Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Once, when I was little, my dad tied a purple ribbon in my hair, and for a moment now I just totally lose my shit, because I want that ribbon so much.

Think of all the things you discard every day, think of the significance of all those insignificant things.

I think of the ribbon he tied, lost, rotting in a landfill in another state, under ten feet of broken appliances and diapers and coffee grounds. I think of the day I decided to throw it away, probably because it was frayed or faded or because I grew too old to wear a purple ribbon in my hair.

It meant everything, and I threw it out. And now my throat closes and my cheeks bloom and I fight off a kicking screaming childish fit over an old purple ribbon.

I have thrown out baby teeth and smudged pencil drawings, scraps of paper and business cards, broken jewelry and tarnished forks.

“Once, he ate with that fork?”

No. That’s just silly.

But here I am, near tears over a purple ribbon, because my memory still holds the gentle tug of the first knot, his clumsy, crooked fingers brushing against my scalp, the soft swish when the bow pulled tight. Later, maybe it slipped loose, and maybe I rolled my eyes a little at my hapless dad as I retied it, tighter, better, so it wouldn’t loosen again…but I probably didn’t let him see me do it.

Daddy was a writer, like me. He wrote in composition books bound with glue and string and purchased with coins he got by turning in pop bottles. When I was small, he bought me those little spiral notebooks made for back pockets. I filled them with stories about owls and storm-clouds and a small silent fairy-girl whose daddy was a jester-king. I don’t know what dad put in his books. They went the way of my purple ribbon long before I was born.

I have a scrapbook he kept as a young man in the Navy, when he was scarcely more than a boy. In his pictures, there is a shine in his eye that I see again and again when my middle-boy laughs – it is mischief, the mark of a fairy-boy who is never far from trouble. Even after months spent elbow-deep in blood on another continent, even after a bullet ripped through his shoulder and got him sent home, even after he was grown and more-than-grown, that shine would occasionally appear in the corner of his eye, and it would mean the best kind of roguery was soon to be underway.

He let me drive his jeep once, through giant mud-puddles and swampy mess off a country road. I was 10, maybe 11, teetering on the edge of that version of my girl-self who would never go mudding with her daddy, but I was not there yet. I was not yet trying to be grown. I was still the fairy-girl. The air was dense with mosquitoes and my nose crinkled at the smell of earth and decay, but my laugh was madness and terror and heart-bursting joy. I was Up to No Good, and I was up to it with HIM.

There was never a luckier small silent fairy-girl than the one with the jester-king daddy.

I want that back, like my purple ribbon. I want the mud in my hair, the sunburnt shoulders, the mosquito-bitten arms and, most of all, the jester-king daddy, the grinning imp at my side.

I can’t have any of that, not anymore. I can’t have his composition books or my purple ribbon. That is sad, I suppose, but in the space he left in my heart, I have built a nest and lined it with memories of joy – the joy of having known a man who tied purple ribbons in his daughter’s hair, who came home with notebooks for her to fill with stories, who taught her how to cook and how to drive a jeep through mud without getting stuck – and when I need rest, comfort, love, and laughter, I can find them all right there.

Gratitude, memories, and a simple, fragrant birthday cake with a ribbon of purple icing at its center, fit for a fairy-girl and her lovely daddy.

Happy birthday, daddy. Love to you.

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Lemon Vanilla Cake with Lavender Icing

Cake Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 10.5 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar (vanilla sugar if you have it)
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 tsp lemon extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour the edges of 2 8-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with parchment paper (trace the pans on the parchment, then cut it out).

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and sea salt and set aside. Put the butter and zest in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on 7 or 8 for 3 minutes, scrape the bowl, and mix for another minute. Add sugar 1/3 cup at a time, beating for a minute between each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated and scraping the bowl after each egg.

In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, lemon extract, and vanilla extract. Turn the mixer on low and add some of the flour mixture, then some of the buttermilk mixture. Alternate dry and wet, ending with dry, mixing after each addition until it comes together, until everything is in. Scrape the bowl and mix for a few more seconds. Divide the batter between the 2 pans and bake 25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. The cakes should be light golden brown and they should pass the toothpick test. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then invert onto wire rack to cool the rest of the way.

