Tomato Macaroni

Tomato macaroni in bowlThis is essentially homemade Beefaroni.  When I was a kid, this was what I liked best that Mom made. It was a treat! I had no idea how easy it was to do.

I’ve recreated this recipe based on what Mom told me: “you cook macaroni and hamburg and pour in tomato juice and heat it.”  Okay! Mine has never tasted as good as Mom’s, so I’m still missing something – maybe just her touch with it. Anyway, this is getting pretty close.

These amounts make a large potful – maybe 6-8 servings. You can half or double it.

My Mom’s Tomato Macaroni

Cook 2 cups macaroni in salted water (undercook slightly).  Drain and return to pot.

Cooked ground beef added to cooked macaroniBrown 1 lb ground beef with or without chopped onions.  Put cooked beef in pot with macaroni, over med. to low heat.

Add tomato juice.  Stir, adding juice until proportions appear balanced (2/3 to 3/4 of a large can).  Add a can of tomato soup and mix in.  That gives the sauce a thicker consistency to coat the macaroni.

Tomato macaroni in pot, cookedIf you want your veggies right in the bowl, add frozen peas or green beans. Mom never did that, but it’s good.

Add a few drops of Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste.  You can add a bit of hot sauce if you want a bit of zing.

Cook until heated through, maybe 20-30 minutes.  You don’t want to overcook or the macaroni will go mushy.

Serve.  Parmesan cheese can be sprinkled on top.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (May 29/11)

Crazy Ladies

Fiz going off on Charlotte. She’s in Charlotte’s house telling her exactly what she thinks of her and telling her to stay away from her man! Wonderful. Nice to see Fiz back. No more mealy-mouthing, just saying what she really thinks. Poor Charlotte cowering, obviously not used to being talked to this way.Fiz in front of beads and mirror in charlotte's house

Charlotte’s house

It’s one shot that I particularly liked. Fiz, with a curtain of glass pendants, crystals, whatever they are hanging in front of a mirror. Fiz looks out of place in this house, and that shot captures it perfectly.

Charlotte's house - fiz at doorWe’ve never seen Charlotte’s house before, and it’s absolutely perfect. At first, the tight shot when Fiz is going to the door, I thought it was a small brick cottage. The flowers, the low front porch, the trellis work – I knew it was Charlotte’s.

Later, when they show a long shot of it, it’s a rowhouse, plain Row of houses, including Charlotte's housefronted, just like its neighbours. Not very interesting architecturally, kind of run-down and looking like they’re divided into apartments. But Charlotte has made the front of hers look like a little crafty type cottage. Macrame plant hangers wouldn’t be out of place.

The inside doesn’t really look like that, no Indian print cotton spreads, no brass or overabundance of ferns. Only some crochet work and the glass beads. Lovely with the light reflecting through them, and absolutely right for someone of Charlotte’s style, post-hippie in age and era. And not Fiz at all.

Charlotte cowering in smashed up living roomFiz is doing wonderfully at terrifying the real story out of Charlotte. And she’s just about to get it all when she keeps talking when she should shut up.

“I know what you’re going to say”

A character saying what they think the other person is going to say is a device often seen in American soaps to keep a deception going. It’s often very apparent and clunky, so on top of your disappointment that the truth didn’t come out, you’ve just Charlotte, off the hook about Colinwatched a really stupid bit of writing. Fiz saying “what about Colin? Where’s he gone? Charlotte:  “He’s –” Fiz: “Has he gone back to Canada?” Charlotte, realization and relief flowing over her, “Yes, he’s gone back to Canada.” Big exhale from me, oh Fiz, why did you say that! Then Charlotte tells her the “big truth” – John is still planning to use Colin’s identity to teach.

John telling Fizz it was a stupid planBack home, telling John about her visit, she does the same thing; “she told me about your little secret.” But she keeps going, telling him she knows he hasn’t quit teaching. Huge relief for John, when he’d also nearly told her the real truth. Again, the deception last-minute-save done very well.

John saying 'it was Scott'Then Friday, for me, a little aha moment. John and Charlotte moaning about the predicament they’ve got themselves in. Charlotte says, “Shakespeare got it right, didn’t he – ‘oh what a tangled web we weave.’” John barely looks up, “Walter Scott, in a book called Marmion. Not Shakespeare.” Oh, I just love him, deranged as he is.

Oprah’s Last Show

Today is the final Oprah Winfrey Show on regular network tv.  I’m very sorry to see her go.  I Oprah - the Farewell show (www.oprah.com)can watch her on her own network, but I probably won’t.  I’ve seen the titles of some of its lineup – a little too much health, beauty and talk for my tastes.

