Pizza Pile

The title does not contain a typo. It is not supposed to say Pizza Pie. I said Pile and I mean Pile. You’ll see.

One day last week – I don’t remember which day except it was the day that included Dog-opoly – Kaileena and I wanted to make pizza. She is ten and so eager about learning to make good food. During the earlier part of the week that she was with me, we had made yeast dough twice, once for cinnamon-swirl bread and once for calzones. Now we would make it for pizza.

Until very recently, I have been making pizza the same way for my entire adult life.

  • Make dough. Let rest.
  • Roll out dough and put on prepared pan.
  • Spread tomato sauce on dough.
  • Sprinkle basil, oregano and garlic powder (one at a time) on sauce. Back in the day all of these came in little jars, dried and broken into very small pieces. Thus the sprinkling. Fresh is much better if you can manage it.
  • Top with grated mozzarella, parmesan and possibly asiago (one at a time).
  • Top with whatever else: spinach, salami, peppers, pepperoni (one at a time).
  • Bake in a hot oven.

In all these years it never once occurred to me to combine ingredients. Here is the way Kaileena and I made a pizza pile together.

First you gather all the ingredients for your pizza other than the crust, which is separate for obvious reasons. We decided to make our pizza with just two cheeses, mozz and parm, and also to use salami, spinach and a half of a yellow pepper that we found in the fridge. Of course you can put whatever you want on your pizza.

pizza ingredients

You see two cheeses (mozz wrapped in plastic and parm in a jar), spinach between them, a few slices of salami next to fresh basil and garlic cloves (we used just one clove), fresh oregano next to the garlic, and a piece of yellow pepper next to the can of all-important Don Pepino pizza sauce.

Kaileena grated the mozzarella while I cut up the rest.

pizza ingredients 2

We are getting closer to the pile. All of this stuff, except the sauce, goes in a bowl. Don’t forget a little salt and pepper. I would say not quite a teaspoon of salt for a pizza this size. But the amount is up to you.

pizza ingredients in bowl

Then you mix it up and either use it right away or put a plate on it and put it in the fridge until later when you want to make the pizza.

pizza ingredients mixed in bowl

Easy peasy.

Normally I would make the dough first, then grate the cheese, cut up the rest and mix it in a bowl while the dough is resting. But we knew we had to go get my mom and had only a little time, so we reversed the normal order. When we came back home with Mom, we made the dough.

First put one cup lukewarm water in a bowl along with a tablespoon of yeast. Stir. Add a cup of flour and a teaspoon of sugar. Stir. It will look like this.


Add another cup of flour and a teaspoon of salt. Add flour about a cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl (about 4-5 cups total I think). Transfer to your countertop and knead about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Kaileena got pretty good at this. In the kneading, you push with the heels of your hands, then pull the dough back toward you. Put some umpf into it. You’ll get a better dough and strengthen your arms at the same time. Who needs a gym when you can knead yeast dough like this?


After your dough is smooth, let it rest about 20 minutes before you roll it out. Just put a little flour on the counter and let the dough sit there.

dough resting

I swear we did not try to make a smiley face in the dough!

After 20 minutes or so, roll out the dough. Kaileena did this without help of any kind.

dough rolled out

We let that sit while we prepared the pan. Can you tell I’ve used a pizza cutter on that pan a gazillion times? I poured a bit of olive oil on it.

pizza pan oil1

Kaileena spread it around with her hands, not worrying about getting them oily because she was going right back to the dough, and that won’t hurt a thing.

pizza pan oil spread

I then sprinkled a few tablespoons of cornmeal on the pan. It’s not necessary. I just like the added texture.

pizza pan cornmeal

By the way, my oven takes 15 minutes to heat to 425 degrees, so I would turn it on about now.

Kaileena folded the dough in half and lifted it carefully to place it on the pan.

dough on pan in half

She unfolded it to cover the pan and curled up the edges that hung over the sides.

dough on pan opening up

Then we put half of that can of Don Pepino pizza sauce on the dough. I used to use the little 8-oz cans of tomato sauce, but one time last year we went to make pizza and had none of that in the house. Mom was here at that time, in transition from one house to another, and had stored a few bags of groceries in my basement. “I think there’s a can of pizza sauce in one of those bags,” she said. She had Don Pepino. Samuel deemed it the ingredient that moved homemade pizza to another level. I agree it was an enormous difference. We ordered a case from amazon.

pizza pan sauce

Kaileena spread the sauce. If you have the least bit of an artistic bent in you, this part is quite fun. A little like fingerpainting, only you do it with the back of a spoon.

pizza pan sauce spread2

Out from the fridge came the bowl of mixed-up cheeses, herbs and toppings. When you unload the bowl onto the pizza dough and sauce, you are looking at a PILE. You knew I would show you: Pizza Pile, get it? 🙂

pizza pile

None of this “first the basil, then the oregano, then the …..” Just empty the bowl on top and spread it out. Done! Oven ready in no time!

pizza pie oven ready

To get a good bottom crust, I slide the pizza right onto the bottom oven rack when it is set but not yet brown. This crisps it up and in five minutes or so I can slide it right back onto the pan. A spatula helps.


pizza pie done

The Frying Pan Hotel

We all get stuck with things we don’t want. An old bicycle that no one wants to ride any more. Promotional giveaways. Thanksgiving leftovers. Spare parts that might be useful someday but sure aren’t now.

In the excitement of getting new chicks and building a new fancy coop for them, I got stuck with too many roosters. More than zero in my case is too many. A few weeks ago I got really lucky. Pablo answered my ad and wanted my roosters. Come to find out, his wife Andrea especially wanted my brahma rooster and was elated to discover that he is a giant.

My own elation – the roosters were going away to a good home! – did not last long. Shortly after their little yellow truck drove off, I heard the telltale crowing and my heart sunk. How did we miss that there was yet another rooster in the flock? Sly bugger thought he could avoid detection forever perhaps, then was so distraught at the departure of his fellow crowers that he had to cry out. Or perhaps he now felt like king of the hill and wanted to announce it to the world. Better yet, with no competition, he could chase the females. That’s what sealed his fate.

This guy. Couldn’t help himself.

last rooster (3)

Needless to say, the females weren’t interested.

