RandomBacon & MargarineFlowers

Food, general thoughts, food…


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A rant about public shaming

What is going on in the news/twitter/facebook/everywhere these days? Every person in every situation seems to be faced with the threat of the new ‘shaming’ trend that seems to be sweeping the planet.

Look, I agree that putting your feet on the head rest of the aeroplane seat in front of you is bad behaviour and picking nits out of your child’s hair and squishing them in public seems a little on the unhygienic, and frankly, icky side but these are kind of extreme examples.

Sugar shaming, fat shaming, mummy shaming the list grows by the day. Teachers rifling through kids lunch boxes and calling parents in for a talk if they don’t approve of their lunch box choices (and don’t think for a second that they don’t shame those kids in front of their classmates too). Nasty news articles on women’s bodies, too fat, too skinny, too busty, flat chested, lumpy, knobbly, did you lose that baby weight? Heaven help people if they have nude photographs of themselves because the mere existence of those apparently makes them public property. People judging others on their child raising choices, natural birth v’s caesarean, does your baby sleep with you or have a bedroom of its own, do you feed to a schedule or feed on demand, breast or bottle? If it isn’t exactly the way I choose to do it, well then, you are WRONG! And I will shout it from the rooftops.

I don’t get it, when did everything in life not only become someone else’s business but also become something that other people had an opinion on? Why is everything that is not done my way suddenly wrong? Why do I care what someone else’s life choices are? And why the hell do I think I have the right to go out there and scream my opinion of everything everyone else is doing from the roof tops?

I don’t understand the public shaming trend. It saddens and depresses me.  Once I have filtered all of this hate mail to random strangers out of my news feed of a morning there seems to be less and less to read that is truly news worthy. Of course what is left is also a litany of misery and hate. Too much hate.

Maybe it is because I am an adult now and I read the news. I don’t remember this level of unrest in the world, this amount of prying into people’s personal lives and the callous judgements that people seem to feel they are now entitled to spout. When I look back at the world news from my childhood I find that the unrest was there, the interracial hatreds, the wars, kidnappings and bombings were happening back then too. Extremists and terrorists were wrecking their own personal brands of horror on innocent people, just like today.

Today there are some advances in societal tolerance, if not total expectance, of others life choices but in many ways I think people are meaner and nastier and more petty than before. Salacious gossip and cutting remarks seem to be the standard form of entertainment and there is no privacy, no respect for anyone.

My grandmother often said ‘if you can’t help, at least don’t hurt’

My mother often said ‘if you have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all’

I often say ‘It doesn’t cost you anything to be nice’

I try to follow these sage pieces of advice each day and I keep my nose out of other people’s business. I am a fairly private person and have no interest in prying into others’ lives or passing judgement on their choices and will thank them kindly to have the same respect for me. Meanwhile I will continue my policy of avoiding any kind of glossy magazine and a good half of the internet ‘news’ feed on a daily basis.

Maybe if we could stop ourselves being so judgmental or at the very least button our lips and keep our opinions (ever noticed that they are almost universally negative?) to ourselves we could all co-exist in a happier and more tolerant world minding our own business. That is really all that should be important on a day to day basis. Try and be happy without having to bring anyone else down.

Do try to help but if you can’t, well, at least don’t hurt.


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Cannelloni Con La Ricotta

Cannelloni, the world’s most fiddly dish to prepare (possibly this is an over exaggeration but it is sure the most fiddly one that I bother to make regularly) I Love it!

This is one of those meals that waits until my husband is travelling. He isn’t keen on the spinach. Personally this is a meal that I could eat every day, so long as I had unlimited time to cook, or a chef to prepare for me (if I had a chef I’d probably have him cook other foods though, no point in wasting a good resource)

I have tried cannelloni with other fillings but I keep coming back to this tried and true favourite. Sometimes I will use a store bought sauce in place of a freshly made one and I always mix the cream into the sauce before pouring over the cannelloni.

