Not Sure What To Make Of This

I often wonder if there is something wrong with me and the way I think and interact (or don’t, as the case usually is) with other people.  Actually, I have thought known suspected this since I was very young.  For a short time, I imagined myself a misunderstood genius.  Then I got some humility and figured I was just depressed.  Eventually I decided it was my personality quirk, and by this time I was 40 and a lot more comfortable in my own skin anyway, so it wasn’t as big of a deal as when I was, say, 14 and really wishing I were more like other kids (while at the same time feeling glad that I wasn’t like other kids).  (Is it still angst when you’re happy about your issues?)

Last month I took the Meyers Briggs survey and my personality type came back as INTJ, which is apparently very rare, especially for women.  That suited me just fine, as I really like being odd.  Or, more honestly, I really didn’t want to be typical.

Recently, I have been reading about Aspergers Syndrome and decided to find out what, exactly, are the characteristics of a person with Aspergers.  We hear the phrase “Aspergers Syndrome” and “autism” and “autism spectrum” all the time, often times interchangeably.  I wanted to know the difference and, almost as importantly, how a person got labeled as such.  This led me to an online test.  Now, I realize I just wrote the words an online test, which should probably raise suspicion in my own mind as much as it likely does in yours.  Regardless, I took the test.  And guess what?  This online test says I probably have Aspergers.

Your AQ Test Score is: 34

The official criteria for Aspergers Syndrome is an AQ score greater than 32.
According to statistical analysis, 26 – 31 Is a borderline score. 86% of people with this score can be correctly classified as having Aspergers Syndrome. Enter your email address below to our receive our free mini course on Asperger’s Syndrome.

Huh.

Fricassée de poulet à l’ancienne

Last night I made the Fricassée de poulet à l’ancienne, or “old-fashioned Chicken Fricassee with Wine-flavored Cream Sauce, Onions and Mushrooms” (page 258).

I was pleased to discover that I “invented” (my term for “winging it”) something similar to this recipe many years ago.  I used to brown chicken breasts in fat, sprinkle them with some seasoned flour, then cover them with broth and simmer til they were done.  Of course, fricassee is not quite that simple.  But that’s the gist of it.

This particular recipe was actually three recipes in one.  Besides the main chicken dish, you also had to make an Onion and mushroom garniture, which meant you had to make the “white-braised onions” on p 481 AND the “fresh mushrooms stewed in butter, lemon juice & water” on p 511.   I was going to skip that step at first, but then I saw where you had to take the cooking liquids from those two recipes and add them to “the sauce” for the fricassee.  So it seemed kind of necessary.  Fortunately, I had pearl onions in the freezer and shrooms in the fridge, so it all worked out.

I did this recipe exactly as the Book said to.  My only fudge-y moment was using half-and-half instead of cream, which I hopefully made up for with a bit of extra butter.  Good lord, this French cooking uses a lot of butter.  I thought I had a crazy amount of butter left over after all the holiday baking, but it’s down to almost nothing after just two dishes.  I’m going to have to make a butter-less dessert at this point, or else we will have to go out and buy more butter.

So now I shall regale you with camera-phone impressive shots of my really mediocre impressive French cooking.  I even used my French cook-pot.  And French wine.  Well, American wine with a French name.  Whatever.  It was dry enough.

First, we had to procure the cut-up fryer.  I learned, after reading a lot of other blog posts extensive research, that it is important to use chicken of the correct age for the cooking technique you want to use.  Fryers are called that because they are suitable for frying.  Broiling will make them bland and stewing will make them stringy.  Or maybe it’s the other way around.  Anyway, just make sure you match up the type of bird with your preparation method, okay?  Oh, and don’t go by weight.  A fryer, according to the Book, should be between 2-3 pounds.  I read somewhere else that fryers were between 3-4 pounds.  Mine was 5.25.  It’s all about the age of the bird, not the weight.  (In case you’re curious, a fryer is a bird that’s 3-5 months old.)

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Anyway, so we have a lovely cut-up fryer (I have mad chicken dissection skillz, tyvm) and also some mirepoix or trinity or whatever people are calling the onion-celery-carrot aromatic mix these days.  Now, I have always finely diced my veggies when used for this purpose, but the Book says I’m supposed to slice them thinly.
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So I did that.

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Look, it’s blurry-poix.

I took a lot of blurry pictures for this post. Sorry about that. This is a surprisingly “active” recipe, meaning I was constantly moving around the kitchen and adding ingredients and stirring and consulting the cook-book and whatnot. And that meant at least one hand was dirty/stirring/pinching in spices/holding a lid most of the time. So I did a lot of one-handed cell-phone photography. Some day, when I’m famous, I will hire someone to photoshopgraph me while I am cooking so the pictures are in focus.  Or maybe I will hire someone to do the cooking so I can do real photography with my real camera.  We’ll see.  I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch it was time to start, as all good recipes do, by melting some butter in a heavy pot.  I added the veggies, as directed, and cooked them for about 5 minutes until soft but not brown.

