What terrible thing have I done to anger the gods of cooking so??  Here is a quote from last night’s post: “As I have said far too often, I am out of my comfort zone when trying to cook.  That is why the Anniversary Dinner tomorrow is a carry-out special.  It does demand cooking the Prime Rib for an hour, and reheating the side dishes that came with it.  I should be able to handle that much, but who knows how it will come out.”  The last clause was prophetic.

Last night’s post also noted that the Honey Crunch Pecan Pie had sloshed a couple of times leaving pools of surgary filling on the bottom of the stove.  Why do I suspect that everyone reading this who has ever cooked already knows what happened this morning.  Here is the what I brought home from the Brick Oven Restaurant for our Anniversary Celebation dinner with three couples who drove over from Kansas City:  five pounds of Prime Rib, Baby Red Potato Cheese Bake, Tasso Corn Bake (a signature dish), Au Jus, Creamy Horse Radish & Dinner Rolls.

All I had to do was finish cooking the Prime Rib for an hour in the oven and reheat the side dishes in the microwave.  You know what happened when I turned the oven on to preheat it to 275 degrees.  Yes, the smoke started pouring out of the oven vent.  It wasn’t just a little bit of smoke, but thick smoke as in burning sugar.  Again, I had to pull out the sheet entitled “How to Cancel a False Alarm” just in case the smoke detector went off.

It is good that it was not seven degrees with a wind chill outside since I had to open every window in the kitchen, the front door, open the door to the garage (and open the garage door itself).  Of course, I had no choice but to put the Prime Rib into the smoking oven, since there would soon be eight of us sitting at the table intent on eating an Anniversary Dinner. One of the side dishes managed to bubble over in the microwave to add insult to injury.

Then there was the award-winning Honey Crunch Pecan Pie for dessert.  After all the challenges getting it cooked last night, it actually looked pretty good.  And, it would have been perfect if it were called Honey Crunch Pecan Upside Down Cobbler!!! It looked like it was done.  It didn’t jiggle when I moved it.  When I cut it and tried to get a piece out to put on the dessert plate, what ended up on the plate was a dark brown heap of goo with nuts in it and pieces of crust trailing through it. That piece and every one after it came out the same way.

We squirted Redi-Whip (the one that is cream, not oil) on each piece and ate our dessert.  There was some sympathy applause in the form of verbal commnets on how good it was.

I will admit publicly here that twice in the course of getting the rolls heated and in the basket, some of them fell on the floor.  I had just cleaned that floor with my Swiffer Wetjet mop shortly before the Kansas City Crew arrived.  I am sure it was completely sterile.  There were two different witnesses, one to each drop.  They each promised secrecy, each unaware of the other.  Needless to say they were both guys.  We grew up eating dirt on occasion — so what’s the deal?

The good news was that the Prime Rib was spectacular, the side dishes were each distinctive and wonderful tasting.  We had a great conversation, and in spite of looking less than appetizing, the Honey Crunch Pecan Upside Down Cobbler really tasted as good as would be expected for an award-winner.

Will I ever do such a thing again, invite people over for a meal at our house? Unless I can figure out what I did to anger the gods of cooking and atone for my sins, I think not.  Hold it!!! Our Son and Daughter, their Spouses and our Grandchildren will be arriving at our home Sunday late in the morning so that we can have Christmas Dinner together.  There will be nine people!  I am preparing that dinner!  Maybe they won’t read this post before Sunday.  Who knows what I can do to ham steaks, cheesy potatoes, grape salad, garden corn — and half of a Prime Rib roast left over from today (it was huge).

No, I will not be making Rosalie’s Honey Crunch Pecan Pie!!!! (I may, however have a large glass of the secret ingredient in that pie — check last night’s post.)

Mary Ann was quite subdued today.  She seemed very tired.  It was hard for her to get to sleep last night.  She seemed excited about today.  I am not sure if she engaged in conversation when I was out of the room, but it did not appear to me that she was very responsive and communicative.  She went to bed at 6:30pm after napping with her head on the table in front of her transfer chair for an hour or so before then.  I hope she perks up by Sunday when the kids are all here.

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There were dirty pans and bowls and silverware everywhere!! How on earth did I get myself into this! We are not talking about anything that took so much as a shred of culinary skill. Stuffing and Broccoli salad are about as uncomplicated as food preparation can get, but it seemed like a monumental accomplishment to this very reluctant cook.

The plan for Thanksgiving seemed so simple.  There would be nothing resembling cooking.  Ribs, chopped pork and brisket along with a side dish would be picked up from the ToGo counter at the newly opened Famous Dave’s Barbecue nearby.  Our Son, Daughter-in-Law and Granddaughter are coming from Kansas City, an hour away, to join us for a while on Thanksgiving.  We will celebrate Granddaughter Chloe’s eleventh birthday at the same time.  The actual day was a week ago.

When we were at the grocery two days ago getting some odds and ends, Mary Ann’s feet hit the floor bringing the wheelchair to an immediate stop.  By the way, the pain that translates into my forearm (I push the chair with one hand and pull the grocery cart with the other) whenever those rubber soles so much as touch the tile floor is memorable.  The chair stopped in front of the bags of Pepperidge Farm seasoned stuffing 0n display.

