Sometimes Life Throws You Curve Balls

UT Hospital Lobby border=0

Sunday afternoon I got the call I had been dreading for quite a while….

“Hi, it’s mom. We think your daddy had another stroke.”

Pit opened, free fall begin now.

They were at a church potluck. When daddy returned to the table he was carrying the entire pan of brownies from the buffet line and two pieces of cake and Mom knew something wasn’t right. She asked him what he was doing, but he had zoned out like when he had his TIA in November of 2011 and didn’t know what she was saying. My mom went over to a nurse in the room and asked her to come take a look at Daddy. By the time she looked over, Daddy was on his way to his heart stopping and not breathing. Another nurse in the room saw what was happening right as the other started rushing to daddy and they went to work immediately.

The next few hours were an adventure that none of us ever wanted to travel.

Daddy’s heart stopped.

He stopped breathing

CPR was done.

Daddy’s skin turned gray.

He was intubated.

The ambulance came.

He was taken to the local emergency room to be received by an arrogant, incompetent doctor (who will be dealt with at a future time) that acted like my father in fact hadn’t been dead for a few minutes. He wouldn’t listen to my mom…he wouldn’t listen to the paramedics…he wouldn’t listen to the people who were there, that saw what was done. He said nothing was wrong, daddy merely passed out, he never stopped breathing, his heart never stopped. He acted like he hadn’t been intubated or ever in dire straits.

But he did stop breathing, and his heart stopped beating, in a room full of witnesses with two nurses who immediately went to work.

Mom told the doctor she wanted him sent to UT hospital. His response was that UT was full and refused. When he was actually transferred the nurse told us here they never refused patients.

Monday morning came and we got a new doctor. He looked at daddy’s EKG and told mom right off the bat, “He had a heart attack. There’s no way you can look at this and not see that. We’re going to transfer him to UT. We can’t care for this here.”

Monday morning I drove down to Tennessee not knowing what would await me when I got there, but I was determined to get to my mom. At the same time, this week was my sister’s last big chemo treatment and I had planned to be with her to help out. She and I talked about it and decided she had enough friends that could help her if needed and that I needed to go ahead and come help my mom. So I did.

It is 547 miles from my house to my parents. I left at 7:45 Monday morning and got to their house at 4:30 that afternoon.

Sometimes life throws you curve balls and you have to catch them whether you want to or not. 2013 started out on January 2nd throwing us the first major curve ball of my sister’s breast cancer diagnosis. Then we got to move. Now daddy’s having heart problems.

I’m not so fond of 2013 I must say. How about you?

Still

Home Sweet Home

We’re moving.

Still.

It’s been three weeks and even with all the stuff we’ve gotten rid of, and hiring some moving guys, we’re moving crap.

Still.

I teased Jamison the last time we moved and told him if we were moving again he’d have to have get people to come in and have everything packed, moved and cleaned. Granted we did have some moving help, both the hired guys and some very wonderful friends, and the cleaning service is going to clean the other house, but I’m exhausted. I started packing and going through stuff more than 2 months ago. So in moving math that’s almost 3 months of moving.

Moving.

Still.

This time I’m not so much joking…if we move again there will be complete packing and moving service. Heck, I might even have them unpack on the other end. If we move again. And quite frankly folks, that’s a big IF as far as I am concerned, because did I mention we’re moving?

Still.

I finally got to cook a meal in this house on Monday. I had baked Jamison his gluten free peanut butter muffins he eats for breakfast, but we’ve been shuffling back and forth between this house and the old one when he gets off work a lot, and considering he doesn’t get home until 7, there hasn’t been a whole lot of cooking.

I even went wild yesterday and baked banana bread. I swear the banana’s made me do it…they kept whispering, “We’re perfect for banana bread!” and “You really should make some banana bread!” How could I not listen?

On top of all of this I’ve fallen behind in school because there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get things done, because…you guess it…we’re moving.

Still.

But all in all I love the new house. I love my view. I love that my desk is set up to look out over the water. It’s calming to me. Alexis loves it too. Having a lake in the backyard is a novelty that isn’t fading with her. She’s a water child, just like me.

With all of the boxes still here and there, and the unpacked things, and the general chaos, I have moments of complete despair. I don’t function well when things aren’t ordered, and I can’t get it ordered fast enough. We’ll return to regularly scheduled programming soon. I have to find my kitchen in all the boxes and moving minutia. Despite all of that though, I really do love it here.

