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

CrankyCakes



Beet Gnocchi with Chevre Cream Sauce 2

Posted on July 28, 2009 by crankycheryl

Good Vermont goat cheese about to dive into cream sauce.

Thank you friends and foodies for all the nice thoughts about our dinner, and support for saving our beloved strip of trees!

Oh, I cooked for three days and sweated and calculated and worried, and in the end CrankyGreg and I produced a three course plated dinner for 41 neighbors, friends and well-wishers.

The only thing we ran out of must have been the best thing, it seems to me, and so that’s the recipe I’ll post first.  I was so excited to make this as part of the big feast, even though I had to buy (local) beets since the ones in the cohousing garden remain kind of puny.

Z. has a current love affair with all things pink and purple, and I had chosen this with him in mind.  He squealed adorably when I showed them to him while I was making them, and could barely keep his tiny little hands off the tray of magenta balls of goo.

If only it kept this color after cooking.

Beet gnocchi dough: if only it kept this color after cooking.

I know:  you don’t have any plans to slave stoveside with steaming pans or fuss with handmade pasta.  I agree with you.  But you should do it anyway because this is so darn good.

Beet Gnocchi
From The Recipe Files
Serves 6

  • 1 medium or two small red beets, washed
  • 1 pound ricotta, set in cheesecloth-lined colander set in a bowl and allowed to drain for a day
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 cup grated imported Parmesan cheese plus more for the table
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dredging
  • Chevre cream sauce (recipe below)
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley for serving

Place clean beets with their skins on inside a baking dish with a snug-fitting cover. Bake in 450 degree oven until tender, 45 minutes – 1 hour. Remove from oven, remove lid and let beets cool. Slip the skins off with your hands. Grate the beets into a mixing bowl on the large hole of a box grater. [I questioned grating rather than pureeing, but concluded that it may matter to have the extra structure that having shreds would provide.]  Add the ricotta, eggs, Parmesan cheese and salt and freshly ground black pepper to the beets. Mix well with a whisk or wooden spoon. Add 2/3 cup flour to the ricotta mixture and whisk together to mix. Set the mixture aside for a minimum of 2 hours in the refrigerator. Can be made up to two days ahead.

While the gnocchi dough is resting, go ahead and make the Chevre Cream Sauce.

  • 2 T. butter
  • 4 T. unbleached flour
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 6 oz. chevre, broken or sliced into 1″ pieces
  • 1/2 t. salt (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/2 t. smoked paprika

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat, and then slowly and thoroughly whisk in the flour.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Whisk in the milk and cream, beating thoroughly after each addition to prevent lumps.  Bring to a slow but steady boil, then turn down and simmer for one minute or until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.  Remove from heat, and stir in goat cheese a little bit at a time.  Whisk, whisk, whisk until thoroughly melted and incorporated.  Add nutmeg, garlic and smoked paprika.  Place aside to keep warm while you form and cook the gnocchi.

Back to the gnocchi:  I’m writing in the instructions I followed for making them, but let me tell you that mine were really unattractive, like a platter of gizzards once cooked.  You surely are more dextrous than I am and will end up with something beautiful.  But just in case, here’s a link to alternate instructions for making them.

Our Dinner

Our Dinner

To form the gnochetti roll a walnut-sized piece of beet mixture into a nice [whatever] round. Drop it into the bowl of flour, carefully turning to coat all sides. Lay each dumpling on a parchment lined baking sheet lightly covered with flour. Continue forming the Gnochetti until all the mixture is gone.  Slip the gnocchi into a pot of gently simmering salted water [this is important since a big old energetic rolling boil can bubble your poor little dumpling to smithereens]. Wait until they float to the surface of the water and continue to cook for an additional minute. Using a slotted spoon, remove them from the water as they are done and place them on a serving platter.

When all are cooked and are on the platter top with the cream sauce and parsley and serve.

