My Firty-Seven Years as Chief Cook and Bottle Washer

Yep, that's how long it's been that I've shopped for groceries, cooked the meal and cleaned up afterward. When I began as a new bride I knew nothing about cooking. What I did know how to do was making fudge, baking cookies and cakes.

The first chicken I fried for my husband looked great on the outside but wasn't cooked on the inside. Yuk! I finally began to get the hang of cooking by watching other people--and figuring out what worked and what didn't.

Our first years of marriage we didn't have much money and the children kept arriving about every two and half or three years. I became a wizard at fixing one dish meals that used not much meat but lots of other filling ingredients. Chili with beans was a favorite, of course spaghetti--which my husband is not fond of to this day, beef and vegetable stew, fried rice with onions and whatever bits of meat we had and lots of soy sauce, tacos and I put the meat in each tortilla to make sure everyone got some. I've always been able to make the best tasting soups using up little bits of left-overs and that was before the days of buying chicken and beef broth off the shelf.

Some of the best dishes can be prepared with cheaper cuts of beef like Beef Stroganoff. My recipe came from a Russian fellow in the Air Force who made his stroganoff with round steak, lots of mushrooms and onions, tomato soup and sour cream. Much better than some I've had in restaurants.

We always seemed to have company for dinner along with five of our own kids--sometimes their friends, other times grown-up friends.

When we took over a residential care facility for six developmentally disabled women, all my practice of cooking hearty and nutritious meals on a budget served me well. The women loved my cooking and began asking for their favorites, like my homemade macaroni and cheese with lots of cheese and slightly burned on top.

Now, most of the time it's just my husband and me and occasionally my granddaughter who lives next door. We eat a lot of chicken. Last night I made lemon chicken using three chicken breasts, no bones, baked in a glass baking dish with melted butter, lots of lemon pepper seasonings, dried parsley flakes and lemon juice squeezed all over. I baked it for about 45 minutes, turning the last 15, in a 400 degree oven.

Tonight it was hamburger fried with chopped onions and celery served in a hand-made corn tortilla (no, I didn't make them) with lettuce, shredded cheese, tomatoes and salsa. Yum. And we have enough left for tomorrow. Easy and delicious.

I've had to cook so much I'm always delighted when we're invited somewhere else to eat or have a meal in a restaurant.

Can't believe I've really been cooking that long--and believe me, I'm no Rachel Ray though I have tried a few of her recipes, but she makes things far more complicated than I do and I think my meals turn out just as well--at least I've never had any complaints.



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