Monday, December 21, 2009

Eggnog Cupcakes

Eggnog Cupcakes:

(double this recipe to make 24 cupcakes)
1/4 cup dark rum or bourbon
1 cup eggnog
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
scant 1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground
1 cup sugar
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350F. Fill a 12-cup muffin tin with liners.In a small bowl, mix together rum, eggnog, vegetable oil, vinegar and vanilla.In a large bowl, mix together nutmeg, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Pour in rum mixture and whisk until just combined. Divide evenly into muffin tins (a 1/4 cup measure is a good tool for this).Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the cakes spring back when lightly pressed.Cool in the pan for 3-5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before filling.

OR:
Prepare a yellow "pudding in the mix", following directions but substituting eggnog for the liquid and adding 1/4 tsp nutmeg and 1/4 cup dark rum. Fill cupcake liners and bake, allow to cool.


Eggnog Pastry Cream

- 1 cup eggnog (do not use fat-free)
- 1 cup whole milk
-4 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup sugar
- ¼ cup flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Heaping ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup rum

1. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, bring the eggnog and milk to a simmer.
2. While the mixture is heating, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, flour, cornstarch, nutmeg, salt and vanilla in a medium bowl.
2. Temper the egg mixture by slowly whisking in 1/3 to ½ of the heated eggnog mixture, then whisk the tempered egg mixture back into the eggnog mixture in the saucepan. Return the pan to a medium-low to medium burner, bring the mixture to a low boil, and cook, whisking constantly, for about 4 to 6 minutes total, or until mixture is very thick. (Be careful not to overcook or the eggs will scramble.)
3. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate to chill for at least 2 hours.
Fill cupcakes with pastry cream (thin with eggnog if too thick).

Whipped cream marshmallow frosting:

Funny story-- it was getting pretty late, and I only had less than an hour to get the frosting made and on the cupcakes (and get cleaned up and dressed for the party..). So instead of making stabilized whipped cream using gelatin (which doesn't always work out well anyway, especially when rushed), I remembered that I had a container of "Marshmallow Fluff" in the cupboard. So basically what I did was:
Whipped a pint of whipping cream until soft peaks began to form using a chilled balloon whisk attachment and chilled mixing bowl, and then added a small container of marshmallow fluff and 1/4 cup rum. Whip this until stiff peaks form, and then pipe onto cupcakes. Sprinkle with nutmeg to taste. Chill cupcakes until ready to serve, allowing them to sit at room temperature for one hour.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Solitary Life, Lamb Orichette, continued:

If I were on my own, I'd eat this three times a week (at least):

Pinn Oak Farms lamb sausage, removed from the casings and browned with red pepper flakes and fresh minced garlic to taste, sauteed with broccoli rabe, cut into 1" pieces until crisp-tender, and tossed with orichette pasta that's been drizzled with a good quality olive oil. I'd top this all with crumbled chevre and eat it with large quantities of red wine (which tastes mind numbingly amazing when combined with the goat cheese).


And I would never feel guilty about going to the gym. Or have pets that bark.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Things I would do differently were I not married (hypothetically speaking:-):

On the cusp of being completely irritated with my family, I would like to compile a list of the things I would do differently in the event I only had my own self to worry about:
1) I wouldn't own a TV, just have a decent computer I can plug into speakers for my Pandora Radio and watch DVD's/Netflix streamed movies on.
2) I would almost never prepare an evening meal (except for lavish dinner parties in which I invite everyone I know and we'll laugh, drink wine, and engage in much debauchery). I'd live completely on large healthy breakfasts, medium sized lunches, and smoothies and juices for dinner. I'd be a vegetarian 85% of the time and only eat meat from local farmers.
3) My house would be small; I'd own very little except that which made me smile because it reminded me of something and plenty of useful things for preparing food-- and maybe some books.
4) My gardens would be lavish but manageable for a change.
5) I would invent my own holidays and ignore all the ones that I find tiresome: none of mine would involve buying anything unless it was something that could be used to make merriment after the consumption of too much alcohol. None of them will involve instant mashed potatoes or turkey, mythical animals, or guilt.
6) I would take at least 4 trips a year; somewhere different each time, with friends.
More later:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

White Chocolate Ganache Buttercream:

Recipe I need to write down before I forget:

1 bag white chocolate chips
8 oz whipped cream
1 stick unsalted butter
4 cups powdered sugar (+/-, depending on your desired sweetness and stiffness)


The momentary sadness I felt at being discouraged from participating in the harming of my body (hence the monniker "Bruisers", my husband reminded me with less sympathy than I felt was kind...) has now been replaced with the realization that bruises hurt, a lot;-) And limping at work, while entertaining for a day, got old pretty quick-- especially when I really and truly couldn't walk normally as I am usually able to feign when sustaining little peepee injuries in the past.


Without a doubt, there were aspects of the experience that were a ton of fun: feeling strong, fast, and incredibly powerful; the overall joy of skating that makes me high as a kite. Falling and bouncing back up as if nothing had happened was also very cool, as was the momentary sting of pain I felt that gave no true indication of how much I was going to hurt every time I needed to use that particular body part for the duration of the week.


Pushing myself has always been one of my favorite pasttimes, spin class being the best example of that; knowing how sick I can make myself after cranking my gears a little too heavily, spinning my wheel until I see stars, feel faint, and keep on smiling, begging for more. Abusing myself has been a source of good, clean fun for a long, long, time-- but have I finally crossed a line?


Part of me thinks that I made the three hour experience that much more difficult by skating two hours just an hour before the Boot Camp, because surely the only thing more difficult than skating "balls to the wall" for three hours is skating hard for FIVE hours in a day, no?


Was THAT stroke of foolishness the true cause of my misery today? Or was the experience itself just that much out of my league??


I would have thought that my daily abuses on the spin bike would have qualified me for a pain free post-Boot Camp experience (minus the falls I took cause I was getting overwhelmed and tired); haven't wiped myself out like that, not even after birthing a 10# baby in 45 minutes (in which I barely broke a sweat, btw) or hiking down a 15 miles trail into the Arizona desert in July completely unequipped (fringed, knee high moccasins and all). But there it was: my ass was kicked in a wholly new way, sending the fear of pain I've only nodded at blankly in my Pain Clinic patients deeply into my bones, my psyche (some of which hurt to this day...).

And so here I sit, faintly more prepared with my padded pants, better hand/wrist guards, a plan in place to take it easier, try not to overdo it in spite of myself... but for what?? Do I REALLY want to join a team? Do I have the time? Can my family withstand the impact of my life expanding in this way??

Questions for another day, because for now I'm just going to take it one moment at a time, to "just do, don't think", which has bcome my mantra (in addition to "do one thing everyday that scares you":

(A newspaper column by Mary Schmich, published by the Chicago Tribune on 01 June 1997):
Inside every adult lurks a graduation speaker dying to get out, some world-weary pundit eager to pontificate on life to young people who'd rather be Rollerblading. Most of us, alas, will never be invited to sow our words of wisdom among an audience of caps and gowns, but there's no reason we can't entertain ourselves by composing a Guide to Life for Graduates.I encourage anyone over 26 to try this and thank you for indulging my attempt.Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '97:

Wear sunscreen.If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine. Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday. Do one thing every day that scares you. Sing. Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours. Floss. Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself. Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how. Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements. Stretch. Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone. Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.Read the directions, even if you don't follow them. Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly. Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young. Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel. Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.Respect your elders.Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.But trust me on the sunscreen. Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Flux:

Life has been in a state of flux lately, as it often is in spring. The world around me is heavy into the phase of renewing itself, and of course my DNA wants to get in on the party... it seems to me to be a perfectly natural thing to cycle through life: ups, downs, periods of insane amounts of growth, and then a slowing down, a rest...
Until the sap begins to flow again, the chicks arrive, and I start making plans to train for roller derby.
Yeah, just like you never know exactly when the spring rains will arrive or the precise moment the daffodils will open, you just never know when or where the winds of change will blow me, which for me, makes life a splendid experience worth waking up for.

Who knew back in December that when I strapped on those ugly brown rental skates for the first time in 30 years, I'd experience an exhilaration of my own propulsion I hadn't experienced since the freedom of childhood (which allows such things in ways adulthood never has, I've since discovered). And I'm finally old enough now where I don't care that I can't do it well, how I look, what other people think.
I always knew I'd love being 40 (or nearly 40), and my gal Mary Pipher sums up my relationship with my body these days quite nicely:

"Fortunately, with middle age, I granted my body amnesty. Nobody much noticed its shape anymore, not even me. It was well fed, exercised daily and taken to the doctor for regular visits... I didn't ask 'Am I pretty?' but rather, 'Can I still ice-skate, cross-country ski and carry a backpack up a mountain?'"

