Friday, April 24, 2015

My Own Copy

Oh, my gosh!

I have not been this excited since we discovered hidden treasure behind the wall in Boy#1's room. (Have I ever told you that story? It was really, really, exciting, but it's not today's story.)

After I posted yesterday and friends and Much Older Sister chimed in with their own recollections of Betty Crocker's Cook Book for Boys and Girls, the wrinkles in my brain activated and I suddenly remembered that the very BCCBFBAG cookbook MOS and MomQueenBee had used in the 1950s was in a bookshelf in my sewing room.

This morning I pulled out that book and realized that my brain wrinkles had been only partially correct. This is indeed a BCCBFBAG, but not the BCCBFBAG. It must have been one I picked up in a thrift shop decades later because this one is in pristine condition.

This page, the one with the recipe for Butterscotch Brownies?

The original MOS/MQB version would have been stiffened with splashes of vanilla and drips of egg white. (What? We were preschoolers. We were not perfect. Yet.)

I'm sure the pages had been pulled out of their bindings and grubby hands had put smudges all over the pictures. But those pictures? Still perfect.

Paintbrush Cookies. You cannot imagine the hours I spent believing I would be able to duplicate these miniature works of art. They were Tiffany glass made with Faberge eggs.You might think I was greatly disappointed that when our mom finally let us try paintbrush cookies they were definitely Picasso. Also, inedible. But I wasn't disappointed--all of these recipes were magic.

There's the drum cake. People, it's a cake decorated with peppermint sticks and maraschino cherries. In fact, here are the directions in their entirety: "Bake cake in layers as directed on Betty Crocker Chocolate Devils Food Cake Mix package. Frost cooled cake with Betty Crocker Fluffy White Frosting Mix."

This is not cooking, it is product placement.

And still? In spite of the product placement, the dashed dreams, the recipes that include Canned Peas De Luxe ("the liquid from the can makes the flavor of the peas better"), I love this book. Just looking at the picture of the Igloo Cake transports me back to a day when I was standing beside Much Older Sister packing brown sugar and unwrapping butter (oleo, in our frugal household) for butterscotch brownies. We were five and six years old and cooking was a brand new adventure.

It was a very long time ago.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Kitchen Essentials Part Two: Gadgets and Gizmos

Before I continue with my list of kitchen essentials (which today are not so essential, because they're gadgets and gizmos that make me smile but really aren't essential in the sense that you can definitely cook without them) I must take a second to talk about this post's illustration.

When I saw the image of this book cover my Pavlovian instinct kicked in and I began to drool. The MomQueenBee ancestral home had a copy of this book and Much Older Sister and I learned to cook from it. We LOOOOVED this cookbook! But do you know what this illustration was illustrating? A blog post titled "15 Ridiculous Highlights from Betty Crocker's '50s Cookbook for Kids." (No, I am not linking it. I'm mad at it.)

Hrmph. Obviously that post was written by some California hipster who had no idea how delicious Betty Crocker's molasses crinkles are. I still use the blonde brownies recipe. But I will admit that the gender roles do seem a little skewed--why did I never notice that the girls were doing all the work while the boys did the tasting and eating? Hmmm....

Anyway, frivolous additions to your kitchen supplies:

1. A rolling garlic chopper. Oh, my gosh, I can't tell you how much I love my rolling garlic chopper. And yes, I could use a knife to chop garlic, but when was the last time you made vrooom-vrooom noises while you chopped garlic with a knife? That's what I thought.

2. An onion chopper. Again, could I use a knife to chop onions? I could. I often do. But I use onions in everything except dessert, and if I could find an onion pie I'd make it. This baby perfectly chops a quarter of an onion with one hearty smack and you save both time and tears. It's also helpful in carrying out my mother's advice that if I ever found myself having spent the supper-prep time reading a book instead of cooking, to throw a handful of chopped onions into a hot skillet. Within seconds the house smells like you've been cooking all day. In my early years of marriage I did that often. Now, I have grown old and lazy and prefer to support the local restaurant economy.

