Today is Donna's birthday, Happy birthday Donna! A while back I asked her what she’d like for her birthday and she said she’d like me to write a blog post for today.
Oh, you’d like the day off!
Okay, I’ll try. Where to begin?
When Donna and I started dating she invited me to her apartment for a lasagna dinner. I didn’t know she could cook at the time; we’d been going to restaurants on dates. I arrived at the apartment and she invited me in. I noticed the aroma of home cooking and couldn’t wait for the dinner. It was a small apartment with a kitchen/dining area.
She sat me down, served salad and eventually presented this huge lasagna. I ate and ate and ate. This didn’t come from the freezer aisle at the supermarket (which was my usual fare). After dinner we headed into Chicago to meet up with some of my buddies and their dates.
Early the next morning, after breakfast, I returned Donna to her apartment. We said our goodnights and she opened the door. I felt this blast of heat emerge from the apartment (this was in the middle of a Chicago winter). I went in to see if there was a fire or something. Nope. We determined that she left the oven on all the time we were out.
Okay, I've got to interject here ... (sorry, honey) but this wasn't actually the first time I cooked for Bob. That was a spaghetti dinner. The lasagna was a little later, but it was the first pull-out-all-the-stops meal that I made for him.
Bob has also omitted the second part of this tale. You see, when we got back to the apartment and it was so ridiculously hot, we opened a window just a little and cracked open the patio door. It was the dead of winter, but it was that hot in the apartment.
We went out again, with the intention of being back at my place a little later, after things had cooled off. But no, a raging blizzard blew through and we couldn't get back to my apartment. It might have been a day or two before roads cleared.
This time, when I grabbed the doorknob it was frosty frigid cold. Icy, even. Uh oh. The patio door was half open and there was a pile of snow on my living room floor. The window in the bedroom was still just cracked open, but there was a nice dusting of snow on the bed.
I've always wondered if the people in the neighboring apartments noticed anything weird, and if so, what they thought.
And, for the record, I have no idea why leaving the oven on made it so hot in the apartment. Maybe I left the oven door cracked open. I really don't recall.
Okay, back to Bob's stories:
Or maybe not a good idea because I’ve been known to burn water. But I had to make it special.
My concept was to combine turkey with Salisbury steak as a main dish, mashed potatoes as a veggie and gravy on the side with some sort of dessert. But I knew from previous experience that the gravy somehow leaks onto the potatoes and moreso the dessert in any frozen dinner.
So, plan B. I had an idea. Days before the dinner event I found a cookbook that had directions on how to make dough. I had access to Donna's kitchen for most of the day because she was taking her mother out shopping. I bought all the ingredients I needed (King Arthur flour, Red Star Yeast, ground beef, cheese, and jalapeño peppers) and went to work.
I couldn’t believe how long it took to make the dough, though. In the meantime I was able to cook the ground beef with the peppers on the stovetop.
After the dough went through the rise I figured it was ready for its fall. I proceeded to assemble my masterpiece. Once accomplished, it went into the oven.
The timing was perfect. Soon, Donna returned and asked “how’s dinner going?"
"Moments away," I responded. The table was already set, Donna sat down and when the timer went off, I presented the meal.
“What do you call this?” she asked.
"Nashville Sneakers," my response. You see Nashville Sneakers was a silly little ditty done by one of my favorite bands. I actually rolled, cut, formed and shaped the dough to resemble sneakers (logos and shoelaces included) stuffed with ground beef jalapeno peppers and cheese.
Days later we were at her mother's place and Donna told the story about my experience making dough from scratch and her mom asked “why didn’t you just use Bisquick”? What’s Bisquick?
Liver & Onions:
One time Donna offered to make me liver & onions. Imagine trying not to roll your eyes after hearing that. “Sure” I said. My mom made it from time to time when I was growing up, and it was like shoe leather.
I figured that after all the great meals Donna served me, one flop could be overlooked. I’d tell her afterward that liver is in the same category as cantaloupe in my book, and if given the choice I’d go for the cantaloupe.
She turned from the counter with a serving plate loaded with liver & onions. I looked at the utensils placed before me and they were a fork, a regular dinner knife, and a spoon. No steak knife. Just like at home. Mom would be proud.
I dug in to the dish and after using the knife to cut through the “rawhide” realized I could actually cut it with the edge of the fork. It was tender! I asked what this was and she said “liver & onions.” She couldn’t believe I finished off the whole meal in one sitting. Sorry, mom.
Cold Soup Wingnut:
Donna and I were on a cruise for our honeymoon. They seated the same group together every night for dinner, I guess for you to get to know each other. On the first night of this cruise vichyssoise was served as an appetizer.
After being served, one guest pushed his bowl away exclaiming “this soup is cold!” Our waiter returned to the table and explained to the gentleman that that vichyssoise is served chilled, pointing it out on the menu. Culture shock, we figured. When the waiter returned to take the entree orders, the gent wanted a hamburger. And regardless what was on the menu, he ordered a hamburger every night.
That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.
Donna's note: Bob is still in the hospital, and I'm pretty sure he wasn't quite finished with this post. I found it on his computer and figured, what the heck, it's my birthday and I'll do what I wanna do.
There is an actual recipe for Nashville Sneakers. I'm not sure Bob remembers writing it, but I've got it in my recipe collection. The "artwork" in this post is from that handwritten recipe.