walking and cooking

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Seth plays video games every day for a couple hours but his time doing it is controlled by his loving mother to a certain extent.  This morning, he asked if he could have “his time” at 9am and I said, “sure”.  But at 8 he had eaten breakfast, showered and dressed, and he didn’t know what else to do with himself so we went for a walk together.  Grace was awake but Sarah was still sound asleep.  (Seth is an early riser)

It always happens that the boys will pick up a stick and start battle on trees and such.  From Jacob to Seth, they were all the same in that regard (and still are).

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pretty pretty Indian Pipe flower.  The website (linked) adds: America’s eminent poet, Emily Dickinson, called the Indian pipe “the preferred flower of life.” In a letter to Mabel Todd, she confides, “I still cherish the clutch with which I bore it from the ground when a wondering child, and unearthly booty, and maturity only enhances the mystery, never decreases it.

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I told him how to pose on this fallen down birch tree and he was obliging enough to humor me, still with his weapon-of-a-stick in his hand.  He looks pleased.

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He even likes hitting the caps off wild mushrooms with his stick, he calls it mushroom golfing.

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This is that same fallen down birch tree, I wanted to see the wood where the tree broke and fell.  What a wonderful home for God’s smaller creatures.

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little things of interest on the forest floor…..

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He walked barefoot.

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There are even orange mushrooms.

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Big healthy ferns are squeezing in on the path, reminding me of childhood games and forts in the woods.

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Teeny tiny white mushrooms

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some mushrooms had red caps

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This one looked shy.

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mushrooms on a log

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This large mushroom was broken off and on the ground……Seth’s barefoot show how big it was.

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Seth spied these gorgeous Cardinal wildflowers before I did.  They bloom at this time of year on mossy rocks in the stream and I always delight in them.

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Almost home!

He was a good sport and I found myself thinking, “I do so enjoy walks with a child or two or five or seven, and my camera!”

Dinner Tonight:

Crock-Pot Gingered Beef
2 pounds round roast, trimmed
2 onions, sliced
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup ketchup
6 T. brown sugar
3 T. vinegar
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
1/2 cup beef broth
salt and pepper to taste

Brown beef on all sides (I skipped this part).  Place sliced onion on the bottom of crock pot, place roast on top.  Mix remaining ingredients in bowl and whisk together.  Pour over roast.  Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours or until meat is tender and can be shredded with a fork.  Pour cooking juices into a saucepan and simmer on the stove until reduced, about 10 minutes.  Serve over the top of the beef.

I haven’t made it in a while but in the notes I wrote “Yum, E approves.”  So I’m hoping he still approves tonight when he gets home from work and eats it for dinner.

Grace and I have been enjoying this today:

Black Bean and Rice Salad
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 can whole kernel corn (drained)
1 can black beans (drained)
1 onion, chopped, and 4 cloves of garlic, pressed, sautéed until translucent
3 cups rice
salt and pepper

Mix together in a big bowl and serve each portion with a spoon of salsa on top.

Both recipes from my ever-favorite cookbook Saving Dinner, by Leanne Ely

I’ve done lots of laundry (don’t you love hanging clothes outside on the line?) and still have some to fold, which I will do while the Waltons are on TV.  Seth and Sarah are outside playing.  I fell asleep reading a book on the couch with Seth next to me earlier and now Grace is in my spot, reading her book:  Messenger, by Lois Lowry.  She says it’s nice to read a book that doesn’t task the brain like some of the old classics she’s been reading.    I am reading Dead End in Norvelt, which is a Newbury award winner.  I’m almost done with it and it’s been delightful.  I love it.  Maybe you would, too.

 

PS, ANOTHER WALK WITH SETH that’s kinda making me cry right now.

 

 

 

caleb’s most favorite pancakes

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The boys found me writing in my journal, still in bed, when they woke up.  They also found our big beautiful (but very shy) black cat and to our surprise, he allowed himself to be loved……..

…..while petting the cat, Caleb cleared his throat and asked, “Mom could you make pancakes this morning?  The ones with cinnamon?”  

“You mean your favorite ones that you always ask me to make?”

“Yeah.”