3. A wide-rimmed pie pan. Best of luck with this, because apparently they aren't sold anywhere except eBay any more. (Does that link even work?) But oh, my, do I love my wide-rimmed pie pans. They're like regular pie pans except, well, with wide rims. The extra 1 1/2 inches on the edge do a topnotch job of keeping the bubbling pie filling from bubbling right onto the oven floor and causing me to feel guilty for the next six months until it's time to clean the oven again. (What? Ovens should be cleaned more often? Huh.)

4. A honkin' big pizza cutter. You don't make pizza, you say? Not a problem. Use it to mince herbs, and to cut bar cookies, and to cut dough for your famous bierocks, Use it to rough-chop canned tomatoes when you accidentally get the whole kind instead of diced. Slice apples with it. It's the Swiss Army knife of the kitchen.

And now, I'm hungry again. I think I'll go slice an apple with my pizza cutter.

Next up: Stirrers! Scrapers! Small appliances!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Kitchen Essentials

After our instructional bierock-making session a few days ago, Boy#4 had a good question for me: 

What are the cookware essentials that he should have in his kitchen? I asked him if he meant in addition to a frilly apron and a velvet ribbon to tie back his pony tail (see illustration) but he just rolled his eyes at me, so I started thinking. 

What could I not live without in the kitchen if I were starting out housekeeping again? We're going to assume that the glaringly obvious are in place--I mean, I don't have to mention dishtowels or potholders, do I? 

Okay. FINE. 

Dishtowels and potholders. Six of each. There. Are you happy now? But assuming we're only going to be talking about items used in actual cooking, here's my list. 

1. Splurge on a set of hard-anodized nonstick cookware. I bought myself something like this set several years ago, having spent the first two decades of my married life frugally using my mother's cast-off copper-bottomed set and cursing the sticking-ness of it. When I finally broke down and shelled out $150 for the hard-anodized pans (on sale, on Black Friday, for half price) I wanted to weep for joy. 

2. Two knives. One for paring, and one for chopping. They do not need to be Top Chef quality but also don't buy a set of 12 knives for under $10 and expect them to cut anything except your index finger. 

3. Heavy-duty 12-quart stock pot. The heavy-duty part of this is important--when you invite everyone you know to come over for your signature chili you will want to leave that signature chili cooking on low heat all afternoon and you don't want to have get up and stir it every five minutes. 

4. Quarter-size sheet pans (2). For baking cookies, roasting vegetables, cooking bierocks. Get heavy-duty or you will weep over the blackened bottoms of your food.

5. Medium cookie scoop. Because uniform cookies are beautiful.

6. Stacking cooling racks. Did you know that when I was a little girl my mother used yesterday's newspapers for cooling cookies? Yes. We were one degree up from cave cooking. 

7. Silicon baking sheets. Cookies don't stick and they will be beautifully golden...

Wait a minute. This seems to become a list of what you need to make soup and cookies with an extra cookie on the side. This is because it is almost lunchtime and I am really, really hungry, and soup and cookies are delicious.

I regret nothing.

Tomorrow: Kitchen frills and non-essentials I love.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

TBT Cerca 1989, or Maybe 1990

I'm posting this Throwback Thursday picture in honor of a man who was still asleep in the House on the Corner when I left for work this morning. The man is going to look at this picture, and he's going to say (out loud) "Whatever happened to our little boys?"

And he'll probably have to swallow past a lump in his throat, both because he can't believe these little boys are now 28 and 27 years old respectively but also because he has been working 15 hour days for the past month and 12 hour days for the two months preceding that and he is TIIIIRED. Also he is sick so his defenses against lumps in the throat is down.

He survived tax season, which seemed unusually grueling this year so he deserves to see a couple of darling towheads in vests. A quarter century ago, this is what the Boys in the House on the Corner looked like at Easter.

