Tasty Trip!

This past weekend was delicious.

Saturday was spent roaming around the city of Philadelphia, eating and eating and did I mention eating? We hit up two hole in the wall food places, neither of which I’d even be able to find on my own. The first was Charlie’s, and I had the best fast burger I’ve ever tasted. It almost melted in my mouth. It was a simple burger, on a bun you’d find in a grocery store and normal condiments, but somehow it was made to taste amazing enough that if there hadn’t been a line twelve people long, I’d have gone back for about five more burgers. The second was John’s Roast Pork. The place was a tiny shop with a line out the door and winding along the street. They serve hot meat sandwiches, the best one being the roast pork on a bun. No cheese or toppings needed for that one, and the cheese steak was very tasty. I have to say that as tasty as everything up til then was, they must have been salty beyond belief because I chugged down three soda glasses in ten minutes once we reached the Barcade.

There was no feed eaten at the Barcade, but there were a ton of arcade games and a bar, thus the name ‘Barcade’. It was a nice place to relax and enjoy yourself with good drinks and fun games. My Love tried two new beers there, both were tasty and well worth staying around for. (I only take sips of his adult beverages, most of the time I dislike the taste of alcohol but now and then he gets a new beverage that I really like the taste of.)

For dinner, we went to a Mexican restaurant that was packed full of people and had an amazing menu. Duck tacos, pork shank over rice, short-rib empanadas and the best tortilla chips and salsa verde I’ve ever had. We vastly over-estimated the amount of food we could eat for dinner after all the food previously eaten. Have no fear, though, since the pork shank got turned into empanadas for dinner last night.

Easter dinner consisted of roast lamb, risotto, potatoes and veggies. We went home with leftovers of that, too. The lamb was very flavorful, and went perfectly with fried eggs in the morning. Oh, and dessert! Crumb-topped apple pie, with ice cream. I have such a soft spot for fruit pies. Peach, apple, pear, berry…it doesn’t matter really, so long as it’s in a pie. I never can tell what I love more, the filling or the crust. I prefer a butter crust, but the flaky and light texture of ¬†shortening crust is tasty too. I always save the edge of the pie crust for last, no matter the ingredients in it.

Since I had to work Easter Sunday, dinner was a little late, but still amazing. I’m so happy to know that My Love’s parents both would rather wait for all of us to eat together than to eat without me. Happy and grateful. Being able to have such a great relationship with his parents is wonderful. I currently live very far away from my family, so it’s just great to be accepted and welcomed as I am.

In the next few months, there are trips down South to have Adam meet my family, and one out West to meet the rest of his family. Travel is never easy for me, but it gets easier the more I do it, plus taking a trip with My Love and his parents will be fun. I promised my parents that I’d take pictures, both of my trips and of where I live up North, so I have to remember to pack my camera. Oh, and socks, since my toes always get cold on flights. Maybe some new flip-flops and sandals…

Not Tim Curry

My house smells like curry. I’m not apposed to this situation, since there is a beef curry simmering on my stove-top. It’s supposedly Japanese-style curry, which I’ve never made nor tasted before, so I’m unsure of its authenticity but boy-howdy does it smell tasty. Right now, the rice is in the rice cooker and as soon as it’s done, it’s dinner time!

The recipe called for a home made curry paste, which was much simpler to make than I thought it would be and much tastier than I imagined. For a very long time, I’ve disliked ginger. It was used on me as a kid to prevent what was thought to be motion sickness but was actually anxiety attacks. (I panic when I travel. Always have, but it’s under control now and I’m able to fly Home or to where ever with minimal fuss. Most of the time.) I’ve never had fresh ginger before, since my dislike for the dried or pill form of ginger has kept me away from it. It’s also why I’ve steered away from a lot of Asian dishes.

Then, I tried ginger tea. With honey and lemon, of course, but it wasn’t as bad as I though it would be. Now, I’ve put fresh ginger into this curry, and I’m amazed. It doesn’t have that bite or whatever it is that makes me shudder at the slightest scent of it. The intense flavor of ginger is much more relaxed than I thought possible when cooked. I’ll also say that I enjoy curry powder more than the masala spices I’ve tried. Perhaps it’s due to the lack of true Indian spices or the different combination of the ingredients that makes me enjoy the taste of this curry dish. (I’ve been testing the flavor all the way through the process, and can’t wait for the final act with the rice as a full meal.

