Having fun cooking for myself and Puzzle

I had no clue what to title this entry, but if I forget to give my entries a title when I start out, I end up messing up somehow, so that’s the title I ended up with.  Let’s face it: People and dogs like food.

If you’re curious as to how I’ve been doing, or even if you’re not, I’m going to clue you in: I’ve been doing awesome lately.  Now of course I still have to be a bit careful when I go see Dr. P Wednesday (I’ve decided I might as well show up) NOT to use the well-known buzz-words, “I’m on top of the world, Dr. P!”

See, shrinks are well-trained to listen for these exact words.  Shrink’s translation: mania.  However, I am not manic.  Fact is, we all live on the earth’s surface.  Humans have yet to make a home within the core of the earth or anywhere near underground.  Yeah, there are basement apartments and you can spend many, many hours, I suppose, working underground in a mine.  Now when I was a kid, we were all thinking we could dig a hole from my backyard to China, and we occasionally tried but never did quite reach China.  Good thing, cuz even now, I don’t know a word of Chinese and would never get by over there.  So we are all on the earth’s surface, on top of the world, which is just plain fact.  But when your shrink asks how you are doing, do NOT say your are on top of the world, not in those exact words.  You will be handed pills.  Or even sectioned.

But guess what?  The shrink has been indoors “working” (in other words, pushing pills) all day in an office with no windows.  The shrink has no clue that the weather is the best it’s been in weeks.  No wonder you might feel so damned good.  A lot of “normals” feel damned good today and they are not handed pills. Why?  They didn’t end up with a label so they didn’t have to go to a shrink.

I think one reason I feel good, actually, is that I stopped taking the Abilify I was taking mid-February.  It was a bit hard at first cuz for a few days, I went through a small amount of withdrawal.  Yes, I went off cold turkey.  10 mgs to zero in a flash.  They say this is inadvisable, however, at 5mgs, I was barely sleeping, and at 10mgs, not sleeping at all.  I think I’ve already explained the whole half-life thingy and my thinking on it and how it took a week to get out of my system entirely.  The withdrawal was barely noticeable.  I guess if I worked a job or had to drive a car, it would have been more risky, but these are non-applicable.  At its worst, my sentences were a little jumbled.  I suffered no jitters, no flu-like symptoms, no sweats, nothing like that.  It took ages, but finally, I began to sleep a tiny bit.

I have mentioned how I spent a month hiding in my bed just laying there, withdrawn from the world entirely.  Much of this was cuz I was trying to get my sleep back, and a lot was of course because of the bogus therapist I unfortunately crossed paths with.  Yes, I will indeed file a complaint and I hope he is plenty surprised and I hope I feel empowered because of it and I hope this prevents him from doing further harm to patients who end up duped by him the way I was duped.

So what about the sleep problem?  Dr. P gave me more pills, of course, as I told you, and kinda shrugged when I asked for a therapist.  I have tried the benzos but refused to even fill the prescription for the antipsychotic, Latuda, which, according to documentation, causes breast enlargement, increases blood pressure, and does indeed cause weight gain.

Why was I put on the Abilify, back last fall, in the first place? The symptom I described to Dr. P was my “anger machine.”  Constant anger.  Well, gee, if you’d been subject to an abusive therapist, M, whom I’d endured from Thanksgiving 2010 till March 2012, who every single session threatened to put you in the state hospital, and constantly manipulated you and accused you of things you didn’t do, you’d turn into an anger machine by the end of all that, too.  Not only that, I’d gone through withdrawal from Imipramine.  Antidepressant withdrawal sucks.  (I hear that some people are doomed to stay on Effexor, for instance, forever only because withdrawal is so intolerable.)  I’d been treated like an animal by the “sitters” and in the psych ward at Mass General, and badly deprived of water for no medical reason, and to make things worse, I got out and nobody believed me.  Anyone would turn into an anger machine after that.  Even a “normal.”  It would be kinda normal, actually, to feel distrust of the world after all that, wouldn’t it?

I’m over my anger machine phase.  I no longer feel constant rage.  Yes, even off Abilify.  Especially now that I experience sleep, so being off Abilify is helpful in fact.

Sleep is still a huge problem.  One of the pills she gave me was 2mgs Klonopin.  This might keep me asleep about 2-1/2 hours or so.  The other pill I have is Ambien 10 mgs, which only keeps me asleep an hour.  Neither is good sleep.  I only use the Ambien for a nap, not at night.  Neither is really worth taking.  I’m always just plain exhausted.  Often, I have to cancel what I’ve got planned, and just lay down all day, I’m too tired.

I tried Somnapure, which I think is how it is spelled.  Here’s a hint: I read the reviews, and one reviewer said you can go to their website and sign up for a free bottle of samples.  Then you are put on automatic subscription.  Just call the number and cancel before you are put on automatic subscription and there is no penalty.  They will connect you to a “sleep technician” or whatever.  Sleep technician?  Well, who are these folks?  I guess they are like those folks who work in mattress and bed stores.  They are selling you a product.  They will tell you you have to keep on taking it so it will “build up in your system.”  This sounds like baloney to me if it is “non habit forming.”  But get this: they will mail you another bottle, no delivery charge, entirely free.  That’s what I found out.  Then call them by the deadline and be sure to cancel, cuz if it works for you, you can buy it cheaper in a store on sale.

