Monday, January 30, 2012

year end garden reflections

I turned my garden last week and got sugar snap peas planted yesterday.  I left kale plants I put in during the fall.  I was daunted about eating the kale for a long time, as my husband doesn't like greens, but I've been putting a leaf into my morning smoothie for natural vitamins.  The whispy little plants are fennel plants from the farmers exchange.
 I also have swiss chard that I planted last spring, which has come back nicely this winter after nearly disappearing in the heat of summer.
I pulled out the last few parsnips that I planted last spring.  We ate some in late summer and some were woody, but the ones I roasted tonight were tasty.  I planted them early spring and they developed very slowly.  I won't plant them as a spring crop again, but I might try them as a fall crop
So what were the successes of the garden?  I had good lettuce last early spring but I didn't succeed in getting it started this fall.  The sugar snap peas last spring were wonderful and more than we could eat.  I bought a few brocolli plants which did well, but one plant doesn't yield very much broccoli.

For the second year in a row, Japanese eggplant (bought as plants at Lowes) yielded reliably all summer.  I got some cucumbers from the couple of plants I bought, though not as many as last year.  I planted fewer tomato plants and they did better, but I still am caught on the dilemma of wanting to let them get really ripe on the vine but instead they start to go bad.

So this year I want to plant beans again, and I will stick with eggplant, cucumber, and tomatoes as summer crops.  I planted broccoli rape, pak choy, and lettuce as early spring crops.  I did plant some broccoli rape last year, but it kept flowering before I could harvest it.  I should probably try it as a fall crop.  

Friday, January 27, 2012

Reduced Carb Lemon Mousse Cake

Cake: (based loosely on Foolproof Sponge Cake in The New Best Recipe)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur's white whole wheat)
1 teasp baking powder
1/4 teasp salt
3 tblsp butter
7 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup almond meal or almond flour
grated peel of one lemon

Preheat oven to 350 and thoroughly butter or spray a bundt pan.  Sift together flour, wheat gluten, baking powder and salt.  Melt the butter and set aside to cool.  Separate 3 eggs.  Beat the 3 egg whites, adding 1/4 cup sugar when they are frothy, until they form soft peaks.  Beat the egg yolks and remaining eggs in a separate bowl until light-colored and thick.  Beat in the almond meal and grated lemon peel.  Fold in the beaten egg whites.  Sift the dry ingredients over the egg mixture and fold in gently.  Pour the melted butter along the side of the bowl and fold in gently.  Immediately pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan.  Cook for 45 minutes or until the top springs back when touched.  Cooking time would be more like 25 minutes if you bake it in two layer pans.  Cool in the pan at least 10 minutes, then invert onto a rack and cool completely.

Lemon curd: from The New Best Recipe
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tblsp butter, cold or room temperature
2 tblsp heavy cream
a pinch of salt

Whisk the eggs until uniform in a non-reactive pan, then whisk in the sugar.  Heat the lemon juice until hot but not boiling (I do this in the microwave in the glass measuring cup) and pour slowly into the eggs, whisking all the time.  Put the pan on medium low heat and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it thickens.  Stir in the butter quickly to stop the cooking, then stir in the cream and salt.  Cool to room temperature.

Lemon Mousse:
1/2 teasp unflavored gelatin
1 recipe (above) of lemon curd
1 cup heavy cream, cold

Put the gelatin in a small bowl with 1 tblsp cold water.  Wait a few minutes until it no longer looks white.  Put the bowl into a pan of hot water and warm until the gelatin dissolves completely.  Set aside to cool.  Whip the cream.  Stir the gelatin into the room temperature lemon curd.  Fold the lemon curd into the whipped cream.  Chill for at least a couple of hours before assembling the cake, overnight would probably be better.

