For those who didn’t learn to cook growing up, my friend Becky Duffett wrote “How to Feed Yourself” and filled it with 100 of her favorite go-to recipes, no fancy ingredients or equipment required. This hip foodie worked on Williams Sonoma cookbooks for several years and knows what’s what when it comes to making a great cookbook—from beautiful photos to crystal-clear instructions. While she’s targeting recent college grads and twentysomethings, this fortysomething mom likes it too. My cooking is a bit rudimentary, and I’ve aspired to kick it up a notch for a while now. I can follow a recipe, and Jeff and Carter are psyched that I’ll be trying some of Becky’s weeknight dinner recipes—the bulk of the book. Of course, she had me at one-bowl brownies with hazelnuts and Nutella.
I’m so excited. My first Klutz book is coming out in two days. And I didn’t just edit it—I wrote it! And it’s not just a book, it’s a kit with all the kicky materials, like graphic backing paper and bright colored string, included. I had so much fun working on it with the talented team at Klutz, and the projects are totally hip. Perfect for crafty kids and adults. Please consider ordering a copy or two, and if you like it, saying so on Amazon. Thanks!
Kids and adults gave two thumbs up to these high-protein, flourless brownies at last night’s fireworks watching. Adapted from the healthy food website Prevention RD.
- 1 (15-oz) can low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tsp oil (olive, hemp, or canola)
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp instant coffee or expresso, or ground coffee
- 1 cup chocolate chips, divided use
Preheat oven to 350° F. Coat an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with cooking spray or butter.
Put all the ingredients, except ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips, in a blender or food processor and blend well.
Pour batter in prepared pan and smooth to edges.
Sprinkle remaining ½ cup chocolate chips on top of batter.
Bake for 25–30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
My niece Elyse does have thyroid cancer. But if you’re going to have cancer, papillary thyroid cancer is not a bad one to have. Its cure rate is extremely high, and hers was caught early, ironically because she was in a car accident last fall. The head/neck scan fall revealed the tumor, which gave the doctors a baseline from which to monitor its growth.
I’ve been wondering if I am guilty of TMI talking about a family member’s cancer so openly online. But my sister and Elyse are not only comfortable with it but also greatly appreciate the resulting support, coming even from people who have never met them, like my friends. I, too, am very grateful. These connections really are the best part of (virtual) community.
Me: “Pick me up at baggage claim.”
Kathy, my oldest sister: “Where are you?”
Me: “On a plane. You asked me to come.”
Kathy called me that morning two weeks ago tomorrow in tears, and I arrived from SFO into Omaha just before midnight. (In my family, if someone needs help, five other siblings can potentially be dispatched. I’m freelancing now, so I have the most flexible schedule.)
Kathy is a single working mom with two sets of boy-girl twins, 17 and 20 years old, three of whom have special needs. Her life is like a bad Lifetime Network movie. If I told you all of the things that have happened to her and about her kids’ health issues, you wouldn’t believe it. And she’s toughed it out.
The log that broke her back was the possibility that Elyse, her older daughter might have cancer. We should find out tomorrow.
The poor kid can’t catch a break. Recently, she broke her nose in a car accident and needs to have sinus surgery. She had to quit her job because of too many absences, even though they were all health related. Did I mention a drunk driver ran over her hand in a parking lot? If the ER had a loyalty program, she’d be in the 100K tier.
Elyse has a thyroid tumor, which is very common, especially with women, but hers has grown rapidly and is interfering with eating and breathing. It was some worrisome blood-work results, which could be caused by lymphoma (rare, but it’s Elyse, the statistical anomaly), though, that broke her mom. Hearing the “C” word and your child’s name in the same sentence is enough to send any parent into a tailspin.
When I arrived at her house, I knew Kathy had reached the point that every working mom reaches at some point, where you have to decide not to see the gigantic mess in front of you, which you’re too tired and busy to clean up. Because if you even acknowledged it existed, it would send you over the edge. So you buy new socks when the rest are dirty, add to the piles of papers (each representing an overdue to-do), and overlook what hasn’t made it to the garbage can.
That’s why—in addition to going with Elyse to the ultrasound and the surgeon, and taking my sister out to talk over drinks—I spent the next week cleaning Kathy’s bathroom and bedroom. To give her a sliver of control over her rollercoaster life. Tomorrow morning, when she wakes up, before taking Elyse to the hospital, she won’t trip on the way to the shower, can pull a hair-tie out of the designated drawer, and will choose from clothes on matching hangers, tops sorted first by sleeve length and then by color.
In lieu of having the rhinoplasty originally slated for her spring break, Elyse will have the right side of her thyroid removed and a frozen section biopsied while she’s under. The next steps depend on the pathologist’s ruling: malignant or benign? I can’t control the answer, and neither can my sister. But I can make sure that when Kathy gets home, she can focus on Elyse because there’s a little less chaos in her peripheral vision.
Carter was born almost two weeks late—nearly 10 pounds with big, blue Mommy eyes and a full head of hair. His eyes are now hazel like Daddy’s, and his curls grow so fast that he asked Annamae, who gave his his first haircut at four weeks, to cut them all off this time!
Beyond excited, delirious with anticipation, and somewhat crazy describe Carter when it comes to getting together with other kids. He was at a small home daycare until he went to kindergarten, he’s a very social only child, and we work full time, so a playdate is a rare and cherished event. Yesterday, his friend Jade came over, and they tore up a patch of dirt in the backyard, ran after copious amounts of bubbles (not to name drop, but Gymboree bubbles really do last longer), baked brownies, and while the brownies were baking mopped up the dirt they had tracked in. Funny, how cleaning up can be fun when it’s part of playtime!
Obviously, from the Baking with Carter theme, I believe strongly that baking with kids is a great way to have fun together, to develop skills ranging from dexterity to tactile awareness, to learn everything from math to chemistry, etc., etc. It’s great to meet another parent, like Jade’s mom, Jennifer, who understands why kids should play with raw eggs. Needless to say, it was good that my favorite brownie recipe has two eggs to crack, since both kids are pros.
Because this brownie recipe uses cocoa powder, rather than melted chocolate, it’s ideal to make with kids. Here’s the recipe again, for easy reference:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (one stick, room temperature)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons oil
6 tablespoons cocoa
3/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper or foil coated with cooking spray. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla and oil, beating until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Add the cocoa powder in three parts, mixing well after each addition. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and salt together. Add the flour mixture to the the cocoa mixture in two or three parts, mixing well after each addition. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly. Bake for about 20 minutes; do not overbake.
Adapted from Cooking with Amy
Even with a sweet tooth that rival’s mine, Carter likes tart cranberry sauce, or at least the lower-sugar orange cranberry sauce that’s become a tradition for holiday meals at our house. It’s hard to believe I blogged about the original orange cranberry sauce recipe two years ago—hard to believe I’ve been blogging that long! I’ve made a few tweaks—including all the zest from an orange, which is my favorite part, and using all orange juice and no water. All this orangey-ness freshens the taste, I think. Let me know what you think.
Orange Cranberry Sauce
12.5-ounce bag of cranberries
1 cup orange juice, preferably fresh-squeezed
3/4 cup sugar
zest of one large orange, peeled in strips
5 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop and mixture thickens to desired consistency, approximately 30–60 minutes (I like to simmer it a long time, but you don’t need to). Remove the cinnamon stick and cloves (if you can find them!). Cool in a bowl (the sauce will set).