What’s For Dinner by Ana Simmonds [dinner recipes]


  • Full Title : What’s For Dinner: Food Made Easy
  • Autor: Ana Simmonds
  • Print Length: 231 pages
  • Publisher: 
  • Publication Date: August 6, 2012
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: B008U11R6W
  • ISBN-13: 
  • Download File Format: pdf, epub

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For as long as I can remember, good cooking has been something I always admired in others. I tried so many cookbooks, but there was always something missing. I could not get consistent results. With my husband’s help, who is a genius in the kitchen, I found there were often instructions not included in the recipe. Since I had insufficient knowledge about cooking times, temperatures and ingredients, I was struggling. I know they say you have to just feel it and you’ll know what to do, but they have been doing it for years and years…

With this book, I hope to share the knowledge to succeed in cooking good meals for your family or for a party, time after time.

If you are worried about calories, I tried to give as much nutritional information as possible to help you keep calorie intake, fats and carbs in check.

With this book I want to show you that cooking is only as complex as you want to make it. ‘What’s for dinner’ wants to be a simple, easy-to-follow step by step compendium of some of our favourite family recipes. It is designed to show busy families what to cook, how to cook it and like it. It is packed with all kinds of tips and recipes that have impressed over the years, stuff that tastes good, stuff that looks good and even stuff that your kids will like to be involved in making and eating.

So have fun and eat well!

 

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ted writing back, sharing their doubts and fears and frustrations with me. It changed everything in such a positive, wonderful way. I am so grateful to all of them—to all of you. It takes bravery to share your troubles. It takes grit and guts and gumption. Thank you for easing my troubles, for putting your wisdom and pain out there for everyone to benefit from. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent propped up in my bed reading through the hundreds and hundreds of comments you’ve left on my Facebook pages. I’ve laughed out loud and cried quietly and I have to say, I feel much less alone for having reached out. Losing someone an inch at a time is extremely hard.

This book is a glimpse into my journey with memory loss but it’s also a journey that thousands and thousands of us are on with our mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and husbands and wives and uncles and aunts and grandmothers and grandfathers and even children.

Alzheimer’s and dementia have always been there, but perhaps families in earlier generations absorbed their elderly folks into the fold of home more gracefully. Many of us these days don’t have the kind of lives or rooted family structures that enable us to cope with parents, or grandparents, who can’t manage on their own, and we have to find nursing homes for them. Some of these places are great, some not so good, some downright depressing and dehumanizing. It’s an agonizing decision and one that can be hard to live with. So far I’ve been lucky enough to have the means to keep Mom at home with me, and ways to meet the challenges that entails. The stories and the recipes in this book are what I have to share about how we’re managing—about the road my mom and all the people who love her are travelling. It was written with humility, and sadness, and fear, and panic, and joy.

What I’ve learned is that no matter what comes you’ve got to wrap yourself in all the goodness you can muster. That’s what my mom does every single day.

Last week as we were driving into town to buy a few groceries, she told me that she was eighty per cent happy. That made me laugh really hard. “Eighty per cent, Mom? Well, that’s way better than me!”

She told me that I would have to work on that…

June 14, 2014

It’s been an interesting, daunting, scary, anxiety-ridden week. Last Wednesday I ended up calling an ambulance to come and gather up my very delusional, incontinent, falling-all-over-the-place father. My mom and I had tried to “work through” whatever issues he was having for about forty-eight hours when I finally realized that it was something more than him just not feeling good. He couldn’t answer my questions, and when he did try to answer, his responses were so abstract and zany we couldn’t help but smile (through our fear).

It’s difficult watching your parents getting older, and frailer, and increasingly more forgetful. I have watched some of my friends go through similar things with their folks over the past few years, and it’s been agonizing to see them with such heavy hearts, so uncertain about what to do next. It’s like one moment you are asking for permission to go to a high school dance and the next you’re driving into town on a Depends run for your father.

It turns out my dad had some sort of “mystery infection” that triggered the apparent delirium. It’s been squashed with antibiotics, but the doctor told us it can take months for an elderly person’s mind to clear after such an infection. He has also been diagnosed with dementia, which we more or less knew, as it has come up before in some of his testing. He also has type 2 diabetes and some kidney issues and really crappy circulation in his legs, which makes it hard for him to walk. Other than that, he is super-healthy.

