School Lunch Flashback

Last week my husband took a few vacation days. He took his dad and our daughter to see the St. Louis Cardinals play the Tampa Bay Rays. The men rooted for the Cardinals and my daughter for the Rays.

The Rays won and that must have let the air out of his sails because the rest of his time on vacation required only two things: a recliner and remote. (He didn’t have any other plans actually.)

My part in the vacation was I didn’t have to cook. It came about accidentally when I got sick. After having subs twice, pizza twice, and burgers once, I thawed out some chicken.

He decided it would not thaw soon enough and when he went to buy groceries he picked up a bucket of fried chicken from the grocery store. He got sides of mashed potatoes, gravy, cheesy potatoes, and squash. (The last item was for me.)

Usually he brings home macaroni and cheese to go with the potatoes.

Yeah, I married a meat and potatoes man.

Anyway, after putting the groceries away I filled my plate.

After one bite I thought, “This tastes like school lunch.”

It is amazing what we put up with for convenience. The next night I fried up the fully thawed chicken. I enjoyed mine much better.

We ate leftovers last night and I learned the secret to getting your college kids to cook a meal for you…serve chicken three nights in a row and tell them you are not cooking until the leftovers are gone.

He volunteered to cook tonight.

I’ll take fresh food over fast food any day.

My fried Chicken.

My fried Chicken.


Weird Ingredients

Mom stopped by today and dropped off a “Cooking Light” magazine. She reads cookbooks like I read novels. I get discouraged reading recipes in magazines because they always have one or two weird ingredients.

Don’t get me wrong, Mom is the best cook in the county, but I notice she brings the “tried and true” regional recipes to family dinners. She uses the recipes from her mother and mother-in-law the most.

Why? Their recipes are made with ingredients found and grown locally.

I live in a town with 2 grocery stores and a Wal-Mart. My husband has to do the shopping because of my medical problems and he doesn’t want to go all over town.

My home is 640 square feet which meant for years my pantry was in the basement…until I shoved the sheets under the mattresses and started using my  linen closet for a pantry. My dry cereal stash is on the shelf in my bedroom closet. I have room for one kind of vinegar, not six.

I finally found the reason for the “weird ingredients.” They are ingredients sent to the magazine for the cooks to try. They get free samples and add them to recipes they are familiar with and tada…a new recipe.

Scott Mowbray, editor of Cooking Light magazine wrote in his August, 2014 Note from the Editor.

“What do maple sugar powder, rare loose teas, tinned white anchovies, obscure jams, Chia seeds, crab salsa, and beer mustard have in common? Answer: All were sent to “Cooking Light” offices for sampling, taken home, filed in my pantry, and never considered again. The fact is, foods we are really interested in get tasted at the office. The rest are orphans, I give a home to orphans.

Mixed in with the orphans are the real foods….jasmine rice…Thai broken rice…dried Chinese fish….Indonesian shrimp chips…Southeast Asian Sambals…extra-wide rice flake noodles.”

That list was just from the Asian section of his pantry! You will not find one of those items in mine.

Thank God for the voice of reason in Mary Hunt at Debt Proof Living. She recommends and I love because you type in the ingredients you want to use and they give you a list of recipes using those ingredients together.

I thought I would stump them with the ingredients watermelon and cottage cheese. I thought wrong…they had a salad made from those ingredients.

Maybe we are burned out on cooking because we are trying too hard. I need to make a list of favorite menus rotate them through once a month. I can always add a new recipe any time.

I put it off long enough…I need to go update my food inventory.

Cooking Light Magazine August, 2014

Cooking Light Magazine
August, 2014


Smaller Size Satisfies

I had been trying to cut back on coffee drinking. I limited myself to two 12 ounce cups a day. But there were three times during the day that I wanted a caffeine boost.

My solution?

I started drinking out of 8 ounce cups. I still am drinking 24 ounces of coffee, but I get it three times a day instead of two.

It is a habit to always order the larger size; but you would be surprised how many times the smaller size is just enough.

My coffee with frothed milk.

My coffee with frothed milk.

Microwave Cover Colander

I like everything in my house to do double duty because I don’t have much room.

When I peel potatoes for dinner, I put them in the microwave cover. When they are all peeled, I can rinse them in the cover and do not have to get down the large colander. The water runs out of the holes designed to release steam .

