Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Tiny 1st Sunday of Advent

The previous topic of my postage stamp kitchen brings me to my postage stamp house. Which I would like to point out that I love. It has all the cozy of the kind of ancient cottages I grew up in back home BUT (most importantly) doesnt leak/have mold where the dry rot meets the rising damp, has actual electricity. It lacks charm but I have managed to over come this by cramming it full of books and oversized squashy furniture. 
This leaves barely enough room for anything else but..... ho hum. Now however the combo of Christmas/Parties/Visiting Family and Stubbed Toes (mine!) I must make room somehow. And find space to fit all the food/appliances/people that are needed to create spectacular holiday feasts (and really boring leftovers) for a bunch of people with allergies galore. 
I'm sure there are many people for whom a bread maker is a gimme not a gotta but not this house. faced with the choice between space for a toaster OR the bread maker I opted to call the toaster a masterpiece of decor and both stayed. I need a food processor but ive had to be honest and say there is no more room! I am working on a kitchen-aid but the no space/no money double whammy is keeping us from having one and calling it something ridiculous like 'coffee table art' to justify leaving it in the living rooms one inch of available space. 
Lest you think Im the crazy Hoarders lady. I'm not. This is a 1000sqft house with three bathrooms. that means we're living in 750sqft max once youve included the stairs. I used to live in an open plan 2400sqft double wide with an island kitchen and walk in pantry. I HAD SPACE. I filled it with all the things that make a literary/culinary/horsie weirdo a happy and productive person. so i have nine million books, three zillion loaf/muffin/egg doohikies and more leather and straps than the annual erotica LA convention could shake a french tickler at. 
in 750sqft and one storage unit. 
in this space i will now force. a deep freezer. A 6ft+ Noble Fir. all our friends. AND more toys and stuff on Christmas day because they cannot live in my closet and behind the dryer forever. I may only wear jeans and tee's but I would like to be able to put them away because that would mean i had a bedroom floor. 


It is the first Sunday in Advent and in the spirit of my own childhood memories I have done the following,
Skipped Church
Bought the big dinner
Added a glass of wine to my afternoon plans
Dragged all the Christmas boxes from behind the dryer. 

It is TREE TRIMMING day today and from amidst the chaos of my home a spacious and festive Blue and Silver Christmas will emerge. (By tuesday latest. Promise)

Then I will vacuum my fifteen available sqft of carpet AGAIN and wash the door frames AGAIN because everything gets touched 11zillion times and toddler tyke is sticky and THEN I will begin THE BAKING. 
So dear friends. If you find yourself in need of a few inches of middle do drop by and sample the bounty. You get to eat all the ones that turned out badly/stuck/i miss spelled Christmas on that cannot go to the Gift List. Like the year I had a few too many and put little icing trees on what turned out to be driedel cutout cookies..... or the Year I did the last fifty with Happy Hogswatch because i was listening to an audiobook two glasses past sensible (and in ridiculous sleepdebt)
So come one comee all. Its m'n'm brownies first. Always loads of stick-it-back-together-with-frosting there

Friday, December 2, 2011

My Medieval Life.... (teeny tiny toy kitchen part 1)

It has been said that I was born in the wrong time. This may be true in the spiritual sense but it has become apparent that it is very true in the physical sense as well. I am allergic to modern life. Or at least the food it eats.
 study I read the other day discussed how many people have discovered that they are allergic to kiwi fruit. all across the world! Now this study doesnt posit that people are developing new and weird allergies instead it supposes that all of these people (and probably other people in their ancestral line) were ALWAYS allergic to kiwi or at least had the tendancy. The reason we just noticed was that kiwi wasnt exactly readily available. In the middle class Britain of my childhood it was a high treat of a summer fruit salad and usually only if the gathering was important enough for my mother to have gone all out to compose a massive three tired pavlova.
I am not allergic to kiwi, by the way, Im just illustrating my point. What I'm allergic to is Soy tuna and eggs. Plus a bunch of environmentals and pharmaceuticals but for this purpose.... the problem is food.
Welcome to the world of Microwave And Die. This is because soy wasn't a part of my diet as a kid. most of the convenience products of today hadn't been invented and my mother made most everything the old fashioned way. She would not have known a soy bean if it hit her in the head but she could have grown prepped served and identified nine other kinds of beans that thrived in out temperate corner of Britain.
Here State-side I stepped into a household that thrived on hamburger helper and Betty Crocker. I was an instant and very busy mother and wife and there was a way to insert meat and water and POOF! dinner. The added sult and MSG explosion ensured that you didn't hate it. Cakes in one bowl, no sifting or weighing or careful scaling to make the making science Gods smile. Just crack in two eggs beat in a third of a cup of oil and POOF! reliable unsinkable and idiot proof cake! Then I started getting sick.
Poisoned by convenience. all of these products are laden with preservatives, colourings and flavourings and loads of them are made from Soy. I was poisoning myself with every single thing I ate from the fast food joint to the fancy restaurant. Go look at your Pam spray or that tub of butter like spread it you don't believe me. Its everywhere. my kryptonite. Turns out that for me the lables 'light' 'fat free' and 'diet' mean tripple whammy poison.
There is only one solution. I have to make everything myself. Not really a huge concern until yo u realise i have the Worlds Smallest Kitchen.
But then I also get to eat butter and real bacon because the turkey kind uses poison flavouring to get the 'bacon-ness' in (badly)
I believe I am allergic to something i wasn't even evolved to eat in the first place.
Sadly my mother is allergic to citric acid (can't grow much citrus in Wales after all) which means I will do all of everything from scratch in the worlds tiniest oven with 18 square inches of counter space.
Sadly those 18 inches cannot stretch to any convenience appliances. So no kitchenaid or cuisinart. No storage space. So I am constantly running to the store for EVERYTHING.
And so. Then where do you store everything. Im fighting back the only way I know how. I bought a deep freeze. People who have actually seen my house are laughing as they try to picture me fitting a deep freeze in my postage stamp house.... but i did.... so stay posted people I may be poorly evolved to eat American food but I'm going to figure out how to kick culinary tail (and find fairies to clean up afterwards)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

