Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Early Days Of My Kitchen Disasters

This morning, I was thinking about how to teach my oldest child some cooking skills. He's getting old enough to be able to make quite a few things without my help.
This led to a long stretch of looking back at my early days of bad cooking. Here are some of my top picks for teenage 'learning' moments:

1.  Once when I was babysitting, I was making zoodles for the kids as an after school snack.  The can opener left two points attached, on opposite sides of the can.  Of course, I was not paying attention (never has been a strong skill for me) and when I went to dip the lid in so I could pull it off, it snapped hard.
Oodles of Zoodles ALL over the kitchen! And it wasn't even my house!!

2. Mom made a roast one weekend that was horribly tough. We had a lot of leftovers and she decided to try a stew, perhaps after a long slow soak in the roaster it would soften up?  Left me in charge while she went out.  Simple instructions to make sure the meat didn't boil over or boil dry.
Did you know that it smells worse when you boil it dry than it does if you just burn it??? And I think it creates more smoke!

3.How about the layer cake that has an extra pocket of pudding in the middle because you forgot to grease the pan and ripped a big chunk of it out trying to get it out of the pan??  At least now I am smart enough to now how to piece it together if it sticks.
WAITI mean, now I'm smart enough to grease the pans!!!

4.  Turns out the hubby likes to have ground beef just scramble fried with a bit of BBQ sauce and spices.  Can you guess how I figured that out?  Did I think I was making eggs instead of burgers?  Not sure... but at least he liked it! ;)

5.  Did you know that if you don't measure any of your ingredients when baking cookies, they can actually end up tasting strangely like fish?  I have NO idea how that works, but they certainly were not edible!  I may not always follow a recipe perfectly, and I may often measure a bit loosely... but I DID learn to MEASURE!!

6. Sometimes it's not my cooking, but bad eating skills.  I caught my knife on the bone of a pork chop and shot that sucker clear across the kitchen!  During one of my first visits to the inlaws...

7. There is also the time I realized that pork and chicken shake and bake really don't taste any different.  Yep, coated the chicken with the pork seasoning.  Noticed only when I was cleaning up after we all ate it.

Random Thoughts To Ponder
(maybe I shouldn't post this, I'll stop having company come over for dinner!)

Do you want to know how many pots I've thrown out because I burnt something to the bottom and can not get it off?  Actually, I can't answer that...I've lost count.

Who doesn't love a family game of  
Wonder which piece was the one on the floor?

Who invented flat bread?  Someone who forgot the yeast?  Wonder if I'm related?

I know I didn't invent the '5 second rule' or 3 or 10, whatever YOU use.... but I am most certainly grateful for it!
I have already laughed at my cooking enough that none of you can compete....

I have said it before and I'll say it again.  There ARE some things I CAN cook WELL.

Can you guess what things they are?????

Come on over!  ANYTIME!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What Did That Label Say??

Around here, we are trying to eat better.  Which is often hard to do because my hubby is rarely home early enough to actually cook himself and I am struggling to learn how to cook more than ground beef.
His opinion, ground beef or beef of any form is perfect.  Beef and potatoes. Who really needs anything else?

I do!

Back to my story... I'm trying to learn to cook a bigger variety here and slowly finding new favorite dishes. Some, also, that are just not good. BUT, I'm making a point of keeping track of these things. My cookbook collection is actually starting to look used. Food splatters and notes on pages.  Occasionally, though, we do have rushed dinners, even now. I'm not that good at planning a menu for 1 day, how could I possibly plan for 3 or a week or a month! (amazing moms out there do it!! I'm not one of them)  There are often days that I have forgotten to take something out of the freezer or just simply didn't feel like whatever it was I had planned. Whole family home for dinner and no one knows what to eat.
So we whip together ground beef, mushroom soup and rice. Not much to it, but if you spice it right, it does taste okay. At least, it will do in a pinch...
Last time I decided that I was going to work super hard on a project for my job, I realized again - MUCH too late - that I had nothing out for dinner.
I ran down to the freezer to grab the ground beef. I checked the cases of soup in the pantry and grabbed the mushroom soup. Quick defrost in the microwave to at least start the ground beef and then into the frying pan.  Back and forth, between kids, work and dinner, until the meat was browned. I got my rice ready and everything seemed to be going well. Drain the meat, open the soup and almost lost my lunch!  Why on earth does mushroom soup, in a can, turn yellow when it goes bad?  I don't think I've ever had bad mushroom soup! Though there were a few cans that we forgot in the camper over the winter last year.... I marked them all when I brought them in the house this fall. Just in case. Guess this was a bad one.
Ran back down to grab another can and realize that this couldn't be from the camper. I took it from the new case! It's new!?!? Why is it this awful color? Sure doesn't smell like mushrooms either.  Opened this up and it was normal. PHEW!!! Dinner saved!
Mixed all my ingredients, left them to simmer while I tidied up the rest of the kitchen. I'm a recycler, so I figured I best dump the bad soup and wash out the can for the recycle bag.
Then.... and only then.... did I look at the can....
My mushroom soup is fine. My eyes are not. I had carefully checked the cases and grabbed a can from the chicken noodle case....
Sometimes, dinner does turn out the way I want it to. But the road to the table is bumpy at best.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Can't Please Everyone All The Time