Still.

Pardon the Prolonged Absence

New House

Pardon the prolonged absence…we’re in the process of moving and I haven’t had time to sit down, let alone blog. Believe me this process seems as if it takes a billion and two years, instead of just a few weeks or months. The clutter and chaos that are synonymous with a move are really wearing on me. I don’t like disorder, it makes me grumpy and nervous.

Anyway…that’s neither here nor there. Where we we?

We’re moving from one mountain, over to another, this time with a lake in our backyard. I’ve always wanted to live next to a lake (or an ocean) as I really am a water girl at heart, so this is a huge thing for me. I’m beyond excited.

The house we’re moving to is much smaller than the one we are in now, but it has an open, old world cottage feel to the house, and it’s just perfect. It also gave us the perfect, much needed, excuse to evaluate what we had, what we actually need, and what we could get rid of. Goodwill has loved us the past few weeks, the things that weren’t worth keeping were handled by renting a large dumpster. I’m really looking forward to a much smaller, less cluttered existence, and of course a lake in our backyard!

New House: Lake in the backyard

I’ll be back soon with recipes, or food in general, I’m not sure, but soon. Jamison and I have also been discussing a complete revamp of Dianne’s Dishes, so we’ll see what the future holds. Until then, I wish you all hope and light.

Did I mention the lake?

New House: Lake in the backyard

I see a canoe in my near future. I might just have one all picked out on my Amazon Wishlist. Maybe, just maybe. 😉

Lemon Curd, Where Have You Been All My Life?

Lemon Curd

Last week I was in Virginia with Katherine to help out after her second chemo treatment. I’m not sure I was much help, she likes to do things on her own, but it was nice to spend time with her and her family. One morning for a snack, she pulled out a jar of Trader Joe’s Lemon Curd, and we added some to a toasted bagel half with a little cream cheese smeared on first. Result? To. Die. For!

I thought I had had lemon curd before, but it turns out I had it confused with lemon custard. My brain isn’t what it used to be. But I was very pleasantly surprised by the difference. I posted a query for a recipe on Facebook and Rosa from The Rambling Epicure posted her recipe and it looks fabulous! The only problem came when I got home and realized as I started to make the curd, I had already packed my kitchen scale for the big move. Drat! So I did a little research to see what I can find online and ended up following this recipe to an extent and kind of incorporated other techniques I thought were neat in to my finished product.

I did a few things differently, I used the zest of two lemons, which was more than what the Gourmet recipe called for, and I used the juice of 4 lemons, which was just a bit more than 1 cup. Otherwise it was the same. Also after it had thickened I whipped it on high speed with my mixer for a minute or two, a method I had seen on another lemon curd recipe. I ended up with a light, lemony little bite of goodness, or more like almost a quart of lemon curd fabulosity. Yum!

Lemon Curd: Ready for Fridge

I’ve always said I was born on the wrong continent…I drink tea, I like scones, I like old world style, and now I like lemon curd. I think I’m more convinced now that I was. Oh to dream. I spread a little lemon curd on some girl scout Trefoil shortbread cookies, and it was really, really good. Grab a shortbread cookie of your own and try it…you’ll like it if you’re a lemon lover I promise. Go. Go now. You won’t be sorry.

Chocolate Marshmallow Frosting

Chocolate Marshmallow Frosting

Chocolate. Dear, dear, chocolate. How I love thee, let me count the ways…

Of course I won’t count the ways, not here, I could wax philosophical for hours about chocolate itself, and right now you need to make this frosting!

This frosting is completely easy, yet it makes a sinfully good topping that you can use to top any cake you like. You could even use this as a spread on a bagel, or to dip strawberries in for a decadent little treat. However you use it though, if you’re a chocolate lover, and many of us are, you’re going to love this fabulous little frosting.

What You’ll Need:
1 pound of cream cheese, softened
2 sticks of butter, softened
1 jar of marshmallow cream
1 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
4 cups of powdered sugar
Half and half, if needed to smooth out the frosting

Chocolate Marshmallow Frosting

Cream together cream cheese, butter and marshmallow cream until smooth. Slowly add cocoa to the cream cheese mixture until completely blended. Add sugar and beat until smooth.

