Caramelized Red Onion Puree

Step by step photos?…ummmm…

Since the serious post is done now we can be….well, the same as usual I suppose. Funny? Eh. I’m back with another: “You Need A Recipe For This? Why I Make This All-“. One of those recipes that more of a technique and a use for the end result of that technique. You see posts about caramelizing onions quite often, the best one I saw admitted that they often lie about the time they take. Downplaying it as you can imagine. You’re looking at almost an hour, depends on the amount of onions, size of the pan etc. I never  really had much use for caramelized onions until I found they were delicious, but making a single batch can be a hassle. Making a large batch would have necessitated Jack sitting down to a hearty bowl of onions. So, I didn’t bother. Cooking onions this way was something other people did. We miss so much when we don’t try, don’t we, dear reader?

So, what changed my mind? What made me go for it and would I eat the hearty bowl of alliums?! Yes, Karem and, wait, what were the questions? I had a shed full of onions as you surely remember, no? Well, shame! I grew the reds for someone who then realized they didn’t need a few dozen red onions. So, rather than waste them I thought I should try a large scale caramelization, but what would I do with my puree? I Naturally knew ahead of time, I might be an idiot, but I’m not stupid. Gravy! Or, at least as an additional flavour boost to sauces. Had I just made a sauce from these then its uses would be very limited, this, if not limitless, is much more versatile.

The amounts listed are vague by necessity. The amount of onions you have will change how much oil you need. You could use yellow onions of course, I imagine they’d get crispier than the red. These are a sturdier onion, beautiful contrasting rings of pale pink and reddish-purple through out. I grew them, of course I’ll be proud of them. What you want is chunks of onion, no need to be too exact or fine in your preparations, well coated in oil. They should swim in it. It’ll evaporate and when the onions are at the sweated stage there will be enough moisture for the next step. I like sharing these simple recipes as they can be daunting in their simplicity. I’d have shied away from trying it if I didn’t have so many onions. But when you see the recipe with any ostentation just simple truth it makes it much more accessible. At least I hope it does. Just be patient, don’t crack up the heat thinking it’ll work better, slow and low at first, boring as you can imagine, then a little higher with more waiting. Blend it and then freeze it and you’re set for flavoursome sauces and gravies through the Winter! Or until you run out. That’s it for me, see you again soon, dear reader.

Ingredients

Red Onions, Peeled and Chopped
Butter and Olive Oil in Equal Amounts as Needed
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Method

1. Add the Olive Oil and Butter to a non-stick pan and heat on high until the butter has melted. Add the Red Onions and stir everything together, making sure that the Onions are coated completely. Ensure that there is enough Butter and Oil to completely smother the Onions. This will help prevent burning. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until Onions have sweated down and are soft and slightly translucent.

2. Turn up the heat a little until the onions start to sizzle. Now cook, stirring more frequently to prevent burning, until the onions start to turn golden brown and start to smell sweet. Will take about 15-20 minutes. When the Onions are browned and just starting to stick to the pan add everything to a food processor and blitz until smooth. Either freeze in ice-cube trays or in containers.

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Facing Your Truths: Starting a Healthier Lifestyle

I may have inadvertently blown my notes away. Considering the state of my handwriting that might not be the greatest loss. Okay, deep breath and…that’s how it happened! I’m being jocular because I’m doing another of those ever tiresome, dull posts where I talk about health and well being and we all end up bored to almost death. Why do them then? Because I’m a contentious idiot and any contention to that fact will be blown away too. It’s very easy to tell when I’m being serious as the puns start to drop away and you peek behind the curtain of the Jack facade. No, no, much like Santa Claus Jack is indeed real and apt to break into your home at any time, so have no fear, dear reader, or lots, depends on how you look at it.

I wish I could’ve been more systematic with these diatribes, kidding, I’m not angry…just bitter, but they come of sudden realizations and epiphanies that need to be taken down quickly lest hey be forgotten. I’ve often talked about the struggle f talking about health whilst keeping in mind all the possible human variables. There are many struggles, many people and many reasons to do and not to do. Doo be do be do. What I oten struggle with is trying to keep an open mind to everything, whilst also making sure I don’t inadvertently offering an excuse for someone not o even start on their journey. I realized that in all of this I have often placed myself at he helm and tried to steer every conversation with myself talking all blame i anything should be put wrong. Then I thought again, what was it that pushed me to such success and, yes, I’m learning o view them that way. I’m sitting here with a new bellybutton, richly earned, ten and a half stone lighter than I was. What did I do to start this? Well.

