Sunday, October 27, 2013

The 2 1/2 Hour 30 Minute Meal.

I love food. I'll try almost anything, though I'm not as adventurous as Andrew Zimmerman - no monkey brains or sauteed dog for me!  I subscribe to the Food Network magazine, Taste of Home and Rachel Ray's magazine. I watch Top Chef, Chopped and Diners Drive-ins and Dives. Yes, I love food. I'm a foodee.  What I am not is a cook.

Yes, I get all these magazines and watch all these shows, but I don't really cook. My repertoire consists mainly of American Chop Suey (aka by some as goulash), rice with canned soup or canned chili on it, nuked baked potatoes and On-Cor chicken cutlets, meatloaf and of course, my favorite weekend morning breakfast - Cocoa Pebbles! I can cook a few other things, but these are the staples, so to speak.

One of the reasons I don't cook is because I have very little room in my kitchen. I measured it and I have about 2 sq feet of counter space in a pantry that's about 4.5 sq feet. Also, my knees are shot so standing for any length of time either at the stove or to prep is difficult, so I usually do what little prepping that's needed, sitting down on a bench. Also, I HATE cleaning up after cooking. But I love food! So what's a foodee to do?

Well, this week, I decided that I was going to try a recipe from Rachel Ray's Magazine. From the 30 minute meal section - called "Pancetta wrapped chicken thighs with potatoes".  That doesn't so bad, right? Sounds pretty easy and not too many ingredients.  So I make my shopping list to pick up what I don't already have: Chicken thighs, Pancetta, Lemon, fresh rosemary, fresh garlic, white wine, and potatoes. I already had chicken stock and salt and pepper! It was decided that I would cook dinner for me and my sister on Saturday instead of our usual pizza, and we'd watch a movie. She would arrive at my place at 5PM.

So about 4PM, I decide to start getting things together, read the recipe again, get the pans out - that kind of thing. Because it's a 30 minute meal, right? So if I start a little early, it will be ready when sis gets here. 

Step one:  put the potatoes in a covered pot with water and boil. But wait - they're supposed to be peeled and sliced in 1/4" discs first. Dammit! So now I rummage through my utensil and gadget drawers - all three of them - for my potato peeler. Find it and start peeling. Then I wash the taters and start slicing them with my Martha Stewart color coded knife and cutting mat. Slice, slice, slice, cut, chop, dice... ok, all done with that. As I carry the pot to the stove, 15 minutes has passed!! What the...? I better get moving!

Step two:  Season the chicken with rosemary, garlic and lemon zest. Ummm... I guess I need to prepare those things too. I zest the lemon first, using my friend Lianne's grater thingy. Do you know how sharp those things are!? Then I strip the rosemary thingies off the stem (I learned that on TV!) and I peel three cloves of garlic from the giant bulb. I start chopping it all up and mixing it. Chop chop chop mix mix mix. I now have about a cup of this seasoning mix which is supposed to be enough for 8 chicken thighs. But at this point, I don't care, I'll stretch it if I have too.

Step three: Rub the seasoning over the chicken then wrap each thigh in 2 slices of the Pancetta. But wait Rachel, I haven't washed the chicken yet. And you HAVE TO wash the chicken, right? By this time, 45 minutes have gone by and the only thing cooking is the potatoes. And shit! They're boiling over. I move my bench and rush to the stove to take the cover off. The water has boiled over but the potatoes still need to cook until tender, but not soft. So I turn the heat completely off, knowing how far behind I am. I'll turn them on again in a little bit.

So I start washing the chicken but I have nowhere to put it. I decide to fill a big Tupperware bowl with paper towels and throw the clean chicken in there, placing the bowl on top of stuff in the utensil drawer. Space is so limited, I have to be creative! It's getting very crowded in my little area here. While washing the chicken and noticing it is now an hour and 10 minutes after I started, I realize I have more than the 8 pieces of chicken the recipe calls for. But I wash it anyway because what am I gonna do? Just put it back in the frig uncooked and unwashed? So all the poultry gets washed and I'm ready to coat each piece with seasoning and wrap them up.

