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Cooking with Lizzy, Part 3: Whatever happened to the perfect carrot birthday cake

September 4, 2015

Cooking with Lizzy, Part 3: Grandmother’s waffles and the story of what happened to Lizzy’s perfect carrot birthday cake

Missed earlier parts? Part 1. Part 2.

At the point Lizzy has the chicken mostly safely in the oven, she launches the other main dish for the family’s evening meal: waffles. Waffles for supper I get. We often enjoyed pancakes with sausage or bacon for an evening “breakfast” meal. But with chicken? Not so much. (Later I learn this is a specialty dish in some areas of the southern U.S. Who knew? Not me.)

And why not—it’s a starch like when I make potatoes or pasta or beans. And remember, she’s including a healthy and nutritious salad for the veggie (described in Part 1).

Back to the waffles. Even her mother is a little surprised to hear Lizzy reciting her grandmother’s (Virginia’s mother) recipe from memory:

Lizzy’s Grandmother’s Waffles

2 cups buttermilk
4 Tablespoons olive oil (“Olive oil?” her mother challenges her. “Yes, that’s what Rachael Ray uses on Food Network.” Okay. Olive oil it is. I find one of Rachael’s using butter, too.)
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons sugar (but she doesn’t measure, just counts as it pours from a dispenser thingy).

Mix on low speed and then add dry ingredients.

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ baking soda
½ teaspoon salt (Lizzy uses Kosher)

Mix altogether and bake in lightly sprayed waffle iron.


First sample waffle I get to taste.

Lizzy fondly remembers the Mickey Mouse shaped waffle maker her grandmother has; Grandmother uses the same recipe for both waffles and pancakes.


In my family, mashed potatoes were the go-to starch with a meal like fried chicken. I ask if Lizzy knows how to mash potatoes. Yes, sure.

Again, I’m not sure any of my daughters routinely mash potatoes. (Sorry daughters, you’re my gauge here.) In their defense and mine, each has turned out to be pretty adventuresome in their cooking if I do say so myself, each with their own specialties. Yay. The two married ones also have husbands who cook. Another big yay.

At last, the men of Lizzy’s family call home. The dog’s ears perk up. Dad and brother are finally on their way home after a long football practice and maybe a team meeting. Lizzy recognizes the ringtone.

“I’ve got dinner ready” she says into the phone.

Someone on the other end must have asked the usual, “What are we having?”

“Fried chicken and waffles.”

I don’t learn what the response is, but 30 seconds later, the phone rings again, and Lizzy goes on a search in the pantry and fridge to learn the state of their maple syrup supply.

“Nope. I’m not seeing any …” Lizzy says carefully. Inwardly I lament this likely means a stop at a grocery, with the excellent chicken and once-fresh waffles waiting even longer to be consumed. Brother and father decide to swing by the international grocery, the most convenient grocery on their commute home. “Yes, just go to the American aisle,” Lizzy instructs them as to where to look for syrup.

I ask what she’s having tomorrow night.


Menu planning from an earlier week.

She shrugs, not sure. “I’ll decide during the day.” Once school resumes, they’ll begin again their weekly menu planning.

Does she cook for her friends? “I did for a birthday party. I made Indian [food]. I love cooking from different cultures.”

What about decorated birthday cakes? She talked about making a classic chocolate Black Forest Cake with cherries on top, with the layers soaked in liquor. Whew. I’ve made that twice, minus the liquor. A tricky but impressive cake to put together.

Then she lights up again remembering a story that is funny now, not so much when it happened.

The Perfect Carrot Cake Story

Lizzy had worked very hard to make a delicious, perfect carrot cake for her ninth birthday. It turned out well and she placed it on a special birthday plate she made at a “make it take it” store in town. She even put shaved nutmeg on top. (Real nutmeg is not even on my own baking bucket list, but just for the record, here’s my carrot cake topped with slivered almonds.) She set it on their dining room table, and then she and her mother left to go buy some matching flowers for the party.

