Annapurna is the Hindu goddess of food: The Mother Who Feeds

Annapurna is the Hindu goddess of food: The Mother Who Feeds.
"In this world, apart from our spiritual practice, there is no other place or power that we can rely on." Supreme Master Ching Hai

Friday, December 9, 2011

If I can survive this, I can survive anything...

I work in a hospital. I answer the phones when people have issues with our computerized charting system. I have weathered some pretty awful people doing this job: the haters, the I-can'ts, the this-is-so-stupids, the you-don't-know-what-you're-talking-abouts.... you get the picture.

I realize now, that the past 18 months were just to prepare me for today.

Today was the day that I walked my computer illiterate parents through the process of printing out their cruise documents, boarding passes, and luggage tags. Over the phone.


No big deal, you're thinking?  Well, maybe not if you know what the phrases: 'browser window,' 'search engine,'  'log in box,' 'password,' 'x-to-close' and 'printer icon' mean. Picture in your head having to be dually logged in and attempting to give verbal directions to two people who have a brand new computer and do not know how to get on the Internet.

Yes, let's get ONLINE first. Oh, you say you don't know how to get online? Okay. Deep breath. Let's start at the beginning.  Oh. My. God.

The saving grace after 90 minutes of deep breathing, gut wrenching, face making, gun in my mouth pantomiming, was the sound of the printer working in the background and this final statement: "Oh, you're such and expert! How would we have done this without you! Thank you!"

It's only noon, but believe me, I need a cocktail.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Dirty Bathroom Dream

I am plagued, I tell you! Plagued with recurrent dreams for over a month now. I mean every single night.


I am in some unfamiliar place, searching for a restroom. Never somewhere I know, which is pretty funny considering how much I complain about the bathrooms at work. This place is always public, always full of stalls, usually over twenty or thirty of them. And they are all filthy! Every single one of them. I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say that I wouldn't use any of them if they were the last bathrooms on earth.


The most bizarre thing about these dreams is that there are other people around, and none of them seem to be bothered by the lack of toilet seats, stall doors or by the filthy floors overflowing with sewage. In fact they are all happily using this disgusting bathroom as if they had no cares in the world.


Being the metaphysical person that I am, of course I researched this, because my life has been in a hideous upheaval the past month and I believe that there is some connection.  Here's what I found:



Information from "The Strangest Dream...The Dreamers Dictionary for the 21st Century" by Kelly Sullivan Walden, describes that dreams of bathrooms symbolize releasing and letting go of toxic feelings and thoughts. In addition dreams of human excrement signify a releasing and letting go of what is in the way of your being fully in your power. Ms Walden also writes that dreams of dirt indicate that there is an aspect of your life that needs to be cleaned up and dreams of urine signify that a person is releasing negativity. A common theme here with all of these symbols is a letting go to start anew.
In George Fink's, "Dream Symbols A-Z", Mr. Fink writes that bathrooms are a place for cleaning up, and indicate emotional purification. Dreams which contain a toilet mean that we want to rid ourselves of burdens. He goes on to write that a dream about feces may be related to "financial matters or to evaluating the worth of someone's character." He writes that "it points to the dreamer's sense of order and generosity."
In "Parkers' Complete book of Dreams" by Julia and Derek Parker I read a particularly powerful statement which may be helpful, "Refuse is something that we want to dispose of . It may be something we no longer want or something foisted upon us by others.

Well, considering all that, I guess I need to stop being so negative, release my toxic feelings towards middle management, and think twice about staying in my current position at the hospital, since that seems to be where all this angst is coming from.  Food for thought.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What's that you say is in my food??

It's been a busy month, as evidenced by the fact that I've left this boring chronicle of stock-making up here for ages! But I just finished my term paper, which is on Morgellons disease. If you don't know what that is, you're not alone. Even the CDC doesn't know what it is, although they've supposedly been researching it for three years.

The disease process was brought to my attention by my vegetarian son, Renn, who is extremely into the non-GMO movement and who is more picky about what he eats and wears than anyone I know. Renn has long been into the travesty of Monsanto Corp, and what they've done to the American Food supply with their genetically modified organisms, and monopoly of the seed supply. If you haven't researched that, I'll give it to you in a nutshell: Monsanto is responsible for the bumper crops of corn and soybeans that we now grow in the US, mostly to feed our beef lot super meat growing sites, and our chicken productions.

To obtain a "superior" seed, Monsanto corporation has genetically modified the seed supply, by adding agrobacterium, a gram negative bacteria which they inject into the roots of plants. The result is a spore that causes massive overgrowth in the root, and a resulting bumper crop of produce. What's wrong with that, you ask?  Well, for starters, there are no long-term studies that look at how consuming produce that is genetically modified affects our body, or at how eating meat that has been fed GMO's affects our body.

We've been eating this stuff for nigh on 30 years now, and about 12 years ago, some people started showing up in the emergency departments around the country, complaining about crawly, itchy skin, lesions sprouting strange fibers, chronic fatigue, neurological problems, and black flakes in their urine. No one knew what was going on with them, and although their numbers increased, the general consensus of the medical community was that they were suffering from a psychiatric disorder known as Psychotic Parasitosis. In other words: you think you have bugs and fibers moving around under your skin. Take an anti-psychotic, and deal with it.

Thanks to one woman, whose 2 year old baby kept sprouting "fuzz balls" out of his face, the Morgellons Research Foundation was begun in 2002, and in 2008, the CDC agreed to sponsor a study into the disease process of people suffering from Morgellons. Problem is, the research was completed in 2009, and as of yet, not a word has been said regarding the findings.  NO ONE is studying this problem, even though a SUNY study in 2007 and another study in 2009 both showed that all fibers tested from various patients tested positive for agrobacterium DNA.  The 2009 study showed conclusively that agrobacterium in the specific patient studied was coming out of his WATER SUPPLY. But no one has looked into where the water came from, or it's proximity to fields growing GMO produce. No one has studied why people are sprouting foreign substances out of their bodies that have agrobacterium DNA. What is that doing in humans?

