Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Happy Horseradish Loaded Potato Salad

My back is killing me.  So is my tailbone. And yet I am in a pretty good mood.  Go figure.

Both of my guys really like homemade potato salad.  Like meatloaf recipes, I have a number of variations, but I'm always looking for new ones.

When I told Cory what I had in mind, he suggested adding horseradish to the dressing.  Genius, my kid is a genius.

The inspiration for this recipe was a loaded baked potato.  It is frankly delicious.

Happy Horseradish Loaded Potato Salad

1-28 oz. bag honey gold baby potatoes, cooked, cut into eighths
4 slices regular bacon, chopped, cooked, drained
2 green onions, sliced very thin
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Gold's prepared horseradish (you may want to add more)
kosher salt, ground white pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar

Let the potatoes cool.  In a large bowl, combine the cooled potatoes, the bacon, and the green onions. In a 2-cup glass measuring cup,  whisk the sour cream and mayonnaise together. Add the horseradish, salt and pepper, and whisk them into the dressing.  Pour the dressing over the potatoes, folding them together.  Add the cheddar.  Chill for one hour before serving.

Nota bene: I feel the same way about Gold's horseradish as I do about Hellman's mayonnaise and Heinz ketchup.  When we first moved to Central Florida, we could not get Gold's in our local supermarket, which put a big damper on Passover.  Eventually it showed up after Publix distributors realized that the Jews were here to stay.  The local stores still have a pretty sparse selection of Jewish foods, which still puts a damper on Passover.  But, as Humphrey Bogart said to Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, "We'll always have Amazon."

Here's looking at you, kid.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Beary Had A Little Lamb - Spice-Rubbed Lamb Chops

I think I've come out of my Father's Day fog.  That day  is always emotionally overwhelming for me - not only am I grieving for my own father, but I am empathizing with all my Facebook friends and relatives who are also grieving for their lost fathers.  It was a particularly bad day to take on tamales.  But that mess is done and over with; it is Monday, the beginning of a new week with new goals.

Another time (but these were so good!)

Don't get me wrong, I've got other messes.  Once again, I am stuck, emotionally frozen, unable to move forward on several important tasks.  The new medications from the psychiatrist are not having the desired effect.  I am as depressed as always, and my mood is cycling like Lance Armstrong.

So I went to the therapist today, and then headed to "my" Publix, the one I shopped at for over 20 years.  I think I managed to leave my therapist feeling depressed, for which I apologize.   I really feel bad about it, because I felt somewhat better after today's appointment, but would not want to do that at the cost of another person's comfort, especially someone who has helped me so much for so long.

I am starting the lamb chops today; they will have to sit in the refrigerator overnight, but it will be time well spent.  I have also decided to prepare cazuela de tamal, tamale pie, using the red chile sauce that drove me insane yesterday.  Somehow it turned out delicious, especially with the pork roast added to it, and allowed to simmer in the oven at 300 degrees for a few hours.  I think I will be able to provide a cohesive recipe all of the elements for the tamale pie. Tomorrow.  Today is about the lamb chops.

This is a reboot of a recipe I prepared and printed back in May, 2011.  I grew up eating lamb chops, close to once a week.  My grandmother would buy shoulder chops, either long bone or round bone, and broil them. I love lamb, but apparently many people are either unfamiliar with it, or don't like it because it is too gamy for their tastes.  I think this dry rub takes care of the issue of gaminess, but I don't find lamb to be gamy, so what do I know?  

Try not to freak out at the list of ingredients for the dry rub.  How often do you get the chance to use that many types of spices and herbs at the same time?  Makes Colonel Sanders look like a piker. (Am I the only person who finds the new KFC ads, featuring a resurrected Colonel Sanders, to be incredibly annoying?  And speaking of annoying icons, whose idea was it to bring back that creepy Burger King?)

Spice-Rubbed Lamb Chops

6 shoulder lamb chops (round bone or long bone)

Lamb Chop Dry Rub:
1/4 cup paprika
1/4 cup garlic powder
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon celery seed
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon dried Valencia orange peel
1 teaspoon dried California lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Whisk the rub ingredients together until well combined.  Transfer to a large jar.  I think you can use this on any cut of lamb, as well as chicken or pork.

