Friday, January 18, 2013

Musing in the Kitchen

Standing in the kitchen late this morning I was considering just exactly what I had in the larder to put in the meat loaf I was making for dinner.  I was also running through the ingredients I had for inventing a new type of macaroni and cheese.  Hubby adores mac and cheese and we haven't had any since October when he had his last bout of congestive heart failure. 

Both meatloaf and the macaroni needed to be prepared with no-salt ingredients, not so hard for a hamburger dish but more complicated when cheese and pasta are the main ingredients.

Still my frig held lots of onions and eggs.  My spice cabinet had lovely herbs from Penzy's including all their salt-free combinations.  My larder in the garage was stocked with broths, soups, condiments, and dry foods.  My freezer held extra packages of ground beef and some lovely roasts, chicken breasts, and some great frozen veggie combos. 

It was fairly easy, if a bit time consuming, to come up with a meal that Hubby would appreciate.  I added dried jalapenos from the Houston Penzy Christmas shopping trip (thanks, Wendy!)  to the meal loaf and it turned out as spicy as Hubby could have wished.  Maybe, even a little too spicy for me.  

The mac and cheese came together quickly though for me it tasted more like tuna casserole without the tuna -- but it was cheesy enough to delight Hubby. 

At Trader Joe's I had come across a huge package of French string beans to which I added frozen pearl onions and a small can of mushrooms, as well as some white pepper and Penzy's spice combo, Southwest Forward.  Honestly, the Penzy salt-free combos are really so rich in flavor that you don't feel a huge regret that salt has been eliminated. 

All the while I'm chopping, stirring, melting, beating, and blending, I'm giving thanks for the luxury I have in my compact one-man kitchen.  My stove is small and has only four burners but they work perfectly.  I can heat hot tea up in five minutes.  My oven is self-cleaning!  Even better its temperature is true to the thermometer.  The stove I had before this one had a broken oven door so it never sealed properly and baking in it was a problem.  Also the oven temp was at least 50 degrees off, though we never knew if it was too hot or too cold. 

I have two very old refrigerators.  The one in the garage I've had since 1984 -- and it came 10 years old, at least.  I had it in my classroom at the school that was torn down in 1990.  It's been doing duty in the garage ever since -- and both the ice box portion and the freezer work just fine.  The frig inside my kitchen is small to accommodate the tiny kitchen and I've had it since the 1970's -- and again both portions of it work perfectly. 

I have a powerful garbage disposal and since the late 2000's I've had an apartment sized dishwasher.  Yes, you have to run it more often but it's a super convenient and really cleans up the pots and pans and only takes up one panel of cabinetry (which is limited in such a small kitchen). I've gotten so, if things aren't meant to be machine washed they just don't belong in my kitchen. 

As I'm chopping onions and beating eggs, I think of the articles in the paper this last month about "food hungry" families in our city.  Here we are, retired, on a fixed income, in a small ranch house with 50 year old appliances but we had a full larder, hot and cold food whenever we want and how often are we thankful for our blessings?  Not nearly enough. 

Mostly, I find cooking rather a drudge.  Wednesday, Hubby treated me to both breakfast out -- pancakes at IHOP -- and a delivered pizza from the best pizza joint in the city, Waldo's pizza (we had the vegetarian with hamburger on thin crust hoping that wasn't too bad for the salt-free diet).  Then Thursday we met with the cardiologist for the two-week check up after the installation of the pacemaker, and I fed Hubby cold tuna fish for his main meal. 

By the way, the cardiologist report was stellar.  And the tuna fish was pretty good.  But today I tried to make up for the last two days of non-cooking by creating a good, hearty, and healthy meal for us.  Hubby has lost eight pounds since the fall.  He is feeling stronger, his heart rate (thanks to machinery) is steady, and his blood pressure has been normal for two full weeks. 

Our lives, though filled with the normal bumps and bruises of lower middle-class, aging seniors, is so rich and bountiful that sometimes I forget to stop, give thanks, and appreciate just what luxuries surround me. Luxurious like a full belly and food in the house for tomorrow.  Doctors' who can repair broken hearts.  A house to keep the elements out and the the inhabitants both warm in winter and cool in summer.  I need to remember the simple blessings more often and give thanks for them. 


Donna said...

Every day when I get out of bed, I am thankful for another day. At my age, you never know. Cheese is very high-salt, so if you have a lot of cheese in a recipe, you probably won't need to add any more salt. I honestly didn't know how much salt was in cheese until I started making it. Wow!

Margaret said...

Awesome news--and spices are the key to avoiding salt and yet providing flavor. Don't all stoves have 4 burners? Mine does and I've never considered it small. And a vegetarian pizza with HAMBURGER? I'm smiling at that.

Anonymous said...

I grew up poor. My parents had eight grade educations. We always thought of the teachers at my school as the "rich" people.

Melissa Wiggins said...

Anonymous -- well teachers may have been considered "rich" when you were growing up, but now-a-days we fit at the lower end of middle class (find me a teacher making over $65,000 a year -- the average is around $45,000) -- and if you have a family with only one income, as we do, then you don't find yourself in the rich category. Classically trained singers, as Hubby is, do not earn much -- and then usually only during the opera season. A musician's life is often hand to mouth. MGW

Donna said...

I have never considered teachers "rich". In my small community, everybody knows how much the teachers are paid. It isn't that much.