So Long, Farewell…

This will be my last post on Mom Mom’s Apron. I have accomplished my mission of chronicling some of my favorite recipes as well as some of my life from mid-2011 to present, although there has not been much chronicling going on this year. You may have noticed this.

Life is hectic but good. Ed and the boys are doing well. We had a beautiful family trip to Germany and Switzerland in June, memories I will cherish until my days in the nursing home. As I’ve said many times on this blog, money spent on creating memories is the best money you will ever spend.

Work is also good, but it is probably responsible for my lack of blog upkeep. As a SAHM without much companionship, this blog filled a void in my life which my coworkers and clients now fill. Translation: I talk all day long. I almost can’t stand the sound of my own voice! I do a lot of communicating. When it comes to my downtime, I crave solitude, books, mindless tv.

I will keep up my archives so we can access all recipes posted. There may be a point in the future when I decide to blog again in a different direction, and I promise to let you know if that day comes. But for now, it is time to hang up Mom Mom’s Apron.

Thank you for listening to me when I needed someone to listen. Thank you for your encouraging comments. Thank you for the validation that I can cook AND write. Thank you for allowing me to share a little bit of myself and my family with you. It has meant more than you’ll ever know.





Of Madness & Reason: My Trip to Hill Farmstead Brewery

Greetings from Vermont! We are here this week on vacation, and even though we’ve been coming here for seventeen years, this beautiful state still enchants us. We love everything about you, Vermont!

Our friends are here with us this year, and while plotting out our week’s activities, they lobbied hard for a trip to the holy mecca of beer enthusiasts, Hill Farmstead Brewery. I was all set to sit this trip out and indulge in my favorite vacation activities of napping and reading rather than waiting in a long line for super special beer, but they appealed to my blogging sensibilities. They know I’m a sucker for hype and appreciate any hard to obtain food or beverage that inspires religious fervor, and who knows if I will have this opportunity again? So we set out on the 45 mile journey, growler in hand from our other friend who previously made the pilgrimage.


The trip up to Greensboro, Vermont is every bit as picturesque as one might expect.


When we finally arrived, the parking lot was pretty full, but we found a spot. The brewery itself is fairly utilitarian and rustic, without flashiness, bells or whistles. I found this refreshing, since they hold a boatload of prestigious awards, including Best Brewer in the World. THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD! Thank God I didn’t sit this trip out. What was I thinking? Their logo comes from the Hill family tavern in the early 1800s, part of a long tradition of providing quality libations.



As usual, I was a little overwhelmed when faced with a beer choice, but lovely Kristin (pictured above) told me that the Madness and Reason #1 (Nitro) sounded like something I might enjoy: an Imperial Stout base with vanilla, cinnamon, cocoa nibs and chipotle.Well, I knew I loved the name, and it certainly sounded interesting, so we gave it a go.


It’s not often I’m at a loss for words to describe food or beverage, but I was struck dumb. Dumb and in love. This was truly amazing. I needed Kristin to give me words besides sublime, the only word I kept uttering besides, “Yes. More.” Some of Kristin’s words about the sublime Madness and Reason: well-balanced, complex, having it all, sweet-bitter-spicy, rich, velvety, creamy, variegated, 5 star. Yes, more.


Alas, there was no more. It was not available in a bottle or a growler, only in itty bitty 4 ounce tasting glasses. How disappointing for me!

Fortunately, everyone else managed to find beer that that they liked, and we brought some home. I personally enjoyed the Mary, a German style pilsner. Ed also bought the Arthur (saison) and Clara (grisette). And our friends bought…lots more!


Before we departed, we got a quick bite to eat at the taco truck parked outside. We tried and enjoyed all three varieties of tacos offered (black bean with fried plantain, beef with crunchy jalapeno, and buffalo chicken). At four dollars a piece, they were the perfect compliment to our beer.

I’m glad I said yes to this journey. While I’ve always enjoyed an above-average beer, I’m just not part of the #beerculture in a way which the true enthusiasts are. However, I am a big fan of family businesses, high quality, limited supplies and true craftsmanship. Madness and Reason provided me with my first transcendental beer experience, and I finally understood why people get all worked up and travel many miles for the perfect beer.  It was definitely worth the trip.