And my answer is, yes. I can do all those things, better than when I was younger and had other things on my mind. (Women go through these pretty predictable stages in their lives, and I wish we talked about it more, so we can make sense of it, plan for it, make no apologies, and move on unscathed to the next one-- especially for that "my kids are little, I'm socially isolated, losing my mind, and it's making me fat and depressed" stage. That one was particularly crunchy, and I'm so very glad to have put it behind me... but I digress;-)

The feeling of flying, moving through space is intoxicating, with the benefit of making myself feel infinitely better and making my body work better, improving my coordination and balance and confidence that I can be athletic and learn something new. How can that be anything but fantastic?
I plan on growing old kicking and screaming, broadening my horizons and expanding my world with each step I take into the future... but the family I've found myself a part of likes to stay put; it worries them to try new things, and because I am crazy about them, try to honor it. They dislike it immensely when I go off on these tangents, and even though they renew me, the guilt of leaving them behind and the exhaustion at trying to drag them along gets to be too much, and eventually I stop.
But how much of an obligation do I have to postpone healthy personal growth because it makes my family uncomfortable? There has to exist a balance between fulfilling my needs as a human being who deeply requires these experiences, and meeting my family's needs to feel secure. I just haven't found it yet, and it makes me a little blue.

I'm off to skate, bringing a son and a husband who'd rather stay home, who'd rather I'd stay home...sigh. Maybe someday they'll thank me for dragging them with me into the world, and I'll be all the stronger for pulling the weight.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Routine/Pommes Anna, Date Nut Squares:

I've always always admired people whose lives revolved around some sort of orderly routine; spaghetti Wednesday, pizza on Friday, Sunday dinner...

Me, I can't set up or maintain a routine if my life depended on it, despite my best intentions, as if the reigning chaos of possibility (which usually means we do NOTHING, truth be told) is preferrable to the predictability of SOMETHING, even if it's familiar.
But the lure of the familiar continues to pull, making me yearn for a life where just a little bit is already decided:


That being said, if I had to set up a basic routine for the winter months, this is (loosely) what it would look like:



  1. Saturday: swimming with Jacob in the morning; cleaning the house with the kids/starting laundry; skating in the evening (or not if we decide to go out somewhere else)

  2. Sunday: big Sunday breakfast, church maybe and/or skiing (winter), visiting with family, planning menus and grocery shopping

  3. Monday: Spin class for me 3:30 or 5:30; Grace, Youth Group 6:30-8

  4. Tuesday: Spin class for me 4:30 and/or $2 skating 6-8pm with Jacob and Grace

  5. Wednesday: work until 7; Jacob, Youth Group 6:30-8; maybe skating for Jake and I from 8-10 (over 21 skate)

  6. Thursday: Spin class for me 4:30; Jake has archery

  7. Friday: Spin class for me 5:15; pizza and gym/swim night, Family time from 5:30-8


This works, and has plenty of wiggle room to cram extra things in there, novel stuff I always like to do but have difficulty dragging anyone to (my children are hopeless homebodies).

I'm hoping to broaden my horizons by checking out a Roller Derby game (show?) on March 14 if anyone wants to go; in my crazy scheming mind I picture myself joining a team someday but realize that I am probably too non confrontational to have any success with it;-)

On the food front, made some truly fantastic potatoes this morning to go with our Sunday breakfast (see? the schedule is already a rousing success!). Loosely fashioned after "pommes Anna", I just improvised it on the spot and it was pretty tasty:

3 large red potatoes, scrubbed and sliced 1/8 thick: layer slices in a single concentric layer, on microwave safe plate, sprinkle with kosher salt, and microwave for 3 minutes

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees and heat 12 inch cast iron skillet to barely smoking; when pan is ready, pour 2-3 tb olive oil and 1 large chopped clove garlic into pan, and slide potatoes on top, maintaining concentric, single layer of potatoes. Sprinkle with fresh chopped rosemary and pepper, more salt if desired. Place plate on top and cover with heavy lid (to weight potatoes down) and put in oven. Bake for 25 minutes until potatoes are browned.

Here's a REAL pommes Anna recipe, one I was too lazy to look up, if you want to do it up right:

Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds russet (baking) potatoes
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
Preparation
Peel the potatoes and, using a food processor fitted with the slicing blade or a mandoline, slice them very thin, transferring them as they are sliced to a large bowl of cold water. Drain the slices and pat them dry between paper towels. Generously brush the bottom and side of a 9-inch heavy ovenproof skillet, preferably non-stick, with some of the butter and in the skillet arrange the slices, overlapping them slightly, in layers, brushing each layer with some of the remaining butter and seasoning it with salt and pepper. Cover the layered potato slices with a buttered round foil, tamp down the assembled potato cake firmly, and bake it in the middle of a preheated 425°F. oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake the potato cake for 25 to 30 minutes more, or until the slices are tender and golden. Invert the potato cake onto a cutting board and cut it into 8 wedges.

Later:
Also made some date nut squares, mostly due to the fact that I somehow ended up with a 5# box of chopped dates (Sam's Club, but why exactly did I buy it? No clue...)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Pulse in food processor until it has a sandy texture:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground flax
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 +/- pecans
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter

Press into bottom of 8 inch square pan and bake for 15 minutes until slightly browned

Soften 2 cups chopped dates in enough boiling water to cover for 10 minutes, drain well. Mix with 2 eggs and 1/4 cup agave nectar (or brown sugar). Spread over crust and bake 20-30 minutes until center is set. So yummy and sweet, and somewhat good for you...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Elevation/Bands I Hate:

I might have posted this video before (I never watch the videos BTW, just post them for listening...) but hey! They played this song in spin class this morning and it was sexy as all get-out, wow;-) If it's possible to pedal in a rhythmic, come-hither fashion, there we all were-- sweating and breathing heavily in some sort of Bono-induced sexual coma... fun!

Been meaning for quite a while to compile a list of bands I really can't stand, here goes:

I cringe when any one of these performers/bands comes on the radio:

1) Matthew Sweet

2) Counting Crows

3) Blues Traveller

4) Sheryl Crow: especially her most recent songs, i.e. "Out of Our Heads", like some sort of tone deaf pre-schooler is crooning in your ear, *shudder*!


All bands from the 90's, a period I consider to be a deep cesspool of Pretty Bad Music that I had to suffer through after living and breathing music during my adolescence. The absence of tunes I could connect with during my early years of starting a family left a great, big hole in my memories, too, since so much of my life can be remembered by hearing a song, sigh. Thanks, shitty music of the 90's!

The grunge phase itself was pretty depressing, too, seeing kids dressed in baggy, sloppy t shirts and jeans at a concert vs the glam fashions of the 80's, making it a completely androgynous, unsexy time in general. And with the exception of "Closer" by NIN, there wasn't a single song I can recall that you'd want to get naked to, making the 90's a pretty shitty time to get laid as well:


I'm sure I'll add to the list as I hear something that makes me rush to change the station...

5) Brett Dennen: took me a while to determine that this individual was a GUY: his melancholic, nasally voice drives me completely batty

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Comfort Food:


My mom gave me this gigantic container of tuna fish (seriously, it was like 6 cups of tuna, egads!)... so, it being a fairly crummy, rainy day, thought it would be a good one to make a little comfort food in the form of a huge tuna casserole.
Filled with good ole American foodstuffs such as canned soup, french onions, and cheeeeeze-- it was nothing short of disgusting, yet oddly satisfying in it's cheesy, carby assfatteningness.
I also made another apple cake and a batch of homemade applesauce, so we were plenty set to eat our way through the rain and gloom, however long it decides to last;-)

Speaking of gloom, was a little sad to plod my broke self thru the Aldi's today in an effort to try and save a little $$$. In my years now of stable employment, I've become quite the foodie of late, and am quietly mourning my return to the frugal days of my youth (but mostly grateful that I'm still able to afford my trip to Aldi's; the stuff there isn't *nearly* as cheap as I remember it...). My plan now is to turn the experience of saving money into a game like I used to so I don't get mired in the despair that seems to be running rampant now.
People are freaking out, and understandably so, but getting whipped into a fervor isn't going to help anybody, least of all anyone in crisis.

