Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Month of Hanukkwanzamas - Yin and Yang Cookies

Seriously dudes, is there any better way to achieve Whirled Peas than for everyone to celebrate each other's holidays? I don't mean for Jews to start attending Midnight Mass or for Christians to start lighting menorahs while chanting the blessings in Hebrew, but rather to share the human emotions of joy and happiness associated with each occasion. That's the way I've done it since starting college back in 1970. It means partying together and learning about each other's traditions and being happy for each other.. It means telling the rabid atheists to fuck off, and rather submerge yourself in potato latkes and bright, shiny tinsel. It means being happy instead of being hateful. It means respecting each other's traditions while staying close to your own religious roots and requirements. It means sharing the best of you. It means finding balance. It means universal inclusion instead of exclusion. It means resisting Balkanization and embracing this single world in all its variations.

I grew up at a time when America was considered a great melting pot of religions, ethnicities, and races. It was before pride and particularism resulted in societal guilt and the culture of chronic apology. It was a better time. Not perfect, but better.

The moral of the story is for us Chosen People to share our latkes and for our Christian brethren to invite their Jewish friends help put tinsel on your tree - 2 strands at a time. (Yes, there's a story here. Another time, perhaps.)

I forgot the cucumbers and missed a hibiscus flower. Also, the loquat tree has started to open its blossoms and I am seeing happy honey bees hard at work. The bees are crucial to the whole process and I'm so glad they are back. A few more photos from the December in Florida file:

Sneaky creeping cucumber vines

More bougainvillea

Crotons, just naturally in the holiday spirit

Trying to look innocent cucumber vines


Black Beauty Eggplant 

Okra Blossoms at 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock

I feel pretty crappy today, but I have a spectacular cookie recipe, that I developed a couple of days ago, to share. This cookie is easy - STUPIDLY easy - but it looks so fancy and tastes so fine, nobody will believe that. Now they may look like New York black-and-white cookies but they are something more. Like the concept of yin and yang, these cookies are all about contrasts and opposites and how they come together to form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.                              

You will need 2 - 1 pound packages of Nestle's refrigerated cookie dough, the kind that comes in a flat package with precut cookies. I used a chocolate chocolate chip and the white chocolate macadamia nut. This meant I cut the chocolate cookies, which came 12 extra large cookies to a pack, in half so that I had 24 pieces of cookie dough for each flavor.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Press one piece of each cookie dough into a cookie scoop so that you can clearly see each half.

Use a small spoon to scoop out any cookie dough that sticks to the inside of the scoop, 
and use those bits of dough to fill up the scoops
Place the cookie on a baking sheet lined with a silpat.  Place a total of 12 cookies on the baking sheet. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are barely set.  Let them cool on the baking sheet for 5 to 10 minutes, then move them to a wire cooling rack. You could stop right here and serve them to friends and family, but in honor of the holidays, let's get excessive together.

Now you will need 2 cans of prepared frosting, about 1 pound each can. Any national brand (Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines, Pillsbury) is fine. I picked vanilla and chocolate fudge.

Once your cookies are completely cooled, turn them over so that the flat bottom is right side up and place the racks on top of waxed paper or parchment or even foil.

Uncover the vanilla frosting and remove the foil inner cover. In the microwave, melt the frosting on time cook level 7 for 20 to 30 seconds.  Stir the frosting to distribute heat and until all the solid bits are melted. With a regular kitchen teaspoon, cover the vanilla half of each cookie with some of the vanilla frosting.  Let it set  bit, then go back with remaining frosting and cover each vanilla side a second time.  Set the cookies aside for a least 30 minutes.

Once the vanilla frosting is completely set, repeat using the chocolate frosting.  Refrigerate or freeze the cookies, single layer only.  Even so, the chocolate never hardens 100%, so handle carefully, preferably from the vanilla side.  Serve them in extra large paper muffin cups.