Lavender Icing Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp of lavender flower buds
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6-7 cups sifted powdered sugar

Warm the milk in the microwave or stove. Put the lavender flowers in a coffee filter and submerge in the hot milk for 10 minutes, then remove the filter full of lavender and squeeze out the excess milk. Mix the butter with 4 cups of powdered sugar in a stand mixer until fluffy, then alternate adding the infused milk and powdered sugar until the icing is the desired consistency. You can make it fluffy, like frosting, or more like icing (which I prefer). Add some violet food coloring gel if you’d like.

Ice the bottom layer, add the top layer and ice it and the sides. If you have the skill, you could probably decorate it or something, but I rarely waste the time. Enjoy!

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A good lesson, and two treats.

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I have a friend who refers to himself as an idiot philosopher. He is anything but.

We met at the bedside of a very angry woman. We each told her truths she did not want to hear, and she screamed at us both and threw a water pitcher at his head. We met, as he says, “in the storm of someone else’s chaos.”

Afterward, we walked to the cafeteria together, and he bought himself a black coffee and me a hot cocoa with a fat, fluffy marshmallow floating on top, because I don’t like coffee. We sat across from each other shaking our heads, silent, because what could we say, really?

Sharing these experiences has brought us close in the way that people who share foxholes are close. We rarely speak of our work when we meet for coffee and cocoa. Sometimes we say nothing at all. When we do talk, it’s about where we have been and where we are going, about our families and the things that make our hearts sing, our personal struggles and triumphs.

We know a lot about each other. Ten years of coffee and cocoa breaks will do that. He knows I have silly fears about things that may happen, or even will probably happen, tomorrow or next year or when I am 60. He knows how easily I am crippled by that fear, how it drags me from sleep.

He told me last week, “remember that God does not give two shits about your plans, so you have to stop living for your plans and start living for what’s in front of you.”

He said, “buy a pomegranate. Buy a coconut. A pineapple or a starfruit. A prickly pear. Buy something that takes elbow grease, effort, or finesse. Then shuck it, cut it, peel it, cook it, whatever, breathe its scent deep into your lungs, and eat. Know from the first bite to the last that this, right now, is real. The future is a beast you can never prepare for, and nothing matters as much as what you put forward right now.”

So here are some recipes, for him, for me, and for you. They make sense, in context. Enjoy.

Hot Cocoa Cookies (because I don’t like coffee)

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Ingredients:

  • 4 oz butter
  • 12 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 heaping cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 30 marshmallows
  • 3 Hershey bars, broken at the scores, each piece then broken in half to make a small square

Melt the butter and semisweet chocolate and let cool slightly. While that is cooling, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a larger bowl, mix eggs, vanilla, and brown sugar until fluffy. Add in the melted chocolate and mix just until combined. Add the flour and mix to combine. Refrigerate until firm, 30-45 minutes.

While that’s chilling, cut the marshmallows in half with scissors. Stick a chocolate square to the cut side of each marshmallow.

Preheat oven to 325 and line cookie sheets with parchment. Spoon out tablespoons of dough and form into balls, place a few inches apart on lined cookie sheets. Flatten slightly and bake 10 minutes. Pull them out and push a marshmallow into each cookie, chocolate side down. Return to oven for 4-5 more minutes. Cool on wire racks.

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Pomegranate Lime Cake

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 oz room temperature unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup pomegranate juice
  • 3 tsp fresh lime zest (zest of about 3 good-sized limes)
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 and butter/flour a baking pan (I used an 8×11 odd-sized pan I have, you could use a 9×9). Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy. Mix in eggs one at a time. Mix in 1/2 cup pomegranate juice and 2 tsp lime zest until combined. Stir in yogurt by hand. Spread in prepared pan and bake 30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely.

For icing, whisk together 2 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 cup pomegranate juice, and 1-2 tsp lime zest. Keep adding powdered sugar until icing is thick enough for your liking then pour over the cooled cake. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

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Bread, Two Ways.

We are a family of bread eaters. Yet there is only one among us who knows how to make bread. Today, I hosted bread-making class with the boys, because they need skills. Knowing how to make bread? That is an awesome skill for a young man to have.

