Writing My Life

Now and Then


Food Diary – an Unpublished Post from the Past

Dear Readers – I stumbled upon this entry I wrote in April 2010 but did not post. I still think it’s pretty funny and a sad true story – as least as far as I can remember. RBS

I have yet to figure out how to use WordPress pages. I’m not really sure what kinds of things you write on pages rather than posts. Pages are stationary, so I guess it’s like recording in stone – except you can delete them OR choose “private” rather than “public” visibility. At any rate, I thought maybe I should “page” recipes instead of posting them. Along with that, I thought I could record memories associated with food like I have been doing on recipe posts and  dreary diet pages.

Today, I whipped together my quick ‘n easy lasagna and I started wondering about the first time I tried this Italian dish. Mom didn’t serve it when I was growing up, so I kind of think I tasted lasagna when I went to Brigham Young University and roomed with Dalene, Lynelle, Janelle, Marilyn, and Cheryl. The 2 years I lived with those 5 taught me a lot about cooking. All were better chefs than I was – by a long shot.

We all chipped in $5 a week for food/dinners. Two would shop; two would cook; and two had the week off. Considering that $30 fed 6 girls, I’m amazed at how well we ate. Toast, cereal, and/or fruit were the breakfast mainstays, and most of the time we ate lunch on campus, but we all sat down for yummy dinners that included desserts.

Lynelle created my 2 favorite desserts – a frozen lime thingy and a layered, rainbow dessert to die for. I tried to make them a couple of times when I was first married, but they just didn’t taste as good. And the rainbow dish was so dang time-consuming because each layer had to chill before adding the next one.

It sort of looked like this minus the sun and rosette clouds. Really ghastly!

It sort of looked like this minus the sun and rosette clouds. Really ghastly!

I tried to keep up with my friends by cooking up some of Mom’s great dishes – the ones she DIDN’T use recipes for, like her chili. But EVERY attempt ended in disaster. One of the worst experiences is when I baked a cake – probably from a mix, but then I tried to make the frosting from powdered sugar, butter and milk. I didn’t have any directions, so I guessed at amounts. Most cooks know powdered sugar icing needs VERY LITTLE milk, but I DIDN’T know that. After emptying EVERY box of powdered sugar we had into the mixture to thicken it up, the concoction was still quite runny. And it looked and tasted rather blah, too. So what did I do? I decided to add a little flavoring and food coloring; but the only coloring was BLUE and the only flavoring was ROOT BEER – the kind used to make HOMEMADE ROOT BEER. In spite of the BYU blue tint,  it looked HORRIBLE and tasted WORSE! And, of course, it was supposed to be served at a church dinner for college students! I can’t remember if I was courageous enough to take it to the social or not, but if I did, I am sure not one person except the baker tried it. Yeccchhhhhhh!

Signing off for now,



Day 24 ~ Yammy Yums!

As the channel 2 news wrapped up, I told Hubby I’d hurry to bed as soon as I posted an entry about yams on my blog. His comments about the exciting topic were less that supportive, but hey! It’s day 24, and while one of my blogging friends is writing about monkeys, I’m at least focusing upon something related to Thanksgiving!! (Although I do have a good monkey story.)

A reasonable facsimile of Mom’s famous candied yams!

About those yams – well, today I worked in the office – as opposed to visiting schools – and overheard a discussion about an item on my colleague’s Thanksgiving menu: candied yams. Suddenly, I lost all interest in solving the problems of an online writing program as I listened to Lucy share the directions for candying yams.

While this intriguing topic doesn’t perk the interest of many people, it caught my attention because the description of her mom’s candied yams sounded like OUR Thanksgiving side-dish! This was startling because I have NEVER heard of any family who cooks up these tubers like my mom does.

A Google search will bring up recipes for candied yams, and I imagine that if I looked long and hard enough, I MIGHT find something close. But that hasn’t happened yet. The recipes I’ve found pale in comparison to Mom’s NON-recipe because they suggest that you candy the yams in the oven, or that you use CANNED yams – yucky! Every one also included melting marshmallows on top – no, No, NO!!! (I realize marshmallows and yams are a big part of many traditional turkey dinners, but NOT ours!)

Nevertheless, there was Lucy chattering away about how you precook the yams first, and then you peel them. Next, you melt butter over low heat in a large frying pan and add TONS of brown sugar until it dissolves into a RICH, caramel-like syrup – only REALLY thick. Finally, you place the sliced yams into the mixture and slowly coat each piece.

