Thursday, February 18, 2010

Things my mother taught me

It's a brilliant winter morning with only a dusting of snow. I don't have a cleaning job today, so I'm able to work in the studio...yippee! Got a new painting loaded on the Loud Colors website called "Cocktails and Salmon Colored Roses". It always feels so good to finish a painting. I keep looking at it, thinking I should tweak it some more, but sometimes I just get tired of being so darned perfectionistic. Besides, the woman in the work looks kinda quirky and kinda tragic, and the whole feeling of the piece is pretty and expressionistic at the same time. Does everything I do have to be so controlled, for Heaven's sake? I certainly hope not! Just got an email from a patron and I think two more small works have just sold.

On Thursdays, my husband's workout partner comes over for dinner. So after making the bed and putting away last night's dishes, (and tearing myself away from Facebook) I'm busy making cranberry meatballs, rice, and chopping up the last half of the remaining cabbage in the fridge for coleslaw. Oops-- out of chili sauce for the meatballs, so I'll just have to use ketchup. Improvised on the brown sugar, too, using white sugar with a small pouring of molasses. Nearly out of onion too, so dried minced onion went into the meatballs, and the remaining fresh onion will go into the coleslaw. I've never really thought a recipe should be followed like it's another Commandment--and besides I'm allergic to grocery stores(!) Tossed the meatballs into the crock pot to cook while I answer a few things on the computer, write out an invoice, and jot down my thoughts on this blog.

Puttering around in my kitchen makes me think about some of the things I learned from my mom (which is amazing because I avoided housework like the plague when I was a kid.)

1. Focus on the corners when you clean a floor--the middle will take care of itself.
2. Use what you have.
3. Don't add salt to your dishes--people use salt shakers often without even tasting the food, anyway.
4. Wash your dishes as you cook.
5. Figure out dessert and plan the rest of the meal around that.
6. If you don't cook enough, there will always be food left over--because everyone is afraid to eat too much.
7. Tea pretty much makes the day go round.

Well, I'm back to the easel. Catch you later.

(Image: "Cocktails and Salmon Roses" Acrylic on Canvas, Cory Jaeger-Kenat, 2010.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Time Travel Cooking

Hubby bought me "The Time Traveler's Wife" video for me for Valentine's was tucked under my pillow on Saturday night, because he couldn't wait until the actual holiday. Isn't that COOL?? And on top of it, when he buys me chick flicks, he even watches them with me. Now THAT'S a secure man...;)

Well, anyway, this isn't going to be a review of the movie--although I have to admit I liked the book better--isn't that the way it goes? But it does bring me to what's on my mind today--which is my fascination with the past, particularly when it pertains to home life.

I had an idea this year, based on some health issues we are both having. I wonder if people in my childhood (the 60s and 70s) were of normal weight because going out to eat was a major--and rare--treat. I remember how as a kid, getting a hamburger at our local hamburger stand (remember Sandee's?) was a HUGE deal. My mom, who labored tirelessly to serve us wholesome and home cooked meals, was forever in the shadow of anything that came of a greasy paper bag. I think back now, and I marvel how on a daily basis we were served vegetables out of our own garden, some sort of entree (my mom was, and is still, big on Campbell's soup casseroles), often fresh bread right out of the oven, along with homemade pickles and her owned canned fruit. Cookies, cinnamon rolls, and all sorts of pies were a staple. We thought nothing of it as kids, unfortunately. But I sure do now.
Anyway, I was thinking about the whole diet insanity in our nation. And I started to wonder if it might be that we simply eat out too much. And so at the beginning of January, I began to cook at home every night, including weekends. Believe it or not, we are starting to lose some of that not-so-lovely extra poundage. Hubby, who also works out at a gym, has lost about 13 pounds, and I've lost around 8. And get this, I'm still baking cookies and other yummy desserts! So, it's interesting to see how much we'll lose at the end of the year--or if my theory is a bust.