Got an abrupt wake up call this past week as well; was brought face to face with the notion that I am not obligated to have a relationship with anyone, regardless of marital connection: i.e. just because you're married to someone does not mean that you are married to their family, especially when they are adults and the relationships are still strained after years and years of trying to get along. After this recent encounter I've realized once and for all that instead of beating myself over the head and trying to make difficult relationships work, it's simply better to stop trying to force things and recite the "Serenity Prayer":

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

It's easy to mourn the loss of hope that your family will become close someday, but liberating to realize that some things are beyond your control, allowing you to save your energy for something more productive and move on.
(Maybe now, too, husband will take responsibility for his relationships with his own family instead of counting on me to nag him to call, celebrate holidays, keep in touch with everyone... he is so bad about those things but the bottom line is that it is his choice what kind of relationships he has with people--not mine--and that's a liberating notion as well.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Grace's Birthday Cheesecake:

Modified from the Wilton recipe, and pretty dang fabulous:-)

Crust:
1 1/2 cup (or more) crushed chocolate cookies (pulsed in the food processor until fine),
1/2 (+/-) cup melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
Mix all ingerdients, and press into bottom and sides of spring form pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 8-10 minutes, cool.

Ganache:
8 oz good quality semisweet chocolate, chopped (or milk chocolate, whatever floats yer chocolate boat)
1 cup whipping cream

Place chocolate in medium oven safe bowl. Heat whipping cream in saucepan or in microwave just to boiling point (or until bubbles start to form around edges of pan). Remove from heat, pour on top of chocolate. Allow to sit for a minute, then stir until smooth and glossy. Set aside on counter.

Cheesecake Filling:
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened (do NOT use low or fat free, which would be sick and wrong and would ruin the whole concept of decadence you're striving for)
3/4 cup sour cream (see above)
6 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp real vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 pint fresh raspberries (or frozen, it matters not;-)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in sour cream and add eggs, one at a time. Beat in sugar and flavoring extracts until mixture is smooth. Spread thin layer of ganache over the crust and top with the raspberries, saving some for garnish. Place spring form pan on baking sheet. Pour cheese mixture over raspberries. Place a small pan of water on bottom rack of oven. Bake cheesecake 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until set(the middle might be slightly soft).
Turn oven off and leave for one hour.
Cool and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Spread remaining chocolate (kept at room temp or remove from fridge a good 2 hours before using) over cheesecake, refrigerating at least 30 min to allow ganache to become firm.
Garnish with fresh raspberries.

Jacob's Animation:



Watch more cool animation and creative cartoons at aniBoom

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pretty Tasty Crock Pot Pepper Steak

I am a wee bit if a food snob and soooooooo not a fan of crock pot cookery, but Grace requested this dish. And seeing as how I had no time to stand over the stove and watch it, into the crock pot it went.
Lo and behold! It was pretty darn good:

2 pounds beef sirloin steak or round steak, (cut on the bias against the grain) into 2 inch strips
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, cut in half and then into thick slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tb apple cider vinegar
1 tb beef bouillon
1/4 cup hot water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 large green bell peppers, halved and sliced thick
1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes, with liquid
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
Shake of hot sauce
DIRECTIONS
In medium dutch oven over medium high heat, heat the vegetable oil and brown the seasoned beef strips in two batches. Transfer to a slow cooker.
Place onions in dutch oven and continue to cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, and sautee about 30 seconds. Add apple cider vinegar, beef bouillon, and water and deglaze the pan, scraping up brown bits from the pan. Sprinkle cornstarch on top, and stir.
Pour into the slow cooker with meat, add remaining ingredients, placing green peppers on top (stir them in half way, if you can).
Cover, and cook on High for 3 to 4 hours, or on Low for 6 to 8 hours.
Serve on top of mashed potatoes...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Job Whore:

Ok, I was sitting in my ACLS class the other day and running my mouth (as I am wont to do when I am nervous), telling the people there what I do and why I need to complete my ACLS. Well, come to find out that of course all the other staff there have real jobs that they're held for a while, in important areas such as the Neuro ICU, ER, Cardiac Critical Care; and then there's me, the girl who will do anything, regardless of my ability level, as long as the cash keeps flowing (I even offered to learn to teach ACLS and to my embarassment, they actually expected me to be experienced and qualified to teach it, geeeeez!).
And it struck me as kindof sad, that I really don't know how to do anything well, have no genuine accountability to any one discipline, no commitment, no mastery of ANYTHING in my field.
It became obvious that day that I will forever be stuck in this unhappy place, with no personal growth and very little confidence in myself as a nurse as long as I continue working the pool program...
Even my co workers, whom I've worked with for quite a while, treat me as if my presence there is temporary (which it is, I suppose..), give me no responsibility or opportunities to develop more than a rudimentary understanding of the job. I volunteer to work on committees and then am never included on the team (and why would they? I might not be there all that long....), and am tiredtiredtired of being told my hours are being cut, and then they aren't, and then they are, but not yet, maybe next month, wait and see, etc and etc.

Long story short:
It's LONG PAST time to put my committment issues aside, put my Big Girl panties on, and find myself my very own J.O.B.

I've applied to about 7 positions in the past few weeks, only to interview, win them over, fall head over heels, and then find out that either the job was pulled or they changed it and hired someone else-- gar! But I'll keep plugging away. I have basic qualifications to work many different departments (obviously), but those tend to be fairly specialized (GI, Walk In Clinic, Pain Clinic, Pre Admissions, Infusion) and pretty popular places to work, but ohwell.
And it doesn't help that my family is chronically in "fall apart" mode, i.e. no one is organized enough to keep their lives in order when mom isn't there to hold their hands, but ohwell again. I'm so very tired of feeling 100% resposible for keeping everyone afloat, as if I stopped paying attention for even a second, everyone here would drown (they will, they are, but it's long past time as well for them to learn to swim on their own and stop blaming me for their refusal to take responsibility for their own lives, sheeeeeeeeessssssh!)

Why is it so hard for women to feel like they can have lives of their own, I ask you? And truly, is the cause of my fear of committment to my jobs due to the guilt I feel that my family can't function without my constant atttention? Cause I don't think it's fair that all personal growth, meaningful employment and financial security for women have to be put on hold until their kids are grown...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Matter of Allegiance