Oprah was the only talk show I’d sometimes turn on just to see what she was saying.  I started watching because she came on after General Hospital.  If her intro looked interesting, I’d leave the tv on.  I first met Dr. Phil on her show.  I liked him there; not so much in the larger doses you got when he got his own show.

There were actors on her show that surprised and impressed me with their intelligence and passion.  Politicians, community leaders, writers – Oprah brought out the best in them.  You felt like you got to know something of the person beneath the patter and party line.

Her audiences often astounded me – the cheering and chanting, the hysteria that surrounded her entrance.  On her ‘giveaway’ shows, I found the audiences frightening.  But in the safety of my house, I enjoyed the excitement of the free whatevers too.

Oprah in our social lexicon

Oprah in Sydney, Australia, Dec. 17 2010 (www.thestar.com/travel/asiapacificBut the most amazing thing is how Oprah became part of our social lexicon and arbiter of societal tastes and awareness.  And it seemed genuine.  I never felt I was getting ‘sold’ something by her.

And I listened to her and her guests.  I wrote down a list of the staples that ought to be in a woman’s wardrobe as outlined by an Oprah guest.  Thanks to Oprah, I know how bras and jeans ought to fit.  I remember bits of financial planning advice from her show.  I remember when she talked about staying as an overnight guest with people and her horror at sleeping on pillows that were a couple years old.  Although I didn’t replace my pillows, when I fluff them up I think ‘I’d have to buy new ones if Oprah came to stay.’

Oprah’s power in literature through her Book Club is impressive.  Increased book sales and the simple fact that she causes people to read is significant when reading seems to be waning as a pastime.

Her show on puppy mills brought awareness to the general public of this horrific abuse of animals for profit.  An animal lover herself, she did this show in response to a call from the public.  Bill Smith, a man who advocates against puppy mills, asked her to do a show so she did.

The Big Give: Anti-The Apprentice?

Oprah's Big Give www.tvsquad.com/photos/reality-tv/780677/A spin-off show she did was one of my favourites.  Perhaps in response to Donald Trump’s The Apprentice, where contestants fight and claw to gain for themselves the Big Prize, Oprah’s Big Give turned that premise on its end.  In The Big Give, contestants fought and clawed to give money away to people who need it.  The one who gave away the most won.  I enjoy The Apprentice, but I loved The Big Give, and I respected Oprah for thinking of that twist on it – fight to give.

Oprah has influenced our television culture and society as a whole.  And she’s done it as a woman of thought and principle.  I wish her the very best.

Pickled Eggs

pickled eggs (from getcracking.ca)My sister told me an easy way to make pickled eggs. She uses a large jar with a regular style lid because they go through them quickly. If you figure you’ll have yours longer, probably best to use a jar with a sealer lid. You can make larger or smaller quantities, just adjust your ingredients accordingly.

How to make

Hardboil 12 eggs. Peel and prick all around with fork. Half fill a sterilized jar (1 qt size) with white vinegar, 1 tbsp salt, 2 tbsp sugar. Shake to dissolve. Add eggs, and add vinegar to fill jar to top. Put lid on and let sit a week.

The photo came from Get Cracking, where you can get lots of egg recipes and information.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (May 22/11)

Farce

John Stape is making progress.  He now isn’t just teaching about farce, he’s living one.  It wouldn’t feel that way for him, of course. He has to figure out how to quietly dispose of a John looking at Colin, dead - the farce beginsbody while everyone is everywhere around him.  But for us, the audience, the latter half of the week has been a lovely tour de farce.

The real Colin Fishwick has removed the need to return his identity to him. He dropped dead in John and Fiz’s house.  After he got a beating from the cuckolded husband, he came to John to complain.  Charlotte happened to be there and when she poked Fiz at party, checking her watchhim to emphasize a point about how difficult all this was for her and John, Colin keeled over.  Dead as a mackerel.  John was supposed to be at the café for Chesney’s 16th birthday party, Charlotte was supposed to be not there, and now they have to deal quickly with a corpse.

John conveniently found a carpet upstairs so they rolled up Colin to take him to Charlotte’s car.  Lots of people on the street, spilling out from the café.  Norris in the alley complaining about what people put in their garbage bins, while John and Charlotte surreptitiously load Colin in one.

Rita extends hand to greet CharlotteThey get him in the bin and to the curb by the car. Then we have a lovely laugh out loud moment.  Rita stops for a chat.  Leans across the top of the bin, laying her arm on the carpet bundle. “Hello, love, I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure” she says to Charlotte.

