Tuesday, April 27, 2010

chicken soup

We discovered yesterday that our oven isn't working. When the electronic ignition stopped working on the stove burners over time, we could light them with matches, but it now seems to have stopped working on the oven as well, but there's no way to hand-light it that either of us could see. And since I'm really trying to cook most or all of our dinners, for health & economy reasons, this is a big drag. We have to go to the landlord about it since, unlike the fridge, we don't own it, and it wasn't new when we moved in here five or so years ago. It would be fine to have it fixed, better to have it replaced, and best of all if it doesn't cost us anything, including grief from the landlord. He's a good guy, but can be fussy, and we went through this recently with him when we had a bad U-pipe under our bathroom sink that was leaking *and* clogged. Landlord had a plumber come after he;d looked at it himself, and we didn't have to pay, but we got an earful about tidiness and the last few lingering cartons from our move. Barry dislikes this as much as I do, so he's going to wait a few days and let the landlord know just a day or two before he comes to get the rent, which means one landlord visit, not two.

So I've been planning meals that don't require the oven. Since Barry wasn't feeling well today, and the weather was a bit raw, I figured chicken soup would do it. (Tomorrow will be poached salmon and spinach salad.) I went to the kosher butcher next store to Ouri's (the amazing produce store), where I'd seen chicken necks the other day. They didn't have them today, but they had hefty packages of what they called "chicken bones," so I bought two for about three bucks. I was amazed when I opened them: the two packages yielded the bones from five chickens, everything but the legs and breast cutlets, still intact, next to that little bumpy thing at the butt. (Does it have a name, that weird little fatty thing?)

I am usually a kitchen-sink variety soup maker -- that is, I simmer some kind of bones for a couple of hours, take them out and throw in some sorts of vegetables, and cook it some more. Usually any soup I make turns out to be vegetable soup, and is rarely the same twice. When it comes to soup, I'm not about recipes -- except the time I made, it was either lentil or split pea soup, I can't remember which, but it was my stepfather's favorite soup. He bitched and bitched about the smell of the ham bone wafting around the apartment. I know, real nice.

But I really wanted to do a very classic type of chicken soup. I had read recently that a lot of cooks roast bones before simmering them for soup, to get a deeper flavor. Since I have no oven, I browned up the chicken bones with a touch of canola oil, put them in the soup pot with some boiling water, and used a bit more boiling water to deglaze the browning pan. Then I threw in a little kosher salt and black pepper, half a big onion (cut into but not apart), and two smashed (but not cut up) cloves of garlic, and let it go for two hours. Then I strained it and added a couple of handfuls of barley, some sliced carrots, and some fresh dill, and simmered it until the barley was done, maybe 40 minutes more. (I only put in the barley because Barry doesn't cope well with no starch at a meal. I can sympathize -- I used to think I didn't feel full w/o serious carbs.)

The whole house smelled like chicken soup. It was heavenly. He ate two bowls and I ate a bowl and a half. The best part was that I've started testing my blood sugar again, and my postprandial (two hours after starting to eat the meal) reading was 95, first one I've had under 100 this week. I started to get a little more serious about my eating last week, and I'm checking myself by monitoring my weight and blood sugar. The first reading I took in many months was scary-high, around 250, but I've been getting it down day by day.

I'm also proud of myself for not giving in to the urge to make kneidlach (matzoh balls) with the soup. They're homey and traditional for real "Jewish penicillin," but the truth is, they're mostly white flour, not as acceptable to me as a little bit of barley.

