Hacks from my Happy Place-XVIII

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about my happy place. I guess that’s because it’s been a while since I’ve given into spending a chunk of time in my happy place! I’m blaming it on my shoulder, my struggle with fatigue and the fact that my kitchen doesn’t get anything from my window ACs so it’s always hot in the summer! It didn’t help the cause when my brother took in a temporary roommate and I didn’t know that person’s likes and dislikes so I didn’t cook for him during that time. Then, I also had a week or so where I just didn’t have an appetite – my taste buds were completely shut down and nothing sounded appealing. Fortunately, that was also temporary!

But now, the weather has quickly changed and I’m fine with my kitchen being warm. (I haven’t officially turned on my heat.) Also, my physical therapy is working well enough that I’ve been able to regain much of the use of my right hand, arm and shoulder without a problem. It seemed like I had to retrain the right side to take back all of the tasks I’d turned into habit with my left side!

Anyhow, this past weekend I made a batch of baked pork and sauerkraut. I’d been hungry for it, and I knew I’d be feeding others as well. I even made real mashed potatoes because I was going to share! For the record, let me state that I’d rather clean the toilet than peel 5 pounds of potatoes!!! Got it? Living alone, I tend to use instant for myself because of the convenience, but I decided to splurge. Besides, it was a good repetitive motion to work my arm and shoulder muscles!

I enjoyed the process enough that I also decided to make a meatloaf and some baked mac ‘n cheese (I use shells though). The meatloaf was better than the last one I made but still not as good as others I’ve made. The baked mac ‘n cheese was cheesy good, though!

The reasons I bake my pork and sauerkraut instead of using a crockpot are several. I like to brown the pork I’m using a little bit at first, so that it stays moist inside. I can brown it in my Dutch oven (5 quart pan) and then that same pan can go right into the oven. My mom always added some dill weed to her sauerkraut, insisting it took some of the ‘gasiness’ away, so I do as well. The secret I use that my mom didn’t however, is adding apple sauce. Sweetened or unsweetened is fine, just not the stuff with cinnamon. The applesauce sweetens and takes over a good part of the bitterness of the sauerkraut without changing its flavor. And, I admit, I also like when it’s done and the sauerkraut turns just a light brown color, which only happens when baking it.

This turned out to be one of my better batches. I have given, or will be giving, 4 meals of it away, which left me with enough for two good-sized meals. That’s just enough to enjoy without growing tired of it!

A little trick I’d heard about, in the meanwhile, has to do with reheating leftover pizza. If you’ve done that, you know that using the oven to reheat will make the crust extra hard, and using the microwave will make the crust extra chewy. The trick said to use the oven, but to sprinkle some water on and around the slices, then cover the pan with foil to reheat. The claim is that the steam, as the moisture evaporates, goes into the crust (because it’s the only porous thing available) and makes it like it was when it came out of the oven the first time. I tried it! It worked! I mean, it wasn’t just like fresh-from-the-oven, but it was so much more palatable than not using the trick!

I found, at the recommendation of my chiropractor, a website called http://Half Baked Harvest which has a lot of recipes. The bad news is that, like most cooking shows, the creator of the recipes uses items most of us don’t have, like sesame oil, ginger juice, fresh herbs, but as I looked at the recipes, my mind was turning with the possibilities of substitutions. I plan to take a closer look and see what I can adapt to things I have or am willing to buy (I mean, seriously, what am I going to do with a bottle of ginger juice after I’ve added 3 tbsp. to a recipe??). If you like new recipes, please take a look at that website and see what inspires you!

So thanks to my efforts, plus a meal to try gifted to me by my bestie, I’ve got lots of options to get me through Sunday before I have to scramble again! And Tuesday, my bestie and I are going to bite the bullet and go to our favorite place for a late lunch indoors. I feel safer there than any place around, and if we feel it’s too crowded, we just won’t stay. I already know I’m going to have either chicken tenders and fries or fish and chips!

Also, please always feel free to tell me about recipes you like – – or ask me questions about something you’d like to try making and I’ll try to give you good advice!

And remember, it indeed is time to start putting on your winter weight (your body will do this naturally, so why not enjoy the process!!!