Archives for category: food or something like it

I caught myself planning for the 2013 season today.

It was a total accident, I swear. I was looking for something to read while I ate my lunch and the Fedco catalog was sitting right there. I remembered that I’d wanted to look at possible shrubs plantings and next thing I knew, I was waving Michael over and saying, “Hey, come look at this great list of companion plants for the apple trees.” Then I began pondering whether it made sense to sketch out a plan of our property to best lay out our goal plantings for the next year.

I know, this all sounds like a very responsible, logical way to garden.

But here’s the thing: I didn’t successfully finish this year.

We started out strong. We set up the little greenhouse that had been in our basement for five years, we started tomato seedlings on time, we built two new beds. We planted, fertilized, watered, and then, inexplicably, gave up.

We let the white flies take over the pumpkins. We didn’t transplant our tomatoes on time and then, once we did, we let them turn into a useless tomato jungle. We let the chickens get to the carrots. We let the spinach bolt, the beets pop out of the ground, and the beans get bean-y. The half-hearted trellising system we concocted for the snap peas dumped most of them in the dirt. We planted some bonus pepper seedlings handed off by a friend too close together. Deer ate the new raspberry bushes and apple trees. We don’t actually know what we did to the potatoes. We just know they didn’t like us very much.

Crop yield?

A few heads of emaciated garlic, enough paste tomatoes for one dinner’s worth of sauce, some grungy snap peas, a few side dishes of green beans, and one-and-a-half pumpkins. (A deer took a few bites out of one of the pumpkins and half of it went moldy before we discovered it.)

I think we were given more produce than we grew. All that time, dirt, and money: wasted.

I guess you could call 2012 a learning experience, but I’m not sure we learned much. Well, we learned that if you give up on the garden, it will give up on you. Which is a predictable yet still sobering outcome, I must say.

Given all this, it is patently absurd that I am spending this much time thinking about 2013, a scant four weeks or so after finally digging up the sad, skeletal remains of 2012. Had I bothered to spend this time a few months ago, things might have turned out very differently.

But then, we are the family who spends quality time talking about the addition we are planning for the back, despite still having plywood countertops and exposed insulation in the kitchen that we use every single day.

Some may call us dreamers, but I prefer to think that we are just really, really dumb.

So…what do you think about an elderberry hedge? And is yarrow or comfrey better for underneath?

I can’t decide either.

Good thing I’ve got some time.

We’ve our first snow of the season which means I suppose that it’s about time that I wrote about the garden. Now that I’ve got a little distance on the matter, I mean.

I think I’ve made it clear that I’m not a natural gardener. I want to be a gardener. I like the idea of being a gardener. I read books about being a gardener. I read chapters one and two, which are about how wonderful it feels to raise one’s own food and then demonstrate how you can grow enough food in two square feet of space to feed a family of four once you know all the secret gardening handshakes and planting methods. I love chapters one and two. When I read chapters one and two I get preemptively drunk on excitement about how I am finally going to do this. I’m going to be a gardener!

Then I get to chapter three. Chapter three starts getting a bit detailed. Chapter three starts discussing things like soil composition, crop rotation and compost moisture and I’m hanging in there okay, I really am, until I get to the part about nitrogen levels.  It’s the nitrogen levels that get me.  As soon as I see it, I know I am doomed.  Immediately after the nitrogen levels, the words start blurring together and I get very confused.  Then I get frustrated and I usually start whining about how haaaaard it all iiiiiis.  And that’s the end of that.  I never make it chapter four and I never make it to the garden.

Back sometime this spring, I was whining this exact chapter three whine to my friend Amy, who happens to be a tremendous gardener. I got to the part about the nitrogen and how annoyed I was that this gardening thing was so hard and she started shaking her head.  Then she flipped over a piece of paper (that may or may not have been an agenda for the meeting we were supposed to be paying attention to; I’ll never tell) and drew this:

Can you see that? The scan isn’t great.  Basically, her gist is this: newspaper layer on the bottom, dirt/sand/compost mix in the middle, hay or seaweed mulch on top.  Rocks and landscape fabric to keep it all contained.  Then, the best part, “Stick plants in here.”  And underneath: “This would be a very short book.”  Indeed.  (Most of the rest of that is about how to repel deer.  Amy tried something called Deer Scram but now has a battery-powered electric fence, which she claims is really the only thing that works this side of a shotgun.) (I made up that last part.)