Out comes thigh number one. I start to rub the rosemarygarliczestylemon mixture on the chicken but it's not really rubbing on, it's sort of rolling around with my fingers. I try again, and still, it's not "rubbing" on. I look at the bowl of thighs and then the cup of rosemarygarliczestylemon and think - what the hell. I dump all of the seasoning into the bowl and toss and turn the chicken so that it's all covered. Take that, Rachel Ray!

I open the Pancetta package and carefully peel off a slice of... wait.. I carefully lift... what the???... I cannot get up a piece of pancetta without it tearing. It's so thin that all I'm getting is a strip that curls around. The whole middle is still stuck to the piece underneath it. I glance at the clock. My sister is fashionably late because it is now almost 5:40PM. I try again and again with the pancetta but all I'm doing is pissing myself off and mangling the pancetta. After several attempts, I manage to use up all the pancetta on all the chicken but it looks like a 3 year old did it - nothing like the picture in the magazine.

Step four: Heat the oil in the pan and place chicken in, cooking til crisp on each side - about three minutes. Luckily, my sister walks in at this point because I hand her the chicken and the tongs and tell her "Here, put these in the pan. They have to crisp on each side before we add the wine and stock".

Now, my sisters chosen profession is... a cook. Granted it's institutional cooking, but still.. it's cooking, right? So she puts the chicken in the pan and turns down the heat. I watch her do this and I see the flames getting higher. Ummm...Jeannie? You wanna turn that back down so it doesn't burn? Then she gets an attitude with ME! It's not MY fault that she is a cook and has this same oven in her own kitchen and she doesn't know how to turn the heat down! So while we're arguing back and forth, of course, the clock is tick tick ticking and the chicken is doing nothing because we're playing with the heat. We finally get it where it needs to be and she starts flipping it over already because it's been more than three minutes on that side. But it's not really crispy, I say to her and she tells me to fuck off and it'll be fine.

Now I measure out the 1/2 cup of white wine and the cup of broth, managing to spill only one of them on myself. I read sis the next direction.

Step five: Once chicken is browned nicely on both sides, add the wine and broth and reduce heat to simmer til chicken is cooked through. But wait - Julia Childs over there already turned the heat down. I go look at the chicken and IMO, there isn't one thigh that is 'nicely browned" - but if I say something to her, she's gonna get pissed again. Rather than face her wrath, I just hand her the wine and stock and she pours it all over the chicken, nicely rinsing off any of the seasoning that may have been loose on top. Sigh... So now we wait for the chicken to cook. Shit! The potatoes! I turn the heat back on high to get these cooking because after the chicken is done, you're supposed to fry the disks in the pan with the sauce.

I have now been working on this meal for TWO HOURS. According to sis, the chicken is done. I give her a paper plate to put one on so I can cut it in half to see. When she hands me the plate, I laugh. It's the sorriest looking piece of chicken with pancetta pieces hanging off of it that I have ever seen. I slice into it and yes, it's cooked through. We move the chicken to my Le Creuset roasting pan and it's time to cook the potatoes. Out comes the colander and she drains the potatoes. But instead of "placing" them gently into the pan to fry them on both sides til crisped, she dumps the whole pot into the pan and starts mixing them. I tell her what we're supposed to be doing and she says this is good enough. And I figure at this point, she's right. The potatoes cook for about 5 minutes til she tells me if they cook any longer they are going to be mashed potatoes.

And finally, we're plating our dishes. If we were on Iron Chef, we'd get negative points in the plating category for sure! It is now 2.5 hours later and we're finally going to eat.

How in the WORLD this is supposed to be a 30 minute meal, I will never know. I don't think ANY of the fancypants chef's on TV could do this in 30 minutes unless.....  wait a minute.... I know... they have MINIONS!!!!!!!!!!!! 
The minions have everything ready to go for them. Their chicken is rinsed, the potatoes are peeled, their lemon is zested, the rosemary is plucked and chopped, the pancetta is probably thicker and all laid out! No wonder dear Rachel always has a smile on her face - she's got minions! And probably doesn't have a sister like mine! (God bless her! LOL).

