Musing on food and cooking ...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cooking Light Cooking Contest

I got my March issue of Cooking Light and they had the rules listed for the 2008 cooking contest. Now, I was totally going to enter last year, but the purchasing of my new home and my move got in the way. So I am totally stoked for this year. I plan to enter at least one recipe in every category, if not more.

The categories are breakfast and starters; sides and salds, dinner entrees, and desserts. Soups are in there somewhere, just not sure in which specific category. The hard thing about this particular contest is that you have to use products from their sponsors. Anyone who knows me knows that I don't use branded products very often. Still the sponsors offer enough general ingredients that I can certainly use a brand as required without any difficulty. The sponsors are Al Fresco sausage, Birds Eye Frozen Veggies, Swansons broth, Eggland eggs, Annie's dressings and marinades, Nakano rice vinegar, Newman's Own pasta sauces, Kerrygold cheese and butter - there might be a couple more but I can't remember them off the top of my head.

Anyway, the hard part is narrowing things down and then doing the testing and getting the recipe submitted. So, is there anything of mine, dear readers, that you have eaten that I have cooked that sticks out in your mind as, "Hey! Heather should work on perfecting that recipe!"

I know I definitely want to work on the Indian-inspired shepherd's pie (which utilizes the spices and ingredients in aloo gobi and I thought that at least one of my many yummy soups (maybe my Asian style homemade ramen or a curried lentil with chard and spicy peppers) and quite possible my Tuscan hummus made with white beans and aleppo pepper or the Asian bolognese made with ground venison or even my Asian sloppy joes made with green lentils. But anything else?

Thursday, February 21, 2008


How to make a Heather

1 part friendliness

1 part humour

3 parts empathy
Combine in a tall glass half filled with crushed ice. Add emotion to taste! Do not overindulge!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Today's Episode, in Which I Apologize to My Car for Previous Bad Behavior

Dear Car,

You've no doubt heard the unkind things I have said to you. I have spoken ill of your gas mileage to any and all who will listen. I have made not of your unfortunate color and huge ass end. I have given you an unfortunate nickname - The Eggplant - and spoken loudly in your hearing of my greatest desire for the return of my previous car, The Rollerskate. I have no been good about getting you your required maintenance, and, although I know that you need new tires and brakes, I have ignored this fact.

I am sorry. So very sorry.

I learned this last week - during our 18 inches of wind-driven snow, during the roads of glare ice, during the Great Salt Shortage of 2008 - why you exist. You handle incredibly well in snow. You got me to work and home again every day, without incident. You handled every pothole, of which there were many, with grace and agility. I can truly say that without you, I would have been lost this last week.

I promise I will get you in for at least an oil change within the next 30 days, O Eggplant of Harmonious Driving.

And to the asshole in the Chevy Suburban, who decide that 30 mph in a 40 mph zone on glare ice and with 18 inches of snow just wasn't fast enough and decided to pass me on the right, hit a slushy patch and went into the ditch, all I can say is:

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

No Wonder I Am SAD

Four years ago this very week, I underwent gastric bypass surgery. And while I have mixed feelings about my surgery, I have to say that one positive thing came out of it. I discovered that I have a Vit D deficit that leads to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

From the time I was in my early teens, I suffered horribly with depression, often striking me in the winter. I was treated with everything from counseling to interesting drug cocktails, including one doctor who put me on both Paxil and Xanax. Great fun that was. I really enjoyed the visual hallucinations of giant winged needles flying around my bedroom! I was even diagnosed at one point as bipolar because my moods were cyclical and as dysthymic, because I was mostly down all the time. I was also told that I was depressed because I was fat, because of course fat people hate themselves or should hate themselves. Blah blah blah.

And then I moved to the East Coast and I didn't get depressed as often. So something was up. Something was different.

