Monday, January 28, 2013

Good Cooking Tips for Day and Night

Dear George,
I haven’t always been an excellent cook.  When we first got married, Katja was excited about being a new bride, so, aside from grilling an occasional burger on our hibachi, I was mostly an appreciative eater.  Once our son J was born, we enjoyed home-cooked family meals together every day.  It didn’t require major changes because, until age 11 or so, J would only eat SpaghettiOs with meatballs. When J went off to college, our food habits changed dramatically.  Katja went into a deep funk and stopped cooking altogether.  Mainly she munched on stuff out of bags and jars.  Faced with anxieties about malnutrition, I started making my own food.  Over the years I’ve become expert at preparing two specialties.  These are known in the trade as (a) Healthy Choices and (b) Lean Cuisines.  The nutritional payoffs, of course, are excellent.  It means, on the one hand, that I’m guaranteed to be Healthy and, on the other hand, that I’ll be Lean.  I haven’t been quite as lean as one might expect (because of snacking on Oreo cookies and Graeter’s doughnuts in between), but I’m leaner than I otherwise would have been. 

I’ve complete mastered meal preparation.  You take the plastic box out of the paper container.  You fold back the cellophane just a little bit on each of the four corners (alternatively, you could punch holes in the cellophane with a fork, but the folding back method results in greater uniformity).  The most important step is getting the timing exactly right.  Basically, you push the number 6 button on the microwave for express cooking. Then you wait six minutes, take the box out, carefully peel off the cellophane, and your gourmet meal is ready.  The company doesn’t brag about it, but it’s likely that Lean Cuisines were created by a world-class chef from Paris, France, and they come in an amazing variety of mouth-watering dishes.  I wait till Krogers is having a $2 sale, then stock up for months at a time.  My favorites are Tortilla Crusted Fish and Swedish Meatballs.  Healthy Choices are a little more bland (necessarily so because they are so Healthy), but they have the advantage of coming in more robust 10-oz. portions. 

A perfectly prepared L.C. entree which I enjoyed for lunch today (Tortilla Crusted Fish)

In the last year I’ve expanded my cooking repertoire in entirely new directions.  This came about totally by accident.  Sometimes when I have difficulty getting to sleep at night, I’ll get up and take a sleeping pill.  The morning after one such event, I was looking at photos in my camera’s memory, and I was baffled by a picture of a plateful of food which I had no recollection of ever seeing before.  Then it dawned on me that I must have gone downstairs and made a snack after taking my sleeping pill, even though I had no memory of it.  Over the next several weeks I figured out that every time I take a sleeping pill I seem to wander down to the kitchen an hour later.  I usually didn’t remember it, but the evidence was there in the morning in the form of cucumber peelings, olive pits, and/or spilled mustard drops.  Over time, I’ve accumulated a collection of photos of creations I’ve made during these late night excursions, sometimes aware of what I was doing, sometimes not.  Whether it’s because of the sleeping pill or the late night hour, I seem to be much more creative at 2 a.m. than in my daytime waking state.  Here’s a sampling of some of my best early morning concoctions:     

Delectable Reese Witherspoon Salad:  Boston Bibb lettuce, apple slices, carrot sticks, hard salami, Roma tomatoes, black olives, stuffed green olives, feta cheese, Red Wine Vinaigrette dressing

The Cosmic Wonder:  Kroger chunk tuna in water, Kalamata olives, red pepper slices, mozzarella cheese strips

Entrée de Maison Mike & Duffy:  Blueberries on lemon yogurt with sides of orzo, strawberries, black olives, mozzarella cheese, and a glass of merlot

Menekaunee Carrot Burger:  Hard salami on carrot strips with sprinkled black olives and a glass of cabernet sauvignon

Sandwiché Magnifiqué de Élégance:  one slice of toasted 15 grain bread, Skippy Crunchy peanut butter, Belgian endive, grape tomatoes, blueberries, salad olives

Floo-Floo Lemon Fluff:  Lemon yogurt, raspberry goat cheese, salad olives, green grapes

Blueberry Frozen Delight:  Spumoni ice cream on Almond Nut-Thin crackers, topped off with a large blueberry

El Dreamo Supremo:  Belgian endive encrusted with peanut butter and blueberries; Bibb lettuce spread with cream cheese and grape tomatoes; mushroom slices and cheddar cheese; all sprinkled with hazelnuts, walnut chunks, and pine nuts. 

It’s never too late to take up new pursuits, so I’m going to be busy developing my cooking abilities over coming months.  I don’t know how to turn on the gas stove in our kitchen, and the complexity of the dials intimidates me even if I could.  Instead I’ll concentrate on new recipes when out camping with the sheepdogs (who will also help me with the leftovers).  I’m already adept at charbroiling things on my Coleman stove.  My favorite meal is black crispy bacon served with blackened pancakes and syrup.  Now I need to get better on burnt chicken breasts and scorched corned beef hash.  I’ll take some pictures and send them along when they’re ready.  In the meantime, Bon Appetit!

G-mail Comments
-Linda C (1-29):  You get so creative on ambien,..  I have started to cook, every week I do try one thing new, it's not as great first time. Then I have to make it one more time to try to make It perfect.  Will send you pictures.
-Jennifer M (1-28): Very fancy looking food.  I wonder if it tastes good? 
-DCL to Jennifer (1-28): Pretty tasty, on the whole.  Items with peanut butter are best.  Last night I used a bunch of little seeds I found in the refrigerator.  They were good but Katja scolded me because the container cost $15.    :>)

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