Sunday, January 31, 2010

Taking Notes in Church

The pastor said a good way to remember a sermon and read our Bibles is take notes and ask questions, something I've always told the boys to do when reading a book. Before saying this, the pastor gave an illustration which had a super plot line prompting a book title to pop into my head. I opened my purse and dug around for something to write on - a grocery list - and pulled out a pen. "Life On Mars"...
"Life In A Jar"...
"Mind Games." Just a few minutes later the pastor mentioned the thing about listening or reading with a pencil. And then I felt stupid because I wasn't taking notes but was writing down imaginary book titles, spurred on by his sermon but having nothing whatsoever to do with the sermon. I think.

I used to take notes and notes and more notes during sermons. Visiting preachers were always an eyeopener. One could tell immediately how organized or relaxed the speaker was by taking down his sermon. Some lacked any real outline just rambling along and then reigned it all in by nailing down three points to finish. Others were meticulous in form. Anal. Their wives tended to look removed or wide-eyed. Our regular pastor's style was to shout and repeatedly read the same huge sections of scripture in the same sermon. Once GG's visiting uncle who had a gimpy leg got really perturbed and stompity limped out of the service. He hadn't cooled down any even after waiting half an hour for the preaching to finally end. "How many times does he have to holler the same thing over and over?! And over!"
Anyhow, I wrote very fast. The key to getting all the references down correctly was to write them backwards. Verse, chapter then book. I could remember Romans. Remembering all the numbers that came after was the stumbling block for my non-numerical mind. Eventually, I wrote so fast that a few times I wrote the next thing the preacher said before he said it. It was then I stopped taking notes.

Who was doing the thinking here? Why was I writing ninety miles an hour? Did everything he said need to be noted? So I slowed down and paid attention in other ways - like to what was going on around us - and then started asking more questions. Until finally, we were handed a letter telling us to leave. There was a very long time when I couldn't even pick up a Bible without my stomach turning, never mind note taking. And that is some of what I was thinking this morning in church.

(Photos by Fun. There are good articles here on reading the Bible after bad church experiences. Apologies this was a heavy today.)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Soup Toujours

Fun was channel surfing one night and clicked on a program showing families managing on a budget for the first time ever. One family apparently spent 90% of their monthly allowance in the first week. The cook was asked how she was going to feed them the rest of the month with I think around $160.00. Soup. If they made soup, that 160.00 could stretch for longer than the month.

GG came in last evening with two boxes full of pork loin all purchased for around 5.00 each. One loin cubed for soup would be sufficient for three pots of very meaty soup. If meat is not desired, lentils and beans make good and cheaper alternatives. A cup or too is all that is needed.

A pot of soup can last a week. Five pounds of carrots are around two to three dollars. Ten pounds of potatoes are a tad more. Onions are very cheap - garlic too. All I use for some soups is one onion, a carrot and a few more potatoes, a cup of tomatoes, some salt and pepper. Now I don't keep the wolves here fed with just soup. I'm simply pointing out that if in a squeeze, soup is the way to go. Use whatever is in season, in the grocery aisle on sale or in the freezer or on your pantry shelf. Use up your leftovers or whatever is in the fridge. Beef, chicken, pork, fish, potato, tomato any cooked vegetable - a bit of leftover vegetable, grains on hand. Based on all that decide, "Is this going to be a red, white or cream soup?" This will finally determine which direction the soup takes.
When I say red based soup, I'm thinking about dark reddish and brown coloured soups. They contain usually beef or lentils, barley, tomato, red or dark beans.Start off chopping onions and garlic and sauteing that together in butter or chicken fat for a cream or white based soup - beef fat for a red based or mushroom soup. Yes. I skim off and freeze all chicken and beef fat when cooking those two meats for just this purpose. When I say, a white based soup, think chicken, fish, pork or cream soup or chowder. For these soups I soften the onions and garlic to only a golden colour. For red based soups saute the onion base to a deeper tone.
For a cream soup mentally divide the liquid portion into half. The first half will be about four cups and will cover the vegetables to cook until soft. Use water, broth, stock, leftover gravy or tinned gravy. Add some bouillon to up the flavour if you use water.

The second half is the dairy portion, about another four cups and usually milk which has been thickened into a white sauce or cheese sauce or cornstarch.
With non-cream soups saute the onion base to the appropriate colour. Saute the meat if you are using fresh, add the vegetables and then keep adding liquid - broth, gravy, water - to cover. Sometimes I add mostly puree tomatoes for the liquid portion. Sometimes the tomatoes are nicer added diced, chunked or whole. Generally I keep whole tomatoes for stew. It's up to the cook.
Sauteing can be skipped but the flavour is always deeper when doing this. And here is something we have noticed in this family. Crock pot soup never tastes the same as soup made in a pot over the stove. Anybody else notice this? I've even sauted all the onion first in a regular pot and transferred it over to the crock and still. Blah. What am I doing wrong?A tablespoon of salt is sufficient for one pot of soup. My pot is five inches tall and ten inches in diameter. Now that Speedy is away at school and Violinist married, I've gone back to this pot - a heavy bottomed stainless steel pot - from using a bigger stock pot.

