dinner and treats

So, when I was still living in my parents home, one of my all-time favorite meals was pot roast. The first time I tried to make pot roast as a married woman, it turned out completely awful. This was actually a running theme with my early attempts at cooking — raw on the inside, crispy on the outside. If you’re wondering how to ruin slow cooker pot roast, I don’t know. I just know I managed it in 2002.
Well, obviously a couple of years have passed since then. And I’ve learned to cook — pretty well, if I do say so myself. I’m no Amy, Goddess of the Kitchen, but I’m a decent cook. Tonight we had pot roast, one of my absolute favorite dishes to make since John bought me a decent crock pot (the one I got as a wedding gift was lacking in both size and temperature/ time options).
The roast was perfect — all tender and moist (I suspect this is a result of pan-searing it in olive oil and spices prior to putting it in the slow cooker). Usually I add the potatoes/ celery/ carrots/ onion a little later in the process, so they’ve still got a little heft to them instead of being soggy much. This time, I put them in at the beginning, but added less water. Also, I decided to use a Lipton Onion Soup packet instead of half a diced onion and a bouillon packet. I did feel it was a little too salty, so I’ll probably use half a Lipton Onion Soup packet next time — or maybe just use my usual recipe. I dunno.
Anyway, eating the pot roast tonight got me thinking about other meals and treats of my childhood, foods I really miss and am constantly trying to re-create the way mom made them. Unfortunately, several of the most-desired recipes mom used seem to have gone missing after her death. My sisters and I have all called each other, trying to find out who has them. It appears none of us do. But these are the recipes I’d like to find.
  • Baked Macaroni and Cheese. Mom never cooked that awful bright yellow boxed stuff. I was introduced to boxed Mac & Cheese powder as an adult, and I’ve never been able to develop any taste for it. Truly horrific stuff. I miss the goodness of real cheese, melted with milk into a roux of flour and butter, then baked with al dente macaroni noodles in the oven. I’ve tried a variety of baked macaroni recipes over the years, but none of them quite achieve how mom’s was. It mostly seems to be a problem in the crust — I remember mom’s baked mac and cheese as having a kind of chewy/ crunchy crust, but all the ones I make have a barely-there crust.
  • Mint Surprise Cookies. Mom made these every year at Christmas. She would buy a pack of Andes mints, slice them up into slivers, wrap the mints in the cookie dough, roll them in granulated sugar, and bake them. Fresh out of the oven, they would get topped with a pecan. They were delicious, but I don’t know the actual cookie dough recipe.
  • Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies. I know, I know. Recipes for this cookie abound. I even made them all the time as a teenager. I don’t know what the hell is going on with my PB cookies now, but they always turn out (in my opinion) kind of dry and crumbly instead of chewy on the outside and moist on the inside. I thought maybe it was because I was using crunchy PB, so I switched to creamy, but nothing doing. This, admittedly, may be a situation of me being a perfectionist, because everyone who’s tried my PB cookies swears up and down that they’re delicious.
  • Jam. The homemade jam recipes I’ve tried have been pretty basic. The jam turns out as required, but it’s not very . . . jammy. Like, thick. Mom’s was thick. Mine is spreadable and still delicious, but it’s not as thick as mom’s was. Again, no one else seems to mind. Last time I canned jam, we ran out within 3 months. But every time I ate it, I remember the jammy perfection of my mom’s jam, and I felt let down and disappointed.
  • Schnitzel. My parents made it out of breaded pork, served it with a squiggly pasta and capers, and usually had an apple/ raisin/ yogurt salad on the side. I’ve never even tried to make it, but I’ve been missing it lately.
  • And finally, that most important and wondrous of recipes . . . Crescent Rolls. I don’t know what mom did or where she got her recipe, but I’ve been unable to recreate it. These were the flakiest, butteriest, most delicious rolls in the world. She would usually make a double (sometimes triple) batch at Thanksgiving, and they were always the first leftover to disappear. We’d just wander into the kitchen, grab a couple of these babies out of the bread drawer, and wander off snacking on them. My dad’s new wife is a pretty freaking awesome cook, and even her crescent rolls can’t match my moms. In sorrow, I’ve reverted to buying those Pillsbury canned rolls — they may not be awesome, but I least I can comfort myself that the inadequacy and lack of flavor is derived from the can.

I’d also like to try my hand at fried chicken again. Mom never made this, and I never really learned how. However, I recently learned that my husband loves fried chicken, but he dislikes KFC about as much (if not more) than I do. We’ve been settling for Albertson’s fried chicken in the lack of a Church’s Chicken (which is, according to John, the only place to buy fried chicken at). Amy, Goddess of the Kitchen and All Things Delicious, has promised to send me her fried chicken recipe, which I’m excited to try.

I would also like to try pork loin. My dad always overcooked it, so I never liked it. But then again, I didn’t like spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, salads, or canned fruit back then either. Well, to be fair, I still hate and loathe canned fruit salads. Ew. But just because I’ve never had a delicious, perfectly cooked pork loin doesn’t mean they don’t exist. There’s got to be a reason it’s such a popular dish — so I want to try my hand at it.
It just kind of worries me. It’s got to be a pretty sensitive dish to cook accurately, because I have seriously never had a yummy pork loin. It’s always dry and overcooked and bland. I don’t understand how this meat came from the same animal bacon and ham does. So either nobody knows how to cook this dish, or it’s really super easy to accidentally overcook, or it’s actually that disgusting. Seeing as it appears to be a popular dish, I’m thinking that it’s probably not disgusting when cooked correctly — but no-one who’s served it to me knows how to cook it. And that’s why I’m a bit worried about trying to cook pork loin.

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