My microwave cover makes a great colander.

My microwave cover makes a great colander.

Not Too Hard, Not Too Soft

It’s the time of year when you go to butter your toast and find it partially melted. That is easier to deal with than the time of year when the butter is too hard to cut.

I have found the solution, (thank you Debt-Proof Living), in a…

Butter Bell.

A butter bell.

A butter bell.











It’s a crock with a bell you fill with butter. You put an inch of cold water in the crock and turn the bell upside down in it. The cold water keeps the butter at the perfect temperature.

It won’t melt or harden, and you can use every last bit of butter. You put a stick of butter in it, leaving no air holes and change the water every few days.

You get perfect consistency butter every time.

Couch Charging Station

While scrolling through Pinterest, I saw a cord organizer using large binder clips. I tried using them on my side table, but the wood was too thick.

Then I noticed the back of the couch had a flap. I clipped my husband’s phone charger to the end of the flap on one side.

Looking behind my couch from the side will show you the charger to my husband's phone.

Looking behind my couch from the side will show you the charger to my husband’s phone.

On the other side, I clipped the charger to my Chromebook.

If you look down behind my couch, you will see the charger to my Chromebook.

If you look down on my couch, you will see the charger to my Chromebook.

My couch is now a charging station!

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Portable Bookshelf

It is really heating up here in Iowa and I don’t know from day-to-day where I will be doing my daily studying. I like to read in the front room, but some days it is just too hot with that big window.

I ended up getting out a box that would hold the books I am currently using and storing it under one of the side chairs in the front room. If it is too warm there, I can easily tote the box to the kitchen, bedroom or office.

Portable study center!

Portable study center!

Bookshelves Become A Bookcase

I have been looking for a side table that is 18″ wide, 24″ tall, and 8″ deep. I was moving some wood in the storage room and saw three 8″ laminate shelves. Two were 24″ long and the third was 38″ long.

I asked my husband if we could build a box out of them and use it as a side table. Not only did he agree, he pulled a matching 24″ shelf out of the laundry room. They are all walnut stained.

I was so excited. We could make a bookcase for a side table to house the remote controls, etc. I drew a picture and wrote down the measurements I wanted and he took them to the lumberyard.

When it was finished, it didn’t look right. The center shelf had been mounted vertically, not horizontally. It measured 24″ wide and 18″ tall! It didn’t work at all; but David said he could fix it and he did.

I set it next to the love seat and went to soak my feet, sitting in the chair by the front window. The CD case I had next to the chair was too tall and I bumped it, spilling my glass of water.

I moved everything to the recliner and put a new glass of water on the new bookcase. The recliner rocked…or something…and I spilled that glass of water! My husband told me it was too narrow for the space.

I got out the table that was formerly there. The top was large enough for two glasses, the phone, answering machine and a flame-less candle.

I decided to replace the “too tall” CD case with the bookcase. I tried it next to it, but it didn’t leave three feet between it and the TV stand. We needed a three-foot walkway from the front door.

Then I tried it perpendicularly and there was the required three feet…but the lumberyard did not put a piece on the back of it and you could see the unfinished edges. I fixed that with Old English.

Staining the unfinished edges with "Old English."

Staining the unfinished edges with “Old English.”

I was glad they failed to install a back when the weather here cooled off. The air is still able to circulate through the bookcase from the window behind it…and it is the perfect height for that chair.

My new bookcase made from four bookshelves.

My new bookcase made from four bookshelves.

Beat the Heat

I have been waking up early…like 3:45 a.m. early…thanks to Prednisone. I have been using those hours wisely and have been able to beat the heat.

The first thing I do is throw in a load of laundry. My goal is to have my laundry washed and dried before 9:00 a.m.

The second thing I do is cook anything I can for tonight’s dinner. It is better to heat the kitchen up early in the morning when the air conditioner does not have to work as hard to cool it back down. Cooking at the regular time taxes the AC.

My oven is also closed for the season: May through September.

I add olive oil, Parmesan Cheese, and oregano to my spaghetti after I cook it. The oil keeps it from sticking together when it is reheated and the cheese helps the sauce stick to the pasta.

I add olive oil, Parmesan Cheese, and oregano to my spaghetti after I cook it. The oil keeps it from sticking together when it is reheated and the cheese helps the sauce stick to the pasta. Stir it up and it will be good to go at dinner time.