Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Cindy's Very Bad, Terrible, Awful Day

WTF is wrong with me? Oh yes, that's right, I have fibromyalgia but I was feeling good, and I really tried to avoid over-activity, and I still ended up hurting like I'd been beaten with a baseball bat by someone big and powerful and angry. You know, like the Hulk.

The pain crept back yesterday after several glorious days, so I took the muscle relaxer and half a dozen Advil and I stayed on the couch with my feet up, thinking happy thoughts. When I had to walk, I did so lightly, conscious of the admonitions of my Tai Chi instructor. But just bending down to check for something on a lower shelf in my pantry caused my evil headache and backache to rise to the surface, and a sharp pain it was. Damn, it's bad.

Wednesday is a really big day on my schedule, and I have to plan carefully how I expend my energy.  For someone who thrived on being a hyperactive multitasker for at least 35 years, this is a bitter pill to swallow. But Wednesday is the day I see my therapist, and missing that is not an option, unless I am on a cruise and mentally planned for my absence several months before.  Wednesday is also the day after Tuesday, the evening of which I go to Tai Chi class. Both of these involve getting in the car and driving a distance, and I'm sure you can see how I have to be careful throwing around spoons. So Wednesday morning is not a block of time for which I plan anything more strenuous than getting out of bed and getting dressed because I need to leave by 2 PM and I have to be alert to drive on the Thruway. Not anywhere as exciting as starting a TPR trial with 10 or 20 witnesses. I miss the TPR trials, I really do, especially when my friend Chris was there on behalf of the Guardian ad Litem Program.

Wednesday is also the day I do any shopping I might have in the Dr. Phillips/Windermere/Bay Hill area, so I don't park too far from the therapist's office and I use my cane, thus saving my spoons for Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Trader Joe's, Einstein's Bagels or Toojay's.  

Good plan, eh? Well, fuhgeddaboutit! Wednesday morning was extraordinarily horrible,  The cold which has been lurking in my system exploded with full force and effect. My muscles, my joints, my eyes, and my head causing me pain, both sharp and dull all at the same time.  A combo platter. I wept in my room, and all the way downstairs. I took Baclofen and Advil in addition to my regular morning medication. Despite the muscle aches, I don't think this is the flu - I don't get the flu - but rather, this is what happens when someone with fibromyalgia gets what is otherwise a mild cold.  Unless this is the flu - hell, I'm a lawyer, not a doctor - but either way, this is one of the worst days I've ever had.  Back to bed, and I pray I'll be well enough to make it to the therapist. My plans for a nice hot shower, an early trip to Publix, and all the rest, are on hold.        

Did anyone notice that Bernie Sanders is playing footsie with the "Reverend" Al Sharpton? Think about that.

I pushed myself to do more than I should have and I feel very bad. I am so glad to have made it home; there were times I wasn't sure I would make it. My reflexes are absolutely squirrelly and I've had to fight repeated bouts of narcolepsy.  I sincerely hope your day was better than mine.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Throwing Cold Water On "The Bern" - Young Women, Wake Up And Smell The Damn Coffee

Checking my blog stats today, it appears that Vladimir Putin has lost interest in me, but I'm still a minor sensation in Ireland. Very minor. In fact, Poland has slipped past it, which is a little weird, but not as weird as the appearance of the United Arab Emirates. One brave soul in the UAE peeking in on how to make kasha varnishes and real Jewish potato latkes. That tickles me, it really does.

While my mind is still in happy mode, my body is finally feeling the effects of my being up and about, walking a little more than usual. First, I have what is still a mild cold, which popped up yesterday, about the same time I passed out on the couch for an unscheduled nap.  Second, my back is hurting to the degree that I took the muscle relaxer at lunch time.  

I really have been trying to conserve my spoons. There was no cooking yesterday, nor do I have plans for today more elaborate than using the microwave to reheat my coffee. What I did do today was stand on my feet for too long while I finally got to the task of making up cookie trays for the office. Now I just have to gather enough spoons to drive over there (4 minutes, really) to deliver the sweets and enjoy a little visit.