The night before you plan on serving the lamb chops, sprinkle them generously on both sides with the rub, and pat to rub them in slightly.  Store in the refrigerator. 

Set the oven on broil.  Place the chops on a rack over a baking dish, and broil lightly on both sides.  Leave the chops on the rack, and lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees.  Bake for another 30 minutes, or until the chops are done to your liking. 

Pork on the left, lamb on the right, delicious on both sides

I have a confession to make.

I grew up using ketchup with my steaks and lamb chops (my husband is shuddering as he is reading this).  Only Heinz ketchup; I do have my standards, you know.  

And then I discovered mint jelly.  Neon-green, high fructose corn syrup, artificial color, oil of spearmint, and nary a mint leaf.  I know, right?  It's freaking delicious!  I love lamb even more now that it's an excuse for eating mint jelly.  

If you need an excuse for eating mint jelly and don't have the patience nor the contents of my spice cabinet, just season the lamb chops with granulated garlic and broil them.  Lamb and garlic have a natural affinity that should be celebrated with frequency.  Throw in the mint jelly and you can have a party in your mouth.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Just Say No To The Tamales

I am going to be making Tamara's Red Pork Chile Tamales - yes, I finally got brave enough to try something different from the Family Chicken Tamales.  I am still stubbornly wedded to the masa harina masa recipe, although I have considered at least a dozen different masas from three different cookbooks.  One of those, Fresh and Dried Corn Tamales Masa Dough from my other tamale cookbook, is poking me in the ribs. We shall see.

Breaking down the work means preparing each component separately:

The pork (reserving the stock for use in the sauce and the masa)
The sauce
The corn husks
The masa
Constructing the tamales
Steaming the tamales

Today I am a complete mess, and better suited to preparing a much simpler recipe.  I've got full-blown brain fog, and couldn't have chosen a worse day to tackle tamales.  This morning, I had so many screw-ups, I'm surprised I didn't just chuck the whole mess.  But as I sit here now, the pork is simmering and the soaked chiles are sitting next to the boiled onions, and my kitchen counters are in something approaching good order.  I think I'm back on track, never mind that it took 5 hours to get there.

... and later ...

FORGET THE FRAKKING TAMALES!  The sauce recipe was a disaster.  I fixed it up, but I can't give you a cohesive recipe because I was frantically pulling ingredients out of everywhere to make it palatable.  I don't know whether to use it (Rob assures me it's pretty good), freeze it, or pour it down the drain.  What good is a recipe if I can't recreate it?  

My most profuse apologies.  This recipe has stressed the crap out of me for the last three days, and I am over it.  Another time, another recipe.  I must tell you, I was ready to order the author's second tamale book through Amazon, but I definitely will not be doing so.

I can't wait for this day to be over.

... and still later ...

I've calmed down.  My mood was disordered, but I'm okay now.  Almost.

After sitting for a while, the sauce was good, really good.  I poured most of it over the cooked pork cubes and put it back in the refrigerator to sit overnight, and put the remaining sauce in the freezer.  I made notes as to what changes and additions were made, and also a couple of different twists I'm going to try next time.

I ordered the book through Amazon.

Now I just have to figure out how to use the filling, seeing as standing on my feet for several hours to make the individual tamales is likely to make me cranky.

And I've got it: Cazuela de Tamal. Or maybe Tontos.  Because, as one cook noted, making tamales is a pain in the culo.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

One Step Closer To Tamales - Happy Father's Day

If you are disinclined to read a rant, just scroll down to the first photo. and skip the icky stuff.  I totally understand, I really do.

Never again will I go to a Centra Care Clinic,  and especially not the Hunters Creek location, across from The Loop.  If I can't wait to go to my own doctor, then I go to the emergency room.  This time, despite the pain, I could have held out till Monday rather than have this rather unpleasant experience.

