Friday, January 31, 2014

Wishing I were not me...

I really am not the person I used to be.
I wish I were.
Would that it were I was not me.

I am voluntarily going to see the female surgeon on Tuesday ... though I am not sure how I will mange to get through the appointment ... because it is clearly, undeniably evident that the change in hormones (old medication was taken off the market) is not working.  SIGH.

So, well, since I will not forget all the ways in which I have failed in communicating and managing my emotions and keeping my mouth closed, I will focus on the culinary success ... sort of ... today.

Because I am just that weird, my first success will be to note that I finally found a pulled pork recipe that is not a slow cooker recipe.  My joy is profound not only because Myrtle + Slow Cooker = Disaster, but also because it is a recipe that uses DR PEPPER!!  BLISS.  I've got the pork in the freezer, but I am going to resist cooking until I eat now a few of my frozen meals.

Stop snickering.
I know.  I know.  I have no will power!

I am not sure if I am more excited to have a new and different sort of oatmeal cookie recipe or that I now have a true, blue, tried, and true Thai peanut sauce recipe.  Oh, man, was it ever so tasty!

The Thai Honey Peanut Chicken is so very tasty and so very authentic.  I was really surprised to find lime in the ingredients list.  I never would have guessed it would be there, but I think the lime is the super secret special ingredient that makes Thai peanut sauce be Thai peanut sauce.  Pictured is basmati rice, but on the recipe I wrote jasmine rice, since that would be best.  Plus, we clearly did not have enough peanut sauce to mix with our rice, so I doubled the sauce part of the recipe.  This will most assuredly be a common occurrence in my menu rotation.  Oh, my!

So, I am not a cauliflower girl. But I sort of want to be.  Marie fell on her sword for me and joined me in tasting this ... weird ... vegetable.  I think that could add a tad bit of healthiness to my life ... maybe offset my consumption of heavy whipping cream, eh?  I went ahead and made the changes to the Smoky Roasted Cauliflower recipe that I will do next time.  By that I mean, I do not believe 400 degrees was hot enough to roast this strange white vegetable.  I will also add more seasoning.  In any case, I will also be searching for many, many, many more recipes that require smoked paprika.

Seriously, go out and buy some right this minute!

These.  These Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies.  Best. Cookie. Ever.  Even cooked too crispy for my liking, these are bloody awesome.  I think they are my new favorite.  My go-to cookie.  The Cookie-of-Myrtle's-Life.  The dark brown sugar and oatmeal are perfect together.  Happiness abounds.  Satisfaction pervades every part of your being.  SIGH.

[Yes.  I just ate a second cookie after typing that.]

Note to self:  Let Marie decide when to take cookies out of the oven.

Come visit and I will not share any of mine with you ... but I will make you a batch of your own.  If you change your sheets for me.  And try really, really, really hard not to be so infernally cheerful in the mornings.  And love on Amos a bit.  Okay, love on Amos a lot.

And then your life will change.
Or not.
And then my life will be better because I will be forced to eat your batch, too.

Marie and Michelle are most kind, definitely.  But I forgot to note that I discovered that Michelle is an expert emulsificator!  She was the one who whisked the dressing together yesterday, and I was most impressed with the result.  Of course, I forgot to watch her.  So, hopefully, I will get another chance to observe one who is so skilled at emulsification!!

Also, well, if you know Michelle, please take a chance to send her congratulations, will you?  She worked so very, very, very hard at getting a job and landed one two weeks after sending out her first resume here in town.  Warming the cockles of my heart, she sent out handwritten thank-you notes to all her interviews!  But she also studied hard and thoroughly prepared for each of her interviews.  And she soaked in every bit of advice I had.  Not that I have great advice, but how wonderful it is that  Michelle is so willing to learn.

It was interesting watching her and thinking about some of the less-than-disclipined and rather -un-humble young employees I came across in my years of working.  I happen to think a willingness to learn is a lost art among many folk today.

Well done, Michelle.  Well done!

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Grilling weather...

We topped out at 26 degrees today.  Grilling weather!!

