Category Archives: January 2013

On receiving, and ignoring, some not so welcome advice

I had my annual ‘well-woman’ check-up a couple of weeks ago and as I precariously approach the dreaded half century mark, Doc says I’m in good shape but decides I need an enormous amount of blood work done to check not just the regular cholesterol but to break it down into types and particles and absorption and free roaming crap to determine my risk factor to heart disease.  After all, we have all been informed that heart disease is right up there as a woman-killer alongside breast cancer.  So, I’m thinking this is a good thing.

Doc gives me a booklet, not a pamphlet or a leaflet, but an honest-to-gawd 8-1/2 x 11 multi-page booklet outlining the particulars of this detailed and apparently necessary (ohmahgerd!!, everyone should have it done!!!), battery of blood analysis tests along with the standard hormone and thyroid and kidney/liver function tests.  MMMMkay.  Sure.  Why not.  I don’t have even a reasonable expectation of living to 100, figuring that I’m past middle age as well as menopause.

Doc tells me that there is no co-pay for the test.  Even if I get an insurance statement saying it’s not covered and I have a $500 or $600 co-pay, not to worry, I won’t get a bill.  That evening, at the kitchen table, reading glasses perched on my nose, scrutinizing the information, I see that the test is sponsored by a big pharmaceutical company.  Said pharm company happens to produce a number of products to lower my cholesterol.  Not.A.Surprise.

I am healthy, exercise, not overweight, I’m not expecting any drastic news.  Late last week, I get a call from the nurse with the recommendation that I add a few supplements to my diet; Vitamins “D” and “B-12” because I have some deficiencies that are “of concern”.  Fine, that’s probably why I feel so sluggish in winter.  Mild S.A.D.  I can live with that.  Oh, but wait, there’s more!  I need an Omega-3, too.  Too many free-roaming plaque particles.  Really?  All right.  I’m not liking this, but I am thankful that Doc takes a holistic approach and only whips out the prescription pad as a last resort.  I’d rather do this than sign on to some wacky medication that might end up with class action lawsuits advertised on daytime television.  So far, so good.  After a week, my energy has increased by approximately 1/10th.  In January, in the mid-west, I’ll take it.

Today, I get a call from a second(!) nurse whose job it is to really analyze and interpret those test results.  She asks me about my exercise routine.  I walk about two miles every day.  I have two dogs that exist the other 23 hours and 30 minutes of the day for those two miles with me.  Whatever the weather, we three dress appropriately probably 350 out of 365 days of the year and venture out into whatever Mid-West weather happens to be occurring.  Nope.  Not enough.  Okay.  Well, I practice yoga once or twice a week, how about that?  Nope. Not enough.  I need sweaty, aerobic muscle strengthening stuff for an hour, three times a week.  Wait.  What?  Have you ever been to a yoga studio?  It’s not hippie ’60’s transcendental meditation yoga anymore.  I sweat my butt off.  Really?  I hardly have time to comb my hair twice a day and you want me to throw in a couple of Zumba or Jazzercise class?  Whatever nurse 2 got into in Doc’s sample room, I want some, because she’s just high right now.

Oh, and by the way, nurse 2 mentioned I should be eating low carb, high protein, low fat diet.  I should get a smart phone app so I can track my food input everyday.  Now she’s gone too far.  Them’s fightin’ words to this broad.  I may be climbing the hill, but I’m not over it yet.  The facts are that I am 2nd generation Irish on my Mother’s side, 3rd generation German on my Father’s side and come from a long line of pear shaped women.  I can not, nay, will not, give up my bread and booze.  ‘Tis my heritage and my right!  Nurse further illustrates that now fruit counts.    Go easy on the fruit.  When the hell did that happen?  I object!  Strenuously!

After hearing this, the conversation quickly deteriorated as I shifted into ‘I just want to get you off the phone’ mode.  Me saying “Okay.  Sure.  That sounds reasonable.”, because why would I argue with someone who is just doing her job, passing along information and is, by no means, the boss of me?  I couldn’t bear to tell her “Thanks, but no thanks.  I’d rather live a life of quality days than quantity years.”  My attitude is exactly the Maxine cartoon that circulates among the girlfriend set on occasion that exhorts us to live life to the fullest and leave this world with a glass of wine in one hand and a piece of chocolate in the other.  So for now, I’ll just keep doing what I please; cooking and baking, tasting, eating, enjoying, savoring and experimenting.  Open that bottle and pass the butter because  I ain’t skeert.

Enough for now.

Make ’em a sammich!

“A sammich is not just a sandwich, it is not just a meal. Sammich is a term reserved for only the holiest and mightiest of all sandwiches. A sammich is a true work of culinary art; a feast on a bun, if you will.” – Urban DictionaryDSCN0095

Twenty plus years ago, before Al Gore gave us the interwebz, when my Littles were still, well, little, the two best places to find new recipes were in cookbooks at the library or on food packages.  Now I could find hundreds to try in the same 60 minutes it took me to find one or two at the library while the Littles enjoyed Story Hour and I enjoyed the quiet in my own head.  This isn’t one of those, though, I remember that I found the root of what would become the “Mighty Sammich Loaf” on the back of a package of frozen bread dough.

The thing I adore about this recipe, especially now that I’m cooking for just two, is that it’s a sure fire way to use up good cuts of leftover meats.  In this case, it’s the next to last of the Christmas ham, and oh what an awesome hunk of pure porcine pleasure was that hunney of a baked ham!  (Wink! Wink!)

