Thursday, January 16, 2020

Adventures in the kitchen

I'll have to do my freestyle writing elsewhere today, since I made a note of some things for a blog entry and actually have something in mind to write about, as you can see in the title.

I like to cook from scratch when possible.  I'm the first to admit that pancakes made from Bisquick or Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix are slightly better than the scratch version, although my oldest granddaughter insists my pancakes are the best anywhere.  Bisquick is good for biscuits, as well as pancakes, and I used it often when the kids were growing up.  But pancake mix could get old and stale sitting around for the two of us to use.  It isn't that we don't like pancakes, but we don't need all that butter and syrup very often.  So I make them from scratch.  I guess I feel a certain amount of pride, knowing I'm cooking the way those who came before me did.  My mother didn't even own an electric mixer until the late fifties, I believe.  Before that, when she baked a cake she used a hand egg-beater on the eggs first, poured them in with the other liquid ingredients,  and poured all that into the mixed dry ingredients.  Then she beat the batter at least three hundred times, counting under her breath all the way.  I grew up watching Mother cook, and I think about her as I'm cooking and baking.

I'm always spilling something or forgetting something.  If I get through preparing a meal without making a mess or forgetting an ingredient, it's a banner day.  Let me give you examples from the last couple of days.

Cliff likes to have an egg-and-cheese-and-Miracle-Whip sandwich for breakfast, so I see to it he has one at least once a week.  It's simple and quick to make; and how much mess can you make, really, just putting an egg between two slices of bread?  Leave it to me to find out.  Tuesday morning I broke an egg into my smallest cast-iron skillet, the only coveted Wagner brand skillet I own.  I had the skillet turned pretty low, so I stepped to the counter to spread Miracle Whip on the bread while the egg cooked.  I don't even know how it happened, but I somehow bumped the almost-full jar (plastic, thank goodness), and it fell hard on the floor, laying on it's side.  It landed so hard a lot of the stuff splattered all over the lower cabinets, as well as the floor.  Gabe, who can hear a bread-crumb drop on the floor two rooms away, ran it to see what tasty treat awaited, so I had to scold him to stay back all the time I was cleaning up.  What a greasy mess!  
my Griswold skillet
Yesterday I was making an enchilada casserole, which required a teaspoon of chili powder.  I buy those huge containers of chili powder at Costco, because it's something I use a lot of.  I picked up the jar, opened it to measure out the amount I needed, bumped the container, and managed to spill about a fourth of a cup of chili powder on the floor.  Again, Gabe to the rescue.  For some strange reason, he only took one tiny taste of chili powder and left the kitchen.  

Fast forward to this morning.   I bought about five pounds of ripe bananas for $1.99 at the store this week.  We both like our bananas ripe; if the have the little spots on the outside, that's perfect.  I knew there was no way we'd eat them all out of hand, but as they get riper, I intend to smash them, add Fruit-fresh to keep them from turning dark when thawed, and freeze them in one-cup amounts for banana bread.  This morning I decided to surprise Cliff with banana muffins; I wanted to wait until he got up to put them in the oven, though, since the anticipation of waiting and smelling them is half the fun.  I figured I'd get ahead of the game by preparing the dry ingredients, as well as the crumb topping, ahead of time.  I also broke some nuts to put in it.

I woke my husband up at seven, as usual.  I don't know if I've ever explained why a retired man has a certain time to get up:  Thanks to his life as a butcher and concrete construction worker, he has arthritis in most joints; he says if he lies in bed too long, it makes him hurt more.

Now I needed to mix the wet ingredients, which consist of mashed bananas with 3/4 a cup of sugar stirred in, melted butter, and a beaten egg.

I sprayed Pam in the muffin pan and began spooning the batter, which seemed sort of stiff, into the muffin pan.  I was just getting ready to put the crumb topping on and bake them when I glanced down at the counter and saw the closed container of sugar sitting there; I realized I had not added the sugar!  And there the batter was already in the muffin pan.  Thank goodness (and Pam) , each glob of dough/batter slipped right out into the mixing bowl, hardly leaving a trace behind.  I'm sure glad I hadn't put the crumb topping on before I saw my mistake, because I'm not sure how that would have turned out.  I added the sugar, which made the batter more "liquid", then the topping.  All's well that ends well, and they are delicious.  We each had two, and the rest went into the freezer in a covered container.

