Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Feeding the Hungry Headache

Well, I'm finally emerging from the migraine fog. It was a real humdinger, a week-long whopper the likes of which I haven't experienced in a long time. Not sure what I did to deserve this one, but clearly I somehow managed to really piss off the headache gods big time!

It did make me thankful that this sort of thing is now an oddity and not a regular occurrence as it used to be. I often have people ask me how I have managed to go from 3-4 headaches per month to 3-4 per year, and I promise I'll write a long post about it soon.

Anyhow, part of the whole migraine thing is the nausea, and a while back I read something that speculated that the nausea associated with morning sickness was really extreme hunger triggered by the body's increased demand for calories. I've never been pregnant (and God willing, never will be) but it made sense to me. So this time, instead of shunning food like I generally do when I've got a headache, I decided to try eating.

HOLY MOLY! As soon as I started eating, the nausea morphed into extreme, ravenous hunger! It was really rather incredible. And on day three, when I finally managed to drag myself to the grocery store, I actually came home with a "nasty rotisserie chicken." A friend of mine used to call them "nasty" because of all of the grease, and the name stuck. I actually rarely eat meat, but my body was screaming for it, so I decided to let my body win, and consumed the entire thing in a matter of a day or two.

It totally goes against my principles in so many ways, but I couldn't help myself... and it really did make me feel better. I'm sure the bird wouldn't see it that way though... Sorry, Mr. Chicken, I really am...

Of course, since my defenses were down, I also ended up bringing home a box of Girl Scout Cookies... Samoas, my absolute favorites.

The thing was, they didn't really taste as good as I remembered them, and the sugar probably didn't help the headache any, as I managed to scarf down the entire box in about 24 hours. But hey, my defenses were down.

Anyhow, I'm not sure what to make of the whole thing. It makes me wonder if there's some metabolism component to migraines that isn't currently recognized. I swear, I probably ate double my normal calories last week. It didn't make the headache go away, but it sure made it much easier to tolerate! I do think I'll skip the Girl Scout cookies next time though...

I did a Google search and found a few other people reporting ravenous hunger with migraines. Has anybody else out there ever experienced this sort of thing?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Confessions of a Kitchen Luddite

I love to cook. So every year when my birthday rolls around (as it's doing in a few weeks) everybody wants to buy me some sort of kitchen contraption. It's not that I'm ungrateful, and I know that quality equipment is essential. It's just that I have a TINY kitchen and to be completely honest, I already feel fairly "contrapped" in there!

Photo by waltimo on Flickr
I guess I just think that you reach a point of diminshing returns when you cram the kitchen full to the point that you have no counter space and no cabinet space, all so you can have a plethora of single use devices that get used maybe once every few years.

Anyhow... the toaster recently broke. CatMan fixed it so that it still toasts, but the timer no longer functions, which means that one has to pay very close attention or end up with black toast. So, I figured I had an easy way out this year, and I asked for a new toaster.

The thing is, I'm allergic to yeast, so I don't eat bread, and hence I don't eat toast. The toaster is really just for when CatMan is visiting, so I can take some bread out the freezer and toast it for him. Soooo... he doesn't want to get a toaster for me, because he figures it's really for him, and that's not the point of a birthday present. So he's decided that what I really need is a toaster oven.


OK... perhaps you might understand those capital letters better if I explain that I recently finished hauling box after box of crap out of my kitchen and re-arranging the entire thing to get the microwave off of the counter so I could free up enough counter space so that I can comfortably work in there.

Can you see it... if you look carefully you can see a foot or two of counter space to the left of the sink. And about 18 inches to the left of the stove. I know it's pitiful by any normal person's assessment, but compared to how it was before it's WONDERFUL and I am NOT going back to cluttersville in there.

So I really... really, REALLY don't want a toaster oven. But, you see, his sister (who hates to cook) has one, and she loves it. She thinks it's great because you can heat up frozen pizza and cook all sorts of single serving things in it. To which I say, WHY?!? I mean, when I cook, I generally double or triple the recipe and freeze all of the leftovers so I can just pop one in the microwave when I don't feel like cooking.

I tried to suggest that perhaps this isn't exactly what I wanted, and then came the onslaught of emails from his sister about all of the times she's cooked 2 muffins in there etc. Clearly, I'm not gonna get out of this one that easily. So I did some research and found this:
It's basically a toaster that doubles as a toaster oven, but isn't really any bigger than a toaster. I figure I can easily stash it on top of the fridge or cram it in a cabinet most of the time. There will be toaster peace in our time!

Now there's my stepmother... she doesn't even ask, she just dumps more kitchen crap on me. And to make it worse, she figures that everything I own should be "miniature" sized because after all, I live alone, so I couldn't possibly cook any meaningful quantities. I have tried over and over to explain, but it goes nowhere.

