady on my feet despite Horatio Cane, fuzzy in the head, no strength in my hands. I did food shop and I did finish the Chicken with Mussels and Clams, and therefore I claim a minor victory. Missing tai chi class this morning positively bummed me out.

I'm sitting on his step stool and he is one pissed-off Jedi

This recipe was originally from Good Housekeeping's online site and it appears I printed it out on March 7, 1998, at 11:36 AM, meaning to try it sometime soon. I just checked, and the recipe is still there if you would like to follow it as originally written.  I made a few changes, and while I'm sure the GH version is delicious, I can only judge the dish I made and it is stupendous. I didn't go whole hog (the name of an awesome barbecue joint in Little Rock, Arkansas) and make the couscous, just because I have other sides in my menu.

I chose to use chicken thighs, because they are my favorite part of the chicken; because they are the most reasonably priced of any other part of the chicken; and because there is the added bonus of all that chicken fat and attached skin that gets trimmed off and saved for the next big batch of schmaltz and gribenes.

Chicken with Mussels and Clams

5 pounds chicken thighs (about 10 thighs)
kosher salt
ground black pepper
Emeril's Essence
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
2 - 14.5 oz. cans stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 - 7 oz. can chopped fire-roasted green chilies, undrained
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1 dozen cherrystone clams
1 pound small mussels
1-2 tablespoons chopped parsley (I used dried parsley flakes)

I used a rectangular electric frying pan , which let me cook everything in one batch. You will want to trim the excess fat and attached skin from the back and sides, but leave the skin on over the top of the chicken.  Using the salt, pepper, and Essence, season the skin-side of the chicken.

You can see the makings of schmaltz and gribenes lower left

Rinse the clams and mussels with cold water; remove any beards from the mussels (farmed mussels have almost no beards.)          

Heat the oil at 350 to 375 degrees in the electric frying pan. Place the chicken, skin-side down, and cook until nicely browned. Season the remaining side of chicken, then turn and brown. Remove all of the browned chicken to a baking dish, and carefully remove all of the excess fat.

Return the chicken to the frying pan, and add the stewed tomatoes, green chilies, chili powder, sugar, and 2 cups of water; stir gently to combine. Bring to boiling, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes until the shells open and the clams are tender.

If they are still a bit tough, remove the mussels, cover the pan and cook a few minutes longer. Discard any unopened shells. You can serve from the pan, or move the completed dish to an aluminum baking dish. I think I would like this with bread. Crusty bread, good for dipping into the tasty sauce. GAAAHLIC bread, good for anything.

I am so freaking tired.

Friday, January 29, 2016

I Feel Pretty

I'd like to think that I don't have a mean bone in my body, but I know that's not true. I believe in karma, retribution, and vengeance. Vengeance is mine, saith The Lord.  I'm good with that, especially if I get to watch, although there have been a few times in my life when I've gently pushed things along. If you are recoiling at this point, please remember that I am a Jewish lady from New York, and turning the other cheek is not in my makeup.

I'm not going to recount the instances of my meanness, except to say I will never shed a tear for Germany, nor for a certain judge whose antics have gotten her banished to The Bench From Hell in another county, far away from here. That I got to watch the evidence of what I surmised was the frantic burning of the midnight oil to finish writing and reviewing all those orders, and to pack up and get out of Dodge, was sheer lagniappe.  I can't be positively certain, but there was one set of judicial chambers, clearly visible from the second floor of my house, from which the lights have been glowing well past the hour when other, more normal judges, have released their staff and gone home. I knew from personal experience that one courtroom was humming along at obscene hours into the deep, dark evening. At least for my courtroom peeps, the horror ended weeks ago when she was unceremoniously yanked off her bench and put on medical leave. She still, however, had the responsibility of finishing those orders, bogged down as they had been with her unreasonable expectations and requirements.  During the last two or so weeks, the lights in this particular judicial chamber have been burning like a hot, bright sun well into the night. Until last night, when for the first time in a very long time, all was dark. Black as coal, in fact, the color of emptiness. Which leads me to believe she finished the orders, and the packing. "Out, damned spot."  Get in your car, head north and don't look back.

I like quoting Shakespeare. Not necessarily about killing all the lawyers, but about ladies protesting too much, the stuff that dreams are made of (earworm alert), the winter of our discontent (northern peeps just need to look out of their windows), catching the conscience of the King (c'mon all you Star Trek junkies, you know what I'm talking about), and how all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.

Speaking of sweetening, I have no recipes to share with you today, very sorry.  I finally made an appointment at Decent Nails for a nail fill and a pedicure. I feel pretty, oh so pretty, that the city should give me a key, a committee should be organized to honor me. I made an appointment for Monday at Quest Labs for those tests the rheumotologist ordered. I feel like I accomplished a great deal today, but none of it was cooking. I researched reflexology. I started to pull together a list of recipes to cook in the next few days, which will let me prepare a shopping list. Like I said, I made real progress. I ran into our friend Jay on his way into Rob's office, and he asked if I was done working, and then asked what I was doing with my free time. "I have fibromyalgia," I told him, "I sleep a lot." Jay is on the Osceola County School Board, in addition to another full time job, coaching, Boys and Girls Club, very involved dad of two, and one of the hardest working guys I know. Sleeping a lot and having free time are not in his wheelhouse, but bless his heart he never said a word about my getting out more or exercise or any of that other stuff I can't do anymore.

