Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Silver Ribbons: An Unpleasant Ode to Depression

Well, you all know The Bloggess.  And if you don't please go read her stuff. It's amazing.  Also Hyperbole and a Half.  SHE's amazing too.

They both recently posted blog entries about their experiences with depression.  It was brave of them.  The Bloggess suggested wearing silver ribbons in solidarity with other sufferers and such.

Well, I don't have a silver ribbon, but I do have depression. And it kind of sucks.

You see, I have a lovely life.  No really.  I do.  My husband is nice, my kids are cool and not headed towards becoming mass-murderers at the moment, I have awesometastic friends, reasonably unobjectionable family (Steve, if not for you I could have said "fabulous," but you wreck the curve.) members, and a really fun job.

What in the HELL do I have to be depressed about?

The answer to that is "nothing."  It doesn't take crappy situations to make depression.  Crappy situations or events lead to SADNESS. That is not the same thing.  Sadness is a normal reaction to sad or frustrating or unhappy things.  Depression is unfair, unpredictable, and downright rude.  It's chemical, you see.

Lately, all I've wanted to do is sleep and eat Pizza Rolls.  Now, I'm not one to scoff at an occasional loll.  I love to loll.  Love to lay about and eat bon-bons and watch "Say Yes to the Dress."  That's an indulgence I enjoy with glee (but not Glee.  I really don't like the show).  But that is a deliberate "make a fire, gather the dogs and blankets, and shrug off the boredom and toil of everyday living and just relax" kind of indulgence.

This is not so much.  It is ... unintentional.  I don't really want to sleep.  I don't really ENJOY eating pizza rolls.  But it seems like the only thing to do.  When I'm working (teaching/playing), I"m fine.  I'm enjoying it.  When I'm with friends, it's awesome!  When I'm out and about, I'm totally fine.  But.  When I'm on my own and the choices are:
1:  clean the house
2: do laundry
3: do errands
4: go back to bed
Well, I choose 4.

And when I'm done being depressed and stupid, and I go to work or something, I wonder what in the WORLD was wrong with me!  It is so much FUN to be out and about and working and interacting.  It makes me so happy!

But boy oh boy is it hard to get to that point.

I have called up a counselor and will be setting up some appointments soon.  I know it must be something weird like chemicals, because there really is NO reason for all of this.  Therefore, my reaction is illogical.  And I am not normally a low-self-motivation person.  So, this anomaly is just that.

But what a crapper, really.
I've fallen and I can't get up!.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Making A Turkey Dinner (many, many photos)

Last week, I had some time off from my (very taxing*) job, and decided to use that time to make my family A Nice Dinner.  The kind with a meat, some veggies, and a dessert!  All in a row, and on purpose.
[*my job is awesome]

I chose this menu:

Turkey Breast with Stuffing
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Green Beans with toasted Almonds (why am I randomly Capitalizing? I don't Know.)
Cranberry Jelly
Pumpkin Pie with CoolWhip (do NOT knock CoolWhip)

I started with an eight-pound TURKEY BREAST.  It was frozen, so the day before, I plopped it in the fridge ON A PLATE to thaw.  It started as hard as a turkeybreast-shaped rock.

Please imagine this right-side-up.  My photo editing  mojo has temporarily escaped me.

LOOK INSIDE!  A PRESENT!It's like a poultry version of CrackerJacks.
It was my very FAVORITE part of making turkey.  The bag o' giblets.  OR SO I THOUGHT.  I obediently slid the plastic (hmmm.  Usually paper.) bag of stuff from the opening of the turkey.  "Hm," thought I. "Feels lumpy.  Must be the giblets!  I'll just let it set here in the sink and thaw a bit more.  Then I'll rinse the bits inside of it and see what I've got to work with."  
I rinsed and then patted the turkey dry.  USING PAPER TOWELS, people. 

