Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Zucchini and Carrots Oh my!!!

Soooo back to cooking!  Yesterday was a bad day for me ('cause I wrote this). I didn't even cook, instead we went out to eat which is rare for me/us. One reason is I do love to cook and sometimes to my step-kids' dismay. I'll cook pretty much anything that looks healthy.  Not very much comes out of a box in this house, not that I abhor Rice-A-Roni or the like, there are some very good boxed meals out there and I would love to buy a box of the fried rice and just throw in some cooked chicken and frozen veggies (as I did a great deal when I was a single mom, working full-time and going to school part-time). Alas, my hubby is right about the amount of sodium in said boxed meals (bad for my blood pressure) and I do find great comfort in cooking.  The second reason I cook most of our meals is simply cost.  Going out to eat is pretty much out of the question because I'm not currently working, maybe once a month for something cheap and simple or a little more up-scale for special days.  Other than that, a cooking I will go!

My husband likes to cook too. Poor guy, I tend to beat him to the kitchen though.  Lately, he's been pushing the whole barbecue idea, probably so he can have a chance to cook too, besides that the weather has been beautiful as it usually is in Arizona.  I have to say, we are very lucky here. The summers may be as hot as hades sometimes, but its year-round barbecue season! Tonight was one of those nights he won out.  We ended up having barbecued pork spareribs, homemade barbecue sauce and Zucchini and Carrot pancakes. Trust me that was quite enough!  Since my step-kids are at their mom's this week, it was just me, my hubby and little miss J.

That girl can be the PICKIEST eater! Meat? If its not bacon, she won't touch it, even if its breaded (she picks the breading off and eats that!).  Potatoes? For sure, if its french fries, other than that only when she's in the mood.  Veggies are hit and miss as well as fruit, though I can get apple slices in her and sometimes bananas.  The only guaranteed items are peanut butter and flavored yogurt. There are times that I am so tempted to slather either one of those things on her food just for the chance to get something else in her.  There are cereals, crackers and nuts that she'll eat too, but one can not live on that alone. I know she's two and this is normal (I've read all about it). We supplement with some gummy vitamins and she's growing, so I know she's not under nourished, mommy's just paranoid and digressing.....

So back to the food!   The pork spareribs were simple, seasoned with one of those spice rubs (Montreal Steak Seasoning) and slapped on the grill.  My hubby smoked them a little bit too, because when had some pecan wood floating around and he likes using his smoker (its so cute).  I was whipping up a batch of Ina Garten's Zucchini Pancakes which are very good on their own, but I still have a bunch of carrots to use up before they go all limp and icky.  The recipe calls for two zucchini and since I only had one, in went some shredded carrots! I also tweaked the amount of grated onion, 'cause a whole onion is a little much for me and I only had yellow onions on hand.  I also added in some chopped fresh sage, rosemary (just a little), oregano and parmesan cheese - just cause I happened to have some! YUMMMM!!!!!

I also made Homemade Barbecue Sauce...ok I admit we were out, so why not whip some up?   This is one of those "a little of this and a little of that" types of recipes - if you can even call it a recipe! There are no actual measurements as I just threw in what I had that sounded good at the moment and it worked! Hooray! This is most certainly something to adjust to your own tastes....

Homemade Barbecue Sauce:

In a small saucepan add:
- a couple of good long squirts of ketchup (sorry no homemade - maybe in a month when our tomatoes grow)
- a dollop of prepared cocktail sauce (I like the kind with horseradish)
- a couple of glugs of Worcestershire sauce
- a small spoonful of horseradish (not the sauce kind - just straight horseradish)
- a spoonful of hoisin sauce
- a dash or two of onion powder
- a dash or two of garlic powder
- a squirt of honey
- a dash or two of chili powder
- some malt vinegar (maybe a tablespoon)
- some balsamic vinegar (again maybe a tablespoon)
- a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce
- a couple of tablespoons of teriyaki  sauce

heat through and stir to combine, salt and pepper to taste and serve! (as my youngest says: Tada!)
Again this is completely changeable to suit your taste, start with a little of each and add more of whatever you want. It turned out a little sweet, a little vinegary and had a little kick from the horseradish.  If and when I make this again, I'll try to actually measure the ingredients and make the adjustments.

To top off my cooking adventure this evening, I made a batch of Farmgirl Fare's lovely Carrot and Herb Rolls.  Sadly, I still have about 8 carrots left to use up!

Thank you, Ina and Susan for helping me make a lovely dinner!

Monday, May 24, 2010

So what's the real reason for this blog......

Ok so its not really about food, or gardening or whatever else I may write about on any given day.  There is a good reason why my name on this is "2 find a meaning."  I am attempting to do just that, find a meaning.  I lost my meaning almost a year ago and I've been looking for it ever since in various activities and projects, attempting unsuccessfully to find myself once again.

