Apr 29, 2011

How to cook like me...the royal wedding edition.

I've got to be honest here...I actually made this dish a few of weeks back and was saving it to post soon but realized that today, with William's and Kate's wedding, would be a very appropriate time.  So, the whole idea stems back from a conversation I had awhile back with a very British elderly neighbor who loves food but doesn't cook much and was reminiscing about his favorite comfort food as a youngster.  I sort of made a mental note that I'd love to make his favorite dish for him sometime.  Cut to a few weeks ago and I'm at Winn-Dixie and spot a key ingredient.  I grabbed it.  The fact that I was vaguely disgusted tipped me off that this was going to be fun!  I ran home with my special ingredient, praying I had everything else I needed.  I did, I did!  So, in this edition of "How to cook like me", we're going to make...

 steak and...
...kidney pie! Yep, I found kidneys.  Now, I've never eaten kidneys and I grew up hearing horror stories from Miss Arse about how her dad loved kidneys and it would make the whole house smell like rancid urine when her mother cooked them, so let me admit right now that I was wary.  But intrigued. Very intrigued.

I assembled the ingredients I thought I'd need...meats, 'taters, puff pastry, mushrooms, onion.

And seasonings, also deciding to go with baby bello 'shrooms instead of regular ones at the last minute. 

I thawed and pounded the hell out of my weird cuts of sirloin.  Hey, they came out of a multi-packaged family pack. We can't expect much here, okay?

After removing 3 layers of plastic wrap on the kidneys, I was down to the final layer of plastic wrap and becoming a tad more disturbed by what I saw.  What I thought were many small, individual kidneys were now beginning to look like, um, one big one.  From what could only be a Zord sheep.  Ugh, I prayed this wasn't true.  I also decided this was a good time to actually look for recipes, lol, instead of relying on what an old man told me from 50 years ago.  It seems I was pretty set on ingredients, a game plan and I was also told to "trim" the kidneys of tough tissue.  Uh-oh. 

I dumped it out on my cutting sheet and immediately discover why it was encased in 4 layers of plastic wrap.  No one wants to go in Winn-Dixie and be reminded of John Wayne Gacy.

I also confirmed that I was actually the proud owner of one, and only one, kidney and said kidney had...pods...on it.  *gags* At this point, I really wondered if I can do this.  For whatever reason, I could do the tongue, the cheek and heck, I've cooked brains but this kidney might be my undoing.  

Flipping it over did not help.  Not only did it have gristly, waxy thing in the middle, it had a *insert squeaky voice* duct hole.  A. Duct. Hole.  For what could have only been urine.  But hell, I'm not about to let organ meat stop me, so I grabbed it and washed it good in cold water and ran water into the *shudder* duct hole. While I'm at it, I copped a good feel of the whole thing, trying to find out about this "tough tissue" thing.  I felt tough tissue in every fucking pod and it all grew out of this weird, waxy white thing.  God *damn.

While the water was running, Beatrice decided she'd like a sippie and it was a much welcome break for us both.  Ignore my water bottles in the background, I'd just emptied my trunk.

With a new enthusiasm, I began cutting the pods off the kidney.  This was the best I could do and I did a little scraping, at that.  I did smell it and it smelled a lot like normal ol' liver, but with an odd, faintly sweeter smell. The smell actually reassured me that this could be okay...

...until I spotted the Duct Hole. Again. I poured myself a glass of wine, tossed it (not the wine, no point in *that) in the sink and pretended I never saw it. I took all of my kidney pods and dredged them in seasoned flour, then proceeded to brown them up good. 

See?  This is looking better, isn't it?  And it smells like liver, so once again, I felt reassured.  I wasn't picking up on any of the nasty urine smell my mom remembered but am figuring that since they killed their own sheep, maybe they just didn't rinse those Duct Holes (forever capitalized in my head) well.  *gags again*  But still, I'm game and not about to be defeated, not even when I spot what the lid says on the bottle of oil I pulled out of the cabinet to fry the kidney pods in.

Uh-oh.  And oops. Well, I'd not used it for anything but okra and onion rings, so hey, added flavor, right?  I thought so, too.  Journey on! I decided to scrub the sink and counters of all the blood and ook that has splattered while my pods browned up some.

As I go to clean the sink out, I see this.  Duct Hole, she mocks me.

At this point, I had some slight problems occur.  My main kitchen light burned out and I had no replacement bulb, so I was stuck with this one light over my sink to cook by.  It was getting dark out and frankly, I'd lose a lot of enthusiasm for this project. I decided to quickly brown the now-cubed and floured steak, deglaze, refrigerate the whole deal and start again tomorrow.

