Saturday, February 19, 2011

Happy Soup

In February it will be
My snowman’s anniversary
With cake for him and soup for me!
Happy once, Happy twice.
Happy chicken soup with rice.

--Maurice Sendak

We’ve been experiencing Indian Spring these past few days. Nice walking weather. But if Punxsutawney Phil is to be believed, and how can that sweet faced fellow deceive us?, winter is not over yet.

With puffs of cold air skittering across the floor this morning and wind wailing through the trees, today is perfect for a warming supper. Happy juxtaposition. The bits and pieces container in the freezer is crammed full, so it’s time to act. What kind of concoction can I whip up from a couple tablespoons of corn, leftover gravy, a bit of shredded cabbage, some ground beef crumble, vegetable liquid? Pretty bor-ing. Hmm. I’ll add more liquid, some chicken bits, slivered red pepper and broccoli for color, heat it through with a dash of garlic and basil, and bake some crusty Cuban bread on the side. That’s the ticket. Fuss free. Warming. Three cheers for soup!

Friday, February 11, 2011

How to Use “Spoiled” Food

Just passing a catchy blog question on to you from "Tip Hero". What do you think? Here's my list.

1) Hairy fruits and veggies go to the compost heap. We considered one particularly impressive orange mass for show and tell once, but transportation issues came into play.

2) Slice mold off cheese. If it's truly spoiled, chuck it. Budding Flemmings may want to grow it in a Petrie dish. As a parent, that's your call.

3) Use soured milk in baked goods. Oddly colored milk, no.

4) Puree mushy fruit to enhance smoothies, cakes and muffins. Avoid, "euw that's gross", by tucking them in when the kids aren't looking.

5) Whirl dry bread in the blender. Add crumbs to homemade granola, as extenders in meatloaf and meatballs, or mix with melted butter as a casserole topping. This "salvage" is well tolerated by all.

6) Cut up or trim limp carrots, potatoes, fresh herbs and celery and dump them in ice water to revitalize them. If the container is in the fridge, be sure it is tip proof.

7) Cook soup from mushy vegetables. Pureed vegetables improve muffin batter and tomato sauce. Same caution as 4.

8) Toss spoiled, not freezer burnt, meats. Food poisoning has no redeeming value.

9) Cook freshly cracked eggs right away. Since egg albumin is used as a culture medium, don't chance questionable ones.

10) It is my opinion, plain steamed okra cannot be salvaged.

After reading the Tip Hero responses, one stood alone. So I'll pass it on. An older lady set leftovers out on the counter just as her husband came home from work. He'd take one look, and suggest Applebee’s.

Hmm. I wonder what’s in the back of my fridge?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Simple Pleasures

I was reminded of the joys of metal bottle caps today and it got me reminiscing. A slightly older kid in the projects showed me how to melt old fishing weights in them with matches to make a pretty nifty substitute for marbles. I think his name was Steve. In a pinch you could use old crayon bits, but lead really gave heft to the thing and made it worth much more in trade. He also showed me how to squash a coin by laying it on a train track, but we won’t go there. He also showed me how he cut a hole in a wire fence and jumped from the second story balcony onto the playground below and how he sharpened a penny edge on the pavement to make a weapon. We definitely won’t go there.

If I recall he was suspended a couple times from school.

If you built a scooter out of wood crates (a la Bill Cosby fame), it was considered over the top wonderful to plaster the thing with bottle caps of all kinds. It didn’t help the aerodynamics much but it was cool to look at. By the way, we didn’t use buggy wheels, but took apart keyed on skates, (before your time, I know), and attached the front part to the front and the other to the back. It took something to maneuver, but what’s a challenge like that to a kid?

When it rained in summer we’d race popsicle sticks in the gutters. Or get soaked to the skin and look for rainbows after. Or squish mud between our toes on the well worn grassless places. Or open our mouths to let the drops fall in. Slightly warm and tasting like dirt.

The Mr. Frostee truck wailed it’s siren tune at the base of our hill on summer afternoons, and kids thundered down the fire escape stairs hollering “the ice cream truck is here!”, coins gripped tightly, to queue up in front of the window. It was always so hard to decide. And with the line behind you, you had to think quickly.

Fall meant leaf piles. Hopscotch and Spring were standard on the school playground. I was never good at Double Dutch. But let me tell you, never, ever play Dodge Ball with boys. They aim to kill.

Behind the bushes near Carmella’s grocery store, people tossed bottles. You got a two cent return on the small ones and five cents on the big. That was the day when kites were fifteen cents, a roll of string was a dime and one brand of chocolate bar was still three cents. Like I said we lived at the top of a hill so the winds would tuck under those things as you ran down it and float into the sky.

Winters had their own joys. Snowball forts and fights. I was really good at making fast round snowballs but had no oomph to my throw, so got clobbered more often than not. Sliding the slopes on large sheets of cardboard. Snowmen. Tromping the ground to write words. Opening your mouth to let snowflakes melt on your tongue. Hot cocoa with marshmallows at home while your clothes dried out draped over chairs near the heat. It was also drawing and creating time, laying out art supplies and taking over the dining room table.

All this fun without batteries. And you, my dear second born, surrounded by electronics, and books, and videos, tell me you’re bored?