Saturday, March 27, 2010

This Week's Scenarios and Menu...and Planting Day!

Let me just cut to the chase and express my excitement that we finally stock-piled (which, dear reader, is completely different than hoarding) enough red-point items so that we were able to buy a nice, big eight pound ham this week! Yay! It took up nearly our entire 64 point allotment, but we did it!

Here's the menu for this week:

Saturday: ham, cheesy potatoes and (frozen) broccoli
Sunday: homemade pizza (onion, mushroom, olive and pepperoni)
Monday: Italian doe (like Italian beef but with venison), (canned) green beans and bread buns
Tuesday: black bean soup, Frito's and sour cream
Wednesday: pesto and noodles
Thursday: grilled chicken breasts, (frozen) green beans and fresh bread
Friday: baked potatoes, (frozen) broccoli and cottage cheese

During the previous weeks I also stock-piled (there's that word again) enough canned/bottled essentials to splurge on some frozen vegetables this week (although one bag was purchased during a previous week's shopping). I am so excited to have some non-cabbage green in our diets!

Our scenarios this week were:

Shortening - surplus, available for only 1/2 the usual rationing points
Salad Oils - scarce, available for 1 1/2 times the usual ration points
Pork - scarce, available for 1 1/2 times the usual ration points

I'm anti-shortening right now and have a good supply of salad oils so the first two scenarios weren't much of a bother. For the record, from the beginning of the rationing project we've classified ham as a processed meat, rather than pork, when it comes to the scenario randomizer.

Otherwise, spring is busting out all over and we're taking full advantage of it! Earlier in the week TMOTH planted our two new blueberry bushes and today the girls and I headed to the greenhouse and planted seeds for tomatoes, peppers, basil, marigolds, zinnias and coleus.

Aren't they cute when they help?

I also planted some lettuce starts, as well as seeds for lettuce, mesclun, spinach and radishes in our traditional spot for cool-season vegetables: the patch of dirt on the east side of the greenhouse. This is a great place for tender leaf vegetables because they only get sun during the first half of the day and the residual heat from the (solar-heated) greenhouse provides a buffer for chilly spring nights.

With warmer weather here this week I'm hoping to make some final plans for our annex gardening spaces (provided by some great people) and post some pics for you to get the full understanding of all of our plantings.

In the meantime, reader, please tell me what you have planted so far!

--Rational Mama

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Historic Recipes: Vegetableburgers, Crunchy Vegetable Salad and Maple Nut Pudding


Looking back through the archives I see we haven't done a historic recipe since the liver episode (and subsequent suspicious implosion of the oven range).

A nice, relatively safe (and organ meat-free) recipe seemed in order, and this gem on the left from the April 7, 1943 Topeka Daily Capitol seemed just the ticket.

A whole meal of rationing appropriate edibles: Vegetableburgers, Crunchy Salad (vitamin filled!) and Maple Nut Pudding.

Let's see...vegetableburgers first. Remember, this was in the days before Boca Burgers and Morningstar, so commercially-prepared alternative meat products were not an option. While most contemporary do-it-yourself meatless burgers are either legume-based (lentil burgers, black bean burgers) or grain-based (quinoa burgers, bulgur burgers), this recipe is a novelty in that it has neither. It's a simple mixture of diced cooked vegetables and a white sauce shaped into a patty, breaded and then fried. Since the girls are highly dubious of mushrooms (poor girls) I served the burgers on buns with traditional hamburger toppings.

The crunchy vegetable salad is about as simple as it gets: cut (mostly raw) vegetables in a thin coating of salad dressing. For the record, bottled French dressing was widely available in food markets in the 1940s. I didn't have any so I made a small batch from scratch.

The verdict on the main two dishes? Well, the vegetableburgers (and yes, it bothers me too that the two words are smooshed together into one larger word) were palatable, but quite mushy in the middle due to insufficient binding. I think they could have benefited from less white sauce and the addition of either a grain or more egg/breadcrumb substance to stay together better during the frying process. Both the grown-ups ate their burgers and each girl ate well over half of theirs, with stuffed-mouth comments of "It's okay but not my favorite."