Dawn’s Delicious Blueberry Lemon Zucchini Bread

Zucchini season is upon us! I made this last year when looking to purge some too-giant-for-a-sidedish zucchinis, the kind where on Monday you stupidly thought, “Still too small; one more day and this will be perfect to pick.” And then you blink and Monday turns to Wednesday and the just-right zucchini morphs into mutant baseball bat zucchini and NOW look what you did? Yeah, those. Don’t throw them out! Make this delicious zucchini bread instead, and you can smugly tell all your friends, “I MEANT to do that.”


3 eggs, beaten

2 cups sugar

2 cups grated zucchini (one very large or two normal size)

2 lemons, zest only

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup vegetable oil

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3 to 4 cups fresh blueberries


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans. In large bowl, beat three eggs. Mix in with eggs by hand sugar, oil, grated zucchini, vanilla, and lemon zest. In smaller bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Add dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just combined. Do not over-mix. Gently add blueberries.

Divide into two 8 x 4 x 2 inch loaf pans, and bake at 350 for about 70 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out cleanly. Beware of over-baking!








What Remains

My father died eleven days ago. He had been fighting hard for the last year and finally making good progress when suddenly he was brought down quickly by a hospital infection. He was like a cat, my father, always landing on his feet and defying death on several occasions when others counted him out. So while some might say, “Well, he was sick for a year, how shocking really IS this?” I can assure you it is quite shocking to the little girl in me who still thinks her daddy is the strongest man in the world.

We had a complicated relationship. I know that describes 90% of all families, and it was certainly true in our case. But one thing I can say for sure — without going into all of the unpleasantness and complexity of our particular situation — is that I woke up every day of my life knowing I was loved by my father. I woke up knowing that no matter what I needed, he would find a way to provide. I woke up knowing he would always be happy to hear from me, to see me, to help me. So while I cannot dismiss any of the other baggage, at the end of the day, nothing matters now but the love.

I was a good daughter. I know that I was, and people have told me so. But today, I feel full of regret and remorse. I wish I was kinder. I wish I was more patient. I wish I helped with a glad heart. I wish we had some conversations we didn’t have. In short, I wish I did more. I did a lot, but I should have done more. I should have been more compassionate, more forgiving. More like my father.

Anne Lamott wrote in Traveling Mercies I tell you, families are definitely the training ground for forgiveness. At some point you pardon the people in your family for being stuck together in all their weirdness, and when you can do that, you can learn to pardon anyone. Even yourself, eventually. It’s like learning to drive on an old car with a tricky transmission: if you can master shifting gears on that, you can learn to drive anything.

My dad was good at forgiving others and gifted at forgiving himself. He never wallowed. He never beat himself up. He never felt sorry for himself, even though there were many times when no one would have blamed him for doing so. As the Japanese adage goes, fall down seven times, stand up eight. Dad kept standing up until the very end. I am trying to channel him now and brush off the regrets. I know he would have wanted that.

No one loved life more than my father. That possibly explains why he put his body through more than most people would ever dream of in order to live. Here are some things my father loved, in no particular order: The New England Patriots, Wendy’s chili, online dating (years ahead of us on that trend), photography, obscenely well-done hamburgers, weather forecasts (especially those involving snow), The Air Force, Air Force baseball caps, NPR, the beach, the lottery, mountain climbing, good movies and elephants, which are said to bring good luck.

He was an eternal optimist. The last week of his life, we discussed the billion dollar Powerball lottery, and he wanted my sister to buy him tickets. We laughed at my refusal and my hardcore “I earn my money” stance, once again questioning my paternity. He told my mom (his original and favorite ex-wife — oh, there were more), “Don’t worry, Andi, when I win I will take care of you, too.” And there is no doubt in my mind he would have.

Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” My father made a lot of people feel special and important. He sincerely saw the very best in everyone he met. And he was possibly your biggest fan. He certainly was mine.

Everyone loved my dad. I have lived in this area on and off for 35 years, and I never knew as many people in my community as my dad did in just a few short years living here. When I went to the bank — both branches — everyone there knew my father. No one at the bank ever paid attention to me until they found out I was his daughter. When we would walk through Acme, various clerks would greet him warmly. I’ve spent approximately $50,000 in Acme, and no one there ever greeted ME warmly. Even the cute young salesgirl at the AT&T store knew him and was heartbroken to hear of his illness. He made friends everywhere he went.

