Friday, April 13, 2007

Now THAT'S a stuffed grape leaf

I have had good stuffed grape leaves. And I have had bad stuffed grape leaves. And unfortunately, the bad have occurred more often than the good. The problem is the rice. Sometimes it is to mushy and gooey, the texture turns me right off. The best ones I ever had was at a restaurant in DownTown Chicago called Pegasus. It was part of a corporate dinner. I was pregnant with DD at the time, and the (then) president of our company fretted over me all day, then marvelled at the amount I could eat. One of the several awesome courses, were meat stuffed grape leaves in a lemon-egg sauce. I am telling you, I could have eaten my weight in those things. Another excellent version were made by a co-worker. These had a bit of meat but were mostly rice, seasoned with sumac (and other stuff LOL), marinated in a lemon/olive oil vinagrette and served at room temperature. Man oh man, different but good. The rice was perfect, not hard and grainy and not mushy or sticky. And that sumac has such an intriguing sour flavour, I had to find myself some (thank heavens for internet shopping). Today I stopped at our local Market Square to get some ingredients for dinner, and decided to treat myself with a spinach pie and some stuffed grape leaves. The spinach pie is okay, but I think I prefer a phyllo version. This one looks kind of like a calzone - not crunchy flakey satisfying LOL. The innards were too wet so it was soggy, and there were some tomatoes inside that did nothing for the texture nor the flavour. The grape leaves are very very good, if a bit dry. I think maybe I was supposed to reheat them with a bit of water in a covered pan. I am too lazy for that. The leaves themselves are tender, the rice is cooked nicely and the seasonings are good. You can really taste the brine of the leaves (I think that is a good thing, although I see in recipes they give directions on how to remove that briney taste LOL), and I haven't gotten tangled in a tough stem yet. I have contemplated making some myself. I make perogies and cabbage rolls and spring rolls and wontons, so I am not afraid of spending time creating and endless stream of small packages. My bigger issue, is that DH and DD would never dream of touching them. I don't know that I can eat an entire batch by myself (who am I kidding? I probably could in the course of a day. But then I would be sick of them and never want them again, and what is the fun in that?). I think they can be frozen, but would that ruin the texture of the rice? Dilemna dilemna. Any commentors out there that make and freeze them? Any tips? Or shall I just make some and have a tapas party? I am the only person I know that cooks and would attempt anything so I would anticipate a LOT of frozen appetizer thingies ROFL. Tonight for dinner, we are having "oriental" night. DD won't be home, which is good, because I am trying a thai beef curry and a steamed fish dish (that sounds sort of cantonese to me, but I don't even think the recipe is authentic so it doesn't matter LOL). I plan on making crispy spring rolls this time. I am waiting for more spring seasonal veggies to make soft summer rolls. I have the wonton skins but I haven't commited to soup yet. That is DD's favourite but she won't be here. I might save those for next week when DH is on afternoons and she is more likely to appreciate them. I have never made thai before. I have only sampled it once, in a bad thai restaurant. I can't say I was impressed. First off, they started with coconut shrimp soup. SHRIMP SOUP. I am sorry, but the mere thought grossed me right out. I don't mind shrimp in certain applications, but floating in a soup is sure to make me dry heave. The second was a rice noodle dish. It was dry, greasy, and tasted odd. The last was some kind of mushy meatball. I could not get past the texture, I thought it was very raw feeling. I have had meatballs and other items as part of dim sum that were made from pork and shrimp paste, so that wasn't the problem. It just seemed very raw and mushy to me. All in all, not the best experience. And I think lemongrass tastes like furniture polish. There. I said it. That being said, I figured I would give it a go myself. And it better be good, after all the ingredients I had to scour the city to find. I suppose I should have STARTED at the Oriental stall in the market, but I never said I was smart. I was there today. I know it annoys some of them when I go and browse. And I know it annoys them more when I know what I want and seem to understand what it is. They moved everything around since the last time I was there, so I looked like a rube again - wandering the store and staring at all the packages and bottles. I love browsing in there. Such interesting things LOL. I almost grabbed a green papaya, but decided against it until I can do more research over recipes. I have seen a green papaya salad and my imagination tells me it would be wonderful. Maybe I am afraid to burst my own bubble. The rest of my market haul, besides some oriental ingredients, and a whole red snapper? A dozen farm fresh eggs, green onions, ginger, and my lunch nibbles. I wanted apples too, but couldn't commit to a bushel. That is a lot of apples for us. What was in the quarts just didn't appeal. Picky picky! I saw some parsley roots and would have loved to grab some for soup, but I was out of time and money. Hopefully they will be there again. I have discovered that parsley root in chicken stock leaves such a mysterious yet craveable flavour. A bit of parsnip or turnip is close, but not quite it. Parsley stems are closer, but the root is the best. That and a tomato or two. Not enough to change the colour, nor even really taste tomato. But it sort of boosts the flavour. And if I want to go even more Eastern European, I add a beef bone. If I am leaning towards more of a "chinese" flavour, I add some pork instead, and a whole bunch of green onions (spring onions, scallions, chinese leeks, however you refer to them). It all depends on what I want to use it for. I also have to make some tarts tonight. A friend of ours who has been deployed in Afghanistan is home on leave. His wife is throwing him a good-by party, as he is leaving soon to go back. Days after he got here, his buddies were killed by a roadside bomb. He is really having trouble with this. Here he is, home enjoying friends and family and his group is hit. His welcome home became part of a local story, with people tying ribbons everywhere and wearing "Support our troops" t-shirts waiting for him at the airport. DD is very interested to meet him (she hasn't seen him since she was a baby), as she has never seen a soldier before. Dh is kind of afraid to go, it is hard for him to come to terms with the fact that one of his high school buddies spends most of his day in peril like that. I think maybe he doesn't want to see him, then spend every day worrying about him. I have a different take on it. You see, this guy has kind of had a hard life. I think he was trying to find something important to do. Sometimes he made bad choices in this search, some mistakes were made for him. I feel going over there as part of the Canadian Military is the most important thing he will ever do. This is what he was working towards, looking for. To be even a small cog as part of a larger machine that is making an impact. For him, it is a good fit and a good choice even though there is daily peril. Let's face it, people like him die on the street every day WITHOUT the possibility of a car bomb. He could have continued on a path, drank himself to death like his father and so many more before him. Instead, he came to a fork in the road and decided to do THIS. And no matter what happens to him there, he will have been part of something important, greater than himself. And that is where he is supposed to be. And when his tours are done, and that chapter of his life is over, he will always have those experiences. He will be able to get a normal job and live a normal life, and stop searching for that one important thing. And if it so happens that he does NOT return from this important life event (heaven forbid, but let's be realistic here), then I believe that is what was meant for him. He will be remembered as a hero - something that would have been impossible had he not gone. And that is what I think about that.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Cookies for breakfast