And Why One Might Wisely Withhold It

by Fred Reed

I wish to propose a salubrious anarchy, a deliberate renunciation of fealty to country, society, and government, an assertion of independence from folly and moral decay. Permit me to offer a taxing political idea: When a society ceases to be worthy of support, it is reasonable to withdraw support. The time, I submit, has come.
Here I do not mean to urge crime or counsel treason, but to suggest quiet renunciation of the national disaster. Ask yourself how much of American life pleases you. The schools are run by fools to manufacture fools, government grows more intrusive by the day, and culture is determined by the triple cloacae of New York, Hollywood, and Washington. Freedom withers, not only in the ominous encroachment of police powers, but in the loss of control over schools, church, hiring, daily life. We are no longer our own. The United States is not the country we are told it is, and not the country it was.
How to escape? The beginning, and the most difficult, is a moral distancing. Those who care must disentangle themselves from the cobweb loyalties and factitious duties with which we have been unconsciously encumbered. From childhood we learn patriotism, that one must vote, that if our way is not perfect it is at least best, that we must support anything however bad because were were born in a particular place. Why?
Let me suggest that one owes loyalty to one's family and friends, to common decency, and to nothing else. Render under Caesar what you must, keep what you can, and swear allegiance to nothing. Here I do not mean just the government, but the zeitgeist, the miasmic fetor of trashy culture, the desperate consumerism, the entire psychic odor of a society in decomposition.
Begin with things so fundamental as seldom to be reflected upon. For example, do not imagine that you are under an obligation to marry, or to have children, or to raise them as the government requires. Procreate if you choose, but only if you genuinely want to procreate. It is not your job to perpetuate a civilization that is daily less deserving of perpetuation.
But: never let the government have your children. Once they are had, your responsibility is to them. Teach them at home. Better yet, go abroad. Other countries do not force you to pay for an academically retrograde moral cesspool and then to drown your children in it. You might be astonished to know Argentina, for example.
Ask not what you can do for your country, but what it can do for you—you ought to get some of your taxes back.
Do not tie yourself to…anything. The price of freedom is poverty: freedom grows as your needs diminish. Less apothegmatically, if you believe that you need a vast house in a prestigious suburb, then you will need a lucrative job to pay for it. Having tied your psychic contentment to such an abode you will also believe that you need impressive cars and will therefore be tied to a retirement system and, bingo, the door of the trap falls. This, we are told, is the American Dream. I fear it has become so.
I lived years ago in a second-hand house trailer in the woods. I do not know what it cost, or would cost today, but perhaps fifteen thousand dollars. It was perfectly comfortable, warm in winter, air-conditioned in summer. Mornings were blessedly quiet unless you regard birdsong as noise. A brick barbecue provided a place to produce ribs and drink bourbon and water. A couple of companionable dogs rounded out the ensemble. They had the run of the trailer, as was right.
Now, living in a trailer is to the consumerist sensibility simply too degrading and so…I mean, my god, how could you face the neighbors? (There weren’t any.) But aside from damage to a servile dependent vanity, what is the drawback? A couple of hundred dollars buys a remarkably good stereo, music is free, libraries are good, and I for one am more comfortable in jeans and tee shirt than in Calvin and Klein trappings.
When your expenses are few, your susceptibility to economic serfdom is small. You do not need to work miserably in a pointless job for a boss you would gleefully strangle. Yes, you need money. The first principle is never to work in a job that you cannot afford to quit. This means avoiding any job with a retirement, of which you will become a prisoner. The second principle is to work at something portable that you can do independently and, preferably, without capital. Retirement? Save.
Dentistry pays well but requires pricey equipment, and it is not easy to build a clientele. An automotive mechanic is always in demand and the employer will usually provide the tools. Writing is a serviceable gig and can be done from anywhere. Many varieties of technicians readily find jobs. Remember that white-collar work, aside from tending strongly to entangle you, gets boring. Get a commercial-diving ticket, take a serious course in the repair of marine diesels, and spend your life in the Pacific.
Here again the obstacles are fear, inertia, and vanity. If you come from a family on the suburban-death track, the thought of being a mere mechanic or dive-shop owner or what have you may be disturbing. "Don’t I need a college degree to hold my head up?" Look at the universities, at what they have become, and ask the question again. (Anyway, respectable in whose eyes? Your own are the only ones that count.)
Finally, work the system. The government, if you let it, will take roughly half of your income, give much of it to useless bureaucrats, much to various forms of welfare, use much to bomb countries you may have no desire to bomb, and much to force upon you services, such as horrible schools, that you do not want. The central question regarding government is whether you can take more from it than it takes from you. It is much better to receive than to give. Live cheap, work only as much as you like, enjoy life, and keep your taxes down.
You will still read of the rot and running sores of a declining culture, but it will bother you less. These things are your problem only to the extent that you feel yourself to be part of the society that produces them. Don’t fight the government, as it will win. Don’t try to reform society, because you can’t. Laugh at it. Live well. Read much.

May 31, 2005

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Working on something...

can't really make it come out right, I'm having a strange sort of a writer's cramp or something.
In the meantime, have a little fun with this:



Haaaaaa!

Went for an amazing bike ride today in Kenosha; it was a little cold, but what a wonderful reprieve it was to be riding outside in the first week of February. The memory will have to hold me over the next several weeks as the weather fluctuates it's way towards spring...
Have to say tho how much my riding muscles have changed over the past few months. I rode as hard and as fast as I wanted to (since the trails were empty), in the highest gear, tearing it up, and barely got winded-- it was an incredible thrill. Where you can go in the summer and ride that hard I have no idea... it's addictive, exhilarating, and maybe it's time to get myself a helmet;-)
Went to Frank's Diner as well and had a lot of fun hanging with people who are fun and sassy in a way I only get to pretend daily that I'm NOT. Grace and I have been fighting lately, so it was nice to take the girl out to see the world as it isn't, but could be. It breaks my heart that her world is so small...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pictures of You:

Heard this on satellite radio tonight, and it struck me cold:




Seems like any time the world has something to say to me, it does so in a song. Could be a tune I've heard 100 times and glossed over, but for some reason at that moment in time, it resonates, gets my attention, and turns out there's a lesson in it that relates to something I've been trying to figure out. Strange.

This song was released in 1989, the exact year I inexplicably picked up and left my life behind and never looked back...

Only to discover years later that a portion of my head is still stuck back there, trying to make sense of why I went away and filter through the effect it had on the people and places I left behind. But I'm finding now that this process of remembering, looking back, trying to recall: "why did this happen?", "how did this all come together?", is hard to do on your own.

Over the past few months (years, really) I've spent a great deal of mental energy trying to put all the pictures in my head together, figure it out, over and over again... and I've finally come to realize that it's beyond my reach; my memory is too spotty, it's all too far away. But now, with the acknowledgment that there's a whole community of people outside my head who have in their possession *exactly* what I'm missing, I've determined:

What I need is a reunion of my very own, comprised of all the people within our large, yet fairly contained assemblage of misfits to come together, bearing photos, memories and stories to help bring it all full circle. From my new perspective, it's amazing to see the connections; those who were linked directly, those in the periphery, all connected, each with a story to tell.... from the suburbanite preppy guy with the new wave hairdo to the grungiest of the punk scene, there's a link somehow.

I'm not completely sure how it would come together, a party of sorts. Rent a warehouse, set it up with a conversation room, a crazy dancefloor a la Medusas, photos scanned and projected on the walls (have I been to too many raves? Maybe..)? But for me, hearing it, feeling it, being in the moment for just a few hours in contact with the people I knew when my world was being formed would be just what I need to feel that it actually meant something... something worth remembering, that strangely continues to make its presence known all these many years later.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Smoove B's Recipes for Seduction:

From the Onion:

Carrot Chocolate Chip Muffins
Smoove B
Many a novice love man errs on the side of putting too much emphasis on the dinner as a means of seduction. This is a mistake. One must remember that all snacks and courses that you prepare for your girl are part of the larger seduction. Often missed but highly important is the fare you provide for her after a long night of sweet lovemaking. The correct breakfast-time food can be the ticket that she will redeem for another night of seduction and doggy style sexing.
Smoove likes these Carrot Chocolate Chip Muffins in his morning meal, easy to prepare and moist. Enjoy.
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 large eggs
2/3 cup of sugar
1 1/2 cups of finely shredded carrots
1/4 cup orange juice
5 tablespoons of warm, melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips
The first thing that you will want to do is pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is heating to this temperature, you will want to grease a 12 muffin tin pan with either butter or non-stick cooking spray. I prefer the cooking spray as it is easy and does not add flavors you may not want. If you prefer your muffins extra buttery, I would then recommend the melted butter.
The next step to take is to mix the eggs and sugar together in a small bowl. Add the finely shredded carrots to this bowl and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes. If you have any doubts as to whether the carrots are shredded finely enough, ask yourself, "Are these carrots shredded finely enough?" If the answer is no, then I suggest that you discard the ones you have and shred some more. Many questions about cooking can be answered if you look deeply within yourself.
Next, grasp a larger bowl and mix together the flour and other dry ingredients, including the spices. Set that bowl aside.
When the carrots have been sitting in the mixture for the required 10 minutes, add the orange juice, butter, walnuts and chocolate chips to that bowl. Now add the contents of that bowl into the bowl containing the flour and seasonings. Make sure that you mix gently. It is important that the mixture is not over mixed. Unlike yourself, the batter should not be smooth.
Add the combined mixture to the individual muffin tins. Let the muffins cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or if you think they are done insert a toothpick into the center of one. If the toothpick comes out clean, the muffins are completed. Let the muffins cool for five minutes, then remove from the tin.
One thing that you may want to do is make a loud noise about five minutes before the muffins are done so that your girl wakes up and walks into the kitchen just as the muffins are cooling. Have a selection of juice and expensive coffee ready for her. And also have cream.
Smoove out.
More recipes:
Lobster For Two
Quail For Two
Corn For Two

Smoove's kind of politics :

Oh! And it's *finally* happened... another of my fantastic ideas has been burgled, stolen out from under me. I've said many a time over the past few months that my beloved iPhone has identified and met my every need: to satisfy my curiosity (Google), find my way (Mapquest), chat with friends (via Facebook), even to get a little jiggy with the husband via texting, wheeeee!
But there's been one leetle tiny thing that's missing.
Enter the iPhone vibrating massager app:

Gee... I wonder what THAT's for???