I faced my truth. I needed to lose weight and I needed to keep it off. Simple right? No, not so simple. I could find a multitude of fad diets that once failed would give me ammunition to fire back at my detractors. I could find excuse after excuse if I just looked. Mocking of healthy lifestyles, extremists in those same lifestyles, just sheer pigheadedness would have gotten me far or, rather, nowhere at all. So many comfortably lies that I could choose to believe and that would enable me to take no action, to wallow in my denial. So, when I see myself falling into the role of excuse destroyer, smashing them out of the air as fast as they come into my mind so as to help others facing those same excuses I realize that I could do that until the end of my days and not help a single soul. Not a solitary sausage. Excuses are endless and easy, comfortable as they are dangerous. I don’t even need to give any examples as you surely know them already, we all do.

Instead, I will, as I have been doing, check the weight-loss tag, it’s more healthy lifestyle advice but that not what people search most, is it?, tell you what I faced, what I had to do, why I did it and where I’m going and have gone. Firstly you have to face the truth. Accept what it is that you need to do, before anything else realize you need to know where you stand. You’re not unique, nor are you an oddity for needing to change your life. Many people would do well to look at themselves critically, but that’s them and we’re us. Am I still Jack? Here I sit, dear reader, a huge scar, future surgeries and peace of mind. For the first time in almost eight years I’m at peace with this body of mine. We’ve come to this place with so much hard graft, so much sweat and tears and pain and joy and everything else, but the first step is the most important. I assume you know what that is, right, dear reader?

Saving For The Future

It was more rot than ripen. Or perhaps rot then ripen.

What? No, not our future. I mean, I love you dear reader, like a rhetorical device, you mean a quantifiable amount to me. If we were  on a sinking ship, why, that’d be terrible! Why would you do that to me?! You can’t tie Jack down with thoughts of the future of humanity! I just care about plants. That might be a lie, but possibly not as much as would be reassuring. Now we’re not taking filthy lucre, nor clean cold hard cash, no, all that is dross, says he without very much of it. We’re talking seeds! We could be taking recipes, but I’m in a rut, well, I’m in a rut and playing a murder mystery game and that’s hijacked my brain. Give it time, all things in time. Like these chilies, what a wonderfully masterful segway ruined by a run on sentence…where was I?

No tittering at my handwriting! Please!

Those are chilies grown from saved seeds which I’ve again saved. I’ve made a habit of grabbing whatever seeds I could as you just never know what will be successful and the more you plant the greater a chance you have of getting something. These actually did much better this year. Whether it was the large pot, comfrey tea or genetics I have no idea, but they were absurdly hot, I could eat them but you could smell the capsicum a room away, and worth saving for another year. There are seeds like this where inbreeding isn’t an issue, I like these kinds of plants for seed saving as I’m not planning ahead and being careful of cross-pollination. Maybe someday I’ll have my own squash variety, but for now I’ll just buy the seeds online and grab whatever I can from the garden at the year’s end.

I almost missed the larger ones.

I should make mention of the hurricane. We were extremely lucky to have avoided much of the damage, it was nerve-wracking to experience and the loss of life is tragic, I would never make light of any aspect of it, but I feel that sharing a humorous anecdote isn’t out of the bounds of propriety. Now, I did have one brief moment of terror, you can imagine how I felt looking at my, well, not to be too honest, my slightly aged, just slightly makeshift greenhouse, sigh, enough putty to fill a drum, having to face a hurricane. This is my baby and a replacement is naught but a fever dream. When the storm started to make its presence know, well, the door fell off…yeah, nothing dramatic, fell down like a drunk and just lay there. So out I dashed, dashing, shhhh, it’s my story, and literally shoved it back and kicked it into place, somehow managed it pop it right into the warped frame. It would blow off again so I grabbed, seriously I picked it up like an idiot, but it was stormy and I was slightly panicked, the wheelbarrow, turned it over and wedged it against the door and the wooden edging.

Hefting a wheelbarrow into the air during a hurricane is like a chapter of my autobiography.