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We started with an explanation of yeast. We proofed some yeast in warm water and talked about how the yeast in the bread would eat the sugar and emit gas. It took SC1 two seconds to ask me if I meant that the yeast farts in the bread dough. I shrugged, said “sure,” and endured 10 minutes of raucous laughter, because FARTS. Then we talked about letting dough rise, and how the oven kills the yeast, but leaves the air pockets in the bread. Then there were 10 more minutes of laughter, because we are baking FART BREAD.

The SCs were involved in all parts of the process, and they actually learned something, I think, in spite of all the fart talk. We made wheat bread in the loaf pans, then some white braided bread to go with our lasagna for tonight.

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This is all the stuff we used for both kinds of bread.

Wheat Fart Bread

Ingredients:

2 cups warm water
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 oz melted (and cooled) butter
1/8 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp salt
3 cups whole wheat flour
1-2 cups white (AP or bread) flour

Dissolve the yeast in the water and let proof for 5 minutes. Combine the butter, honey, molasses, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the yeasty water, then add the whole wheat flour and mix.

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Add a cup of white flour and combine – you will probably have to start using your hands about now. Gradually add more white flour until the dough comes together into a firm ball. The dough should have a damp surface, but not stick to the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it until it becomes smooth.

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The winner of kneading was SC2. He totally did it like a pro. SC3 just kind of poked it, and SC1 lost interest after 10 seconds.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let rise for 2 hours.

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It should look kind of like this. If it doesn’t, you might as well start over.

Punch the dough down and let it rest for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a floured surface and knead another 5 minutes or so. Divide the dough in half and place each half in a loaf pan, cover with a damp towel and let it rise another hour.Bake at 375 for 40 minutes. Finished loaves should be browned on top and should sound hollow when you hit them with a wooden spoon. Cool in the pans, then remove, slice, and enjoy!

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Braided White Fart Bread

Ingredients:

1.5 cups warm water
4.5 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup melted (cooled) butter
1 heaping tbsp sugar
1 heaping tsp salt
3+ cups bread flour

Combine the yeast and water and let proof for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the butter, salt, and sugar. Add the yeasty water and mix. Add 3 cups of flour and mix, then add more flour until the dough forms a firm ball. The dough should have a damp surface, but not stick to the sides of the bowl (yeah, that’s pretty much always the case for bread dough). Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let rise for an hour. Punch the dough down and let it rest for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for another 5 minutes. Half the dough. Take the first half, divide into thirds, and roll each of the thirds into a rope at least a foot long. Start at the middle and braid the dough to the end, then flip it over and braid from the middle to the other end. Tuck the edges and place onto a greased cookie sheet. Repeat this with the other half of the dough. Cover the two loaves with a damp towel and let rise 30 minutes. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes. Finished loaves should be browned on top and should sound hollow when you hit them with a wooden spoon. Cool loaves on a wire rack.

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Pretzel M&M, Butterscotch and Chalocolate Blondies

Yay, it’s spring break! Which means that my usual quiet, busy Wednesday off becomes, for one week, a loud, busy Wednesday off. This is a preview of every Wednesday of summer vacation. It is fun, but loud. Also, really loud. And sometimes, just to change things up, very loud.

Yesterday, the Sous Chefs spent the day with an 18 year old boy. This, by all reports, meant that they played X-Box and did an awful lot of running and jumping and yelling and throwing and catching and climbing and falling and delighted squealing and it was generally COMPLETELY AWESOME. They love this particular 18 year old boy more than pretty much anyone on earth, myself included, and they somehow love him even more now, because of the X-Boxing and the wild rumpusing. I am glad they had a good time, and I am even gladder that the 18 year old boy survived, because the SCs are not at all like those children you see occasionally who just sit quietly, hands in their laps, and do as they are told. The SCs are brilliant criminal masterminds who can hone in on your weaknesses and snipe them from unbelievable distances with mind-blowing accuracy.

So, a round of applause for the 18 year old boy, who left my home exhausted, but alive and sane, and with enough money to take a girl out on a nice date.

