Sunday, July 12, 2015

Cooking Lesson Two - Lasagna

During this lesson, we had Princess Flame (aka Logan) and her sister, Princess Dragonfly (aka Macy). Princess Frost was unable to make this lesson (sad face), but all three will be there for Lesson Three.
I got this recipe for lasagna from my younger sister Ruth, who got it from someone she knew who got it from her grandmother who is from Italy. So there. I think I have that right.

Again, we planned the time of when we wanted everything to be finished and worked our way through the day. Because I'm limited on the number of pots and pans I have, we decided we'd cook our lasagna noodles while we browned the ground beef and sausage.



This way, after the noodles were finished, we could start on the sauce. Yes, the sauce was made from scratch... no Ragu going on here. They used tomato paste, sauce, tomatoes, oregano, basil from the garden, bay leaves, salt, pepper and some sugar.

Then they simmered their sauce...



While that was cooking, they made some chocolate mug cakes.

Then they grated parmesan.

And mixed the ricotta with egg.
They layered the lasagna.
While baking they found time to work on the puzzle.
And their finished lasagna!



Cooking lesson three will be pot roast and scalloped potatoes... and perhaps some dessert too!







Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lesson One - Fried Chicken, Part Two


If you haven't read, Part One, go here now.

We got up, had breakfast and started with figuring out how much time everything was going to take and listing those times to know when to start what. Since we didn’t want to start the chicken until it was closer to time to eat, we began with making the shortcake. Princess Frost couldn’t wait to get her hands on that KitchenAid mixer.

Here they are with their prepared pans.


Next came the mixing.

And we can’t forget to add LOVE into everything we cook. Grandpa designed the covers for these old spice cans. Aren’t they the cutest?


I was neglectful in taking pictures the entire time, but while the cake was baking in the oven, I told the girls we could cut up the strawberries. Princess Frost wanted them sliced, while Princess Flame preferred chunked, and saving a few whole. I suggested that whatever you can do ahead of time, it’s better to do. That way you have more time at the end when you are really scrambling to put everything together to be served. Keeps things less stressful.

We were non-stop the entire time, except to have a bite of lunch.

Next was peeling potatoes. I thought I had the same kind of peelers. Princess Frost was having more difficulty than Princess Flame. I told them to switch peelers. Apparently they were not the same. This gave them an idea of how tools make all the difference. I dug out some julienne peelers—for some reason I have three and not sure if I’ve ever used them. But you can peel with them as well. They tried those and one of the three worked super easy… better than the regular potato peeler. We all learned something.


With time left, and still not ready to get working on the chicken, I told them they could set the table. I said, “You can set it as fancy or as simple as you wish.” They got pretty excited about this and ran downstairs to my craft area to make menus and name place cards. I dug out my cloth napkins to ask which ones they wanted to use. They chose white because then they’d pick out a colored ribbon to tie them with.

Oh, we decided to have their families come to the house for this dinner as it would be too difficult to keep fried chicken crispy and all the other goodies warm to drive home with.

Gold was their prime color theme and they had everything matching by the time they were done. I had to tell them to speed it up a bit as it was close to the time we needed to start on the chicken. After all, we had to cut up the chicken.

The girls were grossed out by the feel of a dead chicken, but after a while, they didn’t think it was so bad. Princess Frost played with hers. The feel of the liver, heart and gizzard gagged them a bit and they thought it was disgusting. I was like, mmmm, those parts are yummy.

 


I had the girls do EVERYTHING themselves, except cutting the chicken. I have a hard time cutting chicken and I didn’t want to spend time in the ER having a finger sewed on. As I cut their chicken, they dredged it in flour.

I have to add that I thought it was ironic that they wanted to learn to fry chicken. When I was their age, that was one of the first meals I attempted to prepare… only I didn’t have anyone showing me how. My mom had passed away, and I decided that I could make fried chicken like she did. Oh how wrong I was. The skin stuck to the pan, my potatoes were lumpy and my gravy resembled cat vomit with an inch of oil on top. My little sister protested, “I’m not eating that!” My dad dug in, told me how good it was and he’d brag to my friends, “Lynn makes the best fried chicken.” Forty years later I found out that my dad threw up that meal after he ate it—I had prepared fried chicken for him again, this time just like my mom’s. I told my kids about my first attempt and asked dad if he remembered. He chuckled and told me he puked! What?