The salad was, as promised, crunchy. And very pink due to the dressing and the beets. That's about all there is to say about that.

Now the pudding! Of course, how could we eat our pudding if we didn't eat our meat? Well, that's for Pink Floyd to take up since it was a vegetarian meal. I had never made pudding from scratch before and was quite surprised at the simplicity of the recipe: combine basic ingredients, stir a lot over low heat and then chill. The pudding was a big hit - hints of butterscotch without the scotch, thick and creamy and yummy. I think the girls would gladly eat more vegetableburgers if it meant maple nut pudding in the end.

So there you have it: one of the more successful historic recipe nights at the Rational Living household. And in all the entire meal used only 1 red ration point (on two tablespoons of butter) and no blue/green ration points.

Hopefully historic meals will only get better from here on out (although I did just remember I promised TMOTH we would try tongue or heart at some point...).

--Rational Mama

Monday, March 22, 2010

Easy as Bread

Ever notice how often "fresh baked bread" and/or "homemade pizza" show up on the Rational Living menus?

They're both frequent visitors because of the genius folks behind Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Their book has been out for a while, but I first read about their recipe and technique in Mother Earth News. They also have a blog where they share tips and recipes and an ever-expanding list of creative ways to use their dough.

The idea is simple - create a very wet dough that can happily live in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. While it waits for you the yeast chemistry is creating a nice dough that will be fluffy and tender upon baking.

When you're ready to bake just remove a grapefruit size portion, follow the shaping and no-hassle rising instructions, and then bake on your baking stone with a little water added to an oven-proof dish to keep the loaf from drying out during the baking process.

That's it. What you end up with is artisan-quality bread straight from your oven. It's so good our girls actually ask for the heal pieces.

The dough also makes a great pizza crust. Just take out an appropriately sized portion, roll it as thin or thick as you like, top and bake on the pizza stone. I like a very thin, crisp crust and this dough delivers as long as my pizza isn't too loaded with toppings and I use the baking stone. I've found that rolling the dough out on parchment paper and then transferring the parchment paper and pizza en masse onto the baking stone makes the entire process much more user-friendly (anyone who has had their pizza flip and land topping-side down in a botched transfer attempt will appreciate this advice).

I haven't yet tried some of the other basic recipes they offer for the same technique (including a sandwich bread and french bread). With the warmer weather approaching I'm sure we'll be baking less, but in the meantime we'll be enjoying a weekly dose of freshly baked bread!

--Rational Mama

Sunday, March 21, 2010

This Week's Scenarios and Menu (and Premature Spring)

I declared this weekend a "sit on my rear and do nothing weekend," so I'm pulling myself away from the crafting and my self-orchestrated Colin Firth movie marathon to bring you this update.

A few notes about last week...Remember that maximum surplus of roll-over miles TMOTH previously described? Well, with our little mini-vacation last week we finally had to delve into that reserve. In all, we used 264 miles last week, which is 71 miles over the weekly allowance. Thus, our roll-over miles have now been reduced from the maximum of 530 miles to 459 miles. That's still a ridiculously large amount of miles, in my opinion.

Also, last week's menu got a little improvised, between my temper tantrum and other situations. A few meals were cooked on different days and two meals got rolled-over into this week's menu:

Saturday: sandwiches and chips (who wants to leave a Colin Firth marathon to cook?)
Sunday: vegetable burgers, crunch vegetable salad and maple nut pudding (historic recipes that didn't get prepared last week)
Monday: freezer soup (whatever is in the freezer and unaccounted for is going in a soup)
Tuesday: spaghetti marinara and canned green beans
Wednesday: French toast casserole and canned fruit
Thursday: chole saag and rice and Spaghettios (the latter is for the girls)
Friday: beefless stronganoff and baked cabbage

Amazingly, we had no scenarios this week. Sissy was rolling the die for the week and casually said, "We could really use a six," knowing a six means no scenarios for the week. And then she rolled a six. I'm taking that girl to Vegas!