The Magic lost, AGAIN, this time to the Boston Celtics, making their total losses 8 IN A ROW!! Just kill me now and get it over with.

The recipes I'm thinking about include arancini (Italian rice balls), Ina Garten's cream of wild mushroom soup, Spanish Pork Chops from Rachael Ray, my Burgundy Beef Stew, and Chicken with Mussels and Clams. The pork chops and beef stew are repeats; the rest are new. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Don't Go Breaking My Heart - Mrs. Bird's Apple Pie

I have always liked Elton John, and I have always liked the song that inspired this earworm. Anytime I hear it, I am transported back to happy memories of a trip I took to California in the summer of 1975. I was traveling with my friend and former college roommate Mary Kane, and the trip was such a success, we headed out to Hawaii the following year.

(Okay, let's stop right here, because I know what you're thinking - I seemed to have had an awful lot of roommates while I was in college, and those are just counting the ones I still talk to. Stipulated. There's a lot of drama in college relations, some of which I brought on myself when I stepped outside the safe circle of friends from my freshman year to try living in a suite with someone I mistakenly thought was good roommate material. Never mind the details; after all these years I still get aggravated.)

Anyway, it's not anyone from my college days who is breaking my heart ... nope, it's my Magic. Now I'm sure there are a whole lot of New England Patriot fans whose hearts really were broken this past week, but let them get their own earworms. Football is a highly-overrated sport. Basketball, on the other hand, is the best. Better than baseball, even.

The heartbreak is coming from the fact that this young, practically brand-new team, with a new, good coach, himself a former Magic player, was doing really well (a welcome change after the Dwightmare, the banishment of Stan Van Gundy, the crazy trades of Otis Smith, and the coaching debacle of Jacque Vaughn) and then suddenly, they are not. My boys are on a losing streak, they've fallen back below .500, and my dreams of them making the playoffs, which seemed all so possible a month ago, has evaporated. Other than an awesome advantage in the draft picks, there is nothing fun about having having the worst record in the NBA. So sing it, Elton.

PSA - On a completely unrelated matter, in what has to be the ultimate non sequitur, I want to talk to you about cardamom, the Queen of Spices. You may recall that a few months ago I was railing unmercifully about the price of cardamom; even Walmart was letting me down in the reasonable price department. I am now able to advise you that reasonably-priced ground cardamom can be purchased from your local Fresh Market. Thank you.

I woke up this morning to a raging heart palpitation and the news headline that today was the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. As dicky as my memory has become, I remember so very clearly where I was and how I found out about Challenger. I can also tell you how I would not watch subsequent shuttle launches for years, despite having them sonic boom my first house in Orlando upon their safe returns to Kennedy Space Center, until the day I made myself stand in the parking lot of the HRS office in Cocoa, and watch a takeoff so close I could reach up and touch it. Even a non believer - which I am not - could not have missed the powerful feeling of praying for the shuttle - it would have been Columbia or Discovery - and its crew, looking skyward while the shuttle headed into the heavens (you know, where God lives.)

We were still a great country then, still highly respected worldwide. Ronald Reagan was the President, and his post-Challenger speech was so poignant, and so perfect it still makes me cry. Reagan borrowed in small part from a poem written by aviator John Gillespie Magee, Jr., just months before his own death during flight.

High Flight
 "Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

- Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."
The thing about anniversaries like this is those of a certain generation inevitably ask the question (of themselves or others) "where were you when you heard about (insert name of tragedy)? That I can still remember where I was when President Kennedy was shot (seated in the 6th grade classroom of Mr. Angelo Antonio Angona, facing the clock and public announcement system box at Number 6 School in Woodmere), when the shootings occurred at Kent State (hanging out in Mr. Friedman's classroom during lunch break at Lawrence High School), when Richard Nixon resigned the Presidency (sitting on my bed in my parent's home in Howard Beach, addressing wedding invitations), when Carter was declared the winner of the Presidency (Walter Cronkite broke in on my sleep after I'd passed out on my bed in my Howard Beach apartment), when Elvis died (standing on the sidewalk in front of Long Island University in downtown Brooklyn), when Bill Clinton announced that he'd really had sex with that woman (in my family room in our first Hunter's Creek house), when Challenger exploded (at my desk at All-American Marine Slip on Maiden Lane in NYC; one of the underwriters came over to tell us that the shuttle had blown up, to which I responded "that's not funny, Phil") when the events of September 11th took place (in my law office on North Central Avenue; my paralegal started screaming), when Columbia exploded on reentry (getting a pedicure at Beauti-Works in Hunter's Creek), is both a sadness and a relief for me.

In honor of the American heroes on board the Shuttle Challenger on this day 30 years ago, I am going to bake an apple pie. Not just any apple pie, but Mrs. Bird's apple pie.

The Next-to-Last Centurion, he specializes in guarding hot food from the oven

So whaaat? Beeg deal ... (if you've never watched Buckaroo Banzai, this would be a really good time to do so. Peter Weller, Jeff Goldblum, Ellen Barkin and a whole bunch of Lectroids. No matter where you go, there you are.)

For one thing, I have no idea who Mrs. Bird is, although I've been baking her apple pie for over 30 years. I do remember finding the recipe in the newspaper - probably Newsday - where it was called "The Mom's Apple Pie To End All Mom's Apple Pies." It must of sounded positively apple-apocalyptic to me, because somewhere in the intervening years I changed the name to Mrs. Bird's (her first name was Alice) Apple Pie. What grabbed me about this recipe (back in the days when I could still physically read an actual newspaper - I developed a sensitivity to newsprint, I waited until the internet was invented and now I read it every day) was the crumb topping. (Incidentally, I just realized I cut the recipe out of a long-gone issue of Bon Appetit magazine, for which I had a 40 year subscription. I finally ended it when the internet was invented and yada yada yada.)

