The Realization that Life is Good No Matter What

Can we chat a moment? Since the rest of this week’s menu consists of left-overs (Spice Rub Baby Back Ribs with Golden Eagle Barbecue Sauce) and meals I’ve shared before, rather than cook for you I’d like to share another hobby – my view of the world through the lens of my camera. And reflect for a moment on the world of blogging.
The nice thing about blogging is the whole blogging community out there. I have my followers – and those that I follow. It’s an interesting circle of people in a world that is strange and new to me. A wonderful, magical place in cyber space. While I share my amateur photographs, let me tell you about some of the wonderful people I have “met” on my journey into the blogging world.
There is a man who is fighting back against cancer. He shares his thoughts every day – and most of the time they are very positive – he believes he has been given his cancer to encourage and inspire others traveling down a similar road to put one foot in front of the other and just keep living every moment – even the painful ones. I lost my dear, dear brother a year ago to cancer. This beautiful man has helped me to heal in ways I cannot express. Although we will never meet “in the real world” he has touched my soul deeply.
 07-11 Hwy 88 to Carson City (7)
One of my favorites is a gal who doesn’t give the history of her recipe or any background information. Instead she posts pictures of her recipe in various stages of preparation while having a conversation about life – how she feels about golf or things that make her a little nuts. It’s like visiting with a friend – sitting in her kitchen while she prepares dinner and talks about her day.
There is the couple who are retired now and travel around the country in an RV – her Husband is the pilot, she the co-pilot. Her “hobby” is that she is wizard with a camera – unbelievable photos of wild life and sunrises that will steal your breath away. Bright, beautiful photos of birds in flight and blue skies that never seem to end. Her narratives paint pictures as beautiful as her photos. And her all-time favorite “subject” are cranes. While my photos don’t come close to hers, I share her love for birds in the wild.
The grandmother in Southern California who is very much like me – our childhood and adulthood lives are similar, and it is as though we have grown up together. While we have never met, through our mutual blogs, we have become friends. We have so much in common – more than I could have imagined.
And then there are my fellow foodies from all around the world, with family traditions and cultural and holidays vastly different from those I’ve known and yet at the core they are the same – families gather, laugh together, cry together and weave a tapestry of memories in a universal unspoken language of love. Chefs and want to be chefs – mothers, grandmothers, couples cooking together, newly weds making adjustments – all sharing glimpses into their lives – everyday lives in beautiful stages. People of different backgrounds, beliefs, attitudes, and orientations all on a journey, making their way through life. From these wonderful people I learn something new and inspiring every day.
There are common threads gently woven into each post – the undertone of fear – it’s not easy to put yourself out there – and courage – for putting yourself out there. Every person on the planet has the same human need to connect to one another. To share, to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. There is comfort in knowing that on some level, we are all on the same journey, although be it different paths, we are all part of the human experience. I stand in awe of the beauty of life – of everyday, come as you are life. Pull up a chair, pour a cup of coffee (or tea) and chat a while without the fear of judgement or rejection. Accepting and being accepted for who we are is an awesome thing. Yes, life is good. Painful, sad, quiet, loud, happy, peaceful and often times messy – it is all good. Every moment of every day – no matter the struggles or disappointments – life is a blessing – a messy, beautiful blessing.

Easter Wishes

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Easter Sunday. May your day be filled with love and laughter. Tis the season for renewal and rejuvenation. Let the peace and joy of this season overflow. – Rosemarie

Good Friday – A Day of Reflection

Let me begin by saying today is Good Friday – for me this is a day of fasting and prayer. While I would love to share a scrumptious new recipe with you, I’d rather not think about food on an empty stomach. I had considered skipping my daily post today. That would have been the sensible thing to do. I chose instead to go another route. If a discussion involving faith is uncomfortable or holds no interest for you, please feel free to move on and we will catch up with one another later. No offense taken.

