What’s For Supper ?

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Ours is a fast food restaurant or microwave diet. So gardening, canning and preserving food may seem out of step and anything but fun.

For generations, gardening and canning have filled those vacant, school-free hours between June and September with a fruitful activity that can still keep a food cellar — and a family pocketbook — full.

Still, canning requires some effort. Anybody who has done gardening and canning knows it’s not much fun. While family members love the fruits of their labor, they’re not prone to help much.

My mother has been making her own ketchup, jams, jellies, tomato sauce and salsa for years. She keeps busy through the summer, and the work doesn’t end until she is done with apples in the fall.

As I was taking the package of frozen peaches out of the freezer today, I began to think of how we put them up when I was a young girl. We began by watching the trees, and as soon as most of the peaches had turned a beautiful pink, we knew they were almost ready.

We put them in mason jars. I knew that when those jars came out of the basement, I would automatically wash them. Mother would work all day preparing the peaches for canning. While we kids popped peaches into our mouth as we worked.

Now as I sit at the kitchen table eating peach cobbler that was made from store bought frozen peaches, I think of the fun I had while working with my mother. Yeah right….. If God had wanted every woman to cook he would have never invented Del Monte.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Soup’s On !

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My friend Larry was to be released from the hospital today. What better way to say “I care” than to take over a kettle of vegetable soup. My mother is staying with me a few days and the issue sparked a heated debate. Not that she thought it was a bad idea — it was my cooking of the vegetable soup. How could I possibly make vegetable soup without a head of cabbage?

Who is to say there is only one way to fix vegetable soup? I make an easy hamburger vegetable soup. When I opened a box of frozen peas my mother simply left the room.

My grandmother used to put (beef) neck bones in a kettle, boil, and let them simmer. Then she would skim the residue from the top. Major Yuck! Today we can just buy a can of beef consommé (stock).

I found out that my neighbor uses Tofu in her vegetable soup. Naturally it was a recipe she jotted down from The Food Television Channel. My friend Myrna swears by her microwave vegetable soup recipe. Vegetable soup in only twenty minutes for those who can’t wait.

I asked around the office and found more than one person willing to share their favorite vegetable soup recipe with me. It is interesting to note that no two recipes were alike.

The majority of recipes did call for the standard; carrots, lima beans, potato, tomato, green beans, corn, celery, onion, peas and yes a head of cabbage. A few recipes were unique adding rice, okra, red peppers, avocado and mushrooms, even a rutabaga.

Why was I worried about not adding the head of cabbage when no two of these recipes even called for the same meat. I could have put in lamb, sausage, ham, chicken, beef or no meat at all. Tom’s rendition of the time-honored hearty vegetable soup calls for one pound of frozen or fresh skinless cod fillets.

My co-worker Stella makes an herbal vegetable soup that you refrigerate and served chilled. The recipe calls for cucumbers, radishes, zucchini, and yogurt. Across the room from her, Betty gave me her recipe that has been in her family for years. It is served with dumplings.

Also in  the office is  Candy, who gave me  her  recipe  for vegetable soup that originally, come from Finland  and  it calls for spinach.  Charlotte  gave me  a vegetable  soup  recipe of her   great  aunt  from  Italy.  It was  a  pasta  vegetable soup.

What about this head of cabbage in the vegetable soup? Larry came home from the hospital and later that day I took over a crock of vegetable soup. It was a labor of love – but no cabbage.

 

 

 

 

The Dog and Suds Drive-In

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Today we live with fast food and drive-thru windows.

I recently took my nephew Doug, to a restaurant located not far from the Fort Wayne exit. The Dog and Suds Drive-In serves traditional all American food, such as hamburger, french fries, tenderloins, shakes, etc.

Our food was delivered by our car hop, Judy, who mentioned that the restaurant typically sells three perhaps four tons of hamburgers in one year alone. The Suds customers can guzzle as much as 1,700 gallons of root beer per year, all served in a frosty mug.

Once again, places you can go offering icy mugs of root beer, double-decker hamburgers and coleslaw served in clear plastic cups delivered to your car. The Dog and Suds eatery makes everyone over the age of 30 feel 16 again.

The neon bedecked sign advertising the drive-in has presided over cities for more than a decade. Within driving distance we have a new yet old restaurant whose owners spend long hours in the day slaving over the grills in 90 degree heat. The menu boasts more selections than many other drive-thru establishments.

The only difference I could see from years past is customers do not signal their need for service by turning on their headlights. Also the car hops do not wear roller skates, but after an evening of running trays to dozens of cars, I bet they wish they had.

In summer, vintage cars and four wheel drive trucks will line up beside motorcycles, sports cars, and vans. Each vehicle has patrons with a craving for food brought on a door hanging tray.

My only problem was when the car hop told my nephew, “Here is your mug,” he took it literally. “Sorry. . get that glass mug out of your backpack.   You cannot take it home.”

 

 

 

 

Holidays and the In-Laws

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Now that Christmas is drawing near, eventually the time will come when the in-laws will come for a visit.  I have a few suggestions on how to make the visit memorable.  It might make a difference if they return next year.

Think of the decorations.  When decorating your house, think more, more, and more.  A house can never be over-decorated.  Decorations should dominate the field of vision at all times.  Explain to them how you have been so busy decorating and celebrating for Christmas.

Give each child at least a dozen cookies a day.  Snickerdoodles, chocolate chip cookies, it doesn’t matter which kind as long as they are sugar coated.  The most the child should have in one day is 27.

Purchase magazines that have headlines about divorce.  Perhaps go to the library and take out a book on open marriage.  Leave it on the coffee table.