There are some things I can cook well.  I'm not completely hopeless.  My biggest problem is that I, yep just me, am tired of eating the same things over and over and over. Sometimes I try something new and no one likes it, but most of the time there are at least two of us that do.
Sunday was a day for burgers and fries.  I have gotten most of my family hooked on my home-made fries.  They really do taste better when they come from fresh potatoes.
This simple meal is a classic example of how the food plan in my house works most often.  My oldest son asks "What's for dinner?"  So I tell him "burgers and home made fries"
"Oh." says he.
Middle child waits about 10 minutes,
I think he does this just so I can't say "Didn't you hear me?  I just said ...."
"Mom, what's for supper?"  I tell him "burgers and home made fries"
"Oh." says he.

Now really, I don't honestly expect excitement over burgers and fries.  I am aware that it is not a fantastic, gourmet menu choice....even if I made home made buns (which I can, I just don't often).  
Burgers are not exciting to anyone, except my husband.  I've nailed the two important food groups for him with this meal.  Beef and potato.
But just a tiny bit of pleasure in knowing what's for dinner would be nice, wouldn't it?  Wishful thinking on my part.  I know.
After I have the fries in the oven and the burgers about half done frying, my darling oldest child comes in the kitchen and says "Is there anything else? I don't really like burgers."  I give the standard mom speech "We can't all have our favorite things all the time.  I know it's not the greatest meal in your opinion, but ....blah blah blah mom speak..... Okay?" I don't even get an "ok" back, just a shrug as he walks back to the living room.
Poor second child of mine....really needs to start paying attention to what the oldest says to me.  He often gets the brunt of my frustration, just by asking a question he didn't hear answered.
"Um, mom?  Is there anything else with supper?  I don't really like your homemade fries."

Yes, poor kids.... now I'm just about to lose it because I, myself, am not a big fan of this meal. I'm just not a burger girl. Once or twice in the summer, cooked by the hubby on the bbq, is great. Much more than that is too much for me. But I need to eat too, so I eat what the general 'population' eats.  Any question from my trucker about spices or even how much longer and I can promise my head would have exploded!
So, instead of the calm motherly speech for the second of these two kids, I let out a really big
"WHATEVER!" (yes, I know I am VERY mature!)
Followed quickly by "I'm just gonna serve you two ONE plate. You can pick off it what you like.  Why waste dishes?  You like the burger, he likes the fries, sounds good to me!"

Needless to say, I had no further company in the kitchen while I was cooking.

On the plus side, this family of mine has had the 'motherly speech' often enough that the kids do eat what I give them, sometimes not much, but they do try some of everything.  We sat down to dinner and chatted about the day and before I knew it, both kids had eaten everything on their plates and both kids were picking at the remaining fries on the serving dish.

Sometimes, a Mother does know best... just that none of us know it at the time.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Recipe Books Do Not Instantly Make Good Cooks

If you look in my collection of cookbooks, which I share with my mother, you will find stains and splashes on all the good recipes. Those are the pages that have been used so many hundreds of times that we don't even need to look at them anymore, unless we need to double check an ingredient or cooking time.  
In addition to the smears of love, you will find our family secrets. No single recipe ever gets made exactly as it is written. We have additions or omissions. We have notes about who liked or hated each dish.

