About Mom Mom's Apron

For years, I have kept my favorite recipes in a binder so that my family could access them just in case I met an untimely end. I have decided to document my tried and true favorites (and maybe some occasional experimentation) on this blog. I always wear aprons, and my favorite is a dish towel apron which belonged to my beloved grandmother, Mom Mom Dee Dee. Mom Mom was not much of a hostess or entertainer, but when I wear her apron, I feel her spirit with me. The apron is not pretty and has seen better days, but it is the one I still reach for the most. I think there is a metaphor somewhere in there.

Whole Fruit Margarita

photo(6)

Greetings from Hatteras Island, North Carolina, where I am vacationing with my favorite two sister-wives and their families. You can read all about these awesome women in my New Year’s Eve post here. While some people might think vacationing with fifteen people might not be relaxing, you haven’t met us! We have managed to spend a harmonious week together and also squeezed in a decent amount of activities (sure, my “activity” might be beach reading and online shopping while others chose kayaking to a remote island, but there is no judgement here). Preparing meals for fifteen people is surprisingly less daunting than it sounds if you have good helpers, good music, and good cocktails. Okay, that’s not true, exactly. The good cocktails may lead one to say, ehh, let’s skip dinner and just eat appetizers and ice cream and dance all night. But you will press on and feed the children anyway, since you are a responsible adult plus six of the children don’t belong to you.


Warning: These go down very easy.

This is my favorite margarita in the world. Its beauty is in its simplicity. This is so flavorful, refreshing, and somewhat virtuous/healthy feeling since there are three pieces of whole fruit in each pitcher. Nature’s scurvy fighter with a kick! I never really liked margaritas until I discovered “better” grade tequila and not the crap I drank in college, so I would suggest springing for halfway decent tequila if possible. Cheap triple sec is fine, though.

This is a Vitamix recipe, so if you don’t have a Vitamix, be sure to use another heavy duty blender that can easily handle the fruit (seeds included) and the ice. My only modification from the original recipe is that I use less ice; they call for six cups of ice, which is overkill and cannot really fit in the blender anyway. It’s also very good with “only” five tablespoons of sugar instead of six. Each pitcher serves four to six, depending on your glass size and need for strong drink. Cheers!

ingredients

Whole Fruit Margarita

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
  • 6 ounces (180 ml) tequila
  • 2 ounces (60 ml) Grand Marnier or Triple Sec
  • 1 orange, peeled, halved
  • 1 lime, peeled, halved
  • 1 lemon, peeled, halved
  • 6 Tablespoons (75 g) granulated sugar
  • Ice cubes

Directions

  1. Place all ingredients into the Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.
  2. Select Variable 1.
  3. Turn machine on and slowly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High.
  4. Blend for 45 seconds, using the tamper to press the ingredients into the blades.
  5. Pour into salt-rimmed margarita glasses.

This recipe has been written for the Vitamix 5200 with Standard 64-ounce container. If you are using a different Vitamix machine or container size, you may need to make adjustments to the Variable Speed, processing time, and/or ingredient quantities.

margmodels

About these ads

Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies

Well, hello there, friends! Long time no see, I know. I guarantee that I’ve missed you more than you’ve missed me, but this season of my life has not allowed for too much blogging. I will be back eventually, I promise, but in the meantime, I am trying to commit to a paltry one post a month minimum. And look, it’s July 31! Just made it under the wire. This confirms that if I had to earn my living writing, my family would starve.

We are having a great decent good enough summer, and I am trying to enjoy the best parts of it, especially after our brutal, therapy-inducing winter. My schedule usually allows me one or two weekdays at home with the kids, and I’ve been enjoying them so much. Today they wanted me to bake cookies, just like the good old days, and I was determined to use ingredients that did not require a trip to the store, just like the good old days.

When it comes to scouting out recipes, I tend to shoot first and ask questions later, and this was not an exception. Translation: Once I started this recipe, I realized that it is a MULTI-STEP PRODUCTION that involves A LOT OF WAITING. So basically today I did two things I always tell my kids not to do: waited until the last minute to complete a commitment (blogging) and didn’t bother to read all the directions before jumping in. Do as I say and not as I do, kids!

