My brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life.

CrankyCakes



Tantrums, Steve Martin & Homemade Pasta: Midway Thru the Localvore Challenge 4

Posted on September 22, 2009 by crankycheryl

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[originally posted at EatLocalVT.com]

When people were first telling me about eating local, I liked when I heard about this concept of “wild cards,” which meant that, yes, the food would be essentially what was grown within 100 miles, but that I could make exceptions.  Like coffee.  Olive oil.  Bananas.  Chocolate. Maybe citrus.  Probably spices.

The list kept growing.  I began to get like Navin in The Jerk:

I don’t need anything except this.

[picks up an ashtray]

And that’s it and that’s the only thing I need, is this. I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray.

And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that’s all I need. And that’s all I need too. I don’t need one other thing, not one – I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure.

And this.   And that’s all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair.

[walking outside]

And I don’t need one other thing, except my dog.

[dog barks]

I don’t need my dog.

There were just too many things I would have started to negotiate for, yes, even for just one week, so I tried to simplify.   We picked the most essential things: peanut butter (all of us), frosted shredded wheat (6 y.o.), canned peaches (4 y.o.) and coffee (me, but it really is for the greater good).  And the rest, to the best of our abilities, is food “grown by our neighbors.”

It’s providing limitless Fascinating Explanations and Interesting Facts, like:

I see from how you’re lying on the floor screaming that the butterscotch pudding isn’t what you wanted.  You probably wanted chocolate, right?  Well, did you know that chocolate comes from a big yellow fruit?  And that that fruit – it’s called cacao – only grows in very warm places?  Did Mommy ever tell you about when she went to live in a tent in a place called Belize and helped harvest chocolate in the jungle …

Riveting stuff, I assure you.

But for many of us, the food day was pretty darn good.  It was those yummy waffles with maple syrup for breakfast (mine was burnt and slathered with homemade jam before being wolfed down on the way to a.m. drop-offs), Does’ Leap goat Caprella, Plum Hill farm plums, and homemade-with-Gleason-Grains whole wheat sourdough bread for grown-up lunch.

Dinner was homemade-no-machine-needed whole wheat pasta for dinner, also made with Gleason Grains bread flour, cooked, drained, buttered, and tossed with Vermont Butter & Cheese chevre, wilted swiss chard, and halved grape tomatoes from the garden.  Some of us had the aforementioned butterscotch pudding for dessert, while others elected to have pure localvore temper tantrums instead.  We go on.

Poem: Headache 0

Posted on August 25, 2009 by crankycheryl

Headache

Can you please stop talking, Mommy?
I have been totally shish-kebab’ed all day!

Says the exasperated 6-year-old in the back seat.

He explains to his brother that that means he’s
been falling and hurting himself on everything.

Steering around the rotary, everything is wavy lines,
migraine’d out, unreal.  We’re on our way
to the playground I had promised to try
today, sure when I left the house that the worst had passed.
But here is the vengeance, and here are the boys,

taking the teen girls prisoner under the monkeybars,
and here they are chasing pigeons from spot to spot,

tight formations above and below.  I am wincing,
laughing, the sunlight hits the trees, the trunks
keep cool air to their side. I am trying not to furrow
my face into a peach-pit knot, now a princess in the tall tower, dusting
as ordered with a fresh pine bough in my hand.  They tell me they are guards
and they march around the plastic curves, the ramps and slides.

We are playing and they know we’re leaving soon, each
giving me worried sideways
looks when the other isn’t watching.

The thing I am most scared of has already happened.

copyright Cheryl Herrick, 2009

Crusty Fries (or, "Things BITE, but My Son's a Genius) 6

Posted on August 10, 2009 by crankycheryl

Oh, I’m a CrankyCheryl indeed.

Have you read Mo Willem’s Leonardo the Terrible Monster?  You know the part where he “scares the tuna salad” out of poor Sam?  And Sam launches into the tirade about how he’s not crying because he was scared, but because his mean big brother stole his action figure and broke it on purpose and he stubbed the same toe he hurt when he was in the bathtub trying to wash out the bird poop that his brother’s cockatoo pooped on his head and his tummy hurts?

Well, that’s me if you’ll substitute, “leak in bathtub necessitating complete bathroom demolition,” “insurance claims adjusters not returning phone calls,” “unemployed,” “sleep-deprived,” “humidity-hating,” “why is there always dirt sticking to my feet when I sweep the @#$^%$ house twice a day,” and “broken camera because I stupidly let kids take pictures with it.”  And probably at least one or two other things I’m too annoyed to remember.

Grrr.

But this happened today:  we were sitting in the gym lobby having our picnic lunch after swimming (i.e. “getting clean without a bathtub”) today, and E. held up the crust of the bread he was nibbling (Klinger’s Maple Oat Walnut – yum) and said, “Look Mommy:  Crust Fries!”