Want to know what kind of day I am having? It is 9:45 and I am halfway through a box of girl guide cookies. I don't even LIKE these things. I had to wrap them up and put them in the other room, or else I will keep eating them until I am sick. DH wanted to know "If you don't like them, and they give you a stomach ache, why did you eat them?". My answer upset him a little. I said 'how else will I fill the empty void?'. Sheesh. He just has NO clue these days. I will add a ";)", but we all know I am only half joking. He doesn't like when I talk like that. He says he can't tell if I am telling the truth or joking. I say I am doing both. He doesn't get that at all. Last night I ate a very good (meaning well portioned and healthy) dinner of whole wheat rotini tossed with sauteed veggies, and a deconstructed pesto. Meaning I was too lazy to make pesto and just tossed in a handful of pine nuts, garlic, and shredded basil. I am only just learning to like basil, and I have to say it was pretty good in this dish. A whisp of romano cheese on top and I was good to go. Okay okay, there was some butter. Just a teaspoon though. Oh, and I tossed in a handful of grape tomatoes as I was plating. I don't like when they start to cook and the skins get all papery and the insides get mooshy. But I do like when they are just starting to get warm around the outside. You can't cut them though, they release too much liquid for that. DH had spaghetti noodles with an alfredo type sauce we whipped up. DD had reheated leftovers LOL. So three dinners for three people. But frankly, I was too busy to cook a big dinner for all of us and I was still working when those two wanted to be eating. Tonight I don't know what I will make. It has to be quick, though. I work until 5pm before I take a dinner break, and we have parent-teacher interviews at 5:45, then DD has Brownies at 6:30. We are doing our taxes tonight as well. Busy busy busy! I really do wish on nights like this DH and DD could work together and come up with a meal, but no go. If I do manage to cajole them into trying, 45 minutes later they don't even have their ingredients ready. DH has no clue how to organize a meal. For example, making breakfast. He has been known to cook the eggs, then start looking for frozen sausages. Um, the sausages have to defrost and THEN take ten minutes minimum to cook. Ya think maybe you started the eggs too soon? He can't multi- task. Everything is done one by one, which draws out the process. I have been known to count footsteps and hand movements and"optimize" job functions. Not unusual for me to whip out a stop watch and time each step of a process, then try to shave seconds. Love shaving seconds. Watching DH make spaghetti (he will put the pot of water to boil last, after he does everything else. It makes me insane) nearly kills me. He wanders back and forth, puts things down then has to find them again, and does everything separately when some things should he happening at the same time. Spaghetti is a 30 minute meal, if you put the pot of water (hot from the tap please, we don't have all day) on FIRST, then start the sauce. Plus every so often he wanders over and stares into the fridge. What is that about? What is he looking for exactly? Boggles my mind. I might have to make dinner at lunch and have him heat it later. It is so sad, when a meal becomes "leftovers" before it was even a meal. Or, we could just eat cookies!!!! Yeah. I like that option.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I need a break

