Tag Archives: Cooking

Somewhat Strange and Tasty Collections I Didn’t Know We Had

My son collects things. He accumulates armies of knobby creatures that he makes scream and knock each other down. He’s obsessed with Legos. If he gets one set, he wants the entire line to complete his collection. He collects erasers. Just the plain ones that sit on top of a pencil. He lines them up, makes patterns with them, battles them, who knows. During his Cars the movie era, I can’t tell you how many times we patrolled the toy aisle searching for the elusive Tex Dinoco.

Now he collects names. Names of Harry Potter characters he reads that he scrawls in third-grade penmanship on lined paper, two columns, three pages front and back, and still going strong. Names of multihued tropical fish he reads about, likes, and dreams of one day owning as pets. Names of planets and their moons. Names of baseball teams and football players.

I have long wondered whether his quirky obsessions are normal, what it means for his future, and where on earth it came from. I can be a bit of a pack rat. My husband is a borderline box hoarder. But for years I’ve had no clues as to where his collecting insanity came from.

Then, as I tried to tame my overgrown pile of torn-out recipes the other day, it hit me like a swarm of cookbooks.

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I like food. And I particularly like the challenge of finding a recipe to match whatever food I’ve recently inhaled and become infatuated with. Consequently, I’m a bit of a recipe hog. One could say I collect recipes.

Want to see my collection?

This vintage box holds my prized recipes that I use almost every day.

Look, there's room to grow!

These are recipes I want to try.

This doesn't begin to show my stack of recipes. Man, there's some good stuff in there.

And these.

Hmm. Forgot about these.

And I still need to go through these magazines to tear out the recipes I want to try because I know I will…or won’t…but just in case.

Some light reading.

I’ve been clipping recipes since around ninth grade. While my friends flipped through Seventeen and YM taking quizzes about kissing and fashion, I pored over Good Housekeeping and Martha Stewart, learning about cake frosting and chicken potpies. It certainly explains a lot about my awkward teen dating years.

Before kids, I used to try three or four new recipes a week. My husband and I like variety, tiring of the same old casseroles and quinoa salad week after week. Then came two kids who like my cooking but not adventure. They prefer comfort foods, the same old thing every week. But it’s OK. It seems there’s plenty in my collection for everyone. Just don’t ask me where anything is.

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Filed under About Mom, Boy Stories

The Family Dinner

While browsing through cookbooks the other day, a favorite pastime of mine, I came across a book that shocked me, saddened me, and made me think, “Well, I could have come up with that.”

A cookbook and guide on how to have a family dinner. Is that what America has come to? Many books now tout bringing the family back to the table. They are full of recipes, conversation starters, and tips for turning off electronics because evidently we families have forgotten how to cook, talk to each other, and find the off button. And I don’t know where we have gone. Where does everyone eat?

Yes, I am that naïve. I do have dinner with my family every night. I know I’m lucky to have a husband who gets home at a reasonable hour, but even when he’s late, I eat with the kids. We sit down to a meal that I cooked and we talk about our day. Sometimes we eat, laugh, and have a Hallmark moment. It may not be a fancy meal. It may have come from a box. Or maybe I spent time making everything from scratch only to have my daughter shrink into a fit of tears and my son take a bite and whisper, “This is disgusting.” The kids may fight about how many carrots they must eat or who gave them the stink eye, and I always nag at them to get their elbows off the table. Who would want to miss all that love?

Put those kids to work. They can make a salad and set the table. Woohoo!

When we have sports practice or Scouts, we just eat earlier. It’s tricky. It takes effort. We run late. We rush to the van in our socks.

But some of my funniest memories of childhood include dinnertime with my family. I sat and poked peas around my plate and slipped lima beans to my dog when no one was looking. I griped about tough, chewy pork chops or the fact that the last of the macaroni and cheese was gone. Or I got up from eating my dinner and made myself another meal while my family watched in horror because I had the appetite of two teenage boys and a tapeworm, they were sure.

My sister and I used to taunt each other across the table about how quickly we were developing. We’d tease each other about bra size and make our father so uncomfortable, he’d sometimes gulp his dinner and forgo his usual seconds. We joked about kissing boys with no lips and big ‘80s hair. And the evening culminated in a chase around the kitchen when my sister realized I never participated in dishwashing. Those were good times.

Dinnertime may not always be easy. My kids fight. My daughter picks and squirms. But my kids turn on some of their best comedy acts at the table when they know they have a venue. Sure, we have to endure the world’s lamest knock-knock jokes, but every now and then, somebody says something that makes me choke on my baked ziti.

