Monday, October 18, 2010

Two Things I Like About You, Part Two

Isn't it great when you make something that everyone likes?  It is like Thanksgiving dinner.  Kids coming to the table with smiles, looking forward to the meal.  Knowing they will get their fill, and like it too. 

If you are like me, you make at least 6 dinners a week.  That is 6 times a week  that someone asks you, "What's for dinner?"  Six times a week there is the opportunity to surprise and delight or see faces filled with dread.  Not everyone is going to like every meal, so I harden myself to the disgusted faces.  However, it does sometimes get to me.  Disappointment, annoyance, even anger, based on the day and the effort I put into the meal.  I am a realist, don't get me wrong.  I know that I can't please everyone all the time.  But boy, would I like to!!

Dan Dan Noodles are one of those great meals that my whole family loves.  It took a couple makings, but now it is one of my shining stars.  This is the meal Tim asks me to make for his birthday.  This is the one that we get cravings for.  This one is a winner.

This one also has ground pork.

I know, I know, no quadraped eating! First with the bacon and now with the ground pork!  Traitor!!

Seriously, though,  I am not backsliding.  This is one meal that I made before the 4-footed ban and never had the heart to tinker with.  Other meals of its kind I replaced the beef or pork with ground turkey and got on with my life.  Dan Dan is just too good.  I love it.  I am not changing it.  There it is.  You will agree.  I know you will.

Savory, salty, peanut buttery goodness on whole wheat pasta (the second thing to love about this meal!).  It is just plain yummy.  It is one of those meals were you want to eat more, but you also want to save some for leftovers (which you will hide in the far recesses of the fridge so that your husband won't take it to work).  As long as you are careful with the cracked red pepper, your kids will love it, too. Toothsome is what this meal is.

Dan Dan Noodles are better than Thanksgiving, also, in that they only take about 30 minutes to make.  What could be better than that?  So there you have it.  Two meals with two things I love.  A little pork and whole wheat pasta in a 30 minute package.  Wrapped on your virtual doorstep with a bow on top!  Happy dinner!

Dan Dan Noodles
*Serves 4 as a main course.

8 ounces ground pork
1 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice cooking wine or dry sherry
ground pepper

¼ cup tablespoons soy sauce
¼ cup tablespoons oyster sauce
½ cup peanut butter
2 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 inch piece fresh ginger, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
6 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
13.5 ounces (one box) whole wheat linguine
3 medium scallions, sliced thin (about 1/3 cup)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 cups bean sprouts (about 6 ounces)
1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns toasted in small dry skillet until fragrant, then ground

1. Combine pork, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, sherry, and pinch white pepper in small bowl; stir well with fork and set aside while preparing other ingredients. Whisk together oyster-flavored sauce, remaining soy sauce, peanut butter, vinegar, and pinch pepper in medium bowl. Whisk in chicken stock and set aside.

2. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large stockpot over high heat.

3. Meanwhile, heat 12-inch skillet over high heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Add veggie oil and swirl to coat pan bottom. Add pork and cook, scraping along pan bottom and breaking up pork into small pieces with wide metal or wooden spatula, until pork is in small well-browned bits, about 5 minutes. Stir in ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add peanut butter/chicken stock mixture; bring to boil, whisking to combine, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer to blend flavors, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Stir in sesame oil.

4. While sauce simmers, add noodles to boiling water and cook until tender (refer to package directions, but use them only as a guideline and be sure to taste for doneness). Drain noodles; divide noodles and combine with sauce. Sprinkle with scallions, bean sprouts, and ground Sichuan peppercorns, if using; serve immediately.

tooth·some adj \ˈtüth-səm\

1a: agreeable, attractive
1b: sexually attractive
2: of palatable flavor and pleasing texture : delicious
— tooth·some·ly adverb
— tooth·some·ness noun

Ok, I have to admit that I am a shocked! I am shocked and a bit offended. I thought that toothsome generally meant a savory yummy thing that you can't stop eating. Good thing I looked it up! Who knew it was up there with Honey and Sweetie-pie. Comparing women to food ? I am pretty sure I have a strong opinion on this, I just can recall what it is at the moment. I'll get back to you on it. By definition we can still call the meal toothsome. However, you will have to try try the recipe to help me come up with a better word.

