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The Garden of Your Mind

March 1, 2013

Today, I had a piece published in *culture is not optional’s online magazine Catapult called “The Garden of Your Mind.” Here’s an excerpt:

Sometimes I sit two-year-old Evelyn down in front of our computer in the office and sew while she watches old reruns of Mister Rogers Neighborhood and fondly—yes, even nostalgically—remember my own childhood, sitting on the brown carpet in the living room while Mom made dinner in the kitchen. I watched Mister Rogers until sixth grade.

Mister Rogers does something when he speaks. He does the same thing Dr. Sears recommends one does when speaking to babies: he gives time to respond. There’s another YouTube video made in response to the autotuned version that shows the clips as they originally appeared. Mister Rogers speaks slowly to the camera, pausing after his questions to allow the child to respond. “Do you ever imagine things?” Mister Rogers asks. “Did you ever see a cat’s eyes in the dark and wonder what they were.” He pauses. I think, “No, but once I saw a banana tree in the dark and thought it was a scary man.”

To continue reading this post, click here.

Squashed Pumpkin Soups (and other ideas)

February 15, 2013

Or just regular pumpkins…or any winter squash.

wikipedia commons, Creative Commons license
photo by Californiacondor, 2006

Maybe you are part of a winter produce share, like we are. (Nourish Organic Market in Grand Rapids has a terrific winter share that we’re receiving…we get 1-2 little squashes a week plus other produce, like these teeny tiny heads of lettuce from Vertical Paradise Farms.) Squash is a mixed blessing in our family. When I said, “Would you like parsley pesto pasta or a pasta with squash for Valentine’s Day?” my husband replied, “Squash is not at all celebratory.”

Ok, then. We had the parsley pesto pasta.

But I like squash and we manage to get a lot of it. A few years ago, I shared some seeds for an heirloom variety of butternut squash with my mother. She shared it with my sister out in rural Iowa who still has volunteers coming up every year, even though she stopped planting them. She said she had over 50 squash volunteer this year. She’s feeding them to her chickens, and oh my goodness, are those yolks orange!.

If you have 50 or  volunteer squash or just 1 pumpkin you bought at the supermarket, consider trying one of the following recipes I’ve previously posted:

Butternut Squash Salad

Butternut Squash Soup

Pumpkin Breads (Cider Pumpkin bread, for one) and Cakes

Bean & Hominy Potpie (with butternut squash inside)

Walnut Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin & Black Bean Chili

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Muffins AND Pineapple Pumpkin Muffins

Spiced Pumpkin Pecan Butter

I frequently substitute pumpkin for squash and vice-versa.

I also enjoy pumpkin stew…here’s a Better Homes & Gardens recipe I’ve made numerous times called Pumpkin Cider Stew. It recommends serving the stew in miniature bowls made out of pumpkins, but I don’t go for that. We already have bowls & there’s enough pumpkin in this recipe already. (This is a DELICIOUS stew. I highly recommend it. Click here to get the recipe.)

Last week, I made a Pumpkin-Leek Soup (click here for the recipe) from Real Simple October 2007. I used some turkey stock that had been in the freezer and it made the soup really strong, but the texture was good. You could also substitute vegetable stock if you want a vegetarian soup.

What do you like to do with winter squash?

Valentine’s Day Brownies

February 14, 2013

Last year, I posted Valentine’s Day Chocolate Desserts, including these beautiful chocolate and peppermint cookies.

Chocolate Valentine's Day Cookies

In 2011, I posted about Valentine’s Day generally and some of our household traditions.

In case you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your family, or with your spouse or partner, here are a few tried-and-tested brownie recipes for you to try. I’ve shared other brownie recipes in the past: cream cheese brownies, for one.  I’ve probably said this before, but brownies are my favorite dessert and I could probably eat a whole pan of them. Which is why the brownies I made on Sunday are in a Tupperware container on top of the refrigerator. Out of sight helps!

Here are 5 brownie recipes…I’m sure you’ll have the ingredients for at least one of them today!

The July 2009 issue of (guess which magazine…) bon appetit featured a recipe for Cappuccino Brownies that has a white chocolate ganache on top…just like foamed milk on top of a cappuccino. Click here for the recipe. These are delicious. I would recommend a special trip to the store just to buy white chocolate in order for you to make them for your Valentine. (But don’t let NOT having a Valentine stop you from making them. I’d recommend having someone to share them with, though…)

Another tried-and-true (and tried and tried and tried, because it’s a Cook’s Illustrated recipe) is the one for Classic Brownies. (In case you’re unfamiliar with Cook’s Illustrated, they test everything a bajillion times with all sorts of variations, in a very scientific way, in order to find the best and most likely to be cooked-at-home recipe. In other words: good with no strange ingredients.) There was a great article about Christopher Kimball, CI editor, in The New York Times Magazine back in October. Anyway, Cook’s Illustrated doesn’t usually make their recipes available to non-subscribers, but other bloggers publish them. Here’s the brownie recipe on Smitten Kitchen blog.

If you have even fewer pantry ingredients, you could try Best Brownies, a brownie classic. It’s good with or without the frosting and calls for cocoa powder rather than unsweetened chocolate, making it a little lighter for your pocketbook. (Or wallet…I know people who carry wallets also like brownies!) My note to self about Best Brownies is that it tastes like a mix, which is a strange but true (and good!) compliment.

And, another simple brownie recipe that calls for unsweetened chocolate, is Old-Fashioned Brownies. These make a BIG pan, so this is for someone cooking for a crowd.

And, finally, the brownies sitting on top of my fridge, Triple Fudge Brownies. This is from The Best of the Best from the Great Plains Cookbook. It’s a chemical cake (you’ll see what I mean when you read the instructions!), I admit it. But it is very good.

