Cook's Choice

Did you ever buy hot lunch at school? My mother hated making brown-bag lunches, and so I always had a hot lunch. I even had a little pouch for my lunch money known as a "money mouse." Just now I checked with my friend Google to see if a tutorial for a money mouse existed, and it does not. I guess the internet isn't the answer for all things, after all.

It's probably lost its functionality by now, but here's how the money mouse worked. It was made from three pieces of felt. Here's a very rough illustration of the pieces.

The back side was cut in the shape of a mouse...or I suppose it could be a cat, but then the alliteration would be lost. So, anyway...the back side encompassed the entirety of the mouse shape. Then there was a piece for the tummy. It was a little larger than a quarter, which was the price of a school lunch during the 14th Century, and thus, the loss of functionality. The tummy was stitched to the back using a running stitch. Then, there was a piece in the shape of the head and ears, which was stitched to the back where the ears were. This was done using a couple of embroidery stitches to put fur in the mouse's ears. Then, the face was added with a few straight stitches for the eyes and whiskers, and there was a snap closure attached to the back side of the nose and the top of the tummy piece. Then, a safety pin was inserted into the back so that it could be pinned to my dress when I went to school. My mother made them in all colors so they matched my dresses. (She also made my dresses.)

So this trip down memory lane is brought to you to embellish my discussion of Cook's Choice. School lunch menus were generally published in the local newspaper, and Friday's menu always consisted of "Cook's Choice." That is to say that the cook took all the leftovers from during the week and threw them together to make a sort of glop that she served on Fridays. And that's kind of what RV cooking is like.

RV refrigerators are so small that one's chief goal in life is to "get that out of the refrigerator." Some folks relish a full refrigerator. RVer's relish an empty one. On grocery day, our refrigerator is generally packed so tightly and with such puzzle-piece precision that one would be hard pressed to add even a thimble to the mix. Thus, my life's goal is generally to "get that out of the refrigerator," to make room for more. I know. It sounds frustrating doesn't it? Get it out...pack it in.

So anyway...I'm going on at some length here to tell about the recent week's cooking exploits. I haven't talked much about cooking this trip, but RV cooking brings a whole new dimension to dining. Usually, I'm cutting recipes down to avoid leftovers, but sometimes the nature of the ingredients means there is no way to avoid leftovers. And then...how are you going to get that out of the refrigerator? So recently, I've been pairing up recipes in order to use up leftover ingredients. Earlier this week, I wanted to try this Sausage and Cabbage casserole.

It looked good in the picture, and it only uses a few ingredients. The problem is that it makes enough for a small army, and so I only wanted to make half the recipe. And then...what am I going to do with a half a head of cabbage? It takes up a lot of room in an RV refrigerator. And I haven't even mentioned the leftover half pound of sausage...and the half pound of ground beef. 

So then...I found another recipe for Creamy Cabbage Soup with Gruyere.

And that was a sort of RV cook's treasure trove of possibilities because (a) it allowed me to get the half head of cabbage out of the refrigerator, and (b) it allowed me to get a hunk of gruyere cheese out of the refrigerator that has been hanging around for weeks. Yes, it's been the cheese of my nightmares, hanging around with its feet on the furniture, smoking cigarettes, and generally making a mess of things. Gruyere is kind of expensive, and how am I gonna get that out of the refrigerator? So anyway...soup. This soup was the answer to my prayers. Also, I made the croutons from the heels of bread that have been hanging around with the cheese, so it was a leftovers lottery win.

I'm only bringing this up because both of these were super good. I can recommend them. As for the Sausage and Cabbage, I skipped the step of blanching the cabbage. It cooks down just fine in the oven, and it makes a lot less mess that way. Also, the crusty bread is a must. But that's not all I've cooked up over the past week. Oh no...there's more.

Here's another recipe I've been eyeing because it gave me an option to get rid of some tortillas that are always hanging around. Plus, it used the other half of the pound of sausage and hamburger generated by the Sausage and Cabbage. This is a Mexican Lasagna recipe that was originally published in Southern Living in December of 2001. And, hey, we're in the south, so it makes perfect poetry. Looks pretty good in the picture, no?

Generally, I avoid recipes that require opening a lot of cans, but this one looked pretty good. The problem is that I needed to make the whole thing, suitable for an entire school full of kids, because I didn't want to leave myself with half cans of ingredients. And that was okay because it made enough for two meals...and then breakfast...which I will show you in a minute.

