Category Archives: Heal Thy Meal

Hey, Biscotti and Twice-Baked Potatoes, there’s a new kid in town

Every year I tell myself, after I boil way too many eggs in preparation for Easter dyeing, that I’ll cut back next time. And then spring rolls back around and I think, “Maybe this is the year they’ll get really into it, so I’ll just cook up a cool dozen to be safe,” and by this I mean a dozen cartons. So after we dyed about twenty eggs and sent home three dozen with our pod family, we were left with a superfluous amount of cheap, white, hardboiled eggs. Part of me saw this coming, and that part thought: egg salad! Eggs in lunch boxes! Surely there are lots of things we can do with the leftovers!

As it turns out, there really aren’t that many ways to eat hardboiled eggs unless you have a household full of adventuresome palates. Since that isn’t the case in my home, I racked my brain to think of how to utilize them in such as way as to result in consumption prior to decomposition. I know, such a romantic culinary incentive! I also happened to have about half of a quart of liquid egg whites that was approaching its “best by” date, so I concocted a wild idea: what if I mashed up a bunch of the boiled eggs, added the liquid whites and some milk and cheese and salt and pepper, and baked it up into a quiche?

Well, it worked. Next time I’d add some bacon or ham to variegate the texture, and some caramelized onion and spinach would be welcome additions as well. Here I give you:

Double-Cookery Quiche

(serves 8-12)

12 hardboiled eggs, mashed with fork
1 pint liquid egg whites (or ~six whole eggs, beaten)
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup shredded cheese (a mixture of cheddar and swiss would work well)
2 prepared pie shells (or make your own if that’s how you do things)
salt & pepper
Optional additions: small onion, slivered and caramelized in butter, sautéed or fresh spinach, crumbled cooked bacon, ham, or other cured meat cut into small pieces, or any number of other options!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two pie plates with the crusts. Combine all ingredients and divide the mixture evenly between the two pie dishes. Bake for about twenty minutes or until top is dry and just beginning to think about browning. Allow to cool for a few minutes (it’s good cold, too, though I prefer it warm but not piping hot). Serve with sliced tomatoes, a bowl of soup (gazpacho, anyone?), or a salad. Perfect for a summer picnic!

What’s in a name

When we were preparing for our oldest child to enter middle school, we had to choose which language he would take. The obvious choice in my opinion is Latin, but unfortunately that wasn’t an option, so it was either French or Spanish. I’ve held a suspicion for a while that Liam might have a future as a culinary school student (I also was certain that my daughter would be born a redhead (she’s blonde as a daisy) and my third child would be a girl (he is most definitely a boy from top to bottom), so it’s possible that I’m wrong about this, too). Harboring that speculation, however, did make the decision a bit more complex. I posited that French would be most helpful in pursuing a culinary education, but for working in an actual restaurant, at least in the US, Spanish is the obvious choice.

Assuming that I’m probably incorrect in thinking that he has a future in gastronomy, and because Spanish seems a practical language for young Americans to learn in general, that’s eventually what we chose, though I did feel wistful about the idea of Liam walking into his first day of an internship at Le Cordon Bleu with a brain full of fluent French. Not that he couldn’t learn it later on, of course, but there certainly is something romantic about a little boy speaking en français in a little boy voice. And though it’s quite possible that I’m just projecting about the idea of him as a future chef, the child sure does share my delight in Julia Child’s “The Way to Cook” collection from the eighties, and if I ever want someone to binge-watch every episode of “The Great British Baking Show” (again), he’d be my pick. He also has interesting sentiments about food, and his palate is remarkable.