While at the store getting ingredients that I didn’t understand how to combine, I also got a roasting chicken and a giant package of chicken thighs. The roaster will be roasted with lemon and herbs, and the thighs will be marinated in yogurt and herbs for a greek style dish. (For real, I think I purchased over ten pounds of meat today.) On the other hand, I finally found some cornmeal at the grocery store, so not only will there be cornbread in the future, but polenta. Polenta that’s topped with veggies and cheese and baked like a casserole is tasty and delicious, not to mention healthy-ish. I go a little heavy-handed with cheese of any sort, but mozzarella is a favorite. The fresh stuff sliced up with tomato and basil…oh yummy! (Caprese salad, isn’t it?) Oh, but cheese is another several pages long post!

I had told myself that I wasn’t going to purchase any ice cream, but I wanted to stop by my favorite part of the frozen food aisle just say ‘Hi!’ to Ben and Jerry, and Talenti. Now, what appears before my eyes? S’mores ice cream. Marshmallow and vanilla ice cream, with chocolate chunks and swirls of graham crackers. How could I not buy it? I had a little tub of yogurt in my cart, which was supposed to be my treat for being good and not straying from my shopping list. (Hey, those little Muller yogurts with the fruit mousse on top are amazing. I love those things more than any other brand of yogurt.) I didn’t get any chips, not even hummus for snacking. I turn snack foods into meals most of the time and then eat my real meal afterward. So, I got some ice cream.

I rationalize the eating of ice cream with aiding in the soothing of my sunburn. My Love, his mother and I spent seven hours outside yesterday tearing down a mountain of sticks and branches, bundling them all together into perfect sized bundles for the yard-waste people to take in May. The Hedge, which was well over twelve feet tall, had been cut down to a respectable seven feet and made a giant pile of branches to be cleaned up. Yesterday was sunny, breezy and warm so we teamed up and got it done. There were breaks for icy drinks of course, but did I take time to put on sunblock? No.

Now I’m red as a lobster and painful, but I have curry and s’mores ice cream. It’s not so bad.

Strange Kindness

I suppose that I don’t come off as a person that yarn crafts, since people are always surprised that I have the skills to crochet. They are even more surprised when I make something as a gift for someone. Usually it’s for a person having a baby or for someone that I feel particularly close to.

Case in point, I made a baby blanket for one of my team mates who is about to have a baby. It’s cream-cicle orange, and suitable for a boy or girl since the edging is simple as well as the pattern. I mentioned this to my boss who got an expression of complete surprise for a moment before saying ‘That sure is a nice thing to do.’ and returning to work.

Maybe it’s strange to have acts of kindness anymore, and it makes me sad. I make things to brighten the day of someone, be it of yarn or food. Now people wonder what I’m up to, or who I’m sucking up to by bringing in scones or making a baby blanket for someone or a hat for a birthday. Why do I need a reason to create something for other’s to enjoy? Spreading joy and happiness is a small thing for anyone to do, but it makes a huge difference in the day of a person that might be having a crappy day. Sure, a cookie or a scone isn’t something that will last as long as a hat or scarf, but either one will make a person smile and enjoy a few moments of happiness.

Don’t get me wrong, I make a lot of things for myself. That lovely yarn that costs over twenty-dollars a skein is absolutely something that will go in my stash and not to anyone else, mainly since it’s too expensive to be practical gifts for anyone with my budget. I’d love to be able to gift a merino wool baby blanket to someone, but it’s just not really feasible. There will be a time when I can do so, probably when I give up working in the veterinarian profession and get a ‘real, grown-up’ job that pays more. Happiness from puppy kisses or kitty head butts does make up for lower paychecks, sort of, but it would be nice to buy my favorite yarns without planning for it.

Frugal living is fun if you let it be that way. I’ve found recipes for making my own detergents and cleaners and shampoos that are easy to make and cheap when you buy supplies in bulk and use it for nearly everything else. Vinegar for instance, has many uses beyond dying eggs and rinsing your hair. Diluted with water in a spray bottle, it destroys the chemical trails sugar ants follow in your kitchen and helps keep them away. Diluting peppermint oil in a spray bottle makes ants not even want to come back. The oil can be used in the shampoo or soaps or lip balm you make. Home made cleaners might take a little more elbow grease to use, but not filling my home and lungs with chemicals makes me feel better. I’m using up the chemical cleaners I have left, and will bring the other ones into play once they are done.