Cannelloni Con La Ricotta

Serves 5-6

250g spinach, cooked
225g ricotta or cream cheese
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
pinch pepper
10-12 tubes instant cannelloni

Sauce
2 Tbls oil
1*425g can tomato puree
1 tsp basil
1 tsp salt
pinch pepper
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup grated cheese

Preheat oven to 200c.
Mix spinach, ricotta, egg yolks, garlic, cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper together. Fill the
cannelloni tubes. Heat oil in a frying pan, add tomato puree, basil, salt and pepper and
bring to the boil. Remove from heat. In a greased ovenproof dish, pour a thin layer
of sauce. Place the cannelloni in the dish and cover with the sauce and cream.
Sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 25-35 mins until cooked.


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Meat and Potatoes

So, what to do with half a bottle of balsamic salad dressing (after marinating chicken in the other half)? Lamb steaks!

These little lamb steaks marinated in the balsamic dressing all day and then went into the oven in a casserole dish.
About 200C for around 30 mins (until they looked good).
At the same time I did the potatoes and put them in the oven on another shelf.

Cheesy Garlic Potatoes

4 potatoes
salt
pepper
1/2 cup tasty cheese
60g butter
1 clove garlic, minced

Heat oven to 200C.
Microwave potatoes until almost cooked (about 6 minutes)
Combine butter and garlic in sauce pan, melt butter, salt and pepper to taste.
Cut potatoes into thick slices.
Arrange a single layer in baking pan, sprinkle with
cheese and a little garlic butter. Add another layer of potatoes and repeat.
Finish with a layer of cheese. Bake 15-18 minutes.

 


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Balsamic Dressing Chicken

This dinner was beyond simple. A good bottle of balsamic salad dressing, some chicken legs, some time to marinate and then into the oven.

You couldn’t even call that a recipe but I’ll write it down like one and take the credit. Baked in the oven the chicken was tender and tasty and there was plenty of ‘gravy’ to pour over rice. It was that simple, that quick and that good. Finding that bottle of balsamic dressing in the cupboard made my day.

Balsamic Dressing Chicken

1 bottle of good balsamic and oil dressing
6 chicken legs

Marinate the chicken legs in the dressing for 4 or more hours.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Place the chicken and the marinade into a baking tray.
Leave in the oven until browned and cooked though.
Serve with rice or potato bake.


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Gingerbread

My daughter fancied making gingerbread men the other day. Being bereft of a man shaped cutter she settled on a heart shape. These ended up being a soft chewy cookie, the icing giving them a bit of a crunch. She enjoyed the process and we all enjoyed the results.

Gingerbread

125g butter, at room temperature
100g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
125ml (1/2 cup) golden syrup
1 egg, separated
375g (2 1/2 cups) plain flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Plain flour, to dust
1/2 tsp lemon juice
150g (1 cup) pure icing sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 180°C.
Brush 2 baking trays with melted butter to lightly grease.
Use an electric beater to beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy.
Add the golden syrup and egg yolk and beat until combined.
Stir in the flour, ginger, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda.
Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth.
Press dough into a disc.
Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
Meanwhile, place egg white and lemon juice in a clean, dry bowl. Use an electric beater to beat until soft peaks form.
Gradually add icing sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Divide icing among 3 bowls.
Add desired colouring to the bowls and stir until combined.
Cover bowls with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
Place the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper and roll out until about 4mm thick.
Use a cutter to cut out shapes. Place on trays about 3cm apart. Repeat with any excess dough.
Bake in oven for 10 minutes or until brown. Remove from oven. Transfer to a rack to cool.
Decorate with prepared icing either with a knife or piping bag, or both.


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Crispy Fish and Roasted Cauliflower

Another mayonnaise coated marvel! This time the mayo was cut with milk which made it a bit easier to coat the fish with it. The lemon pepper was the star of the show flavouring the breadcrumbs strongly as it is wont to do. I used cod fish for this recipe, its tender yet firm texture lends itself well to being crumbed and baked in the oven.

I am really loving this mayonnaise/crumb technique, it is simple and much quicker and easier (in my opinion) than the old flour/egg/crumb technique. The flavour of the mayonnaise doesn’t seem to come through strongly or at all and the crumb sticks beautifully.

