Back in 1993 when I was a 31-year old newlywed, I used to cook all the time. I received many extravagant wedding gifts and I loved to use all the kitchen appliances: bread maker; pasta maker; juicer; waffler; Cuisinart with all the gadgets. I prepared an amazing bruschetta with fresh roma tomatoes, basil and garlic, and the more often I made it, the more immune I became to garlic. I made my last big batch when Emily was just a few months old and it reeked of so much garlic it would have scared away the cast of Twilight, and I was forced to pump & dump because Emily refused to breastfeed my stinky milk for a day.
These days, I’m not much of a cook. I try to spice up a box of Hamburger Helper by replacing pork chunks for ground beef or adding a pack of frozen peas, but that’s the extent of my culinary creativity.
We don’t have the budget to eat out or buy take out. If we did, my family would be regular customers at every eatery within a 3-mile radius. Because I’m usually overbooked, I tend to stock up on Costco or Trader-Joe’s ready-made meals. Unfortunately, the rest of the family is sick of them and are now boycotting anything that comes in a 2-quart plastic container.
But before I had kids, I was one heck of a baker, which seems backwards since you’d think I’d be baking more with my kids. Back then I owned a home with a spacious gourmet kitchen and a double oven, and I had the luxury of actually getting the baking dishes washed while my treats were cooking instead of spending that time pouring apple juice, pulling out the bin of Barbies and grabbing Neosporin and a Bandaid. Now I have a trampoline that is bigger than my whole kitchen, my oven temperature has a mind of its own, and my collection of baking utensils has dwindled down to one cracked mixing bowl and a four-quart measuring cup.
Back in the 1980’s and early ‘90’s I used to be a quiet co-dependant and created lavish cheesecakes and birthday cakes and spent the holidays frantically baking up a storm for all my co-workers as an effort to make them like me. It turns out they liked me without me having to kiss their stomachs, and they showed me their gratitude by taking up a collection and buying me a Kitchen Aide mixer. I paid them back by getting pregnant shortly thereafter and rarely baking again.
One Christmas I baked four different kinds of bar cookies, rice krispie squares, peanut butter fudge, 10 dozen cupcakes, 6 batches of brownies, and 100 dozen cookies. It took me from Friday through Sunday night with very little sleep in between, and I packed up the variety in large baskets for each department at work. I have a picture somewhere and I wish I could find it. My arms are outstretched in front of row after row of cardboard boxes piled high with baked goods. It’s the only proof I have that I’m not exaggerating, because personally, I wouldn’t believe me either.
I’m not quiet or co-dependent any more, but the main reason I don’t bake like Mrs. Fields is because I’m just too busy. I always donate something to the school bake sales, but in most cases they’re the slice & bake cookies, or brownies or cupcakes that just need eggs, oil and water added. My kids love the latter because they get to lick the cracked bowl and wooden spoon. Unfortunately I tend to find time to bake hours after they’ve gone to bed, so the licking of utensils is a rare treat.
Tom is definitely the chef of the family. He’ll make a big pot of jambalaya or chili, and I will continue to eat the leftovers for lunch day after day and never get sick of them. I make a complete fool of myself at potlucks because I am not too proud to take home all the leftovers. I figure it’s saving me over $100 in food and about 5 hours of cooking/cleaning time for the week. I have no idea what kind of reputation I have when I’m out of earshot. Are people making oinking sounds? Do they think I’m the porker at the all-you-can-eat buffet? It really doesn’t matter because as I said, I’m not too proud.
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been creating vlogs (video blogs) for YouTube’s MomPulse Network for their Question of the Week. Since this week asks What is your favorite recipe? I decided that it was a great excuse to make the time to bake something with my kids, and also buy a much-needed measuring cup. Together we prepared the dessert that used to tempt even the most hardcore Weight Watchers member: Monster Cookies.
If you have three minutes, please follow this link to watch me and my kids make this delectable treat. I dare you not to drool.
And if you’re reading this, I invite you to come over for an extravagant dinner party in which I serve freshly made pasta, homemade baked bread, and a few side dishes that take me hours to prepare. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until all the kids have left for college.