If I had my way, I’d play with yarn and keep house and make things without worry about cost of my projects. Alas, I can’t do that just yet, but I still do what I can with what I have.

Barbecue Sauce FTW!

Barbecue is a tricky thing to make to my liking. I enjoy a mixture of the thick, sticky tomato based sauce with the thinner, vinegar based sauce. Purists say that either the vinegar or the tomato bases are the best depending on the area you’re from. Where I once lived in North Carolina, the vinegar sauce was king. The natives there gave me the strangest looks when I asked for something other than the vinegar sauce. There’s also the dry rub, and the method of cooking as well as the type of meat used.

I tend to make my own sauce for barbecue. It’s a nice mixture of the vinegar and tomato sauces. It takes on a nice consistency in the slow cooker, or when cooked down in a pot on the stove-top into a thick, gooey, sticky slightly sweet yet with a tang of vinegar and a bite from the chipotle pepper that I add. I also have a thing for adding in something sweet beyond brown sugar, like fruit. In my latest sauce adventure, which just happened to be done yesterday, I added in blackberry and raspberry preserves. They’re both sweet, but have a tang all their own. It thinned out perfectly for the pork roast to soak up after shredding it, and the sauce that wasn’t added to the slow cooker was thick and sweet and provided a startlingly pretty contrast with the pork since it had a deep purple-red color to it. The only thing missing was some good slaw, which I have no idea how to make, sadly.

Pork is the most versatile meat for barbecue, I think. It goes so well with whatever sauce you have on hand. Chicken, to me anyway, needs the thick sauce to permeate and flavor the meat, especially the breast meat. I’m an odd bird (pun intended) when it comes to chicken anyway, so it’s my least favorite meat for barbecue. Large slabs of meat on a plate, even with copious amounts of sauce and sides, isn’t very appealing to me most of the time. (Lamb is always welcome, be it in the form or chops, rack of lamb, kebabs or gyro. I’ve REALLY got to be in the mood for a steak.) Beef ribs I like best with either a dry rub or a vinegar sauce, and smoked is a definite plus for them. I’ll grill the heck out of some ribs or a London Broil, or I’ll put it in a foil wrapper with the sauce I’ve chosen or made and slow cook it for a few hours on the grill or in the oven, but the slow cooker is awesome, since it’s no thought required beyond putting ingredients in it and getting on with the day. I sear the meat before putting it in the pot, but it’s not really necessary if you ask me. A nice bed of onions and you’re done with cooking for the day, or the next few days depending upon the size of the roast that was purchased.

Today was a slow cooker day, since after breakfast (which consisted of bacon, eggs, chocolate chip pancakes and pancake en-robed bacon.) we played some Splunky and then went out into the beautiful, almost sixty-degree weather and played some tennis. My Love played tennis, I attempted to hit the ball while moving around the court and failed at that quite a bit. At least three balls went over the twelve foot fence that surrounds the courts, but I got a few good hits in. I find the backhand easier, but today I was trying to do the forehand and follow through with the stroke instead of treating the racket like one I’d use in badminton. My Love is patient and informative as a teacher, and I think he was right when he said I’ll only get as good at the game as I want to be. It’s the same as my ukulele. I can get most of the chords now, while before I rarely made any of them sound right. I still think my ukulele playing sounds like the singing of a tone-deaf, pre-historic bird. I don’t care much, since it’s fun, and tennis just like that for me. I may not play well enough right now for an actual game to take place, but someday I’ll be up to it.

The Cranky Migraine

I’ve had quite a few people tell me what to do to ‘get rid of those headaches’ I have. While I appreciate that they want to help me feel better, it gets rather tiresome after a while when it’s the same thing over and over again.

You see, I suffer from migraines. Rather bad ones at that. I know very well what my triggers are, and try to avoid them as much as possible. For instance, canned tomato products or vegetables give me a migraine. So, I avoid ingesting them if at all possible. I can’t avoid the changes in air pressure though, so every time it changes, BAM!, a migraine hits. The same thing with hormonal changes.

I know very well that staying hydrated helps to avoid migraines. I know that avoiding food triggers helps avoid migraines. Offering me OTC pain medicine is not helpful, nor is saying ‘you can get through it if you just don’t think about it’. A person telling me they understand how it feels when they’ve never had a migraine isn’t going to make me feel better. Yes, I’ve tried the preventive medications out there. They didn’t work for me, plus none of them were made for migraines. They’re medications for mental disorders or blood pressure for instance. Oh, and a neurologist isn’t a migraine specialist, and yes I’ve already seen a neurologist.