So Summer, Quiche and Clafouti 2

Posted on July 20, 2009 by crankycheryl

bread bcoho july dinner 008Oh, it’s summer, green and wet and if not exactly sunny, then still with beautiful days for the beach and camping and adventure seeking.  The boys are covered with dirt and mosquito bites and scraped knees, whirling around in a perpetual cloud of brotherly violence/love, worlds of pirates and griffin-hunting and trucks and dinosaurs, pleas for more ice cream, for just five more minutes at the beach, in the water, under a tree.

“Be here,” I keep telling myself.  Just be here with them, in the streams of light through pine trees while we’re camping.  With the smells of leaves and the sounds of their laughs as they run to the far side of the pond to capture a frog or tackle a friend.

And I’m trying, I’m trying.  To be here, to breathe deep of this beautiful life, my wild and wonderful boys.  To keep the joy in balance with all the worry, my fears about taking a brave plunge, about money, work, how I’m going to deal with fixing my bathroom floor, all of it.

In the midst of it, it was still my turn to make a cohousing community dinner last week.  And what else is there to do but use the what we have at hand to celebrate, even sanctify these full moments?   So though I was packing to go camping, and in a full-scale anxiety attack over the rest of it, we grabbed vegetables from the garden, and Vermont cheeses and cream and eggs from our co-op and off we went to cook and feast together on this beautiful, thrifty, simple and custard-y Vermont Bastille Day meal.

Rolling Out the Piecrust

Rolling Out the Piecrust

Summer Quiche
4 – 6 servings

Preheat oven to 375.

Gather and prepare ingredients:

  • 3/4 c. sauteed or steamed vegetables, well-drained.  (This amount is the yield you want after it’s cooked, so make sure to start with more!)  We made two combinations:  1.  Broccoli, mushroom, basil and sage.  2.  Swiss chard, lacinata kale, zucchini, garlic scapes.  We sauteed each combo in a large pan with butter and olive oil.

Beat together:

  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups cream, whole milk, or creme fraiche
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch freshly ground nutmeg

Arrange vegetables on bottom of crust, then sprinkle over them:

Pour the egg mixture over the top.  Bake until the filling is browned and well set, 25 – 35 minutes.

Clafouti Egg Breakin'

Clafouti Egg Breakin'

Nectarine & Strawberry Clafouti
6 servings

Preheat oven to 375.  Butter a 10-inch deep-dish pie pan.

Beat until very frothy:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 c. sugar

Add and beat until smooth:

  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 T. cognac or rum (optional), or
  • 2 t. vanilla

Stir in:

  • 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt

Arrange evenly over bottom of pie pan:

  • 1 lb. mixed nectarines, cut into 1″ cubes, and halved strawberries, rinsed and dried

Pour batter over the fruit and place the pie pan on a baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 and bake until puffy and well-set, about 35 minutes.  Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes, then dust with:

  • Powdered sugar.

Serve in wedges, or sloppy scoops, whatever seems to come out of the pan.

bread bcoho july dinner 022

Zucchini-Greens Quiche

Finished Clafouti, Ready to Serve

Finished Clafouti, Ready to Serve

Leftover clafouti batter, mixed with strawberry jam and baked into a dutch-baby style pancake for breakfast the next morning.  Yes, that's a Blue's Clues plate.  What of it?

Leftover clafouti batter, mixed with strawberry jam and baked into a dutch-baby style pancake for breakfast the next morning. Yes, that's a Blue's Clues plate. What of it?

Eat Your Weeds! 2

Posted on June 19, 2009 by crankycheryl

This is a lamb’s quarters.  It’s a weed. june 003 You can eat it!

Some of its features:

  • Mild-flavored.
  • Extremely versatile.
  • Collects dirt really well – wash by immersing in a couple of washes of cold water.
  • Has stems that are particularly stick-ish – make sure to remove ’em.
  • Free!  It grows along sidewalks, as a weed in your garden or at your CSA farm (where they’ll thank you to pull it out and take it with you).  Be warned – once you get used to finding it and pulling it out, it’s hard to stop.