I have been immersed in politics - how can anyone avoid it? - and of course today is the New Hampshire primary, which HRC is expected to lose. There's been a whole hoo-hah going on regarding the way former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Gloria Steinham addressed the younger generation of women who are supporting Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton. Since I am part of the generation that spent time hammering with our fists on the glass ceiling - I agree with both of those ladies, although they might have expressed themselves a bit inartfully. So let me address today's young women: at another time, I might be gratified that you are supporting Bernie Sanders despite the fact that he is Jewish. There has never been a Jewish president, nor vice-president, so that if Bernie was to actually win the General Election - not likely - it would be historic and deeply meaningful, at least to me.

But before that, I want you to think about the fact that the United States has NEVER had a female president or vice-president, putting us way behind countries like Israel, India, Germany, the Philippines, and the U.K. That we are still lagging behind in this regard infuriates me. For as hard as we women fought in the sixties and seventies, and for all the achievements we made - finally seeing a woman appointed to the Supreme Court, finally seeing a woman (the aforementioned Ms. Albright) appointed as the all-important Secretary of State - we cannot get passed the glass ceiling to the ultimate goal. The one woman who is in the best position to make this happen is Hillary Clinton.

I am not going to pretend that I was not bitter when Barack Obama swooped in and won the Democratic nomination in 2008. It occurred to me then and since that even in this essentially racist nation, the voters would rather see a black man than a woman as President. I have said this many times since then, but I still believe that women are the last disenfranchised minority in the United States.

Young women, did any of you take offense when Carly Fiorina was excluded from the recent Republican debate by the ABC network? Regardless of her being Republican, you should have; you should have been FURIOUS.

Think about all of this before you go into the voting booth.

Damn, that Baclofen really worked; I am able to sit or stand without tears coming to my eyes.

I am about to exchange one soapbox for another: Beyonce's disgraceful performance at the Super Bowl halftime.  Honoring the Black Panthers - wrong time and place. Record whatever you wish, make your video, offer everything to the public for sale so that people have a choice as to whether they want to subject themselves to that content - but don't force all those millions of football fans, looking forward to the halftime show, to watch your offensive political statement. That's not the way MLK rolled, and neither should you.                

(I'm not into public body-shaming, but Beyoncé, damn, girl, your booty is just too fat for that costume, and what's with the thunder thighs on your dancers?)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sometimes, Sunday, a good day

This weather is driving me cray cray! Did I imagine it, or was Siri snickering at me when she gave me today's temperature? Two days ago it was in the eighties and I had to run the AC in the car. Today it is 46 degrees at noon and I feel chilled to the bone.  I don't own a winter coat, but if I did, I would wrap myself in it and go back to sleep.

Despite the cray cray weather, this has been a good day and getting better. Pain has been minimal. Energy level is good. Another day-after-Tai-Chai when I can feel some lasting benefit. The house is warm. I've been playing with my new iPad and it makes me happy. The Magic won in a last-minute nail-biter. And we have a dinner appointment with our very good friends Kathy and Alan at Morimoto's Asia.

Dinner was wonderful, and seeing old friends was the best. Kathy and I met at New Paltz when I was seventeen.  You do the math. We were college roommates; we were in each other's wedding parties. Our husbands became fast friends; I (and later Robert, and even later, with Cory) spent every Christmas Eve with them from the year they got married (1972) until the year we moved to Florida (1991). Their children, all grown up now with kids of their own, still call us aunt and uncle, and that's what Cory calls them. I could go on, but you get the idea: old friends are the best friends.

I had that fibromyalgic rarity, a really good day. I'm going to enjoy this as long as I can.

Congratulations to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos for winning Super Bowl 50. Time to retire, Peyton, and it's always good to go out on a high note.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Weeds Are Always Greener In My Own Backyard

My son has a warped sense of humor. Just like mine. Craving a vegetarian lunch, I took the cauliflower out of the fridge and saw that he had certainly understood the reference. This is a proud parenting moment for me, indeed. Harvey Korman is smiling down on us from Heaven.

Speaking of cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables, I found the nicest surprise in (what's left of) my garden, when I'd gone out to harvest some collards and mustard greens.

