It’s pretty typical for a daughter to cook more or less like her mother, at least as she gets started in her adult life.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the woman who always cut off the end of her ham before baking it, only to discover years later that the only reason her mom always did that was because the ham wouldn’t fit in her roasting dish?
I was that way, too, at first. What my mom made from scratch (which was more than many), I made from scratch, even as a college student. (And later, too: see Mom’s biscuits, Potato salad, and Cream of Potato Soup for recipes that have always been in my life.)
In college I only branched out from “the known,” ironically, to incorporate more processed convenience foods like pasta-roni and canned biscuits (even though I always preferred her homemade biscuits). They were cheap, easy, and expected of a college student.
At some point, though, the tides began to shift. Perhaps it was when the daughter started blogging about food, and the mother read every word the daughter wrote (because that’s what moms do, especially when their daughters don’t call nearly as often as they should!). Then the dads brag about the daughter, even though he has no idea what she does. Because that’s what dads do, at least in my family.
It’s been fun and invigorating – and awkward at times – to have quite a bit of influence over my own mom’s real food changes. As I’ve tried new things, she has too.
Where is Katie’s Mommy?
When I did a reader survey last December, one comment jumped out at me. The reader was a bit tired of mother-in-law comments, and asked:
“Where is your mom? If you have to have guest posts, can she write one? I’d love to hear more about/from Katie’s mommy, and less from Katie’s Husband’s Mommy.”
So first of all, in this Mother’s Day ode, I have to say once again how much I appreciate my mother-in-law and all that she does for us. She’s one of the most giving people in my life, and both Smart Sweets and Better Than a Box probably would have never gotten finished if not for her generosity in watching my children, who absolutely adore her.
She’s great at having crafts for them to do and always makes a whopping fruit salad for any family party we host at our house. She has even bought gluten-free pasta to serve us, but she draws the line at over-a-dollar-apiece for gluten-free hamburger buns. Her frugal nature couldn’t stomach that one: “You can just go bunless, honey!” We love her to pieces.
And ironically, well before the reader comment about my mom and guest posts, I had been trying to get my mom to write a guest post about Food on Your Face for Acne and Oily Skin, because she uses a lot of Crunchy Betty’s ideas from the book. She was always too hesitant, but I finally got her to share at least a little something from her kitchen for the end of this post (which she doesn’t know is all about her and is probably mortified right now. Ha!).
Beyond completely changing her skincare routine after decades, my mom has been so open to changes in the kitchen as she reads KS and all the wild things we’re trying here. For example:
She soaks her oatmeal regularly, and switched from brown sugar to real maple syrup. She uses coconut oil like a champ. She cooks and freezes dry beans, makes quite a number of the recipes on Kitchen Stewardship, and she’s even started using bell peppers, a vegetable that I never encountered in my childhood, in her cooking (and her freezer).
She buys a quarter cow every 18 months or so and gets all the weird parts (many of which she’ll pass on to me, which my husband of course appreciates), and she even renders tallow, and then shares some with me! (It became this lovely tallow balm most recently.)
She supports us in our quest to be gluten-free and immediately figured out recipes that we could eat, educating herself and reading labels voraciously.
She even has kept a sourdough starter off and on, and after we experimented with grain-free recipes, she cut down on her own grains (and is at her lowest weight in decades, even though she’s always been a thin woman).
When we last visited, it was Lent, and we were all grain-free, even the kids. She took it in stride and even found a new grain-free porridge to try for us. (She sends me recipes from other blogs at least once a week!)
I can’t even tell you how touching it was to see this on the counter when we arrived for our visit:
That’s homemade apple chips and crispy nuts, about which she’s a bit of an evangelist/drug dealer, depending on how you’d categorize the fact that she gives crispy nuts to her parents as Christmas gifts and has convinced a number of her friends to try making the apple chips themselves.
That she set out the perfect snacking food that all of us could enjoy showed the care she has for us and her attention to detail. We felt very loved!
You Talk to Her and Don’t Know It
My mom also picks up some hours working behind the scenes at Kitchen Stewardship, starting by editing my eBooks pro bono (just like she used to pry her eyes open to try to read my papers in high school at whatever late hour I was finishing them up). She now has reformatted all the archived recipes to be in their pretty format, and is working on cleaning up the rest of the archive pages.
She also moderates my comments to make sure I don’t miss anyone’s questions, so anytime you leave a comment here at KS, she sees them first. I’ve noticed she comments less herself these days since I’m keeping her so busy, but it used to crack me up to see her join in the conversation, whether about how to make Campbell’s tomato soup from scratch or about “the hubs” and his acceptance of new foods. (And yes, it is very disconcerting to realize that it’s your mother’s comment talking about “the hubs,” and that it’s your senior citizen father!)
When we get together to “settle up,” you should see our accounting. With all the bulk food orders we do and pass on to each other, it goes something like this:
18 hours x $ + coconut oil – 2 dz eggs + bar of soap – almond extract = Total
That’s some weird, real food blogger Math, isn’t it?
