Food

 
 

Apples and Other Things

 

Monday Friday Letter to My Kids – September 25, 2017

Dear J, J, L and L,

I know, I know, it’s not Friday. And I haven’t written to you for ages. I figured it must be about time. And besides, why wait until Friday?

I ran across this quote recently.

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” ~ Louise Erdrich

It’s not exactly the kind of thought a mother wants to talk to her kids about. Nope. A mom wants to talk about hope and happiness and all that good, sticky, lick-your-fingers kind of stuff.

But there it is.

I’ve tried all I can to protect you. From day one it was my main instinct. Still is.

At this point in your lives, and in mine, all I can do to provide protection is pray like your lives depend on my ability to call down the powers of heaven and surround you like a giant cone of cotton candy. But, no matter how much faith I have, or how hard I pray for you, I know the cotton candy part isn’t always, or even often, in the equation. Although, I really do believe there’s divine help made available in abundance.

fullsizeoutput_aa2I know you have each faced down some hard things in life, even as young as you are. I know the road has been broken and has worn down countless pairs of shoes for some of you. I know you’ve felt swallowed up and beaten down.  I would take and carry it away from you if I could. But motherhood has its limitations.

Thankfully, I also know you’ve felt the opposite of all that heartache; Joy beyond measure! I remember big J’s words as we left the hospital to get some breakfast after his little H arrived. You said with every bit of energy of your soul, “What a beautiful morning to be born!” I know you’ve each shared a similar outpouring of happiness beyond imagining.

Mostly your days bring that mixed tangle of laughter and frustration, just like it should. Some days you stagger under the weight of it all. Other days it’s like you have wings and the world is alive with hope and energy.

Every experience you have is another bite of one of those apples. Sour, juicy, tough-skinned, sweet, wormy, bruises, crunchy, crisp, laced with cinnamon and sugar, tasteless, tangy, tart, cold, mushy, magnificent, tiresome.

fullsizeoutput_a9cI pray you taste as many as you can, as often as you can.  I hope you love, often and deeply, and with wild abandon. I hope you occasionally have the chance to sit under the tree and savor the smells and sounds.

I’m working on my hugging-more and worrying-less experiences. Those are the apples I need to taste more of.

Now I feel like baking up some apple crisp. And then adding a pile of vanilla ice cream on the side. Sounds like the perfect breakfast, doesn’t it?