Here’s the deal with migraines. You can’t just not think about them. For those of us with chronic migraines, it rules our lives. The pain and other symptoms of a migraine are horrible. The nausea or vomiting that happens, the muscle tension that occurs from the stress that comes with migraines sucks big time. The visual things like auras or blurring vision are disconcerting and scary when you don’t know what they are. Not being able to do anything but take a pill that may or may not work every time and sit or stay in bed with the curtains and blinds drawn so that no light enters and silence encompasses the room isn’t fun for us. People with migraines do everything in their power to avoid them. We’ve tried everything you’ve looked up on Google plus a lot more, so please save your breath on advice that we’ve already tried.

I hate cancelling plans with friends because I have a migraine. I hate calling out of work because every time I try to stand up while I have a migraine makes the pain worse and makes me ready to vomit. I hate having to ask what was used in cooked meals that have been made by a friend or family member. I hate the horrible mood it puts me in when I have a migraine but have to go to work or the grocery store anyway. That sour expression on my face isn’t because I’m a naturally cranky or mean person. It’s there because some little kid is screaming and carrying on in the store while I’m in ¬†line with a bottle of ginger ale or a sports drink and some crackers, and every time that kid screams, it’s like a red hot rail road spike is being stabbed into my eye socket and through the back of my head. It’s there because fluorescent lighting makes my migraine worse and I’m nauseated to all heck. All you want to do when you have a migraine is sleep, and most of the time you can’t sleep due to the symptoms of a migraine

The best thing you can do for someone with migraines is to be kind. Don’t take it as an insult if plans get cancelled at the last minute. Don’t take it personally if a person’s temper is short, being in constant pain is mentally and physically exhausting. If you want to help, ask if there is anything you can get for them, like an ice pack or a few minutes in a dark room if they’re at work or a soda or to get their rescue medication if it isn’t handy. If the person just wants to be left alone in a dark bedroom, let them. They aren’t avoiding you, and nine times out of ten would rather be on the couch with you or outside doing yard work with you or playing catch with the kids with you than be in a room, alone.

To anyone that has never had a migraine, I hope you never experience one. I wouldn’t wish migraines on my worst enemy. Then again, my worst enemy is all the cat hair I have to sweep up and vacuum, so my experience in enemies is a little limited.

 

 

CO-CO-NUUUUUUUUUUT! (Insert H. Belafonte song here)

My cat decided to swat my head, with her claws out, for fun. I really don’t know some days if she actually likes me, or just plays nice when My Love is around. She’s a beautiful cat, and I’d love to be able to brush her and stroke her and tickle under her chin as I do the other cats in the house, but she doesn’t like such things. Heck, she even turns her nose up at fresh sardines or shrimp! Such a strange cat.

Speaking of shrimp, I’ve learned that I adore grilled shrimp. When it’s not overcooked or covered in sauces or whatnot, it’s quite tasty and not at all rubbery. I also like ceviche that is made with tuna. I think that I’ll work my way up to trying lobster soon, since I’m told that’s the best of all seafood. Maybe a trip to Boston will be in my future.

There’s a grill waiting to be put together. Well, it’s a barbecue really, since it’s charcoal and has the ability to smoke things. It’s a small-ish one, but it’ll be perfect with the gas grill for summer and fall and heck even in spring! Grilled food is absolutely a favorite of mine, mostly vegetables but burgers and wings fresh off the grill are so tasty. Nothing beats a grilled meal on a summer night with some melon to eat afterward. My preference is for honeydew, but put some ripe cantaloupe before me and it’ll be gone in a flash! ¬†Watermelon too, when it’s cold from the fridge or whatever body of water used to keep it cool and you bite into that firm yet yielding flesh that gives you a rush of sweet, delicious juice that threatens to run down your chin and onto your shirt…oh so tasty.

See, growing up in the South, watermelon is usually served after dinner as dessert and a way to cool yourself down after chewing and digesting all that food. You eat it for a snack or on a break when working outside, too. There’s more water than melon in it so it’s great for keeping you hydrated, more than any other fruit I know of. Coming inside after a day or gardening or playing and being greeted with slices of watermelon is just the best. Some people cut it up or make melon balls from it for a fancy display or in fruit salad, but I prefer slices. The chunks are fine too, but I like holding the rind and eating up to the rim of it and getting watermelon juice all over my face. It reminds me of being a kid and doing that.

