One Thing Leads to Another (Pictures of the Cauliflower Mac-n-Cheese)

First, flaxseedNow?  I’m pureeing cauliflower.  I have photographic proof that I actually served cauliflower mac-n-cheese (only it wasn’t cheese; it was cauliflower).

Adventures in Cauliflower Sauces

My oldest says, “This is delicious.  Who knew?”  My youngest says, “No way. I love it.”   My skeptical husband doesn’t say a word because his mouth is full of delicious pasta.

It’s like some great momentum took over and healthy food just finds its way in now.  I steam the cauliflower, put it in my blender (the same one that makes the blueberry-spinach smoothies), add milk, some Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and there you go.

Flaxseed started this whole thing.  Living with flair means making a simple change–adding one new thing in–that just might change everything. 

I’m dying to know what thing you added to your life that created a snowball effect of good things?


Lesson Three from the Italian Mama (in 100 Words or Less)

I’m frantic about my meatballs. 

Extended family will dine next week on spaghetti and meatballs the day before Thanksgiving.  I can’t remember what to do, and I want to do it right. 

The Italian Mama advises me that I have choices.  I can brown the meatballs in olive oil and then cook them in the sauce all day, or I can throw them directly in the sauce.  The browning gives a little crunch, but it doesn’t ultimately matter.  In her words, we’ll still reach the “goodness inside.”

I can throw them.   I can relax and still reach the goodness inside. 

For more Italian Mama:
Lesson One
Lesson Two


Trusting the Process (without Peeking)

I’m a horrible disaster in the kitchen.  But God seems to teach me things in this place of flour and butter.  This morning, I tried my neighbor’s delicious “popover” recipe.  Their family loves popovers.  They sprinkle lemon juice and powdered sugar atop the fluffy dish, and voila!  Breakfast joy!

Yesterday, she scribbled the recipe for me on the back of my daughter’s “She Had a Wonderful First Day in Kindergarten” card.  You melt 2 tablespoons butter in an oven-safe skillet at 475 degrees.  Meanwhile, you whisk together 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup flour, and 2 eggs.  When the butter melts, you pour your batter in the skillet, close the over door, and wait exactly 12 minutes.  No more, no less.  And you cannot open the oven door.  The popover won’t puff up if you do.

I do everything according to the instructions.  But when it comes to the “no peeking” part (and my oven has no glass window for seeing inside), I can hardly bear it.  Was it working?  Was my batter fluffing up?

12 minutes seems like an eternity.  I’m dying.  I have to peek.  I have to make sure the process is working.

I bite my lip and wait.  I actually count down with my timer–aloud–those last few seconds.  Finally, I can open the oven door.

It worked. 

Why was it so hard to trust the process?  Why did I have to bite my lip and restrain myself from needing proof that something good was actually happening inside that hot oven?

Oh me of little faith!  As I enjoyed that delicious treat with my family, I remembered that I can trust the process even if I can’t see what’s happening.  God works in secret within what often feels like an emotionally dark inferno.  But if I trust the process, I’ll turn into what I’m supposed to become. 

Living with flair means I’m OK with not peeking.  What’s supposed to happen is happening.  I’ll see the product when it’s time.


When You’re Disappointed and Bitter

With so many tomatoes, how could I not make homemade sauce? 

It’s violent. 

You take tomatoes and submerge them in boiling water for a few seconds.  Then you drown them in ice water.  Then you skin them.  Then you remove their seeds.  It feels like some torture process.  I chop; I puree; I simmer everything down to a thick sauce.

You have to do it this way.  No other process removes the bitterness; no other process releases the flavor.  

My daughter’s helping me peel and chop garlic.  We’ve been disappointed, bitter, all morning because she didn’t get the teacher she wanted for kindergarten.  None of her friends are in her class.  Head hung low, mouth in a frown, she’s experienced this first violent assault on her expectations, her hopes, her dreams for her life.  

“Sometimes it’s like that,” the older one says.  “But the best thing about kindergarten is making brand new friends. You’ll see.”

She will see.  It is like that.  No other process will teach her how to rise above her disappointment.  No other process will release her from her rigid control of what must surely be the best life.  Released like that, her life can be that sweet aroma–that beautiful flavor–of a person who knows how to find good in any pain. 

No other process will do that for her. 


2 Lessons from an Italian Mama in 100 Words or Less

1.  The mistake people make with their sauce is not letting it simmer long enough.  No rush here with my sauce or my life.

2.  As I listed ingredients learned from my first Italian cooking lesson, my Italian Mama neighbor leaned over my shoulder and said:  “Don’t forget the most important ingredient.” She paused, closed her eyes, put her hand over her heart, and said:

“You must put on your Bruce Springsteen music.”

Italian Mamas have soundtracks–undercurrents– of passion, good hearts, and kitchen talent.  What soundtrack, what undercurrent, flows beneath my life?


The Cutting Board Cure

Whenever I get my cutting board out with friends or family, good things always happen. I remember chopping garlic and fresh ginger with my boyfriend (now my husband) on one of our first dates. We were hungry after playing tennis, and we had to find something in my kitchen for dinner. Afterward, he offered to scrub my stove. I was in love.

And it’s not just a woman thing.

Cutting boards are manly; don’t be tempted to apply the pioneer woman or 1950’s housewife stereotype. Have you seen Cake Boss, Bobby Flay, Alton Brown, or Emeril on the Food Network? This is why I can tell a group of men that good writing is a lot like good cooking. They nod their heads and start thinking about crème brulee and reduction sauces. It’s not a woman’s domain anymore.

So I have this theory about cutting boards and love. You start to love the people you cook with. You just do. Maybe it has something to do with working towards a common goal and enjoying the fruit of your shared labor. It’s hard to be angry with someone when he’s chopping the onion you need for the soup. It’s hard to be bitter and stressed out when you have to stand there rolling out pizza dough on a nicely floured cutting board. It has something to do with choosing to take the time to do it.

I’ve been stressed out today. Who isn’t? And I’ve been impatient with my daughter for demanding so much of my attention all day. And I’ve been mad about having to clean the bathrooms. I don’t have time for all this.

So I got out my cutting board. I didn’t have time to do this. It was lunchtime, and I asked my daughter if she wanted to make homemade pizzas. Of course! Really, Mom? Really? She sat by the counter, right by my side, spreading sauce on the crust and then sprinkling ridiculous amounts of cheese on top. She took her time, slowly spreading, slowing sprinkling. We relaxed as we waited for them to cook. Then we relaxed more as we ate them.

Then I hugged her. Then she hugged me.

The cutting board saves the day once again.

Living with flair means bringing out the cutting board precisely because I don’t have the time for it.