It's been a rough season for my garden.  I neglected it scandalously while my health was deteriorating this past autumn, and the cold weather delivered the coup de grace. Some plants enjoyed winter nipping at their nose - cruciferous vegetables love a touch of frost - but everything else basically gave up the ghost.  I've learned not to plant okra, eggplant and tomato that late in the season, no matter if Lowe's and Home Depot are carrying them in their garden nursery.

Kumquat tree 

My garden did the best it could, under the circumstances, and besides a fairly decent amount of collard, mustard, and turnip greens, I found the beginnings of BROCCOLI!!  CAULIFLOWER!! and even a head of CABBAGE!!    Okay, it did freak me out just a bit that my cabbage bears an uncanny resemblance to Audrey II from "Little Shop of Horrors" but as far as I know, the cabbage hasn't started crying "feed me" in Levi Stubbs' voice. It's just a cabbage, after all, not a "mean green mother from outer space." At least that's what I hope.



Audrey II?

Even the kohlrabi is giving it the old college try, and while the Brussels Sprouts haven't yet appeared, I an confident that they too will make a Grand Entrance. Of course around here, "farm to table" is a two minute trip out the back door.


The greens are being turned into the Andouille and Mixed Greens with Creamy Dijon Sauce from my January 16, 2016 blog post except I added more turnip, only one little one came from my garden.

Still have to prepare the creamy Dijon sauce

I did use the smallest turnips I could find in Publix, and they do add a peppery substance to the finished dish that I like very much.

Rob and I'd had to stop in the AT&T store yesterday to straighten out a few problems, and we walked out with a new iPad Pro. Isn't she beautiful? I love her already.

And all of the problems were straightened out. Great place, that AT&T store.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Slow Cooking Without A Slow Cooker - Spanish Pork Chops (Link)

This dish may have taken Rachael Ray 30 minutes to prepare, but I'm 90 minutes into it and I'm not done.

I used bone-in chops, and let them cook longer in the oven

This is not to suggest that Rachael is a bald-faced liar - on the contrary, I've made this dish before and finished it in well under an hour - but this is the first time I've tried to make it since fibromyalgia moved into my very immediate neighborhood, and besides moving more slowly, I'm having to stop periodically to catch my breah, recharge my engines, or just feel sorry for myself. Besides demoralizing me, this is upsetting Anakin because I am seated on "his" stepstool.   However, if I scoot over and give him half, he's quite happy - so much so that when I got up to chop more vegetables, he stayed in his spot and left half of the seat for me.

The weather is kind of sucky today, and I slept much later than I had intended to.  If not for the fact that I really had to cook these pork chops while they are still fresh, I would still be in bed. I've got to gather my spoons before it is time to head over to my Tai Chi class. I seriously need to go to class, as it has been a whole week, and I am finding it hard to sink and relax.

Preparing the vegetable for the stuffing

It took the entire afternoon, but I finished it, at great cost to me in spoons and good cheer. I'd previously written up a neat list of telephone tasks to take care of today, but preparing a relatively simple dinner for four took everything out of me, and none of those other tasks got touched. I keep getting worse, and I am sincerely frightened.

Cooking the longaniza with the vegetables

I had to take a nap, albeit a short one, curled up in my favorite corner of the couch, so that I could drive to St. Cloud for Tai Chi. Driving was terrifying between the rain, the dark, and my fuzzy vision, but I made it, and I'm glad I did.      
Combining the longaniza and vegetables with the crumbled corn muffins

If I had one piece of advice to pass on to you today, it would be "don't try to play chess at 1:00 in the morning." Especially with a computer, which by it's very nature of being silicon-based, never gets tired. Yesterday I was thinking I was finally beginning to understand the game, but by today (it's 2:00 AM on Friday as I'm writing this) I was back to making stupid mistakes. Overtired and just a little bit of fibro fog when I couldn't recall that the Horse is called the Knight, and found myself moving pieces to protect the Bishop, which I had mistaken for the King. Ha! Let's try this tomorrow ...