This was a difficult posting to write. I struggled with it – do I open up and share a very personal side of myself – my faith? I’ve never hidden the fact that I am a believer in Christ, or that ours in a Catholic Household. One of the things that bothers me about organized faith and beliefs (even my own Catholic Church) is when someone is in your face with their beliefs without respecting yours. I am a Catholic. I feel very strongly about my faith. It is deeply personal to me. That said, I feel just as strongly that God speaks directly to our souls – and not always in the same language. I know that puts me at odds with a great many Christians and non-Christians alike that believe a relationship with God must be their way – in the spiritual language that they speak and any deviation from that is a sure fired highway to damnation. Faith is too personal a relationship with our creator for humans to sit in judgement of others; for only God knows what He has whispered in our ear. Or where your journey may take you. There is only one truth by which all faith should be measured – to do no harm. No harm to yourself, no harm to others. Not in action, not in words, not in judgement and condemnation. Sometimes judgement and condemnation can be as subtle as an innocent, well-intended remark . . .

When Kiddo was a kid, I had hired an after-school tutor. Once a week we sat in her living room, generally having arrived early and had to wait until the student ahead of us was finished. I brought different things to read – a lot dealing with the Catholic Church and Catholic teachings simply because Kiddo was preparing to make his First Communion. I wanted to brush up on my Catechism – and be prepared to answer any question he may have. One day the mother of the other student leaned in and said if I wanted to read the Bible, she suggested I try reading the real Bible – you know, she went on to say – The Holy One, not the Catholic one. Really? I once had a co-worker suggest I read the King James Bible – written by King James, the brother of Jesus. People should think before they speak. Each time, I thanked them for their concerns and did not debate the subject further.

I grew up in pre-Vatican II world. This meant a code of conduct not present in the Church today. We fasted before mass (pre-Vatican II meant midnight, post Vatican II only requires a “mini” fast – one-hour before Mass). Only a Priest administered the Host. We lined up single-file to approach the altar, and waited until a spot opened up at the kneeler. One always knelt during Communion, as expected in the presence of the Lord. Today we bow our heads as the person in front of us receives Communion. The single-file line is also a thing of the past. In addition to the Priest, there are also Eucharistic Ministers throughout the church. Everyone wore their Sunday Best to Mass, men removed their hats (back in the day when men wore hats) while women veiled their heads. Every Friday was a day of abstinence and not discipline reserved for Fridays during Lent.  While these customs do have roots in scripture, they were considered a matter of discipline and not doctrine or more to the point – dogma. What is the difference? Disciplines are acts of preparation and mind-set. For a man to remove his hat and a woman to place a veil over her head were considered a way of demonstrating that you knew you were entering a House of the Lord. Confession has also changed. Yes, Catholics still confess their sins. When I was growing up, we went to confession every week – on Saturdays in preparation to receive Communion on Sunday. (Catholic teaching once told us we could not receive the Body and Blood of Christ if we have any sin on our souls that has not been confessed and forgiven – guess they expected us to be “Saints” between Saturday’s confession and Sunday’s Communion). Let me tell you, for a kid to confess sins week in and week out was hard. Mine general went something like this “Father, forgive me for I have sinned. I argued with my sisters and got mad at my brother.” Penance was generally two Hail Marys and an Our Father. When I think about it, everyone seemed to be assigned the same penance. How did I know? Because kids talk. We compared “penance” and if you got more, wow you must have done something really big! We never asked “what did you confess” understanding the sanctity of the confessional, but rather “what did you get” as a measuring stick of sorts. Today, if you have no serious sin, there is no obligation to go to confession before Communion. It’s a matter of letting your conscience be your guide. We try to attend once a month, but even then aren’t always successful.

I remember one Saturday, coming out of the confessional and sliding into the pew to recite my prayers. Kiddo leaned over, whispering that age-old question “What did you get?” It was all I could do not to laugh out loud, recalling that same question as a child. As adults, it’s not a simple matter of a few Hail Marys and an Our Fathers or two – often scripture readings are a part of the act of reconciliation. The scripture is intended to bring about reflection and to strengthen our walk with God.