For example, one morning he took his first bite of a bowl of cereal, and a look of disgust immediately colored his face as he declared that the milk had soured. I sipped my coffee, full of milk from that same half-gallon, and disagreed. His sister, who was also eating cereal, agreed with me; the milk was fine. Well, what do you know, but the next morning when I poured some in my coffee: curds. Damn, I thought, that boy was right (again). A few weeks later I used some cheese in his baked potato that was pushing its expiration date, but it tasted fine and was only beginning to smell a tad on the ripe side, but he pushed it away. “There’s something wrong with the cheese,” he diagnosed, having merely smelled the fork. Meanwhile, his siblings found no fault in the aging cheddar, but I started to think: this kid knows flavor. He frequently comments on aspects of balance and texture, and he’s always been especially sensitive to the temperature of food. He also likes to experiment with making combinations, like putting avocado on a hotdog or sautéed clover on pizza. This isn’t to say that he’s particularly adventuresome when it comes to eating; in fact, he’s pretty picky. But he often has interesting ideas for recipes, including adding bacon to a quesadilla or making what we call burgerritos.

He suggested that we make cheeseburgers and wrap them, with some guacamole, in flour tortillas, and I’m obviously a sucker for a portmanteau opportunity, so the “burgerrito” was born. I’d picked up some organic wagyu ground beef that was on sale and suggested that we mold the patties into an oblong shape with the cheese pocketed inside. That way, the baking time would be short because the layer of meat would be thin, and the cheese would melt at the end of the cooking process due to convection. Then we could wrap these in warmed tortillas and serve with guacamole for dipping (or ketchup as an alternative). It was a great success, and everyone raved about the beef. I said, “It’s wagyu, so it’s really rich. I’ll have to see if it’s still on sale.” Liam reacted to this with a fit of giggles, and we all looked at him quizzically. “Wagyu!” he said. “So it’s tail meat?! You know, ‘wag you’??” and commenced his hilarity.

Maybe I should have him take Japanese instead.

Making lunch for Mrs. Lloyd: a life lesson

One of the most memorable class periods in school I’ve ever experienced was that “How to Make a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich” lesson in probably second or third grade (I remember the lesson but, strangely, neither the teacher nor the classroom). I think this “exact instructions” segment is pretty standard as far as elementary school programming, and for good reason. Here’s how it went in our class:

The teacher placed a bag of sliced bread, a jar each of peanut butter and jelly, a knife, a plate, and a napkin on the desk in front of her. She then asked for a volunteer to tell her how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and the volunteer (we’ll call him Matthew because there was definitely a kid with that name in the class) began by saying, “Put the peanut butter on one side of the bread and the jelly on the other.” The teacher put the jar of peanut butter to the left of the bag of bread and the jelly to the right.
“There!” she said.
“No, you have to take the bread out of the bag first!” said Matthew. The teacher began tearing the bag open from the bottom.
“No,” said Matthew, “Take off the plastic thingy on the other side to open the bag!” The teacher did that, opened the bag, took all of the bread out, and put it on the desk.
“You only need two pieces,” said Matthew, so the teacher put all but two slices of bread back in the bag and looked at Matthew expectantly.
“Ok, now spread peanut butter on one piece of bread,” said Matthew, trying a more explicit approach. The teacher picked up the jar of peanut butter and wiped the bottom of it across the surface of a piece of bread a few times.
“No, you have to open the jar first!” said Matthew. “Then spread it on the bread!” The teacher, who must have been having a really great time at this point, took the knife and started sawing at the side of the peanut butter jar.
“Unscrew the lid!” called a kid who was probably named Jennings and had been having trouble containing himself throughout this process. The teacher followed this direction and opened the peanut butter jar, then put her full hand in and began scooping up a generous handful before Jennings again interjected, “NO! Use the knife, not your hand!” The teacher nodded as if NOW she understood how this was done, cleaned her hand, picked up the knife by its blade, dipped the handle into the jar and began wiping one side of a piece of bread with peanut butter.
“Wrong way!” called Matthew, “Hold the knife on the other end and use the sharper part for the peanut butter!” The teacher complied, successfully applied the spread to the bread, and asked Matthew what to do next.
“Now open the jelly jar by taking off the lid and then use the sharp end of the knife to spread jelly on the other side to make a sandwich,” he said. So the teacher picked up the knife, dipped it into the jelly, flipped over the piece of peanut-buttered bread, and began spreading the jelly onto the other side of it. “No,” said Matthew, “The other piece of bread!” Things progressed from there until a fully composed peanut butter and jelly sandwich, sliced crosswise, sat on the plate next to the napkin. Matthew, having earned the distinction, was given the honor of delivering the sandwich to the head of our lower school, an exceptionally tall woman named Brenda Lloyd whose height was further augmented by her beehive of black hair shot with silver, an updo uncannily reminiscent of Marge Simpson’s, that famously caught fire one Friday when she bowed her head too close to the student acolyte bearing the candlelighter at chapel.