I made a "No Wait" online appointment for 10:40 AM.  I pre-registered online.  The person on the front desk took care of me in a timely manner.  She advised me there was only one person ahead of me.  I did not get called until 11:20, which put the whole "no wait" claim to lie.

The nurse who brought me to the back was pleasant, but lackadaisical.  She asked several questions which made it clear she had not bothered to even glance at the papers I had filled out.  When I mentioned the UTI, she looked mildly annoyed, and asked me to wait.  So I waited and waited and waited some more.  Finally she returned and asked if I could produce a urine sample, and gave me instructions, and then she went to sit.

Now it gets really bad: the restroom had no paper towels, NO HAND SOAP, and no garbage pail.  I do not care that there was a garbage pail and wall-mounted hand sanitizer just outside the restroom.  Not the same thing.  I was disgusted, annoyed, and more than a little freaked out.

I went back to the examination room and tried to catch the nurse's eye.  She was totally engrossed in her iPhone, and it took a while.  So I went back to the exam room and waited and waited and waited. Finally the doctor came in. The doctor was very pleasant.  I never did catch his name, which becomes problematic down the road.  I told him what the two problems were.  He took care of one and got ready to leave the room.  Totally forgot or ignored the other.

There was more that grossed me out and left me speechless, but I'll skip the details.  One last thing, though - so I brought the two prescriptions to my CVS and my pharmacist, a very dear and helpful man.  And he realizes the prescription does not have the name of the doctor, his address, the phone number, or his DEA number.  The prescription pads from Centra Care, which belongs to the Florida Hospital system, are not legally sufficent.  And when my pharmacist called them, after having to search for their number, the person on the phone did not seem to understand the problem, and was reluctant to give the pharmacist the information.

I did not expect this - I had used this office when I had the Worker's Comp claim last year, and there were no problems, and certainly nothing to gross me out.  But DAMN, something changed, and not for the better.

Okay, enough stomach-turning talk.  Let's move over to the good stuff - TAMALES.

The first time I made tamales, I made a relatively small batch using one of Bobby Flay's recipes and it was awesome, although not authentic.  And it was a lot of work.  (I've had this tamale at both Mesa Grill restaurants, and authenticity be damned.  It is simply one of the best things I've ever tasted).

The next time I decided to try a traditional recipe, and set out to prepare Family Chicken Tamales, a recipe from my Tamales 101 book.  It was an experience which I related in this blog's August 28, 2011 post.  It was a RIDICULOUS amount of work.  It was after that experience that  I learned that in Latino families preparing tamales at home was a group effort, and all the female relatives would get together and produce copious amounts of tamales on an assembly line that would make Henry Ford proud.  And even with all the help, they were only made for a major holiday like Christmas.

I've never been totally comfortable with group cooking, although I've had some good times cooking with my son. as well as with my niece, Mara.  The problem is that Cory is usually at work, or out playing airsoft, and Mara - well, Mara lives in New Jersey.  So if I want tamales - and I do - I'm going to have to reduce the amounts being prepared, and break up the project across several days.

Since I spent a good part of the day being grossed out at Centra Care, all I managed to get done was seeding the dried chilies.  At this rate, these tamales are going to take me two weeks.

Time well spent.

By the time you read this, it will be Father's Day.  Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there, and most especially to my husband Robert, my father-in-law Murray, and my Pop, Hy Morris.  This Wednesday, June 24, will be 32 years since I lost my Pop to cancer.  Father's Day has never been the same since.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Mourning Charleston - Chicken-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Some events are too awful to imagine.  Too difficult to wrap your mind around.  Too shocking to absorb. What the hell just happened in South Carolina?  

Today is a bad day as dictated by the neurons in my brain.  I feel out-of-sorts.  Aches and pain, of course, but it's a mood thing as well.  My brain is foggy, so that simple tasks cannot be completed in any sort of linear fashion.  Even as I'm typing this, I want to stop and do something else, like storing the plastic containers I bought yesterday.  I am trying to do some cooking, but having an awful time starting and staying on task.  The cooking and writing should flow seamlessly - on its better days, this is a cooking blog - but I am having the damnedest time trying to prepare the stuffed portobellos.  I've made some changes, but can't seem to record them in any sort of ordered fashion.

