Sunday, November 24, 2013

Maiden Voyage

Look at my new toy--holds 7 quarts!

It got a workout tonight.  We invited a family of beautiful children and their charming parents to join us for dinner.  In addition, our kids came home for the week--Yay!  This qualifies as feeding a crowd, no?

On its maiden voyage, the crock pot cooked a double batch of:

Italian Bow Tie Supper

For dessert:

Pineapple Layer Cake

I consider company for dinner as my reward for finishing Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb.  Despite a book jacket of shiny Christmas tree balls, the story was only vaguely about Christmas.   Mostly it was a profane little comedy about fifth-grade boys clashing with the nuns at their school.  The protagonist hangs out with the class slacker, a 12-year-old already carrying condoms in his back pocket.  You are forewarned. 

On this Thanksgiving week, may you load up on happy memories as least as much as you load up on stuffing and pie.  As for me, my house is is full of people to cook for, which is one of my reasons for living, if you haven't guessed that already. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Out Night-Owling My Night Owl Self

I woke up on Saturday with a powerful case of short-on-sleep eye bags, not to mention styling a total bedhead.  That's what happens when you're up until 3 a.m., finishing David Wroblewski's Story of Edgar Sawtelle.  

Even if he wrote a few chapters with his perfumed-prose pen, the story gripped me. 

Although it occurs to me, in the light of day, that we never learn why the bad guy was bad.  What did he want that made him do -- well, I can't tell you what he did.  That would be giving it away.

And another thing:  why did Edgar -- oh, I can't tell you that either.  But what Edgar did was as puzzling as me mixing up a stiff glass of chocolate milk, then dumping it down the kitchen sink.  Plots have to make a little more sense than that.

Readers on Amazon mentioned the story's parallels to Hamlet.  Thanks to my sub-standard education, I never picked up on this.  Will I actually have to read Hamlet now?  Am I supposed to plug the bad-guy motivation from there into Wroblewski's story and call it good?

Still, I congratulate the author.  He kept me up until 3 a.m., didn't he?   He made this night-owl out-night-owl herself.  And this was a first novel, by the way.

But I think he owes us something on what drives the bad guy.

Now, having slept off my Edgar Sawtelle reading binge, I'm back to thinking about practical things, like what to fix for Sunday dessert: 

Easy Apple Crisp

You're on your own for the ice cream.

Next book:  a Christmas story.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Nice Doggie, Nice Doggie

If Oprah liked it, will I like it?

That's not exactly why I picked up David Wroblewski's The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, but I can just imagine Oprah holding up this thick book on her TV set and sincerely bearing testimony that it will hold you in its grip clear up to the last harrowing page.

Actually, I have no idea how harrowing things will get, but from the halfway point where I now sit, the antagonist is somebody I sure wouldn't want next door to me in one of those hotel rooms with the shared door.

Edgar is born to a family of dog breeders.  He has no voice.  When one of the dogs notices baby Edgar crying in hunger and no sound coming out, she knows she has found her Important Job.  Wake up momma and get her to feed him.  Go everywhere with Edgar and watch out for him. 

So I'm reading along, getting all heart-warmed by a dog, and wondering what's happening to me.  Why, just weeks ago, I said nice things about the two doggies at my daughter's house--"They are kind of gentle.  Oh, you sweet pooch," pat, pat.  You don't know how it disturbs me to admit these things, but OK, there's something sweet about an animal companion that waits for you to come home, that follows you around as if your business is her business, that knows what you want for your birthday . . .  Oh, wait, that's probably a bit much to ask.

If I were you, I wouldn't lay down money that I'm about to bat for the other team.  And besides, my cats do wait for me at the door and they do follow me around.  So I feel loved.

It's just that I get, if only a little bit, why all those people who choose an animal that has to be walked (rain, snow or ice) and that chews their boots and that slobbers on them . . . Ok, I get why they might feel all nutty with love for these creatures.

Anyway, back to Edgar.  His uncle appears on the dog farm.  The man is impulsive.  Or maybe he's dangerous.  Or maybe he's changed and isn't all that anymore, but the uncle and Edgar's dad sure do have a lot of arguments.  And Edgar's dog isn't much help on the day he has to call the early '70s version of 911.   

So here I am, halfway through the book, where things are just crackling with danger.  The house could use a good vacuuming and it's not gonna happen until I see Edgar through his troubles.

However, I do manage to feed people around here.   After laying about for a week, I re-entered the kitchen and produced:

 Microwave Pizza Dip


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Outsmarting Your Off Days

I'm kind of laid-up at the moment, which calls for the family to eat straight out of the Costco freezer section.  Tonight, it was some kind of chicken-patty-and-cheese thing that moms can nuke for the kids' after-school snack. Billed for "smaller appetites," I requested that the cook fix me three, because my appetite is more than a distracted child's.

You need contingencies for these times when the cook is not up to it, or when the kitchen is a disaster.  Which reminds me of the time when Mr. Bye-Bye Nesquik was in one of his project moods.  I knew the day was going to be the kind when we turned on the faucet and it coughed up grime, not to mention finding my counters crowded with hammers, copper wire, paintbrushes and whatever else the mister needed for his project.   

I figured I'd get in there before he did, put a nice potato soup in the crockpot and leave it to simmer while he tore and built and cussed and went to the hardware store for more copper wire, paint or whatever.   Yes, at the end of the day, after all the chaos, we'd all have a steamy, salty reward waiting for us. We would avert hunger, and ill-tempered desperation. 

When dinner time came around, I lifted the lid off the crockpot and braced myself for the head of steam wafting off that wonderful soup.

And the soup inside was . . . . cool, the potatoes . . . . hard.

Because Mister's project included turning off the power to that particular outlet. 

Could've used a freezer full of Costco chicken-patty things that night, oh yes.

Or I could've used this SKIER'S STEW, because it would've cooked in the oven, on the side of the kitchen the mister didn't touch.

2 lbs. stew beef, cut in 1 1/2-inch cubes
8 medium potatoes, quartered
8 large carrots, cut in fourths
2 bay leaves
1 pkg. (1 1/2 oz.) dried onion soup
1 can (10 3/4 oz. cream of mushroom soup
1 can (10 3/4 oz.) cream of celery soup
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce

In large Dutch oven or heavy pan with tight-fitting lid make a layer of beef, then teh vegetables. Top with bay leaves, soups and tomato sauce.  Bake at 325' for 3 hours, 15 275' for 6 hours, or at 250' for 8 hours.  Or cook on high for 4 1/2 hrs.  YIELD: 12 servings, 395 cals. each.

From Managing Your Meals  by Winnifred C. Jardine.  Also available at: 

Meanwhile, I finished Lisa See's Shanghai Girls, in which she spends the second half of the book zooming out with a wider lens, attempting to document everything that the Chinese suffered as they came to America.  She bites off a lot, but narrows it all down to the personal drama again at the end.  Overall, I'm recommending it as a good read.

Next book:  562 pages, set in the backwoods of Wisconsin.  Since I'm not cooking for anybody this week, what else do I have to do?