Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Black Bean and Watercress Salad


This is the perfect side.  Matt spotted it in a magazine and because it contained beans - and he is bean-obsessed - he insisted on making it.  I huffed, "Mama ain't eatin' no bean salad!" (truly - I said this) but upon making this I was eating my words (and this salad).  It's zesty, light, and the perfect accompaniment to anything Mexican.  Enjoy!

Black Bean and Watercress Salad
  • 2 smashed garlic cloves
  • 1 diced jalapeƱo
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 15 oz. can black beans
  • 1 ½ cups each diced cucumber and halved grape tomatoes
  • 4 chopped scallions
  • Squeeze lime juice
  • 1/3 cup loosely-packed cilantro
  • 1 bunch watercress
  • Salt / olive oil
Heat 2 smashed garlic cloves, 1 diced jalapeno and 1 teaspoon Cumin seeds in a skillet with olive oil over low heat, 5 minutes.  Toss a 15 oz. can of black beans, 1 ½ cups each diced cucumber and halved grape tomatoes, 4 chopped scallions, a squeeze of lime juice and some chopped cilantro in a bowl.  Mash the hot garlic mixture and add to the beans.  Season with salt and toss with watercress.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"It's Pronounced 'Zhal-bare's!'"

Come to think of it, he does look a little sickly here.

It’s been in the 90’s every day this week, and that can only mean one thing: my thighs have been sticking together more than usual. The things resemble two giant ham hocks – delicious but true.

But enough with my meaty thighs, although I know it’s a rather titillating subject. Let’s talk about something even more sultry: MY THYROID! I have come to the not-very-informed medical opinion that there is something wrong with each organ or gland in my body. I am now on a quest to prove it. I received a call from the nurse at the fertility practice, and I am borderline hypo-thyroid. My mother is hypo-thyroid so I immediately called her and cursed her genes. I then went online to see what the symptoms were so I could really milk it to Matt and get out of making dinner – I mean, my poor thyroid needed a rest!

The symptoms of hypothyroidism are fatigue and sluggishness (so maybe I’m not inherently lazy?), constipation (uh, no), a puffy face (and maybe that’s not due to the Oreo problem?), unexplained weight gain (see: “Oreo Problem”), brittle fingernails and hair (true fact: I have already eyed – on more than one occasion – Raquel Welsh’s wig line with relish), and depression. You see, my thyroid was tested because hypothyroidism can hinder a woman’s fertility.

Now, this borderline hypothyroidism isn’t a very big deal (I have bigger fish to fry, although I’m just plum tired of taking pills and being a pathetic specimen of a healthy human being), but I decided to go home and be really obnoxious about it. Because that’s what I do.

Unfortunately, just as I was going to log-off at work Matt IMs me with the results of a routine blood test he had at his PCP last week. “I have Gilbert’s Syndrome”, to which I replied, “Who’s Gilbert?” “NO,” he said, “it’s pronounced zeel-bare’s. I have increased bilirubin!” Nevermind he didn’t know what bilirubin was when I asked him, except, “something having to do with the liver.” He then said it’s just “awful and horrible” living with such a disease and thank goodness it impairs (supposedly) your memory so he “doesn’t have to remember the pain of living with it.” Oh, then he told me he was playing tennis with his dad after work and logged off. (Don’t worry: he then resumed his complaining when he got home.)

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “What the heck is Gilbert’s Syndrome?” Let me tell you: it’s the most inconsequential syndrome in the world. Don’t you dare pity this boy. It’s as if Matt felt left out by having a healthy body, and searched for a condition with really no ramifications that he could “have” and then complain about it. Here are a few choice words and phrases from the Wikipedia article regarding Gilbert’s: “harmless” “does not require treatment”, “asymptomatic”, “individuals with GS….[have a] significant decrease in the incidence of coronary artery disease” (the horror!), and “no clear adverse symptoms”.

To give you an example of what I put up with now, you know, having a husband with a newly-discovered quasi-fake condition that doesn’t impair his life in the slightest, here is an unedited IM transcript:

Kathryn: how is your Gilbert's Syndrome today?
Matt: I think I'm having a flare up
Kathryn: really? why is that?
Matt: I'd detail more, but I don't want to ruin your day
Kathryn: maybe you can't think of a fake symptom to tell me
Matt: there's nothing fake about it
Matt: I can't always recall, because my brains to foggy from this heartless disease
Kathryn: how will you go on? how can you live a full life now?
Matt: I know
Matt: it's terrifying
Kathryn: did you tell your family yet? you'll have to sit them down to deliver this devastating blow
Matt: true
Matt: maybe you can tell them
Matt: I don't know if I have the strength

Nancy and David, I have something to tell you: Your son has a harmless condition with no medical ramifications. (Well, maybe mental, but certainly not physical.)