Add some pepper. Black for red soups. White for white soups, unless you want to see the black little specks. I'll admit I'm a bit dull with spices. A bay leaf in the red soups. Some hot chili for a chowder. Turmeric and paprika add colour and heat. Dill is nice in a chicken broth with noodles. A tablespoon of brown sugar helps mellow out a red soup.

Read the soup labels in the grocery aisle. You can easily duplicate the same thing at home for a fraction of the price.If there is beef in the fridge, I will be thinking to add tomatoes put away in the freezer and also half a cup of barley. Barley will slightly thicken the broth.
If there is pork in the fridge, I'll think about soaking some sort of bean overnight or add some canned beans toward the end of the cooking time instead - and maybe some slices of cabbage or cooked rice. Amounts can easily be adjusted up or down depending on your size of family. I've had to adjust amounts downward this year which has meant peeling or scrubbing one less potato or carrot and switching to the smaller size pot. Add a handful of frozen vegetables, leftover cooked rice or cooked diced potato and top up with tomato or V-8 juice. The soup will then stretch should someone unexpected show up. Sauteed spinach with onion, leftovers from pizza making, made it into this vegetable beef soup. For some reason the wolves have never liked scalloped potatoes but I do. So the day after I indulge in scalloped potatoes, the wolves indulge in a cream of something or other with potato soup. Apparently, they have never figured this out. If no scalloped potatoes are available then for a white or cream soup I'll peel some but not always. Peeling is again up to your discretion.
The cubes here are refrigerated leftover beef broth. The hardened fat which had formed on top of the broth was pried off. Some was used for sauteing the onion and garlic starter for this soup and the remainder frozen for future use.
When I was single, I made soup and bought plane tickets with the savings. During the Great Depression, Geek Guy's Dad lived on the Canadian prairies with nine siblings and his widowed mother. She fed them soup. And the time she went to visit a cousin for a week - the kids finished the soup she left them but then went hungry after cooking up the remaining food in entrees rather than soup.
A pot of soup is easy and economical in time, money and ingredients. So what will I be doing with all that pork GG brought home last night? Some has already found it's way into an oven stew. Some will be shish-kabob or minced and baked into Chinese Pork Buns. There will be chops, pita pockets, salad toppings, sandwiches and stir fry.
And soup - always.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Did Decadent Housewife Get Distracted?

Yes. But now the kitchen is in a reasonable facsimile of organization and I can see the bottom of my tote. As I've mentioned before, when sewing, the cooking generally slides and vice versa. So it goes with re-organizing and blogging. I've been replacing mismatched chipped china with mismatched non-chipped pottery. The old hippie self is re-emerging, evident in lots of earthenware scoured from junk shops. Yesterday, I found a magnificent almost black charger for back of the oven - a few weeks earlier it was the chocolate and taffy crimp-edged piece from Nova Scotia. Organizing the baking drawer has been harder. How many tube pans does Decadent Housewife need? Really.
What about the times a recipe needs to be split or doubled or quadrupled?...or I try a new recipe and the regular pans don't work?...those odd shaped or extra bundt pans picked up at the junk shops have worked...sometimes baking an old favourite in a different pan breathes new life into the recipe...look what happened with this year's Christmas cake - different recipe - these pans came to the rescue...what if I decide to make fudge again?
So, I confess, I simply piled it all back into the drawer.
Bad housewife. Bad blogger.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Rocking Through January

I've been clearing out some main floor living space but haven't given a whole lot of thought to the book situation and what that may mean as I tend to think of books like being wallpaper, only nicer. However, all music, anatomy and dog training books are now tidily taking up floor space at Violinist's house...bags and bags of it. I spared him the remains of old dinner the now deceased Sandra never got to enjoy.

From Buff's room I removed five garbage bags of assorted junk. Mostly fished out from beneath his bed. I left an L.E.D. undercar kit, bearing and seal kit and inexplicable Elvis album propped against the wall - the real vinyl kind of Elvis. It was mine. Why Buff has it is the inexplicable part. I reserve the right to not explain why I owned it.

