Friends & Family

Goodbye and Good Riddance to Summer (BUT:)

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Happy Labor Day! A sad day for some, a last hurrah, as it marks the unofficial end of summer. Kids are going back to school. It’s getting cooler. In a couple weeks it will be official: summer, quite possibly my least favorite season, will be over. Then fall, my absolute favorite season, can begin.

I was the kid who loved going back to school. As soon as the paper and pens went on sale and every store displayed rows of Pee Chees and Jansports, I went crazy. I loved filling a new three-ring binder with a clean, smooth ream of paper and carefully organized tabs to keep my schoolwork in order. I never really needed a Pink Pet eraser, but I usually bought one. I would put my face in my new school supplies and just breathe. The smell of fresh paper and still-packaged pens, the stiff fabric of back-to-school clothes. There is just nothing like it.

I was also the kid who wore sweaters and turtlenecks as early as possible, then begrudgingly peeled them off and carried them around all day or, if I was optimistic enough not to wear an undershirt, pushed up my sleeves and dutifully boiled in the late-August/early-September sun. It irritated me, the way summer lingered. Kids would go home and play in their wading pools or throw water balloons at each other. They kept eating Otter Pops and watermelon for weeks. It rankled me. As far as I was concerned, the time for that nonsense had ended. I was ready for hot cider and pumpkin pie.

The word “summer” evokes for me the sting of a sunburn; the discomfort of swimsuits, shorts, massive self esteem issues; awkward barbecues where the corn kernels and rib meat get stuck in your teeth and the potato salad’s mayonnaise has gotten too warm. Camping always seems like fun but turns into a dirty, mosquito-bitten mess. I used to enjoy hiking but my three-year-old is too small to manage anything much  longer than a mile and too heavy to be carried very far. Yes, the kids can play outdoors with abandon, but there’s the constant application of sunblock, the swim diapers that rip as you try to adjust them, trying to change a toddler’s wet clothes in a park bathroom while your baby does her best to get her hands into that public toilet. Bug bites. Splinters. I could go on.

BUT: Continue reading “Goodbye and Good Riddance to Summer (BUT:)”

Cooking & Eating, Friends & Family

It’s Hot Out, but I’m Freezing

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Do you ever wonder who uses their oven in the summer?

Also, what has two thumbs and a batch of cookies in the oven?

This girl. (You’ll have to imagine me in my Minnie Mouse apron, pointing to myself with my thumbs.)

Okay, to be fair, we have heat pumps, which is kind of like air conditioning. Plus it’s actually kind of mild today–only 74. But that really isn’t the point.

You see, I’m going to have a baby in four-and-a-half months. If you’ve never had a baby before, let me tell you: the last thing I’m going to want to do after pushing a seven-to-ten pound human out of me is cook. And if I do want to cook, about two minutes on the hard kitchen tile will remind me that I’m not yet in the condition to stand on tile floors. I’ll have my husband and mother for a little while, but not for long, and if I manage to work out the whole breastfeeding/pumping thing, I will be hungry. As I recall, pregnancy hunger is nothing compared with nursing hunger. So I should probably have some healthy options on hand. Maybe a few tasty treats, too.

So now I’m experimenting with freezability, which means baking and roasting in the middle of summer. Today, for example, I tried a cookie recipe from The Joy of Cooking. Basic butter wafers. They strike me as too delicate for the freezer. So much so that I’m not going to try. But that’s why we test things. How upsetting if I’d frozen the batter and then gotten awful cookies out of it later.

I already have a few recipes I know work. Lasagna and shepherd’s pie freeze beautifully, as do pound cakes and chocolate chip cookie dough. I’ve got some pot pies in the freezer that I’ll thaw soon to see if the dough kept. Chili and marinara do okay for short bursts (I’ll be freezing those this fall), so I thought I’d try freezing ratatouille, too.

I realize that there are whole cookbooks dedicated to freezer recipes, but as we see from my butter cookies, not every recipe is perfect for every occasion. So I thought I’d ask: do you have any favorite freezer recipes? I’ve been thinking of doing chicken strips and burritos. What else?