A Variation on Diane Mott Davidson's Portobello Mushroom Stuffed With Grilled Chicken

4 Monterey brand portobello mushrooms stuffed with spinach and artichoke
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon fresh herbs, chopped (I used tarragon and thyme)

With a fork, gently move the filling so that the gills are exposed around the edge of each mushroom cap. In a measuring cup, combine the olive oil, sherry, and herbs, and whisk together.  Let this sit for about a half hour.  Carefully spoon 2 tablespoons of the marinade on the exposed gills of each mushroom cap.  Leave this at room temperature while you prepare and marinate the chicken.  When you are ready to grill the chicken, spread out the spinach artichoke filling across the entire mushroom cap, and then pop them under the broiler for about 4 minutes.

Goldy Schulz, the main character in The Last Suppers, gets her herbaceous flavors from basil-based pesto, but I decided to try tarragon and thyme for the mushrooms, and yes, fresh from my garden.  The marinade for the chicken, on the other hand, is all about garlic, green onion, and home-grown oregano, but that's a bit later.  Tarragon and thyme both go very well with mushrooms, as does using sherry for a marinade base.  The inspiration for using the tarragon comes from my friend Vicki Feldman, who is probably going to shake her head when she reads this:

It was very late in 1975.  I was between marriages, back home with my parents, and totally at loose ends.  I had met Vicki through her husband Steve, an old friend of mine from New Paltz.  They invited me to their home in Westchester for a New Year's Eve party, and to meet an unattached young man who would be there as well.  I don't remember his name, or the city he hailed from in Massachusetts, but I do remember that Vicki had prepared delicious stuffed mushrooms for the party and what made them exceptional was her addition of tarragon.  That's when I learned that tarragon goes really well with mushrooms.  Thanks, Vicki!

2 large chicken breast halves, cut in half horizontally, and then cut in half across
kosher salt
ground black pepper
1/4 cup garlic flavored extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 green onions, white and light green parts sliced thinly
1/2 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes
4 slices Swiss cheese

Place the chicken in a baking dish.  Season evenly with the salt and pepper. Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, green onion and oregano, and whisk together.  Pour this marinade over the chicken and let sit at room temperature for an hour.  Grill the chicken for 1 to 2 minutes (I used my Cuisinart Griddler) and return to the baking dish with the marinade. Divide the sun-dried tomatoes evenly and sprinkle across each mushroom cap.  Place 2 pieces of the chicken on each mushroom cap, and then evenly divide the remaining marinade components and liquid.  Place in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and place a slice of cheese over each. Return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and everything is heated through.  Serve immediately.

That's just gorgeous.  Gorgeous and impressive.  And I have it on good authority that they were delicious.

Speaking of impressive, I'm going to be making tamales, specifically Red Pork Chili Tamales, another recipe from Tamales 101 by Alice Guadalupe Tapp.  Once I made that decision, I kinda went nuts with other dishes to go with the tamales.  The tamales are a lengthy project that will stretch out over days - good thing, because the avocados and the yellow plantains are nowhere near ripe enough.

Yes that's lard.  It has a place in the masa.  The pigeon peas are for arroz con gandules (rice with peas).  The refried beans are for my refried beans with everything recipe .

The yellow plantains will be turned into maduros, and the avocados into a rich dip that can also be used as a sauce, both in the fullness of time. I am recklessly mixing the menu with Mexican, Puerto Rican, South American and Tex-Mex recipes and having a grand time.

To wrap today up - it has been unbelievably difficult to watch the news reports of the victim's families' statements to the murderer, during his bond hearing.  My heart is broken for them and for the city of Charleston.

God give them strength.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mystery Mushrooms - Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Grilled Chicken

For pure TV viewing entertainment, you cannot beat science fiction.  Series like Babylon 5, Farscape, Battlestar Galactica, Stargate SG-1, Firefly, Doctor Who, Torchwood, Quantum Leap, Andromeda, and Star Trek in all of its incarnations have been faithfully followed since I was young, starting the Star Trek in 1966. (Although Doctor Who premiered in 1962, I did not become a Whovian until 2005.  My loss, yes, I know.)

