When I mess something up, at least everyone escapes with all their limbs intact.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Dinner, Anyone?

More specifically, Beef Stroganoff for Christmas dinner, anyone?

I needed a change. We've been eating ham so much the last few weeks, that even though it's traditionally what people eat, aside from turkey, on Christmas, that I decided we were going to blaze a trail tonight. After the success with Eggs Benedict this morning, I decided that I'd try my hand at beef stroganoff, a meal that I love but have never cooked. It's just a day of culinary firsts for me.

And, for realsies, I saw leftover beef stroganoff in my brother's fridge and was seriously covetous. SO! On with the stroganoff.

Take an 8oz carton of sour cream and mix it with 2 TBSP flour. Add 1c water, 2 TBSP beef bullion, and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Reserve.
If you like it extra beefy, add another bullion cube.
In a skillet, saute 2c mushrooms, 1 clove minced garlic, and 1/2 diced onion in hot butter.

It was at this point I realized I forgot to add the onion.

Chop wizard = best kitchen tool EVAR.

The recipe calls for the steak to go in at the same time as the veggies, but I let mine sweat a little first. It gave me time to salt my steak tips and let them rest. Add in about 12oz of steak tips.

Steamy goodness

At the point of desired doneness for steak, add in the sour cream mixture and reduce stove to medium-high heat. Continue to stir until sauce thickens. Note - you may need to pour out some fat before you mix in the sour cream, but don't pour all of it out. You've got some massive flavor in there. Though the recipe doesn't call for it, I add frozen peas at this point because a meal without green is an incomplete meal. Just call me the vegetable nazi, ok?

Simmer & Stir, I like it like that.

Once the sauce has thickened, pour mixture over hot egg noodles and enjoy.

If your crowd is picky, be nice because it's Christmas and strain the mushrooms out of the sauce as you plate. Keep all the extra mushrooms for self.

It's not him who's against the mushrooms.

Pat yourself on the back and shove your spouse in the kitchen to clean up.

This is a really fast-cooking meal. Don't ever let someone try to feed you hamburger helper as a "quick fix" meal ever again, because this took less time to make than ANY of those boxed blood-pressure raisers and tastes WAY better.

Yes, husband, I mean you.

So You Want to Make Eggs Benedict?

It's a tradition in my husband's family to make Eggs Benedict every Christmas and New Years' Day. This is never usually a problem, as we are with his family when it comes time to the actual making of Eggs Benedict...only this year, we didn't make the semi-annual pilgrimage to upstate New York for Christmas. This posed a slight problem for us. I've never made Eggs Benedict. Sure, I've seen it made successfully...but I've also seen it fail wildly. Good chance I wouldn't pull it off.

Did that stop me?

To make Eggs Benedict, you'll need to assemble the following ingredients: Eggs (natch), Canadian bacon, butter (1 stick cut into thirds), lemon juice, english muffins, and white pepper.

Starbucks Double Shot is optional, as was the package of
peanut M&M's I consumed in the making of Eggs Benedict.

First thing you need to do is start water boiling for the eggs. Fill a medium-sized pan halfway full of water, and put that bad boy on high to boil. Once it boils, reduce heat to simmer.

Just in case you've never boiled water before.
It's okay. I won't judge.

Crack an egg into a measuring cup, then transfer into the water very gently. I found that putting the egg into a large serving spoon and slipping it into the water that way was effective. Make sure you keep space between your eggs. I only worked with 2 at a time in this pan.

My egg looks like an angel, no?

Let the egg simmer for 3-5 minutes. While you're simmering your eggs, you'll need to start your hollandaise sauce. Put an inch or so of water in another pan and set to boil. Set a metal pan over top to use as a double boiler (or, hey, if you have a double boiler, use that). Combine 3 egg yolks, 1 TBSP of water, and 1 TBSP of lemon juice in the double boiler. Add 1/3 of a stick of butter. Whisk until smooth and thick.