Do observe the ingredients: mostly valerian root, 500 mgs per tablet, and you’re supposed to take two tablets.  I can buy valerian root, loose powder form, in bulk, at my food coop and I think last time I bought it, food stamps paid for it, but that didn’t matter even cuz all you really want is a little, little bag.  Seal the bag, keep it dry, and put the little bag in a dark, air-tight bottle, such as an old pill bottle.

The other ingredients of Somnapure are as follows: Lemon balm extract 300 mgs (never tried), L-Theonine 200 mgs (never tried), hops extract 120 mgs (this is supposed to be real good), Chamomile flower extract 50 mgs (this is one that works real well for some people, but I’ve heard you can be allergic to it),  Passion flower extract 50 mgs (never tried), and melatonin 3 mgs.  Regarding melatonin, I need at least 20 mgs to sleep at all, so I’m sure the 6 mgs in two tablets of Somnapure does nothing.

Now they will tell you never, never take more than two tablets.  Not that I took this stuff very much, I didn’t, just tried a few times and gave up.  But one night I got all frustrated, took four, and actually slept.  Not a whole lot, not real good deep sleep, but sleep nonetheless.  Meanwhile, I had had very good results from the powder Valerian root I’d purchased and still have quite a bit of.  I plan to purchase a small amount more next time the coop has its discount day.

I do have to take a whopping dose of it, far more than the 1,000 mgs that would be in those two Somnapure tablets.  A thousand mgs sure won’t cut it for me.  This valerian root I get is total powder, like baby powder.  Here’s how I measure it.  I’ll bet herbs come in varying strengths and grades, which complicates the matter, but I weigh it with a jewelry scale, for better or worse.  You can purchase a simple pocket jewelry scale from Amazon.  Then I mix it with water and drink it.  There are various teas that contain Valerian root but these appear to contain very, very little and are very expensive teas.  Or you can buy a bottle of tablets or capsules of the stuff, and there are tinctures and the like.  This is all in the experimental stages for me, and please don’t take my word for it on how to measure the stuff.  Or if it’s bad for you or good for you.  Think of all the crap you put in your body.  We can obsess forever on this.  I honestly don’t know.

The absolute best thing is sleeping with Puzzle.  She gets practically comatose when she’s asleep.  I can’t imagine sleeping with a human.  The whole idea of sleeping with a human, and all the complications, broken promises, and long-term consequences that go along with it kinda grosses me out.   Does this mean there’s something “wrong” with me?  Am I deprived?  Naw, it means my life is someplace else, someplace far better right now.  I’m enjoying myself plenty.

I guess I’ll get to the recipe part now.  I made a recipe the other night, and had a blast.  First, I had to go out and get the ingredients.  I did this because I absolutely had to get food for Puzzle anyway, so I figured I might as well pick up a few things for myself.  I had a recipe tucked away in my computer that a while back I’d stolen off the web, so I decided I would cook it up.

But let me diverge for a sec to say that another really, really good thing that’s happening to me is that stopped doing dairy.  Now, what did they tell us at what my brother called “the food hospital”?  That if you leave out a food group, you have an eating disorder?  I think the Brain Bio Center at Princeton has been around a lot longer than the “food hospital” has, and folks of course still think these Princeton scientists are a bit nuts.  I know a lot of “mental patients” who got dragged to the Brain Bio Center by their parents and did, indeed, find Princeton’s Brain Bio Center’s scientists a bit on the kooky side. They talk about “brain allergies.”  People still think it’s nonsense.  But I do know this: When I do dairy, I get depressed.  Like very.  Every pseudo-dairy, such as soy milk is a downer for me, for whatever reason.  Or I just plain (to be politically incorrect) go off my rocker.  So I very deliberately stopped dairy.

Maybe dairy is sort of like a very, very bad trip for me.  Once someone who is alcoholic learns that alcohol is no good for them and it does bad things for them, learns that it makes them act in bad ways, they get educated.  They learn that “non alcoholic beer” is not going to do them any good, either.  This Joe explained to me one day when we were at a restaurant, at least so it was in his case.  This was of course eons ago.  He said it wouldn’t bug him in the least if I ordered non-alcoholic beer, but he would choose not to give me a kiss later on.  He wanted no reminders, not a taste of his past, a long, long time ago, which was even before we had met.

I remember last fall when I was feeling real good for a while, I had stopped dairy, too.  So there you have it.  I have stopped binge eating.  What a blessing.  You can imagine what chowing down on a pound of cheese would do to me, and has done to me.  Been there, done that.   People have allergies and the like.  Maybe they are allergic to almonds.  They eat almonds and get then get sick.  So then once they learn, they know not to do it again.

