Friday, January 29, 2010

My Current Chili

My current chili came about one day when I was out of tomatoes. I had cooked a pot of pinto beans, browned up the ground meat, toasted the spices, and was reaching for tomatoes to deglaze the fry pan. No tomatoes in the pantry, freezer, or even dried tomatoes. I just had to make do. Well, the resulting chili was delicious without tomatoes.

I serve chili two ways. Either cornbread or corn chips as the side dish. I have always just used the recipe on the corn meal to make it. Corn and beans complement each other for a complete protein.

We like to make a full pot of chili. After dinner, I make three or four lunches for Scott by freezing the chili in individual serving containers. I freeze cornbread in a sandwich bag for each serving. Or he can buy corn chips at work. That leaves us with just enough leftover for a meal of chili burgers or dogs.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Uncle David's Favorite Chili Recipe

Our Uncle David was unique. He was Mom's younger (by six years) brother. He never married. He didn't hold a steady job until he went to work for Uncle Walt. He liked to play the horses and greyhounds. He had crush on both Julie London and Nancy Sinatra. He played their records over and over, much to my delight. When he was a teen, we played a game, he had 'foo foo dust' in his pockets, where he sprinkled me with pocket dust and I became a fairy.

When Uncle Dave arrived, he showered his nieces with kisses and hugs. We would wiggle and squirm to get away. Mom said we hurt his feelings when we did that. I felt bad about that, I truely never wanted to hurt him. Twenty years after his death, my cousin Nancy said, "I would give anything for one of Uncle David's hugs." I had to turn away or else break into great, grieving sobs.
Dave loved my chili.  He said it was better than Mom's, which was saying a lot.  I know what he liked about mine, I used ketchup in my chili.  Dave loved his ketchup.
We didn't see Uncle Dave for the year or so he was stationed in England.  When he came back, my younger sisters didn't remember him and would scream if he came near them.  It took a couple of months for them to realize he was the best uncle ever.  My apologies to Uncles Lawerence, Les, Ed, Roy, Walt, Harry, Jack, Ed, Jerry, and Bill.  I know you all know what I am talking about.


So, that is the way Peggy pronounces t(ah)co.  We have decided it was those '70's she lived in the midwest, those first years as a flight attendent.  She picked up that midwest twang.  Hey, come to think of it, she traveled to Iowa?, Ohio? when her birthday twin Rene, and her family came to visit ours back in the late '60's.  Peg went home with them and flew back a couple of weeks later.  Rene and Peggy were born in the same hospital on the same day.  Our moms were in adjacent beds.  We have pictures of their birthdays together until Rene's family moved when the girls were about five.  They are still friends.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rosemary Roast Chicken

One of Scott's favorite meals is Roast Chicken.  It was his Mom's Sunday Dinner.  By the time I had met Scott, Pat was fixing fried chicken for Sunday.  The whole family would wax poetic about Grandma Pearl's roast chicken.  (Grandma Pearl had passed before I met Scott.)  Anyway, it was about six or seven years ago that I learned how to roast chicken.  It is easier than frying chicken!

Scott was working for a company that oversaw the care of an autistic, developmentally delayed young man.  He was on the graveyard shift.  He did the house cleaning and took on the cooking.  He made meals and froze them for later use.  That way, the day workers didn't have to cook with the unpredictable behavior interrupting.

He had me search for recipes that were easy, nutritious, filling, and his ward could eat with a spoon.  Along the way I found a recipe for Rosemary Roast Beef.  Now, I have been growing rosemary next to the back door, to hide the ugly side of the porch, for 14 years.  But I hadn't used it in cooking.  So, I tried the recipe with a roast pork.  Ymmmmmm.  Scott was not impressed.  Next was chicken, "Okay," he said.  "Just not too often."