Okay, the crumb topping ... first of all, I love crumb topping - who doesn't? I could happily buy an Entenmann's Deluxe Crumb Cake, discard the cake (it's too dry) and just eat the crumb topping. Or I could bake up my recipe for Aunt Ceil's Apple Cake with Cinnamon Crumb Topping. I would never discard the cake, though; my Aunt Ceil, may she rest in peace, was a wonderful baker.  Make this cake, have your crumb topping and eat the whole thing. You will swoon from sheer joy.

You get the point. The second thing is that I really don't care for pies that sport a top crust. Too redundant. Too boring. Too much wasted space. Why have two crusts when you could have the obligatory bottom crust and something wonderful on top, like spicy, buttery crumbs? Or nothing - what about a topless fruit pie, eager for direct contact with real whipped cream or a shiny coat of melted apple jelly? Shiny!

And that's why I've been making Mrs. Bird's Apple Pie for all these years. You can see the original recipe in the photo, but I'm going to give you the Inspiration-Nation-I-have-extra-time-on-my-hands-because-I-am-officially-retired-so-I-tampered-with-the-old-lady's-recipe (geez, that was mean) version. I spiralized the apples, but you can use any method that will give you very thin half-slices. Knife, mandolin, whatever.

I got a letter today from the State of Florida advising that "your name has been added to the retired payroll under the service retirement provisions of the Florida Retirement System." Besides the odd phraseology (and as a lawyer I know quite a bit about odd phraseology) the letter said not a damn thing about when I should expect to receive my first month's benefit, how they were going to deal with a rather substantial back payment, and even what the precise biweekly amount was going to be. Show me the money, Florida!

Okay, finally the recipe:

1 - 9 inch deep dish frozen pie shell
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup turbinado sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Cindy's Sweet Spice Mix*
3 Granny Smith and 2 large Gala apples, peeled and spiralized on "A" blade (the blade without a noodler) or sliced very thin with a knife or mandolin
2 tablespoons butter (keep cold until ready to use)

Crumb topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon Cindy's Sweet Spice Mix*
1/2 stick butter (keep cold until ready to use)

*Apparently I don't have a recipe for my sweet spice mix, which I keep in a little container next to the stove. I can't remember when I mixed it, nor which recipe in which I used it. Knowing me, it would have started with 1 or 2 tablespoons cinnamon, a teaspoon each of nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cardamom, and dried orange peel, and maybe 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves. That is a rough approximation - I might have used more ginger and less cloves. If you don't want to take a chance on mixing your own, you can probably use commercial pumpkin or apple pie spice blends.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the white sugar, turbinado sugar, flour, and spices. Add to the sliced apples and toss well to mix. Set aside while you mix the crumb topping. Take the pie shell out of the freezer, place it on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment, and set aside to defrost while you finish the topping.

For the crumb topping, in a medium bowl, combine the flour, turbinado sugar, and spices. Grate the cold butter into the bowl and mix with a fork and/or your fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Set aside.

Now, the final act: place the sliced apples into the pie shell. Grate the 2 tablespoons of cold butter over the top of the apples. Carefully scatter the crumb topping over the apple filling.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until the crust and topping are nicely browned.  Cool the pie completely before cutting and serving (I put it into the refrigerator to chill out). Haul out the Haagen Daz, sink and relax.

Oy, I hope I saved enough spoons for tonight's tai chi class ...

Why yes, that is a 1970's era Tupperware pie taker ...

Where else would you store your apple pie?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Vox Pops

It's not just politics, you know.

The overwhelming cacaphony of bad news and sad news comes from a number of sources, and they all give me a headache. Politics, of course. The endless noise, the talking heads, the gleefully unprofessional media commentators and news anchors, the sociopathological candidates and their chanting sycophants, the dreadfully self-righteous print media, the misguided, vacuous, self-important celebrities threatening to leave this country if so-and-so wins, the everyday Facebookers inexplicably crazed by the political hype while rushing to repost unvetted dreck, and underneath it all, the terrible realization that while we lived through Nixon and Carter and Bush 43 and most of the Obama years, we may not have the strength to survive another 4 or 8 years under whichever sociopath weasals into the Oval Office. Yeah, politics not only give me an eye-popping headache, but a chest-cracking series of palpitations. I'm angry and scared and profoundly disappointed and disgusted. There is so much meanness out there, and not just in politics. And stupidity and bombastity and foolish pride and fiscal irresponsibility.

If I rely on social media to gauge the people of the United States, Americans are some of the meanest, cruelest, and greediest bastards around. Our government is chillingly corrupt and has been for many years.  Politicians, teachers, coaches, clergymen, celebrities, parents - crossing lines that should never be crossed, behaving like rutting animals towards the young, the helpless, the defenseless.

I am finding it hard to watch television ads; the constant haranguing for monthly contributions, every one of them a worthy cause, but they never stop. Each story, each picture, each wounded veteran and disabled child, each cancer victim, each mistreated animal, portrayed so heartbreakingly it's all you can do not to weep. But that effort costs dearly, the effort not to be worn down and overwhelmed by the profound sadness of life, and I for one internalize it, until it causes me physical pain. And I haven't even talked about ISIL, Iran, Russia, Syria, North Korea, the refugee crisis or worldwide anti-semitism.

