Archive | January, 2011

When “WE” means “YOU”

27 Jan

While driving home from violin girl’s french class, the conversation turned to food. Not so surprising.

I had groceries from Aldi’s in the car and had mentioned some of the foodstuffs awaiting us when we arrived home. Violin girl urgently questioned if I had gotten any of the “good bread,” meaning the 12-grain kind, to which I happily confirmed. She then asked if I had also purchased some sliced Italian bread, to which I unhappily denied. For what reason did she desire such a thing!? “I need it to have with some egg salad,” she remarked strangely. Followed by, “Hey! We need to make some egg salad.”

And, though I agreed, I couldn’t help but begin to correct the all-encompassing pronoun with the more usual one–Y-O-U!

Violin girl had beaten me to it. Just as I had begun to skewer the statement, she bellied up and replaced the WE with YOU, giving credit to the egg salad maker.

Which, gave me pause to consider how often these little pronouns are so misused in our little family. Take for instance:

1. “Hey, Mom! WE should go to the mall and see what they have.”  TRANSLATION: YOU should take ME to the mall so YOU can buy ME some clothes.

2. “Hey, Mom! WE need to have a Christmas party.”  TRANSLATION: WE’LL invite a whole bunch of friends over so YOU can cook for US ALL.

3. “Hey Mom! WE have to meet up with so and so…”  TRANSLATION: YOU drive us to X, and WE’LL meet up with so and so, while YOU hang back with so and so’s parents.

Sort of like talking with Kaukab. Minus the guilt.

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No More Chicken!!!

24 Jan

Yesterday, Hubby had offered to go get us some groceries. While ticking off a litany of foodstuffs, drummer boy emphatically remarked, “Whaaat!? No, no more chicken!” All I had done was to request a couple of those tasty (and convenient) roast chickens; which, by the way, hubby enjoys and said as much. When I explained, emphatically, that the chicken was necessary in that it provided me with innumeral ways of preparing meals for the coming week and that one of those meals might (if he was good) involve a taco-inspired rendition, he retreated, but not without a last disapproving headshake. Oh, if only Kaukab were here! 

Regardless, I have my chickens and they will afford me meals for the week, which will include: chicken tacos, chicken soup, with cannelini beans, spinach, and possibly a few chopped tomatoes in a chicken stock–still trying to figure out how and what to assemble. But, the one I know everyone will look forward to, including the chicken-repulsed one is this:

My Quick-Version Turkey Tettrazini (but, with chicken)

 

I had made this twice before–in the same week.  That’s how much they liked it. In fact, drummer boy had spent the night away from home (we knew where he was) the first time I had made it. I had saved him a bit, so when he had returned home and had tried it, he emphatically (not really) judged it as acceptable.

This pleased me, particularly because it was an easy win. By combining all the ingredients into the same casserole dish to be baked, it saved me time and effort.

Here’s what I did:

1/2 lb. dried thin spaghetti (could use penne or some other favorite of yours) broken into thirds–roughly (you may need a bit more, depending on the size of your baking dish–I used a med. round dish with about 2″ to 2 1/2″ depth, if that helps you any).

whole milk or half/half, or combination of, enough to cover the ingredients (I prefer whole milk, but I won’t mind if you use less than whole. It’s not like I’m going to tell Kaukab.)

1 small broccoli bunch–heads only, chopped into small pieces

breast meat, or any other part, of 1 roasting chicken, chopped into small pieces

8oz. cheddar or your favorite cheese, shredded

panko breadcrumbs, or any other you like

1/4 of stick unsalted butter

garlic salt–pinch

pepper–pinch

cayenne pepper-pinch

1/4C parmesean (to mix with breadcrumbs)

2 T. parsley, finely chopped (to mix with breadcrumbs), optional

1 T. flour

1/4 of small onion, finely chopped (I didn’t use, because I didn’t think of it, and the boys may have been displeased)

4 oz. mushrooms, thinly sliced (I didn’t use–see above)

Now, the east part. Set oven to 375 degrees.

While preheating:

Get your baking dish. Lightly rub the bottom and sides with some of the butter. Reserve for topping the casserole before putting in oven. Into the dish, dump your pasta, broccoli, chicken, onion and mushrooms (if you want to use). Pour the milk, or half/half, or combination of over this, until it more than covers, leaving about an inch from the top. With a whisk or fork, stir in flour (adding slightly more if it looks like you need), and sprinkle in pepper, cayenne pepper, and garlic salt, and stir once more. 