My theory? That in immunosuppressed people, the body cannot deal with what is essentially a foreign substance, and therefore the body attempts to rid itself through unconventional means. IE: pushing fibers out through the skin, or through the urine.
The most concentrated reporting of Morgellons in the nation is in the hugely agricultural area of northern California. Texas and Florida are a close second. Look at all the other borderline states! Very interesting, and it should prove telling as more and more people register with the foundation, to see what happens to this map.

Here's a picture of some of those nasty fibers:

My goal here, in exposing you all to this medial jargon and talky-talk, is to get you to think about the value of buying local. Know your farmer, read the labels, do some research. This is not about being a hippie or even being hip. It involves your life, and your livelihood.

There is a link to the crap we are forced to eat as Americans, and our health. Choose wisely!

Morgellons Research Foundation

The CDC's attempt to get you to believe they are doing something about this....

Thursday, October 27, 2011

STOCK!

Many people buy their stock at the store, and I used to be one of them, I admit. It's not that expensive, it's easy to open and dump, and you can buy it when it's on sale.  I lived like that for many years.

Fairly recently, I started to care where my food came from, how it was treated if it was an animal, and how it was grown if it was a plant. That's when I went back to my roots, and started making certain things from scratch, and stock is one of them. It's not hard, but I quit doing it years ago for the above mentioned reasons.

Let me start by saying that I only use organic, free range chicken. I know the family who raises them for me, I know what kind of treatment they get, what they're fed, and how many times a week their giant chicken house gets moved to clean grass. They eat bugs, grass, seeds, worms, and everything that chickens are supposed to eat. They taste AMAZING, and I think that $20 a chicken is completely worth it to feel good about serving them.  They also cook completely different than chicken-mill raised birds.  One of the things about chicken stock, is that after you get the bird in the pot, you bring it to a rapid boil, then turn it down to low, skim the foam (which is the marrow from the bones of the chicken) that comes to a greasy gray scum on the top of the water. If you don't skim it, or continue to boil the hell out of it, then your chicken's bone marrow will fuse with the water, and you will have a nasty, murky, gray-tinged looking broth. This trick is something I JUST LEARNED! So all you beginners, don't think that you cannot learn new things, even after you've been cooking for 30 years! This is the main reason why I always hated the broth I made! It tasted okay, but it looked gross. I was mortified to learn that all it took was patience! The first thing I noticed when using these organic birds, is that there is very little junk, and I usually only skim once.  I think it's because they're natural, they're not loaded full of chemicals, dyes, antibiotics, and drugs, and therefore they are very, very clean.

This is my chicken, right after I skimmed it and and added the veggies. Very clear and fragrant.

SO~~~
STEP ONE:  Plan stock making for a day when you aren't rushed. Then buy a good chicken, preferably organic, free range. Your end product will be so superior, that you won't regret it. Besides, when I show you everything you can do with one stewed chicken, the results will have you sold.

STEP TWO:  Invest in a good stock pan.  I bought a 20 quart stock pan about 10 years ago, and it's saved my bacon on many occasions. I believe I bought it at Walgreen's or Bi-Mart. I know I didn't pay more than $12 for it. It's a necessity when making stock, and it also is awesome at Thanksgiving time when you need to make mashed potatoes by the 20# sack :>) Put  your bird in the pot, and fill the pot up with COLD water until the bird is just submerged.

STEP THREE: Bring chicken to a rapid boil, then immediately reduce heat to a simmer. This means that the bubbles are just breaking the surface occasionally. This is SLOW. FYI: I put my bird in straight from the freezer, frozen solid (with that said, the farm where I buy my chickens leaves the necks attached, not wrapped in paper before they freeze them and stuff them in the cavity. They also don't put the organs in the cavity. See comments on that below.) In other words, if you're going to skip thawing it, then know what's in the cavity before you just throw it in the pan!

STEP FOUR: Skim off any foam that comes to the surface with a slotted spoon, and discard it.  Then add 1 peeled carrot, one peeled onion sliced in half, 2 stalks of celery, 1T of peppercorns, 1/2 a head of garlic, one large handful of fresh parsley, several sprigs of thyme (no need to pick off leaves, just throw them in the pot), and 1 T kosher salt.

I cooked it low and slow for about 5 hours, keeping an eye on the water level, and tasting occasionally to see if it needs more salt.

When it's done, just set it on the counter for a while, maybe 15 minutes. It should still be hot, but not boiling, so you don't burn yourself when you strain it.

STEP FIVE: Pull the chicken out, and place in a bowl.  It might come out in many, many pieces, and that's okay. Just pull out as much as you can with a big fork, and set aside.  The rest you'll get when you strain it.

STEP SIX: Put a giant silver bowl in your sink. Get a metal strainer (I use one I bought at the Dollar Tree for $1, and it works GREAT.)  Pour the broth through the strainer, until strainer is about half full. Raise the strainer up over the bowl, and allow all liquid to run into larger bowl. Put chicken and vegetables that remain in with the other bowl of chicken until you're ready to deal with that.  Continue this process until all broth is strained through fine strainer.

This picture shows the vegetable broth, but you get the idea with the chicken.

STEP SEVEN: Let the broth cool a little more, and then ladle into freezer containers. I happen to love Ball Freezer Containers. They are reusable, you can write on them, they have a screw on top (very important) and they are so easy to pull out of the freezer and thaw in the microwave when you're ready to use. They're cheap, and you can get them at Bi-Mart or Wal-Mart in the canning/freezing section.
Let the stock cool on the counter completely, then put the lids on, mark them, and throw them in the freezer. These particular freezer jars are made to stack, which really works great in any of my three freezers.

