Random thoughts on cooking

I am not a great cook, but I have learned a few tips and techniques and I can make a passable meal. Sometimes things turn out as planned and sometimes they do not. I’ve learned to adapt. I am also a big fan of figuring out how to use up leftovers. A bit of pork roast can make really good barbecue pork sandwiches the next day. That’s how one of my culinary adventures started. On a busy day, Susan started a small pork roast in the crock pot. At noon, I got a break and went home and added sweet potatoes and apples to the pot. It made a delicious dinner. Then I shredded the remaining meat, and added barbecue sauce to make pork sandwiches. I made coleslaw to go with the sandwiches and decided that some beans would complete the meal. I cooked too many beans, which wasn’t a problem because the next day there was a potluck. I added more beans and took a crockpot of beans to the potluck. The potluck was lightly attended and there were a lot of crock pots of delicious food, so I had a big supply of leftover beans. So last night I cooked some rice, browned some beef in a frying pan and ended up with a big pot of beans and rice. We had a good dinner and we’ve got leftovers that will last us for several days. I don’t mind. A bowl of beans and rice warmed up in the microwave makes a nice lunch. I just have to remember to take some with me when I leave for work because I won’t have time to come back to get them after my day starts.

That’s the kind of cooking I do. I am capable of finding a recipe on the internet, going shopping for ingredients that we don’t normally keep around the house and following instructions to produce a meal, and when I have time I like to do just that. More often, however, our lives are busy with lots of meetings and activities and what works best is to open the cupboards, see what is there and come up with a meal plan.Since beans and rice are easy to store, we seem to often have beans and rice as part of our meal plans.

Years ago, when we were first married, our go-to meal was probably spaghetti. Dried noodles are easy to keep on hand. A jar of prepared sauce can be the basis for the rest of the meal. We often doctored the sauce a bit adding whatever ingredients we happened to have on hand. The other staple, if I was cooking, was a variation on tuna casserole. I could make it with rice or with noodles, depending on what we had on hand. I tended to lean towards noodles in those days. I know it isn’t complex, but it took me a while to learn how to get rice cooked properly.

When kids came along, macaroni and cheese became a meal that was always accepted. Our children were amazingly tolerant of variations in the cheese sauce. They were served everything from real cheese sauces made with multiple kinds of cheese to the orangish powder packaged in a box mix. Waffles were always a hit. A trip to the store usually involved picking up a box of Bisquick and a few boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

It is surprising, looking back, that both of our children turned out to be thoughtful and careful about their food choices and feed their families good, balanced and nutritious meals. It isn’t that we weren’t mindful of nutrition. We were just busy.

But I don’t think we were quite as busy as our son, with three children in a two-career family. Their lives are a kind of organized chaos, with an amazing amount of organization to the chaos. A typical early evening scene in their home involves one parent preparing a meal in the kitchen while the other parent is organizing activities with the children, the main focus of which seems to be keeping the children out of the kitchen so dinner can be prepared. It looks, and sometimes sounds chaotic, but it all works out and the evening ends with three children being fed, bathed, had their stories read and in bed at a reasonable time. I think that evenings also end with exhausted parents, who have tasks to complete before falling into bed so that they can rise before the children to get breakfast in motion.

These days I don’t put much energy or creativity into breakfast unless we have guests or are caring for our grandchildren. Although I admit that the grandchildren always ask for blueberry pancakes for breakfast when they have a sleepover. I’m glad to comply. There was the one time that the request was macaroni and cheese. Easy Mac to the rescue and we have at least one granddaughter who knows that staying with grandma and grandpa is special. She wouldn’t get that request granted at home.

For me, however, these days my breakfast is a little egg, a little cheese and a little spinach rolled up in a burrito. That’s different from the staple fried egg and toast that I had for breakfast for years. I seem to be better at cooking the right amount of food for breakfast and I don’t have to deal with leftovers. A flour tortilla can add a bit of variation to leftover beans and rice to make a burrito for lunch if I think of it.

I don’t think anyone will be inspired to write a cookbook of the food we prepare in our home, but so far we’ve managed to enjoy our meals together, feed ourselves food that is at least sufficiently nutritious for survival and within our budget.

Here’s a tip just in case you are out of dinner ideas. Put the leftovers in a baking dish, mix a cup of Bisquick with a half cup of milk and an egg and pour that mixture over the top. Bake and call it a pot pie. Your family won’t notice that it doesn’t have a bottom crust and they’ll think you’re a good cook.

It’s all in the presentation.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!