Monday, May 30, 2011

Dutch Oven Adventures?

Is it an unwritten rule that something must be left behind when going on a trip?

I consider it minor mishap if it's not life threatening, but still irritating. Usually, it's our coats we forget. The last time it was pillows. This time, it was an all important baggie of prepped vegetables for our dinner; potatoes, red pepper, celery, carrots, onion.  Pretty much the foundation of the meal. I do a lot of pre-trip prepping for short trips. Everything in it's own ziplock baggie. Evidently, I decided the veggies shouldn't inhabit the same location as the chicken--a smart move, food safety-wise. But when it came to grabbing handfuls of items and ticking them off mentally, it wasn't so smart. Guess I had those baggies under one category on my mental list.

N started the briquettes and oiled the dutch oven, while I gathered the ingredients. After a short weak wail when I discovered my err, I pulled up the cushion that hides our stash of miscellaneous canned food items we leave in the trailer. Sauerkraut? NO. Refried beans? NO. Mushy canned carrots? NO. Tomatoes? That sounds good. Corn? Maybe. Ranch beans? Possibly. Sliced olives? Maybe. Diced green chiles? Hmm. A box of corn muffin mix? That might be interesting. I gathered the possibilities to present to N, so we could decide together what to use.

After browning the cubed chicken, we added 2 cans of diced tomatoes, 1 can of drained corn, sliced olives and diced green chilies. We added salt, pepper, garlic and the only other spice combo in the larder--Italian seasoning. After the mixture began to bubble, about 30-40 minutes later, we added dollops of corn muffin batter to the top and continued cooking another 30-40 minutes.

It was . . . . interesting. Not something you want to write down and save (like I've done up above), but it was worth eating. I'm still trying to figure out where the sweetness came from--maybe the corn muffin mix?
Some accidental dinners (when you have an entire pantry at hand) are worth repeating and some just fill the belly.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thinking about definitions

Pain management (also called pain medicine; algiatry)
#1) is that branch of medicine employing an interdisciplinary approach to easing the suffering and improving the quality of life of those living with pain. ...

#2) treatment designed to ease chronic pain to enable a patient to have a better quality of life. Pain management can include medications, exercises, and relaxation techniques.…

Compassion: sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it

Shouldn't compassion go hand in hand with the practice of pain management? I've witnessed it in pain clinics. Although, those moments have usually involved senior patients or the very young. I'm beginning to believe there's a prejudice (intentional or not) against a twenty-something year old living with constant pain.

Fran's first experience left us swept off our feet up at OHSU's brand new PM facility. Unfortunately for her, doctors' egos are often large AND tender. The nationally published pain management doctor had an idea of what was causing her pain, but when the possibility arose that he might be wrong, his team couldn't wait to get rid of her. When their psychologist deemed her mentally fit, they diagnosed a rash as shingles and sent her on her way.

The second, thankfully, was local, but from the beginning it seemed the team was operating on the premise that she just needed to stand up and walk. It was decided that the first pt person wasn't tough enough (Fran loved her).  She was replaced by someone who was sure Fran just didn't want to get better.

The third? I'm still trying to figure him out. Things began well, but it feels like they're unraveling. I'm getting the feeling that he thinks she'll be healed once he begins reducing her pain meds.

I could go on, but I won't. I just needed to vent a bit.
It's time to wipe off my face and get on with life.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Changing things up

It doesn't happen often, but I'm making some changes to the science lesson line-up. About once a year, I try to be on the look out for topics that are more meaningful, but still doable for the short folk. The length of time AND the amount of prep required are both key elements in whether a lesson is possible. Those limitations make it tough to meet the cut.

When I first began to do science with the short folk (soo many years ago), I had a lot more leeway as far as time went. Plus we didn't do science journals back then. The students and I did some time intensive demonstrations that required clean-up and set-up for each group (we had 3 groups at that time). I still miss some of those lessons.

This time around finding ways to explore their 5 senses is the goal. Two years ago, I read about doing a popcorn lesson. We tried it and the lesson was a hit with the kids.  All 5 senses are used in the process. If I remember right, the hardest part was finding a cheap hot air popcorn popper. Thank you, Ebay.

But doing just one week on the 5 senses didn't feel satisfactory for this age group. This year we'll do 3. I may extend it to 4 next school year. Now to see if I have enough books to do that.