I love you wildly,

Mom

~~~~~

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Photo by Brian Arthur

“And when you crush an apple with your teeth, say to it in your heart:
Your seeds shall live in my body,
And the buds of your tomorrow shall blossom in my heart,
And your fragrance shall be my breath,
And together we shall rejoice through all the seasons.”
~Kahlil Gibran

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Categories: Family, Food, Friday Letter to My Kids, Friday Letters, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Panivorous? Then This Holiday’s Made Just For You

Today is Homemade Bread Day!

Luscious!

Luscious!

There’s nothing more comforting than the aroma of bread baking, unless it’s actually putting your lips around a warm slice slathered in butter. It’s one of the topics I write about frequently; all too often, I’m afraid. Like this one where I sing the praises of bread. And then I posted these recipes that I adore. And there’s more, which is silly, but not, since bread serves as both metaphor and sustenance in so many different forms.

Doesn't look that great to start, but just wait.

Doesn’t look that great to start, but just wait.

I plan on baking twice as many loaves as normal today as a way of celebrating this delightful little known holiday.

I love sharing my bread. I love the way someone’s eyes light up when I hand them a warm loaf. They all but hug it to their chest. They always lift it toward their face to catch the intoxicating scent. Their eyes almost glaze with a sort of nostalgia, even if they never had homemade bread while growing up.

I’d like to bake a fresh loaf every single morning, but that’s not realistic with only two of us in the house.

Maybe I ought to take up baking for a living, or at least as a little side job. It’s nice to imagine that a plethora of people want to experience the wonder of an imperfectly shaped but exquisitely flavored loaf on a regular basis. And I’d get the side benefit of a house that always smells like freshly baked bread. Mmmm.

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Kneading sometimes provides therapy.

I could bake up six loaves every morning five days a week. That’s thirty extremely happy households regularly. Imagine the transformation in a neighborhood if more lips met more fresh-baked dough. Smiles would surely appear unbidden. Forgiveness would  spring forth almost instantaneously. Love would definitely find expression more frequently. Random acts of kindness might even become the norm and not even make the nightly news as something amazing and different. And, who knows, maybe even peace on earth might break out for an hour or two on occasion.

You laugh. But the power of bread exceeds the power of all other food groups combined. Even (gasp) chocolate! I kid you not.

Seriously, if you’re offered a hot loaf of homemade bread or some kind of chocolate, which would you choose? Be honest!

If you’re male you most likely picked the bread. Female, you probably chose chocolate covered bread. Am I right?

Wait some more.

Wait some more.

If it’s been a long while since you had a truly home-baked loaf of bread, fresh from the oven, still emanating warmth and goodwill when you laid hands on it, then you’ll have forgotten the joy and true power of bread. You’re overdue for a slice or two.

Man may not live by bread alone, but it’s certainly a staple of nearly every culture.

Even people with gluten intolerance or celiac’s disease search out replacements for that perfect mix of crusty crunchiness and inner softness. There’s little that can reproduce the oh-so-marvelous sensation of home-baked bread.

My favorite one-year old refuses almost all other sustenance aside from bread. Her mother makes a wondrous variety of breads and the child has decided she’s found manna and the promised land all in one food group. Oh sure, she’ll eat the random banana, or a green smoothie sometimes,  and she’s okay with pasta drenched in red sauce. But otherwise, it’s bread, or nothing. Smart kid.

Her mother learned that there’s a word for such people: panivorous. It means “subsisting on bread.”

Done rising and ready to bake!

Done rising and ready to bake!

I think I share the same trait. Muffins for breakfast. Bread with butter and cheese for lunch. A fresh loaf, just sliced and buttered, with a few spoonfuls of soup on the side for dinner. I guess I’m not quite a purist. But I could be. Just call me Super Panivore! Surely there’s a cape and tights to go with that, snug fitting but stretchy enough for the bit of tummy bulge sure to accompany such a super hero.

You could probably talk me into a loaf if you live locally. Or I might trade you something for it. For instance, I’m getting my lawn mowed for a loaf this week. Really! Hard to say who’s getting the better deal out of it. Someone brought me a Diet Coke yesterday when a headache threatened to take me down, so they’re probably getting some bread this week, too. Kind acts deserve kindness in return, don’t you think?

Bread’s not a difficult thing to learn to bake. Usually there’s five ingredients. Water, yeast, sugar, salt, flour. Occasionally a bit of oil or butter, or you leave out the sugar, or milk instead of water. Easy peasey. Really.

Can't wait to dive in!

Can’t wait to dive in!

I’ve promised a bread making lesson to a couple of friends a while ago. I need to follow through with that soon.

If you’re curious or feeling adventurous I found two YouTube videos that walk you through the basics of bread baking. I’ve included those links below. Be brave. Be daring. Treat yourself to some love and bake yourself a loaf or two. You’ll thank me or rather, you’ll thank yourself.

If all else fails, at least go buy a fresh loaf from a bakery. It won’t fill your house with loveliness, but your mouth will thank you, and so will anyone you share with.

Happy Homemade Bread Day!

***

Three minutes on the basics of homemade bread.

Fifteen minutes of bread making instruction, if you need a little hand holding.

~~~*~~~

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight… [Breadmaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.” ~M.F. K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

 

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Real Reason Cows Exist

 

Photo by Evelyn Simak [CC-BY-SA-2.0

Photo by Evelyn Simak [CC-BY-SA-2.0

It’s that glorious time of year when the perfect pairing of Mother Nature and Enhanced Mother Nature collide in a state of bliss. My taste buds sing, my lips smack, my happy vibes light up.

What the heck?

Apples

It’s the season for Apples. The perfect all purpose self contained fruit. Colorful, crunchy, sweet and juicy all in one self-contained orb. Perfection.

Cows

And Cows.

Yes. Cows.

