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Sunday, June 12, 2011

More Things I Love


Now, how on earth could I write about what I like, or quite possibly love, without mentioning Krispy Kreme doughnuts ?! Yes, the plain glazed are quite possibly the best in the land. If one goes over to the main store in Atlanta, on Ponce de Leon, and buys them while they are still warm, one could possibly manage to eat at least six, if one had not eaten in a while. Oh, may be 3 or 4 hours, perhaps, one could eat even more. Just sayin’ - one doesn’t have to share everything if the size of one’s fanny is of little to no importance to one……. After all, it really is behind one …

   I love bright red lipstick. I’ve been wearing Revlon’s LOVE THAT RED # 725 , for as long as I remember. I’ve tried paler shades and have found that they make me look .. uh, pale.
   I don’t even remember the last time I went to a theatre to see a movie. My husband enjoyed movies a lot, so as soon as my kids got old enough to go with him, I mostly opted to stay home. Dee continued to go with him for years and that was something they had in common and enjoyed doing together. However, we’ve either rented or bought lots of movies. I’ve loved the big musicals, Hello Dolly, My Fair Lady,  etc.
   One movie we watched so often, we knew most of the lines. That one was Hopscotch, with Walter Mattheu. Another that I like and have watched several times is Local Hero. Also, I like James Garner so I’ve watched Murphy’s Romance several times and enjoyed the fact that his character is an older man. I suppose Gregory Peck is my all time favorite so I watch Roman Holiday every chance I get. Think I could just listen to that man read the phone book!

   My enjoyment in reading biographies is something I’ve written about before and the lives of my favorite actresses interest me. Ingrid Bergman, born 1915, and Audrey Hepburn, born 1929, are two of my favorites. Julia Childs was such an interesting person with multiple layers of personality and talents that books by and about her would be an inspiration to anyone, to try their wings. Cherie Blair’s Autobiography taught me lots about life in England. Even though I don’t agree with all her politics, I admire much about her. Her life in the Prime Minister’s residence was in great contrast to the life of our president’s family, at least when she first got there. I don’t have her book in front of me but I believe she said Laura Bush gave her some pointers, at least to get some help. She was even trying to do all the cooking a long with all her other duties plus having young children. Oh dear, now I want to read the book again.
   Don’t think I’ve written much about it, but I loved teaching  my 5th graders, in North Augusta, S.C. I’d taught younger children but by 5th grade the kids’ personalities had jelled somewhat. It helped if I could discover their interests and make learning meaningful for them. I usually had about 30 students. My last year, I had 24 boys and 5 girls. I allowed the girls to pull their desks into a little ”sewing circle” up near my desk so we could roll our eyes and giggle at some of the boys’ antics. We worked very hard; 5th is not an easy grade and there were certain skills I was determined they’d have by the time they left my class. For example, their language arts textboook was just silly. Therefore, I taught their grammar from my old college text book. Our school was scheduled to departmentalize the coming fall of my last year. I was being given charge of the math-science department, based on my grades on the National Teachers’ Exam, we were required to take. However, that spring, my son decided he was ready to enter this world --- and that ended my teaching career. Back then, pregnant ladies did not teach school.
   I’m going to share a little trick I used with my school children and later, with Bruce and Dee. I assured them that I had eyes in the back of my head. Yep, and I often proved it. In any classroom, there are always a couple of wiggletails or mischiefs. When you notice one starting to get out of his seat, toss a paper airplane etc, immediately turn your back, then say something like, ”Henry, sit down,” or  “Suzy, bring me the note you are passing etc”. At first, they say they were not doing anything but then you say,” Yes, you were, I saw you.”  After a while, they finally accept the fact that you do indeed, have eyes in the back of your head.  Just a note: don’t bother to try this with husbands…..

   One of the first things I try to do when I move into a new home, is to plant gardenias. If the climate is right, they are fairly easy to care for. Presently, we have about six bushes and they are in full bloom.  I have a Red River Pottery pitcher that Bruce bought for me, in Texas, when he was stationed at Fort Hood. After she waters everything each morning, Dee has been cutting long stem gardenias for the pitcher. Their fragrance fills that part of the family room and I enjoy it so much. Eons ago, when I tried to do more formal flower arrangements, gardenia greenery was helpful for filler in vases. Now days I believe the trend is for more natural flower arrangements and I find that a nice improvement.
   For several years before I moved here, I enjoyed shopping in a boutique type store, right near  the French Market Grill, in Augusta, Ga. I tried to make a point of eating there at least once a week, often more.  Music is seldom just background to me, I hear it even as I do other things and am very much aware of it. Some of the music I loved in the boutique was really nice piano music. The piano player is Emile Pandolfi and his selection of songs on the CDs suits me very well. For example, the signature song on the CD I am listening to, is My Foolish Heart. Others on there are, All The Things You Are, When I Fall In Love, Deep Purple, Tenderly, The Very Thought Of You, and others. Guess that really shows my age! Anyway, my CDS are about worn out from constant playing and I just checked Amazon to see if Pandolfi is still available and he is.  I know lots of folks have all those new fangled contraptions to listen to music but I have no desire to change.
 Well, my word, I could write a book I guess. Perhaps if I wrote about what I don’t like, the piece would be shorter. Let’s see: I don’t like to wear brown, eat liver, listen to most of the kids’ music, or go to the dentist. That’s all I can think of at the moment. We just won’t mention politics!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Art of Culinary Improvisation

