Creating A Peaceful Environment

When things around our house are chaotic, as they have been lately, I try to create a peaceful, comfortable, cozy atmosphere to make up for it. The smell of good home-cooking is an often used trick (tell me a house is instantly a home when a good, home-cooked meal is thick in the air). Baking is my preferred olfactory method, but casseroles, soups, breaking out the grill… those all do the trick mighty dandy, too.

I don’t have the luxury of a fat checkbook to spend on visual ambiance, so last year when we painted the kitchen, I chose neutral wall colors so that I could change the look easily with tablecloths, seasonal decorations, or even a bowl of fruit. Unfortunately, at this moment, I cant change the hideous color of our chairs – candy orange, free from dad’s church (a never-ending supply) – but I can still work with them (see tablecloth below).

The other day I picked up a new tablecloth, incentive to clear off the kid’s homework and clutter. I probably should have ironed it before putting it on, but I was eager. One tablecloth, one 3-wick candle (not one I made, but one I bought years ago from Target – can’t throw it away, gotta use it up), dinner in the air and lights dim… nice and inviting for the boys and Frank to come home to.

My aging camera requires more takes than it used to, and after a good handful of pictures, a glass of wine became part of the relaxing atmosphere.

You can see my wonderful cloth napkins still going strong in the background. So glad I made that switch.

Chocolate Pudding

My mom frequently made pudding for desert when we were kids. She would spoon it into the Buffalo China bowls, or glass dessert dishes. The combination of the dishes and the pudding are imprinted in my memory.

Glass dishes.

Wanting a simple desert I could make from scratch, and also to create the same memory for my own children, I decided to give homemade pudding-making a try. There are all kinds of recipes for chocolate pudding on the internet. Liking to keep things very simple, I chose the chocolate pudding recipe from Hillbilly Housewife. It uses simple ingredients to achieve a delicious desert.

Buffalo China bowl filled with pudding.

The kids absolutely love the pudding. I haven’t used another recipe yet, since this one has been a hit. I double the batch so we can have it for dessert more than once.

The pudding cooks up pretty quickly, and is edible as fast as it cools. One of the interesting aspects of making pudding is that it is reminiscent of soapmaking. The pudding, when ready, resembles the step in soapmaking when the soap comes to a trace. Yum.

Pudding “trace.”

Cranberry Saltine Cool Whip Dish

Just before Thanksgiving I was listening to talk radio (local) and people were calling in on a casual discussion of listener’s Thanksgiving menu choices. I listened, hoping to catch an idea for something new and different to add to our menu. Since I was in the process of driving around town running errands, whatever “new idea” sparked my fancy needed to be something very, very simple that I could retain in my brain until my next stop so I could write it down.

A lady called in and gave a recipe for a family favorite, “Sounds kind of grouse, but everyone loves it,” she said.

Prepared Cranberries
Small carton of Cool Whip
Sleeve of Saltines (crushed, or not)

Layer the three items in a glass dish. Simple, pretty, yummy.

I figured – why not?

I doubled the recipe. I made cranberries by taking 1 bag whole berries, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water (directions were on the bag), boiled, smashed, cooled.

This I layered with the other 2 ingredients, then covered and put it in the fridge overnight (the lady on the radio recommended this).

I did not like it. I think if I had used pound cake or even bread instead of the Saltines, I would have been OK. But the Saltines rendered a texture and taste I wasn’t fond of. I was hoping for the “sweet, salty, cake-like melding” that was spoken of on the radio, but it turned out with a texture of something in a day-old lunch box – to me. Everyone else seemed to like it.

It is a simple base idea, though, that could be used with another fruit (blueberries) or, like I said, a bread or cookie instead of the Saltines. So, though I might not make it exactly like the recipe says (or if I did, I would make it for a potluck or something), I will keep it in my “back pocket” of tricks to use creatively another time.