Last Supper Last Night

imageDo you know how many vegetables you can hide in lasagna?  Many, many…is the correct answer.  I used to make things like this all the time so that my kids wouldn’t die from malnutrition and so that I didn’t have to listen to their long litany of lists of vegetables they didn’t like.  Turnips, for instance.  My mother in law once cooked us a liver and onion and turnip meal which my daughter described as a child’s nightmare supper.  I thought it was delicious.  My kids did not inherit my taste buds.  They had to develop them, with a little help from their devious mother.  Now of course there is no need to disguise these gorgeous vegetables but I continue to do it anyway just because I can.

Come to think of it, this also works well for spouses who still think the only vegetables worth preparing are canned kernel corn and mashed potatoes.   Yes, I married one of those.  Now he eats a much wider variety than he knows or even suspects.  Spaghetti sauce and chile and cream soups are other clever places to load up with vegetables.

But yesterday it was a New Years Eve lasagna surprise that satisfied my creative vegetable hiding urges.  There’s white onion and garlic cloves in the chopper, with yellow, red, and green peppers, celery, zucchini and bok choi waiting their turn.  Sometimes I add a carrot or a parsnip.  Really, just about anything goes.

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Because this is what it looks like simmering away in browned lean ground beef and a jar of chunky vegetable tomato sauce.  I call this death by vegetables.  I don’t really, but this picture makes it look like it a big pot of God only knows what.  At this stage I added some vegetable and roasted red pepper seasoning and salt and pepper.

Okay!  I use the oven ready noodles that don’t have to be boiled.  I can’t find them in gluten-free but I figure all that other good stuff cancels out their badness.  I am very skilled at rationalization when it suits me.  One layer of the lasagna is beaten eggs mixed with cottage (or ricotta) cheese and lots of chopped spinach.  I buy big bags of fresh spinach and freeze them.  The frozen spinach is easy to crush and crumble so it takes up less space and works great in smoothies.  Or in any kind of hidden vegetable concoction.

I think the layers went something like this.  Sauce, noodles, cottage cheese mixture, noodles, sauce, Parmesan cheese, noodles, sauce, two full bags of grated Italian mix cheese (mostly mozzarella). This of course makes a pan so close to over flowing that you have to rummage around for a big cookie sheet to place it on when you bake it (covered with foil at 350 for about an hour) because otherwise it will bubble over and then you’ll have to clean your oven, and nobody wants that.

I have a recipe for lasagna that substitutes steamed cabbage leaves for the noodles.  Doesn’t that sound amazing?  One gigantic unrolled cabbage roll!  But that’s a bit too much of an experiment if you’re having company, even for me.  I’ll save it for W, even though I know already he’ll be less than impressed.  Unless I throw in a can of corn.

I used the broiler to brown the cheese.  There’s nothing like hot bubbly browned cheese to camouflage whatever disaster lurks beneath.

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Of course I didn’t take a picture of the uncut perfection and of course mine was the only slice that fell to pieces on the plate.  The salad came from a bag and included cranberries and pumpkin seeds and some other strange but delicious green things.

There was enough left over for our daughter to take home (and possibly feed her dog for a week).  But it was pretty good, so the dog might be out of luck.

It was a good last supper for the last day of last year.  Today I’m going to use my homemade chicken stock and make my first vegetable soup of 2015.  It may or may not contain turnips.  No one but me will ever know.

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Art du Jour 6

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All that cutting and pasting I did as a kid finally makes sense.  This took mad skills.

Yeah, I’m kidding, but I like this so much I might actually hang it on a wall somewhere.

In other news, our hide-a-bed has gone to a new home.  Young guys with no furniture graciously accept hand outs and will happily haul things away for free.  Our garage is spacious again.  W went to a mandatory nutrition class yesterday so that he can be in top form health-wise for hip surgery in four or five months.  We had a lively discussion about nutritionists and Canada’s Food Guide and coconut oil.  I won every single argument.  And then I ate a fudge bar from the freezer to emphasize my point.  I think my point was moderation, but come on, it was last night, who can remember all the shit that gets said.

While he was off hearing from someone else that he should eat a lot more green vegetables, I did the grocery shopping.  Don’t you just hate it when a store layout is planned by people who have never actually shopped?  Lightbulbs should be closer to the toilet paper.  That was one of my brilliant conclusions and the other was that I hate shopping.

To reward myself for voluntarily ruining part of my afternoon for a good cause, I went to Michael’s on the way home and bought a new sketch book and some oil pastels, proving that I don’t hate ALL shopping after all.

Have a safe and happy Halloween and I’ll see you in November (a month in which I will be writing something quite possibly similar to this every single day!)  How’s that for scary?