When it comes to reading, my preference is for mystery novels - old-fashioned murder mysteries, police procedurals, cozies, detective, legal/medical - there are many more.  Even before I got hooked on Star Trek I had started working my way through novels written by Ellery Queen and Rex Stout. Not a Nancy Drew person;  my interest in girl's mystery novels was from the Judy Bolton series, a few volumes which were in our house.  I wish I had those books now; they had been printed during the War (the Big One, World War II) according to wartime restriction on the use of paper.  I have no doubt that they belonged to my mother Joyce.  Both Joycie and I were raised by someone who loved to read murder mysteries. Those four Ellery Queen and two Rex Stout novels belonged to my grandmother; she left them out on a shelf, and I read them, and re-read them and re-read them.  Even now, there is a paperback volume of Ellery Queen's Calamity Town on my night table, as well as one on my Kindle app, and at least twenty of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries on Kindle.

Having said all that, when it comes to re-reading favorite novels, top awards also go to Robert Heinlein. He is the exception to my rule about reading mysteries for entertainment and relaxation.

I would have to say that my favorite modern mystery writer is Patricia Cornwell for her Scarpetta series, but I love so many others, and it's hard to put them in any kind of order.  Let me throw out one series - the culinary mysteries of Diane Mott Davidson (ah ha, finally getting to the reason for the last three paragraphs). Her main character is a caterer, and the author includes a substantial number of recipes in each novel. I've cooked several of those recipes and they are good, really good.  One of my favorites is her Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed With Grilled Chicken, Pesto, and Sun Dried Tomatoes from her book The Last Suppers.  

So after all my talk about toxic mushrooms, I thought it would be nice to clear my emotional palate and make a really delicious dish with portobellos.  There are many ways to stuff a portobello, but as I've said, I really like Diane Mott Davidson's version.

Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed With Grilled Chicken, Pesto, and Sun Dried Tomatoes

4 large portobello mushrooms

Marinade for Mushrooms:
5 tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons dry sherry

Marinade for chicken:
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, pressed

4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves each cut in half
¼ cup pesto
2 tablespoons finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes, drained and patted with paper towels if packed in olive oil

Carefully clean the mushrooms with damp paper towel and trim. Remove and chop the stems. Place the mushroom caps, tops down, and the chopped stems in a 9 by 13-inch glass-baking dish. Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon sherry over the underside of each mushroom cap, pour the remaining olive oil and sherry over the stems. Cover and set aside to marinate at room temperature for 1 hour.

Mix together the marinade for the chicken and pour over the chicken slices. Cover and set aside to marinate at room temperature for 1 hour.

Preheat a grill. Grill the chicken quickly, about 1 to 2 minutes per side (they will be cooked further). Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Carefully spread 1 tablespoon pesto over the underside of each mushroom cap. Sprinkle 1 ½ teaspoons sun-dried tomatoes on top of each pesto-covered mushroom. Evenly distribute the marinated mushroom stems on top of the tomatoes.

Place 2 slices of chicken on top. Place the stuffed mushrooms in a greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through. Serve immediately.  Makes 4 servings.

Pretty easy and you can prepare most of it in advance.  And it's really, really good.  How could it not be, with that combination of tastes?

I knew with happy certainty that when I went out on my food shopping expedition today - too many stops and too many items, as it turned out - I was going to pick up the chicken and the portobellos.  Except it was one of those days when Walmart in Kissimmee was missing all the stuff I needed for the tamales, and while they had the portobello mushrooms, the available mushrooms were subject to an interesting twist.

Hum. Spinach and artichoke stuffed mushrooms.

Well, that was a new one for me.  But with the thought "what could be bad?" I purchased these.  I'll adapt them to work with the recipe and I bet they'll be awesome.

Tomorrow.  Tomorrow they'll be awesome.  Today is almost done, and I wore myself out stopping at two different Walmarts, a Wawa, a Race Trac, my therapist's office, and my favorite Spanish market. I'm exhausted; the good news is I do not have to go out tomorrow, and so for the first time in a week, I'm going to do some cooking.