  • It’s interesting to note that studies have shown there is a great deal of psychological benefit in the Catholic act of confessing our sins to a Priest. There is healing that takes place when we hear the words “you are forgiven” spoken aloud by another human being.

Image result for image question mark

Growing up in a pre-Vatican II world, there were a good many things I did not understand about being Catholic – the why behind our actions. But why? That was my most asked question presented to the nuns and priests providing instructions – why? Why cover our heads? Why can’t I have a hot dog on Fridays? Why, why, why? The standard answer I received was “Because the Church has said so.” For me, that is not an answer. There had to be a reason. By the time Kiddo was learning his faith, I had a library of reference books – some actually with titles “Why do Catholics do what They Do”. Questioning is a part of growth and growth is a deepening of faith. If you don’t understand the why behind the act, then the act is nothing more than going through the motions.

I love my faith, with all of its rich traditions. Whatever your beliefs, hold them near and dear to your heart. Celebrate who you are for there is no one else like you in the entire world – you are special because the Creator made you uniquely you.

May peace, love and abounding joy for you overflow.

Getting in a Celtic Mood

Every now and again, it’s nice to take a break from the usual kitchen conversations and share a bit of my private life. Hubby, Kiddo and I are a very close – as families should be. Oh, we have our moments but make no mistake about it – there’s a lot of love even in the most heated of moments. As a family, we like to try new adventures – and if the adventure turns out to be a real hoot, it becomes part of our family tradition. Kiddo once said if you don’t have something to look forward to, then you will end up with nothing to look back on later in life.

A few years back, Hubby was surfing the net; looking for something for us to do as a family – an outing or fair or something. That’s when he stumbled across the largest Celtic Fair west of the Mississippi. Just how large the fairs are east of the Mississippi, I could not say.

We said “What the heck, let’s go”. So we packed up the car (snacks for the road – it’s a 90 mile drive) and headed off to Sonora’s Fair Grounds, not knowing what to expect. Parking was a nightmare – the line to get in was long. Oh, but it was so worthwhile. Jousting competitions, a fire-breathing dragon, Celtic vendors galore. All sorts of yummy things to eat (got my lamb fix on – since I’m the only one in the family who will eat lamb, it was a real treat). Jugglers, wandering minstrels, belly dancers – a little something for everyone. Pirates and Roman Soldiers. We even learned about the history of the Emerald Isle that we hadn’t known before. (Love learning new things).

Best of all were the bands. There are several indoor stages with Irish Rock Bands. Yeah, you heard me right – rock bands.  Think AC/DC ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top’ and you’ll get the idea. We had a ball. People were dancing  anywhere they could find to kick off their shoes, let their hair down and just go wild.

That was three years ago. We soaked in as much as possible. The Celtic Fair is now a March Must Family Tradition – and for good reason . . . this year we’re going strictly for the music, having seen everything else a few times already. Oh, and the food – gotta have my lamb. And maybe the jousting. Okay, mainly the music, and the food. . .

The sights to see, the music to hear, the shouts and the cheers. Root for the Heroes and Boos to the Villains with their hearts as black as night. Royal courts mingle in the streets as peasants bow. Story tellers perched on bales of hay weave their colorful yarns. Peddler set up shops in large tents to sell their wares – mugs for the Ale, bags and boggles for the ladies and hand-carved toys to delight the little ones. Food on sticks roasted over a fiery pit and pints of beer galore.

The horses in the jousting competition are all rescued animals. And a finer gathering of steeds you’re not likely see. These animals carry themselves well, heads held high with a sense of pride and purpose. They are more than trained “show horses” – they are ambassadors. When the hat is passed to collect donations to rescue other animals, the crowds always respond well.

Recipe for Good Times and Great Memories

As many of you know, I have a menu planner. I use it all the time. I’m one of those always thinking ahead but rolling with the punches types. Planning gives me a sense of control in a world that so often is spinning out of control. Adapting to change, accepting the unforeseen and going with the flow keeps me sane.

