Welcome Update #49


Bethany Schoeff, Columnist

A female radio DJ asked on air the other day, “Whom do you choose to make your priority on Mother’s Day?” to which the male DJ replied, “Yes.” 

My husband can attest to that:  “On Mother’s Day, I have to keep three women happy.”  A sad, but true fact when you’re a man who must appease, on the same day, his own mother, his mother-in-law, AND the mother of his children, all of whom are within driving distance, of course.  Unfortunately that means none of the women get honored by her children with a “day” the way she should.  

So, I have come to lower my expectations of this holiday.  I have realized over the years that I won’t ever get a “day.”  Yes, I am showered with homemade cards and precious gifts, but there is really nothing else about the day that makes it about me being a mother.  In fact, this kind of day makes me feel anything but relaxed and special.  I usually spend it getting up early, rushing around from place to place, going to a restaurant where I can’t eat, dealing with the stress, noise, and chaos of 21 people (12 of them kids) in one place, fighting off a headache and high blood pressure, and then scrambling to get everyone out the door so we can get home at a reasonable hour, since it’s my responsibility (“Day” or not) to see that the kids get to bed on time (it is a school night, after all).  Whew!

 Don’t get me wrong—this is not a narcissistic ranting, nor is it meant to be a woe-is-me post.   I love being a mom, I adore my three children, and I feel blessed that they honor me how they can.  But I don’t need a whole day to experience that.  Would it be nice to sleep in, be fed brunch in bed, and then be sent away to a spa for the rest of the day with a friend?  Certainly.  Actually, last year I got to spend part of Mother’s Day with my best friend; we went to the mall and got pedicures.  It was nice.  And relaxing.  And not stressful!  However, I felt guilty for not spending time with my “other mothers” on “their” day, and for not allowing my children to spend time with me on “my” day.  

Perhaps someday, in the distant future, I will have the chance to celebrate Mother’s Day how I want, to actually have a whole day, just for me . . . . but that would mean that we’d have an empty nest, and the kids would be far away, and there’d be no “other mothers” left on earth for us to honor.  I’m not ever going to wish for the opportunity for that type of Day.  I realize there are many now who don’t have a mom or can’t celebrate being a mom on Mother’s Day.  So, while I can, I will try to enjoy the holiday, relaxing or not, and feel blessed that I can still call myself a daughter, daughter-in-law, and mother.
Bethany Schoeff, Columnist

My Chez Chef blog was my first venture into the blogging world. I’ve read other blogs for years and even participated in their giveaways, which got me thinking that perhaps I could do something similar on my site. However, I wasn’t really sure how to go about this. So I contacted other bloggers to ask them how they had managed to get free products to give to their readers. I was told that sometimes companies will approach them, and other times you have to be the one to contact the companies. (Thank you to my fellow bloggers for their input!)
I set about writing e-mails to companies whose products I’ve mentioned in my articles and subsequently on my site. And I got a couple of responses! I am so excited to announce that Chez Chef Schoeff will be hosting two giveaways in the upcoming month. I will be reviewing Daiya™ “cheese” this week, and one random reader (entry details TBA online) will win coupons to try three packages for FREE! Then later in February, I will talk about Enjoy Life® products, and TWO winners will each receive a package containing three different chocolate goods!!

The best part about these giveaways is that all of the freebies are allergy-friendly—free of the top eight most common food allergens! Plus they taste so good!! I can’t wait to share the reviews with you, so be sure to follow my blog and “like” my facebook page in order to get all the giveaway details when they’re announced. Hope you win!  

Welcome Update #25


Bethany Schoeff, Columnist

Many of you… ok, maybe some of you… no, a minor few of you might be wondering about the name of my column. I thought that I would take this opportunity to explain the reasoning behind it.

Chez [shā] is French. It is most commonly used to indicate location or destination; it means “to/at the place of.” (For example: Je vais chez vous. = I am going to your house. Il est chez le dentiste. = He is at the dentist’s office.) Chez is often applied, even in the U.S., to a restaurant name: Chez Francois = Frank’s (restaurant0. I took French in school from sixth to twelfth grade, and even participated in a student exchange program. I lived with a family in Caen, France for a month when I was 17. Foreign language was not a requirement for me in college, so French was quickly forgotten after high school. That is, until my junior year, when my college choir was scheduled to tour in France. I thought it would be beneficial to take a refresher course to ease communication overseas. The French class plus the trip back to France made me realize how much I missed it: the country, the culture, the language, the history. It was not my first major (I switched three times!), but I finished college with a Bachelor’s degree in French, and a minor in music. And, although I’m not currently utilizing this education in a career, I still like to find ways to draw on my experiences and training whenever possible. 

Chef [shef] comes from French (it is a shortened form of chef de cuisine, or ‘head of the kitchen’). I was a little worried to use this in my title, seeing as I have no culinary training, nor do I run a professional kitchen. However, the definition has come to also mean ‘any cook.’ I do consider myself to be fairly experienced in the kitchen, and very knowledgeable about food allergies and finding food allergen substitutes. Even so, I probably would not have used it in my column if it weren’t for the next word:

Schoeff [shef] is the name I took when I married my husband. It is pronounced the same as ‘chef’ and therefore creates a cute redundancy. The name’s homophone results in much humor in our family. An apron my mother-in-law made says, “What’s cookin’? Ask the Schoeff!” It seemed only natural to pair my last name with ‘chef’ at some point. I always knew that, if I ever opened a restaurant, ‘Chef Schoeff’ would be its name. That scenario is unlikely, so for now I shall hang my title here at Palmer Grove.

