All posts by Annette

The Last Supper

The last real, home-cooked meal in this house, anyway. This week will be the Week From Hell as we slide toward the move date. Although I don’t hate moving with the passion of a thousand fiery suns, I don’t consider it to be a fun process, either. Along with the moving issues, I also have two followup appointments with my oncologists, one of which will no doubt be ready to schedule another PET scan to see how we’re doing.

But back to Sunday night and the last real meal I’m making in this house. On tonight’s menu, a trio of items requested by one of my sisters.

Blackened mahi (grilled during a very light rain that won’t do much to assuage our current drought-like conditions)
Stuffed tomatoes (as she missed the first round of these zucchini, portabello, and gruyere-stuff beauties)
Brown rice (not very exciting, but what she wanted)

I also made a remoulade sauce and a mango-papaya salsa, as that same sister had not yet carved up the mango and papaya I had gotten her for some kind of fruit bowl she was going to put together. Before they completely disintegrated into mush on the counter, I thought it might be time to throw together something using them.

Here’s a closeup of the mahi with some of the salsa.

I seasoned the mahi the way I used to eat blackened mahi. I neglected to keep in mind that not everyone likes food as spicy as I do, so my sister and her boyfriend got a bit choked up over their first bites. With a couple squeezes of lemon, some judicious scraping off of the seasoning, and some remoulade, they both enjoyed it (and he took the leftovers home).

And then, the tomatoes. I mentioned that my sister had missed them last time (she was ill). This time, however, she ate hers and then took half of mine, when I could not finish it. It’s quite a tasty dish, and I can see this one becoming a most-requested item.

As everything is being packed this week, this was the last full meal I’ll prepare. I’m considering doing a couple of slow cooker recipes, since there would be minimal prep and no requirement of my full attention. Slap it on a disposable plate, and there you have it: dinner. I must say, though, that I can’t wait to get into the new house, especially because it means I’ll have my own cooking utensils back at my disposal. I still need to buy a refrigerator for move-in, though.

Sunday night also marks almost two weeks since I’ve fed anything down the tube but water, to flush it out and clean it. The problem with this, of course, is that I’m generally unable to eat very much at a single sitting and thus unable to consume as many calories over the course of a day as I am by dumping a few cups of formula down the hatch during the day. As a result, I lose weight fairly rapidly. Stepping on the scale at the grocery, I found myself shaking my head in disbelief: 115 pounds, down from 118 just a couple of weeks ago when they weighed me at my surgeon’s office. No doubt Monday will bring with it a lecture from one of the medical oncology nurses when they weigh me in there as part of my followup, and another lecture on Tuesday from the radiation oncology nurses when I have my followup appointment there. But I did have my daily dose of ice cream!

M:I III – Mission: Mundane

Have you ever seen those behind the scenes, or “making of” shows, where they detail the making of a movie? In particular, if you have ever seen a montage of a director calling out “Action!” “Action!” “And…action!”, then you’ll be in familiar territory if you go to a screening of M:I III.

As with all reviews, this contains spoilers. If you have already seen the movie, or just don’t care, read on.

Continue reading M:I III – Mission: Mundane

Let them eat…cookies

Something I neglected to mention about the other night’s cooking expedition: cookies.

My mom likes white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. My sister wanted some chewy chocolate chip cookies. I decided to do both.

Everything seemed to go so well. Creamed together the butter and the sugars for each. Sifted together the dry ingredients, and slowly incorporated those into the wet after adding the egg and vanilla to each batter. Chilled the dough.

And yet, something went awry.

In both cases, the cookies spread much more than they should have. Instead of being slightly puffy, nice and chewy, they became flat disks that were crispy instead. Tasty. But crispy. Not what I was after.

I’m not entirely sure why this happened, unless the creaming incorporated too much air into the dough, or the silpat caused the spread. The next batch of cookies is going into the oven on parchment paper, to see if that has any effect on the amoeba-like spread of the dough as it bakes.


Not me. Not yet, anyway. I’m not to the point where I can eaat enough real food at a sitting to reach that point.

Still, coming up with things people can eat – and then creating those things – is great fun and enormously gratifying. It may not be the prettiest food that I’ve ever seen, but it tastes good, and in the end that is all that matters.