July 16, 2009, my beautiful, intelligent, and talented daughter took her own life.  For 16 years, she was my meaning.  Everything thing I did, work, school and play was to give her a happy and healthy life.  For a very long time after she died, I felt as though I didn't do a very good job at it.  Oh my word, the guilt!  Kicking myself over and over again for not seeing the signs. I could on and on about that and the mistakes I made over the course of our lives together, but that will come in due course.  There are times still that I feel that way, though thankfully its less now.

Perhaps this will be eventually about the effects of suicide on the family, something that few people talk about and help someone else that is also going through this.  Perhaps this may reach someone considering taking their own life, I so hope they would consider otherwise. As I would always tell my daughter, things always get better.  It saddens me to the core that she didn't believe me.

So there it is, for the whole world to see, now what do I do with it?  Keep trudging on, everyday, one day at a time.  I'm so very grateful for my husband, my youngest daughter, my step-children, the rest of my family and friends, as I doubt I would have survived this it weren't for them.  I miss my baby girl every moment of every day.  I am no longer myself, as though a part of me died with her.  It is rare that anyone sees this side (outside of a few chosen people), I am very good at pretending everything is ok.  Some of it is genuine and there are days that I'm better than others (like when I'm in the kitchen or with my baby "J"- so she's 2 now but she's still my baby).  The better days are becoming more frequent, though sometimes I think that I am just fooling myself into believing that... (gotta remember to talk to my therapist about that one :).  If anything for the desire to feel slightly normal again.  For those that may eventually read this, yes I do go to therapy - faithfully.  Its one of the only places I feel safe enough to let everything out.  On occasion I also go to Suicide Survivors support group.  I've met some wonderful people who are also going through this sad situation.

The death of a loved one is never easy. I've lost both sets of Grandparents and my dad, among many others who had touched my life, but there is something different about a death on purpose.  I will never fully know the reason why she decided to end her life, but its been a very hard road to travel since.

I doubt this blog will revolve completely around my daughter's suicide, as I can only cry so much.  This will be more about the journey of my new life without her. I still hate that she's no longer here, but I have no choice but to go on. I have three children (in total) to care and be there for.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Zucchini and Carrot Carbonara

I was watching the Food Network this morning (for those who know me - Shocking I know!) and on "Five Minute Fix" the host was making a spinach carbonara, looked pretty good. So as I was attempting to think of something this evening for dinner, which as usual I didn't start doing until it was close to 5 pm. So it was either leftovers or something utilizing said ingredients. Out popped out this little gem of a dish!

I went on to the FN website and found the recipe from the episode I watched this morning, but I didn't have enough spinach to do that particular one, so a-searching I went.  I found Jamie Oliver's version of Beautiful Zucchini Carbonara.  I did have a couple of zucchini in the fridge, but we still have a couple of pounds of carrots left from a Bountiful Baskets order a week or so ago, so I figured might as well throw those in as well. This is what I came up with:

Zucchini and Carrot Carbonara
This is for two servings, as I wasn't cooking for the kids that night. It can easily be doubled for more....

-4 slices of bacon chopped
-1 medium zucchini, ends trimmed, sliced lengthwise in half,  then sliced as thin as possible, using a vegetable peeler or mandolin to the seed core then turn one quarter turn and slice lengthwise down to the seed core and repeat. you can discard the seed core, save it for another dish or continue slicing and use it in the dish
-2 carrots, cleaned and peeled, ends trimmed, slice the same as the zucchini into very thin slices.
- 1/4 to 1/2 lb of pasta, I used leftover cooked pasta, in this case spaghetti, though you could use any pasta, but then cut the veggies to about the same size as the pasta
-2 tablespoons of sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil, sliced. (you can use the dry version, but reconstitute before using)
-2-3 handfuls of fresh spinach or approx 1/2 cup of frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
-2 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat some salted water to boiling. Slice carrots, zucchini, sun dried tomatoes (if necessary).  Cook the pasta until al dente.  In a separate large pan, start frying bacon.  As the bacon is browning, in a separate bowl, beat egg yolks, cream and 1/2 of the parmesan cheese, until incorporated. Set aside.  (If using left over cooked pasta, wait until the veggies are almost cooked to warm the pasta in the boiling water.)  In the pan with bacon and bacon fat, add the zucchini, carrots, sun dried tomatoes, spinach, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until the zucchini and carrots are tender crisp, the spinach is wilted.  Before draining the pasta, scoop a ladle of the pasta water and quickly whisk the pasta water into the egg mixture, to temper the egg yolks.  Drain pasta and add to the pan with the veggies and bacon then toss to combine.  Add the tempered egg mixture to the pan and toss quickly to combine, turn off heat.  Serve immediately with a sprinkling of the remaining Parmesan and a nice piece of buttered toast or garlic bread.