I need a bit of a break from what I am doing, so figured I would blog for the day. I was up late last night working on something, and up early working on the same thing. My eyeballs are drying up like little raisins. I have about fifty bottles of different brands of eye drops, so you would think it would be IMPOSSIBLE for me to have dry eyes. I could fund a small nation on what I have spent in eye lubricating products. It is not that they don't work. On the contrary. Most of them work fine. Great in fact. Like a breath of fresh air for your eyes. Only for some reason I cannot put eye drops in my own eyes. It takes me forever, and I blink each and every time. Or I turn my head at the last moment and end up with ear drops instead. I don't know WHY I can't do it, I just can't. My darling husband has, from time to time, tried to help me by putting them in for me. It never ends well. The final result is usually a lot of screaming, a bit of physical violence on my part, and my face covered in artificial tears that SHOULD be in my eyes but aren't. He has done everything from gently dropping them in while my eyes are averted to the side (it does not work. I know when the drop is coming) to actually SITTING on me and holding my head down. In that instance I kicked him pretty hard. I didn't MEAN to do it, I panicked. For a weak little blob with no energy, when I am motivated I am invincible ROFL. The last time we wrestled over the drops, he said "I am NEVER going to try and help you do that again. You are IMPOSSIBLE". He is right. I bought a brand that has a contraption on the end, supposedly to help idiots like me. It looks like an eye dropper botltle with an egg cup on the end LOL. You lie down, place the cup against your eye (with your eye open) then press down. Since it is dark in there you can't see the drop coming and supposedly your eye stays open. Fat chance. I have blinked each and every time. If DH tries the "sneak attack" method - you know, have a conversation with me and push it when I am not expecting - I blink every time. I think I can hear the plastic rub and swear there is a puff of air before the drop hits. My husband gets absolutely infuriated with me. "WHY CAN"T YOU JUST KEEP YOUR EYE OPEN!". Look, I am just overly protective of my eyeballs, okay? Sheesh. Somebody gave me a tube of eye "gel". You are supposed to sort of pull your bottom lid forward and squirt a line of this goo along it. Because it is thick you can't blink it away, and supposedly it is easier to apply. And I guess if you don't mind globs of vaseline stuck in your eye it is fine. IT WAS HORRIBLE. I couldn't see for an hour. If I could have plucked my eyes from their sockets and washed them, I would have. Without a doubt, the most disgusting feeling ever. According to my doctor there are some things I can do to help myself, aside from the drops. I can blink more. I tried that. Three homeless men and a crossing guard thought I was flirting and attempted to pick me up. Not working for me, I am afraid. I can drink more water. I don't drink much of ANYTHING in the way of liquids. I never have. If I drank a GLASS of water that would be a lot of water. No, something different please. I can stay off the computer. Now. You want to give me a snorting, choking, laughing fit? Tell me to stay off the computer. I am on this thing a MINIMUM of 12 hours per day. Sometimes longer. And if I add my personal time (blogging, recipes, looking up stuff, and so on) well forget it. There is no wonder I have rubbed the markings off three keyboards so far, and it ain't because I have sandpaper for fingers. He says the same thing for my hands (nerve damage sucks rocks). Stay off the computer to save what little function I have left. Is he joking? He also suggested I could get more sleep. Telling a mother that works full time she needs more sleep is like telling somebody they have to breathe to live. I KNOW I need more sleep. Now if somebody would just shove more hours into a day then I would be happy to comply. Some people just do not get it, do they? Oh well. I guess me and my dry eyes need to get back to work.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Is Easter supposed to be this tiring?

