Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Snark-Free Sunday - Asian-Cajun (Con)Fusion Stuffed Pork Chops

I've been trying for close to an hour, but I can't get out of bed. Does this suck or what? I have cooking to do! The days when my family had a choice between 6 different gourmet entrees is long gone, but they still gotta eat, so once a week, having gathered every extra spoon I could, I try to make one nice dinner with leftovers. This is the day.

So, I finally managed to slide down the stairs without dropping the little girl dog I was clutching in one arm. I did not manage to swallow my medication before doing so, and my landing was all wibbly-wobbly. I am over sensitive to light and sound, and I do not trust my hands to chop so much as a shallot. Despite the fact that Rob emptied the dishwasher and Cory refilled it, the sight of a clean sink did not cheer me up as much as usual.  I hurt all over, my brain is a bit fuzzy, my arms are itching like I have chicken pox, and I am cranky. Really down-in-the-dumps, growly, frowning cranky.

The cooking was going to have to be ridiculously simple or it wasn't going to happen. Short of emptying cans into the crockpot, this is one of the simplest recipes I could think of given the ingredients at hand. I based it on an old Betty Crocker recipe which I cross-pollinated with my mother's even older recipe for stuffed pork chops, and after throwing everything together in some semblance of order, spun my prayer wheel and hoped for the best. Here you go:

Asian-Cajun Stuffed Pork Chops

Stuffing :
2 1/2-3 cups crumbled corn muffins
1 cup seasoned dry stuffing mix
1 - 14.75 oz. can cream style sweet corn
1 cup frozen gumbo mix vegetables (okra, corn, celery, onions, sweet red peppers) rinsed under hot water and well-drained (measure after draining)
Salt, pepper, smoked paprika, granulated garlic
Parsley flakes, ground sage, crushed rosemary, thyme leaves
1 extra large egg, lightly beaten

5 lbs. thinly-sliced boneless pork chops (about 18 chops)
Garlic pepper, sweet paprika
1 - 20.75 oz. bottle Panda Express Orange Sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine stuffing ingredients and set aside.  Lay out half of the chops in 2 aluminum baking dishes which have been sprayed lightly with the no-stick stuff. Divide the stuffing evenly onto the chops. Cover the stuffing with the remaining chops. Season the tops with the garlic pepper and sweet paprika. Cover and bake for 1 1/4 hours.

Remove from oven, uncover and carefully pour off the liquid in each pan. Next, pour the orange sauce evenly over the top of each chop and return to the oven, uncovered, for an additional 30 minutes, basting once or twice.

And that's it. That easy, that delicious. And most importantly, my boys won't starve.

My arms are too tired to knit which also sucks as I am crazy about the particular colorway I am using. The feel of this yarn - an acrylic! - is so very pleasant against my hands (while the rest of me screams when touched) and the whole process is so restful. Assuming, of course, that I can support the weight of two small bamboo knitting needles and an ounce or two of yarn, which at the moment I am not. Crap. If I don't knit, I read the news and when I read the news I get emotional and when I get emotional I get snarky, especially concerning the candidate known as "Big Orange, Tiny Digits."

And that's enough of that.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Doctors Full of Snit - Old-Fashioned Pound Cake

Sitting here resting my bones ...

Actually, I'm drifting through some light morning chores trying to absorb the news. Brexit and the unsuccessful Democratic sit-in are at the top of the list. The pain we are all still feeling in Orlando. The father who would not claim his son's body because he disapproved of his homosexuality. The recent Supreme Court decisions. Bernie Sanders. The stock market, reeling from Brexit. The very real problem of accelerated climate change; floods, fires, fiercely wild animals moving into residential areas. Falluja. Gun control or its lack thereof. The Magic trading my favorite Victor Oladipo for Oklahoma City's Sir Chewbacca. Those North Korean missiles. I'm all over the place.

(Just in case you were wondering, Otis Redding is not singing in my head; instead, my 2-day earworm is the Aerosmith-Run DMC version of "Walk This Way" which is really a nasty little song with dirty lyrics that must now make Joseph Simmons blush. They make me blush - I seriously need a new earworm.)

Today is the Yahrzeit, the anniversary of my father's passing. It was another Friday, 33 years ago, that he lost his 16-month battle with cancer. I have missed him every day since then, but I have good memories and in the end, that's the most one can wish for.