The days following my father’s death were difficult ones. As I drove near his house to pick up my son at basketball, I asked my dad for a sign. I told him I was feeling sad and empty without him here on earth, and right at that moment, The Beatles “All You Need Is Love” came on the radio. I can not think of a song that embodies my father’s life more than this. It’s a simple tune which holds all the answers. Love is all you need. I never used to believe that. Sure, love is nice, but it doesn’t pay the bills. But as I spent my final days with my dad, love was all that was left…not houses or cars or watches or clothes…only love remained in that room, and it was all that we needed in the end.

While my father and I were quite different from each other, I am trying hard to employ more of his trademark warmth and goodness into my life. I will try to forgive people quickly and not hold grudges. I will try to to believe the very best about everyone.  I will try to be optimistic and not waste precious time on needless worry. Finally, I will try to help others and give selflessly and generously with an open heart. I will tell all the people I love that I love them, starting now. I love you. Thanks to all of you who have reached out to me so warmly during these difficult days. My dad would have loved that.

Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad with a Side of Tears

Last week, versions of this recipe appeared twice in my Facebook feed from The Bitten Word and The Splendid Table, so I took it as a sign I needed to give it a try. Like most backyard gardeners, I have cucumbers coming out my ears this time of year. Luckily, my family (and coworkers — don’t get me started) love cucumbers, but after awhile, we tire of the usual preparation. I’m so glad that we tried this! I doubled the recipe for this dressing, used four regular (not English) cucumbers, and it was delicious.


Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad
inspired by Food Network Magazine, original recipe here

2 cucumbers, seeded and chopped
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 scallions, sliced
red pepper flakes, to taste
cilantro, if desired

Sprinkle cucumbers with one teaspoon kosher salt and let sit for ten minutes. Whisk together all other ingredients while cucumbers are sitting. Drain and rinse cucumbers. Add dressing. If using more than two cucumbers, double recipe.

Now, for the side of tears. Directions: Drop your first-born off at college. Come home. See his car in the driveway. See his favorite snacks on sale. See the dog waiting patiently for him by the door. See baby pictures on your screen saver. See his empty and abnormally clean room. Cry as needed. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Not unexpectedly, it has been hard for us. We absolutely, positively would not want things any other way than this. He is exactly where he needs to be, and we are fortunate that we can provide him with the opportunity which he has worked so hard to earn. Everything is as it should be. And yet…

When people ask me how I feel, it’s not easy to articulate. But I keep going back to Shel Silverstein’s (surprisingly divisive) children’s book, The Giving Tree. If you haven’t read it, you should. I can still hear myself reading it to my son:

And the tree was happy…but not really.

I get it, Giving Tree. I feel ya, girl.


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.

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.

Dawn’s Quick Summer Eggplant Salad

A couple of summers ago I went to a nutritional counselor, and she pretty much told me everything I already knew. I don’t want to say it was a complete waste of money, because I did get one or two significant things out of our sessions. For one, I was inspired to start this blog, something which has brought me great joy and satisfaction, and that alone was worth the price of admission. The other thing I took away is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, and that is the notion of “primary food.”

Primary food is the stuff that feeds your soul, but you can’t eat it. And when you don’t have it, you sometimes search for it through consuming actual food. No pepperoni pizza or hot fudge sundae in the world will ever be more than a fleeting substitute for real primary food. Unfortunately, I can not provide you a recipe for primary food; it is something which must be concocted individually. I am making great strides myself, but it’s still not always an easy thing to figure out. In the meantime, we still have to eat actual food, so I will continue to post recipes I’ve been enjoying.

Eggplant is one of those vegetables which I love eating but don’t always enjoy preparing. When I saw Mark Bittman’s recipe today for eggplant salad with mustard-miso dressing, I was excited to learn boiling the eggplant is an acceptable alternative to grilling or roasting. The downside to boiling is that it resembles slimy jellyfish. I would definitely grill or roast the eggplant next time, but I wanted to include the directions for boiling, which is a quick, easy, and less hot-in-the-summertime-kitchen alternative. I added edamame for a source of protein, but I think chicken or shrimp would work just as well.

Dawn’s Quick Summer Eggplant Salad
Serves 2 to 3

1 medium to large eggplant, ends trimmed and cubed
kosher salt
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin (preferably toasted from seed and freshly ground, but let’s be realistic)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
kalamata olives, halved
edamame, cooked and shelled

Add cubed eggplant to a large pot of salted boiling water for about five minutes or until tender. Drain and cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together, onion, cumin, red wine vinegar, sugar, cayenne and olive oil. Toss with cooled eggplant. Gently stir in olives, edamame, and tomatoes. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

eggplant salad

The Waiting Place

When I was in high school. I worked at a Hallmark card store. I learned so much from that job. Much of what I learned was how NOT to treat people, but that’s a tale for another day. As a young, impressionable girl raised on Dynasty and Danielle Steele, I loved a good story.