Also, I just realized that I didn't spend all of our ration points last week - we had five spare red points and two spare blue/green points. Beginning in 1944 the OPA started issuing red and blue tokens so that retailers could give change back for food bought with ration stamps. It allowed folks to be more precise with their purchases and created a mechanism by which one could save up a few extra ration points at a time. In the spirit of this, I'm going to consider the left-over points from last week as OPA tokens and roll them over into a future week's allotment.

Otherwise, last week was a lovely early spring week. Lots of sunshine lasting later into the evening, warm weather and the sprouting of many green things. On Thursday evening I took the following pictures...

There were the pretty crocuses:

The girls making mud pies (and muddy knees and foreheads and...):

TMOTH digging out a lilac bush to relocate to a different area so the blueberry bushes(!) can be planted:

And Fat Cat basking in the sun on the encolsed porch, listening for birdies:

Really, it was a lovely weather week. And then on Saturday morning we woke up to around four inches of snow.


At least I know that with tomorrow's highs in the 50's most of the snow will be gone shortly and we can return to our spring happiness.

In the meantime, I'm gonna make some hot tea, curl up on the sofa with a blanket and watch some more Colin.

--Rational Mama

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Temper Tantrum

You know that howling three-year-old in the store, screaming at the top of her lungs, eyes red and wet from her emotional outburst? The one you can hear half-way across the store, exclaiming her certainty that the world is unfair and justice must be served to her NOW?

That's kind of how I feel about rationing right now.

I'm tired of the constraints and the rules and the can't haves and can't do's.

I was already feeling this way a bit (I think it's part of the natural stir-crazy feeling that comes at the end of winter) but it reared it's ugly head big-time in the past few days when we went on a mini-vacation with our good friends.

Late Monday afternoon we went to a local indoor water park/hotel combo (using some of our saved-up miles) and got away from the everyday mundane, if only for a day.

No points. No counting.

Since both families were doing a vacay-on-the-cheap we both brought our own breakfast and lunch supplies for the second day. We did eat out at a restaurant Monday night, but our ration points for the week were reduced as a result.

No points. No counting.

And then back to reality.

I didn't want to leave vacation. I didn't want to be subjected to the rationing rules again.

We arrived back home early Tuesday evening and I didn't want to stop being on vacation. I didn't want to fix our ration-friendly meal and deal with the dishes and the clean-up and the work. So Sissy and I headed to the neighborhood Chinese restaurant (TMOTH and Eowyn had eaten enough junk throughout the day and weren't hungry for dinner).

This was a contraband meal.

I think it's even getting a little to TMOTH, who is typically a very easy-going guy. Last week his self-imposed rationing-year ban on liquid forms of caffeine came to a crashing end when he had two Cokes in one day (and proceeded to feel a little queasy).


I can only imagine that what I'm feeling was par for the course in 1943, as families adjusted to the new wartime rationing system. Granted, at this point in 1943 canned goods rationing had only been in effect for six or seven weeks and meat/fat/cheese rationing had only been enforced for two weeks.

This coming Saturday we will be entering our 13th week of rationing.

On the bright side, we will be 1/4 of the way through our rationing year. In 1943 no one knew how long the rationing would last (or who, more importantly, would win the war).

I can only hope that the next six months will be easier, as more fresh produce options become available and healthier menu plans can be accommodated. It will be nice to work in the garden and feel the sunshine on our skin and feel like we're making progress towards preserving a stash of produce for winter.

Until then, I might be a little pouty about this rationing thing.

So bear with me, folks, while I have my tantrum.

Like the three-year-old in the store, I'll be done with it in 15 minutes and get distracted by something shiny and forget what it was that I was upset about.

I promise.

