Mix well and add a bit of magic
I have two copies of the Better Homes and Garden Cookbook ... the one with the red and white checkered cover. One was published in 1968 and the other, 2002.
My first copy is a hand-me-down. When I received the updated version as a gift, I was all set to toss the older version.
Why keep it?
But then there was a twinge; something about tossing the old version didn't seem right. Was there regret in letting go of a book that helped me learn to cook, served me so well? Yes, that was part of it. But I wondered, too, if some of the recipes might have been changed ... or even eliminated.
And there were.
What happened to the Pfeffernuesse?
That 1968 version was my go-to book for Pfeffernuesse, a spice cookie I like, especially around the holidays.
When I grabbed the updated version and scanned the index, the recipe was ... gone.
Nowhere to be found. Cut from the new edition and replaced with updated recipes and the latest food fads.
It was then I knew.
I couldn't, wouldn't toss the old book. I'd have to keep both.
I've got other cookbooks, and each serves its own purpose. In some there may be just one recipe I like. Others may hold two or three favorites and some I use for only for reference.
Of course it's easy to search online for recipes, and I do, but there's something about slipping a cookbook off the shelf and thumbing through the food-stained, dog-earred pages to land on that recipe I know will be there.
Ready, as the editor in both books wrote, to "bring joy and good eating."
Here's to new and old favorites.
October is Cookbook Month. Do you have a favorite?
FInally, in this month of tricks and treats, little bit of magic ...
Tuesday highlights World Origami Days and Friday showcases Int'l Magic Week.
Here's a magic trick you can practice and try ...
Ask someone if they believe you can take a flat piece of paper and make a cup that will hold water.
They'll doubt it can be done.
Ready your square piece of paper, and with all the hand-waving, paper-folding flair you can muster, show them how it's done using the printable instructions below ... and fill your cup with wonder.
The rush to get it done ...
It was a last minute addition to the menu: chocolate avocado pudding. No stovetop required, just blend and chill.
But was late in the day.
It would be a rush to get the pudding made, chilled, and ready to serve.
But it was possible.
With the familiarity that comes with having made the recipe a number of times, I cut and pitted the avocado, measured the cocoa powder, maple syrup, milk, and vanilla, and whipped it together.
After spooning the pudding into individual serving bowls, I slid the bowls into the freezer for 15 minutes to speed the cooling.
When I reached back into the freezer to transfer them down into the refrigerator, condensation had formed on the outside of the bowls, and they were slippery.
One down, two down, three, and things were going well. When I lifted the fourth, the bowl slipped from my hand.
Boom. It hit the floor.
The bowl didn't break, but the jolt tossed the pudding from the bowl and it sprayed in every direction possible ... landing on my slacks, my sleeves, in my hair, on my face, and surrounding kitchen cabinets.
The first gasp I let out was for the bowl as it slipped from my hand.
The second, for the dollop of pudding that landed on my cheek.
And the third, loudest of all, came as I slid to the floor, in a full split, when I stepped forward and lost my chocolate-covered footing.
Oh, I wanted to cry, almost did cry, but the dollop on my cheek slid down and touched my lip.
Huh? Pudding ... sweet ... cool ... so good.
And then I laughed. Yes, I got the pudding made, but I'd also created a lot of work for myself when it came to cleaning up the mess I'd made.
National Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk Day reminded me of my pudding predicament and another saying: haste makes waste ... yes it does, and it puts you down one serving, puddin'.
I hope you use the weekly Story Starter calendar of days to write and share your stories.
Some days may resonate, others, not so much. But most weeks I hope you find one or two that prompt something ... for something to do, a conversation to have, a letter to write, a collection of stories worth sharing.
I don't have anything for Ballet Day, do you?
If you're not already getting the calendar, sign up today!
p.s. for the grammar buffs: Is it "spilled" or "spilt?"
It's listed as "National Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk Day," but when it came to my collage, I liked the alternate spelling, and decided to with "spilt."
It seems I just can't help myself. Every time I make pancakes, which isn't all that often, I use the end of the batter to make heart shaped pancakes ... for anyone who's getting a plate. Doesn't matter how old you are.
Last week I made pancakes, and when I put the plates on the table (for just the two of us), there were smiles all around, including mine.
It's a silly thing and I sometimes say, nah, don't bother ... or, that's for kids, don't be so goofy. But then I do it anyway ... because even though it's silly and a bit corny, it shines some extra light on the day.
So let's not worry about being silly or corny or sappy(!) and do it anyway because it feels good ... no matter how old you are.
So many of us are cooking more, and being one of those people who is cooking more, I can say there are days when it's a bit of a chore. The days I don't want to to cook are the days I want to be doing other things. When the time it takes to cook something takes me away from something else.
I like to cook, always have. Baking is one of my hobbies.
But it's good to have a break.