My unpleasant doctor experiences continue, involving my primary care physician and my psychiatrist. I have been scolded (more like verbally abused) for going to a specialist (the rheumatologist!), accused of pursuing disability because I "don't want to go to work anymore", scolded for recounting my fibromyalgia symptoms after she asked me how I was feeling, because I "have it so much better than people who have cancer", told that "there is nothing else I can do to help you" and just now received a phone call from my PCP's office manager relaying a message from the doctor (in response to my request for two non-narcotic prescription renewals for medication he has been prescribing me for at least 5 years) that was so inappropriate that she was embarrassed to read it to me. This is the same doctor who finally admitted I was permanently disabled from the practice of law, and offered to write something to that effect but never did so. Which all just goes to show that doctors are distressingly human and as supremely capable as the rest of us to act like petty little shits. Thank goodness my therapist still gets it.

Considering that my cooking days have been dramatically reduced, I am pleased to be able to share a recipe with you. It is for an old-fashioned pound cake and the results amazed me. I baked it with my paralegal friend Brenda in mind as a pound cake-craving recipient, and that also gave me an excuse to head to the office, which is still an uncomfortable experience for me, to visit with my friends and also finally deliver the bracelet I'd made for my supervisor Raquel. A heartfelt thank you for all of her help, her support, and her kindness.

The pound cake recipe is from James Villas' book From My Mother's Southern Kitchen, but the recipe is hardly an original, nor would I want it to be. A pound each of flour, butter, sugar, and eggs - now that's a pound cake! It is an easy recipe, but not simple to make. I used a hand held electric mixer, but next time I'm going to ask one of my boys to lift out the stand mixer for me to use. Take your time beating in the ingredients and you will be well-rewarded.

Old-Fashioned Pound Cake

1 pound (4 sticks) butter, softened at room temperature
1 pound (2 cups) sugar
9 large eggs
1 pound (4 cups) all-purpose flour
Dash of salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.

In a large bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer, then gradually add the sugar, continuing to beat until well creamed and smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add the flour and salt, beating constantly.  Add the vanilla and lemon juice and continue beating until well blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and from a rather short distance, drop on the counter once or twice to distribute the batter evenly.Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours. Remove the cake from the pan and allow to cool on a rack. If you can bear to wait, wrap the cooled cake in plastic and let it sit on the counter overnight.

Still knitting ...

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Both Sides Now

Time for an earworm, my raised-in-the-sixties brothers and sisters:

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud's illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all

I've always been a conservative, except when I've been a liberal. Most times I feel like a centrist, but other times I proclaim my belief in rational anarchy which is surely in conflict with my life's history as a very law-abiding citizen. Despite having been a registered Democrat while living in New York, and a registered Republican most of my time while living in Florida, since 1972 I have voted any which way that suits me, except in 2004 when I could not bring myself to vote for anybody. Some years ago I gave up on the whole political party system, and registered as NPA - No Party Affiliation. While I feel appreciably cleaner for not subscribing to any major or semi-major party, by law I am unable to vote in either major party primary, because Florida is a closed state. Essentially, I've got no freedom to choose at the primary level, and that sucks, because I think we can all agree that this cycle's presidential primaries have been critical to the ultimate shape and form for November's upcoming election.      

To complicate matters, I am trained as a lawyer, which means in relevant part that I tend to see both  sides of an argument and more importantly, can defend either side depending on circumstances. I spent my entire legal career, working hard for every penny I made, in a specialized area where the  mindset was screamingly liberal and everything I tried to accomplish on behalf of children and their  families was dependent on government generosity. I am a Baby Boomer whose opinions are aging along with my body. I am a Reform/Liberal Jew in an anti-semitic world. So to put it succinctly, I am morally and cognitively conflicted (yes, my poppets, I am having a Good Brain Day. Let me enjoy my expansive vocabulary and clarity of thought while I can.)