Well, anyway, the recipe.  It calls for the use of a wok.  My stove is plain impossible and won’t do a wok.  Only two of the four burners work at all.  I substituted quinoa for rice because I had it in my head that rice automatically sticks to everything and is difficult to clean up, and quinoa is a bit more practical.  The recipe called for fresh peas.  I gasped at the price and no way was I gonna buy them.  I wasn’t gonna even walk down the frozen food aisle, either, just wasn’t in the mood.  I figured I had enough veggies at home, all bought on sale and cheaply, and I’d find some colorful, nutritious substitution that would work as well as fresh peas.  Cilantro wasn’t too expensive, so I purchased a small bunch.  Of course, if you live alone, you are doomed to live and breathe fresh cilantro for the next few days and be very creative with it, just like everyone is with turkey right after thanksgiving.  Or it will go bad and you can throw it out.  I bought the smallest piece of fresh ginger I could find in the basket, trying real hard not to appear like I was touching stuff and getting everything germy.   I knew I already had ginger at home but I wasn’t sure if it was still in decent shape.

I bought Brussels sprouts, these being on sale for the second week in a row at Stop & Shop, kinda rare.  I like Brussels sprouts mainly because they are almost as cute as Puzzle.

Of course, I went to what I call the “dented can aisle,” this being the rejects, the throw-aways.  You know my analogies.  “On the fringe of society.”  That’s where occasionally I find a real steal, but not always.  This past week I found a bag of barley marked half price and a lot, lot, lot of legumes, but I only bought the barley and decided I have plenty of legumes at home already.  Last week, I purchased a lot of produce in the “dented can aisle” including yams marked way down, but this week, I didn’t see anything I needed.

The day before Easter turns out to be an awesome day for shopping for meat for your dog.  Of course, I had no clue that this would be the case until I arrived at the supermarket.  I found lots of stuff marked down, lots of organ meat most humans don’t want, all sorts of stuff, and yes, red meat marked down too, so Puzzle is a very, very happy camper right now.

My food total this week was I think $20.  Or maybe more.  I also replaced the dish that got busted in the microwave and I got a roll of paper towels.

So anyway, this recipe, I’ve made it twice now.  My stove is rather useless and always has been, but I made do.  I used my veggie steamer to cook the quinoa.  The recipe says, “tofu, cubed.”  It doesn’t say what size cubes.  So both times I did the recipe, I made little sticks.  I figured there was no harm in making little sticks of tofu, and indeed, they were as cute as Brussels sprouts, no harm at all.  I put the little sticks on top of the quinoa once the quinoa was finished cooking.  It all heated up very, very fast.  Meanwhile, I had chosen a veggie, broccoli, to substitute for peas, just for the heck of it, and steamed that as well in the veggie steamer.  I made sure it didn’t overcook.

But while this was all happening, I had to do the flavoring.  This was on the crucial, rather tricky side, but much easier than I thought it would be.  I used my old cast-iron pan, the one I’ve had since I was 17 years old and lived in a college dorm.  I can’t use my large cast-iron pan because my large burner is completely non-functional.  I cut an onion in half, peeled it, chopped it up, and put the pieces in a dish.  I minced a chunk of ginger.  Sure enough, all the minced ginger immediately dumped onto the floor.  The only good thing about that was that I had plenty more ginger, the container that the ginger was in was plastic and not glass, and now my floor was kinda ginger-smelling which may be a good thing considering my microwave exploded and the fire department was in here the other night.  Of course, I swept it all up, minced more ginger, and laughed my fool head off.  Next time, I kept all my stuff far away from the edge of the counter.

The recipe says to grate the ginger, but both times I have minced it, and it seems that I am very much still alive and well.

The recipe says you’re supposed to stir-fry the garlic, ginger, and onion (or scallion) in the wok with a small amount of olive oil.  I was using pre-minced garlic out of a squeeze bottle, so I knew to add this late in the game or it would burn and get gross.  Of course, I was also using a cast-iron pan and not a wok.  Meanwhile, I had chopped up some cilantro and set it aside.  Every recipe I’ve got that has fresh cilantro in it says to add the fresh cilantro at the very, very end.  This recipe states that as well.

As soon as all these flavorings were nicely browned, I turned off my burner and transferred all this stuff into a large pot.  I took the quinoa and tofu (these were in different amounts the two times I did the recipe, and the second time I’d thrown in a lentil or two for the heck of it) carefully out of my steamer and added them to the pot.  Then the veggies.  The first time it was broccoli only, but the second time I did the recipe I added different, more varied and colorful veggies.  I quickly cut the cooked veggies into smaller pieces while they were still hot.  Luckily, they were not at all overcooked.  Last but not least I tossed in a very, very tiny amount of Ponzu sauce (the recipe calls for “low sodium soy sauce,” which I didn’t want to purchase, but I already had Ponzu sauce), and a very small amount of toasted sesame oil.  And the fresh cilantro.  I mixed everything up, and it was ready to eat.

All this was quite thrilling to me.

And  no, this food was not for Puzzle.  It was food I cooked for myself.

 

Pork dinner for Puzzle!

