Category Archives: Cooking

In Which the Ghost of Christmas Cheer Goes Missing


Good morning Everyone!

Last Friday was the last day of school for 2015 for Kayla.  The day before, her home room decided to plan a breakfast party in celebration thereof.  So far so good, but then my child (or perhaps this time she was Mark’s child!) volunteered to bring cheese grits for the class.

When she announced this to us, neither parent was thrilled.  Mark, because he had to go to Wal-Mart with her to get bags of grit after work and me because I was informed that I would be getting up to help her prepare them.  This announcement was doubly troubling to me since I had sworn off making her grits ages ago, since every batch I made was judged inferior to any batch made by either grandmother.  (See, Grits.)

Mark hates Wal-Mart and only goes there as a last resort, but by the time I got home that night, the two of them had already been and returned – with two five-pound flour bag size packages of grits.  I think he got off light.

When I awoke the next morning, Kayla already had plopped three stock size pots on the stove and filled with them water.  She was standing in the kitchen waiting for them to boil.

Unreasonable woman that I am, I studied the directions on the back of the package, and asked, “Did you measure out the water?”

“No, I don’t have to.”

“But the package says…”

“Well, Grandma Pat never does…”

(At this point I started gritting my teeth.)

The water in pot one started to boil, and Kayla added  about three pounds worth of grits into the pot.

My next question:  “Do you have the cheese ready to stir in?”

Disdainfully:  “Mom, you never stir the cheese in; you just put it on top.”

“It’s better stirred in.”

Aggravated sigh.  “Even Cracker Barrel and Huddle House just put the cheese on the top.”

(At this point I started biting my tongue and walked off into the other room.  With a decided lack of wisdom, I decided to reenter the kitchen.)

Studying the huge batch of grits stirring in pot #1, I suggested that pot 1 was all she would need.

“Mom, I have to prepare for 32 people.”

“Kayla, that’s enough for 32 people.”

“No it’s not.”

(By now, I’m ready to start snarling, so I jump to the true root of the problem.)

“You know, when you’re volunteering to bring something to the party at the last minute, you should volunteer to bring something we can just buy at the store.”

“I was going to bring plates Mom, but when people were saying what food they were going to bring, I kept asking for cheese grits and no one would bring them, so I did.”

The child then emptied another two pounds of grits into pot #2 and began stirring.

“Kayla, you have enough grits.  You don’t need the third batch.”

“Yes I do.”

“No, you have enough.”

“But mom…”

Then a shout came out.  “I don’t care what you say, I am now ORDERING you to not make the third batch.”

“Well, there’s no need to yell at me!”

I again left the room, this time to allow my blood pressure to come down.  After too short a period, I am called back in.

“Mom, did Grandma Pat teach me how to make good grits or what?”

(Note:  I don’t like grits; never have, never will.)

She then announced “You know I’m going to need you to help me carry this stuff in.”

I studied the kitchen counter, where a large assortment of very small Tupperware containers were spread out.  “Honey, you can’t take all my Tupperware containers.”

With a huff:  “Well, I have to take them in SOMETHING!”

After a moment’s thought, I found a very large stew pot that she could pour both batches in.  Now all she had to carry was her backpack, slung over her shoulder and the stew pot, which had handles and a lid.  She informed me I still needed to go in with her (which involves parking the car in the school parking lot and walking into the school) rather than just take her through the car rider line (which means I get to stay in the car while she gets on out.)   A snarling cross-examination established that the only reason I needed to go in was that she was embarrassed to carry in her large pot of grits by herself, which really set me off.

At the end of the appointed time, I managed to get the daughter and the grits to the right place at the right time.  My parting words to her as I walked from the school back out to the parking lot included a reminder to clean the kitchen as soon as she got home that day.

For the record, there still is at least one pot that has not yet been cleaned to my satisfaction.  It took all day Friday for my Christmas cheer to return!

Have a great day!

Nancy

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Kayla’s Kitchen Kaper


Good morning Everyone!

Last night, Kayla asked me if she could fix the  Kraft Macaroni and Cheese we were having at supper and deciding it was time to loosen up on my Mac N’ Cheese obsession, I said yes.

I suggested to her that she might want to get the ingredients out before the noodles were done.   She told me that there weren’t any extra ingredients to the mac n’ cheese besides the packet from the box!  I told her she needed butter and to call me when she was ready to mix so I could give her the other instructions.

12 year old brain in training

That was my mistake – I gave a 12-year-old two tasks in one sentence.  Apparently, their brains can’t handle it.

Mark announced that the pork chops were almost ready.  I waited for Kayla to let me know she was ready to mix the stuff up.  Instead, this colloquy occurred.

Mark:  Did you drain that before you mixed it up?

Kayla:  Nobody told me too!