My children declared this the best cookie dough they’ve ever eaten, and I wholeheartedly agree. Of course, I cannot exactly advocate that unhealthy practice, but everyone gets to make her own choices (blah, blah, blah, salmonella). Truth be told, this would win a cookie dough contest. The secret is the Cornflake Crunch (see link below from Martha for directions). The cooking time is a source of some contention among commenters, and I did one batch at 13 minutes and one batch at 16 minutes. The 18 minutes stated might have turned the cookies totally black, so keep a careful eye starting around ten minutes. If you’re looking for a little something extra in your chocolate chip cookie (I hope that didn’t sound gross), this is a good one to try!

Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies from Christina Tosi’s “Momofuku Milk Bar” cookbook

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups Cornflake Crunch
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups mini marshmallows

  1. Cream together butter and both sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and add egg and vanilla; beat for 7 to 8 minutes.
  2. Reduce speed to low and add flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix just until dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl with a spatula.
  3. With the mixer on low, add cornflake crunch and chocolate chips; mix until just combined, 30 to 45 seconds. Add mini marshmallows and mix until just incorporated.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a 2 3/4-ounce ice-cream scoop or 1/3-cup measuring cup, portion dough out onto prepared baking sheet. Pat tops of cookie domes flat. Wrap baking sheet tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 week. Do not bake cookies from room temperature or they will not hold their shape.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line additional baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.
  6. Arrange chilled dough at least 4 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Transfer to oven and bake until puffed, cracked, spread, and browned on the edges, about 18 minutes. Let cool completely on baking sheets.

cornflakes

Cornflake Crunch

batter

Best cookie dough EVER

cookies

Commencement Means Beginning

I have been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster ever since I wrote this last summer. It was therapeutic to share my crazies, and I did a decent job of bouncing back cheerily for the next several months. Then came the college application process, fraught with all kinds of unpleasantness, details of which I will spare. After that, a short period of relief, then back to sadness. At book club a couple months ago, I unexpectedly started crying while talking to the mom of another senior. Not just normal teary eyed stuff, actual boo-hoo-I-need-a-tissue-now crying. After that, I felt better for a good stretch, up until last week. I’m sure it’s pretty exhausting to be my friend these days.

Now with the new batch of commencement speeches being published online, I find myself weepy all over again. Happy and sad and proud and frustrated and worried and…well, just a bit of a mess. Did we do enough for my son? Did we do too much? It’s just so hard to know. We tried to give him all of the things he needed and some of the things he wanted. We tried to lead by example, model forgiveness, embrace natural consequences, love unconditionally…all of the standard things in our Good Parent contract. But was it enough?

One thing I will say with certainty is that we don’t regret a single dollar or single minute spent on family time. When I look back on the very brief eighteen years when he was just “mine,” I picture countless family dinners at the kitchen table, vacations to Vermont and occasionally more exotic places, long summer days spent at the pool and nights barbecuing. I picture sitting around the fire in the back yard, making sticky s’mores and playing Frisbee with the dog. I picture snowmobiling and snowman making and camping trips and long forced family marches through hot, buggy trails. I picture those countless hours and miles at lacrosse, soccer, basketball, ski slopes, swimming lessons, tennis lessons. I picture Monopoly games and checkers and Scrabble and Texas Hold ‘Em and seventeen Christmas mornings. All of those memories are silver and gold right now, and I only wished I gathered more of them while I could, just like every mother everywhere.

On Children by Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Back in the 1980s, almost every commencement speech began with, “Commencement means beginning.” We didn’t have Google back then, so we reached for the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Overplayed or not, it is a true statement, and one I try to keep in mind whenever I’m sad that it’s time soon for my arrow to fly. Best of luck to the class of 2014, and to all of the brave and stable bows sending them off into the world.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Today is Mother’s Day and also my son Nate’s thirteenth birthday. I am so lucky to have a mom and be a mom, and I’m happy to celebrate this day with my mom and Nate.

As per tradition, I will be baking Nate’s birthday cake today. When I searched this blog for “cake,” I was surprised but not completely shocked to see so many cakes come up. Since working full-time (just celebrated my one year anniversary, hooray for me!), my baking has pretty much been limited to birthday cakes these days, with the occasional PMS-induced batch of cookies and brownies thrown in. Nevertheless, there is one ingredient even the very part-time baker always needs to have on hand: real vanilla extract!