First, I want to say that this was delicious. We thought it should be made with crispy tortillas, however. Use the kind you'd use for tostadas. The soft corn tortillas were a little too soft. We added a dollop of sour cream and some salsa to each serving, and it was really good. Like I said, it served us for two dinners, but then there were still leftovers, and how was I gonna get those out of the refrigerator?

Well. We were fresh out of tortillas because I'd used them in the making of said dish. Instead, I made a sort of huevos rancheros out of it by serving it over toast and then topping it with a fried egg and some salsa.

It probably isn't going to win any recipe contests, but it was tasty and filling, and it allowed me to get that out of the refrigerator. And that, my friends, is the sort of thing that gets my day off to a good start.

Having filled our bellies with leftovers, I turned my attention to the Wine Country block. Mark that one in the finished column.

The next time I work on this, I'll be doing Block 11 of 12...this one.

Next, I traced out the fourth block for the Snow Globes quilt. Recall that I'm trying a Frixion pen this time around, hoping it will write better on my stamped fabric. And it does!

That still left with the question of whether it would cause problems when the fusible interfacing was ironed to the back. I just let the iron touch around the edges, and I could go pretty close to the design without having it disappear. (Yes, I know I can put it in the freezer, but...RV freezer...enough said.) So, now it's hooped and ready to go, and that's where I'll head after I'm finished here.

But first, this:

That's my magnetic needle nanny, which is attached to the side of the plastic shoebox where this project lives. There are five colors of sparkle floss in this piece, and it's very hard to thread onto a needle. I use large-eyed needles to make it easier, but I've also reserved a needle for each color. That way, if I don't use the entire length of floss, I can save it already threaded for the next time I use it. Always thinking...that's me.

After breakfast yesterday, the Stanbro Men...two legged and four legged varieties...sat and enjoyed the morning sunshine. It was a little chilly, but the sun was nice.

Mr. Smitty there on the right is thinking he can snag a mouse from under those leaves. So far, nothing.

We went out for a drive yesterday afternoon. We were searching for a post office. I'm sending yet another box home with fabric and some gifts for family. Along the way, we saw this barn.

Also, we tried another route to get us out to the Gulf coast. We still didn't accomplish it, but we found a place where they do maintenance on offshore drilling equipment. We weren't sure if these two rigs were being built, or maintained, or if they were simply stationed here all the time.

Mike was fascinated by all of this. It's a highly secure area, with barbed wire fencing all around, and signs that say, "Visitor's Must Report to the Office Immediately!" And so, no kidding around. We wondered if they worried about eco-terrorism. Let's face it...not everyone is happy about offshore drilling, especially after the Deepwater Horizon episode.

Also, the Coast Guard Cutter Pelican is docked here. Mike's brother, Phil, was in the Coast Guard, and so we're always interested in anything related to the Coast Guard.

When we got back to the RV, I baked another pecan pie because...you guessed it...I had leftovers. It's a pretty sweet way to use things up, don't you think?

I used the last of a bottle of honey making the pie, which meant we could open these two for a taste test.

I picked up the little bottle on the right when we were at the Stephen Foster Folk Art State Park a few weeks ago. Who remembers that Van Morrison song, Tupelo Honey? The lyrics went like this:

She's as sweet as tupelo honey
She's an angel of the first degree
She's as sweet as tupelo honey
Just like honey from the bee

So, when I saw that in the gift shop there, I had to get a bottle just to see if there was a difference. We performed our own little taste test, and whoa! It really does taste better! It's about the same level of sweetness, but the flavor is more complex...like a fine wine, almost...and it has the slightest hint of cinnamon. Mike and I always laugh while doing taste tests because of something we saw in a movie...or maybe we read it...or maybe we heard someone say it...I can't really remember. But we both said in unison this phrase we always say when tasting something for the first time. "Fruity, yet selfless." And that's how we'd describe this honey: "Fruity, yet selfless, with a hint of cinnamon."

And that's all I have to tell you. We'll be moving on to the great state of Texas today. We're on our way to Austin to visit my cousin. Along the way, we'll stop in La Grange to see the Texas Quilt Museum. Cross your fingers and hope they'll let me take pictures there.

15 comments from clever and witty friends:

Betty said...

You could call the coin holder a "Cash Cat" for an alternate alliteration. See what I did there? HeHe

Creative Latitude said...

Definitely a walk down memory lane. Cute post.


WoolenSails said...

We didn't get hot lunch, it was rare and I would rather have had the school lunch, lol.
You get really creative with your meals, I don't have enough space so we always prepare ahead of time.