On the topic of food

It's been harder recently. I write each day but allow the vagueness of internet and ill children dissuade me from publishing. I've noticed that a 98% finished piece of work has less chance of being finished than the proverbial Snowball in H-E double toothpicks.
So. If I fell down the steps I'd get up. Here to I will simply get up. Besides. Life for me just got more interesting.
I've got new allergies. YAY. I mean who doesn't want to be the lady blocking your access to the spaghetti sauce while reading every fricking label trying to speed read the worlds smallest font in the ingredients list!
I must be on everyone's Walmart 'Bingo' card.
No more eggs. Ever. That just makes my heart hurt. That means no omelets of souffle's. No meringue or challah..... no more blissful golden yolks smothered in hollandaise...... Eggs are important gosh darn it! My bacon will be forever unadorned by golden manna!
It also means that with no eggs and no soy I will never again use any nifty American shortcuts in little Betty Crocker Boxes....not ever again. All the things I loved about home cuisine in America are gone. Biscuits and crescent rolls IN A CAN! How awesome? Way awesome! nope. I may not have some. Caramel rolls. little packets of 'just add meat' Mexican food. Add that to no more Chinese Takeaway and the fact that the sausages here are truly and unforgivably terrible and you can see why I'm feeling a little blue. Especially since down home cooking in the South really is 1001 ways to turn condensed soup in to something else that is delicious. a marvel? yep, can i have it? no.

Faced with this I am making curry tonight. The long way..... Then I'm having a large could cider. (still allowed pending more pokes and prods after Tgiving)
So. If you find actual food without eggs, soy, msg, tuna, egg white, lecithin, vegetable oil or Fun anywhere in it drop me a line. until then I'm down to curry rice and fruit. which isn't a bad way to go unless you think about the fact that i will feed this to my family and then shut them in a sealed box for 980 miles. this needs a back up plan.... or a gas mask.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Christmas by December 1st

Heaven Forbid we celebrate with a calm and tasteful Christmas.... we have a toddler and according to my nearest and dearest the only way to start this kids Christmas Spirit off right is by turning the entire inside of the smallest house in town....into the inside of the Christmas Countdown Disco Ball.
We have lights that are Fluffy for Pete's sake!
Lots and Lots of them. From Ikea.
There is strategy to this. We have to fit in a whole years worth of family time with Grandma into 14days. I can't afford to spend any more time scutting in the kitchen than I have too. It also has to get us through the rest of the year. In a sense this is Christmas-Birthdays-Easter-Mums Day all rolled into one. The reality is that I may not see my mum for more than a year. Its been two since I last saw her and Levi was only 3wks old. We need memories and pictures to hold our family together. Like Disney it needs to be just a little larger than life and this time I can't run the show from backstage. I want to be IN some of those photos. So I'm going to do it now. As In :- Will be Finished by Advent. Somehow I will do it without the convenience of being able to buy everything in one go from M&S..... If I could stop coughing for 5 minutes it would be easy peasy right? :-)

The Upside.....