Here's a segment from a Sid the Science Kid episode below. As the short folk keep reminding me, I've come late to the Sid party.  ;>)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Carolyn Hax moment

Although it's advice for someone else's particular issue, I think Carolyn Hax offers an interesting way to look at people and relationships:

" . . . It can actually be a fascinating mental exercise: Have you ever set up one friend with another? Doing that forces you to look at both parties as potential romantic partners for someone, and you really see them differently that way. That awesome person who sticks by you and shares your sense of humor and makes amazing zucchini bread suddenly becomes the one with a patchy employment history and mother issues.

The point of doing this is to, in a sense, calibrate your radar. Think of these people you value highly in nonromantic roles in your life, and ask yourself which of them you’d label, objectively, as a great catch. Also think of great couples you know, and see if you’d classify each of them as “great” individually, and why. Then, see what attracted you initially to the guys you dated who turned out to be bad choices.

Are there inconsistencies in what you date and what you admire in your friends? Are the things you find attractive in men at all in conflict with the things that your steadiest friends provide? Or, are you seeking similar things, but those traits in a friend (whom you join for grins once a week) are less draining than in a boyfriend (whom you count on to provide much more)?

Both of these — slowing down and calibrating your radar — can be tackled on your own. If you’re feeling impatient, though, or if you’re struggling to make sense of your thoughts, consider enlisting a reputable therapist who is open to ideas and really likes to dig."

Write to Tell Me About It, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Love Note

A small person's mom sent this to me via email today.
I love getting sunshine mail :>)

"I told M this morning- "Your arms are filthy up to your elbows. You need a shower today."
M- "Oh, that's because I was sliding in the grass and I got.. What's that called?"
Me- "Grass stains?"
M -"No, chlorophyll. I got chlorophyll on me."
Me- "Chlorophyll!? Did Mrs. Miller teach you that at school?"
M -"Yes. I just looooooove science. It's my favorite""

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I CANNOT recommend this dessert

Please do NOT make this cake and whatever you do, do NOT serve it drizzled with chocolate ganache, with sliced strawberries, and whipped cream.
And don't blame me if you fail to heed my warning.

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake
printable copy

From America's Test Kitchen episode: There's a Hole in Your Cake

Serves 12 to 14
Natural (or regular) cocoa gives the cake a fuller, more assertive chocolate flavor than does Dutch-processed cocoa. In addition, Dutch-processed cocoa will result in a compromised rise. The cake can be served with just a dusting of confectioners' sugar. The cake can be made a day in advance; wrap the cooled cake in plastic and store it at room temperature. Dust with confectioners' sugar just before serving.

1 tablespoon butter , melted
1 tablespoon cocoa
3/4 cup natural cocoa (2 1/4 ounces)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
3/4 cup water (boiling)
1 cup sour cream , room temperature
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), room temperature
2 cups packed light brown sugar (14 ounces)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs , room temperature
Confectioners' sugar for dusting
1. FOR THE PAN: Stir together butter and cocoa in small bowl until paste forms; using a pastry brush, coat all interior surfaces of standard 12-cup Bundt pan, see illustration below. (If mixture becomes too thick to brush on, microwave it for 10 to 20 seconds, or until warm and softened.) Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. FOR THE CAKE: Combine cocoa, chocolate, and espresso powder (if using) in medium heatproof bowl; pour boiling water over and whisk until smooth. Cool to room temperature; then whisk in sour cream. Whisk flour, salt, and baking soda in second bowl to combine.
3. In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, beat butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add eggs one at a time, mixing about 30 seconds after each addition and scraping down bowl with rubber spatula after first 2 additions. Reduce to medium-low speed (batter may appear separated); add about one third of flour mixture and half of chocolate/sour cream mixture and mix until just incorporated, about 20 seconds. Scrape bowl and repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining chocolate mixture; add remaining flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, about 10 seconds. Scrape bowl and mix on medium-low until batter is thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan, being careful not to pour batter on sides of pan. Bake until wooden skewer inserted into center comes out with few crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert cake onto parchment-lined wire rack; cool to room temperature, about 3 hours. Dust with confectioners' sugar, transfer to serving platter, and cut into wedges; serve with Tangy Whipped Cream and raspberries, if desired.