We cooked a lot the day before (different dishes for lunch and dinner). It wasn't planned, but the following day when we did a run-through meal plan, we realized we had leftovers for lunch and dinner.
Lunch and dinner.
Two meals we didn't have to cook. What a welcome break from starting from scratch. From the chopping, sauteing, peeling, measuring, and mixing. The piled up dishes, bowls, and pots and pans.
It meant less time in the kitchen, more time for other things. So easy, it was like having takeout.
It was a small thing, but a good thing. A reminder to notice when things are good. We noticed, and it felt good.
So good we made popcorn. We had the time. And anyway, making popcorn is fun and not so much like cooking. And that was good, too.
How about you? What simple pleasures are you noticing?
An Illustrated Journal
Early evening is when I get restless. I don’t like to read at the end of the day because most days I spend a lot of time on the computer.
Sometimes a movie is a good fit, but more often than not, I find myself watching television or spending more time than I should scrolling Instagram. And that leaves me more restless.
After thinking about what I could manage and what makes sense, I’ve decided to try journaling. It’s new to me and I want to experiment.
I’m not interested in listing what I’ve done during the day. Instead, I want to focus on one thing that caught my attention during the day. One topic, subject, thought, or feeling.
And I want to set some parameters:
This is the first collage.
Last night I cooked a new dish, and when I was pulling the ingredients, I realized new recipes are what keep me interested in cooking. Sure, I have a few go-to recipes, but I like trying new ones.
And I love my cast iron pans.
Geez, I love those pans. They are the original non-stick cooking pans. And clean up? So easy. I use them for almost all my cooking.
What about you ... do you journal? Do you set parameters? I’d love to know your process. Got any tips to share?
Do you cook? With cast iron? I'd love to know.
A recipe of one's own
Forgive me, but I’ve never liked a boiled dinner.
I know. A lot of people like a boiled dinner, and for many, it’s the traditional meal on St. Patrick’s Day.
I’ve got a wee bit of Irish in me and I like to cook, but I had to find my way beyond the boiled dinner. It took some trial and error, but this has been my St. Patrick's Day dinner menu for a while now. And I won't say who, but even those who remain on the side of the boiled dinner have been known to ask for seconds.
St. Patrick's Day Menu
• Corned Beef (flat cut) with a brown sugar/mustard glaze
• Colcannon - mashed potatoes with sauteed onion and cabbage
• Roasted Carrots
• Soda Bread
• Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes
I sometimes make the cupcakes a day ahead, but otherwise make all the dishes the day we celebrate. Especially the soda bread. It’s best the day it’s baked.
What holiday dishes and traditions do you modify and make your own?
What to do?
I was 14 years old, home alone, and I was bored. I paced from my bedroom to the living room to the kitchen, and back again. In the kitchen, I opened and closed the cabinet doors. Over and over again.
I was looking for something. Something to eat? Something to do? I didn't even know. Round and round I went, until I found what I didn't know I was looking for: a tub of Quaker Oats oatmeal.
I decided to make cookies.
My mother was an occasional baker and her go-to cookie was the oatmeal raisin. I'd seen her make them, helped her make them, and I knew where to find the recipe: it's printed on the underside of the lid of every tub of oatmeal.
I gathered the ingredients, followed the instructions, and waited for the first batch to bake through—ten minutes, maybe twelve.
To my surprise, baking the cookies lifted my spirits, erased the boredom, and filled the better part of my afternoon. When my mom and brothers and sisters came home we ate cookies together. And they were good. Really good. Just as good as Mom's.
And I was hooked.
I went from being bored (and to be honest, a little lonely), to feeling good, productive, interested, and happy.
It was the gathering of ingredients, the measuring, and the mixing that shifted things. I was focused on baking, no longer distracted by my boredom. Dollops of dough and a baker's dozen. I was hooked.
Baking cookies helped me understand that it's the doing that makes the difference. That hobbies offer not only distraction, but reward, too. Maybe not always with baked goods or a finished product, but a shift ... in mood, progress, outlook, or skill.
The cookies became the start of a life-long pursuit of hobbies, passions, and pastimes. Of baking and hiking, sewing and stitching. Writing letters, cooking, and camping. Some experiences long-lasting efforts, others one-and-done.
I sometimes think my hobby is finding new hobbies.
And why not?
I can whip up a batch of bread and butter pickles, stitch a popped button back on a shirt, and skate backwards on a frozen pond.
And I can bake.
I make a pretty good apple pie, a decent Irish soda bread, and yes, a darn good oatmeal raisin cookie.
I made some this morning. Here's the recipe.
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
(Adapted from the Quaker Oats Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies recipe. I don't add the cinnamon.)
Heat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer (or by hand) until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; add to butter and sugar mixture.
Add oats and raisins; mix well.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly on cookie sheet, remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Enjoy!
If there are any left over, store tightly covered.
Exploring the art and writing of short story memoir