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....

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

In which things gently worsen.

Because they always do, don't they?
Handsome and helpful husband returned with a beaming toddler and a bunch of flowers ...'ee 'etter mama' and lots of kisses for me.
Can you feel the love? It's awesome. which means the Devil is lurking round the corner to deal me a dose of karma for that moment of smug warmth.
Maintenance appears...the three stooges of apartment complex repairs- its time to service my furnace, track filth in, burn dust off the heat exchange and leave a slew of teeny tiny screws EVERY whucking WHERE.
An episode of pingu limited the toddler taming and Helpful and Handsome hubby managed to preheat the oven, insert potatoes ready a dish for the cous cous.
He then awaits instructions. This is because when I asked him if he could fix cabbage his exact words were:-
'You just boil it for ages right?'
I have nightmares about that kind of cabbage. Dim memories of Girls School Brussels sprouts lurk in my mind.
We do not crucify the crucifers! we steam them then sautee them in butter like normal healthy individuals.
This involves the following set of instructions.
I wont bore you with cabbage peeling so scan down to
'...after you cut the core out get the mandolin and BEING VERY VERY VERY CAREFUL NOT TO CUT YOURSELF.......slice the cabbage with the thin blade.'
Thirty seconds after I told him which drawer contained the elusive veg guillotine I offered another piece of sage wisdom.
'....I know this sounds silly but BE REALLY REALLY CAREFUL that thing is razor sharp and WILL HAVE YOUR THUMB OFF because i regularly almost lose a finger tip....'
Thirty more seconds to.
'Didn't i just warn you about that? Rinse it off and I'll get a Band-Aid'
He did too. Took the tip right off and there it sat in the shredded cabbage. Hed managed less than a quarter head.
Being me I fished out the bit washed the cabbage off finished the job and cooked it real good as there was not one single drop of blood in the colander.
I couldn't staunch the bleeding though and sent him to the VA emergency room situated a convenient 6 blocks away.
Dinner was delish even though little man only actually ate cous cous. but I won't whinge about that.
Very Very tired now and my nebulizer has bitten the dust. sigh. dishes yet await too.
This proves that I should touch wood and turn around three times before i curse myself and think how awesome and smooth things are. Im such a dumb bass!.

Pork and why I can't nuke things.

I'm still embroiled in all my first world problems. The big addition has been the total and utter lack of hot water since oh..... 10pm last night. They almost had me fooled into soaking under a hot shower to ease my congestion but fortunately I loaded the dishwasher first and noted the odd and horrible sound that indicated it had ran out of ANY kind of water 10 mins in.
I am therefore Thankful. If I had had the hot water shut off on me mid shower I would have seriously lost my Schmidt. Which makes me cough.
Instead I set to the task of making dinner with no energy and no running water. Oh and instead of just nuking things I actually have to cook because.
1. I said I didn't need a microwave when we moved and I'm not backing down now.
2. There is no where in my postage stamp kitchen to put one. Seriously I have something like 24 inches sq of counter space as it is.
3. We have a thing about wasting food. We do that way to much. That means the Pork loin I 'rainchecked' from Sunday dinner will be in the trash tomorrow. Which is gluttonous and bad and there are Starving Children In Africa. (This is not only true but has been uttered with small variations since biblical times)

In the best of internet traditions I googled it while polling FB for thoughts. Then I realized I miss my mother and I'm a long way from home. Then I just sort of threw things in my big stockpot, flipped the heat down to low and returned to my recliner.

Here's what I did.

2.5lb pork loin (Cut into 1inch cubes)
Half an onion diced
half a Jonagold apple. also chunked up.
1 bottle of hard cider
chili powder (1/2tsp or more to taste)
kosher salt.*
bay leaf
extra virgin olive oil

(* there are no measurements because the thrifty women that taught me to cook didn't use recipes. They sprinkled, pinched, tasted, poked and tutted til they liked how it tasted and called it good. Its not rocket science or I wouldn't be able to do it :-)


Put the diced meet in a gallon zip lock bag. add your seasonings and a drizzle of oil. shake to coat and remember you can add more salt and pepper later.
In that big pasta/stock pot heat some more olive oil. in batches sear the pork on all sides. It took 3 batches when I did it.
Then the onion goes in. when its nice and soft add the apple and let it get nicely caramelized. make sure you're getting lots of crust on the bottom. if you start running low on oil in the pan add a knob of butter for flavour.
De-glaze with the pan with the cider making sure to scrape the pan for those scrummy burnt bits.
back goes all that meat and with the rest of the bottle of cider. in with the bay leaf and on with the lid.
Flip the heat to low and LEAVE IT ALONE. Strictly alone. For hours. At least four.
check the seasoning and adjust to taste.
Serve it over rice/cous-cous or in my case roasted potatoes.