(If you like you can par-cook the zucchini and carrots in the pasta water in the last few minutes of cooking the dried pasta or if using pre-cooked pasta, you can put the zucchini and carrots in the water with the pasta. Then using a pasta spoon scoop out the veggies and pasta, draining them some, then add to the bacon and bacon fat as well as adding the spinach and sundried tomatoes.Then continue with the rest of the steps)

2nd verse same as the first....

Ok, so maybe it should be like second post, but not quite the same as the first....

I've trolling the various food blogs out there, some of them I am starting to visit quite frequently.  I'm a little slow to the punch sometimes and I never realized just how many food blogs are out there. My husband will eventually drag me into the 21st century!  Some are pretty basic and then there are others that are pretty pretentious, which make me want to write a comment "aren't you just full of yourself...I'm surprised that you can stand-up straight, with your head being so big!" But alas, I don't.  The blogs I do enjoy reading, seem to be written by very down-to-earth people, not unlike myself (at least I hope I am).

One in particular Farmgirl Fare has some pretty good recipes on it as well as funny stories/cute pictures regarding her life on a farm in Missouri.  I tried one of her recipes last night, from a collaboration blog A Year in Bread, the FarmHouse White.  I actually kneaded 5lbs of dough!!!!!! They even turned out pretty good! Although I did make one little mistake and forget to add the second half of the salt during the kneading, but that's ok, I'll remember next time.  That's what happens when you have a 2 1/2 year old insisting on helping! One loaf was an overachiever and puffed up a lot more than the other two (picture above), but that may have been because I just eye-balled the size of the dough and didn't weight them - we really need to get a food scale if I keep this whole baking thing up!  The crumb was quite nice and the crust was crusty, though you could tell the salt was missing in the taste.  Oh well, live and learn!  I would show a picture of the final product (especially my little overachiever) but alas, its halfway gone already and the other two are wrapped and in the freezer. Next time, next time....

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Say what you will about the Food Network....

But, personally, I have found some very interesting (and delicious) recipes on the website and inspiring chefs who make me want to run into my kitchen and create something.  Now with that said, there are most certainly those that annoy me to no end, who shall remain nameless, but I'm sure you can probably guess. There are others who get a bum-wrap because of their "time-saving" methods.  Since I have a great love for cooking shows, I tend to take some of the TV personalities with a grain of salt, but me-oh-my some of the comments I have read on the reviews of recipes, makes me want to waggle my finger at the uppity-foodies.

I have wonderfully fond memories of hanging out with my mom on my parent's bed watching Julia Childs, Martin Yan and many others, every Saturday morning on the local PBS station. Later on when I had cable (though it was available when I was a preteen, my parents would not pay for it, which made for interesting conversation with my friends...Music video, what's that?) I would watch the emerging Food Network and the still wonderful PBS shows with my adolescent/preteen daughter, creating those same memories for her. More about my eldest daughter in another post. 

When I was old enough to be somewhat trusted in the kitchen, I would pour over my mother's Betty Crocker 1960s cookbook and Better Homes and Garden (again 1960s) cookbook, among many others that I would create whatever seemed interesting and we had the ingrediants for.  I am proud to say I made my very first cake at the age of 7 and it turned out perfectly! I chose it for the name, "Bonnie Butter Cake" from then on I was hooked, sometimes to the dismay of my family (mainly my older brothers).  I was not always the best cook (even now there are times I completely mess something up)! Even today I will get a ribbing every once in a while for a Thanksgiving contribution of mashed potatoes that was more like potato soup. For the last 6 years (mostly) I have been to main cook for our family holiday festivities, sometimes my brothers are still surprised I can cook/bake. Geez, thanks guys :) When I was home sick from school, I would always feel better by the afternoon (even if I wasn't faking it) so into the kitchen I would go, usually to make cookies or pudding. Mmmmmm pudding!!! I can say one thing for sure, I so miss the built in oven at my parent's house.  When I first moved out, I was so confused when my oven was on the floor! It was so hard to get hot dishes in and out! I've dumped at least a handful of casseroles on the floor just because of the stooping over!

To this day, I still pour over those same cookbooks (I have my own copies now - 1960s of course) as well as the shelves and shelves of my other cookbooks, reading them from cover to cover, not only to find recipes, but to refresh on techniques and some are just plain good reads. 

So, this is my newest blog. Not sure exactly what direction it will go, food, life or what.  I have a political blog that I hardly contribute to due to the ease of Facebook to post to, though that may change.  I will attempt to keep politics out of this one, only because this blog is more about me and finding myself. The "why" to that statement will come in a later post. 

I hope you enjoyed the read, as I enjoyed writing it. I have found writing to be very cathartic.  I hope you come back, because I have a feeling this blog will be like the quintessential box of chocolates, "you never know what you are gonna get." :)