Demented Ramblings life is too short to refrain from eating jam out of the jar



It's been almost a year, but I've finally figured out where I went wrong with last year's Cinco De Mayo spread.

I set up my fondue pot and put cheese in it to become all melty for the tacos and nachos.  I used Queso Fresco, which has a lovely lovely taste.  But it didn't melt for doodly, just glomped and burned.

Last night, Alton's show was about more uses for tortillas.  In this show he mentions that queso fresco is great because it doesn't melt and run everywhere.

OOOOOOOOhhhhhhhh!  Oops, I learn something new every day.

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Peanut butter and jelly diet

I'm still dealing with the lack of interest in food. I don't watch food network as much as before, nor do I surf the food blogs as much. If something strikes my fancy in the little perusing I actually do, I'll throw myself into it with zeal. However, nothing has really struck my fancy for a couple of weeks now. Most evenings I eat a quick sandwich or a microwaved convenience meal of some sort.

However, this week was my mum's birthday. Normally, I plan for this for weeks and weeks. Actually, last march, when I first had shrimp and grits, I thought that'd be a lovely birthday meal for mum. Then I used that recipe for christmas, when I went over and cooked them dinner. She loved it and wouldn't have complained about the repeat, but it takes a bit too much effort for a tuesday night after working all day. Especially with the sort of days that I've been having.

I solicited my livejournal pals for advice, but then the wonderful boyfriend called me up with the idea that sparked a darn good dinner - why not grill some shrimp or chicken? Mum loves the shrimp, but only if it's deep fried, so I tossed that out and went with the chicken.

Last week was pop's birthday, and we'd gone out for his dinner - to Outback Steakhouse. The first thing that jumped out at me from their menu was the "grillers", beef and veggie kabob served with rice and grilled pineapple. The grilled pineapple was wonderful. I loved it so and was dying to use some myself. So, I tossed that into the menu for mum's dinner.

We wound up marinating boneless chicken breasts in pineapple juice all day, then placing them and pieces of fresh pineapple on the barbecue grill. While that started cooking, I threw together a simple salad with bagged greens, diced mango, and toasted almonds. Then I whipped up a fruity vinagrette with mango pulp, lime juice, pineapple juice, chardonnay, white wine vinegar, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper.

I went out to check on the chicken and they were cold! Oh no! Out of gas! We swapped out the tank for a fresh one and were back in business. But we weren't really. Something was wrong with the burner and the flame kept going out. So, I moved the chicken breasts (which did have a little color and grill markage on them) and pineapple to a pan and put them in the oven. 20 minutes later, the chicken still seemed incredibly underdone and the pineapple were juicing all over them. I extracted the pineapple and moved the chicken to the stovetop. In the time that it took for the pineapple juice to be absorbed/evaporated, the chicken finished cooking and actually carmelized slightly in the juice (only about 5 more minutes). I then sliced the chicken into small bits and put it atop the salad, with the pineapple on the side.

It turned out to be a lovely, healthy meal. Not at all the sort of fare that I usually make for mum (heavy and cheese filled), but we all enjoyed it greatly. I was thankful for my flexible nature, I've known folks who would've thrown the whole thing out when the grill died.

Next, we moved into dessert. My version of bananas foster. I had a recipe once, but over the years that I've made this, I've made it my own. As you may know, I rarely measure anything, a trait that I find endearing in myself and infuriating in others. I melted maybe half a stick of margarine in a pan (mum never has actual butter) and added what looked like way too much brown sugar (but really wasn't). When it came to a simmer, I added banana slices and stirred it around gently until the bananas started breaking up, telling me that they were done. At that point I added a small splash of vanilla extract and a goodly splash of dark rum (myers). Let the alcohol cook off and spooned it over vanilla ice cream.

In good keeping with my diet, I only ate a very small amount. My stepdad, who really isn't that much of a sweet eater, paid me the greatest compliment by having to have two large servings! I also found out that night that bananas foster is one of mum's favorite desserts. Perhaps sad that I didn't know that, but it has just become so in the last 5 years, in which time I haven't lived with her.

One very nice thing about the lack of interest in food is all of the free time that I find myself with in the evenings. No longer do I come home from work, cook something, clean up, and fall in a heap on the couch. Instead, I've been crafting like a mad woman. This week, I finished the organizational drawers that I've been painting, knitted a scarf, and knitted a sock. I will follow up later with pictures of some of my finished projects.


Lack of interest

I've not had near the interest in food that I previously did.  I do still occasionally get excited enough to cook, maybe once a week.  Early this week I tried out a recipe from Paula Dean for an italianish chicken cordon bleu.  It was ok, but caused the reflux to kick up and has thus been banned.

I'm more about the crafts lately.  Last weekend, Mimi and I had "sock sunday", where she came over for the day and taught me to knit a sock.  I finished the first one that day and started the second.  I didn't finish the second one until friday, but it was a busy week.

