Hanging With My Bestie

Early mornings mean spectacular light, coffee, and sometimes conversation.

One of the great things about visiting my best friend, Dawn, (other than the completely obvious) is the view from the house.  She, the Old Man, and Little Obi-Wan live two blocks from Universal Studios/City Walk. We could walk there if we wanted to deal with all the steep inclines.  This includes the Stairs of Death.

Take them slowly and hold on to the rail or you WILL fall. This is why they are the Stairs of Death. Also, you feel kinda dead once you climb all those stairs.

Visits usually mean we’re up early.  She was a teacher for years so when she was still working, she was still up early.  Now Little Obi-Wan usually wakes early meaning she does, too.  Early there means late for me so really I’m sleeping in.  Right?  We have coffee, sit and zone out, talk a little once we feel coherent, and now that we have smartphones – check world of social media.  I’ll usually pull out whatever book I happen to be reading and indulge in some early morning reading time.  Book count this vacation?  Four.  That’s pretty good considering all the stuff we did I already blogged about and all the stuff I haven’t shared with you yet.  Not to mention the countless times we watched Thomas the Train, Sesame Street, and videos with Little Obi-Wan.

The view from the kitchen. How can you not love that view while fixing your meals? Oh, right. It gets hotter than Hades in there. That’s how.

I love cooking with Dawn and in her kitchen.  She did something great that I already shared about which was make sure there were safe pots and pans for me to use.   The last time we visited it was for Thanksgiving in 2009.  The kitchen is a little small so having Dawn, her mom, and I all in there at once can get a little claustrophobic, so we tried to take turns.  It worked for the most part, but there were times we were all in there at once and staying perfectly still at our station so we weren’t bumping into each other.  That was a great Thanksgiving!

I showed you several of our meals out, but I haven’t shared our meals in.

Our first night, Dawn grilled up two different types of brats by Johnsonville.  Original and Spicy.  She also grilled some corn.  We had some fresh tomatoes and cucumbers as well and then watermelon for dessert.  Yummers!

So fresh!

Another night, Dawn made Sloppy Joes with homemade buns and roasted potatoes.  Chaz was in homemade bread heaven while we were

Potatoes and Sloppy Joes!

visiting.  I skipped the buns and ate mine with a fork.  Just as good!

The day we went to the L.A. County Fair was my turn to cook dinner.   Chaz was spectacular and ran over to Ralph’s for all our dinner needs once we got back from the fair.  I should mention that the shopping center that the Ralph’s is in closest to Dawn is the shopping center where everyone loses their sanity.   Everyone forgets how to drive in there and decide that they all have the right of way.  Thank goodness for underground parking.  If you can manage to get to it without being run into.

The requirements that the Old Man set out for anything I fixed is that it have meat (can do), and not contain eggplant or

An old standby

curry.  I decided to go with a variation of something I tend to make

Carnitas! Ole!

when I want something quick and easy.  Pasta with mild Italian sausage and kalamata olives.  I added asparagus in with it and topped it with fresh basil.  Chaz got some fresh heirloom tomatoes that he sliced up and some radishes.  I intended to eat mine without pasta and just set some the of sausage, asparagus, and olives aside, but Chaz bought some Tinkyada pasta, so I felt obligated to fix it.  I had a pot of Tinkyada pasta for me and a pot of gluten-full pasta for everyone else.  There were enough leftovers that I could have some as breakfast a few days.  Which turned out to be a good thing after I discovered eggs were a problem.

Dawn loves using a slow cooker as much as I do.  She fixed carnitas in the slow cooker the day after our trip to Disneyland.  This meant really only veggie prep that evening.  The best kind of

That risotto…best risotto!

The sky was on fire one night

cooking when you’re recovering after back-to-back full days out.

Our last dinner was roasted chicken, carrots, and butternut squash risotto.  Dawn was awesome and instead of using butter that the recipe called for, she used more olive oil.  The best risotto I’ve had.  And it was cooked in a rice cooker!   Yes, a rice cooker.  You know, the thing that us Asians use to cook rice in so we can have great rice without standing at the stove watching it, but a lot of Americans use to cook other things in.

Okay.  I know I started off with talking about what we do when I visit and ended up talking about food.   Well, we eat!   We used to go out to eat a lot (or call for takeout or delivery) when I would visit, but tight budgets and food intolerances/allergies kept us in more often this time around.  That was fine with me.

Just look at that face!

Jump!

The resident fighter against Communism, aka Mantequilla or Manny for short, takes up residence next to me while I’m sitting on the sofa or love seat.  He demands a lot of attention and belly scratches.  He learned from my first visit that I’m the one with the fingernails that knows all the right spots to hit.  Word has it he was a bit sulky and wanted more cuddles than usual after we left.  Poor little guy.  He just can’t get enough lovin’.

We usually play video games during lazy days indoors.  They got a Xbox with Kinect since our last visit.  Let me tell you, that thing is a pain!  It took more time to get everything set up than we spent playing!  As Dawn says, it’s not intuitive.  Not at all.  Give me my Wii any day!  Little Obi-Wan had a blast though.  He plays like I do a lot of times.  I don’t really care, I just do whatever.  Really.  Playing Mortal Kombat and Street

Trying a Sancerre

Fighter in college I had no clue how I was supposed to use the controller.  I just kept rapidly pressing all the buttons and when I was lucky, I’d win.  It’s all about having fun.  Right?