Saturday, January 23, 2010


I can honestly say we didn't eat much fresh fish growing up.  I remember the few times Dad caught trout and salmon.  We sat picking out the bones.  Mom and Dad hovering over us to make sure we didn't get any bones.  I loved that fish.
Most of the time our fish came from a can.  Tuna sandwiches.  Mom made them with Best Foods Sandwich Spread.  Her cousin Ruth used Best Foods Mayonaise.  I asked Mom to make the tuna with just mayo.  Seems the whole family preferred it.  At school we had Creamed Tuna Over Biscuits and Fish Sticks.  So my fish preparation skills were pretty slim when I married Scott.
Scott loves to fish.  He would live his life on the end of a pole, if he could.  He used to fish in rivers, wilderness lakes, the ocean; then he completely smashed his heels and ankles in an industrial accident.  He really doesn't like fishing off a dock.  Now I have to buy my fish.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

How I Shop for Groceries

Yawn.  I know.  Shopping can be a boring neccessity.  Okay, I enjoy the 'Hunter Gatherer' of it all.  I also enjoy seeing my pantry stocked so I don't have to run to the store for something.  That wastes my time and my money as I don't always just get the one item.  There is too much marketing strategy for impluse buys in grocery stores and I do succumb to impulse buys.  Yes, bad, bad girl!
I only shop every other week.  That is how Scott is paid and that's the way I have been shopping for nearly 40 years.  By reducing the shopping trips, I do reduce the impulse buys and keep to my budget better.  If I run out of something: 
  1. I try to substitute.  Sometimes a disaster, sometimes a great result!
  2. Look for another recipe using pretty much the same ingredients
  3. Run to the store.  (This is a LAST resort)

Soups, Gravies, Stocks, Broths, Oh My!

Our dinner (Mom and Dad called it 'supper.'  "How old-fashioned," I thought in the first grade.) was meat, potatoes, gravy, a hot vegetable, and a fresh vegetable, 95% of the time.  The other 5% was chili, soup, stew, spaghetti or barbequed ribs (Mom's recipe from the green cookbook, I'll post that later.)   I remmeber standing at Mom's or Dad's elbow while they removed the meat from the frypan, added a little more Crisco to melt, stirred in the flour, let it brown, added lots of milk to make a pan gravy.  As a kid I didn't like pan gravy.  Sometime around puberty I found I loved pan gravy.  I have always loved a good roast gravy.  Mom made hers with cornstarch and so do I.
I guess here is a spot to explain how I grew up with plain cooking.  Dad doesn't like spices or herbs in his food.  (He got kicked out of a nursing home when he broke his hip, last Christmas, because he caused a mutiny over the food.  No lie.  They put basil in the tomato soup!)  He loves meat, potato, gravy, a veg, bread, and butter.  When we had spaghetti, we cooked him a hamburger patty and a boiled potato.  Mom served her barbeque short ribs with rice.  We cooked Dad a boiled potato.  The only casseroles we had were scalloped potatoes and mac & cheese.  At the same meal.  He has loosened up since he married Dorthy.  He still will not eat lamb, mutton, goose, or rabbit.  I'll tell you some of his goose and rabbit stories later.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What To Do When You're Out of Spaghetti Pasta

Since Scott's paydays have changed from the 15th and the last day of the month to every other Friday; it has made a hiccup in my grocery shopping.  I have always shopped twice a month, on payday.  In between, I run after fresh produce or milk.  It's just a 40 year old habit.  It's just that he was paid the 31st and I was expecting to shop again on the 15th.  But, no, he was paid again on the 8th, tiny amount, and then not until the 22nd.  I forgot about the change.
I am running out of some staples.  No problem.  Just substitute.  After all, one pasta is just another in a different shape, right?  Right.  Pasta is just flour and water, kneaded, and rolled thin or thick.  The shapes we buy at the market are all pressed through a die.  Okay, so I had 1/4 lb piccolini, 1/3 lb medium shells, and 1/2 lb macaroni.  With the sauce, it is still spaghetti.

Julia Child, Campbells Soup, and Me

One of the 10 cookbooks I kept in my purge was Julia Child and Company.  Julia and I spent many Saturday afternoons cooking our way through this book.  Well, Julia cooked on the show of the same name, while I soaked up every little morsel in information I could.
When I found the cookbook, I bought it.  I have been happily cooking from it since 1978.  Anyway, I remembered her recipe for Turkey Orloff.  A rich rice suebise combined with sliced turkey and mushroom duxelles, covered in a rich gratin.  Of course, when I reread the recipe, I realized I didn't have the time to do her recipe, considering the turkey was still a bit frozen and the only cheese in the house was Tillamook.  What to do?  Improvise!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Massachechetts Dinner in Oregon

I found the original recipes for this dinner in an 1880's cookbook nearly 40 years ago. It is one of our all time favorites.  I have been wanting to go on a picnic, but the weather is so lousey I thought I'd make an indoor picnic.  No bears.
Baked beans are so easy to make. I have been taking them to potlucks since I found this recipe and tweaked it to make it my own. I bake them overnight in a slow oven with the bedroom door closed. That's because they smell so appetizing we wake up in the middle of the night for a little snack before the beans are done. Hence, the closed door. Why cause anymore temptation?