I fear whatever it is this year will meet the same fate as the rest of her gifts... the waffle maker, the miniature blender, the single serving dutch oven (WHY?), the set of miniature cutting boards, the mini food processor (I totally don't get why anybody thinks this is easier than just cutting things by hand) the glass teapot that was too fragile to use, etc, etc. I'll use it once or twice to be polite, then move into storage in the basement where it will set for a few years until I haul it away to the thrift store or give it away on FreeCycle.

Oh well, I guess somebody has to keep the Salvation Army stocked with kitchen contraptions!

Photo by Pete Boyd on Flickr
happy birthday to me...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Melt is On!

Well, they say that variety is the spice of life, but at least where the weather is concerned it's starting to feel more like the main ingredient! After a few weeks of some of the coldest weather we've had in a long time, it's now 70 degrees outside. The sun is shining and the giant piles of snow are dissolving into a sea of mush.

I've got all of the windows open airing out the house and the cats think they've died and gone to heaven! I even spent an hour or so sunning myself outside this morning since it was much warmer outside than inside! Perhaps I'm pushing the season just a bit? :) I fear I may have even given myself a bit of a sunburn!

It's a bit hard to capture the incongruity of this scene in pictures, but I gave it a try...

Can you see the snow in the background? How 'bout here?

Don't get me wrong... I'm not complaining! But it's sure giving me a bad case of spring fever!

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Princess in Her Castle

I believe hell hath frozen over... or perhaps it's just the wet ground under the tree. At any rate, after many months of shunning all of the shelters that I have built for her, my little feral cat (AKA Princess) finally decided that perhaps the insulated RubberMaid box house wasn't so bad after all.

Woo Hoo! She's actually been sound asleep in there... safe and warm and out of the wind and weather... for the past 6 hours. It's a miracle!

I realize that nobody cares, but I am bursting with joy and just had to share. Perhaps efforts that seem hopeless are not all in vain after all. I'll have to remember this when other things in the world seem irremediable and beyond redress.

I would have taken a picture, but I fear it would have scared the shit out of her. So you'll just have to imagine a sweet little kitty curled up in her house. Happy sigh...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tortilla Inspiration

I watched the movie Tortilla Soup last night and oh, it filled me with the cooking bug. If you like to cook and haven't seen it, I highly recommend giving it a viewing. It's no great cinematic masterpiece, but especially if you've got immigrant heritage, it will certainly fill your heart with nostalgia for those delicious family meals!

I couldn't help but picture my dear departed Italian grandmother who was an amazing cook and is my eternal inspiration for all things culinary. I know what you're thinking... there aren't too many red-headed Italians out there. Well... the red hair came from my mother, and I fear whatever domestic skills once inhabited that branch of the family tree were long ago lost to the YWCA and the League of Women Voters.

But my father's mother grew up in the kitchen. There were 3 sisters, and she drew what she always considered the unlucky lot of being the one who had to stay home and do the domestic work while the other two went to school. My father and I always considered this to be our great fortune especially where our stomachs were concerned!

Anyhow, the movie got me inspired, and since I bought a half gallon of milk the other day, I've gotta cook like crazy to use it all up before it goes bad.

But the real kicker came this morning when one of my database clients called with a pile of tedious work for me, setting off a horrible case of the "I-jus-don-wanna's".

Sooooo, when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object... it's time to BAKE!

First up... Cornbread!

CatMan is a lover of all things corn, and me... not so much, But cornbread is one thing we can both agree upon. There's nothing like a nice buttery batch of cornbread fresh from the skillet on a cold winter evening. Since I have to use up the milk, I made a double batch.

Here's the recipe (for a single batch)

1 egg
1 cup milk
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup honey
1/2 stick butter

Preheat oven to 350. Put about a third of the butter into a cast iron skillet and stick it in the oven while it heats up. Melt the remaining butter in the microwave (if you were organized enough you could just melt all of the butter in the skillet and pour most of it into the batter, but that never seems to occur to me at the time).

Beat eggs, milk, melted butter and honey together. Add all of the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly. Some people get their panties all in a wad about not stirring too much or you'll end up with it not rising correctly, to which I say... whatever.

Anyhow, when the oven is hot take the skillet out and swirl the butter around making sure to thoroughly coat the bottom and as far up the sides as you can get it without spilling. Pour the batter into the skillet and return to the oven.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until there is a golden brown crust around the outside and a knife comes out clean from the middle.

Next up.... Tortillas! (Of course!)

The recipe I use is basically this one, so I won't bother to type it all out. I use whole wheat flour though, and the ratio is one cup of milk to two cups of flour.