Menu from Thursday night:

Chicken with lemon-basil sauce
Potatoes and onions au gratin
Zucchini, portabello, and gruyere stuffed tomatoes

My plate.

From an eating standpoint, the chicken proved much more difficult than the fish from a couple of nights previous. Of course, chicken (beef, pork) is a lot tougher than fish, too. The potatoes were almost impossible for me to eat, as they suck all the available moisture out of my mouth, so I didn’t get very far with those, although they were tasty. By far the highlight (for me) was the stuffed tomato.

A cross section of a stuffed tomato.

This was soft enough and the individual vegetables carry enough of their own moisture that it was much simpler to eat.

The other diners, having none of the eating issues I do, declared the meal a hit, and cleared off their plates.

I’m planning one more meal here, for Sunday, as next week is moving week and it will be rather frenetic around here. Saturday morning is a trip to an annual event called World of Nations. This is an event where about two dozen countries are represented, and visitors to the event can examine crafts and such from the countries, but mostly people go to sample the food. I know I do. I intend to do the same this year, even if my samples are very small. There will be pictures, of course.

A return to eating. Sort of.

For the past week, I’ve been trying to avoid eating through the tube. For the most part, this has been pretty successful: I’ve not had any formula for several days now. instead, I’ve been eating ice cream, soup, and runny mealy foods like grits and cream of wheat.

Last night, highly frustrated with the tube and the associated nastiness that goes with it – such as pieces of skin that pop out from around the incision as it continually tries to heal itself, which cannot be removed until they dry up and separate on their own, for instance – I decided that I really, really wanted it out. As soon as possible. The only way this is going to happen is if I can take in enough calories that I don’t lose much further weight and send myself precipitously toward malnutrition. As faithful readers will know, the tube has been my companion since September of last year, and was the only route of eating for me until just last month.

The problem, of course, is the food. My jaws are not strong enough to eat a number of foods, and the muscles get quite tired very quickly. And then there is the entire issue of my mouth drying out too quickly and not being able to control the food so as not to have it adhere to the top of my mouth or get caught up between gum and cheek. My hunt lately is for things that are soft enough for me to make my way through, moist enough that I don’t need an entire bottle of water to get it down, and healthy enough that I’ll get the nutrients I need without having to fall back on the formula.

Thinking about it in the afternoon, I decided that some fish would be nice. The evening’s menu:

Tilapia filets, pan-seared, with a chile-lime butter
Steamed zucchini
Corn shaved off the cob
Salad (for the others – salad is a bit ambitious for me at the moment)

I ate almost all the zucchini on this plate, about a third of the filet, and some of the corn. Corn presents a challenge because of the skin and the individual kernels that have to be controlled.

My taste buds are still not back to where they were before, most likely because of the continued healing and the granular tissue that covers parts of it. This is why I opted for a spicier butter for the fish, to ensure that something got through. It was all quite good, even with my limited sensations. The filets were dusted with salt, pepper, and paprika on both sides prior to being seared in a saute pan with some light olive oil.

Chile-lime butter:

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1 jalapeno, finely diced (can substitute almost any chile; serranos and thai chiles would work well)
2 tablespoons of finely diced shallots
2 teaspoons lime zest
Juice of one lime

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly. The butter can be made days in advance. I made this shortly before dinner, then put it in the freezer to firm it up while things were cooking. A spoonful of the butter went on the seared filets as they were plated. The butter would also go well with chicken.

Lighter fare

After the weekend from hell, I decided it was time to rattle some pots and pans with a touch of lighter fare for the rather marvelous change from sort-of winter/spring into kind-of spring/summer. No pictures, alas. I’ll have to work on that a little – it will probably be simpler when I’m actually one of the parties eating the food, since I can just fiddle around with my own plate rather than making someone else wait while the chief chef geek takes pictures of food.

