The locksmith eyed this birdfeeder and mentioned it might attract more bears than birds...oops.

Monday, November 10, 2014



One thing I really love about Autumn is the thick, rib-sticking food I get to cook that would seem oh-so out of place in the warm, honey-suckle sweet summer. 

Cause truth be told, the food doesn't actually stick to our ribs, but more typically our thighs, and we surely don't want that! 

 Last year, I decided to pull out my dusty, old pressure cooker and play around with a stew recipe that would have a bit of an Irish accent ~ a Stout Beef Stew. I paired peppered parmesan popovers...POPOVERS...using a pan I'd bought for just such a time as this (twenty years ago to be exact). It was so good, divine in fact, that I made it over and over and over again. 

Today, I'm making the Stout Beef Stew again, but without the popovers. My thighs will thank me later! 

The ingredients are stew beef, small can of tomato paste, carrots, potatoes, thyme, a bottle of Stout Beer, mushrooms, beef broth, onion, garlic cloves, worchestershire, bay leaves, paprika, salt, pepper, and flour.  You can play around with the ingredients but this is how I like it.

(Do you see that gorgeous turkey all-things-fall platter in the background? It's a William Sonoma platter I found on eBay. It's not part of the recipe. I just placed it there so you could enjoy it's beauty and wish you had one. Tell the wondered where I got it, didn't you?)

Your first step is to take your stew beef, sprinkle some salt and pepper, a little flour and stir it around with a fork and drop it into about one tablespoon of hot olive oil down in your pressure cooker. Oh! I forgot to tell you you'll need some oil. 

Wait...what? You don't have a pressure cooker?? Well, lands sake, get onto amazon right now and order yourself a pressure cooker! This beef stew recipe only has to cook 20 minutes. TWENTY MINUTES! It's like a kitchen miracle! (not the browning step..that will only take about 5 minutes or so) You can save all kinds of time so you can watch things like Call the Midwife on tv! 

While your beef is browning, chop up a big ol' onion. I only had a ginormous onion so I chopped and chopped. What's up with me only having a tiny cutting board?  Now there's a good wish list item for Christmas! Also dice up about 3 cloves of garlic.

Remove your now nicely browned meat and place it in a holding bowl. Add the diced onion  and garlic to another spoonful of oil and brown away. 
There's just nothing as wonderful smelling as caramelized onions and garlic. Hence, the title of my blog!  Caramelized anything is a culinary gift from heaven!

When the onions are just about a browned mess, add about half the bottle of Stout. I bought Guinness even though my husband said, "Don't buy Guinness!" Honestly, I'm not a beer drinker and I get distracted by all the fun names and colorful labels. The Guinness was the only one that actually said 'Stout'.

 It's a good thing that 'Fat Bastard Winery' doesn't make a beer or I'd have chosen that one.  Then my stew would be 'Fat Bastard Beef Stew'!  

"If you had Jesus to dinner, what would you serve?"

"Why, my famous Fat Bastard Stew, no doubt!" 
Jesus would laugh, I know he would. 

Stir it all around a bit and scrape up all those yummy bits on the bottom of the pan.

Now, add a quart of beef stock. I went ahead and got the regular one instead of the low sodium one, cause come on, admit it, saltier is usually better. No, always better. 

Then, add the rest of the stout.

May I back track just a moment? I wasn't sure just how to open the beer and I first grabbed my rubbery lid thingy.

That metal top wasn't budging.

 Okay, now don't laugh. I only considered this for one second. Maybe two. But closer to one. I finally found the bottle opener and viola! The metal top flew across the kitchen. 

Next, comes a small can of tomato paste. Stir this in.

Add some roughly chopped carrots.

Then some peeled and chopped taters.

Some sliced mushrooms...

Two bay leaves, some fresh thyme and....

some pepper, salt and a pinch of sugar (just cause my grandmama said to always add a pinch of sugar if vegetables are involved). And then a bit of paprika for color.

(by the way, that blue thing on my wrist is a fitness tracker. The way my schedule has been going, the only exercise it's been tracking is me lifting a fork to my mouth, but I digress..) 

Add about a tablespoon of worchestershire. You may notice I'm not measuring anything. I know folks just hate that when they ask for a recipe, but you didn't actually ask for this recipe, did you? Anyways, I'd most likely just make up measurements to make you happy and when it turned out all wrong you'd accuse me of culinary chicanery. 

The last thing to add is the browned meat. 

Now, at this point, you want to turn the heat up to medium high and bring all the stew to a boil...WITH THE LID ON TIGHT. This is where folks get killed...I trouble with pressure cookers. You need to make sure the lid, with the rubber gasket is on correctly. Lock it in place and bring it to boil. The little metal knocker thing on top will start to rock back and forth at this point and you gently turn the heat down a wee bit to where it is still hissing and rocking, but just so...