STEP EIGHT: pick the chicken off the bones. If you've done it right, the meat will just slide right off, and this won't take you very long at all. Don't forget the neck, wings and drumsticks! Most organic chickens come with the necks intact, but yours might be inside the bird. I don't use the gizzards, (my farm doesn't include them at all, which is FINE with me!). I don't like the flavor they give to the stock. But the necks, wings and drumsticks are loaded with meat. Just pick the bones out and you won't regret the extra few minutes this takes for the big handful of meat you get.

BEEF STOCK

If you're wanting to make beef stock, it's pretty much the same as above, only go to the butcher and ask for beef bones. You'll have a bit more skimming to do, depending on where you buy your beef, but the process is really similar. I usually add a little Kitchen Bouquet to my beef stock. You can get this anywhere that sells spices, and it really makes your stock a nice color.


VEGETABLE STOCK
If you want vegetable stock, there are truly no rules! I love making vegetable stock, because it is a fabulous way to get rid of old vegetables that you forgot about. Start by thinking about how things would taste together. If you wouldn't roast them all and serve them as a side dish together, don't put them together for your stock.  Here's what I had today when I made stock: an onion, a few shallots, a yellow crookneck squash, a zucchini, a butternut squash, garlic, celery and a few wrinkly tomatoes. Throw all these veggies on a roasting pan (or cookie sheet) and roast at 400 degrees until they start to brown slightly and smell fragrant. You don't want them "done" but they should be starting to brown.

Here's what mine looked like before I threw them in the oven.  Once they start to smell good, then put them in a large kettle, and add at least 2 gallons of water.  Boil them with a bay leaf, some parsley, some oregano, Kosher salt, and a T of peppercorns. I like my vegetable stock to have a golden color, and my opinion is that if you use either a butternut or some other small savory squash, or a bunch of carrots, that you'll get that same golden finish. I wouldn't use both, because I think the flavors stay more pure if you use one or the other, but it's totally a matter of taste. One vegetable family that I don't use in my stock, is anything in the cabbage family, or the beet family. I find their flavors dominate the broth and ruin the dishes where I use vegetable broth. If you're really scared about what to put in vegetable broth, go to the store and read the ingredients on a commercially prepared broth, and use what they use. Also, be very careful about things like potatoes, yams and parsnips/turnips. They can turn your broth murky.

Here's what your broth should look like after simmering for about 3 hours:

Follow the same process as above for straining, packaging and freezing. There are a couple of options for the cooked vegetables.  One: you can compost them.

This is my compost bucket, and these went out onto the garden spot.

If you (like my vegetarian son, who came in and gave me a hard time about throwing all this goodness on the garden) want to be even more thrifty, then you can puree all these good vegetables up by running them through a Foley food mill. (This item is also something that I think is really necessary any kitchen, and is very inexpensive. I got mine at Bi-Mart.)  The cool thing about the Foley food mill is that it removes all the skins, seeds, etc, and leaves you with a nice creamy product. You could then add some milk or broth, and have yourself a nice soup base to which you could add pretty much anything. I had other things to do today, so I sent my cooked veggies back to Mother Earth, where they will fertilize next years garden.

IN CONCLUSION

To recap: from one $20 chicken and a bunch of vegetables that I had sitting around on my counter, here's what I got:

One giant bowl of chicken, with which I made a dozen chicken enchiladas, with a 1/2 a gallon of leftover chicken enchilada filling for the next time I want to make them (see the bags of chicken at the bottom of the picture below.)  I just labeled it, and tossed it in the freezer. I also got and additional half a quart of dark chicken meat for the next time I make chicken noodle soup, which I threw in the freezer too.

Chicken Enchiladas, top and cheese enchiladas below


And the BROTH!!:

There's my additional chicken, below the chicken broth!
Veggie Broth!
So Yummy!! and good for you. PLUS, you know whats in it and where it came from! With organic stock running anywhere from $4-$6 a quart depending on where you shop, you can see that you've already saved yourself money by doing it this way. Plus, you've got at least three meals out of your chicken, depending on your family size.  All around, this is the smart way to cook and eat.

One last bit of advice, especially for my young married readers. If you only buy one cookbook this year, invest in "The Art of Simple Food" by Alice Waters. It's full of very easy, basic items, that will save you money for the rest of your life, if you learn to master these techniques when you're first starting out. I cannot say enough about nice things about Alice. When you get some time, Google her, and you'll be amazed by all the good things she does with her life. In this day and age of health problems and disease, what we eat is, in my opinion, the difference between life and death. It DOES make a difference where it comes from, and how it's prepared! Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ten Years Later

So, many of you know that I'm from a long line of Mormon Pioneers, and that I was born and raised in the Mormon Church.  I've considered myself "out" of the church since 2000, when I officially told my bishop I was done. He proceeded to threaten, cajole and intimidate me, then tried for about six years to reactivate us by sending the latest brave soul to our door to tell us how lost we were. I politely told each and every person that we were fine, and to please just leave us alone.

A few years back, someone close to me that I knew resigned her membership in the church, and I've been wanting to do that since she did, but just never found the time to do it. Okay, maybe I was still deeply frightened of such a step, regardless of how much I profess to not believe in the church. But the idea continued to intrigue me, as I don't believe in or recognize the church leaders as having authority over me, and didn't want to endure the stigmatism of having a church court in order to leave the church.

I found this wonderfully supportive website: http://www.mormonnomore.com/, which gives support and instructions for how to resign your membership. Resigning sounds to me like it's a choice I made, rather than one made for me because I've sinned. Since I had no choice in the matter of being baptised when I was but eight years old, I did have a choice about how I was going to leave.