I ended my blog post about the departure of the roosters (and the discovery of this guy) with “Pablo, oh Pablo! Want another rooster?” He made a great comment about his wife showing off her giant brahma to anyone who came over, but he did not respond to my question. Oh dear. In the meantime, two more roosters came out of the shadows and revealed themselves! How did I miss three? The upside (thank you, Claudia) of having this many roosters overall is that when they are gone, I have fewer chickens overall.

There’s no way I’m keeping the roosters, even if they don’t lay eggs. Every morning that crowing, which my Airbnb cottage guests assured me was enchanting, woke me up and reminded me that yet another day had passed and still I had roosters. Two women answered my craigslist ad, but neither followed up. I broached the subject with Sandy, who couldn’t stand the idea of a fate for them other than Pablo’s Chicken Paradise, and offered to drive them to him. When I suggested this to Pablo, he graciously declined Sandy’s offer and said they would come on Saturday so Sandy wouldn’t have to drive so far. Whoo-hoo!!!!!!!! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, God bless Pablo! I will happily add God bless Andrea! because I am sure she had something to do with this decision.

When I mentioned on Saturday morning to my brother-in-law Billy that the last three roosters were leaving, he said, “Where are they going? To the Frying Pan Hotel? You know, the one you check into, but you never check out?” Not my roosters! My roosters hit the jackpot!

My expressions of eternal gratefulness to Pablo and Andrea for their willingness to take them began before they even got out of the truck. They just smiled, clearly having a different take on the whole small-farm thing. Why stop at chickens? They had once again been to a swap. She had a white bunny in one of their cages, which tried valiantly to mind its own business, but the dogs had other ideas.


She had a lionhead rabbit. Did you ever see such a thing?

lion head bunny (2)

And in another cage were the most beautiful chickens I have ever seen. Okay, here I am calling chickens beautiful. I am sure my children think I need my head examined. But the design on those feathers – c’mon, that’s beautiful! They are called sebright silver laced.

seabright (2)

As they say though, it ain’t over till it’s over, so we began the coop-to-cage transfer. Can you tell that these three jail birds are anxious to be released from their incarceration? I’m sure they don’t care where they’re going next, as long as it includes time with the ladies.

jail birds.jpg

First the silkie rooster. This wonderful couple is happy to get him!

silkie rooster (2)

The second one out of the coop likely has some mille fleur in him, which makes him think he’s French and, you know, special. You think what you want.

fleur rooster (2)

His “boots” are especially distinctive. You can only dream about having boots like this.

mille fleur feet.jpg

Finally it was time to move Mr. Blue Ears. He decided he did not want to leave.

silkie blue ear (2)

First he evaded capture by hiding at the far end of the coop. Then he jumped out when we weren’t looking! An escapee making his way into the forest! The dogs had a field day.

chase2 (2)

Forest. Yeah, not a good plan. Maybe this (newly widened) stream bed will take him somewhere?

loose silkie

Silkie on the loose! Who can corner the silkie?!


Bah! Up against a fence! Run around to the front! If you have ever tried to catch a chicken, you know it has its challenges. Nonetheless, humans generally prevail.


To express my gratefulness again, I gifted Pablo and Andrea with the silkie hen that matches The Blue-Eared Wonder. Look at this hen look at this rooster. Seriously? I have to go with him?

two silkies (2)

Once again, the sight of Pablo’s truck driving away brought me waves of relief. Dear God, let there be no more roosters!

truck driving away

The true test came at 5am this morning. Let me tell you what I don’t hear – crowing! Yay!!!!


The Mushrooms Have Disappeared!

No joke. They are gone!

Yesterday, just yesterday, I shared about the delicate mushrooms that seemed to have colonized the area of my garden near the water pump. They came from out of nowhere, as from outer space. Their lacey cups sat atop slender stalks no more than four inches high – dozens and dozens of these had appeared suddenly two days ago as if that particular square footage of mulch contained their favorite food or just the right conditions for growth. (Never mind the rest of the mulch in the garden complaining Hey! Something wrong with this hood?!)

funky mushrooms 2

Today after dinner, Kaileena reported that they were GONE! Not pekid, not fallen, GONE!

funky mushrooms gone.jpg

Gone, like a moment in time. Gone, like the countless moments we do not take a picture of. Gone. There is no way back to those moments. Most of the time, only our memory holds the record of them, and even that record can be sketchy as time goes by. Will I remember the many moments of today? My mom and Kaileena playing Dog-opoly and laughing because of whose turn it was to go not to jail but to the kennel! Kaileena finding the first egg (the first egg!), soft-shelled and slightly broken, and the excitement in her voice, “You have to come see!!” Mom doing her first mobile deposit. The blue-tailed skink trying to hide under the hand shovel in the onion bed and quickly ditching that plan and heading for a hole.

Gandalf comes to mind, Gandalf standing on the bridge shouting to the Balrog: “You shall not pass!” The image is strong and the analogy imperfect, but the finality is inescapable.

You shall not pass this way again.

The child is only two once, only six once, only ten once. When you pack up certain toys in a box or give away the size clothes that don’t fit any more, you know that chapter is over. Graduation can hit hard. Cross-country relocations even harder.

The lilies are finished, the beets are harvested, the lettuce is gone to seed. I bought a package of romaine today.

But there is a brighter way to see it, which we all know through experience if not verbatim: To everything there is a season. It’s been a long time since I read the first eight verses of the third chapter of Ecclesiastes.

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every event under heaven –

A time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build up; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to shun embracing; a time to search and a time to give up as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear apart and a time to sew together; a time to be silent and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.

We could add

A time to play our hand and a time to fold; a time to joyfully greet and a time to tearfully say good-bye; a time to praise and a time to scold; a time to travel and a time to stay put; a time to feast and a time to diet; a time to spend freely and a time to pull the purse-strings tighter; a time to bring chicks home and a time to get rid of roosters; a time to use sheets to make a bed and a time to use sheets to make a barrier between the earth and the mulch; a time to take photos and a time to just enjoy the moment because

You shall not pass this way again.

The beautiful side of this reality is that there are so many wonderful moments. Yes, we have to leave yesterday behind, but in the new day, if we keep our eyes open, new flowers will bloom and be glorious, new friends will come into our picture and brighten our world, new chances will arise for forgiveness and reconciliation, new gifts will be given and received, wrapped or unwrapped. There will be new restaurants to try, new books to read, new recipes to make, new babies to hold, new pets to nuzzle, new places to explore, new songs to sing, new words of kindness to be sure and say, new ways to remind those we love how much we love them.