Not quite done:

I have two pork chops marinating in juices of chicken and beef kidney. I think there is some chicken liver in there.

 

Done!

These two pork chops were perfectly done when I took them out. I plan to mix them with a bit of pumpkin for Puzzle, and probably some oats and rice.

 

Tofu for breakfast…you can't go wrong

I was told to have protein at every meal if I am going to get rid of this edema.  Edema is the swelling in my ankles and legs that is my body’s way of reminding me that my eating disorder days are only a breath away in the past.  The edema will go away but it will take time.  I must be patient.

Tofu is one of those things I don’t buy often.  I think of it as expensive.  But really, it isn’t, is it?  I’ll bet if you do a calculation, it’ll come out as cheaper than many other proteins.  The tofu I have seems to be one of the better-tasting, more palatable types in terms of texture that I’ve had.  I received it as a giveaway from a center I go to for ex-patients.  It came in a 14-oz package.

What you do with tofu to drain the package, then put it into another container.  I would suggest rinsing the slab, and changing the container.  It’ll keep longer.  Just cut off the piece you want to use.  Do whatever the recipe says–grind it in a blender, chop it, cut it into cubes, or use it whole.  Some places sell tofu that you take out of large tofu vats, so you take the big cube out of an aquarium-like thingy filled with other tofu cubes, and put it into your own container.  Tofu picks up the flavor of whatever you’re cooking it with.  Isn’t that cool?  It’s made of soy.  If you are allergic to soy, don’t eat tofu.

People say that a lot of types of soy are hard to digest.  I’m not sure where tofu stands on that.  I know that soy milk is hard to digest and almond milk is much easier.  Soybeans are hard to digest unless very well cooked or sprouted or fermented.  Is tofu fermented?  Hold on, let me look this up……..No, it’s not.  I checked at Wikipedia and Googled around. There is a fermented tofu, and there are all different types of tofu, but this tofu I have is soft tofu immersed in liquid.  It’s a very popular, trendy food.  Yes, there’s evidence it prevents hot flashes and dementia….But exactly which soy products are helpful here?  Nutrition is such a confusing field.  It depends on the individual.  In terms of genetics, we are all very complicated, very different people.  So we are differently mapped out in terms of nutrition.

So you see, that horseradish craving I spoke of in yesterday’s entry has a big history.  Think about it.

Tofu, in a nutshell, is curdled soy milk.  So it’s like if you have milk and add lemon juice, and it curdles, and then you drain the whey, you end up with ricotta cheese.  Well, tofu is soy ricotta cheese.  At least that’s how I see it.  I’ll bet you could somehow make your own tofu using a similar method.  So considering this, the answer is no, tofu is not fermented. I’m wondering how easily it is broken down in the body.

Anyway, for the heck of it, I had tofu for breakfast and here’s how I prepared it.

Tofu and eggs are often what people do, but not me.  Why?  I don’t have any eggs in the house.  I’m not in the mood, either.  I did oatmeal and tofu.  Here are my ingredients:

Oatmeal
Sesame seeds
Sesame oil (use pure, toasted, unrefined, not adulterated with soybean oil.  Don’t use “sesame-flavored” oil.  I want the real deal.)
Fresh ginger, chopped
Tofu, cubed into 1/4 or 1/3 inch cubes
Juice of one wedge of lemon (you can be as generous as you like with this but leave out the seeds)
Enough water, just a few spoonfuls, to moisten all this

I only used a few spoonfuls of the grain, but it came out to a lot, altogether, in the coffee grinder.  The reason why I grind up my sesame seeds these days is because if I don’t, they will get stuck between my teeth.  I ate the lemon peel.  Why?  It’s got potassium in it.  I could use that.  I was wondering, as I was putting all this together, if it needed fruit, but I have no fruit in the house.  I need to go out and get some.  I’d suggest grinding up the sesame seeds.  I also ground up the oatmeal together with the sesame seeds so there wouldn’t be a mess in my grinder.  Don’t grind fresh ginger in a coffee grinder.  Oh, also, you won’t want to use much tofu, less than one serving.  This is only breakfast, after all, not the Last Supper.

Now heat this in the microwave.  You won’t need to heat it too long.  I hope you haven’t added too much water, but enough to moisten everything.  Do babysit your tofu mixture because the last thing you want to happen is for it to turn into a rock.

This is a dish you’re not going to want to sweeten.  I was surprised by this.  After it’s done cooking, put it into a nice pretty breakfast serving bowl.

So much for my experiment this morning.  If I drop dead later on, I don’t think my tofu breakfast will be the cause.

Yummy food on a budget: Tuna casserole like your mom never made it

I decided to share what I had for dinner cuz what I ended up with was halfway decent.  Much of it was made with leftovers and I didn’t have to go out and buy any special ingredients.  If you’re making this at home, feel free to leave out anything you don’t have, or make substitutions based on common sense and economics.

Warning: I’m likely to ramble.

