Thursday, April 22, 2010

Red Sail Lettuce

From this:
to this:

in 10 minutes.

I forgot to post a picture of the Easter lilies after they popped. I love them so.

In other news, the headaches are MUCH better. I realized that my head doesn't hurt when Mike is home. But he can't stay home all the time. So in a non sequitur mind-over-matter kind of way, I've managed through the two weeks of lots of pain while overcoming the NSAID rebound, and now I'm doing well even when Mike is at work. Without filling the prescription of loopy pills.

Fried Catfish

I'm pretty sure this is not what the doctor meant when he said, "Eat more fish."

But is sure is awfully good. I've never had homemade catfish before, and let me just tell you. I burned the roof of my mouth on this stuff. Crunchy on the outside, hot, juicy, and even creamy on the inside. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

I suppose you could say I've been in a fishy mood ever since the weather warmed up. The problem with fish is that you have to skip to the grocery every day you want it to be sure it's fresh. Not so. On a whim, I bought a box of frozen catfish fillets at the Kroger. Every other night I take two fillets out of the freezer and put them in the fridge. Then after about 24-36 hours, they're thawed and ready to go. Can't be much easier than that.

So I've had a good time trying out different ways to cook it. The first time I tried grilling, but I couldn't figure out how to make the grill hot enough with the fish basket on top. Will have to wait for Mike's help on that one. I finished it off in a skillet with some olive oil and fresh mushrooms. Yum.

Then this time I fried it.
  1. Take as many catfish fillets as you want. These were pretty big, but you can also buy frozen catfish nuggets that would work just as well, if not better, for frying.
  2. Salt and pepper the fillets to taste.
  3. Sprinkle them with some paprika.
  4. Dredge them in a mixture of 1/2 flour, 1/2 corn meal.
  5. Lay them out on a cooling rack to dry for 5 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, heat the oil to 350-375 degrees.
  7. Slowly lower the fish in the oil and cook until golden brown. I think it was about 10 minutes.
  8. Drain on a cooling rack and dig in.
Tonight? Broiling.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Easter Flowers and Christmas Chainsaws

I absolutely adore this arrangement that the Easter Bunny brought me, along with my favorite Reese's chocolate eggs and some Edward Cullen Sweethearts. The E. Bunny knows me entirely too well.

And during the weekend, Mike decided to break out the chainsaw that Mom gave him for Christmas. Sure, we might have been able to break up this limb with a hatchet, but it's always a red letter day when Mike pulls out the power tools. I love our protocol: I poke around the yard, pulling weeds and straightening up, while Mike mixes oil and checks everything out. When he's ready, he comes to find me so I can watch.
My lumberjack is so hot.
Dante really wanted to help.

Otherwise, we have been largely worthless this weekend. We had a lovely dinner with some old friends last night. Mike has come down with a cold, and with the long hours of the outtage coming up, I'm happy to just lie in the sun in the backyard. God was good enough to provide us with some rain this afternoon, so I don't even have to water the vegetables.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Day at the Zoo

Excited about the new Sumatran Tiger exhibit and the glorious weather, Mike and I spent last Satuday at the zoo. I've always loved that place and felt ancient when I realized how different everything was. It must be at least 15 years since I've visited last. The hippos and sea lions have been replaced by otters and panthers. The moat around the monkey castle has been taken over by alligators, and the monkeys have been moved to a new exhibit (much to the disappointment of the gators).

And the elephant house? Is now a cafe. Eiw.

This little guy adored Mike and would ride around on his foot.
Apparently Cajun Shrimp is a delicacy.
I think otters are my favorite. This one is Nipper. Her mate is Otis. Now sometimes Mike and I will call each other Otis and Nipper.

The stars of the show. There are actually three. Mike and I were surprised that the only thing between us and them was chain link. It wreaked havoc with his camera, and he was never able to take a photo of them that he really liked.

This dude reminds me of Kearney. Something about the look he's giving us.
I love how this little guy was grabbing weeds from outside his enclosure and stuffing them in his mouth. I guess the grass really IS greener.

Mike has lived in Mississippi for 16 years and didn't know what this was. Somehow, I love him for that.
It was a fun day. We enjoyed lime sno cones (they were out of Tigers' Blood - go figure) and each other's company and the novelty of being tourists in our own town. What exciting things do you have planned for the spring?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I have never been a directions-reading kind of person.

One of my dear readers asked about headaches from over the counter medicines. Yes, constantly taking painkillers can lead to more often and more intense headaches. This makes no sense. Really. You're in pain. What do you do? You take a pain killer.


But according to Mayo Clinic, "Rebound headaches (medication-overuse headaches) are caused by frequent use of headache medication. Pain relievers offer relief for occasional headaches, but if you take them more than a couple of days a week, you may trigger rebound headaches."

