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Kitchen Update

I can almost get all my tea into one basket

It’s been years (well, a year and a half anyway) since my kitchen cupboards started falling off the walls.  I’ve looked at bank loans, city loans, housing support, county programs, Habitat for Humanity and in the end gotten nowhere.

My regular readers might have an inkling of how much time I spend in the kitchen.  I enjoy cooking.  A lot. I’ve been making do without my serving dishes, casserole collection, my Tajine and other specialty cookware, and about 1/2 of my already limited counter space.  (All those machines that were in the cupboard are on the counter.)

This under cupboard used to be filled with bakeware. I think there’s still room for the electric tea kettle.

This week I’ve finally found a friend who’s willing to step in and see what he can do.  It may get much worse before it gets better.  In fact, I’m sure this week it will.

This is not a kitchen re-model.  The overhead cupboards are coming down before they fall down all the way.  Then we’ll see.  Either they will go back up more securely attached or they will go away.   I might have a better idea of why they came down in the first place.

If the overhead cupboards go away I’ll still need to figure out something to do in the kitchen.   I can’t afford new cupboards (and they wouldn’t match).  I might be able to put in some open shelving.  That would be serviceable, but still a bit down the road.

In the meantime I’m trying to pack away what’s left in my kitchen.  Can Orion and I really get by with 2 plates, 2 bowls, 4 cups and no cream pitcher?  Do I pack it all and pull out paper plates and frozen dinners?  What do I do with the jar of lentils, the jar of pasta, the jar of black beans, the can of coffee and the olive oil?  Can I really survive without access to my spices?

Honestly, I’ve already pared down by better than half. This is the bare minimum!

I sound like an ad for a mystery series.  “Stay tuned and find out!”

 

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Eggnog malaise

Mom and Andrea

Mom and Andrea

This post holiday blues thing is getting to me.  It hasn’t helped that Orion and I have been passing a variety of versions of “ick” back and forth.  Currently he’s complaining of a sore throat.  It seems as soon as one of us is feeling better the other one is feeling worse!

I would bet there is a small portion of that “just don’t feel right” that can be attributed to over indulging.  I know that New Years Eve meal – the egg nog challenge – can’t have been great for my system.  All by itself I probably would have been alright.  The problem is that it comes after the alcohol and appetizers.  I’m not sure I can even name all the appetizers!

Darcy and Danny at the Appetizer buffet

Darcy and Danny at the Appetizer buffet

My attempt at a list: There was spinach dip with my Dad’s homemade bread, gravlax (also courtesy of my father) and his famous carmel corn.   There was shrimp cocktail, “sheep dip” (it’s really a crab and shrimp on cream cheese but if you call it that no one wants it and there’s more for you.), and the caviar and oyster thing.  There was chocolate (Lindt truffles) and my sister Andrea (or her beau – Butch) made a lovely brochette with tomato and pesto.  I suspect someone threw out some pickled herring at one point or another.  There were probably cookies somewhere as well.

Karina and Danny with hot sugar and hazelnuts

Karina and Danny with hot sugar and hazelnuts

Our host and hostess (we’re talking again about  Andrea and Butch ) were delightful, helpful and a little overwhelmed with everyone trying to cook at once.  It was Karina teaching Danny how to candy hazelnuts that really got everyone in the kitchen.  We all wanted to try our hand at it.

Zac plating his salad

Zac plating his salad

I didn’t take a lot of photos.  My batteries were acting up and it seems the spares I brought were old as well.  Both Karina and Darcy  made a point of taking photos of each course to “help” our judges.  Thanks for sharing!

My Father made the first course, a rustic pumpkin soup with a side of corn bread topped with melted cheese.  He used the eggnog in both the bread and the soup.

Pumpkin eggnog soup

Pumpkin eggnog soup

Then my nephew Zac presented the salad course.  The orange and spinach salad was topped with a truly amazing citrus and eggnog dressing.  The judges said his was the course they would definitely eat again.  Me too!  He actually won with the salad and as a “prize” got to take all the leftovers home.

The winning salad

The winning salad

Mom and Darcy (Zac’s finance) had the main dish.  This was a lovely chicken with a lemony gravy but the only place the eggnog was used was to dip the chicken before breading it and frying it up.  As much as we appreciated the break from the eggnog and as tasty as the chicken was,  the judges ruled it was a little bit of a cop-out.