Charlotte, with deer in the headlights look, by binShe looks more closely at the carpet.  John explains he inherited it from his grandmother and it was too big for their place.

“It’s a beauty” she says as she strokes the pile.  I was holding my breath, fearing she was going to say ‘that would look lovely in my flat, d’ye mind if I take a Rita admires the carpetlook?’  John forestalls that by saying “Charlotte’s having it.”

After a number of misadventures, they end up putting poor Colin in a huge hole in the floor of the factory construction site.  They’re not planning to bury him there, only because they have no way of doing that.  It’s just a temporary hiding spot for him.

John looks at hole in factory floorBut as of the end of the week, John hasn’t been able to retrieve him.  Charlotte, who thought this was such a splendid adventure, is having a meltdown and telling John “I should have known you were a lunatic.”

Go Paperless!

Utility companies, governments, banks – every agency that sends us bills or statements advertising flyer for "go paperless"keeps telling us to make it easier for ourselves, save trees, go green, go paperless.  Make it easier for whom, save what trees?

I’m going to want a paper copy of those statements anyway.  So I’m going to have to print them.  So it will be paper I buy instead of paper bought by the sender.  Same number of trees die.

It would save those companies and agencies the costs of postage.  And if I were promised that those savings would be passed along to consumers in the form of lower rates or rebate, I might do it.  I need something to compensate me for the time I would have to spend opening the emails and printing them before I stick them in my file.

Paperless necessities vs. junk paper sprees

I also would need a guarantee that the useless, unwanted, paper-wasting promotions and special offers that I receive in the mail from those selfsame companies and agencies would also stop.

magazines and 'offers' sent by mailThese photographs are of the unsolicited, unwanted, tree- and time-consuming junk that came in my mail and in my newspaper on one day.  A letter from Bell telling me about their wonderful internet provider offer.  I’ve received hundreds of these from Bell in the past couple years.  Each one requires postage, each one contributes to the death of a tree.

Each one of these missives requires me to open it, remove the plastic window from the envelope, tear off the parts with my name to be put in the shredder and the rest to be put in the recycling bin.  Then I have to bundle all this unwanted crap in a tidy way and put it in the blue bin.  So that big polluting trucks can pick it up and take to a recycling facility to do whatever it is they flyers from one small newspaperactually do with McDonald’s coupons and pizza offers and letters from Bell Canada.

Notice the magazine in the photo above.  It’s Glow, a beauty magazine from Shopper’s Drug Mart.  I don’t want it, I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t subscribe.  I get it free because I have an Optimum card.  The card gives me a benefit – points that get me free stuff.  The first time I got the magazine – a “gift issue” – I thought, ok, they’re just fishing for subscribers.  I won’t get another one.  Next month, there it is.  Take the hint:  if I wanted it, I’d subscribe.  I signed up for a points card, not a magazine.

No worry about using paper for promotions

If I wanted new products or services from Bell or Rogers or my bank, I would contact them.  I’m already a customer!  If Bell, Rogers or my bank wants to save their time and money by not sending me the one piece of paper that I actually need from them – my monthly statement – they can also stop cluttering up my mail box and life with junk I don’t want.  And I don’t want emails from them either.  I can get rid of emails faster than paper.  But  I don’t want to clutter my inbox or mind with junk either.

If companies and agencies are concerned about saving trees, condense your statements so that a standard one fits on one sheet of paper.  Bell is bad for this; the layout unnecessarily uses 2 double-sided sheets.  Also, quit sending junk.  That would really save trees.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (May 15/11)

Meowrr!

Lots of ‘cats’ on the Street this week!  So many scenes to choose from.  I had one picked 'cats' Audrey telling Gail off at partythen saw Friday’s episode, which gave me another two options. So here are the runners-up, in order of appearance.

Audreh’s birthday party at the Rovers.  The whole thing was wonderful, but Audrey telling Gail off was superb.  “You don’t exactly Claudia and Rita, listening to Audreypick ‘em do you?  Murderer, followed by a suicidal drug addict.”  In the middle of their catfight, a hush came over the crowd.  When Audrey realized everyone was listening, including the lovely and plastered Rita and Claudia (gigolo co-clients), she told the entire room exactly what she thought about her life, and theirs.

Gail, aghast at her mother telling her off - againThen, Friday, when Gail and Audrey were making amends, it didn’t exactly work out the way they planned.  Audrey told Gail “I reckon there’s a great big poster of you on the wall in the local loony bin with your mobile number underneath”.  Gail made a wonderful moue of shock; her eyes and mouth equally round.  “How dare you!  I’ve not long buried the man I loved.”

