At the Spice Rack

Cooking continues to be a wonderful way for me the the children ("B", age 6 and "Co-co" age 3) to spend time together. However, I do have to admit, learning our way around the spice rack is a little more time consuming than anticipated.  However, after purchasing our first rice cooker, slow cooker and new blender (several months ago) and a Cuisinart 6 quart Stockpot (last week), it became apparent the sense of security, stability, fun, affection and thrill of tasting what came out of the oven in my grandmother's kitchen was now available in my own kitchen and for my children.

My grandmother, "Cita" (I guess that was short for Mama-cita?) who was born in Mexico, didn't have books or the Internet to consult with for a recipe, but I do think the family gatherings and neighbors were her references to identify a special ingredient to make, for example, tamales a little bit better.  I remember often the family getting together during the holidays for a special meal and my grandmother always having something for us each time we visited; and, if it wasn't already made, she needed just a few minutes in the kitchen and in what seemed like no time, we'd have fresh tortillas, muffins, a chicken dinner, tacos, or whatever.  While I don't have grandma's vast experience and knowledge of recipes and ingredients and how they are mixed together, what I do have, which I believe is the primary ingredient, is love for my daughters, which makes any non-fluffy, partially burnt rice or overly crispy chocolate chip cookies taste wonderful.

Several months ago, I ventured my first attempt at rice in the new rice cooker.  After that, I felt bold enough to try a chicken something or other in our first slow cooker.  "B" and "Co-co" both loved the way our home smelled on the way in from school, "Ummmmm, Papa, what smells sooooooo good?!"  I was hooked.  Week before last, Chloe and I ventured a cherry pie.  After that I tried for about the third time (best result so far) Quinoa.  Last week, we tried two new items at once, due to the girls being sick with the cold.  The menu included bread and chicken soup.  The feedback I am getting from the girls makes me feel pretty good about doing what I can to move away from the microwave and processed foods.

Today, I purchased two new books to help me out (in addition to all the wonderful support, education and tips I receive from friends):

Thinking this was going to be a smart budget move, I didn't realize spices are so expensive, not to mention building a kitchen of supplies!  But a close friend reminded me, it is a lot cheaper than the ill effects of poor health over time associated with poor nutritional habits.  This week, we are going to try Banana Bread (by, Bob's Red Mill Stone Ground Cornbread Mix ( and Potato Corn Chowder (The $7 a Meal Slow Cooker, p. 287).

I have to use a measuring cup and measuring utensils for everything, while my grandmother used her hand as a "measuring cup". I have to read the recipe no less than five times to know what I'm doing and ask a lot of questions.  I am by no means a "chef" as defined in any dictionary, but to my girls, I am "Chef Papa" and together we are learning our way around the spice rack and loving it.