Real Cooking

om, I’ve brought supper home!”

My daughter was charging up the front porch steps clutching a plastic bag in her hand. A giant smile erupting over her face.

I hadn’t seen her for awhile because she had attended a sleep-over at her friend Kelsey’s house the night before and had then accompanied the Unruh family on a trip to the Sport, Boat and Travel Show in Wichita.

“What’s in the bag?”

I was secretly hoping for Chinese take-out.

But as I looked at Lola and Lyle as they followed the girls up the sidewalk to the house, I had a sneaking suspicion we

wouldn’t be having Moo Goo Gai Pan as our evening repast. The Unruhs were giggling way too much.

“It’s a fish!”

Indeed it was. A rainbow trout to be exact.

By the time we all moved from the porch to inside the house, Keith and Alex had come to admire the catch of the day.

Meghan had caught the fish at a display set up by the Make A Wish Foundation at the Sport, Boat and Travel Show. For a small donation, children could fish in a stocked tank for five minutes, trying their luck in hooking a big one.

Meg got lucky. Well actually, she snagged it, but what the hey.

So, it would be fish for supper that night, but the trout wouldn’t be big enough to feed us all.

“There’s striper in the freezer,” my husband reminded me.

(Author’s note: That’s striper, a type of fish. Not stripper, a type of exotic dancer.)

“If you can find it, I’ll cook it.”

Now, I have to interject something here. We have in our home one chest freezer located in our basement and two freezers that occupy the top half of the two refrigerators we own.

(Don’t be too impressed. One fridge resides in the garage and is used primarily for cooling pop and cow medicine.)

But because of all the cooking I do and because we sometimes butcher our own beef and because I have a penchant for buying sale items by the dozen, our freezers seem to be constantly bursting at the seams.

Much to my husband’s chagrin. He hates having to fight frozen packages that come flying out at his head when he gets into the kitchen freezer for some ice cubes, and he detests trying to search through the layers of icy bags and boxes that line the freezer chest in the basement.

To be honest, I’m not thrilled with the freezer situation either. I just try not to obsess about it like some people I know.

It’s my husband’s theory that we just keep using the top third of the items in the freezer and never really utilize anything below that level.

There’s validity to his thinking. At this point, I’m really not sure what occupies the bottom layer of the chest freezer. It’s been a long time since I’ve cleaned and rearranged the stock.

I’ll tell you why. Being just shy of five feet tall, I have to tip myself over the edge of the freezer, feet dangling mid-air, to be able to reach the bottom.

It’s just not something I enjoy doing on a regular basis.

Speaking of freezers, Melissa Bartel called the other day after she had rearranged her two chest freezers in order to accommodate the packages of venison that her hunter husband, Rollind, had brought to her.

After seeing just what each freezer really held, she was sure her family could easily eat for at least a year on their contents.

“It would be interesting to know.” Melissa said, “just how many of us have freezers stuffed full of food and how long it would take to use up. Maybe you (through this column) should issue a ‘clean out your freezer’ challenge. You know, see whose family could last the longest by just eating out of their freezers.”

It’s not a bad idea. I know Keith would be thrilled to see what’s in the lower two thirds of the chest in the basement. Frankly, I’d be more frightened, but it would be good to have a “freezer purge,” as it were.

Now, back to the fish story…..

Keith found the striper-not the stripper-and we made dinner. Keith and Alex took over the job of preparing the trout while Meg and I fried the striper.

Alex, my budding chef, decided the trout should be left whole and grilled with lemon and Tony Chachere’s Original Seasoning.

Terri Allen had graciously dropped a canister of this Louisiana all-purpose seasoning by the Free Press for me to try. He figured the fish would be a good first time experiment.

Wow! The trout was good, the seasoning spicy.

“My lips are burning,” my daughter said as she laughed.

I loved it. Finally, I was able to taste something. Since my bout with the flu and its lasting secondary infection, I have lost most of my sense of taste and smell.

For someone who likes to cook and loves to eat, that’s really bad.

It’s so weird. When I was cooking the fish the other night, I could smell it when I stood over the stove, but if I got more that a foot away, I couldn’t smell anything.

Hopefully, this is a temporary condition. It’s amazing to me how much I rely on my sense of smell. I can’t tell when the bread is finished baking now; I have to set the timer.

So, the bad news is, since I can’t smell, I don’t know if the trash needs taking out.

The good news is…since I can’t smell (or taste), I notice I quit eating when I’m full now. The flavor and aroma of something yummy just doesn’t hold the same temptation anymore.

Hmmm. I don’t know if that’s good news or not.

* * *

Here’s a casserole recipe I have to admit I haven’t tried, but it does utilize some things I can get out of my freezer.

Zesty Pizza Roll Casserole

1 lb. ground beef

3 cups frozen southern style hash browns

2 cups spaghetti sauce

11/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/2 cup sour cream

1 (19 oz) package Totino’s Pizza Rolls, any flavor

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

Brown beef and stir in potatoes and spaghetti sauce. Heat until bubbly.

Stir together sour cream and mozzarella. Pour beef mixture into 13×9 pan and top with cheese mixture. Arrange pizza rolls over top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.

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