Monday, November 17, 2014

Fussy Recipes

If I'm not using one of my slow cookers,
I'm using one of my cast-iron pots.
People often ask me for my recipes. Then they tell me, “Yeah, I’m never going to make that. Your recipes are so fussy!” They’re content to enjoy the dish once and maybe never again, unless I make it for them. I don’t understand that attitude. If it tastes good, why not put the effort into it?
I follow America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) slow-cooker recipe for “Old Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup.” You don’t start with hatching an egg and raising it into a chicken, but very nearly. (Kind of like reading Michener’s Hawaii, where the novel begins at the dawn of time with the creation of the islands and eventually gets to the part where something actually happens.) The recipe includes browning chicken thighs, wrapping the breast in foil so it’ll cook more slowly, pre-cooking veggies, throwing things into the slow-cooker, eventually deboning the meat, and cooking the noodles separately. It’s not your fix-it-and-forget-it style recipe. 
And people love the results.
I have a few recipes that meet the “5 Ingredient” limit many people insist on. They’re fine. But oh, that noodle soup! So good you’ll slap your granny!
Sometimes, while viewing an episode of ATK, even I marvel at the lengths to which they will go to add flavor, texture, crust, a little dash of something at the end of the cooking to “brighten” the taste. I watch pots and pans and dishes and utensils pile up at an alarming rate, knowing my kitchen help is limited to a man who loads the dishwasher because he thinks I toss the dishes in from across the room. He doesn’t wash dishes by hand because the sink is exactly the depth that makes his back ache. This is my father’s excuse also, and he’s shorter than I am. Do they teach this in man school?
So I watch the entire episode, dish piles and all, and enjoy it immensely. And sometimes even I say, “Yeah, I’m never going to make that.”

Friday, November 7, 2014

Smell Ya Later

I’m not just eco-friendly, I’m heading toward an affair. I told John we no longer have trash—I just wash everything and put it in the garage, and he hauls it to the recycling center. A cloth bag full of other cloth grocery bags lives in my car’s trunk so they’re ready when I am. I usually cook, so there aren’t lots of take-out foam trays and frozen food packages in my trash. I don’t own a Keurig so I’m not heaping landfills with little empty pods. (Yes, I used to own a Tassimo, which is basically the same thing but with impossible-to-find pods. Shut up.)

My worst problem with the eco-pal thing? Cleaning sprays. When my house is clean I want it to smell clean. Not like cat pee (ammonia) or my mother’s laundry room (bleach) or Easter eggs (vinegar). Nice. Pleasant. Clean. Actually, I want my house to smell clean even when it isn’t, but it usually smells like whatever I last cooked. And I don’t want to spend a fortune on those specialty cleaners. Surely I can find something home-made, right?

I’ve tried different mixtures as far back as my hippie-wannabe days when I had a vague dream of living a Mother Earth News lifestyle, only without the animal stink or touching the wormy ground. Recently I tried an internet recipe, a half vinegar/half water combo. The house smelled so bad I left, making an unnecessary trip in my car, burning gas I didn’t need to. (Yes, I could have taken a walk. You’re not helping.)

I mentioned my problem to strangers at a jewelry-shopping party and one of them had a solution. Essential oils. She gave me the types, ratios, and where to find them. I bought them, mixed the solution, and cleaned my kitchen. It doesn’t smell like heavy cleaners, my husband isn’t coughing from bleach in the air, there’s just a light, pleasant, clean scent. Eureka!

So here’s my gift to you, from the stranger who gave it to me. I call it:
All-Purpose Cleaner That Won’t Make You Cough Or Run You Out of Your Own House With Its Stench:

1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
30 drops lavender essential oil
15 drops rosemary essential oil
Mix in a spray bottle, spray and wipe.

You’re welcome.