Lazy Mom Snack Stuff

I am a HUGE proponent of menu planning. My husband and I started this pre-kids, when we had two incomes and no inclination to cook at the end of very long days. That was a golden time, those halcyon days when for two or three nights a week dinner was Chipotle or Panera or Skyline* but all good things must come to an end, and so must not good things like eating out every night. Our budget could support it then but we knew that sort of habit was A) not healthy and B) not cheap, so we decided to try planning out our meals a week at a time and shopping accordingly.

It was an awesome decision and some day I’ll write a huge long blog post about how much I love menu planning and how awesome it is and why you should do it, too. That day is not today, though.

Today it is nearly the end of the month, and since we’ve switched our menu planning (and consequently our Big Shopping day) to once a month, things are getting a little sparse in my kitchen. The last week is always when we run out of stuff but don’t want to go pick it up since we’re Big Shopping in a few days, so I have to get creative. Days like today are when I plan for dinners like marinated chicken, steam-in-a-bag edamame, and homemade corn bread, a menu which sounds delicious but was actually put together because those are all things I can be guaranteed to have in my cupboards and freezer no matter how wonky our month was.

Snack time with Little Thing One and Little Thing Two gets dicey around this time of the month, too. All the Good Snacks have been eaten and they’re just not feeling celery and cranberries or a piece of plain bread.

So here’s what I made today:

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Other moms might recognize this. It is Standard Mom Stale Cereal Snack. It is the thing that moms make when kids need a snack and three partial boxes of very stale cereal are staring her in the face from atop the dusty fridge.

And I’m going to share the recipe! YOU’RE WELCOME!


Lazy Mom Snack Stuff

4 cups of your favorite cereal (ie, the cereal that is most stale and you want to get rid of)

1/2 cup corn syrup + 1/2 cup sugar OR 1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup peanut butter OR 1/2 cup Nutella

(For my mixture today, I used Rice Chex, Corn Chex, and Super Why Alpha-Bits. I also used peanut butter and just honey, so no sugar or corn syrup.)

Put your cereal(s) in a big bowl. If you think some nuts would go well, throw them in. Raisins? Sure! Chocolate chips? Obviously. Spinach? Probably not. Leave that alone for dip or salad.

In a saucepan, put corn syrup + sugar OR honey and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for a minute or until you think it’s been a minute because seriously, who’s going to set a timer for that? Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter until smooth and delicious looking. Pour delicious mixture over cereal(s) and mix until everything is evenly coated. Press it into a pan (bake pan, round pan, square, rectangular, whatever) that you’ve put either plastic wrap or wax paper or parchment paper in the bottom of. Let it cool about 15 to 20 minutes or until you cannot stand your children howling in your ear that they want their snack NOW even though the snack timer has NOT YET RUNG, then pull it out and cut it up and enjoy.

Notes: This is supposed to come out fairly solid, in bar or square form. Mine did not. My guess is that it’s because either A) I did not use enough honey or B) I did not let it cool long enough (see above re: squalling children). It still tastes delicious, though, and the Things (and my husband, I’m sure) don’t care if they’re eating it with a spoon or in a Pinterest-perfect square, so whatever.


* An Ohio thing. Perhaps the best of Ohio things? Cincinnati chili is the bomb and I don’t even care for you haters. Step off, dude, and let me eat my spaghetti covered in weak chili sauce and two pounds of cheese in peace.

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Applesauce

My family is pretty big into apples.

That might be an understatement, actually.

My whole childhood is filled with the smell of apples, the dirt and leaves and weeds and twigs of the family orchard, the freezing cold of the stand where we sold our produce every fall. Apparently some people use applesauce as a dessert. We had it for every single meal — usually along with apple butter or baked apples or some other apple product, and that’s not counting the apples we just grabbed out of the basket or bag and ate raw. We ate a lot of apples.

A friend asked me the other day if I was tired of eating apples, since we had them so much when I was younger. I had to honestly say no, not at all. If anything, I’m sort of spoiled on store-bought apples. They’re pretty tasteless and have a weird texture. I crave fresh fruit and apples in particular all year long.

Since I don’t have an orchard just down the road anymore, the apple consumption of my little family is much less than I enjoyed growing up. Still, we get regular deliveries of apple butter and cider and apples from my parents, and I use those apples to make baked apples, dried apples, “apple candy” (which is what my oldest son calls fruit leather) and, of course, applesauce.

I learned how to make applesauce at my mom’s kitchen counter, stealing pieces of apple as they went into the pot. I have two little ones of my own and I appreciate how difficult a job my mom had — for every piece of apple that goes into the pot, two go into the mouths of hovering children.

I’m making applesauce right now, actually, and as I cut up pieces and fed them to my son (slipping one into the pot every now and again) I remembered the times that people have commented to the effect of “I wish I could make applesauce like you.”

It’s pretty easy. At the risk of sharing family secrets, here’s how I do it.

* Get a pot, however big you think you need. I use a pretty big pot.

* Get some apples. It doesn’t really matter what kind.

* Peel the apples, take out the core and seeds, cut them in half, and throw them into the pot.

* Put a little bit of water in the bottom of the pot. Just a little, but not too little and not too much. You know, just *some*.

* Cover it and let it cook on the stove top over low-medium heat.

* Completely forget you’re making applesauce.

* Remember it half an hour or more later and say “Oh crap! Applesauce!” then run to the stove.

* Stir.

* Mash up any big pieces that are left until it’s smooth enough for you. I like lumpy applesauce so this generally doesn’t take me much time.

