Tag Archives: grandkids

Cooking with Kayla

We’re in a deep freeze here in my neck of the woods. Frigid temps all last week. I believe it was a ridiculous 3 degrees when I got up this morning. BW lets me know how vicious the cold every day when he gets home. Fortunately for me, I work at home, and had a good, solid, warm writing week.
I ain’t going out there till I have to.
Poor guy even had to go out on Saturday, twice. Me? I had a stellar Saturday in the kitchen, cooking with my 13-year-old granddaughter. Kayla has a fresh and fun interest in learning to cook, and I’m delighted to have the time and opportunity to tutor her. In fact, Friday night when her mom and brothers came for dinner, I served as her sous chef, and had her make the bulk of the meal. And very well, too.
But Saturday gave us the whole day.
I’d decided on chicken and dumplings. It’s really cold, and who doesn’t like some comfort food in February? Since my girl came up mid-morning we pretty much dived right into the day. After she–claiming starvation–ate a bowl of three bean and ham soup I had leftover from earlier in the week.
I show her an easy marinade–just Italian dressing and white wine. And while the chicken’s soaking that up, we decide we should bake something. She looks through my personal cookbook, finds my mother’s outstanding sour cream pound cake. I don’t have any sour cream in the house, it seems, but it goes on the list for next time. I think, when we make that pound cake, there will be three generations in my kitchen.
But today, we settle (ha!) for chocolate chip cookies.
I’m reminded as I now serve as the cookbook, sitting back and letting her do it all, of first guiding her little hands through the process, and the mess made when she was surely no more than two. Now she’s as tall as I am, so grown up, and I’ll just say: Now add this. She’ll measure it out, say: Is this right, Nana? As I give her the nod, I imagine her baking in her own kitchen one day, and hope she’ll remember lessons at Nana’s.
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Naturally we have to sample the cookies, warm from the oven, and I love she’s excited she’ll take a bunch of them home, surprise her family. I love she’s excited for Grandda to get home and find cookies (one of his favorite things) she baked. When he does, his reaction is just what she was after.
But now BW is starving, and gets out the left-overs from Friday night’s dinner. Which prompts Kayla into starvation yet again. So it’s warm up some pork loin, roasted potatoes and carrots, some herbed up steamed broccoli. She has two servings. I don’t know where she puts it. She’s my height, 5’4″ (though I have a quarter inch more than that, she’s really anxious to beat) and weighs 90 pounds.
The very first time I saw her, in the warmer in the hospital after birth, I thought: Oh, look at you, my long, lanky girl. That hasn’t changed. She’s all leg, slim as a wand. And eats like a stevedore.
Now it’s time to head into the main meal. I didn’t have a whole chicken, as I’d usually use, but am adapting to the boneless, skinless chicken breasts I do have, so I have her use my handy-dandy multi-tool (shout out to Laura for telling me about this wonder) and mince up some garlic, which she sautes in olive oil. I have her add a whole carton of chicken stock and a good dose of white wine. Then herbs–some harvested from my garden and in freezer bags. This interests her, the little cubes of frozen herbs. In they go. I’ve run out of my own rosemary, so show her how to crunch up the dried herb with her fingers. Salt, pepper, so on. Stir it up! Add the chicken. This is my job as she refuses to touch raw meat, something she’ll get over one day.
I have her use the wonderful multi tool, dice up carrots and potatoes–let’s add some hearty to the comfort. She adds them in, and while they’re simmering along, we sit, talk, surf the web for dresses for her Eighth-Grade Formal this spring. We just hang out awhile.
And as she objects to touching the cooked chicken, I show her how I shred it. But she does slide it off the cutting board and back into the pot. She hangs with Grandda awhile, helps me with a couple chores as the aroma of cooking fills the kitchen.
I tell her how to make the slurry with flour and water for thickening the broth, how to add it, stir it. When it’s time, I sit back again, telling her how to make the dumplings. Is this right, Nana? You bet–exact measurements are not my thing when it comes to cooking. The girl loves dumplings, and gets a charge out of making them, out of just dropping them into the simmering stew in the pot. And how they change with the cooking until we have a very pretty pot of chicken and dumplings on the stove.
She asks how the dumpling mix still on her fingers will taste. You won’t like it. (It’s not like cookie dough!) But she has to try. Then drink a very large glass of milk to get rid of the taste.
Now I’m starving. The two of us each have a bowl of the meal we’ve made together, and we’re very happy with the results. She wants to take some home, so I tub some up, bag up a bunch of cookies.
When she leaves, she hugs me–she’s a champion hugger–and says: Thank you for letting me cook, Nana. Thank you for loving me.
That’s my long, lanky girl, and I’m honored, truly, to know I’m not just teaching her to cook, but showing her cooking is love.