Monday, June 21, 2010

End of Life Care

Today has been a strange day. Quiet, introspective. You know, pseudo-deep (my specialty, really). I sat at my desk at work immobilized for a good hour after reading a New York Times story on the tragedy of too much medicine intertwined with end of life care. The article is heart-breaking and since everyone was at lunch, or in a meeting, I let myself cry in my cubicle. I then emailed Matt and said “Let’s talk about this evening; thought this would be a good catalyst for a discussion on living wills”. Who wants to come over to our house tonight?!
Matt and I have discussed such things in only vague terms, the way any 28-year-old would do. We both have the same outlook: if our functioning is so impaired we rely on a machine, then, please, end it. But there’s a lot of grey there, and what if there is no machine? Both Matt and I are dubious of any sort of afterlife, but I told him if there was, and he left me become a shell of who I once was, I was going to find him in this afterlife and bitch slap him. I ended with, “And you KNOW I’ll find you.” To that he replied he’ll pull the plug at the first chance he got. (I also gave him dating advice as a would-be widower: “When I’m gone I want you to date other women. Find a nice nerdy woman who will throat-sing with you. Grieve for a good year and immerse yourself in projects the second year, and then start dating. Anything before that would be tacky, and I don’t want people to think you got over me quickly. But on a show if you have to. Oh, and I want you to love her, but let her know who came first in this scenario, ya hear me?” He replied he’ll never find someone he’d love as much as me (I’m sure just trying to score kudo points). To this I said, “Don’t be stupid”.)
Anyway, I hope my, uh, “colorful” commentary doesn’t take away from the seriousness (and beautiful writing) in the author Katy Butler's piece. It makes me even more fearful of aging, and having the ability to die with dignity. (It also puts the fear of getting wrinkles into perspective.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My (Dopey) List

I’m at my tipping point in a lot of ways. After an incident watching The Young Victoria (me: bursting into tears saying why can’t Matt be as romantic as Prince Albert and leaving the room / him: panic-stricken and not moving from the corner of the couch) Matt is steering clear, which is probably the smart choice. Yesterday I called our county’s Roads Department and argued with the Roads Manager so I really don’t think anyone is safe. (We get a train of traffic during rush hour as drivers cut through our neighborhood. I want speed bumps. He doesn’t want to blow his budget. At this point I’m thinking of mobilizing the neighbors, a la Kathryn Brackovich.)

I’m at my lowest professionally and personally, and really, being sad is the pits. There are many things I cannot change directly (my workplace, my health), but enough is enough. I know one thing: going home, eating Oreos, and watching The Bachelorette from bed is not the answer (it took a lot of strength to write “Oreos” and “not the answer” in the same sentence).

Matt likes to remind me my life is good. Every instance I lament something he compares my place in society to that of a woman in a far-off developing nation, shoeless and starving. I don’t write that to be callous or glib: I know very well I was born into a lucky lot, and my situation doesn’t begin (BEGIN) to compare to most. I know that. But throw me a bone, will ya? Things aren’t exactly hunky dory, and patronizing me is only going to make me write about you on my blog – see? (Don’t worry, I still love him.)

But I know I have to work though this. And even if it’s in the most contrived, laughable way (and I open myself up to ridicule) it’s worth a shot. Thus, this:

You cannot compartmentalize your life. Or add up to 10 to create happiness – yeah, yeah, I know that. It may be incredibly dopey (fine, it is) but why not? Who’s to say if I read a book instead of looking at celebrity blogs, cleaned my bedroom, and made a salad from greens from the garden I won’t be more happy? More at peace?

Today I already blew a lot of them, but that’s fine. There’s always tomorrow.

UPDATE: I would love to know what you would add to your daily list!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fresh Skirt Steak Salad

This morning I went to the farmer's market with Matt and Penny. Matt had a bratwurst sandwich (nevermind it was 9:30 am) and I gathered up baby squash, eggs, and bread. Buying bread, I went for the dark brown loaf called "
Brown Prairie Bread", a hearty brick of whole wheat ensconced with sesame seeds. I bought this because it looked healthy, and I certainly wanted to at least give off an aura of health when I ordered from the cute-ish hipster manning the bread booth. (Nevermind I consider Doritos haute-cuisine.) The truth is, I prefer a white or even a multi-grain loaf. Whole wheat is too "granola" and tough for me (and prior to my surgery, for my body). And don't lie to me and say you don't love a crusty white bread, too.

But I think it's good to be true to yourself, and I sometimes (okay, oftentimes) I give into these cravings, whether it be the white bread, Doritos, or meat. I've been eating as little meat as possible for the last six to eight months. I eat meat when it's served to me, but very rarely cook with it at home, with the exception of seafood. A few weeks back I went on a meat rampage. Now, "meat rampage" really means like two bonafide meat dishes in one week. I guess sometimes a girl just wants some steak.

