Tag Archives: Food

Why the crockpot is my new best friend

This is not to diminish the value of my friendships with real people, because I have a lot of pretty amazing friends, but by golly, I am really loving my crockpot this year (I’ve had it a whopping 16). The internet holds a wealth of information and ideas for what you can make in these things, and I’m finding plenty of healthy, tasty meals.

But here’s why I’m really learning to love the crockpot – it allows me to work around my fatigue and still manage to feed my family. The fatigue that MS causes has really been kicking my butt hard this past month, and by 1 pm (even after a morning nap) I’m pretty slogged (not sure if that’s a word but it sounded good). By 4 or 5 pm, after getting the kids from the bus stop and handling the flurry of that excitement, I’m close to non-functioning. Which makes dinner prep rather difficult.

Case in point: It is almost 7 pm. We ate dinner already (tacos!!) but I’m feeling the munchies so I went into the kitchen to get a bowl of cereal (granola, actually). I pulled the granola from the cupboard, the milk from the fridge, and set both on the counter. I then got a bowl and poured the granola into it, and proceeded to put both the granola back in the cupboard and the milk back in the fridge.  Notice anything missing?? I walked all the way back to my bowl of granola, ready to eat, and discovered I had forgotten to pour the milk.

It’s really frustrating, feeling so… I don’t know, lacking in ability to perform simple tasks, I guess, and pretty damn powerless to change it. But I’ve been faced with lots of things, big things, that I cannot change. If I have learned anything from these big, unchangeable things, it’s that I do still have a choice. And that choice is to accept it, adapt, and move on.

The crockpot means I can prepare a delicious, healthy meal for my family early in the day, before I get fatigued. I refuse to give up and feed them frozen pizza every night. So, for what it represents and for what it allows me to do, the crockpot is my friend. The thing is old enough to drive now (a wedding gift), but I suppose using it for a ride to the store would be asking too much. We’ll just stick to food preparation for now 😉

Shalom

I have done almost nothing today. I mean, no real work or housekeeping or other responsible adult type of activities. Here was my day so far:

  1. Morning preparations: fed the kids breakfast, packed lunches, made coffee
  2. Took the kids to the bus stop – get this, it’s a 2 minute walk. TWO!
  3. Read a book while Piper slept at my feet. (Piper is the dog, in case you’re new here)
  4. Fixed my morning smoothie with banana, strawberries, and blueberries.
  5. Took Piper outside and played fetch.
  6. Had lunch – made a sandwich on buttered toast with leftover tomato, green pepper, onion, and fresh basil. It was surprisingly yummy!
  7. Finished reading the book (a Grisham novel…The Racketeer. Not his best work but it still kept me entertained).

Mixed in with all of that was some Facebook browsing and texting with a friend. Not much else. So it’s been a long overdue lazy day, I guess. I still have an hour before I’ll leave to meet the kids at the bus stop, and I haven’t decided how to spend it. Getting bored is kind of unnerving for me. I think I’ve forgotten how to relax.

Now, lest you get all envious of my luxurious life of no job and no responsibilities (sort of), I feel like I should remind you that what I have here is a trade-off. Multiple sclerosis, sudden deafness, visual impairment. So while it is nice on days like today to be home, I still have my regular struggles. I am extremely grateful to be home for my family and I am also extremely grateful to be able to rest when I need it. Today was a day of rest. Shalom.

Frittata First

Since moving in to this new house, I’ve used the stove and oven for simple foods a couple times, but tonight I did some real cooking for the first time. Now real cooking for me is nothing compared to what my dad and sister can do with food, but I can do some meals well enough. Tonight was a frittata, made with bacon and green pepper. These ingredients were just what I had on hand, but they also happen to be my two favorite pizza toppings. Needles to say, I found it delicious. Hubby was happy too, but the kids didn’t care for the green pepper (shocker).

It was different using an electric range, because I’ve used a gas stove (and loved it) for well over a decade. This one that came with the house has a glass cooktop, which looks nice but is a pain in the rear to clean. It also takes longer to heat up, and may not cook as evenly, but it wasn’t enough of a difference to bother me. The real test will come when I bake my famous chocolate chip cookies!

Frittata for the win!

Tonight I made a frittata for dinner. If you don’t know what that is (I didn’t, until my sister described it to me) it’s basically an omelet, but without the tricky flipping. It’s eggs, milk, cheese, meat and veggies if you want ’em. It cooks in a pan, and is then finished off in the oven (or just put a lid on it and keep it on  the stove), and it kind of ends up looking like a breakfast pizza (incidentally, two of my favorite things… breakfast and pizza). I usually just use what I have on hand, so today’s frittata had sautéed red pepper and green onion, and ham and cheddar cheese. Simple, delicious, and fairly healthy!