Some of the ingredients you will need for this recipe.  I buy the local brand "fresh ground pork."

It is important to really BROWN the pork.  Not just grey, but brown little bits are what you want.

The sauce initially will be separate, but it will come together while it simmers.

Mix in the peanut oil and green onions at the end.  Yummy!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Two Things I Like About You, Part One

In my own little world, bacon doesn't come from something that walks on 4 legs. It doesn't lives in pens and it isn't pumped full of hormones to make it so darn tasty.  It is its own separate entity, living out its free-range, fully organic, free-trade, kissed-and-hugged every day life.  It has equality of sexes, full voting rights, universal health care, free first-rate education and generous PTO.  Slaughtering is voluntary, humane, fully anesthetized, with last rights and hymns of choice.  It is the fabulous lifestyle of the bacon that makes it so good.  I'm sure of it.

Bacon, really, is magic.

The Italians were the first to figure this out. Eaten on it's own, awesomely indulgent. But combined with just a few simple ingredients and you have an amazing meal.  A hearty, savory, filling meal. 

We Americans have grown stale to the magic of bacon, I think, due to its overuse.  We put bacon in and on everything! It's fatty goodness draws us in and sells.  Over-the-top taste at bargain prices.  It is all too much.

However, scaled back to the simplest of ingredients, the bare minimum of indulgence, it can be the shining 'star of the show' in a fairly healthy family meal.  This recipe (surprise) came from the Cooks Illustrated International Recipes Cookbook, and originally calls for pancetta.  While, it must be one amazing meal with pancetta, I don't regularly have pancetta in my fridge.  What I do have is H.E.B. Thick-Cut Bacon (a Texas grocery store brand), so that is what I use.

What I love about this recipe is that I almost always have the ingredients on hand.  It is so quick and easy to make, and with the addition of Whole Grain Pasta (the second thing I like about this meal), what is not to love? 

Notice, there is no garlic in this recipe.  I didn't even know there was an Italian recipe without garlic!  It does have a whole onion, though. I am not a huge fan of onion, but it works in this recipe.  So, give it a try, even if you are pretty onion phobic!

Pasta with Tomatoes, Bacon and Onion (Pasta all'Amatriciana)
*serves 4 with leftovers

6oz thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1/4 wide strips
1 medium onion, minced
1/8-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 (28oz) can whole tomatoes, tomatoes diced and juices reserved
1 box whole grain pasta, linguine or thick spaghetti
1 oz pecorino-romano cheese, with more for serving

Bring water to boil for pasta

Meanwhile, heat large skillet over medium heat and add bacon.  Cook until crisp, removing bacon to paper towel-lined plate.  Discard all but 4tbl of fat in the skillet (adding olive oil to supplement).

Add onion and 1/4 tsp salt to the pan and cook slowly over medium heat until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in tomatoes and their juice and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.  Set aside and cover to keep warm.

Stir pasta and 1tbl salt into boiling water and cook until al dente.  RESERVE 1 CUP PASTA WATER, then drain.  Add pasta and 1/3 cup pasta water, cooked bacon and cheese to sauce and stir to combine. Add additional pasta water to pasta as needed to loosen sauce.

Serve with additional cheese.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Just Like Flying

I haven't done a lot of flying lately that didn't include blankies, toys and gummy bears.  But in my younger years, I did often have to face the carry-on or check dilemma. Let me tell you, it all comes down to shoes.  If you can make it through a 3 day weekend with the pair of shoes you are wearing and only one additional pair, carry-on is a breeze.  Even if you have to bring your own hairdryer.  The more shoes, the harder it is going to be.  Especially in the winter.  Winter boots are are a carry-on buzz kill. 

Last time I visited my parents in Pennsylvania, I had to face the carry-on conundrum.  In essence, this should have been easy.  Four days, no huge temperature differential and no weddings.  Casual. 

The problem is that I am a runner.  If I want to run, I have to bring my size 9 Etonics, which are not slim.  It would be the best use of space to wear them on the airplane, but then I would have to suffer the fashion consequence.  