Place in middle of oven, uncovered. Bake for approximately 50 minutes.  Check with spoon how much liquid remains, stirring to mix more. You should have slight amount of liquid. If still too liquid-y, bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Sprinkle top with breadcrumb mixture and dot with remaining butter, making sure to place enough butter dots about the surface area. Put on upper shelf and broil until forms a nice golden crust. Watch carefully.

Remove from oven. Let stand 5 or 10 minutes.

Serve to picky eaters, everywhere.

Got Chicken?

22 Jan

You see them in every local supermarket. Those portable hot ovens with shelves of pre-packaged roasted chickens.

Initially, I’d pass them by, my ego supplanting falsehoods about their cheating, expensive ways. Kaukab taught me that a real cook (and mother) always cooked her own chicken. So, fearing retribution, I did the same. Not only had I thought it cost-saving, but I knew everything I had used to prepare it.

But, one day, feeling too tired and impatient, the pre-cooked chicken got the best of me. And, I was hooked!

I found that they were really quite tasty and the time savings more than made up for the slightly elevated cost outlay.

Kaukab used to roast her chicken and then in the last half-hour, she’d add a few handfuls of rice, diced tomatoes, and water enough to cover, slap on a sheet of foil and wait until the rice cooked. It was her version of a one pan meal. I loved that meal. So much so, that I’ve passed it along to my family table.

But, I found that roasted chicken, already waiting on me, allowed me more time and options.

For instance: I’ll finely chop the warm breast and thigh meat of one chicken (to feed up to 6), along with the chicken’s broth, and add to a large bottle of my favorite barbeque sauce, which I have warming in a med-large pot, and cook for about 10 min., stirring to keep from scorching. Serve them on some nice buns.

I’ll make stir-fry with the remaining drumsticks and remaining bits of chicken. I use the chicken’s broth, if I haven’t already used for barbeque chicken, or if I’ve got an extra chicken, to add to the rice at the time I add the water. I stir fry the veggies (I usually have broccoli, mushrooms, onions, and carrots on hand) and garlic with canola and a little sesame chili oil first, on medium high, until partially tender. Then, I add in the chicken pieces and stir fry for a couple more minutes. Turning up to high, I add in the sauce and let come up to a boil. Turn down to medium and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until sauce thickens slightly. Serve with rice.

The sauce is made with: soy sauce, ginger paste, brown sugar, lime, cold water, and corn starch (for thickening). Stir all in a 2C. measuring container. I usually pour enough soy to reach 1/2C, ginger paste dipped with the end of a tablespoon or fork handle (don’t need much), two packets of raw brown sugar or 2 tsps of packed brown sugar, wedge or two of lime, and water to fill 1-3/4 C. I add in a small amt. of corn starch (about 1tsp) and stir with a fork until well mixed.

To compromise, when I don’t feel like chopping veggies or making stir fry sauce, I just make the rice. I use garlic salt and tumeric, adding them to the melted butter used to cook the rice, stirring for a minute or two on medium high before adding the liquid (water and chicken’s broth), and bringing up to boil for a minute, stirring some more, then turning down to simmer and adding  in the chopped chicken pieces to cook, covered, until rice is done–about 15 min. or slightly more. (I usually measure out 1 3/4C rice and use 3 1/2C liquid ratio.) I do a stir fry broccoli, adding a bit of dried red pepper flakes, sea salt, and a lemon squeeze for a colorful and healthful side.

 I think the chicken is happier that way, and I’m in a better position of saving face with Kaukab.

A Cookie Quiz

19 Jan

After spending too much time today doing algebra with drummer boy–not gonna talk about that–I decided to propose an easier algebraic problem. Ready?

y=x + dough batter(375 degrees)

If x=an old blackened cookie sheet, like this one:

"x"

I’ll wait.
*Humming*
*Still Humming*
Give up?
y=(see below)

better than real "y"

Actually, y equaled burnt cookie bottoms. I can’t show you them, because Hubby finished the last one off this evening. (I had three of them earlier in the day. Yes, three. I’m not ashamed to admit that. Should I be?) But, I can show you the burnt cookie crumbs, which should provide you enough evidence from which to learn the equation and never repeat it in your kitchen.

Burnt cookie crumbs masquerading as raisins

Hubby did realize the error of his ways, after burning the first batch, and utilized the bright, shiny cookie sheet for the remaining batches.
No matter, Hubby won’t have to worry about Kaukab. He’s her favorite.

“You, too!?”