My mom is actually a Math teacher from her life before kids, ironically.
An Adult Mother’s Day Ode
The classic kids’ school project for Mother’s Day is to make an acrostic poem with the word “MOTHER,” right? I thought I’d treat you to my version, now that I’m an older and wiser adult:
Making crazy food to eat,
Often learning to use less sweets.
Thank you for being such a supportive force,
Helping me think everything through, of course.
Early foundation to foster my talents, (now)
Reminding me to keep it all balanced.
If I start to go a little off the deep end, it’ll be my mom with words of wisdom that brings me back (if my husband hasn’t yanked me by the virtual collar yet).
She’s always taught me to think conscientiously, question the norm, and be cognizant about my choices. She deserved the praise from this fighting pneumonia post:
If you ever read anything I write and think it is wise or that I noticed or realized something you didn’t, believe me, it’s not me. It’s in my genes.
My mom is probably the most insightful person I know.
She’s used vinegar for cleaning and made homemade chicken stock all my life, laying the foundation for my crunchiness now, I’m sure, without even knowing it.
And now she has to keep up on my life by checking KS’s Facebook and Twitter feeds because I don’t call her on the phone nearly enough! She’ll often send an email to comment on something that happened with the kids that she learned about through social media.
She also emails me every time I make a typo in a post. How many people can say that about their moms!?
Recipe: Katie’s Mom’s Baked Apple-Cinnamon Chips
Crunchy just like a potato chip, sweet without added sweetener, and truly addicting, my mom’s apple chips are worth scrolling down this far in a post, believe me! As much as I’m grateful for the gift she is to me, you’ll be thankful for her too once you try them.
She doesn’t have a dehydrator, so she does it all in the oven, which gives hope to all of you who want one but it isn’t in the budget yet.
- apples (2 for a full oven)
- cinnamon (optional)
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
- Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Wash, quarter and core apples. (possibly 2 large apples)
- Slice apples using a mandolin (see mandolin options on Amazon) for consistent thickness. (Katie's note: I bought this slicer on Amazon last year and then never used it because we had such a poor apple season last fall. I can't wait until September!)
- Distribute apples in a single layer on the parchment paper. Do not let slices rest on the baking pan because they stick!
- Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.
- Bake for about 1 hour in the 250 degree oven.
- Rotate cookie sheets.
- Reduce temperature to 200 or less. Continue baking.
- Check slices after the next half hour and then more frequently, reducing oven temp if desired. (For the thickness of my apple slices, I bake for an hour or so more. It's not exact timing because apples have different amounts of moisture and the thickness of the slices affects the drying.)
- If you choose, you may loosen slices from the parchment paper during the baking time.
- I recommend testing one by letting it cool. If it is crunchy, remove all from oven.
- The apples slices can burn quicker than you think. Some slices may look/act crispier than others and can be removed to cool and finish the crisping. (The original recipe said 3 hours at 250, checking often during the last hour. A very few minutes too long could over-bake many of the slices of apples. Edible, but not as delicious. At the lower temp of 200 you are not as likely to burn them.)
- If apple slices seem pliable after cooling, put them back in the oven.
- Enjoy the crispy chips with a burst of apple flavor!
* We prefer Gala and other sweet apples rather than Granny Smith apples.
* When using the mandolin, I like resting the apple's cut edge flat against the blade to get the widest slice, and then slicing till the quarter is down to nothing or next to nothing.
* The parchment paper may be used repeatedly. I shake off the cinnamon, fold it and store it in the cupboard till next time.
* The length of baking time is dependent on the thickness of the slices. Slices should probably be about ⅛ inch in thickness. If too thin, they burn quickly or practically disappear as they dry.
* When I maintained the 250 temperature, I could burn slices in a matter of 2 or 3 minutes. I would rather the process take a little longer in time with a better outcome.
* Katie's note: In a full dehydrator, it takes about 36 hours at 125-135F to get all the way to "crispy" chips, although dried apple slices at about 12-18 hours are good, too. Just not quite as addicting.
Mom’s Tips for Crispy Nuts in the Oven
If you’ve been wanting to make crispy nuts but feel like you can’t because you don’t have a dehydrator, here are my mom’s tips. She regularly makes them in the oven:
- Soak nuts with salt according to the recipe.
- After draining, blot them with a towel so they’re less wet for the drying time.
- Set your oven at its lowest setting. Mine says 170F, but it’s a ‘slow’ oven which should make it a bit less than 170.
- Whole, raw almonds usually take 24 hours in my oven at its lowest setting.
- Walnuts take 12+ hours.
- Katie’s notes: Obviously, make sure you don’t need your oven during that time (although you could take the nuts out to bake something and then put them back in).
- You can also “dry” them out at a higher temperature, like 300F, but it will only take a few hours and you risk singing them, which tastes horrible. If you try that, keep a close eye on them every half hour and more frequently as they get close.
Thanks, Mom, for being such a good example of a thoughtful, devoted, and loving mother. Happy Mother’s Day.
Now readers, go call your moms!
If you missed the last Monday Mission, click here.