Triple Fudge Brownies

1 (3.9 oz.) package instant chocolate pudding mix

1 package chocolate cake mix

2 C. semisweet chocolate chips


confectioners’ sugar

Prepare pudding according to package directions. Whisk in cake mix. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into greased 15 by 10 by 1 inch baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Yields 4 dozen.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Porridge: ReMixed

February 13, 2013


Gruel. (Oliver, anyone?)


I’m guessing you have some emotional baggage attached to these words. I remember winter morning oatmeal when I was a child, the way the oatmeal congealed. I wasn’t a fan. (See, Mom, I’m not really complaining…)

Anyway, I have found new delight in porridge. In this month’s issue of bon appetit, which is one of my favorite food magazines, the magazine staffers contributed their favorite breakfast recipes and I’ve tried the same one at least 3 times. It’s an overnight porridge made with steel-cut oats and quinoa (although I ran out of quinoa and started substituting teff. It worked.) Sadly, the recipe is not yet up on their website, otherwise I’d link to it. Please try this recipe; I guarantee, you won’t regret it! Thank you, Carla Lalli Music, BA Food & Features Editor! We love your recipe. (It serves about 5, by the way, even though the original recipe says it serves 4.)

I am putting this in my own words, but the instructions are the same.

Overnight Porridge

In a medium-sized saucepan put:

1/2 C. dried fruit (I like cranberries.)

1/2 C. steel-cut oats

1/2 C. well-rinsed quinoa OR teff (You can also substitute other grains, I read.)

1/4 C. raisins (though once I put in 1/2 C. and it was still good…)

1 t. kosher salt

1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1/4 t. ground cardamom

4 C. water

Bring to a boil. Cover and turn off the heat. Allow to sit overnight so that the grains can soak up all the water.

In the morning, reheat and serve with milk, maple syrup, toasted shelled pumpkin seeds and toasted walnuts (original recipe) or pecans (what I do.)

You can also substitute other dried fruits & grains. I will try subbing barley for the quinoa soon, and have thought about subbing apricots or dates for the cranberries.

Another porridge I’ve recently tried is Creamy Maple Polenta from bon appetit August 2006. The original recipe says that it’s a side, but I tried it for breakfast the other day and we all enjoyed it. Evelyn even asked more more. 🙂

Basically (click the link above if you want more details), boil 1 C. cornmeal (not grits!), 1 C. water, 3 C. milk (preferably whole) and one teaspoon salt together. Add 2 tablespoons each butter and maple syrup. It’s perfect!

This is the porridge you make for breakfast if you forgot to start the other porridge the night before. 

These recipes make me think that if THIS were the “gruel” the workhouse boys had to eat in Oliver! “Food, Glorious Food” never would have been written.

Roasted Vegetables

February 4, 2013

So…do I start writing without acknowledging my near 3-month hiatus as if nothing happened? (Even though it did…I had a baby! I taught a class! I made a gorgeous Christmas Buche de Noel!–recipe to follow soon!)

I also roasted a lot of vegetables.

A delightful shop in town called Nourish Organic Market (after Sally Fallon’s classic Nourishing Traditions) offered a winter vegetable share. One of the things that differentiates this share from others is that the food is from a lot of different farms. So we get some fresh greens, some storage vegetables (like radishes, potatoes, and winter squash) and some lovely herbs. I must say, I like rosemary but one only needs so much! We’ve gotten so much rosemary, all I’ve done is roast vegetables with rosemary. I’ve tried a lot of new (and similar) recipes. Here’s a little library of them:

Roasted Carrots with Feta and Parsley from Martha Stewart Living March 2010

Roasted Root Vegetables from The New York Times Magazine December 2012

Baked Sweet-Potato Chips from Martha Stewart Living October 2007

Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges from Real Simple Living November 2007

And, finally, Quick Roasted Vegetables from the Vancouver Sun October 2001
“Vegetables roasted quickly at a high temperature will be a little crisper, than those roasted slowly. Children often prefer the crisp chip-like texture of these vegetables.”

11/2 pounds root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes or turnips)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh herb (oregano, rosemary, sage or thyme)
Salt and pepper

Peel and cut vegetables into slices just under 1/4-inch thick; pat dry with paper towels. In large bowl, combine oil, herb and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add vegetables to oil mixture and toss to coat.

With slotted spoon, remove vegetables from bowl and place, in single layer, on large greased, rimmed baking sheet.

Roast at 450 F for 18 to 20 minutes or until tender on the inside and crisp on the outside, turning vegetables once half-way through roasting time.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Makes 4 servings.


The thing about roasting vegetables is that it really doesn’t take a recipe. One you learn the technique: chop vegetables, mix with oil, salt and pepper and herbs (fresh or dried) to your taste then bake at 400-450 until they’re cooked, you’ve got it down. It’s easy and it heats up your kitchen a little on cold winter days like this one.


Don’t forget to subscribe to my new blog!

November 2, 2012

Dear readers,

I took a 4-month hiatus from blogging, but now I’m back. Please subscribe to my new site, Adventures in Mundane Delightto read my thoughts on the quotidian (everyday) life. Today I posted about broccoli rabe! (Know what that is????)


Important note to my readers!

July 2, 2012

Dear readers,

This summer, over the course of the next few weeks, I will be in the process of changing this blog to a more professional webpage because it uses my professional name as the URL. My thoughts on food, recipes and (hopefully!) other ideas, will now be found on Adventures in Mundane Delight, another WordPress blog. I will be updating that one more frequently than this one AND if you subscribed to this one for the food writing, I’d recommend you subscribe to that one because I will not be putting up any more food writing here.

Also, if you have any requests or suggestions for summer recipes, please submit them to me! We have a fridge full of vegetables right now and I’m having loads of fun cooking with them. I can’t wait to share some new ideas with you!