I've also been painting up these cutesy crates with drawers that I found at Michaels.  I'm trying to get my craft supplies organized, and this is helping greatly.  Probably with two more crates I'll have enough drawers for all of the interests.

I found a new project which interests me greatly, but the more I think about it, the more I think it'll take quite a bit of time to make.  I'd like to make it very special.

My abstinence from the gawd nectar (pepsi) is not going quite as well.  I haven't had one in 19 days now, but I WANT ONE!  Probably a hormonal craving.  I've done so well though that I hate to give in now.  I'm just trying to hold out a bit longer.  I never said I'd give them up for life, but not drinking them is surely helping with the weight loss.


Change of plans

I had planned to spend weekends in January learning to bake bread from scratch and to do it well.  I've done it a few times and it turns out ok, but nothing to praise.  But, like most plans, it had to change.

Sometime just after christmas, I developed a pain in my back.  As the days went on it got worse and began to extend all the way down my right leg, making every step painful.  I finally went to the doctor on tuesday of this week, mainly just to get a referral to my chiropractor (so that the blasted insurance would pay for my chiropractic visit).  The doctor declared that it was most likely sciatica and started talking about surgery for my back and weight loss surgery.  I let him know that I was nowhere near ready to consider gastric bypass.  I like sugar, thanks, and don't want to be poisoned by it everytime I slip up and eat a little.

So, he loaded me up with drugs (including an appetite suppressant), a diet plan (1600 calories a day), and sent me off for x-rays and chiropractor visit.  The chiropractor says that my hip was just out of joint, but even after he put it back the pain has stuck around.  It does seem to be getting a bit better though.  Follow up to that, my xrays looked fine, but I still need to lose some weight.  That was sort of a duh anyway.

The point to all that rambling is that experimentation with bread has been thrown right out.  Instead, I'm searching for healthier meals.  I just read Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat and it has me all fired up to look toward an asian inspired diet plan.  So, tonight, I whipped up an asian feast, then only ate a small amount of it.

It was absolutely lovely, but my camera batteries are dead, so I can not share it with you.  Teeny homemade spring rolls, about as big as a finger; a beefy broth with bean threads; garlic stir fried green beans; brown rice; and a chicken and veggie stir fry that was mostly veggie.

I'm looking forward to more fun with asian cuisine.  I'm hoping to overcome my fear of bonito flakes.  Actually, it's not fear so much as disgust, but maybe I can beat that too.

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treat day

In an unending quest to make everyone on the floor weigh 954 pounds, the ladies up front declared that each day from today until our Christmas break someone would bring treats for the floor.  I signed up for today, I figured that if I went first, I wouldn't be compared to anyone else's cooking abilities.  Which is rather dumb because I'm one of the better cooks in the department.

So, yesterday I whipped up a quick beefy cheese spread and a batch of my cinnamon chip cookies.  Those are some of the best cookies to take places because they're so simple it's silly.  The recipe is a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe that came on the back of a package of "everything chips" that I got from the amish market, using only cinnamon chips.  The only real bite to these cookies is that cinnamon chips can be tough to find unless I make the 45 minute drive to the amish market, which I don't do often.

I also brought some of the infamous cream candy.  Pop and I made a few batches on saturday night to send out as gifts, but one batch stuck together and became all ugly.  It still tastes darn good though.  I'll probably try to bust out another batch or two tonight.

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If you deep fry it, they will come

I went to Gran's for turkey day, that means that my own turkey had to wait. We cooked it today, just a turkey breast.

Pop rigged us up a safe turkey frying contraption rather like Alton's. And of course, we did that thing that all people do when they deep fry a turkey - we started insanely searching for other things to deep fry. No, we didn't fry any dish towels or anything. We dropped little lumps of dressing into the oil, making the best hush puppies of all time. And then we made fries.

Aw yeah! Although I must say that this is the first time that I can ever recall having ketchup on the plate with my turkey.

We brined the turkey last night and it was wonderfully moist and tender.


Adventures and Misadventures in cuisine: Weekend wrapup

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you try to asphyxiate your guests.

This weekend was filled with experimentation for me.  Let's start with the pumpkin.

Or not.  See, I went to the farmer's market in search of pie pumpkins.  I was determined to give another shot to making a pumpkin pie from scratch, it's been years since my first and last attempt (which was a miserable failure).  The guy at the market convinced me to purchase a couple of these guys instead.

Grey and knobby, but he swore it'd make an even better pie than the pumpkins.  This strange creature is a blue hubbard squash.  I seeded, peeled, cubed and steamed them, then pureed them.  Looked like baby poop.  Of course, that's what pureed pumpkin looks like, so we were right on.

Out of that puree I made Ginger Pumpkin bread  (thanks Cumin and Coriander) and a pie and still have enough puree to do something else.  Plus I roasted up the seeds but they were gone by this morning.

I also made a big batch of chili.  I'd never made chili from scratch before, I think I prefer doing it a la chili magic because it comes out consistently good that way.  But, the men-folk rather liked my chili.  Pop deemed it "so-so" but ate 3 big servings.