School didn’t prepare us very well when it comes to life skills like filing tax returns, scheduling duct cleanings, managing investments, cleaning refrigerator coils and dryer vents, or how to do things like install an automatic washing machine shut-off valve, but we certainly learned a valuable lesson that day, one that I’m reminded of frequently as we navigate this crash course of life. One child of mine, in particular, requires absolutely explicated, exhaustively specific, pointedly precise instruction when it comes to even things that feel like they should be intuitive, like how to use a knife and fork (at the same time and with separate hands). Recently I taught her how to make nachos, and we thought it would be a good idea to take notes, so here you have it:

The end. Except don’t forget to turn off the oven.

Alert: Easy Dinner Idea! Plus a preamble (sorry to string you along)

Remember that 48-pack of string cheese I bought at Costco back when Arlo liked it, only to have him declare it unpalatable about a day later? Well, I successfully used it on pizza, as I’ve mentioned, and continued to do so (pin this idea for Halloween: it makes great spiderweb pizzas! String it to make the web, then cut it into circles for spiders, add shorter strings for legs and black sesame seeds for eyes!). I thought we were down to fewer than a dozen of those cylindrical mozzarellas when Arlo said he’d try one again and, lo and behold, he liked it once more! So the next time I went to Costco, I bought another 48-pack, inwardly rejoicing that my campaign for getting Arlo to eat protein had just made a huge stride. When I went home, I put it away only to discover that there were still 24 left in the other bag. How had I missed that? I decided I’d just have to feed him string cheese at every possible opportunity. Now, you probably saw this coming, but guess what Arlo said he no longer liked later that afternoon?

Well, the challenge was obvious. I steeled my apron strings for the weeks ahead, a crusader on a mission to incorporate string cheese into every dinner until it was gone. Even though zero of my children would eat it cold out of the fridge (WHY NOT?! String cheese is so fun! It’s like cat’s cradle but with dairy), I thought they wouldn’t protest if it were heated, melted, and incorporated with other ingredients, as evidenced by the pizza experiments. So I strung it and mixed it with cheddar for quesadilla night, lined the inside of taco shells with it before baking and filling them, layered it on the refried beans spread on dough for Mexican pizza before topping with shredded chicken. I tucked it inside grilled cheese sandwiches and burritos, crisscrossed it into lasagna, stirred it into filling for twice-baked potatoes, folded it into omelets, and decorated the pastry bottom of a quiche with the now very familiar cream-colored strands. It slowly began to disappear from the refrigerator.

My favorite repurposed string cheese-centric meal is a take on mozzarella sticks (this preparation was better-received than when I tried making actual breadcrumb-coated mozzarella sticks in the air fryer). Here’s the recipe (if you can even call it that):

Ipzza Sticks (a.k.a. Inside-Out Pizza)


String cheese (duh), frozen
Pizza dough (however you like it: store-bought, homemade, from a mix, etc.)
Marinara or pizza sauce (again, however you like it: open a jar or start from scratch)
Pepperoni, fresh basil, garlic powder or other toppings/seasonings (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with rack in center. Roll out the pizza dough and cut it into rectangles big enough to wrap around a piece of string cheese with an extra half an inch or so to allow for sealing. Remove cheese from freezer and, working quickly, wrap each in a piece of dough, sealing the edges of the dough very tightly to minimize the ooze factor and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until dough begins to brown, but watch carefully and remove from oven as soon as any cheese begins to bubble out of a seam. Serve with marinara or pizza dipping sauce. Note: you can add pepperoni or basil leaves and any seasonings you like before rolling and sealing up these little logs.