My jaw dropped.  My boy has solved a problem older than sliced bread.  Holy cockatoo poop.  What do you do with the crusts they won’t eat?  Make oven fries with them!  Yah, dude.

Here’s how: Cut the crusts off before germs get all over them as your little darlings pick and prod and slobber their way through their sandwiches.  Toss the crusts with a little bit of oil on a pan, and put it in your toaster oven.  Toast them.  Serve them with mustard and ketchup and whatever meshuga stuff your kids like to dip things in.

And for heaven’s sake, please wait until at least next week to tell me if this idea is not new.  I just couldn’t take it.

Burnt Pancakes & Cranky Camping 3

Posted on June 21, 2009 by crankycheryl

burnt pancakes 002I always burn the pancakes.  As I was making the dry mix to bring along with us, I was trying to talk myself out of freshly made pancake breakfasts on the cookstove for our first camping trip of the year.  I always make pancakes when we’re camping. I always burn them, distracted or inattentive for one minute and there they go.

I was grabbing ingredients for the mix and calculating times to see if I could possibly cook the pancakes ahead to just reheat on site, I kept thinking how I always burn them.  Mommy always burns the pancakes.  We go camping and we can count on a few things – hikes, and beach time, and s’mores, and our funny orange sleeping bags.  We try to stay in our favorite sites and leantos and we love to travel with our favorite friends, and in the morning Mommy burns the pancakes.

uu camping 037So I made the mix and brought the add-ins (fresh blueberries, blueberry jam for putting on top).  We hiked and the boys were big enough to set free to explore the brook behind our campsite and we all got covered in mud and found cool pieces of mica and couldn’t get our fire going to save our  lives.  And in the mornings I burnt the pancakes and all was right in our camping world.

Well, you know, sort of.

Pancake Mix

  • 2 c. unbleached white flour
  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 c. + 2 T. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. cream of tartar
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1/2 c. instant nonfat dry milk
  • 3/4 c. powdered buttermilk
  • equivalent of 2 powdered eggs (or 3 egg whites)

Rehydrate with about 1 1/2 c. water and 2 T. oil.  Cook until burnt.

A couple other things I made and liked …

Melon balls with fresh lime and a splash of maple syrup:

uu camping 001

Caesar salad (romaine leaves and Cardini’s dressing) with freshly made (and burnt) croutons made with torn pieces of bread cooked (and burnt) in too much butter:

uu camping 025

And a sandwich of halved, fresh-picked strawberries with mascarpone on sourdough bread.  No picture, but very good!

Making Bread 7

Posted on June 09, 2009 by crankycheryl

bread-jan-09-002Here’s how making bread goes.

Morning:  I am flinging shoes and making eye contact and nodding at children as I try to get them to get on their backpacks and socks and put down the damn marker that someone’s about to puncture an eardrum with.  I take the starter out in its little pyrex container and set it on the counter.  I give kisses goodbye and wave and watch as E. runs up the gravel path for his ride to school.  I add a cup of flour and a half a cup of water and stir and marvel at how the kitchen is already piled with dishes.

After a mind-numbing morning of Playhouse Disney, I’m swooping through the house gathering towels and toiletries and water bottles and swimsuits on the way out the door, always late, to swim class.  The starter has expanded and is liquid and bubbly and smells yeasty and sour and I stop in my tracks.  I look at the clock and scoop out a cup of the fed starter and thunk the thick, gluten-stringy stuff into my cracked mixing bowl with a cup and a half of water and 3 or 4 cups of flour, ideally a mix of Gleason’s Grains Whole Wheat Bread Flour and spelt and rye.  I stir, cover the bowl with a plate and race for the door.

After swim class, after lunch downtown, after picking up E., we return home, racing down the path playing “I’m Going to Get You” all the way to our door.  The boys run to the dirt that’s piled up in the garden, their favorite spring location.  I go in to see how things are looking.  The dishes seem to have multiplied in our absence and the sponge has expanded.  I add in the remaining flour and a tablespoon of salt.  Today I’m feeling a little kooky and throw in a generous sprinkle of dried orange peel and a pinch of ground ginger, thinking of Swedish rye bread.  I turn the oven on to 350, set the timer for one minute, and put the covered bowl into the oven once I turn it off.    The door opens and the boys are there, caked with dirt and laughing and asking for juice.

The bread rises and warms for an hour or two.  Close to bedtime then and I’m trying to do the math of when the bread is going to get itself baked.  We have the usual spasmodic dance of toothbrushes and washcloths and they moon me with their little tushes and cry like I’ve stuck spears in them when I ask them to get on their own pajamas as they bungee themselves around their tiny room.  The timer goes off and I slip downstairs to form the loaves.

bread-jan-09-005I’m half-listening to them, suddenly calm without me there, as I stretch the dough thin and wide in my hands.  I sprinkle cornmeal onto oiled half-sheet pans and wonder how real bakers do this as I sort of roll, sort of tuck, stretch and pat and fold the dough into a somewhat oval shape.  I cover the loaves with a dry cotton towel under a slightly damp one and head back upstairs to read Cowboy and Octopus.