We (me and four of my five children) received our letters from the church last week letting us know that our resignations had been accepted, and that if we ever wanted to return, to contact our local church leaders. It was all very clean and very non-dramatic, just as the site promised, if the instructions were followed exactly. This process was dramatically different from other people I know who have left, who have been forced to go through a church court trial, and in the process have had their names slandered from the pulpit of the local ward house. It was truly a blessing to me to be able to finally cut the last connection. Leaving that last string attached, even though I haven't felt part of the church emotionally or physically for over 10 years, still bothered me, because I don't do anything half way, and this felt hypocritical to me to still be an official member. Almost like I was saying: "Well, I'm going to remain a member, in case it's all true, and I'm just temporarily messed up."  That wasn't the way I felt, so completing this final step was what I needed to do.

A very dear friend, who is one of my few remaining LDS friends from my "previous life" directed me to the blog of a true warrior. A woman and her family who live in a very active LDS area of Utah, and who had the courage to leave the church and follow their own path in life. She has written a letter to her family explaining her reasons for leaving the church, as well as her feelings during the process. And it is a process, I assure you!!  I'm linking to her blog here (which I hope is okay; she's a goddess in my eyes, as well as a fantastic writer), because this letter could have come straight out of my head.

As I was sharing with my friend, none of my family who are still LDS have ever asked me any questions about my beliefs now, or the reasons why I left, save one of my sisters in law. I am more than happy to share, if people ask, and I'd rather you know why, than make your own assumptions. Read this open letter to Mormons, and if you still want my personal take on it, ask me and I'll tell you.

Angela's open Letter to Mormons: Angela's Blog: Wholehearted

Signed: extremely happy to be MormonNoMore
AKA: your same old friend Dayna

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pintrest, kind of like internet website picture porn.....

I've discovered Pintrest this week. If you've never been to it, give it a try at: http://www.pintrest.com
You have to wait for an invite if you want your own bulletin board, which kind of bugs, but they don't stop you from poking around in the mean time...

It's a blast! Lots of pictures, which lead to tons of different links, one of which I found this awesome pretzel recipe from A Cozy Kitchen:

                  Soft Pretzel Tots


.

Soft Pretzel Tots
1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt or coarse Sea Salt
Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 4 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 22-inch rope. Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces; using your two hands, one-by-one, roll them into circles. Place the balls (or tots) onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.
Place the pretzels tots into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel tot with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt (or coarse sea salt). Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The winning Chili recipe!

I blogged in September about my chopping-hot-peppers-raw experience (go here) while making Cuisine at Home's Green Chicken Chili recipe. I took my own advice and roasted the peppers this time, and just took home first place at our winery club's first annual Chili cook-off! That's $50 worth of wine, thank you very much! Due to popular demand, here's the recipe:

Green Chicken Chili 

SOAK:
1 1/2 C dry great Northern beans
ADD:
4 C chopped tomatillos
4C roasted, seeded, diced Anaheim chilies (about 8 chilies)
2 C each diced onion and roasted, seeded jalapenos (about 5 chilies)
3T minced garlic
1T ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground coriander
4C chicken broth
STIR:
4C shredded rotisserie chicken
1/4 C masa harina
3T fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
GARNISH:
lime wedges, sour cream, and chopped fresh cilantro

SOAK beans according to package directions; drain, then add to a 5-6 quart slow cooker.
ROAST: chilies on high broil, turning until crispy blackened skins appear. Remove to plastic sack, and sweat on the counter until cool. Remove blistered skins, and seeds. Chop.
ADD: tomatillos, Anaheim chilies, onion, Jalapenos, garlic, cumin, oregano, coriander and broth to the slow cooker. Cook chili on high-heat setting until beans are tender, about 4 1/2-5 1/2 hours. I've found this really depends on how old your beans are, and how they've been stored.
STIR: chicken and masa harina into chili; cook 30 minutes more. Stir in lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.
GARNISH each serving  with lime wedges, sour cream and cilantro.

From Sept 2011 Cuisine at Home

Friday, October 14, 2011

Redemption!

Last night's dinner was so redeeming after Can Can/Couldn't Couldn't night, that I just had to share the pictures!


So Easy Gazpacho
2 C freshly juiced tomato juice
4 med tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 C chopped cucumber
1/3 C finely chopped sweet onion
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C cider vinegar
1 t sugar
1 garlic clove, minced fine on micro plane grater
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper

In large bowl, combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours until chilled. Serve in 1/2 pint jars or decorative soup dishes, with sour dough bread on the side.



Roasted Butternut Linguine

4C cubed, peeled butternut squash
1 medium red onion, chopped
3T olive oil
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 lb uncooked linguine
2C shredded kale
1T water or olive oil for steaming/pan frying kale
1T minced fresh sage
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
Put squash, onions, olive oil and spices in a 1 qt zip lock bag. Shake until well coated. Turn out on baking sheet, and place in preheated oven. Bake 25 minutes or until squash is tender, turning to brown. Meantime, steam kale in fry pan with either water or olive oil until bright green and tender, but not limp. Set aside. Cook linguine per package directions, drain and place in large bowl. Top with squash mixture and kale. Toss to combine.

Both recipes from August/September 2010 Taste of Home Magazine
http://www.tasteofhome.com/

Thursday, October 13, 2011

That Can Can that Couldn't Couldn't

I made a recipe last night from Taste of Home's annual "Shortcuts" issue (Aug/Sept 2011.) It was entitled "Nacho Beef Bake," and was supposed to be a short and sweet version of a taco salad type of thing.