This may be a direct result of a new medication, but all those sad stories on Facebook - even those with a happy ending - are sending me straight into depression hell. Never mind that even happy commercials (the ones that make you go "awwwww") make me tear up, especially the ones from Bright House, Suburu, and Publix.

The world's a mess and it's given me one hell of a perpetual headache.

Speaking of messes, I went to schedule an appointment with LabCorp, only to discover they don't accept AvMed. Huh? When did that happen? I'll gladly go to Quest, but seriously, a major lab doesn't accept the insurance carrier for the vast majority of State of Florida employees (and us COBRA retirees)? Things were different before the Dark Times ... before Obamacare ...

So this meme popped up on my Facebook news feed this morning, just a day after I'd been ruminating about the time my Pop had his heart attack.

We were living in Howard Beach. Here's where my memory get foggy; I always thought Pop was 62 when he had the heart attack, but that would have made it late 1970 - early 1971, and we were still living in North Woodmere.  So I did a little calculation - not easy, as it turns out that my math skills, never too great at any time, have gone down the fibromyalgia tube - and Pop would have been between 65 and 68, and I'm guessing he was closer to 65.  Certainly not a lot older than my 63 years.

Fortunately, it was not a massive attack nor heart failure, which actually made for some pretty funny maneuvering, as he had time for me to take him first to our doctor's office on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, and then to wait until he could be admitted to Brookdale Hospital on Linden Blvd., rather than being immediately admitted to Flatbush General, also on Linden, about 2 miles further down the road (why were all the hospitals in Brooklyn when we lived in Queens? Well, google a map for Howard Beach and focus in on 79th Street, a block or so off of Linden Blvd. County line, I've always lived right by the county line. Besides, Pop never really left Brooklyn, despite 11 years in North Woodmere and the 5 years in Howard Beach.)

My Poppy, Hy Morris, was my hero. I had loved him as a grandparent, and later as a parent, something I was never able to do with my grandmother, who became my personal Torquemada.

So his heart attack hit me hard, and for the first time, I realized that he was old. I worried about his mortality, then comforted myself with the knowledge that his father, Jacob Morris, had been 92 when he died, and that I would have Pop in my life at least another 25 years. (He died 7 or 8 years later from a vicious stomach cancer that made the last 16 months of his life unbearable. I had conveniently forgotten that his mother had died from stomach cancer a number of years before his father. Well hell, who wants to think about stuff like that? Just like who wants to think about the fact that my other great-grandmother, Gussie Sarif Albert Frey, had died of a heart attack at the age of 63?  I always thought of my sainted Grandma Albert as being ancient. Like I am now, I guess.)

The point of this rather disjointed story is that I realized, albeit belatedly, that despite 65 years, 2 bad marriages, 4 children and a heart attack, in his own head my Pop was still a very young man who had learned to drive a Mack truck when he was 14, loved the Yankees with an early 20th century passion, hung out with some of the Jewish Mafia, was born and lived in Williamsburg before it was cool and it was still mostly spelled "Williamsburgh", and who loved to gamble on horse races, spending far too much time and money at Aqueduct and Belmont. I realized it because it is my current life experience as well as that of my husband and all my friends from college. We never grew up, not really. We pretend to be mature and strong and indestructible for our children and families, but the truth is, in a our heads, we got stuck at 18 or thereabouts and so did Pop. When I thought he was old and mature and as serious as the heart attack he'd had, Pop was still a devil-may-care kid from Williamsburg, the youngest of 5 and terribly spoiled, running around the kitchen table to escape from the Rabbi who came by the house to teach him his bar mitzvah haftorah.

I think that is marvelous. I think that is what keeps us humans from mass suicide as the inevitable aches and pains and old age diseases make daily life so fucking uncomfortable. I think it's cool, like fezes and bow ties and disco and Williamsburg. I think it's my life, like Bon Jovi sings, and that is a Good Thing, as Martha often tells us.

Let's end this on a Cloris Leachman high note.  Much better than where I started today's post.

Like Frankie said
I did it my way
I just wanna live while I'm alive ...

Monday, January 25, 2016

Meme-Less Monday, A Day of Mental Rest and Wiley Waffles

I am going to make a sincere effort to steer clear of politics today. I may have to stay off of Facebook to do this, but it'll be worth it. My head is still threatening to explode, and election rhetoric is not helping. Goodbye Fox and CNN. So long, New York Times. Au revoir, Orlando Sentinel. And farewell, Facebook. I am declaring this Meme-Less Monday. The news is literally making me sick. Excuse me while I go check out my cookbook recommendations.

It is 37 degrees in Kissimmee this morning, shockingly low for this poor old body. The temperature in Florida is currently ranging from 57 in Key West to 30 in Tallahassee. I have no plans to leave the house today, and right now I can't imagine leaving this bed, unless it is for the purpose of heading to Key West.  Or maybe as far as the kitchen to brew some coffee while trying a really easy waffle recipe I found online. I will conquer The Waffle, and I will do it without separating eggs or blooming yeast. But first - coffee über alles.

Ahhhhh .... now that I am appreciably caffeinated, I'm going to test the waffle recipe. In the meantime, I've posted some mighty fine and sunny pet pics with which you can wile away the time (yes, the spelling is correct) whilst I wittle a waffle or two.