I’ve been making my own vanilla for several years now. It’s the easiest thing in the world, and if you bake more than a few times a year, it’s also economical. There is something extra special, too, when you use ingredients you’ve grown or created. And by extra special, I mean superior and a little braggy, let’s be honest.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Only two ingredients:
Vodka
Two whole vanilla beans, I used these

Instructions:
Thoroughly clean and sterilize any small glass jar, about 8 to 10 ounces. With a sharp knife, split the beans apart in two and place in jar. Cover with vodka. Shake. Keep in dark, cool place. Once a week, give it another good shake. In about one month, the vanilla is ready to use. Once your bottle starts getting low, replenish with more vodka and repeat process.

I think the pictures below illustrate the process pretty well, but please let me know if you need any clarification. Happy baking!

vanilla1vanilla2vanilla3vanilla4vanilla5

Dear New Mother of March 1996

Dear New Mother of March 1996,

This is your future self writing to you. First, congratulations! That was a rather impressive lightening-quick labor and delivery without so much as a single Tylenol. We won’t tell most people that you actually planned to have every drug allowable by the FDA, but nature had other plans for the birth of your first son. “Life not going as planned but still turning out okay anyway” will be a repeated theme for the next eighteen years. Best you learn this on Day One.

The first weeks will be a blur, and I’m not going to tell you to enjoy them. They are the hardest weeks full of fatigue, soreness and worry. It is your boot camp, and you must simply endure. It is not hard because you are doing it wrong, it is hard because that’s how it is. Accept all help that is offered, and ask for help if it isn’t. But maybe ease up on the worry a bit. Humans are resilient creatures from the get-go, and your worry holds no power. You will continue to relearn this lesson for the next eighteen years.

Try not to be an ass about your baby’s accomplishments. They are not your accomplishments and unless something is wrong, there is a very wide range of normal that in no way correlates to intelligence or character. In future years, you will cringe at the memory of responding to a neighbor innocently asking how the baby is. “Oh, he’s wonderful,” you’ll say. “He rolled over at six weeks and he’s not supposed to do that until at least four months!” Your neighbor doesn’t say it, but you’re sure she’s thinking, “Alert Harvard!” Aside from parents and grandparents, no one really cares about your baby’s milestone timeline. Trust me on this. Learn to zip it.

Value your friendships. People will come in and out of your life. Some will be a major lifeline. You will talk to your college friend five days a week, at least one hour each day. You will tackle all of life’s parenting challenges together with humor and sympathy and unconditional support, your families will drive seven hours to visit each other twice a year, but it will not be like that forever. One day, you will not talk at all, even though this is impossible to imagine. This is not due to a big falling-out or disagreement, but other circumstances beyond your control. Honor all the people that have helped you to become a better parent and a better person, and when it’s time, be prepared to let them go without malice or resentment. This will be hard.

Pay attention to the ordinary moments; these are the ones you will miss the most. The cute mispronunciations, the favorite threadbare shirt, the quirky food habits, the excitement over escalators and elevators, the love of yellow (lellow) cars, the glue-sodden homemade gifts and dandelion bouquets, the wiggly teeth, the Raffi songs, even Barney…you will miss all of these things. Years later, you will see other kids doing and saying those same things, and you will remember your own son. You’ll silently will their mothers to be patient and enjoy their kids more, but you’ll know most of them, like you, will just hurry through to the next moment.

Finally, accept the child you have. He is his own person with his own interests and his own agenda, not your chance at a childhood do-over. You will want to give him everything you didn’t have, but don’t. He is not you. Let his interests, passions and unique perspective guide you and open your eyes to more of the world. Stretch outside of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid of mistakes or failure; use them as an opportunity to model grace. Prepare to be amazed at how much this little person will teach you everything you need to know. Buckle up and enjoy the ride, new mother.

Sincerely,

Mom of an Eighteen Year Old

Haiku for the Winter of Our Discontent

I have started and stopped so many posts this winter. Cooking has been a bust. My recipes these days are:

Ingredients
Doritos, preferably Buy 1, Get 1 Free

Directions:
Open bag. Consume.