I really don't think I'm ready to take my relationship with my phone to that next level, but since it was free, I downloaded it anyway;-)

But I'm totally not getting this: well, not today anyhow...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Beat box:

If I could pick one song to illustrate what's going on in my head at any given moment in time, I think it would have to be this:



Which should hopefully explain why I always seem to be a little distracted... it's nothing personal, you see;-)

I was THRILLED to discover yesterday that there are people roaming the planet who remember Medusa's; was starting to think it was a figment of my imagination...
Turns out there's a whole Facebook group devoted to the place, with tons of music to download to assist me in my reminiscing. I guess the best part, in addition to being able to hear the music again (which is one of the few ways I am able to remember things) is the realization that I am not the only one who has found the last 20 years of adult entertainment to be disappointingly pallid in comparison to the strange, wonderful times we had.
Or does the very experience of being an adult just spoil things anyway?
Sometimes I wonder if that's why I stopped my travels, because I just got to be too old and no longer able to see the point of it anymore.
Ohwell, can't beat one's biological destiny, not usually at least... now I'm just waiting to get older and move past this phase, when I hope that the process reverses itself and I can go back to having fun again;-)

Until then, I'll keep playing Beat Box in my brain and looking a little distracted...

Have a little fun with these:
The Main Room
The Video Room

Oh! And this too:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy, Happy Day!/Middle Eastern Lentil Soup

Couple things:
First, not only was I able to confabulate far enough in advance to plan and coordinate a trip for the kids today that was super awesome (and actually WORKED OUT; how often does THAT happen?!?), but was able to find a decent recipe for my favorite Middle Eastern soup:

PUREED LENTIL SOUP - SHAWRBAT `ADAS MAJROOSHA
(Serves from 8 to 10)

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 small hot pepper, finely chopped (I used red pepper flakes)
8 cups water (I used 4 cups chicken broth, 4 cups water and a little bouillon)
1 cup split lentils, rinsed (I totally cheated and used yellow split peas, which was plenty tasty...)

2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cumin (I toasted 1/2 tsp cumin seed and added it as well)
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of saffron
2 Tablespoons white rice, uncooked (skipped this, might add a couple carrots next time..)
1/4 cup lemon juice

Heat oil in a saucepan and sauté onions and hot pepper over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, except lemon juice, and bring to boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for 25 minutes. Puree; then return to saucepan and reheat. Stir in lemon juice; then serve.

MMmmmmmmm! Shahrazad-a-licious!



Oh, and most importantly:

After enough collective moments of pontification and random bits of insight, I was FINALLY able to make some progress regarding the teenage angst that I've had such a hard time identifying and resolving all summer, and it's about freaking time...

To wit; I've recently joined Facebook, which over the past few days has brought to the forefront ever so painfully how bad I have been over the years at establishing and maintaining relationships with *anybody* thru the course of my lifetime. Whereas the few people I've "friended" have set up their pages and have gone about getting scads of people here and there to become their "friends" (it's an evolutionary process you can see unfolding as people you're friends with make other friends and then can see the friends of their friends and add them once they determine that they sat next to them in the third grade, etc and etc), I've pretty much reached my saturation point pretty early in the game. To make matters worse, I've spent quite a bit of time now wracking my brain trying to remember the names of people I've known over the years, and to be honest-- either I have no recollection whatsoever of their identifying characteristics such that I can find them, or it's highly unlikely they will remember me any better than I remember them, gar! And in addition-- and perhaps worst of all-- as I've been peeking into the pages of those I'm closely related to, I've come to realize that I had NO IDEA how little I know about them, their lives, their families, and how little they know of mine (and then vacillating on wishing that MORE of my family had Facebook pages so I could peek into their lives as well).



I've said in one of my few lucid moments of self awareness over the years that one of the strangest aspects of my life is that there are very few witnesses to who I've been-- very infrequent visits to the homeland, contacts with childhood friends, old boyfriends, school teachers, etc. All the ghosts of my past are far far away, and are rarely-- if ever-- revisited, barely remembered, and over time the memories have faded into nonexistence. New life experiences quickly took over the void that was to become my past, and then POOF! It was as if the first 18 years of my life never happened.



When you add the fact that I have the worst memory ever and barely remember the details of really *anything*, it's not hard to imagine how I was able to develop over the years the ability to keep reinventing myself-- new jobs, locales, people I've interacted with in a superficial and temporary way for years and years, none of whom I've really kept in touch with as I kept mindlessly putting one foot in front of the other. Logistically, I have turned my back on as many as 10 different lifetimes, each full of coworkers, neighbors, jobs, life experiences... never to return. And it's not as if I had set out to do it intentionally-- it's just what I'm good at, what comes naturally to me.



So with the recent advent of my school reunion (sorry to beat THAT horse for the 80 millionth time but it's what got this ball rolling in the FIRST place...), and now this existential Facebook crisis, I've come to realize that I've spent the past 20 years drifting through life in a constant state of new people and new things, day after day after day, while never looking back, expecting to settle down, make friends, put down roots, or touch anything in an meaningful way. I get too close; I get nervous, I keep moving. Life is messy, and I prefer not to get involved... and now it's becoming a pattern: I avoid doing the same things over and over, going the same places, because I don't want to be recognized, be accountable. And strangely, without my even knowing it, what was once a novelty has evolved into a pathology... and so it goes.

And all these many years it's worked for me, never been a problem-- until things like reunions and social networking sites force you to pause and look back on your life, take an inventory, and make you realize that while the past 20 years may have offered you an interesting amalgam of life experiences and novelties to chat about wittily at a cocktail party, you don't have much of substance to show for it.



And that's IT! That's the angst that's been driving me to distraction for months now on end.

Yippie yahooey, hip hip hooray, I figured it out!... And while I'm glad to have THAT mess all sorted out into a tidy pile, the real work begins of how to fix it, start forming relationships with people that will "stick"....and I have no idea how to go about it.

Zip.

Nada.

Zero.

But what is it that they say? A fault recognized is half corrected??



All I can do is hope that the same Facebook mojo that helped me discover the origin of my internal conflict will also assist me in finding a resolution, that magically after all these years I will overcome my distrust of all things human and finally settle down;-)

It can happen...

Monday, January 19, 2009

No no I can't change...



After the summer of revisiting my unresolved teenage angst (which remains unresolved, I tell you-- gah!) and the daily experience of moving amongst my fellow peoples, trying to keep them blissfully unaware of my constant inner struggle to be a responsible grownup: stay in one place, work one job, and not flit from one thing to another to another... I'm a wee bit tapped out.

(I finally cleaned up my resume today to make it look less schizophrenic for yet another job interview... but how to mask the fact that I am working 3 different places concurrently? And does that look attractive to a future employer or just scary flaky? Mental note to self, tho: make sure not to reference those jobs I took off the resume...)

Every day I try try try to not fantasize about packing the car and heading west, resist the urge to troll the on line catalogs of the local technical colleges in search of another occupation or job skill to add to the pile, or say "screw it!" and book a one way ticket to Disney World (they need nurses, don't they?) But again, suppressing those urges is a kindof exasperating, neverending mental journey: I look at all the nice, grounded people around me and wonder how they can stand living in the same place, doing the same things, working where they do for 20 some odd years AND NOT LOSE THEIR FREAKIN MINDS.

Yeah, I wonder that all the time... wonder how many other wander-y type folks are out there hanging close to home in the name of security.

But enter the Verve, and their most splendid song that was played in spin class tonight: We were all chugging along, spinning around 90-100 rpm's, at the highest resistance we could tolerate-- the perfect, crystalline kind of intensity and level of exhaustion that causes your brain to lock onto the lyrics--anything-- just to get you through...

yeah, THESE guys get it:

'Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, this life

Trying to make ends meet, you're a slave to money then you die

I'll take you down the only road I've ever been down

You know the one that takes you to the places where all the veins meet yeah

No change, I can't change I can't change, I can't change

But I'm here in my mind, I am here in my mind

But I'm a million different people from one day to the next

I can't change my mind

No, no, no, no, no, no, no,no,no,no,no,no

Well I never pray, but tonight I'm on my knees yeah

I need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me, yeah

I let the melody shine, let it cleanse my mind, I feel free now

Free, yes--if only for a moment-- and then it's back to the grind tomorrow...

But by my calculations, there's only approximately 2,364 days left before I can run away and join the circus, giving me *plenty* of days left to practice my trapeeze act;-)



p.s. the way this guy walks through the crowd in step with the music reminds me of how it feels when you wear your iPod to the WalMart, very surreal, and far more entertaining than it would be otherwise;-)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bad, Bad, Blogger!

