Tag Archives: cookbooks

Cook

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I am not an exceptional cook, but I like to be in the kitchen, and I have a few good recipes that I can count on.

From my Mom, I have the ability to make a good pot roast, an excellent boiled dinner, and a wonderful rhubarb crisp. I crimp pie crust the same way Mom did, but the recipe is my own. Mom’s apple pie used to be my favorite, and she often included it “just for Cindy” in her holiday baking.  Her tastes changed as she got older, though, and her apple pie got sweeter and sweeter over the years. At the same time, I was sweetening things less and less. Toward the end, I could barely tolerate her apple pie, and would manage to choke down one slice, just to spare her feelings.

I have altered a few childhood favorites, to better suit my own tastes. I add broccoli to my macaroni and cheese. Also, I make a white sauce and add extra sharp cheddar cheese to it, rather than just stirring in the milk, butter and cubes of cheese as Mom did. For goulash, I use Italian sausage instead of ground beef. I add finely diced carrots and onions to my split pea soup with ham.

Ethnic foods have been a big interest of mine, and I have by turns gained knowledge of Italian, Mexican, Chinese and Indian cooking. I learned vegetarian cooking from the Seventh Day Adventists back in the 1970’s, when I was boycotting beef for one reason or another. Their reasons for vegetarianism were religious, not health-based, and the recipes I came away with were loaded with fat, calories and cholesterol. I still love the Special K loaf and pecan burgers that they taught me how to make. My friend, Sue Knisley, taught me how to make home-made noodles, when she visited me on the island many years ago.

Cookbooks have been a source for other good standards. My chicken and dumplings recipe comes straight from the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book that my mother gave me before I was married. Two favorites, Basque chicken in red wine with olives and peppers, and sauteed chicken breasts in Dijon mustard cream sauce, come from The Supermarket Epicure, a large paperback cookbook that I bought on sale many years ago. My best bread recipe is the Fitness House Bread from Home Food Systems. Second in line is the crusty round loaf from Artisan Breads in 10 Minutes a Day. My best soups, when not thrown together ad lib with whatever is handy, come from This Good Food: Contemporary French Vegetarian recipes from a Monastery Kitchen.

Bachelor living lends itself to another whole series of meals. Scrambled eggs with cheese, hot buttered noodles with broccoli and parmesan, a fried hamburger smothered in cauliflower or cabbage, or – more often than I care to admit – cold cereal with sliced bananas and milk can make a fine dinner, when dining alone.

 

The Continuing Kitchen Shelf Saga

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I was going to title this “The Never Ending Kitchen Shelf Saga,” but I’m feeling optimistic today.

I have to say, I like the way the shelves look.

It’s nice to have all of my cookbooks and garden books together, easily accessible and sorted by category. I’ve gotten my jars of beans and grains off the counter and onto the shelves, too. Some baskets hold small books and pamphlets; others keep medicines, vitamins, sunscreen and insect repellants close at hand. A few plants and a couple candles soften the edges.

If I have a superpower, it is the knack for arranging shelves.

If I have a “green Kryptonite”-like weakness, it is the absolute inability to sort. Every aspect of it stymies me…from deciding on categories for dozens of disparate objects to not being able to discount anything as “useless”…which is one reason this project, at times, seems like it will never end.

Fifty years ago, when my sister Brenda and I were – every couple weeks or so – forced to clean our room, this short-coming became evident.

Brenda’s tactic was to sweep everything into one (huge) mound in the middle of the floor. The next step was to yank all of the dirty clothes out of that pile and put them in the baskets downstairs. Next, pick out all the Barbie dolls, their clothing and accessories…put them away. Next, game pieces, puzzle pieces and cards. Continue, until all that was left got swept into the dustpan  and thrown away. She had a plan, and it worked!

I don’t know why it was so disagreeable to me…or why I was so disagreeable about the method.

I remember feeling absolutely appalled at the idea of sweeping everything together, where all of our belongings would mix and mingle. It seemed like we were making an even greater mess. I couldn’t stand it…no matter how many times she proved to me that it worked.

