1950s

Just for you, Dad!

I called my Dad today – as every good child should do if their parents are living. Just checking up with him and seeing how he and Mom were doing. We got to talking about what I was making for Christmas dinner and I told him I was doing my up-and-coming-famous-lasagna but I goofed and forgot to purchase cottage cheese yesterday (Monday) when I was out and about. Eventually, I started working on it and created the lasagna and put it in the oven while I was on the phone with Dad.

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I had found a sale on Black Angus Beef in a 3lb package. I cooked all 3 lbs of hamburger but only a pound and a half was put into the crock pot with the sauce.  The rest will go into the fridge for use in something else – rather soon, of course.

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One of the many rolls of Jimmy Dean Maple Sausage that I picked up for cheaper than normal. Only half of this went into the crock pot of spaghetti/lasagna sauce. The other half will be used in a quiche tomorrow morning.

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Spices. Yes. These are the generic brands. Money is tight so I had to make due with what I could find instead of purchasing the normal brands that I keep on hand. It’s alright. It still tasted rather good.

I sent Jen off to get the cottage cheese I needed (while I was on the phone with my Dad) and, in the process of waiting for her and talking to Dad, I started prepping to make the lasagna.

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Prepping the Ricotta Cheese to mix up with the cottage cheese when Jen gets back.

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I forgot to take pictures of creating the first and second layer. When I am done, there will be three layers. I typically have 5 cheeses and 2 meats, sometimes 3 (if I have fresh cooked bacon ready to go):

  • Sharp Cheddar (shredded)
  • Mozzarella (lots of this, shredded)
  • Ricotta (tub, mixed well with Cottage Cheese)
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese

and the meats:

  • Hamburger
  • Sausage Crumbles
  • Bacon Crumbles

I did not have bacon or Cottage Cheese this go-around.

The picture above is when I finished the first two layers. The first is a row of lasagna noodles and then meat andCheddar Cheese mixed with Mozzarella. I am generous with the Mozarella and I use the Cheddar to give it an extra kick. I’m not sure about amounts because I’ve never measured. I did use a 2 cup bag of Cheddar Cheese and about half of a 5-lb bag of shredded Mozzarella for the entire lasagna. That’ll give ya an indication of amounts. The Cheddar and Mozzarella are used on all three layers of my lasagna.

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And done building my lasagna. It has two layers of my homemade spaghetti sauce (meat included) with Cheddar Cheese and Mozzarella and one layer of Ricotta (sans Cottage Cheese this time only) and Mozzarella/Cheddar. If you see the top, I don’t pour the Cheddar Cheese on. It’s used as a flavor enhancer, not to overpower the Mozzarella. It gives the finished product a nice glow when the baking is done.

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The finished product. Anyone who has made lasagna understands why I showed the side view and not the top. A well-made lasagna doesn’t sink in the middle. The meats and cheeses stay firm in the center and keep it from sinking down – and completely spoiling the beauty of this delightful dinner. Mine rarely sinks.

I think the missing cottage cheese threw me off, though. I forgot to add that I sprinkle Parmesan Cheese on each layer as I build this, as well. I will say, when adding the Parmesan to the top, it tends to burn and make the lasagna look burnt when it is really not.

And, I built the lasagna layers while on the phone with Dad and threw it in the oven just as we hung up. I think that looks really good for missing 2 ingredients (3 if you count the bacon) and being distracted.

While we were on the phone, I was telling him my plans for this upcoming Spring and Summer. I was talking about baking and cooking and whatnot and got to mentioning something he said to me a long time ago.

“Dad, you said something to me quite some time ago. Years and years, actually. You meant not harm, you were being playful.”

“What did I say?”

“You said, to be a good cook, you have to be able to make a cake from scratch.”

He laughed and I continued my story. I told him all that I had learned and accomplished these past 6 months and all the cool things I had made that I’d never attempted before (the lasagna I have been making since I moved out on my own). In the midst of all this, he mentioned that it was awesome, he has been following along and enjoying watching me learn. He also suggested that, instead of stocking my shelves with every flour known to man (in the USA), I should make my own. I said, “Yeah.. um… no.” He got a chuckle out of that one. When he was done, I said, “Yeah, Dad, but that’s not the point. The point is, with everything I’ve done? I’ve still never made a cake from scratch.”

He seemed to get a really good laugh out of that one and then started talking about how I should think about making one. I just hadn’t gotten around to it!

When we hung up and while I waited for the lasagna to bake, I got to thinking: I really should try to make a cake from scratch.

I should.

It would be a culinary accomplishment!

After feeding the boys and attempting to lay down for a bit before our evening’s movie watching, I pulled out one of my favorite “old” cook books.

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There are only two versions of this cookbook and I love them both. The second has more recipes than the first and makes for a delightful sit-down for perusal. I found the cake section and flipped through it. Yes, I did find the easiest cake I could find in the book and attempted to make that one first.

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Plain Butter Cake. Looks simple. Looks easy for a first attempt at a cake all from scratch.

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I followed the recipe to the best of my abilities and made the cake. I even sifted the flour – something I only recently started doing.

I thought it was a tad weird that was a bit solid when I put it into the pan.

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It wasn’t full of liquid like the store-bought brands. The old book I have shows no pictures and doesn’t give a lot of details so I popped it into the oven, expecting it was supposed to be like this.

It took an hour to cook and, when it came out, I was a little surprised.