If the mixture seems stiff add a tablespoon of half and half and beat again to help smooth out the frosting. You can keep adding half and half in this manner if needed until the frosting is smooth, but not runny.

Notes: If you wanted to make a vanilla version you could leave out the cocoa powder and add another cup of powdered sugar to the amount listed above as well as a tablespoon of vanilla extract. When the humidity is higher or it’s warm you most likely won’t need any half and half at all, when the humidity is lower or it’s cold you might need more.

Make Your Own: Taco Seasoning

Make Your Own: Taco Seasoning

Making your own spice mixes like this not only saves you a trip to the store, but it’s also a lot cheaper than buying them ready made and tastes better too. Plus you control what you put in the mix, and if you’re like me and prefer organic things, you know what you’re making is also healthier than what you find at the store. It’s a win win situation all around!

Now, let’s get to shaking! 😉

What You’ll Need:
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of black pepper (Note: More if you like pepper, less if you don’t.)
2 tablespoons of chili powder
2 tablespoons of paprika (Note: I used plain this time, but you can used the smoked variety if you prefer. I’ve done that before and it gives you a bit more depth in the taste.)
1 teaspoon of cumin
2 teaspoons of onion powder
1 teaspoon of garlic powder

Make Your Own: Taco Seasoning

Place in ingredients in a bowl and thoroughly mix together all of the ingredients. Once mixed put in an airtight container and store in your pantry or cupboard until ready to use. Or if you’d like you can just mix it all in a small jar and shake, then cover for storage and skip having to clean to bowl.

To use to make tacos, add two heaping tablespoons of the mixture to 1 pound of cooked ground meat (beef, chicken, etc.) along with 2 cups of water and cook until the water evaporates.

Now you’re ready to make tacos, or go crazy and make burritos or nachos, or well, you get the picture. ;o)

IMG_231Make Your Own: Taco Seasoning0

Notes: You can also add in 1/2 to a 1/2 teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper if you want to spice things up a bit or 1 teaspoon of ground chipolte powder for an added little kick.

High-Hat Cupcakes

High-Hat Cupcakes

I love cupcakes. Some argue that cupcakes are over, but I disagree. What’s not to like about a single serving of cake, a decadent little bit of heaven, just enough for a nice treat, or to share with a friend? There’s nothing not to like about that! And chocolate…I also love chocolate. Chocolate and cupcakes together? The perfect match!

A while back I saw a recipe on Pinterest that linked to Martha Stewart’s Hi-Hat Cupcakes (and really that should be spelled “High” instead of “Hi” so I changed it!) I’ve wanted to make them every since. But let’s be honest, as brilliant as Martha is about some things she can take something relatively simple and make it so difficult you want to just give up. This recipe? Well yes it is just like that! BUT you can make it simpler, much simpler.

First of all if you’re making this recipe read through it first. Not that I didn’t you understand. I would never do that. Seriously…

OK you caught me, I didn’t read through it. There are you happy? Now back to the recipe-o-rama.

If you follow this as written you’ll notice several things. First she has you using like 3 or 4 bowls for just the cupcake part alone…for one recipe…all of which you have to wash and that doesn’t include the bowl for the icing and the double boiler for the chocolate. That’s not my idea of a good time washing all those dishes! Not at all!

You could easily do the cupcake batter in one bowl. First melt the chocolate and then let it cool. After the chocolate is cool, add the creaming ingredients, along with the sour cream, extract and other wet ingredients in to the chocolate and mix well. Next add baking powder and salt (I used 1 teaspoon of salt instead of the recommended 1/4 teaspoon) and stir to mix that in and then add the flour and mix until batter forms. The recipe calls for all purpose flour, but I used cake flour and I baked them as directed.

And now let’s talk about the icing….

High-Hat Cupcakes

Basically you’re making an egg white icing, or as I like to call it “marshmallow” icing, because it tastes and looks a lot like marshmallows. The directions in the recipe to make this quite frankly just don’t work and the first batch just didn’t come together. I’ve never had that kind of issues with egg whites, though I know others who have. I ended up just melting the sugar in the egg whites, water and cream of tartar on a double boiler until warm to the touch and then whipped them on high. I didn’t get them stiff enough, so it sort of sagged once the cupcake had sat for a while, but despite looking wilted once the chocolate was on top, they still tasted fabulous. I also ended up drizzling the chocolate over the top of the cupcakes instead of dipping them due to the not quite stiff enough icing and the first one collapsing the cone top.