Even when we eat meat, it's organic, grass-fed, and in small quantities. I think that's a healthy compromise. Here is a delicious skirt steak salad with greens, avocado and lime we devoured in front of the television that week (I guess old habits do die hard).

It's (of course) courtesy of chef Rick Bayless, and we made a few substitutions (no frisee for example, I hate the stuff). And I think this is why we love Mexican, or, new Mexican I should say: there is nothing more fresh than lime and cilantro, fatty avocados and a dollop of sour cream.

Below is Rick's recipe, with my additions/alterations in italics.

Skirt Steak Salad with "Wilted" Greens, Tomato, Avocado, and Lime
  • 1 medium-large head (8 oz.) frisee or escarole, cut into 2-inch sections OR 8 cups salad spinach, long stems removed (We used mixed baby greens.)
  • 2 medium-large ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 medium avocados, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 TB. olive oil (divided use)
  • 1 pound skirt steak (thicker "outer" skirt steak is most tender - it should already be trimmed of the exterior while membrane and surface fat)
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a press
  • 1/4 cup beef broth or water
  • 1 canned chipotle chile en adobo, seeds scraped out and finely chopped (We just used canned green chiles.)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup grated Mexican queso anejo or other garnishing cheese such as Romano or Parmesan
  • (We also added slices of mango.)
  • (We also added grilled veggies from the day prior - mainly zucchini and baby bellas - to add additional heft to the salad.)
Scoop the greens into a large bowl and strew the chopped tomatoes and avocados over the top. Set a very large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat, and measure in 2 TB of the oil. Sprinkle both sides of the skirt steak with salt and pepper. Lay it on the hot oil and cook until it's about medium-rare, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Remove to a cooking rack set over a large plate - this keeps the juices in the meat rather than running out onto the plate.

Turn the heat under the skillet to low. Add the garlic and stir for a few seconds, until very fragrant. Then pour in the broth (or water) and stir to release any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. Turn off the heat and add the chile, along with the lime juice and the remaining 1/4 cup oil. Season with salt (about 1/2 tsp.) and pepper (about 1/4 tsp.).

Cut the skirt steak into roughly 3-inch lengths, then cut each piece across the grain into 1/4-inch strips. Add to the bowl with the greens. Pour the warmed dressing over the salad and toss to coat - the greens will wilt slightly. Divide and sprinkle with grated cheese. Serve immediately. (We also added the grilled veggies and mango, and served with sour cream and toasted tortillas.)

Simple, Fresh Tomatillo Salsa

 You have not had tomatillo ("green") salsa until you made your own.  I know, I know - it's quite the statement, but I'm sticking to it.  It's darn fresh.  And bright.  And gorgeous to look at.  And it tastes pretty amazing, too.  If this is the way to Matt's Mexican-lovin' heart, then grab me a chip, I'm ready to dig in.

***This is also terrific with scrambled eggs, on top of a salad or spooned over fish/meat, or anything else for that matter.

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa
from Rick Bayless
  • 4 medum (about 8 oz total) tomatillos, husked, rinsed and quartered
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled and quartered
  • Hot green chiles to taste (Rick used 2 serranos are 1 jalapeno), stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup (loosely packed) roughly chopped cilantro
  • Salt
Combine the tomatillos, garlic, chiles and cilantro in a blender for food processor.  Add 1/4 cup water and a generous 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Process to a course puree; if using a blender, being blending on low, at first pulsing to get the mixture moving evenly through the blender blades.  Pour into a salsa dish and think with a little more water if necessary to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency.  Taste and season with additional salt if you think necessary.  Serve within the hour.

A few riffs on the salsa, per Rick Bayless: Replace or augment the cilantro with (1) lemony herbs like lemon balm, lemon verbena or a little finely sliced kaffir lime leaf, (2) finely grated citrus zest from kaffir or key limes or from lemons, or (3) unexpected herbs like basil, flat-leaf parsley, fennel fronts, mint, or hoja santa.

This is Matt's experession after eating the salsa.  (Or also when looking at glass fruit.  Either/or.)

Friday, June 11, 2010

My Nether Regions Get A Lot of Action

I’m sick of being sick. Not anything like “woe is me” (although I have my moments), but I now have two conditions that involve the nether regions (if we’re including infertility), and by golly, there is nothing savory about that.

I am on progesterone supplements, or, as a woman of my standing likes to call: “vagina pills”. Classy. I insert them three times a day, one of the times in the mid-afternoon at work. Some people get coffee at 3 pm. I get down and dirty.

My latest ultrasound showed…nothing. No eggs (or, they call them follicles). Which makes me think: “Can a woman shoot blanks?”

It did show some scar tissue and small puddles of liquid from my Crohn’s. Now, instead of viewing my pelvic cavity as a desert, I tend to think swampland.