Stay with me.

Don’t tell me you’ve never read this Robert Frost poem! It practically proves my point.

The Cow in Apple Time

Something inspires the only cow of late
To make no more of a wall than an open gate,
And think no more of wall-builders than fools.
Her face is flecked with pomace and she drools
A cider syrup. Having tasted fruit,
She scores a pasture withering to the root.
She runs from tree to tree where lie and sweeten
The windfalls spiked with stubble and worm-eaten.
She leaves them bitten when she has to fly.
She bellows on a knoll against the sky
Her udder shrivels and the milk goes dry.

There’s good reason cows love apples. It’s a natural pairing. Really!

Photo by Joy (Caramel apple) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Photo by Joy (Caramel apple) [CC-BY-2.0 )

Cows produce milk, cream and ultimately, butter. Add some sugar to those ingredients, boil, simmer, pour and cool. And you have the real reason cows exist: Carmel!

Combine warm, melted carmel with an Apple and you’ve arrived at the true taste of Autumn.

Oh sure, Apple Pies taste nice. And Apple Fritters deserve mentioning. Apple Crisp tops the list of delectable fruit desserts. But nothing beats a carmel apple for pure delight and comfort.

 

 

 

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Life Hack: How to Eat a Cupcake

My son invented this amazing life hack that you’ll be grateful for from now until eternity. I’m simply passing it on to alleviate a bit of stress from your world.

As a little side note, it’s his birthday today. (Happy Birthday Big J.)

photo.PNG copy

Look I even asked his permission!

Sorry, I don’t have any flashy ads to jump out at you as I dispense this information, or another site you have to click to and then search to find the info I so tantalizingly promised you. I don’t even have fifty other less than stellar hacks for your to wade through. Just this one.

Without further delay, here’s the promised information in photo form:

Cupcake

Cupcake

Here you see a basic peanut butter chip and chocolate cupcake, with a mountain of creamy frosting too big to get your mouth around. (Expertly created by my DIL, a master chef.)

Cupcake Sandwich

Cupcake Sandwich

And here you behold the cupcake transformed into a delectable cupcake sandwich, easy to eat and much less messy.

If you don’t get how I did that here’s the written directions:

Tear the cupcake in half.

Turn the bottom half upside-down and place it on top of the frosting.

Press gently together.

Voila.

(Now you eat it.)

There now. Doesn’t that transform your life just a little? It at least makes you want to go out and buy a cupcake or bake up a batch just to try it out.

Happy eating.

“You’re welcome,” says my brilliant engineering son.

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Love is the Main Ingredient

So on Gratituesday this week I waxed poetic about all things bread which you can read here if you missed it. A few recipe requests came my way and I decided that I could definitely oblige.

Here, then is my contribution to the carbohydrate section of your recipe collection.

Yes, I’ve been lazy and didn’t retype them, except for the last, beyond well-loved and over-used, recipe card.

Does anyone know if there’s an app out there for a digital recipe box?

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English Muffin Bread. It’s a bit messy thanks to the cornmeal, but delish.

Here’s the recipe that my middle daughter gifted me:

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You’ll thank me for this one once you’ve made it.

 

I’ve tried to give credit where it’s due, but sometimes I have no idea where I found the recipe or who gave it to me, or if it’s their original creation or from a friend of a friend of a friend’s relative. Y’know how that goes.

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Perfection on a baking sheet.

The important thing about the above Braided Bread recipe is to combine the ingredients in order, like it says. I should highlight that in my book. I love this recipe for three reasons: 1) It’s fast. Two hours from “mmm, I want bread to oh, my this is delectable, pass me more butter, please.” 2) It only takes one bowl. I cheater knead it in the bowl and let it raise in the bowl I mixed it in. 3) It tastes like I imagine heaven will taste, if it has a taste.

Just as lovely as a food can be. I've tried it as a cinnamon and brown sugar braid with icing drizzled over it. Equally delightful.

Just as lovely as a food can be. I’ve tried it as a cinnamon and brown sugar braid with icing drizzled over it. Equally delightful.