Don't get me wrong, I love my running cloths.  If it was up to me, Dri-FIT would be the "fabric of my life."  However, I have watched my fair share of What Not to Wear and have internalized that my running apparel is not fit for airport consumption.  Plus, I would have to take them on and off for security, and they are a bit stinky. Luckily, Mom has a hairdryer so in the bag they go.  

With my one pair of carry-on shoes taken, I am forced to make do with the pair of shoes I wore on the airplane for the entire trip.  Given I am not a huge fashionista I was able to make it work.  However, it did result  in having to wear a pair of pants one day that are unfortunate in the the butt area.  Which makes one wonder, is the time and hassle saved by carry-on really worth a day of ill fitting pants on vacation?

Making a menu for a week long camping trip is just like trying to make due with unfortunate pants.  Except instead of shoes, the linchpin in the camping menu is the condiment.  Salsa, milk, butter and syrup, mayo and mustard, jelly, ketchup, dijon, ranch dressing, cheese, sour cream...ugh.

There are plenty of wonderful things that my family loves to eat, and that I would love to make for them on camping trips.  However, during the Texas summer, what doesn't go in the cooler must not spoil at 90 degree temps.  When I am packing for an extended trip in the heat, cooler real estate is precious.  Every item must earn it's rightful spot in the chill zone by making an appearance at more than one meal. It is a very fine juggling act to manage cooler space and keep everyone fed and happy. 

I take my Mom and Dad's tact and plan meals old school, with pencil on paper. Divide paper into three columns (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and as many rows as you have days.  Cross out travel meals and then start inserting ideas.  I don't list ingredients on my meal plan, but I do make note in each corner the condiments necessary. 

Try to think of meal-groups.  For example, my family loves tacos of all kinds.  Tacos have a lot of condiments: cheese, salsa, lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream.  However, I can reuse the lettuce and tomatoes in a future salad, the cheese and salsa for breakfast tacos latter in the week. 

You can also take advantage of new small condiment containers that don't need cooled until opened.  If you can hold off on opening your salsa or mayo until latter in the week, when the cooler has open space, then it is less of a worry.

I usually go through 2 or 3 iterations of my menu to get my meal groupings, condiment openings and spoilage parameters in order.

Like the carry-on conundrum, condiment management is not perfect.  Surprisingly, though, most deficits are glossed over with liberal placement of M&Ms, Jiffy-Pop Popcorn and s'mores.   After all, you are on vacation!

If only s'mores were an easy answer to unfortunate pants.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Crazy Good Cookies

What is it about summer and the amount of snacks consumed? If it was just my own kids, that would be one thing, but add another hungry 5 and/or 7 year old to the mix and the gang can plow through a pantry of snacks before you can say "playdate."

Then there is swimming. French for 'ravenous'. I am pretty sure a kid swimming consumes more calories than your average marathon runner! Two hours in the pool, my kids can put down a sandwich, two pieces of fruit, a bag of chips and still ask for more food. Crazy drenched calorie suckers.

My kids love cookies. They beg for cookies as snacks. But in the summer, cookies don't last long in their tummies. Which makes them fun treats, but not a great lasting snack. This recipe fills that little space between cookie and granola bar.

A cookie without flour? You won't believe me, but these cookies are so good! Chewy, sweet, everything a good cookie should be. Made large, they fill you up with protein and whole grains, giving more staying power. You can omit the chocolate chips, but I never do! It is a cookie after all.

PB-O Super Secret Cookies
*makes 4 dozen

1 1/2 c peanut butter
1/2 c butter
1 c sugar
1 c brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
4 1/2 c oats
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 c ground flax seed meal
2 c dried fruits, nuts or choc chips

Cream together peanut butter, butter, and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla to creamed mixture. Combine oats, flax and baking soda in a separate bowl.  Add to creamed mixture. Stir in mix-ins.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes.

Recipe Notes:
OK, here is the thing about flax seed. If you buy it whole, like I do, it will last a LONG time in the pantry.  Which is good, because you probably don't use flax seed all that often.  As soon as you ground it, keep it in the freezer, though, as it will start to turn. 

I tried putting these little guys in the mini-chop, to no avail.  Doesn't do a thing to them.  Same with the food processor.  The only way I have found to ground them is to use my coffee grinder.  Some people have an extra coffee grinder they use for spices and stuff like this.  I don't have an extra.  So, after cleaning the coffee out of the coffee grinder, it makes short work of the grinding.

