Pork, Sauerkraut and Potatoes.

Dinner had been done for over an hour.  I love that we were still tonight, seated around the kitchen table ..

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As a child .. almost every night was spent at the dining room table, together.  Family meals were our norm.  Most often, my dad would be at the stove already hard at work on some never measured out concoction that would taste fantastic when all was said and done, before our mother would ever get home.

We would all then sit down to eat.  And talk.

In our various family forms since my daughter came along, we have done the same.  But the time I currently have at the ranch has allowed me a lot more time to cook, think about meal planning and to stay seated at the table well past dinner being done to hang out, talk, enjoy each others company.

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Tonight, it was a dish dad used to make all the time.  My first attempt.

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Pork chops, potatoes and sauerkraut.  Dad would usually throw it all in the pressure cooker.  (“Don’t touch it, it can explode,” dad would say of the pressure cooker.  I have been afraid of them since.)  I threw tonight’s meal in the oven.

An hour and a half later .. it was done.  The Cowboy had just come back in from working with one of the horses.  Our 11 year old was shortly behind him after spending time on her favorite horse as well, despite the frigid temperatures.

They both were cold.

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The food was hot.

“That was really good,” said the Cowboy.

My daughter simply cleaned her plate (minus most of her sauerkraut) and then asked for more.

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‘Try this,’ my 10-year-old says..

I was going to post earlier today .. the answer to ‘Most Asked Question #2‘ when it comes to me and the Cowboy.  The, ‘He lives there and you’re here?  How did you meet?’ post.  But that’ll come later, I guess.  My internet is giving me hell.  I didn’t get a chance to tweak it.  That’ll happen yet tonight, I would imagine.

In the meantime, I’ve had the most wonderful afternoon with my daughter.  And given I want her to have as much of me and ‘us’ documented to remember .. I’m going to take this moment to write about our evening.  Because there is much to be savored.  Literally.

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There is a store in Madison where, every Wednesday, when I pick my daughter up from school for either the two days I have her each week or the 5 .. we stop to pick up fresh produce.  Because neither she nor I can get enough of it …

Other stores carry produce.  I shop there too.  But usually, none can compare to what we find at this particular Madison based store.  It is just that good.  Or, at least we know it’s that good.  Because, well, because there are samples.  For EVERYTHING.

“Mom,” she says, chasing me around the store with another sample of something.  Always.  “Try this!  You HAVE TO TRY THIS!  Can we get one of these?” she says.

Great marketing.  It works.  We usually walk out with far more than what we would have gotten otherwise.

Regardless..

I’m estatic we have a chance to get home tonight and do little other than finish up homework.  Hang out together.  Cook.  And give the dogs some exercise after being cooped up much of the past two days while the rest of the Midwest comes to life now that spring has sprung.

I put the pork chops in the oven, get the snap peas ready to go for when I return.. and go for a run with one of the dogs.

I was gone 15 minutes.

I come back, she’s cutting up a pear.  I think little-to-nothing of it.

I go back to getting dinner ready.

“Please keep working on your homework,” I say.

I find a granola bar wrapper.

And, as I go to put the other groceries away, I find the cheese, open.

“Did you eat more than the pear?” I ask.  “You’re going to ruin your appetite and we have a nice dinner tonight.”

“What,” she says.  “I only had cheese, a granola bar.. and, I had a pear.”

She pauses a few seconds.

“And I’m still hungry.”

We sit down moments later to a wonderful meal of pork chops, steamed sugar snap peas, fresh salad topped with strawberries and cantaloupe to round it out.

She’s right.  She is still hungry.

And these are moments that remind me, despite how often I’ve been told by her father over the years I am far from being the best mother (to put it mildly) .. make me feel like if I’ve done anything right, she will grow in so many ways, into a healthy young woman.

My 10 year old is growing, in more ways than one.  Precious moments like these, I’m so grateful to realize pass us by too quickly .. to not be savored.

Now about that ice cream for dessert …

Let her cook?

I finally decided we were close enough to trash day yesterday .. to go ahead and dump out some old food.  Which, I hate ever doing.  Wasting food.  And throwing food out.

But when you’re living alone part of the time and still have to shop for others to be with you the other part of the time, it somehow seems inevitable.  Which is why, over the years, I’ve taken to eating out more than I should.

In trying to get back to spending less, eating healthier and being home more .. something I want for myself and that the Cowboy is encouraging me to do as well… I’m trying to get back into this cooking thing.

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I’ve always loved to cook.  Love looking at recipes.  Love having family and friends over for meals.  I have an extensive collection of favorite cookbooks.  But at the moment, in our last move and in severely trying to downsize, I’ve pulled out only a few from the boxes.

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The rest, for now .. sit in storage.

I’m not sure when exactly .. I got so far away from that.  But fairly certain it was as I adjusted to a new life, during my divorce.

Six years later …

My daughter is wanting desperately to learn to cook.   So I’m trying to find the time between getting home late each evening during the week when I have her, homework, taking the dogs out, picking up and getting her to bed.  Which doesn’t leave us much time.  To cook.  Anything but buttered noodles (any pasta), rotisserie chicken and a salad.  (Yes, I know I can throw something in the crock pot.  That would require more advance planning and it just never seems to work out that we actually eat what goes in there.  A lot still gets thrown away.)  We eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables.  Again, really no cooking involved.  And on weekends between traveling back and forth to South Dakota, visiting family or friends here, it seems someone else is always the one at the stove.

SO… when I’m not looking:

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(Sorry for the close-up.)

She ‘cooks.’

Grapes.  Bananas.  Swedish Fish.  Apples.  Some sort of sugary sauce.  Pretty sure that’s what I ended up throwing out yesterday after it sat in the refrigerator for a couple days.  (No garbage disposal or it would’ve gone out much sooner.)

At 10 years old .. she whips up whatever concoction she can, whenever I turn my back or give her a few minutes alone now, while I run errands or walk the dogs.

No stove though.  One of the rules.

So she gets creative.

And she loves it.  She will also usually try and stomach eating whatever it is she’s ‘cooked’ just to prove a point.  That she’s ready to learn.

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In writing this – I’ve learned its not only a rite of passage by doing a little research, it’s healthy in so many ways for a child to learn to cook.  Especially now that she’s learning fractions in math, cooking might be a great way to give her practical application.  Hadn’t thought about that until this moment.  And perhaps I should have done more to bring her into the kitchen years ago.

From eHow Family:

What Children Learn from Cooking

Teaching children to cook is not only a valuable life skill, but it incorporates other important skills as well. When children cook, they have a chance to practice math skills, work on following directions, learn to work with an adult and get a sense of accomplishment. Children as young as 3 can begin learning to cook.

  1. Skills for Younger Cooks (under 5)

    Reading Aged Children (5-7)

    School Aged (7 and up)

    Significance

    Fun Fact

    Warning

I waffle back and forth between wanting to fuss at her for wasting so much food (and money in the process) that would have been part of her school lunch or our dinner.  And, allowing her the space to be creative.  To cook. And I know it’s in her best interest to teach her.

So while I look for the time, I send her to look for the dish soap.  Because if she’s going to learn to cook ..