Sunday, February 28, 2016

Nana Time (subtitle: coaxing meals from near-empty pantries)


Anticipating my granddaughter's sleepover, I assumed we'd go out for sushi dinner last night and then out for bacon and eggs or pancakes this morning.  I'd underestimated how much she'd been looking forward to playing with the dollhouse that stays at Nana and Granddad's....and how much she wanted us to paint together (I bought her a travelling kit of watercolours for her birthday and we haven't had much suitable time together since). She really didn't want to waste any time outside the apartment.

Trouble was, the cupboards were pretty bare, and a surprise visit yesterday afternoon by another granddaughter, th three-year old newly returned from Hawaii, scuttled the grocery-shopping plans.

What's a Nana to do? Macaroni and cheese, the 7-year old hoped? Only spaghetti here, no milk for cheese sauce... But you have butter? And some Parmesan cheese? And Nana, spaghetti is just like macaroni.... True enough, so cacio e pepe (without the "pepe" in deference to sensitive taste buds). Healthy green fibre added thanks to a few stalks of broccoli left in the crisper.

But this morning, not enough milk for the muesli, only a few slices of Squirrelly bread in the freezer, no eggs at all, I couldn't see how we'd avoid having to head out in the rain, even though I knew she'd prefer to stay in her pj's until the parents picked her up. 

And then I remembered that I hadn't thrown out the "expired" milk and that we might not have eggs, but I had a jar of mayonnaise. And I had, months ago, tucked some leftover slices of bacon in the freezer. When Not-soLittle-Anymore Girl woke up (finally!) at 9, I had a plan she approved of. 

While she played with her dollhouse, I mixed together 
1 cup flour
1teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon mayonnaise (my standard in-a-pinch substitute for an egg, a trick I learned in a long-ago cooking class)
1 cup old/soured milk
Whisked together and cooked in one frying pan while bacon was sizzling one burner over. Luckily, the cupboards did yield an unopened bottle of maple syrup.

The painting got rather short shrift, but we did manage to do some. As I walked her down to meet her ride at the back lane, and she forked bundles of cold spaghetti into her mouth (at the last minute, she remembered we'd tucked the leftovers away and decided she was hungry again!) she wondered why she only got to stay one night. Perfect, right? Leave 'em wanting more....
(Other highlights, in case you're interested, included Facetiming the cousin in Rome who continued to insist that Nola was wearing lipstick, inducing all kinds of giggles; some attempts at canon-singing, thwarted by lack of a choir director and Nana's lack of exposure to the correct lyrics and melody; and a home theatre viewing (i.e. MacBook in Nana's bed) of An American Tail. I last saw this almost 30 years ago, with my own kids, and while some of the ethnic stereotyping grates even more than it might have then, it stands up well, especially for a young viewer partial to musicals.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I think there's a couch and a cup of tea for a Nana who didn't run today but feels as if she's had a good workout nonetheless.

Any "the cupboards are bare but I don't want to go out" solutions you'd care to share? Or any other comments? Or are you too busy getting organized to watch the Oscars.... 




30 comments:

  1. Has to be pasta or risotto when the cupboard is bare. What goes with or in remains to be seen but I usually have tinned tomatoes, garlic and onions about the place. Bacon, ham, cheese, leeks, peppers may or may not feature. If it's just me then a tin of baked beans with black pepper always hits the spot.

    Have never come across mayo as emergency sub for egg before but it sounds a winner and I'll file that one away.

    Lucky Nola and her Nana sleepover. What wonderful memories you are creating for her.

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    1. Pasta or risotto -- yes, me too! And if I had to, the tinned beans or a can of sardines...
      The mayo works well for cakes or cookies -- best thing I got out of that long-ago cooking class!
      I feel pretty lucky about the sleepovers myself -- so great to have the time.

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  2. No Oscars for me - I have another set of discs of the Danish series Borgen to enjoy!
    It sounds like you had a pretty busy weekend, with visits from two grandchildren. I think you did very well in the catering department - inventive! Thanks for the mayo tip - I didn't know that one. I am pretty sure that you wore off and energy that might have caused a need for a run. Kick back and enjoy that tea. You've earned it!

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    1. Borgen's on my list -- I'll have to get it from iTunes though.
      I took your advice and just relaxed yesterday -- thank you! Storing up energy for a busy day today and then another grandkid gig tomorrow. ;-)

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  3. You did well to come up with those meals! The fact that your granddaughter preferred staying in with you is a testament to your work in building a great relationship! Kudos, Nana! Enjoy your tea!

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    1. It really surprised me, honestly -- she just seems to love to get set in with her imagination and play a storyline through with her toys. But I'd like to take a little credit as well, so thank you!

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  4. What a perfect weekend!You are very interesting Nana,giving her all your attention when you are together,that's so valuable,so she loves you and time spent with you.
    I always have tinned tomatos and spaghetti,maybe some tinned tuna,like Ceri
    Thank you for the tip how to cook without the eggs!
    Dottoressa

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    1. Thanks! -- the time she's willing to spend with her Nana is probably peaking now, as she heads more and more into peer-group attachments. For now, I'm taking advantage.
      Those are good staples to have on hand, especially if you also have good olive oil and some garlic. The mayonnaise works well because, of course, it's mostly eggs -- the trick has saved me a few times through the years.