Welcome Update #17


Bethany Schoeff, Columnist

“A man of genius makes no mistakes; his errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”-James Joyce 

 Had I read that quote before or even right after making the mistake, I would have never believed that I wanted to have messed up so badly.  After all, I was trying to get the task done as quickly and as perfectly as possible, and could not afford any errors in the process.  The cookie dough had to be made that evening, for it needed to be refrigerated overnight before being used in the next day’s photo shoot.  

I am usually confident in my recipes, and in my recommended substitutions to avoid allergens.  However, I honestly had never made this cookie dough recipe using gluten-free flour, so I needed to test it before printing the recipe in our holiday issue.  I decided to halve the recipe, making one batch gluten-free and one batch my usual way (I have made these sugar cookies many times before); I even wrote down the halved amounts ahead of time, so I wouldn’t need to do math during the process.

 Everything went wonderfully with the first batch, and surprisingly the dough looked perfect and quite “normal” for gluten-free.  It even came out of the mixing bowl so clean, that I didn’t even have to take time between batches for washing dishes.  I began the second, “regular” batch, and everything was going swimmingly . . . until I added the last ingredient.  I put in double the amount of water the recipe called for!  The result was a gummy, sticky, doughy batter that tasted nasty.  

I couldn’t believe that I had made such a drastic error!  I was so upset with myself, especially when I realized there was no way to correct this mistake.  I could add all the other ingredients, repeating the halved amounts, therefore making a full batch, but I knew it would not come out right at all.  This error was undoable.  The batter could no longer be used for its intended purpose, no matter what I did to it.
“There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from.” -Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

 My husband suggested I just throw out the batter and start over.  Yes, I could just sigh and forget it, learn from it, and move on.  But was “Don’t do it again!” the only lesson to be had here?

 Perhaps it was my disgust for being wasteful, or perhaps it was some subconscious wisdom, but something in me had the determination to try to salvage this defective batter.  I thought there may be a recipe similar to this accidental one, which seemed more like a drop cookie than dough to be rolled out.  Comparing recipes, I discovered that the amounts of sugar, margarine, and flour were the same as in my recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  I added some brown sugar, some dry egg replacer, and a little baking soda.  The now extra baking powder was the only real difference in the recipes.  I placed two trial scoops of the “new” batter on a cookie sheet, added some chocolate chips (I did not want to waste a whole bag of chocolate chips, in case this didn’t work), and, with loads of doubt, put it in the oven.

“The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way.”-Dale Carnegie 

 I could not have even imagined or hoped for what came out.  What resulted was a soft, cake-like, delicious cookie that my family went nuts over!  I mixed in the chocolate chips and baked all of the remaining batter.  One day later, the “accidental cookies” are gone, already gobbled up, and enjoyed even more than the ones I usually make.

 This mistake did require more time and effort, but the outcome was definitely worth it.  It truly was a portal of discovery, a blessing to learn from.  By trying again in a different way, I actually profited from this mistake, with an unexpected, yet better, result.  Sounds like a life lesson!  Mistakes really can’t be undone, or corrected to produce their originally-desired result; we should not only learn from them but also try to repurpose them into something even better.
“Mistakes are almost always of a sacred nature. Never try to correct them. On the contrary: rationalize them, understand them thoroughly. After that, it will be possible for you to sublimate them.”-Salvador Dali
Bethany Schoeff, Columnist

 So, as I write this, submissions for our Holiday Issue are due in one month.  I find it really difficult to think about fall and winter when it is 92° outside with 70% humidity.  Being a cook and an actress, I should be able to pretend it’s cold, with leaves or snow on the ground, and create recipes that both warm and comfort . . .  Still, a bowl of soup just doesn’t sound that appealing right now, no matter how hard I try.

 It is also really difficult to write when I am trying to use my free time to squeeze all that I can out of what’s left of summer.  Where did it go?!  The kids start school in a couple weeks, and we haven’t done much over this break . . . . nothing memorable, anyway . . . nothing that wins me points in the “Fun Mom” department.  We didn’t take a family vacation this year, so what happened to the plans that summer could instead be filled with hours spent at the pool, play dates with friends, week-long camps, and day trips to fun places (even if just around town)?   The inevitable questions when the kids return to their teachers and classmates—“So, what did you do this summer?”  “How did you spend your break?”—will go unanswered.

 Suddenly I feel the pressure is on.  A few activities over the next couple weeks must be enough to salvage the reputation of “Summer Break” . . . and of “Fun Mom.”  I hear the clock ticking . . . . and have an urgent need to make a list of things to do before school starts:  baseball game, bowling, waterpark, movie, children’s science museum, clean the house so we can have a few friends over, maybe pick a destination within the state to explore for the day, and even drag myself to the pool a few times.  And perhaps there may still be time to erase some of the mommy guilt too.  I need to learn that no matter how small the event or insignificant the time spent doing (or planning!) it, the memories we create as a family are what’s important . . . and hopefully enough for my kids to sincerely answer, “Summer break was great!”—even if every activity doesn’t get crossed off that list.  There’ll be plenty of time for hectic schedules once the school year starts.