--Rational Mama

Sunday, March 14, 2010

This Week's Scenarios and Menu...and Murphy's Law

Of course. Sigh. What happened soon after I announced on last week's menu post that:

"I think I'm going to try to stock up on butter, oils and cheeses over the next few weeks in the hopes that we can have enough ration points one week for a nice ham."

This happened!

Our scenarios this week:

Butter - none available for purchase
Chicken - only substandard quality available

Murphy's Law about the butter, I guess. I'll get back to that later. And the chicken was a bit of a disappointment since I've been craving fried chicken since last week (well, I pretty much perpetually crave fried chicken) and was determined to put it on the menu. Normally when I fry it at home I use boneless skinless chicken breasts but I interpreted "substandard quality" as bone-in chicken legs, which leads us to this week's menu:

Saturday: Fried chicken legs, coleslaw and mashed potatoes
Sunday: Vegetable burgers and crunchy salad (historic recipes)
Monday: Out to eat (mini-vacay - woot!)
Tuesday: Bean tostadas and (canned) corn
Wednesday: Grilled corned beef sandwiches and chips (in honor of St. Patrick's day)
Thursday: Ale-and-cheese soup with bread and baked cabbage
Friday: French toast casserole and (canned) fruit

Since butter was not an option this week I bought some stick margarine. Now, I pretty much never buy stick margarine - we usually have real butter and then a spreadable, heart-healthy blend for smearing on things (Smart Balance). Stick margarine is a bit of a mystery to me and I was thoroughly disappointed once I got the groceries home and read the nutritional information on the back of the box of margarine. Egads, all that trans fat!

And then I used some of the margarine in a meal - it soooo looked like fake butter. I mean, I know that's what it is, but the color was inconsistent throughout the bar and it gleamed in a way that real butter doesn't. It reminded me of the pretend food Sissy and Eowyn used to play with when they were younger ("What did you make me? Oh, a butter and pepper pizza with cornflakes? Yum!").

This is all very disappointing as I had already decided that baking with shortening is pretty much out because of a) all the trans fats, and b) it apparently gives TMOTH a special kind of intestinal distress that causes him to mimic the horrific gastric outbursts of the Minotaur after devouring a young Athenian offering. I had replaced some of the butter in baking recipes with canola oil but with limited success; said baked items dried out very very quickly. So I was really hoping that stick margarine would be my ace since it costs less red ration points than butter (butter is 16 points per pound whereas margarine is only 6 points per pound).

And today I was reminded of another reason to stay away from the trans fats...the cholesterol report from last week's blood donation arrived. Ugh. It's creeping up to the line that if you get over it the doctors raise an eyebrow and start talking to you about statins if you don't change your diet. So change my diet I must. I'm pretty happy with near-vegetarian fare, and so is Eowyn. But TMOTH and Sissy? They'd be happy to live on a meat-heavy diet. Somehow we have to strike a compromise.

Either way, it looks like I'm stuck needing trans-fat free butter (in moderate quantities, of course), even if it does cost 16 points per pound.

Knowledge is power. But sometimes it just a real pain in the ass.

--Rational Mama

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Garden Plans, Part I

Isn't this great?

It's from the February 26, 1943 edition of the Topeka Daily Capital. At this point sugar had been rationed for nine months and canned goods rationing was set to start within a week. Red point rationing of meats/oils/cheeses was still over a month away.

But can you see the excitement in their eyes? That's how the Rational Living family has viewed the seed catalogs this year, too.

We've always perused the catalogs in spring, dog-earing and asterisking (whoa, that's a real word) interesting options and day-dreamy ideas. Typically, we might try one new thing a year (or we might try - and fail - at container potatoes twice), but we normally just fall back to the standard, small tomatoes-n-such garden.

But this year, gardening is serious business. Really serious business.

We will really need to maximum our garden harvest this year so that we have plenty of fresh produce during the summer to eat PLUS have enough extra to store-up for winter. The more home-preserved produce we have going in to the fall and winter the fewer precious ration points we will have to spend.

In order to do this we must be more selective about plant varieties and expand our garden size from modest to massive. This post will cover the varieties and a future post will take you on a tour of our gardening spaces.