Three kitchen mess-ups in three days.  My parents always said things happen in threes, so maybe I'm done for awhile.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Freestyle writing

Freestyle writing is when you sit down and begin composing something when you have no topic in mind.  That's me, folks.  So this could get boring (as though I've never bored you before, right?).  And since my intention is to do a blog entry every day for two weeks, don't be surprised if I do some short blog entries.  Right now I have no idea what I'll put on this page.

Speaking of boring:  Old age brings many surprises, many of them unpleasant.  My body has betrayed me in numerous ways over the past few years, and it only gets worse.  However, there are good surprises too.  One of the things I've learned over these past few years is that I never get bored, even though I'm one of the laziest creatures God ever put on this earth.  Most of the time, especially in winter, I sit and pass the time reading or surfing.  I usually wake up at 3 AM and go to bed at 9 PM.  The time flies, especially those four hours in the morning before my husband gets up.  Since Cliff retired, I've came to the realization that I don't have that much time left on earth.  That's a fact even if I live to be a hundred.  I can write that in my blog, but the kids and grandkids don't seem to like me mentioning the brevity of life as it applies to me and Cliff.  Sometimes I will say something about my cremation or headstone... anything having to do with my death... just to get them going!  "Oh Grandma, you're awful!  Don't say that!"

How nice that they are still young enough to feel invincible.  And yet, I wouldn't trade places.  This is not a bad time of life.  It's rather like a second childhood:  I can be as lazy as I want.  Nobody can tell me what to do.  For the most part, I'm free as a bird.  My chief responsibilities these days are cooking and laundry.  I miss having a Jersey milk cow, but after a couple years without one, I realize I've gotten over missing them and have even arrived at the point I'm glad I don't have to go out in rain, snow, wind, and hail to milk Bonnie-the-Jersey-cow twice a day.  Letting the dog in and out several times daily, feeding him and walking him... that's as close as I get to "doing chores".  Oh yes, add to that the three barn cats I feed.  That's all the livestock I have.  I would sort of like to have a few chickens again, but we'd have to make a place for them; it's just not worth the effort that would have to be expended for a hobby I'm likely to get tired of in a year or two.  I'm facing reality here. 

I've mentioned before that I'm going to two churches every Sunday and loving it.  I believe I also shared the fact that I enjoy church more without my husband being there.  He isn't interested in church to begin with, and he can't make out anything that's said because he's so hard of hearing.  His hearing aids really help at home, but in a room where there's often some background noise and perhaps a little church-house echo, he's totally lost.  What I did not say before is WHY I enjoy the services more without him.  When he sat beside me at Church, I visited a little with him, but I never really talked to the other folks more than a sentence or two.  It seems when he isn't with me, I'm forced out of my shell, and I visit with people.  I've met such nice folks!  I look forward to my two church services every Sunday, and I'm almost depressed when they close for bad weather.  

There are seldom more that twenty people at either of the churches I'm attending.  My first Sunday in each of them, I was shocked by that.  I went to that same Baptist church for a couple of years back around 1980, and they had a decent crowd then by small-town standards.  I hadn't ever attended the Methodist church for Sunday services until this year.  The more I went to the two churches, the more it bothered me that church attendance there is so low when these churches are a big part of the town's history.  When I look around at the people there, they are old, for the most part.  There is no doubt those churches will eventually close.  So I made up my mind to support them with my presence whenever possible.  If one of them closes while I'm alive and still able to go to two churches, I'll have two others in town to choose from.

Here's another revelation:  as a non-driver, I've found out I needed somebody besides relatives to talk to, even though I am an introvert, socially awkward, and a loner.  So both my churches are helping me a lot more than I can possibly help them.    

That's it for today's freestyle writing.  Thanks for sticking with my drivel throughout my learning experience, faithful readers.