I am not at all like that 18 year old boy. I am mean and terrible and awful and MOM-ish. I have a physical aversion to the sound of video games. Simulated gunfire, robot voices, repetitive music, and bleeps and bloops of all sorts turn me into a girl-shaped pile of twitching rage. I am also not known for my wild rumpusing. Therefore, when I am in charge, I come up with activities – activities that all of the SCs can do, preferably together, because the internet says that this is how we create MEMORIES and memories are important.

I am aware that my grandmother would laugh in my face at that statement, then she’d shove the SCs out the front door and tell them to watch out for cars and stay out of the crick and do NOT under ANY circumstances come back until sunset. But I am raising them in the suburbs in 2013, not in the the middle of nowhere in 1950, and we have things like paved roads and killer bees and Child Protective Services.

I’d send them to the backyard, but I’d have to scoop the dog poo first, and I just don’t want to do that.

So, fun indoor activity! And yes, 2/3 of my SCs groaned loudly when they heard me say that, but I live to find ways to repay them for all the times they have climbed into my bed in the middle of the night and repeatedly kicked me in the head until my alarm went off.

Indoor activities with the SCs basically comes down to arts and crafts, which involves things like glue and glitter and paint (NO), playing with the toys (I do this ALL THE TIME, it is boring for me because I am a girl, and I usually end up stepping on Legos and being hit in the face by flying matchbox cars), or cooking (WHEEE! SOMETHING I LIKE DOING!). Cooking to me = baking. So, we are baking. Baking with the Sous Chefs. First, basic bread, because everyone should know how to bake bread. You can see that post here. Then, a treat. And, God help us, this is always a terrible idea, but to make it fun and to create MEMORIES like the internet says I should, I let them each pick an ingredient for the treat, and I proceed to wrack my brain trying to figure out a way to combine potato chips, caramel, and marshmallows.

Just kidding. I got wise after doing this a few times, and created the Mom Veto to prevent myself from having to add tater tots or pickle relish to something. I only use the Mom Veto for things that just don’t belong in baked desserts or will not practically work, like cumin, or pinto beans, or those terrifying orange Styrofoam-like circus peanuts (I do not want to know what happens to those in the oven, because it is probably carcinogenic and/or mutagenic). The veto is important, because the SCs often pick ingredients which show just how little they understand about baking things that do not taste like crap.

This whole activity is like gambling, but the prize is diabetes. The first time I let them pick the ingredients, we ended up making some completely ridiculous cupcakes with cheesecake, bananas, and a truly frightening amount of chocolate. They were strange and slimy (because of the bananas), but also kind of delicious, so they got eaten, every one. We were all slightly fatter for the experience.

Yes, this is a lot like a certain food network show (actually, it’s like EVERY food network show). The difference is that I have “help” from the three least helpful human beings on earth. I would have better luck asking the cats to help, in that they would just look at me like I was a lunatic and return to licking themselves, whereas the SCs actively impede every single step along the way, because they need multiple breaks for dance parties and wrestling matches and screaming and jumping off of stuff.

I asked SC3 (age 2.5, though he often claims to be 3 or sometimes 35 like his daddy) what ingredient we should use, and that dear, wonderful, brilliant child, after a moment of serious contemplation, said one word to me. That word was “chalocolate,” which means chocolate. This proves that he is my child, because he understands that the point of baking is to create something that actually tastes good. I patted him on the head and reminded myself to shuffle an extra 10% of the inheritance to him next time we revise our wills.

SC2 (age nearly-6) said BUTTER. I told him that butter was included as part of the package deal, as was sugar and flour and a few other uninteresting but Very Important Things, but he could pick something else. He decided on butterSCOTCH. Okay, I can handle that, and I find his play on the word “butter” delightful.

After the initial, typical suggestion of orange Skittles (Mom Veto), SC1 (age 8.5) decided on harpoons. He offered no explanation for this selection other than “harpoons are awesome, mom, think of Moby Dick.” I told him harpoons are indeed awesome, but they are too expensive, because they are not in season. So he decided on Pretzel M&Ms. Okay. At least they are edible. Sort of.

So chalocolate, butterscotch, and pretzel M&Ms, and now you understand that diabetes statement I made a minute ago.