Me (from the den):  I told you to ask me when you were ready to fix it!

Kayla:  No you didn’t!

Mark:  Well, actually, yes she did.

Kayla (to me):  You could have told me that I had to drain it first!

Mark:  How many times have you watched Mom make mac n’ cheese?  Let’s see if we can save it.  Go ahead and get the colander out.

Silence, then Kayla to Mark:  It’s not funny!

Mark and I:  Well, actually, yes, yes it is.

I’ll omit the stories of parent’s pasts, which include attempts by Mark and one of his friends to make mashed potatoes without boiling them (his sister was removing random pieces of potato from the ceiling the remaining six years they lived in that particular house) and the absent-mindedness that caused me twice (years apart) to place my palm directly on a piping hot stove burner seconds after I had just removed the pan and should have known better.

It’s nice to know that Kayla is carrying on the family tradition!

Have a great day!

Nancy

What’s Going On With Kraft Macaroni & Cheese?


Hi Everyone!

Original Kraft Macaroni and Cheese

The One and Only Incomparable Original Kraft Macaroni N’ Cheese

Today I am going to ask your help with something that is increasingly more puzzling to me – I have a post I did a couple of years called “How to Make Killer Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.”  It’s only distinction, so far as I know, on my blog is that it remains still to this date the only recipe (or quasi-recipe) I have shared with you on this blog. And yet over time I have slowly accumulated over 4400 views of this completely innocuous post!  This morning alone I had over 15 views of it.   I don’t understand and can’t explain it. So my simple question to those of you reading this blog, or those of you who come to it from some kind of search on Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is “What gives?” I await your answers eagerly!  If you don’t have an answer, but have a suggestion on how to find one, that would be great too.

Varieties of Kraft Macaroni 'N Cheese

Just a few of the bewildering varieties of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese now available.

Have a great day! Nancy

Exit Guilt; Enter Chocolate!


Good morning Everyone!

Cocoa pods ripening on the Cacoa tree

Cocoa pods ripening on the Cacao tree

I have the most wonderful, glorious news to share this morning – chocolate is, in fact, a vegetable!

Applause

From Print Shop Professional 2.0

How did I make this discovery?  A combination of  illogic, basic horticultural facts and culinary methods.  The basic ingredient in chocolate is the cocoa bean!  Any food based on a vegetable such as a bean must fall into the vegetable department.  (Technically, the cocoa bean originates in a fruit, since it grows in a pod along with many siblings, but then, tomato is a fruit, and it is considered a vegetable when we eat it.  I don’t think we should discriminate against the cocoa bean by elevating the tomato over it, do you?)

Linnaeus

Linnaeus, who invented the means of classifying various organisms. This picture was painted just after he discovered that chocolate was a vegetable.

It takes approximately 300 to 600 cocoa beans to make 2.2 pounds of chocolate, so logic would dictate that each mouthful of the wonderful stuff is chock full of the same delicious vitamins that one receives from other beans and assorted vegetables as well.

Cocoa Beans in the Cacoa pod

Cocoa Beans in the Cacao pod

Exit guilt; enter chocolate….

My next question – since it contains chocolate, eggs, flour and often milk, does this make chocolate cake a super food?  Just wondering!

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake

Have a great weekend!

Nancy

How To Make Killer Kraft Macaroni and Cheese


Good morning everyone!

Swedish Chef from the Muppet show

The Swedish Chef, from the Muppet show

Today is a historic day for this blog, since it is the first time since I started it that I am going to share a (sort of) recipe with you.  And yes, the fact that it has taken more than a year and the 254th post before I got around to sharing one with you is a true reflection of my proclivities towards cooking.

In case the regular readers of this blog haven’t been able to tell yet, I really like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  (I might have mentioned this a time or two.)  For food that is meant to be convenient comfort food, however, I am very finicky about the kind that I use and the way that it is fixed.

Baby lambs

A picture of the new-born lambs up at thekitchensgarden taken just under a month ago.

Note to Celi at TheKitchensGarden:  I know you are already shuddering at the processed food this involves, but hang with me here anyhow!  For the rest of you who are wondering, Celi provides delicious recipes regularly on her blog, TheKitchensGarden, but does not use or fix processed foods of any kind.  I admire her for it, but am not yet inspired to follow her example.

Varieties of Kraft Macaroni 'N Cheese

Just a few of the bewildering varieties of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese now available.

First, you need to understand that all Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is not created equally.  For my Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, you need the original, no frills, basic Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, original flavor, in the slim rectangular familiar blue and yellow box with the cheese in powder form.  You can usually recognize this variety by the label “The Cheesiest” printed across the bottom of the front of the box.