Whatever happened to our little Boys?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bierocks (Simplified)

This many were left the next day.
Bierocks are kind of a big deal in the House on the Corner.

They were my father's designated birthday meal when I was growing up, and later they became the treat I took to Boys who were away at college. These little cabbage-filled bread packets freeze beautifully and my sons have reported that they go from freezer to breakfast in a microwaved 30 seconds. Also, they don't require cutlery or a plate so no dinnerware is dirtied in the eating of this meal, and that's pretty much a home run in college apartments.

Boy#2 has been home for a few days and asked me to teach him how to make bierocks. I've been sadly remiss in passing along what few culinary secrets I know, so today I'm going to share my most important kitchen secret, which is:

When I cook, I cheat.

In the kitchen I take every available shortcut, use every convenience, and avoid any actual work. So here's my recipe for Bierocks A La MomQueenbee.

First, start with an actual recipe from an actual reputable source. In the case of bierocks, this one.

Then where it has the first list of eight ingredients, and the first set of directions that involve measuring and checking milk temperature and waiting for the yeast to proof and mixing and kneading 10 minutes and letting the dough rise and punching it down and letting it rise again? Cross all of that out and buy a five-pack of frozen bread dough.
Thaw the bread. The instructions are on the back of the package.

Then buy a three-pound package of hamburger. Do a double-take at the price. HAMBURGER COSTS $5 PER POUND, PEOPLE. HOW CAN THIS BE TRUE? While you are marveling at what the world is coming to, throw some pre-shredded cabbage in your shopping cart. Three pounds of this, too, and do not make the same mistake as I did in thinking each package was a pound. It may not be, and you will roll your eyes at your own slapdashedness when you have to do math and figure out how many ounces short of three pounds you have.
Oh, and if you don't have any yellow onions, grab some of those while you're buying the ground hummingbird tongues hamburger. A bag of them, because if you don't have any, you will need them sometime this week and you don't want to have to go to the store again.

Then put a couple of inches of water in the bottom of the biggest saucepan you have and bring that water to a boil. Dump in the cabbage. (Yes, all three pounds. That's why I wanted you using the biggest saucepan you have.) Put a lid on it and let it steam for a couple of minutes. Take it off the heat before the water all boils away; the smell of burning cabbage is unpleasant.

Throw the ground substance that is more precious than those big-eyed paintings hamburger into the big pan you make soup in. Turn the heat on to a little higher than medium. Chop up the three biggest onions in the bag and throw them in the pan with the meat, then cook it all together until no pink remains. Drain off the liquid, realizing you have paid $5 PER POUND FOR THIS GREASE WATER. Hrmph. Mix the refrigerated rip-off hamburger and cabbage with a tablespoon of salt and a half tablespoon of pepper.

Okay, this recipe is getting longer than Sunday's sermon (which, wow) so I'm going to condense and abridge:
1. Roll one of slabs of bread dough into a 10"x 20" rectangle. It will look more like an amoeba than a rectangle because bread dough is stretchy, but that's okay. Use a pizza cutter to cut it into five-inch squares. (One long cut down from short end to short end, half and half again from long side to long side. Math WORKS, people.)
2. Use your medium sized ice cream scoop to put plops of the ambrosia of the gods hamburger mixture on each of the squares, then pinch all the edges of the dough together and seal the filling inside.
3. Put a dozen or so of these little bundles on a parchment-lined baking pan, then bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Repeat repeat repeat until you are out of dough or filling and all are baked.
4. Eat. Or freeze. Or give away. Whatever. They're yours.

And this is why I'm not a food blogger. I have totally run out of oomph toward the end of this recipe, and this was the simplified version. It's a good thing I cheat or the recipe might have gone on forever.

But the bierocks? They won't last that long.

