My love affair with shortbread began seven years ago with my first bite of a homemade heart-shaped cookie that melted in my mouth. Rich, buttery dough had been packed into cast-iron heart-shaped molds and baked until they were set but not brown. The cookies had been made by my daughter-in-law's family using a recipe provided by their good friend, Laura. They were prepared just in time to be served at the reception that would rejoice the marriage of my younger son and his new wife.
For years, I've stayed far away from fish. I didn't prepare it or serve it and I would never even consider ordering it at a restaurant. I'm not fond of that "fishy" flavor that I thought all fish naturally carried. Over the last few years it seems my taste buds grew up and they've developed a fondness for salmon and some other fish and seafood. I'm sure this new development can be attributed to my new friend in town. It's the guy at the grocery store who is in charge of the fish and seafood.
"Mom, you've got to try edamame." It was my son, Andy. He was calling me from Texas where he was a senior in college. That was seven years ago. I had no idea what he was talking about. Was he learning a new exotic language? "Just boil them and sprinkle them with salt. They taste great." Oh, so he was talking about something edible. Apparently, he had prepared them in a gourmet foods class he was taking at Texas Christian University. He said it was a healthful, easy-to-make snack.
As I pulled my copy of "All New Square Foot Gardening" from the shelf in my office, my mind wandered back almost 30 years to 1981. My mom was so excited about a new book she'd discovered. Apparently, a man named Mel Bartholomew had come up with a way to take all the frustration out of vegetable gardening. By condensing single-row garden space to 4 by 4 feet and amending the soil, he created a system of gardening that yielded more produce in less space.
A slight resemblance to custard, but so creamy and smooth it could be mousse. Only the texture is a bit more dense than mousse. These little cups of silky smooth lusciousness are called Pots de Crème in French. It's perfectly all right, though, to just call them little pots of chocolate with a billowy cream topping. Or just call it chocolate pudding. Once you taste it, though, you'll want to call it Pots de Crème. In February, I was browsing through an antique shop in south central Minnesota when I spied a set of four espresso cups and saucers.
If a large succulent ham will be the centerpiece of your Easter meal, there's a good chance at least a small chunk of it will remain when the last diners push away from the table. And if you will be celebrating Easter at someone else's home, you may be lucky enough to head out the door with a foil-wrapped chunk of ham in hand. According to a recent survey by the National Pork Board, 67 percent of households will be celebrating Easter with a ham dinner this year. Ham is easy to prepare with few ingredients and no worries.
In many homes around the world, Good Friday isn't Good Friday without egg- and butter-rich Hot Cross Buns, fragrant with spices and topped with a cross to signify Christ's sacrifice. I learned to make Hot Cross Buns many years ago when I took a class focused on dough made with yeast. I was a young mom at the time, I didn't have much experience working with yeast dough, and it seemed a little intimidating to me. I soon discovered the great pleasure of watching yeast come to life, foaming up in a cup as it bubbled and grew.
With a career that demanded she work outside the home, my mom was often tired in the evening when she came through the door and faced her hungry family. During the week, there were two things she was concerned with when planning and preparing our evening meals. She looked for dinners that were uncomplicated to put together, yet still tasty and nutritious. And she shopped for good quality food at budget-minded prices.
Oprah would be so upset if she knew about my distracted driving. I wasn't distracted by my phone, though. I heed her advice to make my car a "No Phone Zone." And I wasn't eating. It was a cookbook that made me drive right off the road last week. As I was pulling out of my driveway to make a quick trip to the grocery store in town, I stopped to get the mail. I was excited to see a package hanging from the mailbox in a plastic bag. I was in a hurry and decided I could open the package as I drove. And I did. I just hadn't planned on driving into the ditch.
Mother Nature has been teasing me with days full of sunshine and temperatures mild enough to warrant only a heavy sweater to stay comfortable outdoors. It's the kind of weather that breeds wishful thoughts of lemons and fresh berries, fresh green baby spinach leaves, spears of asparagus and bright red juicy radishes pulled from the garden.