If you made the cake in a bundt pan, slice the cake horizontally into the number of layers you want.  If you want a surprise filling, cut it into two layers and partially hollow out the cut sides of the two layers with a grapefruit knife to make a channel for the filling.  Fill with the lemon mousse.  I use a bundt pan because I think it is attractive enough with no icing, but you could dust the finished cake with powdered sugar or add a lemon glaze.  I spread filling over the top because I had so much left over.  If you make the cake in layer pans, you can slice each layer in half horizontally, spread lemon curd between each layer to make a four layer cake, and then frost with the frosting of your choice.

If you aren't interested in reducing carbohydrates you can double the amounts of sugar, leave out the almond meal, and use 1 1/4 cups of white flour instead of the whole wheat flour, wheat gluten, and almond meal.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Frustrations over John's health--Lymphedema

John has had swelling of his legs for at least a year. I think it is related to the stiffness that comes from the Parkinson's, but I can't find any literature on that.  His family practitioner said his heart was fine and prescribed diuretics to be taken when needed, but after 6 months or so those stopped working.  If his legs stay swelled he gets sores on his legs because the skin is so tight it cannot heal.  Finally he ended up at a physical therapist who seemed to know what to do, though she said it wasn't any of the usual forms of lymphedema.  She wrapped his legs in pressure bandages and told him to order velcro-closed leggings which he hopefully can put on himself (at considerable expense--medicare pays for the therapist and her wrappings but not for the leggings).
She saw him twice, then told him he should take off the wrappings when he showered over the weekend and then put them back on.  Or rather that I should.  No instructions.  I guess I should have gone with him.  It actually didn't take as long to do as I expected, but I can't figure out how to do the feet smoothly.  For the first time I am thankful he refuses to shower more than twice a week.  His legs are much better.

That was Saturday afternoon, since it takes him about two hours to shower and soak his feet between unwrapping and wrapping.  This morning he needed my help to catheterize himself, as he had gone out to dinner with a friend and become unable to urinate.  He left a message for the urologist about that last week, and the urologist said it sounded like a bowel problem triggering it and he should get a gastroenterologist to help him with the bowel problem.  Only there isn't any fixing John's tendency to swing between constipation and diarrhea, so that isn't realistic. 
Then this morning he needed a lot of help getting dressed, as it is harder to put on his pants and shoes over the bandages. It takes care, and our son who usually helps him isn't good at that. We did get out to lunch with his 100 year old aunt.


Update on the Lymphedema.  The wrapping works!  The wraps are easier, but he can't do them himself.  The therapist knew he wouldn't be able to do pressure stockings himself.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sweet potato and leek soup

Elizabeth made this Friday and it was delicious.
She made some small modifications to a recipe from the book Home Made by  via Culinate:

1   onion, diced
2   leeks, washed and cut into rounds
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 garlic cloves, chopped
~ Dab of butter
1 glass white wine
4 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
~ Pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste
1 can (14 oz.) chickpeas
~ A few sprigs of fresh oregano


4 Tbsp. cashews
5 tsp. butter
~ Sea salt
1 Tbsp. crème fraîche per bowl


  1. Brown the onion and leeks in the butter, then add the sweet potatoes and garlic and saute a few minues. Add the white wine. Blend in the broth as well as the bay and cayenne pepper. Simmer on low heat for 25 minutes.
  2. Puree the soup in batches in a blender until smooth.
  3. Serve the soup in individual large bowls, each with 1 tablespoon cashew nuts (briefly fried in the butter and sprinkled with a little sea salt) and a generous dollop of crème fraîche

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Brisket Cooked with Sauerkraut

My daughter loves German food, so we came up with this:

4 lbs beef brisket
1 onion thinly sliced
2 tblsp olive oil
1 1/2 cup sauerkraut
1 1/2 cup applesauce
1 1/2 cup German white wine
1 can chopped tomatoes, with juice
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 leaves fresh sage
1 bay leaf
1 teasp ground cumin
1 tblsp grainy mustard
1/2 teasp ground pepper
2 tblsp cornstarch or potato starch