Some very serious, time-consuming cooking.  I am going to make the filling and/or the sauce for the tamales.  This is likely to turn into a three-day project, like the lasagna rolls. And of course, the portobello mushrooms.

Good things from the garden: part of yesterday's pictures.  Let me show off my first tomato.  I'm very excited about it.  Not quite enough to make sauce, or even a small salad, but we're getting there.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Haven't Got Time For The Pain

Surely someone will find this amusing.

This morning I came across an online article that immediately set my hair on fire, followed by this thought: Boycott all Coke products; encourage others to do the same.  So I am asking everyone to stop buying Coke, until the parent company puts the hammer down on the CEO of Coke Palestine and rescinds its Palestinian franchise.

My request is probably going to be as effective as asking people not to shop at Hobby Lobby.

Believe it or not, another day with the electrician working downstairs.  Since it is supposed to be a short visit, I am locked in with the kids, hoping they don't notice that they are locked in with me.  I want my kitchen back, and I want my coffee.  I want my furry kids to have their normal free run of the downstairs.

I have to face the unpleasant reality of making an appointment for the upper GI series, and another appointment to give more blood.  That's two different labs, because life isn't complicated enough.  I should also go to my primary doctor's office to deal with what is certainly a UTI, and to investigate what is either psoriasis or shingles, and is causing me pain.  I haven't got time for the pain. (My Carly Simon ear worm just woke up).

Speaking of pain - the NBA Finals are over.  The Golden State Warriors, led by the awesome Stephen Curry, closed out the series, 4-2 over the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Sorry Lebron, we were rooting for you, and you played magnificently, but your team was down two important players.  This was an amazing series, including the semi-finals and the elimination rounds before that.  Now, we (that's the Orlando Magic "we") have a new coach and well-seasoned talent.  The NBA Draft takes place in another week or so, and we get the fifth pick (I think). Put it all together and we can make it to the 2016 finals.

Whoo hoo, the electrician is done.  Finished, packed up and out of here.  The kids have been freed from purdah, and all is well in the world.  Well, no it's really not.  Out there in the real world, a city in Wisconsin banned the use of kangaroos as service animals, red tuna crabs have washed up on the San Diego beaches, Donald Trump is running for President, the two escaped murderers are still missing and the trail has gone cold (literally, as I am certain they slipped into Canada), then there's all that ISIS stuff in the Middle East, and the Chinese are hacking our Federal government's computer networks.

Aphids, damn it

Over here, near Disney World, which is neither real nor a world, the heat and humidity are unbearable, the aphids are devouring my hibiscus, and damn it, I hurt really bad.  Bad enough that I have confined myself to the corner of my couch so I could stare off into space and feel sorry for myself.  I tried to eat, I really did.  Except for the spoonful of chopped liver, all was for naught. During breaks in my little pity-party, I got some more work done in the garden.  That was fun, and worth the price in pain and perspiration.

One thing I have not planted, but which insists on growing in my garden, are mushrooms.  This is under the same hibiscus as the last two mushrooms which were, despite the superficial resemblance to portobellos, completely poisonous.  This one in the photo has the adorable nickname "death cap", and if I have identified it correctly, the most poisonous mushroom in existence.  I love mushrooms, but not enough to risk my liver or my life.  Cultivated mushrooms will do just fine, thank you.

Seriously not something you want to sauté in butter and serve alongside a grilled steak.  Using my hand rake I pulled it and set it aside to die.  Better it than me or my family.  I'm not adventurous that way; I wouldn't try fugu (pufferfish) even if it was prepared by Masaharu Morimoto.

I have some nice pictures of what is turning into my bounteous harvest.  Perhaps "bounteous" is too aspirational, a slight exaggeration even, but this garden is one thing that has kept me going during some really low times.  I'm treating this first season as a learning experience, but in the meantime, there are real herbs and vegetables growing right outside my windows and that makes me smile.

