National Kids Take Over the Kitchen Day

I tried to teach my children to cook before they went to college. I think they got the basics down pat (although I’m certain they were much better at doing laundry). One summer, I decided that each week each child would find a recipe, make sure we had all the ingredients on hand, and cook the meal. I actually stole this idea from my friend Kris Fletcher. Her children were (and are) far more cooperative than mine were.

But X-Chromo became the Campus Molasses Cookie Queen at her college.

And Y-Chromo  found and made one recipe that has become a keeper.

Encourage your children to take over the kitchen. Cooking is a survival skill, and it’s never too early to learn.

Hot Diggety!

It’s National Hot Dog Day.

I love hot dogs. Good hot dogs. Good hot dogs cooked right.

My favorite hot dogs are Hofmann. Yes, they are local, but the company is working to go national. (I do try to support local businesses, too. See my previous post about ice cream.)

But even Hofmann hot dogs need to be cooked correctly. The ball park mostly steams the ones they sell. That. Is. Disgusting. My mom used to boil hot dogs. Ugh! (Although sometimes she boiled them in tomato sauce, and that was good!) A perfectly cooked hot dog will have crisp, somewhat blackened skin. Grilling is the best way to achieve that. I use a grill pan on the stove when I have to.

Some people (TV Stevie) gunk up their dogs with sauerkraut and mustard. Or onions. Now, I’m not opposed to a Texas Hot once in a while, or a chili dog, but for everyday eating a great hot dog needs nothing but the roll.

Simplicity

One of my primary goals in life is to be content. And being content, for me, is not being bogged down by…stuff. Things. Physical belongings. Chores.

But I have a lot of physical belongings. There’s a lot of stuff in this house. A lot of dust, too.

Now that the Chromos are grown and (mostly) gone (although their stuff adds to the disarray), many things have become simpler.  One of the biggest is meal planning.

My children each had their eating foibles. I had to cook nutritious food they would eat, meals that were quick and easy because there was dance, jazz ensemble, religious education, play rehearsal etc. Much of my time was spent planning and executing.

I like to cook, but as I get older I realize I’d rather spend my time on something like writing that will last longer than a great meal. When TV Stevie and I were planning our mutual lives, he told me straight out: “I do not expect dinner on the table every night.” He doesn’t really care about food. Doesn’t like to spend money on “temporary,” which is what he considers food. Dinner on the table every night was something I grew up with. But Mom was a full-time homemaker, so dinner on the table when my dad walked in the door was part of her job description. It was never part of mine.

So now I buy pre-made salads and keep them on hand for quick lunches and/or dinners. On the weekends I’ve gone back to doing what I did when I was single: I’ll make a batch of something, then graze on that throughout the week.  TV Stevie’s work schedule has always been erratic. I no longer wait for him (except on nights when he’s bringing home the pizza) if I need to work at my author life.

It’s simpler this way.

 

Happy Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day

Yes! This really is such a thing. If you follow me on Facebook, you know I am currently addicted to grilled cheese sandwiches.

Trivia aside: when I was a child, we called them toasted cheese sandwiches, and they were usually accompanied by tomato soup, which is now a comfort food icon.

A great grilled cheese sandwich begins with bread. Not the spongy, soul-less, nutrition-free stuff on which we grew up (even if it was baked to music), but grown up bread. Like this:

This bread comes from a regional bakery and is 100% preservative-free. It also makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches.

Right now I’m on a Swiss and Havarti cheeses kick.

Then I use butter. The real stuff. Spread on the bread, not melted in the skillet.

A co-worker suggested mayo instead of butter. Not a good suggestion. I am a card-carrying member of the I Hate Mayonnaise Club.

Add these three ingredients together in a perfectly sized cast iron frying pan, and voila! Bliss on a plate.

National Cook a Sweet Potato Day

Yes, this really is such a thing.

And since my sweet potato dish is requested at all non-summer family events, I thought I would share the recipe here. I originally published most of it in November of 2014.

But here you go.

MJ’s Sweet Potato Side Dish

6 long, skinny sweet potatoes, scrubbed, then sliced.

I like to use a rippled mandolin.

1 large sweet onion, chopped.

mix the onion and sweet potato together with Wegmans Basting Oil (or other seasoned cooking oil) in a large oven-proof pan (I like my lasagna pan for this).

Bake at 425F for about 40 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.

One of the great things about this recipe is that it can be made ahead of time and reheated in the microwave, which makes it perfect for my family’s gathering.