Sunday, May 24, 2009

Let the fun begin!

I feel bad that I have somewhat neglected this blog since my knee surgery. I haven't been really cooking since then. In fact, last week my big triumph was making myself a salad! I was thinking today that I'd start a new feature here on Sundays at Maison Meg In The Kitchen. I'm going to begin posting culinary terms once a week. Once school begins in August, I'll begin transitioning into what I'm learning in school. You're totally excited about this, aren't you? I can tell. Control yourself.

A French culinary term meaning to stir a hot cream, sauce, or mixture until it is cold, with a wooden spatula or a whisk, to keep it smooth and particularly to prevent a skin forming on its surface. This process also shortens the cooling time.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


I started walking yesterday. I'm totally gimpy, but I'm walking. I am completely and totally over wrestling with my anti-embolism stocking everyday. Seriously. Over it. It's like trying to put on a wet swimsuit that's a size too small. Times ten. Oy. (Yes, I realize the alternative is way worse. So I'm wearing it.)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Chicken and Dumplings

Saturday afternoon I had my elderly neighbors, Mary Jane and Mr. Smith, over for lunch. I figured chicken and dumplings was a good option, especially since they are both Southern. We drank sweet tea. My mom was kind enough to reheat the food and clean up afterwards. We had a nice time chatting and laughing.

I feel like I have been in the South long enough to think that I know everything about southern food. My brother and I have a long standing debate over who makes the better chicken and dumplings. I can say with 100% certainty that mine is better. Mr Fancy Pants Culinary School adds carrots to his. I am morally opposed to carrots in chicken and dumplings. Just sayin'.

Here's my recipe.

2 lbs chicken thighs
4-5 ribs celery, large dice
1 white onion, large dice
2 cans low sodium condensed cream of chicken soup
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
1 recipe dumplings

Add chicken thighs to large stock pot, cover with water, about two quarts. Boil until cooked through. Put in fridge to cool, reserving broth. Skim any excess fat.

When chicken is cool, pull off bones. Discard any excess fat and bones. Chop chicken into bite side pieces and set aside. In large stock pot over high, saute onions and celery until soft. Add chicken. Cover with broth. Add bouillon cubes and cream of chicken soup. Stir well and bring to boil. Make dumplings. Add to pot, a few at a time, once boiling. When dumplings are floating, let boil for five minutes. Turn off heat.

Dumpling recipe:
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 TBSP vegetable shortening
1/3 cup milk

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in small bowl. Mix in shortening until mixture feels like cornmeal. With a fork, mix in cold milk until mixture begins to come together. Turn out onto counter or board. Kneed until dough is smooth. Let rest 5 minutes. Roll out until dough is about 1/4" thick. Using pizza cutter, cut into strips then in the opposite direction into squares.



This serves about 6 people. This is easily doubled.

Try to get boneless, skinless chicken thighs if possible. It'll make your life easier.

Do not add salt to this before tasting it. The bouillon and canned soup have plenty of sodium, even the low sodium options. I find I don't need any extra.

If you want to be all fancy an' stuff, add chopped herbs (sage, thyme, marjoram) to the dumplings. It's tasty.

If you wanted to use white wheat flour in the dumplings, substitute equally for the white flour. If you want to use whole wheat flour, use 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 regular flour. The dumplings are also good if you use 3/4 cup white flour and 1/4 cup cornmeal.

This would be great vegetarian, with maybe mushrooms and squash instead of the chicken. Knorr makes a wonderful Vegetarian Vegetable bouillon. You could use low sodium cream of mushroom or celery soup instead.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Surgery update

Thursday morning I had surgery to repair damaged cartilage in my left knee. We arrived at the outpatient surgery center at 10:15. I had to do some paperwork, get reassurance from the anesthesiologist that I could have anesthesia, put on my hospital gown, shower cap and slippers and mostly just sit around. I wish they'd be a little more efficient in this process as I found the longer I waited the more anxious I got.