I must admit wholeheartedly that I suck lately as a blogger... only blogging once a week or less is unexcusable-- bizarre almost-- for a constant blabber and ruminator such as myself. I've started blogs, but finding them too morose or deep or someothersuch unpleasant stuff, have archived them in my "drafts" pile to be laughed at another day (or deleted, whatever comes first).
Anyhoo, that's where I stand when it comes to blogging lately, and if you are a regular peruser I do apologize for being a disappointment and all, as there are far too many things of a dull and disappointing nature this time a year and I certainly regret adding to the pile;-)
I have been languishing lately myself with the winter doldrums; nothing to do, too cold to venture out, tired of staying home with my frienemy the "Blockbuster rental club" (which to me is only the saddest and smallest step above watching television, sigh!) I discovered that you can watch bootlegged movies and shows on your computer recently, which was a naughty thrill for a minute or so, but with the fear of getting in big-ole trouble and not being too terribly interested in sitting there anyway, I quickly lost interest and was back to being pretty bored again:-(

So long story, short: I dragged the boys out to go ROLLERSKATING last night!!!
Soooo cheezewad, yet so dang cool, all at the same time.
Used to be we'd kick it old school style at the Red's Roller Rink back in the day, going round and round and round and round, over and over, bla bla. I remember the really odd arcade games they had-- old ones-- pizza and nachos at the snack bar, the dice game, Hokey Pokey, whatever.
I never was a very good skater, per se, never had the "moves" (and I vaguely remember taking a skating class of some sort there, wonder why??). Sooooooooo fast forward to today, where I'm once again the dork on skates, albeit older, and still trying not to fall on my ass and make a fool of myself (and all too excruciatingly aware of the $$ iPhone in my pocket).
And who'd a thunk it, but there were kids there who were the most AMAZING skaters: dancing to the funky beat of the music, skating sideways, doing choreographed moves, etc, like a really entertaining flash from my childhood in the 70's. I never knew that kids still hung out at the skating rink perfecting their moves, that white kids from the county were capable of gettin' their groove on to hip hop music, and it was completely fun to watch and not so bad a workout for my long neglected skating muscles. Jake and I even held hands and skated together, one of the most fun dates we've had in a while, yay!


Jake his own self then insisted that since he was sucha good sport with the skating, we were somewhat obligated to try something of his choosing: So off to Lapham Park we went today to try cross country skiing, wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Now of course I have no idea how to ski, being somewhat of a hater of cold, frozen toes and the likelihood of breaking a bone. But it was a good time... Jacob did his little "Jacob thing" of making everyone wait over and over and over for him to catch up (no, he doesn't know how to ski either but the kid does that on the bike trail as well, making every trip somewhat lomger and less fun that if he weren't mr pokey), but all in all, it was a good time. I can totally see Jake and I taking up some of these sports and really having a good time with them, and I can't express enough how nice i is to be excited about the prospect of something new for a change:-)
Being the shopper/researcher, I had to check out the costs of some newer skis, some of those "skate skis" that almost everyone else had (which looked like a TON of fun!) online tonight. But wow! Expensive! And since I'd really like to go back, here's a list of groomed trails in Wisconsin for you to marvel at...
Tired! Have a good night, y'all:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pizza (and Madonna)!

Now I'd be the first to admit that I am no fan of Madonna-- never liked her tinny, babygirl voice, her persona... not even waaaay back in the 80's when I was young and impressionabe (as opposed to now, when I'm old and impressionable, no?). But I like this remix, the melody is haunting:
(there's no video, so just go about your business as you listen)



Pizza for dinner!
Used a Martha Stewart recipe for the crust, +/- a few variations:

Mix together and allow to sit until yeast proofs:
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tb sugar
1 1/2 tb dry yeast

and then add 1/4 cup olive oil (I used the stored oil from the chicken confit and tossed in 4 of the garlic cloves baked in the confit, making this quite possibly the best pizza I've ever eaten...my mouth is happy happy happy)

Pour into Kitchenaid mixing bowl fitted with bread dough attachment and add 2 cups whole wheat flour and 2 cups unbleached flour. Knead on medium for 2 minutes, adding flour if needed until dough pulls away from sides of bowl.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees and turn oven off. Cover mixing bowl with plastic wrap and place in warm oven on a potholder for an hour to rise. Then have at it!
**It's a sticky dough, so you'll need to use a good amount of flour on your work surface and rolling pin, and use cornmeal on your baking pan**

Using the dough, I made a pepperoni (bake at 450 until done to your satisfaction) and an artichoke goat cheese pizza , day-um! They were both fabulous:-)

Monday, January 5, 2009

More Food Blogging/French Food

My 11 year old is becoming a Francophile-- strangely and unfathomably enamored of all things French, especially those things he can put in his mouth.

More specifically, he has developed a fascination with confit, a type of meat that is slow poached in it's own fat (yes, you read that correctly). Kid's been bugging me to make it for weeks... I bought a duck for this very purpose ($9.99/lb!), but found a cheater recipe using chicken leg quarters and olive oil, so mr ducky can stay in the freezer for a while longer while we contemplate his fate.

Never one to follow a recipe, I had to be the knob who has no idea what she's doing and mess with hundreds of years of French cuisine. So instead of just putting the chicken in the olive oil as instructed, I covered it with a thin layer of hen of the woods mushrooms and baked the whole mess for two hours at 300 degrees. Once it was done I made this for dinner, tossing in some of the wild mushroom confit, chopped, in addition to sauteeing some fresh portabellas as instructed. Pretty tasty, I must say. The sauce was lacking a little something in the way of moisture... maybe I need to toss the pasta with a little olive oil, add more pasta water, I dunno. But the dish had a depth of rich flavor that I've never experienced before, and was well worth the effort and/or yuck factor of eating oil poached food.

I am also on a mission to make a tarte tatin sometime this week and an apple cake for Emily's birthday. I also have to make a key lime pie for a co worker who is due to have her baby this week and a strawberry rhubarb apple pie for a party on Saturday.. egads! It's like Christmas baking all over again!
I loves me some tasty pie!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Another Ode to Winter:



Probably my new favorite band of late, gives kindof an epic band/renaissance faire sort of vibe (and I really don't care for that place, so go figure..).
I've been trying like crazy to find ways to appreciate the season, pay tribute to it in some way other than bundling up and getting out in it, a very counter intuitive, fairly unsuccessful method, but the best I can muster. It's almost maple sugar time coming up in a few weeks, so I'll have to bite the bullet and get used to spending a fair amount of time sitting out the cold tending the fire, if only in anticipation of another large batch of tasty, homegrown maple-y syrup.

Also, in the spirit of the season, I've decided to post my "resolutions", such as they are. Here goes, scoff if you must:
They cut down on the # of spin classes they're offering at the gym, maybe due to the recession and dwindling memberships, dang! So I've decided to select 3 days a week where I'll try like hell to get there and do spin class and whatever other classes/weight lifting I can squeeze in on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. I can fit in other days as well as my schedule permits, but those are going to be the core days I know I'm pretty likely to go. On the off days, I'd like to do a yoga/bellydance/pilates DVD for at least 30 minutes a day, and any other push ups, mini workouts--whatever-- I can fit in here and there throughout the day. The goal here being that I would like to get down to 130-125# (if I can) and maintain that weight forevahhhhhh!
Other things include:
Putting up a chickenwire fence along the property line so we can let the chickens out to graze daily for a while. Turns out if they don't get to eat a fairly routine ration of grass, their eggs won't be all that rich in gamma linoleic acids and other beneficial stuff that make them better than store bought. They get outside now every so often, but the naughty little biddies always end up going to the neighbor's yard and trashing their gardens, not cool! Not sure why they insist on leaving-- it's not as if we don't have enough space for them to roam-- but their grazing got seriously curtailed of late since they decided to leave the yard on a routine basis.

Oh! And this may sound cruel to you non-country folks, but I want to start getting my pullets in November and raising them in the basement/garage thru the winter until they get big enough to go out to the coop. That way, they'll lay from March until it gets really cold (November/December), at which point we'll cut off their little heads and turn them into stew/stock chickens. I hate tending them with a mad passion in the freezing winter, always feel terrible that they're out there freezing their lil' chickie girl cloacas off. Oh yeah, and they don't lay for crap, either. One or two eggs a week???? With feed prices at $14/bag???
Ah! What tasty stock they will make!