I'm finally at the point of needing to cook, and I have a couple of options.  One that keeps poking me is for tamales, specifically family chicken tamales, a recipe from the book Tamales 101 by Alice Guadalupe Tapp.  There are gorgeous lamb chops in my freezer.  I've also been somewhat focussed on sausage and peppers, especially since I've got a couple of pounds of the good stuff parked right next to the lamb chops.  One thing I won't be making is gumbo:

The okra plant is growing, but has not yet produced any flowers.  No okra pods, no gumbo.

That, my friends, is a carrot.

And that is a green onion.  Or a weed.  I'm pretty sure it's an onion.

She makes me smile all the time.

Mostly broccoli sprouts with one or two carrots.  Personally, I would not combine these two vegetables in a recipe, but apparently Mother Nature has her own ideas on the subject.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

By The Bye - Baby, Buy, Buy, Buy

Awesome ear worm time!

I'm doin' this tonight,
You're probably gonna start a fight.
I know this can't be right.
Hey baby come on, 
I loved you endlessly,
When you weren't there for me.
So now it's time to leave and make it alone
I know that I can't take no more 
It ain't no lie
I wanna see you out that door
Baby, bye, bye, bye...

It occurred to me that yesterday's "to buy or not to buy" Hobby Lobby mini-rant might have caused some readers to question my political positions.  Here's the thing - I have chosen not to politicize all of my buying power.  My political positions are all over the place, and if I relied on them to determine where I should shop, I would have to lock myself in the house and order everything online. If I felt really strongly about the policies of a particular business, I might consider not shopping there.  Or I might  seek another way of expressing my disapproval. Or, more likely I would openly announce and support my position on a particular issue.  Or I might say nothing either way about a particular issue out of concern that I might inadvertently hurt someone's feelings.  I have friends and family at both ends of the political spectrum.  My own political belief system has evolved over time.  No matter what position I support, I am going to shock, surprise, hurt or possibly insult someone close to me, and I really do not want to do that.

Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida, has officially entered the race for President.  No surprise there. Also no surprise that this morning's news feed on Facebook ran an article that Jeb's son was arrested for drunk driving, and the "left" left comments as expected. There's a small problem - the article, like the arrest, is 10 years old.  Come on, Democrats, you can do better than that!  Marco Rubio got four traffic tickets in 17 years?  I think that was from the New York Times ("All The News That Fits, We Print"), but then there are also the fake articles that seem so real, you might feel compelled to check them on  Best one this week was the headline regarding New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's statement that "Women's Viagra Pill Will Only Increase Lesbianism."  Unfortunately, Christie is enough of a goofball that this was almost believable.

Of course, the Republicans are just as bad, maybe worse.  They've got one target, and they are hitting her with both barrels. (Oh, Bernie Sanders? I can't take seriously someone who calls himself a socialist.)  Listen, both Hillary and Jeb have records - real records, real history - that are legitimately subject to public scrutiny.   It would behoove the media to stick to the real stuff.  On both sides, there is enough material there that they do not have to sink to the level of the supermarket scandal sheets.

Oh, ha ha HA - while I'm typing this on the iPad, I get a news pop-up announcing that Donald Trump has jumped into the 2016 presidential race.  Now things are getting interesting.  My niece Rachel said it best on Facebook: "soooo, Trump is running for presidency.  Interesting. 'plays circus music.'"

The electrician is back today, so Anakin and the pups are locked up in my room again, and they are VERY unhappy.  A lot of complaining.  How can such a small dog have such a loud bark?  I am unhappy as well; I really dislike having strangers in the house, disrupting my routine and restricting access to the kitchen. My kitchen, my domain. Cue growling noises. Yes, I am irritated, but it cannot be helped.  He is very careful and cleans up after himself, but he is not done, although I am becoming undone.

I also had a Very Bad Night, with some interesting symptoms which don't seem to have anything to do with CPS or fibromyalgia.  I could not relax or get comfortable; it was 4 AM before I was finally able to get the pain sufficiently under control to allow me to fall asleep.  I was still able to wake up at a reasonable hour, and I spent a good amount of time working in and around the garden.  I wore a wide-brimmed straw hat and got my hands good and dirty.

