Friday, 30 March 2012

Foodie Friday - Conquering the Q


Winston Churchill said “if you are going through hell, keep going”. In the words of Self-Help Guru, Susan Jeffers, sometimes you just have to “feel the fear and do it anyway” As the sage Dr. Phil once quipped on Oprah, “If ya always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always git what you’ve always got”. Jerry Seinfeld added to that “What’s with that, anyway?”
Yes people, to bring you today’s Foodie Friday I had to overcome a major life obstacle. Another Everest of Anxiety had to be climbed and conquered. I came through the fire and am a better woman for it.
I used the barbecue. 
By. My. Self.
Because of my highly rational fear of gas explosions, I have left the grilling duties to Brian, along with all the incumbent risks of loss of digits and face in the event of a gas fueled fire bomb erupting from our Napoleon. 



But without change, we cannot grow, so I pulled up my slightly too small socks and decided that today was the day to Do the Q.
The lighter on the BBQ is out so Brian said I had to turn on the gas and then light it with a match.
And I did it. Without too much fanfare (ok, a little, but the dog wasn’t impressed, really).
And the BBQ lit, no gas bombs, no Napoleon Dynamite, no face-burnt-off Ellen so that I have to get total reconstructive surgery that rebuilds my face to make me look like Portia de Rossi.
I closed the lid and let it heat up.
And here’s what I made.

Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Kebabs with Aleppo Pepper (from epicurious.com)

1 1/2 tablespoons Aleppo pepper or 2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper plus 2 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika (I use smoked paprika), plus additional Aleppo pepper or paprika for sprinkling
1 cup plain whole-milk Greek-style yogurt (8 ounces) (I use non fat Greek style yogurt. Just as good)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 garlic cloves, peeled, flattened
2 unpeeled lemons; 1 thinly sliced into rounds, 1 cut into wedges for serving 
2 1/4 pounds skinless boneless chicken (thighs and/or breast halves), cut into 1 1/4-inch cube
If using Aleppo pepper, place in large bowl and mix in 1 tablespoon warm water. Let stand until thick paste forms, about 5 minutes. If using dried crushed red pepper and paprika combination, place in large bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons warm water and let stand until paste forms, about 5 minutes. 


La Chinata. I love it. Like it was my lover. Only it's smoked paprika







Add yogurt, olive oil, red wine vinegar, tomato paste, 2 teaspoons coarse salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper to spice mixture in bowl; whisk to blend.




 Stir in garlic and lemon slices, then chicken.


Cover and chill at least 1 hour. Do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). 



Thread chicken pieces on metal skewers, dividing equally. Discard marinade in bowl. Sprinkle each skewer with salt, pepper, and additional Aleppo pepper or paprika. 
Brush grill rack with oil. Grill chicken until golden brown and cooked through, turning skewers occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes total. Congratulate yourself on not panicking. 


I roasted some peppers for a future use. Look at me, all confident and being efficient.
Transfer skewers to platter. Surround with lemon wedges and serve.



You can see that I did not do this recipe kebob style, but just used whole skinless, boneless breasts. Here's what epicurious says that kebobs look like. I've done them as kebobs before and they are fabulous.

epicurious.com

The whole breasts taste just as good, but takes a little longer and maybe aren't quite as juicy. Just make sure the chicken is cooked until it’s not pink on the inside or you’ll get sick and stuff.
I served the chicken with this:

Turkish Style Braised Green Beans (from epicurious.com)

2 medium tomatoes
2 medium onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound green beans, trimmed and halved crosswise
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Cut a small X in bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife. 




Blanch tomatoes in a 3-quart saucepan of boiling water for 10 seconds, then immediately transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking. 

boily boily boily

icy icy icy


Drain, peel, and coarsely chop.

Cook onions and garlic in oil in a wide 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. 

this pot is too small, the tiny weird lady's head tells me.


Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, 4 minutes.

this pot is a better size the weird lady head tells me.


Add beans, water, sugar, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. 




Reduce heat to moderately low, then cover and simmer until beans are very tender, about 45 minutes.


Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature, uncovered, about 45 minutes. Serve beans with juices.
______________________________

I didn't serve with too much of the juices, but am saving it to add to a soup because it's quite nice - might need a little more salt. Not sure what makes this green bean dish "Turkish style", but it was a nice side dish.



I feel much better now that I've conquered my fear of the Barbecue. Come on over, I'll make you some hotdogs!

Monday, 26 March 2012

What A Dream I Had...