Copious amounts of wine and other adult beverages are also consumed.  That’s just one bottle of wine and the one I bought.  You should see their two bars.  Okay.  One and a half.  The Old Man’s mancave is where he has his poker games and they keep a full bar down there.  The “bar” in the kitchen just has a little of everything you might need.  Rum, vodka, kahlua.  You know, the important stuff.

No words needed

 

 

 

The Accidental Glutening Overdose

Count 'em. 12 vials!

I have been using my slow cooker a lot lately.  It’s helped with managing my time and not feeling that rush of needing to make sure dinner is ready.  Or rather, getting it all in early so I can relax later on the days I have to work later.

A few weeks ago, everything I had planned for the week came from Stephanie O’Dea’s Make It Fast, Cook It Slow.  With gluten-free and dairy-free adaptations.  For  my Meatless Monday dinner, I made her Bean and Cheese Burrito Casserole.  I was going to make it without gluten-free tortillas and without dairy-free cheese.  Then I realized I’d really just be eating beans and tomatoes.  I’m not fond of Daiya at all plus everything is processed so I don’t even buy dairy-free cheese.  I decided to try Rice Shreds by Galaxy Nutritional Foods since I hadn’t tried it before.  I also bought Food for Life’s Brown Rice Tortillas.  I don’t buy these often because every time we’ve tried them for wraps or whatever, they fall to pieces.  Since this was a casserole recipe, falling to pieces would happen while cooking and that was okay.

I used about half the package of the tortillas for the recipe and the rest I ate throughout the week with breakfast or snack.  I also ate most of the leftover casserole.

That week, I wasn’t feeling so hot.  I was fatigued and tired all the time.  Plus, the inflammation of my plantar fasciitis flared up and really won’t settle down no matter how much icing, stretches, etc. I do.  Rest assured, I know what to do for plantar fasciitis and I have been doing it as well as making sure I’m wearing my orthotics even when I’m not at work.  The inflammation just doesn’t want to go down. It felt like a glutening, but I couldn’t think of anything I could’ve had that had gluten without me knowing about it.  I didn’t think anything more about it and went on just feeling fatigued.

Then, the day after I found out about my friend passing away, Shirley (gluten-free easily) posted this gluten-free alert.

Bingo.

Yet another reason to avoid gluten-free processed foods.  You just never know.

Had I gone to the Hematologist after I discovered the repeated glutening from one product, I would have asked him to run some tests.  Oh, well.

Several weeks later, I’m still fatigued.  When I wake up, I’m already so tired I just want to stay in bed all day.  My feet still get extremely swollen even after a short time on them.  I will be glad when this gluten gets out of my system.

On the brighter side, my visit to the Hematologist on Monday for a finger stick comparison from the venipuncture tests confirmed my platelet count was not as low, confirming his and Dr. Cuz’s suspicion that it was lab error.  However, I am on the borderline for Alpha Thalassemia, a genetic disorder that causes a reduction in hemoglobin production.  If I do have it, he believes it to be the true cause of my anemia.  Weakness and fatigue are also a symptom.   One of my relatives informed me later that day after sharing it on Facebook and Twitter that she has the traits for it.  Sticking that one in my pocket for my follow-up when he retests me to make sure.

Exciting times, yeah?

Lemon Basil Chicken

Lemon Basil Chicken

My favorite way of fixing a whole chicken in order to reuse leftovers in salads and other dishes is to roast it in a slow cooker.  One good thing my mother taught me in the kitchen was to stuff turkeys with oranges and apples to keep it moist rather than stuff it with stuffing.  I took this lesson and applied it to chicken and varied the items I used to stuff.  Lemons.  Limes. Onions.  Garlic.  Fresh herbs.  Dried herbs.  It’s nearly limitless what you can stuff into a chicken.  There really is no right or wrong way to do it either.

Truss the chicken?  Pffft.  Trussing is for overachievers.  I learned how to truss a long time ago.  I probably could if I really wanted to, but why bother?  There is usually a loose flap of skin on poultry that you can tuck the end of the legs into.  Just stuff the chicken, tuck the legs and place in the slow cooker.  It doesn’t get simpler than that.

I make my chicken go a long way.  Along with this dinner of chicken, artichokes, and mashed potatoes, I used leftover meat to make Chicken Stew and Chicken Salad.  I used the juices to make mashed potatoes in place of butter for a different dinner.  And I used the bones along with veggie scraps I was saving in the freezer to make the broth for the chicken stew.  One chicken, four dishes, eight meals.   Yes, my dinner leftovers are always lunch for the following day.  It’s the easiest way for me to make sure I have a good healthy lunch.  Besides, sometimes leftovers are even better than the first time around.

Lemon Basil Chicken

1 whole chicken

1/2 onion, halved

1 lemon, quartered

large sprig basil (you want lots of leaves on the sprig)

salt and pepper to taste

If you grease your slow cooker take care of that first.  Stuff the main cavity of the chicken with 3 of the lemon quarters, the basil sprig and one of onion quarters.  Stuff the rear cavity with the remaining lemon and onion.  Season the outside of the chicken with salt and pepper and rub the seasoning into the skin well.  Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.  Remove to a cutting board and let it rest for at least 5 minutes before carving it.