Even the child who likes string cheese least of all, who normally wouldn’t so much as touch a shrink-wrapped tube of mozzarella if she could help it, made quick work of three Ipzza Sticks while rewatching a recording of the 2021 presidential inauguration speech. As Joe Biden said to the nation that day, “Don’t tell me things can’t change.” Right on, Mr. President.

Yes, that’s a backscratcher next to her napkin. No, she doesn’t use it as a fork.

Scratch “from scratch” (sometimes)

I’ve used several different recipes to make blueberry muffins from scratch, and without fail there is at least one person living in my home who doesn’t like the results as much as the ones produced by the boxed mix. A few years ago I began having a hard time finding the variety of the brand that everyone likes–Duncan Hines “Simple Mornings” without the streusel topping–so I just bought the same brand with streusel and omitted the topping because, let’s face it, they’re sugary enough as it is and no one was going to miss what they didn’t know they might be missing. However, I had a hard time with the prospect of just throwing away the sealed plastic bag containing premixed streusel with enough preservatives to guarantee a substantial shelf life, so I put the packet in the pantry each time I made a batch of muffins. This “save everything” incentive is a bit of a compulsion, I admit, and I’m sure its roots are in one control issue or another, but I like to think it aligns with the pact I’ve made with the universe to preserve what could be useful, even if it isn’t in that moment. I’m sure you’re familiar with that good old “I’ll figure out something to do with it; I’m sure it’ll come in handy someday” line of thinking. My friend Ellen calls me resourceful. She’s kind.

The practice of this concept, though largely lost on some people (a group that may or may not include my husband, who is very patient with my “keep it because it might be useful later” philosophy towards a great many things), oftentimes does prove out, which only serves to reinforce its validity and therefore cause me to keep my “keep it” mentality. Please allow the following recipe to act as my defense in holding onto things that I’d guess most people would throw directly in the trash without a second’s thought:

Three-Ingredient Apple Crisp

3 lbs. Granny Smith apples (or another firm, tart variety)
Six packets of streusel topping from Duncan Hines Simple Truth muffin mix (one packet comes in each box) or another 12-muffin mix with crumb topping included
Six tbsp. good cinnamon

Peel, core, and thinly slice apples and place them in a buttered or oil-sprayed baking dish. Mix streusel topping with cinnamon and spread evenly over the apples, then place on the middle rack in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes, until bubbling and slightly browned on top. Serve (warm or cooled) with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or in a bowl with a pour of heavy cream.


Bonus kitchen-economy tip: Empty pickle jar? Before you dump out that piquant chartreuse brine, consider this: I did a second planting of green beans in late summer, and what came up were lackluster in both texture and flavor. Even the pet bunny wasn’t interested. But guess what? I stuck them all into a pickle jar with the leftover liquid and (two weeks of refrigeration later): voilà! Pickled green beans, great in a salad or alongside a sandwich. Sliced onions or a peck of any kind of peppers work well too, and they keep for a long time. I’d bet okra, beets, radishes, rhubarb, ginger, and green tomatoes would be interesting as “cheat pickles”. And before you recycle that glass jar, just think: you can use it to freeze things because it’s already tempered and won’t shatter all over the plastic sachets of frozen potsticker sauce from the bags of Ling-Lings that you save because, sooner or later, there will certainly be something to stir-fry.

Hallelujah Cookies

As a student of Latin, a former English teacher, and a lifelong language enthusiast in general, I’ve always cared a lot about two topics I find compelling and important: grammar and punctuation. As a young learner, I delighted in books by Richard Lederer, grand master of wordplay, and diagramming sentences brought me great satisfaction in seventh grade. I offered a grammar elective at the school where I used to teach (we had so much fun!), and I’ve made a collection of drawings using only punctuation and diacritical marks. (What amazing names these graphological characters possess! I’ve always wanted to write a story featuring characters named Umlaut, Cedilla, Tilde, Circumflex, Macron…the list can obviously continue.) One year, I dressed up as a compound sentence for Halloween by wearing a banner with the words “independent clause” on each arm and a sign saying “coordinating conjunction” around my neck, instrumentally decorated with a big fat comma in black Sharpie. Some mornings I wake up and scroll through posts and comments in my Facebook grammar group, which is frequently fun, sometimes distressing, but always elucidating. Let me tell you, these people have OPINIONS.