Well, I'm enjoying this so much, I thought it would be a kick to take it one step further. Right now, I use my crock pot on busy days. I can't look at a crock pot and not hear the Helen Reddy song "I am Woman, Hear me Roar". To me, crock pots are all about 1970s moms in polyester pant-suits, frantically throwing in frozen ingredients before they scoot out the door to fight the male-dominated work place. I think, however, that I want to go back a little further with my cooking style, back to the alien culinary planet known as the 50s.

So, I think this year, I want to add these things to our menus. Stuffed peppers, shrimp cocktails, jello molds with grated carrot and artichokes, Rice Krispie squares, veal chops, porcupine meatballs, Chicken a la King, and even a souffle or two. And wouldn't it be fun to make a Baked Alaska? Just thinking about these foods brings me back to all the hours I would spend as a very little girl poring over my mom's cookbooks, favorites being "Fun with Jello" and of course, the grande dame herself, Betty Crocker. Some of those foods looked like they came right out of a spaceship. And they also looked so incongruous--imagine green olives suspended in lemon gelatin!--that they had to be delicious...right?? Right?? What a wonderful thing to imagine ladies in hats and chiffon that "lunched" on aspics and mousses and ladyfingers and spritz cookies. They certainly didn't live anywhere in my Brady Bunch neighborhood.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

(Image: "Cherries on a Chair" Acrylic on Canvas, Cory Jaeger-Kenat, 2010.)

My Bread

In an effort to lose a bit of the love handles, we are trying to eat more complex carbs. Here is the loaf I baked today. It's made of wheat germ, whole wheat, molasses, and oats. I feel like an earth mother right now. ;)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Fun in the Freezer

I heard recently on a radio advertisement that the automatic washing machine ranks as the number one time-saver ever invented. I'm inclined to agree, but I would think that the freezer ranks close behind it.

I clean houses on a part time basis and I know--because I've cleaned many a freezer over the years--that people often use this nifty space as the repository for occasional tv dinners or a box or so of ice cream. But boy, oh boy, a freezer can be your best friend...well, maybe you're not THAT lonely, but it sure can save you time and big bucks.

Here's my freezer, crammed with stuff from my once a month shopping trip (we'll talk about that another time.) I have spent around $150 total (this includes all the canned and dried goods as well) for a month's worth of food for the two of us. Here's what we have that's on the cold side:
1 bag of popsicles...because those are a necessity!
1/2 ham
1 package of bulk pork sausage
2 packages of corn tortillas, 1 of white
a bag of onion rings
5 tupperware containers of homemade bean soup
10 chicken thighs
3 bags of zucchini that I grated up this summer
1 half of a cake, which I plan to make into a trifle
2 pork loins--these are so good!
a bag of frozen garden tomatoes--whole tomatoes freeze so well, and are as good as canned
1 bag of frozen bananas--I use these for banana bread all the time
1 bag of bread crumbs--can be used for meat-loaves, etc.
10 chicken breasts
1 brisket
a tupperware container of homemadetaco casserole
two containers of homemadeitalian soup
8 pounds of hamburger
4 pork chops
a tupperware container of homemade spaghetti sauce
two bags of mixed vegetables
a bag of turkey soup bones, recycled from Thanksgiving that make a great pot of soup!
4 salisbury steaks
a package of turkey lunch meat
a tupperware container of homemade chicken primivera
a tupperware bowl of homemade chicken and rice soup
a tupperware container of homemade pork and rice
a tupperware container of homemade sauerkraut and sausage

I buy most of my meats from a discount store that sells things that are slightly irregular, scratched or dented. We have seen no decrease in quality or safety buying these items. This is where I buy at least half of my meat--which is often already frozen, and most of the time, half the price of any store in the area.

I like to double up when I cook, and freeze half. Hubby and I have decided that this year we're going to work on eating at home at least 90% of the time, and these doubled-up meals really help me when I'm sick to death of cooking. I can just take something out the freezer, pop it in the microwave, and voila, a home-cooked meal!

I figure we've saved at least half on our grocery bill, just by using the freezer to it's full capacity and shopping more carefully.

So, I'm dying to know, what's in YOUR freezer?