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I remember reading somewhere in the Priscilla book about why a cake would crack. It says, “Too much flour makes a cake rise too high in the center and crack open. It also makes the cake dry and hard.” By the looks of this, I might have had too much flour. It says to add 1 and 3/4 cup flour; however, I don’t have a 1/4 cup measuring cup. My old set is missing that piece. I should have used my glass measuring cup but didn’t think it would make much difference. I typically “guess” when it comes to the 1/4 cup measurements if I don’t use my glass cup.

I will say that the reason I haven’t replaced that measuring cup is because the plastic things they sell nowadays are too frilly and fancy. I’d rather not buy something that ugly! I should break down and finally take care of that, though.

So, I made my first cake. We tasted it immediately.

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A little dry but tasted alright. I think it’s a keeper. I’m going to make it again and see if I can’t perfect my measurement of that 3/4 cup. That and not mixing it so much are the reasons for the dry and cracked. That’s my diagnosis.

Am I a cook now, Dad? I ask that in all teasing and fun. I hope you are laughing along with me!

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Categories: 1950s, Basics of Cooking, Dinner, Family, Holidays, Socializing | 2 Comments

Laptops and More…

Let’s start with last night. My babies made a couple ornaments that the Star Child left for them. What they didn’t realize was, the ornaments were a precursor to what Jen and I had planned for when they finally fell asleep. We redecorated the house and brought out all the GOOD Christmas decorations, we changed the lights on the tree to the blinky kind, wrapped their presents, filled their stockings and set it all out for them. We were up until about midnight and then I lay in bed until about 2 a.m., unable to sleep.

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The one on the right in Brendan’s. Caiden’s is the one on the left. He just swirled the paint all around, saying he made a rainbow colored ornament.

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Santa was good to my babies. They both got baby laptops to play with. Caiden got Batman and Brendan got Jake and the NeverLand Pirates. They are toys, not real laptops. Toys R Us had them on sale for $17.99 and I had a gift card for $28 from a return we did earlier in the summer. I had to pay a couple dollars out of pocket but they have dragged them everywhere with them. They are acting like mommy with her laptop – taking it every where she goes.

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Let me back up. This morning, after getting to bed so terribly late, I woke them up at 6:45 a.m. The reason I did this was so they could talk to their daddy before their day started. He works nights where he is at and this way, he could wish them a Merry Christmas before he went to sleep.

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Brendan, right before the ringing phone and daddy’s voice talking to Caiden could be heard.

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Caiden, barely awake, talking to daddy about it being Christmas.

After daddy convinces them to run out to see what Santa left for them and what he did to the house, Caiden runs out the door with Brendan hot on his heels. Caiden was giving daddy a play-by-play all the way to the kitchen.

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Of course, he did get sidetracked now and again. For the most part, though, he remembered to tell daddy what he was seeing. In fact, Santa left a Christmas Card for the boys, thanking them for the “yummy cookies” and that he would let the Star Child stick around until Daddy got home. That went over very well; Caiden had been praying and asking God to let him keep the Star Child until next Christmas.

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Previously undecorated bannister and the Santa is new, as well.

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Reading the card out loud to daddy. The poor child was so sleepy and he was being forced to read!

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Brendan pointing to the stairs, telling me what Santa left behind last night.

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Brendan telling daddy about the gifts under the tree.

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Caiden exclaiming about the squishy, stuffed with some gel-type-stuff dolphin that he had previously begged for at one of our Thrift Stores. I told him to stop asking for stuff before Christmas. He didn’t know it but Jen paid for it while I was hustling them into the car. The toy Brendan is holding is the same thing – a small trinket from the same Thrift Store. I had those two things stuffed into their stockings.

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I forget what present this is but he was terribly excited. It was cute to watch their faces unwrap quite a few different Thrift Store finds that they were told they couldn’t have because it was too close to Christmas.

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Unwrapping the laptops.

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Yeah. They like them.

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Apparently, Santa left a gift tag on the tree. It was very small and took some time to find it. When they did find it, Caiden read it. He said, “To Caiden and Brendan…..”

“From Santa….”

“Go….. Down…. stairs…”

Huh?

“Go Downstairs?”

OH! and off they ran…

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Brendan fell at the bottom of the stairs. Caiden hopped right OVER him – I couldn’t believe it – and took off running through the downstairs. I nursed Brendan a little bit and then went over to see if Caiden found the last gift from Santa.

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Apparently, Santa found the trains from years gone by and set them up for the boys. They were all set and ready to roll when the boys got to the white tables that have been set up for this for over two weeks. The biggest thing I could do for them and it cost me nothing.

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Playing with presents while mom cooks breakfast. I shooed Jen off to take a nap at this point. She got 2 hours and came upstairs like, exactly at the two hour mark. After torturing her for her thinking she “only had 2 hours”, I decided I needed to go nap. Unfortunately, I still haven’t gotten a nap. The boys keep coming in and torturing me. I guess it serves me right, eh?

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Looking at the movie we are going to watch tonight. Behind them is the Fisher Price game I found at a Thrift Store. It takes over the computer and lets them draw, color and create things on the computer. It’s actually pretty cool and they had a lot of fun playing it today. It’ll be a part of our days for quite some time. They can even print their artwork when they are done, if they wish.

All-in-all, a great day. I got really upset with them when we went to Shari’s for a hot chocolate while we were waiting on dinner. They (well, at least, Brendan) were bouncing off the walls and acting like unruly children. I paid the few dollars for the coffee and hot chocolate and took them home. I confined them to their rooms for about 10 minutes while they thought about how they had acted in the restaurant and how very displeased I was.

Of course, after that, everything was great. Had a good day. I’m tired and short-tempered because of it but, it was a good day.

I hope y’all had just as wonderful a day!

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Categories: 1950s, American, Breakfast, Family, Holidays, Religion | 4 Comments

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