"Hellooooooo to all my snowbound friends!  This is Chelsea Rose Rothfeld reporting from the No-Snow Zone, also known as Florida."

"My Puppy brother and I are sharing a toasty sunspot. I hope you get your toasty sunspots back real soon!"

"My Kitty brother is playing the part of a Solitary Sun Gazer. Stuck-up Feline Snob Lord of the Sith!"

Now, before I provide the recipe and pictures for you, I would like to share the wisdom of Bobby Flay, Brunchmeister and Grilling Guy Extraordinaire - "I like to leave the edges of the waffle irregular because that way you can tell they are homemade." These are very homemade. And I am pleased to add that they are delicious, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, all the qualities that make a waffle a waffle.

Best of all, these are easy. No freaky ingredients like buttermilk or yeast (I happen to keep yeast in the fridge in case I wake up with a mad desire to bake bread, but buttermilk is too perishable for the luxury of maintaining a regular supply. It's not like anyone drinks that stuff, except Martha Stewart and possibly Andrew Zimmern. Buttermilk is like Asian fish sauce, thoroughly noxious until after you combine it with other ingredients. And yeast means time - waiting time, for the batter to rise up, and for you to pray to the Great Bakery Gods that your yeast is alive, that the water temperature is correct lest you kill the little darlings, that the yeast ate the sugar you gave them for breakfast and are in the mood to fart. Time better spent obsessing over Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic, or knitting a sock, or playing with your grandchildren.) No whipping separated egg whiles. No melting butter and waiting for it to cool off. This recipe is delightfully straightforward and user-friendly.

I found it on Allrecipes after initiating a search for "easiest and best waffles." Seriously, isn't Google divine? This is called "Waffles I" and judging by the comments was posted sometime in 2005 by OneShyOfABunch. Alrighty, then. I'm sure she would look askance at my screen nick. Brkexpat, what the hell is that supposed to mean?

2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Before I start the instructions, let me encourage you to click on the above link so you can check out the comments for your personal use and eddification.  I learn a lot from the comments, including tips on how to make a good recipe even better, and how truly box-of-rocks stupid some people can be. It's the contrast that keeps me amused. For Waffles I, the vast majority thought it was The Bomb. A very few thought it was worse than ground up cat shit. I went with the yay-sayers instead of the nay-sayers and was well-rewarded for my faith in nameless, faceless strangers who also like to cook.

I took some of their suggestions to heart, increasing the sugar (I used turbinado instead of white) to 2 tablespoons and the vanilla to 1 teaspoon. Most importantly I followed the recommendation of one waffler to beat the eggs for up to 5 minutes to get them really fluffy. About halfway through, I added the sugar and salt, which made for really good incorporation and really fluffy eggs.

Hard to see in the photo, but this batter had some weight to it, unlike last night's runny mess.

The last thing I did which is not part of the original recipe is to let the batter sit for a good 10 minutes before committing it to griddle. This gives the ingredients a chance to make friends and learn to play well with others. Seriously, this is a little trick I use when making muffins, and the result is always a higher-rising, more tender specimen. Trust me. Just remember to stir it once or twice when you are ready to pour.

Oy vay ist mir, where are those directions? Enough of this batter chatter!

Beat the eggs until fluffy, adding the sugar and salt about halfway through the fluffing.  Add the flour, milk, oil, baking powder and vanilla and beat just until smooth. Set aside at room temperature for about 10 minutes.

So while the batter is resting, preheat your waffle iron according to your manufacturer's instructions. Spray both sides of the hot griddle with butter-flavored Pam. Stir once or twice, then pour some of the batter onto the griddle, spread the batter evenly, close to the edges, if you are that sort of waffler, or go the Bobby Flay freehand route, like me. Close the griddle and bake until the waffle is golden brown and beautiful.

Remove from the waffle iron and eat. You can thank me later. Oh yeah, it's OneShyOfABunch's recipe, but I did the research! You're welcome.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Hunkered Down In The Cold - Chicken Livers and Waffles

Siri has advised me that it is currently 46 degrees Fahrenheit, which for Florida is an obscene concept. Even worse, it is 36 degrees in our state capital.  Perhaps Governor Voldemort should start wearing a knit skull cap.  Or a ski mask. Something to keep warm until term limits cast him thankfully out of the Governor's Mansion.

Rob gives in to Hand Knit Socks Weather

I think this is Day 4 of this headache; today my right eye seems particularly painful. But it's Sunday, no plans, no reason to leave my little corner of the living room. It's nice and warm here; I can eat my poached egg and sip my coffee in relative comfort. My friends and family up north, not so much - I know from personal experience that those bitter winds can give gas and electric heat a run for it's money, and even the best insulation can't completely block the cold.

Also, at my age, heading out to shovel several thousand feet of the white stuff can be dangerous to one's health. When I was a kid growing up in my parent's house in North Woodmere, we had a ridiculous amount of shoveling because the house was set on a corner lot. My brother and I cheerfully pitched in to help my Pop (everything is fun when you're school-age young), shlepping coal shovels that weighed as much as we did. If I tried to do that now, I would likely keel over and land face down in a snow drift. "Shoveling snow can pose serious risk to the heart" happens to be the topic under discussion on the health and medical segment on Fox News. Doctors Siegal and Samadi both agree that if you are over 50, hire someone to do your shoveling. I hope all of my Frozen Loved Ones Of A Certain Age are cognizant of that grim reality.

