Food, Budgets, Children & Husbands

Every time I see a mother out shopping with her children trying to keep her goals in mind while the young ones clamor for everything the mother is not going to put in her grocery cart, I recall my own moments. Children are born with taste buds already acclimated to junk food and parents battle their inclinations from day one.

Children like recognizable food. If they can’t conveniently pick it up in their hands, they might not eat it. And, if the food, can be fried, grilled, or breaded, so much the better.
Unfortunately, the week before payday doesn’t always allow us the luxury of chunks of meat or chicken. This is when the bane of most children appears . . . casseroles!
Casseroles were invented when there was one shred of meat, two carrots, and a sprouted potato left in the larder. Whether it is a larder or refrigerator of today, we often have the same culinary scenario. This is when your motherly skills all come into play.
“Mom! What is that brown, crusty stuff on top of my food?”
“It is melted cheese. Eat it! Don’t take it off or you will be sorry!”
“Mom! There’s no meat under the brown, crusty stuff!”
“See! Didn’t I tell say you’d be sorry!”
For variation, all you have to do is add liquid to leftover casserole and you have soup. This is about as popular as casserole. Your children carefully skim tiny spoonfuls of broth from the surface of their soup bowls. There are whispered discussions and long, intent looks into their bowls. You get the impression that the appearance of the Loch Ness Monster from the depths of their soup would come as little surprise to them.
All the cookbooks and meal planners suggest stretching meals with a big salad. Salad often fits into my week before payday budget. Unfortunately, the children are all for drowning it in their soup and covering it with brown, crusty stuff.
Husbands should be supportive but, sometimes, they just can’t help what happens. Faced with a big bowl of mixed salad greens (two-pound bag on the ‘next stop, eternity’ used vegetable counter!), he tries to be encouraging.
“Children! Your mother works hard all day to fix us this wonderful dinner . . .”
“Dad! I don’t recognize this leaf!”
“It’s nettles, dear.”
“Dad! Nettles aren’t edible! It’s probably crab grass. Mom put crab grass in our salad!”
“Sweetheart! It’s not crab grass. I meant to say endive not nettles.”
“Dad! Do I have to eat the curly leaves?”
“If you want dessert, you do.”
“We have dessert tonight?”
“Well, no, but if we were having dessert, you could have some if you ate the curly leaves, too. Since we aren’t having dessert, you still have to eat the curly leaves so you don’t die of starvation by morning!”
“Dad! I think I saw something crawling in my salad . . .”
“Enough! I have heard enough complaints about dinner. I want you to all be quiet and eat your weeds! I mean, salad!”
Marriages are made in Heaven but I bet they happen before the salad course.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Spice Cake

Well, California is a State that has plenty of Fall bonfires (aka wild brush fires!) around this time of year but we can still put some good smelling holiday scents in the air with this cake. Yeah, cheating a bit starting with a cake mix but in the hurry of the holidays and with the enrichment ingredients, no one will guess it’s lowly origins and happily indulge in a serving or two. AND, don’t forget some holiday sprinkles when you frost the cake! Batter will work for cupcakes, too.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Spice Cake

1 Spice Cake Mix
3/4 Cup mayonnaise
1 16 oz can pumpkin
3 Eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 8oz. Package Cream Cheese (softened)
1/4 Cup Butter or Margarine (softened)
3 Cup Confectioners Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Mix all of the pumpkin bar ingredients in a bowl just until combined well. Pour in a greased 13×9 cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until toothpick comes out of the center clean. Cool completely.
While the cake is cooling, cream the cream cheese and the butter together in your mixer bowl until quite fluffy. Mix in the powdered sugar ½ cup. at a time until well blended. Add vanilla, orange zest, and mix well. Chill in refrigerator until the cake is completely cool, frost and serve.

Adventures in the Kitchen

My husband is a man of few dreams as he is quite content with a mostly clean house, housebroken pets and a good dinner on the table. Clean laundry is a plus, too. One of his dreams, however, has been to have a kitchen trash can that automatically opens when you want to make a deposit. Shopping one day, his wish was granted as there was the prize of his dreams and it was on sale, too, always a plus to get me to agree. He happily brought it home and set it up.

He came over to the new kitchen ‘family’ member with trash and held it over the lid. Nothing. He moved closer and . . . not a whisper of cooperation. He touched the lid and it opened rather reluctantly (as far as I could see as I can’t read appliance demeanor of any genre).

My husband took it apart and put it together, again, to insure it was done perfectly. It was still reluctant to accept his offerings of trash. He packed it up and returned it to the store and replaced it with another one. It was a very close cousin as it seemed to have the same stubborn streak as the first one. My husband gave up at that point, walked across to the kitchen sink to wash his hands . . . and the lid happily popped open. When the lid closed again (Much to the dismay, wonderment, and shock of our cats), my husband rounded up a trash offering and approached it. Nothing! Not even a glimmer of cooperation. He raised his hands in exasperation and, naturally, with a suppressed appliance grin, it immediately opened up.