Original Kraft Macaroni and Cheese

The One and Only Incomparable Original Kraft Macaroni N’ Cheese

As basic as this type of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is – it is, in fact, the original Kraft Macaroni and Cheese – it may surprise you to learn that the test kitchens at Kraft have not yet discovered the best way to fix it.  I would have thought that someone would have stumbled onto this up there, but since it is not listed on the box, I have to take credit for the discovery myself.  Here is the recipe for truly fantastic Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

Take 1 box of the original Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  Place enough water in a one or two-quart boiler (please do not use a larger pan) to fit the amount of macaroni in the box comfortably, and bring it to a boil.  Once the water reaches a boil, put the macaroni in the boiling water, reduce the heat from High if you have it on High to about 8 on your cooktop or range, and cook the macaroni for seven minutes only.

It is very important to remove the macaroni after seven minutes.  Too many more seconds after that, and the macaroni is too soggy and water-logged.

Drain the macaroni in a sieve quickly but fairly thoroughly, and return it to the boiler but away from heat.  Add 3 tablespoons of butter, sliced up, and the cheese packet to the macaroni and stir until the butter and cheese are well mixed up and melted consistently together.  Serve as soon as possible while hot, and do not store left overs, since this does not reheat well.

What you get is pure comfort food, with a delightful hint of sharpness in the cheese that you do not get if 1) the macaroni is over cooked and 2) if you add too much butter or any milk.

I have on one occasion made two boxes together at the urging of my mother; that turned out well, but I prefer to make a single box at a time when I can.  That way I can ensure the correct distribution of the cheese mix and butter over the macaroni.

If this seems a little too finicky for you for the preparation of a convenience food, I understand completely, but try it at least once.  I think you’ll agree with me that this is, in fact, the best way to make truly Killer Kraft Macaroni and Cheese!

Have a great day everyone!

Nancy

Sunday Night Dinner – The Dog Invasion!


Good morning everyone!

Kayla and Mark were kind enough to make dinner for me Sunday night.    In our family, we have two types of spaghetti – plain spaghetti, which translates as “spaghetti with the Ragu Traditional Sauce heated up straight from the bottle,” and spaghetti with the good sauce, which translates as “spaghetti with a sauce comprised of sauteed ground beef, mushrooms and onions with [you guessed it] Ragu Traditional Sauce poured over all ingredients and heated up in a pan.”  However, while they were waiting for the water to boil, I came in to help by dividing up some ham  and turkey we had purchased the day before for freezing, at which time two things happened – Mandy and Darwin invaded the kitchen (not for the first time that evening) and Kayla found a spare camera lying around to use for pictures.  So, courtesy of Kayla, we managed to get photographic evidence.

Me, not having my best foot forward!

In any photographic session done by almost anyone’s child, the first photo is the obligatory “candid” shot of at least one of their parents. Apparently, a child’s definition of “candid” can be loosely translated as “less than flattering”. This photo session is no exception, as I was in my pajamas facing away from the camera when Kayla started snapping.

Mandy's signature opening move

Mandy always begins a kitchen invasion in the same manner – she selects the spot nearest to the person working on food and slides in between that person and the bottom of the kitchen cabinets.  She is quite adept at it, really.  There are some days she gets in place without my even noticing until I almost trip over her.

Darwin Enters

Darwin, on the other hand, simply walks into the kitchen and wanders around.  Unfortunately, the kitchen does not leave much room for a dog almost the size of a small pony.  For those of you wondering, Tyra has no need to enter the kitchen; she is content to leave clean up crew to the other two dogs, secure in the knowledge that if anything is going to be handed out on a systematic basis, she will get first cut as well as an equal share.  FN.

Why my kitchen seems crowded

Once both dogs are in the kitchen, free space is at a premium.  Darwin, at least, will move to accomodate humans who need to travel to the refrigerator, stove or sink, but Mandy loves to park herself in one spot.  Her favorite spot is in the center of the kitchen, sprawled out to take up the maximum amount of available floor.  She simply refuses to budge, even as she sees your feet approaching.  Apparently, she believes it is my responsibility to watch out for her, not her responsibility to utilize the good sense I am sure she has somewhere to avoid being tripped over.

Come on Mom, just drop one piece of ham!

Here, Mandy feels that the ham is tantalizingly too close, and the humans too near for her to begin scavenging method number 2, which is just grazing the counters on her own, so she tried the cute approach.

All this scavenging makes me sleepy!

Still, scavenging/begging is hard work, and even the most dedicated dog has to stop and rest sometime!

And now, gentle reader, so must I.

Have a great day everyone!

Nancy

FN.  Does anyone else who keeps dogs in the house feel exceedingly weird when you go over to someone else’s house and you drop food – and you have to reach down and pick the food up yourself?

Random!


Good morning everyone!

I had trouble focusing this morning, so we will take a break from carefully crafted paragraphs and anecdotes with beginnings, middles and ends, and venture into the realm of randomness.  

