Monday, March 27, 2017

What's for Dinner?

Available now!
When I was writing historical romance, I was frequently frustrated by the lack of texts handed down
by women. There are a few notable pieces from medieval times, spiritual writings or diaries, penned by powerful nuns or queens who could afford the expense of preserving their thoughts and who were well educated enough to write them down. Some of the more mundane texts by women that have survived the times are recipes, cooking instructions and ingredients lists that sometimes contain amusing asides about potential preparation hazards.

I am not surprised that at least a few of these writings survive given the necessity of cooking in everyday life and how much it has dominated feminine time for decades. Even now, when we can throw dinner in an “Insta-Pot” we still need to share recipes and idea for how to best use the tools available, and there is no escape the endless rounds of shopping for ingredients. Cooking take time. Furthermore, with studies showing that kids who take part in regular family meals are more well-adjusted, happier, higher achieving, you name it, we are called upon to make a ritual of eating. That means more thoughtful planning, table setting, shopping. If we’re lucky, there will be wine.

I have a binder full of recipes that I’ve acquired since getting married. My favorites are written in loved ones’ handwriting. My grandmother’s scrawled notes on cheesecake. Beloved dinner meals from my youth that my mother wrote down for me. My mother in law’s bonus notes on choosing cuts of meat after I confided that I was often flummoxed at the butcher window. I feel the love when I read those notes.

Available April 1st
But there are other personal recipes that call to me, too. I have a handful of emails from my critique partner, Catherine Mann, from the crazy years when we were both trying to sell our first books, writing constantly while raising lots of kids. Cathy’s asides are all about how to make things better, faster and tastier, how to adjust a main meal for the younger set so that there’s less time spent on prep. Like every other arena of my life, my cooking efficiency benefitted from her friendship.

In a life filled with books, my recipe binder is one of my most important. When I move houses during the year, it’s one that always goes with me. I can understand why medieval women made sure their cooking notes were well protected throughout their lifetime. Long after my latest romance novel is out of print, I hope my granddaughters will find something to smile about in the cooking adventures of their granny Joanne.


Friends, my husband brought home a rice cooker for me this week. Any hints? Fav recipes to share for a writer still looking to make the kitchen work faster, easier and tastier? I’d love to hear any and all dinner suggestions! I’ll give one random poster an advance copy of my May Harlequin Desire, The Magnate’s Marriage Merger. In the meantime, I hope you’ll look for the prequel book, The Magnate’s Mail-Order Bride, available April 1 from Harlequin Desire!


Laney4 said...

Alas, I don't own a rice cooker so I can't help you with that.

What I WILL mention is something I found that has made MY kitchen work MUCH faster, and that is the purchase of a pizza oven. I wanted a toaster oven, but I found they were too small, plus difficult to clean. A pizza oven is bigger and hardly any cleanup is necessary. I don't use it for pizza very often, either. I use it to heat foods that would normally go in my range oven. SOOO much faster.

I am still experimenting with my own recipes, but an example would be scalloped potatoes that normally take 1.75 hrs to cook in a regular preheated oven; instead, I boil the sliced potatoes until cooked through (maybe 15 minutes), then place into a glass Pyrex 8"x8" container with half the liquid, and cook for 5 minutes till browned, stir, and cook another 5 minutes until browned. Delish! (I use the Campbell Soup recipe for "Creamy Lasagna"; it uses cream of mushroom/cream of chicken soup as its main ingredient, and is it ever yummy!)

Another example is frozen garlic bread. Rather than heating up the regular oven, I place again into a Pyrex container and cook for 5 minutes per side. And no heat in my kitchen!

The pizza oven instructions say to preheat for 5 minutes before each recipe, but I don't bother. I just wing it until I find what works for me, write it down, and do it that way from then on. Easy peasy!

Good luck, Joanne!

jcp said...

using penne pasta instead of lansanga noodles is an easy lasanga type recipe.just keep ground turkey or beef (cooked or browned in the skillet, prego chunky style spagehhti, egg to bind and mozella and or cheddar chesse. Bake for 45 minutes

I also like my cuisnart 3-1 slower cooker (pricy on Amaszon but worth it. Like Reynolds slow
cooker liners saves on cleanup and mess big time

keep track of leftovers in the frig so you can eat them before they go bad

alysap at yahoo dot com

LynnB said...

Our favorite thing to make in our Rice Cooker/Steamer is steamed shrimp!

As a Marylander, Old Bay is our sacred ingredient haha ... you put raw shrimp in, sprinkle a generous amount of Old Bay on top, set the timer (we have a small steamer and it's about 12 minutes for a batch but cooking time will definitely vary depending on how big your steamer is ... should be able to find some steaming time details in the instruction book that came with your unit) ... about halfway through you open it and stir the shrimp around and top with some more Old Bay.

When done, peel and dip in cocktail sauce. Super yummy ... and yes, spicy since it's Old Bay! :)


Anonymous said...

I don't have a rice cooker either! I do pretty good in a pan on the stove. I use a crock pot at least 3 times a week.I put everything beef in mine. It could be beef stew, steak, roast's. Not to mention pork chops, pork steak, pork spare ribs, and my home made mac an cheese! The only thing I don't put in it is chicken and hamburger. The only recipe I've ever followed is for banana bread. One time I went to make a loaf and realized something was missing! I quickly checked online. I had forgotten the butter. So, I quickly melted some and poured it into the mix that was already in the oven. It was the best banana bread so far! Doug ate it in true husband fashion. Pam Hamblin

Joanne Rock said...

I like seeing what everyone else is cooking!! Lynn, the shrimp sounds good... my husband will like this idea!! I've had fun playing with the rice cooker this week for sure. I made a ginger chicken recipe in there with coconut milk that was really good. I'm trying to do all brown rice though, and grains like quinoa for the health benefits. Still getting used to this as traditionally I haven't been much of a rice eater. Elaine, I'm going to look at pizza ovens!! You had me at scalloped potatoes. That's one dish where I feel like it always takes FOREVER. And I adore them!

JCP, I did a recipe lasagna with ravioli and was so impressed how much time it saved!! Never thought of penne, but I've done mac and cheese with penne before. Getting hungry now... I sure do love mac and cheese.

Pam, my kids eat banana bread like there's no tomorrow. Have never thought to make it in the slow cooker.

JCP, you're my winner this month... will email you asap about the book! Thank you all so much for visiting!