What do we do next?

Well, we want to bring him home. We are just trying to sort out what his needs are going to be once he gets here. So far, I think Mom and I will need:

a Sherpa to get him up the stairs to his bedroom

a comedian

an award-winning food network chef

a full-time housekeeper

a butler

a chauffeur

a pharmacist

a team of nurses

a large oxygen tank

one of those electric hospital beds

a soft-serve ice-cream machine

a gardener

and a drug dealer for my mother and myself.

Apparently the government will provide us with three hours a week of in-home help of some sort for free. What a load off our shoulders.

Seriously, though, you have to enter this stage of life with a sense of humour. Not only for your aging parents’ sakes, but for yourself. Laughter is an amazing love potion and medicine—an incredible healer—and sometimes it’s the help you need at the end of a long, hard, delirium-filled day.

June 15, 2014

My dad called Mom this morning from the hospital and asked her how she was. I thought that was adorable. I just need to secure the Sherpa and ice-cream machine and we can bring him home.

June 17, 2014

Well, my dad gets to come home today. Apparently he is already dressed and sitting on the edge of his bed, ready for us to pick him up.

Every time I went to visit him, he was lying in his bed with his brown leather shoes on. He told me that he was keeping them on his feet because things go missing around there. It made me laugh.

Life is funny. The subject of death can be, too. One day my mom told me that if Dad were to die in the yard, she and I would have to somehow get him into the wheelbarrow and push him up to the house so that the ambulance guys wouldn’t have to do it. I am not kidding. Either that, she said, or we’d throw a tarp over him so the dogs wouldn’t “get at him.” Every time I look at the wheelbarrow now, I smile, thinking of my mom’s way of solving problems.

She’s never been sentimental. She looks at life with such economy and practicality. She lives in the day and doesn’t get too far ahead of herself. When I was nine or ten, she told us at the supper table one night that we would all die one day and that we needed to try and have a happy life. That always stuck with me. To never talk about death is just plain silly. It’s like not talking about one of the most important things in our existence.

I hope my dad has a happy summer. I hope he can sit in his lawn chair and yell at me about how I am using the weed eater wrong, or pruning the trees wrong, or hoeing the garden wrong. For some reason, I am looking forward to the old grouch hollering orders at me like I’m some waitress.

June 25, 2014

My dad has been home just over a week. He is so changed. His facial expressions, even his gestures, are somehow unfamiliar to me—the way his mouth turns down at one corner, the way he looks past you over your shoulder, the way he holds his fork and knife like he is not sure what they’re for. The grouchy, strict man who raised three kids, and poured concrete pads his whole life, has left the building. This man is quiet and still, perhaps wondering what his future holds. I catch him standing at the kitchen window looking down the road. His thumbs are shoved through his belt loops, and his jaw moves side to side.

You would think that my mother would be torn apart over losing (more or less) her partner of fifty-six years, but she’s steady and calm and goes about her chores around the house without any visible sadness. She’ll tell me, “Jann, that’s just the way it goes. That’s life. What can you do?” She never spends any time feeling sorry for herself—she has bird feeders to fill and squirrels to entertain, after all. She’s tied strips of cloth—bits of cut-up tube socks and T-shirts and old aprons—to a dozen tree branches out in the yard. “The squirrels make their beds with them,” she answered when I asked what in the hell they were for.

“That’s weird, Mom.”

“They love them. I put new ones out every few days because they all disappear.”

She gets up in the morning and feeds the dogs and putters around. Makes herself and Dad a protein shake with anything that happens to be sitting on the kitchen counter, throwing bananas or nuts or apples into the blender with a scoop of “powder” as she calls it.

She vacuums every single day without fail and does at least one load of laundry. She never says, “I don’t know what I’ll do without your dad.” She always tells me that she’ll be fine, though she says she does worry sometimes. But that’s what people do. They worry and let their brains run around like chickens in a slaughterhouse. That’s what I do, too much of the time.

We are going to try and keep Dad at home. We’ll make a few modifications in the bathrooms and we’ll bubble-wrap everything. (Kidding.) That has always been the plan.

Mom and I think that Dad will outlive us. He always lands on his feet somehow, the guy who drank and smoked his whole life like some kind of movie star. He still has good days when he makes sense and bad days when we feel like we’re playing charades as we try to figure out what he’s trying to tell us.