Winter Week

In winter, I typically take the way of the bear and hibernate. My form of hibernation equals socking in, staying home, working. And on weekends starting in January, doing my annual full-house purge.
Last week wasn’t at all typical for this bear.
Monday I played hooky. Not much can pull me out of hibernation and into the world. Star Wars is an exception. The prospect of hitting a matinee–IMax, 3D–of the new installment of one of my all time favorite franchises? No-brainer. So BW and I headed out into the cold, met up with Jason–Kat, who’d set this all up, had to work (but she’s already seen it twice)–Laura and Laura’s husband, snagged some popcorn and settled down.
No spoilers, so I’ll just say I loved every minute, right from the first note of the iconic opening theme to the roll of credits. I will ask why, does anyone know why, a group of people would choose to sit directly behind another group of people in a HUGE theater that’s nearly empty? And then regularly push or kick the back of my chair? I have no answer for this.  (Laura’s note:  loved, loved, loved the movie.  I was further down from the kicker so the annoyance for me was the eating/crackling of paper in the quiet moments.  Eat during galactic explosions!!! NR and I are a pair.)
In any case, I enjoyed my playing-hooky day tremendously.
Mid-week, I had a routine annual screening–the medical sort–all good there. But another venture into the cold rather than being attached to my keyboard. And that evening yet another trip out to watch my grandson’s first chorus concert. Absolutely adorable.
As it happened, our Logan proved to be quite a trooper, as it turned out he was running hot. So the next day, with a 101 temp, he snuggled into Nana’s bed. I know how to work around a sick boy, got plenty done while keeping him fed and entertained. Plus I had a spanking new DVD of The Martian, which made him very happy. Because it was a short school day, his sister came up mid-afternoon. So a short work day for me. Kayla agreed to help me with dinner–her little brother was coming up later, and we’d send food home to their mom, who had whatever bug Logan had.
I decided rather than letting her help me, I’d play sous chef and instructor. We both really enjoyed me walking her through making scalloped ham and potatoes, with a side of roasted carrots. Both dishes the gang enjoys.
And she did a terrific job of it.
It’s incredibly satisfying to pass recipes down the generations, tutor a grandchild in basic cooking skills. She has good instincts on top of it–more satisfaction. And asked if I’d make her a cookbook with my recipes. That’s a big pleasure, and something I’ll spend some Saturday putting together for her. I have many of my mother’s, and my father’s recipes in my book. Whenever I cook one of their dishes, they’re right there in the kitchen with me. I like to think when Kayla uses mine, the same holds true.
I freely admit, that I ended the day by conking out by ten p.m.
But Saturday, after my workout, the purge began. And began in earnest in my office byclearing out dozens of old research books I’ve held onto for far too long. Many were ridiculously out of date, and while I still have more dozens, I lean heavy on the internet anyway.
Office shelves
My office and my one-more-room are purged and organized. And my embarrassment of a hall closet is an embarrassment no more. I confess, without shame, to being a scarf slut. I still can’t figure out how I still have three tubs full of them on my closet shelf when I filled an entire bag with what I’ll pass on.
A good Saturday start. BW hauled out boxes and bags of donations, and I have more bags for the annual clothes swap. And Laura and Kayla can have a grudge match over the scarves. (Laura’s note:  I can take her!)


Vegetable soup
Rosemary sourdough bread
Sunday, cold with snow flurries, means making soup and baking bread. (Note from Laura:  I know Nora cooks soup the way I do — with what’s on hand and to suit my taste — so there’s not going to be a recipe. ) A hearty vegetable soup in this case, with beans and pasta, and a couple rounds of rosemary sour dough bread. And since I was hooked to the kitchen, it was a good time to purge and organize that area. I can now open doors and drawers in the areas addressed this weekend without shuddering. That’s a good deal.
The better one is knowing I can now begin my hibernation. I have a clear week, intend to fully hunker down. And I’m hoping nothing and no one tries to poke the bear.