Side view of finished dish

The recipe link is on Rachael Ray's website as Spanish Pork Chops with Linguica Corn Stuffing and Cherry-Rioja Gravy. You can also find it on the Food Network site.  There are a number of Rachael Ray recipes I like, but this is a favorite. Yes, I did make some changes (no, really?) I used an entire 12 oz. jar of Smucker's Orchard's Finest Tart Cherry Preserves, but I tasted and carefully balanced the sweetness with salt and more red wine. For the beef stock, I poured a 10 oz. can of Campbell's beef broth in a 2-cup glass measuring cup and added enough water to make 2 cups. I used Longaniza Puertorriquena, which I was hoping to be a linguica-type sausage, and it was, and it was delicious. And I used the open Cabernet Sauvignon for the red wine.  It has turned out to be an absolutely perfectly delicious wine for cooking, and I presume for drinking as well (I don't drink red wine).

Top-down view of finished dish

And now that it is officially Friday morning, I am drinking coffee and congratulating myself on completing at least one task from that neat little list. I paid my fine to the Commission on Ethics. One more thing done with, not just now but forever. It is no longer the Commission's business as to what assets I own and what debts I carry. Kiss mah grits.

Next goal is to prepare a fax to the firm handling my Social Security disability matter. If I can get that done, I'll declare the day a success. The Tai Chi sufficiently relaxed me so that waking up and getting out of bed was not as traumatic as usual, and my memory was working to the extent that I could practice the 21 moves of Preparation Form, Beginning Form, and Ward Off Left. Sort of. I still think I'm screwing up some of the moves in Preparation. Close enough for government work - ha, that's funny. Almost.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

I Write The Songs That Make The Young Girls Cry ... - Count DeMoney Cauliflower

... and the old ones too. Last night I did something I've been promising to do for 40 years. Last night I went to a Barry Manilow concert, part of his "One Last Time" tour. He's not retiring, but this is his last big concert tour. It was Robert's idea for all of us to go - Cory and I are both big Manilow fans, although I'm a bigger fan, because I've had much more time to work at it.

I love music, all types from Gregorian chants to Lady Gaga, Donna Summers to Deadmaus, Classical to Coolio. Rock is my middle boomer generation's contribution, but early boomers gave us Elvis while later boomers brought us into the Age of Disco, and in my opinion, Disco Never Dies. My taste in music is totally eclectic.

Oy, I could go on and on about music till the proverbial cows come home, but the simple truth is if I was on my deathbed and could only have one bite of food, it would be chocolate, and if I could only listen to one performer's music while eating my chocolate, it would be Barry Manilow. Because his music has brought me great joy for 40 years and let's face it, he's from Brooklyn. As I told Robert, the concert was one of the best experiences of my life. I laughed, I cried, I clapped loud and long, and I sang along with everything except "Brooklyn Blues" which I had never heard before. Fancy that.

I was too wrapped up in the whole experience to take decent pictures, but both Cory and Rob got a whole bunch of great ones.

I took it relatively easy yesterday, preparing the barbecue potato salad but holding back on the cauliflower, so that I had plenty of spoons for my evening out. I also knit quite a bit more of the sock, and I can see another pair of half-started socks at the end of the tunnel.

I've also been practicing my chess game using a rather nice app. I set my ability at "novice", but I still stink. Last time I tried to learn chess was when Bobby Fischer was the rage - my brother Elliot and I picked up an inexpensive travel board and played for a while, but lost interest and any knowledge of chess we might have gained.  It's just one of the things I do to exercise my faltering brain. Like Words with Friends. By the way, if anyone would like play Word, you can reach me by searching for "brkexpat" or going through my Facebook page. I'm a fairly decent player, but I do lose graciously on occasion.

Now, the cauliflower.  It took me a while, but I pulled it together.

Count de Money Cauliflower

3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
granulated garlic
granulated onion
dried herbes de Provence
crushed red pepper flakes
1 large head of cauliflower, divided into large pieces (use a sharp knife to cut the stem of each "flower" close to where it attaches to the central stem. This recipe only uses the "flowers", but the stem is perfect for spiralizing for use in some other recipe.)

For the DeMoney (Mornay) sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups warm milk
pinch of nutmeg
1 - 5 oz. pouch of Sargento Artisan shredded Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle the olive oil into the bottom of an aluminum baking pan, then sprinkle on the seasonings, to taste. The total amount of seasonings should be around a tablespoon.