Make something from scratch. Your kids will ask questions like, "Where do croutons come from?"

And of course it’s always the time the kids choose to bring up the most inappropriate topics, like the poor guy who has to carry the shovel behind the elephant at the circus. My husband doesn’t miss a beat though, pointing out that that’s why it’s important to go to college, so you don’t have to be a human pooper-scooper. Always thinking, he is.

So to anyone who needs advice on how to have a family dinner, I offer it here for free. You don’t need a book (unless you can’t cook, then by all means go get a cookbook). Skip the drive-through. Make a meal for your family like your mother did. Eat at the table. No TV, no phone, no devices. Just people. The conversation will come. You don’t need little cards telling you how to talk to people. I promise.

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Filed under Everyday Life

Ghosts of Valentine’s Past

Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone. There have been years when I awaited with starry anticipation, only to have two sticky toddlers put a crimp in the romance. My husband and I have never bothered with sitters, learning long ago that the area restaurants jack up their prices and fancy up their menus and all we really want is something fresh and fun and jeans-appropriate.

When the kids were young, I tried cooking a nice meal after the kids went to bed. Those turned out to be the nights the kids would not go to sleep at 7:30, and they’d come out of their rooms a dozen times. Curly Bear fell on the floor. Water needed refilling. Someone suddenly needed a tissue instead of a sleeve. Plans for dinner went out the window with the screams of “Mom” from my daughter’s bedroom, and we’d end up scarfing down food in a manic hunger.

This candy didn't end up on the floor or in any drinks.

We’ve tried including the kids in a special dinner at home only to find our daughter had a trick napkin that just wouldn’t stay in her lap. Oh, it’s on the floor again. Better climb down to get it. She burned all the calories from her meal while she constantly retrieved that flyaway napkin. Meanwhile, the ploop! of each pea my son plunked in his milk attracted the other half of our attention. Boy, we couldn’t have asked for a more romantic evening.

I get a bit weepy about the kids growing up sometimes, but it has plenty of advantages. Like dates and Valentine’s Day. Last night, I made a meal we could all enjoy and everyone sat around the table like civilized people and ate it. No one crawled on the floor or stuck food in their milk, though I caught my son red-handed earlier in the week. We enjoyed our evening together. I gave the kids homemade candy that took more time than I care to admit to make. But including my children in Valentine’s Day is what having a family is about. I love them too, every cute, painful, annoying, sweet thing about them. And they put up with me.

And the husband and I can finally have our dates. We met for lunch while the kids were at school, and neither of us put peas in our drinks.

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Filed under Everyday Life, I Love Those Darn Kids

Little Hands

Each morning I stand at the door clad in flannel pajamas, with raccoon eyes, hair still worn down from my pillow the night before. I catch a glimpse of eyes peeking over the door and two little hands waving at me from the back seat of my husband’s car as they leave for school.

Sometimes they wave for a long time. Sometimes it’s a quick wave thrown at me to make me happy. Sometimes they don’t wave because they are already busy talking or it’s been a bad morning and they left the house mad at me. And sometimes I can see my daughter waving frantically, mouth open and set in a smile like she has just seen me for the first time in 20 years.

Little hands love to help me cook.

This is a part of my day I don’t want to miss. If I’m in the bathroom, I tell my husband to wait. He doesn’t understand this, why I must see these little hands waving every day.

Those little hands, once so tiny, would reach out for me in their sleep to make sure I was still there. They once spent so much time practicing motor skills, picking up Cheerios and trying to pick up droplets of water with a serious amount of concentration.

Those little hands once smeared you-know-what on my bathroom door. Now they slam doors. They became so frustrated with the pain of holding pencils and crayons and threw them down in anger. Now those little hands write all the time and type and hold books open to read.

They learn to cook alongside me, measuring, pouring, chopping, stirring, and tasting. They string beads and cut tiny bits of paper that I find all over my floor. They learn to sew with plastic needles and felt.

Little hands used to poke me in the face in the middle of the night. Now they gently shake my arm. They play with my hair and style it with dozens of clips and then hold the mirror so I can admire my new look.

They put together Lego sets with skill and can finally dribble a basketball and catch a pop fly. They draw amazing pictures of animals and take pictures of even more.

Those little hands fit perfectly in mine and I hold them tight whenever the kids give me a chance. Those days are numbered.

I hope one day those little hands will grow up to do amazing things and they’ll have little hands of their own to hold. It won’t be long before those little hands are driving themselves to school, and then I’ll want them both to stay on the wheel. But I’ll still be standing at the door, watching them go.

 

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Filed under I Love Those Darn Kids