Okay, to be fair, it wasn't just easter.

Last week I drove to Mississauga for work. By myself. In gusting winds. In a rental MINI VAN. This is a four hour drive on the 401 at speeds I don't even like to think about. Sure, the speed limit is 100 km/h. Nobody drives 100 km/h. Well, nobody except ME drives 100 km/h, even though there were gusting winds and blowing snow. Getting there was bad enough, coming back? Intermittant white out conditions basically from Mississauga to Chatham. My eyes were bloodshot and my knuckles white by the time I got home. And just so you know, there is nothing but easy listening crap stations all the way there and back. We are talking coma inducing.

I was tired (gawd, that is a long boring drive when you are by yourself, even when you are scared whitless by driving 140km/h in blinding snow sandwiched by trucks in a rental mini van being buffeted by wind), but there was no time to rest once I got home. No sirree. I had things to do to prepare for what seemed like endless days of Easter.

Friday I baked bread with my father. The Glovasky Family Easter Bread tradition lives on. Three batches. I think my arms nearly fell off. Now I am unsure if my chest pains are heart related or if I just have lingering easter bread kneading trauma. Stronger people have been felled by the bread. New helpers are all gung ho, until it is time to stir in the 11th cup of flour and their arms are ready to fall off, then they have to knead a 50 pound lump of goo and raisins. I have likened this process to wrestling a raisin covered baby gorilla stuck in a glue trap. Here is a montage of the process, from paste to wrapped bread loaves. Don't tell my mom I left her picture in there, she is sensitive that her hair is up in the back. I thought it was supposed to be that way since it is like that every time I see her. What do I know?
Then Saturday we coloured eggs, in between grocery shopping for items I couldn't get before leaving for Missisauga (too early) and wouldn't be able to get Sunday because everything would be closed. The kids and my 80-something year old grandparents coloured all the eggs this year. I have never seen them so excited to colour eggs. In fact I don't think I have ever seen them do it. But there you have it!

Sunday it was breakfast THEN dinner at my parents house. Breakfast was fine. Dinner was ruined for me. I was too upset to eat, which was too bad because I look forward to that meal of ham, mashed potatoes, and creamed peas all year. Oh well. It's not like I will waste away.

Monday I made dinner for DH's family. It was okay. I pretty much kept my head in the oven and busied myself with cleaning and such while leaving DH to play host to his family for a change. It worked out fine. I don't think I will do Easter again next year. Not that it is a lot of work per se, but the timing of things always makes it too busy for me and I end up driving myself into the ground trying to get it all done. Plus I was a little miffed that the plan was for them to get here at 3:00 pm and the dinner was to be at 4, to find out they all wanted to COME for 4 so they could eat right away. And nobody got here until 4:30. They seemed to like the meal. They sure ate like they liked it.
DH is kind of clueless when it comes to holiday prep. He'll do anything I ask, but it gets tiring to do the same thing nine years in a row and have to outline what needs to be done every step of the way, you know? I stay up way late making food ahead and prepping gifts and making sure the house is in order, then get up early to either go places or do more prep and by the time it is done I feel like a wrung out dishrag. And judging by the comments of "You look tired" when picking up DD today, I guess I look like one too ;). Plus I knock myself out and my name isn't even on the freaking cards. My hang up, I guess.