Sally and Molly in shopAnd then the prize cat of ‘cats’.  Sally is back!  Oh, not just physically, but the true essence of Sally.   In her new running togs, she popped into the shop for a bottle of water to keep herself hydrated.  Molly, with rounded belly of possible Kevin baby, compares men with training dogs, “promise them something at the end of it and they’ll do anything [pause] – a pint usually did the trick,” when Sally bemoaned getting Kev to run with her.  But that, funny as it was, was only the warm-up.

Sally showing opinion of small housesWhen Molly says that Eileen is interested in buying her and Tyrone’s house, Sally gives a slight shudder.  “Those tiny yards!  I could never go back now, after having a garden.  I mean, where would I put the chimnia?”

Oh, Sally is a nightmare of pretentiousness.  I didn’t realize until I Sally bemoaning tiny yardsheard these words come out of her mouth how much I’d missed her. Now, with Eileen wanting their house and Molly desperately wanting to move, Tyrone desperately not, Kevin keeping his head low and Miss Sally back and firing on all cylinders, it’s going to be fun.

Friday the 13th Port Dover

bike and sidecar, with dog, Port Dover, Friday the 13thBucket list item checked off.  The bikes at Port Dover.  Beautiful weather and the only Friday the 13th in all of 2011.  I was a little nervous about it, I get panicky in crowds.  I figured this was going to be a crowd.  And it was, but there were no humungous knots of humanity that you couldn’t get away from easily.

Friday the 13th Yorkie with a new HD hatIt was just about walking around, looking at bikes, talking to people about bikes and dogs.  Dogs got a lot of attention.

The whole thing seemed very well organized.  There was a parking lot in a field near Port Dover.  No problem getting a space.  School buses were waiting to be filled up with people.  The bus driver greeted us and coaxed Leo up the stairs.  He was nervous about it, but soon decided this was fun.  Lots of people petting him.

Friday the 13th good on foot too

bike and side car, wrought iron frameBus dropped us in the centre of town, then it was just wowwowwow look at the beautiful bikes!  Regular bikes of all makes, but a lot of Harleys.  Bikes that were works of art in their paint jobs or their entire structure.  Bikes parked with ‘for sale’ signs on them.  Bike dealers.  Every kind of Harley merch you could want.  People wearing commemorative t-shirts from past PD13 events, from Sturgis and other Harley events and clubs.  Biker colours.   Cops on motorcycles, bicycles, foot and in patrol cars.  Almost no other cars on the streets.  Just bikes.

The whole downtown and lakefront was filled with bikes.  And people.  But it was easy to find a quiet shady spot for a little break, but you still could watch bikes.

Then when Charlie was looking like he was going to go in search of the Simcoe Humane Society booth (where we’d bought them scarves), we figured it was time to leave.  Found the bus stop again, buses were waiting.  Leo jumped right up the steps this time, and back to the parking lot.

Nearly home, we saw this sign just outside St. Thomas.  The road warriors passing along #3 Highway tomorrow are welcome at this house. Nice.

The Death of Soaps

In April, ABC announced the cancellation of All My Children and One soaps AMC and OLTL title cards x'd outLife to Live.  They will be replaced by a cooking show and a health and beauty show.  Wow, we need more of those.  Maybe they can get Dr. Gupta.  We don’t see him on tv enough.  Maybe they could roll all the talk, reality, health and cooking shows into one and have Sharon Osborne and Jamie Oliver judging people while they sing and cook and Dr. Gupta can measure cholesterol levels.  Any of the gazillion talk show hosts could narrate.  They could just run it straight for 4 hours every afternoon.  Low production costs, so it would work for American network daytime executives.

Why are American soap operas dropping like flies?  President of ABC Daytime Brian Frons says people want different types of daytime viewing.  He says the ratings for soaps are low and the costs are high.  The strong soaps will survive, he says.  I hope he realizes that before too long, only the strong food/health/beauty/talk/reality shows will survive too.  He’s adding two newbies to an already overcrowded screen.  Meanwhile, over 40 years of viewing and production loyalty has been chucked down the drain.

Soap fans do not want to watch beauty makeovers or cooking tips.  Maybe they do, in addition to their stories but not instead of.  The whole point of soaps is that they continue and build.  You follow people’s life and get to know them.  Soap viewers want continuity, not cheap tricks.  We know the denizens of Pine Valley and Llanview – what they’re like, what they’re likely to do and not do.  Inexplicable changes in character, too rapid an introduction of new characters and scenarios don’t go over well with long-time Susan Lucci starfans.  We want to see the full range of characters, those who’ve been around a long time as well as the new ones.  These are points of soap creation that used to be the guiding light, so to speak, for soap writers and producers. Sadly, they seem to have been forgotten in the past 20 years or so.