I was impressed that everyone I encountered was aware of my latex allergy. The staff, with the exception of the woman at the front desk, was very nice, empathetic and smart. But isn't that always the way it is? They made me leave my glasses with my mom so I literally had to be escorted by the arm to the OR. I found that walking into the OR and laying on the table while I was awake was terrifying. I had the option of being awake throughout the surgery. Aside from not wanting them to poke a needle into my spine, I can't imagine how scary it would be to be aware of what was going on. Luckily, whatever they gave me knocked me out pretty quickly. I woke up in Recovery almost as suddenly as I went out in OR. I was also in excruciating pain. When she asked my how bad it was on a scale of 1-10, I told her 12. They gave me 2 percocet, which take about 30 minutes to kick in, and a dose of something morphine-like in my IV that kicked in quick and didn't last long.

As it turns out, I did not actually tear cartilage in my meniscus. I had still somehow damaged it and had some damage in the front as well. The doctor assured my mom that I really needed to have this done. He shaved down the cartilage where it was damaged and either shaved or polished the backside of my knee cap too. I have a post-op appointment next week and will find out more then. Basically, my doctor wasn't sure he trusted the previous diagnosis and was correct in thinking that he'd find something different when he got in there.

I have been in a lot of pain, taking 2 percocet every 4 or 6 hours. I hate taking prescription pain meds. It helps a lot. I have a super sexy compression sock that I have to wear for the next three weeks or so. Oy. I also have to take an aspirin every morning for a month. I guess there's a big threat of blood clots after this kind of surgery. I also have to keep my dressing on until tomorrow and cannot shower until tomorrow either. Ugh. I just washed my hair in the kitchen sink and took a sponge bath. I am very lucky that I didn't have any nausea after I woke up. I've got some serious drug allergies, so they were worried about that.

Overall, it went well. I'm still in a lot of pain, but can tell it's less pain than a couple days ago. I'm really dopey from the percocet, kind of like the people on Intervention before the intervention. I don't know how long I'll be off my feet right now. It hurts to put weight on it and it's popping like crazy, so it may be a while. I start PT on Monday.

I'm kind of tired right now, so I think I'm done typing for a while. See ya later.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Breathing a sigh of relief, or when it's okay to take advantage of other's misfortunes.

The deadline to pay for tuition for the classes you signed up for during the preregistration period was yesterday. I paid for my fall classes shortly after I registered. I have been waiting for this payment deadline to pass so I could see if anyone didn't pay, and therefore create a space pour moi. Each morning at 5 AM registration opens. That would be five o'clock in the morning, when it's still dark and only farmers and cows are awake. I set my patented Dual Alarm System (TM) so I would get up in time. My patented Dual Alarm System (TM) consists of two alarms and sleeping on the sofa. Back in the day, when I was in college and had to get up early for an exam after staying up all night to study, I would actually sleep on the floor. That way I could get some sleep but not deep enough sleep that I would miss my alarm. It is tragically easy for me to sleep through an alarm. You remember those nights, don't you? My next to last semester at NCSU, I had something ridiculous like 18 credits, six classes because I need my head examined. I think they were all Spanish literature classes too. Because I need my head examined. In the final few weeks of that semester, I had due 12 short papers, criticisms, essays, etc., around 2 or 3 pages in length, I had 6 medium length papers around 6 or 7 pages in length, 8 presentations, the usual quizzes in each class, plus my 20 page thesis. Sadly, I am not exaggerating when I say I think I might have left out a few assignments. I was literally skipping class to get work done. Did I mention it was ALL in a foreign language too? It was so ridiculous. Had I not been so bogged down I would have had the common sense to go to my professors and tell them I am not actually Wonder Woman. I remember I finished my thesis (I got an A+, thank you) with enough time to walk across campus and take a 30 minute nap face down on a wooden bench before an exam started. I sincerely hope I never have to go through that ever again.

Wait, where was I? Right. Registration. I got up super-extra early this morning to try to register. No dice. The system hadn't updated. Nor had it each subsequent time I tried it in the following 45 minutes. I gave up and went back to sleep for an hour before my doctor's appointment. I came home and kept trying over and over and over all day long. No dice. System still wasn't updated. I finally gave up. "I have all summer to worry about this," I thought to myself. I just couldn't summon the energy to stress out at this moment.

On a lark, I logged on to Web Advisor this evening. Voila! In the section I need, two people failed to pay their tuition on time. Huzzah! I mean, it totally sucks for them and all, but I really need this class. I am probably much older than them and therefore, they have a semester or two to waste. You snooze you loose, baby! Boo-yow. I registered and immediately paid my remaining tuition. Fall semester...paid in full!