Upon further inspection, the bag said to "put contents of package into small sauce pan and heat over medium..." and so on.  So I thought, "hey, I'll rinse the giblets."
Only to find NOTHING BUT ICE.  It was frozen pre-made Gravy Substitute.  Ick.
Into the trash bag it went.

I bought this GORGEOUS bread on superduper sale a few months ago, and froze it.
Tore it up into smallish pieces, sprayed with some baking spray, then sprinkled with "Poultry Seasoning" (ground rosemary, sage, thyme) and garlic.  Tossed into the oven (350F) until crunchy, maybe 10 minutes (I stirred them around occasionally)

This is ONE celery rib, ONE big carrot, half of an onion and HALF CUP of fresh (frozen) cranberries. All cut up tiny, and with 3 TB of butter. 

Roasted them in the pre-heating oven (maybe 350F) for a bit, then stirred them. Put them back in.
They got nice and softish.

Added the toasty bread to the veggies.

Mooshed them about a bit.  Note to self.  They are HOT.

A bit dry, so I added some chicken broth.  Maybe a cup.  Didn't want soupy, just damp.

Smooshed it all kind of flat so it would evenly absorb the broth.  Tossed the whole thing back in the 350F oven for maybe 10 more minutes.  GETTING THE STUFFING HOT makes it safer to stuff poultry, AND helps the cooking be more even.

BURRRRRRP.  'Scuse me.                   JUST KIDDING.                I pulled the skin up and stuck pieces of butter AND some fresh-ish herbs between skin and meat.  I also rubbed the OUTSIDE with butter and herbs.  Schmancy, no?
Do yourself a favor and CUT THE CHUNK OF BUTTER BEFORE you start playing around with the raw bird.  I wash my hands like a fiend when cooking poultry, but I'd rather not take a chance with contaminating the rest of the butter.
These are fresh-ish herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano).  I have a little herb garden near my back door.  I forgot to cut them down before winter, so they are just sitting there under the snow.  I went out (barefoot, thankyouverymuch) in the snow and ripped off a handful of whatever was closest.  They were dry, but still awesome.

STUFF.  I didn't really stuff it all firm, but I did pat it so it wouldn't all fall out.  Don't to forget to stuff the other (neck) end.  Also?  When you pull a pan of stuffing from a 350F oven, IT'S HOT.  Duh.  You'd really think I'd remember that.

"I"m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille."

This is the plastic bag I always keep in the sink when I prepare poultry.  ALL of the wrappers and paper towels and such go in there.  It minimizes contamination.  When I'm done, I tie it up and then wrap it in another plastic bag and toss it.  Then I wash my hands AGAIN.

OK:  The turkey is tucked safely in the 350F oven.  I shoved some more herbs in around it (on the bottom of the pan) because, basically, I hated to waste what I went out IN BARE FEET IN THE SNOW for.  The oven rack was low, probably the bottom third of the oven.  

Bake for (in this case) about 3 hours, or until the temperature of the breast meat is about 155F.

Now it's time for PIE!
I used the recipe from Joy Of Cooking.  Love that book.

Most, but not all of the ingredients.  Pumpkin puree, evaporated milk, butter, shortening.  ALSO used:  vinegar, water, flour, sugar, salt, eggs.  Spices.  I may still be missing something.
This is 1/2 cup of shortening and 1/2 cup of butter.  I cut the butter up a bit, and tossed the whole bowl into the freezer, since my shortening lives in the cabinet over the stove, and it was a trifle melty.
See? I remembered the salt.

Took it out of the freezer and added the 2 cups flour, 1 tsp. sugar, and 1 tsp. salt. 

I used the pastry blender thingy to cut it all up into the flour.  Now and then I'd toss it all (like you're being fancy when sauteeing something and want to flip it without using a spoon).
Obviously, that went well. Sigh.
They say to cut it together until it looks like crumbs.  I really think it looks more like cottage cheese.
This is the magic ingredient.  Vinegar.  I add about 1-2 teaspoons of vinegar to a cup with some ice.  Then I top it with 2 tablespoons of water.
Then I pour it over the crumbly flour mixture. After that, I toss the dough about a bit to distribute the water, but I don't stir it.