* Let it cool.

* Forget it’s cooling.

* Remember it another hour later and say “Oh yeah! Applesauce!”.

* Taste to see if it needs sugar. 99% of the time I do not add sugar to my applesauce.

* Put it in a bowl and put in the fridge to cool. (VERY IMPORTANT. Some people like warm or even hot applesauce. They are WRONGITY WRONG. When my mom made applesauce she sometimes had to put a bowl of it for me in the fridge special because it just wasn’t cold enough yet.)

* Serve it with dinner. Be surprised at how little is left after dinner. Realize you’ll probably have to make more tomorrow or the next day. Repeat.

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Back in the Game

I just submitted a story.

!!!

This is kind of a Big Deal for me. Kiddo #2 is 14 months old and my brain hasn’t felt clear of fog for…about 16 months now. I’ve whipped off a quick submission here or there in random lucid moments, nothing too taxing, but just lately I’ve felt a little clearer-headed, a little more like life is closer to under control.

And now I submitted a story.

And it’s not even a trunk story!

It’s a story that I wrote recently, that I think is actually pretty good, that I enjoyed writing and enjoy reading and think others might, as well, and that I just sent out into the big scary world.

I sent it to a Big Market, too. because why not go all in?

It will probably get rejected. That’s OK. I’ve got a good couple of weeks until that happens, so for now I’m just going to enjoy the fact that tonight I submitted a story I’m proud of to a market that I would LOVE to appear in, and maybe tomorrow I’ll send another one somewhere, and maybe again the day after, and the day after…

…and maybe I’m ready to get back in the game.

FFT: The Long Con

Happy Free Fiction Thursday, everyone!

Today I’m linking up The Long Con, a short story first published by Daily Science Fiction. (If you want free fiction EVERY day, not just Thursdays, DSF is not a bad place to start.)

The Long Con is probably one of my favorite stories that I’ve written. It’s a great example of how I like to look at a story and try to find what’s missing: in this case, why was Rumpelstiltskin so careless with his name? We can see from the rest of the fairy tale that Rumpel knows what’s up — he’s savvy, he’s clever, he knows how to be in the right place at the right time and how to make just the right deal — so why in the world would he just shout his name in the woods when he knows the Princess will be looking for it?

Why, indeed?


The Long Con

I knew the girl would never give up her child.

I knew before I asked.  That is the sort of deal you only make if you’re young and naïve and facing execution and the idea of a child is so very far away that it is an easy thing to give up.

But I asked her anyway, knowing that she would say yes then and say no later.

How she wept when I came to collect!  Oh, the tears that fell over that poor sweet babe!  How she begged and pleaded that I spare him, that I release him from her promise!

I thought the guessing game was a nice touch.  It kept her busy for a few days, and gave her hope.

And all the while, I was working.  I baked and cleaned and made sure the queen’s messenger overheard me sing the naming song in the dark woods.

She was so proud when she guessed that name!  The triumph in her voice!  The relief in her eyes!  I put on a show for her and she ate it like it was porridge that was just the right temperature.

“How?”  I screamed.  “How did you guess that name?”

I stomped and ripped and shouted.  I believe there was spittle, and I am certain my face turned red.

And then I left.

I went to my clean cottage that smelled of fresh bread and I waited.

The child was not yet walking by the time the whole kingdom knew of the twisted man in the deep woods and the clever queen who outsmarted him.  The young princeling heard the story at his mother’s knee and saw daily the huge rent in the floor where I had stomped my foot in rage.  Servants and peasants would watch him pass and whisper about the boy who had been saved.

At first it was enough that the story was about him and that it ended happily.  He enjoyed the attention, as any child would.  He would demand to hear the story, and when his mother reached the end of the guessing game the prince would yell out “Rumpelstiltskin!” with her.  I heard them in my forest home and smiled.

Because soon, he began to wonder.

“Why, Mama?” he asked.  “Why did the strange little man want me?”

And the queen had no answer.

The older he grew, the more it ate at him.  Why had I asked for him?  I could have had treasure, powers, half the kingdom, had I desired it.  Why had I wanted the baby?

The princeling was a handsome enough child, but his curiosity kept him inside, scouring ancient and dark tomes, when he should have been learning swordplay and horsemanship.  The riddle of his importance drove him to long conferences with grizzled soothsayers and dreary mystics and old witches who reeked of the potions they brewed.

I believe he would have been a good king, had not the mystery ground at him until he was as gnarled in mind and body as the ancients he communed with daily.

He was passed over when his father chose an heir, but by then he didn’t care, not the curious young prince.  Twenty years had gone by and he had no more answers than when he was a bright-eyed babe.  So he put his mind to a new pursuit — finding me.

He rode away one fogging gray morning and his mother wept, for she knew she would never see him again.  I think she finally realized the truth.

I had taken her child, after all.

He found me.  I let him.  He stood in my little cottage, as twisted and ugly as I, dripping swamp water on my floor, and he asked his question.

“Why?”

“Consider this your first lesson,” I said.  “Any common thug can take what they want.  The pleasure is in getting the prey to come to you.”

His eyes gleamed as he saw in my words the promise of power, of knowledge, of the joy of the chase, and I had him.  He was mine.

Any cut-rate sorcerer can make beauty from dross.  The real magic stood before me: a prince, become a monster.  Gold, spun down to straw.


If you’d like to read more fairy tale retellings like this one, be sure to check out Wolves and Witches, a collection of short stories and poems by my sister Amanda C. Davis and me, available from Amazon or from the publisher, World Weaver Press.