Thursday, February 17, 2011
Coffee Chat - There's A Change Ahead
I've been busy today, but then I am most days aren't I? This past weekend I noticed there was a container that looked suspiciously like hot cocoa mix at the back of an upper cabinet. I haven't bought hot cocoa mix since last winter and of course, that led to looking a bit harder at other areas of the kitchen. At least two areas certainly needed to be seen to this week: the suspect cupboard and the refrigerator.
So that was top of my list this morning. In fact, I mapped out quite a long list of things to do but realized as I read through it again that I'd forgotten one simple little thing, called 'Time'. I'm pretty sure the amount of work was two days worth easily, if not three, since I must also add in the need for the usual work as well.
My first big task this morning was to tackle the refrigerator. I needed to reconfigure how I'd placed the shelves two cleanings ago. It just hadn't worked well spatially for me. I removed every thing inside and wiped down all the shelves and drawers. I was so pleased to find only two items that needed to be tossed. I put all the root and cruciferous vegetables in one crisper drawer and the lettuces and celery and herbs in the other drawer. The cheeses are corralled in a basket, the dairy products altogether on one section of a shelf. Now that fridge looks so neat and nice. I love knowing that it is thoroughly clean and that everything is where it should be.
As I cleaned the refrigerator today, I couldn't help but think back to the 'old days' when my cleaning often netted me a garbage can full of expired bottles, rotting produce and science experiments. I can't name the number of times I looked guiltily (and in days when every penny counted, wept a little too) over the amount of money I saw sitting in that trash can. I've gotten better about not overbuying produce which is the number one reason so much ended up in the trash.
I think I felt a deeper sense of satisfaction today looking at that clean fridge and that empty trash can.
We have quite a bit of fresh produce on hand this week. Chance's illness last week sort of threw off the menu plan and I have a surplus on hand. I'll have to stay on top of using that produce these next two weeks.
Otherwise, I might have a weeping session in front of the filled compost bucket!
I was on a roll at this point and felt I very much wanted to go right ahead and tackle that cabinet. Yes, there was cocoa back there, a whole box of cocoa. I had no idea I even had that on hand. As it happened, it hadn't expired. I found the cabinet really needed to be rearranged in a more sensible fashion and now it too is neat and nice. There's a lot of satisfaction in leaving things better than I found them.
I put a lovely rump roast in the oven as I did my kitchen work this morning. I don't often have time to just slow roast meat, so this seemed a luxury today. First I seasoned the meat by rubbing it all over with a good spicy whole grain mustard mixed with a bit of garlic, then I sprinkled it with coarse ground black pepper. I don't as a rule salt meats, finding they are generally just fine without it. I put the roast in at 325F for 3 hours. A good rule of thumb for a rare roast beef is 30 minutes per pound. My roast weighed in at 3 3/4 pounds and I wanted it more medium well done, hence the longer cooking time.
When I took the roast from the oven the pan had a nice amount of drippings in it...and I was struck by the inspiration to make a Yorkshire pudding in the hot pan. That is so simple: Beat three eggs until light colored, add in 1 cup all purpose flour and 1/2 tsp salt. That will thicken and so you'll want to slowly add 1 cup milk beating the whole while. In the meantime have the pan in the oven, which should be pre-heating to 400F. Pour the batter into the hot pan, close the door and walk away for 30 minutes. NO PEEKING! Now here's my secret...Until today, I've NEVER made a Yorkshire pudding. Yes, it turned out beautifully, all puffy and light and with a little of the juices from the roast spooned over it was out of this world good. Of course, I couldn't eat all that pudding by myself, and there were no guests, but the doggies shall enjoy it and the ingredients aren't so expensive I mind sharing with them.
It seems that between piddling about the kitchen today, all I've done is rinse and load dishes, wash dishes and stack still more dishes. I don't know where on earth I keep finding them all because honestly, I never cooked a thing beyond that roast and Yorkshire pudding. I boiled eggs to make egg salad (and had a couple for my breakfast. I do love a nice boiled egg with crispy toast and orange marmalade for breakfast). I made the egg salad and the roast to go into Chance's lunch sandwiches really. That I ate a portion of beef for my dinner today was sort of a bonus meal!
I've been thinking about so many things as I work. For one thing, that whole matter of produce. I was very ambitious this past week when shopping to buy as much produce as I did. My intentions were good. I had planned to serve an extra vegetable with our meals. Then Chance got sick and didn't want anything at all to eat. Though I'm careful to buy only what two might eat, when only one of those two is eating them it's too much. I'd planned a fresh salsa for snacks one afternoon. All those little tomatoes are still just sitting there and they don't look half so nice as they did. I'll roast those tomorrow as a side dish and to toss in with a ravioli dish later in the weekend.
But my mind went back to those days of produce filled trash can. My intentions were always good, but I tended to buy more than we could reasonably use in a week's time for our family. I bought what was packaged by the grocer instead of taking into consideration how much a portion truly was and how well it might be used. I've learned a few things over the years. Chance and I are not going to eat a pound of Brussels Sprouts. We can eat about six each. We're not going to eat a huge portion of broccoli. We'll eat about half a medium crown each and even that is pushing it a bit far. Cabbages are far too large for our needs, so I look for the smallest cabbage I can find. Five pounds of potatoes may be $.25/pound but they aren't worthwhile if we can't eat half of them due to spoilage. It's a different life when you're no longer cooking for a family.
The weather today was quite warm, once the fog burned off. I've opened windows and turned on the whole house fan and expect we'll keep the windows open until a little nearer bedtime tonight provided none of the neighbors start up a fireplace this early this evening. I took a short nap this afternoon and woke to hear birds trilling long and loud. I saw the first Rusty Towhee Tuesday. Haven't seen one of those since last Fall. After hearing the geese going over yesterday evening, I realize it won't be long now until we see a great number of birds once more. That will be lovely.
And of course, that has me thinking of important little Spring jobs like washing windows and replacing screens. I hate to wish away a season, or even plan it away thinking ahead of jobs that will soon require attention, but this winter is winding down rather quickly. It does seem seasons fly past just as days and weeks do!
Well it's high time I stopped writing and went out to feed the doggies. I think a nice cup of coffee will hit the spot while I visit with them as they eat. Besides it's so lovely outdoors it's a shame not to enjoy it a bit.
Stop by and visit again next week!
Posted by Terri Cheney at 2:31 PM