We have read and snuggled and put down the shades and they are quiet as  I make my way downstairs.  Dishes still.  Plastic tools covering the couch and paints and markers all over the little table.  Blueberry trails scatter across the dining room floor.  The loaves have expanded.  Enough?  Maybe.  I turn on the oven to 450, cringing and remembering the several times I’ve managed to set off the smoke alarms and wake up the boys.  I open two windows and turn on the exhaust fan.

bread-jan-09-0101The oven beeps, preheated, and I take a steak knife and cut slits across the bread, slip it into the oven.  I set the timer for 20 minutes and wait, thinking about the next day, wondering whether it would kill me to clean the bathroom.  Suddenly remember that I haven’t yet checked E.’s school-to-home folder and get his backpack from the mudroom.  A field trip is coming and another homework page I can’t bear to force a kindergartener to do falls to the floor.  I sign the permission slip and replace the backpack, line up shoes, jackets, baseball caps for the morning.

The timer goes off and I take out the pan, quickly closing the door before the heat or the charred whatever in the oven sets off those noisy alarms.  I put the loaves on a rack, and listen to the peepers singing in the pond in the dark.  Upstairs someone wakes up a little, talking to their dreams.  Then quiet, cool, night.

You can do it too.  Let me know if you want some of my starter.

Chocolate Granola as Salvation 5

Posted on March 30, 2009 by crankycheryl

Chocolate Granola

I’ve got a list and a half of things I want to write here about – recipes, restaurants, cookbooks, the coming growing season, lots of stuff.  But here’s the thing:  I’m losing it.  I’m so tired.  I’m battling a kid with ADHD and his brother who’s nutty and 3, and endless supplies of mud and the job is crazy and I’m overdrawn at the bank again and then my friend called twice today to tell me that my boy smelled like cat pee at school, and, you know, there’s only so much I can take.

These are tough days.  Amazing, and tough.  I watch the monkeyboys out the window as they sprint out into the garden, intent and beautiful and ferocious and wild.  The spring has released the water run-off at the garden’s edge and they happily get themselves stuck in the mud, and splash and fill containers and carry out missions with incredible focus and drive.  I watch and laugh and worry, running between loads of laundry and sinks filled with dishes and I try to breathe.

I keep trying to breathe.  I feel overcome with the magnitude of these days, of getting it right.  Not spending too many mornings hissing, “I HATE mornings!” as I’m trying to shoo us out the door on time.  Of not missing these moments that pierce me, when their little arms open for hugs and they rub their sticky faces into my belly.  Of not letting my work worries knock the joy out of me when I can give them a few undivided moments.

And I keep finding myself in the kitchen, making up for the daily traumas and failures with homemade bread and sweetness.  I cook like I’m praying that the smell of chocolate muffins will compensate for my impatience in their future memories, that slices of warm bread and butter will soothe when I cannot.  I don’t know what else to do.  I keep trying to breathe, to love each of us, to feed and soothe us.

Chocolate granola was a good homemade food to remember this week, simple and wholesome and sweet as a reprieve.  In other times I’d jazz it up, maybe give it a Mexican twist with cinnamon and a little powdered chile and raisins and hulled pumpkin seeds.  Or else with chopped dried apricots and candied ginger and slivered almonds.  But this week, I needed the comfort food and maybe you do too.

Chocolate Granola

  • 10 cups of oats (Quick, rolled, whatever; you can also substitute up to 5 cups of your favorite cereal.  For this batch I was low on oats but had low sugar o-shaped cereal about and used that and enjoyed it.)
  • 1/2 c. ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 c. oil (I always use olive, but you can use canola or soy or something similarly mild if you prefer.)
  • 3/4 c. – 1 c. maple syrup, depending on how sweet you want it
  • 3/4 c. cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 c. dried cranberries or cherries
  • 2 c. chopped pecans or walnuts (optional, of course)

Preheat oven to 300.  Grease two baking sheets and set aside.  Using one tremendous bowl or 2 large ones, combine oats, flax, oil, maple syrup, cocoa and salt.  Use your hands to mix very well.  Spread the mixture in a thin layer on the two pans and bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally if you remember to.  When it’s done, the granola will look dry and lightly toasted.  Turn off oven and stir in cranberries and nuts (if using).  Let cool in oven for half an hour or so, then let cool on counter.  Put into containers when completely cooled.

How to use it?  Try a breakfast parfait with yogurt and fresh strawberries.  On top of vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup and a dollop of peanut butter (I’m afraid I can personally attest to the goodness of this).  With milk, like cereal.  Let me know what uses you think of.

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    Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

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