Each time we try something new or a new variation, it gets written down and dated.  

I absolutely love this!

My darling mother has provided me with an excuse to NOT make the same mistakes she has.  The foresight to NOT make a recipe that was a real dud and the secrets to improving a meal that was 'almost' good.  I know she is a great cook, but now I also know that she went through the same processes that I am going through now. 
Trial and error, over and over.  
This wonderful gift of information that we share should be my saving grace, it should give me a head start on this learning curve. But it doesn't always work this way.

One favorite meal, a super easy casserole dish, exists in several of our Company's Coming cookbooks.  It's Shipwreck.  Simple ingredients, easy prep, delicious dinner.  Mom has made this many times, I have made it many times.
(of course with me there is always a "BUT")
I can't raise this ship to save my life.  It always tastes good, the flavour is right.  BUT every single time I make it, I forget one ingredient.  
Not even the same ingredient!  
Each time I make it, I take everything out of the fridge or pantry first.  I spread out everything I need and double check the list to be sure I have it all.  And still, somehow, I miss something.  It's a layered dish, potatoes, onions, meat, celery, rice, etc...  I miss a layer every time.  Whether the rice or a veggie, something is always missing.  
This shipwreck, for me, is eternally beyond salvageable.

The only positive experience I can draw from continually making this meal is that I never forget the meat (beef) and the potatoes.  

I guess that's why my trucker likes it. That's the only part he cares about anyway.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I'm Thankful For Pumpkin Pie...

Who doesn't love Thanksgiving Dinner?  A time to be with family, enjoy a great meal....
Yes, my family is thankful for thanksgiving.  

It was a fantastic day, really.  The cooking all ran smoothly. The house was tidied. My dear hubby was finishing up some end of season tasks in the yard.  Getting ready for winter. The snow will come soon around here so he wanted to get as much done as possible.  My mom and I played with the kids and we were discussing how we came to decide which dishes we serve at each holiday. Strange how traditions can start and you don't even know why. You just one day realize that you missed something this time, and then try to figure out how many years you have been doing it.
Kind of like our christmas baking, some of our treats don't even get eaten really. They stay frozen for months, but we still make the same things each year. It's just not the same without it?
Later in the afternoon, we greeted my sister in law and her husband in the early afternoon. He stayed and helped my hubby in the yard, while I enjoyed a relaxing visit with my sister. 
The kids kept us laughing most of the day. They were so excited to be having pie. No, really, I know. I was asked about 5000 times through the day
when's pie? when's pie? when's pie????
 "When's Pie?"

Finally time to eat, we set the dining room table for everyone and it was nice to share our space with family.  We thoroughly enjoyed our turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, brussel sprouts, carrots, fresh buns, the works! And the best part (when's pie???) was the Homemade Pumpkin Pie with whipped cream.
An absolute feast... as usual.  Stuffed and tired, we cleaned up and settled in for the evening. Our company went home and we played the Wii with the kids before they went to bed.  It was a fantastic day.

Yes, my family IS thankful for Thanksgiving.  And they are Thankful that my MOM does all of the cooking!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Maybe Grandpa Might Like This Potato Salad??

Okay.  I AM a sucker for punishment.   I don't enjoy learning things the hard way, but I seem to do it a lot.  I like potato salad. I don't know why mine is 'special' but many people have raved about it.

 Until the other day, at least.

I had everything set, plans well laid out.  Hubby was going to grill us some burgers and I was making potato salad for our friends who were joining us for dinner. The potato salad was part bribe in this case as we needed some help with a project in the house.  I was cooking away getting things ready, and got a phone call... that led to checking something on the computer... which led to checking my email, then work email, then working.....

OH NO!!!
Potato soup, anyone?

I boiled those potatoes until they mashed themselves!! Beyond salvageable.  You know how the water gets really starchy if you boil them too long?  Well this was a BIG pot of starchy mush. Perhaps if good old grand dad took out his teeth? No, I think he had better taste too...
Just bad.

Lesson learned.... Wendy Can't Cook and work at the same time!

Thankfully, our friends still stayed to help us. I gave up for the day and we just settled on burgers. No sides.