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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April 12, 2016

Happy National Grilled Cheese Day

by Maria Schulz

There are lots of unofficial “holidays” floating around out there that marketers love to tout. For instance, yesterday was “National Pet Day.” I didn’t realize we needed a day for that. Everyday is National Pet Day here at my house. “World Laughter Day” is coming up on May 1, and of course, May 4th is Star Wars Day. You’ll know it because everyone will be walking around wearing Star Wars ties and tee-shirts, and you’ll get lots of emails from merchants with the subject line: May the Fourth Be With You!

Still great.

Still great.

Today friends, is National Grilled Cheese Day. Now, lots of these holidays have no meaning for me, but this one absolutely does. If there’s someone out there who doesn’t love a great grilled cheese…well, I can’t understand that. I mean, are you CRAZY?

My love affair with the grilled cheese began long ago, and of course it got me in trouble. When I was 8, my mom bought a new toaster. Since I always used the old toaster to make my version of a grilled cheese (it was just a melted cheese sandwich, but no one would let me use the stove), I slapped my bread and cheese in and waited for the magic to happen.

Do NOT put cheese in there

Do NOT put cheese in there

Unfortunately, the fact that the new toaster was not a toaster oven like the old one sailed over my head. I can still see my mother trying to scrape the cheese out of her new, now destroyed, toaster. She got so mad at me that I hid in my room and didn’t go back to school in time for the after lunch bell. I thought she’d realize I was still home, but she just kept ranting in the kitchen about what a moron I was until I came out…and got yelled at for being late for school.

Eventually, my mother bought a new toaster (oven) and life went on like before. There were lots of cheese sandwiches in my future. Remarkably, my parents eventually allowed me to use a skillet and fire to make grilled cheese, and I never looked back. I learned some important things, among them: NEVER PUT CHEESE IN A REGULAR TOASTER. These are life skills, people.

As a mom myself, the grilled cheese was a go-to lunch item that my husband, kids, and I always enjoyed. I was good at making them, but by far, the all-time Champion Grilled Cheese Cook of the World was my mother-in-law, Irene (Nana, to my kids),

So good

So good

With a couple of slices of bread, a slice or two of American or Cheddar cheese, a dab of butter and a hot grill pan, Irene/Nana could make magic. Her grilled cheese sandwiches looked like something out of a stylized photo shoot. The aroma used to send us all into a tizzy (dog included), making us circle the kitchen and erupt into cheers of LUNCH! LUNCH! LUNCH! Of course, while she cooked, she would share cheese with our dogs (first Cokey, then Trixie), giving her Most Beloved Human status.

I can still see her there in my kitchen buttering the bread, adding the cheese, flipping the whole thing over, and using a heavy spatula on top to help the bread crisp up. From her white curls on top of her head to the Dr. Scholl’s shoes on her feet, Irene was as All-American as…well, grilled cheese.

Irene the teen

Irene the teen

She’d wear her regulation “Nana” garb, which consisted of a long gray sweater with big pockets for tissues, medicines, or hard candies, over a floral blouse and black slacks. Irene would tell hilarious stories about her life growing up in Ridgewood, Queens: she was the first person to create and own a pet rock, which she walked down Fresh Pond Road on a leash. She never cashed in on her big idea and was really annoyed when it made its second creator millions in the ’70s. Irene had endearing and not-so-endearing nicknames for her friends and relatives, including “The Stick” for her ridiculously thin neighbor and “The Battle Axe” for her nasty, difficult grandmother. Irene told us of her life growing up during the Depression and Prohibition (when some relatives made hooch in the bathtub), and she sold war bonds, painted her legs with “seams” when pantyhose were scarce, and waited for her fella to come home from the War (that fella was my husband’s Dad) in the 1940s. She was, as her father would’ve called her, a real “tomato.”

Not Irene

Not Irene

When my kids would ask her where her family came from, she would reply: “Philadelphia.” She was an All-American girl, and even though her family came here on a boat just like my family, that was so long ago that they didn’t think about it much anymore.

Tomato soup and grilled cheese. A perfect marriage

Tomato soup and grilled cheese. A perfect marriage

She’d tell the kids to come in and sit down, pushing her glasses back up on the bridge of her nose and gesturing to us to take our seats. Then she’d serve us our grilled cheese sandwiches and dole out the tomato soup that was its natural partner…and we would eat…and talk…and laugh.

On this National Grilled Cheese Day, I’d like to raise a glass of (soda/wine/water) and a delicious cheese sandwich in her memory. My mother-in-law may be gone now, but she will always be remembered…especially on holidays, real and random…and every other day too.

Recipes:

Healthy Grilled Cheese Recipes

healthy grilled cheese recipe

So good–and good for you too!


So, Hungry Lifers…what’s your favorite type of grilled cheese sandwich? Hint: mine’s a tie between healthy tomato and mozzarella Caprese and good old American Cheddar. Please leave a comment and enjoy your day!

February 5, 2016

Inspired by Eggs in a Basket

by Maria Schulz

I woke up this morning to more snow and the sinking feeling that shoveling was in my immediate future. Luckily, I read a post by my friend Beth at butterscotchblastoff with a recipe that brought me back to my Grandmother’s kitchen.

retro-kitchen

Like this, only bigger and pinker

I can see her now: my beautiful little Nonnie, in her pink frilly apron, cooking for me in her big pink kitchen in Port Washington. She had short brown hair and big brown eyes, framed by round glasses that she always wore. Her home always smelled of something wonderful on the stove: fresh bread, spaghetti and meatballs, apple pie, or peach spongecake.

Making_eggs_in_basket

How’s about cooking something up for me?

One of my favorite memories are of sleeping over and waking up to find my grandmother cooking breakfast for me. If Uncle Sal was there for the weekend and Uncle Don was home, Judy Garland, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra would be playing in the background as we waited for our meal.

MariaNonnieBandC177

My two grandmothers

My grandmother used to take a piece of bread, make a circle in it with the bottom of a juice glass, and put both pieces of bread into a hot pan with a dab of butter. Next, she’d crack an egg into the middle of the toast. When everything had firmed up nicely, she’d flip it (yes, even the round piece that had been cut out was cooked and flipped). She’d season it all with salt and pepper, put it on one of her pretty plates, and presto! Breakfast was served.

tomatoes and eggs

Hey, good looking

How could eggs be so delicious? My grandmother was a magician in the kitchen, and I would practically sit in the audience and applaud. There was lots of laughter around that table as we enjoyed our morning feast.

 

To boost up my morale before heading out into the snow drifts, I set out to make a little magic of my own. I did everything my grandmother showed me, but with inspiration from Beth, I added a twist: yellow tomatoes, a little more butter, salt, pepper, and basil. I added it to my eggs in a basket on top and on the side. You know what? It was delicious! I recommend it heartily.

Eggs in a BasketI think my Nonnie would approve.

So…what’s your favorite breakfast food? Best memory with Grandma? What inspires you when your get up and go has gotten up and left? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!