Rinse each piece of cauliflower under water and place it, along with any water clinging to it, into the prepared pan. With your fingers, sprinkle a little bit more water over the top. Cover tightly with aluminum foil (I used 2 pieces). Set the pan on a baking sheet, and place in the oven for 30 minutes. 

Remove the pan from the oven and carefully turn each piece of cauliflower so that the other side or the top are facing down against the seasonings. Cover and place back in the oven for another 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and check the stems for doneness. Carefully move the cauliflower to a clean baking pan and set aside while you prepare the DeMoney sauce (yes, it is a Mel Brooks' joke. I got it from Hedley Lamarr.) Do not discard the pan with the spices.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour, whisking till smooth.  Add about a teaspoon of the spices from the bottom of the pan, whisk, and add about a third of the warm milk. Over medium heat, bring to a boil (whisk throughout) and add another teaspoon of the spices and another third of the milk. The sauce is only going to be slightly thickened - we have made what is called a thin white sauce - but it works perfectly. Add the remainder of the milk and a good pinch of ground nutmeg. Whisk until the sauce begins to bubble and thicken slightly, then taste it. Add a bit more of the remaining seasoning if needed (I added about a half teaspoon), whisk until smooth and remove from the heat.

Add most of the Swiss cheese to the sauce, leaving just enough to sprinkle over the top. Let the cheese melt and stir till smooth.  Spoon the sauce over each piece of cauliflower. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Return the pan to the oven just long enough to melt the cheese. Serve one or two of the cheese sauce covered "flowers" to each person. Serves 6-8.

This is one of my recipes, developed to avoid boiling or steaming the cauliflower on top of the stove (it gets waterlogged). Roasted cauliflower is good, but not with a Mornay sauce, so I oven-steamed it instead, and it works perfectly. I also oven-steam tamales, but that's another blog post.

If you want to get fancy, use the entire bag of Swiss cheese in the sauce, and sprinkle the top with another kind of cheese, like parmesan, sharp cheddar, or even pepper jack.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

An Early Spring - Barbecue Potato Salad

Punxatawny Phil failed to see his shadow this morning.

"A groundhog and his shadow are a very famous pair
They forecast the weather together a trick that is rare
The one little thing that bothers me when out of doors I go
Now does my shadow mean springtime or 16 feet of snow
Never know which I just can't remember
Will it be warm or make like December
The whole thing just confuses me and that is why I sing
A groundhog's shadow just doesn't mean a thing"

Does anyone else have this song in their head? I always do on February 2, every year. It's from a Warners Brother cartoon I watched, over and over and over again, as a really young kid. I've tried to find it on Youtube - no luck - but did finally find it at another video site. Unfortunately, it doesn't work with Blogger (the platform we're on) so the best I can do is give you this link.

Grover Groundhog sings in "One Meat Brawl", 1947

Even when my memory was good, I could never remember, year to year, the meteorological meaning of the groundhog's shadow. But thanks to the Internet, I can check the news report without having to get out of bed, and the official word from Punxatawny, Pennsylvania is that there will be an early spring. For us folks in Florida, a groundhog's shadow really doesn't mean a thing - we always have an early spring. Yesterday's temperature was in the eighties.  For our northern family and friends, this is very good news indeed.  So happy Groundhog's Day - and if you hear Sonny and Cher singing "I Got You Babe", run for it.    

I intend on having an awesome day today, because I want to be well-rested and ready to enjoy Barry Manilow at Amway Center tonight. That involves staying off my feet and thinking happy thoughts. So I'm not going to watch the news or engage in political discussions (Ted Cruz, really?) and my fibro prevents me from doing the happy dance for Hillary (go ahead and shoot me - I really like her).

What I want to do is make potato salad, and I want something different. My favorite potato salad is a super-easy recipe that my cousin Sheryl gave me many years ago, and I'm thinking I will use that as my basis while bringing in some other flavors. We'll see. I can only handle cooking one recipe a day because the fibromyalgia just took another giant leap forward in screwing up my life. The pain is a constant, varying only in location, although it seems to me my back is always part of the equation.  But what has really worsened exponentially is the fatigue.  I never knew I could feel so unbearably tired from doing almost nothing.