Tonight is New Year’s Eve – we are headed off to my sister’s house. Family time and lots of game. Rather than have a big hole in today’s plans, I slapped one of my “joke” meal into today’s slot in my planner. (For more on the subject, see What’s For Dinner?) It was then that I realized this is perfect for New Year’s Eve or any time you want to create good times and great memories with those close to you.

It’s a simple recipe – easy to follow and never fails.

The Ultimate Party Recipe
Assorted Appetizers – your favorites or packaged
Party Platters – do it yourself or from the deli
Sparkling Beverages – Champagne if desired, Sparkling Apple Cider – anything bubbly

Pick a Date – Special occasion or no reason at all.

Call your friends & family together.

Play games.

Swap stories and laugh a lot.

Graze the night away and greet the dawn with a smile.

Happy New Year – Happy life!

Fourth of July 1

Christmas Magic Lives in the Hearts of Children

Here’s to hoping that everyone had a wonderful Christmas. This year, Hubby gave me two very special gifts that said how much he loves me and supports all my endeavors. While they were not fancy or expensive gifts, they were perfect in every way. One is a collection of hand-crafted salts from around the world. Unusual salts – Dead Sea Salt, Black Lava Salt and Cyprus Flakes known for their large pyramid shaped crystals and mild taste characteristic of Mediterranean salts. In all the collection contains ten distinct salts. The other is a collection of California flavor-infused Olive Oils and Balsamic Vinegars including a Habanero Olive Oil and Fig Balsamic Vinegar. Simple perfection.

Sometimes, with all the ads screaming at us from every direction we lose sight of the true gift of Christmas through all the presents under the tree. We find ourselves bombarded with so much noise – you MUST have this – you MUST have that – get with the program and shop, shop, shop till you drop, drop, drop. Black Friday has somehow transformed into Forget the Family Thursday. Thanksgiving? Family time? Are you kidding? We camp out all night to be the first in line to snatch up whatever the hottest ticket of the season happens to be. When we put too much stock into possessions, we fail to realize that we are the ones possessed. Possessed by ad executives and marketing campaigns that convince us if we only have this or that, then our lives will be complete, our hearts filled with joy and everything will somehow be right with the world. It doesn’t take long once the gifts have been opened and the piles of this and that lay scattered about the room, that a sense of disappointment and emptiness begins to creep in. We shake the boxes, look under the scattered paper and bows and begin to wonder – where is it – the joy, the satisfaction, the magic we were promised? Well, at least I’ve got my smart-ass phone that can do everything EXCEPT connect me with another living, breathing human being. And we begin to reminisce of Christmas past – when we were children, and magic was so real.

Way back a long time ago, before Hubby came into my life, I was a young, divorced mother of two with barely two nickles to rub together. Part-time student, part-time worker, full-time Mom. Yet in the bleakest of financial times the magic of one particular Christmas Eve reminds me time and time again that believing with the heart of a child makes all things possible. Image result for image santa at a fireplaceMy little ones were very concerned that year and the worry lay heavy in their little hearts. They were just old enough to understand that Santa comes down the chimney to delivery gifts on Christmas Eve and to realize that our tiny apartment had no chimney – no fireplace – no magical way for Santa to visit as they lay asleep. As much as I tried to convince them that Santa would find a way, I could not put their minds at ease. A few days before Christmas Eve; on a cold night; I was thinking about my little ones and wondering how to create a magical fireplace. As I drove down the street, caught up in thought, a large cardboard box blew across my path. I could not believe my eyes. Thank you, Lord. With a little paint and a lot of imagination, that box would transform from someone’s discarded trash to our magical fireplace. I brought the box home and placed it in our hallway. At first my children were not impressed. All they saw was a big box sitting in the hallway. Watch, I promised, and you will see that this isn’t an ordinary big empty box. With scissors, a little poster paint and some masking tape, that box became our fireplace. I cut out the opening in the front, then we painted the entire inside black and the outside red. With masking tape, we formed the brick pattern on the face of the box. It was beautiful. On Christmas Eve, we hung our stocking over the mantel. Santa came while my little ones slept to fill their stocking with candies and little toys. Best of all, that magical fireplace filled their hearts with the joy of believing that all things are possible. The real magic of Christmas is love, for love knows no bounds.