The article on the left is from Feb. 23, 1943 and it includes a thorough list of what vegetables were recommended for Victory Gardens. Over the past few months we've developed our own list of what we will plant, based upon family preferences and growing conditions. Here's what we have so far:

Spring Garden

Garlic (Inchelium Red, already in the ground)

Summer Garden
Tomatoes (cherry, standard and paste)
Peppers (bell and jalapeno)
Garlic (harvest in July)
Cucumbers (standard and pickling)
Yellow squash or zucchini
Green Beans (pole)
Malabar spinach
Melon (space permitting)
Lemon Balm

Autumn Garden
Garlic (back in the ground)

We're not going to bother with some items (such as carrots, corn, cabbage and okra) because they are readily available at our local farmer's market for very reasonable prices. Additionally, we will have some surprises each week because we've signed up for our local CSA again.

In the spirit of not wasting, I'm vowing to use up most of the produce seeds that we have leftover from previous years. This includes seeds for tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, spinach, lettuce, mesclun, beans, radishes, some cucumbers and most of the herbs. We ordered the rest of our precious seeds from Seed Savers.

We'll be starting seeds in the greenhouse before the month is over and the peas should be in the ground by then as well. Of course, that means we need to get supplies and start turning over the soil and mixing in compost and the like. We've had so much moisture on the ground for the last several months that that everything is too wet; hopefully some dry, sunny days are in our near future.

That's our list...what are you planting, dear reader?

--Rational Mama

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

This Week's Scenarios and Menu...and Procrastination

Our scenarios this week are:

Butter - scarce, available for 1 1/2 times the usual ration points
Salad Oils - surplus, available for only 1/2 the usual ration points
Soft Cheese- scarce, available for 1 1/2 times the usual ration points
Beef - scarce, available for 1 1/2 times the usual ration points

Luckily we were good on butter, soft cheeses (cream cheese) and had no need for beef this week once I made taco night turkey tacos instead of beef tacos. I used the salad oil surplus to stock up on some more canola oil.

Here's how the menu shaped up:

Saturday: homemade pizza (sausage, mushroom, onion and olive)
Sunday: turkey tacos and corn
Monday: fiesta salad (corn chips, ice burg lettuce, shredded cheese, black beans, sour cream and home-canned corn salsa)
Tuesday: rice and beans (with smoked sausage)
Wednesday: baked potatoes and cottage cheese
Thursday: grilled chicken breast, rice and broccoli
Friday: macaroni and cheese with carrots/celery and dip

Fiesta salad is a common menu item at our house during the warmer months. It was nice to be able to have a "salad night" after so many months without (non-cabbage) greens. The girls ate up all their lettuce and went back for seconds, which is something that was NOT common before rationing. Unfortunately the jar of home-canned corn salsa we used this week was our last , so it will be many months before this show up on our menu again.

I think I'm going to try to stock up on butter, oils and cheeses over the next few weeks in the hopes that we can have enough ration points one week for a nice ham. The markets will soon be flooded with spiral-cut beauties and even a small one will cost us nearly all of our red ration points for that week.

Otherwise, I did some more research this weekend and found some goodies to share with you from the March and April 1943 newspapers. Of course, I have plenty of other things that need to be done, like cleaning the house and putting away my laundry. I'm not very good at putting away my laundry. I fold it and put it in the basket and even take the basket upstairs to my room but that's where the process usually stops. I would much rather do more research or walk on the treadmill while watching Battlestar Galactica (love me some BSG!) or work on my embroidery than put my laundry away. can I ask the girls to put their laundry away if I don't put mine away? So, off I must go.

In the meantime, what's one (or two) household chores that you tend to procrastinate about?

--Rational Mama

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Video: Two Cooks and a Cabbage

I had to wonder while watching this 1941 film from the BFI National Archives...

If I grow cabbage this summer do you think Eowyn and Sissy would be so excited about cooking their own?

