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Life as a Recipe Box

Cookies are Health Food 
Aug. 17, 2012 7:23 pm 
Updated: Aug. 21, 2012 7:10 am
Recently, my husband and I decided our house needed hardscape - the new deck needed a landing, a patio for the gas grill and maybe a walkway out to the gate.  After drawing out our ideas and calculating our supplies we realized we'd need 150 large paving blocks.  More daunting, we realized we'd need to pick the blocks up one at a time and put them down again.  Our brutally honest self-assessment was that we could do it, but we'd probably not be able to walk for the rest of the summer.

We considered hiring someone, until Husband had a scathingly brilliant idea!  Call our nephews in Ohio, invite them to come stay for a week, and ask them to pick things up and put them down for us.  Several phone calls and text messages later, the nephews, B1, 17, and B2, 15, were on their way to New Hampshire.  Despite my girlfriend's caution ("You're inviting two teenage boys to live in your house?  On purpose?") we were excited to see them and put them to work.

The nephews are tall, healthy, blond and muscular.  Remembering our own sons at that age, we stocked the refrigerator with veggies, orange juice, eggs and milk, and the cupboards with peanut butter, cereal and bread.  We interrogated their mother about likes and dislikes.  She assured us that "they eat everything," which we fully believed and "they don't eat much junk food," which we thought might be wishful thinking combined with respect for our finances.  Having raised two sons, I was pretty sure I should stock up on cookies.

The night before they arrived I baked double batches of snickerdoodles (Husband's favorite) and chocolate chip cookies (mine).  Sitting at the kitchen island, surrounded by unpacked luggage and glasses of milk, B1 and B2 devoured several cookies as they told us about their flight.  Work on the patio began the next day, and a hearty lunch and dinner were followed by more cookies.  Twenty-four hours after their arrival, the boys that didn't eat much junk food had put a sizable dent in both the pile of pavers and the Tupperware full of cookies.

By this time we knew a little more about them.  They did, indeed, eat everything put in front of them, although B1 was apt to eat lightly when the food wasn't a favorite, and then make himself peanut butter and lettuce sandwiches as a snack.  B2 was fond of putting ranch salad dressing on everything he ate.  Knowing that teenaged boys can burn thousands of calories a day even when they aren't working hard, we didn't worry too much about nutrition and fed them dishes our boys (and the nephew's father when he was younger) loved.  Chicken fricassee with dumplings, beef burritos, fried fish and American chop suey all disappeared, along with many more cookies.

Admitting that their favorite cookie was peanut butter, I baked seven dozen the second day they were here, using Peter Pan because Mom said it made the best cookies.  The nephews seemed to agree.  The peanut butter cookies vanished faster than the snickerdoodles, if that's possible.  Realizing that twenty dozen cookies weren't going to last until the job was completed, I cast around for other delights.  Husband and I cheerfully abandoned our high-fiber, low-carb diet for the duration of their visit.

One night the boys admitted that they didn't know who Barney Fife was.  Husband immediately fired up the DVD player and the men laughed through episodes of the Andy Griffith Show while I made whoopie pies.  The boys insisted that they had never had whoopie pies before, and were delighted when Husband declared, "That's it.  Next time I see your father I'm going to kick his butt!"

As the food disappeared, the walkway and patio appeared, transforming our yard.  While Husband and I occasionally lugged a single paver from driveway to patio, B1 held a pair over his head and did a few quick triceps extensions.  B2 swept, raked, shoveled and carefully placed pavers one after the other, only briefly stopping to laugh at one of Husband's family stories or to harass his brother. 

Five days after they arrived, they boarded a plane back to Ohio, and our kitchen returned to normal.  Yogurt replaced bacon, and Marshmallow Fluf gave way to almond butter.  The house grew quiet again as we resumed our daily routine.  And every time I set foot on our new walkway, I think of my two nephews and smile.  I'm really not sure if it's because our yard is so much improved or because they helped me remember how much fun it is to cook for boys who eat everything.

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Aug. 19, 2012 3:57 pm
KATHNH -- I loved your blog. Your nephews sound like really great guys -- how lucky you were that they were willing, helping hands! I, too, cook and bake too much for just my husband and myself, it was so much easier when there were six of us in this house. It's taken me a long time to realize that I prefer to bake, and it's easier to give to the neighbors/friends than to eat it all. Enjoy your new patio and walkway and all the memories of baking for those lucky boys!
Aug. 19, 2012 5:46 pm
That is a wonderful story. The time you spent with them will be memories they will carry with them forever. There will always be a special bond between you and them.
Aug. 21, 2012 7:10 am
I loved reading this blog. Great job making me smile, too. Makes me smile when I see the hand-painted bird house my two grandsons did. I know the feeling.
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Baking, Grilling & BBQ, Slow Cooking, Mexican, Italian, Low Carb, Vegetarian, Dessert, Quick & Easy

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About Me
Married with two grown sons, a dog and two grand-dogs. More a baker than a cook, every so often I simply have to "channel" my grandmother and just spend the day in the kitchen. Sure wish there were more people to eat what I cook!
My favorite things to cook
It's feast or famine. I love cooking for a crowd because I really enjoy having six things going at once.
My favorite family cooking traditions
My son is a fantastic cook; I love it when he offers to make something or teach me how. Some favorites: Sweet Potato Chips; Paella; and Shrimp Scampi.
My cooking triumphs
Winning the competitive soup contest at work with the Pumpkin Bisque I had spent weeks perfecting. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- And the day my husband was checking out the "cook of the month" feature in the local paper. "I should put your name in for that" he says. "Wow" I replied, "that's the nicest thing you've ever said about my cooking!" "Well," he said, "I was just sitting here thinking.... You cook about once a month."
My cooking tragedies
Too many to count. I suppose the low point was the "beef stew" I tried to make out of leftover garlic mashed potatoes and sirloin steak. I've never been sure if I really had morning sickness or if it was a result of eating only my own cooking!
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