Very little work, but you are going to impress a whole lot of people. Unless you horde them for yourself, in which case you are going to have to have your blood sugar checked. I limit myself to one a day, like the Meloxicam. Works like a charm.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Dallas On My Mind - Portobellos Latinos

Happy last day of Hanukkah.  By the way, can someone please tell the City of Kissimmee that "Festival of Lights" is not a Christmas reference?

Some mornings I wish I was Pam Ewing.

Baby Boomers and early Baby Busters have likely already figured out the reference. Generation X-ers and Millennials are probably clueless, but then, those generations watch "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" and "The Real Housewives of Pick Your Favorite Jurisdiction", and worse, think that the reality TV lifestyle is something to aspire to.          

Baby Boomers had night time soap operas, like "Dallas" and "Dynasty" which were uniformly super-glitzy and uber-dramatic, which I suppose also describes today's reality shows, but in defense of us Boomers, those shows were fiction. Real people did not live like that, or think like that, or behave like that, and if they did, the media did not promote them and swoon all over them.

Back to Pam Ewing - something terrible happens to Pam and her beloved husband Bobby Ewing:

Pam lives a terrible year of pain and grief, and the Nielsen ratings sink like the Titanic. Then one day, she wakes up as usual, preparing to face another horrible day, when she hears something or someone in her bathroom.

Quick! Call the police! Call J.R.! Call ...

Bobby? BOBBY? But Bobby's dead! Isn't he?

Nah, it was just a bad dream. All of last season was just a bad dream!

And that's why I wish I was Pam Ewing.

I don't have good days anymore. Every single day of my life I am in pain. Every single day I wake up and in that brief micro second before my brain and my body reconnect, I think everything is okay. I feel guilty for putting one over on everybody, making them think I'm permanently disabled. (One of the medical genuises actually had the nerve to say "I can't write down that you are permanently disabled just because you don't feel like working anymore.") And then, my back and legs seize up in pain and I realize that I have nothing over which to feel guilty. Besides, my husband believes me. He went out and watered all my porch plants, without even being asked, because he knew I couldn't handle the job. My son believes me. If I ask him to mop the upstairs hall or take out the recycling, he does so immediately. Cheerfully.

And my cat believes me.

Anakin long ago claimed this kitchen step stool as his personal throne, and we have accommodated him, at least until recently. He even receives his little crunchy treats on the stool.

First of all, we do not have any kind of table and chairs in the kitchen. Second, I can no longer stand for long periods of time while cooking, and I often take a rest by sitting atop the same step stool.  In the past, Anakin has expressed his displeasure by meowing or shooting me a dirty look. But today he showed us just how smart he is and what a good heart he has. He moved to the lower step so that we could both enjoy his step stool.

My cat is a mensch.

A few days ago I prepared this filling for portobello mushrooms. Usually mushrooms are filled with Italian flavors or spinach-based stuffing, but I wanted to try something totally different. Thus, these Portobellos Latinos, which I originally dubbed Portobellos Mexicanos, but there were those pigeon peas (gandules), so maybe Portobellos Puertoriquenos but what about that chorizo? and I renamed it. I finished filling the mushrooms and baking them off a day or two later. That refrigerated nap did not harm the filling; on the contrary, it seemed to mellow the spice which improved the overall flavor.

12 large whole portobello mushrooms, stemmed and gills scraped out
Butter flavor no-stick spray
garlic infused olive oil and butter
1 regular size bag Success Rice, cooked according to package directions
1 medium bell pepper, any color or combination of colors
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded, ribs removed, chopped fine
1 bunch fresh cilantro, divided
1 - 15 oz. can Goya gandules verdes (green pigeon peas), drained
1 - 12 oz. package La Banderita Chorizo Fino
1 - 8 oz. bag each shredded pepper jack cheese and mozzarella
Optional - small amount shredded cheddar

Place the cooked rice in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Sauté the bell pepper, onions, garlic, and jalapeño in a small amount of garlic infused olive oil and 1-2 tablespoons of butter, until softened and the onion is just beginning to brown around the edges. Lower the heat, add the pigeon peas to the skillet, and continue to cook until the peas are warmed all the way through. With a slotted spoon, move the skillet contents to the bowl of rice and stir to combine. Cover the bowl with foil or waxed paper and set aside.