Recently there was yet another debate about the Oxford comma, and some of those arguing in favor cited humorous examples of what happens when it isn’t used, such as “Among those interviewed were Merle Haggard’s two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall” and “This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God” (that one had me rolling). I agree that punctuation matters because using it, and using it correctly, favors specificity within language, which then favors clear communication, and who doesn’t love that? Conversely, punctuation can also be used intentionally with the purpose of ambiguation, often with fascinating outcomes.

However, there is something to be said for what can happen when mistakes are made. For example, how many accidents in the kitchen have produced something new and entirely wonderful? This is supposedly how we ended up with things like potato chips and Worcestershire sauce and ice cream cones, after all, and our world is decidedly a better place for those inventions. Similarly, when punctuation is overlooked or omitted, new turns of phrase can be born that deserve to exist if only for their novelty, similar to how autocorrect has provided so many inside jokes for so many people in the age of text messaging. One of my favorite examples of punctuation falling through the cracks was told to me by my platinum friend, Becca, one day when I arrived at her house. We had both baked that day, unbeknownst to the other, and greeted each other with gifts from our ovens. Hers for me was a packet of foil containing a most sublime confection: Hallelujah Cookies. This is their name now, given to them by Becca, who found the recipe below in a magazine and didn’t notice the colon in the first line.

Rules: we need them. They keep us safe and help us make sense of the world around us. They facilitate our ability to interact constructively with each other and exchange ideas in productive ways. They give us a language of regularity and structure. They often account for predictability, stability, and cooperation. But also! Rules: when we break them, sometimes, just look what beauty is engendered there! Bear witness; therein can exist a kind of revelation. Hallelujah.

P.S. Becca’s kids recommend adding chocolate chips to these. I have to say, as kids brought up on the kind of incredible food their parents produce, they know what’s good.

How Polly-O saved pizza night

I was making pizzas for dinner one night a few weeks ago, and everything was fine until I realized, after the sauce was already on the rounds of dough, that we didn’t have any mozzarella in the refrigerator. This didn’t seem like a problem; I had a bag in the freezer, and usually the individual pieces of shredded cheese (my sister and I call these “shreds”) separate pretty easily, even when frozen. So I unearthed a bag that, as it turns out, might have been in there for a very long time because those little squiggles of cheese were absolutely glued together in one impudent block of dairy solidarity. I didn’t have time to let it sit for a while, so I thought I’d put the cheese in a glass bowl and give it a few seconds in the microwave to speed things up. Yeah, I know: bad idea. What I took out of the microwave was a situation in which there were about seven stages of melt occurring, and about half of those stages registered as critical, so I worked as quickly as I could to stretch that molten mass into a thickness desirable for the purpose of my children’s dinner before it congealed into an amorphous conglomeration vaguely resembling a handful of clay thrown on a potting wheel before it’s shaped into something useful. Of course that cheese ended up in clumps and strands and globs and basically all the forms that cheese can take when it’s unappetizing, and somehow I had far less territory of sauce covered by using this ham-handed technique than I would have, had the cheese been cooperatively sprinkled on in shreds the way it was intended by the manufacturing company. I stood there staring at this monstrosity when two amazing things happened basically simultaneously: my husband plonked a cold basil and gin gimlet on the counter in front of me, and a brand-new idea came to mind (it’s possible these two things are related, but there’s no real way to know): string cheese could save the day.

Arlo loved Polly-O string cheese (he calls it “up cheese” because of its resemblance to a Doric column) for approximately four days, after which point it was anathema to him, and of course no one else will eat it, so I had almost an entire Costco-sized bag on hand. I grabbed a few and got to stringing it, using the strands to fill in the gaping saucy holes on these pizzas. I honestly wish I’d taken a picture of the finished product because what I ended up deserves to be a meme with the caption “If 2020 Were a Pizza”. As I was fumbling through this process, the clock obstinately ticking away, Liam was sitting on the sofa reading a book while the other kids were outside playing, and I said to him, “Liam, I am just having the worst time with this right now.” He didn’t look up from his book or stop twirling his hair to reply, in the sweetest, most matter-of-fact tone, “You’ll get it, Mama.”