You could easily shortcut the cupcakes and just use a mix. I recommend King Arthur Flour’s cake mixes and the chocolate one is especially fabulous. You could make a stiff icing with marshmallow fluff, cream cheese and enough powdered sugar to make it firm and not have to deal with egg white drama. Also the recipe calls for corn syrup in the topping chocolate, but I used coconut oil instead. It makes a form of “magic shell” chocolate which is just perfect for this.

High-Hat Cupcakes

Again I can’t stress enough, this is a recipe you need to read and read carefully. There are mistakes in the recipe. In the cupcake portion it says 1/2 cup of water when it means sour cream and in the icing portion it wants you to add 1/4 of a cup of water to the egg white/sugar mixture, but it isn’t listed in the ingredient list. It’s confusing. This might even be a read 3 or 4 times sort of deal. Trust Martha to make it anything but simple!

High-Hat Cupcakes

No matter how you do it though, this is a really fabulous taste combination and both Alexis and I really enjoyed them even though the icing/chocolate got slipperier and flatter than the pictures above. After all isn’t the best part the taste anyway?

Yes, yes it is!

Cancer Comes to Visit

Cancer Comes to Visit: How My Sister's Breast Cancer Diagnosis Has Renewed My Passion For Real, Whole Foods

My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer on January 2nd and it wasn’t a happy new year and over all this definitely isn’t the way you want to start out any year, especially the one that is unfolding before you. 2013? So far I’m not impressed with you! My sister will spend this year fighting mutant cells at the age of 37. She did everything right, yet it just goes to show that sometimes doing the right things doesn’t seem to matter, or in layman’s terms cancer is a bitch. Our environment, our processed foods, it’s all contaminated and a big change is needed, even if it means corporate food comes tumbling down.

Since Katherine’s diagnosis I’ve been doing a lot of research on the healing powers of food. I’m a food blogger; I love food; food is what I am good at; so why not see what food can do for us? It gives me something to obsess about and keep the negative ideas that want to pop into my head at bay. All of us at some point have most likely heard the term “superfood” and I wondered if there was anything to these ideas. If you think about it, it makes sense, the more colorful, less processed, more whole the food is, the better that food is for you. It isn’t difficult to comprehend; in fact it’s really a part of our primal intuition and intuition is rarely wrong.

While looking in to the healing properties of food you come across all sorts of interesting things. For instance there are various foods that can help in homeopathic ways; artichokes can help calm your aching stomach, dandelion greens help both mood and liver function, components of eggplants actually consume free radicals, sweet potatoes have anti-inflammatory properties, chard helps vision, watermelon helps with weight loss and pumpkin seeds can help lower cholesterol, just to name a few. I’d much rather go natural instead of chemical, it just makes better sense.

But what about the foods that help with cancer?

Broccoli and broccoli rabe have compounds that have been shown to neutralize carcinogens. The sometimes hated Brussels sprouts can too. Cabbage in particular, both red and green, helps in terms of breast cancer, the one that is particularly of interest to us at the moment. Carrots also have some anti-cancer properties, as do all the leafy greens, the darker the green the better, horseradish has components that actually have been shown to slow the growth of cancer, mushrooms, particularly the Shitake variety in particular, are powerful in the fight against cancer and this is just the tip of the iceberg and doesn’t even begin to touch on herbs, roots and spices.

As time passes we’ve replaced whole, real foods, with crappy processed foods that are more chemical, than actual food. You can even find organic processed foods, which completely defeats the purpose. There is this erroneous idea that eating real, whole foods is more expensive than eating the crap that lines our store shelves and it isn’t; it’s actually cheaper, but big agriculture doesn’t want you to know that because their crops (mostly corn and soy, and increasingly GMO varieties at that) are what is taken and made into those processed products that kill us from the inside out. Is it easier to eat processed food? In some cases yes, but easy doesn’t make it the proper path, plus there is also a preconceived notion that cooking is hard. It’s not.

But what to do?