And according to the bottle of Tylenol in my lap (that I currently cannot take, even though I'm hurting tonight), "Stop use and ask a doctor if ... pain gets worse or lasts for more than 10 days."

Ugh. Who knew they printed that out for a reason?

I'm sure there is an overly-complicated chemical reason for this nonsense, but you don't read this blog for that kind of stuff. The specific question was to let you know about my headaches in the hopes that you can compare and learn from my
mistakesexperience. So here we go.

My head has hurt almost every day for about a year. At first I thought it was sinus problems because sometimes the pain was in my forehead. X-rays came back clear and good. My sinus doctor thought it was TMJ, so he sent me to my dentist, who fitted me with a foxy mouth guard to make me stop grinding my teeth in my sleep. That didn't help either. Finally a neurologist diagnosed my pain as migraine with drug rebound. Every day. At least 6 days a week.

I don't know what started the headaches - there are all sorts of triggers - but it's safe to say that I have taken WAY OVER the recommended limit on the Tylenol bottle. I've gone through NSAIDS (Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, aka Over the Counter or OTC) like they were popcorn. Advil, Tylenol, Aleve, Advil PM, Tylenol PM, BC, Goody's, you name it. I've even downed a Goody's or two without water because I was so desperate for the pain to stop.

I know. Hardcore.

Only often it didn't stop. Sometimes the pain worsened; many a night I have curled up in a ball and had to fall asleep in pulsing pain. There's a good chance I was addicted to Tylenol PM for a few months; when I realized I couldn't sleep without it, I weaned myself off. I would wake up feeling OK the next morning - maybe a little sore all over - but usually the next afternoon my pain would escalate to the point of incapacitation.

Only then I wouldn't stop. I refused to let the pain "win," stubbornly keeping up with my normal routine and tasks, living in pain. I've actually lost about 8 pounds because of the nausea that sometimes accompanies migraine. Until one day a few weeks ago, I passed out alone in the yard. I wasn't out for long, but it scared me. Dante was worried. Thank heavens I already had an appointment coming up.

Seeing a neurologist was both really encouraging and discouraging. The encouragement: there is a reason and a trigger for the pain; we just need to figure out what it is for me. There are treatments available that are better than OTC medicines. The discouragement: migraines are chronic, and preventative medications often make the takers completely looped out. Dr. P. prescribed Topamax, a daily medication to prevent migraines, but after reading the side effects, I'm not sure if I'll even have it filled.

So the next part of the question: how to ease rebound headaches from OTC NSAIDS.

You're not going to like this.

First, call your regular doctor. If you don't have one, find a general practitioner in your area. If you need one, most neurologists require a referral, and it took me three months to finally win an appointment with one. The whole time I kept thinking, "This is crazy. Nobody cares about a little headache. I'm whining over nothing when there are people out there with real problems."

The reality? If something in your body hurts for more than 10 days, it's an indication that something is not as right as it could be. I'll go with you and hold your hand. Headaches are a big deal and are becoming more common, keeping neurologists busy. It may take a few months to get in, but be persistent and have a professional check you out. I've stubbornly self-medicated for over a year and been in a lot of pain for no reason. Actually, you DON'T have a PhD in neurology.

Don't put your health on the backburner until you wake up in the yard with a concerned mutt licking your face.

The process of recovering from OTC NSAIDS is somewhat like an addiction: you have to wean yourself off of them until you're not taking them anymore. Same thing with caffeine, which I fortunately kicked back in January. I was down to one painkiller dose a day, so I have completely stopped taking anything as of Friday, April 9th. It hasn't been too bad. Easier than heroin anyway.

I'm still in pain about half the time and had one really bad afternoon on Monday, but you know what I did? I tried something new. With a hunch that the headache was triggered by stress, I took it easy until I could go home. Then I stretched out on the couch, grasped the reality that I had a migraine, and let my body heal. Forty-five minutes later I slowly sat up, stood up, and was able to take on the rest of the day.

Perhaps a mark of maturity is the realization that medicine labels have warnings for a reason. I really should pay more attention to them.

Photo courtesy of icanhascheesburger.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Coconut Chicken

If Mike wasn't allergic to shrimp, this post would be entitled, "Coconut Shrimp," but he is, so I exchange chicken fingers for all things shrimp in the kitchen. That's not to say I haven't tried to force Mike into eating shrimp. On our first real date (we had been friends for more than a year before we started dating), I fed him sushi with a big wad of shrimp in it, completely forgetting his allergy. His response? Jokingly something along the lines of "wait until my life insurance is paid up next time."

He's so cool.