May the New Year fill you with hope, happiness and most of all love.

2015 We bid You Adieu

Yet another year is about to fade into memory. We pause to take stock, to look back and reflect for a moment on all the passing year has bestowed – the good times, the sad moments, the adventures, the pleasures and most of all the blessings from above both large and small.

I am thankful for my loving family. My guys are the best – allowing me to experiment in the kitchen and sample new dishes from around the world. Most of all, they wait patiently to be fed as I snap away with my trusty camera. Blog photos first, consumption second. There have been a few bombs along the way – but then aren’t mistakes simply a learning opportunity? Burnt Offerings – When Things Don’t Go as Planned is a great example of lessons learned.

I am grateful to my fellow bloggers and readers. Your feed back has been terrific – and your shares have been a delight. I have learned so much – especially from those beyond America. Thank you all for allowing me the opportunity to glimpse into your lives and view the world around me with a new prospective. It does not seem to matter where we live or how we live (fancy or simple) but that we live. Deep down, life, love and laughter are the unbreakable threads that bind us together.

One of the things I have enjoyed most since creating my little blog way back in 2014 are the research projects that have gone into some of the postings. Why we do the things we do? How did a particular dish evolve through the years? It is fascinating to learn the customs and traditions of people and places beyond my own. There is magic in learning.

As 2014 drew to a close, I did what so many of us did that year, I shared the top posting among readers (you can check them out at 2014 Has Been A Hoot! Thank You One and All). This year, I thought I’d share my favorites of 2015. These might not have been the top hits with the most reads, but they are the ones that hold a special place in my heart.

Farewell 2015 – with one final look back, I am eager to dash into 2016 for I know life (with all its struggles and heartaches) is filled with magic and God’s graces.


JANUARY: Cheater’s Chili To Rocks in the New Year

This simple “cheat” chili will be making an appearance again on New Year’s Day 2016

Cheater's Chili (4)


FEBRUARY: Golden Perfection Oven-Roasted Capon

I’m picking up another of these delicious birds before they are all gone for the season.

Capon Chicken (1)


MARCH: Filipino-American Pork Chops Adobo Style

I am proud of my heritage and my crazy, mixed-up roots.

Pork - Pork Adobo & Lumpia


APRIL: Classic Ziti Bake with Italian Sausage

This is great because it travels well for pot lucks and will easily feed a hungry crowd.

Baked Ziti 1


MAY: Portuguese Marinated Surf and Turf on Rosemary Skewers

While I never did plant Rosemary in the back yard, I still have high hopes for doing so. If you haven’t had foods grilled on Rosemary Skewers, you don’t know what you are missing.

Portugues Beef on Rosemary Skewers  & Marinated Shrimp (1)


JUNE: Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks with Jack Daniel’s Grilling Glaze

Okay, so there was only one post for the entire month of June – bridal season keeps us busy. Oh, but what a delicious steak!

Rib-Eye with Jack Daniel's Glaze


JULY: Boozy Bourbon Meatball Appetizers

It was a real toss up between this and 4th of July Flag Cake. For deeply personal reasons, the meatball appetizers won out.

crockpot meatballs 3


AUGUST: Ranch Chicken with Butter-Cream Sauce

Don’t you just love it when an old, trusted recipe inspires you to create something new?

Ranch Chicken with Butter-Cream Sauce (1)


SEPTEMBER: One-Dish Chicken Supper with Potatoes and Gravy

Oh to simple pleasures and fond childhood memories!

Chicken - One Pot Chicken Dinner 02-24-2012


OCTOBER: Halloween Fun with Everyday Snack Foods

Kiddo and I had a great time “playing” with our food. And these snacks must have been good – there wasn’t a spider or broom stick left!