Not sure why the embedding isn't working anymore...

--Rational Mama

Saturday, March 6, 2010

General Tso's Confession

Forgive me readers, for I have sinned.

Okay, sinned may be a strong word. But I did stray from the path set before me during rationing year.

You see, part of our self-imposed regulations includes the girls and I going out to lunch only once a month. Last Sunday I found myself in a dilemma; waist deep in the griminess of spring cleaning, I made a deal with the girls.

See, we were doing that only-one-or-twice-a-year cleaning. The kind where you get the telescoping duster and dust everything up really high, including ceiling fans and molding. And then you work your way down, dusting and cleaning and getting rid of all the trash and clutter that has built up since the last time you did this sort of thing.

And I was faced with a dilemma: stop everything and make lunch, then clean-up after lunch and somehow convince the girls to get back on the cleaning bandwagon.


...bribe the girls with Chinese takeout for lunch if they kept with it. Even though we had already eaten out for our one time that month.

I chose the bribe.

Yes, sweet, delicious sesame chicken and General Tso's chicken; I have you to thank for the upstairs being thoroughly cleaned by the time Sunday came to a close. You kept us motivated and were much cheaper than hiring a cleaning service.

Tomorrow I'm going to attempt to do the same thorough cleaning of the main living level of the house. And I vow to do it without restaurant delicacies.

I do, however, have supplies for chocolate chip cookies.

I'm not insane, you know...

--Rational Mama

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Bumpy Day

Yesterday had a few bumps to it, it seems.

First, we had an early morning emergency jump start of one of the vehicles. Apparently, in the hustle and bustle of checking the weekly mileage on the vehicles the night before I left the keys in the ignition and in the "accessories" position (yes, you may sent a Homer-like "D'oh!" my way). Luckily, I did this in the vehicle in the garage and NOT the one in the alley (otherwise, this could have been a much bigger bump in the day). Early morning jump starts while you're trying to get to work on time are no fun.

Second, Eowyn's been home sick for a few days with a fever and sore throat. It's no fun for anyone to have a puny little one in the house, especially one with huge brown eyes (and she knows how to use them).

Also, the oven range was repaired. Apparently the computer unit and digital oven display were shot and were replaced to the tune of $271.00. Cheaper than buying a new oven? Yes. But it still hurts. And I still blame the liver.

And speaking of hurts, I had my regular blood donation appointment (how very "Greatest Generation" of me) yesterday after work. For the first time in ages they had real trouble finding a vein and ended up poking me in both arms. Actually, "poking" isn't the most accurate term - probably "harpooning" would be more appropriate, as evidenced by the nice-sized bruises on both arms this morning. But those obligatory Nutter Butters they push on you after you donate were sure delicious.

I'm home with a recovering Eowyn today while TMOTH helps out with Sissy's class - they have an all-day field trip. I think I might have the better end of that deal, since so far Eowyn's in pretty good spirits and there is no sign of the fever yet.

Maybe we can sneak out into the backyard and soak up some of this delicious sunshine with which we've been blessed. This time of year I can often be found in the backyard, staring at the garden and scratching my head, mentally planning what will go where.

The peas should be in the ground before month's end! Better get cracking!

Hope everyone is having a nice spring day.

--Rational Mama

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mesclun! (Gesundheit)

Remember long ago when Sissy and I planted two containers with lettuce and mesclun seeds?

Well, here's how they're looking today:

The mesclun is doing great, if not a little leggy from working with what sun is available in the south-facing window in the bathroom. The lettuce is struggling a little; it had a longer germination period and suffered at least one noshing by the residential felines.

The good news is that the weather has warmed up enough that I placed both containers in our small greenhouse. Once upon a time the previous owners of our house had a nice little lean-to greenhouse added on to the detached garage. Running water and gas heat and exhaust fans and everything and it runs the full length of the garage. Story goes he was an orchid fanatic and grew his own orchids.