One of my coworkers, an older lady named Betsy, told me a story that I still think about sometimes. (Let’s note that I’m now the age of Betsy, “the older lady.”) The summer after high school, Betsy was at the beach for the weekend with her girlfriends. She was planning to attend Vanderbilt University that fall. Before she packed up to leave, Betsy decided to take one last walk on the beach, and on that spontaneous walk, Betsy met the man who would be her husband for the next fifty years. She started dating him and decided to ditch Vanderbilt and get married shortly after their beach rendezvous.

As a snotty and know-it-all child of the 80s, I was appalled that she would abandon her plan of attending a prestigious university for some strange guy she just met on the beach. And for what? To become a wife and mother working part-time in a Hallmark store with high school students? How could she even be smart enough to have gotten into Vanderbilt in the first place if those were the kind of choices she made? But Betsy seemed very happy and was a sweet lady with a good life. I liked her a lot.

There have been times in my life that I think about that story and the seemingly random events that change the course of our lives forever. What if Betsy didn’t go to the beach that weekend? What if she decided to pack up and leave instead of taking one last walk? It often feels like our insignificant decisions (a spontaneous walk) can have way more of an impact than our Big Life Decisions (choosing a college). As an over-thinker, I find this notion simultaneously comforting and unsettling. Nothing matters. Everything matters.

I am at a crossroads right now, slightly stuck in The Waiting Place, as wise Dr. Seuss called it.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both you elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

— Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go

Eventually I will get unstuck and choose a direction, but for now, I’m sticking it out right here. My friend introduced me to a phrase that’s often used in the recovery community, and when my head is spinning with options and I’m overwhelmed about what to do next and how things will turn out, I find that it helps me get back on track: Just keep doing the next right thing. I can do that. And eventually, I believe, the right walk will lead me in the right direction, probably when I’m least expecting it.

My 48 Hours as Ma Ingalls

Suffering passes, while love is eternal. That’s a gift that you have received from God. Don’t waste it. — Laura Ingalls Wilder

As expected, Hurricane Sandy hit our region hard and knocked out our power for 48 hours. Compared to the devastation many people suffered, this barely registers on the misery scale. Our house and rental properties stayed dry and undamaged. None of my people were hungry or injured or died. We are truly fortunate and grateful. Please consider donating to hurricane relief here.

However (you knew there would be a “however,” right? surly you know me by now), it was still very hard, both physically and mentally. I hate that I’m such a weak whiney whiner when deprived of my creature comforts while others are facing such heartache and devastation. Not charming, I know.

I don’t know why you’re complaining. It’s 54 degrees in here. I grew up in a house colder than this. — My husband

The first day without power is never bad, especially when it’s expected. You engage in all kinds of folksy old timey fun like boardgames by flashlight and junk food by the fireplace. The kids and I played Apples to Apples. The kids and Ed played Monopoly to the bitter end. Nate and Logan played chess. We danced and told stories and drank wine and laughed. Doesn’t that sound like a wholesome rip roaring good time? It really was.

But when you wake up the next day to cold darkness and no coffee and dark coldness and no coffee and no coffee in the cold darkness, something slowly starts to crack. You know intellectually you are still one of the lucky ones, but a hot shower and a hair dryer and a light in your closet would sure feel nice right now. And then you check Facebook on your phone and see everyone around you — literally everyone you know except your very own neighborhood — has either gotten their power back by this point or never lost it in the first place. The crack deepens.

We still have not purchased a generator — partially out of frugality, partially out of stubbornness, partially out of Ed’s camping heritage. I suspect he thinks they’re for sissies, even though he’d never say that out loud. (But see above quote if you’re doubting me.) Morning two without power is a dangerous place in any relationship. You start to turn on each other. You start to question motives. You start to compare who is more miserable and has suffered the greatest (hint: the answer is me, always me).

It is in the shelter of each other that the people live. — Irish Proverb

It is at this point when friends come to the rescue. They offer showers and lodging and warm meals. You don’t want to be a burden, but when they insist a second time, you take them up on it. And that is when you know no matter what, you’ll be okay because you have good people who care enough to look out for you. You know that it doesn’t even matter if they are voting for different people in the election. They are kind and good and generous, and as long as people like this exist, the world will always be okay.