Tuesday, February 20, 2018

This Week's Cooking Challenge: Low Iodine Diet

 So over the past few months it finally dawned on me that I was Not Feeling Well.  I blew it off, thinking "overwork and stress," the Usual Suspects, but finally the extreme fatigue, achiness, bloating, and feeling cold all the time made me do some research.  My mom had thyroid problems, and my symptoms were consistent with hyperthyroidism, so I went to the doctor and she ran a few tests.  Then she sent me to another doctor, who re-ran the same blood tests and added a thyroid sonogram and nuclear thyroid uptake test to the list.

In preparation for the nuclear thing, I have to be on a low iodine diet for at least a week prior to taking the pill that will make me glow in the dark (at least any bad bits).  I looked at the list of banned foods and thought "challenge accepted."
Faced with "no dairy, no egg yolks, no salt except Kosher, no iodine/iodate conditioned doughs (huh? okay, no bread unless I make it myself), no carrageenan or guar gum, no vitamin supplements, no Red Dye #3 (I'll try to restrain myself), no chocolate except cocoa powder and some dark chocolate, no soy but soy oil is okay . . . well, you get the idea:  a challenge.  I cancelled my lunch dates, got out my shopping list, and planned a workable menu for the week.

First thing I made was my favorite vegan Sweet Potato Almond Butter Muffins (minimalistbaker.com recipe).  I bought Trader Joe's Coconut Creamer for my coffee, since I had to forego my usual decadent dollop of whipping cream.  Breakfast sorted.  On to lunch.  Using my beautiful semi-new Instant Pot, I made a double batch of my mom's lentil soup recipe, which is simple and delicious, just lentils, water, onions, carrots, garlic (duh, of course!), tomato sauce (I used Whole Foods' salt free diced tomatoes), salt and pepper.

Whole Foods, by the way, sells chicken that has not been injected with the usual saline solution (hey, if I'm going to avoid all salt except Kosher, I'm going to be OCD about it), so I bought a whole chicken and a few chicken breasts.  I made beer can chicken with the whole chook, which I enjoyed last night with my vegan daughter's contribution to my diet:  Roasted Cauliflower, Freekeh and Tahini (cookieandkate.com recipe). Yummy!  The chicken breasts will probably be marinated for souvlaki, and I also bought short ribs which I will pop into the slow cooker tomorrow.

It may seem daunting, but it's helpful that I cook most meals anyway, so all I have to do is make a few adjustments to my normal menu. Plus, nowhere on the list did it say "no liquor!"  I'll trade chocolate for a glass of wine any day.  And I have: Côté Mas Rosé from Whole Foods with the chicken last night - c'est parfait!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Tears Frozen in Time - Reflections on Suicide

May I never make my children feel the way I do right now.  This morning my boss’ father, who was facing the prospect of assisted living, committed suicide.  My boss’ grief at the sudden news unleashed a gut punch of howling rage and sadness inside of me that I thought had been dealt with, catalogued, resolved, and tidily put on a shelf to be examined in a clinical fashion at my leisure.

Fifteen years ago this month my father did the same thing, opted to leave this world on his own terms.  Dad wasn’t physically sick.  He probably would have lived to be 100, as his big brother almost did (Uncle Gene missed it by two weeks).  Dad was very very depressed, exacerbated by cheap wine and Xanax.  I’m sure he thought that he was doing everybody a favor, or, in more typical Dad fashion, thought “fuck it, I’m done.”

That was his choice.  I respect a person’s decision to leave life on their own terms, in their own way, I really do.  Two years after Dad died, my mother slipped quietly out of life, the last act of dementia that took her away from life little by little, memory by memory, until there was nothing left but a shadow and, finally, that was gone.  Which way was preferable?  Easier?  More “respectable” or “dignified?”  Damned if I know.  I spent many years grieving for my mother while she was still alive; her death was an anticlimax to the life that had ceased to exist.  Dad’s death was sudden, violent, painful, even after 15 years.