I have been watching the forecast, looking for an opportunity to do some grilling.  For one, I needed to roast the eggplant for Sandra's birthday meal on Saturday, and Saturday is not forecasted to be grilling weather.  For another, I am in dire need for some more grilled chicken, being in the throes of withdrawal.  And, well, I have been longing to try this recipe I spotted a while ago, Grilled Nectarine Salad.

Doesn't that look tasty???  Now, if you follow the recipe link and then click on the source link you will see that I ascribe to the layering method of salad building rather than the artfully-arranged method.  You will also note that I made the recipe into one of my meal salads, instead of just a side dish.

Michelle endured as my cupbearer again, even falling on her sword to say she could have less Gorganzola cheese since it is so darned expensive.  By cupbearer, this time, I meant she had to eat the whole meal with me, taking the first bite.  Her willingness to forego complete Gorganzola balancing smote me, so I ended up putting more on her plate.  Gorganzola is not a poor person's cheese.  However, I kept a portion for the next few days, when I finish off the other two nectarines, cut the rest of the cheese in two more portions, and then froze it.  That way, I can try other Gorganzola dishes later.

The funny thing is that I have recipe that I want to try which calls for Champagne vinegar.  I could not find it, at first, and so I bought white wine vinegar, thinking that might be close.  I did find the Champagne vinegar on Tuesday, so I had planned on returning the white wine vinegar.  However, the nectarine recipe ended up needing it!  Fortuitous, eh?

Having successfully grilled at 25 degrees, that is my bench mark for winter grilling weather.  Today, we managed 26 degrees, though it was forecasted to get to 30.  I am trying not to resent Mother Nature for her attempt to thwart my plans.  After all, I was able to roast the eggplant (and freeze it for Saturday), grill two large chicken breasts, grill the nectarines, and make another attempt at grilling pineapple.

My sous-chef slathered olive oil on both sides of the pineapple for me.  I got the idea of using the olive oil to prevent burning since that is what I had to do for the nectarines.  However, I learned the hard way that you should wait to brush the other side with olive oil until just before you turn it rather than to try and do all the olive oil application as prep work.

Three of my pieces had enough residual olive oil that prevented burning after flipping.  Four did not.  SIGH.  Why is it that I find grilled pineapple so bloody tasty???

Anyway, I also decided to make roasted garlic butter for myself and the long-overdue container for Marie and her beloved.  Mostly, this neglected task came to mind since Michelle offered a slice of homemade bread to accompany our salads and some of the roasted garlic butter I had made her.  Man, I forgot how incredibly tasty that stuff is!

And, then, I decided to go whole hog on food production and make more of the peanut butter honey truffles, some naan and flour tortilla dough, and some cinnamon apple muffins, since I have those two older apples still.

Of course, if you run the dishwasher after your mid-day feast, you might be hard pressed to make things that require a measuring spoon.

At least these didn't need one ... mostly.  Am I weird that it annoyed me a bit that I was one short for a perfect tray??  No, it did not go in my stomach.  I just rolled 55 of them.  I made a double batch, and then added an extra half cup of oats to the recipe because it seemed a tiny bit too sticky.

I put them outside to set, since it is so very conveniently cold, then packaged almost all of them away in one of my dessert containers ... but really these are snacks.  Hmm...  I made my cupbearer try one when she got home since these were my first batch all by myself.  I passed muster.  Yeah, Myrtle!

After that, it was time to pick out all the roasted cloves of garlic and mix up the two batches of garlic butter.  And, if you cannot already tell, my steam was running out.  I was very glad that Michelle got home from her outing and, thus, I had an excuse to cease food production.  I did empty the dishwasher though.  Those measuring spoons are ready for the morrow.

  • Thai Honey Peanut Chicken
  • Smoky Roasted Cauliflower (what am I thinking????)
  • Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies

Does that sound like a good slate of menus for Cookin' with Marie???  Maybe tomorrow night I can get to the naan dough and the cinnamon apple muffins.  Really, the tortilla dough could wait since I still have some store tortillas.  I just sort of liked the idea of my bread shelf in the freezer all filled up with dough balls.