It held. Sadly the door was warped slightly, just a gap, but here’s the really weird part: Ophelia knocked some old junk off of our shed, we’d missed it in the preparations, and one of them was this plastic covering for plugs and wires, that just fit onto the frame and sealed the gap and as a bonus there was some rubber running so I can seal up the window more. Ill winds and all that. Aside from that everything else was fine, we didn’t even lose electricity. I’ll always remember the extremely polite storm that broke a door and supplied me with the means to fix it. Until later, dear reader.

Two Months…Yesterday…Whoops

Hey, my hard-drive crashed, have a little leniency. I know, dear reader, to be without Jack is a torment, the withdrawals from ever erratic prose is unendurable, the missing maunderings gnaw at your very soul, you can’t just smoke that Jacky Tobacy and all will be well, no no, you need me with a working computer, which is thankfully what I have again. An early Christmas present for me and the gift of Jack for all of my dear readers. All five of you. Heh. I wasn’t very long without my computer, but I tell you it is an addiction, the wait was interminable (Not really I have so many gaming consoles with web browsers)  we should all realize that we use these as coping mechanisms and be careful when we’re to be without them. Hmmm? You thought I was going to approach the pulpit and trot out the same tired speech of over dependence on technology? You should know me better than that dear reader, I wouldn’t have a dear reader to refer to without this computer. Nor would I have had the information at my fingertips, now worn after trying tirelessly to uncover that information, to enable me to lose the ten and a half stone that earned me my sick, I’m cool, I can use sick like that, you shush, two foot scar. See how I segwayed into that? Like an enraged bull in a terribly thought out metaphor.

Yeah, Thursday marked the two months post-op. The swelling is still reducing, the binder is staying mostly off, just when I’m out walking, better to build up the muscles slowly. The one problem I’m finding in finding, or rather, not, information on tummy tucks is that they never specify whether it’s a full or partial, or mini, that’s why I settle for abdominoplasty, also because it sounds so cool. There’s a huge difference between a tummy tuck and getting your muscles pulled together, like a curtain is how I think of it, less disturbing that way, that’s been stitched together. Imagine the length of me and imagine the amount of stitches. Not to be gratuitously graphic, it’s just silly to imagine I’d be bobbing back to the gym after that. Silly because I’ve never been in a gym and the muscles are absurdly weak at first, getting stronger daily, but slowly. The best advice I was given is that you’ll be back to a fair approximation of normality after two months, still no lifting heavy things and after six you’ll be mostly heal and ready to return to your daily routine fully and finally at one year you should be pretty much there. Two years, yes, this is a huge surgery, after and you should have no problems, but some swelling can remain or reappear.

I might be making it all sound deary and depressing, but I’ve honestly never felt better. I have my down days, everyone does, but I’m glad to be here. I’ll be honest I still feel as it it were some kind of cruel jest to be forced to live with that skin for so long after losing all that weight single handedly, someone called the wait abusive and it was. I think that’s why I’m getting so many comments on my face, it must have been showing more than I realized. Does this mean my budding career as the number one poker player in the world is in jeopardy?! But I haven’t even learnt to play yet! Wah! There are surgeries to go, but nothing so major as this. I know I’m cruel not showing you any pictures, but you’ll just have to imagine it for yourselves. Imagine a ling that goes all the way from hip to hip, them imagine Jack staring at you admonishingly for breaking into his room like that to stare at him so. For shame, dear reader.

There hasn’t been much progress in new recipes. I am trying out toasted buckwheat flakes, the taste is really delicious, not sure what to do with them yet. I did make lumpy waffles using an even split of buckwheat flour and flakes. I haven’t been baking much, I just lacked the energy on the approach to the surgery and afterwards it wasn’t at the forefront of my thoughts. What I did this week was to bake a Buckwheat Flour Simple White Cake and rest it for a day, resting after freezing won’t work, cut it up and freeze it to have over a few weeks. That way I don’t eat it all at once and I don’t have to bake again to enjoy something. It’s a balance between self control, don’t eat all that delicious cake, and my inherent laziness, I want cake but don’t want to bake! I think it’ll balance out well. I’ve just opened my final jar of yellow strawberry jam and I can’t wait to try the two of these things together. The yellow jam seems to improve with age or perhaps it’s just scarcity of ingredients. People are mostly shocked I eat. The idea of weight-loss is inherently and erroneously tied with the idea of starvation and deprivation. You don’t do without, you just make do with proper food and stay away from junk. I’ll always eat my plate stacked with vegetables, seeds, nut butter and meats. What else would I eat if not that?