I served this with wedges that I oven roasted from the last 3 potatoes that I had on hand (time to go shopping) and oven roasted cauliflower.

Just in case you have never tried it (I hadn’t until then) oven roasted cauliflower is awesome! I’d seen it done before but never tried it. The lack of potatoes spurred me on to try something new and the cauliflower was in the fridge. I’ve put that recipe below also.

 

Crispy Fish

Oil cooking spray
2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup fine dried bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
750g boned, skinned fish fillet, rinsed and patted dry.

Spray a nonstick baking sheet with cooking spray. In a bowl, whisk mayonnaise and milk.
In another bowl, mix bread crumbs, salt, and lemon pepper.
Dip each piece of fish into mayonnaise mixture, turning to coat, then roll in bread-crumb mixture, turning to coat.
Place pieces slightly apart on baking sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray.
Bake on the top rack of a 250C oven until surface is browned and fish is opaque but still moist-looking in the center (cut to test), 12 to 14 minutes.

 

Roasted Cauliflower

1 large head cauliflower
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 180C. Rinse cauliflower; break or slice into florets.
In a large bowl or re-sealable plastic bag, mix together cauliflower slices, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread in a single layer in a non-stick baking dish, or aluminum foil lined rimmed baking sheet.
Bake prepared cauliflower approximately 20 to 25 minutes, turning every once, or until cauliflower is browned or caramelized on edges and tender.
Remove from oven and serve warm or at room temperature.


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I have depression but its okay

Depression. It is a word that you hear a lot lately. As the stigmatism of having some kind of mental health issue fades more and more people are willing to discuss the subject, particularly on the internet where we find some degree of anonymity. There is a chance that some friends and family members will read what you have written but chances are that they are well aware of what your issues are, long before they read about them online. If they don’t have a good grasp on it yet then reading about your difficulties and journey can be helpful in assisting them to understand how it is to be you. This is true of every person, mental health issues or no. The majority of people who are online searching for answers to their own inner demons and stumble across your blog will be complete strangers and if they can take at least some comfort out of not being alone in the world then your words have provided both a cathartic release for yourself and possibly a lifeline for someone else.

My own struggle has been going on as long as I can remember, definitely since my early 20’s, probably long before that. Even now saying the word ‘struggle’ does not seem to comfortably fit with my experience. I have a wonderful life. It hasn’t been a day to day struggle, although there were times when I was making other plans and life came and kicked me in the bum. There were moments when I thought ‘how did it come to this?’ but all in all, life has been fairly good to me. I have had my share of joys and sorrows, pleasure and pain, just like everyone else in this world. I was lucky to be born in a country free of war zones or strife, I have never known what it is really like to go hungry or be homeless. In comparison with a large part of the world, I have nothing to complain about.

That said, the fact that many people have a harder, in fact a terrible life does not make the suffering and pain of any other being less valid. We should be grateful each day for the blessings in our lives but learn to live without the guilt in knowing that we are fortunate when so many others are not. We should strive to be kind and generous, to help and assist where we can and offer support and friendship to as many people as possible but we also need to realise that our own feelings are valid at the same time regardless of the situation of others.

For more years than I care to remember I struggled with my issues, call it extreme empathy, depression or whatever box it fits comfortably in. I went through the gamut of emotions, questioning myself and my right to feel this way when my life was so normal, so easy. I considered talking to my doctor so many times and then second guessed myself, telling myself to’ get over it’, ‘suck it up’, ‘stop feeling sorry for yourself’. There was no reason to feel the way I felt, no reason to break down emotionally in random situations, no reason for these breakdowns to get worse and more frequent as the years went by. I am lucky in that I don’t have to go out much so most of my breakdowns were confined to home but the concern on my husband’s face as I cried like my life was over for days in a row with no explanation except a wailed ‘I don’t know what is wrong’ in between sobs showed me that he wasn’t sure if he believed me. I hated my breakdowns, I hated myself for worrying the people I loved, I didn’t understand it but I couldn’t help it, I had no control.

