Food Nature


It’s been a while since I gave a Garden Cheerleader update.

The tomatoes are doing well, not a bumper crop but delivering at least one or two ripe tomatoes every few days. The peppers are also popping with regular frequency, and the oregano and basil do well as long as they are kept watered.

Our one tiny cluster of grapes is shifting from green to purple, which is exciting. I’ve been around gardens before; my grandmother grew tomatoes and other vegetables every year, and so did I when I was a child, once or twice. But this is my first experience with growing grapes. I’m so emotionally invested in this first batch that I may not be able to eat them once they’re ripe.

What’s truly thriving in our little backyard garden is kale. It doesn’t seem to require a lot of watering. The occasional rain shower and some in-between offerings from the backyard hose are apparently sufficient. Sometimes, I see evidence of bugs on the plants, but for the most part, they seem to be bug-free, growing steadily in their dark green, heavy-leafed way.

I’m not a fan of kale; my experiences eating raw kale were not enjoyable. I chewed, and chewed, and chewed, and the pieces didn’t seem to get smaller, and the flavor was acrid and unpleasant. In my opinion, kale has one purpose: to be cooked into soups and stews, a hearty background vegetable that gives a touch of texture and vitamins. Cooked into something, the leaves become soft, and the flavor becomes secondary.

Like a good Garden Cheerleader, I’m proud of the kale success we’re seeing, even if I don’t put kale at the top of my vegetable favorites. I know it’s good for me; I’m grateful to have it.

Where’s the soup kettle? Let’s make some dinner.

Family Food


When my sons were little boys, weekends typically involved at least one pancake breakfast.

They’d watch as I mixed the batter and heated the skillet, and then they’d tell me what type of pancake they wanted. The plain version evolved to include versions of chocolate chip, blueberry, bacon, and sometimes all three together. We topped them with everything from butter and syrup to Nutella, peanut butter, and brown sugar.

Now that they are grown, we rarely eat breakfast together, and I can’t remember the last time I made pancakes. Although the recipe is simple, mixing the batter, melting the butter, and all the other steps can create a bit of a mess. So, if nobody’s asking for them, I’m not eager to make them.

But last night, my husband asked if we have any pancake mix. I started thinking about pancakes, about their fluffy deliciousness, the melty butter and sweet syrup, the guilty pleasure of eating something that is thinly-veiled dessert masquerading as a breakfast food.

And so, even though the sons who are living at home these days are still asleep and unlikely to venture into the kitchen before the crack of noon, my husband and I made pancakes this morning. They are delicious.

If the boys want some once they wake up, I’ll offer them the option of using the leftover batter to make their own. I’ll also volunteer to make some for them.

I suspect they’ll like the idea of doing their own cooking so they can make the pancakes just the way they like them. There’s a chance, however, that they’ll ask me to do the cooking, providing that I follow their specifications as to the amount of butter and the appropriate ratio of chocolate chips to batter. Which, of course, I will happily do.

Today’s cuppa celebrates pancake breakfasts and yummy memories. We can’t relive the past, but that doesn’t mean the good things disappear forever.

Family Food Nature


The jalapeños in our backyard garden are growing well.

As the Garden Cheerleader, I am excited for their progress and proud to show them off. I don’t generally enjoy jalapeños, however, so a bumper crop of them will not be of much benefit to me.

My husband, on the other hand, can never have enough jalapeños. Fresh, pickled, roasted, baked – he loves them in any form, cooked in any way. To him, spicy food is delicious; the spicier, the better.

I am perplexed by this, because my experience with spicy food is that the flavor is outweighed by the burning. When I eat anything beyond the most basic level of salsa, all I experience is pain. Even worse, if cheese is involved in the dish, the cheesy goodness is overwhelmed by the spice, which is a sad state affairs. Cheese is awesome; cheese should never be overwhelmed.

I suppose it’s possible that his tastebuds have adapted to pick up the nuance of flavor within the heat. Or maybe there’s just something about his palate that makes certain flavors appealing to him but not to me. For example, some people prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate, and some people don’t like chocolate at all. Whatever the reason, he loves those little green spice bombs. For his sake, I’m glad we’re having a good jalapeño year.

Here’s to the peppers that grow in our garden. I’m not a fan, but my husband is, and that is reason enough to cheer them on.

Family Food Pets


On Spaghetti Nights (like last night), we fix a small serving for Mollie.

Noodles, a tiny bit of sauce (garlic and onions aren’t good for dogs, so we are careful not to give her more than just a suggestion of flavor), and a lot of cheese.

We put it out for her, and she eats while we eat. It makes her quite happy.

Mollie loves spaghetti. She loves cheese. I think what she loves the most, however, is feeling like she’s part of the action, part of Spaghetti Night. When she’s done eating, she’ll make her way to the couch, where she’ll fall asleep with a doggy smile on her face.

Today’s cuppa is inspired by Mollie, who reminds me to be grateful for the simple happiness that can come from a plate of spaghetti.



Today is National Cheese Day.

If it feels like we’ve already had one of these this year, that’s understandable. National Cheese Lover’s Day was on January 20.

National Cheese Day and National Cheese Lover’s Day celebrate different things. One is about the food, and the other is about those of us who eat the food.

Regardless of semantics, the point is: Cheese. And that, as Martha Stewart would say, is a Very Good Thing.

Except for when you eat too much of the cheese, which is, I know, a difficult concept to understand. As Ralph Wiggum from the Simpsons might say, “Too much cheese? That’s unpossible!”

Unfortunately, Ralph, it is possible. So, it’s best that we take a measured approach to cheese eating. Today’s cuppa is a friendly reminder of what can happen if we don’t.

But – life is short. Let’s love each other and love ourselves. Let’s create moments of happiness. Let’s celebrate the things, all the things, big and small, significant and silly, that bring delight and make us smile.

And so, today, I say: Eat the cheese.

Food Nature


Backyard garden update: the tomatoes are busy tomato-ing, and the oregano has grown in.

We picked some of both and then dried one batch of the oregano.

Husband also added basil to the garden; it’s growing well, and I’ll be gathering some of that today.

Pasta, anyone?



I’m grateful for white chocolate apricot muffins left over from yesterday.

Mondays are a little easier when they start with a yummy baked treat and a cuppa of happy.

I hope your day has some good moments. Let’s get this week started.