Brown brisket in dutch oven then set brisket aside.  Saute onions in olive oil until brown in the dutch oven, then add sauerkraut, applesauce, white wine, tomatoes, vinegar, and seasonings.  Put brisket on top and press down to submerge.  Cook barely at a simmer for 4 hours or until tender, turning a few times.  Strain out solids and boil liquid until reduced by half.  Add 2 tblsp cornstarch or potato starch mixed with a little cold water to thicken the sauce if desired.  Slice meat and return meat and the sauerkraut and onions to the sauce.  Add a little fresh vinegar if needed.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Eye surgery followup

I had my follow-up one week after surgery on my second eye today.  I could read the 20-20 line of the eye chart with difficulty and a few errors with my right eye, easily with my left eye.  I could read the 20-15 line with difficulty using both eyes.  So an excellent result! My experience matches the test--my distance vision is better than it was with glasses.  The doctor actually said "don't tell everyone that"--the point being they don't want people to be disappointed if they don't get quite as good a result.

They dilated my eyes to check the alignment of my lenses, which matters very much with the lenses that correct astigmatism.  As you would guess from the 20-20 vision, they said it was good.  Today is a very sunny day and my appointment was late morning, so there goes most of the afternoon

We discussed reading glasses and I learned a lot.  The ophthalmologist said my moderately near vision may continue to improve (actually my brain adapting) for six months.  But at my age (56), my eyes will now stay the same--I won't keep needing stronger and stronger reading glasses.  Apparently my starting with stronger reading glasses after surgery and then switching to weaker ones is common.  Part of it is the brain adapting, but part of it is settling on a reading distance.  When I held a book at the distance I was used to, I needed stronger reading glasses.  And the book also looked bigger--so much so that I wondered whether Newsweek had put out a special year end issue in tabloid size. That is because my glasses to correct for nearsightedness made everything smaller.  So I'm trying weaker reading glasses and holding my book further away--if nothing else it will be good for my posture.  The doctor said that another advantage to that approach is hopefully not needing separate computer glasses.  He wrote me a prescription if I want to get custom reading glasses: pl pl (plain glass) and then progressive to +225 for reading.

I asked about the instructions they gave me to continue the Bromday eye drops once a day for five weeks.  When I looked them up online, the FDA information said there were greater risks if continued longer than two weeks.  The doctor said that was because of a problem years ago with one generic for a different but closely-related medication.  He said using them for 5 weeks reduces the risk of retinal inflamation.  Since retinal detachment is the key (though very unlikely) risk of this surgery for me, I was convinced.

Posts in this series (reverse chronological order):
Eye Surgery Follow-up
Brain Adjustment
Second Vision Correction Surgery
The Week Between Surgeries
Day after Surgery
First Surgery
Refractive Lens Exchange

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Lucky Stuffed Kale

This recipe incorporates lucky foods from several cultures for New Year's
Lucky Stuffed Kale

1 pound of ground lamb
1 medium onion
1 Tbs olive oil
1 cup cooked black eyed peas
1/2 cup cooked rice
1/4 cup pine nuts toasted
1/2 cup golden raisins plumped in boiling water
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
juice of 1 lemon
Several sprigs fresh mint
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
20 leaves of kale (cabbage would be good too)
1 cup of tomato sauce diluted with 1/2 cup water

Saute onion in olive oil until soft and slightly browned and set aside.  Saute ground lamb until cooked, breaking up into small pieces.  Mix lamb, onion, peas, rice, pine nuts and raisins in a food processor and process until coarsely chopped.  Return to pan and stir in spices, lemon juice, chopped mint leaves, and parmesan cheese.

Cook kale or other suitable leaves in boiling water until they soften, then place in icewater.  Take one leaf at a time, place filling down the center of the leaf, and roll like a burrito.  Place filled leaves in a greased 9x13 pan.  Cover with tomato sauce and sprinkle with more parmesan cheese.  Heat in a low oven until warm (we cooked for an hour and a half at 250 because we were warming a cooked ham).