At this moment, ignoring some of the really big issues of the day - why I am supporting Hillary Clinton, my current position on abortion, my hawkish stance on the war in the Middle East - today's harangue is all about gun control. We need it. Follow me, now:

I was raised without guns. My father's idea of good hunting was finding a butcher who cut the thickest, best quality steaks available for home consumption. Growing up in the intensely Jewish enclave of Long Island's Five Towns, I didn't know anyone who hunted, or even owned a gun, until I met my husband. His family did both, and while I was uneasy with it at first, I grew to respect guns when properly used. I appreciated their presence in my home, especially as they were carefully locked away from anyone but my husband (and much later, my well-trained adult son.) I thought about learning to shoot and went so far as to take the handgun course necessary for obtaining a concealed carry permit, but I did not follow through with the rest of the process. For one thing, my fibromyalgia has stolen a good deal of my hand strength, making it very difficult for me to fire most handguns. For another thing, probably the biggest thing, I am still uneasy with them.

Less than 2 weeks ago, we experienced an unbearable tragedy here in Orlando. It is being called the worst mass shooting in American history, but that ignores the 1890 events at Wounded Knee. Of course, that massacre of Native Americans was perpetrated by the U.S. Government, while the shooting in Orlando occurred at the hands of a homophobic Islamist terrorist, so maybe there is a legitimate distinction to be drawn there, but whether it was the first worst or the second worst, it was horrific.

Naturally there were fingers pointed and blame thrown about, and it occurred to me that I really did not understand all there was to know - like this isn't just a Second Amendment issue, not by a long shot, and speaking of shots, an AR-15 is not an assault rifle. So I read different articles and sought the opinions of people on both sides of the argument, and briefly presided over an unnecessarily contentious discussion emanating from an article I shared on Facebook. I took care of that, smoothly.

Let me state that from a constitutional standpoint there is more at stake than the Second Amendment, but then, we've all been living with the Patriot Act for 15 years.

It was (amazingly) the late Justice Scalia who stated that "Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited ..." It is "... not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose." That's from District of Columbia v. Heller, a 2008 Supreme Court case.

Wrap your head around these:

The majority, including the current administration, does not want to take away your guns.
They do want to restrict non-military access to automatic weapons.
They also want to restrict certain individuals from acquiring any sort of gun. People with a propensity to misuse the guns. Terrorists, certain classes of criminals, certain types of sociopaths, people with histories of mental illness and domestic violence, etc. Terror watch lists are therefore a good idea. "No fly-no buy" is a really great idea, but -
The vetting process takes too damn long (I'm going to withhold any snarky remarks about the FBI being consumed with non-confidential emails)
A proper background check should take as long as it needs to fully and thoroughly investigate anyone who pops up a red flag.
I see HIPAA as a major barrier to reporting and investigating mental illness claims- am I the only one?
The methods by which individuals are added to a terror watch list are deeply flawed, sloppily administered, and can violate our rights of due process.

With all that, our country is in such excruciating pain from the constant barrage of mass shootings that Something Has To Be Done, regardless of its imperfections. "No fly-no buy" should be immediately passed. We can sort the constitutional issues out later.

I guess after all that I picked a side. For now, anyway.

Still knitting:

It's hip to be square.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Sickest Trifecta Of All

As you will see below, I had a post in the hopper which I never finished, along with a couple of recipes that never got reduced to writing. I apologize, but as you probably know by now, things have gotten crazy here in Orlando.

I cannot adequately put into words what is in my mind and my heart. I lived in Orlando for 23 years before moving slightly over the border into Kissimmee, and the area of town that was hit (SODO, south of downtown Orlando) is one I have frequented often for doctor's appointments and access to Orange County Juvenile Court. Robert and I have always known that one day a terrorist act would occur in the Orlando area, primarily because of its proximity to Disney and Universal, the centers of the Tourist Capital of the World. We suspected the target would be Downtown Disney, or as it is now known, Disney Springs.

But the shooter went one step further, committing a horrific terrorist act directed at all of us "American infidels", but which also targeted a specific minority group, our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community. I also do not think it was coincidence that caused him to time the attack on what appears to have been Latin night at the club. So, as I have previously noted on Facebook, this bastard hit a sick trifecta, indulging all the hatred in his wizened little heart.

I am not going to get involved in the great political debates raging out there over the President's choice of words or the true definition of assault rifle or the never-ending battle between the Second Amendment and gun control. We have been at war for 16 terrible years and we all know who is directly responsible for this attack.

I am deeply disappointed in the quality of the investigations by the FBI regarding previous reports concerning this bastard, but right now I do not feel the public knows enough to come to any definite conclusions. I do feel the FBI and DHS need to take a good hard look at the shooter's family, but I am stating the obvious, I know.