Life is Not a Sack of Shit

My Shit

My Shit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Daily Prompt:  Escape!  Describe your ultimate escape plan (and tell us what you’re escaping from).

Warning – this post contains the word shit, a whole lot of times.

People have shit on my life, and shit has happened to me in my lifetime.  I have gathered up a lot of shit and have been dragging it around with me for way too long.  I would like to escape all this shit I’m carrying, so I’m going to tie up the big sack it’s in, drop it right here, right now, and turn around and just walk away and leave it behind.

I’m tired of looking in the bag and feeling sad and angry about all the shit that’s happened.   I’m tired of occasionally wallowing in it.  Frankly, it really stinks.  And I don’t want to have to deal with anyone elses shit, either.  Maybe I can help someone put theirs down for a bit and forget about it for awhile, but ultimately that someone has to deal with his or her own shit.  I’ll try not to add to theirs, but I won’t take any off their hands either.  So do not hand me any shit.  I’ve been one of those people who has always felt responsible for the happiness of others.  I seem to have passed that trait on to at least one of my children (maybe both) and at least one of my grandchildren (maybe more).  It’s a terrible shitty burden to carry.  I don’t want to do it anymore.

When we go off on a vacation we never take loads of shit with us.  That’s the whole point of going somewhere wonderful and different, to get away from it all.  So I think I’d like to go on a sort of permanent vacation from life’s shit.

I’m going to meditate more, breathe more deeply, eat better, get seriously back into yoga.  I’m going to make every shit-less moment I have left in my life count.  I am going to be happy and at peace with today and all the wonders and surprises it has in store for me.  I know shit will still happen, and I will still have to deal with it, but I vow to do it only once.  I will not cart it around with me and let it make me feel bad over and over and over.  I will let it go.  I think a lot of the stress and worry and fear that gets stuck to all the shit will disappear with it.

Sounds like a great escape plan to me.  And now here’s a nice picture to take your mind off all the preceding shit.

Meditation

Meditation (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

Six Odd Things

Cover of "Far From Normal"

Cover of Far From Normal

Daily Prompt:  Far From Normal  Many of us think of our lives as boringly normal, while others live the high life. Take a step back, and take a look at your life as an outsider might. Now, tell us at least six unique, exciting, or just plain odd things about yourself.

These things I’m going to mention about myself are not unique or exciting, so I guess that just leaves odd.  I can probably do odd.

1.  I hate surprises.  I like to be warned and advised well in advance of things happening whenever possible.  Anticipation is more than half the fun for me.  I need time to prepare.  And brace myself.  And think up some good excuses as to why I can’t do whatever it is you want me to do or go where you want me to go or meet who you want me to meet.  I am the exact opposite of spontaneous.  Premeditated would be the only kind of murder I’d be capable of committing.

2.  I do not mind being alone.   For five or six months of the year I rattle around in this house all by myself while W is off wandering around on his island.  I don’t know why every married couple doesn’t try this, at least once.  Time apart makes the heart grow fonder.  Or makes you forget what exactly you needed that person hanging around for all the time in the first place.  Many people have wondered out loud how I can handle being on my own so much, but the truth is, if I couldn’t handle it, I wouldn’t do it.  I don’t think people need to be joined at the hip to someone else in order to be happy.

3.  Almost every day I consume blueberries and spinach AT THE SAME TIME.  Both of them are smooshed up in a blender with other stuff and unrecognizable, but this daily concoction still manages to make W question my taste buds, gag reflex and sanity.  Since he refuses to drink these things with me I’ve decided I’m going to live longer, just to make a point.

4.  I will go out of my way to avoid confrontation of any kind.  My parents never really fought long and hard about anything, but it always upset me when they had an argument or even a discussion about things on which they could not agree.  Maybe that’s part of the reason why it’s usually easy for me to see both sides of a story, and hard for me to take a stand on either one.  We had to participate in ‘debates’ at school and I never wanted to hurt anyones feelings by telling them they were wrong, and I always took rebuttals much too personally.  I couldn’t stand to hear my own kids fight about stupid things.  I often hear myself saying “I don’t want to argue with you” even when I know the other person is dead wrong.  I’ll give you my opinion if I have one, but I’m not prepared to defend it to the death.  There’s too much fighting in this world.  I am not a fighter.

5.  I have received several blog awards in the last little while and I will probably never get around to accepting them properly.    This doesn’t mean I’m not grateful, thankful and appreciative of the honor and the attention.  It simply means I am lazier than dirt when it comes to recognizing these things.  I’m sorry.  Even the thought of blog tag makes me crave a long nap.  Please look to your right at the long list of blogs I love to follow.  The list gets longer every day so keep checking back (and stop rolling your eyes about that last bit.)  There are so many amazing writers and thinkers and beautiful souls out there that it would probably kill me to pick and choose who to mention.  And I’m not yet ready to die.  So click on anybody on my list and then click on their lists and so on and so on and I’ll probably never see you again.