My cooking plan for today is beyond easy, but considered offal ... sautéed chicken livers. One of the easiest, cheapest, most satisfying dinners around. Go ahead, make a face. I made a face when I saw that chicken livers had increased from 99 cents to (gasp) $1.69 a pound! It's now going to cost me almost $2.00 to feed my family. The nerve! (Well, to feed Rob and me ... Cory still won't touch this.) Having bought a little over 3 pounds, that would let me feed 6 to 8 adventurous chowhounds or 4 Jewish Brooklynites for around $5.00.  Think about that. I'm thinking about leftovers.

This is a throwback recipe; I first published it in 2011, June 5 to be precise, back in the day I complicated my life with "companion" blogs. (If you're curious about the blog post that went with the recipe, click here. Never mind that it has nothing to do with the recipe. Nothing. We were - gasp - just returned from a Carnival cruise.)

Some of you may wish to avert your eyes - not me

I have no potatoes to mash (the perfect chicken liver side dish) but I'm watching Brunch with Bobby while writing this and he is pulling me inexorably towards waffles.

Oh yeah - thanks Bobby. No, really. I needed a good reason to dig out this waffle iron (I have more than one) and that cookbook.

Let's start with the chicken livers - I am going to make these Casino-style, which involves dried oregano. President Lyndon Johnson's family counted this dish as a family favorite.

2 large onions, halved and then thinly sliced
4 large cloves garlic, smashed and minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 pounds of fresh chicken livers, placed in a colander, rinsed with cold water, and very well drained
Kosher salt, black pepper
Dried herbes d' provence

I spiralized the onions - what fun!

Heat the oil and butter together in a large skillet.  Add the onions and garlic and saute until golden brown.  Remove with a slotted spoon and hold to the side.  Leave any remaining oil and butter in the skillet.

Chicken livers are often joined by a membrane; snip this with kitchen scissors, and you will have two nice pieces.  I do not recommend cutting the livers any smaller than this.   Season the livers with the salt and pepper, and then add to the skillet. 

Put the heat up to high, and then add the herbes d' provence.  Cook for three to five minutes, or until the livers are browned on both sides.  Let most of the excess liquid in the pan evaporate, but do not let the livers dry out.  Add back the onions and garlic, heat together for a minute or two, then turn into a serving dish and sprinkle with some parsley.

If you can't find the herbes, use dried oregano and call your dish Chicken Livers Casino. The very best thing to serve this with is old fashioned mashed potatoes and buttered green peas. 

And now the Crispy Cornmeal Waffles - first time I've tried these. The book is Waffles from morning to midnight by Dorie Greenspan.  As you can see, the book is way out of print, although it is available used. I am going to type up the recipe, because there's no other way to reasonably acquire it.

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal. preferably stone ground
2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 large eggs

Preheat your waffle iron. If you want to hold the finished waffles until serving time, preheat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Melt the butter; reserve. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In another bowl, thoroughly combine the buttermilk, maple syrup, and eggs.  Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and whisk, stopping when the ingredients are just combined. Stir in the melted butter.

Lightly butter or spray the grids of your iron. Brush or spray the grids again only if subsequent waffles stick.

Spoon out 1/2 cup of batter (or the amount recommended by your waffler's manufacturer) onto the hot iron. Use a metal spatula or wooden spoon to smooth the batter almost to the edge of the grids. Close the lid and bake until browned and crisp.

Truthfully, my waffle-making skills need some work ... well, I usually have quite good luck when I use the round Waring Belgian Waffle machine, but this was something else. I'm not sure if it was the way I prepared the batter, or something with the Proctor-Silex waffle iron, or the recipe itself.

I guess I'll just have to try it again. I admittedly made changes, always a bad idea the first time through an untried recipe. I halved the recipe, used coarse cornmeal (not stone ground), and used fake buttermilk (the old lemon juice and whole milk trick). With all that, the taste was really good, and Robert loved them all nice and toasty, supporting a whole lot of those delicious chicken livers.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Waking Up Is Hard To Do

They say that waking up is hard to do
Now I know, I know that it's true ...

Holy smoke, the past few days have been brutal. I am seriously thankful that I live in Florida rather than up north right now, as the blizzard would only make me feel a lot worse.  I've been waking up with really bad headaches and pain in my eyes, so I'm very glad Rob will be driving to tai chi class this morning. Tai chi is going to be a challenge nonetheless, as every muscle in my body aches.

I know my northern friends and relatives are going to scoff, but I am wearing a scarf and half-mitts. Just until our temperature rises a bit. My heart may be in New York, but the rest of me is in Central Florida and after almost a quarter of a century this old body is acclimated to heat, not cold.

BEST - TAI CHI - CLASS - EVER: I hurt this morning, as bad as bad could be; my arms, my back, and that weird pain that starts in the chest, slams into your back, and radiates up like enraged light sabers into the neck, jaw, and ear canals. Here's the beauty of tai chi: I was able to follow along through almost all of the 2 hour class. We covered a lot today - many current forms, and a bunch of new forms, all very engaging. There were a few times I had to stop, but only towards the end. And from the standpoint of several hours down the road, I can tell you that the tai chi helped me get past the pain without swallowing a handful of Advil.  I was able to go to Publix, and then make lunch for Rob and I. Sink and relax, yes I can. Thank you Sifu Tony.