I'd also like to get a spring pig to live in a little corner of the garden plot; he'd help amend the garden soil with his rooting and manure in fabulous ways, and then be ever so appreciated once he made it to the freezer, oink;-)

You see, I've been doing all sorts of library perusing lately--my favorite "avoid the cold" activity-- including all the Michael Pollan books and films, and recently, "Anti Cancer, a New Way of Life" by David Servan-Schreiber. Over the years I've adopted most of the methods contained therein: avoiding chemicals that have mutagenic properties (all household cleaners, instead using Dr Bronners and vinegar; no non stick cookware; no artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets; very little artificial sweeteners other than stevia, low exposure to high fructose corn syrup, etc and etc), but it's been hard to switch over to primarily grass fed meats and dairy, which is downright ridiculous in this area since we are awash in local farms who employ healthy farming practices--moreso than probably any other area of the country! Last time I went to the local coffee spot, in wanders a family from 3 towns over (Racine) who were on their way to pick up their unpasteurized milk from a local farmer and I thought "wow! How lucky we are to be so close" (and also had to laugh at how weirded out the people were that everyone in the shop was talking to them as if they knew them. Ho Ho! Welcome to the country, where we're not afraid to talk to strangers, lol;-) In a 15 mile radius alone, we have an organic dairy, grass fed beef ranches, free range chickens and eggs, turkeys, a CSA, and an organic bakery.

In any event, it's a great place to live and we're very blessed to be here, and since I've been working so much it's more than time for me to put my $$ where my mouth is-- literally. I want to get set up with the dairy people, order 1/4 grass fed cow, and hike out to my chicken lady, and be even more conscious about how we eat so not only we can live a more healthful life and pass those values on to our kids, but support local farmers who are risking *everything* to do the right thing... the trickle down damage of commercial agriculture to pollution of our waterways, soil, greenhouse emissions, etc and the damage it is doing to our health is staggering. Just about any acquired disease you can name has it's roots in the quality of the food we eat... bla bla bla bla blah! Ok, rant over.

I want to plant more berry bushes, including blackberries and blueberries, in the side prairie areas of the property, making more of a natural and useful barrier... I've planted a ton of bushes already, and it's been hit or miss as to whether or not they will survive, depending on the season. My theory is that you probably have to plant 3 before one will take, given our soil quality and my spotty tending abilities (it's not exactly easy to water certain parts of the propery). I also want to get more asparagus in as well, fun stuff to harvest once it gets established.

I''m going to be taking over the vegetable garden again this year, since I wasn't terribly thrilled with how Jake was handling things over the past couple years;-) We had more weeds growing than the plants were able to compete with, mainly 'cause I don't think he ever connected with the idea that weeding is an ongoing thing you have to conquer from the get-go, and wrestle with until the end of the season. That, and eradicating the slugs, and potato and cucumber beetles that destroyed everything, etc and etc. Dude can plant the heck out a garden, but tending is clearly not his forte. I'm going to use the straw mulch method again this year, since there are so many weed seeds in the soil that I'd probably lose my mind and break my back trying to keep abreast of them. I'm going to have to figure out what to plant that will store well, and then set up a storage area that we can use (the garage, we're finding, is MUCH too COLD). I'd also like to harvest more of the apples and pears and save them/make pie apples for the freezer and apple/pear butter for winter. Oh! And a cold frame to plant lettuces and spinach, and maybe beans and beets as well.

I'm sure there's a lot more, but I'm tired of sitting here when I have a million things to do... I'm working a ton over the next few weeks, and in addition to still needing to cook and keep the house and kids in order, I'm still going to hold myself to exercising to keep myself sane and all the other things I like to do to feel like a human being (read, sew, knit, plan gardens... I have wayyyy to damn many hobbies, no?).

More later:

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Final Pig Out:

It seems as if everything lately can be described by what I am preparing, putting in my mouth-- and maybe that's appropriate for this time of year.
It's been a busy past few weeks of working too much, at the hospital and a few days at camp, and I can't even begin to put a recap on it since it was all happening too fast and I wasn't probably paying very good attention anyway;-)

Christmas was quite nice, one of the best parts being the dark chocolate volcano cakes I made and served with espresso bean ice cream (seriously, it was nothing short of dreamy). Camp was also good, despite the suck-o weather (50 some degrees and pouring the day we got there, but it improved pretty quickly. The kids still got to ski and sled, and no one got hurt, yay! And the camp food was ever so camp-a-licious..)
I got called in to work on all the days I was told I wasn't going to, including New Year's Eve, when my wonderful co worker saved my ass by calling me 15 minutes before I was scheduled to start my shift vs the night before as the charge nurse was supposed to do (and believe it or not, I was only 3 minutes late, not too shabby. I looked like a scary hag with major bedhead, but all my patients were sedated and no one complained...). So instead of running up to the Milwaukee Public Market and picking up some sushi grade tuna that day as I had planned (to make this super yummy dish a la "Heaven City"), I ended up running around like an idiot trying to create a new menu from thin air and purchase food after a killer, no-dinner-and-no-potty breaks-nonstop workday.
Since the meat markets were already closed, Jake and I flew over to one of the few places other than WalMart that was still open: a strange little store in New Munster called "Best Bargains" that is an impormptu cross between a restaurant supply company and maybe a Mexican market (sans Mexicans, go figure).
Anyhoo, here's what we came up with by the seats of our pants:

Grilled strip steaks with a thyme and Cotes du Rhone reduction sauce (so tasty!)

Alaskan King Crab legs with drawn butter and lemon

Scallops fra diavolo with linguine-- amazing!

Oven roasted asparagus

Wild mushrooms(from the groovy mushroom store) with carmelized onions

and finally, a really yummy chocolate cream pie (and not so hard to make from scratch as the folks from Jello pudding would like you to believe).

Oh! And a Raspberry Tart brew from the New Glarus Brewing Company, so SO good!

And so now I'm done, back to the old grind of low carb/whole grain dieting, to drive the new layers of holiday blubber away that I worked so hard to pile on. The gym has sucked lately, too, since they've been closed a lot with the holidays and all the bad weather we've been having. That, and the spin classes have been PACKED, making getting a bike more competetive than I like at 8 in the morning.
All in all, probably one of the best holiday seasons EVER; low stress (+/- the huge family blowouts we had Christmas eve/day, wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!), hanging out with friends and family (and we need to do MUCH more of that this year, it's a whole heap o fun).

Hope yours was just as nice... and if not, we have plenty of leftovers (if you're sweet, I may even let you have a taste of the Raspberry Tart brew, *maybe*...).

Happy 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dinner Par-Tay!

Tonight's dinner event was a fantastic success, some of the best food I've ever prepared, some of the most fun I've had in quite a while:-)
To recap, I made:
A brined and butterflied turkey, baked at a high temp on a bed of homemade challah bread stuffing: the turkey was moist and flavorful, the stuffing hands down the BEST I've ever put in my mouth.
Praline sweet potatoes (of which I made waaaaay too many. There'll be leftovers for manymany days to come)
Kobucha squash (a bit overkill in the squash department, but it was a savory complement to the sweeter stuff)
Mashed potatoes and gravy: the gravy was *delectable*. Honestly, it was tasty enough to eat plain with a spoon, which was good considering it took about 3 hours to make.
Roasted brussell sprouts with brown butter and hazelnuts: excellent, truly. And well worth the hour I took to crack 80 gazillion hazelnuts 'cause no store in boonieland had shelled hazelnuts. Ow! My poor, sore crackin' hand:-(
Toasted rolls
Homemade cranberry orange sauce
I made the other cookies, too, that I listed previously, but man! What a waste of time and valuable cream cheese... the cocoa nut (?) and phyllo cookies were just plain gross, flavorless, nasty. The date nut balls more than made up for the yuckkiness, but what to do with all the other cookies??? (can chickens eat chocolate? I guess we're about to find out...maybe it'll inspire the little leakers to give me more than an egg every few days, those naughty girls.) I also made waaaay too many of those maple nut cups, hope the ladies at work are hungry tomorrow...
And to top it off, I made the bittersweet chocolate roulade cake, which was okay. Perhaps a little too much on the *bitter*sweet side, and very, very rich. Gorgeous, tho, and a lovely presentation.

