Girls and Their Toys

I’m uber busy today – still playing catch-up after being out of the office for two weeks – but I thought I’d share some of my new toys with you.

‘Cause Christmas?  It was good to me this year.

I’ll skip the truly geeky stuff (the official BBC licensed, hand-painted glass Dalek and TARDIS Christmas ornaments) and the unbelievably adorable (the Winnie the Pooh sitting in a wreath with a honey pot Christmas ornament) (can you tell I love Christmas ornaments?) and get right down to brass tacks.

Spiral Slicer

Spiral Slicer

I’ve been seeing spiral slicers everywhere lately, and I finally said, “You know, I think I’d like one of those…”  My Better Half listens, and lo and behold – there was one under the Christmas tree.  I haven’t used it yet, but trust me – you’ll know when I do.  I’m finding the idea of butternut squash noodles and apple chips intriguing.

 Sous Vide Supreme

Sous Vide Supreme

Yup.

For the longest time, I couldn’t decide whether I lusted more for one of these or a Vitamix, so Beloved made up my mind for me.  I’m glad, because I. LOVE. THIS. THING.  It’s so damn easy to use – fill it with water and set the temperature at which you wish to cook your food, vacuum seal said food with some seasonings (and, in my case, fat – butter has been my choice every time so far), drop the package in the sous vide and walk away until you’re ready to eat.  I’ve used it four times so far – once with venison backstrap, once with a pork tenderloin, once with a beef tenderloin and once with a cold-smoked ham steak – and each and every time it produced incredibly flavorful and tender dishes.

Does anyone want to see recipes for it?  I know they’re not a common item in most kitches, and they’re just so ridiculously easy to use – what I wrote in the previous paragraph is pretty much it.  But I’ll be more than happy to post the venison recipe, which I’ve photographed, as well as more in the future if you like.

And finally, the gift that made me laugh the most.

Best. Apron. Ever.

Best. Apron. EVER.

Oldest Son really knows how to rock his mom’s apron collection.

And what did Santa bring you this year?

Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch

This week’s Spin Cycle is all about “temptation.”

I think it’s fitting that Gretchen, co-proprietress of the Spin Cycle these days, made her temptation Spin about food.  Particularly, the treats found in abundance at her favorite grocery store, Trader Joes.

In response to her post, I wrote:

No Trader Joe’s here, but I wouldn’t shop there anyway. I have a standing rule that might help you – if I want something I know I shouldn’t eat, I have to make it myself. No getting it prepackaged at the store.

Or it might not help; you like to cook as much as I do, and the only thing the rule has done is make me very good at making cakes, cookies, bread, biscuits, muffins, cheesecakes, candy, egg nog and ice cream from scratch. And, heaven help me, I can make them gluten and/or dairy free. *sigh*

But I’m reeeeeaaaaallly popular with friends/family/co-workers during the holidays.

I identify completely with Gretchen’s observation that she and her family view “rewards” for good behavior in terms of food that is less than healthful (although I don’t agree with her including cheeses in the “less than healthful” category – the biggest problem with cheese, if you can handle the dairy, is the ability to easily overindulge).  I not only use food to reward myself, but to comfort myself in times of stress or sorrow and as a way to alleviate boredom, although I’ve gotten quite good in recent years at asking myself, “Are you really hungry, or just bored/stressed/angry/unhappy?”

Not that I always listen, but I DO ask.

This year, especially the summer and autumn, has been quite stressful – in some ways good, but in many ways not-so-good.  And over the course of the last several months, I’ve found myself saying things like, “You know what sounds good?  Biscuits and gravy for breakfast!!”

Yes, homemade with real all-purpose flour.  Because while I’d sooner cut off my right arm than buy a tube biscuits and a packet of gravy mix, I also know that I can make them from scratch in about the same amount of time it would take me to run to the grocery store and buy them.  PLUS, I can make sure they’re made with organic flour, butter and milk from completely grass-fed cows and pastured lard, with no weird additives/chemicals designed to improve their shelf life.

So, there have been cupcakes. And chocolate waffles (good gawd, were those good). And Bavarian Apple Cheesecake (equally delicious). And blondies.  And handmade pizza.  And lasagna with handmade pasta.  Not every day, by any means, or even every week – I haven’t really felt like cooking since The Young One left for college, which has been a blessing, really – but when the mood strikes, I haven’t denied myself the pleasure.

And a pleasure it’s been.  In more ways than one, because I love making these things and they taste so much better than anything you can buy pre-made or from a mix.  Beloved’s groused about it a little (but he’s eaten all of it, and asked for repeat performances of the pizza and lasagna), but The G Man is certainly loving it – he likes helping Meema make cookies and pizza almost as much as likes playing video games.