I’m not sure I’d be on this track right now if it weren’t for those otherworldly mushrooms that appeared mysteriously. I’m not sure I’d have seen the mushrooms if the sunflowers had not first caught my eye…

Mushrooms from Outer Space

The sunflowers caught my eye. Coming down the driveway late yesterday afternoon, I had to stop the car in front of the garden and go look at them. Coco had come along for the ride and hopped out to go have a sniff around too. Look, one of the flowers is even (sadly) fallen over, yet it still turns its face toward the sun! What a lesson in that alone!


Naturally I can’t just take a picture of the sunflowers and then get back in the car. I remembered the tomatoes, and decided I also had to quickly check them. When I got there, I noticed something strange. All the rain we have had brought visitors of an otherworldly kind. This little colony of mushrooms was restricted to the area near the water pump, on the way to the tomatoes, where for some reason I am content to leave the hose a mess.

Check it out! These little volunteers are so delicate.

funky mushrooms 2

Forgive me, I just watched The Princess Bride (a thing to do with a ten-year-old visitor), so in my head I hear:

Inigo: The mushroom heads look just like *lace*

Fezzik: I think they come from outer *space*

I could easily crush them, easily overlook them, easily dismiss them. Instead I have forgotten about my car left in the middle of the driveway (and the ten-year-old in the car), and find myself fascinated, entranced, intrigued.

Where did they come from? Why are they here? Why are they only here and not growing up from the rest of the mulchy areas in the garden? Why do they cup their heads like that? Do they serve any purpose? Will they be gone tomorrow?

funky mushrooms

Sometimes I ask myself how much I miss, how much beauty exists all around me that I never see because I am too busy with this or that. Today I did not have to ask. Today did not lack for breathtaking beauty. I got my fill. We visited a friend in Williamsville, in the western mountains of Virginia more than an hour beyond Staunton. Behind her house is this incredible mountain stream. I don’t know the words rich enough to describe it.

mountain stream (2)

Kaileena was not the least concerned with descriptions — she found it to be a perfect natural water slide!

mountain stream K

My adventurous 83-year-old mom walked a hundred yards or so along a not-so-easy mountain path to get to the not-so-easy stone steps leading to a rock to sit on in this little pocket of paradise. Bravo, Mom! She doesn’t want to miss anything either.

When you think a thing is very cool, it’s even cooler when someone else thinks so too. We all were awestruck at the swimming hole and waterfall. We listened to that water rushing over the rocks the way it’s been doing for countless generations. How many kids have slid down that rock the way Kaileena did today? How many beamed like she did every time she landed in the froth?

mountain stream K3 (2)

Rivers like this don’t get old or tired. The water keeps coming, keeps flowing, keeps rushing. Kids keep having fun. Sunflowers keep turning toward the sun. And mushrooms have landed from outer space!

You think the day has given you enough and you are grateful. But it is not finished. On the drive back we watched a mother wild turkey and her two little ones prance across the road in front of us. Many adorable black calves walked closely to their mothers in the green fields of the farms we passed. A raccoon did not see the danger of dawdling along the shoulder of the road. And just as I turned into the driveway, two deer leaped gloriously within our field of vision. Kaileena let out a breathless Ohhhh! as she watched them bound into the forest. I hope she remembers today.

Pies, Galettes, Bread and …Cartwheels?

I have been cooking and baking for a long time. When I was a kid, we always helped my mom make the salad or stir the pot. When I was 16 I got a job at a French restaurant called Picot’s Place in Hamden, Massachusetts, and learned to make Beef Wellington, French onion soup, chocolate mousse and the best omelets ever. I wanted to learn to be a master chef and was accepted to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Before I turned 18 I had worked in the kitchen at a German restaurant, at a country club and, for part of a summer, at a little country inn in Bavaria. Starting in my 20s I made food for my family all the time.

What on earth this has to do with cartwheels is a good question. Getting there…

Today was a baking day with Kaileena, my ten-year-old great niece. She said she wanted to make something like a tart and had mentioned swirl bread as well. A wet front has been coming through our area, so on this rainy July day, we picked up Mom, got what we could from the garden before the skies opened up, and headed for the kitchen. We decided on plum galette and cinnamon swirl bread.

Kaileena has helped make pies at home at Thanksgiving every year but had never made any kind of yeast bread before, not that she remembers anyway. She helps a lot in the kitchen at home, loves watching cooking shows and is very comfortable in the kitchen. Nonetheless, kneading bread dough until it is smooth and elastic, incorporating enough flour but not too much and keeping yourself and the kitchen from becoming a gigantic mess is no minor effort.

Kaileena kneading bread dough

“Wow!” she said upon seeing that her dough had risen the way it is supposed to.

And oh how yummy the bread was, lightly toasted, a few hours later with its delicate swirls and hint of cinnamon…

cinnamon swirl bread.jpg

Rolling out pie dough so that it doesn’t stick to the counter, is the right shape and the right thickness and then transfers nicely to the pie dish takes some doing as well. Kaileena had the distinct advantage (and pleasure!) of working alongside her great-grandma.

Mom and Kaileena rolling out dough

She learned what a galette is – a free form pie, in this case filled with pieces of plum and a few dried cranberries, mixed (as with any fruit pie) with a little sugar for sweetness and flour to bind,

filling galette

and baked to golden brown!

plum galette.jpg

She even learned how to put a lattice top on this little pie (which did not last long)!

plum pie.jpg

Have you ever tried to put a lattice top on a pie? You start with rolling out a piece of the dough as thin as your bottom crust. A tool called a pastry wheel (which we affectionately in my family call a Raedle) is used to cut the dough into thin strips that have a zigzag edge. You start with two strips laid across the middle of the pie at right angles to each other, then add one strip at a time and weave them together working outward – over, under, over, under – and then another strip in the other direction until you have covered the pie. Crimp the edges and into the oven it goes. As they say, easy as pie!

If you have never made a pie, or put a lattice top on a pie, it’s a little like doing a left-handed cartwheel if you have been doing them right-handed or doing a right-handed cartwheel when you have been doing them left-handed – harder than it looks! Or like signing your name with your nondominant hand. Or like walking up stairs backwards or trying to have an intelligent conversation in a foreign language you learned in high school and never quite polished. In my case it’s like using a biscuit joiner – a woodworking tool that has nothing whatsoever to do with making yummy biscuits! I think about how cool it would be to make useful and beautiful things from wood, and I’ve watched other people do it many, many times, but doing it myself is oh so different!