Anyway, when I was preparing for my surgery, I underwent almost 6 months of a variety of testing, including undergoing counseling, where we talked about my battles with depression among other things. They also pulled enough blood out of me to feed a vampire. I mean, 7 of the largest possible sample tubes ever 3 months, at the least. And one of the many tests they ran was vitamin levels. And low and behold, my doctor says, "You have low Vit D. I see here you have depression. Bet you had major problems in the winter when you lived in the Midwest. You have Seasonal Affective Disorder, seasonal depression caused by Vit D deficit, Vit D, which you get from the sun." Well, yes, Ms. Doctor, I did. Very much so. So my doctor advised me to run to the CVS and get a Vit D supplement (dry, 400 IU) and take one tablet daily from November until the end of March. And my depression went almost entirely away. There were still occassional moments of SAD in the deepest, darkest parts of winter and some situational depression, but nothing that felt overwhelming and destructive.

And then, in 2006, I moved back to the Midwest. The first winter was not too awful. I did have to double my Vit D, but I got through it and I felt ok. And then there is the winter of 07-08.

And I am SAD. Very SAD. So SAD I have been thinking of quitting my job and moving to Florida, which is pure insanity, as I loathe Florida. And no damn wonder I am SAD! According to WGN weather, this year has been a damn bad year. We have seen the sixth snowiest winter since they started keeping records 124 years ago. and the heaviest snow months are still coming The Chicago area normally receives 43% sunlight during the winter. This year? a lousy 21%. And the kicker? Since February began, we have only seen 11 minutes of actual sunlight. 11 minutes since the beginning of February. For people with SAD, it is recommended that they get at least 10-15 minutes of exposure to sunlight a day.


So, Dear Readers, know the I am SAD. And that I am struggling through it. And saving up to get a light box. Because I don't like feeling this way. I can't watch the news without crying like a baby. I cry during movies like Titanic, I am ashamed to admit. I don't think clearly and I tend to embrace escapism. And as the depression deepens, I start to hurt all over my body. So bear with me. It will all be ok eventually. You don't have to try and fix it. Just be nice and listen to me if I need to vent. And if you know somewhere I can go that is a cheap activity that might involve some sort of Vit D producing light, let me know, so I can get my fix.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Today is Voting Day

Last week, I had been threatening not to vote today. I was just unenthused - about life, in general, and about politics, in specific. Honestly, it has been all I can do to get out of bed and coming to work has been incredibly painful. This morning, I woke up and was like, Oh just do it already! You've never not voted. Why break a streak now? Besides, if you don't figure out something that makes getting out of bed worthwhile, you are going to stay and snuggle with the cat too long and then you will be late for work, which will make you sad, and the cycle will continue on and on and you will never find the strength to put your laundry away or oil soap the floors or mail out those cookies, as you promised.

So I quick found my voter registration card and headed down to the local polling place to cast my vote before heading off to work.

What a major difference from voting in Lake Forest! First off, I got to vote in an elementary school rather than a church. The atmosphere was entirely different. I walked up to the door and instead of being greeted by a giant crucifix and a poster claiming that God was watching, I was greeted by a small African-American girl in pigtails who held the door for me and attempted to get me to buy a doughnut. They were doing a fundraiser so that they could renovate their playground. I didn't have enough cash for a doughnut, but I did put a quarter in the cup.

I then walked in the door of the gym and went to the election official and handed her my voter registration card, my license, and a current water bill - all things I had needed in Lake Forest and which were examined with a magnifying glass there. The election official is affronted. "Honey, we don't need those things! Just tell me your name." So I did, and I was in the book, and I signed the slip, and she confirmed that yup, I was indeed Heather Brown, and dear god, honey, where did you get such a signature. I took my ballot and off I went to the little cardboard booth. I filled in my ballot and plopped it in the machine, learned I was the 53rd person to vote today, got my little sticker and a pamphlet about pandemic flu, and headed out.

And what happened next is why it is so important to vote, and why polling places should be in spaces where children can observe.

As I walked out the door, all the little kids were in lines waiting to filter into the building. A little Latino boy sees me come out the door and called out, "Hey lady! Whatcha doing here?" I smiled and said, "I voted today." Upon which all the little kids burst into cheers and yells. I walked away to the sound of applause. And after what has been such a crappy couple of weeks, my heart was truly warmed.

I don't know if my votes today will truly make a difference in the world at large. But they certainly made a difference to some little kids, and, by the time they are old enough to vote, they will be able to bring about change so incredible I will have to stand up and cheer for them.