Silly, Myrtle.
Who are you now???

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Join me...

You, too, can become a labnehmaker!  Join me!!

Toss the Labneh ingredients into a large bowl:

Stir throughly:

Line a second bowl with your cloth (or muslin bag if you are a sewer):

Tie your "bag" and hang it up in a cold place:

Can you see that stream of whey running out??  By the time the process is completed, the mixture will be reduced by 75%.  In fact, here is the whey that already dripped out just when I was tying up my bag:

Easy-peasy to become a labnehmaker, eh?  In two days, I'll post the final photo.

Making labneh was one of the lying-in-bed-trying-to-fall-asleep emails that I sent myself last night.  I also called in the re-fill for the Erythromycin.  I do not know if CVS' warehouse stock will hold out until the manufacturer begins filling all of its back orders.  My beloved Target pharmacist told me that the reason CVS still has it is because they do not order from suppliers, but rather from one of several large warehouses they keep the drugs they buy in bulk on speculation of being able to sell them.  She starts every day by trying to run my prescription through to see if their suppliers have gotten new stock.  I am trying not to worry about CVS also running out.  And I very much will be ready to get back to the super-easy-Myrtle-proof dispenser bottle that Target has.

Another to-do email was to call the Medicare insurance company for the 11th time regarding trying to get the new prescription drug premium debited from my disability check.  The request was made to the SSA on November 4, 2013.  Today.  Just today, my account changed to show that as of March 2014 the premium will be debited.  So, that means I only have to deal with the missing check for January's premium.  The insurance company gave me an alternative mailing address, because the missing check was sent in a pre-address envelope.  I find it odd for it to go missing.

Yesterday's to-do involved calling the mortgage company since the absence of an escrow refund has been keenly felt on my part.  I had been told that I would receive it by the 24th.  As in FIVE days ago.  Instead, yesterday I learned that they had 15 days to process the check and then 15 days to mail it.  It was processed on the 22nd.  No sign of any completed paper work or new property title.  SIGH.

My other task for the day—since my best friend now believes this third target date for a visit might actually remain firm—was to wrap the tiny Christmas presents for her, her children, and her mother.  Today is her birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, REBECCA ANNE BETTINA MATILDA BOYLES KULP!!), so I also wrapped up her small birthday gift.  In GREEN paper with a PURPLE (her favorite color) bow.

Since I was wrapping, I packaged up two small items I wanted to pass on to others.  Sitting in my car are two larger packages that I had intended on mailing out this week.  However, when I checked my credit card, I was surprised to see that I was already over my budgeted monthly amount, even though I still had two prescriptions and gas to purchase and I was under budget for both household and groceries.  Then, I went back to the prescriptions that I picked-up on Monday.  The increases in co-pays totaled $102.

That threw me into quite a funk, for I had started to grow excited about the possibility of shaving $50 off of my grocery budget each month and finally being able to save some money toward sure-to-be-future medical expenses.  Now, not only is it necessary to shave my grocery budget, but I also have to figure out how to make up the rest if I want to stick with my goal of living solely on the disability.  With just premium and base prescriptions making up 26% of my monthly expenses—not including doctor visits, labs, glasses, etc.—that is going to be so very, very, very hard.  I suppose this is not the time to mention that I have been working toward adding Netflix to my budget, perhaps this Spring, since I really, really, really miss cable and wish for more options for online streaming.

Especially since I still long for tasty foods.
Like labneh.
And beer stew.

So, I packaged up those two small items, but I am not going to visit the post office until next month's budget.  SIGH.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

These boots of mine...

Guess where my boots were today??

Yes, I was at the Botanical Conservatory with my favorite ferns!

Marie and I were talking whilst there ... God's favorite color must certainly be GREEN!  There are ever so many varieties of it in His creation.

See these?

They become this:

And then they become this:

Is there something wrong with me in that I thought the dead bloom was stunning??

Pretty in pink to be sure.

I've never seen such a beautiful example of a bird of paradise.

Have you??