Aside from the fact that even though it was my day off, and unless I'm deathly ill I usually cook on my day off, my family had already broken out the macaroni and cheese from a box before I got home with the ingredients for my tasty casserole. This alone was enough to start a squabble between me and Mike.

Me: "What are you guys doing?"

Mike: "Eating mac and cheese."

Me: "Is it not obvious by the stack of ingredients sitting on the counter next to the stove, that I am making dinner tonight?"

Mike: "We didn't get a text."

Me:  "It's MY DAY OFF. If you want to know what's for dinner, you can text me!" (I say as I remember that sick as a dog I still cooked dinner last week!!)

This was met by stony stares as he and Bayley stuffed their mouths with nasty boxed Kraft. (Sidebar: I have no control over what my husband buys and puts in my pantry. Talking until I'm blue in the face about organics has done nothing to change his shopping  habits and his fucking coupon clipping, which, in my opinion, is only a scheme to get the most completely unhealthy shit imaginable on the plates of Americans.)

On that note, yes, I realize that taking short cuts is usually a bad thing, but I've subscribed to TOH for 14 years, and have yet to try a recipe from the magazine that I didn't like. As I will describe, there always has to be a first time!!

So, in an attempt to make a dish that my vegetarian children could eat, instead of me saying: "Gee, guys, don't know what you're going to eat tonight," as I did with last week's Hungarian Goulash, I made the dish with those veggie crumbles that look like already cooked ground beef. I used whole wheat noodles, and low salt canned tomatoes. However, there isn't much choice when the list calls for nacho cheese soup, which I admit I used. I also used store bought salsa and ranch dressing, when I usually make those from scratch as well. All of this is leading up to a collective groan from my readers, because I'm wincing as I write it myself.... disaster is brewing, for sure!

The casserole/salad thingie that I made, sure looked pretty, but even after my first bite I could tell this recipe was going to get a failing grade from me. I am the furthest thing from a salt-a-holic. Mike loves salt, and perhaps if he hadn't gorged himself on boxed mac and cheese last night, he would have loved this recipe. My mouth was burning from too much salt almost from bite #1!  Between the green olives, canned tomatoes, canned soup, canned salsa, bottled ranch and crunched up Doritos on the top, it was the worst conglomeration of SALT I've ever tasted! It was horrible!!

Pretty, but horrible tasting!

I shudder to admit that I used to think nothing of a meal created from canned foods. I bought what was on sale by the CASELOAD when the kids were little, and used it to create meals that were filling and cheap. I think that eating the way we've been eating for the past few years, organic, fresh, and local, has totally spoiled me to ever eat this way again! It was a good reminder for me that if a recipe has more than one canned item in it, I'm probably not going to like it!

Now tonight's recipe (which was what I was going to make originally last night, and should have!) is butternut squash linguine.  Fresh butternut squash, fresh red onion, and fresh chard, roasted and tossed lightly with herbs, EVOO and cooked linguine. I'll do fresh tomato gazpacho to go with it. Now we're talking!

Monday, October 3, 2011

And that's what we call Karma, Baby!

Have you seen this cartoon, floating around Facebook?

The members of Westboro Baptist Church have bugged me from the first time they picketed a fallen soldier's funeral. The narrow mindedness of people like this boggles my mind, and makes me an even bigger believer in Karma, what goes around comes around, energy swapping, call it whatever you want.  I simply cannot believe that the forces that rule this planet wouldn't want to suck these idiots into the nearest black hole!

If you are a Christian, and believe in God and Jesus, then you are probably familiar with the Bible. Most Christians I know believe that book to be the word of God, and use it as a measuring stick in their daily lives. Most of my good Christian friends are as appalled by the WBC as I am, and abhor the kinds of "Christlike" behavior that they exhibit.

If you're more a believer in Karma or energy, as I am, I can't believe that these people aren't going to be shocked as hell when they wake up in their next life as a starving orphan in Darfur. Because if I were in charge of Karma, that's where I'd send them: to learn one hell of a lesson in humility after the shitty things they did in this life. Only the most narrow-minded people could picket the funeral of fallen American soldiers, who took a bullet protecting this country. Only the most narrow-minded people could think that God only loves you if you're a white, Christian, heterosexual ultra-conservative.

The only conclusion I can draw here, is that these types of people came from hideously abusive homes where hate and fear were fostered. That's the only way I can wrap my mind around the kind of energy it takes to maintain this level of hatred for fellow human beings and call it Christianity.

I say let Karma do it's job. Let them see what it feels like to walk 20 miles round trip every day to get water and wood to cook 1 cup of gruel to feed a family of six. Let them fear the bands of rapists who regularly defile and disfigure innocent women and young girls for sport. Let them see what it feels like to have your husband disown you because you became an unwitting victim of said sport. Let them see what it feels like as a man, the head of a family, to repeatedly stand in line for days on end, hoping for work to support his starving kids. Let them watch their children die of AIDS or starvation. Let them experience grief unparalleled in this universe when their sons or daughters are beaten to death or bullied to the point of suicide for being gay. I say bring on the worst, Universe, and let them remember everything they did and said to persecute innocent people with their hatred, while they are in the living hell of Karma.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Too Old

So, my normally sweet husband was unnecessarily cruel to me last night. I mean, REALLY cruel!

I am sitting there watching the season premiere of Private Practice, where an old favorite hottie of mine has joined the cast. Enter Dr. Jake Reilly (aka: Benjamin Bratt) as Dr. Addison Forbes Montgomery's latest love interest. She met him last season in the produce aisle, they shared a kiss without exchanging names, and that was the last I thought I'd ever see of Mr. Bratt.  This season, we find Addison forging ahead with her dream to have a baby, even though the producers seem to have forgotten that this series started 4 years ago with Addison's visit to her friends in LA to see if she could have a baby then. Her friend Naomi told her four years ago that she had like *one* egg left to her name. Of course, the magic of TV land will probably produce that single egg and fertilize it with the sperm of some studly donor. Only the best for Addison Forbes Montgomery!!