I wouldn’t normally post about a dream I had, because I know that listening to other people’s dreams are boring, but mine aren’t, so... there you have it. Sucks to be you right now.
I dreamed last night that I was part of a huge project for which thousands of people had applied to take part. We all moved into a set-up town and were allowed to become whatever we were naturally inclined to be. It was a chance to start over, no expectations. This included personality.  We had been given extensive testing and were chosen for the project according to skills and basic inclinations that we already possessed, but weren’t bound to act on them. It was only to make sure that the community had enough people with a variety of skill sets so that we could make the town function without extensive re-training. I was part of the skill-set group called The Nurturers. We were the “Moms” of the group and we were housed in a horrible old rotting house. 
We were not allowed to discuss the outside world, although we were free to go any time if we didn’t like the project. We could send and receive occasional emails from our real homes - so it was definitely not prison cut off from the real world. It was like we were playing a huge, sociological game.


I decided that I would be butch and of indeterminate sexuality, I’d wear big biker jackets and have great difficulty connecting to other people: The brooding mystery woman who no one really wants to know,  pushing possible friendships away with my gruff and harsh words. 



***Note that I did not choose to become a society doyenne or the new society's definition of beautiful or Chief Needlepoint Officer. I chose to be an outsider with no social skills and low self esteem.*** 


In my dream, I chose this.


I had a crush on the leader of the “Hunter” group, a guy who looked a lot like Liev Schrieber. I didn’t stand a chance because the big club also had young pretty girls who weren’t socially awkward.



Everyone else seemed to be thriving and having fun. I was struggling because of the persona I had adopted. Duh. So eventually I thought I would start a garden at the side of our ramshackle house and make cookies for everyone. That was how I would contribute and win over the community. I was horribly lonely and sad, but knew I’d been given a "great opportunity" and wasn’t going to waste it.







I have never had a dream where I’m super hot and am slow dancing with Joe Perry from Aerosmith. Never.









So what do you think? Is my subconscious telling me that I am really a socially deviant, conflicted lesbian with no style, with delusions that cookies solve everything, destined to live a lonely, friendless life planting a garden that no one wants, enduring all simply because I’ve been told it’s a “great opportunity”?


This is the exact opposite of what I want to be. The EXACT opposite. I want to be a socially adept woman (sexual orientation is not an issue, as long as I’m thin), who has impeccable fashion sense, sensible eating habits who does not force herself to do crap because others have told her that she must.

What if Oprah is right and dreams can come true? Then I'm totally screwed because even in my dreams I can't become what I want to be. 

And what if nightmares come true? If my nightmares come true, than last night's dream will come true which turns in on itself like a swirling vortex of awfulness and irony. Or at least I think it's irony. I try not to use the words "irony" or "ironic" in case I'm mis-using them. Like Alanis did that time.

I'll never sleep again.

Friday, 23 March 2012

One Year of Inappropriate Personal Disclosure. And a Foodie Friday to boot.






Has it really been a whole year that I’ve been spilling my guts to you about the most intimate aspects of my life? You now know as much about me as my husband, except for that thing that makes me say “Um, I don’t think so”.
I want to thank you, really, for reading this stuff. I get such a kick out of humiliating my mother and it’s great that I have a receptive audience. It also keeps me off the streets.
Nah, we all know it’s a constant state of heightened anxiety that keeps me off the streets.
But you get what I mean.
So, it being one year anniversary of My Complete Lack of Boundaries, and also Foodie Friday, I thought I’d make a it a birthday cake.
This is no ordinary cake. This cake was served at the wedding of the Rev. Chancellor and Mary Teeter, my great-grandparents, on July 6, 1885. I have never made it before. It is labour intensive.
My Great Grandmother, Mary Zimmerman, was not a real looker, but she was a fine lady. 

Kinda looks a little like the Wicked Witch of the West. With a flower.

When she consented to marry a Methodist minister she let her pierced ears grow in, as it was just NOT ON for a minister’s wife to have pierced ears. 
Pierced ears? Never. Tattoos, ok.

She had four children and moved house every couple of years to new little towns where Great Grand-pappy Chancellor would take up preaching to unpierced Methodist congregations across Canada. 


How did he get bearded and bald so fast? And why does my Great-Aunt Betha look like a tiny monkey in a dress?

Ruffled collars for ALL!



So here’s the cake. My mom says that preparing the coconut is a lof of work but that it’s so pretty and tasty that it’s worth the effort. Jury’s out on that one.




MARY TEETER’S CHOCOLATE LAYER CAKE WITH COCONUT ICING
Makes 2 - 8” layers. One and a half times the recipe makes 3 layers.
Preheat oven to 325. Have racks in centre of oven with enough room on the lower rack to allow for cake to rise if you need to use two racks.
CAKE:
Melt together and cool:
1.5 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
1 heaping Tablespoon butter
Add:
1 C white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 C milk
1.5 C flour
1 scant teaspoon baking soda
Beat all ingredients well for 5 minutes
Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla
Bake in cake pans (I lightly buttered and powdered with unsweetened cocoa powder for easier removal) for 25 minutes. Remove pans and cool completely.
COCONUT:
Drain a fresh coconut, being sure that the juice is not sour (if the juice is sour than the coconut is no good). 