Here’s what I’ve done with the big bunch of them that have been around here this week:

Tossed lightly with olive oil, put on a baking sheet, and used as a bed for re-heating leftover roast lemon/saffron chicken with potatoes:

strawberries and chicken 001

For a great vegan brunch:  pan-cooked cubed red potatoes in lots of olive oil, kosher salt, and smoked paprika, them removed potatoes to a plate when very nearly cooked, and sauteed lambs quarters and crumbled tofu with an additional sprinkle of smoked paprika before adding the potatoes back in.

strawberries and chicken 009

For a light supper, made stracciatella:  steamed and pureed 2 big batches of the greens, then heated three quarts of strong vegetarian stock to a simmer.  Stirred in the lambs quarters, then beat 12 (yup) eggs until foamy, and poured them in a stream into the stock while stirring and swirling slowly.  Serve in bowls with grated cheese.

bread and lambsquarters 010

With the next batches I collect, I’m planning to steam and chop them and keep them in the freezer for quick and easy greens to try to stealth into brownies and the like this winter.

What are your favorite wild summer edibles?  What do you do with them?

Pie Crust, Quiche & Blueberry Bars: Brunch for Friends 3

Posted on June 03, 2009 by crankycheryl

furious-and-brunch-007So I realized that I was building up a karmic debt to several of my neighbors who babysit for me for free.  And since most of them don’t have young kids for whom I could provide some child care, having them over for brunch seemed the next best thing.

Do you agree that brunch is the best meal for entertaining?  I even felt this way before I had children who would be in full  melt-down by dinner time.  I love how brunch can just sort of go on without everyone getting bleary-eyed and start mumbling about all they have to do the next day.  How it comes with mimosas or coffee or dumplings or eggs or fruit or baked goods and fresh flowers.

This particular brunch gave me an opportunity to try a few new things.  I’ve been in the market for a new go-to pie crust recipe.  I love and rely on the Joy of Cooking’s Cream Cheese Crust (this recipe is very close – you’ll have to look into your heart and make the butter vs. shortening decision), but it’s not right for everything.  And especially not suited to the quiche I wanted to make.  I found the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Foolproof Pie Crust on Serious Eats, and gave it a whirl.  The recipe’s hallmarks are

  1. Using vodka for the liquid, which has much less water than, well, water, and so develops the gluten to a lesser degree, which keeps the crust more flaky and delicate.
  2. Adding the flour in stages, which also limits gluten formation.

furious-and-brunch-011I made myself follow the recipe carefully, monitoring crumb size and shape and consistency.  The only substitution I made was using the local Vermont Gleason Grains whole wheat pastry flour instead of white.

As I was moving on to turn crust into quiche, I discovered that I had just a smidgen of cream in the refrigerator.  I was determined to make this a truly delectable one, and so didn’t want to skimp on the fat.  As I was contemplating a mad dash to the store, I spied the ranch dressing in the refrigerator door.  Hmm.  It seemed plausible.

Also on the menu were some pumpkin-banana mini muffins, fresh fruit, and the crazily delicious Blueberry Bars from Farmgirl Fare.  Seriously friends, I’m trying to find another reason to host a brunch so I have a reason to make these again so I can eat them fresh since they don’t store so well.  Yum.

Classic & Comforting Roasted Mushroom & Cheddar Quiche
Adapted from Joy of Cooking, 1997
Serves 8

  • 1 10″ pie crust, pre-baked
  • 1/2 lb. mushrooms (your choice), sliced thickly, tossed with olive oil and then roasted at 400 for 20 min., cooled
  • 3/4 c. grated cheddar cheese
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 c. milk (use what you’ve got – but don’t skimp on the fat content overall)
  • 1/4 c. cream
  • 1/4 c. ranch salad dressing
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • pinch freshly ground black or white pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg

furious-and-brunch-014Preheat oven to 375.  Place mushrooms and cheese on bottom of pie crust.  Beat together remaining ingredients and pour into shell.  Bake until filling is browned and set – 20 to 25 minutes.  Let sit for 10 – 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Green Tea Salad, or, The Legacies We Don't Choose 0

