February, 2010

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On the Mend

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Sedgwick on the Mend

Sedgwick is slowly getting better. It’s been 5 days now since the dreaded morning and at this point, the wound is healing and we’re simple hit the “this is really annoying” stage. He’s tired of wearing the collar (not that it was ever particularly popular) and most of all, I think that he misses the ability to groom himself and scratch his face. I’ve gotten into the habit of scratching his face for 10 minute intervals every few hours, which seems to appease his need to pull off the collar. Between that and the hot-packing of the wound 4x per day, I am spending a lot of time sitting on the floor next to the pillow-bed I put out for him.

Giving him the drugs has been a pain in the butt as well. I feel really guilty about being so heavy-handed and he, well, he just hates the pills more than anything else. The first few days I tried to be cajoling and explanatory about it (lots of rationing with him, in German, as if he understands that), but the last few days (after he really bit me on Friday), I’ve determined that I really just need to wake him from a deep sleep, push the antibiotics down his throat and hope he doesn’t spit it up again. Every time I do it, I think of the silly Seinfeld episode where Kramer is taking dog pills for his cough.

Cooking Experiments from a New Continent: Moroccan Tagine

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

So, to break out of my usual European-centric cooking route, I decided to try a new recipe that I saw in one of my cooking magazines: a Moroccan Tagine. It turned out really well and the recipe was really simple. This might have to be added to the “regular rotation”. I had it with a Tomato-Lentil Couscous (though I cheated and just used a box for that).

Tagine

Moroccan Lamb* and Chickpea Tagine

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound lamb stew meat*
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons honey
2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup raisins
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas / garbanzo beans
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
Chopped cilantro to garnish

Directions
Heat a large saucepan** over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add meat; saute for 4 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove meat with a slotted spoon. Add onion, salt, cayenne pepper and cumin pan; saute for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; saute for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Return meat to the pan. Stir in tomato paste and honey. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add broth, raisins and chickpeas; bring to a boil.

Reduce medium to low, cover with lid and simmer for 50-60 minutes or until meat is tender, stirring occasionally. Add pistachios and cook for an additional 10 minutes, lid off. Sprinkle with cilantro.

* I don’t eat lamb so I made this recipe with beef and while it might not be authentic, it was great nevertheless.
** Traditionally, this tagine should of course, be made in a tagine. I don’t have a tagine, so I just used my Creuset dutch oven and it worked beautifully.

Sedgwick has had Better Days

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Sedgwick

Today was a bit of a rough day. It started with Sedgwick (the older, bigger of my two cats) climbing in bed at 2 AM and at first, just cuddling. OK, no big deal on that part as he often snuggles into bed. After about 20 minutes though, he started a rather extended and extensive cleaning routine that even in my half-sleep, I thought was a little odd.

And while sparing you the rather unappealing (= disgusting) details, this morning was messy and as soon as the vet opened their doors at 9 AM, I made an emergency appointment. Sedgwick had to stay and have surgery for a ruptured abscess between his stomach and hind-leg region. They shaved a good portion of him for both the anesthesia drip and monitoring tools, plus of course, where he needed to have the abscess removed and cleaned out. I picked him up this evening and he is “resting comfortably” though I can’t imagine that wearing one of those elizabethean collars is comfortable in any way shape or form. The home care for the next 7 to 10 days is going to be rough not only on him, but the other cat and me as well.

Speaking of the other cat, Sidney spent most of the day just beside himself, in that his big brother was missing. After I came back from the vet sans Sedg, Sid walked around the apartment yowling for a good hour (which wasn’t terribly conducive to me getting a lot of work done). He finally fell asleep in Sedg’s spot on my desk for a while, but then started searching the apartment again after a few hours. Now that Sedgwick is home, Sid wants to be all lovey and happy that Sedg is home, but Sedg is just cranky. Not sure if Sid gets that.