At any rate, she's laying there, up in stirrups waiting for her "fertility doctor" to show up, and of course who should walk in but Mr. Pineapple, from the previous season. After a bunch of shuffling, snuffling, clothes tugging awkwardness from Addison, Mr. Hott, er, I mean, Bratt, takes her hands in his and says: "Addison, I'm going to give you a baby."  <faint>

So.... to the TV, I said: "Oh good god, Benjamin, you could give me a baby any day!!" to which my husband replied: "Yeah, a retarded baby, maybe, since you're 45 going on.... you know...." (He knows this upcoming birthday has me bugged....)

Okay, so I didn't know whether to cry or smack the shit out of him at this point!! I mean, people have babies all the damn time in their 40's!! My sister's mother in law did it at age 47, so SEE!! Where does he get off telling me I'm too old to have a baby?? I could do it if I wanted to!

Me: "Well, I certainly wouldn't be having another baby with you, asshole."

Mike: "Duh, I'm fixed. Why am I an asshole?"

Me: "You heard me. That was just plain rude, and mean. I cannot believe that you said I was OLD!"

Mike: "I didn't say you were old, I said you were almost...."

Me: "DON'T SAY IT!! Don't you say the number out loud!"

Mike: "But honey, I didn't say you were old!"

Me: "You said my eggs were retarded!  That's the same as saying I'm old and shouldn't procreate, even with Benjamin Bratt!"

Mike: (looks incredulous) <sigh> "I didn't say you were old."

Me: "I am going to bed, where you should probably not begin to think you are getting any sex tonight."

I went to bed alone, where I dreamed about Benjamin Bratt and his millions of viable sperm. To hell with my husband, and sliding down the hill towards fiddy next month. I could have a baby with a hottie if I wanted to.....

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

ADULT TRUTHS

This is NOT my work. But I wish it was, because it's all so true! Too good not to pass on. (Italics are my comments.) Enjoy!

*** Adult Truths ***
1. Sometimes I'll look down at my watch three consecutive times and still do not know what time it is. 
2. Nothing stinks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong. 
3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger. 
4. There is great need for a sarcasm font. (Um ya!)
5. How in the world are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet? (I don't fold them. I wad them up and shove them in my linen closet, whose doors don't even close all the way. No apologies. In my opinion, there is no damn way to have an organized linen closet.)
6. Was learning cursive really necessary? 
7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on # 5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood. 
8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died. (I disagree. I think it's way more fun to try to figure out who offed themselves vs. who died of AIDS.)
9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired. 
10. Bad decisions make good stories. (No shit!! I need to blog about the Great Raccoon Caper.)
11. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day. 
12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have to restart my collection... again. 
13. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to. (Worse yet when it says: "Do you want to revert to the originally saved copy of ______?" Learned that the hard way when I lost 9 pages of test notes last semester. Grrr!)
14. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call. (I would NEVER do this, because that would be RUDE.) (Where's that sarcasm font again??!)
15. I think the freezer deserves a light as well. (Why?? Everything looks like a giant ice block anyway, and it's a grab bag treasure chest in there. Having a light would be of no use to me unless I defrosted the damn thing.)
16. I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option. 
17. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger. (is there a LINE?)
18. How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear or understand a word they said? (I do this ALL the time!! In fact, my sister told me recently: BRING YOUR GOOD EAR OVER HERE!! She's totally right. I'm deaf as a post.)
19. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers and sisters! (This warms my heart on the rare occasion that it happens. See my post entitled: Is that a cop behind those blackberries?)
20. Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever. (I used to believe this was true, when I could still fit into a decent pair of jeans, until one time I walked around all day thinking, God in Heaven, what is that SMELL?? Yup, the jeans. Gross.)
21. Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey -but I'd bet everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time. (Amen.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

I'll be sticking to recipes from now on....

Oh, yeah. I heard it alright. Apparently I cannot discuss family, even with great sarcasm, without eternal retribution.... so I will just stick to recipes and funny anecdotal whimsy from now on. Apparently my "tone" of humor does not translate well to the black and white.


SO.... My foodie friend Jacki and I have been discussing vinaigrette's, and our obsession with flavored vinegars.  Since a friend of mine on the coast sent me an email today wondering about vinaigrette's, this discussion was apropos. Sarah was telling me that she had been served a salad in a restaurant coated with a lovely balsamic vinaigrette, and that she'd been trying to replicate it ever since. The problem, she said, was that she couldn't replicate the "creamy" texture, and wondered if I knew how to make it. 

The misnomer here is that people think there's actually cream in creamy vinaigrette's, when we all know that if we think about it, cream and vinegar=curdles=yuck! I actually learned how to make a creamy vinaigrette from my sister Karena, who makes a kick-ass salad dressing from scratch. She was the one who taught me how to make the worlds best snack plate, so kudos to you, sissy, for showing this old dog a new trick.  



So back to the creamy: there are a few different ways to achieve that creamy consistency that you're looking for in a good home-made vinaigrette. If you want a cheesy component, any soft cheese crumble adds a wonderful creaminess. I like blue cheese crumbles, which have their own musty flavor and texture. But if you are wanting a non-cheesy creamy dressing, the best way to "cream" up your concoction is with fruit or mustard. I prefer Coleman's dry mustard, but bottled works too, but with a sharper flavor.  Other must haves: fresh garlic, some kind of fresh or dried herb, extra virgin olive oil, and salt. Don't be stingy with that salt!


