In Shape

Has anyone seen my diet?  It should look a lot like me, lumpy, round and swollen, lying someplace, moaning softly, and trying unsuccessfully to drag its ass off a couch or chair.  Poor thing never had a chance.  The, I’ll have some of this, and try some of that; at last Saturday’s Multicult festival was just the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning.

The wife bought some deformed asparagus at the market last week.  Not straight and neat, it was bent and almost twisted, but twice the amount for the same price.  The wife has developed a recipe for broccoli soup.  Chop it up, boil it, drain it, buzz it in a food processor, and add it to chicken broth.  She’s allergic to milk products, so we added some shredded Kashkaval cheese.  The name Kashkaval translates to cheese made from mare’s milk, but the stuff we get is from goat’s milk.  It has a crisp biting flavor much like cheddar.

She thought she might make up an asparagus soup, much the same way.  We didn’t put the special cheese in; rather she added a cup of Coffee Rich, liquid, non-dairy creamer.  Milk allergies, remember?  Not exactly a cream soup, but nice and rich, served with pumpernickel rolls and butter.  The son and I were supposed to sprinkle shredded cheddar on ours, but I forgot to shred.  That was supper, Tuesday night.

People who grow zucchini are always looking for ways to get rid of it.  We have found that slicing it ¾ of an inch thick, and frying it in a butter/olive oil mixture, sprinkling it with garlic salt and topping with shredded Kashkaval cheese is one good way.  Another way is buying larger zucchini and splitting them lengthwise.  Gouge out the center, retain the pulp, buzz it in a food processor, and add it to fried hot Italian sausage meat.  Steam some of the excess moisture off and add bread crumbs.  We buzz down a couple of Portuguese buns.  Seal the cut edges with Saran Wrap, and microwave the little green submarines for a minute.  Place the halves, cut side up, fill with the meat/bread mixture, and bake for 45 minutes.  Top with shredded cheese, we use the Kashkaval, but mozzarella, cheddar or Monterey Jack are good.  Place back in oven for five to ten minutes to melt cheese.  Serve to overweight blogger.  That was supper Thursday night.

At market, we were offered a deal on avocados, a whole flat for $5.  What in Hell are we going to do with sixteen avocados?  The daughter says she just read that you can freeze guacamole, and it comes back well.  Next thing I know, the son and I are making four big batches of guacamole.  I froze three, and left the fourth in the fridge, because we’re always having some kind of TexMex.  Friday, for lunch I had a platter (that’s platter, not plate) of nachos with the home-made guacamole, and some previously home-made salsa, as well as sour cream.

Saturday we had homemade pizzas, two 14 inch large.  I fried up some more of the hot Italian sausage, as well as some mushrooms, added sliced pepperoni, bacon, mozzarella and a dusting of parmesan.  We always make the two large, to put some aside for lunch for the wife and/or I, as well as a mid-night meal for the son at work.  It was a real struggle to actually have some left over.

I took the daughter to a thing called Barterworks, held at the back of a downtown vegetarian cafe, where a number of folks, as well as anyone who wanders in to the cafe, can buy, sell or trade whatever is displayed.  The son asked me as I left, to stop at a little bakery on the way home, and pick up a loaf of thick-cut French bread, so that we can have a feed of French toast and bacon (Mmmh, bacon!)  for Monday brunch.

On the Canada Day holiday Monday, the daughter and grandson are coming over early to help make supper.  We’ve decided to make up a couple of batches of perogies.  The daughter is allergic to potatoes, so we’ll use sweet potatoes as a base for hers.  Serve these little calorie grenades with some nice beef gravy and some 99% lactose-free sour cream and it will soon be hibernation time.

The doctor told me to watch my weight, so I put it out in front of me, where I can keep an eye on it.  We put aside some of our cooking in Tupperware or Ziploc containers, for the son to eat in the middle of his work-day.  Some jealous co-workers complain that he eats better on leftovers than they do with the stuff they bring.

My doctor told me I need more exercise.  I asked what I should do.  She said, “When you’re sitting at the table,”  “Yeah, yeah??”  “put your arms down by your side.”  “Yeah, yeah??”  “Bend both arms at ninety degrees, and then firmly grasp the edge of the table, with both hands.”  “What then??”  “Push away from the table before you take a second helping.”  I’m doomed, I tell you, doomed.  Maybe I could get a job as a stunt double for the Michelin Man, or Poppin’ Fresh, if I can haul my ass off this computer chair to apply.

I didn’t intend that this be a cooking column.  Did anybody get some ideas for a meal?  Damn, now I feel hungry again.  Is there a bit of cheese left in the fridge?