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How to give a cat medicine

The real title should be "How to Give a 5 Pound Emaciated Cat .5 ml of Liquid Medicine".

If you know me, you know I love animals. I have four cats, two of which are not my fault (thanks a lot Rick!). One of the older ones is Pieces. Yes, a strange name unless you mention his sister, Bitz. Get it? Huh? Bitz & Pieces?..  I know - corny - but it fits them.

Anyway, for a few years now, Pieces has been sickly and looks like he suffers from anorexia, but he eats like a horse and is crazy for people food. I took him to the vets last week because he just looked like such a sorry sight and he seemed to be having a lot of... well.. let's say bowel troubles.

He was diagnosed with IBS and the Vet gave me a liquid medicine to give him. I will now give step by step instructions on how to administer such medication:

Approach your cat in a friendly, non-aggressive manor. Pick him up while murmuring sweet nothings into his ear, all the while petting him gently. Keep him as calm as possible. Bring him into the kitchen (assuming you are giving him his medication and food there) and set him down. Go to the refrigerator and get the medicine. Shake it well and return to the cat.

Find the cat again. Realize now that Step 1 should have been to prepare the medicine first. Do that, then look for the cat in all his favorite hiding and sleeping spaces. Call him, cajole him, shake a treat box or run the can opener - this is no time to be proud, you've got to find him and give him his medicine. After looking everywhere, return to the kitchen only to find him sitting on the counter wondering where you've been.

Calm the cat again. Pet him, whisper to him and "give him lovins" til his eyes are barely open and his purring is loud enough to wake the baby, if you had one.

While holding the cat, gently turn him over in your arms so that you are holding him like the sweet 'lil baby that he is.  As you cradle him to your chest, slowly reach for the syringe of medication and bring it to your cats mouth.

Grab the white vinegar because that blood is gonna stain. Here are some tips:  Blood Removal

Repeat Steps 2 and 3.

Realize your cat is no longer a sweet lil baby but has transformed into a ferociously wild 5 pound Siberian Tiger and it's time to get serious. Grab the little bastard and flip him upside down. Squish all his legs together between your chest and arm and again approach him with the syringe.

Don't worry, facial scars are "in". As you dab up the blood, consider sending your cat away to the circus as a contortionist because there is no way a cat is supposed to be able to move like that.

Screw steps 1 through 4. Hunt the little devil down, bring him to the kitchen counter and wrap him entirely in a towel. Let him squiggle out that cute little pink nose and aim somewhere below that with the syringe. Plunge the medicine into his general mouth-ital region and hope for the best.

STEP 10:
Release the now howling beast and have a drink cuz you're gonna need it. The medicine needs to be given twice a day.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

As if I needed another hole in my head!

So, about two weeks before vacation, I broke a tooth. I wasn't too worried because it was one my dentist told me needed to be pulled. I tried to be careful, chew on the other side and "pamper" the rotten bastid until it could be pulled. That had happened already because I had been on a blood thinner and I sorta didn't want to bleed to death from a pulled tooth! A week later, the inevitable happened. I broke more of the tooth - so much that you could actually see and poke into the middle of it. And I broke it on a pecan - something healthy, right!?! (Never mind it was covered in chocolate and buried in some Ben & Jerry's ice cream!). I called the dentist and they fit me in for the Thursday before vacation started.

Yep, it had to be pulled. I really hoped we could wait til after vacation because I could just see getting a dry socket or an infection while trying to enjoy myself in "my country"! He had a hard time getting the tooth out because it was such a large molar, but he managed to yank it without having to call in re-enforcements. However, because NOTHING in my life ever seems to be simple, when the Doc looks up into the socket, he sees something odd.