He very rarely calls me “Mama”, but hearing that sentence at that moment actually made me catch my honest-to-god breath. I don’t know whether he has blind faith in my abilities, knew that graceful words of encouragement and reassurance were exactly what I needed in that moment, or just didn’t want to bestir himself long enough to even be bothered to know what I was doing, but it didn’t matter. Those four words were just perfect, and what do you know? The pizzas came out of the oven looking a whole lot better than when they went in, and everyone ate string cheese that night, though they didn’t know it. Turns out a little warmth, a little softening, a little forgiveness in the rigidity of form was all it took to turn a mess into something else, something achieving decency and then surpassing it completely.

Shrimp and Couscous with Garden Guilt Salsa

I’ve mentioned the volunteer tomatillos in the garden, the ones that grew from last year’s volunteers, sprung from the prior year’s intentional planting. That year I planned the garden based on what I was hoping the deer wouldn’t eat, as we didn’t have a fence around the backyard yet, and deer in our neighborhood are known for going to great lengths to lay waste to vegetable plots, even eating pumpkins off people’s porches and scaling our precipitous front steps to feast on my pots of pansies late one fall. So I planted tomatillos and garlic chives and all sorts of things I neither really wanted nor knew what do with if they grew, but the need to cultivate was so compelling that I went so far as to put mint in my raised beds (I laboriously learned the hard way how foolhardy that was).

What I haven’t mentioned is just how proprietary these tomatillos are. They’ve done their best to elbow out everything else by creating a sprawling, yellow-flowering web of entanglement, and they’re fruiting like mad. Last year I made a nice autumnal chicken stew with a bunch and begged my brother to take away the rest, but this year I just kept collecting them with no earthly idea of what I would do until I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I also had a bowl of cherry tomatoes I’d picked almost too many days earlier sitting expectantly on the counter, so here’s how this ended:

Salsa Sorta Verde

1.5 lbs tomatillos, papery hulls removed
3/4 lb cherry tomatoes
1/2 a medium yellow onion
2-3 jalapeños (or serranos, etc.), seeds and ribs removed
4 large cloves garlic
1 large or 2 small limes’ worth of juice

Halve tomatillos and toss with tomatoes and a little olive oil and place cut side down on baking sheets. Broil on high until skins begin to blister and char, 7-10 minutes. Roughly chop onion, peppers, and garlic. Once they’re cool enough, add tomatillos and tomatoes along with any juice they’ve released to a blender with all other ingredients and pulse until roughly smooth (or smoothly rough…whichever you prefer!). Season to taste.

We stirred about a cup of this into two cups of cooked couscous (3/4 c. dry Moroccan couscous added to one cup of boiling water with a chicken bouillon cube dissolved in it) and served it with shrimp, and my husband and I thought it was pretty great. It was also different, which was also pretty great. I’d suggest garnishing with avocado, a scoop of crème fraîche (or plain yogurt), and wedges of lime.

NB: This was too spicy for the children in my house. Well, it was too spicy for the one child who tried it, though he said he liked the flavor and requested that next time I cut the heat, so maybe I’ll add a bell pepper to that broiling pan as a substitute for the raw jalapeño next time the tomatillos overbear. Either way, I think I’ll serve it with a side of pizza because, well, kids. Also. Please wear gloves while working with hot peppers. I always forget, and each time I’m unpleasantly reminded of my mistake because we humans touch our faces WAY more than we’re even aware of. Just not in public anymore.

and my child is still alive.Taalkjx

Trash Treats

You know the cereal dust left in the bottoms of the bags after the last Cheerio or Mini Wheat has been excavated and added to a bowl of milk? I used to roll it all up inside the bag and throw it away. Isn’t that what everyone does? I mean, what else are you going to do with that stuff?