Well... all I can say is there will be no shortage of carbohydrates in this household for some time!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Banana Excuses

I have rarely eaten bananas in the past few years, since I saw an interview with the head of the Dole corporation where he said that the single biggest cost their company has is fuel to transport all of those little yellow tropical delights up here to the northern hemisphere. The guy also pissed me off when he got all righteously indignant and started spouting a pile of crap about his right to "brand" his product when the interviewer asked him about the stickers on produce... also made it plainly obvious that the dude hadn't set foot in a grocery store in years or else he would know that the primary purpose of the stupid stickers is to make the PLU code easier to find... but I digress...

Anyhow, since bananas have a pretty huge carbon footprint (unless you happen to live in Hawaii or Jamaica or someplace tropical where they actually grow) I decided to forgo their wonderful yellow mushiness.

However, I recently read an article: about how you can prevent aphids from attacking your plants by mulching them with dried banana peels! Since I am bound and determined to protect my cruciferous veggies from the aphid army this year, I was totally psyched. It does bring up an interesting dilemma though... is it really an eco-friendly option if the bananas are shipped in from half way around the planet? Hmmmm... here's an article extolling the virtues of the banana and claiming that it actually has a low carbon footprint compared to some other options: Sorta looks like a greenwash to me...

Well I still can't decide if bananas are an eco-sin or not, but the aphid thing was enough of an excuse for me to buy a bunch of them last time I was at the grocery store. I'm dutifully freezing all of the peels until I can find time to dry them, and most definitely enjoying the excuse to indulge.

Jasper's not quite sure what to make of them though...

What do you think? Are my bananas an eco-sin or not?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Snow Blower Intolerance

This is a personal prejudice. I know I'm being overly judgemental here, but it bugs the living crap out of me. I just HATE gas powered devices like lawnmowers and leaf blowers and... most notably today since about 6 inches fell last nigh.... snow blowers!

I don't know what it is... the noise, the god-awful fumes, the pollution, the CO2... maybe all of the above, but whenever one of my neighbors gets out there with one of those annoying, noise polluting devices, I just wanna rip their head off. Seriously, if you go outside right now, it smells like you're standing behind an exhaust pipe. Probably the temperature inversion is trapping all of the pollution down near the ground, so it's probably not just the snow blowers, but still...

I know I shouldn't judge, but I just don't understand this strange need to have one's driveway clear at all moments. It's like the world might come to an end if you couldn't jump in your car 24/7. I suppose you might run out of candy bars and potato chips, and that would be a real crisis. And heaven forbid actually burning off some of those excess calories using a shovel.

OK, OK... some people have no choice, they have to drive to work... and there is always the possibility of an emergency. But seriously, if you have a flat driveway, it's really not a big deal to drive through a few inches of snow. I never shovel mine unless we get more than 10 inches, and I've never had a problem. Plus, shoveling really doesn't take that much more time and/or effort than using a snow blower.

What do you think? Am I being totally over the top or do I have a point?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Armchair Figure Skater - AKA Everybody's a Critic

Well, we spent most of this past weekend watching the US Figure Skating Championships. It's always a favorite around here. Just to be clear, I probably couldn't stand up on a pair of figure skates if my life depended on it, but I still love to watch (and so does Smoky).

It was redemption time all around, and I am so happy for both Alissa Czisny & Ryan Bradley! Both of them had such heart-breakers last season, I was soooo happy to see them win. (Plus, Ryan Bradley has got to be the cutest thing on skates, just sayin'...)

While I totally love to watch the figure skating, it does make me a bit qualmy to support a sport where people often peak at age 15 and are washed up by 20. It just doesn't seem terribly healthy to me. So I was completely thrilled this year when the ladies and mens titles were won by actual adults! Young adults, to be sure (Alissa is 23 and Ryan is 27) but adults none the less. Woo Hoo! Perhaps there is hope that this sport can be salvaged from teenibopper obscurity after all!

As much as I enjoyed the competition, there was one thing that bugged me... Not the costumes - although I still think that Rachael Flatt needs a wardrobe intervention (this coming from the woman wearing a stained sweat shirt that's at least 20 years old... I know, everybody's a critic) - nor the music, nor the judging... OK, I'll give you a clue. What's wrong with these pictures?


Did you get it? Disposable plastic water bottles!!! OK, now I admit that figure skating is a sport with a HUGE carbon footprint so getting all in a huff about the water bottles is a bit, well... picky and pointless. But still... they are on international TV, couldn't they at least make an effort, for symbolic value if nothing else?

There were a few bright points though... Major kudos to Ashley Wagner for her re-usable water bottle... it even matched her outfit! (OK... the bottle was plastic, but it's a MAJOR improvement over the disposable ones).

And what's this? Mr. Wonderful, Ryan Bradley himself sporting a reusable water bottle!

I knew I liked that kid! Oh wait a minute... he's not a kid... he's a MAN!  YES!!!!