If you do a thing often and are very practiced at it, you develop an ease, a finesse, an effortlessness. I think of Mark doing a drop shot, Brad or Lincoln or Ernie building anything with wood, Marie taking photos, Samuel doing a handstand, Kim holding a preemie, Claudia making jam. It’s easy to forget how many steps are involved when a given skill is broken down, how awkward and slow you (you too!) used to be back when you had not devoted so much time to developing and practicing it.

Doing a cartwheel, for instance, involves lunging with your dominant leg in front, then in one smooth motion putting your hands on the ground shoulder-width apart and turned 90 degrees, kicking your back leg up and over followed by your other leg and landing in a lunge facing the opposite way you started. That’s a lot of steps. Not to mention keeping your weight over your shoulders when you are upside down or keeping your legs straight.

Sure, that’s doable, right? This is Kaileena, who is not a gymnast, in mid-cartwheel on her dominant side.

Kaileena cartwheel

And this is her non-dominant side.

Kaileena cartwheel 2

Wait, what? How do I do this? It felt totally awkward to her, but no amount of awkwardness prevented her from wanting to try it again. And in one short session, that cartwheel improved considerably! Luckily, gymnastics is not a required activity for most of us.

As we get older we see the cycle of learning more clearly. People of any age can be eager and energetic but also fairly clueless about the how-to or the why, and certainly lacking in high levels of skill. Others come along to guide, instruct and encourage.  As learners we get the joy of doing something new, which is not only exciting but also feeds on itself and makes us eager to learn something else new. We also get what it feels like to be the novice so that we don’t get too impatient with the novices when we ourselves are on the guiding side. As guides we get the joy of passing along some of our sometimes-hard-earned knowledge and skill, and seeing someone else enjoy a thing maybe as much as we do, as well as carry forward a method, a style or a tradition.

I love this cycle. I love being in some things on the learning side and in some things on the guiding side. I got to make a beautiful red bench with my uncle’s patient help, and with my help and Mom’s, Kaileena got to make a scrumptious pie. For this happy face, I’ll guide her any day!

Kaileena and pie

Looking Suspicious

This past weekend we were getting ready to pay long-overdue attention to the sign at the end of the driveway. The chicken coop took a good bit of time but is as done as can be until the siding is milled. The garden simply yields its bounty (cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and carrots mostly right now). It is not presently demanding anything of me. But the sign that should look something like this,

Golden Hill sign summer 2015

instead looked like this, and was calling my name. Calling loudly.

entrance5 before (2)

I have been successfully ignoring it for weeks now but it’s pretty bad, I know. Pathetic. Quite unacceptable. How did I let it get this way? Two reasons:

  1. We each get 24 hours in a day. For my whole life I have felt that I could use more hours than that, I would like more, I would have no problem filling more. But I don’t get more. No one does. Lately, to name a few of the things that have occupied my hours: coop, bench, garden, stream bed, company…
  2. The deer frustrated me and I have resisted giving them another free meal. More than once we have put a lot of work into making the area around the sign look pretty with nice flowers carefully tended, and in one night the deer come along and chew it all up. As if we made them a feast on purpose. As if they can’t find enough to eat in the hundreds of acres of woods surrounding my property. As if I want to tend that area again.

But I can’t leave it looking so bad, deer or no deer, and there were these 19 concrete retaining wall blocks that a neighbor didn’t want sitting under the tarp behind the bench begging to be useful. And Kaileena was here, my 10-year-old great niece who says “okay” when I suggest anything at all and said “okay” when I suggested a project that would involve digging. “I like to dig,” she said, and I smiled. After my own heart she is!


We had to take some before pictures, including the one above, because I will feel that much better when all is lovely again. This is where the suspicious part comes in.

“Come stand here with me,” I said. “You should be in the picture because you are helping.” I am holding an elephant ear bulb, in case you are wondering. It will make a gigantic plant that hopefully deer don’t like to eat.

entrance1 before (2)

Kaileena stood with me for the picture. In case you can’t quite see the look on her face, it’s this:

entrance1 before (4)

Is she looking suspiciously at me or what? She might be thinking: “What have I gotten myself into!?”

Perhaps it’s more like, “My sister is right. This lady is weird!”

(Context that I failed to mention previously: Kaileena’s 4-year-old sister Brea looked at me squarely one day last week out of the blue and said matter-of-factly, “You’re weird.” When I pressed her for a reason, as in, “Okay, that’s fair, I know I’m weird, but I’m just curious why you think I’m weird,” she could not elaborate. Darn. Just when I thought light was about to be shed…)

Exactly what is that look on Kaileena’s face?

Interpretation is a funny thing. One time in grad school we were talking about the pre-existing notions people have and how this affects the way we see the world. As an experiment, I brought Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon to the seminar that week and read it aloud. The pictures are incredible. This is the last page.

owl moon

I wondered how different people would interpret the story. For anyone unfamiliar with Owl Moon, I have copied Scholastic’s summary, which I found online just tonight:

A young girl and her father take a nighttime stroll near the farm where they live to look for owls. It is a beautiful night, a moonlit winter night. Bundled tightly against the cold, they trudge through the pristine snow, “whiter than the milk in a cereal bowl.” As they go, hidden in the ink-blue shadows, a fox, a raccoon, a field mouse and a deer watch them pass. A delicate tension builds as the father imitates the great horned owl’s call once without answer, then again. Finally, from out of the darkness “an echo came threading its way through the trees.”

Here I am thinking about interpretation and I discover that even though I have probably read this book more than a hundred times out loud to a child, I have NEVER noticed the fox, the raccoon, the field mouse or the deer watching them pass! Yet that bit is deemed important enough to be included in a hundred-word summary.

The summaries of my fellow grad students were equally interesting. The book is written in first person from the point of view of the child. The pictures are not clear whether that child is male or female, nor does the text make it clear, and I have never been quite sure. Some students’ summaries include mention of the boy who went owling with his father and some of the girl who went. Some interpreted stress on the part of the child, some excitement. Some thought the father was mean to bring her out in the cold.