Yesterday he called me and said, “I just wanted to touch base about your financial situation and whatnot.” After many failed guesses, I finally figured out he was calling to find out what time I was making him dinner.

mom and dad

together for fifty-eight years

July 1, 2014

I have been in Nashville the past few days, getting some writing done and having a little bit of a break from my folks. Though I worry constantly, and I have been calling them three times a day to make sure they are all right.

I keep thinking that I shouldn’t have come down here, but Dad seemed to be pretty good. I’ll be home on Saturday around suppertime and am hoping that they can keep themselves fed and alive until then.

Of course, as soon as I landed in Nashville, I was getting messages from friends that a tornado had touched down about an hour outside of Calgary. I phoned home to check in, and Mom told me the weather had been so horrible the big dogs ripped the moulding off the door leading from the garage into the house, because they thought the end of the world was upon them. She let them come and lie down on the kitchen floor and took my little Midi upstairs to their walk-in closet.

“Why did you go upstairs, Mom. I thought when a tornado is coming you’re supposed to go into the basement?”

“I just thought Midi would like it in there.”

“I thought you were finally out of the closet, Mom.”

That made her laugh. “Well, I guess not…”

Mom has also been giving me daily updates on Midi’s bowel movements, which she delivers in a flat, newscaster’s voice that makes me laugh every time. “She had a big poo, so that was good.” Or, “Dad took her around the yard to poo, but he doesn’t know if she did or not, I guess we’ll find out.”

Mom always says, “There is no news around here,” and then proceeds to tell me a long list of things that seem to be of great importance to her.

She and Dad have had the TV stuck on Fox News since I left. “The remote quit working,” she told me, which means that my dad probably pressed the wrong button and then kept pressing buttons. I don’t even know how to start telling them how to fix it. It’s one of those universal remotes that are supposed to be able to tell you what to do if something goes wrong, which is why I got it in the first place.

I don’t know what I would do without my friend Donna, who checks on them all the time. Last night she made them chicken and my mom told me it was better than “the stuff I made.”

As I hung up the phone from this call, I could hear my dad in the background saying that the goddamn TV was still stuck. My mom began to answer him as she put the phone back in its cradle, and we were cut off. I could picture them in their recliners, staring at that remote control like it was some kind of evil puzzle set by the devil himself.

It’s hard being away from home. Not just home I guess, but my family and my friends and my stuff and sometimes my dog(s) and my cat.

I have been travelling for over thirty years for my job and it never gets easier. I have to make sure that I keep up some routines even when I am not waking up in my own house. I have to be mindful of how I am feeling and what I am thinking because it’s too easy, when you’re away from home, to fall into a slump—not quite depression, but it could turn into that if I am not mindful of how I am and who I am. I don’t want to sound like I sleep in a pyramid wearing healing crystals around my ankles, I only want to stress how important it is to keep a watch on how fast you’re running around.

I make sure to take time in the morning to simply lie there for an extra few minutes to prepare myself for my day. I don’t turn on the TV or pick up my phone. I just take a minute to say to myself that I am going to be okay and that my day is going to be a good one. It may seem like a small thing, but intention is huge. Intentions are what I am made up of. I intend to do good things and that is something that keeps me balanced and serene.

I always make sure to eat something when I first get up, whether that’s an apple stolen from the hotel lobby, an energy bar, a package of cookies from the airplane the day before, a muffin or a bag of peanuts that’s been in my purse for a week. You cannot function without food in the morning.

Another thing I do is sit peacefully for a few minutes to try to sort out everything that’s going through my brain. I stop to ask myself how I feel. It may seem silly, but how often do you ask yourself that question? How am I? A simple thing, but it keeps me sane.

Travelling is not for the frail or weary.

July 6, 2014

My cat, Sweetpea, is completely blind. I think her hearing is starting to go too. She is nineteen years old, still has pretty great-looking fur, still cleans herself, still spirited even with all her obvious little glitches.

She is, however, peeing and pooping all over the house. I’ve been putting off the inevitable for two months, torn between having her stay and graciously “letting her go.” She loves sitting in the sun. She still loves to roll in catnip—I put out so much for her she always looks like she’s covered in oregano—and have her chin scratched. Even though I want her to have one last great summer, the “waste” issue is wearing me down. Though maybe it’s partly my fault: I have been giving her a lot of treats and feeding her as much cat food as she wants, whenever she wants.

