What I learned from Red Velvet Cupcakes and Cabbage Rolls

In a moment of horror, I had run out of the necessary 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of red dye for the Red Velvet Cupcakes. Yikes! What are red velvet cupcakes without the red???  Chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting? Doesn’t sound right, does it? For the rest of the evening I distributed my out of uniform, yet delicious, cupcakes with an apology: “Sorry, they were supposed to be red velvet cupcakes.” I don’t know why I felt compelled to explain the aesthetic failure. Atiya and Ava seemed completely bored by my explanations while stuffing their beautiful little mouths. They didn’t share my categorical dilemma about the not-red, red velvet cake. So I learned that definitions in the kitchen do not matter as much. Maybe that’s why I like being in the kitchen. As long as its yummy, its good. Call it what you will.

I also learned that home-made cupcakes require more attention to the shopping list and more time for clean up.  A packaged cupcake needs: a package of cake mix, frosting, muffin tin, paper cups, one mixing bowl and two spoons. The home made version required the long list of ingredients (and the forgotten food coloring), one bowl for dry, one bowl for wet, the mixing bowl (washed and used again for the frosting), muffin tin, cups, piping bag, etc. The time involved in shopping and cleanup was considerably longer in baking cupcakes at home. It would be more realistic if a cooking show followed the host to the grocery store, through the cooking process AND the clean up. I need and have a lot of help with the grocery and clean up when cooking at home.  Thank you, Jim for doing three loads of dishes and going to the grocery store with me this weekend.  No single person can be expected to churn out a home made family meal. Cooking and eating must be a group effort.

When you do have help in both the food preparation and eating process, cooking at home can be a lot of fun. On a weekend, without soccer games, dance recitals or gymnastics, that is exactly what I did. Cook, eat, nap, repeat. We made:

Friday Night: Beef Stew and Popovers

I learned to add the carrots and potatoes later to keep them bright and soft, but not mushy. I learned how to make easy pop overs.

Saturday Morning: Popovers and Baked Eggs

I learned to add a spoon of milk to keep the egg moist in the oven. An easy way to make a lot of eggs at the same time.

We went out for Saturday dinner. We needed a break from the stove and the sink. It was a good dinner at a chain restaurant. Easy, predictable and somewhat affordable for a dinner for five. I know, not very “foodie” of us. Not-red Red velvet cupcakes taught me to not fixate on judgmental definitions, just enjoy. We each have to find our own happy comfort zone between cooking- not cooking, processed- fresh, local-global etc.

Sunday Morning: Blueberry Scones

We used blueberries we picked at a local farm over summer. So juicy and delicious. Dipped in maple syrup, even better. The scones with wheat and white flour were easy to make and almost felt healthy.

Sunday Dinner: Cabbage Rolls

I was trying to recreate a cabbage roll sold in our local farmer’s market. It is not something I grew up eating but I love the soft slow cooked cabbage and the filling of rice and ground beef. The textures of the dish are very familiar while the flavors without the spices are very different. I wasn’t sure what recipe to use or even what food term to search (similar to my red velvet cupcake dilemma). I learned that there are many versions, including Polish Golabki and southern. I ended up using what I had on hand like diced tomatoes instead of tomato sauce, I added sauteed bell pepper along with onions and carrots in the meat-rice mix. I learned a new technique of dipping the cabbage head in hot water and peeling away the leaves. That was fun. I can’t wait to try to make the dish with Bengali spices. I remember eating beef and cabbage curry. That would be an interesting twist on cabbage rolls.

The cupcakes and the cabbage rolls taught me to focus on techniques and taste instead of definitions and recipes.

Oh, and I also made pound cake and chocolate cookies to send to my niece. Recipes I tried before and stayed true to (except for the cookies I tried different kinds of chips).  Elvis’ favorite pound cake is now my favorite too.

Yes, there was a lot of cooking, baking and dish washing this weekend. I wonder what’s for dinner tonight? Maybe a one-pot easy stir fry.

Hope your weekend was delicious,


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