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My Deadbeat Roommate is Actually a Terrorist

February 23, 2014

In the last days of my pregnancy, my husband and I mused that we were about to take on a deadbeat roommate. This little being was coming into the world to live with us. He/She would not pay any bills…would eat all our food…party loudly through most nights…and would trash the place on a regular basis. She/he would also not speak the language, so good luck asking him/her to change their ways.

We are now 6 months into the 18 year lease (with a possibility of refusal to comply with eviction at that point) and I realize, we do not have a deadbeat roommate…we have been hijacked by a terrorist. Sure our little girl is cute, but anyone who has watched tv or movies knows, it is usually the least likely suspect who is plotting the destruction of our civilized American lifestyle. How do I know she is a terrorist? I looked it up where one finds all important reference material on the internet, Wikipedia. My little terrorist is quite adept at several Methods of Torture. While it is uncertain what information this terrorist wants from me, she knows how to perform several torture methods and employ a number of torture devices.

Physical Torture Methods

  • Bodily (Genital) Mutilation: My body went through the ringer carrying this little one around for 41 weeks and then was torn open in ways that should not be natural. Thankfully, the damage does not seem be permanent.
  • The Breast Ripper, a device used on adulterous women in the middle ages in Europe, is something my little terrorist must have researched. I never cheated on my husband, but our terrorist has worked a number on my breasts.  My nipples feel like they are ripped  off each day. They are pulled, chapped and bitten. I have endured blood blisters and hickeys unseen on my body since junior year of high school. I am told when she is done with me, they will be a shriveled mess.
  • Scalping: When not pulling at nipples, my little terrorist has attempted to scalp me by yanking the hair out of my head. I repeat “gentle” over and over again, but it seems to do no good. At least I am not alone in this pain. The poor dog and my husband’s chest hair are subjected to it as well.
  • Flagellation: I have been flogged on a weekly basis. My breasts, face and neck are covered in lash marks from her tiny razor-like fingernails. This is a method, that I can avoid if I clip her nails in time, but the act of clipping often brings on sound torture (see psychological torture below).
  • Stress Positions: These place the human body in such a way that a great amount of weight is placed on just one or two muscles. These muscles are usually my already overtaxed from pregnancy lower back muscles. After feeding and rocking her to sleep, I bend over her crib rail to lay her down. This often results in her squirming. I must then remain in the stress position for several minutes before carefully trying to extract my arm from under her tiny head. Inevitably, she wakes and starts screaming. I have to pick her up, rock her and then put myself back in the stress position. I know I know, put them to sleep awake and alert you say. Terrorists, don’t trust being left in a room alone to fall asleep. When left to fall asleep on their own, sound torture immediately commences.
  • Instruments of Torture: These little terrorists come with a slew of torture devices including baby carriers, car seats, and toys that play obnoxious songs, like It’s a Small World, for hours at a time.
  • Water Boarding: Thankfully, my little terrorist hasn’t figured this one out. Well at least not yet.

Psychological Torture Methods

  • Sound Torture: Never before in my life have I questioned my sanity or doubted myself more than since the little terrorist arrived. I have been exposed to unpleasant sounds for extended periods of time…with extended periods of time being an understatement. While it may not be death metal…screaming, crying and whimpering have quickly degraded my once sense of calm.
  • Solitary confinement: Because I live on the north end of my mountain valley, I do not often get visitors. If I want human contact, I must subject myself to more unpleasant sounds while I bundle up the terrorist and strap her into the back breaking torture device known as “the car seat.” She will then proceed to scream for the entire drive into town until we get to the grocery store, at which time she will smile and look adorable. This is part of her ploy. As long as she looks cute in public, no one believes me when I beg for them to save me. How can this sweet thing be such a devil? Shame on you for thinking, none the less speaking aloud that you do not love every waking minute with her! (They don’t believe that every minute is a waking minute, see sleep deprivation below). At the grocery store, I must run quickly through the aisles grabbing what I can so that I can get the terrorist back to “the hole” aka home, in time to get her down for her next nap. Invariably, I will have spent 5 minutes too long at the store. When this happens, the terrorist falls asleep in her car seat torture device a mile from home and wakes up to perform sound torture on me as soon as I try to extract her from the vehicle.
  • Sleep Deprivation: the most pervasive and grueling method that I know my terrorist is not alone in performing. This method falls under both the physical and psychological torture categories. After six months without sleeping more than 3 hours in a row, I am ready to talk. If only I knew what state secrets she was after. Oh Mel, you say…you just haven’t read the terrorist negotiation manual. But, I have. I have read the manuals by Ezzo, Karp and Pantly. I attempted the tight 2 hour schedule of eat, play, sleep. I have wrapped my terrorist in straight jackets. I struck back with my own shushing sound torture. I tried every S including human Sacrafice (the human being myself) to no avail. Recently I even tried the manual by Weissbluth which  states that sovereign nations should not negotiate with terrorists no matter what. After an hour of sound torture and then projectile vomiting, I gave up.