I worked it out in my head, and this is what I came up with. I happened to have homemade pulled pork in the freezer, but there are ways other than smoking and pulling a whole pork shoulder to acquire the required 4 ounces - your favorite barbecue joint, or Publix deli counter come to mind. If you don't eat pork, use a smoked or barbecued chicken.

Barbecue Potato Salad

1-28 oz. bag of honey gold potatoes (or other 2-bite size new potatoes), quartered
2 shallots, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup mayonnaise (Hellmann's)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup barbecue sauce (Sweet Baby Ray's)
4 oz. pulled pork, cut or shredded if pieces are large
kosher salt
black pepper
cayenne pepper

Put the potatoes in a medium pot, and add enough water to just cover them; add a good tablespoon of kosher salt. Bring the water to boil over medium-high heat (that's 7.5 to you digital types) and then lower the heat to medium (5.0-6.0) so that the potatoes simmer for 8 minutes. Drain the cooked potatoes into a metal colander, then sit the colander over the empty pot (off the heat) for15 minutes to dry them out a bit.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, and turn the cooled potatoes out onto the sheet in one layer; put them into the refrigerator until they are completely cooled and getting chilled.

While the potatoes are chilling, prepare the dressing: combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, barbecue sauce, salt, pepper and cayenne. In a large bowl, place the potatoes, shallot, and pork; pour the dressing over the potato mixture and combine, using a rubber spatula to fold the ingredients together.

Scoop the potato salad into a serving dish and dust with paprika and parsley, if you like. Cover the dish and chill for 2 hours before serving. Different, easy, and most importantly, really good.

Monday, February 1, 2016

I Am So Going To Blog About This - Red Wine Beef Stew for the Crock Pot

Sunday - To the Rolling Fat Man in BJ's Warehouse on Osceola Parkway today around 1:30 PM: I'm not sure who pissed in your Post Toasties this morning but that was quite a performance you put on there. The ease with which you shot up and out of the seat on the motorized shopping cart, and the gracefulness with which you propelled yourself towards my husband, threatening at the top of your lungs to beat him up; convinced me, beyond a shadow of a doubt that you were not really disabled, just FAT. Really fat, unattractive sloppy lazy fat, with those wobbling butt cheeks flopping over each side of the seat. 

What you didn't know is that I'd noticed you even before you went into that fugue state during which you channeled the souls of unrepentant psychopaths. I was trying to come up with something to write about for today's blog post, and after getting chased around by an inflated number of fat people wielding motorized carts, I'd decided to discuss my opinion of that whole phenomenon. I was trying to figure out a way to sneak a picture of you from the back so I could use it in the blog. I was fishing for my iPhone when I realized that a checkout line had an opening and I shifted direction to head that way. That is the only reason your ass isn't on public display.

And that's when you went loco in the coco, right in front of your kid. You bumped into me from the back with your fatmobile. Nothing terrible, a minor clipping on the calf. I turned around; you apologized; I acknowledged your apology and turned back to my cart. Which is when you started hollering and accusing me of cutting across your path. Which is when my husband walked over to respond to your verbal howling, and you threatened to beat him to a pulp or some such sophomoric blustering.

And then I, fearing for your physical welfare summoned up one of my reasonable voices (the one I learned from listening to hundreds of social workers over the years) and said, "oh no, you do not want to start with him." I said that, fatass, because my husband is a third degree black belt in taekwando who was awarded a world championship for sparring in 2007, and who has been studying the even more aggressive martial art of jiu jitsu for 2 years. You might have 200 - maybe closer to 225 pounds over him - but you'll never really get close enough to fall on him, before he caused you some real, painful damage. And be assured, he would not have pulled the first punch. 

You were still bellowing "do you know who I am?" when the accomplished staff at BJ's gently and professionally intervened, separating us, sending you off to wherever your wife was shopping (probably hiding behind the beef jerky) while getting us checked out and on our way. Rob and I still can't figure out what set you off on your path of shrieking revisionist history, but I don't really care at this point.  Fat-assed fathead. Yes, you.

