It was a beautiful weekend – we drove through some leafy country places at one point and the red trees and the golden, mellow autumn light and the farm fields quiet in the fall were all so beautiful that I was speechless with it. But today we woke up and there had been a hard frost and my kids sighed and put on warm hats and mitts and piles of scarves. That’s the way autumn goes – one day it’s so beautiful and red and orange and gold that you could just sob and the very next day it’s FREEZING and the trees are bare and there’s still a month to Halloween.
I’m a bit… oh, melancholy, let’s say. And I hate writing about it, but there it is, this big dark sulking thing between me and my words. I sat down this morning at 6 to write this, started blankly at the screen for a while and then gave up. I kept BURNING things on the weekend – first a whole pot of rice and lentils, for Pete’s sake (who burns RICE AND LENTILS? What a goober.), and then a pot of carrots and then a tray of peanut butter cookies and then my freaking HAND AND ARM. Yeouch.
My husband is REALLY REALLY busy right now, but he took some time off from working this weekend to make his mopey wife delicious cafe lattes with frothed Baileys on top.
He loves our espresso maker. He brought it into work for a week earlier in September and played barrista, but then I missed it, so it had to come home again. And now he uses it to make his sad, sad wife decadent drinks in the evening, placing the warm tall mugs in my hands and ruffling my hair and telling me over and over again that I WILL feel better again soon. He promises.
Being depressed is boring. And READING about someone being depressed is MIND-NUMBING. So instead, I’m going to write about my favorite cookbooks, since writing from them will apparently be safer than actually cooking for the next little while. Here we go!
1) The I Hate To Cook Book by Peg Bracken, with illustrations by Hilary Knight.
I don’t actually hate cooking at all, obviously, and this cookbook is perhaps more cooking than most reluctant cooks would now be willing to attempt, but it’s still HILARIOUS and the recipes are surprisingly relevant for a cookbook that’s nearing its fiftieth anniversary. My favorite recipes from it: Cockeyed Cake, Friday Night Sandwich, Old Faithful – but pretty much everything holds up well.
2) The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham.
Breakfast tends to be a terribly neglected meal, but there’s really no reason for that, as this spiffy cookbook attests. It’s full of egg recipes and muffins and breads and hot cereals and custards and pancakes, all sorts of ideas for starting your day off in an interesting and pleasurable manner. My favorite recipes from it: the whole chapter on pancakes, chocolate custard, orange marmalade cookies and the caramel oatmeal topping, for when the children have been very good.
This is a slim cookbook, but every recipe in it is a winner – interesting things to make that your children will actually eat. My favorite recipes from it: Something-For-Everyone Tortellini Salad, butterscotch pudding, Smoky Rice and Beans – but it’s full of good recipes, the sort of things that appeal to the whole family and not just the adults OR the children.
4) Canada’s Best Slow Cooker Recipes by Donna-Marie Pye (this is sold under a different title in the US)
I LOVE my slow cooker, but most slow cooker cookbooks tend to be extremely reliant on canned soups and unsophisticated, hamburger-heavy recipes. This book, however, has an interesting mix of beverages, main dishes, side dishes and desserts, with nary a can of soup in sight. My favorite recipes from it: Tangy Red Cabbage with Apples, Tuscan Chicken Legs, Lentil Curry with Squash and Cashews, Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup.
5) 500 Best Muffin Recipes by Esther Brody
My oldest child grouchily told her grandmother the other day that I never make desserts – "Mom only makes MUFFINS," she said, the poor, poor child. And this is the cookbook I use, a bare-bones, unromantic book with pretty much any muffin that you could ever think of. Muffins for Christmas morning! Muffins with fruit in them for breakfast! Muffins to tuck into lunches, savoury cheese muffins to go with soup for supper, muffins to make when the cupboards are practically bare. Of course, in a cookbook this big there are bound to be some duds – I just skip over the whole chapter on "Microwave Muffins", shuddering – but you’ll never need another collection of muffin recipes again. Also, "muffin" sounds funny. My favorite recipes: Miniature Orange-Dipped Muffins, Applesauce Snackin’ Muffins, Very Ripe Banana Muffins, Apple Wholewheat Muffins, and a lot more.
So. In the comments, let me know a) your favorite cookbook and why (I need ideas for my Christmas list!) OR if you don’t have a favorite cookbook b) Your favorite coffee drink that my husband should make me tonight. I feel better already, just thinking about fancy new coffee and stacks of nice new cookbooks.