Posted on May 30, 2009 by crankycheryl
Leaves of Green Tea

Leaves of Green Tea

The summer before last, my mother and I made plans for her to come for lunch one day.  I was searching through the cupboards for inspiration when I spied a bag of green tea.  A dear family friend had brought it back from China the winter before, not long before she was diagnosed with lung cancer.  She had died earlier that spring, and as I looked at the bag in my hand, I felt my eyes grow misty.  I had a napa cabbage from our CSA share in the fridge, and  remembered a recipe for Burmese Green Tea Salad from the excellent Hot & Spicy & Meatless 2, and I knew I wanted to make it in memory of Ann.

Ann was a lifelong family friend who I thought of like an aunt.   She was there through my childhood, and then visited us in Vermont when we moved here.  She and Mark would come and we would go for Sunday brunches and birding walks.  They were the first to show me the snow geese who visit near here on their way to and from breeding grounds each year.  They themselves were migratory friends, stopping here to listen and laugh about whatever was happening in our lives, greeting my children when they were born, bringing gifts and showing pictures of their own grandchildren.  She was a mom of two sons who I admired and looked to for advice as I began to raise my own.

I reflected on all this as I began gathering ingredients for the salad.  The preparation became a tribute, noble and important.  I pressed, marinated and baked tofu to give us some protein.   My mom came over, and we ate, talking about Ann, and trying to decide whether we liked the salad.  It was a little weird eating all that tannic tea, but we ate until it was gone.

Later that afternoon, the boys and I were invited to a playground for a birthday party.  It was around then that I realized I was feeling quite strange.  The kids noisily descending and climbing the slide seemed especially funny, and I couldn’t seem to stop talking to the other moms.  Not that I was inclined to try.  I thought, “Gosh, I seem kind of wired!”

I stopped and thought about what I had eaten and drank that day, I remembered the salad, and did some quick math.  I had doubled the recipe, since we were having it for lunch instead of an appetizer, so that we had each eaten about 1/3 of a cup of green tea, which was about, oh, 18 cups of caffeinated tea.  My mom and I both ended up awake until one that morning; I used the time to reflect on how none of us really gets to choose the legacy we leave behind, or how we’ll be remembered.  It may have been surreal, but I like to think Ann would have approved.

La Phet (Green Tea Salad)
Hot & Spicy & Meatless 2, as collected by Richard Sterling from Renatto Buhlman, executive chef of the Strand Hotel.

4 servings (but better make it more like 6 or 8, just in case)

  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 c. peanut oil
  • 1/3 c. loose green tea leaves
  • 2 T. coarsely chopped peanuts
  • 1 T. toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/4 t. sugar
  • 3/4 c. finely shredded napa cabbage or bok choy
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 t. cayenne powder

For garnish:

  • Lime wedges
  • Whole dried red chiles

Fry the garlic in 2 teaspoons of the oil until it starts to brown.

Combine the tea leaves and the remainder of the oil, and, using your fingers, knead the oil into the leaves until the oil is well distributed.  Let the mixture sit at least one hour or until the leaves soften.  If your tea is extremely dy, you may want to add a few drops of water.  Add the garlic, peanuts, sesame seeds, sugar, cabbage, lime juice, and cayenne and mix well.  Garnish with lime and chiles and serve.

You Put What in Breakfast Cookies? 3

Posted on May 28, 2009 by crankycheryl

breakfast-cookies-002

Ten years ago I couldn’t imagine a life that necessitated rules like, “You are only allowed to spit outside the house, and pick your nose inside the house.”  And I couldn’t have known that I’d be sneaking healthy food into my children with clever marketing and techniques more appropriate for public relations than running a family.

