I found myself craving brownies the other night, which rarely happens. I must confess that while I love baking chocolate desserts (they generally make everyone happy!), they are not my first choice for eating. I reached for my copy of Homemade with Love to make the walnut fudge brownies on page 185. Honestly, it still blows my mind, and humbles me, every time I pull my own cookbook off the shelf. A quick scan of the ingredients, and I realized I didn’t have any espresso granules in the house. I decided to brew up a small pot of very strong coffee in its place. While I was at it, I swapped in whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose, and used less, too. You can use regular all-purpose flour if that’s all you have on hand, and it’ll be fine. I just figured I’d fool myself into believing the whole wheat would make them healthier.
My first attempt at making madeleines was only recently, just before Mikey passed away actually. I relied on a trusted source to guide me, and while the batter tasted amazing, and the finished product was quite good too, my madeleines looked like they’d been through a war. I broke a sweat trying to pry them from the pans with my offset spatula. Figuring I didn’t use enough butter or flour to coat the pans, I immediately started a second batch. Mikey looked at me like I was nuts, but he knew my drive for perfection was ceaseless and I wouldn’t give up that easily.
Then my second batch came out of the oven.
They seemed to stick to the pan, again.
So I did what anyone insane baker would do, and moved onto batch three immediately. This is where you’d add the explicatives because, yes, those little bastards still stuck to the pan. I went to bed tired, annoyed and feeling defeated.
My mind feels about as soft as the cookie dough I’ve been obsessed with the last two days. It is a swirl of activity, and some days focusing feels so out of reach.
January 25th, this Wednesday, marks 14 years since my father died. 1998—what an intense year it turned out to be. I hadn’t even thought of my real dreams until that fateful year. Nothing like your dad dying rather suddenly at the age of 49 to rock your core.
He was a Michael too, and all these years later the image of him taking his very last breath is still engraved in my memory.
On my way home from the market today I realized I've been an adult most of my life. Sure, there was a fleeting few minutes when I felt like a kid, but as you've likely guessed most of my childhood was not spent carefree.
What makes today's moment significant is that as the thought occurred to me, somewhere between pondering making mussels or fried rice for dinner, I finally felt a sense of relief. It was as though someone had opened the window to my soul and let the hurt and heartache fly away with a burst of wind.
The memories will always be there—what matters is what I do with them. Do I let the past pull me me away from enjoying the here and now?
We sipped cappucinos at a little cafe in the Villlage. It may have been my first, now that I think about it. The rain thundered down, and we decided to make a run for the Mr.'s office to wait it out before making our way home. Lightening lit up the room as it flooded through the large picture windows. Butterflies took flight and my heart raced. As the thunder roared, we had our first kiss.
I remember that evening as if it was yesterday, and while 16 years have passed, two little girls have blossomed and for better or worse has been tested, I am lucky enough to still feel that tingle that took over my tummy all those years ago.
Our life is quite busy now, weekends filled with chores, most evenings I collapse once the kids are tucked in. But the moment I hear the front gate open, or his key turn the lock, my heart still skips a beat, sending me back to that moment we had when I was just 21. That is the most special gift not sold in stores. That tells you this one is a keeper, the one with whom you are meant to spend the rest of your life.
About a decade or so ago I remember spying a tin in between cookie baking breaks at auntie’s house. This wasn’t one of her tins, so like Curious George I couldn’t resist the urge to open it and take a peek. Ever more like George, it is no surprise that I had to try one of the glistening, candied coated nuts I found inside.
When she later told me a friend had made them I thought it was truly amazing. Sure we’d bake more than 100 dozen cookies that weekend, but candied nuts? Well, those seemed like a real feat. I suppose my former self is what my present self would now call a novice.
Candied nuts are perhaps the easiest homemade treat you can gift this year. Beat an egg white, toss with some seasoned sugars and bake for 30 minutes. Turn once halfway through, and you’re done.
Apparently I blinked and a whole week flew by.
At least that's how it feels.
This time last Thursday, I was preparing to pick auntie up at Penn Station in anticipation of our day in the city with Isabella, masquerading as tourists at Macy's, Rockefeller Center and the American Girl store.
It's suddenly Thursday again, and I'm shifting into high gear, wondering if I will possibly get all my gift baking done. I've resolved to keep it simple this year, and luckily recipes like the chestnut spread I just shared with you all make me look like a rock star with minimal effort.
Some of my best discoveries are those I’ve overlooked time and again. The ones that have been under my nose the whole time, but were too busy, or stuck in a routine to take notice.
Last week I decided to try something new with my beloved, and perhaps now infamous, chocolate chip cookie recipe. Rather than dump all the dough in a container to let it “dry-age”, I formed half into a log, wrapped it in plastic and tucked it into the fridge. We’re not talking anything revolutionary here folks.
Then I sliced a few off the next morning, about 1/4-inch thick, and baked them.
I shared an amazing treat with Isabella today—and I didn't even make it.
It was a milkshake, and there was no organic milk in sight. The ice cream surely wasn't some artisnal, real vanilla bean variety either.
And the kicker—hold onto your hats. It was made with Oreo cookies. Not Thomas Keller's fancy schmancy TKO or like the ones they used to make when I managed Tribakery. They were honest to goodness Nabisco cookies.
As I kissed the Mr. goodbye in the wee hours of the morning, he said it felt like I just came home a minute ago. I can't help but feel a pull towards home too.
Kim recently said I talked her off the ledge. Really, we're both just holding hands, our friendship growing stronger each day as we carve our professional path in a world where motherhood really is the job we value most. Our lives are not perfect, but we are fortunate.
The compromises we make seem big in our worlds, yet they pale in comparison to, say, my mother's. She woke up at 6:00am every morning while I was in high school to work as a supermarket cashier. She's endured so much for the sake of her children. Her sacrifices were real ones. I keep that perspective every day.