"It's going to stay this way. Okay?"
"Yeah, yeah. It'll stay this way. But, Mom there's a lot of junk under the bed."
"Is there?"
"Yeah, yeah."
"Let's have a look."
"No. Mom. Really, it's pretty bad."
"Where'd it all go? Where's all my stuff!"
"Look, don't complain. You just finished calling your stuff - junk. I left you Elvis and the tacky body building posters. And I only hauled the muffler out to the Shop from Hell. Did you know there were antlers under there? And a FOG MACHINE!"
"I don't know anything about a fog machine. It's not mine! Honest."

Fun's room is next.
Please pray for me.

(The illustration is, I think, from an ancient homemaking book - I can't remember - still thinking about Sandra's leftovers.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How To Make a Cream Soup

One morning, toward the end of last semester, the phone rang.
"Hi Mom. How do you make soup?"
"Hi Speedy. Use whatever is in the fridge, pantry, freezer or on sale and let that direct you."
At most a handful, or not much more of any sort of vegetable is needed unless of course it is an all cauliflower or all something else soup. Typically, I use more potato in a chowder or to stretch.

This cream soup has tinned salmon and frozen cod. Quite a bit of cod actually, and GG wanted to add scallops too, but it looked like we'd already enjoyed those in an Alfredo sauce. I dug through the fridge and found leftover cooked potatoes, raw mushrooms purchased for another menu, frozen corn, a broken carrot, cauliflower which had seen better days, broccoli and swiss chard, onions and garlic. Another day may have yielded more or less or different ingredients. However, the one vegetable I cannot make a soup without, is onion. I always start with an onion.

A cream soup is done in two parts - sauteing and cooking the vegetables in a broth and then preparing and adding the cream part. I also tend to cut the vegetables smaller for cream soups. And the carrot always gets shredded. It's just how I like it. Because this particular cream soup has fish, it will not keep like another soup - so eat it up. Other soups can be thoroughly reheated on about day four after making and will last a full week.
Chop fine two onions.
Mince some garlic cloves.
Slice and roughly dice some mushrooms.
Melt some butter or cooked chicken fat and saute onion and garlic until limp and pale golden.

For a cream of mushroom I would caramelize this to a deep colour.
Add water or broth - chicken, vegetable or beef, if for a cream of mushroom soup - enough to cover. Add 1-2 packets of chicken bouillon when using water.
Add a tablespoon of salt.
Add some pepper.

If accustomed to canned soups this may not seem enough salt. Speedy and his brothers have not been accustomed to eating canned soup so this is not usually a problem.
Shred one fat carrot.
Add about a cup and a half chopped cauliflower
Add a stalk of chopped broccoli.
(For soup, I don't peel the broccoli.)
Add four or five leaves of chopped swiss chard.
Let that cook until the vegetables are soft.
A package of frozen cod was chopped into large chunks and dropped in
a few minutes before the vegetables were finished.

Fish doesn't take long to cook so I added it here. If I were adding raw chicken it would have gone in just before the vegetables.Next, dice and add some cooked potato leftover from Sunday dinner.

If there were no cooked potatoes on hand I would have peeled some and added them in with the other raw vegetables above.Now add any cooked meat, preferably white like fish, chicken, seafood.
I added this tin of red salmon broken up into chunks.
Add about four cups of fresh milk.

I usually add a thick white sauce but was in a hurry so added the milk plain and used cornstarch to thicken as if making gravy. The only drawback with this is that cornstarch tends to thin out if overcooked. White sauce is milk thickened with butter and flour with salt and pepper - cheese too, if you want cheese sauce. I make it in the microwave.
Scoop out approximately three teaspoons of cornstarch,
mix with milk and stir well.

If milk isn't wanted in the soup, it can be thickened with a puree made from a portion of the hot cooked vegetables and broth or added mashed potatoes or other puree vegetable. GG has often been fooled to think he was eating real cream soup when in fact it contained no milk whatsoever.
Once the cornstarch and milk is mixed,
add some hot liquid from the soup and stir well.
Add that to the soup and stir that well.

This is exactly how to make gravy.
Take the soup off the heat and stir the mixture in.
There is enough heat in the soup to cook the cornstarch and thicken the soup.
Finally, I tossed in a couple of handfuls of frozen kernel corn.
Stir in some paprika;
add parsley too, mostly for colour.

This is how I make cream soup or chowder. And now that Speedy has a lovely new soup pot from Christmas, he can too.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Help Haiti

If you can give. Give.
If you can help. Help.
If you pray. Pray.