They came home and found that the family dog, “Streak,” had sampled the cake. He decided it was so good that like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, ate the whole thing, apparently pulling the plate off the table which smashed to the floor!

I felt Lizzy’s pain. “I would have cried,” I said.

“Ohhhhhh yes,” she sighs, nodding at the memory.

“And then I’d have gotten mad,” I added. Yes, she got mad too. Lizzy proceeded to show me other things Streak had ruined—the padding in a couple of recliners, according to her memory. Such is life with a dog.

But life with a Lizzy in the house? Even dinner delayed by a half hour is taken in stride.

Her brother and father arrive home, syrup in hand. Supper or dinner, is served stove style, which works best when needing to keep things warm.


Earlier Virginia told me that Lizzy has helped cooked for the high school football coaches and hungry football teams.

So what’s next? Restaurant cook? Celebrity chef?

“I want to go to culinary school and then start a food truck.”

Oh really, I say, wondering why not a chef in a restaurant?

“I’ve watched those shows on Food Network and the restaurant kitchens are always so hectic, with everyone screaming at each other. I wouldn’t like that much stress.” A minute later she adds, “Dad would like to join me running a food truck. One time he left football practice EARLY to bring something home so I could make schnitzel,” she says.

She doesn’t have to tell me that was a big deal. A coach leaving early to pick up something for a dish his daughter is making (okay, so it was one of Dad’s favorite dishes)? That’s family love and commitment in my book.

Whatever is in Lizzy’s future, the present is what matters now. I would have done almost anything to have such a cook making our meals every evening. What a gift.

Other young girls I know play awesome soccer. Some perform graceful ballet (Lizzy took ballet when she was younger). Some play flute, piano, and sing in choirs at the White House. I’m reminded of one of the first things Lizzy told me: “Others do gymnastics. This is what I do.”




What part of Lizzy’s experiences cooking impresses you most? What message do you have for Lizzy or her family?


Do you think food trucks will continue their popularity in 8-10 years by the time Lizzy finishes culinary school?

Or what’s your fav food truck food?


Whatever Happened to Dinner?

This series posted with a salute to Family Dinner Day, the last Monday in September (February dates in Canada), originally launched from CASA, which encourages eating together as a family as one way to fight the societal influences that sometimes lead to addictions in youth. This is the theme of my most recent book, Whatever Happened to Dinner: Recipes and Reflections for Family Mealtime.


From → Family Life, Food, Recipes

  1. Athanasia permalink

    Lizzy is more organized at her age than many people who should be are, as grown ups. (kind of a convoluted sentence, but I think you know what I mean.) She shows, and I know from experience, that it is possible to cook from scratch, serve decent meals and still go to school (or work) and still have time for church, extracuricular, and friend and family activities.

    I think she should keep on just as she is. She has a sensible head and a supportive family.

    Does spanferkel count as a food truck? We will be having that at the family Labor Day picnic. One of my cousin’s husband (he’s German) has done a portable spanferkel truck for years, long before we started hearing about the food truck business. He’s hired by all kinds of places…fairs, corporation picnics, family reunions…

    I have tried a couple food trucks around the capitol in Madison when visiting the children (they were in grad school….both moved back here now). I liked the gyro and the bubble tea that I had there. They have the best farmer’s market in the country, year round.

  2. I love your point: “Lizzy is more organized at her age than many people are … as grown ups.” I have no doubt either that her very sensible head will serve her just fine in the years ahead. 🙂 I will have to look up spanferkel too. Sounds like a winner for a food truck biz. Thanks

  3. Greatt reading your blog

  4. Glad you found it! I love this story of Lizzy too, now a young woman enrolled in college. Can’t wait to see what dreams she follows.

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  1. Teaching Children to Cook: Four Terrible Family Secrets and One Marvelous Outcome | findingharmonyblog
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