It’s the lifelong curse of an English major to forever find meaning and metaphor in the simplest of meeting doodles. So I brought that drawing home and immediately put it up on the side of the refrigerator.  It became my garden inspiration. Whenever I got overwhelmed by nitrogen details, I would look at Amy’s drawing and say to myself, “Just stick the plants in the ground.”  I looked at it when Michael and I cut down some trees to give our wooded lot more light.  Enough light?  It doesn’t matter, because all I’m going to do is stick plants in the ground.  Did I lay out the garden correctly according to proper companion plant rules?  Don’t care, stick plants in the ground. Am I supposed to be adding compost or mulch or something else?  The plants won’t care, just stick them in the ground.

Shockingly, given this kind of tender love and concern, the garden didn’t do spectacularly.  Some things did very well.  The beans were plentiful.  We ate patty pan squash multiple times a week for months.  We hauled in nine pumpkins, the frozen innards of which are now fighting the half-a-pig for space in the chest freezer.  Other things, not so much.  The peas were skimpy because I stupidly planted the tomatoes in front of them.  The carrots and beets were good but never sized up past tiny.  The tomato plants were loaded with fruit, which stayed green for weeks.  Once they finally turned, a couple rogue chickens that kept escaping made them a constant snack and then they got the blight.  The broccoli never made it past a good idea.

In other words, it wasn’t a huge, embarrassing  failure, but it didn’t challenge my perception of my gardening incompetence, either.

This fall, I decided to move the crocus and narcissus bulbs from their former bed.  Due to some poor planning, I had planted them directly under the spot where our plow guy dumps all the snow from the driveway, and the resulting eight foot snowbank had an annoying tendency to not melt until July.  So I decided to move them to another bed, one that Sam and I had excavated back in the spring, he using a spoon because I didn’t own a trowel.  The kids and I dug the bulbs up from the snowbank bed, with Sam again using a spoon because I STILL haven’t bought a trowel, and relocated them to the new bed.  It wasn’t an easy job.  Despite having excavated a truckload of rocks during the original dig, I still struck plenty in my search for bulbs.  I also struggled mightily with the narcissus bulbs, which I seemed capable of finding only by driving the shovel blade directly through their heart.  Replanting them wasn’t much easier, especially since I had more bulbs than space and by the end had resorted to simply digging a trench (more rocks!), chucking bulbs in, and throwing some dirt on top.  It was a scene that, just a short bit ago, would have had me swearing and fretting and complaining mightily.  In fact, that pretty much was my reaction last fall when I put them in.  Would they grow? Would they fail? Would I fail? Would my entire gardening future be undone by a bunch of crocus bulbs?

But this time I wasn’t worried.  I was sticking the plants in the dirt and something would happen.  It might not be what I intended to happen.  It might not be what I wanted to happen.  But something would, indeed, happen.  I’m okay with that.

I may be becoming a gardener after all.

Half of a pig is coming to our house tomorrow.

I’ve been told, and I’m desperately hoping this is true, that it will arrive pre-butchered, pre-wrapped and post-disgusting.  But I’m still a bit nervous.

I haven’t eaten pork in 15 years, which is when I stopped eating meat. Actually, it’s probably been longer than that since I was not a big ham-eatin’ person prior to giving up meat.  But I can say with certainty that’s been 15 years.  So this will be a change.

I didn’t quit meat because I was anti-meat.  I’m the daughter of a hunter (as a kid I used to like helping skin the deer, actually) and I have no philosophical objection to eating dead stuff, though I fully understand those that do.  But I do have a philosophical objection to the way most meat is produced in America and that’s why, my junior year in college, I decided enough was enough.  So I stopped eating meat.  (But not sustainably harvested fish, which is why I don’t call myself a vegetarian and which also explains most of the awkward and repetitive uses of the word “meat” in this post.)