Due to my work trip, I missed a critical monitoring week, and have to start over again. This enraged me as my long cycles tend to transcend seasons, so at this rate we’ll figure what’s going on sometime near Thanksgiving.

Infertility is very easy for the guy – when did a guy ever bristle when he was told he needed to have sex? I’m sure even giving a semen sample is rather enjoyable. I hate men. They get higher salaries, more clout, and they can pee anywhere.

Oh well, I guess we get them in the end since we tend to live six years longer. Nevermind they can be lonely years in a body that doesn’t work too well. That’s what I cling to as I swagger to the bathroom with, yes, those vagina pills.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

So You've Been to Canada, Eh?

I am all about the cheese (both literally and figuratively), so of course I had to vacation in Niagara Falls, the capital of cheesy romantic getaways. So, for our two year anniversary, we hopped in the Corolla and made the 7-hour journey to the Falls for a long weekend of lust and romance. And by “lust and romance” I mean goofy attractions and a heck of a lot of water. Here are the highlights of our foray into the great Canadian yonder:

NOTE: There are a lot of photos of Matt. Sorry, he's just my only live subject so I abuse the heck outta him.

I did the drive up and was hearing an odd sound for what may or may not have been three hours – I cannot confirm nor deny. Pulling over we realized Matt’s packaging tape quick-fix of a few months back was not holding up, and a part of the front bumper was loose and hitting the wheel. Oops. Luckily, I pulled over in a drugstore parking lot and headed right in to the stationary aisle and bought – you guessed it – packaging tape. Don’t worry: I splurged and bought the name brand stuff. Even said “high performance” on it so I think we’re good-to-go.

At a toll booth we spotted a tell-tale sign of any car trip: the Ghostbusters car. It was from there we knew this trip was going to be a success.

We made it to the falls! Upon seeing them for the first time, I sniffed, “They aren’t so big.” Then I told Matt I’m hungry and let’s hit up the Indian food cart down the street while doing a dorky thumbs up. That’s how I roll.

I made Matt carry our backpack because I'm lazy. Due to this, he had a perpetual hunchback as we were given ponchos at each attraction. But isn't he a doll?

Here's Matt with his nerd-idol, Nikola Tesla. Matt positively hates Marconi because he stole Tesla's thunder. If you don't understand that statement, good, you're not a nerd.

This was our favorite part of the trip: the "Hurricane Zone". We got drenched under the Bridal Veil Falls. Note: Do not wear mascara to the Hurricane Zone.

This is Matt deep in thought while on Maid of the Mist. Or, he's thinking, "I have to pee." You know, either/or, tomato/tomaato.

LEFT: This is the view from our hotel room. We're definitely more of the Motel 6 crowd (read: cheap) but we splurged and got this room over the Horseshoe Falls. It also had a jacuzzi, which Matt (no lie) watched the Flyers game out of.

RIGHT: This is Matt using the shoe polisher in the room. This is how you know you're in a fancy place. (You also know you don't belong in a fancy place when it takes five minutes to determine that, yes, that contraption is indeed a show polisher.)

This is on the shore of Lake Ontario. And no, I didn't put him up to this pose.

You know what 19th-century British military impersonators are? HOT. This is right after a musket lesson at Fort George.

Then we went to a winery. It was sort of pretentious (aren't all wineries?) so this is Matt contemplating if we should steal ripe cherries of their trees. Because we bought a bottle of wine, I said we were absolutely in the right and we stole a few handfuls for the drive.

After that we went to the botanical gardens and butterfly conservatory. Matt stood still like that for a good 10 minutes but no butterflies would land on him. Then I stood behind a hot pink hairy tree and demanded Matt take my picture.

Finally, a butterfly did land on him. But it was stuffed. And in the gift shop.

This photo speaks for itself. (And, we were, without a doubt, wide awake in the Land of Dreams.)

Tim Hortons is to Canada what Dunkin' Donuts is to America. And because we like fatty donuts, we hit it up. And took a silly photo. Obviously.

On the drive home we went to the Corning Museum of Glass in New York and made our own glass-blown ornaments. By "made", I mean, "sat there and blew as instructed". Anyway, here's Matt doing his thing in the studio.

My original commentary for these photos has disappeared, and I can only blame Matt, as our ornaments came in the mail two days ago and he was angered at the pure beauty of mine.  Regardless,my ornament is the first one, and Matt's is below.  Although his may look better, trust me, it's not.  His subpar camera skills are at play, here, and I'll post true comparisons shortly.  I will triumph!!!
Here are our finished ornaments. Mine is to the right and Matt's is below. I know what you're thinking: "Matt's is prettier." But I think you're mistaken. I obviously took a better photo of his, and he took the photo of mine, so you're really assessing our photography skills. And that boy can't work my Kodak. (Note: That guy is totally thinking, "Losers." And it's a pretty acurate assessment.)

The end!