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  5. So ingenious! Living in the heart of Little Italy means no bare cupboard blues, no matter what weather, but I keep a couple of cans of good-quality canned soup (but good old Campbell's Tomato Rice is just fine) in the cupboard) and also frozen packages of chicken and vegetable broth. That was a lifesaver when a visiting guest came down with a serious bug and could not really eat.

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    1. We're very close to shops here in Vanc'r as well, although our neighbourhood doesn't have the gourmet delights of Montreal's Little Italy. I'm not sure she would have been willing to get out of her pyjamas even for a short walk, though. Canned soup is a smart staple to have on hand, At home (not here in the city apartment, where the pantry is miniscule and unreliable), I almost always have stock frozen and could make a Stone Soup in a pinch. . . Tough to have to nurse a visiting guest. . . our standby for tummy bugs, or at least for the recovery period, has always been Lipton's Chicken Noodle Soup. I know, but that's just how it is! ;-)

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  6. Would have never thought of the mayo substitute ! I will remember that, thank you!

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  7. Brilliant! And I join the others in thanking you for the mayonnaise tip - it makes sense, doesn't it?

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    1. Yes, it does make sense -- although perhaps I should have stressed that salad dressings like "Miracle Whip" won't work. The substitution has to be mayonnaise made with eggs, the link you've obviously understood.

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  8. Nana time sounds just perfect to me ...these are the days that memories are made of. It must be lovely to have these times just the two of you.
    Thanks for the mayo tip ...
    Regarding your comment about how I deal with insomnia ... Luckily it doesn't happen to often but did again last night. No idea why :) I used to be frustrated and restless, so I'd get up and do things or read but I'd always get up. Now I tend just to relax and enjoy lying in bed :) although I may tiptoe down for a hot chocolate to bring back to bed and read my kindle or ipad whilst trying not to wake hubby! Rooms cool, beds comfy and warm and most of all I try just to relax and enjoy being tucked up in bed. Then, like you if the opportunity arises I ll try to have a short 30 or 40 minute doze in the afternoon
    Rosie

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    1. A cool room! That's key, isn't it? Too often, with the woodstove, our room ends up being too warm.
      Sounds as if you have some good solutions for your insomnia -- and a patient or deep-sleeping husband! (I sometimes have a hot milk with cinnamon but would worry about the caffeine in the cocoa -- ditto, reading on a backlit screen seems to stimulate more than on paper). Aren't afternoon naps the best?!

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    2. Yes, turning off the heating in the bedroom made a big difference. I also like to open the window for a while, to let fresh air in, just before we go to bed. I wonder about the caffeine in cocoa too as I don't have any other caffeinated drinks but it feels like such a treat, that I'm sure it helps me relax. I turn the brightness level on the ipad so low that it's almost at nil and as far as I can tell it doesn't seem to cause me further problems. Although all the research says we shouldn't read them for an hour or so before sleeping. Afternoon naps are a real treat ... I'm not sure I actually sleep, but that feeling of floating somewhere between sleep and wakefulness is so relaxing.
      Rosie

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  9. What a fun post Sounds like you're a great nana! Never heard of the Mayo trick instead of an egg. My standbys are always eggs, we rarely run out and so much you can do. Pasta is the other...so many variations with the left over veg and a tin of tuna! Hope you had a good rest :) B X

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    1. Pasta and eggs and tuna and beans seem to be the reliables for all. On our island, though, we do sometimes run out of eggs (hence the mayo trick's usefulness). . .

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  10. This sounds very cosy indeed. A great combo of painting and a doll's house. I could enjoy that myself. Plus pancakes. Why would you bother to go out?

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  11. This is genius! I love it when cooking is a bit of adventure, a bit of science, and total creativity. And Nola is so focused!

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    1. She really gets into her activities! (why she didn't want to leave the apartment)

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  12. Much more fun to help Nana create something than to go out for a restaurant meal! Our bare cupboard standby is any variant on pancakes: scotch pancakes, crêpes, or that great Austria variant, Kaiserschmarrn. All with home - made jam and golden syrup. Enough calories to get you through a week of a bare store cupboard.

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    1. Oh my goodness! I've just googled Kaiserschmarrn, and I'm in! ;-)

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  13. I am very impressed by your ingenuity! Do you think this is an our generation thing? I can not go grocery shopping for days if I don't feel like it even when there is very little in the fridge because I can pretty much always produce something from the store cupboard. My mother was the same. My children, men and women and all good cooks, are a bit flummoxed by an empty fridge.

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    1. One of my daughters is really good at this, but I do think it might be more common in our generation. . . Not all of us, though, I think it has to do with having had parents who experienced a serious need to make do, often for extended periods. As far back as my grandparents, on both sides, right into their childhoods, they would never have gone really hungry, but they definitely would have gone without and had to be inventive to fill themselves. . . and from what I've heard, they found joy in the process. . .

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  14. I'm just so impressed by what you pull together. In the broader sense;).

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    1. Aw, thank you. . . not sure I'm feeling it myself these days, so the kind words are appreciated.

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  15. I've used the mayo trick before. And also club soda in pancakes and waffles instead of milk. There is usally a can of tuna around and some kind of pasta, hence a feast is possible, grand if we also have some form of canned tomatoes.

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