My college aged daughter moved home to live with us for the summer and I have to say that it was just about the quickest three months of my life. Two years ago, when we moved her into her dorm room for the first time, I had prepared myself for the hardest goodbye of my life. My baby girl was moving away and I armed myself with an arsenal of coping mechanisms and a box of tissues to help myself deal with the transition of being an empty nester. I read the parenting books about the significance of "drop off day" written by all sorts of "experts" and I was prepared for the emotional flood. And believe me - there was a flood that day.
I was filled with overwhelming pride that she was attending the college of her dreams and sadness that her bright shining face would be absent from our dinner table every night. So on the day of her college drop off we carefully hauled tote after tote of bathroom necessities, school supplies and university sweatshirts into her unusually tiny dorm room on the 4th floor. After we organized her closet to Marie Kondo perfection and made her bed with the new sheets and comforter that she picked out for this exact occasion, we said our final goodbyes. The "experts were right" - it was hard. I may have let a few tears slip out before we left her room but I managed to mostly hold it together until we got to the car.
It was no surprise that it was hard to say goodbye and to leave her in that dorm room for the first time. What WAS a surprise is that there would be so many goodbyes over the next few years that would be equally heart wrenching. Why didn't the "experts" mention the goodbye when she moved back to school after her first Fall break? Christmas break? Summer vacation? It seems there's an endless stream of goodbyes when your child moves away to college. And in my experience - these subsequent goodbyes - don't get any easier with time. Silly me, I thought that once we got through the initial college drop off, each time she went back to school would be easier - turns out - I was wrong. Very wrong.
So last week I had to say goodbye again to my sweet daughter who moved back to school. Life feels differently when she's not in the house and it's going to take some getting used to not having her here again. It takes me about a week before I can even go into her room to change her sheets. 😥
Over the years, I've managed to come up with my own goodbye rituals when my kids go back to college. There's some crying, a lot of busy work and there's always some chocolate involved in my coping techniques. It's not the healthiest way of dealing with the emotional trauma but what can I say? Chocolate soothes my aching soul. So for all of you parents out there who may be struggling with the endless cycle of painful goodbyes of a college-aged child - whether it's the first goodbye or the 20th goodbye - I'm here to say I feel your pain and I've got your back. This Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie won't make the goodbyes any easier but it will help you feel better as you sit alone in your quieter than usual house.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie
4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons rolled oats
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
Bake 35 minutes at 325. Cover with foil and bake another 10 minutes.
Let cool 15 minutes then cut into 12 wedges.
Chocolate and pasta are my comfort foods. (Not together obviously.) What do you eat when you need to really need something comforting and soothing? Send me your favorite comfort foods in the comments.
You can debate me on this all day long but I'm absolutely convinced that I was raised on the most delicious, home cooked meals EVER. My mom was a master of taking a package of chicken breasts, a can of soup and a dash of spices and creating something spectacular in under and hour. She had an uncanny ability to take the most unappealing of meats (liver, squirrel, etc) and turn them into tender, juicy delectable fare. This is a genetic trait seems to have skipped right over me, unfortunately. I have a knack for taking the most choice cut, beautifully marbled steak and turning it into snow tire consistency. 🤷🏻♀️
The magic that my mom could perform on a roast beef was nothing compared to the wizardry that she could work with vegetables. She was an expert at taking a vegetable that was absolutely intolerable to her children and turning it into something that we all begged for. Believe me when I tell you that I was not a kid that loved broccoli but I can't even begin to add up how much of my mom's cheesy broccoli casserole I consumed as a child. Thank goodness for a mom who could disguise vegetables as appetizing, flavorful sustenance.
There was nothing fancy about my mom's broccoli and cheese casserole recipe. (A recipe that I'm fairly certain was handed down to her by her sister.) Frozen broccoli florets, Velvetta cheese, butter and Ritz crackers were the keys to successful broccoli transformation. The recipe was simple but the results were extraordinary.
If you were lucky enough have grown up eating home made cheesy vegetable casseroles, you know exactly what I'm talking about. All it takes is brief walk past the Velvetta cheese display at the grocery store and I'm instantly transported back to my childhood and Easter dinners with my family gathered around a table filled with ham, potatoes, freshly baked rolls and of course broccoli cheese casserole.