Anyway, this recipe is simple and gives a huge return on your investment. I especially love the juxtaposition of sweet coconut crunch to savory juicy chicken. The most difficult part is waiting for the oil to heat up in the deep fryer that my good friend Jessica gave me. I'm such a kitchen dork that I squeal with honest and unabashed delight when the box reveals something like a deep fryer. I didn't measure anything while I was making it, though, so you'll have to bear with me on the volumes of the ingredients. Take everything with a grain of salt (no pun intended) and tweak it as you go along.

1 package chicken fingers, optionally soaked overnight in buttermilk
2 quarts peanut oil
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Tony Chachere's
1/2 cup flaked coconut
2 eggs
1/2 cup Louisiana hot sauce
Orange marmalade and cilantro for dipping

  1. Heat the oil to 350 degrees in a deep fryer, or if you don't have a deep fryer, use the deepest frying pan you can find. Either way be very careful with hot oil, watch out for smoke, and keep a fire extinguisher handy. Never ever ever use water to put out an oil fire.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, pepper, salt, Tony's, and coconut.
  3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and hot sauce.
  4. Once the oil is hot enough, dip a chicken finger in the egg mixture, then in the flour mixture. For extra-krispy, go back to the egg and in the flour one more time.
  5. Slowly slip the finger into the oil.
  6. Work in batches of 4 or 6.
  7. After about 5-9 minutes, the chicken should be a golden brown.
  8. Remove from the oil and drain on a cooling rack over newspapers.
  9. Finely chop the cilantro and mix well into the marmalade.
  10. Try not to burn your tongue by eating them too soon after frying.

Goes great with onion rings.


There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded. - Mark Twain

Well, tax season for me is over surprisingly early this year. I helped to knock out a bunch of returns at my friend's firm, and she was so caught up that she didn't need me anymore. So I moved on to my own clients and finished up their quarter-end projects. Yes, I feel like I have accomplished something, and it is soo good.

Now if I can just accomplish more posts on the blog. I suppose now that I've outted myself and the extra free time I'm about to have, you'll expect more entries from me. Dang.

I've been so busy lately, however, that not a whole lot has been accomplished in the kitchen. The yard is somewhat neglected as well. Sure, I planted everything back in March, but thank God for sending me a man who likes to weed. Imagine Mike, equipped with gloves, a bucket, and a sharp shooter of Weed-B-Gon in his holster, stalking around the backyard mumbling, "Do you feel lucky punk? Do ya?" I do need to fertilize today while Mike is in the garage polishing the boat. The weather is still too cool to take it out, so we'll probably spend this afternoon grilling burgers and hanging out at the house.

The only other news I have to impart is that I visited a neurologist yesterday. After about 18 months of headaches, a visit to the ENT, and two visits to a dentist, Dr. P. told me that he thinks that my pain is actually from daily migraines with possible exacerbation from over the counter painkillers. Sure, it's scary and discouraging, but I'm very thankful to finally have a diagnosis and a plan, albeit a long one. Dr. P says it will take me at least 6 months to feel better, and in the meantime he prescribed some drugs that a couple of my friends have said made them completely looped out.

So upcoming posts should be pretty interesting. Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Flowers & Fruit Salad

Does this chocolate make my butt look fat?

I have recently been accused of making everybody around me chunky with my cooking. Thing is, I'm just as guilty of taking in calories as everybody else, as I'm the one stuck with all this food at the end of the day. So what if I bring a platter of brownies to the office every now and then? I have to spread the
fatlove around.

But yes, I suppose a little fruit here and there is in order. And it's the perfect excuse for me to buy a new gadget that I've been eyeing lately. Ladies and Gentlemen, feast your eyes on (drumroll please)

A pineapple slicer! Actually, Williams-Sonoma calls it a Pineapple Easy Slicer, but that name is a complete crock. If you follow the link and watch the video, when it comes time to pull the pineapple rings out, you can see in that woman's eyes a glimmer of, "are you kidding me?" And it's true: this thing is not really easy. It helps to take a knife and run it around the edges after you've twisted it down into the fruit, but you should still expect to come out of this experience sticky and to have let fly a few expletives.

But it makes this possible:

I do love a crisp fruit salad. They're pretty, they're easy, and gosh darn it, you can't have a decent brunch without one. This one included the following:

1 pineapple
1/2 pound strawberries
1 pound black grapes
1 green pear
5-6 sprigs fresh mint
2-3 sprigs fresh basil
5-6 leaves fresh lavender

Chop it all up and throw it in a bowl. Or a pineapple.

Yesterday was neon limey green from all the pollen. Every year it's this way - the great equalizer, as everybody's car is covered in green - but yesterday was especially different as I could actually see the stuff in the atmosphere. Swirling, settling, puffing out from everywhere. It's strange, as last week it snowed on my tomatoes.

I had to work, so Mike scrambled around the backyard protecting them. The man must love me.
But spring is most definitely in the air.


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