Give this recipe a whirl, literally:


Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette, ala Jacki

A handful of fresh or frozen blueberries
About 1/8th cup of Blueberry Basil Vinegar, or plain balsamic if you don't have a flavored vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 clove of garlic
Olive oil
8-10 basil leaves washed and thinly sliced
In a blender puree the blueberries until smooth. Add to blender: vinegar, some S/P and garlic.  Puree.  Now, slowly drizzle in olive oil until you get the consistency and taste of dressing you want. There is no specific formula for this, the trick is TASTE. Most of the time, it works out to be a little over half a cup.  After blending, readjust the seasonings by TASTE and then add the basil.  Give all of this a good stir, or even one or two more pulses in the blender and there you have it...HOMEMADE dressing..lasts a good week or so. This works with any fresh/frozen fruit, and any flavored vinegar. Just think about your fruit combinations before you whirl. 

Happy "Fall Greens" dressing! 


Sunday, September 25, 2011

What are sisters for?

I'm sure I'm going to hear about this post, in some way or the other. But when something's on my mind, it's on my mind, and I have to get it out there.

My girlfriends and I talk about the subject of family quite often. Many of us are part of large families. Most of us have a sister, and a few of us just have a brother or two out there. ALL of us wonder the same thing: How is it possible that we're related to these people?! Who said that just because you have the same mother you should be friends? It's a proven fact that is is a bullshit lie, so who made up this rule?

Now, some background: Along with assorted step siblings, I have four sisters. Every one of them more beautiful than me, all of them smarter than me, and every last one of them lacks any need whatsoever for my advice on life. I am the oldest, so I have always suffered from the fallacy that I must pave the way for those behind me. I  don't know why it was my lot to be the guinea pig of experimentation; the long suffering "first" to experience the worst that life has to offer, but somewhere along the line I began to believe it was this way so that I could protect my sisters from having to experience the same thing. (Um, this didn't work, obviously.) Back to the belief that I was doing something admirable: I chalk it up to my mother's brainwashing that as the oldest it was somehow my responsibility. The problem is, no one ever clued my sisters in as to how appreciative they should be of my greatness. This posed some problems for us as we all made our way into adulthood.

I had five children in ten years, all while my sisters were getting their college educations, buying houses, and becoming two income families without kids. I didn't go to school until my baby was 18 months old, and I was 31 years of age. Needless to say, I do not recommend this course of action, and I would choke the life out of any of my five children if they dared to follow in my footsteps. I have done plenty of brainwashing of my own regarding getting married at 18 and focusing on nothing but procreation before you are old enough to buy a drink. But that's another story for another day. I bring it up because I think we've done a pretty good job with our kids, and I'm proud of the way that they were raised. Of course, once I went to college and learned a few things, I can see that there were many other ways they could have been raised, and "advice" my sisters tried to give me about their upbringing all made sense to me finally, once I became a more enlightened person. Doesn't mean I felt at the time they were qualified in any way to dispense that advise! My mantra used to be: "When you get a kid of your own, then we'll talk!" I'm still waiting on a single phone call asking my advice, and I have nieces and nephews approaching their tenth year of life at this writing.... once again, ingrates! Don't they realize how much I know??!

Having said that much, all of the children in my family, yours, mine and ours, have a college education. We have a doctor, a nurse, four teachers, a writer, and a medical transcriptionist. Everyone brings something to the table, and it's a lively group. I love each of my sisters for their own unique talents and lifestyles, and want the best for everyone. Why is it then, that when the five of us are together, it's like a freakin' dynamite keg waiting to explode?? I wonder what we're doing together, and why we attempt this a couple times a year.To boot, there's my mother, flitting like a butterfly amongst the flowers who are her daughters, trying to manipulate the whole shebang. Why can't there be some common ground on which all of us can stand, and enjoy each other for what we are?

As my bestie and I were discussing over lunch the other day, it's very frustrating to reach out, albeit tentatively, to a sibling only to have your feelings brushed aside as though he/she can't take time to even listen to what you're going through. And this brings me back to where I started: who says this should be an expectation anyway? Most of us agree that we wouldn't seek out people like our siblings to be friends with, and these Lifetime Movies of the week "sister relationships" are simply that: a Hollywood contrivance. So this begs the question, should we feel bad about that, or just embrace it as part of life, enjoy our sibling relationships the best we can when life throws us together, or should we continue to strive for that perfect sisterhood we read about in books? I don't have an answer, and am simply glad that all four of them continue to speak to me from time to time. If any of you out there know a spell, or a prayer, or a potion that we can use to help facilitate this most difficult fusion of people into one family, please share.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

HOLY HOT PEPPERS, BATMAN!

It's Chili weather. Or chilly weather, whichever you prefer. Actually, the temps here lately have been in the low 80's, go figure. But the leaves are falling, and that makes me want to drag out the slow cooker and start whipping up stews and chillis!

I subscribe to Cuisine at Home, which is one of the best cooking magazines around, in my humble opinion. I love everything about it! The tips, the pictures, the recipes, etc. This month the theme is comfort foods, and that really feels like fall to me.  I pour through each new issue as soon as I get it, to plan what goodies I'll spring on the family that month. Mike dreads my slow cooker, because we survived on slow cooked meals while I was in college, and so he pretty much hates anything that comes out of a slow cooker! Just to fool him, I made last night's recipe in a pot on the stove:
Doesn't that look yummy? It was really good, but I will tell you this: It included eight Anaheim chilies and five jalapeno chilies. I usually roast my peppers before I use them, for two reasons:
1. I like the flavor of roasted chilies, because I think it's richer. There is nothing that smells better than a bag of freshly roasted chilies sweating on the counter top.
2. De-seeding these hot little devils is a snap after they're roasted.