A taste of Autumn from south Somerset in Texas. with only about 30minutes real effort If you get your husband to make the sides from the freezer stash of Alexia spuds.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thank You for my First World Problems!

Here I am. Scouring the internet at bedtime from the recliner trying to figure out why nobody is addressing a vital and immediate issue.  What the duck am I supposed to tell my barely verbal 22 month old tomorrow? I suspect 'Mummy had pneumonia and is sick sick.' will lack something. Just me thinking that though. My husband (awesome as he is...and he IS awesome) has not yet mastered the trick of being in two places at once either and so will be going to work to keep the wolves at bay. 
This is what set me thinking. I was reading Rants From Mommyland's post on First World Problems. The feelings that this generated led me to make a promise to give Thirty Days Of Thanks. Because all my problems are First World Problems.  

How ever will I amuse my active and well-nourished toddler. Will we play with Electronic toys....Lie in bed and stream Netflix on high-speed internet? 

What snack will I fix him. From a well stocked pantry no less. I would hate to spend a day sick on memory foam, cotton and crumbs. 

I stood and felt sour when I payed my copay. My husband lost his Schmidt briefly when yet again our local pharmacy failed to have basic medications in stock. 

The distance to the CVS was three blocks. The wait a lengthy and laughable fifteen minutes. 

These are First World problems. I forget how blessed I am and lose my Schmidt regularly about this sort of thing. Only this morning I had forgotten my blessings and sulked and pitied myself all the way to the doctors office. 
This is the truth of it. I have Pneumonia. I am thankful. My well trained doctor was there to see me less than 12 hours after I called him. My husbands job grants me health insurance. My copay was $25 dollars. Which I had.  The doctor wrote prescriptions and nurses administered meds in the office. I left and went to a pharmacy. By lunch time I had the right medicine, at a reasonable cost. I'm resting and writing from my recliner and wondering how to please my child tomorrow while i rest in the comfort of a sturdy little townhouse, heat and a/c and a husband that leaves each day to make that possible. And still has a job in a down economy. 
Thankful. So thankful. And angry with myself. I let myself forget, somehow, that these things were blessings. I certainly haven't always had it easy. We've lost homes. Loved ones. Jobs and even had to give up the dream for a while. But not because we aren't blessed. Through all of those times as our household grew, shrank, shifted and changed, we stayed housed. Fed. Warm. 
When I was young my mother took it into her head to take me travelling with her. I saw all sorts of places, saw all sorts of things. I saw children. The reality of the Second and Third world should have been burned into me. The stories the old Auschwitz survivors told should have never slipped from the front of my mind. 
Because I am blessed. Because I am thankful. 

Hopefully I will remember that tomorrow when I work out what to do with my toddler while i hack and pant. My mummy lives to far to make me soup :( and my husband won't be home till 3. 

Thank you For My First World Problems..

Each and Every Day:- the RULES

I promise myself regularly that I will write. It's an important promise, to me anyway, which is why I keep right on making it. Over and over again. It's like everyone else's life. I'm busy. Playing with my toddler is more important or at least more immediate. There's nursing school in the New Year (another long term goal) and meals to cook and floors to hoover. Potty training and all its joys are ahead. Also I would like to actually work out, have friends. You know... have a life. whatever that is. I'm probably on a conflicting schedule.
Nil desperandum though,. or whatever you're supposed to say when you tighten your boot straps and march into the fray!
Here goes the grand scheme. The promise. To myself and for myself.

I will write.

Each and Every Day.

For ONE (1) Full year.

It may not be pretty or artistic. It may never once be on topic. I will still write something. Truth or fiction. Maybe even my mothers recipe for roast beef. Sometimes I will write more than one but NEVER less.
These are the rules. I like rules and I really like making them ;-) Maybe by the end of the year my writing will improve enough that I won't feel like a doofus every single time I hit 'Publish'. Or not.