Marie was rather patient with both pushing me, never once asking me to get out and walk a bit, and with all my stopping to take yet another photo.  

Like this, which I would have missed had she not pointed it out to me!

I missed it because I was too busy longing deeply for one of these at my house:

That was after already thinking that I would like these in my yard:

And some of these:

The thing about going to the Botanical Conservatory when much of the city is shut down due to temperatures well below zero is that you discover all the places that are really too warm for you are actually just right!

When that happens, you get to see things you've missed, such as this:

And you get to traverse all the way to the bottom of the tropical display and sit a while with the fish.  Well, you get to if is below zero and your botanical gardens companion is willing to push you back up the long, long, long incline.

Sit—as on the ground—for a while and contemplate what a great plant there is on the far side.

And admire the leaf-within-the-leaf pattern hanging next to you.

With the desert exhibit down right chilly, I was able to spend copious amounts of time admiring things like this:

And pondering things.  Is this really the base of the cactus?

Or an alligator???

And is this a blossom??

Or a makeup brush??

I only got to contemplate that question because Marie when up to the tippy top of the tropical exhibit to see the chocolate tree, spotted the fallen blossom, and brought it to me.  Such mercy!

She also pointed out bark, warming the cockles of my heart!

So much GREEN!  So many textures!  So many shapes!  
My cup runneth over this day!

With GREEN and pink.  

Many shades of pink this day.

I could barely restrain myself from touching the glistening, velvety petals of this pink blossom.  I dared not because I wondered if I could do so and not damage it.

And there was bark, of course.  With more GREEN.

Good sense would leave you huddled inside, safe away from the life-threatening temperature outside.  Yet Marie traversed the city to take me about the Botanical Conservatory.  Does that mean she has no good sense or the level of her mercy is such that she put my bliss over her safety??

You wouldn't think I would have anything left to photograph there.  
But I found a few things.
And I'm sure there's more waiting....

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Monday, January 27, 2014

What a haul...

Today, I sort of hoodwinked Michelle into accompanying my on my errands ... after Firewood Man brought over his crunching snow blower and pick-up with a plow on front to clear the alley and in front of my house and all of my sidewalks.

Amos immediately tended to his major business.  Boy, does that puppy have an iron will when it comes to controlling his bowels when faced with large snowbanks and arctic temperatures!  Looking at this, do you blame him??

Once I was all dug out and clothed in something other than a hoodie and men's lounge pants, Michelle and I set out to fetch my prescriptions, have my eyes re-tested in the new glasses, fetch my February groceries, and fetch Amos' food (going forward it will be shipped monthly from Amazon's Subscribe and Save program).  Poor Michelle, I tuckered her out.  I sort of neglected to mention that I was buying for the month.

I have been crunching numbers nine ways to Sunday, with this whole-trying-to-not-only-live-only-on-disability-now-that-the-mortgage-is-gone (no ... I have not received either my escrow check or any paperwork yet)-but-to-find-a-way-to-get-to-80%-of-disability-since-the-fund's-insolvency-is-looming-in-just-two-years thing is hard.  A part of me wishes someone would look at my several dozen spreadsheets to see if I am making any sort of sense, but I press on in the number crunching.

I suppose I will admit that with all my number crunching, I have targeted shaving $50 a month off my grocery budget.  I think that is doable, with all the making of homemade food, instead of buying processed.  I think.

With that said, I would argue that I am close to meeting my monthly goal, since this month I had $42 of what I would call capital expenditures.  You see, if I am going to be this person who cooks from scratch, then I have to build up my cupboard, which I have been doing.  This month, $42 was all new long-term ingredients, rather than what I expect to use during the month, such as grape seed oil.  In that amount, I did not count cupboard stock items that it was time to replace, such as flour, brown sugar, and honey.  If I allow my number crunching to include capital expenditures, then this month I am currently $45.29 under budget and should only need milk, though fresh salad fixings would not go amiss mid month.

The same, really, goes with the household budget, for I have spent money each of the last three months on storage containers ... and the freezer and the plug for it.  But those latter funds really came out of my sales money.

