Sunday, October 24, 2010

Early Marriage and Graduate School Meals

Once I decided to start this project, I've been thinking about favorite foods, and how they changed over time. Meals we ate in grad school were based on complex carbs such as rice, potatoes and pasta. But the rest of the meal usually included something frozen (veggies and/or soy-wheat gluten), canned (pasta sauce, soup, fruit) or some fresh veggies. The meals needed to be inexpensive and fairly fast. Friends were in the same situation; not much money to live on. One friend scrambled eggs with a can of chinese vegetables. Not bad, really. The big splurge for the week was Baker's Tuesday night "Dental School Special" - 3 (big bean) Burritos  for $1.00.  Lots of students were at Baker's on Tuesday night.

Most of our food was processed in some way and supplemented with a few fresh fruit and vegetables. I tried and tried to make bread. It rarely rose nicely. Always thought it was the temperature. Now I know it must have been the yeast. (I use SAF yeast now. The dough will rise at just about any temperature.) The Pillsbury dough boy was my friend. Canned biscuits, turnovers, and bread sticks were favorites. A treat we had often were frozen honey buns. They came four in a box, but rarely lasted two days.  Popped the honey buns in the toaster oven and they were warm and gooey in 10 minutes.

My mother-in-law taught me the basics of cooking after I was married. She must have worried about her son's diet although she never said a word to me.  She patiently answered my stupid questions and gave me recipes and cookbooks. I always appreciated the left overs she sent home with us! We went to their house for Friday night supper and Sabbath afternoon dinner.  My sister-in-law and her husband were usually there. Cooking with her was fun and enlightening. It was a fun family tradition that we no longer manage because families live in three states.

About the time we moved to the other side of the country, she gave me the "More with Less" cookbook. It is based on using less of the earth's resources, eating in moderation and reducing protein intake.  American meals are primarily protein rather than eating mainly veggies and carbohydrates with a bit of protein. There are a variety of protein sources in the cookbook:  legumes, dairy and grains as well as meats, poultry and seafood.   One of our favorite is Lentil Stew made with lentils, of course, tomatoes, carrots, green peppers, celery, herbs and cheese. It was baked, however, I now make it in a crookpot or on the stovetop. Recipes are made to be tinkered with, and I can never leave a recipe alone. I  add potatoes or we sometimes have the stew over rice.

Another family recipe (from my husband's family) is breakfast hash served over buttered toast. It's very simple to make, can be made ahead, and is good for any meal.  Ingredients are potatoes, celery, chicken stock and chicken. I substitute the chicken and broth because we are vegetarian.

Rice with tomatoes and cheese is one of my early-marriage favorites. My husband does not care for canned tomatoes. There is a 'taste' he doesn't like.  So we don't have this often.

I have started November meal planning by making lists of inexpensive ingredients and dishes we enjoy. Half of our dinners are combining ingredients I have on hand at the last minute (as my husband is on his way home from work).  Often I chop an onion and garlic as I try to think what to have for supper.  Carbohydrate is the next choice: bread, pasta, rice or potato?  Deciding what spices and flavorings skews the remainder of the ingredient choices.  Most days it is pretty good, occasionally, yuck!  Fortunately he is good about my experiments! I always tease that he has no taste buds. :-)


Gena @ A Bluebonnet in Beantown said...

I'd love your lentil stew recipe! I'm trying to cook more vegetarian meals, and lentils is one of the few beans that my picky son will eat.

Cotehele said...

Thanks for looking at my blog. I started it when construction began on the kitchen. Of course, things got busy, and I didn't keep up. :-( I wish I had.

Here is the recipe for Lentil Stew. It's based on Baked Lentils with Cheese in the More with Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre. It is written to be baked. I find it's easier not to drag the pan out of the oven to stir and add ingredients. I make it on the cooktop or in a crockpot.

Lentil Stew
Serves 6

Preheat oven to 375F if baking.
Combine in a dutch oven (or 9 x 13 baking pan)
1 3/4 cups lentils, rinsed
2 cups water, add more as needed
1 whole bay leaf
2 tsp. salt
pepper, freshly ground to taste
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups canned tomatoes (I use fresh when available)

Simmer until lentils are slightly underdone.
(If baking: cover tightly and bake 30 minutes)

Stir in:
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup celery, thinly sliced
potatoes, cubed (I use 2-4 depending on size)
1 green pepper, chopped
2 Tbs. parsley, finely chopped (I don't use this)

Simmer until vegetables are cooked to your liking.
(If baking: uncover and bake for 40 minutes omitting pepper and parsley.
Add remaining ingredients and sprinkle 3 cups cheddar cheese, shredded on top.
Bake uncovered 5 minutes until cheese melts.)

I sometimes add veggie sausage with the vegetables.

Rather than sprinkling cheese and baking, I serve with cheese and sour cream on the side.

The recipe credit is Catherine Kornweibel, Easton, Pa.

I e-mailed this to you as well.

Cheers! I hope your son likes it!