Monday, September 15, 2008

CSA Week 12

CSA Week 12 Haul. September, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.
CSA Week 12 Haul. September, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.

Apologies for the Delay; Life Coming at me Fast

Greetings, all. Apologies for the lag—I realize that I am at this point about 2.5 weeks behind on my posts. Please realize that the past few weeks—hell the past few MONTHS—have been hell for me. I've had to work extra-long hours on the days that I work a full day, and do lots of doctor-related crapola on the days when I don't. We're not even going to talk about—nay, THINK about—the state of my apartment and its general cleanliness/clutter levels at this point, so forget I said anything. On top of that, I seem to have picked up a shitty summer cold that I thought was just allergies/sniffles at first, but now seems to be blossoming into a full-blown fever and sinus infection. Can you say "weakened immune system" folks? Having said that, you're in for a treat this week, because on this particular week, I had two very big CSA things happen:

--I took delivery of another huge bunch of basil (4 HUGE mutant attack-of-the-killer-basil bunches) and

--20 pounds (!!!!) of Roma tomatoes, ranging in ripeness levels from "perfect" to "okay, these go in the sauce pot FIRST." Note about these: In a 20-pound box, I only got ONE that was too rotten/disgusting to use, so I count myself pretty lucky. Yes, I hand-sorted them before putting in the fridge to avoid spoiling the whole shipment. Yes, making ROOM in the fridge at this point required a call over to Stephen Hawking himself, in order to re-arrange the laws of physics in my fridge to allow for all this stuff. He couldn't help with the freezer, though—after all he hasn't won a Nobel prize in physics yet. Seeing a psychic to contact Einstein next week, but I digress…Enjoy the box shot and the close-up of these lovelies.

 CSA Week 12 Tomatoes. September, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.
CSA Week 12 Tomatoes. September, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.

Of course, I also got my usual gigantic quantities of fresh greenery and whatnot. To wit:

  • 1 pound local varietal apples (Cortland, I think)
  • 1 pound smallish yellow-and-red streaked plums
  • 1 pound baby squash (this time I picked the tiniest ones in the box)
  • 1 pound green bell peppers
  • 1 pound green string beans
  • 1 big bunch mutant funky yellow carrots
  • 1 pint very VERY small yellow-red grape tomatoes (literally smaller than smallish olives)
So, on the weeks when I get a basil drop (one more left this season), my first order of business is to process the basil. If I didn't, it would a) take up all the space in my produce drawers of my space-challenged fridge and b) turn black and gross anyway. So, that meant more pesto. As this delivery was my second basil delivery, I tried using the food processor instead of the blender to make it this time around.

Folks, night and day. I started this time by adding the garlic and oil FIRST, and then adding some of the basil. I kept trickling in oil and finished with the pine nuts and cheese. The texture was superior to the blender-made version. NOTE: As said in prior posts, I do NOT add salt or pepper to my pesto; I adjust that according to what I'm going to use it in/on.

I also made a smallish jar of Basil Vodka, as I still had herb share vodka from another delivery. To do this, just pack a jar half-full of clean basil leaves. Add vodka to the top. Shake. Let hang out in the fridge. If you're a purist, strain when it's strong enough for you. If you're lazy, just leave it and drink it down and cut with water if it's too basil-y. Basil vodka, water, and a squeeze of lemon on ice is an amazing summer cocktail.

Then there's the matter of the pesto. Other than pasta, what DOES one do with it (other than make craploads of it and freeze it and put it on pasta)? I'm open to ideas. Yes, I know I can put it on cooked fish/chicken/etc. But other than just using it as a sauce what can I do? I thought of making a bruschetta of sorts with it instead of tomatoes. Ideas, please, folks, I have a LOT of it and need to use it down to make room in the freezer (would give to Mom but she grows her own basil and has enough pesto to paint the Houston Astrodome in her freezer).

One thing I did do was take some of the soft, stinky cheese that I got the week before and slice it and eat it on pesto-smeared bread, with just a hint of salt on the pesto before the cheese went on. In fact, I may do that again tonight as I have fresh bread, need a reason to drink more red wine, and haven't eaten yet. Lemme go get my cheese out to warm up…

Anyway, I spent that following Saturday taking care of (most) of the tomatoes (thought I used em all up but found another bag hiding in the back of my fridge—they're still actually in great shape). I made home-made tomato sauce and home-made spicy tomato jam. I froze a lot of the former (but made ziti with a friend with the bulk of it) and jarred up the latter as it has enough sugar where I don't need to go through the whole "canning precautions" thing.