They say you should always cook with a good quality wine, something you'd drink.  I agree and deglazed with this.  :-D

Oh, look.  Yummy.  *eyeroll*  Into the fridge it went, once I made room.  Oh, hey, want to see in my fridge pre-room being made?
I'm the nosy sort and love seeing in people's fridges and cabinets.  Closets, too.  Yep, it's an old one...18 years old, I do believe.  Hey, it works, so why change?  Can you find my bacon grease, my leftover shit-on-a-shingle, my multiple bottles of hot sauce and salsa? Oh, yum, salmon cream cheese...I need more of that.

I felt considerably more on my game the next day, especially since Duct Hole was safely out in the garbage can. I added all of my assorted ingredients, including water, sauteed onions, taters and mushrooms, carrots, chopped parsley, beef bouillon, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, bay leaves, herbs de Provence, additional lavender and, upon discovering I had no tomato paste and unwilling to make a trip out, a big squirt of ketchup. Because yes, I have lavender and no tomato paste...it's weird, but whatever.  I let all of this simmer for 2 hours and I must say, it smelled wonderful!

Once the bottom layer of puff pastry was baked for about 10 minutes, I dumped a lot of my mixture on it to hide where it swelled way up in the middle and then did a last taste test, in case additional seasonings are needed.  I got a piece of kidney on that one and I'll be damned, it wasn't bad. In fact, I liked it.

A covering of more puff pastry, an egg wash and into the oven it went 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.  I didn't really time it, I just pulled it out when it looked golden.

Here was the final product...since this was an experiment, I got a chunk, as did my mom, Jake and my British neighbor, who(m?) I encouraged to be honest.  He really liked it!  He said he could have done without the bottom crust at all (I liked that part but wish it has been less soggy) and said my top crust could have been puffier but that overall, it tasted like what he grew up with and hoped I made it again.  I did notice that while none of the recipes I found mentioned adding the 'taters, he stressed his mother did so I'm not sure how authentic the 'taters are to a true steak and kidney pie. Nonetheless, it was a far bigger success than I expected.  The kidneys tasted like a very mild liver, so Jake and I really enjoyed it and even Miss Arse found this to be tasty as long as she didn't think too much about it. The end verdict is that, despite my gagging and shuddering and despite the ominous presence of Duct Hole, I *will make this again.  I do think I may use calf liver next time, though, and just not tell anyone it's not kidney...no one will be the wiser. Trust me.

Who is going to make it next?  ;-)

Apr 26, 2011

Miscellaneous crap.

I haven't checked my sitemeter in ages...until now.  Some searched terms that found me?
"Some really fuck up stuff"
"e-whoring Mafia Wars" (ftr, I don't play)
"maxine waters all look the same to me"

I'm proud of this assortment.  Also, someone from State Farm in Bloomington found me. *waves*  I don't think you're supposed to be reading my blog at work, but hey, we can keep it between us.  ;-) I hope you can forgive me for the fact I'm about to take my policies elsewhere.  It's nothing personal, mind you...it's all about saving money these days.  Didja see where Aegeon sold their reinsurance division to Scor?  That worries me a bit.  They had to sell out in order to repay Sweden (or is it Denmark?) back.  That tells me this isn't a particularly lucrative business anymore and that bodes ill for most everyone, if I'm right.

Here, I found this interesting.  I don't do anti-depressants but if you do, you might want to read this.  And cry.  Or whatever it is you do.  Antidepressants, OTC Painkillers Not a Good Combo - FoxNews.com  Ignore that it's from Fox News...as long as it's not political stuff, they can be trusted.

Lastly, do you live in the South?  If so, here you go.  It's helpful, really!  Southern Savers

Apr 25, 2011

Ditto, Dad.

Another Easter has come and gone and another Easter made me miss my dad all over again. Easter was his holiday.  He hated holidays that required real shopping, decorating or stress but loved a holiday that allowed for some sneaking around.  Halloween was a good one for him, too.  But Easter, he really loved.  He enjoyed coloring eggs and would draw tacky-ass shit like toilets and roadkill with the magic crayon in the egg coloring kits, just to make me laugh. Then, after I was asleep, he'd set to work with his carrots and Cocoa Puffs cereal in the backyard, creating the best messy bunny and poop trails ever.  I actually bought into the Easter Bunny a good two years after I knew Santa was a lie. But the most amazing thing was that every Easter morning, just after I got up, he'd say, "Oh, look, Lisa!  It's the Easter bunny!" and I'd look out back and sure enough, there would be a huge brown rabbit in the yard. Granted, we lived against a bit of wooded area but every single Easter morning?  That's odd.  One morning he told me that Mrs. Bunny had stayed behind to have her babies and I remember going out into the chilly, damp morning barefoot, the tail of my nightgown getting all wet, and seeing a little nest of babies up against our house, nestled in some pipes and mulch.  I was sold on the Easter Bunny, let me tell you. As an adult, I asked my dad about those bunnies every Easter, since we lived out the woods with Jake and we never had that kind of luck.  He just laughed and said he would ask them to come.  Riiiiiight.  I  wondered about this statement, though, since I'd seen firsthand that he could actually communicate with animals to a degree (remind me to tell y'all about our Irish Setters sometime because the stories are amazing) but I still blew it all off as a coincidence.  I mean, who does that...you know?