This one, as noted, is from my friend Susan. She’s the kind of cook I’d like to be when I grow up. Anything she sets her hand to makes a person feel loved, comforted and completely at home.

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Just reading this can improve your mood. Imagine actually eating it.

No matter what’s been going wrong in your life, if you whip up a batch of these and eat a few you’ll be able to carry on with hope in your heart and a smile on your sticky face. (Also a Susan recipe. At least, it’s very similar to one she makes.)

Mom and Dad had a house fire thirty something years ago and one of the casualties was Mom’s recipe box. Ouch! This banana bread recipe is as close as I’ve ever been able to get to what she made. (It only looks like it’s been through a fire. Lots of lovely drips, splatters and messes go into making a recipe card look this loved.)

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A much-loved, well used recipe card.

Here’s the translation and one small adjustment:

Mom’s Banana Bread

1/2 cup shortening or margarine (I use real butter instead)

1 cup sugar 

Mix together then stir in:

2 eggs

Then add:

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

Mash 3 ripe bananas 

(if you must you can add 1/2 cup, more or less, of chopped walnuts.) 

Bake in a greased and floured loaf pan at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

MSH prefers his with nuts, I don’t. Guess who wins? I’m the baker. Actually, I make two loaves, one with nuts, one without.)

So, there you have it. Five of my most beloved recipes. Go forth and bake something for yourself or for someone you care about.

Oh, and remember, “Love is the main ingredient.”

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Gospel truth. More important than yeast.

 

 

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The Best Thing Ever to Cross Your Lips

“All sorrows are less with bread. ” ~ Miquel de Cervantes Saavedra 

It’s Gratituesday! Today I obsess about and express thanks for and praise the powers that be for the miraculous marvel called bread.

I’m not talking Wonder here either.

This morning I’m enjoying the delightful stylings of a new recipe I’d never tried until now; English Muffin Bread. It’s what you’d imagine given the name. Nooks and crannies, slightly chewy but crisp where the toaster has caressed it. Real butter, some grape jelly and the day can’t get much better.

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” ~ James Beard

Well, the day could get better if I bake my standard bread loaves, a white bread recipe I’ve modified some by tossing in some fresh ground wheat. Mmmm. A slice of that stuff not ten minutes out of the oven atones for most anything I may have gotten wrong throughout the past twenty-four hours.

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.” ~M.F.K. Fisher (Author of “The Art of Eating”)

A braided loaf, from flour to finished only takes two hours, and disappears in less than ten minutes when family flocks around.

Other favorites? Oh, let me name a few.

  • Orange bow knots
  • Parker house rolls
  • A cinnamon bagel
  • Donuts, almost any kind
  • Artisan bread
  • Sour dough
  • Cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing
  • French bread
  • Challah
  • Pita with hummus
  • Garlic Naan
  • Scones
  • Biscuits – with sausage gravy
  • Corn bread
  • Banana bread
  • Indian Fry bread
  • Breadsticks
  • Rye
  • Sopapillas
  • Waffles
  • Tortillas
  • Pretzels – the big soft ones
  • Focaccia
  • Hush puppies
  • Pancakes
  • Croissant
  • Muffins
  • Ciabatta

No. I don’t personally bake all of those, although I’m happy to imbibe. You could almost call my love and adoration of bread an addiction, but we won’t go that far. I will say a meal seems most complete when bread hums a melody alongside the vegetables and meat.

I consider far too many meals complete with bread alone, unaccompanied by any other food, except perhaps butter or some honey. The bread-only meal provides most satisfaction when it’s warm and filling the place with the scent of heaven.

Is it any wonder that the last meal many people partake of is bread? Not to me.

“I’ve heard it said that when you die you enter a room of bright light, and that you can smell bread baking just around the corner.” ~ Rick Bass

I’ve always envisioned the manna spoken of in the Bible as bread. Freshly baked by angels in bakers hats, to sustain and lift the bodies and souls of the children of Israel. That’s just my spin on it. I couldn’t quote scripture on it. Hardly so. But it’s a nice thought. What else could you eat day in and day out for so long without getting tired of it?

