Thursday, September 23, 2010

popcorn for breakfast

For as long as I can remember, I've had incredibly strange eating habits. At least, everyone else seems to think they're strange; to me, I'm as normal as they come, but my normal doesn't exactly match the normal normal. And frankly, I wouldn't want to be too normal normal, cause where's the fun in that? The point is my meals and the things that I eat may not always be traditional in the strictest sense of the word. From time to time, I might eat popcorn for breakfast, a bag of potato chips for lunch, and microwaved pepperonis for dinner. Yum-O!

These habits probably formed during my teenage years. When I was old enough to be home by myself during an entire summer, I ran with my new found freedom; I enjoyed it to utmost and threw out the rules of waking in the morning and sleeping at night. I ran wild. I was a rebel without a cause. My rebellion came in the form of sleeping till noon and staying up until 4 am and eating whatever I damned well pleased. Much to the consternation of my parents (my mom, in particular, who worked long and hard to instill good eating habits), I was a complete and utter junk food hog.

Then college came, and I became even less inclined to eat in what anyone else thought of as a "normal" way. The college years consisted of lots of Ramen noodles, lots of microwaved pepperonis with olives and cheese(a personal favorite meal), and lots and lots of chips. The thing that drove these strange eating habits was a personality trait that I've now left far, far behind: I, quite simply, was a picky eater. As an adult, I have developed slightly more discerning taste buds, but I haven't quite left all of my bad eating habits behind.

My co-workers will attest to the fact that most of my lunch-time meals consist of something out of a vending machine, and I will still occasionally have popcorn for breakfast. But all-in-all, I now appreciate the value of a great meal, and cooking is one of my favorite past-times; although, I probably won't ever fully leave behind my sordid food past.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

chicken noodle gravy

It's another hot afternoon in September. It should be Fall already, but it's really not...despite my best efforts to make it true. My Halloween decorations are out three weeks too early according to my husband, but I am so tired of the Southern heat I could scream. I've always prided myself on the fact that I am a Southerner through and through, but I'll be the first to admit that this summer has nearly done me in. Bring me Fall!

Along with the Halloween decorations, I've also pulled out my repertoire of Fall-ish/Winter recipes, hoping to conjure up some Autumn breezes and color-changing leaves. Because we're saving for a trip to Disney World in a few weeks, the first of these magical recipes also happens to be the cheapest. World, I introduce to you: Chicken Noodle Gravy.

Those three words make my heart sing! They bring back memories of my childhood, of my mama or daddy in the kitchen cooking that warm and hearty dish that's loved by millions the world through. Chicken Noodle Gravy? Okay, maybe it's not loved by millions. In fact, I seriously doubt that it's even loved by hundreds. But if you know what it is, chances are you love it.

Chicken Noodle Gravy is a relatively simple dish, but like a lot of things, it's beautiful in its simplicity. Okay, maybe I'm getting a little too deep there. After all, it is a gravy dish; how complex and symbolic can it be? Well, let me tell you: Chicken Noodle Gravy is a lot like me. It's simple, old-fashioned, and cheers you up when you're feeling low. It's the food version of me, and that's why I've named my blog after it, just in case you were wondering.

But seriously, Chicken Noodle Gravy is very simple to make. You'll just need a few ingredients, most of which you probably already have in your cabinets:

1 can of condensed chicken noodle soup (duh!)
1 cup (more or less) of milk
2 tablespoons of butter or margarine
1/4 cup to 1/3 cup of flour
salt and pepper to taste (careful with the salt though, the soup already has tons!)
4 to 5 slices of bread

You start Chicken Noodle Gravy as you would any other gravy, by making a rue. Put your 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine (make that butter, in the South butter's where it's at!) in a medium sized frying pan and over medium heat. Once it's boiling, add your flour. This is where it gets tricky. If you add too much flour, you'll have an excellent adhesive to use for various craft projects or household repairs. If you add too little, you're going to end up with runny gravy, and nobody likes runny gravy. On this note, my husband claims to like runny gravy, but this is probably due to the fact that I've made him runny gravy on numerous occasions. He probably thinks that I mean to, but I really don't. There's just a really fine balance in making gravy, and I'll admit I don't always hit it.

So when you have your perfect amount of flour, (I always try to add enough to absorb the liquid of the butter fully) stir and be sure to get all of your flour mixed well with the butter, then add your can of chicken noodle soup followed close by your cup of milk. The milk's usually a little tricky as well, again it's all about balance. Can you tell that I'm the type of cook who likes to color outside the lines? I rarely listen to a recipe myself, so it's kind of hard to write one without lots of qualifiers. If you're like me, you're going to tweak it a little yourself anyway, so just go with it. Make cooking an experience. There will be successes and failures, but that's what it's all about: fun, experimentation, and the stunning thrill you get when you get a dish just right.

Continue to heat over medium, stirring often. Gravy will thicken within a few minutes. Remove from heat, serve over toast, and enjoy this unique and cheap meal.

Maybe if a lot of us prepare it, we'll conjure up a little Fall weather.
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