Saturday night, it's late, I'm going in and out my back door to do laundry and sent up a quick little prayer. "Hey, Dad, if you still hear me, will you send me a bunny in the back yard for Easter, so I know you're still with us?"  I got up yesterday morning and peeked out back.  Nothing.  Went out and looked around. Nothing.  Honestly, I just sort of laughed at myself, even though I was a tiny bit disappointed...I'd been foolish in hoping.  I fixed my coffee and was sitting down at the computer when my mom called.  We wished each other happy Easter, made our plans for the day, I filled her in on some gossip and before we hung up she said, "By the way, would you believe I saw a big, fat rabbit in the backyard this morning?  I had to laugh, it reminded me so much of your dad and his Easter bunnies.  It's been years since I've seen a rabbit at all."  Well, damn, Dad, I guess I forgot to specify which backyard I wanted it in, didn't I?   

Then, my dad always called Jake his little lamb (when he wasn't calling him a baby girl, lol, so it's no wonder Jake has no gender lines) and all four Easters they were together,  he bought Jake a lamb stuffed toy.  Yesterday morning, Jake walks in the door after spending the night with a friend and I'm cleaning the bathroom on the other other end of the house.  I holler out "Who is it?", as I always do, and the answer I get back is not the normal "It's me!"...oh, no.  I hear "It's your little lamb...happy Easter!"  I came out fast and demanded to know why he said that.  He laughs and tells me "I don't know, that's just what came out when my mouth opened. It's Easter...relax, Mom!"

Good enough, Dad. :-)
I love you, too, and thank you.

Apr 17, 2011

A year in pictures.

I've been thinking about this place lately and miss sharing things.  I know, because I'm such a sharer, right?  Whatever, I do miss it.  I've been wondering why I let it go and think I just became very unfocused or something. Let's go back to this time last year, shall we? 

Right around this time last year, Miss Arse lost her sight.  She wasn't blind as in the world went dark and she needed a service dog named Libby or anything.  I mean, hell, she's got me, right?  Right.  She could see variances in light and dark, she could tell if something was large and red although she'd say it was purple and have no clue it was a firetruck.  But she wasn't Stevie Wonder, either.  So, what happened?  Wellllp, she neglected cataracts for over 25 years and they rebelled on her, causing massive infections in both eyes and fusing to the corneas in both, one worse than the other.  So, repairs began since doctors just swore they could fix this for her and she was game to try.
The poor old bird was also terrified, as you can see here.  This was in the waiting room, just before her first surgery.  We both had to take Xanax on this day and I still had a panic attack that necessitated me sitting in my car, reading an IKEA catalog and trying to not vomit the whole time.
Once it was over and I had her back home, she was good.  Of course, she was also drugged, but hey...she was happy. It was an unusually long removal that involved both laser and knife, and she wound up with a destroyed cornea but hey, she didn't die.  It was a good day!

I think the corneal transplant nearly killed her, though.  Doesn't she look dead?  Actually, the transplant was super-easy on her but she had to lay in bed 48 straight hours on her back, facing the ceiling, with only momentary breaks to pee or eat.  After hour 6, she wasn't so much fun anymore.

After hour 30, I was desperate so I loaded her in my car and drove her to my house so she could sleep in my bed and be entertained by my cats while I crawled into my recliner and ignored her.  You know, just for a change of pace.  It was during this time we began calling her Old Cadaver Eye, for the record.  Desperate times call for desperate measures when it comes to amusement.  As you can see, it was an exciting time for us all.  And yes, my bedroom looks that boring most of the time. What*ever, it's clean.

While the transplant went well and by God, she could see out of that eye again, they had to tweak the cadaver flesh because a stitch (ewww!) malfunctioned.  That deal went so well she didn't even have to wear a patch *and she got good drugs...see?  She was showing her nifty new cornea off here.

Once that eye was repaired and healing well, they tackled the other one.  Luckily, they saved her cornea but this time she didn't get the good drugs and things went harder than they thought.  It hurt her very much and she was whiny so I bought her a Whopper and made her coffee. As you can see from the noticeable lack of happiness on her face this time, Whoppers and coffee can only do so much when you hurt. But, in the end, the doctors were right and while it took 9 months to get her there, she can see so well now that she's quilting again.  And...discussions are underway to buy her a pickup truck soon because she's going to get her license back and she wants to be able to haul stuff.   Lord, I love my mom. :-D   But, for these 9 months, I was busy-busy driving her to multiple appointments and helping with the 30+ drops per day she had to do at one point, in addition to cooking and cleaning for her, plus just keeping her company since she couldn't see her computer or TV.  In the end, I hope if I ever see 82 that I'm mostly like her.  One of these days, I might even tell her that.

