This is not a food blog, and I am not a food blogger. For one thing, I do not have the camera, lighting, or patience to carefully photograph the process of creating a dish. For another thing, I seldom follow a recipe.
I am a cook, and by that I mean I prepare dinner for my family almost every night of the week. My meals are simple, and I rarely use prepared ingredients.
Why do I do this? I’m an overextended working mom who despises grocery shopping. I have a crummy kitchen with limited counter and cupboard space. My teenager regularly decides that doing dinner dishes is not her chore just because her parents told her it was. Six nights out of seven, at least two children show up to the dinner table, look at the food, and say “yuck!”
I think I do it because it gives me control over the healthfulness of what my family eats. It’s very, very difficult to add trans fats and high fructose corn syrup to food you make from scratch.
I also do it because it’s most practical from a budget standpoint. Don’t get me wrong, I can be as indulgent as the next person. I have the empty Starbucks cups to prove it! But I value shopping smart and I can’t justify, for example, purchasing prepared mashed potatoes for almost $4.00 a pound when red potatoes are only $.55.
I truly believe that fresh food tastes better than prepared, and I want my children to know what real food actually tastes like. Yes, we’ll buy the occasional bag of Tater Tots – who could resist their greasy goodness? But let’s face it, Tater Tots don’t really taste anything like potatoes!
And ultimately I probably do it because that’s what I learned from my mother. It’s what I know.
The Atlantic magazine recently published an article, The Joy of Not Cooking, that examines why Americans today spend more money than ever on their kitchens and kitchen appliances and utensils, but less time than ever cooking. Embedded in the article is a great video of author demonstrating making a cake the modern way versus the way our grandmothers did.
One of my young daughters really enjoys helping out in the kitchen, so this weekend I enlisted her to help me make a cake. Although my teenager makes chocolate chip cookies pretty frequently, we rarely bake cakes around here. There’s the illusion that they’re for special events, such as birthday parties, and that they’re difficult and time-consuming to make.
That’s just not true!
Following is one of my favorite easy cake recipes, adapted from a recipe in The New Basics Cookbook (which was published in 1989, so at this point is far from new!). This recipe is especially easy because it uses oil rather than butter, eliminating the need to plan far enough ahead that you must allow the butter to soften on the counter before beginning.
To ice the cake, I decided to try That’s the Best Frosting I’ve Ever Had from the Tasty Kitchen blog. It’s an unusual recipe…and truly delicious. It’s lighter (although not in calories) and fluffier than a traditional buttercream.
This cake was so delicious! Fortunately my husband doesn’t eat cake, so there was more for us! The girls and I ate it every night for three nights and then it was gone. We had gigantic pieces on the last night because we convinced ourselves it just wouldn’t be fresh enough to enjoy the following night. We’re definitely going to make this again soon.
Very Easy Yellow CakeAdapted from The New Basics Cookbook
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 cup white wine*
2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 t salt
2-1/4 t baking powder
1 t vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9×13 inch pan.
- Beat sugar and eggs together for about 30 seconds. Add oil, wine, flour, salt, baking powder, and vanilla; beat for 1 minute.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until lightly brown (top springs back from touch, toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, all that jazz) – about 40 minutes.
- Let cake cool in pan for about 5 minutes, then turn onto wire rack and cool completely.
- Frost and add sprinkles if you’re serving to children (or fun adults).