I think I made some excellent progress, just stopping short of finishing the herb garden and planting the squash plants. The vegetable bed has been hand-raked so that the top soil is level and all the roots are covered.  I could not help but notice seedlings popping up in unexpected places.  The storms of last week redistributed the seeds, and all I can do is wait and see which ones survive. My back put up with a lot and finally shot me with a blast of pain.  I am on the couch, and if we did not have important errands to run, I would close my eyes and nap until the NBA Finals tip-off.

One of the weirdest things to come out of the storms was the repositioning of a number of broccoli seedlings:

Yes, that is the base of the chimney.  I am growing broccoli on my 90 year old brick chimney, and herbs on my porch railings.

Still not doing any cooking, although I've got a few ideas.  There is a ridiculous amount of cooked food in the fridge, so I'm going to go with the flow and take a break.  Besides, no matter how good a cook I am, nothing beats leftover Chinese.  Nothing.  Admit it, you agree.  

I'm going to end this with some family pictures that were posted by my Junior Cuz Stephanie, following the family gathering at my in-law's home.  

The first picture is with Katelyn while the second one is with Kate's big brother Jacob.  We did not realize, when Stephanie asked to take the picture with Kate, that I was sitting in exactly the same spot. These kids are beyond precious and adorable, and I am honored that Steph asked to take the pictures.

Family matters.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

In The Meantime

I am always astounded and astonished at just how quickly my mood can flip.  This morning, I woke feeling fairly fine, but soon thereafter fell into a funk.  This is exactly what the new medication is supposed to prevent, but clearly it is not working yet.

The electricians were in the house doing major work mostly in the kitchen.  My kitchen.  This made me crabby.  I had a prescription to pick up at CVS, which got me out of the house, having failed to accomplish certain things I needed to get done.  So I had a panic attack, but before that, I had to get all of my furry children upstairs and behind closed doors because the electricians were walking in and out of the house, leaving outside doors open.  The pets were not happy, and expressed themselves vociferously.  I would have gritted my teeth if I had any teeth to grit. I escaped to my car, which was hotter than the interior of a Caja China.  That actually felt good on my back, at least for the first few minutes.

Instead of heading straight to CVS, I stopped first at Hobby Lobby.  Yes, Hobby Lobby.  I love Hobby Lobby.  I don't care that they don't carry Hanukkah doodads, or that they close on Sunday so that their employees can observe a religious day of rest, and the Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby is irrelevant to where I buy my sock yarn.

I wandered around for about 45 minutes, petting yarn and admiring the colors.  I checked the displays of needles and hooks and all the other gizmos us knitters utilize.  I looked at their selection of pattern books.

Dazzling, absolutely dazzling. Calmed me down, and cheered me up.

No, I made no purchases - let's face it, even after giving away a great deal of yarn last year, when we moved out of the Orlando house, I've got enough yarn and needles and knitting supplies to open my own store.  I still felt better about the day in general. I did okay at CVS.  I love our CVS.  I love the pharmacy department and the chocolate selection.  And then ...

And then ... I tried to eat.  Epic fail.  Not the big, sloppy cheeseburger with grilled onions I was craving from Five Guys.  I went to Wawa instead and got a chicken salad bowl.  I thought it would be easier to eat than the cheeseburger.  Those first two bites were delicious.

And that's all she wrote.

Not really.  I made it home, lost the two bites, freed the puppies, and took a peek at my newest acquisition, a cookbook with the wonderful title Carnivore by Michael Symon, just before Rob and I went to pick up Chinese food.  Finally, something that stayed down, and that meant my mood went up.  Until it crash lands yet again.  

Speaking of crash landing, my garden needs work. The sweet and jalapeño peppers are hanging on for dear life.  One of my front lawn hibiscus are being eaten up by aphids.  The mint is gone, damn it. I've got to fill and set up the remaining porch rail boxes to plant the cilantro and - this was a very nice surprise - squash plants given to me by my neighbor, offshoots from his own plants.  He also has an urban front yard garden, and he's even closer to the courthouse. Urban gardens are cool.