We cannot help but bring our own lenses to any situation. When we are with people, even people we know well, we do our best to figure out what is really going on around us. Words alone tell us only a small part of what we need to know. We look for signs that are not words — stance, hand gestures, facial expression, tone of voice, softness, stiffness. Most of what underlies the words (and is the real story) — pleasure, displeasure, fear, joy, anger, hope, anxiety – — is presented to us through signs.

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? I could describe the Owl Moon picture above, or the look on Kaileena’s face, all day long, yet you, in one glimpse, understand more than I could tell you in endless words.

Generally we are very good at reading the picture in front of us, whether it involves people or picture books. The written summaries of Owl Moon got the story mostly correct. In everyday life, if we pay attention, if we read the nonverbal clues, we can usually just tell when someone is nervous or upset or bored or tired or whatever. We have a sense that it’s time to leave, or something big is about to happen. We have a gut feeling that it’s better to stay away from this person, or better to stick close to another. We can’t necessarily explain this, we just know it.

But not always.  Sometimes we are wrong. Why is Kaileena looking at me that way?

Best to ask her, don’t you think? So I did.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe I was looking at the dog?”

The dog? What dog? There was no dog.

You mean maybe I asked her to stand for a photo and she got distracted by a dog? She wasn’t looking at me at all?

Sure enough, another look at the original photo reveals…. There was a dog!

entrance1 before

Well, good! At least she wasn’t thinking I am weird!

The Story of the Roast

We all fall into traps. One common trap is the Trap of Must. It’s the one that comes into play when something Must be done this way or Must be said that way or Must happen in this sequence. It could also be called the Trap of Habit. Some habits are not good. Some are. I have a habit of putting coleus in the planter boxes that lead to my front porch. I do this because they always do well there and look really pretty.

The coleus are the ones with the colorful leaves closest to the porch.


This goat has a habit of sticking his head up over the fence of his enclosure.


Why is he doing this? Because he wants food. His chances are better that someone visiting Yoder’s will come along and give him some if he sticks his head out and lets everyone see those big eyes. Experience has taught him this.

Coco has a habit of coming to you with her one-legged monkey (one-legged because she tore the other leg off), standing there, staring at you and expecting you to know what to do. Play with her. Just play.

Coco and monkey

The habit of play is good, assuming you make it a habit. Mom came with Jerry yesterday and taught me and Kaileena a new game called Phase 10. Sandy joined us even though he is generally very bad at games and habitually avoids them. (He ended up dominating completely!)

In it you have to put your cards together to make runs and sets such as a run of 4 like 2-3-4-5 (and they don’t even have to be the same colors in this game) or a set like three 10s or four 6s. Sometimes you want to make sets and sometimes you want to make runs, and sometimes a combination. The card on top of the discard pile might be just the one you need, but sometimes someone else takes it because it’s their turn or they put a card on top of it, burying it forever from usefulness. This is maddening of course.

Say you are on the “phase” of the game where you have to make one run of four and one set of four. Until you manage to make this, you cannot proceed to the next phase. As happens in games that involve some skill but mostly luck, you sometimes get stuck. Jerry found himself continually able to make a run of three or a run of four, but his cards did not seem to want to make sets. He cracked us all up when he blurted out (clearly without considering the alternate meaning), “I seem to get the runs easily.”

I plant the coleus because they look pretty, the goat stretches his neck in hopes of food, Coco comes with her monkey because she wants to play, and Jerry gets the runs easily!

playing phase 10

The world is complicated and our lives are full. We go about our days and weeks and years on autopilot sometimes. As long as those planter boxes are there, I will automatically think of coleus when the time comes to plant pretty things every spring. That goat will look longingly at every last visitor to Yoder’s: You have food for me, right? Coco will come to you at least three times a day with the monkey (or the fox or the giraffe or whichever toy she has not yet torn to pieces — and fyi, no matter what they are, they are all called monkey, no point confusing the poor dog). Jerry’s runs, even though they were by chance – to say nothing of hilarious – did happen over and over and somehow got me to thinking about habits, which is how I got to this topic.

Every once in a while, it is good to think about why we do what we do. Autopilot has its merits. We do a thing because we’ve always done it. We do a thing a certain way because we’ve always done it that way. We have enough to think about, too much to think about, and being able to do some things without really thinking about them is useful.

But not always. Sometimes we do things blindly with no good reason. We just do them because someone said to do it that way or we always just did. Which brings me to The Story of the Roast.

A woman was preparing dinner one day and her daughter watched her cut the end off the piece of meat before putting it in the roasting pan. The girl said, “Mommy, why do you cut the end off the meat like that?”

The woman said, “I don’t know. My mother always did.”

The next time the woman visited her mother, she said, “Mom, a question for you. Why do you cut the end off the meat when you make a roast?”

The mother said, “I don’t know. My mother always did.”

The next time the woman visited her grandmother, she said, “Grandma, a question for you. Why did you always cut the end off the meat when you made a roast?”

Grandma said, “My pan was too small.”

See? Blind habit. Only the first generation had good reason to cut the end off the piece of meat. Subsequent generations had different pans.

There might be very good reason for all of the things you do. There might not. Just think about it.

Flexibility in Cooking, Baking and Other-Food-Making

As I was about to embark on a post about the best brownies in the world, I remembered that I don’t actually have the right pan and would have to explain that. The last time I made them I also didn’t have the right kind of chocolate, but they came out heavenly just the same. I have always known that when I cook I often fudge a bit. I’m going to give credit to (or lay blame on, however you choose to look at this) two women and one magazine. If a woman wrote the magazine article, then three women:

  1. My mother. She did something I have never been able to do. As a child I watched her make meatballs, a common sight. First she put all the various ingredients in the bowl: ground beef, squeezed bread – we will come back to that – eggs, “grating cheese,” parsley, salt and pepper. Then she took her rings off and placed them to the side and mixed the gooky stuff together with her hands. Mushing the whole eggs into the meat and the bread and squishing it all together did not gross me out, but when it was all together (no visible bread lumps, even distribution of green parsley bits, uniform coloring) she took up a little with her fingers and ate it! That always seemed gross to me, still does. But she said How else can I know there is enough salt in it?
  2. Bon Appetit. I have not been able to find the exact article, but in my early twenties I subscribed to this magazine and clearly remember being magnificently empowered in the kitchen when reading about “The Best Tool in the Kitchen.” Your hands! Use them for measuring, it said, as in a teaspoon of salt in your palm or a handful of spinach for the quiche. For mixing, as in my mother mushing the meat, bread, eggs and cheese together to make the meatloaf mixture. For checking if your oven or your pan has reached the right temperature (you don’t actually touch it, you just get close). For kneading, as in glorious, therapeutic kneading of a hefty amount of yeast dough. For pressing, as in pressing the chocolate cookie crumb crust against the bottom and sides of a pan so you can make chocolate lime pie or pressing graham cracker crust for cheesecake. For crimping, as in pie crust around the edge of the pie plate. For spreading, as in the light distribution of crumb topping on a strawberry tea cake. You get the idea.
  3. M.F.K. Fisher. A food writer before there was such a thing, this woman’s collection of personal reflections includes a story called “A Predilection for Lame Ducks,” which is ostensibly about her father, but features a tramp named Charles. The butterscotch that Charles made was unlike anything her family had ever had – perfect, perfect every time, perfect even to her mother’s exacting expectations – and the story reveals his secret, which does not exactly make for a happy ending. This story affirmed for me that cooking is connected to the human who does the cooking, and I like it that way. This perhaps explains my aversion to the very idea of food being “processed” in a manufacturing facility. The personal, amazing, human touch is a marvel I’d like to celebrate and encourage.

MFK Fisher

The bottom line is that cooking, baking and other-food-making have an inherent flexibility to them. When my mom got ready to make meatballs, she first had to open the package of meat. When I was a child, before the Shop-Rite supermarket was built, there was still a butcher shop in town. The butcher weighed the amount of meat you asked for on a scale that hung – shallow metal bowl on one side, counterweight on the other – and then wrapped it in a waxy paper and tied it with red and white string. She might have said “and a pound of ground beef” to the man (it was always a man in there) and just like the experienced people who work at deli counters everywhere, he came pretty darn close to a pound on his first try. He knew what a pound looks like. If we were having company for dinner, she might say, “a little more today, please” and when it looked like the right amount to her, he wrapped it up.

This is the kind of string I mean. They still use it at a lot of places, including Mike’s Pastry, a terrific cannoli place in the North End of Boston. The delicious cannolis are long gone, but the string brings me back.

red string.jpg

Later when Mom bought ground beef at Shop-Rite, she took a package from the refrigerated case. These were marked to the hundredth of a pound, maybe 1.03 pounds or 1.13 pounds. If she needed “a little more” maybe she bought 1.37 pounds, or to make enough to be able to freeze some, maybe 2.41 pounds. Correspondingly, the quantity of squeezed bread, grating cheese, eggs and salt and pepper had to be adjusted, all of which she did by eye, by feel, by (ugh) taste.

When she made what we fondly and invariably called “sauce” (i.e. the tomato-based red sauce for pasta that included meat), sometimes she started by browning up some Italian sausage in the pot – great extra flavor and yummy on the side later — and sometimes, if she had it left from another meal, she threw in the bone from a lamb roast or a pork roast. From my mother, early on, I learned that flexing a little on the ingredients adds variety, enhances the flavors and uses up leftovers in a good way. I also learned not to be intimidated when you are forced to flex because you don’t have something on hand. If she was running low on the grating cheese and had only half the amount she wanted, she just added a little more salt.

You can be flexible with pans too. In the early days I eyeballed whether or not the pan I had would hold about the same as the pan that was called for. You can use math for this as well. Last year I was translating a brownie recipe for some friends in Germany and remembered that they don’t necessarily have 8-inch square pans. Springform pans are more common there than here. So what size springform pan would hold the same amount of brownie batter as an 8×8? You just have to do the math (then convert to centimeters, but okay, this is still basic math). Your brownies might be a little thicker or a little thinner, but as the Germans might say, “ist egal”: It doesn’t matter.

In the short run being flexible makes for less driving (fewer trips to the store for the one thing you don’t have) and in the long run for less stress and maybe even better results. You don’t have pickle relish but you do have pickles? Not a big deal — chop up the pickles. Maybe you decide you like it with a little more texture. You don’t have any of the homemade vanilla that you love to use in your banana bread? It won’t be exactly the same but you can use the extract you bought in a grocery store. (Next time you’ll remember the homemade stuff!) You have only two carrots for your soup and it calls for three? It’s not the end of the world. Pretend your carrots are bigger than usual. You had to substitute Jarlsberg for domestic swiss in your quiche? You might find (I suspect will find) it’s actually better that way.

By extension, life also has an inherent flexibility to it. Working with food in the kitchen helped me learn that. Things don’t always go the way you think, you don’t always have what you need, people don’t always come through the way you wish you sometimes have to wiggle your way to the end goal. Ist egal. You learn to do the best you can with what you have in the time you have it.

Plastic on the Floor

The first time I met Raffaele, he was on a work exchange from Italy with IBM, in town for a few weeks and (I was sure) missing his wife and three girls. In my 20-something, half Italian mind, it was a natural assumption that he might like to come to dinner because in my family it was all about the food. Which was normal, especially for Italians, right?

This happened thirty years ago. I don’t remember what time of year it was, nor what I cooked that night. But I do remember one extraordinary thing Raffaele said.

Right about then we were needing a new kitchen floor. Things had gotten to the point where I had been to the flooring store and brought home several samples of high grade vinyl. I emphasize that this was not the really cheap stuff. Nor was it bad looking. I don’t have pictures of it. You’ll see why.

It seemed to me a reasonable point of conversation after dinner. Why not get Raffaele’s opinion on the flooring samples? It was something to talk about. These were the big, stiff pieces with patterns both classic and up-to-date. One by one I showed them to him. “What do you think, Raffaele? Which one is your favorite?”

He did not choose one. He did not choose any. He simply asked, “Why do Americans always want to put plastic on their floors?”

It had never occurred to me to put anything other than vinyl on a kitchen floor. Everyone’s kitchen floor was vinyl. Everyone’s I knew. I was taken aback by his question. Not offended, just taken aback. There are other options?

Well, of course there are other options. Unsurprisingly, vinyl did not win out over the others which I opened my mind to. The white ceramic tile with black grouting that we subsequently chose and installed ourselves turned out to be a far cry better. It stood up to the traffic in our busy house (four kids, then five, two dogs, lots of company), cleaned up easily and looked really nice.