With so much family and friends living up north, and with our roots in NYC and Long Island, we have been watching all the reports regarding the Blizzard of 2016. It's all bad and getting worse; Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie have shut down their respective states. Washington D.C has also been closed down, and as one of the Republican candidates quipped, "Barack Obama's executive action pen has frozen." And Bill DeBlassio, Mayor of NYC, is advising people not to order in anything that has to be delivered. So if you're jonesing for moo goo gai pan, tough noogies - either make your own or assuming your favorite Chinese place is close by, take a walk. Don't you dare expect some poor schmuck on a bicycle to deliver your dinner.

Speaking of dinner, we went with friends to a new (to us) restaurant in downtown Orlando, and it is worthy of praise. The name is Soco, at 629 E. Central Blvd. in the Thornton Park neighborhood, and it serves contemporary southern cuisine. All around very good experience. I had one of their small plates, fried oysters, and I saw a number of other dishes I definitely want to try. Any restaurant that serves chicken fried New York strip steak, lobster mashed potatoes, fried green tomatoes, and Korean fried chicken (without having to drive to Savannah) definitely rates a return visit. If you click on the link, you can view the rest of the menu, and some reviews.

Stay warm. Stay safe. Take a tai chi class.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Yesterday, on a Blazing Saddle

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they're here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday

Having grown up with The Beatles (yes kids, that is the group Paul McCartney sang with before Wings), it is no surprise that Beatle earworms wind my way a lot more frequently than say something from Run-D.M.C. All it takes is one word and I'm off and running (figuratively speaking, of course. Even Joseph Simmons doesn't run much these days.) Birthday? Lonely? Submarine? Yesterday, of course. Because yesterday I had a good day despite the usual aches and pains. A really good day. Surprised me, it did.

I started off with a visit to the doctor. Not The Doctor and not my primary doctor, but a new doctor who can hopefully help me deal with the fibromyalgia. A rheumatologist doctor. I feel like I just took a giant step forward, that maybe I won't always have a shadow hanging over me (sorry, residual effects of earworm.)  A doctor who didn't treat me like a crazy-lazy when I said the pain and the brain fog had caused me to have to stop working. A nice doctor who takes my insurance and is a 5 minute drive from my house, and who has pleasant and accommodating office and medical staff.

And then, when the day couldn't get any better, I had some time to kill while waiting for prescriptions to be filled at the CVS in The Loop (best pharmacy anywhere. Nicest, most helpful and efficient pharacy staff in the world - not easy because CVS has one of the worst computer systems, but these folks rise above it. Awesome.) and I decided to go to Panera for soup. I had a bowl of their creamy tomato which is almost as good as mine, and I ate it sitting at a table in the restaurant. If you know me you know I never take a seat while I'm alone in a restaurant, fast food or otherwise. This was totally out of character for me, and I actually smiled. You can teach an old dog new tricks. I don't have to eat lunch in my car or at my desk anymore. Not that I have a desk. Lost that when me and my job got divorced. Brian has custody of the desk, so it's in good hands. I went into Michael's and bought a coloring book. My reward for having a quasi-normal day.

All that joyfulness wore me out, and I passed out on the couch once I got home, but managed to get up so we could drive to the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in Orlando to see Ina Garten. Wonderful show, I love her and her cookbooks and especially her story about Mel Brooks (talk about earworms! Mine, not Ina's. John Barrowman belting out "Springtime for Hitler." Cleavon Little crooning "I Get No Kick From Champagne." Mel himself, singing "Don't be stupid, be a smarty, come and join the Nazi party." Good times, good times.)

Today is like most other days, which is to say, painful and exhausting. I've been trying to do a few things around the house, with varying results. I cleaned up the pee pads, upstairs and downstairs. I emptied half of the dishwasher. And then I came to a decisive stop and a painful decision: go back to bed. I knew it couldn't last - but for a day, yesterday, it was good. Today, not so good, in fact, not good at all. That burst of energy cost me dearly. Crap.

It's been quite a few hours since I wrote all that. Walking upstairs, the pain in my legs and back were acute. I did pass out, and fortunately I was already sitting on the bed.  I'd wanted to show you a few pictures and suddenly I couldn't type nor keep my eyes open. I was trying to work on a mehndi design I've been coloring, and my head started to swim and it was all I could do to get the sharp pencil back in its case so that no one got stabbed. I'm awake now, but only because my bladder was tugging at my hand like that cute little cartoon in the Myrbetriq commercial.

Here are those pictures - the sock is well on its way to completion. The mehndi page has a ways to go, but all it takes is time and well, I've got nothing but. Let me send this off into cyber-space before I pass out again.

To all my Northern friends and relatives, stay warm, stay safe, stay inside your homes. Mother Nature and her devil spawn, El Niño, are both in crappy moods. Don't let them find you in any sort of vulnerable position.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"... He kindly stopped for me ..." - Zoodles with ...

Without intending to be overly morbid, I have to admit that this poem has been floating around in my head these past two days. A poetic ear worm, courtesy of Emily Dickenson. 

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

It's not Death I've been thinking about, but his cousin Isolation. Always a loner, and mostly an introvert, I nonetheless enjoyed a world outside of the confines of my home. I have family and many friends, and we met on an irregular basis to share dinners, holidays, and simchas (happy occasions, celebrations), sufficient to qualify as a social life. Back when the boys were highly involved in taekwondo competition, we traveled regularly by car to out-of-state locations, meeting up with our ATA friends in places like Little Rock, Atlanta, Valdosta and Panama City Beach.