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Spiced Pancakes

1 1/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 large egg
1/1/4 cups buttermilk (I keep dry in the pantry and add it to milk)
2 tablespoons oil

Mix dry ingredients and in a separate bowl mix the wet, then pour wet into dry to combine.  Fry on griddle alongside sausage or bacon.  Serve with warmed maple syrup and, in my case, a sliced banana.  Yum!  Maybe they will be your favorites, now, too!

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*******

“The Swedish artist Carl Larsson made the everyday life of his wife Karin and their seven children the subject of his most famous watercolors.  Instead of idealizing everything in its place, he painted what he saw; the dog asleep on the parlor floor, cast-off slippers, a rumpled sofa scattered with newspapers.  These are the frames of a home movie shot by a doting father and an artist who focused his lens on the comforts of the real and unadorned home.”  a perfectly kept house is the sign of a misspent life by mary randolph carter

 

camp fire pizza

When I was in Alaska I was blown away by the campfire pizza they made out in the backyard over a hot fire amongst the trees and canopied by a tarps just in case it started raining.

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While Hannah and I were out about town and exploring Glacier Lake, her daughter Rebekah prepped everything for the pizza.  She made homemade sauce (red AND white!) and dough, busily chopped vegetables and got the meat ready, too.

Here are a couple of short videos to “set the scene” so to speak.  Hannah and her husband worked like a well-oiled machine and had the entire process down like a science.  I asked her about campfire cooking in general and she said they don’t really have any favorite recipes especially for campfires; they just figure out how to cook their favorite foods over a fire.  They have done A LOT of camping over the years……

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seven puppies, my friends, seven puppies…. and the first-time mother dog didn’t ever want to nurse them, thus Jacob’s foot on her neck.  LOL  The puppies spent most of the time wandering around exploring.

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I wore thick clothing so as to discourage the mosquitos which were large and very plenteous.  I could kill five in one slap to the leg.

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I don’t know where everyone was when I took this photo……which is of a pizza on the fire, covered in foil held down by sticks.  This is the final step in the pizza making, in order to get the toppings melted.  LOTS OF CHEESE.

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This was the white pizza with bacon, chicken, and onion…the best pizza I ever had!!!!

(besides my moms…..)

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BEAUTIFUL evening.

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BEAUTIFUL family

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The fire was extremely hot they had to work fast…….

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They made pizza after pizza………

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And it was cooked to perfection!

 

 

an anomaly

I waited for two hours this morning while my vehicle was serviced; oil changed, tires rotated, a latch fixed, vacuumed, and washed.  I read a book the entire time so now…….I’m sick of reading and have some free time to….blog.  I have all kinds of lovely little stories to tell.

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Starting with our son Jacob, who is a college football player now.  He LOVES school, is keeping very busy, and is also keeping a pet fish alive in his dorm room.  He had several football games this weekend, one of which was shown live online.  Rich hooked his iPad up to the TV and we all sat and watched it, keeping our eyes peeled for number 88.  And I was thrilled when we finally saw him!  I just had leap off the couch to take a crappy picture.  ((It’s beautiful to me.)) Seth asked me to print it so he could hang it on the wall in his room.

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On Sunday, Seth had to be at the football field at 9:45 in the morning and Caleb had to be there for 2.  However, Rich was preaching and the game was away, so I had to take both of them with me, meaning Caleb was over 4 HOURS early for his game.  It was a hot autumn day, very dry.  Perfect “baking” weather.  Caleb was in the sun so long that by the time he had HIS game (at 2:30) he was much slower than usual.  In fact, our team did win, but most of the boys were a little “off” from overheating.  I took this picture just as Caleb was saying, “Dad, next time coach says I can’t get here too early.”  LOL

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MONDAY NIGHT football was on TV.  My children were in a clump on one part of the couch.

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While their dad gave me a foot rub on another part of it.  I love Monday night football!  🙂

(He was have a conversation with David about why David wasn’t waking up on time in the morning….Dave was blaming his alarm …….because it’s NEVER his fault, right?)

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I recently rediscovered this photo of me and the children (before Seth and Sarah were born).

