pegkerr: (I need hardly add that I have rarely bee)
Today, I threw away the turkey dinner in the freezer.

We got our Thanksgiving dinner for four years from Open Arms of Minnesota, a service which offers free food to families dealing with life-threatening illness. They offer their clients a full Thanksgiving dinner each year. You can choose whether to have it delivered fully cooked or frozen so you can cook it yourself.

Rob's family, knowing he was gravely ill, had flown in from all over the country to see him. Our plan was to spend Thanksgiving dinner at his brother's and to cook the dinner Open Arms had given to us sometime later, just for Rob, me and the girls. A nice celebratory dinner for just the four of us.

But on Thanksgiving Day, Rob woke up that morning with a fever of 103. I called his brother's, hoping that at least my girls could go over there while we were in the emergency room, so they could see their grandma who had flown in from California. Nope. One out of town relative who'd flown in had a terrible cold, and we couldn't risk the girls being exposed to something they could give their daddy.

So I arranged for the girls to go spend Thanksgiving at my sister's celebration instead, and then took Rob to the Emergency Room. We spent the entire sad day in the ER, getting hungrier and hungrier (all the restaurants around the hospital were closed by the holiday), tormented by the pictures of the family gatherings and feasts that our families texted to us.

Rob was admitted to the hospital hours later. His mom and brother delivered Thanksgiving leftovers to him later that evening.

He never went home again.

That frozen turkey and pumpkin pie and all the rest of the fixings have sat in my freezer ever since. At first, when we hoped he would be home soon, we thought, "We can cook it for Christmas." When he died in January, I thought, well, I'd get around to cooking it eventually. It'll keep okay in the freezer. Even though my girls were gone, Fiona to a new apartment, and Delia back to college. Fiona said she'd take it and cook it for her roommates, but every time I asked her about it, she put me off. Too busy. About to move.

Finally, I took everything out of the freezer tonight and threw it out, because I just couldn't bear to look at it any longer. And I cried my eyes out for about a half hour. All that kindness, all that hope, all that celebration, all that tradition. Gone into the garbage, leaving just me, alone and with a broken heart behind.
pegkerr: (Cooking for Ingrates)
Let’s Stop Idealizing the Home-Cooked Family Dinner. This paragraph REALLY jumped out at me:
Beyond just the time and money constraints, women find that their very own families present a major obstacle to their desire to provide diverse, home-cooked meals. The women interviewed faced not just children but grown adults who are whiny, picky, and ungrateful for their efforts. “We rarely observed a meal in which at least one family member didn’t complain about the food they were served,” the researchers write. Mothers who could afford to do so often wanted to try new recipes and diverse ingredients, but they knew that it would cause their families to reject the meals. “Instead, they continued to make what was tried and true, even if they didn’t like the food themselves.” The saddest part is that picky husbands and boyfriends were just as much, if not more, of a problem than fussy children.
Exactly. That has been EXACTLY my experience.

That's why have I have dozens and dozens of blog posts tagged Cooking for Ingrates.
pegkerr: (candle)
When I had moved out in my twenties, I needed a kitchen table. My Mom and Dad brought one to me at my apartment. I still remember them carrying it across that long parking lot on a hot summer's day. I'm not quite sure where they got it. Used, maybe, or perhaps from a relative. It was painted an ugly shade of thick brown paint.(Edited to add: Rob remembers that there was a thick coat of dark green OVER the dark brown.)

I spent weeks stripping and sanding that table down to the bare wood, working in the outdoor patio behind Rob's apartment (this was before we were married). It took so long because I had to dig into the crevices in the legs with the edge of a nail file to chase every last bit of brown paint out in the detailing of the lathe-turned grooves. You can still see tiny bits of the paint, like shadows, proof that I was not an expert used furniture refinisher by any means. I don't remember what the wood was, but I stained it a red maple color and covered it with a protective gloss. I remember how vexed I was by a stray hair that floated in on a breeze and caught in the gloss and affixed itself there, like an insect caught in amber.

We moved it to our first apartment together, and it became our first table. When we moved again, to our house where the girls were born, the table was put in the dining room. Rather too humble, aesthetically, for the space, but it fit perfectly, and when we covered it with a cloth, and put the best dishes on it, it suited us well. Two leaves could be pulled out from the ends to add length whenever we had guests.

Over the years, of course, there were scars. Delia the toddler banged her spoon incessantly, and so there is a patina of half-moon shaped scars on her side of the table. (We always sat at the same places.) Once, someone put a candlestick on the table, and some liquid spilled and soaked the felt cushion underneath, leaving a stain which marked the varnish. There is the smear of nail polish where Delia was experimenting, and I couldn't rub it off. I didn't want to try anything stronger that would take off the finish. I'll admit I wasn't always scrupulously quick about wiping away everyday stains.

