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Cooking in the West


August 14, 2020

School bells are about to ring for the first time since March, and many college students are headed off to campus. My thoughts turn to those parents ushering their kids off to college and kindergarten with high hopes, a few hidden tears, and a whole lot of fear of how Coronavirus will affect face to face school. The college bound cars in 2020 are packed with masks, face shields, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, extra toilet paper, and several spray bottles of disinfectant. Digging in the archives, I found this column I wrote about packing for college when our second child, Bret, was heading off to college back in 2007, which was a much simpler and less stressful time.

As I write this, I am counting down the dreaded hours until our last fledgling flies the coop, and we officially become empty nesters. The fledgling seems rather excited to launch himself into flight despite the fact that his parents will be moping around the nest all alone. We are occupying our last quality hours together this week with packing.

We received a letter from the Residence Life folks that has generated a lot of laughs. The list was broken down into "Gotta haves", "It's cool if you have", "We don't recommend", and "Don't even think about." We started with the "Gotta haves." We were checking off things on the list until we came to general cleaning supplies. Realistically, the only thing that general cleaning supplies would be used for would be to try to light the aerosol ones on fire, which is a real no-no in the dorm. Bret will be living with his friend Wes Sargent. Wes's mother Martha and I decided that we will skip the little basket of cleaning supplies, because we gave birth to these boys, so we know we will have to go down and scour and fumigate the room when they either move out, get kicked out, graduate, or just can't stand it any longer--whichever comes first.

Next on the list was coat hangers. We decided to send them, because we would look like bad mothers if we didn't. However, we are pretty certain that they will probably hang uselessly in the closet most of the time unless they are being used to launch projectiles or utilized for dorm jousting tournaments.

We doubled over with laughter at the next item on the list which was a mending/sewing kit. I have a minor in Home Economics, so my mending/sewing skills include advanced stapling, gluing, pinning, and emergency basting, but alas the only mending skill I have passed down to my son is duct taping. We threw in two rolls to cover that need.

Next, they listed a small ironing board and an auto shut-off iron. I realize the ironing board would come in handy as extra space to make beer can pyramids--except that they are expressly forbidden as room decor. I really do not think that Wes or Bret would find any use for an iron except perhaps to make grilled cheese sandwiches. I am pretty sure that they will either wear t-shirts or bribe a girl to iron their cowboy shirts.

The "It's cool if you have" list suggested room decorations. So, I bought a football shaped pen/pencil holder that I thought would be perfect dorm room decor, but the opinionated and very politically incorrect fledgling said it was "lame", and by that I don't think he meant handicapped. In fact, so many things that I buy for the fledgling are labeled "lame" when I get them home that I wish the retailers would plainly label them as such at the store, so I could avoid so many merchandise returns.

They wanted to take their stuffed trophy deer heads with dead staring eyes and their bear rugs for room decorations, but only push pins, masking tape, and thumb tacks are allowed to hang things on the walls, so Martha and I get to continue enjoying those classic redneck decorations in our own homes. They can have fish, so we assume they will probably buy a couple bowls full of piranhas.

Fortunately they cannot have barbecues or freezers. It is expressly forbidden to have dishwashers also. Somehow I cannot imagine a college boy bringing a dishwasher AND figuring out how the plates actually get into it.

The most hilarious item on the "We don't recommend" list was "excessive cash." What college student has excessive cash? Lastly, stencils, wallpaper, borders, and painting are not allowed, which is a shame, because we might have generated some of that excessive cash charging admission to watch Bret and Wes wallpaper and stencil their room!

This week I have recipes which would work for breakfast in a dorm kitchen.

Omelette in a Bag:

(Not only does this process make absolutely delicious omelettes, but it’s also a whole lot of fun!)

Prepare omelette ingredients ahead of time: different kinds of grated cheeses, ham, Canadian bacon, bacon, sausage, green peppers, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, hash browns, etc. All uncooked meat should be cooked beforehand.

Each guest writes his/her name on a quart-sized Ziploc freezer bag with a permanent marker. Then crack two eggs (large or extra-large but no more than two!) into the bag, seal the bag, and shake to mix eggs. Open the bag and add your favorite ingredients. Shake well. Get all the air possible out of each bag. Seal well.

Place the bags in rolling, boiling water. Boil for 15 minutes,stirring occasionally so each bag’s contents gets cooked well. Depending on the size of your pot, you can cook from 5 to 8 omelettes at a time. If more people, use more pots! When the time’s up, distribute the omelettes and enjoy! Salsa and sour cream should be provided. It makes a wonderful breakfast with fresh fruit, coffee cake, coffee, and orange juice! These are unbelievably delicious omelettes—done without being burnt or crusty, and containing each guest’s favorite ingredients! It's easy to clean up afterwards as well!

Caramel French Toast:

1 C. brown sugar, packed

1/2 C. butter

2 T. corn syrup

12 slices bread

6 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 C. milk

1 t. vanilla extract

1/4 t. salt

Combine sugar, butter, and syrup. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Pour into a 9 X 13 baking dish. Arrange 6 slices of bread in a dish. Top with another 6 slices. Blend remaining ingredients and pour evenly over the bread. Cover and chill for 8 hours. Uncover in the morning and bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden. Serve with syrup.

Easy Sticky Buns:

3/4 C. chopped pecans

24 frozen rolls

4 oz. pkg. butterscotch cook and serve pudding mix

1/2 C. butter

3/4 C. brown sugar, packed

1 t. cinnamon

Sprinkle pecans in a greased 9 X 13 pan. Arrange rolls over pecans. Sprinkle pudding mix over rolls. Set aside. Melt butter. Stir in brown sugar and cinnamon. Pour over rolls. Cover with foil sprayed with Pam. Let rise overnight. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Invert pan onto serving tray and serve warm.


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