So how does one escape the hijacking? You don’t. After six months I have finally given in to Stockholm Syndrome. If you can’t beat them, fall in love with them, defend them and if they tell you to, rob a bank. What else can one do? Perhaps now that I promise to submit, she will go back to just being a deadbeat roommate.

Lasagna…I finally did it!

February 2, 2014

deer lasagna

My mother’s nemesis was meatloaf. Mine, lasagna. I have attempted it on many occasions and each time it was just mediocre. Finally I did it. How and with a baby none the less? I stopped caring and kept it simple. I was inspired by ground deer we received from a friend. I pulled out some sauce that I had frozen from Christmas Eve’s Brociole (a fabulous dish that if you have never made I highly recommend…here is Giada’s recipe, which I use as a blue print). I stopped getting fancy and got noodles from the store. I even purchased the bucket of ricotta which I swore off years ago.

And so…how to make lasagna when you have a baby who is constantly trying to get your attention? Make the dish over the course of the day.

  •  Pull sauce from freezer (or grab a jar, what do I care). 1 minute
  • Heat a pot of water and cook the noodles. Drain, toss in olive oil and set aside. 15 minutes
  • Place a bit of sauce in bottom of pan, layer down some noodles, top with ground meat, a couple of dollops of ricotta and a little mozzarella. 4 minutes
  • Repeat sauce, noodles, meat, cheese for 2 more layers. 4 more minutes
  • top with a little more mozzarella and some grated parm. 2 minutes
  • Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or so, covering with foil for first 30 so as not to burn the top.

Yeah, I know…you all knew this years ago and have been making amazing lasagna for eons. I am new to the “uncomplicated,” multi-step, prep your ingredients game. I know I am an idiot. It took having a kid to figure this out.

 

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try and try and fail again

July 23, 2012

I was flipping through some food porn on the internet and ended up on Michael Ruhlman’s (the man who inspired me to make guanciale) blog. He had two videos that I quickly found. One was for homemade mayonnaise and the other was for pate a choux. If you are wondering what pate a choux is, it is a fancy name for a cream puff. Both recipes seemed quick and easy and involved ingredients I had on hand, so I thought why not?

I began with the pate a choux and found his recipe to be quick, simple and delicious. Ratio of equal parts water and egg and half that amount of flour and butter. Watch his video to get the full idea. The puffs and the “French Gnocchi” that he makes from the dough turned out beautifully. I now have a new dish to bring to parties. Here is a pic of 2 of the puffs about an hour later…a little deflated, but still yummy.

And then there was the mayonnaise..the fricking mayo! I did not think that something that is shown on so many websites and was touted by my mother as “easy” would be the end of me…but alas, I give up…for now. I wanted to use my new immersion blender (birthday gift) to make a quick mayo. I tried two different recipes. Here and here. Each time, I got a big gloppy mess of bright yellow oily liquid. I looked up reasons for emulsion failures. I tried different containers. I tried adding in egg yolk. I tried using my failed emulsion as the oil for a new mayo. Niente, niente, niente and niente…nothin. I used 4 eggs, a lemon, some lovely sea salt and a whole lotta canola oil to get this.

We all hear the adage, “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again”…well, for today the mayo got the better of me. But I will attempt the mayo again…especially since I have insta cure #1 coming in the mail to help me smoke my own bacon. Must have homemade mayo to go on the DIY Gourmet BLT. I know, I have the bravado of a Michelin starred chef, with the professional and educational experience of a dish washer. But hey, the other saying I always hear is “go big or go home.”

dehydrated goodness

July 16, 2012

 

Every year I try out a new preservation method…a couple of years ago it was curing pig cheeks…last year it was water bath canning…and this year, it is dehydrating. The big plastic Ronco devices had never really appealed to me. I often looked at them in the same vein that one looks at a bread maker or a Slap Chop. Sure they would be fun to have, but they take up valuable kitchen space and who really needs them? Apparently not a ton of people because they are a number one item at thrift stores and yard sales. Of course by the time I realized that I would like to try out a dehydrator, there were none at the Browse and Buy and I didn’t have the time to troll countless garage sales. Facebook to the rescue. Within a couple of days I had a dehydrator on semi-permanent loan.