I reminded Mary Ann what the plans for Thanksgiving, did not include turkey and trimmings this year.  We went on to get some other food items.  For some reason we had to double back and pass by the same display.  Those feet hit the floor again. We will have ribs and dressing tomorrow.

She wanted dressing, so we will have dressing.  At times like this, Mary Ann just moves back to a time when she was still cooking and needs to prepare food as she did before or early in the Parkinson’s.   Now, I am the one who needs to bring her intentions into a reality.  With Mary Ann in the kitchen, I made the dressing.  There were onions to be chopped along with celery.  They were cooked in butter for a few minutes, followed by the addition of the Pepperidge Farm dressing and liquid (chicken broth in a box) to the pan.  Then an apple needed to be cut into small pieces,  pecans chopped, a few handfuls of raisins, dried Cranberries, cut up apricots and dried blueberries put in the measuring cup.  All of them were added, folded in and the final product was put in baking dish, ready to for the oven tomorrow.

Then came the Broccoli salad prep.  Out of the blue yesterday afternoon, Mary Ann decided we needed to make broccoli salad.  After the stuffing was in the fridge, the broccoli heads needed to be transformed into very small pieces of broccoli.  Another onion, this time chopped into very tiny pieces, more raisins, dried cranberries and dried blueberries were all mixed together.  We happened to have in the freezer the requisite bacon bits to mix in also.  A bottle of salad dressing was added to the mixture, which then went into the fridge to marinate.  Tomorrow a cup of sunflower seeds will be tossed in just before serving.

At this point, with stuffing, broccoli salad, Cranberry celebration from the deli counter at the grocery, a Copper Oven pumpkin pie and a second pumpkin pie from Mary, along with Cool Whip for the pie, we may as well have gotten a smoked turkey, made mashed potatoes and had a traditional Thanksgiving meal. As it is, it will be a very interesting Thanksgiving meal.

I was, of course, ambivalent about tackling even those simply made dishes.  My first reaction to Mary Ann’s suggestions included a twinge of resentment that I would be the one required to do that actual preparation.  I realized it would be a good thing to do that food preparation because Mary Ann would be pleased having the items at the table as the food she brought to the meal.  It would give us some time during which we would both be focused on the preparation task.

Both food items are now prepared and in the fridge.  As the day wore on a supper meal also had to be prepared.  More onions, some bratwurst that had been browned, sliced apples and Bavarian style sauerkraut all cooked together to flavor one another served as supper.

I have no idea how it is possible to end up with so many dirty pans and utensils, cutting boards, bowls, measuring cups, and dishes — and these were simple dishes to make.

When the time came to decide what we would do about the evening Thanksgiving service tonight, Mary Ann had used up her day’s energy.  She was in bed before the Service would have concluded.  In years past we attended the Thanksgiving Day morning service, which was discontinued this year.  It was a smaller group, making it easier for us to negotiate, and it was at a time of day that was easier for us to manage.

Mary Ann did pretty well today.  There was no nap, but she is still having a little trouble settling.  Hopefully she will sleep most of the rest of the night. Tomorrow is a big day.

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At least I can cook in the crock pot! Oh yeah???  I have done it many times before — just brown some meat, put some of that chicken broth in a box in the browning pan, scrape off the good stuff on the bottom of the pan, put it in the crock pot, add whatever else goes with the planned result, and let it all cook a few hours.

Tonight was a neighborhood potluck.  I decided to make the old standby, pork, KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce, and canned beans added a couple of hours before serving.  It tastes great.  Actually, it turned out fine and was eaten by many at the potluck.

However!!!  I sliced a large piece of boneless pork loin inte seven thick slices.  As usual, I heated some olive oil in the pan to brown the meat.  As the meat was browning, there was a little more smoke than usual — not sure why.  You can guess what happened.  The smoke detector that has been a part of our security system that was in the house when we moved in thirteen years ago, the one that is monitored for a monthly charge — the smoke detector activated the horn that is loud enough to wake the dead.  By the way, Mary Ann was still sleeping when this happened.

Unwisely, we never use the system.  I thought the smoke detector didn’t work.  It does!!  In fact, it would not shut up!!  I punched the keypad.  It stopped — for a very few minutes — then started again.  I punched numbers, every set I could remember ever using, but it always came back on after a few minutes.  I opened every door and window I could, started a fan, it still wouldn’t stop.  There was no longer any visible smoke, and it still wouldn’t stop.

I frantically searched through a drawer (about eight inches deep) filled to the top with various instruction and warranty booklets that came with with all sorts of purchases, some we no longer own.  Finally, I came upon something from the security company, something with a phone number.  I called.

The person on the other end was sympathetic.   Together we discovered some good news and some bad news.  It was the same news that was both good and bad.  They had no signal and there were no fire engines that had been dispatched.  I was grateful that there were no fire engines about to come roaring into our quiet subdivision.  I was also distressed to think that were this a real fire, there would be no fire engines coming to put it out.