If you are a food snob or so-called “gourmet,” you may as well go read the phone book. This blog is not for you.
My husband was one of those trusting souls who loved to bring home extra people for dinner, most often the hungry young bank officers who worked for him. I quickly learned to wait until I had a head count before cooking dinner.
The first time this happened, I’d only been married about a month and knew very little about cooking. One dish I did know how to cook was Tuna Casserole. Tony called and said he was bringing his uncle home with him, to eat lunch. I nearly panicked but made the casserole and Uncle Jake raved over it, said it was the best thing he’d ever eaten. He even told my mother in law how much he’d enjoyed it - most likely because he could chew it. This was 1957 and tuna casserole was still new. That dear man spent lots of time with us over the years and always bragged on my cooking. At one time, he’d been produce buyer for the group of grocery stores my husband was in charge of, when we married. So, though he was older when I met him, he taught me lots about fruit and vegetables.
I picked up some ideas for quick and easy party foods early in my marriage.
In Atlanta, that year, onion dip - made by adding a package of Liptons dry onion soup mix to a pint of sour cream - was quite popular. It was served with chips, at parties. Of course it needed an hour or two, or longer, to combine properly. I had the fun of being the first to serve that to party guests not long after we married. Maybe just because it was something new, everyone devoured it. 
Another party food still kind of new that year, was Chex Mix, made with several cereals and nuts, then baked slowly with some seasonings. I’ve probably made a bathtub of this over the last 55 years. I’ve given it for tiny Christmas gifts several times. It is nutritious and fairly cheap. The recipe is on the Chex boxes tho’ I usually jazz mine up a bit with soy sauce, onion powder and garlic salt, etc.
But back to meal stretching - here are some tips and recipes.
Grocery list for emergency meal stretching:
Rice, macaroni, spaghetti, boxed real potato flakes, potatoes, canned cream soups, tuna, canned chicken, Del Monte Blue Lake green beans, Le Seur Party Peas.
We ate lots of tuna back then. When we got tired of tuna, I gave it a good rinse (it was all oil-packed), patted it dry with paper towels, and diced it up fine so we could have chicken salad. (It’s easier than cooking and dicing chicken!)
Our first “home” was in an apartment complex, surrounded by lots of other young couples. We married in February, and I could not get a teaching job that time of year, in Augusta, a town new to me. It was a good situation for me because the other wives were so sweet to me and taught me lots about cooking etc. There was no leash law and there were always dogs and a few cats around, to eat the mistakes I threw out the back door for them.
Since I became an expert at stretching and improvising when I was married, I thought it would be fun to share some of my hard-won knowledge.

Stretch Pork Chops

How to stretch 4 pork chops into dinner for a crowd, at the last minute, with no time for a trip to the store:

2 cups dry rice, cooked in 4 cups water to which 4 chicken bouillon cubes have been added (or cooked in chicken broth)
4 pork chops, cubed into small cubes, browned in vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 red or green pepper, chopped, if you have it or a jar of pimentos (drained)
1 can small green peas drained  
additional liquid: soup or just plain water. Add after tasting –

Now, fold all together and TASTE! May need salt, pepper, onion powder, a shot of Soy Sauce, Tabasco, or whatever your family likes.
This needs to be slightly soupy. Place in a greased casserole dish and heat at 350 until it bubbles around the edges. Can add bread crumbs, grated cheese, etc. for a topping if desired.   Obviously, this can be changed lots of ways but you get the picture. I certainly  prefer not to cook this way but someone asked  me recently  how to stretch something like pork chops .

Another easy dish to have on hand is ---

Frozen Fruit Salad

In a large mixing bowl, combine:
1 can cherry pie filling
1 large can crushed pineapple, drained
8 oz sour cream
1 can condensed milk
large carton thawed Cool Whip
2 cups miniature marshmallows
Freeze in loaf pans or paper muffin cups, placed in regular muffin pans [place in ziplock bags when frozen]. Slice and serve on a lettuce leaf or in the muffin wraps. Actually, I usually doubled this. It is good and convenient to have on hand. Tony and Bruce used to get these out of the freezer and eat them like popsicles.

Hot Dog Chili 

(This is supposed to be the Varsity’s Original Recipe but I doubt it. At any rate,  it works and is nice when making chili dogs. Freezes well, too.)
2 pounds lean ground beef
1- 2 ½ oz box hot chili powder
1 tsp salt  [I use less]
2 cups water
Mix in a saucepan; bring to a boil; simmer on low until slightly thick, about one hour.

 Curried Tuna Melts
Prepare your usual tuna salad except add curry powder, starting with about one teaspoon, then taste. Can add more to suit yourself. On a baking sheet, divide the salad between slices of toast, maybe about four. Place a slice of cheese on top of the salad. Place the baking sheet under the broiler, just until the cheese starts to melt. Remove and serve.

Well, there you have a few food bites. I’m sure anyone who has cooked for a while could add lots more and definitely better ideas.  However writing this gives me something to do – and keeps me off the streets.