Oh! You know what I have been doing that’s not a recipe, more a recommendation, I could call it a lifehack but then we’d all feel a little dirty. I used to freeze mashed vegetables and microwave them, but the taste wasn’t very good and the texture could be slimy at times, so now what I do is mash the vegetables, I used my squash from the garden, twenty five and possibly there’ll be a twenty sixth, for the curious, and froze them in those little tin trays, you know the ones (I hope), that way I cold bake the mash, or stuffing, alongside other frozen blanched vegetables. It’s so much better and you don’t need oil or butter to season it. Just dry is fine. You sometimes get a crispy top or bottom, sometimes both, depending on what you use. The squash blanched fine too. I never thought I’d end up using so much vegetables in my cooking, even growing my own at that. The freezer currently contains blanched parsnips, which I liked roasted, carrots, mostly ditto, cauliflower, broccoli, a mix of both is nice, I prefer the broccoli, harlequin and table king squash, mashed too. A fistful of this and that and I have all my vegetables for any meal. See? A freezer with cake and vegetables! What a diet.

The onions are still delicious and strong. They’ve stored extremely well so no need to freeze those. I tried roasted shallots and they’re pretty nice, they  add a hint of sweetness. Sadly I have to buy them as I’ve long since run out of my own. Mark my words, dear reader, I will grow more next year. Way more. I won’t even steal the bulbs, I mean borrow! I like playing around with what ingredients I have. Even if you’re eating the same thing daily you can change it so much by just changing the cooking or preparation method. Frying sliced garlic in a little oil and lifting it out to dry yields crunchy little morsels of garlicky goodness. Roasting vegetables gives them such a different taste and texture. Barely any oil needed. That’s about it for me today, dear reader. I hope you’re keeping well. I’ll be back again soon.

Hospital Stay With Multiple Food Allergies/Intolerances

Hey, that title might be boring, but it’s better than: You Can’t Eat A Bed-pan, right? Now, before I begin, I already have? Oh, well, anyway, this isn’t a strict guide, it’s more of a recap of what I did that worked when I was in for my abdominoplasty. You know me, dear reader, I can’t eat out and I can’t just buy food. It’s very hard, I’m at one of those low-times when it’s getting to me. Hence this post, I might as well put my work into words that might be of benefit to someone else. Who knows? As with all these types of posts this is just me, my own personal experiences with honesty running through them. This is just a discussion and look-back at what I did rather than a to-do guide. Whatever you take will have to be restructured to fit your diet and lifestyle. I’ll include a few recovery tips in here too, this is going to be pretty loose and informal. Just remember that everybody and every body is different and what suits one won’t necessarily suit another. Listen to your surgeons and doctors first, your nurses next, then Jack and then everyone else. Kidding, but seriously listen and take notes, you won’t remember it all and it can blur, take that as the first tip. You’re not that good that you’ll remember every detail and after a barrage of the same questions you’ve answered a dozen times before your head won’t be in the game fully.

I’m going from both before the surgery, my first major one, and also the after, that’s double the knowledge, it’s Jack squared! Or, rather it’s the knowledge of what was actually useful rather than just what I tried. This is the second run through, not he unholy first where I only had one week, I still have black rings under my eyes thanks to that. The one big thing I did was to get as much into the freezer as I could in the time I had. Breads, buns, dinners, everything that I knew would be okay for after, in other words nothing likely to cause an upset stomach or to aggravate an already troubled stomach, remember you’ll probably be on pills that might not agree with you. I never took any painkillers, but the antibiotics I was on really tore through me. A good set of meals already made meant I could stick to my diet and eat without much fuss. You can’t be sure how you’ll feel afterwards, you may not be able to make your own meals everyday, you might have help or not. What I wish I’d done is had a few sauces and frozen sides ready. Quinoa reheats really well, rice I had in, but should’ve prepared a bit more. I had stocked up on turkey mince, much easier to prepare than cutting chicken. Though I was eating steak a few days home. Heh. As always I have blanched vegetables by the pound already stuffed in the freezer so that wasn’t a problem.