The dispatcher did not manage to provide what I needed to stop the horn from sounding.  She did transfer me to customer service to talk about getting someone out to determine why they received no signal.  All this while the horn was coming back on, I would run and punch in what I determined was our code, which would stop it for a few minutes.  In the course of the the conversation with the Customer Service tech, she told me how to reset the system after there was no more smoke.  There had been no smoke for about fifteen minutes — just the horn blasting.

At $95 for the first 30 minutes and $25 for each 15 minutes after that, a tech is coming to the house this Friday to determine why there was no signal to the monitoring folks that the smoke detector was going off.

By the way, there were, of course, some needs to be met in my Caregiving role while this was happening.  Mary Ann did as much as she could to allow me to deal with the madness.

When finally it was all over, the food was in the crock pot and we were rushing to get out the door so that we could make it to church (just in the nick of time for the 11:15am service — by the way, there is no 11:15am service — it is at 11am) — I announced to Mary Ann in no uncertain terms that that would be the last time I cook!!!!!!  It will be sandwiches and TV dinners and fast food from now on and that is that!

So that those who read this blog will not now call the authorities to rescue this poor woman from a mad man who will no longer feed her anything but junk food, I will resume my feeble attempts at providing nourishing fare for Mary Ann.  I promise!

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I thawed the roast in the microwave and cut it into two pieces to be sure it thawed completely and would fit into the crockpot.  Then I heated the large pan to brown the meat in olive oil.  As usual, the stove and the floor in front of it glistened with the olive oil splatter before all sides of the the two pieces of beef were browned. 

I put the beef into the crock pot with some red wine and a packet of Onion soup mix and turned it on high.  Then I browned lots of onions and some garlic in the same pan and set it aside to put in the crock pot later. 

After a trip out to Bobo’s Drive-in and an enjoyable visit with the bearer of some chocolate (local source for chocolate is named Audrey), I got to the business of getting the veggies prepared and into the pot.  There were carrots, potatoes, some celery, the onions and garlic from earlier to be added.  After that had cooked a while, just for the heck of it, I tossed in a can of corn and a can of green beans.  I have trouble knowing when to stop when making these sorts of things.  I am of the school that says, whatever the ingredient, if some is good, more is better.  I have trouble with pots that seem consistently to be too small.  I did have enough sense to add a second packet of onion soup mix so that here would be enough seasoning to handle such a large quantity of food. 

The process began around noon.  The last of the veggies went in some time before 5pm.   It was about 7pm when we sat down to eat.   The potatoes still weren’t done.  Yes, I cut them into fairly small pieces so that they would cook more quickly. 

Needless to say, Mary Ann did not eat much of my culinary delight and needed a snack before bed (the usual little Snack Pack container of tapioca pudding).  The hallucinations are now interfering with her settling in and going to sleep.  It may be another long night.

By the way, I turned the crock pot on high after supper, and a couple of hours later it tasted great — to me.  I suspect Mary Ann will not be interested in trying it again.  That is our usual pattern. 

I guess it is a combination of laziness, lack of experience in cooking, and the disincentive of Mary Ann’s pretty narrow range of what is acceptable to her to eat that fuels my failure to launch in providing regular nourishing meals for Mary Ann.  Today is probably the first time in a week or so that I have attempted to do anything other than make sandwiches, take her out, give her what she brought back from the last time we went out, or eat the food that folks sometimes bring over or provide for us. 

I have to admit, that it continues to be a source of shame and embarrassment to me that I have not done better at fulfillling my Caregiving duties in the area of food preparation.  The food that I do prepare tastes good to me.  I love leftovers and eat as much as I can of what we have.  I  am over twenty pounds overweight — a lot for this five foot, six inch frame.  The freezer is full of food that I will eat and Mary Ann will not.  What I make is usually, as was so today, crammed full of veggies and all cooked together.  It is just not appetizing to her. 

Actually, I have no excuse for not doing a better job in this arena.  Our close friends in Kansas City include a husband caring for his wife with ALS.  Charlie does a great job of providing a variety of tasty and healthful meals.  I think Marlene would agree, other than that he doesn’t always listen to her instructions as he is cooking.  I am a reasonably intelligent person; I can read; I can (reluctantly) follow directions — as in recipes.  I have watched and enjoyed lots of cooking shows over the years.   There were Francois Pope (Chicago area), The Galloping Gourmet, The Frugal Gourmet, Justin Wilson — The Cajun Cook, Yan Can Cook, Lidia, plus all the recent and current Food Channel cooks.  You would think I might have absorbed something.  All I seem to have retained from all of it is a voracious appetite.  The cooking looks like fun, but the eating is funner!

Oh well, no one said it would be easy!  As long as there are Glory Day’s pizza by the slice, Long John Silver’s, Bobo’s, McFarland’s, The Classic Bean, Copper Oven, Perkin’s, Jersey Mike’s, New City Cafe, Panera’s, Steak and Shake, Subway (unless they keep showing that annoying commercial with the out of key singing), and a cluster of ice cream and frozen custard places, Mary Ann won’t starve (at least until we run out of money).   

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