Vroomans' Quilts said...

He-he - I remember with my kids we had a 'clean the fridge' meal once a week. A challenge for sure. Oh, I like the Cash Cat idea and this is a cut project to even use fabric scraps.

gpc said...

What a lovely memory of your mom, no doubt the source of your remarkable creativity. My mother made the worst school lunches ever, but for one shining year in 1st grade, for whatever reason, I got to buy school lunch. I was half in love with the cook, a large smiling woman who really wanted us to like what she made. She introduced me to Johnny Cake and even gave me the recipe, which is written in industrial sizes so I've never made it, but it is still the benchmark for my cornbread. And oh tupelo honey. I always loved the song and was thrilled on one louisiana swamp tour to see a tupelo tree with a hive in residence. Sweet.

Lynette said...

The money mouse sounds so cute. I am pathetic in the kitchen, from planning to execution. It's a good thing eveyone here is an adult now, and can pitch in. heh. I still love reading your cooking shares - and actually, we periodically make one of the recipes you shared quite a while ago. It was ribs cooked in the crock pot with a whole bottle of wine. We switched over to roasts or thick steak instead of ribs, and the name in our house morphed from Cat's Awesome Meat to Vampire Steak after using a wine labeled "Vampire". But it still makes me think of you every time I make it. :) I've never made pecan pie, despite living in the south for 25 years!

Kate said...

You could call a cat version a Kitty Cat (like 'put money in the kitty'?) Glad to see your menfolk enjoying the sunshine and you enjoying the recipes. Say hi to my husband in Austin!

Teresa aka MarieSews said...

Freezer Soup....that's what my mom called it. All the leftovers dumped into a pot of tongue broth (yes, we ate cow's tongue - it was cheaper than chicken :)) broth. The tongue broth was leftover from cooking the tongue.

If we spotted Mom making freezer soup we very quickly got ourselves invited to dinner at a friend's house :).

Fruity, yet selfless....maybe from a BBC show called Posh Nosh. Very funny mock cooking show.

Immensely enjoying the armchair travels :).

crazy quilter said...

I had hot lunches too as a kid but that was because our cafeteria food was actually quite good. I was lucky when I had 3 extra cents to get an extra hot roll and butter! Yum I can still smell them cooking ...lunch was 27 cents when I went to elementary school and my Mom pinned it to my slip so It did not get lost. No backpacks in my day, so we carried our books in our arms... Glad you are on your way to my home state
I don't know if they let you take pictures at the Quilt Museum but I understand it is worth the trip, enjoy..

Brown Family said...

Those dishes all look very tasty! Those rigs are huge! I once saw one being towed in at Port Isabel. It was amazing to watch. I have never seen Tupelo honey, I get a local no name honey here!

piecefulwendy said...

I'm pretty sure we had some much more descriptive names for the Friday glop. Haha. And now, when I taste test, I'm going to think of you two and "fruity, yet selfless". Thanks for the chuckle. Enjoy your travels!

Susan said...

Using up what is in the refrigerator so you can fill it up again is like using your fabric stash so you can buy more fabric. Got to keep that stash full.

When I was in elementary school, they did not serve lunch. You either brought your lunch, went home to eat or went without. I only lived a half block from school so went home to eat. We only had a half hour. Once or twice a year the school would have what they called a hot dog day. For a dime you could get a hot dog, potato chips and milk.

QuiltGranma said...

"fruity yet selfless..." reminds me of Meg Ryan's line in French Kiss about the wine, but really describing herself.

cash mouse... make one in shape of cow, and you have a Cash Cow!

Will miss you while you are gone from us!

quiltzyx said...

I like "cash cat" too! Fun memory. I think brown-bagged it most of the time. I do remember that my favorite "bought" school lunch was the "Tuna Boat"! Open-face tuna on a roll, with a little flag on a toothpick. Still love tuna sandwiches. And now I'm hungry, and I another couple hours to go at work! Thanks Barbara.

It's funny, I just passed a house the other day on my way home that had a sign out front advertising honey. I may have to go by on my lunch hour & see what they have.

Dar said...

This post was full of interesting things. Loved seeing how you made the leftovers into new dishes, very creatively, I must say. And the memory of buying lunches at school brought to mind my experiences too. You do make me laugh with your descriptions of all your fun activities on this wonderful trip. I have relatives in Austin too and I visited about 7 years ago for a cousin's wedding, set on Lake Travis. Enjoy.