Of course, then you have to clean the flax out of your coffee grinder... or not and just see your husband staring at his coffee in the morning, wondering what the floaty bits are.  Don't worry, they are good for you!  Because of this hassle, I tend to grind enough for a couple batches and put the rest in the freezer.

Spoon these out on parchment paper about as big as a golf ball.  Yummy big cookies!

I will admit one little thing about these cookies.  While they are baking they smell a little strange.  I can't place the smell, and it isn't really bad, just strange.  I think it is the flax, I am not used to the smell of it. However, they taste great, freeze well and last a good long time in the pantry.  I hope you like them! 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Happy Homemaker

He was a tricky one.  Smooth, I tell you.  He jumped strait from,"Hi, this is Brian from the Blah Blah agency doing a 1 minute survey on home products." to "What brand vacuum do you own?"  He missed the middle step.  The part where he asks if I want to be part of the survey.  The part where I politely decline and hang up the phone.  One minute I am making snacks, the next I am stammering, "um, um, um.... Hoover?"

One thing this guy did have going for him was that his survey really only took a minute and it wasn't very intrusive.  Until he got to the last question, "What is your occupation?"   

This is how these things start, you know.  One minute you are sucked into a phone survey, the next you are contemplating your occupation.  Or at least, this is how it works for me. 

Homemaker.  That is what I said. 

Which is weird, because for the last 8 years I have preferred the SAHM moniker.  Modern.  Descriptive. 

"I am not a maid" my mom-friends and I would say, while sitting amongst toddlers, scooping sand into buckets.  "I am not the cook."  Because, you know, those things still needed to be shared.  Like how it was before kids.  We were still stinging from not taking home a college-degree-earned-fast-track-career paycheck. "I am a Mom first." we would say. "That is my job."

Why did I say Homemaker?  I don't think I have ever called myself that.  Homemaker is that women on the front of the Betty Crocker Cookbook.  You know, fluffy hair and apron?  The one with the cookies and the vacuum?

When the kids were really little, to say I was a Homemaker would have meant that I was in charge of those other things as well as taking care of the kids.  When really I was just clinging to sanity with the strength of disposable-diaper velcro. I am the first to admit that I didn't make the transition to SAHM gracefully.  There was post-partum depression that hung on in waves, well into combo car-seat years. Most days there was no vacuuming, no broad smile, no fluffy hair or clean apron.   

People always said it would get easier as the kids got bigger.  They were right.  You get more sleep and more time to yourself.  There are other challenges though.  Lots of driving, for one.  And more emotional hurdles then physical ones. Homework and attitudes instead of diapers and tantrums.

Both my kids will go to school in the fall.  In so many ways the Homemaker title is more appropriate to my new role.   A raise and new business cards would have been a nice transition.  But hey, a phone survey and a knock on the noggin from my unconscious will do also. Life is messy that way. Good thing I have an apron and a vacuum!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

OD on Nostalgia

My hubby Tim likes Classic food. If I make Chocolates Chip Cookies, he wants them to be regular chocolate chip cookies; 3 inches across, semi-sweet chips, no nuts. If I make pot roast, it has to be the pot roast your grandmother would have made; in a Dutch oven with the veggies and no crazy spices. If we make his favorite breakfast, Eggs Benedict, there can be no deviations. Eggs, english muffins, canadian bacon and hollandaise. Nothing more, nothing less. He likes food to be like it was when he was young or like when he first tasted it.

Tim is a nostalgic eater.

Tim's comfort food can be a source of stress for me. There are some foods I just won't make, because there is no way it will ever live up to the memory in his head. I sometimes wonder if he really remembers what it tastes like, or if it is the taste mixed with the emotions of the time.

Nostalgia is also difficult in restaurants. He can't stand when cooks put spinach in the Eggs Benedict, or don't put 1000 Island Dressing on a Reuben. "Why do they always have to do something different? Why can't they just make it like it should be?" He seems to seek out the replica and in turn often seeks out disappointment.

If you ask Tim what his favorite soup is, be ready for a half-hour story. It is something called Book Binder Soup. He used to get it with his father in this special old restaurant in Chicago. My husband has a great memory for every little detail. He will tell you what the place looked like, smelled like, the fabric napkins, how his father acted, what is in the soup, and how it made him feel. He will go on and on about the soup.