I was ever afterwards always grateful that he had had the guts to ask the question. Someone else might not have tried to tell me I was on the wrong track, might not have risked offending me. But no matterwe got a much better floor. Raffaele made my little world a little bigger that evening. He stretched me, got me outside the box, encouraged something better. Looking back, I wonder if I even knew I was in a box – a vinyl box! Maybe I was open to his question because some little voice inside me said It’s okay, you can step out, stretching is good, there are other ways to accomplish this goal. And something better came. In the end, something way better.

This is not just about kitchen flooring. If a box you are in gets in the way (or might get in the way) of a better you or a better something you are working on – whether a project or a perspective or a relationship – maybe you should step out too. I know it’s safe (or safer) in the box. I know there are reasons to stay in it, sometimes very good reasons. You know it too. We are comfortable in the box. Stretching can hurt. Stretching can be super challenging. But we miss a lot if we stay in the box. The world is huge and amazing and full of endless possibilities. Combine an open mind (including the ability to admit you were on the wrong track), careful use of resources, thoughtful decisions and intelligent execution of the better choice, and you’ll get something you had never imagined could be so good. Besides, if you stay in the box it gets boring. And unboring is key, remember that.

Back then, we got something much better than a much better kitchen floor. We got the start of a lifelong friendship. Raffaele and Marisa and their girls later came for a year-long stint, and we had great times together. A few years after that we visited them in Italy. They took us to Milan, Venice and Lake Como. A few years later, we went again, and again. Talk about stretching! Different cultures are different — norms are different, food is different, habits are different. Ways of making a bed, what people eat for breakfast, how they serve a meal or decorate a house, what their mailboxes and their cars look like, what the street vendors sell, what kind of trees grow in their yard, how they react when the unexpected happens, how they prepare for the weather, when they rest, what they take along on an outing… So much to learn, so much to see, so much to enjoy.

Last week, Raffaele and Marisa came to visit me. They had never been to Virginia before, so they got stretched a little too. I remembered that they don’t eat meat and made them my Italian grandmother’s “Italian Ham Pie” with spinach instead of ham. And I made the best brownies in the world because I know they love brownies. Marisa thoughtfully brought me tortellini stuffed with prosciutto! This I have never seen for sale here. We caught up with all the latest about our children.

We walked downtown,20180712_114452

had lunch,


visited Monticello,


played with chickens,chicken

and laughed and laughed some more.

During their short but wonderful-beyond-words visit, I thought about what I (and my family) might have missed if just two things had been different. What if I had not invited Raffaele to dinner in the first place all those years ago? (I might never have met him or his wonderful wife and daughters.) And what if I had decided to take offense at his question? (Our beautiful friendship might not have developed, might not exist.)

About this Italian ham pie and these brownies: you are sure (and you are right) that they are both very delicious. I will show you how to make everything, crust and all, if you promise to 1. invite someone over for dinner sometime soon, maybe someone new to your area, and 2. assume the best (about their words, behavior and intentions) unless you have very good reason not to.

The Cookbook Comes Out

I grew up in the era of television commercials. One of my favorites was for Almond Joy and Mounds: Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t! I don’t eat nuts at all, and even if you took the almond off the top of the Almond Joy I would not eat it, though I am fairly sure it is exactly the same dark chocolate covered coconut underneath as Mounds is. I would eat Mounds endlessly if only there were not a price to pay for such a delicious indulgence.

I find it’s the same with living in the country. Sometimes you feel like going outside and getting yourself busy with something that is likely to involve wheelbarrows, garden gloves and sweating. Some days I wake up and can hardly wait to get out there. Yesterday I was so anxious to get going (on weeding of all things! It had rained, okay? and I knew the ground was soft, and I had guests coming, and it would get hot later…) that I got dressed in my grubbies before even taking the dog out, then just stayed out there weeding after she did her thing. She stood next to me for that hour with a look on her face that clearly said: This is not the way this works. We get up, we go out, I do my thing, we go back in, you feed me breakfast, then you do whatever else you want. What’s up with messing with the routine? Hungry here! Starving! Wasting away!

Needless to say, she survived the wait. When we went out after breakfast, she came again, this time standing there with the look that said: Yes, great, my belly is full, but do you really expect me to lay down on these stones? I went and got the old pink towel that doubles as a soft outside blanket for her (which of us is well trained!?), put it in the middle of the driveway where she would be near but not underfoot, and watched her lay down and look up at me with her That’s more like it face.

Coco on towel

But sometimes you don’t feel like going outside. Today I had no such drive. It was a pleasant morning just the same as yesterday, cool enough, calm, lovely. I wasn’t put off by the coyotes howling somewhere in the distance. I didn’t feel overly tired or sore. There is plenty to do out there (and there will be for the rest of my days!). But my inner voice said No, today is a good day to bake!

My 10-year-old great niece Kaileena is coming for a visit with her 4-year-old sister Brea, her mom (my niece Erika) and her grandma (my sister Lynn). I was thinking yesterday about what Kaileena and I will do together next week when the others have gone to North Carolina. I was thinking about baking. We will make pizza together for sure, and maybe crackers (some of you might remember my cracker post from a few years ago – I have a hankering for those again!).

But before they come, some baking would be good. Think about how you feel when you go visit a family member or a friend and they have baked for you or prepared yummy food of any kind for you. That’s how I want my friends and family to feel. Besides, good neighbors of mine brought me some scrumptious lemon bars this past Saturday and I want to give the container back, but with something in it. Many years ago, my friend Kim told me that she and her mom had a plate that went back and forth between them a number of times because neither one wanted to give an empty plate back to the other. I always liked this idea, so I will put something yummy in Jen’s container.

Like anyone who is comfortable in the kitchen, I have some old stand-by, tried-and-true recipes for sweet things that time and again I find myself falling back on. Why? Because they are good! Chocolate chip bars, for instance. Strawberry tea cake. Oatmeal cookies. Sour cream coffee cake – oh, with blueberries in it at this time of year! That won’t fit in Jen’s container very well though. And two children are coming…

I settled on chocolate chip bars, which I made countless times over the years, so many times that the recipe was clearly in my head. I said was because I was a little disappointed in myself this morning in that I was slightly unsure of the amount of butter (Rule Number One: Always use real butter). Being unsure meant that I had to take the cookbook out.

THE cookbook.

