Tag Archives: food

Menus are for restaurants

And I ain’t no restaurant.

One of those things that experts will tell you when you want to avoid overspending on food is to create a menu and shop accordingly. And being married 10 years now, with ever-growing and ever-eating children, I’ve tried it to use a weekly menu. And I’ll stick with it for a while… until incidents happen (see what I did there?). We get invited to someone else’s house; a bonus from the Hubs’ job takes us out somewhere special; I forget to take the necessary items out of the freezer; something comes up so that we only have 30 minutes to make dinner instead of the 55 minutes my recipe calls for; I accidentally plan something that I thought I had all the ingredients for but I actually don’t. It’s frustrating. 

There’s also the fact that a menu kind of makes you think that you have to make something entirely new and different every night. This was a huge problem when I ended up shelling out a lot of money for a week’s worth of meats and veggies, and ended up with a ton of leftovers that no one really wanted. I took a page out of my dad’s playbook (he used to run office cafeterias) and “repurposed” food whenever I could. But the kids weren’t really buying into it, and frankly neither was I. 

Then I stumbled on a solution. Like a mediocre wardrobe, I had pieces available to me but nothing that really “went together.” So I looked carefully and wrote down what I could make with it: the chicken carcass with breast meat still attached can be soup; the frozen tilapia can be thawed, breaded and fried; ground turkey and leftover bacon (I know– that surprises me when it happens, too) can be a decent meatloaf. I left it on the fridge and checked off meals as I made them. Then there are items that don’t require much work from me that can end up being dinner anyway (i.e., boxed Mac & Cheese). The occasional dinner out tops it all off. 

A fan of clever advertisements, I nicknamed this list, “The Scroll of Infinite Deliciousness” like the Campbell’s Soup ad. The kids like it, because they often get to pick the meal. And I just like not being “locked in” to a particular menu. Isn’t that what we like about menus when we go out to eat– varied possibilities?

Here’s to eating what we love and loving what we eat.Image

(Bar-be-que pork in the Crock Pot. I could make this every week.)

Just eat it!!

“Have a banana, have a whole bunch,/ It doesn’t matter what you had for lunch…” –Weird Al Yankovic

(I hope you guys are enjoying this– if you don’t, the red ‘x’ is in the upper right-hand corner.)

I happened upon a show that is on the Cooking Channel and on Food Network (I don’t watch either channel very much, so it’s odd that I ever saw it). Media gadfly Mo Rocca (who was given that title on VH1’s “I Love The…” series) hosts a show where he meets up with grandparents of varied heritage and helps them cook a family dish. It’s called “My Grandmother’s Ravioli,” and he never makes ravioli and I don’t think his grandmother is available anymore (God rest her, if that be the case). It’s actually really cute, and I got to see a solid three hours of 30-minute episodes. The dishes were Irish, Jamaican, Russian, Indian, and Ecuadorian.

Being part Ecuadorian myself, I was especially interested in that episode. My Ecuadorian grandmother never left her country, and I last saw her when I was 12– she passed a couple years later (God rest her, as well). And while I know I ate her cooking when I visited, I can’t exactly remember what I had. There was a roasted pig (we used the ‘natural casing’ to make sausage afterward… I didn’t eat any sausage for at least a year after that revelation), and definitely– brace yourselves– guinea pigs. Don’t look at me like that– they’re not the cute fluffballs you see at PetCo! Those suckers are bred for food and they get pretty nasty in the process. It’s like eating rabbit without having to worry about big ears.

My parents never made a big deal out of cooking stuff specifically because it was native to our heritage; rather, we ate what my parents were willing to make. I mean, I certainly look like I have enjoyed food in my life! I’m working on that, though. I digress, however….

For one thing, Mo Rocca is a great host. He clearly came up with the idea on his own and somehow got the backing to make the show a reality. He’s funny, he’s clever, he’s the kind of guy you want to cook a family meal with and feed. He’s also Colombian– I actually didn’t expect that. But he speaks Spanish– which is excessively cool. I, on the other hand, understand most Spanish but still feel like an idiot when I try to speak it. 

Second, I watched Mo and the Ecuadorian grandmother (with the Pureto Rican husband– my parents in reverse) make ceviche con camarones. I love ceviche– I have a crazy obsession with red onions. It’s the easiest thing in the world– red onions, tomatoes, lemon juice, cilantro, [she used cocktail sauce– I use ketchup usually], and shrimp (which is optional in my world… but I really want to do that next time). She also made seco de cabrito… goat stew. I can’t say as I’ve ever had the stuff. It looked good, but I’m very touchy about meats that aren’t the big 3: beef, chicken, and pork. I don’t even like veal all that much. And I’m convinced goat would have a weird goat-y taste. 

