Tag Archives: food

power, and power toys

We finally got our power back Friday evening. 126 hours is a long time to go without electricity; when it came back on we were so excited that we were going around turning on lights just because we could. Sad, I know, but such is the modern world we live in.

a power tool that even women can love

Black and Decker Alligator Lopper: a power tool that even women can love

Now we (and by “we,” I mean mostly Doug, but also me and the kids to some extent) are in cleanup mode. We got the huge branches out of our driveway the first day, but removing the partial trees and endless branches from my mom’s yard is taking longer. (A tree company did remove the tree from her roof, fortunately, and Doug used a rope tied to the back of our Jeep to pull down the huge, deadly treetop that was dangling precariously over the front yard.) One part of this cleanup process has been fun: I get to use our Alligator Lopper. It’s like a mini chainsaw with enough safety features that I’m not scared of it; you open it’s alligator-like mouth, hold both handles, press the switches, and basically bite the branch in half. It will handle anything up to logs 5 or 6 inches across. Fast, efficient, quiet (it’s electric), and … fun.

death to mosquitoes!

Mosquito 86 system: death to mosquitoes!

But then there’s the not-fun part of being outside in southern Indiana at this time of year: all the biting insects. Mosquitoes and who-knows-what-all lurk in our grass, bushes, and trees, and the moment we set foot outside they begin chowing down on us. During this cleanup process we’re going through a lot of anti-itch ointment, not to mention that we don’t dare sit outside in the evening. But today I read about another incredibly cool-sounding power tool, which has a suitably imposing name: the Mosquito 86 Mosquito Prevention System. (If you follow the link, you can even try to win one.) It isn’t a fogger; it uses a blower to spray a pet-and-people-safe but mosquito-and-tick-deadly agent that lasts up to 3 weeks. I would so love to have one of these, just to be able to experience life in our yard without insect bites.

And of course, in addition to the outdoor cleanup, we’ve got the indoor fill-up going on — filling up the refrigerator and freezer, that is. I still haven’t gotten over having to throw out all that food. But it is nice to have a really clean refrigerator; and as my daughter said last evening, it’s easy to find things because there’s practically nothing in the fridge. Knowing me, that won’t last long. 🙂

comfort food: macaroni and cheese

one of my favorite comfort foods

Macaroni and cheese: one of my favorite comfort foods

What with the events of the week, when I chose a menu for this week’s Wednesday night Chalice Night dinner at church I wanted to serve comfort food. I decided on tomato-basil soup, macaroni and cheese, tossed salad, and chocolate-chip cake, all made from scratch (well, except the croutons in the salad).

Although the past couple of weeks I’ve had leftovers (summer attendance is light), this week I ran out. A few people told me they came specifically because of the menu. This kind of home cooking speaks to people. It’s “like mom used to make.”

The next time you want something incredibly delicious, warm, and satisfying, make the following macaroni and cheese. It isn’t difficult, and although it takes longer than mac ‘n’ cheese out of a box, the results are so overwhelmingly superior that it’s worth every minute. Because I ran out last night, I made more this evening, so I could have some. It’s in the oven as I write this.

Macaroni and cheese

6 oz elbow macaroni
2 cups small-curd cottage cheese
1 cup sour cream
8 oz American cheese (I use generic Velveeta)
1 egg

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Boil the macaroni according to package directions. Don’t overcook it; you don’t want it to be squishy.

While the macaroni is cooking, grease a 2-quart baking dish. Place in it the cottage cheese, sour cream, and egg, and mix well.

After trying to find an alternative to saying “Cut the cheese,” I find there is no suitable variation. Cut it into chunks an inch or two across — you don’t have to be exact — and mix them into the cottage cheese mixture. (My friend and co-Wednesday-night-conspirator Jack tells me that this mixture in general, and the cottage cheese in particular, looks disgusting. You may think so too. Don’t worry; everything will turn out fine after a little time in the oven.)

When the macaroni is done, drain it, and then pour it into the baking dish. Mix well. No, the cheese isn’t going to melt now — the ingredients are all too cold from the refrigerator. It’s OK.

Put the dish in the oven and bake 15 minutes. Remove the pan and stir carefully but thoroughly, so all the melted cheese is mixed in.

Return the pan to the oven and bake another 15 (if you want it set but not brown) to 30 (if you want it brown and a little crunchy on top) minutes.

Yummmm. Time for me to eat.

400

400: That’s how many meals I prepared this weekend, with considerable assistance from my family.

The Louisville Contra Dancers hold an annual dance weekend at O’Bannon Woods State Park, and this is the second time I’ve catered most of their meals (3 meals Saturday and all-morning brunch Sunday). The event sold out, with 100 participants coming to dance, attend workshops, and enjoy an absolutely beautiful spring weekend in the Indiana woods.

