Posts from the ‘Cooking’ Category

When Expectations Are Low, There’s Nowhere To Go But Up

Last year I made a Valentine’s Day dinner that was for the books…the dinner itself was pretty good (linguine and clam sauce with baked parmesan-topped zucchini) but the dessert, which I invented myself (mistake #1), totally sucked. Everything with it went wrong, to the point where Read more…

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The Story (and Recipe!) of the Effing Gingersnaps

Part of the Christmas traditions I’ve developed as an adult is baking. Lots and lots of baking. I bake for family, for friends, occasionally for mere friendly acquaintances, you get the picture. Although I have a few recipes that I tend to use year after year (hello, Kahlua Brownies! Thank-you, Aunt Sheila, may you R.I.P.), I try to Read more…

That’s Some Meat You’ve Got!

I don’t profess to be a gourmet chef but considering that I got a relatively late start in learning how to cook (except for baking, I barely knew the nuances of the culinary arts until I moved in with Joe when I was 35. At that time I could make sandwiches, Jello and spaghetti), I think I do a pretty good job of it. Generally speaking, Read more…

Cooking Patients on Virgin Atlantic

I discharged “Barry” the other day. He’s improved quite a bit and is probably doing about as well as could be expected at this point. In fact, thanks to his vision being restored, he’s even doing a little bit better than before his brain surgery. Granted, he’s not perfect…he still  needs varying degrees of help for some, if not most of his self-care needs. But not every patient becomes 100% independent and it’s part of my job to recognize when they’ve reached their potential. He never did consistently learn the answer to the riddle, by the way, but he made my day at the beginning of our final treatment session when he spontaneously asked, “So, when are you going to ask me the question about the alligator?”

I’m going to miss Barry. I promised him and his wife that I’d call next Friday, to see if he knows the answer to the riddle yet.

Otherwise, things are pretty quiet on the patient front. With Barry’s discharge, that only leaves me with two other people I’m treating. No really good stories about either of them (well, there really are, but this is a public blog and I wouldn’t want to take the chance that certain people would recognize themselves in the not-so-wonderful light in which I would portray them) but when/if it happens, I’ll let you know. I wouldn’t mind having a few more patients, either but that’s part of the up-and-down roller coaster known as Home Health.

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I made another “awesome dinner” the other day – salmon on the grill, with a horseradish marinade and sauce, with baked potato, steamed asparagus and corn on the side.

It still amazes me that I’ve turned into such a good cook. Granted, my mother was is was is was is was/is a good cook and I watched her cook throughout my childhood. But anytime I tried to cook something, she felt the need to “help” me with suggestions. Some of what she told me was, I’m sure, sound advice. But the recommendations that I remember more than anything were the the ones from the “control freak” part of her personality. My favorite was the one where I was mixing something counter-clockwise and she told me to mix it clockwise. WTF? And so, with very few exceptions, I got to the point somewhere in my mid-teens where I just rebelled gave up and simply would not cook in her home. So by the time I moved out from my mother’s house and in with Joe, I was proficient with cooking spaghetti, brownies, Nestles Tollhouse Cookies, stuff on the BBQ and that was about it. Despite this, Joe still loved me, took me under his wing and taught me some of his culinary skills, such as Hamburger Helper and baked chicken breasts. It’s taken some time…it took YEARS before I trusted myself to cook a whole chicken and to this day I still haven’t broiled or used a wok. But otherwise, if it’s written as a recipe I can cook it. But considering my meager beginnings, I’ve become a damn good cook, if I do say so myself!

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After a long delay, we finally got the details of our chorus’s trip to England this year. It will be the Royal Albert Hall revisited (members of Sing Live UK and USA will be the chorus for “The Night of 1000 Voices,” a fundraiser concert for Leukemia & Lymphoma research), plus some extra days visiting Leeds and London. Anyway, instead of flying on a domestic airline that wold force us to have a stopover, our director was able to grab some non-stop seats for us on Virgin Atlantic. Doesn’t really matter much to me…a plane’s a plane and I have a supply of good drugs to keep me asleep for most of the flight. But apparently VA’s policy is that carry-on luggage can only be 13 pound. WHAT? That’s all? Just 13 pounds? My PILLOW weighs more than that, for crissakes! And yes, I bring my pillow with me when I travel. Don’t judge. Anyway, I’ve gotten really good at making sure my big suitcase is less than 50 pounds (my record is 49.80) but that’s taking into account that whatever would tip it over into excess weight will go into my carry-on.

I’m so screwed.

Hey travelers…any words of advice?

How Much Do I Love Thee?