The crunch came for me when I broke down in a restaurant one day, out of the blue, no reason needed. I burst into loud sobbing wails and ran from the restaurant with my bewildered kids and husband trailing behind me. Holding my hand over my face to try to block the staring views of strangers and stood on the curb crying like my childhood pet had been run over, right there, in front of me. I was embarrassed for myself and doubly so for my children and husband who were most likely now the subject of some speculation ‘just what did they do to her?’. I thought again about seeing my doctor but again I put it off, telling myself that it was nothing, that I just had to learn to control myself. Considering that I am over 40 and my level of control has been decreasing steadily over the past few years, this was a ridiculous position to take but that was my somewhat wonky reasoning.

2 weeks later I was sitting at my computer reading the news. There was a story there that just by the headline, I knew I should avoid. I did, I ignored that story for 2 full days, then they had an update on the story and I clicked and read and immediately knew that this was one of those things that was going to set me off. I cried for almost a week about that news story. A story about something I had never experienced and that I didn’t relate to personally but the grief I felt was no less real for all that. Every time I thought about it I would break down again, I couldn’t go to sleep, my husband was beside himself. I couldn’t explain myself, I didn’t understand myself…

I went to the doctor, about something unrelated and found myself not wanting to leave once I had finished discussing the issue I had come for. I suddenly blurted ‘I am not coping’ and ‘I need help’ and sat with my hands clenched in my lap waiting for his patient ridicule of my situation. Instead I got questions, calm, thoughtful, considered questions. We discussed my problems, my home life, my health and in the end, satisfied that my emotional outbursts were indeed negatively affecting my life, he offered to write me a prescription if I thought it would help. I said I would think about it and went home again to discuss this idea with my family. I wanted them all to know and see what they thought. If I had been offered treatment for being diabetic then I would have accepted right away and thoroughly discussed it with my family after I got home but with a metal health issue and all of the stigmatism surrounding it, I wasn’t happy to accept help, I wasn’t ready to admit that a tablet might make my quality of life better by adjusting my brain chemistry, not without the support of my family.

I returned to the doctor the next week and got my prescription. I went straight to the chemist and filled it. The lovely lady behind the counter tried to be discreet while talking to me in front of a crowd of strangers and whispered ‘is it for depression?’ I held my head up and answered ‘yes’ admitting it out loud for the first time. I drove home with the little bag on the seat next to me. I sat it on the kitchen bench and looked at it in passing for the rest of the day. That evening I opened the bag and took out the box of tablets, I opened it and was surprised at how tiny they were. I popped one out on the bench and looked at it for a while and went to get a glass of water. It took some time for me to decide to take it, even then I was almost sure that I would find that nothing changed, this couldn’t fix something that wasn’t broken, I wasn’t broken, I wasn’t…broken.

That was 3 months ago now. The tablets made me a bit nauseous for the first few weeks and I yawned a lot, both side effects that I was told about. I was fortunate not to experience any other side effects. My life is pretty much the same today as it was 4 months ago, I am still in love with my husband, I have wonderful kids who drive me a little crazy at times, I have a job and a mortgage and bills to worry about but I don’t cry all the time and I get a lot less migraines than I used to. I cannot explain how much these little white tablets have changed my life, most outsiders who never saw the dark days wouldn’t see any difference. I have cried once since beginning to take my tablets but I cried for a reason, I had a reason to explain my sadness, it didn’t just burst out of me like some alien that had been incubating undetected in my chest, suddenly terrifying both myself and the people around me. Once in 3 months. I can’t believe it myself.

I am not sure if I will take these tablets forever, I am getting older and my hormones are beginning to run riot in my body, changing things forever. Maybe one day I won’t need them anymore, but I am happy to accept their help until that time. I could beat myself up about not talking to my doctor 20 years ago but I no longer have the desire to do that either, it isn’t productive or helpful. It wasn’t productive or helpful for the 20 years that I did do it to myself but at least now I can stop if I start. Being angry and sad and frustrated with yourself for being angry and sad and frustrated is something that just becomes a self-perpetuating spiral of misery.

It isn’t always easy to admit that you need help and it isn’t always easy to see that you really do need help. I am glad I finally did both.