NOVEMBER: Stuart Anderson’s Black Angus Baked Potato Soup

This was another tough choice. My favorite labor of love was all the planning and research that went into The Pleasures of Afternoon Tea. It’s a long read filled with all sorts of yummy delights. However; soup won out not only because it was delicious but because I have begun a new love-affair with the simple pleasures of soup for supper.

Baked Potato Soup


DECEMBER: Brown Sugar Pecan Glazed Pork Tenderloin

For whatever reason, I seem to do my best in the kitchen in December. Perhaps it is the magic of the holidays and a deeper connection to the things that matter most – family.

Brown Sugar Pecan Glazed Pork Tenderloin (6)


On a final note, I wanted to give a special “Thank You” to a few special people who have inspired me the most in 2015 through their beautiful blogs, wonderful recipes and touching stories. Please stop by and let them know just how marvelous they truly are.

mommermom She sews, she cooks and most of she shares herself openly with others.

Tux His pictures are awesome, his approach to life uplifting and his recipes are TDF. Be sure to check out his rendition of RED VELVET CAKE WITH ERMINE ICING. I made this for Thanksgiving, just to get a jump on the Holiday season, and it was delicious.

Tasty Eats With great recipes, tips and always quick with words of encouragement even when things go wrong in my kitchen.


Serving up Leftover – No Fuss, No Muss and No Dishes

A few nights ago, I shared an easy crock-pot recipe for barbecued pulled pork – Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ-Coca-Cola Pulled Pork. It was yummy good, and as promised there were leftovers for a second meal – Pulled Pork Sandwiches.

Tonight’s post isn’t about the recipe itself, but rather how much Hubby appreciates yours truly. We have an arrangement in our house when it comes to chores such as KP duty. Those that cook don’t do the dishes. Now on those days when everyone cooks (Kiddo included), we all do a little clean up as a team. Usually that involves Hubby washing, Kiddo drying and me wiping down (as in stove top, table – the last of the cleanup duties). When we got home tonight, Kiddo excused himself from dinner entirely, and called it a night. Hubby had no sooner walked into the door when his smart-ass phone began to chirp with work-related emails demanding his attention (his job is a twenty-four-seven thing and interruptions in our family time is routine). I realized it would be great to do our Friday-Night leftover gig without creating a lot of cleanup work in the process. It’s been a long week, especially for Hubby. He needed a fun, filling supper AND a break from his nightly KP duty.(Since we do our weekly marketing on Saturdays, we like to clear out the fridge on Fridays. It’s amazing the strange combinations of “foods” that find their way onto our plates. A little of this, a little of that – what fun. Once upon a time leftover night was Thursday, simply because we didn’t eat meat on Fridays. Now we observe Friday penance with prayer – more effective and less wasteful. But that’s a conversation for another day).

Now mind you, when I had Kiddo put the leftover pulled pork into a zip-lock bag, I wasn’t thinking this far ahead. Storing leftovers in zip-lock bags simply take up less space in the fridge. They stack together nice and flat on a single shelf (most of the time), and if you like, you can label and date the contents. I don’t know about you, but there have been times when I’ve peering into a storage container and wondered “what is this?” which is immediately followed by a second thought “how long has that been in there?”

Tonight I served up marvelous Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Curly Fries. And there was NO cleanup involved.

  • Preheat oven per package directions for fries
  • Cover baking pan with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray
  • Open zip-lock bag of pulled pork, add some more barbecue sauce to the bag and if necessary, shred pork further INSIDE the bag while mixing with additional sauce
  • Bake fries as directed, less 5 minutes of cooking time
  • When timer for fries goes off, turn off oven WITHOUT opening the door (fries will continue to cook without getting all crunchy)
  • Place zip-lock bag in microwave and heat for 2 1/2 minutes. Flip bag over and heat 2 1/2 minutes longer
  • Pile hot pulled pork onto hamburger buns, and serve with French fries using paper plates

Now before you all get “green” on me (foil, bags, paper plates = landfill), know this – it’s not our habit to use disposable anything in the kitchen. Yet when I weighed the trash footprint vs water conservation/energy conservation (Hubby’s), disposable won out.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches & Curly Fries

Yummy food without all the clean up mess – that’s what I call a nice start to the weekend!