Back in the day everyone had a cookbook, everyone I knew anyway. Well, some people had a little file box with 5×7 recipe cards in it, but that system never worked for me. You write recipes on a scrap of paper sometimes, or the back of an envelope, and scraps don’t fit well in a file box. Here is one example from my book. Believe it or not, this is a recipe:

scalloped potatoes

Mario Da Silva was the Villa lunch chef at Keswick Hall for years. He verbalized this recipe to me and I scrawled it out (clearly in a hurry!). It says

Scalloped Potatoes (Mario Da Silva)

3 onions

chop fine

4-5 cloves garlic

fine chop

olive oil    saute    S&P

(What is the difference between “chop fine” and “fine chop”? You tell me!)

heavy cream

mozz cheese

when sticky    stop


set aside

slice potatoes



in pan

spoon of sauce


mozz on top

parsley on top


That makes sense, right? I’ve made these potatoes several times. They are my mother’s favorite.  Mario now works as the Executive Chef at the Holiday Inn in Sarasota, Florida. If you are in Sarasota, go eat there. Trust me. I never saw a chef get more accolades! And he’s cute besides! (Hello, Mario and Mary!)

My cookbook is in a three-ring binder using plastic sleeves. That way, whatever slip of paper or card a recipe is on, I can find a way for it to fit. For the most part, the recipes written in the standard way, with a list of ingredients followed by instructions. The style of Mario’s potato recipe is the exception (you knew that).

I love so many things about my cookbook. Back in the day I had two smaller notebooks instead of one bigger one. I had one for BREADS CAKES / PIES COOKIES and one for EVERYTHING ELSE. Guess you know where my priorities were! I covered the notebooks the way we used to cover our schoolbooks with brown paper bags cut to fit, except I had book cover paper that had been a giveaway at a Ben & Jerry’s stand at the fair one summer in the mid 90s.

The paper was so colorful and fun. We lived in Vermont then and Ben & Jerry’s was still a local business. I loved my cookbooks covered in this paper:

ben and jerry 2

When I made cookbooks for each of my children about ten years ago, I didn’t have any more Ben & Jerry’s paper, so I scanned the last image in The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, retold and illustrated by Lorinda Bryan Cauley. It is one of my favorite images from when my children were small and I used to read to them (a lot).  I think it made a great cover for a cookbook.


The text just prior to this image says: “Then off he went to his snug little home in the fields, whistling a tune and looking forward to a good book by the fire and a mug of hot barley-corn soup.” The cozy chair, the tea kettle on the stove, the cinnamon swirl bread in the oven (just like I made many times!), the soft lighting … I can almost smell that bread!

Inside my cookbook is a collection from many years of trading and finding good recipes. Many are handwritten, which is precious in its own way. One look at the recipe and I know who gave it to me, even if their name is not on it. I see Lyn Boyce’s handwriting, my daughter Marie’s from when she was a teenager, my son Samuel’s, my mom’s, my grandmother’s, my sister Lynn’s, Kim’s, Claudia’s, Anett’s, Crissie’s, Marisa’s, Judy’s, Margaret’s, Eileen’s, and Mario’s (not quite as challenging to follow as my scrawl, but close!).

This is really good soup, by the way. Don’t you love it: “…PLUS 1 GALLON WATER… SALT PEPPER AS YOU WISH. AFTER EVERYTHING IS COOKED, JUST BLEND IT.” You know what that means, right? That means a blender, a few scoopfuls at a time. Did I mention that this is really good soup? And see, not everything in my cookbook has sugar in it!

Mario's yam soup

Handwriting is a reflection of personality and individuality, as unique to every person as their voice or their laugh. How blessed am I to have such a collection! I also see recipes cut from the side of packages or from magazines, printed from emails, hand-copied from other cookbooks, typed on an old typewriter. I see smudges, stains on the paper (from pre-plastic-sleeve days), translations (from some of the German recipes), even notes to me, like these:

Claudia's fettuccini (2)

Marisa's handwriting (2)

There is nothing in the world like the combination of good food together with friends and family. You can make all the amazing dishes you want, but if you don’t share with people you care about, something is missing. Sharing good recipes is not as fun as being with people you love and eating the food that good recipes make, but it’s right up there.

Back to the chocolate chip bars. The recipe (below) says Chocolate Chip Cookies. I haven’t made it as cookies in years. Bars are easier. You put all the dough (no need to grease the pan) in a 9×13 pan. I don’t know why it says 15×10 at the bottom of the recipe – ignore that! Spread it out and bake until golden brown on top, maybe 25-30 minutes, I’m not sure. You tell it’s done by the color, not too dark, not too light. When it has cooled, you cut them up however big you want them.

With bars, you also achieve a more reliable goo-factor — you know, when they are still fresh and the chocolate (which melts together more in bars) is so soft it’s gooey, even kind of a mess. Almost heaven. Almost because, like Mounds, there is a price to pay. Then again, life is short. Every now and then, by all means, pay up.

This recipe is so old, it’s from my pre-must-use-butter days. You see it calls for shortening, which I don’t even have in my cabinet any more. That’s part of the charm of it for me though. I look at the recipe and remember when I kept a cardboard can of white fatty stuff, and I used it! The flavor with butter is so superior, to say nothing of shortening being a mystery food for me, and I like to know what I’m eating: What is that white fatty stuff and what do they have to do to make it? We need to see our own progress sometimes to be reminded of how far we’ve come. It’s like finding some hideous shirt in my closet and thinking I used to wear that?! Then again, sometimes the shirt is hidden for a long time and years later I find it and say, Hey, look at that nice shirt! Maybe I’ll come around to shortening again too.

I always wondered about the half teaspoon of water – could it really make a difference?  What if the eggs are bigger than usual? Might that not be at least half a teaspoon of water difference in the overall amount of liquid going in? But I always put the water in anyway. Some things you just do.

This is the only recipe in my entire book with sections circled and numbered, which I clearly did after the fact. I think I did this in an attempt to tell someone (one of my children maybe?) what order to do it in. Sorry for any confusion. 1. Combine butter, sugars, vanilla and water and beat till smooth. 2. Beat in eggs. 3. Add dry ingredients (I never combine them first any more) and stir them in. 4. Stir in package of chips.

You can add a handful of old fashioned oats if you want. This adds texture and makes them a little easier to justify. A couple shakes of cinnamon is wonderful too. Or add some chopped nuts, let’s say half a cup, if you like nuts. Walnuts might be good, I’m not entirely sure. Nut-eaters could tell you better.

I could type out this recipe, but it wouldn’t be the same.

choc chip bars