I told them I sprinkle salt and pepper on my chicken every time I turn the chicken. Since the salt and pepper shakers didn’t work to their satisfaction, I told them to take the lids off and just sprinkle that way… although I meant with their fingers. I watched Princess Flame sprinkle with the lid off and a nice little mound of salt sat on her chicken. She scraped it off and worried it’d be salty, but I assured her that it would just end up in the grease and then she wouldn’t need to use any when making gravy. That’s exactly what happened.


After they fried their “spare” parts, (liver, gizzard and heart) the girls actually tried them. Without ANY coaxing on my part, I swear. I was impressed. Princess Frost spit hers in the trash after chewing for a bit. Princess Flame washed hers down with water, very quickly. But still, I have to give them credit for trying it.


Oh, I also poured the grease out of the pans for the gravy making. The pans can be heavy and when they are hot on top of it, well, we didn’t want any serious accidents.

The girls ushered their families away from the kitchen when they arrived. 

After everything was on the table, they brought them in. Oohs and aahs could be heard… well the two boys (Princess Frost’s brothers) looked less than thrilled. I watched them gobble the food though. Everyone loved it. Princess Frost asked her dad if he really meant it because after hearing Grandma’s story about her dad, she had her doubts. He assured her and so did I. This meal was nothing like the one I had prepared my first time.

Someone asked while at the table how they liked cooking. They both said they liked it, but that it was a lot of work. Tell me brother. It really was fun though!
Look at those desserts
Lucas (Princess Frost's twin) had seconds of dessert

Next lesson… lasagna... along with another new cook... Princess Flame's sister, Macy aka Princess Dragonfly.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Lesson One in Cooking: Fried Chicken, Part One


I'm late in posting this (and each lesson will be weeks behind the actual lesson), but here is the first one...

You may have read about the Grand Tea Party – well, these two granddaughters also decided they’d like me to teach them how to cook, so this summer, every week (almost) we will be having cooking lessons.

I told them they’d need to decide what they want to cook. A few days before the first lesson, they called. “Grandma, we don’t know what to make. Can you give us some suggestions?” I was thinking, welcome to my world. This seems to be the universal problem of those who cook – what to make. I rattled off, “Meatloaf, fried chicken, roast—” 
And before I could get in another word, they both shouted, “Fried chicken!” 
I said, “Okay, fried chicken it is.”

We agreed that I’d pick them up on a Sunday afternoon, we’d grocery shop for what we’d need, they’d spend the night, sleep in on Monday and once up, we’d start cooking.

I forgot how 12 and 13 year olds like to be entertained, so I made a mental note to have a craft or game to do the next time I picked them up for Sunday evening.

We sat at the kitchen table and I asked, “So how much chicken will you need for your family?” I decided to let each girl cook their own food for their family and then they will serve their family dinner on Monday. I talked about a whole chicken and the various parts. How you can buy a whole chicken, or just the pieces you want. They each wanted a whole chicken. Princess Frost was feeding four. Princess Flame, two. But if Princess Flame had leftovers and Princess Frost needed more, they’d share. They decided on mashed potatoes and corn on the cob.

“Can we make dessert too?”

“Sure.”

They wanted to make strawberry shortcake. We made our list and headed to the store. Ah, how quickly it fades what extras end up in the grocery cart when you have people with you shopping. I wanted to teach them about budgets, but… we clearly exceeded ours this round.

I was a little disappointed that the big ole fancy pants Schnucks was out of corn on the cob. Seriously? We settled for frozen.

We came home, put everything away, fixed a quick dinner with Grandpa and then headed to Fritz’s for dessert.

Princess Flame and I were ready to go to bed by 9:30, but Ms. Princess Frost was not chilled enough. “It’s summer vacation!” We propped our eyelids up until sometime after 11, but who knows what time we actually drifted off to dreamland.




Next blog, I’ll post the process of cooking.

Here they are in the aprons that I sewed for them. They each received a box with some goodies. You’ll see more in the next blog.



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Texas 4000 AWESOME!


My friend, Tina asked if I’d like to volunteer by driving some college students to a few places… they’re cycling from Austin, Texas (hence, the name Texas 4000) to Anchorage, Alaska and had a stopover in St. Louis. The cyclists are students from UT (University of Texas). Check out Texas4000.org for more info and I guarantee you will be impressed.