SC3 has expressed loudly to the whole world (no, really, you probably heard him from your house) that he wants CUPCAKES, but I am not a cupcake girl. I like cake very much, but not cupcakes. Furthermore, these particular ingredients scream BLONDIES to me. I am the only one of the four of us allowed to work the oven, and I am Head Chef, so I win. Blondies, loaded with brown sugar and butter. And, apparently, chalocolate and butterscotch and pretzel M&Ms.

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Pretzel M&M Butterscotch and Chalocolate Blondies. We have a winner. Draw up your insulin and fast for a few days (should be easy, since it’s Lent). Here we go.

Ingredients:

8 oz butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 cup crushed pretzel M&Ms
1 cup shaved dark chocolate
3/4 cup butterscotch chips

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Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 13×9 baking pan. Blend together the brown sugar and butter until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla and blend. At this point, I would usually add bourbon, but the SCs said no.

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Add the salt and flour and mix until combined (you’ll want to add a little extra flour if you managed to slop some bourbon in there). Stir in the chocolate, butterscotch, and M&Ms.

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Pour into the prepared pan and bake 45 minutes.

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I admit, I didn’t try these yet. I wanted another adult in the house in case I went into an insulin coma. The SCs assure me that they are DELICIOUS. I’d ask them to elaborate, but I can’t get them down from the trees.

The Littlest Chef

This sweet boy is in my bed, and I am telling him about the twelve dancing princesses with their worn out shoes and the three shining branches, and he is smiling and giggling, his eyes alight with the wonder of fairy stories.

He is so easy with his love for me, so easy to love in return.

I spent the day with him yesterday, and we shopped and drove and sang. We ate apples and drank chocolate milk and licked cake batter and icing from spoons. We danced to punk rock and raced matchbox cars and splashed too much in the bathwater and had a lovely, lovely day.

Tonight I am flipping out about getting my teeth pulled and whether my back will ever, ever stop hurting and how things keep changing no matter how much you want them to stay the same, but, you see, there’s this boy in my bed with his long eyelashes and chubby hands and apple cheeks, so I will kiss the tip of his nose and each finger all sticky from helping me finish off yesterday’s cake and remind myself that what is important is here, and now, and this. This.

Good night.

Apple Cardamom Bundt Cake

First, the story.

I have not bought cardamom in years, probably since we lived in the apartment by the airport, which was before I got pregnant with Sous Chef #1 (SC1), more than nine years ago. The last time I bought cardamom, it was to add to hot chocolate. I love cardamom in hot chocolate. It is unexpected and lovely and warm. It makes sense with cocoa, it being a bean similar in size and color, though it really is in the ginger family.

I started craving cardamom a few weeks ago. I have had it in rice pudding and pho and, I am sure, other Middle Eastern and Indian and Asian foods, but I have never actually used it as a baking ingredient. But I love spice in baking, and cardamom is really a brilliant little bean, so I decided it was about time I experiment.

Cardamom can be part of savory recipes and sweet. The cardamom plant has a pretty white and pink flower, and the seeds come from pods and can be green or brown.

cardamom seeds

You can buy the dried seeds and grind them yourself, or you can buy ground cardamom because you are lazy like me. It smells like heaven. I mean, really, I think heaven smells like ground cardamom. Its smell is hard to describe, aromatic and spicy, clean and sharp like mint, but not actually minty.

Ground cardamom does not have a long shelf life. You’ll have to use it all up fast, but if you love it, that will be easy. Teas, soups, rice, cakes, cookies, scones….there are options, people. Be fearless.

I knew when I bought the cardamom that I wanted to go sweet. Duh. I have a sweet tooth to beat them all. I thought, cake. With pears. But then someone said apples, and I went with apples. And ginger. And oh my GOD is this cake awesome. Here we go.

Ingredients:

3 cups ap flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground cardamom
1.5 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2.5 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp milk
3 eggs
4 apples, peeled and cut into little chunks – I used pink ladies, but fuji or gala or any sweet, rich apples would do
1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger

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(I think I will make it a theme here that my wonderful dog, Turkish, will be hidden like Waldo in every post with pictures, because he is totally awesome.)