Yes, of course you can have recipes! First up: The sauce:

CSA Week 12 Sauce. September, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.
CSA Week 12 Sauce. September, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.

Take as many tomatoes as you want. I used a hair over 9 pounds. Oh, that reminds me, I finally caved in and got a kitchen scale. And, now that I see the Amazon link, I realize that I overpaid. Anyway, I love the fact that it fits in between my cookbooks on my very tiny kitchen counter. So, I started with 9 pounds of Romas. And then I committed heresy—I put them in the blender. Yup, no blanching and skinning, no straining, none of that—I am neither Julia Child nor an Italian grandmother. I puréed all the tomatoes and put them into two huge prep bowls that I have. Then I used a garlic press and pressed out about 11 fat cloves of garlic. I heated up my biggest pot and put in about ¼" of olive oil. Once that got hot I VERY quickly added and stirred up the garlic just so that it started to release its flavor—you don't want to burn it, and it burns REALLY quickly. I then poured in some, not all of the tomato puree—this was just to get the garlic to stop cooking. Yes it will splatter. Add the rest of the tomatoes, a sprig or two of basil (I saved time by pureeing the basil with the last batch of tomatoes), a fistful of sugar, and just a pinch of salt. I also added a pinch of dried summer savory and the blossoms off of three small sprigs of dried lavender. Add a really good grind of black pepper, but leave the salt and pepper out.

Now just boil. And boil. And boil. Stir a LOT. This requires attention or it will burn. I reduced mine by a little bit more than half. This does spoil fast so either use it or freeze it.

I also made sweet/savory/spicy tomato jam.

CSA Week 12 Jam. September, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.
CSA Week 12 Jam. September, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.

I adopted this from a recipe in the New York Times, but this is how I did mine:

I started with about 5 pounds of tomatoes, which I cubed up. This went into a heavy pot with 3 ½ cups of sugar, a tablespoon of cumin, about a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, a shy half-teaspoon of ground cloves, a tablespoon of salt, three fat tablespoons of freshly-grated ginger root, about ¾ cups of lime juice, and three seeded jalapenos, cut up. Then I just boiled it and kept stirring, stirring, stirring until it got very thick and reduced. Note that tomatoes have no pectin so this won't "set up" like regular fruit jam does. Put into clean jelly jars and get the tops on as soon as you can. Mine has kept pretty well. Flavor-wise, this is somewhere between very good barbeque sauce and the best ketchup you ever had in your life. I may make some oven—bbq chicken with this someday.

So far, the jam has been amazing on bread with good cheese on it, and just served right on the cheese itself. I have the feeling it would also be very good folded in with cream cheese, or as a side-accompaniment to any kind of pork or fowl.

And now a health update. As always, if discussions regarding Lady Bits puts you off, you can stop reading here.

And now…on to the health issues. First let me state, emphatically, that if you don't think that a lack of universal health care in the US isn't one of the top 3 issues facing the country right now, you're either lucky or stupid or both. So far, my little adventure in uterus ownership has cost over $5,000 on paper, and that's NOT including the cost of the exams or the diagnostic ultrasound that I had to kick this whole party off. Out of pocket, even with some of the very, very best health insurance that I can get, I'm looking so far at around $450 out of pocket. Had I (G-d forbid) had serious complications, you could tack on a few zeros to both of those numbers. As a reference point, Gilly's first open heart surgery and hospital stay cost almost $350K on paper. Yes, you read that right. $350K. And that was a surgery without complications.

Something is very very wrong here.