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Then I added the chicken.  It’s supposed to be cooked for 3-4 minutes on a moderate heat, turning every minute, until it’s stiffened slightly (but without browning it).  Then I had to turn the heat all the way down, put on the lid, and cook for 10 minutes more, turning the meat only once.

Next, you add the flour- about 3T, plus some salt and white pepper.  Ooops, I don’t have white pepper.  I used black pepper.  At least it was freshly ground.

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And that is the only photo you will see of the adding-the-flour stage, because I had to turn the chicken a lot to cover all of it with the flour and not let it burn, and also I didn’t have any other burners on which to set the hot lid because they were all full of other cooking pots.  See?

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Oh, wait, let me stage that better. Here’s the wine.

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Now it looks like a French cooking project. Anyway, as I was saying, there was no spare burner on which to set the lid, and also at this precise moment my kids decided they wanted to go sled riding, so that is why there is hot chocolate on my front left burner.  And that was where I would have set the orange lid to take a picture.  So, no pictures.

The hot cocoa is also my camping cookpot, because all of my other pots are In Use.

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Anyway, here we can see the mushrooms cooking in water, lemon juice and salt:

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And here, tightly covered but in a convenient glass-lidded pot, are the onions, in white wine, butter and herbs:

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I do have one other sauce pan, but it was in the sink. I believe it still had the morning’s oatmeal in it.

So once all the flurry of hot cocoa and boiling mushrooms came to an end, I added the liquid to the chicken: 3 cups boiling chicken stock/broth plus 1 cup of dry white wine. There are substitutions offered, but as I did not take them I don’t feel like typing them out right now. Oh, and you’re also supposed to put in a bouquet garni of parsley, bay leaf and thyme. I did not feel like getting out my cheesecloth so I just threw the herbs in the pot loose.

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And then we simmer, slowly, covered, for about 30 minutes. The Book gives really questionable “doneness” indicators, like “when the drumsticks are tender if pinched”. I opted for the more modern, less salmonella, meat-thermometer technique.  When the chicken was at a satisfying temperature, I removed the chicken to a “casserole dish” and let it sit with the “Onion and mushroom garniture” while the sauce cooked.

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The sauce was the part I wasn’t really sure about.  In the end, it tasted good, so I won’t complain, but I should probably go back to Paris and order chicken fricassee from several places to get a feel for what the sauce is supposed to taste like.  Because I’m not sure mine was right.  More research is definitely in order here.

So I added the liquid from the mushrooms and onions to The Sauce.  It then simmers for a couple of minutes, during which you skim off any fat.  Then you bring it to a boil and keep stirring it while it reduces to about 2 or 2 1/2 cups.  I could probably have reduced mine a little more, but it was dinner time and the natives were restless (and hungry).

Next, take 2 egg yolks and 1/2 cup whipping cream and whip them together in a metal bowl.  Then add some of the hot sauce to the egg yolks to temper them.  Keep beating, add more sauce, beat more, add more sauce (you can see where there is absolutely no free fingers for photography here, right?) until all the sauce is beaten in with the eggs and cream.  Then you put it back in the pan and, stirring constantly, boil for about a minute.

Next you “correct the seasoning”.  I wasn’t sure what this meant, because the sauce was boiling and I didn’t know what “correct” was, anyway.  But I dipped a spoon in and tasted it, and decided to throw in some salt since I tend to totally undersalt my cooking.  I added a couple drops of lemon juice and some scrapes of nutmeg (as the Book suggests).  And then I dumped poured the sauce over the chicken and garniture.  Et voilà!  Chicken fricassée!

The verdict: I should have re-heated the chicken. It was slightly cool, even with the hot sauce over top. It was also just a tiny bit overdone. I should have pulled the meat out of the pot earlier. The mushrooms and onions were fabulous. Family tolerated it; they would probably eat it again if I waited long enough for them to forget this first attempt.

Still Groovy After All These Years

Last year sometime, S8 (then S6, I believe) made a sign inviting kids to sign up for Groovy lessons. I recently discovered another sign inviting kids (ahem, girls) to join the Groovy Club.

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I just love: all of the: colons. And I’m relieved to know that, if I need to learn to be cool, get style & be groovy, there’s a place for me. I might need it when my daughters hit puberty, ‘cos I’m sure to be totally unstylish and dorky at that point.

Apparently the Groovy Club even has a theme song. While the band is still to be determined, the lyrics are available for all prospective members to learn by heart.

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I have to remember to just be groovy when I go down.

Groovy, oovy, oovy.

(Repeat 6 times.) C’mon!

Bye.

Ha, I’m not really going anywhere. Well, I am, but it’s got nothing to do with my blog (although really, as far as the blog is concerned, I probably ought to re-introduce myself since I never seem to post anything here). No, the girls and I are leaving for Florida tomorrow. And we are driving. And this should be interesting. Hopefully it will be interesting in a good way, and not that euphemistic “ah… interesting” way people say when they don’t want to come right out and say “damn, that sucks.”