This happened to be my third attempt at a frittata, but it was the first time I did it without incident (i.e. I didn’t scorch my hand pulling the pan out of the oven). It was also the first time I made it for my family to eat, so I was a tad nervous, since they all tend to be their own brand of picky eaters. Guess what? They all loved it! They weren’t necessarily begging for seconds, and Luke didn’t care for the red peppers, but the fact that no complaints were made (Luke was happy to pick out the peppers and continue eating) and my husband went back for seconds are both good signs of a winner in my book.

I just wish I had taken a picture for you 😦 Maybe next time!

Kitchen Disasters

I am a disaster in the kitchen. My dad passed all his chefly talents to my sister and brother, and gave none to me. For years I have managed, sticking mostly to simple meals and the occasional baked goods. However, it seems that ever since I lost a considerable portion of my vision, I have taken a turn for the worst. During that time of visual downturn in the fall of 2013, I was “checked out” for awhile, and it seems I haven’t fully checked back in. I lost a crucial brain cell or two.

For example, last weekend we were having friends over for dinner. I was excited to make one of our favorites, penne sausage marinara. I had the dish mostly prepared ahead of time, so I only had a few simple steps left. I assembled the dish for baking, put it into the oven, and set the timer for 30 minutes. Thirty minutes later the timer went off and to my dismay, the cheese on top had not yet melted. My intelligent friend thought to investigate by sticking her hand in the oven. It was cold. Seems when I had thought about preheating the oven, I had not followed through. The next time someone tells you “it’s the thought that counts”, I assure you it is untrue. Actions, my friends, actions are what count. Doing the thing you thought about doing, like actually turning on the f-ing oven, are what count.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “well, that’s not such a big deal. You didn’t mess it up, you just delayed it a bit.” Don’t worry, I have more.

So then there was the time I decided to try a new recipe for meatloaf (my son’s favorite). Word to the wise, always read a recipe in it’s entirety before you start. I was so gung-ho about trying this new recipe, I just started throwing everything in to mix with the ground beef. Yet as soon as I dropped the brown sugar and mustard in, I had a second thought. I checked the recipe (with my clean hand, the other covered in raw meat, eggs, and brown sugar) and discovered that what I had used as a meatloaf seasoning was actually meant to be the topping. That day I cried. I felt completely inept, that I couldn’t even prepare a simple, classic dish. But! Mike consoled me, told me it would be fine, and insisted I bake the loaf just as it was. And we did, and it was delicious. A little too moist, but still delicious.

Then there was the time I made what my sister and I like to call “Amazeballs Chicken.” It’s chicken breast stuffed with roasted red peppers, spinach, and goat cheese. It’s divine. The trick is to sear it in the pan then bake it, pan and all, in the oven. The problem with that is that my brain is used to holding pans while they are on the stove, which does not require an oven mitt. So when the chicken was done baking, I made the extremely painful mistake of trying to remove the pan from the oven, sans oven mitt. That was a painful mistake, one I had hoped never to repeat.

Sometimes hoping is not enough.

Just last week I had a friend over for lunch. I made a frittata, which is the easiest fancy sounding dish I know how to make. Of course, I make it because it’s delicious, not because I like fancy food. In order to make a frittata, you first do a lot of the cooking on the stovetop, but you leave the food in the pan and finish the cooking in the oven. (Do you see where I’m going with this?) Of course I wasn’t going to make the same mistake this time. This time I was sure to wear the oven mitt when I pulled the pan out of the oven. However, it seems I turned my brain off after I set the pan down. Not three seconds after I took off the oven mitt, I proceeded to move the pan inwards, away from the edge. With my bare hand. I cursed, multiple times. I ran to the freezer to cool it down as quickly as possible, but it was burned pretty good. I had to hold an ice pack on it well into the evening.

I didn’t make it to ASL class that night.

Have you had enough? I have one more. This just happened this week. We had some over-ripe bananas sitting on the counter, just begging to be baked into bread. So I started mixing the eggs and sugar and vanilla, and then had the genius idea to add cinnamon for an extra kick. So I grabbed the spice jar from the cupboard and started dumping it into the batter, while the batter was mixing (love my Kitchen-Aid). As I poured it into the batter, I realized that it felt much different than the consistency of cinnamon. It was not so much like a powder, but more like… crushed red pepper. Not the extra kick I was looking for! All that batter, down the drain. Thankfully, I had not yet added the bananas, and could try again another day.

So maybe I ought to just shake these off and call it bad luck, but it’s not that simple for me. I can’t work outside the home. My identity used to be wrapped up in my job and my education. In the fall of 2013, I lost all that, but was given something greater in return. I’m a homemaker now. I have a renewed focus and appreciation for my husband and my kids, and I strive to be the best at what I CAN do. Those nights I screw up making a meal, I start to feel like I can’t even do that, but then my husband comes and wraps his arms around me and tells me he’s proud of me, and appreciates all that I do.