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Sarah had her things all set up for playing with marbles but then she left for school and Sherlock the cat walked over and had a turn.

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Chickens enjoying leftover morning cereal and milk.

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why kids, why????

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I couldn’t stop myself from buying mums (and ornamental grass) for the garden.  I also put Rich’s old riding tractor from when he was little in the garden.  I found a “pretty plate” garden decoration, too, which includes a chartreuse luncheon plate (Fiesta!).  I did some weeding and Gentleman Gray the cat got some on his face while he watched.

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Last night, Rich and I watched the boys practice football.  I love watching them (kids and coaches) so much that I sometimes get tears in my eyes.  They have such fun out there.

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THIS MORNING……a brief quiet moment, trying to wake up, before I left for the car appointment.

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The FED EX truck came and dropped off two storage bins that we ordered from Costco.  My hope is to contain sports stuff (one for football, one for wrestling).  And so on.  Rich and the kids get to put them together later!!  (have fun, honey!)

Also, we recently had our side steps extended on the porch. (not painted yet)

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I went to a thrift store after the car appointment.  This was in the same plaza outside of a yoga studio.  Since I had finished my book I left it behind on the shelf.

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Well, after the thrift store shopping I was hungry so I cast my eyes about the plaza and only saw a Vietnamese place.  “No”, I thought.  But then……

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“Yes”, I decided.  And I sent a picture and a text to our family group chat.

“The menu makes me cautious.” said Ethan

“Hmmm, adventurous?” said my husband

“In my own very small way,” I agreed.

and then

“What is their compelling differentiating advantage that made this place stand out to you?”  asked Jacob.

“It was right next to the thrift store.” I replied.

“It had good reviews on YELP.” I continued.

“and I was able to read the menu on YELP.” I further explained

“Okay, so your unconscious need was food, and they revealed that to you by placing themselves in a convenient location where shoppers go.  Their feature is that they’re a sit-down restaurant, their advantage is that they’re close by, and the benefit is you will no longer be hungry and you’ll feel good about yourself for supporting a small business,” Jacob texted, “These are my thoughts as I leave my sales class.”

And then Rich replied:  “But if they were not near the thrift store no matter what they had on yelp or what their menu said they wouldn’t have had a chance.  Your Mom’s not a good business test case, Jake.  She would be an anomaly in a field of data points.  And absolutely special beautiful one–but still an anomaly.”

I laughed all the way home about being “an anomaly in a field of data points” as they continued to banter via text messaging.

I eventually texted, “I think everybody should just shut up.” but no one listened.

MY VIETNAMESE COLD CUTS SANDWICH WAS DELICIOUS!

It had pork belly on it.

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When I got home, I washed my thrift store purchases (mama and baby tiger) and put them in the girls’ room.

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And found my cat—can you believe it–in the same spot I left him….4 hours ago.

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cherry bars

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The path to the chicken coop is getting easier to trudge.  With all the snow we had last week it became a little annoying to wade through it multiple times a day to check on things.  We still have snow everywhere but our footsteps have stomped away most of the snow on the way to the coop so it’s easier to walk although I do find myself getting grumpy at times.  “Why did we put it so far from the house?” “The snow is blinding me!”  “Oh I just got some in my shoe”  “I hate snow”  “Slip”  “Fall” “trip”.  I spent more time down there this morning simply because although the wind was blowing quite a bit, the sun was shining and there was an actual warmth.  I said hello to the rabbits and the chickens said hello to me.  I sat down on the feed bag and a chicken hopped on my lap.  One sat on the rabbit cage right behind me and softly pecked my hair.  They are curious birds.

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Invariably, we have a cat visitor or two, as well.  The chickens become nervous.

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They like to sink down into the hay to lay their egg and I always think to myself that they seem to enjoy the time spent waiting for it to arrive.  I watch them fuss and arrange the hay strand by strand and get as comfortable as possible.  If another hen comes too close, the one sitting makes an ugly caw  which means “Get away from me!”

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They do not fancy the snow and do not go far these days.  I prop the door open for fresh air and they hop in and out of the coop.

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A favorite egg laying spot.