Without further ado, I present you, most loyal readers, my schedule for the Fall Term for reals this time.

10:30 AM to 11:20 AM Beginning Golf
12:00 PM to 1:50 PM Purchasing
2:00 PM to 3:50 PM Purchasing Lab

8:00 AM to 8:50 AM Baking I
9:00 AM to 9:50 AM Sanatation and Safety
10:00 AM to 10:50 AM Basic Culinary Skills
11:00 AM to 4:50 PM Basic Culinary Skills Lab

10:30 AM to 11:20 AM Beginning Golf

8:00 AM to 8:50 AM Baking I
9:00 AM to 9:50 AM Sanatation and Safety
10:00 AM to 10:50 AM Basic Culinary Skills

8:00 AM to 11:50 AM Baking I Lab


Monday, May 4, 2009

I scream. You scream. We all scream for ice cream.

I was in Kroger yesterday, my favorite grocery store because it's so ridiculously cheap. They frequently put red and yellow "manager's specials" stickers on highly perishable things close to their expiration date thus making them even cheaper. For example, on many occasions, I have picked up a 4 oz log of goat cheese for 99 cents, four dollars less than full price. Word. Tofu for 99 cents a week before the expiration date. Same with lettuces, other cheeses, and the list goes on.

Peeps, I would swear it's already like a hundred degrees here. Yesterday, I bought a half gallon of 1% milk for 75 cents. You know what that means, don't you? Yup. Ice cream. Or more specifically, ice milk. I also bought a pint of heavy cream. I mixed the cream with five cups of milk. I added enough sugar to make it sweet, but not too sweet. Maybe a cup? I mixed it until the sugar was dissolved and included a tablespoon of vanilla extract. I split it in half to make two batches, strawberry and chocolate chip. I simply followed the instructions for my ice cream maker. About thirty minutes in the frozen bowl is enough. Once the ice cream is about doubled in volume, I add it to a 2 QT container and mix in the strawberries. I gave my strawberries a quick whiz with the ol' stick blender, so they were pretty soupy. Normally you should add the "add ins" during the last couple spins in the mixer, but the ice cream had grown considerably and the strawberries were quite juicy, so I mixed them in the container. I found these great plastic containers at Kroger that are the same size and shape as a paper ice cream container. I am impatiently waiting on the ice cream to set up a bit more before I dive right in. My long and rambling point is...I have 4 QTs of homemade ice cream for about $2.00. How can you beat that? Everyone needs an ice cream maker. It doesn't take up much room in the kitchen. They aren't too expensive. You can also use them to make frozen drinks too! I have a Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream-Sorbet Maker.

If you choose to get one, and I highly suggest you do, here are some rules to which you should strictly adhere. Everything else is completely negotiable. In no particular order:

-Shoot for a two quart batch. If you're adding something in, decrease your milk/cream/dairy/soy/etc product accordingly. In other words, instead of using eight cups of milk, add two cups of fruit and use six cups of milk. Remember that this milk mix is going to grow in volume significantly.

-I find that adding corn syrup to a sorbet makes it scoopable. Otherwise, it seems to turn into a Popsicle. Some kind of a liquid sugar would work, in as small as a 1:4 ratio of liquid sugar:granulated sugar. I'll bet honey or maple syrup would work. Maple syrup would be excellent in a blueberry sorbet. (Oooh, I'll have to try that.)

-You really can add anything to ice cream. One of my personal favorites is the hard, over cooked edges of brownies chopped up. They really hold up well in ice cream. Add fruit, cookie dough, brownies, candy, marshmallows, the sky's the limit.

-Keep your mixing bowl in the freezer. That way you know it'll be good and cold when you're ready. My ice cream maker came with two mixing bowls. One is always in the freezer. If your bowl isn't extra extra cold, you can forget about making ice cream. Trust me on this one.

-If you want to be all fancy-schmancy and make a custard ice cream (the cooked kind with eggs), make it a day ahead of time. The milk mix needs to be very cold when it goes into the very cold mixing bowl.

-Turn on the mixer and pour in the mixture. Not the other way around. What happens is the part of the milk mix that touches the bowl freezes.

-When adding mix-ins, add them when the milk mix is set in the bowl. Give it a spin or two then turn out into your container. To be honest, I've always had a tough time getting my chocolate or caramel ribbon to look like Breyer's. If you figure it out, holla.