This has been a very tough winter for many, especially in my area of the world. I have always loved winter, I have always defended winter when no one else did, and now I feel angry and betrayed. Winter is no longer my friend.

As a long-time fan of the haiku (short poems with syllables in 5-7-5 format), I decided to take pen to paper finger to iPhone 5s and work out my angst via haiku. I present to you Haiku for the Winter of Our Discontent:

Where is my black car?
Help, someone has stolen it
Wait, it’s this white one

School cancelled again
Clever principals “rapping”
Farewell sanity

More snow means fun snacks
Cake, cookies, brownies, not fruit
Yoga pants only

My spirit broken
Nothing is going as planned
Like Sochi toilets

Milk, bread, butter, eggs
Darn, what am I forgetting
Martini olives

Foyer of chaos
Scattered boots, jackets, wet clothes
One lost glove weeping

Graveyard of tree limbs
Preserved in icy landscape
Like dinosaur bones

More snow in forecast
Is this December or March?
Must be a sick joke

Cruel Mother Nature
Why have you forsaken me?
My tears have frozen

Would love to hear any of your contributions in the comments section. Spring will come eventually, and I will cook again. Below are actual unPhotoshopped pictures of my house, lest you think I’m being melodramatic.

Deck

TedSnow

Review: Tell the Wolves I’m Home

My real life and blogging friend Barb of Book Club Mom recently asked me to do a guest post book review, and I was honored to do so. I know Barb from years ago as a lacrosse mom, but despite logging in many games together, I never knew she was such an avid reader. If you like to read or are a fellow “book club mom,” you must check out Barb’s blog. She has some great suggestions, current and classic, as well as some wonderful creative writing and essays.

As luck/fate would have it, there is a rather eccentric customer who occasionally comes into the store and likes to offer me book suggestions. I wasn’t working on the day she last came in, but she insisted on writing down this title and passing it on to our security guard to give to me. I always feel compelled to at least read a sample of a book anyone thinks to suggest to me; it just seems like good manners. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt is one of the best books I’ve read recently. To be honest, I didn’t have especially high hopes, but I’ve learned that sometimes great suggestions can come from unlikely sources.

You can find my review of Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt right here at Book Club Mom. And if you ever have any good book suggestions for me, I’m all ears.

BookParty1

Sign Credit: Book Riot

All of the Good People Can Fit

I was talking to my friend at work about New Year’s Eve when she started to do a head count of all the people she invited to her apartment. I lost track after a while, but I think she invited at least twenty-four. Wow, I said. That’s a lot of people in a little bit of space.

Like me, my friend can sometimes be a perfectionist and often wants things to be beautiful and perfect. Like me, my friend worries about details. So I was impressed with her rather uncharacteristic more-the-merrier demeanor. I didn’t want to be a killjoy, as I sometimes can unintentionally be, but as a self-proclaimed entertaining expert, I had logistical concerns for her party and tried to tactfully express them.

She responded in Greek, with something her mother says. Translated, it roughly means, “All of the good people can fit,” or “There is always enough room for the good people.” It was one of those things which instantly stopped me in my tracks. You’re right, I said. I know you’ll find a way to make it all work, and it will be a wonderful night.

Too many times in my life I have let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Ironically, the satisfaction achieved from being perfect, from winning, never measured up to the expectation. But looking back, I’ve never regretted the times I was generous and kind, the times I extended (or overextended) myself to connect with another, even if things were messy and imperfect.

And so as we end 2013, that is my wish for you and for myself: that we just remember to make room for the people who matter. Open up the doors and let all the good people into our hearts and our homes. Don’t stress about the particulars, and be confident that all of the good people can fit.

One Potato, Two Potato

Oh, hello, there! Nice to see you again. I know it’s been ages since I’ve posted, but I’ve certainly done plenty of holiday eating. I’ve been enjoying more than my fair share of delicious gourmet treats from around the world for the entire month of December, courtesy of some wonderful customers. Having the privilege to work for a company with generous clientele certainly has its perks, but weight loss isn’t one of them.

