Tuesday, August 30, 2011

French Onion Soup A' La Anne

I'm a big fan of Alton Brown so when he did French Onion Soup over a decade ago, my then-husband and I decided that we had to try it.  It was some GOOD soup and I added the recipe to my repertoire for use when I found some cheap onions.

Over the years, I've used the concepts I learned in that show to make some damn good bases for soups and stews.  Nothing like 4+  lbs of stewed onions to give your chicken stew some serious depth.

A few weeks ago, of friend of mine stopped by the house and handed me a bag full of red onions.  She volunteers every week at a drop-off point for the local food bank.  Sometimes there are extras and sometimes there are things the participants don't want so they place them in a box to be "recycled" into the system.  Problem is, the food bank doesn't want the perishables back.  Instead of tossing them, the volunteers take what they want...and my friend takes whatever is left and passes it on to me and a few other friends.

I guess no one wanted red onions that day because I got at least 10 lbs of red onions dropped on my kitchen floor.  Since I was one day post-surgery at the time, I had her toss them into my onion bag in the cupboard for use later when I could think again. (Percocet makes my brain....well....dull.)

Fast forward to this morning when I opened that cupboard and was hit by this....smell.  *shudder shudder*  I knew that smell well - rotting onions.  So, after I made breakfast for everyone (I cook breakfast and dinner - that's the extent of my household activities these days), I put the stew pot on the stove, tossed in a stick of butter, and started slicing onions.  By the time mom got up at 9:30, the onions were stewing down and I had nicely cleaned sinuses (those onions were STRONG!)

Once they were cooked down to mush and caramelized nicely, I added 4 bags of my frozen chicken broth, a shot of vinegar (I don't have any wine in the house - it doesn't mix well with pain killers), brought the mess to a boil, and allowed it to boil down until it reached a nice syrupy consistency - that took about two hours, most of which I spent lying in bed reading.  Since I'm not a big fan of vegetarian meals, I also added in a bag of cooked chicken to add protein and stretch the meal across 4 people.

And wha-la!  We have dinner!

Now yes, this recipe takes some time but let me tell you - it's WELL worth the wait, even without the bread and cheese crust on top.  ;-) 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Broken Leg Update

Hi everyone!  Sorry for the no updates lately.  I've been enjoying my convalescence - actually I've been spoiling myself, lying in bed, writing, reading, organizing paperwork, crocheting, and watching Netflix, while someone else cleans my house and keeps the kids in shape. ;-)  (This is about where my sister throws things at me!)

I realized this morning that I hadn't updated my blog in a while so...here I am!


I had my surgery 9 days after my injury and it went off without a hitch, even though my blood pressure gave everyone a good scare.  I hobbled into pre-op with a BP of 210/122....I gave a few nurses a heart attack with that one!  I had to keep explaining how super sensitive my blood pressure can get - pain, injury, and stress can make my BP go waaaay up...nevermind the good dose of  "white coat syndrome" I get everytime I walk into a hospital.  The anesthesiologist decided to go ahead with the surgery - she guessed correctly that once I went under, it would bottom out, which it did.  It started rising as I came back to consciousness (hi!  hurt leg!) but once they started getting my pain levels  under control, it went down again. 

I had a nurse tell me as I left, "You should make an appointment with your doctor to get that looked at."  What is he going to do?  It's perfectly normal when there's nothing wrong with me! I'm sure he'll just tell me, "Don't break your leg and you'll be fine."

Pain wise, I'm doing okay.  I was on 2 percosets every 4 hours right after surgery, which I reduced down to one after a couple days...and then to one-a-day-right-before-bedtime a week after the surgery.  Now, I just take one whenever the pain makes me grit my teeth and curse under my breath.  My friends will tell you that I'm not a big fan of medication, especially addictive pain medication...

I had my 2 weeks post-op appt yesterday and I seemed to have passed with flying colors.  The doc says that everything is healing well and that I should be out of a cast in 3 weeks.  That means that I will have only worn a cast for 5 weeks after my surgery, shaving one to three weeks off of his estimates.  I was switched over to a grape-purple fiberglass cast (I picked that color in hopes that my son would see it and stop tripping over it!) and advised to keep doing whatever I was doing - that I was healing fast.