I'd never separated eggs before today, either. Save the
egg whites for another breakfast...like tomorrow's.
Make sure your husband points his finger at the mixture.
It's the secret ingredient.

While the eggs are boiling and the sauce is heating, pop a few pieces of canadian bacon in the microwave, just enough to heat them a little.

Mmmm...bacon flower.
Once your sauce looks thick, add another third of the butter and stir until melted and thickened. Repeat with the last third of butter. Add salt and white pepper to taste.

Whisk, whisk, whisk - keep it moving so it thickens but doesn't curdle.
No, that is not a curdle, it's the last third of butter melting.

Pop your english muffins in the toaster. At this point, everything should be about ready to come off of the stove. Place your toasted muffin nooks & cranny-side up, and top with a piece of bacon. Using a large slotted spoon, gently remove 1 egg from the pan and place on top of the bacon. Then, cover the whole thing with a good helping of hollandaise sauce.

If you're awesome, like me, it'll come out looking like this.
Serve, and have a Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Phlegm. Let's Discuss.

The one and only thing on my mind right now is sinus pressure. And snot. But mostly sinus pressure. And throat soreness. And ear pain. But still mostly sinus pressure.

I'd like to thank my son for the exposure to all sorts of new germs. I've been sick more in the year and a half that he's been in daycare than I've been in the last decade, I kid you not. It's been especially bad during the colder months - last February I ended up with a nasty, nasty case of strep and followed that up with a wicked sinus infection that left me crying on the phone with my doctor a good 300 miles away on a work trip, begging him to call in an antibiotic to the nearest Wallgreens. Or CVS. Or street peddler. I wasn't going to be picky. Yes I'd tried a neti-pot. Yes I'd taken a steam bath.Yes I'd OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD MAN, SEND ME THE DRUGS!

Something they don't tell you in those pregnancy and parenting books (among OTHER things), the little nagging bit of neglected insight, is that Mommy isn't allowed sick days.

Mommy is still Mommy, raging-phlem-monster-fever-murder-death-kill or not.

Mommy doesn't get to crawl back in bed and pull the covers over her head until it all goes away.

Mommy has to get up, shape up, and move on with her day because there are little hands that need washing and little noses (and butts) that need wiping and little mouths that need feeding and little boo boos that need kissing. There are dishes that need doing, laundry that needs folding, and floors that need vacuuming. That's what Mommy does.

Perhaps that's why it's taken me three weeks to finally realize I wasn't the only asshole suffering from allergies in mid-December...I've been harboring a damned sinus infection the whole time. Score one for Mom.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Oh, that's right, I have a blog.

I've tried several times to write a synopses about what all happened last week, and it just hasn't come out right. The things that happened, singularly, sound really trivial and I can't quite get the point across how difficult they were to handle as a whole without sounding like a whiny wimp, which I am most certainly not. However, I do feel justified in not writing about every little detail - especially not on a daily basis, as last week is one I'd rather not relive. It involved a lot of yelling, on my part, out of sheer life frustration.

This week has been much better. Started physical therapy, which is cool, I guess. The therapist is all "hey, you're in pretty good shape, really..." and I am going to spend the next 4-6 weeks practicing walking up a step because that's the only thing, aside from sensory nerve issues in my toes, that I'm really having a problem with. This surprised the therapist - she thought my issue would be balance, but it's not, my balance is great thanks to years of yoga (yet funny how I'm still such a klutz).  

The nerve thing will take time to heal, if it ever really does. I get to help it along by rubbing things of different texture on my foot - a towel, something soft, the toaster - to help the nerves relearn things. Like algebra.

On a much, much brighter note, I went back to the gym this week. I haven't seen my son so happy as when we pulled up to the gym and he realized he was going to get to play in the kids play center. He's been asking about it since I got hurt.  Finally got to that yoga class I was headed to when I broke my ankle in the first place, and it was good. I like the teacher. Made a new friend.