It’s my family that keeps me going, and if it weren’t for them, there wouldn’t be a fresh loaf of banana bread (with cinnamon!) cooling on the stove as I type. I can’t wait to share it with them 🙂

New Things

Today may as well be recorded in the history books. Yes, it’s just your regular old Wednesday, but it was a day of new things for me!

1) A new pair of glasses. I’m so excited about these glasses. I had my eyes checked a couple weeks ago, and ordered new glasses then. They came in the day of my CI surgery, so I had to wait until the swelling went down before I picked them up. There are a few reasons I’m excited about these glasses. The biggest reason is that though they don’t correct the clouds, or you could call them blind spots, in my line of vision, they do make everything I DO see much clearer. This makes life a lot less frustrating for me. When you can only see a portion of what you are looking at, you would at least like that to not be so fuzzy. And the other reason I love these new glasses is because the arms are covered in paisley. I HEART paisley. I have a paisley key chain, paisley purses, paisley shirts… I even have paisley tattooed onto my upper arm. Oh, and I can’t forget about the paisley up in the corner of my blog, which happens to be the image identical to the stickers on my CI.

2) For the first time ever, I grilled. We purchased brats for dinner, and Mike showed me how to use the grill so I could make the food while he mowed the lawn. In all my years on earth, I have never had the desire to use the grill. And so, I never learned how. As it turns out, it’s ridiculous easy. And goes very well with a cold beer, I might add.

3) I wrote yesterday about becoming a faithful flosser. A friend commented on my blog post via Facebook (so the discussion won’t show here) and she was describing in somewhat graphic detail why she uses mouthwash. I’ll just say it basically involved ingesting bacteria, which is enough to motivate me to try it. Ew. So, today we bought a bottle of mouthwash and tonight I tried it. Dang, that stuff stings! They say to swish for 30 seconds but I don’t think I made it to 15 before I had to spit it out. Still, that’s better than none. It’s still one step closer to being a responsible adult, so I’m not beating myself up about the timing. I’m just proud I made that step.

So that’s enough grown-up activities for the day. Tomorrow I think I’ll stay in my pajamas and eat ice cream for breakfast!

Okay, now let’s talk about food.

I have found that one of the great things about being “stuck” at home all day, is that sometimes you are forced to be creative with your lunch options. That is, unless you are okay living on Ramen noodles lunches every day. Which I am not.

Who loves leftovers? This girl, right here. Sometimes it is okay to just reheat them – I’ll reheat soup in the microwave, but the broiler is the way to go for leftover pizza – but other times it’s better to do some creative repurposing. We grilled steak the other night, and ate it with a bleu cheese & bacon salad. So I decided to fry up that leftover steak (just to heat and add some butter flavor), slice it up into cubes, and throw it in with the salad. Grilled steak and bleu cheese salad – it’s definitely hitting the spot!

We also had a wad of leftover spaghetti. Now, I like to keep the noodles and sauce separate when I pack up the leftovers. It gives me more options for using it up. Rather than go with the standard spaghetti dish, I melted some butter and cream cheese (we always seem to eat all the bagels before we use up the cream cheese), mixed in some parmesan cheese, and then tossed that mixture in with the spaghetti noodles, threw it in a baking dish and layered it with the spaghetti sauce and some mozzarella cheese. Baked for about 40 minutes, and voila! We had baked spaghetti. The kids didn’t like it (not a fan of change, I guess), but I thought it was delicious. And the best part is that there are still leftovers from THAT, so I will be eating that for lunch tomorrow.

So that’s that. I’m thinking about baking some of my famous chocolate chip cookies next week, and if I’m successful, you may be hearing about that as well. I may even post a picture!

Weekly update of sorts

I am in some super slow recovery type mode, so writing (book, blog, Facebook, journal) is not really happening. And that irritates me, but then I get irritated that I am so irritated. Vicious cycle. So today I am just going to bore you with this…

I had a rough walk to the bus stop this morning. I think the dog has gotten too big for me, and with her energy and drive, I can’t hold her back. She throws me off balance constantly. And with my balance issues, that’s a recipe for disaster. So I think we’re done with that program until she gets a little older and can be trained to behave better while walking. That is a thing with dog training, isn’t it?

So after the rough walk I put the pup back in her crate and went back to bed. The sleep probably helped, but I can’t tell. I’m still struggling with fatigue. However, I have managed to do the dishes and make dinner. Chili in the crockpot, and it smells delicious so far. Ground venison, onion, diced tomatoes, black beans, and chili powder. A simple recipe I don’t remember ever trying before, so I hope it turns out ok. We will have cheddar cheese, sour cream, and Fritos to top it off, so that can help with flavor. I thought about adding the can of spicy chili beans that has been in our cupboard forever, but the kids really don’t like spicy, and neither do I. We’ll see how the chili tastes in a couple hours, and I may still decide to add some.