The Virtues of Home Cooking

parking-orchard-1024x768Last weekend, we drove up to Apple Hill. Nestled in the Sierra foothills of El Dorado County, Apple Hill was born of necessity. The rich soil around the tiny community of Camino was a major producer of California pears. Some sixteen or so orchards flourished in the area around the turn of the century. But by the early 1960s the pear farmers were struggling – their crops depleting and earning a living was nearly impossible. The farmers began growing apples, and formed the Apple Hill Growers Association as a way to support one another. In 1964, a weekend festival was held to celebrate the harvest and drawn tourists up from the cities. Apple Hill expected about 4,000 people to visit the small farms that first year. An estimated 10,000 visitors showed up. Today, Apple Hill  is a major tourist attraction, with over 50 growers, Christmas Tree Farms and wineries in the area. It’s a beautiful drive from the central valley, especially if you ditch Highway 50 and meander along back roads through the Mother Load instead. In addition to the many apples, baked goods and eateries, there are local artists, stocked trout ponds and picturesque picnic areas. It’s a day of old-fashioned family fun, with a carnival like atmosphere, if you don’t mind the long lines of traffic on the tiny two-lane roads and the crowds everywhere. Although a big tourist draw, the growers didn’t pave over the orchards in favor of parking lots.
If you insist upon parking on asphalt, you can always park in Placerville and take a shuttle up to the hill. However, most visitors find parking in the orchards part of the fun. Hubby, Kiddo and I like to get an early start to beat the masses, and we always make it a point to have a fresh Apple Fritter with a cup of warm cider for breakfast.

cooking-squarespaceLast weekend’s simplicity brings me to this weekend’s rant. Hubby and I rose early this morning and headed off to the market with our shopping list in hand. I love to cook. Years gone by, doing the weekly marketing was a source of inspiration. Come across a nice roast, and my mind began to swirl with ideas. Now when I walk through the meat section, most of what I see isn’t very inspiring – and it’s no wonder people don’t know how to cook these days. The pork roasts are all uniformed in size, in nice little one pound packages sealed in their own marinades. Steaks are already rubbed with seasoning. And let’s talk instant sides. There are buckets of mashed potatoes ready at the deli counter. Macaroni salads, potato salads, trays of deviled eggs and pre-made sandwiches. And don’t even get me started on the availability of “home-made” dinners in the frozen food ales. Okay, I get it – convenience in this day of working families, with long hours and busy schedules is important. I’ll admit it, sometimes the convenience of a commercially prepared supper is a necessity on a hectic weeknight. However; what truly frustrates me is that “from scratch” ingredients are becoming more and more scarce. To make a simple meal from scratch sometimes requires stops at two or three markets. When you only have one day off, and you want to spend a few hours joyfully creating in the kitchen, you don’t always have the time (or desire) to drive all over town for ingredients that aren’t canned, frozen or blended. Is that so much to ask?  Once upon a time there were butcher shops that didn’t force you to buy an entire side of beef to get a good cut of meat. Once upon a time, you could stop by your local bakery early in the morning for some fresh-baked goods. And the produce section smelled of fresh fruits. You shopped seasonally and planned accordingly. Now we have gluten-free, fat-free, homogenized byproducts of what use to be real food. Today you can get a pot roast complete with all the vegetables on a Styrofoam tray all neatly wrapped in plastic shrink-wrap. Just unwrap and toss it into a pot. In the mood for kabobos? You’ll find them already skewered with vegetables. All you need do is turn on a gas grill and there you go. Cookie dough is sold in the dairy section – just slice a bake.  (I can’t help but wonder about all the fun family bonding that is lost in the process. Sure, slice a bake is great when you are in the mood for warm cookies without all the mess, but as a child the mess was half the fun!)