So this week is turning out not to be the polar opposite of last week, but at least a great deal nicer than last week. Will try not to be neglectful trollop in the future, blog. My bad and all. Lucky for you I couldn't sleep tonight.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Just a Dream?

Last night I had one of THOSE dreams. The ones that linger, stick with you - haunt you a little. They are at once a giant hug from the otherworld and a dagger in your heart. My Dad paid me a visit last night.

In the dream, I didn't know Dad was dead. That, or he wasn't dead - I'm not sure. But he HAD been gone for a long time, and I was really excited to see him and show him the new music I had downloaded while he'd been gone. I was especially anxious to show him that I'd found Robin Trower's "Bridge of Sighs" on MP3 and was going to make him a copy of it - in real life, many years ago, right before the Napster thing blew up and you could still download music for free, Dad made it a point to download that LP and we had a long talk about how awesome it was. This song reminds me of him sitting at his computer, eyes closed, just digging the music.

Anyways, back to the dream - so I'm going through and showing him music he'd like as we scrolled down my list alphabetically - we passed the CCR greatist hits compilation I'd downloaded just that morning, the Mumford & Sons album that he'd never heard of but I know he'd like, and then, finally, we found the Robin Trower album. I was specifically trying to find the "Bridge of Sighs" song, but no matter what song I opened it wasn't the right song, and the more I searched and the more frantic I became to find it, the faster and farther away my father went until he finally disappeared.

Obviously, I miss my father. But, I'm at the point now where the gut-wrenching sadness isn't something that happens every day, or even every week. It more is like twangs of wishing I could tell him something, or show him something, or give him something, or ask him something and realizing that no. I can't. Ever.

So when I have a dream like this, it's both a curse and a blessing. I got to see Daddy, and talk to him, and show him stuff that I've wanted to show him. For that fleeting moment, my world was whole. The trade-off is that now I have to spend the rest of the day actively missing him.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It's Whiskey Pie Day!

Forget whatever you've heard about the fourth Thursday in November. It's all lies told by the man to keep us down.

This glorious day is really about one thing, and one thing only: Whiskey Chocolate Pecan Pie. Whiskey Pie for short. I love it so much that I insist on capitalizing it.

I discovered Whiskey Pie in 2008 at the Jack Daniels Restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee. My son was three months old, and my husband and I were in town for my work hosting a conference at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center (A magical place, by the way. It's literally in a bubble.). I was done with work for the day and we were having a lovely dinner - my son slept in his stroller the whole time - and when it was time to have dessert, there were two options: Whiskey Chocolate Pecan Pie and a Jack Daniels Coca-Cola Float. Guess which one I picked? The JD Float is a whole other story - one I'm sure I'll cover in the future.

For now, lets get back to the Very. Important. Bidness. Of. Whiskey. Pie.

I scoured the interwebz for several minutes last Thanksgiving to find a recipe that looked close to what I'd eaten. When I found one I was satisfied with (with satisfied equaling the author insisting that more Jack = better pie), I assembled my ingredients and made with the Whiskey Pie. It was a good first effort, but I took certain liberties with amounts of things (whiskey not being one of them - DO NOT use too much chocolate) and it came out more sweet than I'd have liked it to be.

This year, I solemnly swear to adhere to the recipe. Mostly.

Assemble your ingredients - having them right at hand makes things go much, much faster. Premeasure them if you're picky.

Guess who's not picky today?

This pie is really about these two ingredients right here - get high quality whiskey and pecans, and you'll get a high-quality pie. I, obviously, prefer Jack Daniels and Emerald Pecan Pie Glazed Pecans...which I'm sure is like buying bacon flavored bacon...which I would totally buy if someone made it...tangents.

Who am I kidding, it's really all about the Jack. Period.

Put three eggs in a mixing bowl - as a side note, if you don't have a scrap can that you use regularly, I highly suggest you find one. You don't have to buy Rachael Ray's garbage bowl or anything, we use this otherwise useless popcorn bucket from the Smithsonian Zoo. It makes my cooking life much easier.