Chocolate Ganache Drizzle
(from Jacques Torres on Food Network)

3/4 C whipping cream
6 oz Ghiradelli's Bittersweet Chocolate Chips

To make the ganache drizzle: Heat the heavy cream in a 2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan until bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium-size mixing bowl. Make a ganache by pouring about half of the hot cream over the chocolate and letting it sit for 30 seconds to melt the chocolate. Then, slowly whisk until smooth and homogenous. Do not add all of the hot cream to the cold chocolate at once. The shock of the temperature extremes will cause the fat in the chocolate to separate. If the ganache separates, it loses its elasticity, collapses, and becomes very liquid. I use a hand-held immersion blender to ensure a smooth ganache and to keep the emulsion of the chocolate. Add the remaining cream gradually and mix until all of the hot cream is incorporated and the ganache is smooth and homogenous.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


I don't know if it had to do with it being just minutes before sunset, but (even though it's not as impressive in a photograph) this was one of the most vivid, glowing rainbows I've ever seen. Also, it never did become a full bow.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

What's that on your toilet?

I can't tell you where the bee in my bonnet to have a bidet began, but there it was and it was getting more and more difficult to ignore. After I found out there was a lower priced alternative to buying an entire seat or toilet, I thought about it for at least a year before narrowing down the choice to a Renaissance Bidet Model 4000.
Overall it didn't take long to install, but installation did require more than one trip to the hardware store. The area behind the toilet is cramped, with the blood rushing to the head thing going on while trying not to ruin the threads on a cheap plastic fitting. N's advice? Go buy the brass fitting and slightly larger tubing instead. The South Salem Ace Hardware guy was very helpful in figuring out which fitting would work as a substitute.
We started with cold water only, since adding hot required drilling a hole into our cabinet. The cold wasn't all that bad, but it wasn't winter either.
I'm glad we did it, though I'll admit to wishing for the model with a built in blow dryer. I'll have to win that lottery I never play first. :>)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Accidental dinner--penne rigate & asparagus

Oh boy, this will be tough to put into recipe form. I'll just plunk down what I did and go from there. So good, I want to be sure and remember how to put this one together.

Defrost 5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the microwave. On medium high heat, season with salt and pepper and cook thighs for about 4-5 minutes on each side. Put into ziplock baggie with 1/4 c Rub with Love Garlic Sauce.

Cook 2-3 cups of penne rigate, drain
Prep fresh asparagus: snap off ends and trim into 2" lengths
Shred 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
Cut 4-5 strips of turkey bacon into into slim strips
slice about 1- 1 1/2 c of button mushrooms
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4-1/2 c cream
chicken broth
dry white wine

Add turkey bacon strips, asparagus, two cloves of minced garlic, and mushrooms to preheated skillet (with a good drizzle of olive oil) on med - med high heat. Saute for a minute, add a few Tablespoons of chicken broth and white wine. Cover and let cook for 3-4 minutes.
While this is cooking, remove chicken thighs from baggie, slice into 1/2 inch strips.
Add chicken, 1/4- 1/2 cream, shredded Parmesan cheese.
Cover for 1-2 minutes.
Toss together well and serve.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Green Chili, Sour Cream & Cheese Rice

I like this side-dish recipe for it's simplicity. After you've made it once, it's easy to put it together from memory.

"Rice, Green Chili, Jack Cheese, Sour Cream Heaven"
preheat oven to 375

1 4oz can green chilies - chopped          
1-2 cups shredded Monterey jack or cheddar cheese
2 cups sour cream                                  
3 cups cooked rice
1 tsp. salt

Combine chilies, sour cream, salt and rice, until blended together. Spread evenly in a medium sized casserole dish. Distribute shredded cheese evenly over top. Cover and bake 20 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Uncover and bake for 10 additional minutes.

Add-in or garnish ideas: a can of rinsed and drained kidney beans, sliced olives, green onions, diced tomatoes

Sunday, May 1, 2011

New Specs

I always appreciate Fran's help when picking out new glasses. When left on my own, I end up with something sensible, out of style and usually an unflattering color. At least that's what I hear. ;)
It's been decades since I've had plastic frames that rest on my nose. It's taking some getting used to. The brain's still working on ignoring the thicker frames that go all the way round the lens. The biggest difference are the wide side arms. They block more than 50% of my peripheral vision. Not an issue, until I drive.
I'm keeping an old pair in the car. I have no desire to be in an accident.