Thanksgiving was lovely this year. Leading up to our family gathering I spent twelve days at my parents’ house. They live about two and half hours away from us. Mom and I got a head start on baking Christmas cookies (Frosted Ginger Creams cookie recipe below) while Dad and I butted heads over things like the Illinois gas tax and student loan debt forgiveness.
Thankfully, though, despite having solidly conservative
parents, everyone present at the Thanksgiving table had established as early as
2016 that Donald Trump is a hateful, self-serving fraud who is unqualified to
run a dishwasher, much less a country. So I didn’t have to hear anyone praise the
man or any of his abhorrent policies. I know that’s not the case for a lot of
people, though, so I recognize it for the blessing it is.
The hardest part about being away from home for so long was
going days on end without Dan, Boomer, and Izzy. They are, and I say this without
being glib, my emotional support beings. On top of a general increase in
anxiety, my routines—which are a huge part of how I manage not to fall to
pieces every day—were broken. So I ended up vaping a little more weed than
usual and texting Dan in various states of emotional disarray a couple of times
I’m reading this and thinking it sounds like I regret my
trip. That’s not the case. I knew that being gone that long would be
challenging. I wanted to do it. And I will likely do it again next year,
provided my parents are agreeable.
I hope you had a chance to read Who You Gonna Believe
last weekend. It’s always two parts exciting and one part scary to offer it up
for public consumption. Despite the slight panic, I got Chapter 9:
Corpse Pose published on Tuesday. Without giving up spoilers, I will let
you know that, yes, I do swear again in this installment. Chapter 10 is slated
for a December 30 release, but it’s always so crazy this time of year. Please
spot me a couple of days just in case.
Now for that holiday cookie recipe I promised. The story is that my grandma got this recipe from a co-worker at the hospital where she worked as a nurse. The cookies are spicy and warm like a ginger snap but much softer. When I was a kid my mom and I would usually bake these as bars in a jelly roll pan. I don’t have a cooking time for that on the recipe card, but if I remember right it was about the same amount of time, 8 to 10 minutes.
Frosted Ginger Creams
½ c. shortening ½ c. sugar 1 egg 1 t. ginger ½ t. cloves 1 t. cinnamon
½ t. salt 2 t. baking soda ½ c. milk 1 c. molasses 3 c. flour
shortening and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Add spices and salt. Combine
baking soda with milk and add to the creamed mixture. Add molasses and flour
and mix to form a soft batter. Drop by spoonful on ungreased cookie sheet and
bake at 350°
F for 8 to 10 minutes. Makes 4 dozen.
We top these
with a very simple frosting of confectioners’ sugar and water, and we just eyeball
that until it reaches the consistency we like.
That’s my update. Now I want hear from you guys. How was your November?
Time to plug one of my affiliate partners: Shipt grocery delivery. I swear they have been a lifeline for us. If you use my link to buy a membership, I’ll get a few cents to help keep the (literal and figurative) lights on around here. They’re running a pretty sweet BOGO for $49 offer right now. Punch your zipcode into their finder to see if they’re in your city.
Not much going on at our house today. Just watching Dr. Strange on TV and eating some leftover cornbread. As you can probably guess, I never eat alone here.
Thursday, Dan made his semi-annual giant batch of Dan’s Happy Chili. It makes enough for a small army, so he divvied it up into one-pound portions, froze it into pucks, and then vacuum sealed the pucks individually with the refurbished FoodSaver he bought on meh. for $20 a couple of years ago. (Worth every penny and then some!)
I’m not a huge fan of cornbread in general. It’s got a nice flavor, but it’s usually so dry it makes me choke. (After chemo, yeah, I have issues.) However, I stumbled on a recipe years ago which has become our go-to during chili season. It’s dense, moist, and sweeter than other cornbreads I’ve tasted. And that makes it kind of the perfect side for Dan’s well-spiced chili. (Second only to the peanut butter sandwich. If you have never tried one with chili, you must.)
Anyway, we skip the glass baking dish and mix and bake the cornbread recipe from start to finish in a 10″ cast iron skillet. I love that I don’t have to lug out the stand mixer or dirty extra bowls for the recipe.
“Hey, Em,” Dan said. “I noticed the cake stand has been empty for a while.”
I laughed. “Dude, it was just washed last night. It’s only been sitting empty on the dining room table for, what? Twelve hours? Not even twelve hours!”
But, point taken.
“I’ll tell you what,” I said, “you go to Meijer and get the stuff I need, and I’ll make you a cake. You pick the flavor.”
Twenty minutes later, Dan had returned with three cake mixes and nine boxes of Jell-O pudding. “The grocery gods heard my cries for cake and decided to hold a 10 for $10 sale on cake mix and instant pudding!” He held a plastic bag aloft.
CAKE MIX 1 box yellow cake mix 3 boxes pistachio pudding dry mix 1/2 C vegetable oil 1/2 C milk 1 C sour cream 4 eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine all cake ingredients in stand mixer and pour into greased bundt pan. Bake for 1 hour.
Place cake on serving plate and cool.
Skip the frosting.
Change the flavors! The pistachio cake is delicious, but last week we swapped chocolate cake and pudding mix, and it was heavenly.
This batter is thick and heavy. The original recipe says to use a hand mixer, but the motor in mine just couldn’t hang and I’m still to weak to mix this effectively by hand. I let the Kitchen Aid do the heavy lifting for this recipe.
This cake is really dense and really delicious and just the right amount of sweet for me. After trying it with and without frosting, I prefer it without.
Yes, I wrote about this cake once before, and I am writing about it again. It’s that good.
I remember when baking was no big deal for me. I’d think to myself I want chocolate chip cookies. And, BAM! I’d start dancing around the kitchen with ingredients bunched up in my arms.
But life with a 6.3 cm brain stem tumor is a little different. I don’t get to really take moving around for granted anymore. I celebrate walking to the bathroom without a mobility device. I raise my fists in triumph when I empty the dishwasher. And I know I must sacrifice an entire day to the Spoon gods when I want to make my grandmother’s zucchini bread.
It’s totally worth the sacrifice, but it’s hard to adjust. I expect so much more from myself. Myself rarely lives up to expectation.
Here’s what I mean:
8:36 a.m. — Declare my intentions to make zucchini bread so that my husband knows what’s going down today.
10:46 a.m. — Empty and load the dishwasher to make room for baking shenanigans.
10:59 a.m. — Sit down in my recliner until I catch my breath and regain my balance. Hydrate.
12:04 p.m. — Read the recipe, grab the needed ingredients*, and put them on the counter for when I feel up to mixing things.
12:22 p.m. — Rollate myself back to my recliner and wait for my heart rate and breathing to return to normal.
2:14 p.m. — After a quick personal energy assessment, ask husband for help with 1.) getting out the food processer, which lives on a low shelf and is heavy, 2.) processing the zucchini, and 3.) washing the new loaf pans.
2:37 p.m. — Measure and dump ingredients in the bowl. Clutch counter top and wait for the kitchen to stop spinning.
2:38 p.m. — Sit down on rollator and take a break from stirring the batter because right arm is exhausted and left arm is just totally worthless here.
2:40 p.m. — Say yes when husband asks if you want him to continue stirring.
2:55 p.m. — Spread batter in pans while marveling at how your left arm shakes even though you are trying desperately to hold the bowl steady.
3:59 p.m. — Wonder how an hour has passed and the bread is ready to be yanked from the oven because you haven’t quite recovered from the physical exertion of baking a simple quick bread.
* My grandma never made this for us with raisins or nuts, and I have never added them. So judge me accordingly.