(Photo by GG)

Friday, January 15, 2010

My Nikon D40 SLR Camera

Imagine if engineers were poets. What would they name this thing? "Baby Yellow?" Anyhow. This is the camera I use. It's not fancy but a bottom of the line Nikon D40 SLR - Single Lens Reflex - and a real workhorse. I love it. GG bought it for me after I complained about the other camera he bought me.
"This is a toy. I want a real camera."
The clouds parted and "Baby Yellow" showed up a week or two later.
And Geek Guy, because he really is a geek, has moved on to a Nikon D3oo SLR camera which is what I used to take these photos of my little D40. To tell you the truth? I like the D40.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Good To Go

So this is what Buff and Decadent Housewife got to drive in for one hundred miles, late Thursday so Buff could do his G2 roadtest. Yippee.
That means permission to drive by himself. Yippee.
"Let me drive Mom, I have to get practise driving in this stuff."
"Buff, quit pretending this is a snowmobile. Slow down."
"I love driving in this."
"I thought you said you need practise driving in this."
"I do, but I love driving in this stuff."
"Okay. That's enough. Pull over. "
I knew he would pass. The Drivers Examination Centers here in Ontario had been on strike since last fall and have a backlog of 300,000 people. I was a very bad mother and didn't explain this to Buff until after his test. Instead I let him sweat it.
He didn't ask to drive home. Yippee.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

First Blogiversary Prize

There. That only took a few months. Perhaps I should start now for Daily Decadent's second blogiversary prize in September.
Before starting, I had to clear out Fun's sewing junk...
Find real scissors...
Straight, straight pins...
White thread that wasn't mysteriously doubled back onto itself - something Fun does to create double stitching. Sewing machine. I needed one that worked since Fun thinks my Husqvarna is his YZ250. Thank you Geek Guy for coming to the rescue - again.
Serger. The serger was missing the foot control but once found, at least it worked since Fun hasn't tried serging yet. I won't let him. The serger is old and threading or fixing it is NOT FUN.
Then there was a slight problem pinning the vintage tablecloth - white fabric with trailing pinks, grays and greens. The pins wouldn't go through.
The black rick-rack. I wasn't sure just quite how to sew the black rick-rack onto the top of that unyielding material without leaving two unsightly rows of stitching inside the pocket where no one would see it anyhow. People who sew understand this - the fanaticism.
Then I kept fiddling around with the bias strip binding. That's the tiny checkered material cut in long diagonal strips, joined together end to end and then folded over to bind the apron perimeter. It's called a bound edge. Mine aren't perfect.
The corners are mitered. That seemed to go okay.
Seam ripper. The seam ripper kept disappearing. Fun really needs his own work area.
I couldn't decide which rick-rack to use where, so things kept changing throughout the whole process, right down to removing the apron from it's sealed mailing envelope to add hand stiching around the heart. It needed it.The apron pocket spanning the lower half was cut from a vintage tablecloth and was like pinning cured cement. First I blamed Fun for "dulling my pins." Then, myself for not having any decent pins on hand. Then, the rocket scientists from 1950-something for inventing some evil substance this fabric must be coated in whereby it handily resists all spills and pins. The tablecloth fabric was so nasty to pin, I went and tested my other vintage textiles to see if they were as unyielding. They all pinned butterly.
Lottery ticket. I should try one of those. While I'm out tomorrow with Buff at the Driver's Examination center, now that they're off strike and we are scheduled for a big snow storm, I'll take my mind off things and buy a lottery ticket.
Part of the time sewing was spent regretting choosing that tablecloth. First, it needed to be soaked and soaked in Lestoil to remove inevitable stains from use and age in a vintage cloth.
Every pin and ripped out seam left obvious marks. Even after a quick rub with my fingernail the marks were still visible. Maybe after a few washings they will disappear.
The rose base material and check cloth have been sitting in my stash for some time.
The rick-rack is older-than-me vintage.
The button is vintage. I have hundreds of vintage buttons. GG likes to remind me about that.
It's been a while since I've sewn this pattern, purchased back in 1970-something. Previously, I've used two small scale, positive/negative fabrics. And then added contrasting cross-stitch initials of the recipient on the left pocket corner and a heart to the bib front.
I wanted to use only materials from my stash, so mixed up fabrics with small, medium and large scale patterns.
The rick-rack, button and black hand stitching outlining the heart, (which you don't see here because somebody deleted that photo from my file), help finish it off.
When finally finished - what I thought was finished - Fun came by to inspect and all was forgiven when like a true sewer he said, "Cool! Turn it over, let me see the back, I want to see the back." He kept exclaiming how much he loved it, all the while looking at the back and inside the pocket. And because he asked, I showed him how to invisibly slip-stitch the pocket rick-rack in place using a leather needle - a mini three-edged sword meant for sewing leather - to that nasty, nasty fabric. Everyone else said, "That's nice. What's for supper?" The apron prize has arrived in Massachusetts, where it is Leila's headache now. And since Kid's Bible Group is down for January, I just might use that time to work on some more aprons using the butterly material. It will be September before we know it.