Suicide is a way of choosing the manner of our death, the ultimate control of our destiny.  It leaves grief like shards of shattered glass in its wake.  I do not know what the manner of my death will be.  I believe that I will concentrate on my life instead, and make as many beautiful memories for myself and my loved ones as I possibly can.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Insouciant Wine: Moss Lake & Malbecs

Insouciant Wine: Moss Lake & Malbecs: Wine tasting in progress! The wines Moss Lake at sunset Every couple of years a group of us get together for a weekend of fun a...

Moss Lake & Malbecs

Wine tasting in progress!
The wines
Moss Lake at sunset

Every couple of years a group of us get together for a weekend of fun and relaxation, something along the lines of no bras, no makeup, no men.  All of us are old enough to be comfortable with ourselves and with each other, and we celebrate our lives with good food, good liquor, sleep, art, and an appreciation of every minute of every day.  It's rejuvenating.

This year nine of us rented a house on the banks of Hubert M. Moss Lake, near Gainesville, Texas, and spent an idyllic long weekend pursuing the aforementioned activities.  My contribution was the wine tasting:  I'd read an interesting article by Dave McIntyre (dmwineline.com and @dmwine) for the Washington Post, "Old World wines taste of earth; New World wines taste of the sun" and "Wine in Argentina: Argentine Malbec Styles by Region" on The Anuva Wine Tasting Blog (anuvawines.com), and I was intrigued that the same grape grown in different areas would produce drastically different wines, so I purchased six bottles of Malbec: Cahors, France (where it all started); Washington state; California; Mendoza, Argentina; Rio Negro, Argentina (a region south of Mendoza); and Chile (from a region directly opposite Mendoza).  We tasted each wine and compared the flavors.  None of us have expert palates, but we all could taste the difference in terroir with each wine.  As a group, Mendoza won (bottle got emptied first), followed by Chile (same latitude, so kind of the same flavor).  I loved the fresh flavor of the Washington Malbec and a slight hint of licorice or fennel, but I was in the minority (more for me!), and everyone loved the French wine but finished Mendoza.  It was a lovely evening!  We invited our next door neighbors to the tasting, and another neighbor pulled up on his jet ski, so he joined in, and then the neighbors piled everyone on their pontoon boat for a sunset cruise around the lake.  Definitely an evening to remember!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Still Cooking and Tasting Wine, AND I GOT A NEW CAMERA!!

It's a Canon PowerShot SX60 HS, upgraded from my dearly loved SX20.  The zoom on this camera, coupled with the Image Stabilization feature, is phenomenal.  See attached photo of the MOON at 9:05 a.m. one morning a week or so ago.
As for cooking, I've been dabbling in vegan cookery, since my daughter and her boyfriend are vegans and I have to make SOMETHING besides spaghetti when they come over.  Vegan cooking isn't as scary as it sounds.  It appeals to the side of me that will read a recipe, realize I don't have all of the ingredients and I'm too lazy to go out for them, but instead will find pretty decent substitutes.  VEGAN THINGS I HAVE LEARNED:

Cashew creme rocks, but you really need a better blender than mine to make it perfectly creamy.  The texture and taste is lovely anyway, especially with a little almond milk, coconut sugar, maple syrup and coconut oil in it.  Yum.

You can make your own chickpea flour from dried chickpeas but you will be pretty deaf for a few hours afterward.  Plus, it takes forever.  Better to buy Bob's Red Mill.  Add equal parts flour and water, and 1/4 part olive oil.  Cook like pancakes and top with whatever you like.  Last time I sauteed mushrooms and garlic in olive oil with leftover roasted potatoes and put that on top, then added homemade pico de gallo and a sliced avocado.  It was delicious and very filling.

Most of the veggie dishes I make are vegan anyway.  Yay!!

Trader Joe's has yummy vegan options, so it's a good thing my daughter works at one of their stores.  Oh, and they have a really nice Trader Joe's Reserve Pinot Grigio for under $8 that I can highly recommend.

My rosé of choice this summer -- and last summer too, for that matter -- is Chateau de Cornemps, from Total Wine.  Absolutely amazing, with just enough body to keep it from tasting bland or like straw, but still dry and refreshing.

