A new cook in the kitchen


potpieOne of my New Year’s resolutions for 2014 is to teach my stepdaughter Gabrielle how to cook. Happily, she’s on board with the plan, and yesterday we found ourselves in the kitchen making a roast chicken. Granted, she looked at me a little warily when I told her she would actually have to touch the chicken to stuff it — “Touching raw meat is what separates the men from the boys,” I informed her — but with just a slight wriggling of her nose, she held onto the drumsticks while I shoved onion, garlic, lemons and thyme into the cavity.

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Prairie bread in the Kentucky hills

carolUp until I realized it was probably responsible for making me gain 10 pounds, I spent a batch of time each week baking bread. This experiment went on for nearly a year, with each Monday morning spent watching the KitchenAid spin while I slowly added flour to the yeast, water, sugar, salt and oil in the bowl. It was a pleasurable process, and I always felt like a real, live Suzy Homemaker when I turned the golden loaves on the baking racks I’d set up. I especially looked forward to the moment when I could offer a still-warm slice to my stepdaughter Gabrielle after I picked her up from school.

My interest in baking bread started with a Williams-Sonoma cookbook my husband bought before I moved to Kentucky. The pictures looked delicious, and I started working my way through the recipes. The results were mediocre though, with none of them tasting especially memorable no matter how many raisins, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, herbs and caraway I added. Certainly they tasted nothing like the bread I grew up with on the prairies, where flour comes from hard winter wheat that produces loaves with a tasty, soft crumb and a crunchy, equally tasty crust.

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A new approach to turkey

thanksgivingInstead of the usual notes to myself about when to pick up Gabrielle from violin or how long I wrote that day or how many minutes I slaved away on the elliptical machine, this week my day timer is filled with just a few simple commands. On Wednesday, I have to grocery shop and roast tomatoes. On Thursday, I have to make cranberry sauce, soup and ice cream. On Friday, I have to prepare the turkey, bake bread and chocolate tarts. And Saturday, whose square is highlighted in pink, the list extends into Sunday’s box as I wrap everything up.

Though nearly a month late, the Baker/Kaprowy home will be celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving Saturday and our dining room will be packed with friends, who will gamely tuck beside each other like sardines and eat. Everyone comes at 7 and, usually, they come ready to work.

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A different way to eat

omeletIt’s been a summer of omelets at our house, with nearly every Saturday morning spent out on the deck with coffee and these yellow half moons sitting cheerfully on the plate. The beauty of the omelet, I discovered, is that it is wonderfully accepting. Have an extra tomato? Dice it up and add. Too many jalapenos? It can take care of that. Scallions getting wilty? Throw them in there. In fact, the omelet is to breakfast what salad is to lunch — you can toss just about anything in there and somehow it all works.

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