Pierce coconut in one of the "eyes". Best to use a Philly's mug for draining.



See the drips? See the bits of husk? Impossible to avoid, dammit.











Hammer lightly around the middle of the coconut intil it breaks in half. 


After much hammering, the coconut reveals it's glory


This takes a little time, it’s not instant, just so as you know. 


With a large, sharp-edged spoon, and using almost the whole nut, scoop out round flakes of coconut. Avoid getting any of the husk in the white flakes. Put the flakes on paper towels to dry the oil. Use empty coconut shells to make horsey clop-clop sounds.

Not fluffy round flakes. Look like potato peelings. Not pretty.


This can be prepared ahead, and stored for several days in a plastic bag in the fridge, along with the paper towels to keep absorbing the oil.
SEVEN-MINUTE FROSTING:
In top of a double boiler, place:
2 egg whites 
1/4 C light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon creat of tartar
1/3 C boiling water
1 C white sugar
pinch salt
Beat over boiling water with hand mixer for 5-7 minutes until icing retains a clean cut with a knife. Fold in 1 teaspoon vanilla. This provides enough icing for 2 or 3 layers of a 8” layer cake.

Probably could have got a bit more fluffed up, but the bowl couldn't accommodate any more and the frosting was spattering everywhere. Seven minute frosting is hard to just wipe up after it's hardened a bit - just a fyi. Sigh.

Some of the coconut flakes can be mixed together with a portion of the icing to make a filling between layers. Ice cake with frosting and place coconut flakes all over top and sides, as much as it will hold.
Layers with icing in between


Iced cake! Happy Birthday to Blog!



Cake interior.



Brian's piece o' cake.


Ok, so the coconut part of this cake, for me, was a disaster - you can see that I didn’t put the coconut on the cake. I didn’t have my Grandma Reid’s magic sharp coconut scraping spoon, so I tried using a knife and a vegetable peeler, but I just ended up with thick grey slabs of coconut dotted with chunks of coconut husk. So, today’s version is sans coconut. Next time I make this, and I will make this again because Brian tells me - “Cake. Cake is good”, I will buy unsweetened flaked coconut from a health food store where the flakes might be bigger and there might be fewer sulphites used. 





So, once again, thanks for reading my blog. I hope I can keep it up for another year. I might run out of ideas and start repeating myself, which is ok, because I'm old and forgetful.

Kisses!

Elpoo

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Moderate Hoarders - Reid Edition


In trying to clear out the spare room to make way for my super shiny Ovarian Den, I’ve had to be pretty ruthless in my culling of stuff. I’ve given away most of my books, thrown out all the useless computer software, old keyboard manuals, expired medications, taxidermy mice, bits of petrified apple core and muffin wrappers that I’ve accumulated over the years. I’m in the process of scanning all my photographs so I can get rid of my many many many bulky photo albums. It has been a long process and there is no end in sight.


I come by this honestly, this pack rat mentality. My mother and my late father could both be called Happy Hoarders, experts in the field of “stocking up” on all sorts of nonsense. While I would stop short of calling it a sickness, and I don’t think we are horrible enough to qualify for a reality television spot, we Reids have hoarded our share of items, useful and otherwise. 


We weren't this bad. Not really.
My dad was a collector of paper products. From post it notes to toilet paper by the skid. And I use the word skid hilariously. He had towers of kleenex boxes on top of a cabinet that reached our very high ceilings. We had the storage space. I think it was just his way of building an empire, and he liked to gaze upon it from time to time.


And the multi-packs of toilet paper -  I get it that you don't want to be caught short but seriously? I have to wonder, what was the reasoning behind THAT much toilet paper? What kind of digestive disaster was my father expecting?  Why would we need 200 rolls of 2-ply? We are a family of Scottish origin, so, one, we’re cheap and two, we hardly ever poop, and when we do, it’s because the stupid English forced us to. 


My mom, for some reason, used to buy tomato soup in 24 can packs. 
We lived, literally, 50 yards from a large grocery store.



She also saved every margarine tub that ever crossed the Reid threshold. Vast armies of Imperial Margarine containers lying in wait to tumble onto the floor anytime Ellen would get within range.


Padlocks.
Yes. Padlocks.
My mother’s wool supply was legendary. Garbage bags full of it. Just in case she needed to crochet an afghan at a moment’s notice.
Or crochet 20 afghans at a moment’s notice.
National Geographic back issues. And don’t tell me they were ALL for potential school projects, Mom. We had them in the verandah until I was 30.
I can’t remember what I hoarded, but I must have at some point. I don’t think my brother and I were as diligent about saving and storing up stuff. I try to be sensible, but sometimes it’s really hard to throw out those elastic bands that the postal carrier bundles your J Crew catalogues with. Oh, and the J Crew catalogues. You never know, right?