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another curious cat visitor

He ended up with no where to go, so he had to back shuffle until he could jump back down.  It was cute because he stirred up dust along the way.

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Some of the hens melted down to the floor in the sleepy sunshine.  They stretched out their wings to soak in some healing rays.

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As soon as a hen was done, I took her egg and put it in my pocket.  (They would rather me let them eat them).  I have over a dozen saved in this way.  What to make?

How about Cherry Bars?

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1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 almond extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 (21 oz) cans cherry pie filling

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the extracts.  Combine flour and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture just until combined.

Spread 3 cups batter into a greased 15 by 10 by 1 inch baking pan.  Spread with pie filling.  Drop the remaining batter by teaspoonfuls over filling.  Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until done.  Cool on a wire rack.  Combine *the glaze ingredients; drizzle over the top.  Cut into bars.  Yield: 5 dozen

*THE GLAZE
I cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2-3 Tablespoons milk

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recipe source:  taste of home baking classics cookbook  pg 370

 

longer story

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The Impact of Food….Or Family?

At my home, our eating habits as a family have changed a bit over the years.  I am the oldest of seven children, and as a result our household is one of constant, noisy hustle and bustle.  My dad is a hard worker, and has worked his way up in the company that he is a part of, therefore we are reasonably well off.  We don’t really have to scrimp and save to get what we need.  However, my parents both come from families that had to live frugally while they were growing up, and so they both have the habit of frugal living etched into their DNA.  The kinds of food that we eat and the close ties that I have with my family help to enrich my experience with food.  It is very safe to say that it is not the food itself that keeps me coming back to certain places and certain dishes, but the strong memories and pleasant experiences that I have had over the same plates and in the same restaurants with my family and friends.

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I was born in upstate New York, the state my parents love, and also a state that is known for it’s cultural foods.  My Dad is a great lover of pasta and pizza, and pizza is a favorite food of my family’s.  One favorite pastime of ours when we go to New York to visit our extended family, is to meet at our favorite pizza restaurant and to catch up on the latest events around a fresh, hot pizza pie.  Thin crust is, of course, the way to go in New York, and it is usually topped with flavorful sauce and heavy mozzarella cheese, with the occasional topping of pepperoni, mushrooms ,bacon, or sausage.  I have countless great memories of the restaurant, which my parents and grandparents have been providing with service since that day that it opened it’s doors.  I have countless pleasant memories with pizza in general.  I have spent some time up at Castleton University, since it is where one of my numerous brothers goes to college.  One of the first things we did together was explore the various places to eat in the area.  To our great delight, we found a wonderful little pizza shop only about 10 minutes away from the college.  As soon as we opened the door, thick, warm, and familiar scents of tomatoes, cheese, and meat flooded our nostrils. Smiles instantly leapt onto our faces as we cheerily said hello to the staff.  It was an environment that made us feel at home, and it was just one more pleasant experience with this wonderful food.

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This brother and I are very close, he is only a year younger than I, and we’ve had our fair share of experiences when it comes to food.  When we were very little, we used to spend a lot of time in our Grandmother’s blueberry patch.  We call it “hers” because it is conveniently right across the road from her house, however it is entirely wild.  My Grandfather painstakingly grooms it.  He is always keeping the grass around the huge blueberry bushes mowed short, and is constantly making new pathways upon which to walk through and around the bushes, and lengthening, widening, and improving existing ones.  The blueberry patch is quite large, and my Grandparents share it with other animals of the forest.  Bears, deer, rabbits, turkeys, foxes, and countless songbirds are all appreciative of my Grandfather’s work at making the blueberries accessible, and they can be found in among the bushes on a daily basis.  My siblings and I have many fond memories of walking through this blueberry patch with our Grandma, oftentimes joined by the occasional Aunt or Uncle.  We would comb through the bushes, looking for the biggest and ripest berries, which we would pluck and place in a bucket to bring home.  Grandma keeps large quantities of berries in her freezer for the off-season, and she uses these to bake into pies, muffins, or pancakes, which she always treats us with whenever we visit.  Her pancake recipe is one that she has perfected, and is one that my Mom uses to this day.