It's used, battered, and hardly an heirloom. But we loved that table. We grew our family around it, and told our jokes, and traded our bon mots and cracked each other up. We had raging arguments, often about whether onions must be eaten or not. Fiona banged the back of her head against the back of her chair 1,346,234 times and never never remembered not to do it the next night. We ate our Christmas breakfasts and celebrated twelfth night there. We brought various hopeful Boys to join us. Fiona perfected her pterodactyl mating call there. We held hands around it and blessed our meals, and cried and screamed and raged and loved each other there.

We didn't have a hearth, so we used a table instead.

My mom is moving from the apartment she shared with Dad to a smaller senior complex. She had to downsize, and so she offered us her dining room table, the one I grew up with. It, too, has a rich family history, and many happy memories. It is bigger than ours: we will have to take leaves out and put the ends down, and we can't sit in the same configuration, because you can't put your feet under the drop leaf ends.

But. It, too, is the family table with a lot of lovely memories, and I hated to see it go to some strangers. Yes, we will take it, I said, and when the girls leave home, Rob and I can take all the leaves out, drop the sides, and it will work as a long narrow table for just the two of us. And then one of the girls can take our table when they leave to set up their own household.

Mom is going to be using the old oak table she had in her kitchen, the one she received from her mother-in-law (yet another generation's worth of memories).

So I have taken the legs off our table...

Dissassembling the table

We will have to do our Valentine boxes breakfast Japanese-style, on the floor, tomorrow morning,

Dissassembling the table

and then hustle it into the basement, so the dining room is clear when the truck brings Mom's old dining room table to our house.

And our old table will wait, patiently, in the basement, until either Fiona or Delia move out, painstakingly reassemble it, and gather friends and a new family around it to make a new generation of memories.
pegkerr: (Default)
We started with some Pomegranate Punch. (The leftover champagne will be finished up with the mimosas tomorrow morning).

Christmas Eve with Pomagranate Punch

Christmas Eve 2013

Here was the finished plum pudding. I took pains with the presentation (and yes, I DID go out and fight the crowds to go to the grocery store just to buy a sprig of holly to put on the top).

Plum pudding

We may have not let it sit a day, but [ profile] naomikritzer's [ profile] notthatedburke's recipe for hard sauce still turned out wonderfully.

I attempted to light it with brandy, but I didn't use a high enough proof alcohol. We DID achieve a flame, but not long enough for me to capture it with the camera. We all agreed that we witnessed it, however!

Om nom nom

Verdict: I liked it and did not miss the sugar I forgot to add into the recipe. With the hard sauce and dried fruit, it was more than sweet enough for my taste. Rob and Fiona allowed as they were glad to have tried it and wouldn't mind it making an occasional appearance in the holiday rotation.

Delia tried it, too, but with her sensitivity to texture, she found it rather confounding. I was pleased that she tried it at least. Even if she didn't enjoy eating it, we sure had fun making it, and that's what I'll always remember about it. And at least it's something we can all say we've tried.

On its way to being demolished
pegkerr: (Default)
Cutting butter into the flour and spices:

Cutting butter into the flour and spices

Greasing the pudding mold
Greasing the pudding mold

Adding the dried fruit. So much dried fruit.

Adding the dried fruit. So much dried fruit

Adding the bread crumbs:

Adding the bread crumbs

A crucial ingredient!

A crucial ingredient

Ready to add the batter to the mold:

ready to add batter to mold

Ready to go into the pot:

ready to go into the pot

A rack is set in the bottom of the pot:

Rack in the bottom of the pot

Putting pudding in to steam:

Putting pudding to steam

Water is added up halfway the height of the pudding mold

Adding water to the pudding steam pot

We will let you know how it turns out!
pegkerr: (Default)
I'm posting these two recipes here, so that I have a link to refer people to who are signing up to make them for us right before rounds of chemo.

Ginger Syrup

(makes about 2 cups of syrup)

Ginger is one of your best friends during chemo, both for its flavor, which can spark even the most jaded taste buds, and for its tummy-soothing properties. A lot of people think that store-bought ginger ale will do the trick, but the actual ginger content in most commercial varieties is minimal. Plus you often get a whole host of other garbage (can you say high-fructose corn syrup?) that you'd be better off without. Enter this recipe, which uses straight-up ginger syrup so you can control the amount of zing in your tonic.