First buy the least processed things you can. If you just have to buy a processed food look for ones that have ingredients you can pronounce and recognize at first site. If there are chemicals in the food, you know you want to avoid that. Fruit and vegetables are your friends, especially if they’re fresh and local, and organic, fresh and local is even better. Fresh and local are your friends. Organic is too. Some people say there is no difference, but take a look in to biomagnification and you’ll see that is anything but true…in short if you put pesticide on your food, it stays there. If you put it on food that is given to animals, it ends up in their products. It’s that little word known as science that sadly so many people these days seem to shun. Also the fresher the food, the more nutritious it is. Avoid farm raised fish, find a local source for as much of your food as possible, kick those chemicals to the curb, sodas need to go, green tea is a miracle and apples really can help keep the doctor away!

Cancer sucks. You know that, I know that. But you take the hits as they come and you come out swinging. As my sister takes this horrid journey, and we her loved ones come along by proxy, I hope to learn more about the healing power of food and going backward in food history and eating real food instead of crap is but a stone on the path, a path we’ll come to the end of and move on to a happier, brigther tomorrow…together.

Cross posted at Daffodil Lane.

Apocalypse Cocktails: End of the World Cherry Chocolate Martini

Apocalypse Coctails: End of the World Chocolate Cherry Martinis!

Apocalypse smapocalypse. It’s kind of amusing when people get all stirred up over something completely innocuous. Silly humans, we get riled up over the most basic things that are simply put out there by suggestion with no evidence to back it up. If there are aliens out there they are laughing at us I promise…hell I’M laughing at us! 😉

Anyway…

All of the hoopla about the Mayan calendar ending (or as I like to see it, the Mayan Y2K) made me start thinking about an end of the world cocktail! I posed the question on Facebook and asked if you were making such a cocktail what you’d put in it and I got the answers vodka, absinthe and moonshine. Vodka I actually had on hand, because well vodka is good, vodka is my friend! Then I saw some cherry juice at the grocery store and the cocktail idea flooded in soon after.

Chocolate and cherries? It’s like a Black Forest Cake in a cup!

What You’ll Need:
4 cups of black cherry juice, chilled
1 – 11.5 ounce bottle of Perrier, chilled
1 cup of Godiva Chocolate Vodka, from the freezer
1 cup of Whipped Cream Vodka, from the freezer

Mix ingredients in a large pitcher until well blended. Drink immediately or keep chilled in the fridge until ready to serve.

Notes: If you wanted to put a cherry in the drink that would be a neat addition, or you could rim the glass with sweetened cocoa, or top with whipped cream. I like this straight up though.

Cocktail Time: Red Hot Apple Pumpkin Martinis

Red Hot Apple Pumpkin Martinis

When I was a child growing up in Tennessee, my mom’s family always came down from her hometown which was about 3 hours from where we lived, each Thanksgiving for lunch. My mom made a fabulous spread with turkey and dressing and corn casserole and yeast muffins and deviled eggs and sweet potatoes and all sort of other yummy surprises. Her spread was large, fabulous and wonderful and it really took it out of her to prepare such a feast.

As I’ve gotten older, most of the years since Jamison and I married, we’ve had Thanksgiving here in Maryland and I’ve done the traditional Thanksgiving feast. This year? Not happening! I need a break! I briefly thought about taking a break last year and didn’t, but this year I was determined to make Thanksgiving easy on myself so I made reservations instead! My plan for Thanksgiving is to wake up, eat breakfast, then we’ll go with Jamison’s family to eat lunch, come home and relax and maybe have a cocktail or two along the way! That sounds like my kind of holiday!

This martini takes your classic fall flavors of pumpkin, apple and cinnamon and throws them together in a fabulous martini that will quickly become a fall favorite. The cinnamon gives it a bit of a hot kick and it just comes together perfectly! If you like the tastes of harvest, this is the martini for you!

Red Hot Apple Pumpkin Martinis

What You’ll Need:
1 cup of Apple juice or apple cider
1/3 cup of Atomic Hots Cinnamon Vodka or cinnamon schnapps
1/2 cup of Pumpkin Pie Vodka
1/4 cup of heavy cream or half and half
2 tablespoons of cinnamon syrup
Ice
Cinnamon sugar

Add all ingredients except the cinnamon sugar to a martini shaker and gently shake.

Rim the martini glasses with cinnamon sugar and pour mixed martini into prepared glass and dust the top of the drink with more cinnamon sugar if desired.

Red Hot Apple Pumpkin Martinis

Drink and enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Notes: As always don’t drink and drive!