So I'm not sure, but I can't help but think this little episode stole some of my spoons - it takes effort and energy to hold yourself back from whacking a repulsive miscreant with one's walking cane. As a result (and we also did a lot of shop-hopping today), my cooking spoons are gone. The much-anticipated Burgundy beef stew remains but a dream.

Monday - Did you know you need an ID to give your blood to a lab? But not to vote, eh? Never mind; I'm at Quest Diagnostics, ready to give blood and other bodily fluids for the testing ordered by the rheumotologist.  I have an appointment, but I'm still waiting. I don't mind a reasonable wait, and they are usually reasonable here.  Zip! I'm out of here.

Before I left the house I started the Red Wine Beef Stew and put it in the crock pot to cook. I decided to rename the recipe because I've only used burgundy wine once in the 40-plus years I've been making it, and I didn't especially care for it. Any red wine works, and I use what is in the house - everything from Cabernet Sauvignon to Russian semi-sweet. We have an extraordinary supply of Russian semi-sweet reds, courtesy of one of Robert's long-time clients, who also always brings some Russian chocolates with him. Nice man. When I've had to buy wine for this, it's almost always a Merlot. Occasionally a Pinot Noir.

The timing on this really depends on the cut of meat you are using. Today I have a 2 pound piece of beef shoulder, which ranges in toughness from long-cooking stew quality to tender London broil. You will know when you press the beef in its package. This was fairly tender, so I knew I had to cut back on time.  My rule of thumb - 4 hours of crock pot to each hour of conventional stove top cooking - would have had me leaving the meat in there for 6 hours. I knew that would be too much, and cut it back to 4 hours. Perfect. The house - and Robert's accounting office - smell delightful.

This recipe was cooked in a 6-quart crock pot.            

6 slices bacon, cut crosswise in 1 inch pieces
2 pounds of beef shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes
small amount extra virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, halved and sliced (not too thin)
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste (from tube)
kosher salt
black pepper
Emeril's Essence
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
granulated garlic
granulated onion
1 1/2 cups red wine
water to just cover the beef
2 small bay leaves

1 tablespoon reserved fat
2 tablespoons butter
3 small yellow onions, sliced into rings
8 oz. sliced white button mushrooms

In a large, deep skillet, fry the bacon until crisp; remove to paper towels and set aside.

Working in two batches, cook the beef in the hot bacon fat just until lightly browned.

Drizzle the olive oil in the bottom of the crock pot. Place the onions on top of the oil, and in order, add the garlic, tomato paste, salt, pepper, Essence, thyme, granulated garlic and granulated onion.

Then, using tongs to let excess fat drip off, add the browned beef.

Pour in the wine and just enough water to barely cover the beef. Add the bay leaves. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or until the beef is tender (do not overcook). Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the fat in the skillet, and set the skillet aside.

Taste the cooking liquid and adjust accordingly, using 1-2 teaspoons of Wyler's instant beef bouillon, a few shots of Worcestershire sauce, and any of the original seasonings except the salt and Essence.

Melt the butter in the reserved skillet and cook the onions and mushrooms until the vegetables are tender, 10-15 minutes over medium heat.

With a slotted spoon, add the cooked onions and mushrooms to the crock pot along with the reserved bacon, stir to combine, cover and cook on low for another 30 minutes. Check your seasoning one more time and add salt if needed. You can serve the stew immediately, or refrigerate overnight and reheat for tomorrow's dinner.

The Magic won at home over the Celtics last night, breaking an 8 game losing streak. Very happy, and pleased for my boys and especially Coach Scott Skiles. They play the San Antonio Spurs tonight, which will give them a chance to start a whole new losing streak. (I'm just being realistic. The Spurs are 39-8 while the Magic are 21-25.) I know they're not playing tomorrow, at least not at home, because me and my boys are going to Amway Arena to see Barry Manilow. BARRY MANILOW!!!

I received some very sad news via Facebook this evening, just as I was getting ready to publish the post. One of the young women I worked with (she and her family relocated out of state just before she was due to deliver her second child) suffered the worst loss of all - her third child, a little girl, passed away just two days after birth. My heart is broken for this mother, her husband and their sons. Sing with the angels, Baby Karis.

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.