4 cups water
2 cups sliced unpeeled fresh ginger (organic if possible)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons of honey
Frozen seedless grapes
Sparkling water
mint springs, for garnish


Bring the water and ginger to a boi in a saucepan, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for one hour. Uncover and continue to simmer for 30 minutes.

Strain the infusion through cheesecloth and discard the ginger. Stir in the lemon juice and honey and let cool to room temperature.

For each serving, add 1/4 cup of the ginger syrup to a glass with frozen grapes, then fill the glass with sparkling water and garnish with a sprig of mint.

PREP TIME: 5 minutes - COOK TIME: 1 hour 30 minutes
STORAGE: Store the ginger syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 7 days. Store the grapes in in a resealable plastic bag in the freezer for 3 months.
PER SERVING: Calories: 50; Total fat: 0.2 g (0.1 g saturated, 0 g monounsaturated); Carbohydrates: 12 g; Protein: 0 g; Fiber: 1 g; Sodium: 5 mg

NOTES: you can use this ginger syrup to make a hot beverage. Just stir 3 tablespoons of syrup into 1 cup of hot water, then add more lemon and honey if you like.

PEG'S NOTES: If you're bringing this for us, no need to worry about the grapes or the mint. But a 6-pack of sparkling water would be nice. (Something like La Croix).

* * *

Commonweal's Most Nourishing and Healing Tea

(Makes 8 cups)

This tea was developed ages ago by the fantastic folk of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program, a renowned retreat for patients and caregivers, and they've been very kind in allowing me to share their recipe with you. When I am cooking at commonweal, I often make about six quarts a day so I'll have some on hand for anyone who comes through the door, and still, it's never enough. The blend of ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom is like a backrub in a cup. It turns me into absolute mush, it's so good.

1/3 cup sliced peeled fresh ginger, cut 1/4 inch thick
10 cups water
3 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 1/3 tablespoons cardamom pods
4 cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
1 1/2 cups rice milk or almond milk
1 to 3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Combine the ginger and water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the coriander, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves and continue to simmer for an additional 20 minutes.

Strain the tea through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean saucepan. (I recommend that you save the spices; see Notes). Add the rice milk and maple syrup and gently reheat without boiling for 2 to 3 minutes, until warm. Stir in the vanilla, then taste. Add more milk or sweetener if you like. [Peg's notes, see below: if you're making this for us, DON'T add the rice milk, vanilla or maple syrup, just bring them with you] Serve hot or cold.

PREP TIME: 5 minutes COOK TIME: 55 minutes
STORAGE: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 week.
PER SERVING: Calories 40; Total Fat: 0.9 g (0 g saturated, 0.6 g monounsaturated); Carbohydrates: 8 g; Protein: 0 g; Fiber: 1 g; Sodium: 15 mg g

NOTES: The tea will keep in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks without the milk and sweetener, so you may want to set some aside prior to adding the milk and sweetener.

Recycle the spices that are strained out of the tea and use them to make another, smaller batch of tea. They'll keep in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days. To make more tea, combine the spices and 6 fresh cups of water and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of fresh peeled ginger slices. Simmer for 30 minutes, then strain the tea and discard the spices. Add sweetener and milk to taste and reheat without boiling for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla before serving.

PEG'S NOTES: As noted above, the tea will keep longer if the rice milk, sweetener and vanilla are not stirred in. We all like these in different concentrations anyway. So if you're making this for us, bring the milk separately and don't stir these ingredients in. Bring the bag of spices, too, and I'll use them to brew a second batch. Thanks.

Both recipes are from The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen by Rebecca Katz, a book which I highly recommend.
pegkerr: (Default)
I talked on the phone briefly with my sister Betsy tonight, who was calling to wish us luck with Rob's first chemo treatment. I told her how overwhelmed I was feeling (I was in the middle of a shopping trip at the fourth store I'd stopped at after work, and I was nowhere done with my list). I don't feel anywhere near ready for what we're facing tomorrow; haven't finished coordinating the support team on CaringBridge, for example, and so had no volunteers lined up for meals this week--partly because we don't know how Rob will feel until we've BEEN through it, and we're not quite sure what to ask for. Fiona's getaway was a major distraction, too. Betsy suggested that maybe she could be the point person who coordinates getting us the help we need. I liked the idea, and we agreed to talk about it later this weekend.

An hour and a half later, I got a Facebook message. Betsy had started googling and found an organization, Open Arms of Minnesota, which delivers FREE medically-tailored meals to people in Minnesota who are dealing with illnesses like cancer or AIDS. Wow! I have downloaded the form, and Rob will bring it to his doctor tomorrow to get the referral.

