Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"So, what does this smell like to you?"

It is unhealthy the amount of time I spend thinking about food - I can be working on something totally unrelated in my cube at work, then someone opens the door to the lunchroom (mere feet away) and an aroma will wash over me and cause my brain to stutter. Some smells are good, some not, but some will make me lose my train of thought and start a landslide of thoughts, memories and ideas that tumble, one over the other, like a river of molten milk chocolate flowing over a bed of broken walnuts and marshmallow boulders.....mmmmmmmmm. I can't think, focus, or concentrate on anything else for minutes, maybe even longer - it's really a hazard for me to work so close to where food is heated and consumed - I have a severe case of CIS (Culinary Interruptus Syndrome) and there is no cure.

One such distraction is toast. The smell of toast always makes me think of my Grampa. My dad's dad, in his older years, made and ate toast all the time - it was probably because they took away his drivers license and the only machine they let him run was the damn toaster. So whenever I visited their house, it smelled like toast. Years after Grampa passed away, we bought his house and live there now, and I have, from time to time, thought maybe he was still around now and then. I would get up in the night now and then to answer nature's call, and I'd smell toast - it always made me wonder until I found out later that the kids would sometimes get up after we went to bed and have a snack....and toast was quick and easy. But I still think of Grampa when I smell toast.

Another is burnt popcorn. That's a bad one. We were popcorn artistes growing up, and we popped it in a pan on the burner...no sissy poppers for us. Linoleum, formica and carpeting be damned - we didn't always pay attention so occasionally we would go back to the kitchen after starting a pan of oil heating to a "light show"....I was smart, but not all my siblings had the superior intellect I did, and would attempt to carry a pan sporting 3 foot flames out to the deck...luckily Mom was good at treating burns, and I don't think she minded TOO much that she had to replace the gold shag carpet and hideous linoleum squares in the kitchen. But I think there's still a burn ring on the counter...I just put the pan there for a SECOND... Handsome stranger burns his on purpose in the microwave, but just a little scorched....I told him he had to put a microwave on the deck if he wanted to truly torch it - it's a horrible smell.

What's my fave? Cookies are oh so good, a turkey roasting is heaven, but if you want to take me to your leader, put some homemade bread in the oven and I'll go there no questions asked. It's the smell of happiness to me - sure I want to slather it with butter and eat it until my belly button goes from an innie to an outie, but just the smell is a gift in itself. I don't care for Subway, but once in the store can hardly think because of the smell of that bread cooking. I can't go to Olive Garden because they don't have a conveyor belt to drop a warm delish bread stick onto my plate every 30 seconds and they get all testy if you start pounding your shoe on the table and chanting "bread STICK, bread STICK, bread STICK". It's not a mystery to me why Jesus comes to us mere mortals in the form of bread....it is also a divine creation. (note: please do not lecture me on that last seemingly sacrilegious statement, I am fully aware that a slice of warm sourdough does not have divine powers, nor do I really believe that Killer Dave's Blues Buns in any way shape or form is comparable to Christ our Lord...it was just a simile.)

Easter is almost upon us, and we will be feasting on roast turkey and ham in honor of His rising from the dead, and I decided that cheesy potatoes would be an appropriately fine side dish to pay Him laud. And because I can't stop thinking about them after having them at my great-niece Mazy's birthday BBQ last weekend. Even before I tasted them, the smell drove me mad and I wanted to bury my face in that crock pot.....I have no idea how I was able to keep my portion size to no more than 1/3 cup, but think it was the uber deliciousness of it that satisfied in limited quantities. It's very simple too, and altho I have some ideas for variations (pepper jack, little smokies, bacon, Swiss and ham...), Sunday it's gonna be straight up cheesy...I can't wait.

Jami's Cheesy Potatoes

5 lbs. frozen shredded hash browns
1 cube butter (that's a half cup), melted
1 C. chopped onion (optional, Joe doesn't like em so they didn't have any and no one cared)
1 pint (that's 2 cups) sour cream
2 C. grated cheese (I assume it was cheddar, but I think you could go wild here)
1 large can cream of mushroom soup (not the regular can, the BIG one)
Salt & Pepper

Mix everything together, throw it all in a big crock pot and cook on high about 1 hour, then turn to warm until heated through and you're ready to serve. (UPDATE: After I nearly froze my hands off trying to mix the frozen hash browns with the other ingredients, someone told me you can just pour them over the top, then stir it halfway through. DUH) You can also put it in a buttered casserole or 9x13 and bake at 350 for around 45 minutes....that will make it more brown on top.

Yup, that's it....easy peasy, and so delicious you will forget your name. I thought it would be really good to use a spoon and scoop dents out of it, the put a cracked egg in each dent and bake it until the egg was set, but Handsome Stranger looked at me like I offhandedly remarked that I should top it with crushed eggshells and coffee grounds...fine, eggs on the side. Ooooh....salsa would be good too! I guess that means it's time to make dinner....and Happy Easter, y'all!


  1. Holy Hannah, nothing new for a month. And here I thought I would be so far behind to catch up on things. Seems like I read on FB that you are disappearing on vacation. Have fun, wherever you go.

    We din't have no sissy poppers either, growing up. One nasty pan, one mismatched lid, oil, a cup of popcorn, and tons of butter. Sublime.

  2. Author note: When I tried to mix this all together in a huge bowl, it all froze up and made my hands so cold I had to run them under warm water to thaw them out. Someone who made it that I was whining to about it said they just threw the potatoes in the crock pot, then mixed everything else together and poured it over the top. Then part way through the cooking process they stirred it to evenly distribute...DUH.