How could this be? I thought our yams were a deep, dark family secret as safely kept as the Colonel’s recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken. I couldn’t believe it! For years, I watched Dad carve the turkey while Mom slathered chunks of yams with the gooey substance mere minutes before we sat down to chow down. It was the LAST completed dish and one of, if not THE, favorite part of the entire meal. And now I questioned the originality of Mom’s NONrecipe for FAMOUS candied yams. I just assumed the dish was her creation alone because NO ONE ever served them to me – EVER!!!

But there it was. Evidence that sometime back in the 1940s or 50s a recipe for super sugary candied yams circulated neighborhoods, churches, and the food sections of newspapers. While others moved onto easier recipes – ones you could whip up in advance – our family – okay, AND Lucy’s, too – have hung onto the yummiest yam fixin’s in the world!


Bean Soup for the ????

I’ve been thinking more upon food – don’t know why it’s been so much on my mind the past couple of days. Last evening when I couldn’t get onto the Internet, I created an entry about making bean soup but other food ideas stood in the way. I still think it’s a fun essay, so here it ’tis. (Well, it will be posted soon. My cute grand-daughter needs her sleep, so I’m kicked out of the computer/bedroom AGAIN! Everyday blogging ain’t easy!)

One Tuesday, I hurried home to fix dinner for hubby for the second night in a row! Feeling just a bit guiltyabout how rarely I prepare meals, I committed to cook more than once or twice a week. Furthermore, I promised myself that I would whip up something a little more nourishing than grated cheese with salsa over tortillas – a staple around our house. In spite of good intentions, however, I stumbled over the same block – I had NO clue what to fix!

I realize this problem is related to my organization-impaired personality. I so rarely plan menus that I can’t remember the last time I pulled out the cook books, listed meal ideas, and then created a grocery list. Instead, my modus operandi is to search the cupboards and fridge for inspiration. Believe me there is little in my kitchen that ignites imagination.

Once in a while, I notice an ingredient here or there that makes me think, “Perhaps . . . .“ Unfortunately, a quick check in the crisper drawer or the pantry destroys the moment. Not enough a major ingredient moves me onto plan B.

Now plan B usually means substituting an item in my cupboard for the one listed in the recipe – IF I’m following a recipe. Substituting ingredients is a dangerous decision that rarely works for me. One of my worst concoctions was root beer frosting – I subbed root beer flavoring, the sort used to make homemade root beer, for vanilla. Because the final color was a yukky brown, I threw in some blue food coloring. The poor cake looked TERRIBLE and TASTED worse! But that was then . . .

That particular Tuesday night, things went a bit better. After toying with the idea of making gourmet potatoes, a real UNfavorite of Hubby’s, I decided upon potato soup. I dusted off a couple of cook books to find a recipe, but all required too many ingredients that I’d have to substitute. But I didn’t give up! I turned to the Internet to Google “quick and easy soups.” A couple of clicks later, just a few more minutes of indecision, and I decided upon Quick and Easy Bean Soup – I’d only have to substitute 3 ingredients. YaY!

As a kid, I always loved my mom’s Navy Bean Soup! As a married woman, I tried to recreate her masterpiece, but the soup was one of her many non-recipe dishes. Mom would throw together this and that, add salt, and YUM, a great meal! To recreate a non-recipe is very hard, especially for a non-cook.

When I looked over the quick and easy bean soup recipe, I didn’t anticipate that it would taste anything like Mom’s. I was just happy that I had 4 of the 7 ingredients! Well, I threw it all together, and it turned out GREAT! But what was even more rewarding is that it tasted like a chunkier versions of Mom’s!

Here is the recipe I found from Cooks.com. My substitutes are in parentheses.

2 cans Campbell’s Bean and Bacon soup (I was afraid this ingredient would rob the soup of its homemade taste, but it did NOT!)
2 cans pinto beans (subbed 1 big, fat can of red kidney beans)
2 cans great Northern beans (subbed 2 cans of small white beans)
1 pound link sausage [beef or pork] sliced (subbed 1 medium slice of left over ham, diced; 1 4 oz. package of Canadian ham, diced; 1/3 pkg. of thin sliced gourmet ham for sandwiches, diced – that’s all that was left.)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (1/2 t. garlic powder)
1 tbsp. olive oil

Sauté onion, garlic and sausage in olive oil. Add soup, beans, and 2 soup cans water. Simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. Good with Corn Bread. (I did serve soup with corn bread made from Marie Calendar’s packaged mix, and I didn’t have to sub ANYTHING because all it calls for is WATER!)

I have no idea what the original recipe would taste like, but I am GRATEFUL that MC Woodard submitted it to Cook.com!