Top 5 Reasons to NOT COOK:
5) the chef is under the weather (repeatedly)
4) the chef’s kid is sick and requires constant attention (also repeatedly)
3) the chef’s cat is injured and requires care, including oral antibiotics – which we all KNOW is a near-impossible task
2) doctor and/or veterinary appointments take up much of the day
And the Number One reason?
1) extended winter turns simple daily chores into drudgery
I can’t be the only one who had the March from hell, right? One crappy thing after another made me wish I could go to sleep and wake up in April. I admit to being completely unmotivated to cook, let alone create new dishes. Macaroni and cheese and lentil soup (homemade, of course) graced my table several times as they also make great leftovers. Oh, and eggs. Many, many frittatas were consumed in the month of March. Anything that was quick and easy and required very little thought was on the menu.
I’m not sorry to say, I’m glad it’s over.
That’s not to say we didn’t have some good times. But sometimes the icky stuff overshadows the not-so-icky, especially when the weather is gloomy.
One of the fun things we did? Tapping a maple tree in the yard. We gathered the sap for several days and I filtered it and boiled it down (OMG did it reduce to practically nothing…) to make syrup. It tasted so light and fresh and delicious and of course The Boy didn’t like it… so waffles for mommy it is! And yogurt with maple syrup and toasted walnuts. And oatmeal with maple syrup and bananas. And even some rich and sinful vanilla ice cream drizzled with this heavenly gift from Mother Nature.
We also took a brief trip to visit family in Florida. Thomas is a little pro when it comes to airport navigation. At almost seven, he’s been on more than a few plane trips starting when he was about 10 months old. Back then it was simple but back-breaking. Kid in sling, luggage checked, carry-on and car seat dragged through terminals while precariously perched on stroller – each and every trip ended with “we will NEVER do this again” and yet we always did, because that’s what you do when your family is spread out from coast to coast.
This year Thomas had his backpack all ready to carry on the plane. DAYS prior to departure, he had his toys and books and snacks all laid out and ready to go. He was taught years ago that ‘if you want to bring it, YOU CARRY IT.‘ Without that spoken rule he’d bring the entire contents of his toybox and then some.
When he was nearing 3, I got him a kid’s wheeled suitcase. It was easy enough for me to pick up if necessary, but [GENIUS!] it was also the ideal means of tiring out a child before boarding a plane! I found an empty gate area and let him run around dragging his carry-on for as long as possible, preferably the very last minute prior to departure. He was ‘plumb tuckered out’ by boarding time… but not so much that he didn’t have a surprise in store for me.
If you guessed that he shit his pants on the plane you’d be right.
And moms know that the chances of him having to go more are high, but those airplane lavatories are pretty scary when you’re barely 3 feet tall… as I know all too well [yes, I’m short. Shut up]. So in we go together. He sat his teeny tiny tush on the cold and oh-so-impersonal seat, knowing full well that his body could, at any moment, slip into the blue abyss. There he sat for what seemed like an eternity with me directly in front of him, his little arms wrapped tightly [strictly out of fear I assumed] around my neck and me face down in the American Airlines toilet.
I will never. Forget. The smell.
Mommy and Tommy had a fabulous time beaching it on the Gulf of Mexico, doing nature walks, visiting children’s museums and just hanging out with family. Remember how much fun you had as a kid when your older cousin (with whom you are completely enamored) would ALLOW you to play with him/her? Yeah… that was the highlight of Thomas’ winter vacation. Video games, Legos, Hide and Seek, Flashlight Tag, beach digs, shell collecting, skateboarding, eating junkfood. All in all, it was great fun and what memories we made!
Plus, my aunt makes a killer margarita. Thank you, Aunt Lynne!!!
Upon returning home I discovered that my darling kitty (who was left in my mother’s care — meaning Mom filled up the food and water bowls daily, because TLC wasn’t an option even in my absence. My little twit of a cat won’t go near anyone but me and my kid.) had gotten into a fight and had two LOVELY puncture wounds on her back. They were gross, and since I don’t want you to lose your appetite, I’ll end it there. I will say that she required daily oral antibiotics and Miss Trixie, who has free run of the place both indoors and out, had to be kept inside for a week.
So sometime after we got back from Florida I was hankering (WHAT? I’m not the only one who says ‘hankering’. Am I?) for coconut and I had this incredible urge to bake. I had an open bag of flaked coconut and gobs of butter and a few bricks of cream cheese that needed to be gone and I just canNOT eat that many bagels.
Well, I CAN… but I shouldn’t.
An hour of Googling and poring over cookbooks led me to Ina Garten’s Coconut Cake recipe. It looked simple enough, and I had all the ingredients, so I set out to make a sinfully tropical confection. I had plans to share this cake (because if it’s all in my house, I will eat it… and again, I shouldn’t), so I baked it in 4 6-inch round pans instead of the 9-inch ones called for in the recipe. I probably could have made 5 full layers but I only have 4 pans – so 2 custard cups served as baking dishes for our evening snack.
The batter was delicious and the cream cheese frosting was great and so was the toasted coconut, but together, they were all much too sweet for my tastes. I found the cake to be very heavy and buttery (read: greasy), and although it was fine an hour or so out of the oven (remember that snack?), once it sat overnight it was much too dense. I rarely go by a recipe when I cook, and I guess I shouldn’t have this time either, because just the THOUGHT of that frosting actually filling the cake as well gave me cavities.
It needed something tart to balance all the sweet and, miracle of miracles, I found a bag of Meyer lemons at the supermarket. Meyer lemons are smaller than your typical lemon, thin-skinned, and a bit sweeter. Don’t get me wrong, they are by no means sweet, but the flavor is more well-rounded and not as biting. I checked out a dozen or so recipes for lemon curd and created this one. It was deliciously tart but sweet enough to not force a pucker. I think it would be fantastic in fresh blueberry tartlets or piled on meringue shells or even used to make a parfait.
While I will NOT be making that particular coconut cake again, I WILL be whipping up this lemon curd whenever I need a sweet-citrusy-creamy concoction. If you haven’t ever made lemon curd, you’ll be surprised with just how simple it is to make. Give it a shot and let me know what you think!
Meyer Lemon Curd
2/3 cup Granulated Sugar
2/3 cup freshly squeezed Meyer Lemon juice (about 1 lb of lemons)
2 whole Eggs
3 Egg yolks
3 0z unsalted Butter, cut into small bits
2 t fresh Lemon zest
You’ll need a ‘double boiler’ for this — and you probably don’t have one of those old fashioned ones which are designed strictly for the purpose [unless you’re a yard-sale-ing, vintage-kitchen-gadget-collecting nutball like me]. As an alternative, create one with a pot of barely simmering water about an inch or so deep and a heatproof bowl (I use a metal mixing bowl).
Combine all ingredients except zest in bowl and whisk well. Place over pan of simmering water and cook, stirring, for about 7 minutes or until thickened. You’ll see a distinct change in texture and color. Strain mixture through a wire sieve, stir in zest and chill thoroughly for several hours.
*If using regular lemon juice, increase sugar to 1 cup.