At any rate, crisis averted, of course, and ultimately it wasn’t that bad (“That’s what you think!” Sedgwick is thinking; actually he’s more thinking “Dass denkst Du!”). It could have been a lot worse had the abscess ruptured internally or if the infection had gone into his blood stream. I’ve been a stress case most of the day, as you can imagine, and oddly, more of a wreck since I’ve been home with the patient. While not one of those crazy old cat ladies, I do have a particular bond that comes from working from home and having Sedgwick and Sidney around me most of the time.

What I am Giving Up for Lent

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

(even though I am not Catholic, or even religious in any-way-shape-or-form)

alcohol
aspartame (which means no “diet drinks” + switching to real sugar in my coffee)
cheese (= no pizza either)
chocolate
half + half

The lack of alcohol will be boring (or make me boring, one or the other). The rest of the stuff is in an attempt to make me healthier. Lent seemed like a not-so-arbitrary six weeks of heathiness. Besides, I did this for 365 days a few years ago; six weeks should be nothing.

Oh, and here are a few things that I should also be giving up but am not:

caffeine
red meat
workaholism

I’ve finally grokked the Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Two food and recipe posts in a row… oh well. Today was a very lazy President’s Day monday, so I decided to attempt to make cinnamon-raisin swirl bread for about the millionth time (off and on since high school). Jean Jean Jellybean used to make this absolutely wonderful cinnamon swirl bread that is burned into my memory from childhood but I’ve never been able to even come close to that goodness. Apparently, even though I am good at cookies baking, I seem to suck at baking that requires yeast.

That said, this time my bread turned out closer to the Whitney’s variation, so it is worth posting the photo and recipe (not the Whitney recipe, but the one that I tried)

CinnamonRaisinBread

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Ingredients
1 cup raisins
1 1/3 cup milk, divided
1 package dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 c. all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Cover raisins with water and soak until plump. Warm 1/3 cup milk to no more than 105F to 110F degrees. Sprinkle yeast in milk, and stir until yeast is dissolved. Combine remaining 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup sugar, egg, salt and butter in a large bowl; mix well. Stir in yeast mixture. Gradually add flour to milk mixture, stirring until a soft dough forms.

Turn dough out on a lightly floured board; knead until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour). Punch dough down; turn on a lightly floured counter, and roll into a 14 x 12 inch rectangle. Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over dough. Drain raisins, and sprinkle over cinnamon mixture. Roll up jellyroll fashion.

Place roll in a greased bread pan, seam side down. Cover and let rise in a warm place 35 minutes. Brush dough with egg white. Using a sharp knife, slash top of dough at 2 inch intervals. Bake at 350F degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Yield 1 loaf.

Pan-Seared Talapia with Spanish Rice, Mango Salsa and Avocado Slices

Monday, February 15th, 2010

What's for Dinner?

Spanish Rice

Ingredients
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup uncooked white rice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 green or red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Heat oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Saute rice, onion, and bell pepper until rice is browned and onions are tender. Stir in water and tomatoes. Season with chili powder, salt and pepper. Cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until rice is cooked and liquid is absorbed.

Mango Salsa

Ingredients
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced (about 1 1/2 cup)
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 JalapeƱo chile, minced (include ribs and seeds for a hotter taste if desired)
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions (really simple)
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the salsa ends up being a little too hot or acidic for your taste, you can temper it by adding some diced avocado.

Silliness

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

As sappy, blantently overindulgent and probably downright silly as it is, I am spending my Valentine’s Day watching the most romantic, silly, cute and overall best film in the world at least three times. In a row. And if I weren’t on a diet, I would eat ice cream covered in chocolate sauce and whipped cream. OK, no ice cream (but maybe a cupcake — there is this great little place in Harvard Square called Sweet — but in the words of Alton Brown, that’s another show — hmmm. I wonder if they deliver); just sappiness indulgence. It’s Hallmark’s finest moment after all.

And as an ode to the movie alluded to, The Princess Bride, of course, here are my favorite lines, from memory (I know much of it verbatim, though so many of these are common parlance, it seems):

Westley
- As you wish.
- There is a shortage of perfect breasts in this world; It would be a pity to damage yours.
- You mean, you put down your rock and I put down my sword and we try to kill each other like civilized people?
- We are men of action, lies do not become us.
- This is true love – you think this happens every day?