Third, I would love to be on his show. But I’m not a grandmother. My Puerto Rican grandmother isn’t available anymore either (God rest her, of course). But she was the source of my most ethnic dish of all time: pasteles. In Spanish, that usually translates to ‘pastries,’ but that’s not what I’m talking about. At all. It’s boiled pork shoulder encased in a starchy masa blend wrapped with a piece of parchment. It’s way more complicated than that, to the point where it’s made once a year and the product frozen to be enjoyed for a few months afterward. I have to be in the mood for them, but I absolutely love making them– mostly because it would be the women of my family getting together and building several dozen pasteles over the course of many hours. The last time the women of my family were together was my grandmother’s funeral. There’s a part of me that longs for another pastele jamboree.

Food like that– it’s the best gift you can give your kids. It makes you different, in a very fascinating way. And knowing that it’s what brought your family together year after hear, holiday after holiday…. that’s what you pass on to the next generation. 

Getting rid of the big

I was never a skinny kid. My parents put me in soccer to make sure I was healthy. I have the quads to prove it. 

I loved archery in gym class. Built up my arms in the process. 

Took a weight training course in high school. I held the record in my class for a leg press max (over 400 lbs.; the boys in the class couldn’t do half that). Again with the quads.

I was in marching band all through high school, even marching one summer tour with a drum and bugle corps. So now I also have calves that just won’t quit. Makes it really hard to get boots that fit.

I’m not what a late co-worker of mine called “sloppy fat.” People who weigh what I weigh are usually about 2-3 sizes bigger. That’s because of my muscle mass. I will most likely never get down to my ideal weight for my height. Not without having some organs removed.

I’ve dieted; I’ve exercised. I’ve given up carbs; I’ve given up sweets. But I just can’t get rid of all my big. (I’ve gotten rid of some of it– that’s where the post title comes from. I had a pair of shorts that I thought I was going to have to get rid of because I was too big for them. But now they fit.)

I don’t love being the heaviest person in my family. The hubs is a naturally skinny guy, and the kids seem to have all taken after him to a certain extent. I don’t have to worry about my children being made fun of for being the “fat kid.” But it bugs me that my clothes are so big and I don’t feel pretty in most of them.

I’m still a food supply for Buttercup, and the hubs tells me that I shouldn’t worry about losing weight until she gives me up permanently. And I know that I’m healthy: I can keep up with my kids, and life doesn’t wear me out. Diabetes runs in my family, but I seem to be dodging the bullet. I love to work out, but it just doesn’t look like it’s doing anything.

Then yesterday, I hurt myself. I was running through the rain and sprained my ankle. I don’t think I would be in so much pain if there was less of me to land on my ankle. 

Am I discouraging myself? The monthly charge to the gym that will go on for at least the next 8 months should help to prevent that. I just know something needs to change or I really will get discouraged.

Corned Beef… hashtag?

I own a Crock Pot. You might have a slow cooker, but I have the real, copyrighted, RIval Crock Pot (c). Growing up, we never had one. I guess if my parents wanted to cook something low and slow, they just used the oven. Or maybe they just didn’t *do* low and slow.

But I got one when I got married… and I hadn’t the first clue as to how to use it. How much apple cider can we drink? Does soup really need to stay hot that long? Eventually I tried out a couple recipes I had gotten, but I never really embraced Crock Pot usage. Enter the domestic diva who was my best bud in HS, and who happened to marry my brother-in-law.  She has worked as hard as I have in the babymaking department– harder even, because they’re all closer together in age and birthed surgically. So anything she does that saves her time and headache is well worth anyone’s time.

It started as a fluke, really. She and I happened to decide to throw stuff in the Crock Pot on a Tuesday morning for dinner. And because we love social media, we talked about it on Facebook. I hailed it as Crock Pot Tuesday. She asked, “Is that a thing?” to which I replied, “It is now!”

Facebook has subsequently begun highlighting and encouraging hashtags (you know, those phrases marked with the (#)…). I was a touch resistant, because I only use them on Twitter, and don’t do Instagram. But it is really great to sort of advertise our new hobby and show commitment. So now we can talk about #CrockPotTuesday.

The Crock Pot is a good way to keep things cool but yummy in the kitchen over the summer– heck of a lot better than cranking up the oven! I’ve made pot roast, pulled pork, chicken alfredo… and quite frankly, I’m running out of ideas! I have the official Crock Pot cookbook, but have zero desire to stock up on tapioca. But I’m keeping my eyes open online and with some friends. Here’s to great cooking and great evenings at homeImage(ummm… I’mma gonna have to scoop out the grease. But otherwise this looks as good as it smells!)