15 Jan

I had been out last night (because I’m a ‘mover and a shaker’) and had a curious exchange with a friend’s hubby. His wife, my friend, who was present during the exchange, doesn’t cook, unless you count microwaving frozen foods and slapping sandwhich meat between a couple of bread slices. I can say this because she has told me as much, and I have witnessed her preparing these “meals” for our children.

But, back to the exchange. Seems friend’s hubby, who’s a really good cook and loves to talk about food, mentioned that he had made some vegetarian chili, since he’s currently fasting and gave up beef, or meat in general…I can’t recall. His wife praised his results and I suddenly felt like Kaukab. Unwrenching feelings of being outdone. I was as surprised by it as much as I’m sure you were of hearing it.

I wanted to know what made his vegetarian chili better than mine. I urgently quizzed him of  his chosen ingredient list, much the way I  had with the woman who sold me (out) her peach salsa last summer. I recounted my ingredients alongside his in my mind, visually scanning back and forth to see what was amiss. And, then he mentioned “tomato juice.” Tomato juice. That’s it! I had used a can of crushed tomatoes, to which I had loosened with water. I usually used whole, peeled tomatoes, since they made a less tomato-y, saucy chili. I had used tomato juice a few times, but tended to eschew it for the reason, prior, of making it too thick and tomato-y. But, for girlfriend’s hubby, it worked. Plus, he didn’t use cumin, the “missing” ingredient I had mentioned in my chili post, and which I believed was the culprit in my vegetarian chili-making downfall. In fact, this vegetarian chili-maker never used cumin. In anything. He even disclosed, unabashedly and rather proudly, that he didn’t even know what to use it for. I know. I agree; it’s hard to fathom such thinking. But there it is.

Worse, still. I had been in a vegetarian chili cook-off and didn’t even know it.

And, I lost.

Excuse me, while I take this call from Kaukab.

Soup Weather

14 Jan

Bean Soup W/Holiday Ham

 

It’s cold and snowy outside.  Perfect soup weather.

And…I’ve got just the right soup for the occasion. My homemade bean soup which I always make shortly after Christmas, in an effort to use up the leftover ham bone. Perfect for making such a soup.

Here’s what I used:

1 ham bone, or a couple of store-bought ham hocks.

2 lbs. dried navy or other white bean (using the “quick” cook method noted on the bag)

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

2 med. sized carrots, finely chopped

1/2 stick butter (to saute chopped veggies)

garlic salt

salt

pepper

dried thyme, if like (I like, but didn’t have.)

First of all, check your bag instructions. Mine said to use 6 – 8 cups cold water per 1 lb. beans. Since I used the whole 2 lb. bag, I doubled it, using the higher limit (total 16 cups). Using the quick method, you’ll rinse the beans, first in a colander, picking out the bad ones, and then pour beans into stockpot. Pour water over the beans. Cook according to directions, which was to bring to boil and boil for 2 minutes, then turn off stove and let stand, covered, for one hour.

After the hour of standing (the pot, not you), drain beans into colander, then place the ham bone or ham hocks into bottom of pot, pour beans over them, and then add new, cold water, according to instructions, which for me was: 6 cups for 1 1b.; so I doubled that to 12 cups, plus added 1 more cup, since it’s been my experience that you’ll need more water, eventually, once the soup cooks down, and the next day brings an even thicker soup, otherwise.

Okay. Once you’ve poured fresh water into the pot of ham bone/hocks and beans, add a bit of garlic salt (1 T), cover, and return to stove and cook on simmer for another 2 hours. In the last hour, or slightly less, chop your veggies. Melt butter in large saute pan and place your veggies in and add garlic salt and pepper, sauteeing until the onions and celery are transluscent and the carrots begin to soften slightly. (You could add a bit of dried thyme at this point, if you like.) Once done, set aside to cool, while you fish for the ham bone/hocks.

With tongs, pull out the ham bone/hocks and place on a cutting board. Pull away any ham you can manage and discard the bone/fat, etc. Finely chop ham and return to soup. Add in the cooked veggies. Stir gently. Taste. Add some salt (not garlic, just regular stuff) and more pepper to taste. Check your soup. It may be ready a bit sooner. You’ll know, when the beans have softened and the broth has thickened a bit.

And, that’s really all there is to making a great pot of bean soup.

Perfect soup for a lovely snowy day.

Is It Really Chili?

11 Jan

Sunday, I had made, what was to me, a sad attempt at vegetarian chili.