First of all, I had half a can of tuna lying around in the fridge, leftover from another meal, so I put that in a bowl.  The tuna comes from a food pantry.  They’ve been giving us Bumble Bee tuna lately, which, from what I’ve observed, is a decent kind.  Now the only reason I say this is that it “solid” means solid when it comes to Bumble Bee. This was tuna packed in water.  They say if you’re going to give tuna out of a can to your dog, give your dog tuna packed in oil so that your dog gets the fat he or she needs.  I read that in a dog nutrition book.

Okay, see how I got off topic?  But indeed, a lot of us go to food pantries and, whether we want to admit it or not, we keep our dogs in mind, that is, in the forefront or further back in our minds.

My next ingredient, if I recall correctly, was some leftover canned tomatoes.  These, too, came from a food pantry.  They are diced tomatoes.  It was a 15-oz can that I picked carefully the day I went to the food pantry because I didn’t want a lot of added ingredients.  I didn’t want too much added salt and I didn’t want lots of preservatives, chemicals, or sugar.  So these were pretty much diced tomatoes in tomato juice and minimum salt.

If you recall correctly, I deal with the residual effects of my eating disorder, so I have to be careful, very very careful, about added salt.  I don’t often eat canned food.  Using two types of canned food in one dish is rather unusual for me. So I didn’t add too much of the canned diced tomatoes.  Maybe a quarter cup.  Then I put the rest back in the fridge.  If I had any fresh tomatoes, then surely, I would have cut those up and used them.  I read in an Asian nutrition book that tomatoes are possibly just the thing I need for the chronic headaches I had…had….Yeah, they are plaguing me less and less these days.

Then I get out a yam.  This I acquired at another food pantry.  Yams, of course, come in so many wonderful shapes and a variety of sizes.  I cut off a portion and cut this portion into small pieces.  Tonight, I am honoring the GLBT community and cutting my yam pieces into triangles.

Why not do the same thing with carrots?  I have a bunch of these from a food pantry as well.  So I slice a portion of a very large carrot into coins, then halve the coins and pie them, so they are triangles as well.

Now, my casserole is decidedly as orange as a homeless tabby cat.  Probably a bit nutritionally unbalanced.  If this were a school district, and my food color represented skin color, and this were Boston in the 1960’s, eventually, they’d bring on the busing and the riots would start.  We have to keep the orange Welfare scum from drinking out of the water fountains, right?

Okay, okay, tell me to shut up.

Anyway, I’ve had this parsley sitting around.  Nothing’s wrong with it.  It’s for both Puzzle and me.  Parsley’s incredibly nutritious.  It’s both a green veggie and a seasoning. It adds green color.   So I got some out and cut off a fair amount and added that.

I decided to add seaweed.  Now let me say a few things about seaweed.  First of all, yes, it costs a pretty penny.  But I think it’s one of those foods that is a good investment.  I buy is at the Harvest Co-op, not an expensive health food store and not ritsy Whole Foods Market.  The Harvest Co-op is local to the Boston area, but many places all over the US and the world have food co-ops.  I think “Harvest” is a national name and refers to a group of co-ops, but I’m not certain of this.  Our co-op has storefronts in Jamaica Plain (called, lovingly, JP) and Cambridge.  Our Cambridge store just reopened to a location across the street.

Here’s how it works, in case you don’t know.  Joining is kind of a bitch cuz you have to pay a membership fee.   I mean, you don’t have to join, but you might want to.  It’s sort of a neighborly thing to do, and then you get some money back each year, and you also get a ten percent discount once a month.  Now, listen carefully:

You should definitely bite the bullet and become a member if you are on food stamps, if you are disabled, or if you are a senior.  There are a few other reasons why you might qualify….ask.  I say this because as a person with a disability (this I prove via my Medicare card) I get a five percent discount every single time I shop. All I have to do is present my membership card.  And on the monthly discount days, I get fifteen percent off.

Now, membership costs 25 dollars a year until 200 dollars is paid.  Then, you’re all paid up and nothing more needs to be  paid.  If you move out of town for good, you can get the entire 200, or whatever you paid into it, out of it.  As a member, you are partial owner.

But what’s that you say?  Disabled folks get free handouts?  Yeah, tell me about it.  If you are fond of this, I suggest you break a few bones yourself to get some free handouts.  You might enjoy your broken bones.

Okay, back to seaweed.  I’m adding seaweed because I have some in the house.  It’s green.  It’s good for my thyroid.  I have hypothyroidism.  Seaweed adds salt without adding salt.  Well, so I’d like to think.  I’m probably fooling myself on that one.  But here’s the real secret: I’ve discovered that if I add kelp flakes or dulse flakes to a casserole, it eliminates the need for eggs.  The seaweed is a binder.  It helps hold the casserole together and it won’t be all cake-like or crumbly.  I think the seaweed keeps it moist as well.  About a fistful, not too big a fistful of kelp flakes will do nicely.

I sure wish I had some fresh garlic.  But I don’t.  I do have garlic powder.  I bought some in London, a large bag of it, on sale.  Don’t ask me why I bought garlic powder.  Wow I was nuts then.  So I put some of this in, lots, actually.  I’ve been dumping this right out of the bag.  It’s good garlic powder, rather finely ground, but I want to use it up soon.