My choice of timing was remarkably stupid because immediately afterward I spent a semester in Ireland.  It is very difficult to not eat meat in Ireland, in case you were wondering. But then again, on the other hand, the timing was remarkably fortuitous because while I was busy attempting to not eat meat in Ireland, the Mad Cow Disease mania hit Europe and I was, gratefully, exempt from worry.  I wasn’t exempt from feelings of non-meat-eating superiority, but I was 21 at the time so that was to be expected.

So I quit eating meat in 1996.  Since that time I’ve eaten non-water-based creatures on only a handful of occasions.  I had some moose chili a few years ago, because when I declared my non-meat-eating status I reserved an exemption for new and unusual things I might not get to try again.  I ate venison enchiladas eaten under a similar if-I-know-the-hunter exemption a while back.  When we had to whack a few roosters last year I ate them under the subsection of that same policy.  And there were a few stray turkey sandwiches that slipped in when I was trapped in situations where my choices were turkey sandwich or my own arm. There’s no exemption for self-cannibalism.

But that’s it.

So you can see where I might be concerned with the half-a-pig situation.

I’m ethically fine with the half a pig.  It (as in the whole pig) was raised humanely at a farm nearby enough that Michael offered to take me to go meet the pig.  I turned that down because I’m not that gleefully grim, but I appreciated the thought.  Raising the pig was a good deal for the farmer.  It was a good deal for Michael.  It wasn’t the best deal for the pig, but there are days when I hear about someone’s lingering death from some brutal disease and I think, “Yeah, well, it could be worse, pig.”  I’m just not sure what kind of a deal it will be for me.

We are prepared to host half a pig.  We purchased a chest freezer, which is currently humming away in the dining room with a gallon bag of strawberries and some coffee beans stuffed inside.  We’ve worked out the arrangements to get the half-pig from the farm to the freezer.  Michael, who as you might imagine is the driver behind this effort, has a roster of pork recipes ready to go.

I guess I’m just questioning whether, after all of these years of non-pig-eating, I’ve got it in me.

We shall see.

Let’s change the topic, shall we?

I’ve been feeling the itch to post pictures of the autumn colors because autumn is such a lovely time of year here and it seems like something that should be shared.  But I don’t have any pictures of the autumn colors due to any number of excuses including dead camera batteries, forgetting to bring the camera, the brokenness of my laptop and the accompanying confusingness of Michael’s, rainy days, small children that occupy all my free moments, and laziness.

Luckily, what I do have is a stash of pictures back from an earlier, less hectic time in my life when I enjoyed such activities as taking pictures of the autumn colors.  And, even more luckily, one of these pictures is roughly about the same stage of autumnal coloration that we are at now.  The sky is even cloudy, like today.

So here you are.  Autumn colors circa 2005.

Today looks something like this.

*waves hand*

Enjoy.

Now that we are past a weekend, let me fill you in on what happened the weekend before that.  Then maybe next Monday, I will write a post about what we did this last weekend. That way you will always be approximately 8 days behind on my life.  I’m pretty sure is how this blogging thing works, right?

Anyway.  The past weekend before this last weekend (must work on that descriptive, I think), we harvested one of our potato boxes.  This is the second year that we’ve done potato boxes, which, theoretically, are a method of growing many, many potatoes in a small space.  Last year, we filled the boxes with straw, which didn’t work at all.  We got potatoes in the first layer, but all those other boards just disguised really tall potato plants and a lot of damp straw.  This year we decided to fill the boxes with dirt and try again. And, so, the past weekend before the last weekend, we decided to dig out one of the boxes.

First, you remove the boards from the box:

Does that build enough suspense? Are we all properly invested in this drama?

Good, because that’s the only picture I took of the process.

That’s fine, though, because the process goes something like this: remove boards, dig potatoes.

I like digging potatoes.  I like digging potatoes so much that after taking that picture I put down the camera, shoved everybody out of the way, and plunged my hands down in there to see what I could find. I came to my senses about 20 minutes later as I was examining the dirt wedged under my fingernails and remembering: oh, yes. I own garden gloves.

This type of thing is why I don’t bother with manicures.

But it was worth it, because  I found this:

It had some friends.  This many friends:

Can you see my feet in the background there? That’s about when I was frowning down at the potato box and thinking: that’s it?

Annabel’s asking the same question.  We are usually of one mind about this sort of thing.

