Sunday, October 19, 2008

flea genocide

well...what was supposed to be a leisurely morning consisting of a little bit of house-tidying, a little bit of halloween costume making, a little bit of breakfast eating turned into a full-on, top-to-bottom, flea extermination.

for the past few days, i've been scratching at bites on my arms and legs...they looked like tinier mosquito bites, but with a little red dot in the middle. i kind of put them off, but then i remembered a conversation i had about bed bugs with my dodgeball team and then last night we looked up bed bug symptoms online and became utterly convinced that i had them. so last night, we had a fun saturday night of the three of us tearing our beds apart, vacuuming the mattresses, washing our sheets in boiling water (practically) and spraying everything with tee tree oil mixed with water (which apparently the bed bugs don't like the smell of).

meanwhile, contemporaneous to this, when we came back from thanksgiving, we noticed that our cat, smudge, had a patch of fur missing from the back of his neck. we were kind of weirded out about it, but chalked it down to the roomie being a bad petsitter. also meanwhile, one night this week i woke up in the middle of the night and heard smudge scratching at his neck super-vigorously. i briefly entertained the notion that this super-vigorous scratching, the missing patch of fur, and my bites might be related to fleas, but since bed bugs have been in the news lately, and are the much much worse option, the hypochondriac neurotic in me went with the default crappier scenario.

this morning, smudge jumped up on the roomie's lap and she pet him and immediately set him down on the ground saying she saw a flea. so i did some googling, brushed him, and tapped the brush out onto a piece of paper towel. tonnes of little black specks rained down on the paper towel, which according to how to tell if your cat has fleas is the excrement of fleas. so, so gross!!! so then we went into crisis mode and went to the pet store, bought flea shampoo, and wrestled both cats into having the first baths of their lives. it was HELL. knowing how vicious smudge can be, i was wearing a t shirt, a zip up long sleeve hoodie, another hoodie over that, with dishwashing gloves tucked into the sleeves. in the end, he was much more calm and boddington was the chief wigout. boddington totally got all slippery eel on us and was contorting and bucking and crying his little weird lungs out. meanwhile, as we're trying to suppress the supernova of coiled energy that exists inside that 10 pound cat body, smudgie is at our elbows, with his fur all spiky and wet, basically 1/4 of the size that he usually is, trying to stage an intervention and rescue his buddy and adding to the cacophony of plaintive, whiny, caterwauling. hell.

then we had to re-strip the bed, vacuum every soft surface, i swept and mopped the floors and have done like, 20 bazillion loads of laundry, leaving me 12 minutes to get myself presentable before i have to go to dodgeball. egads.

this is a picture of last night's muttar paneer and sag and rice. i ended up doing a half-assed rice pilaf with white basmati cooked with a pinch of saffron and mixed with toasted chopped pistachios and butter caramelized onions and raisins. i overdid the water on the basmati so it wasn't as fluffy and the grains weren't as distinct as they should be in a pilaf.

this is what i made for breakkie this morning...eggs benedict. the hollandaise looks a little flushed because i used red wine in my reduction instead of the more classic white wine. still tasted pretty much the same.

tonight for dinner i had a hungarian goulash cooking away in the slow cooker. the recipe from "the gourmet cookbook" is a little brothier than goulash's i've had in the past...i should have gone with my gut instinct and not included water with the beef broth...i already cut down on the water anyway (i used 2 c. instead of the recommended 5). it smells hella good though and i think it'll be just the thing on a brisk fall day with the no-knead bread...which i specifically purchased an enameled cast-iron dutch oven for. but! i was frugal!!! i went to homesense on A&C's recommendation and saw the heavily coveted le creuset ones...marked down to $150 from the regular price $300. alongside was an oval cuisinart one, equally heavy, equally high quality for $60 marked down from a regular price of $100. while i'm usually a sucker for name brands and high-end kitchen gear, i figured enameled cast iron is enameled cast iron and went with the cuisinart. it's not like cuisinart is a slouch in the kitchen appliance i feel pretty good about it.

here are the pics of the finished goulash and the no-knead bread.

overall, i was really pleased with the no-knead bread (even though kneading isn't that big of a deal). it produces a fantastic, chewy, crisp-textured end product and can be made in one bowl, with about 30 minutes total of active time, 20 hours of rising time, and about 45 minutes in the oven. mine didn't produce as fantastically hole-y an interior mie as A's rendition, but i might have rushed it a bit. also, our house is a little on the cool side which probably retarded the action of the yeast. i also used regular (it's what i had) instead of instant yeast. i will say that it's lacking a little bit in the sourdough depth of flavour that you get from bread made with a starter, but for such a low physical/time investment, it yields a very satisfactory and impressive loaf.

i also did some fridge-clearing and dispatched half a head of red cabbage i had lurking in the back of the veggie shelf...sauteed it up with some peeled, sliced apples, salt, pepper, sugar, and a bit of water to steam the whole.

hungarian goulash
adapted from the gourmet cookbook

note: this yields A basically filled my slowcooker and mine is like a 10 qt? if you're serving less people, consider cutting the recipe in half (i would keep the same amount of bacon though...but i'm crazy like that)

5 strips of bacon, cut into pieces
3lb boneless beef chuck, cut into 1" cubes
1 1/2 lbs of onions, diced small (i used 2 big spanish onions)
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 T. paprika (preferably hungarian sweet)
1 1/2 t. caraway seeds
1/3 c. all purpose flour
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1  can tomato paste (136 ml/5 1/2 oz)
5 c. beef stock or water
salt and pepper to taste
2 red bell peppers, cored and chopped
2 1/2 pounds yukon gold potatoes cut into 1" chunks

- cook the bacon in a pan until the bacon is crisp and the fat is rendered.  (at this point, the gourmet recipe would have you remove the bacon and brown the beef in the drippings and then remove the browned beef to the same place you put the crispy bacon...i generally skip the browning step for soups).   add the chopped onion to the pan and sweat it out, add the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic is softened and fragrant.
- add the paprika, caraway seeds and flour to the pan and cook it out for 2 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot.
- add the red wine vinegar and the tomato paste and cook this mixture out for about 2 minutes or so, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
- at this point, i take all that gear and throw it in my slow cooker, toss in the beef, the stock, the bell peppers and salt and pepper, then i let the slow cooker rip on high for like, 7-8 hours.  you could also either do this shiz all in a stock pot, or a dutch oven on the stove and cook it for like, 45min to 1 hour on a simmer, with the lid on.
- after that, you throw in your potato cubes and either let the slow cooker keep ripping for 1 hour, or let the potatoes simmer in your dutch oven (etc.) for 20 minutes or until tender.
- season again with salt and pepper to taste.  

1 comment:

Mel said...

OMG! I just went through the same thing with fleas and my dog! Luckily he's short-haired and white so I can see them and immediately pounce on them. Keep at the flea genocide for the next few weeks because they'll stick around if you let up!

The goulash recipe is delicious!