Oh, alright...I'm not gonna lie...

I like to keep a close watch on things from a safe distance. If only mama and daddy hadn't had that most unfortunate ceiling accident with the turnip greens...

Don't let this discourage you! Pressure cookers rarely blow up anymore! Technology has improved and they're just as safe as any other thing in the kitchen. More folks get killed driving down the freeway than cooking with a pressure cooker, so ease your fears sister. 

After 20 minutes, turn off the heat and push the metal rocker top thing to the side. It will release all that pressure with a wicked hissing, but be not dismayed. This is your time to call the youngins to dinner. Give it about 3 minutes to spew out all the built up steam and your Stout Beef Stew is done! And it will taste like it's been cooking for hours!  And you lived! Yay for pressure cookers and getting dinner cooked in less time than it takes to drive to the restaurant! 

Monday, April 7, 2014


A few years back I wrote a previous blog on colonoscopies. Here is the 

I remember that day well. I laughed and laughed as I wrote my funny little story because at the time, the only recent colonoscopy victims were my friends and my husband. It's easy to laugh when you aren't the one wearing the backless gown with a hose up your bum. My own test had been years prior and I was at a safe enough distance to laugh. And laugh... Oh, how I laughed...

But I'm not laughing now.

It all started with a phone call from the insurance company. 
"Now why would United Healthcare be calling me?" I wondered.  I hoped they weren't wanting to ask about that charge from the urgent care when my elbow got trapped in the body frame of Dirk's car. I wasn't wanting to get the car insurance involved in that little freak incident, so to be safe...I didn't return the call.

But they called back. 

"We see it's time for you to get a colonoscopy. In FACT, it's been 12 years since your last one"

You can run, but you just can't hide. Who would have thought the insurance companies had people whose jobs were to keep track of who needed a colonoscopy!  Can you imagine the power trip? 

"Hey John, my neighbor uses United Healthcare....he won't stop parking on my curb. Check and see when his last colonoscopy was."  

Death, Taxes and Colonoscopies.

They all get'cha in the end.  

So I scheduled this dreaded test, or at least I left a message and said I was ready to set a date. They called and called but had the worst time catching me at home and I just kept forgetting to call back. Finally, my running was done and I found myself speaking to the scheduler at the doctor's office. She wanted a firm date and I had no more excuses.

I chose a Monday morning early, in order to get it out of the way. 
The plan was, I would spend all day Sunday only drinking liquids. Tea, lemonade, eating lime jello...only liquids and then at 5 pm, I would mix up my first laxative preparation. I had seriously explained to the nurse I needed the latest and easiest laxative due to the intense stomach trauma from the last time. 

"We have just the thing!" the nurse assured me. "It's new and is only 5 ounces taken twice!"

Hey, that sounded pretty easy! I could swig 5 ounces lickety-split, and then sip on my favorite lemonade ice teas. I can do this!  And! I might even drop a pound or two on this liquid diet! 

I'm feeling good about my plan and got up Sunday, ready to start the day. I attended a baby shower with my huge Zoe's Kitchen drink cup in tow and just looked away from all the wonderful delicacies....fresh fruit, chicken salad with cranberries (!), cheeses and all sorts of yummy concoctions. I made a plate and covered it with foil for the following afternoon's post-procedure lunch. This would be my reward! (And if there was EVER a time for a reward!)

Five o'clock rolled around and I tore open the first packet of prep. The powder fizzled as it hit the cold water and turned into an orange crush...sort of. I drank it down quickly, proud of the start to my little adventure. Now all I had to do was drink down 40 ounces of liquids over the next 5 hours.

The evening was chilly so we had a fire, and watched TV. I sipped my drinks and waited. It took about one hour for the first, occur. I ran by my husband, yelling, "GET OUT OF THE WAY OMYGOSH!" as I just barely made it to the bathroom.

This is NOT the time for a belt. Or buttons. If ever there was a time for elastic pants, this is it. 
Speed is key here.  Sliding into the bathroom wearing socks will earn you another half second. And in the world of explosive diarrhea, that half second can be the difference between keeping that cute bathroom rug or throwing it out. 

 Pliny the Younger gave an eyewitness account of the 79 A.D. Mount Vesuvius eruption, reporting deadly eruptions to a height of 20.5 miles, spewing molten rock and pulverized pumice at the rate of 1.5 million tons per second.  You actually find yourself thinking on this very thing as molten lava begins burning the flesh of your bottom. My friend, Beth, warned me to get vaseline and to have it ready. I had to call out to Dirk to make an emergency run to Rite Aid. "For the love of God hurry, man, HURRY!"

