I started this day leaning on the kitchen sink with my coffee cupped in two hands while watching birds and a squirrel vie for food at the bird feeders. At least that’s what I thought I was seeing. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the squirrel was deliberately tossing seeds down to the ground where a variety of fine feathered friends were pecking away at the earth. They’re so easy to please. I fill the feeders with a variety of sunflower and other seeds with some mixed fruits and nuts. I suppose they get other varieties of food elsewhere, or maybe they really are content with the offerings I provide. At any rate, while I sometimes daydream how nice it would be to be a bird and soar through the sky most of the day, I am one to prefer a variety of foods. So maybe I’ll rethink my desire of coming back as a bird. 

My daughter is one to enjoy a variety of foods. Well, she takes exception to tapioca and some versions of baked beans, but overall she is not hard to please. Whether it’s a cultural change from the standard American fare to something more exotic, she’s game to dig in. This weekend she was over the moon happy with the slow roasted meat and mashed potatoes I provided. As we sat and conversed over the many pleasures of a savory roast and “smashed” potatoes smothered in copious helpings of gravy, we turned the conversation toward desserts that would that would be as awesome. “Mmmm,” she mused. “What would be the steak and potatoes of desserts?” Ha! And like that this week’s column was born!

We stuck to American versions of dessert.  You can’t get much more American than homemade apple pie with vanilla ice cream. Although, we quickly moved from vanilla to salted caramel ice cream. Salted caramel would probably make anything taste divine, but there’s something about that salty sweetness that compliments apple pie quite well. Now, there are many versions of how to make an apple pie, so this time around, I won’t venture to pick a favorite, but the main answer to how do you make an apple pie is “very carefully.” The main ingredient beyond apples is love. Learn those two rules, and you’ll never fail to make the best apple pie ever.

Chocolate cake! We salivated over imagining a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and then a vanilla cake with chocolate frosting. Wait! There are some people who like chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. I think the idea here is chocolate should be applied to some version of cake and all will be well. What would be your favorite chocolate dessert? My birthday request was always chocolate devil’s food cake with chocolate frosting. The frosting should be made with butter and not applied so thickly it overwhelms the cake. Serve it with a strong, hot pot of coffee. Now that’s perfection!

It’s hard to not succumb to chocolate chip cookies. Specifically, you’d be hard pressed to beat my chocolate chip cookies. Especially, right out of the oven when the chips are still all melty. You may think my offspring come home for hugs and kisses, but I know they come home for my cooking and the subcategory of chocolate chip cookies. I’ve recently discovered the Threshold line of cookie baking sheets, and my cookies are even better. I make them with my homemade butter; organic, raw sugar; and organic flour. The bottoms are slightly crispy, but the overall cookie is pleasingly soft. To complement them, a tall glass of milk is a must.

This morning I am recalling the pleasure of eating Jell-O. Squishing it in your mouth between your teeth was entertaining. Black cherry was my favorite. This morning I start humming the time-worn jingle “J-e-l-l-o.” Remember there was such a thing as “1-2-3 Jell-O”? I’m sure it wasn’t a healthy treat, but it was fascinating to pour it all made into a glass dish and then find later it had somehow magically separated into three layers of its former self. My mother made coffee Jell-O on the rare occasion there was day old coffee. I still love coffee Jell-O with freshly made whipped cream. Who knew it’s a popular dessert in Japan? As a little girl, making Jell-O was my introduction to cooking and sharpened my math and reading skills. I always made it in mom’s red Pyrex bowl. I still have that bowl. And I still make Jell-O in it.