It has been plugged in for 4 days straight.

I dehydrated cherries for homemade granola.

I thinned out my kale plants to make chips. (toss with olive oil, nutritional yeast and a bit of salt. dehydrate till crisp ~ 4-8 hours)

I took the baby heirlooms that were shriveling up on the counter and made them into sun dried tomatoes.

Even though I have no idea how to “properly” use it, I feel as if I have been lacking in my life without it. I am looking forward to finding more things to dehydrate…such as chicken, mint, parsley dog jerky treats.  Any other suggestions?

i’m in pain and don’t want to cook meals

July 6, 2012

Things have really been boring in my kitchen now for months. In December my back started aching. In January, the pain crept into my leg. In February I started carrying a pillow with me to school every day so that I could teach from the floor. Herniated discs are a bitch I tell you. Thanks to the miracle of modern day orthoscopic surgery, I now have a 17mm scar on my back and the nickel sized herniation is gone.

Over the course of those many months, I was in too much pain to cook. For the first time in my life, I lost weight without exercising or trying to. It was very strange for me, a gal who loves to comfort herself by making a big pot of risotto or chicken and dumplings, to not have a desire to cook. Unfortunately not cooking for 6 months was not really an option because:

A. Although my appetite was greatly diminished, it wasn’t gone entirely.

B. One can only afford so much take out and living in Teton Valley, the options are a bit limited…I think I shall avoid Thai food for a while.

C.  I have a husband who works construction, who needs 30 gagillion calories a day to sustain his boyish figure.

And so, I did what any couch bound housewife does and pulled together a few meals that required very little chopping, stirring or work. Here is a list of some of those foods and a couple of quick recipes. The serving size for these is mostly 4 servings, enough for one dinner for me and Jeff and lunch for the next day.

  • Ghetto Fish Tacos: Buy frozen fish sticks/patties from the grocery. Cook them according to the package. In a medium bowl, add 1/4 c mayo, 1/4 c plain yogurt, juice of 1 lime, 1 diced jalapeño (leave the seeds if you want more heat), a pinch or two of salt and 1/2-1 tsp cumin (optional). Mix that up and add to it 1/2 cabbage, shredded and 1-2 shredded carrots. If the slaw seems dry add more mayo/yogurt. Serve fish on flour or corn tortillas with a slice of avocado and a big spoonful of the slaw.
  • Fancy Frozen Pizza: Buy a cheese pizza from the grocery. When you get home, slice an onion and caramelize it. Saute any other veg toppings you like (mushrooms, peppers, etc). Top the pizza with the veg, onions and whatever else you like. (I am a fan of sun dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts OR bacon and figs). Cook.
  • Spaghetti with Vodka Sauce: Start a pot of water for the pasta. While that heats, dice up a bit of onion. Saute the onion until soft (5-10 minutes). Add garlic to onion and cook 2 minutes. By now the water should be boiling. Add the pasta to the water and boil until cooked to your liking.  Add a can of diced tomatoes to the onion and garlic and cook until the pasta is done. Drain the pasta, toss in a little olive oil and place in bowl/s. Add a splash of vodka to the tomato sauce along with a dash of red pepper flakes. Cook for a couple of minutes longer. Taste and season to your liking. Serve over pasta.
  • No Frills Lentils: Dice 1/2 small onion and 1-2 carrots (you can also add celery here if you like it) and sauté about 10 minutes, so they start getting soft and a little golden. Add 1 c. French Lentils (They are a bit heartier than the green, brown or orange ones which will get mushy in this recipe) and 2 cups chicken or beef stock/broth. If you are in the mood, add 1 cup diced tomatoes. Toss in some herbs. I like to add a little rosemary and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook on low until the liquid is absorbed and the lentils are cooked through (~25-35 minutes). Add a little water if they need more liquid. Serve over white or brown rice with a bit of chèvre or a dollop of plain yogurt.
  • Pasta Fagioli: You guessed it, start with diced onion and carrots (about 1/2 medium onion and 2 carrots)…sauté in olive oil until soft (10 minutes). Do all this in a small soup pot. Add a 2 cups cooked beans (you can use 1 small can of rinsed beans or use some beans that you have cooked ahead of time…you can even cook a bunch overnight or during the day in a slow cooker. I have heard that beans freeze well, though I have not tried it. White beans and cranberry or christmas limas work well). Also add a can or a couple of cups of diced tomatoes and a quart (4 cups) of chicken or beef stock. If you have a parmesan rind, toss that in. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, cover partially and cook for 20 minutes. While it simmers, cook your preferred pasta. After 20 minutes, add some greens (spinach, swiss chard, or kale) fresh or frozen to the soup. Cover and simmer until the greens are tender. Serve with pasta and parmesan or romano cheese on top.
  • Crepes: This is enough for about 4 dinner servings. In a bowl, mix 1 cup milk, 1 cup flour, 2 eggs, 3 tablespoons melted butter and a pinch of salt. The consistency should be very thin…if needed add a little more milk or water to thin it out. Heat a cast iron or other heavy skillet in 350 degree oven while you prepare the toppings. I am a fan of ham, sautéed mushrooms and spinach with shredded gruyere cheese, but you should do what you like. Make sure all the ingredients (except the cheese which should be shredded) are hot when you start making your crepes. Pull the pan out of the oven and place on a burner set to medium high. Add a pat of butter to coat the pan. Pour enough batter into the pan to coat the bottom. Swirl it around and pour extra back into the bowl. Set pan on burner and cook for 30 seconds-1 minute (it will start to look dry). Pick up the crepe with your fingers and flip it. Place hot toppings in the center, with the cheese at the bottom. Cook 30 seconds, fold and serve. If your first crepe falls apart, that is normal. If the batter is too thick or thin, correct with more liquid or flour.