I really believe that my diet has helped the recovery, there’s no way I’d heal so well a few years ago. It won’t speed it up dramatically and have you back long before you should be, but it’ll mean that you’ll possibly suffer less complications and be in the best shape you can be in the circumstances. Now, as for the stay itself. The idea is similar. Anything that can be eaten cold is king here. Any breads will work. I prepared a bag of mixed breads, cookies and crackers, froze them in sets and had them brought up. For dinners I had cold pasta or cold quinoa, each with chicken and a cold nut/seed sauce. I’m being vague because this will depend largely on what you’re willing to eat cold. These aren’t pleasant options, but they’re the best that were available to me and I was damn glad to be able to eat so well in the hospital. If you, like me, just have no choice what I suggest is making a few trials before you go for the real thing. Freeze a few dinners, get on Google and search for freezer suitable cold lunches, there’s so much that can be defrosted and eaten cold. No matter your restrictions if you’re willing to suffer a slightly bland meal you can eat well, eat healthy and eat nutritious food that will again aid in your recovery. Best way to plan it is the less flavour it has, the less it can lose. That might sound counter-intuitive, but I tell you the honest truth when I say the more spiced and flavoured the meals when it went in the freezer the harder it was to choke them down once defrosted. I had someone bringing these in to me daily, also a yoghurt and a packet of chia seeds. I was never hungry and only had trouble with my blood pressure once, I think I forgot to eat. It’s scary, but more than doable if you research and trial.

Now, I was offered help with planning a meal plan of sorts, I was very grateful, but I didn’t need it. They were willing to start from scratch to help me, so if you can try contacting the hospital beforehand and see what’s available. I was anxious that this might cause issues so I asked beforehand, they said it was no problem and at no point was it anything more than mild interest when questions arose. You probably won’t eat after the surgery, for me I’m ready to eat whenever so the day after I was stuffing cold pasta into my face. This was the biggest issue for me staying in the hospital. One more tip would be to over-prepare just in case anything happens and you have to stay longer. I was told I’d be in five days and prepared eight dinners. It was just the five days, but the three days grace meant peace of mind for me.

One thing you might be able to do is to have a list ready, with pictures if necessary, of brands and foods that you can eat.  I had a baggie of nuts and a few nut butter bars with some fruit leather ready. One at home and one with me. Again, you may not need this, but having a list ready means that the people supporting you will have a much easier time getting what you need to you. Fresh fruit is a must as well. Every time I took a tablet, which I hate, do it regardless, I was either sticking fruit in my gob, nut-bars in my mouth or bread in my pie-hole. You can sink into sickness in the hospital, just feeling off in there can be draining and it’s all too easy to let yourself go and turn into a sickie. I saw it happen across from me, the man in that bed was fussed over, felt sorry for himself and slowly started to get sicker and more whiny. Staying healthy is mental as well as physical each helps with the other. Speaking of the mind, you may go out of yours stuck in the hospital. These next tips are probably petty well know, but you’d be amazed at what you never think of or what turns out to be useless when you’re in.

Music wasn’t as much help as you’d imagine, the problem is when you’re besieged by nurses trying to do their jobs. Reading was a little better, but it can be hard to get your focus so keep it light and airy. Put down that copy of War and Peace. You may end up throwing at the noisy machine in the night. What was a godsend was a book of crosswords and word-searches a friend brought in. They’re fast and keep your mind active enough to be distracting. I also kept a journal of my stay. Mostly taking down whatever I was told about the surgery, what I had to do and what might happen. You can also record anecdotes and stories. It again keeps your mind off things. A hospital stay can be distressing, the more comfort you can supply yourself with the better you’ll have it. Just think fast and easy to stop and resume frequently. You’ll be hit with a deluge of information and it can be extremely hard to keep it all in mind.

As you can see the food issues are just a small part of the whole. An important part and one that can be dismissed too easily. You can’t be sure how a surgery will affect you. No matter how young or strong you are it can topple even the best. Not everyone is an ideal patient like Jack. Not everyone is so wonderfully humble. My last bit of advice is to be patient, listen to your body and realise the time you take in taking care of yourself now is an investment in your future well being. Don’t be an idiot in other words. None of us are immortal, no matter how much we might feel it. Take the time to prepare beforehand, to stay healthy and happy during and to heal afterwards. It’s worth it, dear reader, it really is.