2000-01 (04)The other night on Public Television, they aired a program designed to teach people (adults – this wasn’t a kid’s show) how to plan a meal and read a recipe. Really? Read a recipe! I once overheard a co-worker apologizing to her college-student daughter because she had to work late and hadn’t made dinner yet. Let me tell you, I could be gone for days, and Kiddo wouldn’t go hungry in a kitchen stocked with “real” food just waiting to be cooked. Kiddo’s been in the kitchen whipping up wonderful meal since he first learned how to drag a kitchen stool up to the counter.

It’s not enough to buy real ingredients, we need to teach our children what to do with them. And that’s time well spent together. Some of my fondest memories are moments in the kitchen with Dad. My sisters and I are all accomplished cooks. As adults, we enjoy spending time together in the kitchen.

Tonight I’m taking back our Sunday with a nice apple-stuffed roast chicken, fresh, creamy mashed potatoes, home-baked dinner rolls (Kiddo keeps checking on the progress of the “rise” every time he wants through the kitchen – anxious for some warm, buttery rolls), corn on the cob and a dutch apple pie. Heck, I might just need to break out my vintage rose china!

Do You Have a Plan?

From the time I was a little girl, I loved spending time with Dad in the kitchen, learning from the master. When my sisters and I were old enough to fully participate in the meal preparation, Dad held a weekly menu planning meeting. Each of us picked a night and planned the family dinner – main course, sides, whatever else. Mom and Dad took the remaining nights.

From the planned menu, my parents created a shopping list and bought supplies accordingly. When I left home, this habit of planning and shopping accordingly continued. Sure, when something like chicken or fish or what have you goes on sale, I take advantage and stock up. Stocking up helps formulate the following week’s menu.

The menu is posted to the refrigerator door for two reasons. First, I know at a glance the night before what needs to be moved from the freezer to the fridge for the next night’s dinner. Secondly, I don’t get those questions of “what’s for dinner?”

When planning, I make notes BEFORE putting together the menu. If we are attending a birthday party, I won’t plan a big meal or dessert – no one wants a big meal after filling up on slices of pizza and birthday cake. If we have an obligation that would prevent me from cooking that night, I might simply note “Fast Food” or “Chinese Take Out” or whatever. Friday’s plan usually say “Left Over Night – Everyone For Themselves.” Fridays are a good night to clean out the fridge before shopping on Saturday morning.

If I know in advance that work is going to be a late night, I’ll plan something simple or quick for that particular night.

Menus were especially helpful when I went back to work and Kiddo was in charge of all the cooking during the week. Not only did I have each night’s supper planned out, but I had a cheat-sheet of recipes for him to follow, with little details such as “4:00 PM – Chop Vegetables for Stir-Fry” or other details that would help Kiddo have dinner ready when we walked through the door. (Most nights he started dinner, and I finished it).

Don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t mean dinner is carved in stone. At the bottom of the weekly planner it clearly states “Above is subject to change without notice”. While I added that to the planner as a joke, it’s also my “out” when I simply don’t feel like cooking or when life has other plans.

So often I hear people say “I don’t know what to do for dinner tonight.” Either that or they talk about standing in front of the fridge, peering inside and scratching their heads. What I find most baffling about the lack of planning is that they can shop without one.

This brings about a question – do non-planners shop on the way home each night or do they do a weekly “grab” of whatever and take it from there?  While I might make Thursday’s dinner on Monday because it works out better as the day unfolds, I have a plan and all the ingredients on-hand. So I cannot imagine winging it every night. Nor can I imagine the waste and added expense in the food budget to live each day without a clue. Grocery stores are set up for non-planners. You’ll walk by all the “grab” items to get to the real food. Don’t believe me? Run into the grocery store for a carton of milk or a loaf of bread. You’ll walk out $40.00 later with all sorts of cookies and chips and other things you might not have bought otherwise.

Anyway, that’s my thoughts on the subject, for what they are worth. I am a planner by nature . . . are you?