Now, have you ever been to the dentist and you're sitting in the chair, mouth wide open, face immobilized from Novacaine and you see the dentist look into your mouth and make a funny, raised eyebrow face? Then he looks back to the x-ray, back to your mouth, back to the x-ray and back to your mouth again? No? Well, let me tell you, when that happens, you just know the next thing he says or does is NOT going to be good!

He reached out and held my nose closed and told me to blow out my nose. My first thought was "Umm... you're holding it closed, how can I do that"? But I try to do it and sure enough - the air I blow comes out of the tooth socket! WTF?!? Apparently, I have a hole from the sinus cavity to the socket. On x-ray it's barely there, though now that he can see it IRL, he can make it out on x-ray taken prior to the pulling. He says it's not a common occurrence, but not really rare, either. Though he's never seen a hole on the side of the root cavity like this, they're usually just at the top.

So the Doc puts some special secret Dentist stuff up there and stitches it closed. He tells me that he wants to see me Monday to check it out and make sure the hole closes over because if it doesn't, it's off to the surgeon with me. Also, he tells me I am on Sinus Precautions. No sneezing, no blowing my nose and don't use my Cpap machine til he sees me on Monday. Do you know how hard it is NOT to sneeze or blow your nose when someone tells you not to? HARD! I never realized what a nose blower I was! And no Cpap machine? I can't sleep normally without it. I've used it faithfully for about 13 years now. Oh, and one more thing... I need to be on 500mg of amoxicillin 3x a day for 10 days. This means I have to immediately stop an RA drug I take which may (or may not) effect my next lab results. He also gave me orders for "Soft Solid" foods. Nothing hard or crunchy etc.

Monday comes and after no sneezing, not ONE nose blow and avoiding my Cpap like the plague, I go back to see the dentist and surprise, the hole isn't closed over and I've got a bit of a dry socket. Dry sockets are usually very painful, but luckily, I haven't had much pain other than just a soreness. So now he's more vigorous and vigilant about it. He gives me about a gallon of novacaine and starts pulling bone and tissue out of the socket. Then he takes some bone from somewhere - I was afraid to ask - and some tissue (as in skin tissue/ oral lining) and tries to make a covering that will hopefully attach and mesh itself across the hole. Oh, and the Sinus Precautions are still in effect. What a wonderful way to start vacation, no?

On Tuesday (Happy Birthday to me), my sister and I head up north to Canada. The whole drive I spend time with my tongue going to the stitched up socket. Each time I do, the stitches seem to be coming undone. I want sooooo badly to get to a lighted magnifying mirror and some sharp implements and go to town on this sucker! But I don't. I still haven't sneezed, still haven't blown my nose and still haven't used my Cpap, which is really affecting me. I'm exhausted.

We get back from Canada on Thursday night and I have another follow up with the dentist at noon on Friday. I get there and they take me right away. I'm almost sure he's going to tell me I need to make an appointment with the surgeon. Surprisingly though, he tells me that the innermost, or outermost - depending on which way you're going! - is about 90% closed over and if we can just get that last bit closed up, we'll be good to go. Still no sneezing, blowing or Cpap. I tell him it's been NINE nights without the Cpap and it's killing me. He says give it ONE MORE night, and I agree. He puts more collagen up into the socket and sends me on my way, wanting to see me next week.

So last night, after giving him the 10th night without Cpap, I'm exhausted and need to get some real sleep. I have to go back to work on Monday and NEED to get some rest. So as I lay in bed, I get my recently neglected nasal mask, put it to my nose, make sure there's a tight seal, and turn the machine on. It's now blowing 15 cm of pressurized air into my nose in order to keep my airway open when I sleep. One breath. Two breaths. Anyone wanna guess what happens next? Yep -  I now have two breaths of air in my mouth. I expel the air, try again and realize I'm done with the Cpap until I get this damn hole fixed.

I'll call the dentist in the morning, let him know what happens and go from there. But seriously, can anything EVER be easy for me? But I guess if it was, I wouldn't have good stories to tell!