My method, contrarily, was to pick up one random object, look at it, think about it, adjust it if necessary (perhaps the doll should be wearing the blue dress instead of the green?) and finally put it in its place. Which, if the “place”  was not in order, would then lead to another distraction, and another…forever.

I still use the same tactics!

I have four kitchen drawers to clean out and put into use. They have spent the last two or three years lazily picking up bits of flotsam and jetsam that didn’t have a specific place. Now, since I have taken the large 32-drawer cabinet out of the kitchen, I really need that drawer space. Those four drawers have to go back to work!

So, I’ve been emptying and sorting.

I have a pile of dog collars: two that no longer fit Rosa Parks, one that fits her but that she only wears when I walk her on a leash and one that belonged to my old dog, Maggie, who left this world more than three years ago.

I have two mounds of art-related objects. One contains a roll of mounting tape, a package of glazier’s points, a couple screw eyes, a few oil pastels, a handful of paintbrushes and other miscellaneous objects that actually have places in the studio. The other contains bits of foil and papers that I found or saved, to use in collage someday.

Christmas related items: one hand-made ornament that needs to be glued back together, ornament hooks, ribbon and four little packages of tiny replacement bulbs for Christmas lights (though I haven’t decorated for Christmas in years!).

I have quite an accumulation of hooks, from large decorative ones – for coats or robes – to the tiniest cup hooks.

I have an extensive collection of batteries, it seems, plus two flashlights, an alarm clock and a disposable camera.

I have an inordinate amount of pest-related products: simple mouse traps and plug in devises to discourage rodents, several battery-powered devises to keep mosquitoes away and three small bottles of ant killer.

Now, I have four empty drawers, cleaned and paper-lined, ready to be put back into use.

I have all of my collections laid out on the counter, waiting for decisions to be made. What gets moved to a new location? What can be given away? What gets tossed?

I just needed a break, before I got into all of that!

Sixty-One Blessings

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Last year, in honor of my sixtieth birthday, I compiled a list of the 60 most influential women in my life.

The list included family members, friends, poets, activists and authors.

I intended to write a blog about each person on the list.

I considered gathering recipes from each person, living or dead. I already have Emily Dickinson’s “Black Cake” recipe! My list, and the essays, combined with photos and recipes  could be assembled into a nice book, I thought.

In the course of the entire last year, I wrote three essays on women from my list: Mom (#1), Johanna Spyri (#38) and Emma Jean (#24).

That’s me, full of ideas…brimming with good intentions. My life is punctuated by unfinished projects!

Still, it was a good exercise, just writing the names. It caused me to think about who influenced my life, and how, and why.

For my birthday this year, I’m counting blessings.

First, two parents who loved their children and always did their best.

Five grandparents: four that I knew personally and loved; one that I was acquainted with only through her photo – always on display in my childhood home – and the stories my Dad told.

Ten siblings: I’m eternally grateful for every single one of them. Each one – even those that died in infancy – has helped to guide and shape my life.

Two daughters: by far the most heart-wrenching, soul-stretching, life-enriching blessings in my life.

Four strong, smart and handsome grandsons.

One charming, intelligent and beautiful granddaughter.

Three in-laws: father, mother and sister, who I’m glad to have known.

Seventeen nieces and nephews. And now their children…and their children’s children.

Other relatives: aunts and uncles and cousins.

Friends: I’m happy to say I’ve gained at least as many as I’ve lost over the years, and appreciate every single one.

Two sweet dogs.

Three one-hundred-year-old Maple trees on the north side of my house.

Six jobs. No, maybe seven.

Two vehicles: both in good running order.

One non-running vehicle that has served me well as a “garage”.

A fresh, unopened bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream.

My mother’s hope chest!

Seventy-five cookbooks!

Paul McCartney’s autograph!!

Almost one hundred birthday greetings on my Facebook page!

Cards and gifts from family and friends!

Phone calls from loved ones on my birthday!

Clearly, I should be much older than this.

Sixty-one is too small a number, for counting all the blessings in my life!