Lemony chicken

Lemony chicken

I had the side and made au gratin potatoes with egg nog, lots of cheese a little bacon and some scallions.  It was good, but the sugar of the eggnog made it a little sweet.  I also didn’t have the pan I wanted so the potatoes were a little under cooked.

potatoes

potatoes

We took a little (much needed) break before tackling Karina and Danny’s desert.  She made a chocolate Frangelico pudding with eggnog and then topped it with those candied hazelnuts.  It was really good!  It was also really pretty and really rich.  I suspect part of the reason she lost to Zac is because everyone expected her to do well.  I also think that by the time we got to desert we were all too full to appreciate anything properly!  When she found out the “prize” Karina was happy to concede.

Not just any pudding

Not just any pudding

Is it any wonder I wasn’t 100% the next day? I wouldn’t want to eat (or cook) like that everyday.  It was great fun though and I’m finding myself missing everyone.  I’ll just have to get out of the house of “ick” and appreciate the sunshine!

Barter

Housekeeping has never been my strong suit.  I was almost 30 before someone showed me that the stovetop lifts up so you can clean UNDER the burners.  Who knew?

I’m not horrible, but I was.  My freshman year of college I was still living at home, going to the local University.  I had years of junk accumulated in my room – most of it on the floor.   I could pretty much put my hands on anything I might want.  Maybe it was a subconscious tactic to keep my sisters out of my room.  No one but me could walk through without fear of stepping on something with disastrous result.  Even I would occasionally pull an embroidery needle out of a bare foot.

One afternoon we had a fire.  It was pretty dramatic.  My mother caught it in time to call the fire department and save the structure.  But everything was badly smoke damaged and the kitchen was gutted.  The men who cleaned out the house and packed it all up were either sent by the insurance company or the fire marshall.  I’m told they took one look at my room and took out the shovels.  Literally shoveled my “stuff” into boxes for storage.  How embarassing!   Never again!  The blog post on Clutter is a pale comparison.

Bonita and my kitchen floor.

What I can do is cook.  I don’t even remember when I started cooking on my own.  I know I had kids cookbooks pretty much from the time I was in grade school.  I’ve always been interested in food and experimenting.  Both of my parents cook, read recipes for fun and are adventurous about food from other cultures.  Our “standard Christmas dinner” wasn’t standard at all.  We would pick a country around Thanksgiving and then my folks would do some research and come up with a menu that reflected that cuisine.

At 7 years old, cheese stuffed peaches with horseradish weren’t at all appealing.  They still don’t sound nearly as good as they taste.  The year they did Beef Wellington my sister brought McDonalds carry out to the table because she wouldn’t have anything to do with Pate.  We almost burned the house down again the year my Dad and the sons-in-law did a dinner of Chinese appetizers.  3 men and 3 hot woks in a small alley kitchen, with me in and out coordinating.  Can you picture it?  My mother sat white knuckled in the easy chair.  It was not the break for her that we had intended.

I’ve done camp cooking, event cooking, rituals that centered on the food.   I’ve learned a lot about diets, nutrition, allergies and accommodation.   You’ve seen the pie in the Lammas blog and the wild rice soup in Leftovers.  I didn’t actually use a recipe for either of them.  I tend to do a lot of my cooking “off the cuff.”  Sometimes I blow it, but mostly it’s good and occasionally I can be brilliant.

So 500 words in and I finally  get to the topic of this week’s post: Barter.  My dear friend Bonita has some serious food restrictions.  She’s really trying to get healthy and improve her diet.  She can follow a recipe, but she doesn’t love to cook.  What she does love is cleaning, especially bathrooms.  She says it’s like a meditation.  Do you see where this is going?

Bag of frozen dinners complete with post-it instructions.

My dear friend Bonita comes by once a month just to work her way through my list of household chores I haven’t managed to “get around to.”  Sometimes they are actually chores that I don’t even have a clue about how to approach!  In return I fill her bag with single serving frozen dinners.  Homemade and entirely appropriate for her current diet, which is currently gluten, nightshade, and dairy free.

We both seem to be enjoying the challenge.  I know I’m enjoying a much cleaner house!

Have you ever used barter to get something you need?

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