But all things in life seem to intersect at some point, and I am where I am, feeding wild monkeyboys with whatever I can, trying to interrupt the cereal-pancake cycle of breakfast.  So why not Breakfast Cookies?  After all, the only real difference between a muffin and a cupcake and a cookie is some combination of height, frosting and marketing, no?

So I found this recipe on CD Kitchens (you’ll recognize the picture as mine), and adapted it slightly.  It’s good, certainly healthier than a lot of the stuff we call breakfast food (purple & blue poptart, anyone?), and boy did I feel like a rock star of a mom when I heard the boys bragging that they were eating Cookies For Breakfast.

Banana-Oat Breakfast Cookies
Adapted from CD Kitchen, as submitted by Kasie of Milwaukee
20 cookies

  • 1/2 cup sunflower butter or tahini (the original calls for peanut butter, but using one of these will let you bring them into a nut-free zone)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 ripe medium bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 c. pureed squash or pumpkin
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup dried cranberries, raisins, or chopped dried apricots

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, beat peanut butter and butter with electric mixer 30 seconds. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Beat in egg and vanilla until mixed. Beat in bananas, baking soda and salt.

Mix in flours and flax. Stir in oats and dried fruit. Drop by 1/4-cup measure 4 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Spread to 3-inch rounds.

Bake in 350F oven 15 to 16 minutes, or until edges are browned. Let stand 1 minute. Remove; cool on wire racks. Serve in 24 hours or freeze.

Mousse in Cups 2

Posted on April 16, 2009 by crankycheryl

carroll-shower-food-apr-09-016

I’ve been preparing food for a baby shower I’m sort of catering, and we had decided to do chocolate mousse in mini-chocolate cups.  I was outraged that the tiny little cups I found would end up costing $1 each, so I decided to make my own.

If you’re a regular cranky reader you know that I spend much of my time distracted and overtired.  I offer this up as one explanation why I might have decided that the monkeyboys’ plastic eggs were a good first thing to use to make my very own little chococups.

I don’t know how I thought I was going to get them off, but I sort of pictured it being plausible once the chocolate had cooled in the refrigerator.

It didn’t work.  So for 3 days I’ve been moving this plate of chocolate-covered plastic around my kitchen, unwilling to admit that I had wasted all of this chocolate and time.  Then yesterday, my older tyke caught sight of them.  I heard a surprised gasp,  “Mommy! You’re a genius!”  I said, “Well thanks honey, but it really didn’t work the way I thought it would.”  He gave me a look that made it clear that he would not tolerate the suggestion that there could be anything wrong with chocolate enrobed Easter crap, and I can only imagine what he’s planning to do with them.   I suspect I should have the video camera ready.

makechoccupslikethis1Chocolate Mousse in Chocolate Cups
about 36 cups

For cups:

Melt 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips in the top of a double-boiler, or a pan set in a larger pan with an inch of water in it over medium-low heat.  Stir occasionally until melted and smooth.

Lightly oil the insides of silicone mini-muffin pans.  (You definitely want something flexible like silicone.  I’ve also seen recipes where people blow up small balloons, paint a bit of one end with chocolate to make a sort of bowl, and then pop and remove the balloon once it’s set, which I’m sure is fun if you have balloon-aged children.)  Using a pastry brush, glop a bit around the rim of each cup, swirling to get a thick layer.  Give each part of the cup a couple of passes with the chocolate to get maybe 1/8″ thick.  Once the entire pan is completed, place in fridge for an hour to set.  When you want to unmold them, let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes, then press on the bottom of each cup, gently and firmly, to pop them out.  (Some will crack and break.)

Or for heaven’s sake you could just buy the chocolate cups.

carroll-shower-food-apr-09-008Chocolate Mousse

Oh, how I looked for a trustworthy recipe for mousse with cooked or pasteurized eggs that would be safe for the mom-to-be.  Finding none, I improvised, and was helped along with the discovery of Nasoya’s new chocolate silken tofu.