I cannot tell you how weird - terrible weird - it feels to have my adopted hometown as the focus of so much attention by the entire world. Over the years as each terrorist attack has occurred on both American and foreign soil, the world, including those of us here in Central Florida, has turned its attention to those locations with outpourings of support and assistance. While it feels good to have that positive energy directed here, it also feels bad. We are no longer the happiest place on earth; instead, we are the site of the worst shooting massacre in recent American history.

In personal news, I have spent the last two weeks bouncing from one doctor to another, and all I can say is that once this disability hearing is over, win or lose, I don't care to ever see any of them again. Just yesterday I had one scold me because "others are much worse off than you - it's not like you have cancer" and the other scold me for going to see a specialist instead of my putting all my eggs in his broken basket. Let's just add to this mess that I have an appointment with the individual handling my disability claim, and right now I have absolutely no faith in him nor his firm. And that's enough bitching from me, except to say I hope I can make the appointment, which is in Winter Park, as the President is coming to Orlando that same day, and you can't get from Kissimmee to Winter Park without driving through downtown Orlando. And there you have it.

I have been knitting, at least when the weakness and electric shocks in my hands permit it. Very therapeutic, although my brain is still so scrambled I have had to do an inordinate amount of frogging (rip it, rip it - get it?)

This is fibromyalgia:

It takes me a full hour to get ready to leave the house. We're not talking pantyhose and eye make-up here, folks - just the basics. Tee shirt and a clean face. In the old days, I could zip through that routine in about 15 minutes. Back then I didn't have to stop every few minutes to sit down, or move to another room because the one I was in was too hot or too cold. I didn't have to turn the lights on and off because they were alternately too bright or not bright enough. I didn't have to debate the relative merits of ibuprofen or more Baclofen because I am wincing in pain. Life was simpler then.

No, this is fibromyalgia:

I am so tired that I can hardly keep my eyes open during tai chi class.  We are working through an intricate form and my feet are heading out into all the wrong directions, and my arms hurt while I am extending them out.

Then we walk outside and my right front tire is flat and Carmen and I both remember hearing a very loud noise and it seems that someone may have punctured my tire for what reason? I don't understand random acts of violence; I associate them with the pathological little shits delinquents I used to represent when I was in private practice. Anyway, I have a triple-A account, and I start to fumble in my purse to retrieve the card, and I must have looked like a deer in the headlights because the next thing I know, Tony has changed the tire for me so I didn't have to wait for someone from AAA to show up, and I'm on my way home. I am eternally grateful.

But the depression I've been keeping at bay manages to break through my feeble defenses and I'm heading into the dark places in my head where the specifics are lost in a thick gray cloud of smoke while a fibro-fog has descended on all my senses. I am suspended somewhere in the space-time continuum and now I can't sleep, even though I am so tired it hurts to be awake.

By 3 AM I am desperate so I take 2 Advil PM, but my body fights the blessed relief and it is well after 4 AM before I start to doze. And so I finally sleep, so long that my morning is lost and I am still dreadfully tired and that brings us to now. My emotions are all over the place and I do not have the strength to stand up while I take my medication. I feel too shaky to walk downstairs for a cup of coffee - I don't trust my balance on the staircase. The electric shocks are back and my fingers jerk uncontrollably while I try to scroll down my iPhone screen. It hurts to have the iPad resting on my legs while I type this, so I am putting it aside for now except to say my wonderful son got the coffee for me. It's 1 PM and I'm thinking about taking a nap.

When I was still going to work, the insomnia killed me daily. I could not choose to stay home in bed, and although I took shameless advantage of all the sick hours I'd accrued over the years to come into the office a little later, that simply was not an option on a court day, and depending on which judicial genius was assigned to our division we could be spending 8 mornings out of every 10 in court. During those terrible dark middle-of-the-night hours I would experience one long panic attack because I knew my mind would not be clear come morning. My arms ache just thinking about having to lift my boxes of files onto the belt of the screening machine. By the time I got to the courtroom ... well, never mind. I'm not helping myself dwelling on all that. Even office days had become terribly painful, because my head would not allow me to move efficiently through the stacks of papers, and all I wanted to do was crawl under my desk and sleep. It hurt to sit. My hands were practically useless operating a keyboard.