But I just don't know what the fuck to do about my husband's eating, since he just heated up a slice of pizza from the freezer, I guess for the 10:45 PM snack. At least I stopped him from eating the second sugar-sweetened yogurt. He often thinks that if something is relative low fat or low calorie, like a Frozefruit, for instance, that this means he can eat two or three at once. I want to knock my head against the wall sometimes. He isn't diabetic (yet) but he's maybe 30 pounds overweight, dead set against ever exercising in his lifetime, and at 58, his health is not going to correct itself. I hate to bitch about him because he is extremely wonderful, but he's also one of these people who thinks he can do exactly as he pleases, and then get the doctor to fix it with a pill. I do get a little bit of mileage out of prohibiting certain foods from the house because they are bad for me and too tempting, so there's no ice cream or cookies or pastry around here. He will usually buy himself a couple of Frozefruits or some sherbet, which does have sugar but isn't hard for me to pass up. Lately, I've been keeping the place very well-stocked with fruit -- he likes oranges and bananas. But at times he will eat those in *addition* to the white-sugar desserts. If I don't make him feel a little guilty, he will graze all night between dinner and bed: crackers, peanut butter (not natural, of course), dry breakfast cereal, and on and on. I occasionally pull out the line, "You know, dessert is only one course." Every so often I get into the you're-killing-yourself-and-I'll-be-all-alone thing, which is more about me being unhappy than trying to guilt him...and although it makes him unhappy, nothing changes.

Last weekend, 10 days ago or so, I had a very down weekend, and woke up Monday morning thinking, "these shitty pills are doing nothing," and stopped taking my venlafaxine and depakote cold. Not smart, I know, and the venlafaxine withdrawal was awful for the first couple of days. Chills, sweats, and brain zaps. I did join a website for discussions for psychiatric meds, which was very helpful and I got some good support. I did also call my general doctor and got a referral to a new psychiatrist, since I'd had some concerns about the one I'd been seeing for a while (he's the only one I'd ever seen, and had been treating me since 1997). I saw the new doctor on Sunday, and am very pleased with him. Apart from being two blocks away from me and having Sunday hours, he listened, he talked, and he diagnosed me instead of my having to do it myself. He said he thought I was *not* Bipolar II but did have a mood disorder, and prescribed the generic of Lamictal (I haven't learned the long name yet -- hell, I was just getting the hang of "venlafaxine"). He also gave me lorazapam for panic attacks instead of clonazapam, explaining that this was not really the best way to use clonazepam and lorazapam was more appropiate for this. (Not only did the old doctor never tell me this, but he pretty much let me decide to use it. That is, we had some at home prescribed for my husband, and I started to take them when I got anxious, and when I told this to the old doctor, he said, "OK, I'll write you your own prescription." This may sound dumb but I was kind of appalled that he didn't say anything to me about taking another person's prescription meds.

I've been on the new meds only two days now, but I can tell you this: I found out yesterday that I have exhausted all of my unemployment benefits, all 99 weeks, and I didn't lose my mind over it. I'm seeing the new doctor again two weeks from this coming Sunday for a followup (he only has Sunday hours at this office). And tomorrow I'm doing a double-header: GYN and regular doctor in one day. (They're right down the block from each other.)

I'm definitely thinking about what to do now that my unemployment insurance is tapped out. I may try to find something part-time nearby, or do a long-term temp assignment (I'm thinking about something like a month or less to start). Although I'd lost the electronic version my my resume, and couldn't put my hands on a hard copy, my friend Lily, bless her heart, still had a couple of versions in her e-mail from when I'd asked her to take a look at it. And hopefully the new printer will arrive within a week. The old printer almost never worked properly, paper wouldn't feed right. HP. I'd had one once before, and the problem wasn't with the machine but with the customer service. My hard drive crashed, I couldn't find the disc, and although the HP website had a lot of drivers for free download, they didn't have one for mine, since it was about two years old and I guess they'd much rather have you buy a new one. No help at all. I ended up having to get it at some weird bootleg drivers website. No more HP for me. New new one coming is a lightly used Lexmark 3-in-1: printer, fax, and scanner. $39 on eBay.

Also coming from eBay: a big covered nonstick skillet ($31), and an immersion blender ($17).


  1. Wouldn't a new oven be nice? Especially not having to pay for it!! Here's hoping it goes well with your landlord.

    The chicken soup sounds delicious. Now I want some. I envy you the barley. It contains gluten and I have celiac disease. I miss barley.

    Since I've been on Protein Power, I've lost 17 lbs, which astounds me. You're making me feel guilty because I didn't check my blood sugar at all today. My bad. Just couldn't deal with the finger sticking thing.

    As for your husband's eating, I don't think you can do anything about it. Aren't you the only one you can take care of?

  2. Too true, that I can't control his eating.

    I'd also been having some trouble with the finger sticks, and the doctor told me I didn't need to test that often.