1)     You never have a good hair day the same day as an important meeting.

2)     A child possess an innate ability to pick out the most annoying toy in his or her arsenal to play with at any given moment.  Usually, that toy was purchased by someone other than the child’s parents.

3)     Pay day always seems about two days too far away.

4)     Light bulbs always blow in threes, unless you have more than three reserve light bulbs.  Then the light bulbs continue to blow quickly until you have exhausted your reserve and there still is one light out.  

5)     Mid-life female hormones and the antics of a 9-year-old child can be an incendiary combination.

6)  You never run out of spaghetti sauce in your cupboard until the day that spaghetti is your only option for supper.  You think.

7)     The urge to buy something increases in intensity geometrically to the amount of money not available to buy it.

8)     Nothing is certain except death and taxes – and the unpopularity of both.

9)     The Auburn football team always does better as an underdog.  Thank you, Associated Press and Coaches polls!

10)     Is there a limit to the number of shows that can be made about Bigfoot, Nessie and UFO’s?

11)     Reasoning with a recalcitrant computer is counter-productive; shooting it with a shot-gun is therapeutic.

12)     The only time a child will choose the option that you urge him or her to take is the time that you try to use reverse logic.

13)     Everyone is interested in the kitchen from the time supper is served, until the time dinner is over.  Unless you are No-No and Bad Dog – then your interest peaks after dinner is over, when you can illicitly scan table and counter tops for left-over food, and before someone comes to clean the kitchen and takes all those out-of-bound leftovers out of reach.

14)     You can learn to ignore the sound of a dog barking.  You cannot, however, learn to ignore the sensation of a dog standing on your hair to wake you up.

15)     Being a fan of the San Diego Padres and Chargers, Chicago Cubs and Bears and the Washington Redskins since the mid-1970s quickly teaches you not to bet on sports.

16)     I am a very blessed woman.  Thank you Mark and Kayla, my friends and the dogs for making my life wonderful.

Have a great day everyone!

Nancy

Cheese Grits and Pugliese Bread


Good morning everyone! 

Even though it was a cold night, at least it was a stormless one!  We all got some much needed rest.

A Breakfast with Grits

  • Cheese Grits

Saturday morning, Kayla woke up and asked me to fix her cheese grits.  For those of you not from the Southern United States, grits are a breakfast food, consisting of flakes of coarsely ground corn and mixed with boiling water to make a porridge-like substance.  It is, I am told, very like polenta.  I would not know, since I have never been tempted to try polenta given my dislike for grits.  Kayla, however, loves them. 

Unfortunately, there was a problem with her request for grits Saturday:  I have never been able to make grits to her satisfaction, which means up to the culinary standard set by her Grandmas Dottie and Pat.  The last time I tried two years ago, I received enough of a critique from her majesty that I resolved to myself that it would be a very long time before I made grits for her again.  However, after a time lapse of two years, I decided that her home grits probationary period had run, so I was willing to give it another try, with a couple of caveats.  The first was that I wouldn’t make cheese grits since I only had shredded cheese, as opposed to a single slice of American cheese to place on top of the cooked grits, which is the way Kayla insists cheese grits should be made.  The second caveat was that no matter what, Kayla was not to tell me how much better either grandmother’s grits were, or give me continuous suggestions on how said grits should be cooked, since I intended to (strangely enough) follow the package instructions.  I almost had to perform a swearing-in ceremony on the last condition, but she finally agreed. 

She did try hard to comply with both conditions, but she had one or two minor slips.  She started to tell me the grits were too watery when I poured them in the bowl for her  but she quickly bit it back and said,”Never mind.”  Then, once she had possession of the grits, she got up, went to the refrigerator and condescended to put the shredded cheese into her grits after all.  I assume that was because she found some flavor to be lacking.  However, since she never did explain the thought process behind the adding of the cheese, technically she did not violate the “no criticism” rule.  

  • Pugliese Bread

I like bread.  While not exactly a connoisseur, I am interested in different kinds of breads and the variations in flavor and crust that can be attained, so when, on Saturday at Costco, I walked by two loaves in a paper sack labeled “Italian Pugliese Bread,” I thought I would give it a try. 

I have now concluded that “pugliese” must be Italian for “crust that can’t be cut with a chainsaw,” or perhaps “pugnaciously tough crust” since even our best and sharpest bread knife could only saw about halfway through the loaf vertically – and that only with a great deal of effort – after which you had to bend the bread to finish breaking it off.  It was not quite as difficult to cut the bread horizontally, but it still wasn’t easy.  Surprisingly, the bread when heated in the toaster oven with a little butter on it was not too tough to eat, although it was a little chewy.  Still, I am going to learn the Italian words for “soft crust that can be cut” before I try any more novel types of Italian bread!

Have a great day everyone!

Nancy