This recipe called for all that pepper goodness to be chopped. RAW. So I did, and the coughing fit that ensued brought several concerned family members from other parts of the house to see if I needed a Heimlich! I consulted my fabulous chef guru friend, Jacki, to see if she thought the recipe would change much if I roasted the peppers next time instead of chopping them. I think the consensus of everyone who weighed in on the subject was that next time we should save my respiratory tract and roast as usual! So, just a heads-up: learn from me, and should you encounter a recipe that calls for chopped chilies, consider roasting them instead! Unless, of course, you enjoy sneezing, a runny nose, and bloodshot eyes. Oh, and heaven forbid you are tempted to wipe your face.....

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I'm too old to worry about my parents being in jail....

So I get this cryptic email from my Daddy on Saturday. It says: "We don't keep in touch enough. Thanks for the birthday card. Helen brought it and your sister's card to me in jail. It was a real pick-me-up."

THAT'S IT. No explanation, just the carrot. Of course, I took the bait, and called him immediately. I was even more upset when his wife answered the phone, and I cut off her cheerful greeting:

ME: "Helen, why is my dad in jail??"
Helen: "Oh, he's not dear, I bailed him out. He's out back talking to the chickens."
ME: "Can I speak to him please?"

By the time he gets in from the coop, I'm calmer, only because, and I cannot make this up, the birthday card I sent him said this: (on the outside) "You're the best dad in the world!" (On the inside:) "Remember that if I ever call you to bail me out of jail." No lie. Just the thought of him opening that card while sitting on his ass in jail made me giggle.  (Side note: I've never been arrested in my life.)

So, instead of saying: "WTF??" which was my knee jerk reaction originally, I said instead: "Well, I guess my birthday card was apropos?!"

Turns out Daddy dearest (who has rescinded from society, long story) had a 4 year old bench warrant out on an unresolved traffic violation. He had a hallmark birthday this year: 70, so the memory must be going. He admits he forgot to renew his tags. When they pulled him over for expired tags and discovered an old warrant: voila! You get to spend your 70th birthday in the clink sir!

Just another day in the life of my pops, but I'm way too old to be worrying about my prostate cancer-ridden father sharing a cell with Joe Biker the cop killer in the county lock up. As he says: "All's well that ends well, daughter." Oy vey.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Is that a cop behind those blackberries?

I want to tell you about the three arrests I made in the past 24 hours. That's right, ARRESTS.  One for speeding, one for talking on a cell phone while driving, and one for drag racing.  All witnessed by me, and all part of my dream to become an undercover traffic cop. I'd be the.best.cop.EVER.  Of course, you wouldn't know I was there, because I'd be driving my 9 year old Saturn, looking like your average soccer mom. But that's the beauty of my dream job. You would feel free to commit your petty traffic crimes, unimpeded by  fear of the long arm of the law.... right up until I whip out my loud speaker and slap that red flashing light on the roof of my car as I pull your ass over.

YOU: "Um, what kind of cop are you?"
ME: "The undercover kind, who just observed you make sixteen lane changes in the past mile, going 55 in a 30 mph speed zone, without so much as one turn signal. Please step out of the vehicle."

Think of my dream job as a public service. I'd happily write citations, because Lord knows that there are never any cops around when I observe the heinousness that is East Vancouver transit. I know where they all hide. Each and every little nook and cranny. But it's amazing to me that they're only in their hiding spots when  I am tempted to break the law! Where are they at 12:30 am, when I am coming home from work watching cars break the law six ways until Sunday in the still of the night?  Where are the cops when the cell-phone holding twit-bag driving the Land Rover tries to side swipe me during an un-signaled lane change and almost upends her top-heavy vehicle in the process? Anyone who drives a Land Rover should be shot anyway, and I noticed she chatted her way into the IHOP parking lot after our near-miss this morning. Honey, may all those pancakes go straight to your ass.  You're welcome, and be glad that I didn't give you a ticket.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ghost stories, or just plain lunacy?

So I just enjoyed a wine tasting weekend with a couple of friends from work. We rented a VRBO in the dusty little wine-mecca of Walla Walla WA. There are almost 200 wineries in WW now, so to say that we didn't even scratch the surface of our wine-tasting potential would be more than accurate. Before we ever took our first sip, however, I was very pleased to encounter a friendly apparition looking curiously at me from the stairwell as we explored the rental house. The house appears to be a late 1800's craftsman, very typical for the area. Since I happen to see or hear "ghosts" from time to time, experiencing this was common place for me. For the two avid Christians I was spending the weekend with, however, this was not only frightening, but nightmare inducing, as evidenced by Kim's 3 am screaming fit.
Their take on this phenomenon is that all spirits are evil, because of a scripture that says something to the affect that if you're not in the presence of God then you're in the presence of evil. They were very disturbed by my causal mention of this "woman dressed as a pioneer," and they considered this person to be a demon.
I shared my feelings that all people, whether in spirit or in flesh are tied to one another by energy. I look at things as either good energy or bad energy. I am not interested in bad energy, and take daily measures to deflect negativity. It's when I allow my shields to come down, and absorb that negativity that I suffer mightily for it. When I accept the positive and welcome it, then I attract goodness.
For me it's cut and dry, but that's taking out any sort of religious component, and focusing on my own feelings. Just thought it was interesting to see the different aspects of those who believe solely in the bible and don't have an openness to any other sort of metaphysical teachings. There are so many interesting ways to think about things, and believing there's only "one way" is so limiting. To their credit, they expressed respect for my feelings, as I did for theirs, but I can't help but feel that shutting out all types of experiences really limits what we can accomplish in our short lives here on earth.
Oh well, the wine was good!

Entering the Blog universe

All of my friends who are cool have blogs. I thought it was time to create a place other than facebook where I could rant and rave about food, my kids, school, the hubster, and anything else that comes to my mind. Hope you like this look inside my madness!