Now, if I’m going to be completely honest here, there have been a couple of pints of Haagen-Dazs ice cream (their “basic” flavors, like French Vanilla and Chocolate contain nothing but milk, cream, eggs, sugar, vanilla and/or chocolate).  And to be equally honest, if I over-indulge in any of the these treats, I WILL feel the effects afterwards – my digestion suffers (although not nearly as much as in the past, probably due to the amounts of lacto-fermented vegetables we eat), and my allergies and arthritis reassert themselves (again, not nearly as bad as in years past).  Just reminders that these things should remain just what they are meant to be – occasional treats.

The good news in all of this is I’ve pretty much completely cut out alcohol all together – frankly, the fact that I would come home in the evenings and immediately think about a glass of wine or a cocktail (or two…or even three) became far more disturbing to me than making and eating pizza or cheesecake a couple of times a month.  And the really nutty thing is that I’ve begun to lose weight again – slowly, yes, but it is happening.  Very encouraging, considering how I’ve been stalled for over a year now.

So, that’s my confession about succumbing to temptation as of late.  I guess what I’d really like to know is, would you all begin to leave in droves if I began exploring the realms of things like sprouted heritage wheat flours and sourdough starters, and occasionally posting about it?  Because, being completely honest, I miss baking bread.

Tuesday Morning Conversations

Scene opens with Beloved in the kitchen making scrambled eggs when he hears incoherent yelling coming from the living room.

Beloved:  What??

Me (entering kitchen):  Oh, I’m just yelling at that stupid Botox commercial.

Beloved:  Why are you yelling at a Botox commercial?

Me:  Because all of the side effects are symptoms of botulism!

Beloved:  Why?

Me:  Because that’s pretty much what Botox is – botulism bacteria.

Beloved:  Really?

Me:  Yup.

Beloved:  What are the symptoms?

Me:  Basically it slowly paralyzes you until you can’t breathe and then you die.

Beloved:  Oh, that sounds fun.  Why would anyone willingly be injected with botulism?

Me:  Beats the hell out of me.

Beloved (going into sarcastic mode):  Gee, you think the FDA would make laws against something like that!

Me (joining him in sarcastic mode):  But dear, the FDA will never outlaw silly little Botox – if botulism becomes a problem, they’ll just make it illegal for us to can our own food.

 

Someone tell me I’m wrong.

 

Random Tuesday Mother’s Day

It’s been awhile since I’ve participated in Random Tuesday Thoughts, so…

Stacy

Beloved:  Hey, G – what are you going to give Mommy for Mother’s Day?

The G Man:  A headache.

(When asked to repeat this to his mother, he changed his answer to “A box.”  He’s either very smart or a coward.)

~~~~~~

Speaking of The G Man, while he was here Sunday, one of The Young One’s friends came over to visit.  When he knocked, nothing happened for several seconds, so G ran over to the front door and began hopping up and down, going “Bark! Bark! Bark!”

Just like his Mom – always willing to take up the slack when someone else is falling down on the job.

~~~~~~

Where was the dog, you ask?  I have no idea, but probably napping on the sofa.

With his special blankie.

That has Lightening McQueen on it.

~~~~~~

Via Instant Message:

Beloved:  What’s the best roasting pan on the market?

Me:  All-Clad, I guess – they made our sauté pans.  But the roaster runs around $200.  Why?

Beloved:  Just curious – was thinking Mother’s Day until I saw your price.

Me:  Both Cuisinart and KitchenAid have nice, stainless steel roasting pans for about $50.

Beloved:  That was more what I had in mind.

A couple of things, here:  it took me all of about 30 seconds to Google “roasting pans” and get that information.  Nor am I sure how I feel about not being worthy of a $200 roasting pan.

Then again, I’m not HIS mother, so I suppose I should be grateful for what I get.

~~~~~~

Competitive Cooking

Pthththth…whoever drew this OBVIOUSLY never saw me during a “Chopped” marathon…

~~~~~~

Thought Processes

Usually after watching a “Chopped” marathon…

~~~~~~

If you been reading here for any length of time, you know that I am both a huge George Takei fan and a fervent supporter of marriage equality.  So I couldn’t have been more delighted to see this:

Absolutely. Hysterical.  (I about feel out of my chair at “pole smoker.”)  Ah, George, I do believe I love you.

~~~~~~

And that’s pretty much all I’ve got.  Go, visit Stacy; see what other Random you can get yourself in to.

Spring Is Here!

I’m swamped with work today (not necessarily a bad thing), so this is sort of a “quickie” post, but I thought I’d share a little of our absolutely gorgeous Saturday with you.

It was a day for:

Pink Tulips

Pink tulips…

Raised Beds

…raised beds…

Barefoot

…running barefoot in the grass…

Strawberry Chocolate Coffee Cake

…and strawberry-chocolate coffee cake.

There is absolutely nothing more beautiful than a clear Spring day in northeast Ohio.

Has Spring sprung in your neck of the woods yet?