Perhaps, a $50 per month savings is a tad steep.  But ... maybe not.  I do know that I bought all but one of the types of beef that I was after, as well as the two types of pork I would like to try making.  I could not find skirt steak anywhere.  If I can find it, I am considering going ahead and getting it.  That said, with my cooking and freezing, I should still have a bit of food in the freezer for March.

The good news is that it is very well possible that my best friend, her mother, and her aunt might come to visit ... chiefly to play Chicken Foot Dominos, in my mind.  Having to feed three more folk for several days will, thus, skew any data I would like to collect in trying to determine if cooking from scratch where possible actually is a good economical move.  However, I do think that doing so will allow me to absorb the needs of those extra stomachs without going over budget.  That counts as savings, right?

Speaking of steak, I do think a few Walmart shoppers had a chuckle or two at my expense today.  I was helpless to tell Michelle what the types of steak might look like, so I just kept calling out the names as she and I browsed the selection.  Then, in the produce section, I had no clue what a scallion was, yet tried to describe what she should look for, being my personal shopper.  The kind produce man pointed out that scallions are green onions.

There were a few items I could not find that go with the recipes I have chosen:  nectarines, gorgonzola cheese, full-fat Greek yogurt, eggplant (the selection was awful), and the skirt steak ... whatever that is.  I don't even like nectarines, but I have a recipe for grilled nectarine salad that makes me salivate each time I study it.  The first two items are for that.  I think that I can make tzatziki sauce with my regular yogurt, especially if I drain some of the whey (now that I know how to do so).  Yes, I did buy enough yogurt to make a full batch of labneh!

One the way home, we drove through Chick-Fil-A.  Most shopping days, I treat myself to a meal on one of my gift cards (Taco Bell and Chipotle).  I don't have one for there, but warm chicken and waffle fries were calling out to me.  I chose a meal for Michelle and I as my "entertainment" this month, so the budget was not compromised by not using a gift card.  After we ate, Michelle went to recover from her shopping bootcamp and I set about putting everything away.  Sadly, that included trimming all the chicken breasts I bought and then grouping them into ziploc packages of two each.  I put on one of my calming playlists before I started unpacking everything.  It is one hour and forty minutes of music.  It ended just as I finished.  I was bloody exhausted.  SIGH.

Though, part of the unpacking included a bit of re-arranging to accommodate this full cupboard lifestyle.  There is this very weird part of me that gets energized when I achieve an organizational improvement.  I did.  Impressively so, in my opinion.

Part of my reorganization meant moving the liquor that was above the stove to a shelf in the dining room built-in.  Part of my cupboard-stock-building has included liquor, so now the sweet stuff and the stuff others-would-drink-but-I-would-only-use-to-cook is all together now, cozying up to each other.  That means all the oils, cooking wines, vinegars, and glazes are all together, too, organized and quite easy to access.  BLISS.

As I was finishing, Michelle came back upstairs because we planned a bit of fire and Firefly time.  [She's never seen the series, so I am thoroughly enjoying being with a Browncoat newbie.]  However, before we did, I asked if she would be willing to pray Evening Prayer with me (using my Evening and Morning, the music of Lutheran Prayer CD).  She was, so I put on a pot of tea, lit the fire, and opened the hymnal.  For our readings, I read her the whole of Philippians.  It is so ... words escape me ... to have someone pray of the offices of prayer with me.  Having someone to share a pot of tea with is pretty wonderful, too.

I am not sure if I have written this before, but I savor the liturgy of Evening Prayer because, to me, it is standing before God and admitting that I am a sinner and fouled up bits of my day, asking Him to wash me clean and to set a guard on me for the morrow.  Evening Prayer is a renewal and a fresh beginning before the start of a new day.  Evening Prayer is a renewal that brings peace in laying down to sleep.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Piling up...

When I was perusing the news, I saw an article of recipes for National Peanut Butter Day (yesterday).  I forwarded the article to Marie and Michelle, and Michelle offered to help me celebrate.  So, we made Peanut Butter S'mores Cookie Cups.

Wickedness on a plate.