The rest of the night was filled with intermittent bouts of explosive diarrhea. After awhile, I just got used to it. This was my life right now and I was going to make the best of it. I admired my flattening belly in the mirror. Oh yes, this was working out nicely!

I retired about 10:30 pm. but found sleep was not waiting for me. My stomach was beginning to hurt and I could only sit upright, waiting for the 1 a.m. laxative appointment. However, at 12:30 Mount Vesuvius came calling and I threw the covers aside, tossing the cat across the room. My feet hit the floor running and I was about three feet into the hallway when I realized....I was falling. 

Falling, as in my entire body was going to cease being vertical and was going to slam into the floor in a horizontal position. Before I hit the ground, many thoughts came to mind -

' How will I land? Am I too young to break a hip?'

'Will the crash wake up Dirk?'

'Will the jolt of the fall cause a 'release' to occur on the carpet? Lord help mercy...'

My knees took the brunt of the fall and I kept my face from hitting the tile. I quickly scampered to my feet and ran...RAN to the toilet. As I sat down, I began feeling tingly, like I was going to pass out. My stomach began convulsing and I tried to put my head between my knees, ready to vomit, all the while 23,797 gallons of liquid was exploding out of my bum.

 The thought of lying face-down on the cold tile sounded so tempting, I actually considered it. As it was right now, I would be passing out while vomiting and having diarrhea. This was just not working out well at all. At all. 

I had a moment of reprieve, got a cold wash cloth and stumbled to the bed. I tried calling Dirk to come help. He'd taken refuge in the guest room at my insistence but how I needed him! He came (after several phone calls and hollerings) and gladly prayed over my very nauseous stomach. In thirty minutes, I was going to need to drink more laxative and 24 ounces of water. The thought of even swallowing saliva made me convulse. 

There is something so wonderful about a praying husband. He sat next to me and prayed over my tummy until I finally found peace. I gathered myself up and fixed the next dose of prep. I gulped it down and took my large water bottle to bed. Sip after sip, I slowly downed all 20 ounces of water. I needed 4 more ounces, but that 20 wasn't sitting too well, so I sat very, very still and waited.

And waited. 

My stomach began to churn and lurch and my mouth filled with spit. Oh my ever loving good grief...I was going to throw up. I CAN'T throw up because then everything will be ruined and this whole thing will have to be rescheduled. OMG.

But here it came. I projectile vomited into my mouth. I love my bed quilt too much to spew all over the bed, so I leapt to my feet and ran towards the bathroom. Unfortunately, I threw up a second time in a violent explosion and this time, spewed vomit all over the carpet. 

Let's just stop for a moment while I say, this is not a proud moment for me. Here I am, projectile vomiting all over the room, and this after Lord knows how many hours producing a cacophony of sounds from the bathroom for my husband to hear. If there was ever a time I felt a need to hand over my southern lady card, this was it.

I made it to the bathroom, vomiting again on the floor, and proceeded to throw up every single ounce of required liquid...AND the prep...into the sink. It seemed as if my stomach was turning itself inside out.  I wretched until there was nothing left and stood there, looking at the mess I'd made. 

Good Lord God Almighty. What have I done? I've gone and throwed up (Daddy's term) everything I needed and now they're going to want to reschedule the test.

Well, THAT wasn't happening. In fact, this TEST wasn't happening ever again. Ever, ever again. I gargled and cleaned myself up and crawled back into bed. 

There was no sleep. Only a purring cat, and thunder and rain and the occasional dog bark. 

This did NOT work out well at all. 

After getting up at 6:45 a.m., I found that I was still losing things out of my body that did not resemble clear liquid. I prayed to God above that the doctor would be able to do the test properly. I almost cried at the thought of rescheduling. My friend had had to do just that and I shuddered at the thought.

The ride to the hospital was a tense ride, after having spent the night with a diarrhea volcano in my pants. I stuffed two wash rags in my britches just in case and spoke very little on the drive in.  Dirk dropped me off while he parked and I entered the elevator. The doors shut, I pressed 4th floor and immediately the overhead light began flickering and flashing and the cranking and clunking sounds from the mechanics filled the air JUST LIKE the Tower of Terror ride at Hollywood Studios! How apropos!

I made it in and well, the rest went fine. The test itself is over in a flash because you're asleep and you're home before you know it. I spent the rest of the day binge watching 'The Good Wife' and eating from a tray.

The doctor said my next test will be in five years. Five. Years. Sixty months. 1800 days. And next time, he said, I can get an anti-nausea pill to take with the prep. 

I don't know if I'll be over this little adventure in 1800 days. I'm barely over the one I had 12 years ago. Well, at least I know the insurance company has my back and all I can say is, " Catch me if you can!"