If I'm Done By Advent:-

  1. No one will be able to force me to listen to that endless loop of Frosty/Feliz Navidad/Holly Jolly Christmas until the Joy runs out of my ears
  2. No body will attempt to take me out if i have the last Elmo just behind me. 
  3. I get to spent Christmas Eve drinking and eating things while the unprepared fight over the last roll of sticky tape.
  4. That Smug feeling I'll get as I sit at home with a nice glas of wine in the knowledge that someone else is being deafened and trampled at North Star Mall.
The Downside:

My mother requested what she termed a 'vulgar' Christmas. Which it turns out is really compatible with our hope of  'Traditional' as long as you  view Christmas 1987 to be 'Traditional'. In the hope of somehow achieving the Miracle of hosting Christmas, Travelling for Thanksgiving, Guests, Parties, Vulgarity and not 'hiding' in the kitchen trying to cook/pour/wash everything I will have to achieve a level of organization that will horrify my friends and render my family helpless as they laugh at the improbability. Especially when you realize that in this house 'It Isn't Christmas without a turkey AND a ham. (and a partridge in a pear tree) And pies and pudding and trifle (dear Lord.... my hips) and a side of beef for boxing day. Never mind there are only 3 (yes Three) adults attending this year :-) I will manage to do it without massive waste too, if possible. I'm trying to avoid throwing away food after the last time.....

I spent much of today at world market/target/walmart and am proud to announce that on the 'buying lots of junk for stockings' I am ahead of the game. On the 'actually doing the cr*p that counts' front? Not so much.
I need to ask someone domestically apt how often to clean an oven. (so that I can hear never or once and leave it alone. or not. *sigh*)
remember to do the dry-cleaning because leaving things 'dry' in the cupboard doesn't mean they are 'clean' especially the duvets. ick
kill off clean lifeforms evolving in the fridge
CLEAN EVERYTHING........ because my mother is coming and while she will not mind the dust she will notice it. then remind me that she doesn't mind it.
String three tons of popcorn on some kind of string in a bizarre and edible USA tradition (i'm not sure about this one..... apparently people really do that.... so shrug)
Buy More Sparkly Stuff. Apparently it isnt a 'proper' Christmas until the tree has so much tinsel and sparkle it looks like the Christmas Fairy should have stayed off the Goldschlager

I have one scary to do list though.... and I only have 23 days left (after deducting our Thanksgiving Trip) to do it....


Did I mention Arrrrrrrrghhhh :-)

Friday, November 4, 2011

In which things get better

It's really been a week. My Aunt called it a 'revolving door'. She was right, our insurance cards are practically smoking. Weeks like this are, historically, hell for all families. In our case the fact that every pediatricians visit contained the phrase 'just pin down your child's head/legs/arms.' made it even more stressful for everyone. Granted sometimes you do have to keep the squirmy wiggly and wounded from preventing the doctors from torturing healing them...but every visit? seriously? I don't even have a wiggly kid. He's actually pretty darned tractable and will do all sorts of things provided you don't try to....oh sit on him or pin him down first.
I had vets like this. The ones that out macho the Rottweilers. The one that demands you rack tie Dobbin the Wonder Horse (the one with three legs, one tooth and a love of sugar) The only thing it ever does is end in a fight. Because you started with one.
Rottweilers like food and scratched ears as much as the next dog. lots of them will sit nice and still with minimal interference. Dobbin only reared because the people he likes suddenly went whacko and chained him tight to the wall like he was a wild and intractable beast.....And Mr Pediatrician? My kid is screaming and struggling because you prefer the 'pry it open and see whats what' method over 'say AHHHHHHH'.
Last night brought fever and tears that let me know we were about to test the new Doctor. Not a pediatrician. My doctor. Worse I wouldn't be there as I'm confined to my house till I stop needing all these inhalers. It was Fine. The same casual and warm office manner that had endeared Dr G to me extended to my toddler. The nurses fussed and petted him. No one forced him to do anything that wasn't absolutely necessary. A miracle has occurred. A 'fit in' appointment at 8:45 that took exactly 30 mins. by 9:15 my husband and the tot were back in James (the minivan) and on the way to the pharmacy.

In which Miracle No.2 Occurs at the Pharmacy

Of course this week wouldn't have been complete without having to dance for our meds at every dang chemist in town because no one ever has all the required medicine in one place.... plus 90 minutes of arguing over insurance benefits.
After abandoning Target and Walmart after many consecutive shortages and screw ups my husband happened to pick CVS as our next stop. The Lady there had helped with my medicine in 15 minutes. Could this miracle be repeated? Could they fill two prescriptions in a row?
'This isn't covered by your insurance.' was rapidly followed by 'We don't have any because its new....Monday soonest.'
So home he returns with poorly tot to let me coddle and nips back to figure out what to do.
Less than a popsicle later he was home again with a bag and a smile. When he got back to the pharmacy counter the pharmacist had looked at the medicine worked out which over the counter product my insurance company was basing its denial on and calculated the replica dose for toddler. Then written it all out to make sure I understood. She was smiling and waiting to explain how this would work. If that wasn't okay for us the 'prescription' version could be there Monday for $36.
Needless to day I did not order the script yet.... They said they were ordering some anyway but I suspect the OTC will do awesomely.
She even made sure I had plenty of dosing syringes and that his nasty pink antibiotics were appropriately flavoured.
Now all tha'ts left is for me to brave Walmart and make 'poorly Curry' because we're strange that way.