My Dad has Celiac’s disease, which means, among a bunch of other not so thrilling things, he can’t eat regular bread. If I end up with that malady just put me out to pasture and let me go the way of all the earth. Oh, sure, he’s adjusted his diet to avoid gluten, but it’s just not the same thing as the breads I know and adore.

I shouldn’t be choosy though. I’m filled with gratitude as I eat each morsel and crumb. I recognize the beauty and the bounty of my life and try desperately not to take it for granted that bread will always grace my table.

 “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

That quote takes my breath away. Makes me want to put on the habit of a missionary and distribute bread wherever I can.

Bread for everyone, please.

Bread for everyone, please.

When we were dating my not-quite-yet-sweet husband planned a picnic that surely sealed the deal and made me fall in love just a little more. French bread, butter, summer sausage, cheese, complete with glass wine goblets and some bubbly. Not your ordinary picnic faire. But then, this man fell way outside the ordinary spectrum. Impressive. Delicious. Delectable. 

“For less than the cost of a Big Mac, fries and a Coke, you can buy a loaf of fresh bread and some good cheese or roast beef, which you will enjoy much more.” ~Steve Albini

It’s true. Sure, it isn’t quick. It’ll require that you get out of your car and walk into a store or a deli, but it’s worth a try just this once. Stop in at the deli counter, get a few slices of a cheese that sound interesting and if you must, a few slices of ham or roast or pastrami. Then look at the lovely loaves sitting in their paper wrappers or tucked behind the counter. You can’t go wrong with any one of them. And to make the meal completely decadent, swing by the dairy case and put real butter in your basket. You’ll have a meal you don’t want to eat while watching the evening news or perusing Facebook or email.

No, you’ll want to give your full attention to the bread.

You’ll thank me. Really. You will.

You’re welcome.

Categories: Food, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Sweet Somethings

It’s Gratituesday! Occasionally, I’m paying attention and notice detail in a mundane task that transforms the experience. Today I’m sharing the fun and gratitude of such a moment.

Sweet memories.

Sweet memories.

Cutting up a bunch of fruit for a salad recently, I sliced into the first cantaloupe of the season and felt a rush of images fill my head. As a child I only knew this fruit with a bit of salt and didn’t appreciate it so much until I was older and enjoyed it unsalted. Every picnic I’d ever gone on, every campout, too, seemed flavored in the memory of this particular smell.

I moved on to a small watermelon and cut into the thick rind releasing the heady summer scent. Even the sound of the rind giving way, the sudden rush of juice on the countertop added to the sweetness of the moment. Then the colors caught the light just so and I reached for my camera.

Mouth fireworks.

Mouth fireworks.

The berries, blue, red, black, each held within their compact little packages a burst, a pop, a firework of taste memory. Although I must admit there’s nothing like a berry just picked off the vine and slipped between your lips. Oh, my. Nothing at all. But these store-bought beauties still tingled the senses.

Even the grapes seemed to shine in the kitchen light and bask in the bouquet of other scents mingling in the air.

Sweet-tart!

Sweet-tart!

A squeeze of half a lemon, and another of a quartered lime over the glass bowl of color, memory and anticipation, and my artwork, ahem, I mean, my salad, stood ready for a quick snack.

I’m stunned at the variety of fruit available to me when I walk into the grocery store.

“Incroyable!”

I love the sound of the French word for “incredible.” The very pronunciation of it expresses incredulity, surprise, and appreciation. That’s how I felt making a simple fruit salad.

That’s how I’d like to feel every time I experience the bounty in an American grocery store, the providence of my refrigerator, and the blessings of my own sweet life.

 

Categories: Food, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Friday Letters: Pancakes and Waffles and Children, Oh My!

Dear J, J, L and L,

So today’s the day. My first official Friday Letter to my kids. I guess I’ll just jump in with both feet.

We’ve eaten some interesting foods over the years, many of which became favorites. A few we discarded before they even had time to cool completely. But, you gotta admit, I can cook up a pretty good meal.

