Sunday, November 3, 2013

Early November

Okay. I bought a large saucepan, a smaller saucepan (with a lid). And I bought a roasting pan.


Today, I redid the pumpkin mac and cheese I blogged about last time. Silver got to hog the dog bed (foster dog has gone to a new home) while I cooked, and I followed the recipe exactly, using the cheeses called for (gruyere probably is in your grocery's deli section, not the dairy section) and even using mostaccioli pasta (it's nothing to get excited about: it's like straight elbow macaroni--no bend in the arm). Good news and bad news on the dish.

Good news: you can taste the pumpkin--a little. And the taste of the dish is okay, except--

Bad news: reserve some cheese or add additional cheese to the recipe so you'll have some to put on the top of the dish. Otherwise, you get a dish where macaroni shows blankly on the top, and the cheesy sauce is all at the bottom. The macaroni can even get overcooked while you were waiting for what the recipe calls "golden and bubbly." Last time, since I couldn't get all the cheese in the little saucepan, I put the rest on top of the dish and that looked fine. This time the macaroni looks (and is) naked.


The other thing that's strange is that the recipe calls for you to cook the butter-flour-milk-pumpkin sauce, then take that off the stove and add the cheeses and spices. Then, once the cheese has melted, you add the pasta. The problem, though, is that once you take the sauce off the burner, the 10 ounces of cheese you add just won't melt. It gets soft, but it doesn't melt unless you put the pan back on a low heat.

In the past week, I've made more chili. You know how there's a toxin in red beans--phytohaemagglutinin--that can give cramps and gastric distress if the beans aren't cooked hot enough and long enough? I've been assuming that canned red beans are safe (since preparation instructions on the can just call for heating the ingredients--not cooking the beans for a long time), but that assumption may be wrong. On the last two batches of crock-pot chili, the first serving straight from the crock-pot has given me real stomach problems, but the leftovers--microwaved before serving--have not. At first I couldn't figure out why a batch of chili would--and then would not--give me stomach trouble. But now I'm wondering if the crock-pot is failing to get the canned beans hot enough, but microwaving leftovers is correcting the problem. The next time I make crock-pot chili with canned red beans, I think I'm going to microwave the contents of the can for a couple of minutes, then dump the beans in the crock-pot to cook with the rest of the ingredients. Now that the weather is finally getting cooler around here (highs in the 60s all next week), the chili is a very nice meal. I used one can of tomato sauce, two cans of red beans, two cans of black, and a pound of ground beef (browned before it goes in the crock-pot); also onion, garlic powder, salt and pepper (I may add dried red pepper next time, if I remember). I used spicy-hot V-8 juice for the extra liquid needed in the pot.

I also made meatloaf with Mother's recipe. A friend had suggested using oatmeal in place of the two slices of bread Mother's recipe calls for. The first time I tried that, it didn't occur to me that I shouldn't use my whole-grain oatmeal. The second time, I ran the whole-grain oatmeal through the food processor first. Much better result. I also used a couple of cornbread muffins. I usually make a couple of batches of those (sweet cornbread) to eat with the chili. (They're from a Betty Crocker mix: add the mix, one egg, some milk, and some butter. The package makes six muffins.) I wind up making one batch the day I make the chili, and maybe using a muffin or two in the meatloaf right away; then, when the last of those muffins are gone, I'll make another batch to go with the last of the chili. The meatloaf is definitely comfort food for me--even more than the chili is--and I look forward to the leftovers as much as to the first serving. (My lovely microwave has a "reheat" button that heats the serving of meatloaf just right--without my having to estimate a time based on the serving size.)

Freelance work has been busier until last week (and will be busy again soon), I've been getting foster dog off to his new home (as he trampled on my last nerve), and I've been getting Silver and me ready to be a therapy team. I've got some therapy prep work I've got to do in the next week, I have some freelancing, and I'll probably have a new foster dog in about 10 days. (We don't have any boys needing foster homes, and Silver probably may not welcome a girl.) Having leftovers I can pull out of the refrigerator or freezer on the spur of the moment has been useful. I just need one or two days a week when I can cook for a couple of hours without big distractions. Today was the macaroni. Tomorrow, I'll go out and run some errands and pick up canned beans and some ground beef and muffin mix and try to get some chili and meatloaf done Monday evening.