I’m also going to add bell pepper flakes.  These I bought at the co-op for Puzzle, but tonight I’m having a fistful for myself. I can’t even tell if they are red bell peppers, green bell peppers, or if they are mixed together and have been through the busing experience.

I’ve had a craving for horseradish lately.  I read about it in my newly-acquired Asian nutrition book.  My weird craving might be an old yearning for my Jewish heritage Passover tradition.  It could, couldn’t it?  I mean, doesn’t Passover mean  Freedom?  But horseradish is also an excellent Asian herbal cure for edema.  Yeah, that problem still plagues me. It’s one of those residual things my body will have to deal with for a long time to come, I’m guessing.  So to satisfy my horseradish craving, I’ve been buying dijon mustard when it’s on sale.  I have a thingy of it.  I put some dijon mustard into my casserole.  Oh, trust me, I make sure the dijon mustard I buy is very, very high in horseradish.  Maybe I should just buy the real thing, don’t you think?  Come Passover, it might be a good idea.  I’ll bet it’ll be on sale at some point.  I’ll bet I’ll find it fresh at the co-op. Then I can truly horse around.

Another thing I added to the casserole was a bit of whole grain.  Using my coffee grinder, I ground up a few spoonfuls of whole wheat hard winter wheatberries.  These are extremely cheap in bulk at the coop.  I also ground up a few spoonfuls of rolled oats that they gave me at a food pantry.  And I ground up some organic sesame seeds that I bought in bulk at the co-op.  These spoonfuls of grain altogether in the grinder until they were smooth…..and added them to the casserole. I sprinkled on some garlic-flavored olive oil.  I bought some a while back at the co-op.  This comes in a nice small bottle so it doesn’t go bad.  I also added a dash of Worcestershire sauce.  Everything was fairly well mixed together, moistened just enough, and in a small glass bowl.  I put a glass plate on top of the bowl and place all this into the microwave.

You have to be careful not to overcook.  I heated this one minute at a time on high until done.  I think three minutes did the trick, and then I let it sit a bit, covered, not too long.  My casserole was absolutely delicious.  I transferred it into a different dish.  Naw, this was no stereotype welfare macaroni and cheese.  This was the real deal.  And how much did it cost me?  I’d say Puzzle’s homemade food is more expensive.  But then again, I’m not going to touch that subject right now.  And pretend I didn’t talk about busing. Yeah, this is Boston, but it’s not the 60’s anymore.

 

Lentils…how to cook…single serving, and more

I thought I’d share my recent experiences with lentils:

I researched lentils, and every source says to cook lentils one part lentils to one and a half parts water or broth.  The amount of time needed to cook the lentils varies, I’ve found.  Green lentils are the most common kind, and the ones I buy in bulk take about 45-50 minutes to cook.   Some types of green lentils take somewhat less.   I guess it depends on the source.    Boil the lentils and water together, then lower the heat and cook.  Watch the lentils and “test” them to see if they’re to your liking.  Make sure you don’t cook them more than you want.  Add water if needed.

If you buy lentils in bulk they are cheaper than if you buy them packaged.  Either way, they say it’s a good idea to wash and sort your lentils before cooking.  This is because they may contain stones.  I don’t do this because I’m just plain lazy or stupid; however, I have yet to encounter a stone.

Lentils are high in fiber and protein, and another nice thing about lentils is that they take much less time to cook than dry beans.  Also, they are versatile, and have a nice flavor.  They are fun, too.  You can season them a different way every time you eat them.  You can add different veggies, or even fruit, believe it or not.   You can make them into soup or stew.  You can eat them hot or cold.  You can probably eat them in a sandwich, though I have yet to try this.

Here’s something I have for lunch frequently.  This dish serves one:

RICE AND LENTILS FOR ONE

1/4c lentils
1/4c brown rice (I use medium grain)
Maybe 1/2t curry
A dash of Mrs. Dash Table Blend (optional–I always include this)
1 bay leaf (optional–I generally don’t include this, but every time I have, I have used a bay leaf that has accidentally broken in half, so I have used only half of a bay leaf)
1t garlic-flavored olive oil
6-7oz water or more–experiment and you will know exactly how much you will need for your lentils, rice, cooking method, and taste

Cook the rice and lentils with the bay leaf for 45-50 minutes.   Keep an eye on the mixture and add water as needed.  You will notice that when these are cooked, the lentils have floated to the top.  Add the curry, stir and allow to sit for a bit.  Then add Mrs. Dash and oil.  If the dish is a little cooler than you’d like, cover and pop it in the microwave for a very short time and then stir.  Enjoy.

This mixture will easily fit into a 10-oz thermos, but no matter what I have done, I haven’t been able to keep the mixture piping hot in the thermos even for two hours.