For me, that last question has become less rhetorical than it once may have been. In fact, the whole concept of waste has taken on a different dimension these past months, and though I’m naturally predisposed to avoid basically every kind of waste, as the weeks comprising March and April unfolded, the urgency of “making use” loomed larger than usual. This inclination is as old as time, of course; some of the most innovative and resourceful civilizations live by the practice, if not the necessity, of making full and complete use of what’s at hand. The notion of “nose to tail” (or “fin to scale”), by which we utilize every part of the animals that die for the sake of feeding us, is a beautiful thing. Not only does it dignify the loss of life and glorify the being incarnate now departed, it makes a whole lot of sense from the standpoint of economy. With plant-based matter, this can hold true too–why compost the corn husks after shucking if you can dry them flat and see what happens when you take some magic markers to their corrugated surface? (Pair this with a lesson on papyrus!) Why ditch that bag of stale Pirate’s Booty when you can use some dental floss to string it up like popcorn? (Pair this with a lesson on threading a needle and tying a double-looped knot!)

“Making use” can feel like a titillating challenge, if you’re at all like I am, by kindling the question “How can I manipulate this (whatever it is) to make it appealing and/or useful?” For example: Babybel cheese wax? Let’s make candles and learn how to strike a match. Clam shells left over from linguine night? We’ll bleach them and paint them and hang them on the Christmas tree. Coconut husks? Let’s drill holes, plant succulents inside, and hang them from a tension rod hung inside a window frame. Flannel nursing pads that never stayed in place and then wrinkled impossibly in the dryer? A little spray starch and a hot iron will turn those bad boys into throw rugs for the dollhouse. Carrot greens left over from making crudités? Pesto, presto!

It’s this mentality that’s caused me to bake things like kiwi bread (which I think is delicious, by the way) and mustard green and artichoke dip. It’s prompted me to try pulverizing freeze-dried fruit to use in place of cocoa powder, to blitz freeze-dried shiitakes and cauliflower for breading chicken tenderloins. It’s inspired me to write recipes like Laughing Cow Cheese Soup and Zucchini Potato Chip Frittata. All of this is a great exercise in creativity and prudence, and I appreciate that, but at times it feels like pressure to ensure that as little as possible goes to waste. “Waste not, want not” isn’t a watertight adage by any means, but maybe that’s a little bit of what’s behind all this; in a time when we have so many unmet wants with the onus of knowing that our kids do too, while we’re all in a constant state of energetic helplessness, we funnel a whole lot of effort into purposing and repurposing. It’s a microcosmic way that our brains and bodies can cooperate to impose some order, to make sense of things in a phase of time clothed in uncertainty: maybe, just maybe, by eliminating some waste we can eliminate some wants. True, the corollary of a theorem rarely proves out, but still: there’s no harm in finding a nutcracker to see if we can germinate those apricot pits; no harm in sautéing backyard-foraged clover for a pizza topping (Liam loved it!); no harm in crafting a fleet of eggshell sailboats, painting the calciferous hulls with expired nail polish, and staging regatta races from one side of the creek bridge to the other.

This brings us to my first installment of “Heal Thy Meal” (see top banner for my page on this!), which I’ve named Trash Treats (they’re Rice Krispie Treats but call for that aforementioned cereal dust in place of Rice Krispies):

Trash Treats

(makes about 12)

4 tbsp salted butter (or use unsalted and add a few grinds of salt)

6 ½ cups miniature marshmallows

~6 c. cereal dust from the bags of assorted cereals (shredded wheat, Kix, Crispix, Cheerios, Special K, Cornflakes, etc.)

Grease a 9-13 in. casserole dish or spray with cooking spray. Melt butter in large pot over medium heat. Add marshmallows and stir until melted. Cut the stove and add the cereals. Mix to combine and press into casserole dish with buttered fingers, then cool slightly and cut into squares, or roll into balls with buttered hands while still warm (as in photo). Serving suggestion: pair with a glass of milk. (Or, for the adults in the room, might I recommend a chilled cup of eggnog?)