Is it my imagination, or did I win the egg lottery
and wind up with a double yolk?

Add the following ingredients to the eggs: 3/4 cup of light Karo Syrup; 3 TBSP sugar; 3 TBSP packed brown sugar; 1 TSP vanilla extract; 3 TBSP butter (softened); 1/8 TSP salt. Mix.

You are hungry, no?

Chop up 1/2 cup of the pecans and add to the bowl.

You'll need two bags of the pecans...you'll eat the first
and need a second to finish the pie. Trust me.

Add 2/3 cup of Jack Daniels. Yes, I said 2/3 of a cup. THAT MUCH. Mix.

 That bottle was full when I started. I swear.

Take 1 cup of chocolate chips and gently tap them into the base of your pie crust. DO NOT ADD MORE. IT WILL NOT MAKE IT MORE YUMMY. QUITE THE OPPOSITE, IN FACT. Pour mixture carefully over the chocolate chips. Starting at the outside and working your way in, place enough pecans on the top to cover the pie. Because working from the middle out towards the edges is wrong and against all that is good in the world.

For something that tastes so good it sure as hell does look like shit.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Then, cover the pie crust edges with foil so they don't burn.

Nobody likes burned crusts. NOBODY.
Alternate caption: You wish YOUR foils looked this good.

Pop it back in the oven for an additional 15-30 minutes, or until a knife comes out of the center clean. Note: The pie will fluff up during cooking and look a little juicy - it's ok. It will flatten and set as it rests. Let it cool before you hack it up.

Behold the glory.

I said behold!

Extreme Closeup.
This is becoming my Thanksgiving "thing." My shtick. Because everyone has something they're good at. Mine just happens to involve booze.

Gobble gobble, ya'll.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Last Thursday, my orthopedist gave me full blessing to walk, drive, and go to physical therapy. I have a mostly-partial blessing to resume my yoga practice (which is kinda what got me into this mess in the first place), as long as I avoid the more advanced stuff and any single-leg work on the right side. Which is fine.

I am out of that damned walking boot, and while I haven't burned it yet, it's on my to-do list. I worry that I'll need it here and there over the next few months. Instead of that blasted boot, I am wearing a really nifty ankle brace (not that exact model, mine's way cooler). It helps prevent my ankle from rolling over again. I've got this for the next six weeks. I go back to see the Doc again right before New Years.

SO! Walking. It's exciting. It's also painful in anything more than small quantities. And I did not walk in small quantities Friday OR Saturday. My calf and foot muscles want me to know, in no uncertain terms, that they are displeased with that decision. My leg muscles are rebelling. I want nothing more than to dip my legs into a hot tub and let them rest.

So what am I doing today? Totally taking E to a free preschoolers thing at NASA. What? It's rocketships and awesome and FREE, did I mention that?

I find myself still looking for my crutches, though. I am, finally, so institutionalized that I now think my disability is the norm and not the exception. I've started to ask my husband to do things for me that I don't need his help with anymore. I stop myself. I have to force myself to not immediately reach for a crutch that isn't there. It's...bizarre. Now that I don't have to be, I'm fully accustomed to being disabled. It only took 4 months.

Aside from the awesomeness that is walking and driving and generally being self sufficient again, I also got another job. A third job, to be exact. I have my day job, which I get to return to tomorrow; I have my Saturday phlebotomy job, which I will probably return to in 2 weeks; and now I have a freelance writing job. I happened upon it last week, was given 3 articles with a great price per piece, and haven't looked back since.

I'm really rusty; it's been 5+ years since I've written anything that wasn't technical or blog-ish, but I feel my voice starting to return. I like writing. I do. It's just been so long that I've lost my swagger about it. I have to get that back. I will get it back. It's just...like my ankle. I haven't used it in a while, and it's going to take some trial and error before it works right again. It'll never be the same, but it'll be a close approximation, and I'm ok with that.

**The cupcake project will (hopefully) resume this week, with spaghetti-garlic-bread-cups.**