Tales From A Hungry Life

October 11, 2016

Cooking On A Lazy Day

By Maria Schulz

Some people don’t like rainy weekend days, but I do. Especially a rainy day that comes after a really busy, fun-filled Saturday.

Look! A rainbow.

Look! A rainbow.

I love waking up to the sound of soft rain dancing against the windows and the wind rustling through the trees. Yes, my dog and I still walk in the rain, but not for long.

Short walks on rainy days

Short walks on rainy days

The best part of a cool, rainy Sunday is that I feel free to bake and cook. The last couple of weeks have been so warm that I’ve still been using my barbecue. Turning on the oven was a welcome change.

I baked muffins in the morning. The rich smell of cornflour, eggs, milk and butter made me think of weekend visits with Irene, my mother-in-law. She loved corn muffins.

Fresh from the oven

Fresh from the oven

Sundays are also the perfect time to make a batch of sauce that we can use later in the week. I love putting on a big pot of sauce to simmer on the stove. That smell immediately transports me back to Sundays with my parents. Mom made her sauce while Dad listened to Frank Sinatra on the radio or watched Meet the Press on television. I can still see my mom handing me a piece of bread as she stirred the sauce, asking me what I thought. img_0012

“Perfect!” I’d reply, because Mom’s sauce always was the best.

Later in the day, I made some memories for my own family by making a batch of Chicken Tetrazzini. My husband, girls, and dog always hover near the kitchen as I cook the chicken, stir the sauce, add the sherry, and make the pasta. When it all goes into the casserole dish and into the oven, I have to reassure them that it will be ready soon.

Giada's recipe

Giada’s recipe

My husband even made his mom’s baked apple recipe, filling the whole house with the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg, apples and maple syrup.

Makes the whole house smell great

Makes the whole house smell great

It was a day filled with comforting food, happy memories, and much-loved family.

As Martha Stewart would say, it was a very good thing.

RECIPES:

Chicken Tetrazzini

Giada’s recipe is a lot more involved than mine, but it’s still delicious. I use a lot less butter, no bread crumbs (I put parmesan cheese on top of mine) and I add a quarter of a cup of sherry to my sauce, which gives it a wonderful flavor.

Baked Apples

This recipe includes things like cherries and nuts, which add an interesting texture and flavor to the baked apple. You can go a much simpler route by just cleaning and coring your apples and stuffing them with cinnamon, nutmeg, and maple syrup. Your call.

cornbread-and-muffin-mix

My corn muffin recipe is a little less fussy. I open two packages of Betty Crocker’s Corn bread & muffin mix, double the ingredients (except for the butter–I find that doubling the butter makes them too greasy. So I use 3 tablespoons of butter instead of 4) and bake. Yes, this is an indulgence and doubles the caloric hit but I like a jumbo muffin every once in a while. I have tried every type of corn muffin mix and have even made them from scratch, but this brand of corn muffins is by far my favorite. These are great in the mornings and also wonderful to make as a side dish to a big pot of chili. But that’s a recipe for another day.

So…what’s your favorite comfort food? What do you like doing on a lazy, rainy day? Please leave a comment with your thoughts or your favorite recipe. If you’re like me, you’re always looking for new ones to try. Thanks!

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February 15, 2013

Valentine’s Day: The Mourning After

By Maria Schulz

Always right

Always right

The big day—Valentine’s Day—has come and gone. You know, that special day when men feel horribly pressured to give gifts and be romantic and women wait by the window, watching for their life-changing big gift to arrive.

I grew up with boys, so I remember how much pressure there was to get a gift that sent the right message, cost the right amount of money, and satisfied some inner need of the girl. You know, the one that was never expressed in words but that she definitely expected you to understand—because after all, if you loved her, you’d know what she wanted without asking.

From lots of trial, error, angry girlfriends and even angrier breakups, the men I’ve known have figured out a few critical things about gift-giving in the minefield of Valentine’s Day.

The 10 Top Things to Remember Next Valentine’s Day

1) Do not ever, ever, EVER give your girlfriend a gift of jewelry that comes in a ring box, or one that remotely looks like a ring box, unless you are getting engaged. To do so will result in an immediate confiscation of all brownie points earned thus far, and long and unhappy days and weeks ahead for all parties.

Danger, Will Robinson!

Danger, Will Robinson!

2) Flower colors really do have meaning. For the love of God, do NOT give yellow roses (meaning: friendship) when you should give red roses (meaning: passionate love).

3) If you are just starting out with a new girlfriend, a small stuffed animal and a box of chocolates should be enough to satisfy the raging Valentine’s beast. But that’s only if she’s under the age of 17.

4) Never, ever give that same gift to a committed girlfriend, fiancée or wife, unless you want to learn the real meaning of regret.

5) Those commercials on TV for giant stuffed Teddy Bears are cute and funny, but don’t expect to see a 10,000-megawatt smile on your lady friend’s face when you hand her this gift. This mammoth dust-collector takes up an entire couch and should be expected to pay rent if he’s going to live with her full time.

If he intends to get a job, then maybe....

If he intends to get a job, then maybe….

