Thursday, July 30, 2009

Good food from a good place

My god, I haven't been around here for a while. I feel like I should buy everyone a round of drinks and invent some excuses that won't be taken seriously because we'll all be too hammered to be paying any attention.

Things have just gotten behind here and I haven't been able to spend as much time online as I used to. The chittlins have taken to "cooking": Emptying out bottles of oil, vanilla, hot sauce, maple syrup, you name it, into whatever bowl or bowl-shaped item available, stirring, and pronouncing it dinner. Fortunately, they make no demands on me to eat it, with the only exception being the hot sauce/leftover breakfast milk/yogurt/cider vinegar "smooth" they made for Jerry and insisted I save for him to drink when he got home. Let me tell you, had they insisted, he would have choked some of it down for them. :-)

I went through a bit of a kitchen funk recently, even though I did do a complete tear-through, rearranging appliances, baking jars, and cupboards. I weeded and sorted and tossed and I'm actually quite pleased with how much space in which I now have to work. But I haven't felt much like working. Jandar has been home several days a week for a while now and it got to the point where almost every night dinner was a cheese plate and soda. Not very healthy after a while and deadly dull rather quickly, even with the different kinds of cheeses I usually hoarde. The chittlins didn't fare much better as they were existing on Pop Tarts, fruit, and dry cereal, I think instinctively knowing that I was out of sorts but would soon be back to my old self.

And that finally, finally happened this last weekend. I got sick of the sluggish feeling, the bloat that made the jeans I worked so hard to fit in no longer agreeable, and the lack of proper sleep. The exteme guilt that plagued me, feeding the boys utter crap. My poor husband mightily slogging through yet another half-assed, thrown-together plate of food. Not a meal, quite literally, a plate of whatever I could find that was edible, tossed onto a plate, and called dinner. Embarrassing, really.

I pulled my Rachel Allens and Tana Ramsays off the shelf; I read my Padmas and my Barefoot Contessas, and my Nigellas--even Martha--just for fun and just to feel good again. I came up with ideas, recipes, and ingredients that I wanted to try. I didn't go overboard; I went slowly, one or two new recipes, no more takeaway, no more chips. Made amazing Asian-style chicken chunks with sweet chili sauce; homemade bangers from gorgeous pork that I ground myself; mac & cheese for the boys that was out of this world. It felt good to be back. We had lovely Greek salads with enormous chunks of fresh feta; soup, really good soup, that I was reminded of by watching an old episode of an Andrea Immer Robinson cooking show; and this week, blackeyed pea curry, which is absolute favorite for us. We did have easy meals like pancakes and scrambled eggs and bagels with cream cheese but even those became fun again. We haven't had a cheese platter in over a week and we're actually eating more vegetables. In short, I'm not killing my family anymore. :-)

This happens once or twice a year but it's important that I not let it take so long to get back into the game. This is where, I believe, a vast cookbook collection comes in handy. I didn't read them for recipes so much as just to remind myself of how much fun it is to cook. A well-written cookbook has anecdotes and useful tips alongside the ingredients and preparations and can be just enough to get someone out of a rut and back into the kitchen, even if it is only to scramble eggs or make toast. Gorgeous pictures help, too.

So, I've missed all of you and I have been trying to keep up with your blogs, too. I've just been more of a lurker and I thank you all for still reading me.

Now, what's for dinner tonight?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wine, cheese, bread

Sometimes, all you want is the basics: a little wine, a nice cheddar, some really good bread. Even if you're not eating all three in one sitting, sometimes you just want something simple that tastes good. You don't want the 59-grain crunchy bread or the loaf on the shelf that hurls twigs at you. Sometimes, all you want is this:

Homemade white bread. Freshly made bread from your own kitchen, made with only flour, yeast, water, a little molasses or honey to tease the yeast awake, nothing more, nothing less. Baked just right and toasted, served with luxuriously creamy butter and maybe a bit of jam or marmalade. It's a slow process, one not meant to be rushed, but the results are ever so worth it. Deeply satisfying with a remarkable taste and texture unlike anything you can find shrouded in plastic at the stores it taps something deep within. Maybe I'm waxing a little too, I don't know, weird, but there is something truly incredible about creating something so simple yet utterly amazing. And whilst it may not be brown and spiked with bran and oats and germ, it is good for you. It's homemade, with nothing artificial, and it was made with care and, at least in my kitchen anyway, a large pinch of magic. It truly is something to be eaten and enjoyed and, at the end of the day, you'll feel good for having had it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

How to prevent scurvy in six easy steps

1) Juice enough fresh limes so you get 1 cup of freshly squeezed juice and pulp;

2) Open can of sweetened condensed milk (regular or fat free) and pour into bowl;

3) Refrigerate both items in separate bowls until really cold;

4) Stir juice into sweetened condensed milk until thoroughly blended;

5) Pour mixture into ice cream machine and process according to your machine's directions.

6) Enjoy!

I wanted key lime pie yesterday but, as I am the only one in the house who finds it worth living for, I didn't feel like making a whole one that I knew I would eat in one sitting. Plus, I really didn't have the time to make a proper crust (I make a pie crust as I am not a fan of graham cracker crust). So I dug out the can of s/c milk and got to it. I had only the fat-free but this is one of those pantry items I can't really tell apart from full-fat so I keep it in stock because, even though it's loaded with sugar, at least the fat grams are nil. I chilled the juice and milk overnight and made it this morning and I must say that I damn happy with the results. And yes, I licked the bowl, the beater, and the spoon clean, even before breakfast. :-)

It's a very tart mixture, with only the s/c milk for sweetening; I like it that way so I can't really comment on whether--or even how--to add additional sugar. It came out of the machine at a soft-serve texture and I threw it into a plastic container and will see later how--or if--it firmed up. What I also like is that I won't need a honking big portion of this so the sugar overload will be minimal.

I think I might make some lemon melting moments to go with. It's citrus heaven around here today.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Yankee Doodle Donlans

Growing up, my mom was a huge fan of Memorial Day, July 4th, any holiday that involved bedecking our house in stars & stripes. This picture was taken the year she had a flag for each state on our tiny lawn then added about another dozen on our porch. My dad and I had just come in from a swim in the yard when the photographer asked if he could take our picture. Granted, we didn't make the front page, but this is a most excellent memory for me.

Happy 4th of July!