Joe and I were never much for Valentine’s Day. True, he did buy me flowers for our first few VD’s together but I eventually told him to stop – a nice bouquet is pretty but is too expensive for what it is and a cheaper-but-jacked-up-price-because-it’s-VD bouquet from Publix or the guy on the street lasted only a day before they’d start to wilt. Save the flowers for when I’ve sung in concerts, TYVM. I’ve never been one for jewelry. Chocolate was nice for a while but then I developed pre-diabetes (gee ,thanks a lot, heredity and being low birth weight!) and a box of caramels and buttercreams, although appreciated, wasn’t doing me any good, either. So we started going out for dinner for VD. Not on the actual day, of course – if we wanted to go anywhere that was nicer than McDonald’s, we’d have to deal with mondo crowds. But a day or two before or after would suffice.

This year we haven’t even do that. Oh, we’ve talked about it but with our wedding anniversary just 9 days after Valentine’s Day, it’d be like 2 “nice” dinners almost in a row. Plus we just went to Bern’s with Dar and John, “just because,” not long ago. AND my birthday is in a month so there would be yet another nice dinner. Plus there’s the whole “trying to eat healthier” thing, which, unless we go to Seasons 52, is not so easy to do when we’re out  (although I’m seriously considering Pizzeria Uno for my birthday…screw the carbs and calories, I want a LOT of pizza and their wonderful peanut butter cup dessert!). So at this point I think going out for VD dinner is on the back burner for now.

Joe was working 9a-5p on Valentine’s Day and since it was a Sunday, I had an excuse to make something “special” (I try to save Sunday dinners for new or special stuff…if he’s working, it’s only until a decent hour and I just have more time to plan and cook and we’re not in a hurry to enjoy it) and followed through with linguini and clam sauce (I LOVE Dreamfields pasta!), with baked zucchini with parmesan on the side. It looked good and tasted even better!

Linguini & Clam Sauce

Linguini & Clam Sauce

Dessert however, was another story. I wanted to keep to both the “Valentine’s Day” and “healthy eating” gendres, which led to pretty slim pickings to begin with. But I had some sugar free Jello and some containers of NF/SF yogurt so I figured I would be creative and do something with that.

I really should know better. I can follow any menu with ease but Littlebit + Cullinary Creativity = Bad Move.

I had some 3″ heart-shaped silicon molds that my in-laws had given me so I put some of the liquified Jello in there. I also had picked up some never-previously-used 1″ heart-shaped candy molds so I filled those too. Plus I had some Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse ice trays (again, silicon) so I filled them up too. Put all of those in the fridge to jell. So far, so good.

Meanwhile I took 2 containers of sugar-free, non-fat yogurt (one strawberry and one vanilla) and “blobbed” them onto a maroon-colored plate, followed by using a knife to “swirl” the 2 together. It looked OK but the strawberry yogurt was a relatively light pink so the swirling effect wasn’t very noticeable…especially after I put the whole shebang in the freezer to harden and it came out with ice crystals all over it so it all looked kind of whitish-pink. But I figured even if that part didn’t come out as I expected, it’d be OK because I still had all of the pretty Jello hearts to add to it.

Um, yeahright.

So first I had the three 3″ silicon hearts. Why didn’t I remember that I detested silicon for cooking, baking or anywhere in the kitchen? Because as carefully as I tried to push the Jello out by turning the silicon inside out, the fragile gelatin hearts started ripping . Torn hearts, how Valentiney! I figured I would be smart for the candy mold Jello hearts and dunk them in some warm water first, so they would loosen and it’d be easier to pop them out. And so, of course, I wound up either dunking them for too long or maybe the water was too hot but I now had re-liquified 1″ hearts. Well, shit. All that was left was the Mickey & Minnie heads and for those I just let them come out however the hell they wanted and in as many tiny pieces as they wanted because, let’s face it, I was totally defeated by then. So I had 3 broken hearts and a dozen mouse head pieces on top of the not-really-noticably-swirled yogurt, with another 15 melted 1″ Jello hearts down the sink. Nice.

I figured I had to salvage this somehow, so I grabbed a can of Reddi-Wip and squirted around the yogurt so it had a white border (more color contrast and to hide the uneven edges of the yogurt blobs). It helped. So I took a picture and then we had our special dinner…which rocked, BTW. The linguini and clam sauce was a hit and Joe had also managed to chill and hide a bottle of Moët & Chandon Rosé Impérial (my favorite!), which helped bring the dinner that one step closer to perfection.

And then we had dessert.

Creative Dessert

Creative Valentine's Day Dessert

It really didn’t look that bad, although it was not what was originally in my mind’s eye (contrasting colors of swirled yogurt, intact hearts, a Mickey or Minnie here and there for whimsy). But then we ate it. And discovered that the Jello pieces, from being on top of the frozen yogurt, had frozen…so we had crunchy, broken Jello. And the ReddiWip, after being squirted 45 minutes previously, had essentially melted (I’m sorry…I grew up in a Cool-Whip family and am not familiar with the Rules of ReddiWip). And neither of us really appreciated “regular ol’ yogurt” being frozen. So although it wasn’t BAD, it certainly wasn’t something I plan to make again in the near future. Or the distant future. Or even, I daresay, ever.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Joe. Next time I’ll make a package of instant, sugar free chocolate pudding in custard cups instead. Because I love you that much.