It’s not a bad haul, I suppose, and if I remember correctly it’s better than we did last year.  But I look at this and I think: one meal.  We’re a family of four. That’s one meal.  If we take our time eating it, that’s 45 minutes of food.  If we average 45 minutes to eat a meal, three times a day, 365 days a year, that’s 49,275 minutes of eating I need to somehow fill.  And I just spent two months growing 45 teensy little minutes of that.

If we were dependent on me actually gardening to feed my family, that’s 45 minutes of food and 49,230 minutes of not-food.  I’m pretty sure this is not a successful food to not-food ratio.

I don’t know how pioneer folk did it.  I don’t know how my ancestors did it.  I’d like to pretend that, if push came to shove, I’d have the ability to keep my family alive via my wits and hard work.

And I could. For 45 minutes.

Well, we’ve got that other potato box.  And a few pumpkins growing out on the vines.  Some beans.  Green tomatoes ready to ripen if the blight doesn’t get us.

Maybe 225 minutes of food.

And 49,050 minutes of starvation. If it’s not a Leap Year.

It’s a start, I suppose.

Note to self: next year, three potato boxes is clearly the way to go.

Also, maybe I’ll try to shoot a moose. Or two.

The sun, which hadn’t felt hot when we’d arrived, seared into my back.  Sweat pooled under the edges of my hat.  My knees and ankles ached under the pressure of holding a squat for far longer than I should ever hold a squat.  I moved aside a few green leaves and saw some flashes of red.  I gently lifted the berries and checked for green spots or holes left by birds or slugs.  Then I pulled them off, one by one, and reached back to put them in the box behind me.  I was stretching for more when I heard a shuffle, shuffle, shuffle behind me, then a quick scrabbling noise, and, finally, a mushy gulp.

“Sam,” I said as I lifted the leaves of the next plant.  “Get out of the strawberries.”

****************************

Blueberries for Sal  is one of those children’s books that I assume everyone knows.  But I’ve met many people who haven’t read it, so isn’t universal, much to my dismay.  If you haven’t read, and you are partial to books about cute little kids and cute little bears heading up to Blueberry Hill to pick blueberries with their mothers, or, rather, eat all the blueberries being picked by their mothers, then you certainly should read it.  It’s a nice flashback to the time when property rights were a bit more laid back and whoever owned Blueberry Hill was happy to let the local folks come gather a couple of quarts, as long they didn’t mind occasionally getting entangled with bears or having their children eat all their hard work out from under them.

I don’t know if you can pick berries like that anymore.  These days, I don’t live in an area with a lot of wild blueberry fields.  At least, none that I know of.  There are a few patches here and there.  We have a small one in the utility easement on our property, but it only produces a few cups each season. That’s enough if you’d like a few days worth for your yogurt but isn’t so helpful if you want to make jam or pies or feed my particular children.

I grew up in an area with more extensive blueberry barrens. They were commercial fields owned by large blueberry operations, yes, but still they were still pickable.  All you had to do was wait until the rakers went through and were done with the field, and you could then take your bucket and go pick the areas they missed. Those were usually tricky areas around rocks or in hollows, places that someone looking for the fastest harvest would skip.  It was possible to pick quarts of berries that way, if you had the time and inclination to pick quarts of an item that was an average of 1/3 of an inch in diameter.  But I did, because I’m a forager by nature and once I start gathering I must gather until there is nothing gatherable left.

I don’t think things operate that way any more.  One of the fields near my old house now has giant boulders, the ones that litter every blueberry barrens, piled up around the edges of the field.  It must have taken a monstrous effort and some heavy duty machinery to pull all of those chunks of granite out of the ground, chunks of granite that have been there since the glaciers dropped them off on their way through.  But I suppose it was worth it because now they can harvest the blueberries in straight shots, up and down, possibly even with machinery.  There probably isn’t anything left for foragers like me and Sal after that.

******************************

Annabel and I went to pick wild strawberries a few weeks ago.  I’d noticed a patch while I was on a walk and after she woke up from her nap I brought her back out with me.  They weren’t in a picturesque little field or conveniently located beside a babbling brook.  Instead, they sprawled out of the ditch by the side of a busy road.  I’m not surprised no one else picked them.  It wasn’t a very inviting location.  But she and I turned our butts to the passing traffic and gathered up several cups of the little buggers.  I tried not to dwell on the fact that these berries were basically raised on car exhaust.  I just wanted to see if she would like picking them.  She did.

