Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Homemaking Tip—Belly Up to the Bar

It was one of those immortal sentences that the family never lets die. We were eating a routine supper when one of our kids said, “I’m not going to eat this crap any more.” The other kids jumped her trying to protect my feelings. She had a point. Though it wasn’t crap, I had worn the menu thin. We had purchased nearly 200 pounds of 99 cents/lb round steak. The easiest and most inexpensive supper in the world was to plunk a hunk of round steak into a pan, add peeled potatoes and a handful of carrots, season with salt, pepper and a little Kitchen Bouquet® and slide it into the oven for a few hours. Evidently, I’d served the Round Steak Special once too often that week.

I’m not alone, complaints about cooking have even caused prison revolts. Spaghetti was the culprit in an uprising at Alcatraz, and meals were a big factor in the deadliest prison riot of all times at Attica Prison, New York. Wardens have long known that food is a way to chaos or a means to maintain controlled cells, so many institutions serve high calorie meals to keep the inmates full and quiet. On the other hand, disciplinary loafs, a whole meal molded and baked into a log (nutritious and terribly unappetizing) are made for the most unruly prisoners.

If dull meals and long evenings are around your corner here are a couple of new ideas:

Spaghetti Bar—

Once when my cousins, Larry and Sally, invited our family to supper, Sally had prepared a spaghetti bar. On the counter were dishes of toppings—peppers, mushrooms, shrimp, cooked and cubed chicken, browned hamburger, green onions, chopped celery, grated carrots, sliced olives . . . (Sally said the list is endless.)

On another part of the counter was a large bowl of torn lettuce, several containers of salad dressing, a basket of rolls, and several bowls of grated cheeses.

On the counter by the stove was a crock pot of spaghetti sauce, a container of olive oil, and a huge platter of individual piles of cooked noodles—thin noodles, wide spinach noodles, and curly noodles.

On the stove top were four frying pans.

Sally encouraged us to pick our plates up from the table and either make a salad, or prepare a plate of spaghetti. Those who started with salads were busy visiting and eating while those who started with spaghetti filled their plates with the toppings of their choice and went to the frying pans on the stove. Spaghetti makers added a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet and browned the toppings they had chosen. When the ingredients were nearly finished they added a tong-full of spaghetti noodles. After everything was warmed through, they slid the ingredients back onto their large plates and ladled spaghetti sauce on top and sprinkled with the cheeses of choice.

The food was delicious. Never before had I had celery, chicken, grated carrots, or shrimp on my spaghetti and it was wonderful. Sally said she likes to use the Spaghetti Bar for parties because it is a great “Get-Acquainted” meal and allows everyone an opportunity to interact and stay busy preparing their meal. She also said there are no complaints because everyone gets to choose what they eat.

Soup Bar—

Foreigners insist Americans ruin soups by boiling the vegetables and meats in water. They insist soup ingredients should be sautéed. A soup bar is a healthy compromise.

Make a basic soup broth by combining 2 gallons of water and 10 pounds of chicken or beef bones. Grate two cups of onions, two cups of celery, and two cups of carrots in the blender. Add finely grated vegetables to water and bones. Bring to boil and simmer 1½ hours. Pull bones from broth and season to taste.

Fill serving bowls with hot ingredients—

Blanched vegetables: potatoes, carrots, celery, peas, peppers, broccoli, cabbage, squash, etc.
Cooked grains: barley, rice, noodles, tortellini, etc.
Cooked meat: chicken, beef, lamb, pork, shrimp, clams, etc.
Fresh garnishes: chopped parsley, chives, sour cream, etc.

Everyone makes their own bowl of soup by adding the ingredients of their choice to a steaming bowl of hot broth. Serve with a variety of crackers.



Wonderful idea...since we now have a combined family of 11 children and 24 Grandchildren (by tonight that will be 25). I love it!!!

Heather @ Multiple Hats said...

Great ideas, Jane! We are great fans of the Nacho Bar, and the Shish-ka-Bob Bar. Wonderful way to let the guests be involved in the meal.

Leslie said...

Your post made me laugh because more often than not lately it seems like there's going to be a revolt at my table. I try to make kid friendly meals that are still nutritious and affordable but they don't always seem very appreciated by my kids. I love your ideas and will have to give them a try. Anything to not hear complaining - though so far no one has used the word crap in their complaints - yet. lol!

Susan said...

I love soup. I love spaghetti. I'm hungry.

Oh, and those are some great ideas!

Ryan and Haley Krumblis said...

Whenever I see "Belly up to the Bar" I think of the movie the Unsinkable Molly Brown and just start singing.....Belly up, belly up to the bar boys! Better loosen your belt....great song....

Mitchell Mark said...

I am well cultured for sure! When I read, “belly up to the bar,” I was like I know that movie/song. I was pretty proud of myself. I am gonna guess… is that from the unsinkable molly?

Becky said...

Great ideas!

Derek-Jenny-Kaitlynd-Ethan-Dylan said...

Great idea! We are having spagetti tonight! Maybe I will leave it all separated and let the kids decide what they want!
They will love it!

melanie said...

Now I want to watch Unsinkable Molly Brown. I love that show.

You always have such great ideas. Now only if my kids would cooperate without spilling all the little bowls. Someday, right?

Emma J said...

What a great idea!

Lyle and Mary: said...

And there's the potato bar, taco bar, ice cream bar, chinese haystacks bar, salad bar, desert bar, etc. etc. No wonder the belly is the first to arrive at the bar. YUM!

Barb said...

This is a fun idea, taking taco or potato bar to a whole new level.

michelle said...

I love this, Jane!