Whisk together your dry ingredients – flour, baking soda and powder, salt, and cardamom – and set it aside (remember that, for baking purposes, sugar is treated as a wet ingredient).

Beat the oil and sugar until it starts to get good and aerated. You’ll know when it is right, trust me.

Add the vanilla, milk, and eggs to the sugar/oil mixture and mix until combined.

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Add the dry stuff gradually, mixing on low until it is all combined

Mix your ginger and apples into the batter by hand so you don’t pulverize them into goo.

Spoon the batter into one big bundt cake pan or two little bundt cake pans. I used two little ones because my big one is in storage, but I think that was a good thing, because I am totally taking the second one to work to bribe my coworkers into doing stuff for me.

Oh, hey, I sure hope you greased those up REALLY well, like you would with any cake….

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Bake at 350F until it is done. You will know it’s done by the color (nicely browned) and because if you stick a knife in there, it comes out clean. For two little bundt cakes, it was nearly an hour. One big one would probably take a bit longer.

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Cool in the pan for a bit, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Then you can add whatever glaze you want. I made a white chocolate glaze, but I imagine this would be great with a cream cheese or sour cream based glaze. It would also be great with no glaze at all, because it is moist and totally full of flavor.

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And oh God, this is amazing, and you are welcome.

Now, go forth and bake with cardamom. Be adventurous. Tell me what works, and what doesn’t. I am eager to learn more about this amazing spice.

How this started

I am a mom. And I have a full time job. But I also have hobbies. The hobbies are what keep me from seriously sucking it up at the job/mom stuff. The hobbies remind me that I am an actual person underneath that working-mom thing. 

The hobbies are reading, and writing, and cooking. 

I started cooking, mainly baking, when I was in high school. Until then, cooking had largely been a spectator sport for me. I watched dad, mom, grandmothers, aunts. I was sous chef, commis, garde manger, whatever they needed me to be, but I was never head chef. I was basically a water-boy for several very, very talented home chefs. 

Then, suddenly, I wanted to venture out on my own. I took the lessons I had learned and started experimenting. I began by testing out new flavors for old recipes. I figured, pot roast is great, sure, but what happens if you add cumin and coriander? Carrot cake is fine, but hazelnuts are better than pecans….

That was some awesome carrot cake.

For years, I cooked for myself, then for my husband. He would joke that every new successful recipe was me leveling up (yes, he is gamer). The first time I made a loaf of good Italian bread for him, he gazed at me more lovingly than he had on our wedding day. 

Now I cook for a motley crew of 3 young boys, as well as that bread-loving husband, and, currently, my very anti-adventure mother. The husband cooks too, quite wonderfully. Our best meals are the ones we tag-team, where each of us plays to our strengths – him to meat and veg, me to potatoes, breads, and desserts. I am the carbohydrate princess.

It is a delightful challenge to find new and interesting things for this family to taste. The boys will try nearly anything, and the husband will as well. As for mom, it is just a matter of not telling her what she is eating until she has cleaned her plate. I have gotten her to eat figs, turnips, leeks, bone marrow, wild boar, and all manner of other stuff she would consider “weird” that way. (And no, turnips and leeks are not weird to anyone but her.)

But I have yet to say, really, how this started, which is the title of this first blog post. It started because, eventually, I realized that I am pretty damned competent with an oven, and I started baking and cooking for other people. And those people confirmed that, yes, I am pretty damned competent, perhaps more than competent. And they wanted my recipes, which I am in no way inclined to hide away, because good things should be shared.

This blog will be a repository for those recipes that work out, as well as for some amusing stories about things that didn’t work out so well, because the truth is that many of the recipes I create start out so-so at best, and some of them start out as totally embarrassing disasters. Disasters are entertaining, though, and are often a source of some good lessons as well as a laugh or ten.

I may also post stories of my darling sous chefs, the husband and the three boys, because they are also often a source of good lessons as well as a laugh or ten.

My goals for this blog are to share the lessons I have learned, about baking and motherhood and whatever, to give you the occasional laugh at my/my family’s expense, to light a fire under your ass to create your own recipes, and to give you some really awesome recipes of my own.

So there you are. Let’s go.