You may think this idea was bourne out of an intentional nod to going the way of less meat. Give the animals of this world a New Year’s break. As much as I like the idea, I can not take credit for this lofty ideal. The less glamourous fact is that I simply had no meat handy in my fridge (unless you count venison–which I don’t), and I didn’t feel inclined to bundle myself up in winter attire and throw caution to the ice- and snow-covered streets just to get some lousy meat for my chili.

I figured, this would give me the chance to try something new. Something I had only contemplated in my little kitchen, but never had the meatless nerve to do. There was something very strange about calling a soup “chili” when it didn’t have meat in it.

So, I looked about the kitchen and found the following to employ:

1. mushrooms-thickly sliced

2. onions

3. green pepper

4. dried chili flakes

5. 1-28oz.canned crushed tomatoes

6. 2 -15oz. cans red kidney beans

7. 2 cloves smashed garlic or garlic salt

8. water (enough to fill the empty cans of beans and crushed tomatoes, plus a little more)

9. canola oil, or what you prefer–to sautee onions, mushrooms, dried pepper flakes, green peppers, garlic or garlic salt, until softened and mushrooms browned. Add all other ingredients to pot. Cook for about an hour or slightly longer, until reduces slightly.

And, I just realized what I had forgotten to add. Cumin. You know! The spice that Kaukab abhors? Darn! Double Darn!

If only I had put some in my experimental vegetarian chili. I think violin girl would have lamented less to Lilly (my dear childhood friend, but her facebook friend–I don’t do facebook, unless I’m creeping from one of their little machines) about how she’d prefer having meat in it.

See? Even violin girl knows that it’s not really chili without the meat.

Please, no hate mail from the vegetarians. I get enough from Kaukab.

So Long, Dear Christmas Tree

10 Jan

We said “Goodbye” to our “rental” Christmas tree. Hubby referred to our beloved tree in this not-so-endearing term, as I undressed it in my yearly ritual of slowly and carefully unlooping the delicate ornaments from its brittle branches, shedding hundreds of tiny needles upon my floor. We had stopped watering it about a week ago, and since we hadn’t had its lights on (due to a slight overload in amperage that finally melted enough of the extension cord’s plug on New Year’s Eve), we felt secure in our belief that no real fire hazard would come of our delay in taking it down. 

Then, off to the truck for its deposit at the Farmers’ Market, where we first “rented”, um, bought it. I always hate seeing the tree like that.

I Miss You, Already!

Kaukab always had a fake Christmas tree. No needles to sweep up. No daily watering to be done. No fuss; no muss. Me? I’m not into fake. I couldn’t wait to have real ones when I had a home of my own. Sometimes, I’ve been tempted to surrender to the fake ones. Especially, since so many these days look remarkably non-fakey. Until the Christmas tree lots start filling up, and then I’m lulled by their real-ness. There’s no faking a real tree. Not the smell. Not the feel. Not the mess. It just wouldn’t be a real Christmas without one. Even if I have to say “goodbye” to each of them.
Though, one thing that comforts me is knowing that our tree, among the many deposited at the Market, will be used to create fish homes in the WV ponds, rivers, and lakes. Yep, we West Virginians take our recycling real serious-like.
‘Course, Kaukab just puts hers back in the box.

Off, And Flying

5 Jan

Seems a few people like what I write–enough to get a “Wow” rating from our friends at WordPress.

The good folks at WordPress send out an end-of-the-year review of our blogs and give us their feedback on how they think we’re doing. They said I garnered enough views to fill a bit more than four jumbo jets, or something like that.

So, for all you jet passengers who like to read my silly, little blog, a big ‘thank you’ is in order.

Lucky for me, Kaukab hates to fly.

“But, It’s Not Like Yours”

2 Jan

Earlier today, I talked with a friend who had mentioned that she “tried” making my tampenade recipe with mixed results. “Meh,” described her feeling about the attempt. I tried to explain away her results with an impish mention about needing several attempts and a reiterated plea to not take my measurements literally, but to use them more of a guide, since I, like Kaukab, don’t cook with them.

But, I want her first attempt–your first attempt–to work out. I felt as if I had let her (and you) down.

Kaukab would have said I was being unnecessarily contemplative. No, actually, she would have said, ” Eh,why you care; no body care what you tink?” She’s honest that way.

So, just in case. If you decide to try any of my recipes and they don’t seem to be working out for you, please post a comment (preferrably a nice one) about it, and I’ll try to provide you ideas about how to make it more like mine.

Or Kaukab’s. Except, Kaukab will say it will never be as good as hers.

“Waiter, I’ll have the Catch-22, please.”

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