There's absolutely no point in trying to compete with my moms beloved broccoli casserole but I have a feeling that this recipe for Three Cheese Broccoli and Cheese Casserole will appeal to an entirely different audience than the Velvetta version. It's not that I don't think that children will like this recipe, I just feel like it appeals to a more mature and refined palate. Broccoli and cheese casserole for grown ups - if you will. I'll never stop craving my moms version - just adding this to my vegetable repertoire as well.
Three Cheese Broccoli Casserole
3/4 cup panko
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
6 Tablespoons butter
2 pounds broccoli florets
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tablespoons flour
3 cups half and half
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped American cheese
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Bake 15 minutes at 400. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.
This is the stuff that makes summer cook-out memorable. Broccoli casserole goes with everything from burgers and fried chicken to apple stuffed pork tenderloin medallions like the ones in the picture. I don't think that this dish was ever intended to be picnic fare but I think broccoli casserole tastes even better when eaten outside on paper plates - old school. Fancy or casual - broccoli casserole is just about the most perfect side dish.
I was wrapping up a routine trip to Wal Mart the other day when I found myself caught up in the middle of one of the most unusual conversations that I've ever been a part of. I had 2 cases of eggs in my basket and as the cashier scanned the bar code and handed the large box of eggs to the second cashier to load them back into my cart, she commented to me that I should be sure and get them home quickly so as not to leave them in my trunk too long. I started to giggle and immediately, a third cashier chimed in with "My mom left a package of eggs in her trunk for too long and she got chickens." 🐓😳
I have to admit that I didn't quite know how to respond and while I was trying to figure out the best way to react without offending anyone, the first cashier piped in with "Trunks are like incubators. My friend bought some eggs, they hatched and now she got some chickens." It was painfully obvious that all three of these employees truly believed that my 120 eggs would indeed hatch into chickens if I left them in my trunk for an extended period of time. And I must say that the thought of opening my trunk when I got home to find 120 tiny yellow chicks running around made me laugh out loud.
I was trying to avoid going into the whole egg fertilization discussion at the checkout line at Wal Mart and also looking around for some someone to jump out and tell me that I was being punked. I'm not a poultry scientist and I'm sure that the occasional fertilized egg does slip into the grocery store shelves but the thought of hatching chickens in my trunk on the way home from the store had never even crossed my mind until that day. 😂
You'll be happy to know that I did NOT find chickens in my trunk when I got home. 🤣 I pulled out 2 eggs for my berry scones and immediately put the remaining 118 eggs in my refrigerator.
Some of you are thinking - wow, that's a ridiculous story and others of you are thinking - why in the world is she buying 120 eggs at a time? I see the looks you people give me when I fill up my grocery cart with eggs and butter every week. I'm used to it. I've get all kinds of comments on my massive egg purchases but if you saw how many eggs, I go through in a week - you'd understand.
Two of those eggs went into the making of these yummy scones this weekend. They are not the prettiest thing that I've ever made but they were tasty. (That's the most important quality in a scone anyway.) If you're a scone fan, you need to give these mixed berry scones a try. They are DELICIOUS!
Mixed Berry Scones
1 3/4 cups frozen mixed berries
3 Tablespoons powdered sugar
3 cups flour
12 Tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons whole milk
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 Tablespoon honey
Brush warm scones with glaze. Return to oven and bake another 5-8 minutes until browned.
Some mornings I'm just not in the mood to make muffins and I don't feel like going through the trouble of making biscuits but I still crave a little sweet treat to get my day started off right. Hello scones! They're the perfect little breakfast treat that doesn't take a lot of fussy prep work or tons of ingredients. They're simple to put together and they pair perfectly with a cup of coffee or tea in the morning. Simply delicious.
My relationship with avocados started out innocently enough. I enjoyed the creamy slices that were served alongside my street taco or floating on top of my bowl of tortilla soup. But slowly, over time, my love for the little green fruit grew into a full blown obsession. The beloved avocado has worked its way into my heart and now I just can't get enough of them.
Avocados are a staple in our house. I don't even bother adding them to my grocery list anymore - I just pick up 1 or 2 every time I go to the grocery. It seems pointless to question whether or not we NEED more. Of course we need more avocado and the thought of facing a day without an avocado in the house is just a little heart breaking.
I love freshly made guacamole and I adore avocado toast. I put sliced avocado on just about everything that I can - salads, soups, sandwiches, tacos, etc. They just make everything better. I've even put them in muffins and burgers. Oh, and if you happen to be my server at a restaurant - save yourself the trouble of asking - YES, I do want avocado with my meal. I know it costs extra - it's worth it. Bring me all the avocados in the kitchen, please.
If you're still teetering on the edge of admiring avocados and a full blown avocado obsession - do NOT make these avocado fries. The crispy panko crust over the warm, creamy avocado slice is absolutely ridiculous and will likely turn you into a super fan. These baked avocado fries are so good and I dare say that they're one of my very favorite ways to enjoy my favorite superfood.
Baked Avocado Fries
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup panko
I was first introduced to avocado fries at my favorite little Mexican restaurant. They serve perfectly browned, deep fried, panko crusted avocado slices as an appetizer alongside crispy tortilla rounds. They're just about the only deep fried fruit that I can see myself eating. I dare say that my baked (healthier) avocado fries are even better than the original deep fried version. You NEED these avocado fries in your life - trust me.
When my kids were small, I decided that they should be responsible for preparing a meal at least once a week. I hope you're not picturing a kids baking championship scenario where children willingly stand at the kitchen counter atop their little stool and chop vegetables with kid safe knives, because you would be wrong. The truth is that with my kids at the healm, my kitchen resembled the last 15 minutes of Master Chef Junior cooking show. Hangry, hormonal cooks running around the kitchen, frantically trying to pull together anything edible to put on a plate.
As my kids got older and acquired more culinary skills, having them make dinner should have gotten less hectic and in some ways it did - but in a lot of ways - it didn't. 🙄 Over time, they became more experienced which meant that they were more independent and required less help and supervision from yours truly. Unfortunately, their independence in the kitchen also meant that they developed their own ideas about the way that things should be done. Well into their teen years they insisted on stirring absolutely everything like the Swedish chef from the Muppets and they dressed in complete firefighter gear anytime they had to put anything in or take anything out of the oven.
The fact is that they are really good cooks - now. The final product was never the issue. It was watching the process that gave me anxiety. Every cabinet door in the kitchen was left open, there were broken eggs laying on the counter and a Hansel and Gretel worthy bread crumb trail scattered throughout my kitchen. Traits that my mom claimed I also had as a child.
The collaborative cooking efforts between my kids and I were anything but flawless. My kids really didn't appreciate me hovering over them while they perfected their kitchen skills any more than I liked to be in the kitchen with them. I get it. No one wants to be criticized for using a whisk to stir spaghetti or correcting them when they try to add a "bulb" of garlic to the marinara instead of a "clove". True story.
I realize that I have my own way of doing things in the kitchen and I can be kind of a snob when it comes to proper use of cooking utensils. In retrospect, I was way too focused on teaching them proper use of kitchen equipment when I should have been more concerned with teaching them cooking survival skills. I'm happy to report that we all survived the very messy and awkward early kitchen experiences and I now have two adult children who are very competent and experienced cooks.
I did learn early on that finding the right recipe was key to keeping my kids interested in cooking. My daughter was a big fan of anything that she could get her hands into. The messier the better. She especially loved mixing up burgers, meatballs and meatloaf with her hands. Squishing raw eggs through her fingers is what really made cooking fun for her. One of her absolute favorite things to make (and eat) has always been meatloaf. Whenever I find a new meatloaf recipe, I wait for her to come home so we can make it together. (Cooperative cooking goes much better now that she's 20.)
Mediterranean Mini Meat Loaves
3/4 cup panko
1/2 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup roasted red pepper
1/4 cup tomato sauce
4 Tablespoons fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fennel
1 pound lean ground beef
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon oil
The same theory that I applied to my kids first kitchen experiences also applies to my husband when he's in the kitchen. He really does TRY his best in the kitchen but I've found it in my best interest NOT to watch him while he cooks. I find myself saying things like "why are you stabbing that avocado" and "what did you do to that melon?" when I observe his unusual techniques. The fact is that he has made some pretty amazing meals considering his unconventional methods. I try and encourage his experimentation in the kitchen but I have to admit that it's even harder to be positive with my husband than it was with my children. I'm still trying.
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