The next owners were not so much into the growing thing so they capped the water and gas off, leaving for us (only the fourth family to own this 100 year old house) a walk-in, three season cold frame. It's currently a bit of a mess inside, storing a haberdashery of warm-weather supplies. But that will soon change since most vegetable seeds need to be planted in the greenhouse by the end of the month in order to transplant when the last frost has done its deed.

In the meantime TMOTH will be adding some lumber supports to the planting bed that is normally our lettuce/spinach zone (great morning light, no harsh and hot afternoon light) so it will be ready for action soon.

And the baby garlic, nestled in their blanket of straw, are growing just big enough to give off a wonderful fragrance when the sun hits them right.

Thank goodness the growing season is so close! The other day Eowyn asked when we could go to the farmers market because we haven't been in a while. I just looked it up - the local farmers market opens April 10th!

I don't care what the calendar says, spring has sprung!

--Rational Mama

Monday, March 1, 2010

This Week's Scenarios and Menu (and No-Bake Cookies)

This week we had yet another mix of both favorable and limiting scenarios:

Beef - Victory Special! available for only 1/4 of the usual ration points
Salad Oils - Victory Special! available for only 1/4 of the usual ration points
Sugar - limited, only 1/2 the usual quantity available
Canned Vegetables - scarce, available for 1 1/2 the usual ration points

The beef Victory Special is nice, especially since my regular blood donation appointment is this Thursday and I could use the extra iron.

I used the salad oil Victory Special to purchase two pounds of olive oil.

We should be fine with only one pound of sugar this week since we have yet to run dry on that particular ration, so to speak.

The only canned vegetable in this week's menu is a can of corn that was actually left over from a previous week.

The biggest challenge for this week's menu was the sudden comatose state of the oven range. This menu was already planned and purchased when the range took a turn for the worse, so we were pretty much stuck with it. Here's what we have to work with:

Saturday: Hamburgers and (from scratch) potato fries
Sunday: Vegetarian lasagna and iceberg salad
Monday: Beef brisket and (canned) corn
Tuesday: Chicken and dumplings
Wednesday: Leftovers and Asian cabbage slaw
Thursday: Vegetable fried rice
Friday: Chicken enchiladas and black beans

Firstly, Saturday's fries were amazing. I did the entire peel, slice, soak in ice water, fry at 325 degrees, cool, fry at 375 degrees process and, although a lot of work, was totally worth it. Wonderfully delicious fries to rival anything available in a restaurant.

Normally, I would not be happy at all about an iceberg salad. I like my greens very, well, green and flavorful. Since the 1943 grocery store ads show that iceberg lettuce was occasionally available this time of year I decided to go for it. It was crunchy and a nice change of texture, but I learned that, as far as salads go, I might actually prefer a cabbage salad to an iceberg salad. Go figure.

I decided to "bake" the lasagna in the electric skillet by placing a metal trivet in the bottom and filling the skillet with water a little over half-way up the sides of the lasagna dish. Then I put the lid on and cranked the heat in the skillet for a while. The only drawback was that the top layer of cheese didn't get that golden, toasted appearance and taste. I'll reuse this method on Friday for the enchiladas if tomorrow's news from the appliance technician is not so good.

Otherwise, I was having a major cookie craving this evening and was quite disappointed to realize that you can't bake cookies if your oven is busted. And then I had a brilliant aha! moment: no bake cookies!

Here's the simple (and not very ration-friendly) recipe I used:

1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
4 TB cocoa
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tsp vanilla
3 to 3 1/2 cups oats (bland cereal like Cheerios or bran flakes work well, too)
  • Place all ingredients except the oats in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
  • Boil hard for one minute and then pour into large bowl with the oats and mix well.
  • Drop by spoonfuls onto cookies sheets covered with wax paper.
  • Cool until set.
If you're like me you get so excited at the thought of no-bake cookies that you forget to add the milk. What you're left with doesn't quite gel like the recipe intends but it's still a wonderfully tasty mess!

Hope everyone has their favorite sweet treats available tonight!

--Rational Mama