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Enchilada sauce and the domino effect.

On Sunday I finally cooked the red enchilada sauce I’d been planning to make for ages. Generally I do a double batch and freeze half, because the recipe calls for three ounces of tomato paste and the cans are all six ounces.

Make ahead and save, right? Especially when you see how much you save: The red enchilada sauce at the store cost $2.79 to $4.49. By comparison, this recipe cost me maybe 50 cents (and probably not even that much) for more than four cups of the stuff. In part that’s because I used clearance-rack tomato paste (29 cents a can) and cumin and chili powder from Costco-sized jars.

Better still: I can control how much sodium goes in, and I can tinker the recipe a bit. For example, I added a little unsweetened cocoa powder for richness and replaced the water with broth made with chicken bouillon. But since both these additions had also been found on the clearance rack, they didn’t boost the total cost by much.

Naturally the flavor of the homemade stuff is so much better than the canned variety. No preservatives, less salt and it’s amazingly easy to make. We’re taking 10 minutes, start to finish. The recipe is from a delightful cookbook called “Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half.” (You can also access it at the BB website.)

Bonus: Finally making time to do the enchilada sauce led to all sorts of shenanigans. In a good way.

 

Lately I’ve been swamped with writing assignments and edits. The resulting brain drain has made it hard for me to get motivated to take care of certain chores. This leads to frustration because the fridge didn’t get wiped off or the rhubarb went unharvested.

Sunday started with enchilada sauce, but it didn’t end that way.

 

 

Someone’s in the kitchen with Donna

 

Among the other chores I did:

Washed the outside of the fridge. It was smeared and smudgy, which is not a good look on a white icebox. This has been bugging me for ages but as my friend SonyaAnn says, apparently it didn’t bug me enough or else I would have done something about it. On Sunday, I did – and it took only about 10 minutes. D’oh!

Started some yogurt. It’s the easiest way to get calcium into my system, and it’s better for me than ice cream. Bonus: DF found half-price milk, so ultimately I got a quart of Greek-style yogurt (with no preservatives) for about 85 cents.

Simmered some compote. But not just any compote. Recently I’d borrowed my great-nephews, who love to use knives. (Don’t all the best stories begin with a sentence like that?) We took out a bunch of rhubarb stalks, some of which were the size of fungo bats, and left the rest to grow for later harvest. The two of them chopped away while I supervised, and filled freezer bags (5½ quarts’ worth). On Sunday I put a quart on the fire, and also scraped into the pan about half a cup of homemade raspberry jam that had begun to crystallize. The result was syrupy and delicious and – yet again – it took care of something that had been bothering me, i.e., the gummy-looking jar.

Boiled some eggs. After weeks of high prices, the cost of cackleberries came down to 99 cents a dozen. That was God’s way of saying, “Have some egg sandwiches for lunch this week, and cook a few extra to put on green salads.” In case you care, here’s how DF does eggs: Boil for no more than four minutes (I do 3½ ), take the pan off the heat and let stand for half an hour, then chill the eggs in cold water before refrigerating. The result is a bright yellow yolk vs. a greeny one. You’re welcome.

Dealt with the enchilada sauce. I froze half as soon as it was cool, and thought about turning the rest into that black bean, chicken and quinoa casserole the next day. Then I thought, “Why wait?” and took some cooked chicken out of the freezer. (When DF does poultry thighs on the Weber, he’ll do a dozen or more and then chop and freeze what we don’t eat.) The day before I’d come home from my friend Linda B. with a mess of beans, because she’d cooked too many. Since we’re out of quinoa, I substituted rice. The house smelled great and the casserole is big enough to feed us at least three times. Cook once, eat thrice: That’s my idea of mathematics.

Oiled some wood. The kitchen table has a wood top and dries out in the arid climate. Can’t remember the last time I oiled it, and it too was bugging me. Now it’s oiled, as is the bathroom towel rack. As long as I had the kitchen table cleared off, I also…

Washed the placemats. We have three (one plastic, two silicon) and they were looking pretty dingy, mostly due to newsprint. I washed each one carefully and hung the silicon ones out to dry on the outdoor clothesline. While they were drying, I recycled some newspaper sections that were sitting around and dealt with some mail that had been languishing on the table. Now our eating space has nothing on it except salt and pepper shakers, a bottle of Tabasco and the placemats.

Well, those things plus the latest editions of Opera News and Mother Jones and a collection of short stories by John O’Hara. Stuff creep: It’s real.

 

A body at rest…

 

You know what else is real? The domino effect.

Because I finally got off my dime and made the doggoned enchilada sauce, I felt inspired to do at least one more thing. And another one after that. In fact, since I worked on and off for about six hours, I’m not sure that this is a complete list of my Sunday chores. (Menopause brain is real, too.)

It’s the same with my writing. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’ll coax myself to do one thing: brainstorm a list of questions I need answered, do just a little research, start to outline an article, set a timer for 20 minutes and write until it goes off.

What generally happens is that I keep going after the timer goes off, or after I’ve done “just a little” research. That’s because a body in motion tends to stay in motion.

As for the other half of Newton’s First Law: A body at rest tends to think, “Why haven’t I posted on my blog lately? What kind of person does that? Do I want to lose readers?”

At which point I panic and spin my wheels and don’t think of any topics, and good grief it’s 10:30 p.m. and I have to get up early to do an interview and I have three more deadlines to hit and and and…

So here I am, after 10 days of AWOW (absent without writing), saying “hello again” and suggesting that you, too, keep the domino effect in mind when you need to tackle a bunch of chores. If you give a mouse a cookie, it will want a glass of milk; if you give your to-do list even a little bit of attention, you might wind up with a sense of accomplishment. Maybe a casserole, too.

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