Guess what? I made cookies this weekend. Guess what else? They turned green.
This startling discovery, made just a few hours after baking, was only part of a weekend of dubious but important revelations in the realm of cooking, eating, shopping, and feeding my family. Things started off innocently enough, with what can only be described as an epic trip to the Farmer’s Market. After laying out an embarrassingly record-breaking amount of cash for the irresistible edibles at each stall, I nearly sustained serious chiropractic trauma in the act of lugging it all to my car. In total, by vendor, I brought home:
1.5 lbs of fresh peas, 2 cups of mixed basils and mint, and 10 POUNDS of heirloom tomatoes from Pak Express;
1 bag (about 6 cups, maybe?) mixed salad greens, 2 lemon cucumbers, 1 pint orange cherry tomatoes, and 1 box of carrots from Zephyr Farm;
5 lbs. peaches, 5 lbs. MacIntosh apples, and 1 pint blueberries from Barden Family Orchard;
6 lbs. red potatoes, 10 cups or so of spinach leaves, and 2 large zucchini from Moosup River Farms.
Epiphany #1: 10 pounds of tomatoes is a lot of tomatoes, whether you have a plan to use them all or not. I didn’t set out to buy 10 pounds of tomatoes, I can assure you — but as a quick glance at the meal plan will show, I’m intending to make slow cooker tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes for tomorrow night’s dinner (which I’ll also dress up a bit with the basil/mint combination and some goat cheese), so a large number of tomatoes are required this week. In my head, I stood at the Pak Express stall thinking that 12 or so tomatoes would be the right number for the sauce, and that I’d need additional tomatoes for the oven-dried tomatoes I’m packing in the boys’ lunches, as well as for salads, sandwiches, and so forth throughout the week. So I just kept counting and handing them over, and almost fell down in shock when the total poundage — and the ensuing tomato bill — was revealed to me. They are now overflowing the tomato basket I keep on my kitchen counter, despite being perched in a precarious tower of oversized red orbs. A quick glance from an unassuming onlooker might prompt fears of a tomato takeover of Earth.
However, I recovered from the shock and immediately hacked one of the beauties up into slivers for oven-dried tomatoes (I also did a sheet of apple and banana slices, while I was at it — if the oven’s going to be on at 200 degrees for 3 hours, it may as well be full.) Besides the oven-drying, a quick (and large) batch of peach sauce, and a lovely dinner consisting of orange-balsamic marinated chicken and a large platter of DIY salad fixings, I didn’t venture into any other culinary territory on Saturday. It stands to reason, of course, that the dawning of Sunday would greet me with fresh ambition, leading to…
Epiphany #2: If you bake with sunflower butter, it might turn green. With cups and cups of peach sauce hanging around, I thought maybe I’d play around with using some of it in baked goods. I’ve been intending to also mess with sunflower butter in the same way, since it seems a shame to me that my nut-loving kids can’t enjoy treats like peanut butter cookies in their lunches due to the nut-free restrictions at their schools. We have good success with substituting sunflower butter in their sandwiches, on crackers, etc., and I’ve heard of many other people who also bake with it as a peanut butter substitute. So I set out to make a peach-sunflower cookie for the kids, using no added butter or oil and scarcely any additional sugar. They turned out great — I even added some toasted sunflower seeds for crunch — and the boys happily snacked on them warm out of the oven. It was only after they’d cooled and been placed in the clear-sided cookie tin that I walked by the counter and was greeted with the sight of MOSS-GREEN COOKIES peeking at me. Closer inspection proved that they hadn’t changed in flavor, texture, or smell, but they looked disgusting enough that I didn’t even have the heart to take a picture to post here. Guess what? Apparently if you add baking soda to sunflower butter in a recipe, the two form a chemical reaction. Just call me Mr. Wizard. I’ll adapt the recipe next time to try to avoid the issue, but in the meantime, these cookies would be excellent for Halloween.
Our weekend ended with a family outing — J. and I work for the same company, and the Annual Picnic was on Sunday afternoon at a local outdoor recreational facility. We arrived at 3:30 and didn’t leave until 7:30, mainly because we couldn’t catch the children until then. Upon arrival, L. disappeared into the rented Bounce House with all the other kids and only reappeared at brief intervals to make sure we hadn’t left him there permanently. P., on the other hand, applied himself quite seriously to the pursuit of basketball, despite his distinct size disadvantage. When he wasn’t madly toddling around clutching a ball larger than himself, trying to stuff it into a child-sized hoop, he was simply running. Which meant, of course, that I was running after him. Four hours later, we stuffed our sweaty, exhausted children (and ourselves, no better off) into the car and headed home, baffled by the realization that somehow, no one but J. had gotten anything to eat.
Epiphany #3: My grandmother was right — crackers and milk is a perfectly acceptable dinner. My dad’s mother, known colloquially throughout the family as Ma, is famous for two culinary assessments: for one thing, that butter ought not be spared in proper cooking, especially when feeding growing boys; and for another, that crackers and milk are the failsafe dinner for hungry children after a tiring day. Prior to this weekend, I had never actually tested the second of these two theories, but Sunday night required it. Though Ma’s cracker of choice in these circumstances was apparently the Pilot cracker (followed closely by Ritz or Saltines), my children were served Goldfish crackers with their milk. Happily sated by hours of play, unhassled by Mommy’s usual nutritional standards, and confronted with food that required nothing but a bit of mindless crunching and slurping, L. and P. ate silently and fell into their beds for what had to have been the soundest night of sleep either of them has enjoyed in quite some time.
It’s an odd weekend that brings such a mix of kitchen successes and failures, but I’m glad to say that I’m satisfied with these rather questionable discoveries, or rather, with the perspective gained from them. Nobody starved or developed some imaginary disease of malnutrition, the tomatoes will eventually get used, and even if I can’t get the kids to eat the cookies now that they’re horribly green, I’ve learned something new and interesting about baking, which means that I now have another project to tackle in figuring out how to solve the problem. The perfectionist in me is cowering in defeat, but my inner geek is absolutely delighted.