Last christmas, my uncle and I were talking about his mom.  She was from England and made all sorts of things for him growing up that I'd never had.  He spoke of particularly missing her yorkshire puddings.  I made a mental note at that time to try to make them sometime soon and to invite him over.  When you are a procrastinator like I am, "sometime soon" quite often equates to 10 months away.

Today I cooked Alton Brown's pot roast  and Jamie Oliver's yorkies.  The pot roast was ok, but I think I'll stick with my usual pressure cooker roast, it turns out tastier and more tender.  The olives and raisins made for a damned strange gravy too.  The yorkies were my biggest learning experience of the weekend.

Per Jamie's directions, I put a half inch of oil in my muffin cups, preheated it until super hot, and poured in the batter.  Only the oil overflowed in the oven (use a quarter inch next time!) and smoked up the house like whoa!  Much coughing and wheezing ensued.  I opened the back door and put the fan in front of it.

How'd they turn out?  Evidently just right.  Well, huh.   However, I poured an entire box of baking soda into the oven to soak up all of the oil on the bottom of it.  I'll finish cleaning that tomorrow.  I believe we'll have a few days of leftovers to let me recuperate from my weekend in the kitchen.


Southern staple

Dad and I have been rather bummed since all of the Winn Dixie stores here have gone belly up.  This means no more Palmetto Farms Pimento Cheese for us.  It truly is the best brand that we've ever found and we've tried nearly all of them available in this market.

Over the weekend, I picked up a new cookbook, as I am wont to do.   It contains three separate recipes for pimento cheese.  I started with one, but wound up sort of combining them all, plus a little impromptu miracle whip thrown in for good measure.

Dad was very unsure about putting bacon into pimento cheese.  Good lord, I'd like to kiss whoever came up with that idea, sooooooo tasty.  Smeared on a super dark wheat bread, it is the best cheese sandwich around.

Tonight Rachel Ray made a beef stroganoff on 30 minute meals.  I believe that I may have to try to duplicate that one very soon.  It looked terrific.  Dad swears that he hates stroganoff, but the thing that he describes is nothing like anything that I've ever eated called stroganoff.  I'm thinking he had something more like ghoulash, tomatoes and sour cream?


Back in the saddle

I think I overdid it in the kitchen pre-bbq.  I didn't cook anything for the next week and then took off on the road trip of love with the sweetest boyfriend for two wonderful weeks.  The only kitchen activity I really did during the vacation was the mixing up of a black bean salad on the night that we made dinner for our darling hosts.

Today though, I could no longer resist the call of the kitchen.  When some friends called, wanting to do something tonight, it was just the opportunity I was looking for.  Dinner guests!  So, I invited them over and whipped up a rather tasty meal.  It's too bad that the boyfriend was busy and had to miss out, but he had his own great dinner of roast chicken and cornbread stuffing cooked by his own sweet mum.

The only completely new to me recipe was a vietnamese coffee granita.  Last night while channel flipping, I caught the Take Home Chef making a mango granita.  Mango was not quite what I had in mind, but this recipe was the first one that I came across after googling granita.  Plus, I thought it would be a nice complement for my oatmeal cake.  And so it was.  They were quite wonderful together.

A sort of new to me recipe was Martha's Vineyard salad, but I'd eaten it before.  The same friends who were coming for dinner had served it to me years ago.  It turned out to pair nicely with my shrimp and not grits.  I also roasted asparagus and cooked some yellow squash.   I used that old southern method on the squash of cooking the shit out of it with a big amount of margarine, until it was all squishy.

It was a wonderful dinner, paired with a South Austrailian Chardonnay.  This was an "unwooded" wine, although I do not know exactly what that means just yet.  I'll have to do a little research.

I think I like having very small parties even more than large ones.  I got to concentrate on just the two guests and spend all of the time with them.  However, there's also something to be said for being surrounded by a dozen or so of your best pals.


rescue mission

Sometimes things don't work out exactly as you planned.  I found a recipe for a roasted vegetable salad that sounded just scrumptious.  How could you go wrong with asparagus and red peppers?  Well, they weren't the problem, per se.  The problem turned out to be the eggplant.

Folks have told me since that I overcooked the eggplant by a lot, but I was just following the directions.  The more I stirred and tasted this concoction, the worse it looked (and tasted).

I sure as hell wasn't going to eat it.  I mean, just look at that brown lifeless puddle of goo.  And the vinegar was like a sharp pop in the nose with a stick.  I thought and thought about what I could do to rescue this since Dad argued with me about just throwing it away.  I most assuredly was not setting this dish out for guests though.

So, I picked through and pulled out the asparagus and peppers, also saving a few of the onions.  Made a bit of pasta to mix it with, and put a little catalina dressing on the whole thing.  It still wasn't great, I won't be making it again, but at least it was edible.  And at least it stopped looking like someone had already eaten and regurgitated it.