Okay, I'm sold. Betsy, you are obviously the perfect person to be our resource/support wrangler. Thank you so much!


Apr. 7th, 2013 09:41 pm
pegkerr: (Default)
I spent the weekend doing a bunch of batch cooking. I now have ziplock bags filled with tomato sauce, shredded roasted chicken, cooked rice, roasted peppers, and cooked butternut squash, all stuffed into the freezer. I still have a couple of pork shoulders to be roasted and shredded into pulled pork. I also cleaned up around my bedroom and got a lot of the tax paperwork off the floor.

I feel smugly productive.

My to-do app, Carrot, is very pleased with me and has rewarded me by giving me a virtual kitten. It suggested I name the kitten Captain Whiskers.
pegkerr: (Cooking for Ingrates)
because no one else in my family will eat it: Leek Blue Cheese soup. Really delicious.

Edited to add: [ profile] rufinia asked for the recipe, so here it is:

Leek and Blue Cheese Soup

Serves 6

3 large leeks
50g/ 2oz / 1/4 cup of butter
30ml / 2 TB oil
115g / 4oz Irish blue cheese, coarsely grated
15g / 1/2 oz / 2 TB plain all-purpose flour
15ml / 1 TB wholegrain Irish mustard, or to taste
1.5 litres / 2 1/2 pints / 6 1/4 cups chicken stock
ground black pepper
50g / 2 oz / 1/2 cup grated cheese and chopped chives or scallions, to garnish

1) Slice the leeks thinly. Heat the butter and oil together in a large heavy pan and gently cook the leeks in it, covered for 10-15 minutes, or until just softened but not brown.

2) Add the cheese to the pan, stirring over a low heat until it is melted. Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, then add pepper and mustard to taste.

3) Gradually add the stock, stirring constantly and blending it in well, bring the soup to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer very gently for about fifteen minutes. Check the seasoning.

4) Serve garnished with the extra cheese and chopped chives or scallions.

(I also threw in some extra chopped ham I had hanging around in the refrigerator. Really good.)
pegkerr: (You'll eat it and like it)
It's been awhile since I've posted one of these, hasn't it?

Laptop Lunch August 15, 2012

Aside from the boring ham sandwich, I have a mixture of grapes and cherries, and then beet hummus, which will be spread on the cucumber rounds and then dotted with Quark, which is a soft cheese (in the small container).


Jun. 23rd, 2012 08:47 am
pegkerr: (Default)
Remember how frustrated I was when I was doing P90X and all that work wasn't making my weight budge in the least?

Remember when I mentioned I was going off sugar?

The results have been wonderful! I've lost six or seven pounds in just a month without even TRYING.

(Uh, I know I gotta start exercising again. But *groan* I've become fond of sleeping in.)
pegkerr: (Default)
I am trying to drastically cut the amount of sugar I am eating. It's an interesting challenge. I hope that it will both help with weight loss and also help my general health, including continuing to keep depression at bay. I'm not telling myself that I'm cutting out sugar permanently. It seems to work better if I just say, for now, I'll choose this instead of that; I can eat it in the future. I've had one brownie in three weeks, which is quite a bit less than usual. I have a huge weakness for Starbucks brownies, and I was eating them three times a week or so. I've made that black bean bars recipe several times, which helps, too.

One of my other new tricks is that instead of eating a bowl of ice cream after dinner, which was getting to be a very regular bad habit, I'm instead eating frozen fruit. I made some watermelon sorbet the other night, but I've also resorted to frozen strawberries and blueberries. I should get some grapes and freeze those, too. And my new crack? Frozen mango chunks. OMG so good! I've told Rob that they are now mandatory to keep in the freezer.

Sure enough, I've quite significantly cut the amount of sugar I've been eating. I'm noticed that already my tastes are changing, so that now that when I do eat sugar, what I used to like now seems too sweet. A good sign.

Are any of the rest of you trying to cut sugar? What are some of your techniques that help you outsmart the cravings?
pegkerr: (Default)
Fiona went over to a friend's and made an number of different batches, all with different flavors, of this: Ice cream made without an ice cream maker, and she brought home a selection for us to try. Really pretty good.
pegkerr: (Cooking for Ingrates)
I tried this, and it was really surprisingly good: Vegan Fudge, made with no sugar, butter or milk. The secret? Black beans.

Naturally, no one else in my family will eat it. All the more for me, bwahahaha.
pegkerr: (Default)
Today was a colorful, mostly vegetarian day, aside from 2 oz. of ground beef on the hoagie at lunch. Lots of stuff here that my family won't eat.