It frightens me how well I can cook.
Yesterday, I baked from 10 am to just about 10 pm, sometimes prepping 3-4 dishes at the same time. I was cool as a cucumber, incredibly focused as I switched from one dish to the next, all the ingredients lined up, all the tools in order, the recipes on all the counters around me. I felt a bit like a conductor in the midst of my concoctions, tweaking flavors, enhancing this, blending that, putting it all together into a fantastic medley that was really incredible today, better than I could have ever imagined (altho with almost 20 hours of prep work and cooking, what else could it have been?).
Good, good stuff!
Note to self: the Heath dinnerware was handy, so so glad I was able to pick up about $3000 worth of it for $50 at the local resale shop, yippie yahooey! The serving pieces were perfect for all the side dishes, and we had more than enough place settings. We just need to pick up some glassware, pretty napkins, and more stemware, a few items I noticed we were lacking as Jake was pulling out the McDonald's commemorative Disney glasses (ack! My dirty little secret... those suckers NEVER break, and as such are some of the only glasses we own right now).

And finally, for all the work and effort, it was the most fun ever to have people over, having folks talking, eating, having a good time. Jacob was kindof frazzled to have to entertain little kids, but it's good for him, a bit like the little brothers I didn't provide for him;-)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

33 Miles:

I've fallen off the "Fat Flush" wagon in a major way today, making (and eating) cookies, scarfing on Triscuits.. (I <3<3 me some munchy crunchy triscuits!)

And after that admission, be both entranced and horrified at my new favorite spin class song:
"Up 2-3-4, Back 2-3-4, Sit 2-3-4..." over and over and over again, wheeeee! I could do it all dang day~



On a whole 'nother note, I made the date nut balls (recipe below) yesterday, and I have to tell ya, they're AMAZING! Kindof like the center of a 1000 Grand Bar, wrapped in coconut instead of chocolate. Yum like times a million... you can really taste the butter and richness of the dates, the vanilla, and the airy crunch of the Krispies, sooooooooo good!
I also made the "Chicken Kick" recipe (below), but skimped to make it a whole lot more time friendly: I couldn't find Andoullie sausage in these parts, so I bought some artichoke/mozzarella sausages instead and some jarred Bertolli Alfredo sauce, tossing in a chopped tomato at the last minute (vs making the relish). It was one of the few meals that ms. picky puss ate in months and months that she didn't grumble about; so for a brief shining moment, it was if the heavens themselves had parted and all was well with the world (cue hallelujah chorus, i.e. one of the less dim adolescent moments I've had in a while. Now if I could just figure out a way to include Captain Crunch and Alfredo sauce in every meal, it's sure to be bliss 'round here).

Oh, and I got a call tonight 'round about the time little dude's bus was to arrive back at school from skiing. Turns out the little goober went missing and was holding up the WHOLE SHOW. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be worried or just feign surprise for the lady who called, knowing that Jacob is mr. disappear-o when he doesn't want to stop doing something. Great. Three years ago he got lost on the ski hill when he and another 8 year old buddy somehow ended up on the biggest, baddest run they had (the dreaded Black Diamond, OooooOOoooooooo!). But other than looking a little freaked out, those boys were no worse for the wear. ME, on the other hand, OY! Anyhoo, all my little bugs are getting snug, and since the pellet stove is hooked back up, I'm ready to cozy up myself.

Gar!


Sunday, December 7, 2008

More of My Favorite (Forgotten) Recipes/Teriyaki Chicken Pita, Chicken Kick

Chancery Teriyaki Chicken Pita
4 chicken breast halves (about 5 ounces each), cut in bite-size pieces
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup pea pods, stems removed
1 cup broccoli buds
1/2 cup red bell pepper strips
1 cup cut yellow squash, sliced in half-moon shapes
1 cup cut carrots, cut in very thin julienne strips
1/2 cup teriyaki glaze (see recipe)
8 slices jack cheese (1 ounce each)
4 pieces Greek pita bread
4 large lettuce leaves
4 pickle spears
In large oven-proof skillet, saute chicken pieces in oil. When chicken is almost cooked through, add vegetables and cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Vegetables should be bright and firm to the bite. Do not overcook. Add teriyaki glaze to coat vegetables and chicken. Shingle cheese over chicken and vegetables and set under broiler. Broil until cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Microwave pita bread 10 seconds. Pour vegetable-cheese mixture over pita bread. Fold pita over and secure with decorative pick. Set on large leaf of lettuce and garnish with pickle spear. Serve with french fries, 5-bean salad or pasta salad.
Makes 4 servings.
Teriyaki glaze:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup plus
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of minced fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dry sherry
1 1/2 tablespoons pineapple juice
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
In small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine soy sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic powder, pepper, sherry and juice. Bring to simmer. Combine water and cornstarch; whisk together. Add to simmering liquid to thicken; continue to simmer 10 minutes. Put small, heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium heat. Add oil and seeds. Toast seeds until lightly browned. Immediately pour seed mixture into thickened teriyaki glaze to stop seeds from overtoasting; mix to combine. Use 1/2 cup with chicken/vegetable mixture. Reserve remaining glaze for another use.
Makes about 2/3 cup.

Chancery Restaurant Chicken Kick
Spicy tomato relish (see recipe)
Alfredo sauce (see recipe)
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cubed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 ounces julienne-cut red bell pepper (1 large)
8 ounces cooked andouille sausage (or precooked spicy Polishsausage), sliced on the bias
11 ounces dry penne pasta, cooked
1 tablespoon Poultry Magic (Cajun seasoning blend forblackening)

Prepare spicy tomato relish.
Prepare alfredo sauce and keep warm.
Saute chicken in oil in large, deep skillet. When half done, add red peppers and sausage. Cook over medium heat until chicken is cooked through.
Add Alfredo sauce, cooked pasta and poultry seasoning. Cook, tossing regularly, until mixture comes to a boil, then pour into serving bowl. Garnish with tomato relish.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Spicy tomato relish:
1 to 2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced (or to taste)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Lawry's seasoning salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup diced fresh plum tomatoes cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Juice from half a lime
Combine all ingredients in bowl. Mix well.
Alfredo sauce:
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons chicken base
3 cups whipping cream
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons water
Place garlic powder and chicken base in saucepan. Add cream and heat, stirring occasionally. When hot,add Parmesan, stirring regularly until cheese melts. Add cornstarch that has been dissolved in water andcontinue to cook until sauce thickens enough to coat back of spoon. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Gone in the Morning:


Just heard this song on the local radio station (WBSD, again the coolest radio station around)-- never heard it before, and what o what could it be??
Well, how great is it that I have this nifty application on my iPhone that can listen to any song and tell you what it is, and then gives you the option to purchase it via iTunes. So within like 15 seconds I not only knew what the song was, but bought it, watched the YouTube video, and then looked up the hilarious lyrics and laughed and laughed ("I'm gonna live inside a tiny zoo"???? Bwahahahaaaaaa!).

Lovelovelove my iPhone, glad to see that all the things I thought should have been invented eons ago finally exist.

One last thing:

I think I finally have my St Nick dinner menu planned. I'd like to make:

**Turkey a la Cooks Illustrated, roasted at a high temperature (with the breastbone removed, the turkey pounded somewhat flat, placed on a slotted rack over a tray of homemade challa bread and sausage stuffing)

*Praline sweet potatoes (more like a dessert than anything, but oh sooo goooood)

Oven roasted kobucha squash

**Toasted hazelnut and brown butter green beans or brussels sprouts

Mashed potatoes (yuk! but the kids like 'em...) (can you tell I've been reading Cooks Illustrated? Can't wait to try these):

Boil 2 # scrubbed russett or yukon gold potatoes in pan filled with water, covering the potatoes one inch. Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer until potatoes are just tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Drain. Set food mill over warm pan. Spear potato with dinner fork, and then peel back skin with a paring knife. Working in batches, cut peeled potatoes into rough chunks and process with food mill into pan. Str in 8 tb of butter, melted, 1 cup warmed half and half, and 1 1/2 tsp salt. Add pepper to taste.

*Gravy

**Baked Brie with cranberries

*With an assortment of cookies and a dark chocolate roulade cake for dessert.

Turkey???? You might be asking yourself... but since we don't host Thanksgiving, we don't get any leftovers, and thusly we were all left craving turkey and the subsequent Wild Rice and Turkey soup that's sure to follow (see post below for recipe) this year. So a fabulous brined and roasted turkey it will be!

*these can all be made in advance, **these can all be prepped in advance