Softly, The Garden Slumbers….I SAID SOFTLY

Yes, dear reader, it’s that time of year when the garden commences its repose, ever

“HEY! WHAT’S GOING ON?!”

Er, well, some plants having begun a little later sleep the sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care at a later da


“LOOK WHAT I MADE!”

Oh, come on! Yes, this is Jack’s garden and much like him it doesn’t know the meaning of the word die. Sadly I haven’t the energy to tend it properly, but I’ll still have plenty to admire next year and for the coming months there’ll be a splash of colour here and there. I’m healing well and when the true Winter hits, though it’s close now, I’ll stick to planning rather than pottering. It’ll only take a few months to heal, the garden will be there when I’m ready to return. Let’s have a look and see what we can see, dear reader.

The plant was all but dead. I hope it’s okay inside.

One of the neighbour’s roses. I think they weren’t small, just stunted.

Either a freak colouration or a different clematis from the small purple.

Nasturtiums never die.

Ever. No matter how much I kick and stand on them.

I walked past this a lot before I noticed it.

Hah, I can save bulbs after all. Indoor plant again.

There are so many begonias stuffed in there. At least five varieties.

Bottomless buckets will be the fad of 2018.

Grown in terrible soil and badly composted plant matter.

I have rose cutting growing from this. No idea where they’ll go.

The little rose that should’ve died a year ago.

The flowers in Naru’s garden never stop blooming.

Sunchokes apparently.

No this is a different pink rose, probably, there are dozens.

The small white one sets so many roses at a time.

A different yellow, don’t be roseist.

 

Basic Redcurrant Sauce

Tweaked slightly from here.

It’s six weeks already, dear reader, I’m doing well, it’ll be along road, but I’m just happy to have started at all. The kitchen has been in use since I came home, but as I’ve been focused on just eating well I haven’t had that much time for new recipes. A friend dropped in a bag, garbage bag, of mixed berries, the redcurrant were spared from blending, straining and freezing, later to be made into jelly, instead I made what seems to be fast becoming a favourite of mine: A sauce that’s more of a base component than a full fledged recipe. It’s literally two ingredients, I skipped the suggested lemon juice as it was thick enough already and I didn’t want to risk making a lumpy jelly. I’d advise taking out as much of the leaves and stalks as you can, but as you’ll be straining it there’s no need to be too fastidious. The reason I like recipes like this is the way you can adapt it on the fly, store it in the freezer until you want it and you’re ready to add it into a sauce as a back up flavour or to add few simple ingredients and make it a sauce in its own right. What I did today was add some grated garlic, a little salt and pepper, some water and added it to some fried turkey mince, let it reduce, it coated the turkey and then I ended up with a slightly acidic, flavoured mince. So simple, but I like it. You could add it to gravies or to sous vided meats. You could go the whole hog and make a jelly, but then it may have a more limited use, this way you can add a little red currant kick to any meat without overpowering the other elements.

Into the freezer they go, to be bagged when frozen.

What it boils down to, heh, is a slightly sour, mellowed by the honey, juice that imparts a depth of flavour. It’s something you can just freeze in cubes and store in the freezer. I love this idea of freezing components of meals that you can mix and match along with blanched vegetables and meat and make so many variegated meals. I know that in the back of my mind I’m thinking of my future surgeries, having meals in is helpful, but can be dull, whereas having a whole piecemeal assortment of possible meals seems like a much better idea. Nothing much else to say, dear reader, hopefully I’ll be back again sooner rather than later.

Ingredients

Any Amount of Redcurrants
1/4 the Weight of Redcurrants in Honey

Optonal: Add Garlic or Fresh Herbs, Salt, Pepper or Spices when reheating to flavour.

Can Be Frozen.

Method

1. Add everything to a pot and bring to a boil, the reduce to a simmer, cover and let the Redcurrants cook until the Juices release and the berries are soft and mushy. Be careful of burning or boiling over.

2. Place a sieve over a bowl, pour the mixture into it and press the pulp through the sieve using a metal spoon until all possible pulp has passed through. Discard pulp. Either freeze or return Sauce to the pot and heat until reduced.