Just that my last 2+ years with DCF I fought the FMS so hard but I just kept becoming more befuddled and more ineffective.  Most of my colleagues were utterly wonderful in helping me, while a few chose to stab me in the back.

But that's okay too. Karma, baby.

Chicken Fried Steak and Fluffy Tortilla Hummus Roll-ups - another time, perhaps.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

This and That, and Then Some More of This - Mexican Chicken

This past week has been devoted to my attempt to integrate the fibromyalgia into my daily life. But ha! What a grandiose idea! Do what I can, stop when I can't. Okay, it works in theory and to a certain extent it works in practice as well, but there's the Basic Rule of Life that says "Sh*t Happens" and when it does, all my aspirations go right out the window.  

Balance Bangle

Simply put, I am seeking to achieve a sustainable balance, but that dream crashed and burned just yesterday when it became annoyingly apparent that we were going to have to groom one of our Yorkies. Romeo, who also answers to the name Puppy, a veritable Wookiee of a doggy, needed to be shaved and bathed, verily scrubbed within an inch of his life. We had the tools, we had the talent - in my next life, I think Rob and I will open a dog grooming shop - and after 2 1/2 hours on my feet, my Little Man looked positively splendid and even better, he smelled clean. Best of all, he was very happy with the results. Happy Puppy, happy Mommy, right?  

Well yes, happy but in pain. Add to that the panic attack that had been knocking at my door all afternoon and into the night, and I woke up today in something of a mess. Yesterday had its rough spots - I was fighting exhaustion and narcolepsy, and had to take a caffeine tablet to ensure I could drive to my appointment without falling asleep behind the wheel - but hope springs eternal, and in my head, at least, I made plans to get out and walk around a bit. My plans for that nice morning walk are rapidly dissipating and I am on the cusp of heading back to bed. No. I am going to put down the iPad, pick up Horatio Cane and hobble to the lakefront. Now. With my earbuds and music turned on medium-high, because it is one of those days when normal sounds are driving me mad. Cars driving past my house. Barking dogs in my house. The "ka-chunk" of the electric stapler. Mad, I tell you.

The walk was just what I needed. Clear-the-head refreshing. I never get tired of the views from the lake. And whatever was bothering me is gone for now. I can't change it, I can't fix it, and I refuse to confront the miscreants. (Now if I could just dismiss Donald Trump as easily. He scares me, more than Jimmy Carter, more than Barack Obama, more than Bush 43. God bless America and protect us from the crazy guy with the bad spray tan. Amen.)

Some of these pictures are from last week's walk/photo shoot:

Big Toho Marina

This looks like the Adirondack chairs are sharing a view with the courthouse.

Another one of those mixed juxtaposition pictures I love. This time it is comprised of my former office building, the Berlinsky Community House, and The Monument on Monument Street.

The Monument in all its glory.

Pretty marsh weeds

The ubiquitous Sandhill Crane

"You lookin' at ME?" 
(He became a bit confrontational when he saw me taking his picture.) 

Not impressed with the current outdoor sculpture around the pond behind City Centre.  

Rusty Fish. Feh. 

For just $9500 you too can own this lovely gator sculpture.
 (Gives new meaning to the insult "dumber than a box of rocks".)

Earlier in the week I actually did some cooking, starting with Paula Deen's recipe for Mexican Chicken and making a few changes to spice it up. Unfortunately, I rather carelessly deleted all my notes of the recipe changes. I seem to recall using Campbell's Poblano and Queso soup instead of the cheddar cheese soup, and using an extra can of that (so 4 cans of soup instead of three), and I also drained the excess liquid from the canned tomatoes. I spread refried beans on the tortillas, which were extra large and fluffy. The beans were a new product from Bush, something about smashed pintos, onions and bacon. I layered the tortillas and chicken filling (for the chicken, I field-stripped a rotisserie bird from Publix) with slices of pepper jack cheese and finished the casserole with cotija and shredded sharp cheddar over the top. Baked it at 350 for 45 minutes. I think I added 2 teaspoons each of cumin and granulated garlic to the creamy filling and lots of black pepper. It was delicious and spicy in a good way. I think I took pictures.

I did, I did! Hope they help, but if not, just make the original recipe. It's really good comfort food.