Seasonal Application of Desserts

14 Feb

It was in college in upstate New York that I first heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, here defined as a fancy name for the sludgy malaise that creeps over me in winter. Every fall I resolve to see the colder months as rife with opportunities for snuggling, reading under a cozy blanket, and indulging in buttery starches and red wine. Every fall I get claustrophobic being inside so much, can’t fit into my jeans, and remember that red wine gives me hangovers.

As she has with my love of Nancy Drew and inability to back down from an argument, my daughter seems to have inherited my winter sads. We were listening to the radio the other day and came upon a DJ reading out a “Top Ten Best Things About Winter” list. She disagreed strenuously with several of the items, such as building snowmen, (“Pffft, we never have enough snow for that”), and getting caught up on TV series you missed, (“Pffft, you’d never let us watch that much TV.”) (We will avoid mention of the Disney movie marathons I’ve been known to sanction on the occasional, er, slow-starting weekend morning. Red wine!!!)

“OK,” I said to her. “Then you make a list of ten things you love about winter.”

“Well,” she said. “Hot chocolate!”

“Good one.”

“And Christmas!”

“Yep, yep.”

“And… Uh… Well… That’s pretty much it.”

Spoken like a true issuance of my emergency c-section parts.

This fall and winter have been particularly rough on her for reasons I’m still seeking to understand, but her increased workload at school has certainly been a contributing factor. Too many afternoons of fretting over worksheet perfection and picking fights to channel her angst culminated in an end-of-semester meltdown that left our family shaken. The well-timed winter break offered a chance to step back and assess, and one thing I noticed was how much more smoothly things operate when we have nowhere to be, nothing to do, endless amounts of time to do it in, and two parents home and engaged. So, uh, none of that can happen with any regularity during the school year, but I salvaged what I could of the insight.

And so we established a Monday afternoon family cooking club. The kids choose a recipe (read: my daughter chooses a recipe and my son agrees to her choice.) It will shock and astonish you, dear reader, that so far they’ve only chosen desserts. I have veto power if what they want to do looks too expensive or fiddly, but after a month I still haven’t had to turn them down. I shop for ingredients on Sunday afternoon, with kid assistance if feasible. After school and homework on Monday, we start cooking. I let the kids do as much as my control-freak nature will allow, as long as it isn’t potentially dangerous (stove-work and chopping are limited.) I usually do most of the dishes, although the 6 year old is into bubbles, so last week he did the whole sinkful all by himself.

And so far, so good. I’ve found myself pleasantly challenged by the recipes they’ve picked. I generally avoid handling dough, as it’s not a strength, but our Blueberry Pinwheels turned out just fine, and I salvaged a bad pie dough by making it into a lattice top for Blueberry Pie.



The first week’s Lemon Bars were a favorite I’ve made many times, but I’ve only ever made one clafoutis, and that was years ago. I loved the recipe they found for this cherry one topped with a syrup made with lemon zest and cinnamon.

The lighting is weird. It didn't taste light blue in the slightest.

The lighting is weird. It didn’t taste light blue in the slightest.

The time together is not always stress-free, as there are the inevitable power struggles and disagreements, (and my kids bicker with each other, too, heh), but both children end up proud and excited to gobble samples of “their” dessert, and take a portion to school Tuesday to show off at lunchtime. Family cooking club has been a success in terms of bringing us together to focus on a child-driven activity. It has been an utter failure at helping me get back into my jeans, but you can’t have it all.

8 Responses to “Seasonal Application of Desserts”

  1. Naptimewriting February 19, 2013 at 5:53 am #

    I love this idea. Every time my eldest asks to make a recipe, I’m unprepared and have to waive him off with talk of “going to the store” and “later” and “by later I mean never.”

    I like planning to choose, planning to shop, and planning to make. Together. For fighting’s sake.

    Don’t get me started on SADS. I realized how seasonally affected I was my second winter in Boston. September, actually, on my way to rehearsal one night. It began raining, but in the streetlights I saw snow. And I *FREAKED*. Hardcore. Realized what was going on and called a therapist who told me most people need about 15 minutes with a lightbox during winter months. He said I should start with 2 hours every morning and bump it another hour if that didn’t do the trick.

    Geez. That’s a lot of reading in front of a lightbox.

    So I moved back to California.

    But enough about me. Desserts, you say? Mmmkay.

    • amomynous2 February 19, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

      Ha, this story reminds me of the one that prompted my husband to move to CA. He was walking home from work one November day in Boston and realized his nose hairs were frozen from the cold. And sunny California, there he went!

      We made peach galettes yesterday–and you know what that means, pie for breakfast! Take THAT, SAD.

      XOX and thanks for reading!

      • Naptimewriting February 19, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

        I gave notice to my landlords the year it snowed April 1. That is some bullshit right there, and I’m not going to take it. So I left.

        Felt dang good.

        Not as good as peach galettes…seriously, you’re making me want to be depressed so I can eat a whole galette and not feel bad. Worse, I mean. Not care. Whatever. Peaches. Must go buy. Except who the hockey sticks is growing peaches in February?

      • amomynous2 February 19, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

        Well your Frog Hollow Farms peoples might…? I don’t know, I can’t remember how February worked out there. And in any case you don’t want to make galettes for the bargain sum of one meelion dollars. But anyway I just bought frozen ones, and altho’ they weren’t as luscious as fresh, there was no peeling or slicing! Word UP.

      • Naptimewriting February 19, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

        Why do I always forget about frozen produce? Luxury of living here, I guess, that I assume everything must be grown locally and fresh…and is.

        Frozen. Aw, hells yes.

  2. MizPurplest March 13, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    Cooking Club is an awesome idea. My sister and I used to do “self bake” which I think started as my parents’ way of channeling our (*ahem* my) obsession with flour etc. into something “useful” – but there wasn’t any direction, and nobody taught us how to follow a recipe until much later, so mostly it was me dumping a bunch of stuff into a bowl, stirring, baking, and then feeding the hockey-puck-like results to my younger sister. We both loved it, though.

  3. mame08 May 21, 2013 at 1:17 am #

    This is ingenious! You figured out a way to have a good time with teaching skills and making yummy stuff and increasing engagement, all in one fell swoop! Yay! Speaking from a mom with two mid-30 year olds, I know whereof you speak. Its tumultuous and hard and unending involvement when they are young, but grabbing a great idea like this one and running with it really helps. For everyone. Nice work.

    • amomynous2 May 21, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

      Oh, so nice! Thank you! I appreciate the praise from a more seasoned mom–thank you so much for commenting. 🙂

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