6) When your girlfriend, wife or mother says, “Don’t get me flowers. I don’t need flowers!” what she really means is, “of course I don’t need flowers, but I’m saying this so we can keep up the element of surprise. You don’t need a big screen TV, but that didn’t stop you!”

7) Appliances are not romantic gifts. If you buy one for your girlfriend (even boyfriends don’t want one), you are not romantic. You’re lazy! Wait until February 15 to buy her that new coffeemaker. You won’t be sorry.

8) If you live in the tropics or are a small child, by all means gather up a freshly picked bouquet of flowers and feel good about yourself. All others: call a florist.

9) Don’t have much money? Put even the smallest amount of effort into the gift, and you will be thanked tenfold. If her favorite romantic movie of all time is Sleepless in Seattle, buy her the DVD or download the movie, cook her dinner (chicken Kiev or chicken nuggets, doesn’t matter as long as you try) and sacrifice one night of torture watching that chick flick for a gift that gives you romantic street cred.

A little romance

A little romance

10) Remember this Golden Rule: if your sweetheart works in an office and every other woman in the office gets flowers AND SHE DOESN’T, you will be in trouble. Don’t be that guy.

I have always enjoyed hearing others tell me about their Valentine’s Day gifts. The champagne/flowers,/engagement ring/best Valentine’s Day of my life stories are always lovely and charming, but give me a good old cried all night/crash-and-burn/fiery conflagration/worst Valentine’s Day of my life story, and I’m all ears.

From my many years of listening, observing, and oh yeah, being a girl, I have heard about (and lived through) many terrible Valentine’s Days. Here is a very unscientific poll of the worst Valentine’s Day gifts ever:

For the Ladies….

  • Mini-Vacuum
  • Toaster
  • Vest
  • Galoshes
  • Umbrella
  • Hats
  • Bag of M&Ms
  • Framed baby photo—of boyfriend!
  • Tickets to a wrestling match
  • Dead Flowers
  • No Flowers
  • Nothing

For the Men…

  • Frames
  • Ties
  • Shirt
  • DVD of any rom-com or chick flick
  • Key chains
  • Gloves
  • Flowers
  • Car Wax
  • Gift certificate for mani/pedi
  • Candles
  • Book of Love Poems
  • Downloads of your (note: not his. He doesn’t care) favorite romantic songs

I’ve gotten my fair share of terrible gifts in my time. Yes, that framed baby photo of the boyfriend was mine. I think I would’ve preferred a tee-shirt that said “I’m With Stupid!”

This would've been a better gift

This would’ve been a better gift

Luckily, I am blessed with a husband who is kind, considerate, and doesn’t listen to me when I tell him not to get me flowers. I have also gotten my fair share of terrific gifts, and even though they are not as funny as the bad ones, here’s a story about one of my favorites.

When I was 8, I took a bad fall. I had to wear a neck brace, suffered a terrible concussion, and sported a lovely, eggplant-shaped bruise on my face. My inability to walk around without getting dizzy and throwing up meant I had to stay in bed for 3 weeks.

Don't try this at home.

Don’t try this at home.

February 14th fell during that time, and I was feeling down since I thought I wouldn’t be getting any Valentine’s Day cards that year. But lo and behold, my 3rd grade teacher had all of my classmates make cards and write me letters. Mostly, they said: “Get Well Maria!” and “Come back soon! We miss you!” But here are the two that I enjoyed the most, for very different reasons.

Dear Maria:

I would’ve never sent you this card, but Mrs. G. made me do it. The class is much quieter without you and I can get a lot of work done. I don’t miss you but I am sorry you broke your head. See you soon.

Thomas

Then there was this one:

Dear Dear Dear Dear Maria,

Life just isn’t as much fun without you. I haven’t laughed once since you’ve been gone. There’s no one to share my snack with at snack time, and Mary Beth keeps playing her flute and singing “Kumbayah” but you’re not here to laugh along with me! Get better and come back soon. I miss you!

Here is some money to get you through. Have Chris go get you some Wacky Packs to keep you company while you rest.

Love XXOOXX,

Perette

P.S. Don’t listen to Thomas. He’s an idiot.

Change is good!

Change is good!

Perette taped $1 in change to my card, which was also decorated with hearts, flowers, kittens and puppies. She knew I was a sucker for kittens and puppies. $1 was enough for 4 wacky packs, so Chris and I could share. We sat in my bed and howled with laughter over our cards. Then, we almost broke our teeth on the hard-as-wood gum that came along with it. Those were good times and resulted in one of the best Valentine’s Days ever.

Gotta love 'em

Gotta love ’em

So Hungry Lifers…what’s your favorite Valentine’s memory? Best gift? Worst? Please help me continue my unscientific research and let us all know by leaving a comment below.  Thanks!

Recipe:

Chicken Kiev

chicken kiev

Yes, Valentine’s Day is over, but there’s a long weekend ahead. Go ahead and cook—and start earning those brownie points all over again.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/chicken-kiev-recipe/index.html

Have the butcher butterfly the breasts for you and pound them to 1/8” thickness if you can’t do it yourself.

Enjoy!