Early in our marriage, he admitted to me that his Mom asked the restaurant for the recipe and they actually gave it to her. "Did it taste the same?" I asked. "Pretty close" he said. Which is saying a lot. So, I called up his mom and asked for the recipe. She told me no. She said that If I made the soup then it would be 'Heather's good soup' and she wanted to be the only one to make him his favorite soup. "You can have the recipe when I die."

At first I was taken aback and angry. I thought she was pulling some sort of Mother-in-Law power trick. I mean, we live two states away! She flies in to see us 2-3 times a year. I always do the cooking while she is here! Why would she deny her own son his favorite recipe?

Now that I have 12 or so years of cooking for this man under my belt, I see it a different way. I always assumed that he became this nostalgic as an adult. I now think he has always been this way.

Maybe, even as a small child, he was comparing tastes from the past, always slightly unsatisfied with the current version. When his Mom made the soup and got a "Pretty Close! " well, that is about as good as it gets. She probably just wanted to hang onto that recipe, that feeling from him. The approval of current times, of current Moms.

My husband is wonderful in so many ways. I am lucky and blessed as a wife and a mother to have a husband who is so kind, helpful, and sexy. Who walks on water in more ways than I can tell you. Nostalgia is a bitter-sweet blessing in this marriage. When it comes to food and travel, I stick to the unexplored. It means that I am always trying new things, making discoveries.

Some day I imagine, after a lifetime of exploratory eating, Tim will order something in a restaurant and say, "It's good, but not as good as yours." That is the power of nostalgia. If you hang around long enough, you become part of it.

I found this recipe on my own nostalgic search for the perfect Shrimp Scampi.  You know, Shrimp Scampi like your favorite Italian place makes.  After quite a few dry and icky scampi recipes, I came across this one on the Internet.  It certainly isn't perfect. But it is easy, quick and full-proof.  You can go from frozen shrimp to meal in about 35 minutes!  For some reason, I almost never put this over linguine.  I usually put it over white rice.  Don't know why, I have just always done it that way.  In case you are wondering... No, Tim doesn't think it is a perfect Shrimp Scampi, but he does like it.

Shrimp Scampi Anne  
*feeds 4

1 1/2 pound jumbo bay shrimp -about 30 jumbo
1/4 cup olive oil
salt, black and red pepper -- to taste
3 cloves garlic -- minced
1/3 cup parsley -- chopped or 3 tbl dried
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
8 tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cup white wine
1 dash Tabasco or Louisiana sauce
linguine or white rice-- cooked
1/4 cup Parmesan and Romano Cheese -- grated

Slit shrimp down the back leaving tail tip section of shell on the shrimp. Devein, wash and dry shrimp.

Arrange shrimp, single layer, in 10-inch square baking dish. Pour olive oil evenly over shrimp. Sprinkle to coat with salt, black and red pepper, garlic, parsley and bread crumbs. Cover dish and bake in preheated 300F oven for 20 minutes.

Pour butter, Tabasco, and wine evenly over shrimp. Bake uncovered 5 minutes longer or until done. Do not overcook; the shrimp will toughen. Serve over cooked linguine and top with grated cheese.

Recipe Notes:
For the shrimp, I use the frozen kind that you can get at Costco (Kirkland Brand, teal bag).  They come deveined and lovely!  The bag I buy is 2 pounds of 21-25 size shrimp.  For this recipe I dump half of the frozen bag into a glass bowl and put them in the sink, letting the water run gently on them for a couple minutes.  The flowing water is what makes them defrost quickly.  Stir them once or twice to break them up.  When they are mostly thawed, drain and dry with paper towels. 
I use a garlic press for this recipe, so that you can keep the pieces of garlic small.  In this picture, you can see the shrimp layed out in my oval Corning Ware baking dish (2.5Qt).  The garlic, dried parsley and salt and peppers have been applied.  You can kind of see how much red pepper I use. Just an even light dusting.
Seasoned bread crumbs work well, as well as plain.  I cover the pan with foil and throw it in the oven.  Then, mix the liquids.  Boy, my kitchen was pretty sunny the day I made this!
Of course, great wine would make this great!  However, I am not a huge white wine drinker.  When I have it great, when I don't I use those bad Pino Grigios or Chardonnays you can find in a 4-pack or milk-like carton.  I think I am a bit overzealous with the wine because you can see my liquids equal about a cup, and they should be a bit less.  I use 3 shakes of Louisiana sauce in this recipe, and it isn't too spicy for my kids. 
I hope you like the recipe.  If you have a "perfect" Shrimp Scampi recipe, please leave me a comment.  I would love to try it.  Nostalgia can be pretty powerful!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Free-Stone Fairy Tale?