TMI MAYBE: Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know that last Wednesday I had a molar extracted and I have been very limited as to what foods I can eat.  I have to be very careful that nothing ends up in the “hole” left by the tooth (and gets stuck there).  Regular cooked lentils are out of the question.  Also, hot foods are not allowed for the first week or so following a tooth extraction.  So if I’m going to eat lentils, I have to overcook them to the extreme and then cool them.  This means preparing them way, way ahead of time.  I use two parts water to one part lentils, cook them forever until the water absorbs and the lentils are without a doubt mushy, stir them well to ensure that this is the case, and then allow them to cool.  I took a giant leap and added thinly sliced banana this morning.  Yes, banana.  It was morning, after all.  It was time to have banana on my cereal.  I didn’t know how to season this mixture, so I didn’t.   You know, it wasn’t bad.  As you regular readers know, I am a very weird person.  Aren’t we all a little strange, in our own ways?

Have a nice day.

A single-serving of thick-cut oats: my current cooking method

I know I previously posted my method for cooking a single serving of thick-cut oats, but here’s my current tried-and-true method.  I will provide a link at my previous post to this post so people googling it will know.

Put 1/4 cup thick-cut oats in a 2-cup glass measuring cup
Add water to 3/4 cup (suggestion: use filtered water)
Add 6T dry milk, stir.  Put in the microwave, cook on HIGH, covered, for about a minute, watch closely.  When the mixture boils, stop the microwave.  Then, heat it on the very lowest setting, covered, for 50 minutes.   Go give the dog a very long walk.
When finished, add 1t butter, a small amount of sunflower seeds, a handful of raisins, and 2T wheat germ.  All these things you are adding are optional.  Stir.  Add a tiny bit of water until the oatmeal is the right consistency for you.  Stir quite a bit.  Stir more.  Eat.

Delicious Stew – totally vegan – a recipe by Julie Greene

I put this stew together at 2am and it turns out to be about the best stews I have ever tasted.  Better than meat.  It came to me quite by accident and rather quickly and instinctively.

Here’s the story behind it:

Warning: a bit TMI.  Humor alert as well.  I decided to cook up a recipe distributed among friends I know on the Internet, a circle of women friends of mine scattered around the East and West Coasts who are very dear to me.  We were all sold on this recipe, which I can’t post here, because it is not original to me and I don’t want to plagiarize.

I used spices from the Harvest Food Co-op in Cambridge, MA, where they are sold in bulk and are very fresh, much fresher than what one finds in the supermarket.  Most of the other women were using supermarket spices.  My result: a very, very spicy dish.  The seasonings: 1-1/2 t coriander powder, 1-1/2 t  cumin powder, 1/4 t cayenne powder, 1 c cilantro, chopped, a teaspoon of salt, and two minced cloves of garlic.  I might be leaving something out, but you get the idea.  With super-potent spices…you guessed it…the result was powerful indeed!  Still, it was edible, for sure, as I can tolerate spicy food, but I would have been a little embarrassed to serve it to guests.

I awoke at 2am in shock.  What was this odor?  Oh my god!  Had I–forgotten to shower?  Everything–me, my sheets, my pillowcase, my nightshirt, my comforter, the air around me–reeked of BO!  How could I stink so bad?  Surely, this was a shower and laundry emergency at 2am!  I couldn’t tolerate my own body!  And my own bed!  Did I smell this afternoon, too?  I ran to check my shirt.  Sure enough, my shirt smelled of BO, too.  Everything smelled of BO.  Had I in fact ruined my bed–permanently?  Would I have to replace the futon?  Oh, no!

But slowly, I realized what the odor was.  I had embarrassed myself.  The smell wasn’t me.  It had gotten on everything, yes, but the smell didn’t originate with me.  It was the huge amount of cumin I’d bought, not huge really, but it seemed huge enough to do this damage; that’s for sure.

I had to get rid of this odor.  Otherwise, it would be permanent, or so I thought.  I figured Febreze was out of the question.  So I asked myself: What food could I boil up whose smell would mask the cumin?

Celery.  Definitely.  Cooked.

I chopped the celery into nice small pieces and put it in boiling waster.  Then I told myself: Why not make a stew?  I added the other ingredients.

Here are the ingredients:

2 stalks celery, sliced to quarter moons
2 or maybe 3 handfuls very small mini-potatoes, do not chop, peel, or slice
1 handful frozen carrot coins
About three fresh scallions
1 apple, cubed
1/4 cup whole barley
1 15-oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 generous shakes nutmeg (yeah, I used supermarket brand)
2 shakes salt

Very simple.  Put all ingredients in a bunch of water, and boil for a long time, like ten minutes, then simmer for about a something like 45 minutes at least.  Mixture should be quite thickened once cooked, like a stew.  Allow to cool reasonably before refrigerating, so that it won’t burn your fridge.

I haven’t a clue whether this stew can be frozen or not as I haven’t tried doing so yet.

To see the rest of my recipes, click on the category, “recipes,” on the sidebar to your right.

How to cook a single serving of thick-cut rolled oats – instructions by Julie Greene

NOTE: I now make this oatmeal a little differently: Click here for new instructions, if you’re curious.