We also love to eat Boston Brown Bread with the beans. By just using ham hocks or broth as seasoning in the beans, we get a full protein with the cornmeal in the bread. And it is a great way to use up the last little bit of a variety of flours before they go stale. The sweetness of the bread is just right for a ham sandwich, don't forget the mustard!

Mom's Potato Salad is my favorite in the whole world. My sisters, Peggy Ann and Debjo, have that real Mom taste in their salads. I limit the amount of eggs in mine due to a non-affinity to egg whites. Don't care for the texture at all.  I also limit the amount of mayonaise, subbing a bit of milk.
I learned much about cooking from my ex-sister-in-law, Marilyn. (She also taught me how to properly cast-on and off when knitting and how to embroider without knots.) She told me about ham hocks as a sensible solution when you want to flavor beans and split peas. In case you don't know about ham hocks: They are the end of the shank half of a ham. If you are looking at the walking pig, they are just above the ankle where the lower leg muscles attach to the bones. They generally don't have much meat, do have some fat, and do have full ham flavor. I keep them in the freezer as part of my stocked pantry. (More about that later.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mom's Crappy Homemade Pizza

Okay, that is Selene's name for the pizza recipe I have been using since 1966. My young self had no idea what pizza really was. You see, the pizza we got in school lunches back then, was nothing like pizza. The school cooks used pre-made square pizza crusts, (similar to the round ones you can buy at the market) tomato sauce, process american cheese, and either leftover sloppy joe mix or spaghetti sauce. Baked and served on the plastic trays.
In 1966 I had my first American style pizza, Hawaiian, cold. A group of friends met at Shakey's Pizza Parlor for my cousin Nancy's 16th birthday. My sister, Peggy Ann, and I had never been to a pizza parlor before. The party organizer ordered the pizza when she arrived. Everyone else was late due to 'cruisin' the gut'. It was a townie thing. Anyway, we ate one piece of 'pizza' and were hooked. Another night we tried pepperoni, it was all good.
So, one night I tried to make pizza for the family. It was a disaster. Mom's green cooking encyclopedia, the only cookbook she ever owned, had limited information on pizza. I remember there was a recipe for risen dough that I did not have time to prepare. So, I made biscuit dough from the box, rolled it out, put it on a cookie sheet. I used canned tomato sauce, Tillamook cheddar cheese, raw hamburger, and pepperoni sticks for topping. Well, the dough was not cooked through. The hamburger grease filled the cookie sheet. And the pepperoni sticks were as hard as rocks. We ran to the burger joint and brought dinner home.
Selene calls it MCHP because the crust is too thin,the toppings include ground beef and pineapple, and there is no pepperoni. I make other pizzas, but this was my first and Scott still likes it.

Welcome to Grandma's Kitchen! Let's Eat Ham!

I've always wanted to write a cookbook. After all, I was collecting cookbooks for nearly 40 years! So, I thought this would be a chance to share my favorite recipes and try out some new ones as well. Oh, all those cookbooks - I sold or donated all but 10 of my very favorite ones. I decided to lighten the load. My deocrating style went from cluttered to sleek and I like it so much better :).

Although there are just the two of us now, husband Scott and myself, I am used to cooking for up to six. Oh all right, I was a school cook, camp cook, and caterer. I find no problem in cooking for 100 by myself. Some of the recipes will be for 2 some for 6. I will try to remember to list servings. Just remember, unless otherwise stated, just increase or decrease for your personal situation.
One of our favorite meats is ham. I buy the butt cut because of my daughter, Selene. About 20 years ago we were doing the grocery shopping and she saw 'butt' on the ham. Well, you know the jokes. I changed from shank cut to butt cut that day. We like the texture, flavor, and ease of slicing.
Anyway, I found this one for $.99/lb with 30% off. So it became the basis for last nights' dinner: