She's a little warty and a little bit tattered but that's just the way I like her, thank you. Meet my kitchen witch. I have had this kitchen for over 15 years and she goes where I go. I purchased her while on holiday in Luxembourg. Never heard of a kitchen witch, Dear Readers? Well, allow me to enlighten you. Kitchen witches or cottage witches, are meant to ward off bad spirits and bring good luck. They are kind of like a blessing to a home and I will take a blessing wherever (or whenever) I am able to take one.
Kitchen witches are either Scandinavian or German in origin but wherever the witch flew in from, she comes from old(er) European customs. The kitchen witch is a good witch, meant to protect pots from over-boiling or things from burning or spilling; you get the idea right? Of course you do, Dear Readers, your'e brilliant! After all, you read MY blog...
Anyway, kitchen witches are getting more and more difficult to find, even in Europe. The lady in red was rescued from a yard sale and this adorable little lady to the left, is made of pewter and was hand painted in Germany, where I picked her up on a recent trip. Typically, kitchen witches are homemade and are not much more than an ill-formed head, wrapped in fabric and tied with string. A face is added so the thing looks like a puppet and then is hung. (Think Halloween ghost pop meets the Salem Witch Trials.) I like to suspend my witch above the sink but I have one hanging where I keep my mixers and also by a door. Blessings are like prayers and there is no such thing as too many prayers...
My mother Ellen is adorable and aggravating. She and I have a telepathic connection and she is part angel and part demon, mostly angel. Ellen is my best friend and soul mate who hates it when I call her "Ellen." She is my editor, my confidant and is annoying, loving, caring, VERY annoying and clever all at the same time. Most of all, my mother is AWESOME!
My mother and I live on near opposite sides of the United States and between her health and our schedules, visits are not frequent enough so we miss each other a lot. We talk most every day about everything from soup to nutty people. What to do when I am missing Momma? Cook of course! Dah, Dear Readers, DAH indeed! I cook something my mother would make like Manicotti, Vudalikia, Keftedes (see my Recipes page) or buttery, softie, scrambled eggs (she makes the BEST) or Momma Toast. I might bake Kourabiedes when our girls miss their Gramma or perhaps my mom's ginger cookies or pumpkin muffins. When our oldest, Alyssa, misses me and home, she asks for Koulalikia , we call, Twisty Cookies. Her sister, Mia, prefers good old fashioned Chocolate Chip cookies, heavy on the chocolate, when she needs comforting.
Food is the great connector. It connects us to each other and those we love. Savvy? Share what you make when you are missing someone in the comments section.
It's impossible to believe, but our younger daughter, Mia, is turning 16 this week! Where did the time go? Just yesterday, I brought her home from the hospital right? I know anyone who is a parent/guardian of a child feels this same way but it's true, time flies! What to do? What to do? Have a Sweet 16 Birthday Party of course! What does a Sweet 16 Birthday party mean? Party food, that's what it means! Party food=fun.
The only type of foods kids seem to want these days at their parties is pizza so pizza Mia will get. Per instructions, we are ordering pizza, but, everything else I plan to make and do myself. Over the past days, we have hung lights and streamers. We have emptied furniture and moved furniture. We added chairs and props for a photo booth and organized special lights to create a party "mood." I have interviewed the Birthday Girl to see what drinks and dips and treats to serve and determined the night will be a crowded affair, guaranteed to promote a good time for all attending.
What am I serving besides pizza? I will serve two to three dips, my "Go To" Herb Dip, a Cheese Dip and my Spinach Dip. I will offer chips, pretzels, vegetables and crackers. We will have a variety of sodas on hand as well as water and a signature drink for the night. I will create a popcorn bar (with a variety of toppings) and make her favorite chocolate cake (the Wacky Cake) into cupcakes and also serve Crispy Rice Treats and a small assortment of fruits. I have been instructed to not do anything "fancy" or "over the top" so what Mia wants, Mia gets. I also thought it would be fun to offer "make your own" hot chocolate the kids can make in a pod machine. That's it. Done.
Please share what party food you make for your teenagers and maybe we can help each other think of some new treats.
Not Without My Coffee!
Nope! NOT gonna happen! I am NOT posting a single word to this site without my coffee! I refuse! It's not fair... The water is boiling. The cups are sitting at the ready... The French press maker is filled with lovely, smokey, dark granules waiting to receive simmering liquid. My cup has some warmed half and half in it, impatiently awaiting the elixir of life. Me? I was ready the minute I rolled out of bed and my toes touched earth. So, Dear Readers, you will just have to wait! I will not post, not without my coffee!!!
Welcome to my Kitchen, Dear Readers. Welcome to my Happy Place!