We gathered just shy of two cups. It was enough for Sam and her to have them as a snack when we got back home and some on top of their cereal the next morning, besides.

***************************

Back at the pick-your-own-strawberries place, red juice ran down Sam’s chin and onto his shirt.  He smiled at me, reached into my box, and took another one.  After he ate all of the berries in my container, he scooted over to the row and began pulling berries directly off the plants and cramming them into his mouth.  I tried to run interference at first, as his technique definitely ran less toward foraging and more towards fruit-napping, but I finally realized it was more effective to just let him go while the rest of us picked as fast as we could.  In the end, we picked four quarts, leaving one a bit shy to try to compensate for Sam’s strawberry bacchanalia.

It wasn’t true foraging.  It was a farm and we did have to pay.  But I guess that’s how things work these days if you want berries free of carbon monoxide.

And, of course, there were no bears.

It’s possible that I exaggerated just a smidge in the last post.  We do have some concept of how to tap maple trees.  Well, I do, anyway.  I have done this before.  One year, when I was 13 or so, my father decided to tap some trees and try the syrup thing himself.  Given my age, I was enlisted as his helper.  And, again, given my age, I’m sure you can imagine how absolutely delighted I was to spend some quality time tromping through snowy woods with a parental unit while collecting tree snot.  I’m not sure I actually called it tree snot, but that certainly seems like something 13-year-old me would have said, so let’s go with it.

I’d love to give you a rundown on how much sap we gathered and how much syrup we boiled down and how our homemade maple syrup was a million, skillion, trillion times better than store bought maple syrup, but I really can’t.  Because I was 13 and 13-year-olds really don’t care about any of that.  So while my journal from those days is full of all sorts of exciting woes and loves and slights and plans, in many different and exciting pen colors, it is woefully vague on maple syrup notes.  However, I do remember one thing, and it’s exactly the sort of thing that you would expect a 13-year-old to remember.

You see, a key part of the syrup-making process is the boiling.  It takes a notoriously large number of gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.  Sadly, I can’t remember how many. I’d look it up for you but I’m lazy.  A lot.  It takes a lot of sap.  Massive amounts of sap and massive amounts of boiling.  In traditional sugar houses they do this by building a gigantic, hot fire outside and using a wide, flat-bottomed pan to speed to boiling process along.

My father did not employ the giant fire/giant pan method.  I’m not sure why, really, as he was both a champion fire builder and someone who really enjoyed finagling things, so given those two facts I would certainly have expected a bonfire the size of Manhattan under a pan fashioned from an old oil pan.  But no.  He decided to boil the syrup in a plain, old, standard-sized stock pot on our plain, old, standard-sized stove which was inside our plain, old, standard-sized kitchen.

You don’t find many recommendations for boiling down maple syrup inside a house.  In fact, most discussion about boiling sap suggest very, very clearly that you should do this sort of thing outside.  There’s a reason for that.

Steam.

Boiling gallons and gallons and gallons of sap down into syrup produces a truly frightening level of steam.  A fill-a-sauna level of steam.  A run-a-train-with-it level of steam.  Enough steam to clean the pores of every starlet in Los Angeles.  Enough steam to chug out open windows and make our house look like that cartoon guy who is really, really angry.

Except, of course, it was March in Maine so our windows weren’t open.  In fact, it was an old house with drafty windows so some of them were even covered in plastic.

Which explains why, on the night we started boiling down the sap, I was walking through our kitchen when I suddenly felt a drip.  And then another drip.  And then a whole shower of drips.  So I looked up.  And I noticed that our ceiling was looking rather…wet.  Because steam, when it cannot escape out doors or windows or some other proper ventilation system, goes up. And when it goes up, it collects.  It collected on our otherwise undistinguished beige ceiling tiles. And those otherwise undistinguished beige ceiling tiles dripped.  They dripped for days.  They dripped so much and so long that we learned that while they were really undistinguished, they weren’t actually, really, in truth, beige.

They were white.

Apparently.

Who would have thought?

13-year-old me certainly wouldn’t have thought that.  I’m still a little amazed by it, frankly.