This is the best oatmeal I have ever eaten.  I have cooked thick-cut oatmeal nearly every morning, have experimented considerably, and have come up with these instructions that make perfect oatmeal every time.  Feel free to vary as desired.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup thick-cut rolled oats
Roughly 2/3 cup skim milk – varies according to how thick you like your oatmeal
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 tablespoon sunflower seeds
1/2 ounce raisins (one of those “little boxes”–I think it’s 3 tablespoons)

I would suggest using a pyrex 2 cup measuring cup with a handle if you have one, but you can use any 3 cup or quart size microwave  safe bowl to cook your oatmeal.  You will also need the type of microwave oven that has a very low heat setting.  My microwave has nine heat settings.  I use setting #1.  Microwave ovens vary considerably; use your own judgment.

Start making this oatmeal immediately when you wake up.  You will see why in a minute.

Place oatmeal in microwave-safe container.  Add just enough milk to cover it.  Place in microwave and heat on high for about a minute until mixture just boils.  Stop microwave as soon as it boils, and make sure it doesn’t boil over.  Then, set on very lowest setting, and cook for 25 minutes.

Walk the dog.

When you come back, the oatmeal will be very thick.  Be careful removing it, and set it on the counter on top of a hot pad so the counter won’t burn.  Stir in the remainder of the milk.  The mixture will then be very thin.  Place back in the microwave.  Heat on high for about a minute, as before, and stop the microwave as soon as it boils, then heat on the very lowest setting for another 25 minutes.

Take a shower.

Remove the oatmeal from the microwave.  The mixture will be somewhat thickened, but not quite cooked all the way.  Do not be alarmed.  Stir in butter, raisins, and sunflower seeds.

Do not skip this next step:  Stir for about two or three minutes.  Then, allow to cool, uncovered, for another three minutes or so.  Now, the oatmeal will be completely cooked!

Enjoy your breakfast.  Remember to chew the sunflower seeds thoroughly to get the full nutritional value.  A delicious breakfast is a great way to start the day.  I’m finding that out.

Barley and Lentils Casserole: A recipe by Julie Greene

I invented this about a week or two ago.

EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN CASSEROLE #1: BARLEY AND LENTILS

Ingredients:

1 cup dry hulled (not pearled) barley

1 cup dry green lentils

1 cup fresh coarsely grated Romano cheese

1 large clove fresh garlic, pressed

1/4 teaspoon fresh powdered ginger

1 stalk celery, diced 1/2 inch

1 cup coarsely chopped fresh mushrooms

4 scallions, chopped medium

2/3 cup nonfat cottage cheese with pineapple

About 1/2 cup tomato soup or tomato and red pepper soup of your choice

About 3 tbsp whole sesame seeds

Cook the barley by boiling it with 2 cups water and then allowing to simmer on very low heat until done, about 45 minutes.  Cool in the refrigerator.  Cook the lentils in 2 cups water by boiling vigorously, uncovered, for three minutes, then simmer on low heat, covered, for 20 minutes until done.  Taste-test the lentils and make sure they are to your liking.  Do not overcook.  Allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix together the lentils and barley.  Add the cheese, garlic, and ginger.  Mix very well.  Add the vegetables.  Fold in the cottage cheese, and add just enough soup to make the mixture hold together.  You may need more than 1/2 cup.

Lightly grease a 9×13 baking pan.  Distribute the mixture evenly in the pan.  Top with sesame seeds.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool, covered, for ten minutes.  Enjoy.

Shepherd’s Pie: A recipe by Julie Greene

I am going to start posting my recipes.  I just made this tonight.  I made it with marinara sauce, not soup, but I think it will be better with soup.  Here’s the recipe:

Shepherd’s Pie

1 cup lentils

4 cloves garlic

5 potatoes

About 3 T butter

About a pound lean ground turkey

A small top of broccoli

2 or 3 scallions

4 or 5 mushrooms

About 6 oz non-tomato vegetable soup (cream of broccoli, mushroom, etc)

2 slices cheddar, or American cheese

About 3 T sesame seeds

Boil the lentils in 2 cups water for 4 minutes, lower heat and simmer 20 minutes with pressed garlic, add 1/2 cup water if needed to finish cooking, do not overcook.  Remove from heat.

Cut up potatoes, do not remove skins, and set over vegetable steamer to cook.  Keep over medium high heat.  Remove from heat when finished.

Begin cooking turkey in cast-iron pan, chopping up with spoon to separate.  Remove from heat when cooked.

Put potatoes into a bowl and add liquid from meat, and also add butter to potatoes.  Mash.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350.

In a 9 x 13 pan, coat with soup.  Add meat.  Cut the flowers off the small head of broccoli, and distribute evenly over the meat, then chop the scallions and also distribute over the broccoli.  Slice the mushrooms and do likewise.  Spoon the potato on top and spread with a firm spatula over the top so that it evenly covers everything.  Chop the cheese finely and distribute on top.  Evenly coat with sesame seeds.  Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.  Serve hot.  Serves 6-8.