I was clueless as I arrived at the Maplewood Richmond Heights High School that housed these students during their stay in St. Louis. They split the students among the six of us volunteer drivers. Between Paige and myself, who were going to Cardinal Glennon Hospital, we had: Alex, Zoe, Abigail, Blake, Joey, Dan, and Tuan.

We started out at St. Louis Bread Co., and while in line, an elderly couple saw the back of their shirts (Fighting Cancer Every Mile) and thanked them for what they were doing. They were both cancer survivors. The entire group turned around and engaged with the couple, listened to their stories, then asked their names and said they would be riding for them too. I was so touched by their sweetness.



From there we went to the St. Louis Zoo. It was so crowded that we dropped them off. Paige and I parked near the Art Museum and waited for their call. It was nice getting to know Paige as we admired the view.




Paige received a call – half the group wanted to go have lunch, the other half wanted to continue at the zoo. She took her group to Adrianna’s on The Hill. I waited, snapped a few photos, then did some research on Texas 4000. Wow, why didn’t I do this before? I listened to the videos of Alex, Zoe, and Abigail. (Later I listened to the others.) Talk about impressive. I was hooked and knew I’d be following the group to Anchorage. Not in my car, just online.

While at the zoo, someone lost their phone, but it was turned in at the Lost and Found, at the opposite entrance of where I was to pick them up.

“Can you pick us up at the South entrance?”
“Sure, if I can find it. I am directionally challenged.” I hung up and called my husband. “Where’s the South entrance of the zoo?”
“Where we always go in at.”
Hmmm, I thought the North entrance was where we went in at. Since we were running behind to get them to their appointment, I called them apologizing and asked if they could just go to the North entrance. Boy did I feel like a dope. But in no time, they piled in the car and off we headed to Cardinal Glennon Hospital.

They presented gifts (for the children/patients at the hospital) to Meredith, who gave us a tour. I was quite impressed and learned so much about a great hospital in my hometown.



After the tour, we were off to Ted Drewes for St. Louis’ famous custard—they totally enjoyed it.


They heard toasted ravioli was another St. Louis thing and wondered whether time would allow them to go to The Hill to try it—and off we went to Guido’s.

I told them I wished I had been thinking to bake them a Gooey Butter Cake—another St. Louis thing.

“What’s Gooey Butter Cake?”

I explained it.

“Can we get it somewhere?”

“There is one place that I hear makes a pretty good one ‘Gooey Louie’ however, homemade is the way to go. Ugh, don’t ever buy it in the store.” If anyone is reading this and wants to try it out for themselves—you know, bake it for your own friends and family, go to my dessert blog: Lynn, What's for Dessert?

Tina called to thank me for volunteering. I thanked her and told her I’d be happy to do it again next year. I told her how sweet the group of students I had were and how after we left Cardinal Glennon, Alex asked if there was someone I’d like them to ride for.
“Um, actually, my mom. She died of breast cancer when I was 12.”
“What’s her name?”
“Vera.”
“Can you tell me a little something about her?”
I was stumped because no one really asked me that question before. I had to think, what is she like? How do I describe her? She was a homemaker. She sewed, cooked, etc., but instead I blurted out about my watermelon story. Tina attended the fundraiser event that evening and told me how each one shared a little story and that ‘Lynn and her mom about the watermelon was mentioned.’
“Awww, how sweet.” A lump in my throat formed and I choked back tears.

I think about what an incredible journey these young folks are taking—the growth they’ll experience, and what an awesome adventure in helping such a cause. I overheard them always thanking everyone they came into contact with. They thanked me for driving them every time they got into the car. Observing them gave me hope for the future. I’d like to end by thanking them.

They actually asked if they could have a picture with me when I dropped them off at the school. I was so touched.



I crawled out of bed this morning around 8:00 and the first thing I thought about was the Texas 4000 group already cycling on the road for an hour. They were headed to the St. Louis Arch and then on their 100 mile trek for the day. I hope the Arch inspired them as they continue on.

As I mentioned, I’m hooked and will be following this awesome group through the rest of their journey, helping a bit financially… wishing them safety and sending love. Perhaps y’all might want to do the same.

Here are links to "my" group (although I never had Dan and Tuan in my car):

And here is the Ozark route. And the entire 72 Ozark riders.

These students are so incredibly grateful to anyone and everyone who supports them even in the tiniest way... if there's anything you can do to help, they'd love it. 

Thank you!!