If you just want a chocolate pudding dessert, the tofu by itself would be fine.  But if you want a rich mousse type experience, you want the intensity of the melted chocolate, the creaminess of the whipped cream, and the lightness that tofu (or, normally, eggs) would give you.

  • 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted as above
  • 1 package (1 lb.) chocolate silken tofu
  • 1 cup whipping cream, whipped until firm peaks form.
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 T. rum, amaretto, coffee, or orange liqueur

Let chocolate cool to just warm, then place in large bowl with tofu.  Use handmixer to thoroughly blend, then add whipped cream in 3 parts, along with the vanilla and rum or liqueur, and blend very well.  Fill cups or place in bowls, then let set in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

Warm Wishes 1

Posted on April 12, 2009 by crankycheryl

lacinata-kaleWith spring being such a tease, I’m finding myself pining for the warm weather.   I’m stubbornly planting seeds, though the wind is blowing cold and I refuse to admit that the white fluff puffing through the air is snow.  I’m picturing our summer evenings at the Intervale Community Farm, with kids in the sandbox and romping through the fields … the goat cheese we’ll pluck out of the cooler each week … the peas and strawberries we’ll be picking.

While I wait, I’m planting my own garden of pretty edible plants – kale and nasturtiums and curly cress and violas.  I’m waiting for the wild lamb’s quarters to appear so I can harvest it for soups and salads and quick sautees.

It’s coming, it’s coming, and in the meantime, here’s a fun recipe that I first came across in a Facebook posting from Julie Rubaud of Red Wagon Plants.  I hear some children actually eat it.  But it’s so good and virtuous that you won’t mind crunching it all up when they’re sitting across the table from you, stricken and with their little hands over their horrified mouths.

Oh Fine Already 1

Posted on April 04, 2009 by crankycheryl

makimole-001It’s so painful to admit that the love of good food has its downsides.

There I was this week, lumpily trying things on at my favorite thrift shop and grunting my way into a pair of jeans when I realized something had to be done.  It was Time to Put a Plan into Action.  I need clarity and simplicity, but also flexibility, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

  1. No processed sugar.  Maple syrup and honey are fine.  (I’m a kook when it comes to sugar.  Give me an inch, and I’ll eat the whole darn disgusting Costco cupcake.  And maybe part of another.)
  2. Following Mark Bittman’s excellent example, I am going vegan (i.e., no animal products – no dairy, no eggs, etc.) except for one meal a day, at which anything goes – except processed sugar.

I’m on day 3 of the plan and I haven’t murdered anyone yet.  My challenge is to not drive myself crazy with too much food prep while eating a variety of really delicious foods.  I’m looking to Asian flavors in particular, because thousands of years of Buddhism have informed great vegetarian cuisine in that part of the world.  And as I was looking at an avocado there on my counter, I started thinking about a sushi-inspired guacamole, and here’s what I came up with.

Now it’s true this is a pretty healthy little thing here.  But it’s really good, and a super-easy lunch that you can make nearly as quickly as you can make your kid a PB&J (if you’re lucky enough to have a child who still likes PB&J), or a perfectly respectable crowd-pleasing sort of thing to show up with at a potluck.  You could even double the ratio of avocado to make it creamier and a bit more indulgent.

Cheryl’s Maki-mole

Serves 2 or 3 as an appetizer, or 1 hungry person for lunch.

  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 4 oz. tofu (should have been silken, but I only had extra firm in the house – it was fine)
  • 2 t. umeboshi vinegar (you can substitute salt to taste if you must, but really you should just get the umeboshi at City Market or Hannaford or your favorite local Asian market and you can thank me later for this new cool ingredient)
  • 2 t. lime juice
  • 1/2 t. sesame oil
  • 1 t. wasabi paste (or more or less to taste)
  • 1 T. sesame seeds, toasted

Blend the avocado, tofu, vinegar, lime juice, oil and wasabi together very well (an immersion blender works terrifically), sprinkle the sesame seeds on top, and serve with nori-flavored seaweed crackers.

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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