I apologize for the Salmon Patties. That involved some desperation and not much experience or innovation. Luckily, the Spinach Lasagna incident only two of you had to endure. I’ve since learned that better recipes exist for those particular concoctions that turn out deliciously edible. Let’s not forget the forgotten corn from Thanksgiving that we discovered the day after. And those flaming peas in the microwave made quite a stench. I think I’ve blocked out most of the other gastronomic catastrophes. Feel free to remind me in a private message or an email. No need to share them all in public.

Not Denny's or IHOP.

Not Denny’s or IHOP.

My pancakes never made it up to snuff in my opinion. There’s that whole practice pancake idea that irks me some. You know, the first pancake will simply turn out raw on the inside, burnt on the outside or funky and not very yummy looking. All those pancakes after the first turn out great. Or in the case of my particular pancake cooking abilities, edible but not stellar.

Shouldn’t every pancake turn out the same every time? Why does that first one have to serve as a sacrifice for the rest of the batter that follows? And then, even after that first pancake, I never felt like mine had the delightful taste and texture of Denny’s or IHOP. (Too high of a standard maybe?)  So I rarely ate the pancakes I cooked. If we had homemade raspberry jam, then, okay, I had a couple. Bacon on the side served as a kind of apology for the lack of quality in the pancakes.

There’s a theory out there in parenting that equates first children to practice pancakes. The idea plays out with the idea that parenting gaffes and goofs and idiocy only happens with the first child, who somehow survives or becomes scarred for life, but the rest of the children that follow turn out okay because of the sacrifice endured by the firstborn and lessons consequently learned by the parent.

Nonsense.

Children and food don’t compare in any way, shape or form. Food doesn’t interact, respond or run and hide in a closet. Food doesn’t cry in the middle of the night. Food doesn’t snuggle with you and make you feel like everything’s going to be all right in spite of the chaos and mess.

Apology or bonus? It depends.

Bacon. Apology or bonus? It depends.

Even if you accepted the food/child comparison, parents learn only the first couple of chapters of parenting wisdom from that first child. For instance, we learned to relax a little bit after stumbling through J1 and arriving at J2.  (Yes, I know, emphasis on the word little.) One of your parents learned to relax sooner and more convincingly than the other one. There are lessons learned with each child, some more dramatically or hysterically than others. Each of you came with your own ‘lessons Dad and Mom need to learn from parenting me’ agenda. Rarely did one child-raising experience intersect or lend itself to the child-rearing experience of the others.

Sad, but true.

I have a different theory, a better one than the practice pancake theory. It’s more like how my waffles turn out.

Oooo….waffles.

Oooo….waffles.

Spectacular!

Yes. Every single waffle a masterpiece, delicious, fluffy, crisp and tender, warm and welcoming. I can practically smell the melted butter in each little square, the warm syrup puddling. Bacon is optional with waffles. Perfection.

That is until that final waffle.

I always, always, always burn the last waffle. I sit down at the table, dig into the succulence of waffle nirvana and forget to check on the last one. Even if I set a timer, I’m so enamored of my plate of perfection that I think to myself, I’ll get to that in another bite or two. Before I know it I’m dishing up another waffle, downing a glass of milk, reveling in the particular happiness of breakfast carb overload. Then I realize, too late, that the last waffle has crisped to a dark, dreadful crunch that shatters on fork approach.

Curses!

What does that have to do with parenting children?

Each one of you have been your own kind of sumptuous waffle delight to me. I’ve gotten so caught up in the joys and work and business of parenting at times that I’ve neglected or ignored the warning signs, the red flags, the obvious pitfalls. Yup, I’ve made mistakes. Probably the same ones over and over, without learning from them. But you all turned out amazing in spite of your parents, not because of us.

Pay attention to the timer.

Pay attention to the timer.

And, no bacon required, no apology needed.

Now, you’ve all added a delightful side dish of a companion who adds dimension and delight to our family. Like, bonus bacon!

I feel like a master chef. The secret is you’ve all managed to do your own cooking, I just stirred up a few ingredients and look how you turned out!

So, what about that last waffle?

Oh.

Well, that’s me. I never really learned to pay attention to my own needs. I tended to push myself past my limits until I got a bit burned out. Staying up too late, getting up too early, saying yes to every request, trying to do it all and be it all. That’s not a smart way to function. It leads to dysfunction. Sorry about that part of things. I wasn’t always at my best for you.