They are so melty and smooth inside.  SIGH.  I plead the fifth as to how many are actually left in the freezer, 24-hours later.

When Michelle came home from her sister's today, she brought me a few groceries as a gift from Marie.  In the bag were russet potatoes.

I have been longing to make the Israeli Chicken Sofrito recipe I found two weeks ago, so the sight of russet potatoes—my only missing ingredient—brought about overwhelming giddiness at the thought of getting out my GREEN stew pot.

I had to make some changes.

These are my chicken "thighs," since I am a most decidedly not a dark meat girl.  The recipe talked about letting the skin stick to the bottom for crispy bits, so I dredged the chicken breasts that I cut in half.  

Can you see those browned bits?

The recipe is lots of ... work.  You do lots of prep, cook the chicken, in batches, and set aside, cook the potatoes, in batches, and set aside, and sauté the onions and garlic before then putting things together.

You put the potatoes in later.  But ... do you see that homemade stock in there???????

This is a leftover container, because I forgot to take a photo of my bowl. I was too busy eating it standing up in the kitchen, as I was pouring a glass of tea for myself.  Only half the bowl actually made to my place by the couch.  Tasty.  Subtle, but flavorful.

However, how is this different from a chicken stew?

One of the things that I love about my stew pot is that no matter how burned-on stuff is when you start, by the time you are finished the bottom of the pot is practically clean.  Amos volunteered to finish cleaning for me.  I considered letting him, but then thought ... perhaps ... I probably shouldn't set that precedent.  Truly, it is a magical GREEN stew pot!

As to the snow?  SIGH.  I couldn't get to the symphony tonight, because I am no longer able to keep up with cleaning the sidewalk.  Plus, the streets are awful.   Fort Wayne does not consider my neighborhood a priority, as the streets never cleared from Snowmageddon 2014 a couple of weeks ago.  Mostly the problem is the drifting snow, the heavy, packed drifting snow.  And the drifted snow in my bedroom.

Yes, my bedroom.
Strong winds.
Really strong.

I'm bloody exhausted from clearing the sidewalks.  I did last night, but was surprised that my light, fluffy, utterly manageable Indiana snow was so heavy.  When I awoke to a sea of snow this morning, I gave up.  Poor Amos had to swim through snow as deep as he is talk to tend to his business.

Firewood Man said he would dig me out for $10, which is most reasonable ... unless it snows and snows and snows and snows and snows.  And then snows some more.  I need prescriptions on Monday, so I told him that I would like for him to dig me out then.  

The Israeli Chicken was my attempt to cheer myself up a bit, since I was not sitting with beautiful music filling my ears.  If my rememberer was not broken, I would have had the meal with a glass of wine.  Yep, sadly, those seven bottles of wine I got as a gift more than a month ago are still sitting where I put them ... and then forgot about them until just this very minute.  I should put a bottle in the refrigerator before I forget them again.

More snow is forecasted for tomorrow.  Do you think I will get in trouble for violating the cleared sidewalk ordinance?  My piles are staying where they are until Tim comes.  I need a break.  Amos is going to have to gird his loins for a while and brave that snow ... for me.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Living in the Twilight Zone...

I think I'm living in the Twilight Zone.

Currently: the house is clean; the laundry's done; the ironing basket is empty; the dog is clipped/sheared/shampooed; the dishwasher is run and emptied; the filing is done; the bills are paid; all the spreadsheets are updated; an over/under analysis for all my accounts for 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014 (projected) has been completed (to help with tighter budgeting); all my email inboxes are cleaned out; the computer is freshly backed up; all the recipe bookmarks are organized and put in alphabetical order in each category; the plants are watered; the freezer is filled with three kinds of muffins, two kinds of cookies, chili, lentils, dahl, beer stew, black eyed peas, and two kinds of flat bread dough; and the shopping list for Monday is made ... with not a single bit of processed food on it.

I am in dire need of something to organize/reduce/renovate/edit.

How about a puzzle?  How many photos will it take to figure out where I am??

This was the last truly lucid time I spent with my father....

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!