Yesterday, my five year old Claire and I were tooling through the supermarket in search of a couple items. As we passed through the produce, I picked up a bunch of bananas and stopped dead in my tracks.

"What is that smell?" I gasped. Peaches! Not just any peaches. Peaches that actually smell like peaches. From a distance. Peaches so tiny and so overripe that they were tucked in behind the bananas. Still, peaches.

It has been a long winter of apples. That is all I am saying. I am sick to death of apples.

Claire was dancing around as I was inspecting the pick. "Can we buy the peaches? Can I have a peach RIGHT NOW? How about in the car? Can I have a peach in the car on the way home?" Unfortunately, the news was not good. I don't know where these peaches were from (it is too early for Texas peaches, I believe) but they were tiny and hardly hours from being too ripe to sell. Most were wrinkly and bruised. These would hardly last the bagging let alone make it into lunches.

"Let's buy enough for a peach cobbler!" I struck a bargain. And so we picked the best of the bunch and headed home.

"I know how to make peach cobbler" she says on the car ride home. "I saw it on Cooks Country!"

Yes, it runs in the family. Once a week I DVR the show Cook's Country by the American Test Kitchen folks. If you can get past the ringing steeple bells and rocking chairs on porches, it is a good clean cooking show. Less gastro-porn and commercials than your average Food Network fare. Claire loves Cooks Country. She watches them repeatedly, especially the ones about desserts.

Later as I shove dinner in the oven, I contemplate these little peaches. Usually I peel peaches with a knife. These peaches were only slightly bigger than lemons. I was sure that if I pealed them there would hardly be enough flesh to bake. So, I got out my big pot to do a quick blanch to release the skin. The water is at a boil, there is another bowl with ice-water nearby, I am just about to dump the peaches in when Claire strolls into the kitchen.

"What are you doing?" she screeches, alarmed.

"I am blanching the peaches to release the skin so that I can peel them." I say, dumping.

"But that isn't how they do it on Cooks Country! They use a special peeler with a zig zag edge."

“Shoot” I think. "You mean a serrated peeler? I don't have one of those. I am going to do it this way."

"Hmmm" she says, unbelieving, one eyebrow raised. "If it works, can I peel them?"

I was pretty ecstatic (inside) when the skin slipped right off the peaches. She was surprised it worked and delighted to peel them.

As I drained away the ice-water from the now-slippery peaches she says, “If you cut them all the way around with the knife, can I pull them apart and pull the pit out for you?"

This isn't going to be pretty. "Well… Cooks Country used free-stone peaches, and these are cling, so that isn't going to work." I try to explain the difference between free-stone and cling peaches as I am messily cutting the flesh away from the stubborn pits.

"But that isn't fair" she wails. Claire is pretty dramatic. "You have to do it all with a knife, and you won't let me use a knife. I wish we had free-stone peaches! Cling peaches are dumb." She twirls on one foot and stomps out of the kitchen.

I wish this story had a great closure. Some sort of a-ha moment. I picture my daughter, smiling over her Peach Cobbler ala Mode, sauce dripping down her chin, saying, "Wow Mom, this peach cobbler is as good as the one on TV." But that didn't happen. Not that she didn't enjoy the cobbler. She had two bowls. But there was no fairy tale ending, no overt moral.

Later, as I was falling asleep, it occurred to me that maybe I had misunderstood. Today she learned, much to her dismay, that there are different kinds of peaches. Also she saw that there is more than one way to skin a peach. She might have learned a little something about overcoming obstacles in the kitchen.

What I hope she learned more than anything is that her Mom is a pretty good cook. And you can't learn everything from TV.
note: a recipe next time, I promise!