I never stopped bleeding after my diagnostic D&C. I went from a slow and annoying trickle of reddish sludge right into a period at (surprisingly) the correct and usual time. And it was the worst period I ever had since I was 13. Super-heavy flow, bright red, lots of crunchy bits, and completely debilitating cramps—the stuff that made me go on the Pill the second I got to college so I wouldn't miss class for three days every month—except that I AM on the Pill, and this was scary. My ob-gyn told me to keep an eye on it and theorized that the D&C removed any hormonal buildup that I would normally have. Also, I may have had "minor injury or irritation from the instrumentation." I truly thought I was hemorrhaging this past Wednesday and Thursday. I was given strict instructions to get my ass into the office either Friday morning if it wasn't much improved by them or to the ER on Thursday night if it got worse. And then…after waking up Thursday AM with the usual heavy AM around 2 PM that day…it just…stopped. No wind-down, no brown-down (ladies, you know what I'm talking about—please explain to the guys reading over your shoulder). After 5 days of ejecting loads of heavy flow every time I stood up or went to the potty, I got about two hours of pink staining and then…nothing. I wore a pad to work Friday, fully expecting an Act 2 of, well, something, but nothing happened. I DID feel incredibly, horribly tired. Yes, I am still taking my iron supplements for a few more days. I don't know if this is coincidental or not, but on that same Thursday (this past one) I also kicked off the 2008 Winter Head Cold Season with a sore throat which made coming into work on Friday feel like I was walking to my own execution—I was SO tired I literally almost fell asleep on the subway to work, and again at my desk. I tried my best to stay up to watch the 11 PM news last night and barely could.

Last night (Friday night) I slept for the first time without one of those fucking Barbie-mattresses between my legs. Did I mention that I am SO OVER pads? HATE EM. I hate having to pay a million bucks for them (good ones cost a fortune, and believe me, you want a GOOD brand not a shitty generic), I hate having to lug them around to work, I hate wearing them, I hate throwing them out and having fucking medical waste in my kitchen garbage. You know how bad menstrual blood STINKS, even with the amazing blue-gel moisture absorber better brands use?

Another positive happenstance brought about by the cessation of this bleeding: According to my ob-gyn, I can now both take a bath and have penetrative carnal relations again, and while I am in no kind of mood for the latter right now (sorry, Silicon Joe) I may do the former later tonight. A really, REALLY hot bath with some of my star anise bath salts may just be the ticket once I'm done cooking my cabrito (hint, hint—wait till next week!!).

So, now, we're in wait-and-see mode. If I HADN'T stopped bleeding, I would have needed an emergency ablation. If I still get funky bleeding over the next few months, we may yet have to do the ablation. I'm still getting all my info together RE how often, if indeed more than once, one can have this done, and what the next steps are if THAT doesn't make a difference.

One other thing is that for years, I have been considering a tubal ligation. I never wanted kids, and want to get off the pill eventually. I've been bugging various ob-gyns for a cut since I was 19. Personally, I don't consider birth control "reliable" unless it's close to 100% effective. I've tried crap like the cervical cap in the past, and it's just not for me. I know that at my age, it's pretty hard to get pregnant without really trying, but still, having been through a D&C once, it's not something I'd like to ever have happen. However, any form of tubal ligation requires at least one, usually two incisions through the body wall, and also requires general anesthesia. One very good alternative that actually has a HIGHER effectiveness rate than physically cutting the tubes is the Essure method. There, you pretty much use scar tissue to permanently block the tubes. It does involve inserting two MRI-safe metallic springs into your tubes, vaginally. That can be done sans any anesthesia; my ob-gyn just gives a muscle relaxant and it takes about 20 minutes total. Then, three months later, they fill your uterus up with a special dye and using a special external scope, literally just make sure that it's a fluid-tight seal between your uterus and tubes. The game plan is that if I DO need an ablation, she'll put the implants in after she does the ablation. The 10-million dollar question is that if I get the Essure and then need an ablation afterwards, ie if I don't need the ablation right away and get the Essure sooner rather than later, can an ablation be done at a later date? So far, the limited information seems to be yes for a thermal ablation (one using hot water) and probably OK for electrical ablation (issue of metallics is the question here). However, as Essure has been around for about 10 years and the first crop of women who got them are getting Lady Bit Issues pre-menopause, more and more data is coming in. If any of you readers (or your partners) have gotten Essure, please contact e and let me know how it's going.

So, friends, that's a wrap. I'm running a fever now; going to go find aspirin and dinner. Be well, eat well, stay mad, and get the Dem message out! Hugs to all!