My kitchen is my "Happy Place" because it is where I create, write and indulge in my passions and crazy urges. My kitchen is where I cook up life! (This is why my blog is called "Cooking Up Life!") Food is life. Food is fun. Food is fabulous!
My kitchen is where I play, have views of nature and can hear birds singing, my family talking, and the sounds of sizzling. I get to set things on fire, occasionally injure myself or burn a kitchen towel and have a blast! My kitchen is where I watch the changing of seasons from the window above my sink or next to my work space and base the evening's meal upon inspirations I see and/or gather from our garden. It's where our family meets to laugh, cry, cook and to learn. My kitchen, yes MY kitchen, is where I teach our daughters to make pastry crust, bread, traditional Greek food, jam, mains, candies, desserts, sides, or whatever. Cooking is such a fun medium to learn about your children because it's such a creative outlet. Creative outlets promote relaxation and freedom. Difficult subjects, such as 'What happened at school today?' Or, 'Who did you have lunch with today?' Or, 'Do you like any boy(s)?' Can be more easily discussed when you are doing something creative with your child. (These subjects may not seem difficult, BUT, if you have teenagers, any subject can be like extracting national security codes from a secret agent! Am I right? Yep. I know...)
Anyway, I encourage you to go to your "Happy Place" and play. Your "Happy Place" may be the garage or workroom where you create things with wood or play with model trains. (No judging here at Mary's Kitchen.) Your "Happy Place" may be your garden or living room where you grow things or knit or read. Your "Happy Place" might even be a spare room where you do yoga or meditation. A "Happy Place" is a place where you feel at peace and centered. It's that simple.
Please share where your "Happy Place" is in the comments section.
Feed the Birds
Yesterday, I was cleaning house and singing as I worked. I love to sing while I work; it relieves stress and in general, makes me happy. Anyway, I was singing the song from Mary Poppins called "Feed the Birds." Spring is springing up all around and everywhere. It's in the air, the trees, the earth! I'm so excited for Spring and can hardly wait!
I began to think about "how" to feed the birds. What to do? What to do? Yep, you guessed it, Dear Readers, research! I typed in "homemade birdseed cakes" (because who doesn't like cake?) A very easy "recipe" for homemade birdseed cakes came up at:
I like the look of this "recipe" because it is made with easy to find ingredients and is easy to follow. (It would be a fun project to do with children of any age!) Another website, https://www.lovethegarden.com/community/ideas-inspiration/wild-bird-food-recipes, offers information about what to include and not include in a homemade bird food mix and why, so that site would be helpful to visit before experimenting with ingredient additions.
There is always the option for scattering bird food about the ground or placing some in a feeder the four-legged pirates, called squirrels, cannot steal but whether you make a cake, scatter seeds or fill a feeder, do so somewhere you and your family can see. You will not believe how many feathered friends come to visit! It's such fun and always brings a smile to my face and like singing, brightens my mood. (A word of warning, DO NOT place the feeder where you grow food because the birds will have feast!)Try feeding the birds and share your results in the comments section.
Okay. This is how bad things are getting... I wrote a blog yesterday and it never posted! What the what? The sad thing is, HELP, I don't even remember what I posted a blog about! I know it was very good, of course. We're talking Pulitzer good. It's VERY frustrating because I always double tap after clicking "publish" so I don't understand what happened! What is "double tap?" Double tapping is when I click "publish" and then, click it again to make sure the blog posts. Oh well. I could 'wah, wah' all day about it or just go ahead and post. (I chose to do both, no judging.) So, Dear Readers, you will just have to take my word for it because we both missed out. Bummer! Perhaps the panel for the Pulitzer will give me a sympathy prize? Yeah. I don't think so either.
Oat Versus Corn Unicorns
I recently returned from traveling abroad. I visited Germany, Switzerland and then flew to England to travel about the southern coastal area of Brighton. It was while visiting Germany however, that I picked up a few boxes of Unicorn Froot Loops made by Kellogg's. Before leaving for the trip, I learned this treat existed and thought it would be fun to bring a childhood favorite home in a cute, unicorn-adorned box. (I mean, come on! Who wouldn't?) Anyway, I snapped up a few boxes, sent all but one home with my husband, Russell, who returned to the United States while I flew to England to meet our older daughter, Alyssa. (Alyssa is studying for a term at Sussex University.) Anyway, me and my box of Unicorn Froot Loops were safely delivered to England, as was Alyssa. It took us a few days to crack open the box. We shared them with Alyssa's flatmate who said, 'Oh, these taste like Cheerios.' 'What?' Was my reply. 'These taste like Cheerios.' She repeated. Still a bit lost, I needed clarification. You see, the Unicorn Froot Loops taste like sugar-coated corn, not oat. Alyssa's flatmate went on to explain English Cheerios taste of corn. What the what? ALL Cheerios in England taste of corn. They are a bit sweet too. She couldn't believe our Cheerios are oat-based and I couldn't believe theirs are corn-based.