So if you are in pain and don’t have the stamina to stand in a kitchen slaving away…or you just want to have a quick weeknight dinner, try one of these meals. What are your go to quick meals? Let me know so I can add to my list.

Teton Family Magazine Food Labels Article Sources

June 9, 2012

The Summer Edition of Teton Family Magazine will be hitting the valley soon. I was tasked this time with looking at food labels….specifically, which ones are meaningful and which ones are snot worth the packaging they are printed on. I did a ton of research for this piece and found many fascinating articles and one amazing speech. I found so much material that I could have written 5 different articles. The magazine is not big enough for me to list all these sources with the article, so here they are.

Anderson-Gips, R. (2008). Decoding food labels. Retrieved March 16, 2012, from the Earthwatch Institute website: http://www.earthwatch2.org/sustainability/decoding%20labels.htm.

Berry, D. (2011, May 24). Clarifying clean labels. Retrieved March, 16, 2012 from http://www.foodproductdesign.com/articles/2011/05/clarifying-clean-labels.aspx.

Consumer Reports:Greener Choices Eco-Labels website provides many resources on food labeling and certifiers (http://www.greenerchoices.org/eco-labels/).

Fooducate website provides food ratings and healthier options ( www.fooducate.com).

 Golan, E., Kuchler, F., Mitchelle, L., Greene, C., & Jessup, A.(2001, January 25). Economics of food labeling. Economic Research Service/USDA. Retrieved from http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/aer793/aer793a.pdf.

GoodGuide website provides ratings for many products based on safety, environmental impact, health and ethical practices (http://www.goodguide.com)

Kindy, K. & Layton, L. (2009, July 3). Integrity of federal ‘organic’ label questioned. Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com

Lempert, P. (2004, March 30). How natural is natural flavoring? Retieved May 6, 2012 from Supermarket Guru website:
 http://www.supermarketguru.com/index.cfm/go/sg.viewArticle/articleId/1208.
Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website provides articles and recommendations about sustainable fishing practices and fish purchasing recommendations (http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx).

Non-GMO Project website provides many resources about genetically modified organisms including a list of foods that have been certified as GMO free  (www.nongmoproject.org).

Rangan, U. (2012, February 3). From fables to labels [Video file].Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mZ2KQ9iB_8 .

Silverglade, B. & Ringle Heller, I. (2010). Food labeling Chaos: The case for reform. Center for Science in the Public Interest. Retrieved from http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/food_labeling_chaos_report.pdf.

United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Library website provides many articles and resources about food labeling (http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/food-labeling).

United States Food and Drug Administration. (2009) Guidance for the Industry: A food labeling guide. Retrieved May 6, 2012 from www.fda.gov/FoodLabelingGuide.
United States Food and Drug Administration’s Labeling & Nutrition website provides many articles about food labeling (http://www.fda.gov/food/labelingnutrition).

A Fleeting Feast – Teton Valley Magazine – Summer 2012 – Idaho

June 6, 2012

Here is the link to my first article with Teton Valley Magazine. In the depths of my winter, I dreamt of eating outdoors. Here is what I fantasized about and now that I am back in the valley and feeling good, can finally start living.

A Fleeting Feast – Teton Valley Magazine – Summer 2012 – Idaho.