So, Monday evening’s menu was a simple affair: sweet/spicy shrimp, pasta with pancetta, asparagus, and feta, and a nice salad. The shrimp were marinated for about 30 minutes or so in a combination of brown sugar, lemon juice, olive oil, cayenne pepper, lemon zest, and salt. While the shrimp were sleeping in that mix, I boiled the asparagus until it was just tender/crisp, then shocked it in some ice water. I also boiled the pasta – farfalle (bowtie) – in the same water in which the asparagus was boiled. Why waste flavor? While that was working, I rendered some pancetta, tossed in a couple cloves of garlic (minced) and let that sweat, chopped the asparagus and tossed that in, then added the drained pasta plus a couple of tablespoons of the water. After gently mixing all that together, it was time for about half a cup of crumbled feta. mixed – again, gently – and then put into a serving bowl, it looked and smelled pretty darn good.

While that was resting, I added a couple tablespoons of olive oil to a saute pan and quickly sauteed the shrimp in batches – so as not to overload the pan and cause the heat to drop. After all, we want a good sear on the shrimp, not a quasi-boiled, limp shellfish in the end.

Unfortunately, my dear friend and taste tester started feeling bad just as everything hit the table, so was not able to eat anything. For her, a doggie bag with shrimp, pasta, and a few bleu cheese stuffed olives. For one of my sisters and my mom, full plates. They enjoyed it, and I’m hoping that leftovers are just as tasty as the first round was.

Next up: I have a special request for a dish with artichokes. I was tossing around ideas of what to serve with it, since artichokes alone do not a meal make, and decided it is probably time to stuff some of these magnificent boneless pork loin chops. Now, to decide what to stuff in those pockets…

Brokeback Mountain – Gay cowboys, no pudding

I’m probably one of the dozen people left in the country who actually wanted to see this movie while it was in theaters but did not. I finally got around to it because a friend dropped off the DVD. She fell asleep while watching it and has not yet seen the entire thing; when one of my sisters saw what I was watching she said, “Oh, the boring movie.”

So the movie and I didn’t exactly start off with the greatest of introductions. Still, I managed to get through the movie over the span of two days, watching it in pieces.

As usual with my movie reviews, this one won’t be short. Also as usual, if you haven’t seen the movie, there are spoilers within.

Continue reading Brokeback Mountain – Gay cowboys, no pudding

And now for something completely different

You didn’t believe that, did you? Foolish mortal!

No, it’s more food. Finally got around to the filets this time. To refresh your memory, here was the menu for tonight.

Grilled filet mignon with lump crab and bearnaise sauce
Asparagus tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then grilled, and sprinkled with parmigiano-reggiano
Rice pilaf with fresh basil and toasted pine nuts
Sauteed mushrooms and onion confit

The filets, courtesy of the Fresh Market, were huge. There were some leftovers, and those went away with a guest, to be used to create envy in coworkers on the morrow.

A picture this time. Not very good plating, but then again, it’s not really about the plating and maybe that will get better by and by. It probably would have helped if I’d actually cared about doing it properly, as well. Hopefully, the photographer’s steady-hands will also get better so as not to post blurry pictures.

Once again, a successful dinner: good people, good conversation, good food. I’m hoping to do much more cooking in the new place, so if you’re in the neighborhood…

Turn your head and cough

When you go through any significant medical treatment that impacts your immune system – like chemo and/or radiation therapy, for instance – the medical staff always tells you to be careful about exposing yourself to germs and such. Try to stay away from people who are sick with colds, wash your hands often when you’re in a communal setting, monitor yourself closely for signs of illness that aren’t the direct side effects of treatment, and so on. All through treatment, even though the people around me were sick a few times and even though we were in settings with other people, some of whom were ill – after all, most of my time was spent in doctors’ offices and hospitals – I didn’t get sick at all with colds or the flu or anything.

This past week, though, I’ve not felt a hundred percent. The day before yesterday, it started going downhill, and yesterday was just awful: the first cold (or whatever) I’ve had in over a year. I spent much of yesterday napping off and on, only checking in on the biz occasionally to handle some issues, then returning myself to my non-upright position. This morning was more of the same, and since I’ve now poured some formula down the tube and feel a little queasy, I can feel another session coming on.

This is all very bad timing. Within the next two weeks, I’ll be moving into the house I’m going to be buying. There are a lot of things that need to be done for that and then the grand Memorial Day party that will follow. So whatever this is needs to speed its way along and leave me alone so I can get back to everyday business.