Sell, Sell, Sell

Sell, Sell, Sell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

6.  I don’t think I should be doing the job I’m doing.  I am not a very good salesperson.  I prefer to think of myself as a health professional first, but I’m in a retail setting where I am expected to sell stuff.  More often than not I find myself talking people out of spending their money on things they really don’t need.  I am supposed to up-sell, but I tend to undersell instead.  I’m so fed up with having a job that dwells on money and numbers and percentages and increases.  I am sick and tired of the greed.  How many millions are sufficient millions?  Can no one ever get to the point where something is ENOUGH?  Of course, due to my passive nature, I never bring this up in job evaluations.  I just lie a lot about my goals and pretend I’ll try harder.  What I really want to do is retire and sit around doing non-strenuous, non-confrontational, non-aggressive things like drinking coffee and breathing.

Even my odd things have turned out to be boringly normal.  Next time I promise I’ll try to come up with something unique and exciting instead.  You know, sort of in the same way that these things happen following my yearly evaluation.  So try to contain your enthusiasm for that.

Cookery Advice for the Cooking Impaired

Timer

Timer (Photo credit: bargainmoose)

All the delightful cooking/baking/recipe-laden posts out there which should have an uplifting and inspirational effect on me are just not doing that.  Instead they’re making me feel mildly despondent and vaguely depressed.  Similar feelings of inadequacy wash over me when I flip through a cookbook full of glossy pictures of perfect end results, supposedly attainable by someone like me.  Of course that ‘someone like me’ would have to be able to follow directions and use the proper ingredients and not take short cuts.  Or suffer from delusions.

There are a few recipe books in my house which I rarely open.  And yet, there are many things I make that are nutritious and edible.  Some of them are even delicious.  People have asked me for my recipes.  Perhaps they were just being kind.  It doesn’t matter.  My point is, you’d think that after over 50 years of doing stuff in a kitchen I’d be a great source of information and have collected a lot of family heirloom type recipes and have a few priceless and wise cooking tips to share.

Well, I’ve let my sister be the keeper of the recipes since I never follow them anyway.  But I do have tips.  All gleaned from my culinary experiences of learning things the hard way.  And not being an expert on something has certainly never stopped me from sharing advice.  So here it is.

1.  Do not change your mind about what you’re making halfway through the process.  Once I was putting together a lazy cabbage rolls concoction in the crock pot and suddenly didn’t feel like eating rice so I left it out and threw in some beans and things instead, hoping to change the whole thing into chili.  The results were interesting.  But hard to describe.

2.  Set the kitchen timer.  Stay within hearing distance of the timer.  Do not second guess the timer.  The timer was invented so that you would be less likely to end up with results which are black – never a good cooking color.

3.  Keep the oven clean.  If you paid for the self-cleaning feature, you really should learn how to use it.  The next thing you bake does not have to smell like a smoky version of the last thing you roasted to death.

4.  Never skimp on wine, regardless of what you’re making.  Be sure to consume a sufficient amount of it.  I’ve found a good ratio to be 1 part recipe to 3 parts self.  An empty bottle should be your ultimate goal.

5.  Serve your guests copious amounts of alcohol before the main course.  And during, and after.  This ups the odds that they will thoroughly enjoy whatever you serve them and have no idea later what it was.

6.  If you are following a recipe, right to the end, good for you!  Just keep in mind that substitution of ingredients should not be based solely on color.  All orange things are not created equal.

7.  Give yourself a break and stop trying to make Aunt Edna’s mustard pickle relish exactly the way she did it.  Try to accept the fact that it is never going to be the same, and you are doomed to failure.  Unless you have some kind of obsessive compulsive glutton for punishment personality disorder, in which case I suppose no one can stop you, so carry on.

8.  If you don’t know how to skin a hazelnut, there is no shame in googling it to find out.  Although perhaps your basic problem has less to do with HOW,  and more to do with WHY you need to know that.

9.  Clean as you go.  This cannot be stressed enough, especially if something monumental like A Big Holiday Dinner is in the works.  The worst cooking experience I ever had was when my kids were small and we invited some other families over for a big meal and it took me all day to prepare everything,  less than half an hour for them to eat it all, and all bloody night to clean up the mess.  So wash things as you use them and put them away.  Especially those sharp knives.

Mongolian Beef with rice and noodles

Mongolian Beef with rice and noodles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

10.  Have fun.  Be creative.  Try new things.  Keep that recycle compost bin ever at the ready.  It can swallow up a lot of failed attempts even when you can’t.  Toss things in a slow cooker and hope for the best.  When all else fails, take-out chinese is just around the corner waiting to soothe your battle weary culinary soul.