These days, the trash can is mostly kind to my husband but always obeys me. I don’t know why. Perhaps, I deliver more interesting trash. Then, again, I didn’t call it any names which I will not mention here.

My Favorite Discovery!

I’m pretty sure I mentioned this before but I can’t help grinning everytime we have fried fish or chicken and do it without flour and still get a great ‘crisp’ on it and a very satisfying crunch. AND, what we use is low carb and good for you, too, fewer calories. It is Whey Protein Isolate! Just scoop out what you need, season it like flour and there is your future crispy coating. You just dip your fish or chicken into some  beaten egg, coat with the seasoned whey stuff, and fry. It works well for onion rings, too.

Yam Bread – a Holiday Favorite

Leftover yams at the Thanksgiving table? No matter how I plan a meal in regards to the number of guests, I always end up with leftover yams! Well, that leftover has been my go to for making a few loaves of Yam Bread to bake and freeze for the upcoming holiday season – if a loaf of this bread would survive the final cooling the day it was made. Something about toasted yam bread with a slathering of butter . . .

Yam Bread

2/3 cup shortening
2 2/3 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups cooked yams
2/3 cup water
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2/3 cups coarsely chopped nuts
2/3 cup raisins (optional)

Whip up the yams until fairly smooth.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottoms only of two loaf pans, 9x5x3 inches.

Mix shortening and sugar in large bowl. Add eggs, yams, and water. Blend in flour, baking soda, salt, baking power, cinnamon, and clovers. Stir in nuts and raisins. Pour into pans. (If batter seems too dry, you can always add bits of juice or water but go slowly as you don’t want it runny.)

Bake about an hour or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove and cool completely before slicing.

Pumpkin Bread
Substitute yams for 2 cups of canned pumpkin.

Zucchini Bread
Substitute 3 cups shredded zucchini. Blend in 2 teaspoons vanilla with the clovers. Decrease baking time to under 60 minutes

Banana Bread
Substitute 3 very ripe, smashed (and it ain’t easy getting them drunk!) bananas

Cranberry Walnut Bread
One cup roughly chopped fresh or frozen cranberries and ½ cup toasted, chopped walnuts.

Fudge Fantasy Dessert

Holidays are coming! Hey! YES, they are, just look at the calendar. This dessert, however, might take some of the worry out of providing a treat for family or guests. It is very rich so you can find some of those cute, small dishes and surprise people with your elegant dessert.

Fudge Fantasy Dessert

When the Lent ends and your thoughts turn to Easter meals and sumptuous calories . . .
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2 14-ounce cans sweetened, condensed milk (evaporated milk will not work!)
½ cup hot water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pint heavy whipping cream
In a saucepan, gently melt chocolate and condensed milk. Cook, stirring constantly until thick, about five minutes. Add hot water and continue cooking until it thickens and boils. Remove immediately from heat. Scrape into bowl and refrigerate until thoroughly cool, about an hour. Beat whipping cream until very stiff and fold into cooled chocolate mixture.
Spoon into individual dessert dishes or sundae cups and refrigerate until set. Garnish with a swirl of whipped cream and a cherry. This is very rich so you won’t need huge servings.

Seamlessly Blending Carrots Into Meals

When my children were in their formative years, ur budget was such that getting ten pounds of carrots for under three dollars made them a fixture on my weekly shopping list. Unfortunately, my children didn’t sympathize with me on this aspect of saving money. I had several unsuccessful attempts in disguising carrots at mealtimes. My children had radar when it came to sensing a carrot in their vicinity. I am sharing my failures with you so you can avoid the same dinner-time pitfalls. For some reason, they just didn’t work.

1. I tried passing off steamed carrots as hot dogs. One attempt at the subterfuge and relish and ketchup were never applied after that until the children tested the contents of the bun on both the dog and cat.

2. I tried something trendy. I told them it was orange sherbert but the unsuccessfully pureed carrot bumps cued them in.

3. Mixed mashed carrots into their liver and they still wouldn’t eat it!

4. Told them it was actually hashed, orange rutabagas, not carrots. They threatened to call 911.

5. Painted red stripes on carrots and put them into their Christmas stockings. Told them Santa left the candy canes. You don’t want to know.

6. Tried honesty . . . told them carrots taste like chicken.

7. Found a recipe for ground carrots and cottage cheese that was suppose to fry up ‘just like a hamburger patty’. My children’s first question was, “Mom, why are you frying cottage cheese and carrots?”

8. Told them they couldn’t have dessert unless they ate all their carrots at dinner. Almost had a mutiny when they discovered dessert was Carrot Cake.

9. Told them they weren’t carrots but odd-colored zucchini. Actually refused to believe me!

10. Chopped up the carrots into cubes and told them it was tofu in their stir fry.