I mailed an application today for the local public transportation service for disabled people. They drive the van right to your door and take you where you need to go. I’m excited about it. As my husband put it, it will give me a level of freedom back. I wouldn’t need to rely on him to take me grocery shopping, or to my umpteen doctor visits. It’s hard to describe how helpless it makes me feel, not being able to drive. I don’t miss the driving so much as I miss being able to go where I want to go. I am an introvert, so one of my favorite things is to go do things alone. Sit at the coffee shop and read or crochet, walk around a bookstore or mall just to browse the merchandise. But if you always need a driver, someone is always waiting for you, and that’s pressure I don’t handle so well. I HATE feeling rushed.

But this Spec-Tran, you plan each ride one-way, so no one is waiting. You tell them when you need a ride back, and they’ll send another driver. At least that’s my understanding. We’ll see how it actually works, but regardless there is no cause for guilt because this is their job, and they aren’t just doing it out of the kindness of their heart. Why is it that we feel guilt when someone does something for us out of the “kindness of their heart”? I mean, by definition they are doing it because they want to, not because they feel obligated. I know it’s not just me. But that still doesn’t make it rational or right.

Oh well. I declare that today is not a day for solving things. It’s a day for reflecting briefly and moving on! Coffee is waiting!

A Dessert Too Awesome for Words

>>>Insert delicious dessert photo here

I am in the process of making a dessert for the family gathering tomorrow. This is my third time making it. The first time I made it, it turned out fabulous, and I brought it to my mother-in-law’s for Christmas. It was a huge hit. The second time I made it for another family gathering, which was cancelled due to weather. It was a good thing though, because I totally screwed up the marshmallow element. So the family gathering was rescheduled for tomorrow, and that brings me to my third attempt.

While I like recipes, they bore me at times, and I like to take a risk now and then. Attempt #1 involved a makeshift double boiler to melt down giant marshmallows we had left from summer camping trips. Attempt #2 involved skipping the makeshift double boiler method, which proved disastrous. If you’ve ever hated getting taffy stuck in your teeth, multiply that experience by 38. It was bad.

Attempt #3 is still in progress. I plan to come back and add a picture, but we’ll see. The twist on this attempt can’t be seen in the picture anyway. I won’t really know how it turns out until it’s done, but I can tell you the batter was amazing. What is the twist? Haitian Vanilla. Straight imported from a friend of mine who visits there often to do mission work. I absolutely hate using store-bought vanilla, as all I can smell is the alcohol (and not the good kind). I have always loved using Mexican vanilla. It’s a much smoother, purer alternative.

But this stuff from Haiti? A totally different animal. Simply sinful. I get high just sniffing it from the bottle. It’s amazing. And adding it to the brownie batter (did I forget to mention this dessert involves brownies?) seemed to work very well. I tasted it and it was heavenly. A perfect blend of bold sweetness, but rounded out with a darkness that is just, well, sinister. That’s the best way I can describe it. I’m not so good at the putting the words together thing. 😉

I realize I never mentioned what the dessert was. The recipe I found on Allrecipes.com calls it Krispy Brownie Delights, but that name seriously doesn’t do this creation justice. It’s just too awesome for words. So that’s what we call it! Too Awesome For Words.

*On a side note, my daughter actually doesn’t like it (what?!%?@!) so my husband has been calling it Too Awesome for Natalie. I reject that title because that doesn’t even sound like something you would want to eat.

So, batch #3 is chillin’ in the fridge. We will find out tomorrow how it turned out, and maybe we can get some suggestions, take up a vote, and find this delectable dish a proper name!

Who knows how many knives

Brian Regan on Goober PB&J – ““You know I could go for a sandwich, but uh, I’m not gonna open two jars. I can’t be opening and closing all kinds of jars. And who knows how many knives!”

Today I made PB&J sandwiches for the kids. They both wanted different flavored jam, so that made for three knives. I made myself a sandwich with the strawberry jam, which is what my son had, so I didn’t have to dirty more knives. And then when I sat down to eat it, he asked for another sandwich. And I had already put the knives in the sink. So I gave him my sandwich and headed to the kitchen to make a new something for myself. Only I was frustrated with the three dirty knives, and thought five would just be over the top, so I opted for a bologna sandwich, requiring only one additional dirty knife for the mayonnaise. So four, four was good. And then Mike came home and decided he wanted a PB&J as well, only I think he read the look on my face immediately, and wisely opted to make it himself.

So, three plus one plus two = 39 dirty knives in the sink. And that was the worst part of my day, so I can’t complain. I wish you a joyous evening and may God grant you no more dirty knives than you can handle.