This same Grandmother keeps a large garden, in which she grows corn, peppers, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, radishes, and any other vegetable that she decides to grow on a given year.  My mom has a small garden every year as well, but Grandma’s garden has always been the garden to us.  She is always finding creative ways to cook vegetables from the garden into her home-cookies meals, and she also takes great pride in her pickles, which she makes in batches every year from her cucumbers.  These cucumbers were always a source of pleasure for me as a kid.  I looked forward to being able to pick and eat them whenever went to Grandma’s house.  They are the perfect snack, crisp and crunchy and as fresh as they could possibly be.  Half of the fun was hunting through big, thick, and rough cucumber leaves to find them, and then snapping them off the vine and washing them thoroughly with the garden hose before eating them.  She gets all of her seeds from a local market which is open at certain times of the year and contains all manners of plants and seeds, along with locally produced syrups and honey.  This market is another favorite place to visit for us, and whenever we go to visit my grandparents in the fall we usually make a pit stop there at least once or twice.

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When it comes to cooking, I would like to say that I’m decent, although my cooking skills have never really been put to the test.  I can read a recipe and produce an edible result, but my Mom is the one who does most of the family cooking.  Usually, her meals are pasta-based since these are the meals that my Dad tends to enjoy, in fact, if he ends up cooking for some reason or another, we will most likely end up eating spaghetti (or pizza).  My Mom makes all manners of pasta, from the favorite spaghetti, to lasagna, ziti, or stuffed shells.  When she doesn’t make pasta, she’ll make savory roast beef or sweet and salty pulled pork, or she’ll make various dishes with fish.  She is quite a creative cook and has a whole bookshelf dedicated to cookbooks.  She is always looking for new recipes that the family will like.  My Mom used to be a lot more strict when it came to junk food than she is now.  When I was little we almost never had candy or soda.  Now, although it is still by no means prevalent in the home, it is not sanctioned as heavily as it was back then.  My cooking tends to include lots of pasta as well.  I’ll usually make penne, bow tie pasta, or spaghetti, and serve it with marinara or vodka sauce along with meatballs if I have them.  I also make a splendid teriyaki salmon dish, which is made with maple syrup and teriyaki sauce marinated and baked into it to give it a wonderfully sweet flavor.  I also make salad a lot when I’m with my friends; iceberg lettuce combined with carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, cheese, and croutons topped with caesar, ranch, or french dressings.  This is by  no means the healthiest salad in the world, but we consider it a healthier option than fast food at least.

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My brother and I used to be somewhat explorative with our early cooking.  Mom used to let us play around with ingredients and make our own homemade soups.  We would gather our desired ingredients, usually a mix of vegetables like peas, corn, beans, and potatoes, and we would usually use hamburger and beef broth and explore how these ingredients worked with each other to produce unique flavors.  Mom would always be close by and would assist us if she felt like we needed more experienced help.  Once, when Mom was out of the house, my brother and I decided that we would try our hands at baking a cake.  Unfortunately, we had little to no knowledge of baking, and I have since forgotten the exact ingredients that we used.  All I know is that we used far too much cocoa powder, and the result was a disaster of a “cake.”  Mom returned as we were contemplating where we went wrong, and she was extremely amused.  Years of living with many kids have taught her not to be surprised when we do things that she’s not expecting.

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These experiences that I had while growing up have shaped me to be the person that I am. Walking through the garden and the blueberry patch with my Grandparents, creating wonderful failures with my brother, trying different pizzas and pizza shops with my Dad, eating my Mom’s home cooked meals; these are all positive encounters with food that I have had that have moulded my culinary techniques and tendencies.  Our experiences with and around food are some of the strongest ones that we have, and these memories with those that we love are what keeps us connected to the foods that we eat.

***

Jacob wrote this yesterday for college composition.

I was making homemade meatballs while he worked.

easy afternoon snack

I remember my mom making these for us when I was a child.

I broke the muffins apart and let Sarah do the rest.

Then, biggest brother came along and added even MORE cheese.

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English muffin pizzas

all you need is English muffins, pizza sauce, cheese, and an oven

to have happy children with full bellies

a good cook knows it’s not what is on the table that’s important,
it’s what is in the chairs.