Breakfast (not pictured): barley cooked in the slow cooker, topped with vanilla yogurt and raspberries.


Homemade hoagie, topped with ground beef with sauteed vegetables mixed with tomato paste, red cabbage/orange slaw, and very yummy homemade beet hummus.


Polenta with sheep's milk cheese folded in, topped with braised kale and mushrooms and tomato, sauteed in balsamic vinaigrette.
pegkerr: (Cooking for Ingrates)
I was pretty tired last night after we got back from my sister Betsy's house for Christmas Eve dinner (apparently, I haven't entirely recovered from this week's medical procedure, and the girls had been up late the previous night, too, so we ended the evening super early). We did have one tragedy as we were setting up for the Christmas breakfast this morning. Since I was so tired, I asked Fiona to set the table with our Christmas dishes. Unfortunately, the box which held her mug that she's had since she was a baby was put, inexplicably, in the cupboard upside down. It was a collectible Winnie the Pooh mug, with a Pooh figurine inside which endearingly poked his head out once the milk inside was drunk up. Poor Pooh crashed onto the kitchen counter, and the pieces flew everywhere.
Fiona was heartbroken and many tears were shed. It's funny how such a simple thing can assume such a vast importance. My heart ached for her, too. And how ironic that her child mug should be broken on the first year she has come back for Christmas from college. I looked on ebay and didn't see one like it. We will do some searching around to see if we can find something else that would be appropriate for her new adult status.

Here's poor Pooh: we decided to put him on the table to show he wasn't forgotten: )

Stockings were a big hit )

Then we had our Christmas breakfast )

Once the kitchen was cleaned up, we opened presents.

Delia got a big kick out of the fun socks Fiona found for her )

Fiona snuggled some more with her Teenage Mutant Ninga Turtles lounging pants )

A highlight for me was a mysterious package which had been left on the porch earlier this week, signed 'Santa's Elves'. I was absolutely delighted with the contents, as you can see here )

But for me the most amazing gift of all, perhaps the best Christmas gift I've received EVAH came in two parts. When I opened the first part, I laughed so hard that tears came out of my eyes for about ten minutes.

It was a promotional poster for the cookbook I always said I'd write someday, Cooking for Ingrates )

I thought that nothing could delight me more than that poster. Yet my family did better than that. As if that wasn't special enough, they gave me the actual BOOK! Delia, that clever little creative person, had dreamed this fantastic idea up and designed the book herself more than a month ago.

Here's a video of me opening the best Christmas I've ever received in my entire life )

Here's the front cover of the book:
Cooking for Ingrates: Front Cover
and here's the back:
Cooking for Ingrates: Back cover

Such a happy Christmas (aside from the lamentable Pooh cup incident). I hope yours was as marvelous as ours.

(Everyone in my household aside from me is asleep now. Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and the opportunity to catch up on your sleep)
pegkerr: (Default)
are sitting on my counter and talking to me. The coconut macaroons and the Russian teacakes.

And I can't eat them.

I'm having a medical test done on Wednesday, that special icky one you get when you pass the magical age of fifty. Which means that I've been eating a low fiber diet for the past three days (nothing fibrous, i.e., no nuts or coconut). Tomorrow I go to all liquids.

pegkerr: (Default)
We gathered at my sister Cindy's house this past Saturday for the annual cookie baking fun:

Cookie Baking December 17, 2011
Cookie Baking December 17, 2011

More pictures under the cut )

These are only some of the treats we made.

Some, but not all, of the cookie crew.

Lunch today

Nov. 6th, 2011 01:25 pm
pegkerr: (You'll eat it and like it)
I started getting back on two weeks ago, and already I'm seeing results. I'm tracking food and starting to exercise again, and already I've lost five pounds.

I've been making a real effort to eat more vegetables, and more vegetarian meals. In fact, I think I last ate meat four or more days ago, can't quite remember.

Today's lunch was so pretty, I took a picture. Open faced broiled veggie sandwiches. I took two pieces of bread, spread them with dijon mustard, and topped with shredded carrots and beets, purple cauliflower and slices of red bell pepper. I sprinkled muenster cheese on top, broiled it to melt the cheese, and then spread some hummus on top of that. Yummy and virtuous.

(You do realize that no one else in my family would touch something like this.)
pegkerr: (You'll eat it and like it)
"Would you like to take some of the carrot ginger soup I made last night for lunch today?"

Delia shook her head vigorously no.

I sighed. "Won't you at least try it?"

She ducked her head down like a turtle and said so earnestly that I had to laugh. "I respect it."

"But I don't like ginger."


pegkerr: (Default)

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