Now, when I was a kid no one had all of these allergies that kids have nowadays. I never heard of a peanut allergy until I left highschool. Now they’re allergic to peanuts, wheat, eggs or virtually anything a human can consume. I won’t pretend to know the cause of it, but I do know that it must be terrifying to be the parent of one of those kids. My own niece has a gluten and dairy allergy, so telling her that at the birthday party next week she can’t eat any of the cake must be hard on her parents. I’ve been looking into substitutes for wheat and dairy for her as well as myself (Guess who’s lactose intolerant? Yup, this lady.) and a lot of people have claimed coconut flour as the answer.

I’ve never heard of coconut flour before. I’ve no notion of how it tastes or works with eggs and sugar and butter. Does it make everything taste like coconut? Not that I’d mind that since I enjoy coconut, but coconut scones or chocolate chip cookies? I’m a bit dubious of it, but willing to give it a try. How would it fare as bread for a grilled cheese sammich?

Mmm…baked goods!

Physical therapy absolutely kicks my butt. On the other hand, it has shown me that while I have a long way to go to get back to ‘normal’, I’ve made such strides that it’s come to mind that I’ll be able to get into better physical shape than ‘normal’. My cats are curious about the yoga I’ve started doing again and constantly get in the way of both feet and hands. They’d much prefer that I sit on the couch and provide a warm lap than rebuild muscles in my back and abdomen.

In between the PT and work, I’ve managed to successfully bake chicken and vegetables without burning anything. (My baking skills are pretty good, but cooking something in the oven is another story.) Not only was it tasty and fragrant, but it was done in time for My Love to get home and have dinner after a day of travelling home from Boston. Upon being greeted with myself and then dinner, I was presented with two freshly made Boston Cream Cakes. It’s my favorite cake. It’s my favorite non-fruit pie. I never told him about my love for these, since he has a tendency to bring me my favorite treats and until I’m able to play tennis and start on normal things I want to avoid the high-calorie treats that are so dear to my heart.

Baking is not only the best connection I have with my Mom, it’s something I love to do and to share with others. I tend to sample and eat most of what I bake. It’s to make sure the bake turned out well, of course. And to save the world from the evils of poorly made baked goods. I like to think of myself as a sort of hero of the people. There’s not a person out there that doesn’t like a cookie plate in the break room or a batch of scones with butter and jam. There are plenty of people out there that don’t like bad baked goods. A lot of grocery stores have bad baked goods. Some have fresh baked goods, but they are few and far between. Most are just frozen concoctions with preservatives and an abundance of salt and other such things. I personally like all butter crusts for my pies. Vegetable shortening is gross to me. Lard isn’t very appetizing but I’d rather have that than the hydrogenated stuff.

You should be careful when purchasing pre-made baked goods, since if you have a pork allergy you’d have a big surprise. A dear friend of mine has a pork allergy, and can’t even eat food that has been cooked on a pan that once cooked a pork product. It’s made me have a habit of asking before giving food gifts to others. Nut allergies or dairy issues or vegan lifestyle make things challenging for a baker or cook. I’m slightly dubious of egg replacements that claim to be ‘just like eggs’. I’d rather go with vegetable or fruit puree to replace the eggs than use one of those things. They taste like chemicals and have a texture like rubber. The same for the butter replacements. Dairy is easy enough to replace with rice milk (Again, that whole nut allergy thing means avoiding almond milk) and even wheat flour can be replaced. Check out a local Indian store for ground chickpea flour and many other things. The flavors are different for sure, but there’s more out there than corn flour (another common allergen!) as a replacement.

I’ve been researching foods for a way to get rid wheat out of my diet. The way modern wheat works in the body is a little disturbing to me, (Do some research of your own and see what you think. I’m not one to stuff things down your throat. I’d rather you make your own informed decision.) and while I love my baked goods and breads and pasta, getting that stuff out of my system might give positive results as far as some health issues go, like energy levels and weight gain. Not that I’m terribly unhealthy, but I’d like to have the ability to fit into the many dresses and jeans I purchased a size or so ago, and to have the energy to go do something other than play a video game and to minimize the migraines I suffer.

For anyone that has had to eat poorly made baked goods, don’t worry. I’m here for you, with oven and mixer at the ready and happy to provide a way to have baked goods despite allergies or lifestyle preferences.