In the same skillet, cook the chorizo by removing from the casing and using the slotted metal spoon to gently break it apart as it cooks. The cooked chorizo should have a little bit of crustiness here and there, but avoid overcooking. With the slotted spoon move the chorizo to the bowl, letting the excess grease drip off.  Stir in some fresh chopped cilantro. Re-cover the bowl and either let it cool to room temperature or refrigerate until you are ready to stuff the mushrooms.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the mushrooms cap side up in two baking pans. Spray lightly with the butter flavor no-stick, then put in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Watch to make sure they don't burn.  Turn them over and cool to room temperature. With a peper towel, gently soak up any excess liquid that may have formed  in the mushroom.  Sprinkle some cheddar cheese just to line the bottom of the mushroom, and return to the oven until the cheese melts.

Fill the mushrooms using 1-2 ice cream scoops of stuffing for each cap. Do not pat the stuffing down. Place 1-2 slices of cheese on top of each pile of stuffing. Return to the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the stuffing is heated through. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve immediately.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

December in Florida - The Fauna and the Flora

Happy 8th and final night of Hanukkah!

Well peeps, it's Saturday and I've already blown all of my weekend spoons. I am sitting here stupefied from a day of too much stuff going on. First Tai Chi, then Publix, then Chelsea's awesome 90 minute wash and blow dry, then cooking one dish, then another dish, then baking and icing and cleaning up the mess.   Bottom line here is that after all that cooking I am too tired to type up the recipes for the blog.  As Pooh would say, "Oh bother ..."

Check it out!

Between Publix and returning to the house, I took a few minutes to take photos of all the reasons I like living in Florida.  Remember, it's mid-December:    


More Bougainvillea

Incipient Blueberries

Tomatillos (God willing)


Ichiban Eggplant

Maybe Zucchini

Mustard Greens and Collards or maybe that's Broccoli

A Red, Red Rose




Coming Soon To A Parking Lot Near You: Loquats

Even our weeds are pretty ...

... pretty weird

That's the flora, and here's the fauna:

My beautiful girl, simply exhausted after her bath

The Last Centurion

Coming attractions:

Portobellos. BIG mushrooms.

Yin and Yang


I really want to dig up some spoons for tomorrow, but so far it's not looking good. Another Hanukkah without potato latkes.  Have to shoot for Christmas.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Doctors, Ex-Lawyer, No Indian Chiefs

Happy 7th night of Hanukkah!

So I managed to wake up, get clean, and get to the disability doctor right on time.  I love when I get somewhere on time; it feels like a moral victory. The appointment went well, I think. I saw the intake lady and the doctor, and I am pretty certain that they got the whole picture, which let's face it, is pretty pathetic. They were very nice to me. Now, we wait. I wait. Again. You know, I wake up each morning and think this is going to be over and I'm going to have a normal life again. Of all people, I am the one having trouble believing I am permanently disabled. Then I remember I am, and the day goes to hell again.

I have quite a bit of catching up to do. My garden ... oy, what a shanda (shame).  I've had to neglect it for weeks, because the pain has been too frequent and too debilitating for physical work under the sun. There are plants to be trimmed or planted, weeds to be pulled - many, many weeds - pepper plants to be sprayed, and even a few vegetables to be collected. God give me strength.

And the cooking. And the baking. Okay, so once the disability exam was over, I headed out to Walmart. I had a list, and I pretty much stuck to it. Well, I did buy myself a Christmas present, to replace the one I bought in 1978. Isn't that cool? Truthfully, I no longer have the strength in my hands to take out the Kitchen Aid, so I've been avoiding any recipe that demands a stand mixer. But this heavy duty hand mixer should be able to handle anything the stand mixer could. Merry Christmas to me!