Most importantly, however, for my daily mental health, I went to work, every single day - I didn't even take too many sick days until the fibromyalgia shifted from annoying to debilitating. The people I worked with made up the fabric of my social life, and I was very happy.  Just the right amount of positive human contact to keep me grounded.

Things change, for various reasons, and I have fallen into a pattern of social isolation that can't be healthy. I am fortunate that I can make it to my tri-weekly tai chi classes, and it goes without saying that I meet with my therapist once a week, but beyond that, I am willingly confined to the house. At the beginning of this debacle, I made it a point to go out on my own a few days each week, whether it was to Publix or Walmart or even the office to see my peeps. I would take a walk with Horatio Cane, admiring the neighborhood gardening and architecture. Now, with increasing pain and decreasing cognitive ability, I hesitate to step outside the house unless I have to. It took me two days to work up the courage to make the drive to CVS for prescription pick-up.

To say that this sucks is a vast understatement. I've been a loner, yes, but not a hermit like my great-grandfather Charles Albert. I don't particularly like this, but I don't know what to do.

Enough of that. I did some cooking, but the results were less-than-stellar, so I can't recommend you try this. Needless to say this is absolutely the LAST time I try to use a bottled Alfredo sauce.  I had to add some pizza sauce and a few glugs of sherry to make it even close to palatable, and I'm still not happy. I made the meatballs from a pound each of ground chuck and ground Italian sausage, and then stuffed each meatball with mozzarella pearls, and they don't taste right to me either.  Could be my palate taking a fibromyalgia-funded vacation. Feh.

Speaking of My Friend Fibro, I finally made an appointment with a rheumatologist. First available was February 10, and I was okay with that, but then they called me back and asked if I wanted to come in tomorrow morning. Hell yeah!

My memory and word recall has been worse than ever these past few days. Scary that I couldn't "find" the word "shallots"to use in a conversation. I've had to ask Robert more than just a few times for help in recalling words. I don't feel good about the whole thing.

Turns out the meatballs and sauce are rather good, but this evening's winner is the spiralized zucchini, also known as zoodles. A really delicious substitute for spaghetti, especially with the sauce and some grated Parmesan cheese on top.

The zucchini was the size of a dachshund, so I only needed one. Once it was spiralized, I heated a couple of tablespoons of garlic-infused olive oil in a large deep skillet, and sprinkled on some black pepper and granulated garlic. NO SALT.  I cooked it over medium high until it was done to my liking, which is slightly underdone because I know it is going to be reheated. I used tongs to move it around in the pan, and then to remove it from the skillet, letting excess liquid drip off. Finally, I put it in a serving dish, spooned on some of the sauce from the meatballs, and sprinkled on some cheese. Right now, it's in a 350 degree oven, just to warm up and finish in the sauce. Serve with meatballs or anything else that goes well with spaghetti.  This was fun.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Last Centurion - Spiralized Garlic-Paprika Sweet Potato "Fries" (link)

If I didn't know better, I'd swear I had the flu. And I never get the flu. But every muscle aches, and creeping out of bed was not a pretty sight. But I managed it, and also managed to play with my spiralizer while preparing a salad for Cory. A carrot, a radish, a shallot. Such pretty edible tendrils. And yes, those tomatoes are all from my garden.

I woke, as I almost always do, to the sight of The Last Centurion, guarding me from ... well, whatever. Romeo Lee Rothfeld, AKA Puppy, spends his days guarding me.

For my little man, it's all about Keeping Mommy Safe. He has certain spots in each room, from where he watches out for anyone or anything that might bring harm to Mommy. He barks like mad when Cory comes close to me, regardless of how many times we tell him that Cory is as safe as can be. If someone happens to walk towards me or near me, Romeo rushes over to my side.  Because I can't get out of bed at the same reasonable hour as Robert, Romeo will often forego his morning treats to stay with me. Even if he does follow Rob downstairs for treats, he runs right back upstairs to stay with me. 

Romeo has abandonment issues. He lost his first human mommy to cancer, and lost his puppy sister when she was adopted by a different family. Just like a little human, these experiences marked him for life. Not only does he watch over me, he is also very protective of his "new" sister, Chelsea.

Doggies. God's gift to the human race.

Finished my latest flower mandala, already started a new picture. 

I have a new coloring book on the way and I am very excited about it. Actually Robert got it for me, putting it on preorder.                

Gathering all my blue pencils in anticipation ...

I decided to play with the spiralizer again, before I call it a day and send this off to the publisher. This recipe for Spiralized Garlic-Paprika Sweet Potatoes is also from the "Inspiralized" website. I ramped up the seasoning with McCormick's California Style Garlic Pepper (instead of the plain garlic) and the addition of some sugar. Just plain old white sugar, nothing to overwhelm the other savory flavors.

These have a good taste, but I need to practice my spiralizing.  I've got at least 3 different widths from the same blade, which makes separating the strands a bit dicey, and messes with the cooking time. I'm not sure I'm crazy about the whole shoestring thing (which I might like better if my spiralization skills were up to snuff) so next time I will probably work with the medium blade instead.

Definitely medium blade next time. Okay, these are ridiculously good, although they remind me of French's French Fried Onions (which I love) rather than shoestring potatoes.

I bet these would be glorious on top of a casserole. For now, stick a fork in me, I am done, really overdone. I sat next to the oven while these were baking so I didn't have to walk back and forth, but my back still hurts and I feel like I ran a half-marathon. Ha ha ha ... me running a marathon ...

Today is Martin Luther King Day, a good day to reflect on the lessons of Dr. King.