I know some people would say, “Hey, don’t feel guilty, it’s just what has to be done.” But I do feel guilty. Thinking about having the vet come here to deliver that ever-so-final little prick that allows her to drift off to forever land keeps me awake at night. I feel like I am facing two really bad choices.

I am watching Sweetpea now. She’s circling the kitchen floor and bumping into the chairs like a furry pinball machine. It makes me smile, although it’s not that funny, especially not for her. She is trying to find her way back to her couch, which I’ve covered with old bedsheets because she sheds so much. She is having a harder and harder time figuring out where her bed is. I feel like I am watching her decline inch by inch, unable to make that phone call to my trusted vet, my dear friend Judith.

I wish I could find the simple strength to do the right thing. This really sucks.

July 13, 2014

Of course I always knew that my parents would get older, that things would change. But I wasn’t prepared for how much they would change and how quickly. It’s been uplifting and heartbreaking and mind-boggling watching what a fifty-six-year marriage means to two people when things start to fall apart, and how adaptable those two people have to be.

My parents do this kind of dance in the house, weaving in and around each other without really having to think about who will move where or how or when. It is a dance created over time, through practice and repetition. By this point they read each other through a glance, even a shift in breathing.

“I can tell he’s asleep by how he’s breathing,” my mom will say. “I can tell if he’s sick by the way his face changes colour. You wouldn’t notice, but I do….”

Last night, my dad was staring at my mom’s teacup, which was sitting to one side of her dinner plate. I thought to myself, What the hell is he thinking about? My mom glanced up at me and said, “He wants a glass of water.” He nodded and looked at me as if to say, “What took you so long to figure that out, you silly goose?”

Through all the anger and disappointment that they’ve faced, they have somehow managed to maintain a precarious balance of peace between them. Even facing the brutal reality of my older brother being in jail for all these years, they stand in a lonesome solidarity that no one else can even begin to understand. They’ve never turned any of their lives’ calamities into resentment or hatred. These days, couples seem to split up at the first sign of any trouble. My mother has said to me on more than one occasion that she doesn’t always like my dad, but she always loves him. That has always made so much sense to me. There are days when I don’t like him either, but my love for him is constant.

He is grouchy a lot of the time, and ungrateful, and when he doesn’t want to answer a question, completely unresponsive. I end up getting mad, but I look at my mother and she is always calm. “I just ignore him,” she’ll say to me. “Don’t let him get to you.” And then she grabs a handful of peanuts and heads out to feed the squirrels who wait for her like she is Jesus returning. They get so excited I always worry about them leaping right into her apron. I watch them rub their little hands together like they’re praying, and exulting, “We are saved!”

My parents are the last of a dying breed. There is a joke in there somewhere, and I will figure it out eventually. They are an old-school couple who have made their way courageously through life, never feeling sorry for themselves, finding grace in the small things. And always going forward. No matter what.

One of those small reliable things that hasn’t changed with my parents is the simple joy of having a good meal together. It’s something they look forward to—my dad especially. I started cooking regularly for them after several trips over to their place to help them to “figure out this goddamn can opener.” My dad has always had a way with words. I was marching home in a bit of a huff after opening the third can of chunky soup in as many days—wondering why the heck they were eating so many meals from a can—when it dawned on me: heating up a can of soup was something my mom could still manage to do.

I started by cooking dinner for them once or twice a week. Within a month, they were coming arm in arm across the driveway towards my house almost every evening, chattering away like two old birds chirping on a wire. It was all they could do to wait until five-thirty. If Dad had had his way, he would have been on my doorstep by three.

I hadn’t really done a lot of cooking in my life. I mean I cooked, but pretty much the same five or six things over and over again. My job has always meant that I eat out—a lot! Now I had to figure out how to prepare nutritious but fun meals that Mom and Dad would enjoy. Thank heaven for the inspiration of cooking shows. Luckily for me, my folks would try anything I put in front of them and they always seemed to like it. The other wrinkle was that I rarely had the time to spend three hours putting together a difficult recipe, so I eventually adapted many of my favourite dishes so that making them was simple and easy. Like this one, for example, my turkey chili.

TURKEY CHILI

3 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 lb ground turkey or veggie crumbles

3 tbsp chilli powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tbsp salt

1 19 oz (540 mL) can diced t

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