To make this “Mighty Sammich Loaf” you will need:

  • One loaf of frozen bread dough, thawed
  • DSCN00781/4 cup honey mustard salad dressing
  • 8-10 oz ham, chopped
  • 4 oz. baby swiss cheese
  • One egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 T. heavy cream or half and half (optional)
  • 1 T. sesame seeds

The great thing about using frozen bread dough is that you can take the loaf out of the freezer in the morning.  Lay out a piece of plastic wrap, spray it with non-stick cooking spray, wrap it up, stick it in the fridge and it’s perfectly thawed without having risen any by the time that you get home from work!

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You will need a parchment lined baking sheet and a rolling pin and some dusting flour.  Roll the thawed dough out to a 14″ x 10″ rectangle.  If you just start rolling the dough length-wise, it will widen perfectly on it’s own.  Stretch corners to maintain the rectangle as best you can.

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Transfer the rectangle to the baking sheet and layer the meat, dressing and cheese down the middle.  Using a sharp knife, make 7-8 diagonal slits in the dough from the edge of the filling to the edge of dough.  I fold my ends in a bit to prevent seepage of the filling during baking, but you can cut it off and just seal the ends well.  I love bread, so I always save the extra thick end pieces for myself!

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Beat the egg with the whipping cream or half and half, adding the cream isn’t necessary, but I like the extra sealing power. DSCN0090Brush the edges of the dough with the beaten egg and starting at one end, pull the dough strips up and over (don’t be afraid to tug on them) and tuck them under the loaf.  Weave the strips to create a pretty bread and then brush the whole loaf with beaten egg and sprinkle on the sesame seeds.

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Pre-heat the oven to 400° while you let the loaf rise about 15 minutes over a hot water pan, OR, because I hate leaving out my besties, lazy and easy, I fill one side of my double sink with hot water and lay the baking sheet over it for an easy-steam.

It won’t get gigantic or rise a bunch, but a brief rest over this tiny hot tub very much improves the texture of the loaf.DSCN0093

Pop it in the oven for about 20 minutes and bake until golden.  Let it rest about 5 minutes before cutting.  You can cut it in 1″ strips for appetizers or big hunks for dinner.  It warms up well the next day if you happen to have even one single piece leftover for lunch.

You can use any combination of meat, dressings and cheeses to create whatever type of loaf you’re craving.  Leftover Sunday roast?  Saute some onions and peppers, and use ranch dressing and Monterrey Jack cheese for a Philly Loaf.  Corned beef plus well drained kraut and 1000 Island and it’s an incredible Reuben Loaf.   Very versatile and no one needs to know it’s the last of the leftovers except you!

Enough for now.DSCN0094

Meatballs and Murder

Aaah, the meatball.  That all purpose comfort food staple generally associated with Italian cuisine but versatile enough to morph into almost any ethnic version of itself.  Who hasn’t grabbed a few from the slow cooker at a potluck with them swimming in Barbecue sauce or found joy in taking them to the islands; Hawaiian style over rice.  Making a brown gravy, slopping in some sour cream and they become a fabulous Swedish import; the Volvo of weeknight menus at the family table.

A pound of lean ground beef, an egg and about a half a package of saltines, neatly pulverized with my hand blender, all mushed up.  I don’t season the meat because I always sauce up my meatballs and the sauce is always the star of the show!  Form a half a dozen balls, place in an 8 x 8 baking dish, cover with foil and bake it at 375° for about 30 minutes, or to the nearest “Wheel of Fortune” commercial break after 30 minutes are up.

Every night I assemble dinner with the six o’clock news as background and watch the “Wheel” while it’s all perking away.  I love word puzzles and I have discovered that word games are about the only thing Mr. Man will play at parties.  As a matter of fact, last Saturday we were at a party and Catch Phrase (the hand held electronic version) got whipped out.  Keep in mind, that no one is ever fully sober when we start playing games.  Ever.  Which insures that no matter what we play, hilarity will ensue.   Although we had not played it before, Mr. Man and I played quite well and there was only one clue that Mr. Man was unable to get a guess on from anyone; Penitentiary.  It was a lot of fun and I’d definitely play again.

So back to the meatballs.  Have you ever had them with mashed potatoes?  Yes?  No?  Well, until Mr. Man, I had never heard of it.  Meatballs and mashed potatoes was a childhood favorite of his and about a year into our courtship, he asked me to make them and my immediate thought for the sauce was ‘onion gravy’, thinking that WOULD be good.

No.  He wanted them with red sauce.  He does not like Italian food, at all, so I found this quite perplexing.  Ohhh-kaaaay.  Skeptically,  I did as he asked and it was freaking good and got slapped on the ‘winter comfort food’ list and considering how it’s not been above freezing here for a week, that’s what got served last night.

Because I am all about my two best peeps, lazy and easy, after the original 30 minutes are up on the meatballs, I pour about a half a jar of sauce on them, turn them and then put the foil back on and return them to the oven for another 15-20 minutes.  The fewer pans to clean, the better, mostly because the dishwasher we have is me.

Every time we sit down to Meatballs and mashed, Mr. Man says “Steve Cannaday”.  Why?, you may ask.  Because it was in grade school that Steve Cannaday’s mother served Mr. Man meatballs and mashed potatoes for the first time.   Buddies since Kindergarten, they lost touch after Steve murdered his wife, Melissa.  Stabbed her to death for reasons not known to Mr. Man.  No one heard from Steve after he got sent up, not one word has ever trickled through the grapevine of what happened to him.  Is he still alive?  Did he ever get out?  What?  Nothing.

As usual, the serving of Meatballs and mashed last night caused us to go over the same story of Steve and wondering what happened and as I was clearing the dishes I said to Mr. Man, “Oh!  Next time we play Catchphrase, all you have to do is say “Meatballs” and I will say “Penitentiary”.  Won’t that freak everyone out?!?!?

Carry on.