I mush it down with my hand (that I just rinsed with COLD water, so I don't heat things up). This makes sure that it's all reasonably well moistened.

And DUMP onto the counter.  I am VERY bad at making crusts pretty, and I suspect that my technique stinks.  So don't necessarily do as I do.  I know. I inspire such confidence. 
I fold it a couple times and then stick it into a plastic bag.

This bag will go into the fridge for just as long as it takes me to make the filling.  So maybe 5 minutes, tops.
2 eggs (YES, Steven, that's Grandma's stirring fork.  HA! I win.)
Now, you could dig out your spices like this, or...
You could take the cheater's way out.  I have this because it's awesome on a pumpkin spice latte.  But I tried it in the pie this time!
A little salt....

2 teaspoons or so spice
a bunch of sugar (about 1/3 cup)

Evaporated milk.  NOT condensed milk.  DO NOT make that mistake. Gag.
Pumpkin puree.  OR you could eviscerate your very own pumpkin, seed it, peel it, steam it, cool it, mash it, and then strain it.  Or. You could open the can. 

Taste test it.  I KNOW it has raw eggs in it.  This tasted lovely, BTW.  But you need to know how your spices are.
Here's my fairly ugly pie crust.  I sort of rolled it out, and sort of pressed it in with my fingers. 

NOW:  separate an egg and set aside the white.  Mix up the yolk.
Dump the yolk into your UNBAKED pie crust and schmear it around so it covers all the inner surfaces.  This will keep the pie filling from making the crust all soggy and nasty.
Be-yolked crust.
I FORGOT TO TAKE A PICTURE!  BAKE THE CRUST!  PREBAKE it for maybe 10 minutes.  REALLYREALLY.  Don't forget.THEN add the lovely filling.

Fill 'er up!
The filling should go almost to the top, not quite.
BAKE at 425F for 15 minutes, then lower heat to 350F for 40-50 more minutes.  Take out when it's not jiggly and a knife inserted in the center comes out with only a LITTLE of the pumpkin clinging to it.

Whole almonds.  Take your green stone mortar (or pestle? whichever) and whack each one to break it roughly.  Plop them into a smallish pan with NO OIL or anything.  Dry-pan toasting is great for almonds.
Stir those puppies around while you let them toast on medium heat.  It will seem like nothing is happening for a good long while (5 minutes or so) and then all of a sudden, BAM.  They'll toast.  Then they'll burn right the hell up.  So the minute they start to brown, take them off the heat.  

When they're toasty enough for you, POUR THEM OUT OF THE PAN onto a plate or a paper towel or something, because if you don't they'll be bitter, blackened shadows of their former nutty selves.  Toss the almonds JUST before serving with fresh, steamed green beans.  I use one handful for each person.

What you see here is the roasting pan and its globs of deliciousness (drippings and some stuck-on stuffing and herbs).

Took the turkey breast out and put it back onto our CLEAN cutting board.  Covered it with foil for now.  

BY THE WAY.  Notice that I use a cutting board with a little indentation around the edge for the turkey.  This keeps turkey juice from sliming all over the place.  WASH IT WELL after each stage of production.

  I sprinkled the whole pan (with drippings and some stuffing) with Wondra flour (designed to not lump).  Cooked it right in the pan on medium low heat while stirring.  Just until I smelled the flour cooking.  Then I added a bunch of milk (1.5 cups, maybe?) along with some chicken base (like bouillon, but better).  Stir stirstir.

Added some more milk.
"What day is it? It's CHRISTMAS DAY, SIR!"  (or just Tuesday)

 This was a rather labor-intensive meal for a weekday, but I had some time.  It was a HUGE hit with the family, and provided lots of leftovers.  

Hurray for turkey!