Monday, April 13, 2015

He Coulda Been a Contendah

I do not consider it my fault or Husband's fault that none of our Boys became the second-youngest winner of the Masters. This one is squarely on our offsprings' underachieving shoulders.

Now I freely admit that we were not exactly golfing role models. The closest I've ever come to the sport was a tricky course that included a windmill on the fifth hole (curse you, windmill) and a leering clown on the 18th. Husband has actually been on a golf course, on a beautiful spring day in his first job out of college when junior accountants had the choice of staying in the office and working or playing a round of golf. He chose the golf, but wore his work boots because it had rained the night before. The round did not go well.

We also did not join the country club, or subsidize golf lessons, or provide our sons any genetic material whatsoever that might have led to success as golfers.

But by golly, we made sure they had golf clubs. The clubs in this photo, to be exact.

Husband found them at a garage sale and paid a whopping $5 for the set, including the fuzzy turquoise sock that covered one of the...drivers? Woods? Who knows? Then Husband sent the clubs off to college with Boy#1 because everyone knows the kind of networking that happens on the golf course, and how hard could it be to golf?

Boy#1 brought the clubs home from college at the end of the year, so they were ready to go with Boy#2 when he was packing to leave for Big University, and this cycle continued through Boy#3 and Boy#4.  By the time all four had earned their bachelor's degrees, the golf clubs had traveled hundreds of miles, been moved a couple dozen times to different student apartments, and had been removed from the green bag exactly zero times.

Our Boys were not golfers.

The night before we moved the last kid out of the last undergraduate apartment the Boys agreed that these clubs had come to the end of the road with the QueenBee family. So that night, after their parents had gone to bed at the hotel, the Boys took the clubs and played a round of university-specific golf, the rules of which I did not understand. It involved hitting balls from locations that included the top of the parking garage, the statue on the quad, and other landmarks.

Obviously I did not want to know the rules of this game; actually knowing what the Boys were doing might have kept me awake, and I knew I would need to be well-rested the next day when I might have to convince the judge to lower their bail after they were arrested for HITTING A GOLF BALL ON UNIVERSITY PROPERTY. Sheesh.

Miraculously, though, they were not arrested and the next morning we left the set of clubs at the nearest Goodwill, where I'm pretty sure Jordan Spieth's parents  picked them up for $5. I mean, we were in Texas, Jordan Spieth lived in Texas, it could have happened.

See, Boys? See what happens when you take advantage of the opportunities presented you?

You could have had a brand new green jacket.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Friday Orts and a Blurb

It's Friday! And because confession is good for the soul, I must confess that while Husband had a celebratory half-price shake when we heard the election results, Boy#3 and I were much more expensive. WE had full-price waffle sundaes. They were deliciousness with a cherry on top.

So how is the finishing going for everyone? I haven't updated for a while, but any finishing I do from now on won't be able to top the finish from a few days ago.

My mom was a superb knitter, and when she died suddenly, several projects were left on her needles. After five years, I picked them back up. The two resulting sweaters were just the right size for two of her great-grandchildren.

My niece sent me a picture of her daughter wearing the sweater Mom made. "This is definitely a warm hug from Gma," K had written. 

Well, of course I cried.
This girl is gorgeous but I neglected to ask if I could use the picture. Sorry, G.

Okay, this is a blurb for a product that I'm sure everyone else in the world already knows about, but on the off chance that you have not made this your favorite cooking aid, here it is: Parchment paper.

If you cook at all, parchment paper is your best friend. Buy some immediately. You will use it to bake cookies, roast vegetables, cool Chex mix, cure chocolate covered pretzels, line cake pans--I can't even tell you all the ways I use parchment paper.

And I didn't even know parchment paper was for civilians until a few years ago. I figured it was reserved for the Julia Childs-es of the world and that the rest of us were doomed to non-stick spray and irritation.

If you buy some, and find it languishing in your drawer, let me know. I'll buy it from you.

It's the very first MomQueenBee Money-Back Guarantee.