And that’s pretty much all that I remember from my previous experience of boiling down maple syrup.

This time around, we aren’t exactly sure how we will boil down our syrup.  But we definitely will not be doing it inside.

There are some things about my house that I don’t really need to know.

The things that are beige in this house are just going to have to stay beige.

Last weekend was a busy one by my standards.  Of course, the highlight of most of my weekends is a trip to the dump and the library, so my standards are pretty low.  However, I am willing to bet that even highflying folks like yourselves would have been pooped out after a weekend like this one.

Thursday

Sam’s birthday!  The lead up to Sam’s birthday involved lots of conversations with Annabel that went something like this:

A: Is Sam going to have a pink birthday?
Me: No, I don’t think so.
A: A blue birthday?
Me: Um…
A: Or maybe a green birthday?
Me: You know that birthdays don’t have to be a specific color, right?
A: I think he would like a yellow birthday.
Me: *sigh*

Annabel helped me make the carrot cake for the party and as we were grating up the carrots in the Cuisinart she suddenly yelled, “Yay! Sam’s having an ORANGE birthday!”

Well, that would have been a good idea.  Sadly, I saved the making of the cake for a snow day, which meant I was restricted in my choice of ingredients to what I already had on hand.  And I didn’t have cream cheese for a proper cream cheese frosting on hand.  So instead I made a caramel icing which tasted great but meant that Sam actually had a, um, brown birthday.

With red lettering.

This is not the most attractive birthday cake I’ve ever seen.

Sam cared about its appearance about as much as you’d expect any one-year old to care.

Which is to say, he didn’t care at all.

Success!

Friday

On Friday night I went to a Woman Party.  I have no pictures of the Woman Party because I think the first rule of the Woman Party is that you don’t talk about what happened at the Woman Party.  And you certainly don’t offer up pictures.  So you’ll have to use your imagination about the Woman Party, only don’t use too much imagination because I’m not that kind of girl.

Saturday

On Saturday we went to the dump and the library.  Just for a refreshing change of pace.  Oh, and also to the local chili cook-off where I entered an enormous batch of my Triple Bean Chipotle chili into the vegetarian competition.

I didn’t win, which is not at all shocking considering my recipe was developed by throwing a bunch of stuff into  a pot, but it was a little embarrassing considering there were only five vegetarian entrants.  But it was a good time and it got me and my 1972 era crock pot out of the house so I’m pretending that counts as a win.

Sunday

We went sledding.

No further commentary needed.

And then we watched the Super Bowl.

No further commentary needed on that either.

Except to say that our “All the Crap You Can Eat” Super Bowl tradition was such a success that I was actually forced to remove my rings for comfort reasons on Monday.

See?  Not only was it a busy weekend, it just kept on giving.

They went ice fishing this weekend.

By “they” I mean “not I.”

I did not go ice fishing this weekend.

I’ve made peace with a lot of the less desirable aspects of winter.  I don’t like the cold, but I’ve learned to wear a scarf.  I’m not crazy about the snow, but I’ve learned to enjoy its beauty.  I dislike having to pile my children in six layers of fleece and waterproofing before we go on a walk down the road, but I’ve learned to enjoy the nap-encouraging nature of cold weather play.  On many of these fronts, winter and I have called a truce.

But I see no reason to sit on frozen water and dangle a little fish on a line through a hole in the ice.  Winter and I aren’t that close.

However, there are some members of my family that do find that sort of thing entertaining.

So off they go, to do things like “jig” and bond and spend some time wandering about on a sheet of ice covering 100 feet of water cold enough to kill an adult human in two minutes or less.

See that tiny dot waaaay out there on the ice and all alone? That’s my three-year old. When you call Child Protective Services, make sure you mention it was her father who was in charge.

While they were doing that, I, and my erstwhile companion Sam, were warm and cozy at the library.  This combination seemed to work well for all involved, mostly because Sam and I came home with bunches of new books to read and they came home with this:

Which I suppose, if you feel you can compare apples and oranges in this way, was potentially more useful than books.  Especially once it turned into this:

Now this is the kind of winter bonding experience I can get behind.

As long as I am not included in it.