During our visit to England, this oat versus corn unicorn-related taste base was not the only flavor we found to be different and the other one is a biggie. We here in the United States are being cheated! That's right, Dear Readers, cheated! It is a well kept secret that In England, brace yourselves, they have SO many MORE flavors of chips! It's like dying and going to Chip Heaven! They don't just have sour cream and onion, barbecue, blah, blah, blah... They have chicken skin, truffle, bacon, maple bacon, bacon, aged cheddar and red onion. There are even lamb, gravy and beer flavored ones! The list of flavors and flavor combinations is endless. Alyssa's flatmate thought we were a little crazy over our excitement. She giggled at us... She even told her colleagues about our experimental chip purchases and they verified the deplorable lack of chip flavors here in the United States. Oh well, at least we have good Cheerios.
Itchy Garden Fingers
Spring is knocking on the door and I have itchy garden fingers. Spring is taunting and teasing us with her upcoming days of sunshine, breezes and buds that promise blooms. Here in the East, the aftermath of a late winter storm still covers the earth. Muddy snow can be found here and there and we still have nights in the teens and days in the 40's. Most of the earth is still frozen and so digging is out of the question. I have probably missed the optimal time to plant my Spring peas but hope to try tomorrow, even if I am the only one who will eat them, right off the vine. So, what to do? What to do? Drink coffee of course!
Okay, I admit, that was a HUGE leap, even for me but hear me out. Drinking coffee is (and can be) good for the garden. Say what? Yep. You read that correctly, Dear Readers. Drinking coffee is good for the garden. Drinking coffee is, first of all, good for the gardener and therefore, by default, good for the garden. Go ahead, Dear Readers, do a little research yourself and learn about the many benefits of this glorious elixir. Now that you're drinking coffee, what to do with all those coffee grounds and filters? Toss them in your garden of course! Dah!
Again, say what Mary? Yep. Toss them out in the garden. (Avoid areas of the garden where you are growing tomatoes) but root vegetables and some flowering plants like hydrangeas, a favorite to grow here in the East, benefit from a sprinkle or two. Coffee grounds can even deter some garden pests. Visit gardeningknowhow.com or another gardening site for more details on using coffee grounds and learn more for yourself.
Please share your favorite gardening tip(s) in the comments section.
Cinnamon Roll Sunrise
This morning feels like a cinnamon roll sunrise. It's the type of morning when you wake up too early and cannot go back to sleep so you decide to be productive. (Frankly, most of my mornings begin this way, at least the waking up too early bit.) I subscribe to a variety of recipe-focused websites and one of these websites, kingarthurflour.com shared a recipe for "Soft Cinnamon Rolls" today. The recipe and directions are not difficult but the technique is interesting. I made one little tweak to the recipe, I added 1/4 cup sugar to the dough for two reasons; 1. My family prefers a slightly sweet base dough for cinnamon rolls and 2. see reason 1.
The technique is interesting because it calls for a Japanese-style starter (Tangzhong) to be added, that is cooked and then cooled before using. The recipe also calls for the dough to be hydrated 20 minutes so I am posting this blog while I wait; remember, I am being productive today. If you do not know, Dear Readers, hydrating the dough is an important step in most bread making and allows for a fluffier end product. Hydrating is the amount of water weight to the flour weight in a dough and affects the dough's texture, that's why it's important. (Try it sometime and share your results in the comments section.) Anyway, after I knead the dough, I will workout while it is rising and then work on my cookbook during the second rise and baking process. Our daughter, Mia, is interested in doing some sort of hiking-type activity, so, snow and all, we plan to satisfy her craving for the outdoors. (I'm trying to stay with the "productive" theme I started with when I began posting this morning.)
Soon, our home will be filled with the delectable aroma of freshly baked goods and our teenaged daughter will come skipping from her room, the creases of her pillowcase still on her cheeks, her curly hair adorably rumpled and exclaim, 'Oh Mother, dear Mother, you are WONDERFUL! I am SO lucky to have you for a mother!' Then she will massage my neck, paint my nails and tell me again how happy she is to be my daughter... Wait! What just happened? Forget everything you just read, I am obviously in some sort of delusional trance from sleep deprivation and need to go back to bed! Lets just go with the part about cinnamon rolls and sunrises.
If you wish to try the recipe I am making this morning, here is the link:
Avid home cook and passionate instructor