Constantly tell your in-laws how you had to buy everything that the children wanted for Christmas.  Who is to say it was not healthy to satisfy all their desires?  Tell them how your husband told you about all those gifts he wanted so badly but never received.  Those disappointments haunt him to this day.

Pick up more than one credit card application as you walk out of the department stores.  Place these half filled out applications throughout the house.  Mention that you do worry about whether you can pay off your credit cards during your lifetime.  That’s a legacy you can pass on to your children.

Purchase gifts that send them a message.  Buy them a piece of luggage and give them a book on travel.  Enclose more than one brochure about taking a cruise for the holidays.

Bring out all the Halloween treats that were never eaten and brag about the good sales on candy you found.

Lose all self-control in your eating habits.  Don’t worry about gaining weight.  You can always lose any pounds in January.  Every time your mother-in-law asks if she can help in the kitchen, be munching on food.  It is a good idea to lick any spoon, cough, and put it right back in the bowl.

Switch the local radio station to an all jazz station or try to find a rap station.  Pretend to understand the lyrics, snap your fingers or tap your foot.

Talk about how you always wanted a Saint Bernard.  If you have a dog already, wouldn’t he be an added enjoyment inside the house?

Try to telephone as many other family members or friends as you can.  So what if your in-laws are in the other room?  Hello Aunt Betty in Georgia, my husband said your pot roast was the best he ever ate.  Can I have that recipe? 

Set the goal of creating that perfect Christmas for the in-laws.  No expectations can be too high for the holiday season.  In fact, next year might be more perfect than this year.   They might actually take that cruise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome To The Cookout !

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                                                           A_Woman_Barbecuing    

Hamburgers  and  hot dogs on the grill are as American as  fireworks  on the Fourth of July.  Nonetheless .  . . . no two  families  cook  outdoors alike.                                          

Outdoor entertaining can be fun and time consuming. At our house the topic of conversation was should you put aluminum foil on the grill or not.

Why do men enjoy slaving over a hot barbecue?  Because they’re cooking caveman style – throw meat on a fire.  It’s their domain, that’s why.  My family is no exception.  The men cook out while the women scurry to get the rest of the meal.  Any minute the cook will announce that the food is ready.

I was raised on grilled food.  A burned, crusty taste is what I remember.  When my father cooked, he’d grill a hamburger so that it was burned on one side and almost raw on the other.  My sisters and I would tell him that it was both too burned and too raw, but he refused to cook any other way.  Eventually we got to like it.

My neighbor puts non-stick spraying oil on the grates.  I wonder why, when you see him prying to get the hamburgers off.  When he fixed cooked cabbage on the outdoor grill, his back yard had a smell for a week.

My cousin grills corn on the cob, alongside the main dish.  Without a doubt, the corn is done before the meat, but he never listens.  We eat crisp, charred corn on the cob every time.   

A friend of ours had a bad experience with turning and basting a lamb on the grill once.  He now refuses to cook anything but hamburgers and hot dogs.

My uncle always cooks in an area super organized.  The spices, tongs, fork, wire brush, kitchen towel, spatula, even a cutting board all in place.  Everything in its place to grill out. 

At my friend Larry‘s house, he grills with no meat.  No meat?  Yes, his wife fixes a totally vegetarian kabob.  The skewers are filled with green, red or yellow bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, carrots, onions, potatoes, pears, pineapples, even apricots.  He’s tried about every vegetable on the grill other than avocados.  Let’s face it, avocados are one of those acquired taste.

Yet; my father never did learn the knack of using the rotisserie; the chicken would still be pink on one side.  Just like his hamburgers.

So,  foil on the grill or not?   My brother-in-law said it  best.   “I’m the guy cooking, so we use aluminum foil.”

My nephew interrupted, “You’re not stacking the charcoal like Dad does.”  A new controversy – yet an old conversation.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandma’s Chili is the best !

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At the dinner table my nephew said it, “I like Grandma’s chili a lot better than moms’” His honesty opened up Pandora’s Box – Whose chili is best?

Chili is something we tend to make only in winter.  It is a cross between soup and stew, only the hot spices bring out its true value.  It has zero degree of difficulty to make, and if you make a big enough pot of chili it might even taste better the next day.

My sister wouldn’t think of making chili without putting spaghetti in it.  Why do people put pasta in their chili?  My aunt loves macaroni in her chili. Doesn’t this make it more like a chili-con-carne?

My sister-in-law puts diced bacon, nutmeg and two bottles of beer (or ale) in her chili.  Now that would make my brother want two bowls.

At our house we put red  kidney beans in our chili, yet my neighbor would never  put beans in. My husband  likes three  bean chili  made with whole green chilies.chilies. I’ve also  tasted it  made  with  great chili  peppers. I’ve also dined  on white  bean  chili.

My sister is watching for low fat meals so she makes a chunky chicken chili. I’ve also had her chili when she made it with venison or pork.  She has even made chili with ostrich meat. 

My mother-in-law never eats chili if it has meat in it.  No meat?  Yes, my friend Myrna fixes a totally vegetarian chili that does taste good.  The flavor is robust and the jalapenos have been smoked.  Yes vegetarian chili can still make your eyes water. 

I add chopped tomatoes  in my chili, while my mother uses whole tomatoes and my sister uses only tomato sauce.  You can add Worcestershire  sauce, oregano, brown sugar, onion, garlic, cornmeal, even carrots.   I have heard of one woman  putting in a square of unsweetened  chocolate.  Go figure.  Every house has a different recipe for chili.

In the winter months, everyone is wild about chili.  It is a collection of fiery treats cooked up anyway you like it.  Yes and why do they call it chili, if we want it as hot and spicy as we can make it?