We had a snow day today.  Well, we had a snow afternoon.  All four of us ended up at home early, sent away from work or daycare for our own safety, staring out the windows at pummeling snow and high winds.

It was awesome.  Until Annabel started to get a bit antsy during Sam’s nap and I realized we were teetering on the edge of afternoon disaster.

There was only one thing to do: make Snow Day Cookies.  Snow Day Cookies aren’t any specific kind of cookie.  They are just whatever variety seems most cuddly, most warming, and most soul-nurturing on that particular snowy day.

Today, I chose oatmeal chocolate chip.  I know, right?  Perfection.

On to the baking.  First, I enlisted my trusty assistant.

Her official Trusty Assistant Apron was made by my sister Andrea.  This was actually its maiden voyage.

After a short tussle over which stick of butter was my stick of butter and which stick of butter was her stick of butter, we creamed both sticks in with a cup of brown sugar and a half-cup of white.  Then we added the eggs.

The trusty assistant has been helping me for a long time in the kitchen, and she has proven so dependable that she has recently advanced in her duties.  Behold the new household egg cracker:

I will be happy to rent her out for your egg-cracking needs.  She never drops the shell in or anything.

So, two properly cracked eggs later, we were ready to drop in some vanilla and two tablespoons of milk.

And then the dry ingredients: 1 3/4 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt mixed together and dumped in with a smile.

Er, that’s not really a smile.  That actually borders on mild resentment.  Well, she’s been handling flour dumping duties for a while now.  Perhaps she feels it is beneath her.  I encouraged further cooperation with some mild bribery.


A few more tussles about how we do not put spatulas back in the bowl after licking them and we were back on track.  We stirred in 2 1/2 cups of oatmeal and 2 cups of chocolate chips and then started dropping the dough onto the sheets.

New kitchen duty #2!  It was a banner day for the trusty assistant.  She did pretty well, but if you are the kind of exceptionally uptight baker that insists on all the cookies being the same size, you probably don’t want this method.

We threw that round in to bake and…oh uh.  The trusty assistant’s trusty apprentice was awake.  And cranky.

Let me transcribe what she was actually saying while I took this picture: “Hey mommy, hey mommy,  Sam needs a toy.  Can you get Sam a toy, mommy?  Hey mommy, hey mommy, Sam needs a spoon so he can help.  Can you get Sam a spoon so he can help, mommy? Hey mommy, hey mommy, when will the cookies be done?  Hey mommy, hey mommy, hey mommy, I’m thirsty.  Hey mommy, hey mommy? Mommy?  Mooommmmmmmy!  Mommy, PAY ATTENTION TO MY WORDS!”

Right, so, a toy for this one…

and a socially acceptable gag for that one…

and the cookies were done.  I shuffled those onto the cooking racks and tried to dole out the next batch as quick as I could while they were distracted and…too late.  The trusty apprentice went rogue.

Meanwhile the trusty assistant gave up altogether.

So I abandoned my preferred two-pan rotational system and grabbed a third cookie sheet so I could throw the final dregs of dough in with the second batch before we hit complete chaos.

Ten minutes later we were done.  Time to settle back and enjoy with some hot chocolate, because my theory with kids and sugar is: if you’re going to do it, go big.

And that’s how to properly make Snow Day Cookies.

I’m sorry to say that all this pretty much used up my kitchen mojo for the day, so later I was forced to invent a new tradition: Snow Day Tacos.

Transcribed during a little Christmas gift baking session this morning.

“We’re cooking! We’re cooking!”

“Look at me!  Look at what I’m doing!  Whoopsie daisy.”

“This one was broken. That’s why I had to eat it.”

“Heh. Yummy.”

“I just had a little on my finger, so I licked it off.”

“These are like Skittles.”

“These are like cookies.”

“These are like cupcakes.  Big little cupcakes.”

“Hold on. I need to finish my chocolate.”

“Here, Daddy, you can have the silver one.”

“Don’t touch mine!”

“Hold on I need to wipe my face.”

“Did you see what I did? Did you see? Mommy, Mommy, did you see?”

“I can eat these now. We’re all done.”

————————————————————

If you happen to need a food-related gift so simple that it can be successfully executed by an incompetent and a three-year-old, may I recommend these? Holiday Pretzel Treats