So in planning this trip, which is almost exactly 1000 miles from my doorstep to our destination, I debated a long time about the best mode of travel. I considered flying, which I enjoy about as much as my cat enjoys taking medicine. And I pretty much [and enthusiastically, I might add] eliminated flying right off, because (1) the times were inconvenient, (2) the price was very inconvenient, and (3) I simply am not allowed to check the amount of luggage I need to take. We are staying a week in a condo-style hotel, and I will need a coffee pot and lots of knitting and my big, floppy hat. All of those things are bulky and heavy and would be really really hard to take on an airplane. That would be, uh… interesting.

Plus, we need a car when we get there. I could rent one, but the cost to rent a comparable mini van for ten days was hundreds of dollars. It seemed much better to have my own lovely mini van and just pay for the gas.

Next, I considered the auto train. We did the auto train two years ago and it was fabulous. Unfortunately, lots of other people also seem to think it’s fabulous. Not only was it a lot more expensive on the dates we wanted to travel, it was sold out. Drat.

So we are left with driving or taking the bus. And since taking the bus will not accomplish the goal of having a vehicle down in FL to gallavant around in (and pick people up at airports and such in, which will be occurring at least twice), we are driving.

I am driving, since my children are not quite tall enough to do so yet.

I like to drive, so this is not a big deal. I have driven to FL twice before, once with DH and the kids and once with my mom and the kids. I did about half the driving with DH and all of the driving with my mom. So I am an expert driver. No, really, I am. I have a commercial driver’s license with passenger endorsement. I might give that license up this year when I need to renew and fill out some new form that the state is requiring, though. But fortunately, a commercial driver’s license with or without passenger endorsement is not necessary to operate a mini van, so we should be okay with just a regular old driver’s license.

The situation that I am currently facing is the Mother’s Corollary to Parkinson’s Law, which pretty much states that

The amount of luggage/toys/clothing required for a trip expands to fill the amount of space available in one’s mini van.

I am really trying not to overpack. And in the way of clothing and toiletries, I have done a marvelous job. But I also have a large box of kitchen items, because I can’t bear the thought of not having a good knife or a good cook pot or- heaven forbid- a decent coffee pot for an entire week. And if you have those things, then you must have accessories, like spices and a vegetable peeler. It’s a downward spiral into kitchen insanity if you really start anticipating all the things you might need and all the things that the hotel’s kitchen probably won’t have. I’m trying hard to breathe deeply and focus on the fact that all we are likely to eat at our hotel is cold cereal for breakfast and salads for lunch, but it’s hard not to add the food processor and stand mixer to the packing pile.

Happily, though, we have audio books ready to listen to and maps to follow and lots of munchies (healthy, of course) to eat along the way, so as long as the suitcase with my contact lenses makes it into the van, we can probably replace just about anything else we happen to forget. So I’m not going to worry much more about it, other than to cross off the things on my to-do list.

It’s something of a long list, but that’s another blog post. Bye!

So THAT’s What New Zealand Smells Like!

I am so glad to finally be able to appreciate the beautiful scents of the other side of the globe.  Thanks to the lovely folks at P&G, I can now get a whiff of New Zealand every time I fill up my kitchen sink.

New Zealand Scented Dish Soap

Look, there’s a dirty coffee mug. I can get it clean and pretend it’s summer* all at the same time.

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I really wonder if the team who came up with this particular fragrance have ever been to New Zealand. I would feel really slighted if I ever found out it was a bunch of Yanks who’d never been closer to NZ than, say, some kiwifruit in the grocery store.

But until my fantasies are dashed by a giant dollop of reality, I’m going to close my eyes, put my hands into this sink full of warm water, and pretend I’m on location for a Lord of the Rings shoot.

*Not that New Zealand = Summer, just that it’s winter here now in the Northern Hemisphere.  Boo.

Seeds!

In case you didn’t know, it’s winter here.

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And it’s cold. And we have a ridiculous amount of snow.

No Picnics Today

But while the sub-arctic chill we’re enjoying has kept me from typing much at the computer, it did encourage us to daydream about spring. S4 and I spent an afternoon sketching how the backyard might look after the 15-odd inches of snow melts (assuming it doesn’t become a glacier first), and we talked about what we’d like to grow in our garden this year. She is a fan of pickles, so the first thing we put on the list was a stubby variety of gherkins. O3 wanted carrots. I added nasturtiums. We all agreed on potatoes, which the girls don’t care to eat but really like to grow. And then we picked out some herbs, some flowers, and a few other things.

Our seed order was duly placed, and it arrived on Saturday. This is both good and bad. It’s fun to handle little packets of seeds and dream about the lush and luscious plants that will (hopefully) grow out of them. But now spring seems ever so much farther away, and I’m finding myself growing impatient with winter. I have to remind myself that winter is necessary for spring, that the ground needs time to rest and replenish itself (as do I). So for now, I will content myself with poor sketches of garden possibilities and a few more weeks’ worth of anticipation before we get to pull out the seed flats. And I can look at some of these pictures from last year’s gardening efforts to remind myself that it is so worth the wait.

Sweet Basil

Tater Flowers

Toddler Cuke

Oh, and this one helps a lot, too.

Bonfire