This is my first Christmas working full-time since having kids, so a lot of things have fallen by the wayside. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; sometimes when you no longer have all the time in the world, you really figure out what’s important and what’s not. Easy-yet-crowd-pleasing potato dishes are definitely a priority. Below are a couple of favorite potato recipes which usually leave our guests asking for seconds.

The first one is inspired from Ina’s original recipe here, but I have made a few significant modifications. I love you, Ina, but my way is better.

Sweet Potato Casserole

4 pounds sweet potatoes (about 6 large)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoons kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.Scrub the potatoes, prick them several times with a knife or fork, and bake them for 60 to 90 minutes or until very soft when pierced with a knife. Remove from the oven and scoop out the insides as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Place the sweet potato meat into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and add the orange juice, cream, butter, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Mix together until combined but not smooth and transfer to a baking dish.Bake the potatoes for 20 to 30 minutes, until heated through.sweetpotatoes

This second recipe was shared with me by my friend Julie, of Julie’s Sausage Strata fame. I have been making them for so many years now that I have claimed them as my own. Countless friends and relatives have requested this recipe, and I’ve been rather evasive up to this point. A girl can’t give away all of her secrets! But the day has finally come.

Over the years, these have been called To-Die-For Potatoes, Trashy Potatoes, and Heart Attack Potatoes, but I’ve finally settled on Dawn’s Holiday Potatoes. I hope you will heed my warning and only serve these two or three times a year, tops. One, to preserve their specialness, and two, to preserve your health.

Julie’s Holiday Potatoes, courtesy of Susan Moore

32 oz. frozen hash brown potatoes (or potatoes O’Brian if you want to get a little jazzy)

1 stick of butter

1 cup chopped onion

1 can of cream of chicken soup. Vegetarians can use cream of celery. Vegans are out of luck.

1 pint of sour cream, and none of that low-fat nonsense

1 t. salt

1/4 t. pepper

2 cups of Corn Flakes cereal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place frozen potatoes in 13 x 9 glass pan. In a large pan on medium heat, combine all other ingredients except corn flakes until melted, and pour heated ingredients over potatoes. Top with corn flakes and slivers of butter. Bake for 60 minutes uncovered. Prepare to be a hero.

Now Everything is Easy, ‘Cause of You

Victorious

…to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part…

Marriage vows are said for a reason. Early on, perhaps too early on for my liking, we learned that it’s very easy to be married when you’re healthy and wealthy, but that pesky “poor and sickness” part of the vow really puts things to the test. Our twenty year marriage has been incredibly blessed, despite facing various vow-invoked challenges.

When we first moved to this house, early in 1994, I did not like that we had the corner lot. Even though our property is a hair over one acre, I felt exposed to the road and longed for more privacy. That spring, we went to the nursery and bought ten evergreen trees, Canaan firs. They were about six foot each at the time, manageable enough for Ed to plant by himself, but still an awful lot of work. Once the trees were in, they created a six foot tall natural fence, and it felt like a great improvement. I was satisfied, but I still wanted more.

I would often look at the trees and wish they were taller. Twenty feet would be perfect, or thirty feet would be even better. But wait, I thought. When the trees are that tall, we will be much older than today. Taller trees = more privacy but less years together left on earth. Just one more example of me wanting to have my cake and eat it, too.

Today the trees are very tall.

trees

And like the trees planted in 1994, we are mostly strong and hearty. Remnants of twelve hurricanes and tropical storms — some mighty, some just a nuisance — have blown past those trees, and most of them are still standing. Not all, mind you, since life is never perfect. A couple died, and a couple are looking a little rough these days. Separately, they are not much to look at. But standing together, they create a beautiful, full green fence that blocks much of the road year-round. Together they are a force to be reckoned with.

Almost twenty years and many more pounds ago, I walked down the aisle of Paoli Presbyterian Church and took my wedding vows. I still remember that one of my college friends, the kind of person who was skilled at passive-aggressive compliments, told me I looked “victorious.” Not beautiful, not glowing, not joyous, but victorious. Well, if victorious means I won something, then guilty as charged, sister. Yes, indeedy, you bet I won. I hit the jackpot and I’m smart enough to remember that every single day.

Every birthday, every anniversary, every make-a-wish type occasion, I only ever hope for one thing: more years together. As long as I have that, I will have everything I need.

Our House by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young