I’m hoping you learn not to burn that last waffle. I hope you pay attention to your own internal timers, bells, whistles, needs and wants. Keep things balanced and enjoy your own life as you raise your own little munchkins. Good luck with that.

Thanks for letting me experiment in the kitchen of life with ya’ll. It’s quite a delicious and always surprising treat.

Until next Friday, I’ll be thinking about you, worrying about you and loving you!

Love,

Mom

 

 

 

Categories: Food, Friday Letters, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Chocolate Love

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful for Chocolate! What food group better addresses my emotional needs? None.

If decadence had a flavor it’d be chocolate. Don’t you agree?

You know, it is American Chocolate Week here in the United States, March 16-22. Not that I find American chocolate all that amazing, it’s not really one of our strong points. I think of it more as a holiday wherein Americans celebrate chocolate’s wonders, magic and joys.

Nothing else warms me quite like a cup of Hot Chocolate with hazelnut.

Hot Chocolate with hazelnut. Ahhh.

Chocolate can gentle me awake on especially groggy mornings. Hot, in a mug, with a dash of hazelnut and cream, its soothing heat penetrates and slowly shakes the Sandman’s dust from my brain. Once a daily ritual, it’s now become seldom, more special in its rarity.

I’ve experienced chocolate in a main dish, which is surprisingly not as weird as you’d think. A Mexican wonder of rich spice and complex flavors, Mole adds an interesting twist to an often overtired food genre.

Has anything escaped being dipped in chocolate? I think not.

What a messy treat!

What a messy treat!

From my earliest memories of a chocolate dipped soft serve ice-cream cone, to my more recent love affair with chocolate covered cinnamon bears, I can only conclude that everything’s better dipped in chocolate. Cookies, cake, apples, pretzels, strawberries, pineapple, caramel, nuts, cherries, marshmallows all reach their natural order of perfection when joined by chocolate. Did I mention coconut? I should have mentioned coconut. Now I have.

I suppose carrots and celery might not mix well with the creamy succulence of chocolate, but pretty much anything else ramps up a notch by pairing off with a bit of the creamy perfection of melted chocolate.

Give me a box of chocolates and I’m your friend for life. Seriously. Keep in mind that I prefer milk chocolate to dark, unless mint gets involved. A box with a map included for navigating the hidden treasures beneath the twists and twirls and peaks of chocolate gift wrapping will make my heart go all a flutter.

Mmmm, Manna.

Mmmm, Manna.

A chocolate factory in Phoenix creates what our family refers to as “manna,” also known as “the food of the Gods.” Cerreta’s turns the standard chocolate mint on its head by encasing a delightfully rich truffle in a blanket of green-mint-melt-in-your-hand-before-it-gets-to-your-mouth white chocolate. Oh my Hannah! You have to try one. Worth every penny you invest in them. I can make one last a good ten minutes by taking teeny bites and letting them simply sit on my tongue, becoming one with my taste buds, serenading my mouth. Another thin sliver of a bite slips over my lips, one after another, until ten minutes later, I’m finally, blissfully, practically in heaven. Mmm. One is enough for a while.

The only thing close to Cerreta’s perfection is a Lindor truffle. The centers of those playful round orbs of Swiss chocolate seem nearly liquid.  Just thinking about it makes me salivate. I figure Switzerland must be one of the happiest places on earth if it can produce such wonders and others like them.

I may need to make a chocolate run here any minute now.

Up close and personal with Texas sheet cake.

Up close and personal with Texas sheet cake.

Other favorites include the infamous Texas Sheet cake, which is mostly butter with some chocolate and sugar added for good measure. I can make myself content with any chocolate enhanced slice of cheesecake. Pour some ganache on a dessert and resistance is futile.

MSH will occasionally arrive home from some errand and quietly slip a Cadbury fruit and nut bar onto my nightstand. I won’t see it until I’m tucking in for the night. Like an unexpected kiss, I feel cherished and known and cared for by such a gesture.