Up until now, my baking has been purposefully confined to relatively simple drop cookies. I've avoided frosting and glazes and really tried to make it easy on myself, while still delicious for the tasting public. My next part of the cookie project involves more complicated recipes like nut cups, rugelach, blind date cookies, hamantaschen, and the like.  Little fussy things, very special and very tiring. I may have to take a nap between the Christmas Fruitcake Bars and Esther's Pastel Drops.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

And then, there is cleaning. Housework. Oh, the disability examiner asked me if I could do housework. No, ma'am, and I can't practice law either. I think she believed me, especially after I registered pain on all of the fibromyalgia pressure points. (By the way, if you've never gotten an invitation from me for a cup of coffee or a cannoli, that's why. The boys do the best they can but with 4 dogs, it's tough, really tough.) I used to hate housework, although not so much anymore. I am going to have to buy me some more spoons and use them judiciously. Except I don't think you can buy more spoons, and I seem to be losing some of mine. Like losing your marbles, only easier.                                          

I did lose a small amount of weight on the cruise (I know, crazy, right?) which meant I could try to eat a little more, and was therefore excited by my proximity to a Wawa  and my first Turkey Bowl of the season. So was Woody; when I got home, I set the bowl on the little table near my seat while I went to put on water to boil, and Woody ate most of the turkey. He left just enough so that I could give a bite to Indiana and Romeo. But the stuffing was tasty, and it wasn't like I was going to keep any of it down. I still wonder why the only solid food I seem to be able to keep down is pickled herring.

Let's not talk about politics today. I am very, very angry, and you wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

I made the filling for stuffed mushrooms today, definitely different as it involves arroz y gandules verde, and a spicy chorizo, and a jalapeño from my garden. Ooh la la! Official Stuffing of the Mushroom tomorrow after Tai Chi. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Thursday in Port, Homeward Bound

Happy 6th night of Hanukkah.

Home, and glad to be there. I missed my own bed, I missed my son, I missed my furry babies, and I missed my kitchen.  I knew it was time to go home when I started talking to Robert about the menu for Christmas Day, which is a stay-at-home-all-day-wearing-pajamas-and-watching-Doctor-Who, sort of a bizarre family tradition. We never go away during the holiday week, because back when I was a working girl, I was always willing to cover so my Christian colleagues could celebrate their holiday. They always covered for me, it was the least I could do.

So the first thing I did when I got home, besides exchanging hugs and kisses with my furry babies, was to curl up on the couch and go back to sleep. Sitting in the car for the hour drive from Brevard was uncomfortable; amazing that I made that trip twice a day, every work day, for four years.  Was I ever that young? (I was 39 when I started working for HRS.) More importantly, was I ever that pain-free? I slept for a good 4 hours.

Tomorrow I have my doctor's appointment for Social Security disability. I hope I can adequately convey the depth of pain, the mental confusion, the pain, and did I mention the pain? Oh yes, the insane itching, the deterioration of my eyesight, the pain ... you get the idea. Pain. My grandmother used to say I was a pain in the ass. Well, you were right, Mom, and every other place too.

Tonight I went to my Tai Chi class and we concentrated on the Preparation and Beginning forms. I still can't remember forms for shit, even immediately after following the form with Sifu Tony.  My balance was worse than usual; even my 'strong' side was wobbly. Well, I had been onboard a frisky cruise ship for four days.

It felt good to sleep in my own bed, even if all four Yorkies felt compelled to join us. Actually, because they joined us.  Romeo doesn't usually sleep in the bed - he has a special spot on the floor from which he guards the door - but he was so happy to see me, he was positively giddy and goofier than usual.  Woody planted himself at Robert's feet and did not move.

It's good to be home.  Next cruise is January 3rd, on the Carnival Sunshine, just before we enter the Interregnum of the Profits (tax season, the fifth season of the year). I may not bother unpacking.