Ring Out, Ring In

Around here we say goodbye to the old year by cooking, baking, slicing, dicing, and setting up for our annual New Year’s Day bash. The bash rings in the new.
I think it’s a fine way to spend the last day of the year–at home, with some wonderful helping hands, making tons of food. By ten I have over 120 meatballs simmering, two big-ass hams in the oven and a pot of red beans going.
My sweet Kayla is the first to arrive for kitchen duty. At thirteen she’s gotten the hang of things, and I have a couple of dishes earmarked for her. She always makes the bread pudding, from a recipe passed down from my father’s side. And I’ve taught her how to make pasta salad. She’ll also make the brownies for the chocolate trifle. She’s on it. It’s fun for me to have this time with her, with her chatting away, making food, and eating far too many cookies.
The finished trifle on the right of the side board.
Kat and Jason arrive next and dive right in. The dogs are mostly banished outside, and Parker doesn’t appreciate it. They manage to sneak in, must be banished again. Logan heads up to help with manly set up. And Laura arrives to help out. I’ve boiled three dozen eggs to devil. My girls are all over the peeling of same. And the chopping of many, many raw veggies for a crudite.
These were gone within an hour of the start of the party.
The results of Laura’s chop and Kat’s presentation.
We cook, stir–Kat is doing BW a solid by keeping up with the dishes. We chop and bake, and hey, it’s the last day of the year so we pop some champagne while we work.
Finished food must be stuffed into refrigerators, and when room runs out put outside on the deck–HIGH where certain dogs can’t get to it.
By evening Laura heads home, as do the kids. Jason and Kat will stay the night and be here to help in the morning. More champagne, and watching the ball drop. (Anyone else notice Ryan Seacrest has elf ears? Just wondering.)
I’m up early as there are things to do on the day. Like an enormous Waldorf salad–or my version thereof. I tell Kat when I see it’s nearly 11–and the party starts at 1–that every year I think I’ve budgeted my time well, and every year I wonder where the morning’s gone. But we get it all done. Pre-made food warming in the oven or on the stove, platters and bowls hauled in, set out. Kat’s artistic arrangements of veggies and cheeses, the bar set and stocked and so on. And I manage to get out of my pjs and dressed with about ten minutes to spare.

Just a few of Nora’s champagne glasses.
We didn’t have a full house. We had a bulging house. I think when the holiday falls on a Friday or Saturday people are more inclined not just to come but to hang out. And we did hang, cheerfully.

The gracious hosts just before the crowd descended.
It’s so good to have a day with friends, family, with kids running around, dogs wandering around, with food being devoured and enjoyed. After the party gets going I do about ten pounds of spiced shrimp. I think we have a little sandwich baggie of that left and a few scraps of ham. My pals JoAnne and Larry always bring a big pot of crab soup. We have one little serving left so BW can have it for lunch. Otherwise, those bowls, platters, casseroles and serving dishes were pretty much empty by the end of the party.
The new year started off with an appetite–which is satisfying for the cooks.
Good food, good friends, some sparkling beverages and a lot of noise. It’s a great way to write the first page on the story of a new year, as spending time in the kitchen with my girls was a great way to write the last page on the old.
Now I’m packing for a week at the spa, where there will be NO cooking for me!! 
Here’s wishing you all the happiest, healthiest, and most loving of new years.

‘Twas The Weekend Before Christmas…

And all through the house, kids are on a sugar high. That’s what happens here when we have our annual cookie-baking extravaganza.
It’s a day for fun and for not worrying about the dentist or caloric intake. Besides, I planned to hit the gym afterward, knowing my gang had to leave by three as my oldest grandson had a basketball game.
I mentioned to my granddaughter I’d make the sugar cookie dough early so it would have its time in the fridge before rolling. She immediately objected–but, but, but, we like making that dough, too.
Okay then.
Sugar cookie dough starts the day, with everybody taking turns. You got to put in the butter, I get to put in the sugar! Many years of experience has taught me how to manage all this, down to supervising how a five-year-old cracks an egg. (Messily.)IMG_1242
While that dough’s chilling, we opt for a double batch of the crowd favorite–chocolate chip. It’s an assembly line from the measuring and mixing to the dropping and the baking. And then to the most important element.
The taste testing. We all agree we can’t inflict inferior cookies on the world, so we will throw ourselves on our sword and sample.
They passed the audition. More than once.
It’s onto a new-for-us cookie. Kayla had asked if we could do the Hershey Kiss Blossoms. Sure we can, so BW was tasked with getting the kisses. He initially brought home the mint ones by mistake. So now we’ll make two new kinds. There’s a lot of fun here rolling dough balls in colored sugar, unwrapping kisses, putting them on warm baked cookies.
These, too, passed the test.
Onto the more traditional peanut butter blossoms, and we rolled these in gold sugar or white sugar.
The mess by now is awesome.
We must break for lunch–even an indulgent nana has to get some actual food in these kids. I’m amazed when the five-year-old wants seconds of actual food. Where is he putting all this?
An extended break for another tradition in our house on baking day. The early Christmas gift. I held this off until after actual food, despite many pleas. That single gift–always something relatively small–causes near desperation.
Then it’s time for the crescendo.
Out comes the sugar cookie dough and the cookie cutters, and the little plastic bowls along with the food coloring Kayla has purged and organized. We mix the paint–it’s just that food coloring and evaporated milk.
I roll, they cut, they paint. Much discussion on which they HAVE to eat themselves. I bake. Multiple times. We have color, weird art, festive shapes, and–of course–a taste test.
We’ve done it all, in the five hours allotted, and my gang heads off with a big bag of cookies, early gifts and happy faces for the basketball game. I tin up a variety for our Christmas visit with BW’s family on Sunday.
BW and I clean up the awesome mess. Awesomely happy mess. I, however, wonder what I was thinking when I planned to workout after the marathon.
I have a really big glass of wine instead, and a cookie.
That’s a happy holiday tradition!
I hope you all enjoy your own.