Sometimes the small things bring a smile, turning the corners of my mouth northward.  Sometimes it’s the sticky, lick your fingers kind of things that make me grin. Today it’s both.

Categories: Food, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

When Life Gives You Oranges

Oranges!!!

Oranges!!!

Who hasn’t heard the “When Life gives you Lemons make Lemonade” speech? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Okay, yes we’ve all heard it.

You make lemonade.

How about oranges? What if life hands you oranges? Then what do  you do?

Let’s line up the two side by side and see what we get, shall we?

We should.

Have you ever actually made lemonade? From a bowl of lemons sitting sweetly on your counter? Or from the tree in your backyard? That’s an important distinction.

Those pretty orange globes hanging on the tree make for a cheerful sight.

Those pretty orange globes hanging on the tree make for a cheerful sight.

Citrus trees have fierce hidden thorns and grow thick and tangly. So picking the dang things is like having life hand you lemons. Scratches on your arms, neck and face can definitely happen. I suggest you wear long, heavy-duty sleeves to pick lemons or oranges.

That bucket, box or bin you pick from that “small” tree fills up fast and gets heavy even faster. Hope you brought your muscles along, or at least some helpers. Our “little” orange tree we picked from yesterday filled up a large laundry hamper, a small laundry hamper and two five gallon buckets. It sure didn’t look like that much hanging on the tree.

Between rain and dust and birds the rinds of those fruits need some washing up. We had a two-year old on that job. She found it funner than bathtime. “I get to play in the sink with these hundreds of orange balls and this cool scrubby brush thing?” Oh yeah, she had a great time.

MSH invested in a juicing attachment that fits on my big mixer. That sure speeds up the process of getting the juice from the little round orange balls. Cut in half, press and the squeezing practically does itself. Sort of.  MSH has slightly sore muscles on his arms today.  A strategically placed bowl fills almost magically with copious amounts of juice. Personally I like to strain off most of the pulp and all the seeds. That’s a bit of a process too. MSH loves chunks in his juice. Me, not so much.

Here’s where things kind of split out between oranges and lemons.

Mmmmm. Makes you want to pour yourself a glass. Try squeezing a glass, it's better.

Mmmmm. Makes you want to pour yourself a glass. Try squeezing a glass, it’s better.

To get a useful amount of juice from either lemons or oranges requires more fruit than you’d expect. An eight ounce glass of orange juice takes roughly five or six medium oranges. Granted, ours aren’t specifically juicing oranges, but still, that’s a bunch of oranges for one glass to drink.

After yesterday’s long process, I can tell you I’m not going to chug a freshly squeezed glass of juice like I do a store-bought carton of the stuff. Personal time and effort give that juice a rarified, vintage wine expensive kind of flavor.

Juicer than oranges, lemons might yield eight ounces from four lemons. But you certainly aren’t going to drink that much lemon juice.  Oh no. That’d pucker you up for a week or more, right there. For lemon juice drinkability you’re going to want to add about an equal amount of sugar, maybe a little less, to two quarts of water and ice then stir well. Eight people can enjoy that sweetened lemon juice.

That’s a bunch of sugar right there. About a tablespoon and a half of sugar per eight ounce glass of water and lemon. That whole adage about life/lemons means you gotta add a ton of sweet to the sour stuff life hands you. Is it even possible to balance life that way? Some sour events life dishes out would require a sugaring of, oh I don’t know, a super sweet six month cruise to the Bahamas every half a year to achieve any kind of juice, water, sweetener balance.

Oranges, however, juice out ready to drink. No sugar required. A bit of ice is nice, but not necessary. It does take a hefty bunch of oranges and work to get that glass full enough to drink. Is the work worth it? When’s the last time you had a glass of orange juice, freshly squeezed? It’s a different experience than a processed glass.

Given the choice, we’d all pick oranges over lemons in the grocery store of life, wouldn’t we. Or would we? Some of us like a bit of tang and pucker. Some of us just need the easier route.

Either way, we make the best of what we’re given. And that, my friend, is the sweet and low of it.

Categories: Food, Gardening, Happiness | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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