Here’s the easiest way to express how much food it takes to feed 100 people for 4 meals: 1 Saturn Vue full. The shopping took 4 hours, and at the end my car was full. As in, stacked to the roof everywhere except the driver’s seat. My husband came home at lunchtime to help me unload and locate storage places for all the food for the 2 days until the event. Fortunately my mother has an extra refrigerator in her garage; Doug emptied out all the soft drinks and filled the fridge and freezer with salad, vegetables, lunch meat, and more. Our upright freezer in the garage was full to overflowing with garlic toast. And our refrigerator brimmed with 20 pounds of butter, 4 gallons of milk, and 8 dozen eggs.

I spent much of Friday making cookies, brownies, and chocolate chip cake. Saturday morning the kids and I got up at 5:00 a.m. (an hour that I don’t normally admit exists) and headed out on the scenic 45-minute drive to the park. They both volunteered to go out early with me, rather than coming a few hours later with their dad, and I was delighted. They were a huge help, and having them there made everything more fun (and much easier!). Talk about quality time with my children: this was it.

The kitchen at O’Bannon Woods State Park’s group campground is … eclectic. For one thing, you have to bring with you absolutely everything you may need in the way of cookware, utensils, storage, and cleaning supplies. I’ve made a list for next time, because this year I forgot to take measuring cups and a whisk, and we could have used more knives. And then there’s the stove. I’m sure it’s the ultimate in unbreakable, low-maintenance appliances for high-use group facilities, but it’s a pain in the ass. It has 6 burners, 2 of which didn’t work. The burners aren’t gas, and they aren’t standard electric coils or the newer flat burners. I can’t find a picture online: Envision a metal disk about an inch thick and the diameter of a standard burner. Sounds fine, but there are two problems: 1. Any pan you place on the burner must have an absolutely flat bottom, so it makes contact with the disk at all points. If the pan is slightly curved or warped, you can’t boil water in it. 2. The disks stay hot approximately forever. I’m used to turning a burner off or to a lower setting and having it cool relatively quickly. These take a very, very long time to adjust downward.

Another exciting feature of the kitchen is the walk-in refrigerator. The light within is dim, the walls and shelves dark metal, the air frigid, the overall effect extremely creepy. The large, heavy door sticks just enough that every time you have to go in, you wonder for just a moment whether you’ll be able to get out.

Despite the eccentricities of the kitchen, everything went extremely well. During the course of the day Saturday, the kids and I took turns at napping in the back of the car when we had some downtime, enjoying the lovely breeze blowing in an open door. Once the pasta buffet was set up for Saturday dinner, I left to play with Guilderoy Byrne at the Blue River Cafe, and Doug and the kids cleaned things up. I got home at 11:00 p.m., and yet managed to pull myself out of bed again at 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Doug and I headed back out to the camp to handle brunch; our daughter drove herself and her brother to church (it’s great to have a child who can drive!). We were finished at noon after a very successful morning. At home again, I took a 3-hour nap, and after dinner I went to play at Brendan’s. (Yes, in the big scheme of things it would have been better not to have 2 band gigs the same weekend as the cooking. I’m just glad I had time to sleep.)

It was an excellent weekend all around. We got every meal ready on time; and the attendees, hungry from their dancing, were very happy with the food. I did a better job this year of estimating quantities and ended up with fewer left-overs. It was wonderful to have my family working with me; we had a lot of fun, so despite the long hours I was never stressed. And the money we earned will be a huge help toward our upcoming summer vacation. Who knew that a killer weekend could make me so happy and satisfied? 🙂

Oh — if you’re interested, here’s the menu:

Saturday

8 -10:30 a.m. Breakfast
—————————————

— Assorted cereals & milk
— Assorted Danish pastries
— Bagels, cream cheese, peanut butter, jelly
— Mixed fruit

11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Lunch
—————————————

— Assorted breads, meats, cheeses, and hummus for sandwiches
— Veggie pasta salad
— Black bean and couscous salad
— Assorted chips
— Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and snickerdoodle cookies

5:30 – 7:30 Dinner
—————————————-

— Spaghetti and rotini pasta
— Marinara, alfredo, and pesto sauces
— Meatballs
— Vegetable lasagna
— Green salad
— Garlic toast
— Chocolate chip cake
— Orange cream fruit salad

Sunday

9 a.m. – noon Brunch
—————————————-

— Biscuits with sausage gravy, jelly, honey
— Cheese grits
— Mini quiches
— Asparagus with lemon butter
— Vegetables and dip
— Mixed fruit
— Left-over sandwich supplies, salads
— Triple-chocolate brownies