I have heard a LOT of horror stories from friends and family about how they gained weight when they broke a leg.  Well, I can attest that that isn't always true.  Since my surgery, I've lost almost 8 lbs and 1-1/2 inches from around my waist...and the most exercise I got in the last 3 weeks is going from my bed to the kitchen.  Weird, huh?

I think it has helped that I've tried to stick to a low-carb Paleo-style diet these last few weeks (mainly meat, veggies, and fats with a little dairy (calcium) and fruit tossed in).  I've also been taking my daily vitamins (which I rarely do when I'm well) and taking extra-absorbent calcium pills to kinda help things along, if you know what I mean.


My wonderful sister (who comments as Creakinator on the blog) drove the 8 hours from So Cal to stay with me and the kids for the 2 weeks post-surgery.  She was a god-sent - she fed us, did the shopping, kept up with the house, and stopped the kids from killing one another (or me) while I was convalescing.  She understands about the whole Paleo-Diet thing and was more than willing to help me stick to it .... even though I am picky about how my eggs are made in the morning.  ;-)  Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Creaks - you were a lifesaver!

Now my mom is here to keep an eye on me...and considering her definition of cooking is to open up a can and pour it into a microwave-safe bowl, Chef Anne is back at work once again.  Thankfully, I was able to borrow a rolling walker from a friend which as a bench seat in the middle, so I can get around pretty well and cook while sitting down.  It can be....well, interesting some times, but at least I know we're eating decent food. ;-)

Anyway, that's the update for now.  Talk to y'all soon!!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Quick (and inexpensive) meal ideas when mama (or dad) isn't up to cooking

I had my an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon yesterday morning to discuss having my surgery next Monday.  Of course, we didn't just see the surgeon, but another doctor, a PA, and (my absolute favorite) a financial counselor to get my Medi-cal figured out.  Nothing ends a perfect morning of poking and prodding and sickening discussions of pins and plates like spending an hour beating your head again the state's bureaucracy.  And they wonder why our state is sinking... Oy!

Anyway. back to what I wanted to talk about  - quick and easy paleo meals for when mom or dad are not quite up to cooking dinner.  Last night was a prime example for me - I was exhausted after an all morning trek to the doctor's and then spending the afternoon on the phone, my leg was swollen and complaining, and all I wanted to do was lay down...but that was not a choice!  The kids were begging for food and they weren't going to take "wait an hour" as an answer.

What's a mama to do?

Be inventive, of course!

First of all, it's best to have already-prepared stuff in the freezer for such emergencies.  That's one of the reasons why I pre-cook all of my chicken - easy meal time!  Toss the bag into a pan with some butter, salt, and pepper, and we're good to go!  This chicken can also be the protein for a nice green salad if you have the ingredients OR you can add some homemade olive oil mayo or salad dressing and slather the chicken mixture onto stalks of celery.  There's ALWAYS an option .... you just have to be open to the possibilities!

You might also want to check on "ready to eat" options that are available to you in regular and ethnic stores.  While wandering through my local Indian store, I discovered something cool - all natural, ready to eat pouches of Indian sauces.  It's pretty much spices and liquid (no preservatives, chemicals, or MSG) - perfect to sauce up that already-cooked chicken in seconds.  You just snip off the end, pour into a pan, add protein, and reheat.  Though Indian food is usually eaten with lots of rice, I pour mine over steamed broccoli - yum!!! I've seen similar packets in the ethnic aisles of the regular grocery store all priced around $1 - 2 a packet.

Of course, there's always eggs - yummy, delish, and cheap eggs.  Scrambled, fried, poached, - they're all good and super easy to fix.  Add in some veggies and fruit and that's the perfect meal for anyone in your house.  And let's not forget the perfect snack - hard boiled eggs.  I always have a few hard boiled eggs sitting in the fridge, ready to eat.

And then there's the option I did last night which was to make snack trays.  I peeled and cut up a hard boiled egg for each of the kids, added fruit, sliced carrots, celery, and cucumbers, a stick of string cheese, and a cookie for each of them and called it dinner.  Then I crawled back into bed, put my foot up, and ignored the world.

The good news is that my days of being alone with the kids are limited.  They go to their dad's for the weekend on Friday, and then my sister will be up here Saturday to get me through the surgery and take care of us through the first couple of weeks post-op.  And after that, mom will be up here to make sure the kids don't set the house on fire while I stay off of my feet.  Doc says I'll be off my feet for at least 8 weeks after surgery.  Won't this be fun?  HA!