Inigo
- Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

Fezzik
- Anybody want a peanut?

Vizzini
- Inconceivable!
- You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The first is never get involved in a land war in Asia. The second, slightly less well known, is this: never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line!

Miracle Max
- Tr..ooooo…luv…
- True love is the best thing in the world, except for a nice MLT. Mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich; when the mutton is really lean…
- I was fired. Thank you so much for bringing up such a painful subject. While you’re at it, why don’t you give me a nice papercut and pour lemon juice on it?
- Have fun storming the castle.

(this is a really loose stream-of-nothingness post; sorry about that!)

I’ve made all these mistakes

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

I was looking through the new issue of Cooking Light that arrived today and they had this list of “25 Most Common Cooking Mistakes”. It rang pretty true; I think that I have done most of these at some point. Now that I have read the list (the article itself is how to avoid making them and what to do once you’ve done them), there’s a good chance I won’t make them again, though. (Damn photographic memory; I’m going to have those 6 pages stuck in my head for-evah)

1. You don’t taste as you go.
2. You don’t read the entire recipe before you start cooking.
3. You make unwise substitutions in baking.
4. You boil when you should simmer.
5. You overheat chocolate.
6. You oversoften butter.
7. You overheat low-fat milk products.
8. You don’t know your oven’s quirks and idiosyncrasies.
9. You’re too casual about measuring ingredients.
10. You overcrowd the pan.
11. You mishandle egg whites.
12. You turn the food too often.
13. You don’t get the pan hot enough before you add the food.
14. You slice meat with – instead of against – the grain.
15. You underbake cakes and breads.
16. You don’t use a meat thermometer.
17. Meat gets no chance to rest after cooking.
18. You try to rush the cooking of caramelized onions.
19. You overwork lower-fat dough.
20. You neglect the nuts that you’re toasting.
21. You don’t shock vegetables when they’ve reached the desired texture.
22. You put all the salt in the marinade or breading.
23. You put meat straight from the fridge into the oven or onto the grill.
24. You don’t know when to abandon ship and start over.
25. You use inferior ingredients.

Moooooooooooooooooooooooo

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

After the Bruins game on Saturday, I treated my parents to a lovely dinner at Mooo, which, in case you couldn’t guess, is a steak restaurant. They don’t let you forget what you are eating either: the 3-meter high black and white photograph on the wall at our table was of a veal — errr, calf [grin] — with the mother moo in the background. Surprisingly, the photograph wasn’t overwhelming and of course, overall the restaurant is subtly decorated, but if you are at all squeamish about the fact that beef was once a living creature, a restaurant called Mooo might not be for you.

Anyway, I’ve been to this restaurant a few times before, always with great results, so I was happy to go again. We ate well — steak, of course, but the lobster bisque as a starter and the tuna tartar that my father had was also spectacular. It’s definitely upscale and the waitstaff treats you well. I offhandedly made the comment that we were pre-celebrating my parents wedding anniversary (more on that in a few weeks) and the waiter went out of his way to make sure that the dessert was something special. Overall, a lovely night.

If only the B’s could find their winning ways…

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Bruins game 020610

Last summer, for my father’s birthday, I gave him a “weekend in Boston” complete with a Bruins game and dinner. Of course, Heidi and Rainer are always welcome to stay with me in Boston, but I planned for this to be more of a special weekend. The Bruins played the VYR Canucks on Saturday afternoon and despite the loss (the Bruins can’t seem to find any winning ways these days!), it was a fun afternoon. While I was very guilty of “coaching from the stands” and yelling my opinions from the stands until I lost my voice back in the UMaine hockey mania days in high school, I have long given up on that, which made the fact that there were these two overly loud and overly opinionated idiots almost amusing. They were so pathetic that Heidi, Rainer and I were pretty much laughing non-stop by the end of the game. If there is an expression that I never want to hear again, it’s “Take care of the puck-handler”.