Speaking of wine, I joined a non-traditional wine "club," www.nakedwines.com, and I HIGHLY recommend their wines as well as their membership.  It is a wonderful business model.  Plus, I have enjoyed every bottle of wine that I've received from them.

That's it for now!  More recipes and wine recommendations will follow! 

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Great Vodka Experiment, Or, How I Got Tipsy In The Name of Scientific Research

I dearly love pomegranate martinis in the summertime -- cool, refreshing, just sweet enough . . . yum.  However, a few years ago, after an unfortunate encounter with a drink that was made with Everclear, I suddenly and alarmingly found myself unable to tolerate vodka.  Even the slightest swallow of it would make the room spin and send me straight into the Room Of The Great Porcelain God for a few intense hours.

Okay, fine, I'm stubborn but not stupid, so I quit drinking vodka.  For a while I was content with my Cruzan rum and juice, and gin martinis (dirty, please), but the idea that vodka had triumphed over my hitherto hard head just bugged me.  I wanted to know WHY.  And I wanted a pomegranate martini.

I did some research and found out that not all vodkas are created equal.  Some are made with grains, some with corn, and some with potatoes.  Perhaps, I thought, a change in ingredients would be the ticket.  Most popular vodkas are grain-based, so I set out to find a potato vodka.  Tito's, a VERY good Texas-made vodka, is potato-based, but since this was an experiment, I wanted to keep the cost down in case this didn't work.

One of the specialists at Total Wine helped me out, though not without a few furtive and puzzled looks.  We read labels and finally landed on Luksusowa, which is potato-based and reasonably priced.

Tonight was the big night:  I had a shot before dinner (after a glass of Running With Scissors cabernet sauvignon sipped slowly and appreciatively while watching the sunset), and waited to see what would happen.  I made dinner.  I ate dinner.  [Cue Elton John's "I'm Still Standing."]  YEAH!  This may have worked.  I felt a little tipsy, but not dizzy.

Bring on summer!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Comme approche de l'été, Rosé . . .

Okay, so this isn't my most brilliant photograph, but it's informative, and that's what I'm aiming for today.  Summer approaches!  (See title in Most Impressive French Translation.)  That means I am thinking of hot summer days and chilled French Rosé.  Sigel's at Lovers & Greenville in Dallas had a French Rosé wine tasting last night, and I marked it on my calendar, gave The Bosses fair warning, and managed to extricate myself from work in time to get there.  No mean feat.  It meant last-minute "wait, send me [X] before you go!" exhortations and navigating through sodden streets after a spring "shower" that dumped 5" of rain and blew with gusts of 65-70 mph all afternoon.  Our downtown office building was literally shaking to the point that we, on the 47th floor, were getting vertigo.  Lights were out en route to my destination, but, dammit, I got there!

It was, of course, worth the trip.  I sampled 10 wines from various regions of France, settled on three favorites, and bought five bottles for a total of $55, which was my ballpark budget for this trip.  And, as always, I learned a few things.

Taste the wine, determine if you like it, and then look at the price -- you may be surprised.  The wine I enjoyed the most was actually one of the cheaper offerings.

I am intrigued by Cabernet Franc, because it is used so often as part of a blended wine instead of on its own.  I've had a few bottles of cab franc and enjoyed its peppery assertiveness, so I was looking forward to trying the cab franc rosé, and I was surprised that I found it disappointing.  The one note was curiously flat in the lighter wine, and since my favorite rosé is a Bordeaux, which is a blend of several grapes, I decided that lighter wines must benefit from blending different types of wine into one glorious symphony of taste.  Which made sense considering which the three wines I ended up purchasing.  You'll see my notes in the photo, if you can read my handwriting!  (Don't worry -- it's already been thoroughly analyzed by Sheila Lowe, Graphologist and Mystery Writer Extraordinaire, and she assures me that I am reasonably well adjusted and not likely to go on a shooting spree after being served a glass of inferior wine.)

Cheers, y'all!