In the midst of all this eye drama, Beatrice gave up sleeping in the casserole dish and chose the center of the couch instead.
She's adorable no matter where she sleeps, isn't she?  One of my old lady cats (19 this August!), Ginger, had other plans and not only stole Bea's casserole dish idea...
...she tried to make it better.  Or warmer.  Or something.  A cookie sheet sort of thwarted her plan, though.

No one fretted over the dish sleeping; she was just stringing us along because she had an axe to grind.  We tuned her out.

And no, my cats aren't spoiled.  Why would you think that?

Jake had a busy year. He turned 19 and got his first ice cream cake ever.  Go him. Maybe when he's 20, I'll let him get a driver license...

That's kind of pitiful, I suppose, but hey, he's lucky I didn't get him a chin implant to go with it.

I did, however, get him very cool "doll eye" contacts...one blue and one violet.  No, he's not spoiled either.

Then Christmas came...he got tons of junk and taught Miss Arse to play Rock Band. And the best part?  She could see it!  She still sucked but dammit, she could see it!

His best friends got him the tattoo he's wanted since he was 14 for Christmas.  I maintain that with friends like these, no one needs enemies.  It's the ugliest damn tattoo ever, but he loves it and hell, I guess he really did want it since he waited 5 years for it.  At least it's a nice job, all straight and such.  But really...Manson stuff?  On your arm?  At least get Bowie. Let's see, what else?  *digs through pictures*

Some idiot ran over my mailbox.  I believe this makes 6 of them in 10 years.  Take it from me - don't buy a house on an inside corner unless you like disposable mailboxes.

We grew hot pink mold.  That's special, right?  And kind of exciting, too?  Only it's not really mold, it's a bacteria called Serratia marcescens. I have no idea what started it but it's been an ongoing battle in towels, shower and toilet since it started and it comes on fast.  Like in hours.  What you see on that towel happened less than 12 hours after that (freshly washed) towel was used and dropped in a hamper.  It'll grow in a shower or toilet that was scrubbed a day or so before and it smells like Fritos or the pads on dogs' feet (which are interchangeable, by the way).  I now buy a lot of bleach.  *nods*

I did do some cooking and took pictures of one dish, planning on a blog post but it just never happened.  I made trotters for some elderly neighbors who love them.  As for me...?
Even I'm not eating this stuff. I do have limits.

So, let's see...what else?  Oh, back to Jake for a moment if no one minds.  His music has really taken off and, as such, he's been able to get in backstage at various concerts and hang out with the musicians.  Apparently his new thing is to take "surprise!" pictures with these people.

Here he is with Alice from Crystal Castles. I was sort of horrified by the look on her face and asked him if he stank.  He said no, that someone had just hit her in her face and her mouth was bleeding and she didn't want that shown in a picture.  Well, alrighty then. But as horrified as I was over poor Alice's expression, the one that came next was worse.

He licked Gary Numan. You know, *this Gary Numan, one of my all-time favorites. And all I get to do is fight pink mold and cook trotters.  Life isn't fair...not a damn bit fair.

The other interesting thing that happened is that Jake nearly became a statistic.  He'd gone to a club to see (and probably lick) The Dead Kennedys.  While there, someone drugged his drink. Yep, exactly what you hear about in the media and figure will never happen to you...well, it happened to him. Thankfully, he was with a group of excellent and caring friends, as well as the father of one friend.  They were able to see something was terribly wrong and call for help quickly...they saved his life. I get the dreaded call no parent wants from the dad at around 1am, saying he's at the hospital with Jake and I need to hurry.  I hurried.  When I got there, this is what I found and I was scared *shitless.
He spent a couple of days in the ICU because they had a little trouble getting his heart regulated and he was so terribly stomach-sick, but within an hour of me arriving, they knew he was going to live and I was able to relax a little. I took this picture so that all who see it will know (almost) firsthand that this can and *does happen.  People will drug your drink.  In the blink of an eye, in one dumbass move on his part that he's probably done a million times - turning his back on his drink - he very nearly died. And I still cry every time I see this picture and realize how close I came to losing him.

So, that's it for my photodocumentary of what's been going on in my life. I know, you wish we could trade lives, don't you?  It's been a long, rough year and in the end, Tucker had the best idea...
I should have found myself a nice old sari and covered my head with it, then relaxed in the knowledge that I was safe because no one could see me.  Ahhh, were it all this simple...