Lazy And Incompetent

Perhaps my title should have been, Busy and Incompetent.  I heard, years ago, that as technology evolved, we would all have more free time, to pursue hobbies and studies and things like that.  It seems though, that as we acquire more and more technology, we have less and less time for ourselves.  I know that, as I spend more time, with more blogs, my reading has decreased.  One of the parts of life to take the greatest hit from busy-ness, seems to be cooking and food preparation.  People have not been taught, or don’t remember, or simply don’t care to, take the time and effort to prepare food from scratch.

My son was amazed in a store the other day, to encounter, pre-cooked bacon, hence, the title of this blog.  How lazy and incompetent have people become, that they can’t even fry bacon?  There’s more than that to the equation.  Folks don’t want to get grease-spatter burns, or messy stoves, or indelible marks on their clothes.  There’s even the question of what to do with the rendered fat when you’re done.  Personally, I keep a clean soup can in the fridge and pour the grease into that, and let it cool.  Then we use some for things like frying French toast or, as we did tonight, create a roux, and add a can of beef broth to make “stone” gravy for perogies.  That can of broth is short-cut cooking for us.  I can almost hear the younger crowd.  “Create a roux?  What the Hell’s a roux?  Make gravy?  Screw that, open a can.”  We “used to” make perogies from scratch, but it’s a four-hour process.  We’re becoming like others, now we buy them ready-made in boxes.

For many people, everything, including food, has to be fast and easy.  Hamburger Helper has a series of ads where they urge you to cut up and add veggies and spices to “personalize” the basic pot of slop.  A lot of folks don’t even know how to cut stuff up, or what spices are, although HH assists them by showing a bottle of Tabasco Sauce.  Studies show that one out of every three meals in America is consumed outside the home, and that doesn’t include delivered stuff, like pizza or Chinese.  Think of that folks, breakfast, lunch and dinner, an average of one of those meals every day, for every person, is purchased.  You guys are dining out way too much.

One of the females in my blog-circle was in awe of her neighbor, who made fresh cookies.  “Even if I had the time, I wouldn’t know how.”  One of the reasons I’m overweight, is that, all three of the adults in this house, know how to cook.  My mother taught me, and my wife taught the son.  We all have our specialties.  I make stuff like homemade pizza, pasta and chili.  I also serve as a great prep-chef and bus-boy.  I will peel and grate and chop and get out spices and milk, etc.  Then the wife comes over and assembles something and leaves a mess, and I clean it all up, just in time to enjoy Black Forest Cake, or a stew from Kenya.  I get a little OCD about cleaning up.  Sometimes I put stuff away, that hasn’t been used yet.

When she was raising our kids, and babysitting for the busy working mothers of the neighborhood, the wife watched TV shows like The Galloping Gourmet, Julia Child or Wok with Yan.  We have almost 20 cookbooks, including a three-ring binder with computer printed pages of preparation and cooking instructions, and recipes from around the world.  That’s why I said that the neighbor probably enjoyed, what to us, was a simple meal.

We continue to purchase things like mustard, relish, ketchup and HP Sauce by the gallon, at Costco.  I wash out the empty squeeze bottle from the fridge and fill it again and again, from the big container.  I can purchase the big container for the cost of two or three of those handy-dandy little ones and get 10 or 12 refills.  All it takes is some time, energy and patience, things many people in today’s busy world don’t have.  It even cuts down on garbage and recycling.  Then we take the money we saved and drive north to the Mennonite farmers market and buy top-grade fresh produce, to make some more yummy waist-stretchers.

Come Christmas-time, we make about a hundred dozen bite-size cookies of about ten varieties, and one or two soft, moist, yummy Christmas cakes.  We give away the lion’s share to our chiropractor, his wife and kids, and now a couple of new husbands.  They have been exceptionally nice to us over thirty years.  They have established a Christmas-morning ritual breakfast of tea and our cookies and cake, as they open presents.  They still respond by giving us far more as gifts than we feel is justified.  This past Christmas they bought us our membership to Costco.  My ever-anchored son pointed out to my wife that, if they went to the Mennonite market and purchased the amount we give them, the cost would be well over $200, and the quality would be nowhere as good.

The highlight of the presentation, especially for the now-adult children, is individually hand decorated/iced sugar cookies.  Bells and wreaths and stars, hand-painted with different colored icing, with various-shaped decorations added.  Then the artistic wife, and especially daughter, use the colored icing to “paint” sugar-cookie men and women to resemble each of them.  They put in suits, jogging outfits, and for each of the girls and their new husband, a wedding gown and tux.  All of them get their name added in dark icing.

When we deliver the largesse, it’s like watching It’s A Wonderful Life, in real life.  These “kids” are now all into their twenties, but the eyes sparkle and the smiles glow.  They are just SO glad to receive their hand-made, personalized gift.  It’s a Hell of a lot better than that “personalized” Hamburger Helper.  It’s such a shame that so much of the good, old ways has been left behind by so many of today’s busy, stressed citizens.