Chicken and Dressing pie

Last week my best Gal Pal came for lunch and a fabric ordering session. I was at the start of my current battle with pneumonia (non contagious) but badly wanted something that tasted like the chicken and dressing soup. The one that always got made with the leftover paxo and veg from Sundays roast. This is what I landed up making. It really wasn't as much work as it sounds. Especially if you consider I made mine in slippers while watching my toddler and croaking along to the songs of the street (sesame)
So here it is!

Chicken and Dressing Pie recipe.

half an onion diced
1 bag of broccoli stir fry. frozen (pick out the water chestnuts as best you can)
2 snack packs baby carrots cut on the bias
2 split breasts well seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika .
paxo/or sage dressing of choice prepared a little dry and sticky.
puff pastry (thawed)
bay leaf 
2 boullion cube 
diced potato (1 cup?)
 water 2c

Right. Crank up the oven to 375-400 deg. bung the dressing in in your biggest casserole, spread the frozen veg on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. toss on the sheet and bake till they start to caramelize a bit. 
Using the big pasta pan...... saute the baby carrots and the onion till they also begin to caramelize (feel free to ramp up the flavour and your hips with a dollop of butter) put the veg aside and then sear the breasts hard to seal them being sure not to flip them too soon.
de-glaze the pan with half the water and add two bullion cubes. back goes the chicken along with the rest of the water the veg and the diced potatoes. (bay leaf too) 
meanwhile roll both pieces of puff pastry out to match and then 'glue' them together with molten butter. chill in the fridge. 
when the stuffing is done chunk it up in the dish you baked it in and start adding things straight to the casserole. when the chicken has been in at least 20mins pull and chunk the chicken. 
when you're ready pour the whole thing into the stuffing and veggie mix. top with the puff pastry (brush with butter or egg wash for crunch and colour) bake till golden 30-45min

The thing about recipes like this is that they really aren't recipes. it's just the stuff I had in  my pantry turned into a close approximation of what i fancied eating at the time. Everything is fairly approximate and can almost always be substituted) I did find that the stuffing absorbed a bit more of the sauce than I expected and it could have been done in a larger casserole than I had and been that much crunchier. 

Time required:- 15 minutes chopping rolling and faffing around plus about 10 minutes of randomly checking and stirring things over the course of about an hour or so. 

Serves A Bunch. (perhaps my buddy will provide a guesstimation :-)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sharp Things That May Cut Us.... or the knife drawer

My very best girlfriend has 8 year old twins and is ahead of me on the parental bell curve. Little Man isn't even two yet. From her household comes the title of the FORBIDDEN DRAWER.
The conversation in her kitchen as we cooked would always go....'Hey? wheres (fill in random thing that's needed)?
'oh that's in sharp-things-that-might-cut-us'
This makes for an odd flow of conversation but to us it is normal. The drawer has long earned a full title. This leaked into my house. It is also not locked yet!
Me:- 'babe? can you put the grown-up proofing on the STTMCU drawer, Little man got in the junk drawer earlier.
Him:- Sure.
time passes. Drawer remains unlocked for a little while longer.
I contract an evil lung infection and the following occurs. see previous cabbage related post.
It turns out that the otherwise useful Mandolin is a thumb guillotine. It also turns out that my husband is a skinflint when it comes to his own health care. Which would be why he spent four hours at the VA with a bloody thumb instead of 45mins at an urgent care clinic down the block. ho hum.
The point here of course is that there are some things we should all learn from this.
THIS DRAWER (yes the right by the fridge) contains the SHARP things.
Mummy might feel like she is wasting her breath but she really means that its SHARP
If you ever feel uncertain about the status of this drawers contents.... remember the name.... SHARP THINGS THAT MAY CUT US (STTMCU)
the mandolins has been banned by my husband as a vicious thumb guillotine that may or may not be responsible for the downfall of the free world. I figure he still wants scalloped potatoes so its back in its drawer. Which is locked by the way because if a 50yo man cannot be trusted with kitchen equiptment then the toddler should probably be kept out too.
But since he worked out how to unlock the garbage can cupboard its only a matter of time before I have to put a vault door on the galley kitchen and call it good.
This would be mister happy at about 10pm last night. I love that the sympathetic (snort) nursing staff picked that lovely shade of pink.
Little Man enjoyed his dinner sans the bit of 'love' Dad tried to donate.
Oh and the repairmen got the faucet fixed at 9:45 last night and the paint is peeling from the bathroom walls.
Double Irony? I really would have loved to sit in the steam.
Onward Christian soooooldiers marching as to waaaaaar....