‘Monkey see, monkey do’ became the new mantra – if a plot works on one show, copy it whether it fits well or not.  If ratings drop, bring in somebody, anybody to make a splashy entrance, whether they fit in the ongoing stories or not.  Bring in a new headwriter or executive producer with a new ‘vision’, whether it fits this soap or not.  Such knee-jerk reaction to soaps creation hasn’t worked.  Soap fans did leave.  I know – I’m one.

Leaving the soaps

From the early 1980s until about 2 years ago, I watched the soaps.  Several of them, with General Hospital and The Young and the Restless being my mainstays.  I taped, I watched in real time – whatever worked.  Then I gradually stopped.  It wasn’t that I was gone or didn’t have time.  It was that I realized that I just wasn’t interested anymore.  I would watch at the kitchen table and play solitaire in the commercial breaks.  When I realized that I was no longer stopping my game when the show came back on, I knew there was a problem.

General Hospital was the first to go.  I just got tired of the mob stuff.  I loved The Sopranos, then airing on network prime-time, but I didn’t want to see The Sopranos on my soap.  Later I stopped watching Y&R, don’t know why really.  I guess it’s like falling out of love; once you start getting disenchanted, it’s hard to stop.

I haven’t replaced my soaps with cooking or health shows.  The tv is now just off during the day.  Until Coronation Street, the UK soap, comes on.  No sign of it being cancelled, 50 years after starting.  Why?  If I knew the answer to that, I hope I’d be getting the big bucks American daytime executives are.  But I’ve got some theories.  “Tune in next time for ‘as the soaps die’…”

eBay forand

Cooking: Basics

Cook - xmas dinner 2000I’m a self-taught cook, and not a great one. But I enjoy it, find it relaxing (usually) and like to experiment.  I have cookbooks and use them, but also know you can take ingredients and come up with something delicious and all your own.  When you do, write down what you did so you can make it again!

My mother always made home-cooked meals.  She didn’t enjoy cooking and hated a messy kitchen.  So baking cookies with Mom didn’t happen.  We were allowed to hang around as long as we didn’t get in her way and we got to clean out the icing bowl when she was done.  When I moved out on my own, it would have helped if I had some kitchen experience.  But with the help of friends and cookbooks, I learned.  That was fun too.

Cooking potluck

When my mother realized I was a pretty good cook and, more amazing to her, that I enjoyed it, she said “well, I don’t know where you learned that! Sure wasn’t from me.”  No, Mom, it wasn’t.

Mom taught me about cooking

But I learned what a good home-cooked meal tasted like from her, and that you can make them from simple ingredients without spending a lot of time at it.  I also learned that, even if she tells you exactly how she did it, you can never make one of your mother’s meals and have it taste as good as hers did.  But that’s ok too.  It keeps childhood and your mother special for you.

My mother’s cooking method showed me how easy it is to clean up dishes and counters as you go along.  Rinse and stack cooking utensils and wipe counters while you’re waiting for something to finish.  You see the value when you sit down for your meal in a relatively clean kitchen, and afterwards when you don’t have to face a splattered counter full of pots and ladles with congealed food dried on them.

When I started cooking, I was a student or working at low-paid jobs. I had little money. But, since Mom didn’t rely on processed or ‘fast-food’ for our meals, it plum tomatoes ripeningnever crossed my mind to do so. I cooked cheaply with real ingredients. Why buy canned kidney beans for chili if you can get dried ones for less and just remember to soak them before cooking? That made economic sense and I’ve learned that it makes nutritional sense too.

If you cook from the ‘rawest’ form, you control what goes into it more than if you buy already processed products. Cooking from ‘scratch’ but using packaged vegetables and seasonings might make a meal home-cooked, but the sodium and preservatives in it is dictated by the manufacturers, not you.

A book for a cook

The Joy of Cooking
Amazon link for original Joy

The indispensable cookbook for me is The Joy of Cooking. I like the older version, just in case I ever need to know how to cook squirrel.

I took the top photo of a Christmas dinner made by my husband, sister and me. The middle photo is of a potluck meal provided mainly by my paternal aunts and cousins. They like to cook. My father-in-law photographed his end-of-season plum tomatoes. The Amazon link below left is to the “new” Joy version (‘lighter’ cooking, no squirrel). On right is a basic cookbook that sounds good for those who really do not know how to cook.