Does anybody remember the sitcom My Two Dads? It aired in the late ’80’s and the show’s premise was basically a girl that shows up to an apartment where two bachelors are living and proclaims that one of them is her dad. I think the series ended before you find out which guy is actually the father.
I, too, felt doubly blessed in the Dad department. My parents divorced when I was very young and I can’t really remember a time where I didn’t have a dad and a step-dad. It was like a sweet 2 for 1 deal and you know I love a bargain.
Like the show, my two Dads get along famously. They immediately bonded over my mom’s neuroses. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is how their first conversation played out:
Step Dad: Hey.
Dad: Is Friday afternoon still cleaning day?
Step Dad: Yep.
They had more in common than just a shared contempt for cleaning day, however. They both had the task of raising two independent, rebellious, and challenging young girls. There’s something inherently sweet yet hilariously comical about dads taking on the responsibilities that are often left to Mom. For example, my mom worked midnight shifts for most of my life but there were a few months that she had to work the dreaded swing shift. That meant step-dad was on dinner duty. His culinary repertoire consisted of tuna noodle casserole, grilled cheese, and peanut butter and butter (<——–not a typo) sandwiches. He must have thought tuna noodle casserole was the most nutritious of these choices, because we ate it about four times a week during those brutal five months. I was starting to wish I could go do hard manual labor in the sweltering factory with my Mom.
I do appreciate his effort in providing us a hot, home cooked meal. I just never want to see canned tuna or macaroni noodles in the same zip code ever again. He was really good at cooking up a slamming Saturday morning breakfast though. There is nothing like waking up to the smell of fried eggs, a pound of crispy bacon, and a loaf of freshly buttered toast. We all ate breakfast together and then munched on the leftovers for pretty much the rest of the day. He also didn’t seem to be intimidated by my hair that was sticking up all over the place and the eye crust-ies because he would always give me a hug and sing a silly song about me being a bee. He even provided trumpet sound effects.
I do need to thank my step-dad for indulging my passion for cooking. Not only would he try all of my experiments, he would make multiple last-minute trips to the store for missing ingredients. There was even a time he wasn’t sure which chocolate chips to buy so he drove home, asked me which kind I needed, and drove back to the store to pick it up, only to have me send him back out again because we were out of eggs. He usually waited patiently in front of the oven door with me so he could steal the first taste of a warm, freshly baked cookie. I absolutely loved these moments with him. The first fall that I headed East to college, I made a huge batch of chocolate chip cookie dough to keep in the freezer so he could have my fresh-baked cookies anytime he wanted. It was my way of saying thank you for being such a supportive step- dad.
In his honor, I would like to present a cookie that combines two of his favorite flavors: peanut butter and chocolate.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Pillows
For the dough:
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 tbs. non-dairy milk (I used soy)*
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
For the filling:
3/4 c. natural salted peanut butter
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tbs. non-dairy milk*
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine oil, sugar, maple syrup, non-dairy milk, and vanilla until smooth. Sift in flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
In another bowl, combine ingredients for filling, starting with 2 tbs. of the soy milk. Dough should be moist but firm so add more soy milk as needed.
To shape the cookies:
Roll peanut butter dough into 24 balls.
Scoop a large tablespoon of chocolate dough and flatten it, then form it around the peanut butter dough. Roll into a smooth ball and place two inches apart on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheets for about five minutes before moving to wire racks to cool completely.
*Note: You can always use regular milk in place of the non-dairy or soy milk.
While My step-dad had the luxury of deferring to Mom when things got sticky (not that me or my sweet, loving sister ever gave my step-dad a hard time), my Dad was sort of left to his own devices for two weekends a month. He lived in Detroit, about four hours from my Mom’s house, so the parental units had to make the kid exchange at a swanky Starvin’ Marvin gas station about half way between the two houses. This usually occurred late Friday night. Being a single guy in the motor city, my Dad’s fridge usually consisted of ketchup (score!) and the obligatory box of baking soda. Naturally, we went grocery shopping at midnight to remedy this situation. Unlike me, my Dad hates shopping so we always had to do what he called a “speed trip.” This left my seven-year old self no time to leisurely peruse the cereal aisle and carefully select my overly sweetened, artificially colored box of breakfast. I didn’t even have time to see which cereal offered the best toy. That meant we ate Cream of friggin’ Wheat every weekend until I finally begged my Mom to have a heart to heart with him. Again, I appreciate this attempt at nourishment, but I could have done without the hot cereal that looks and tastes a lot like beach sand. Thank goodness dinner was on speed dial. God Bless Dolly’s Pizza.
Surprisingly, my Dad is actually a really good cook. Gone are the days of day old pizza and the rare crock-pot roast.
Now he makes things like egg nog french toast and homemade whipped cream. Christmas Eve dinner is a supremely grilled prime rib and smoked salmon. He also loves to try new foods. I’m not going to hold a grudge about the time that he made me go to the local grange for the beaver BBQ (welcome to Northern Michigan!) because it taught me that it’s important to try new things. Even if they make you vomit in your mouth a little.
My Dad and I share something very special.
When we discover something new, we totally immerse ourselves in it and soak up as much information as possible about our new obsession. Case in point: our hometown of Cadillac, Michigan is apparently a hotspot for Chestnut trees. No one knew really knew this little tid-bit until all of a sudden there was an annual Chestnut festival held in the early fall of each year. After attending his first festival, my Dad was consumed with the history and uses of this delicious little nut that had previously only been recognized through a classic Christmas song.
He sent me home with a bag of fresh chestnuts and then proceeded to plant his very own tree in the backyard.
To celebrate my Dad’s passion for locally grown and sustainable food,
I decided to make pancakes using ground chestnuts.
Unfortunately, chestnuts are only a fall crop making it impossible to purchase fresh ones. After walking around a small specialty store for about 45 minutes, I finally found a bag of chestnut flour hiding behind all the gluten-free flours.
I gathered the rest of my ingredients and set to work.
Chestnut Flour Pancakes
1/2 c. chestnut flour
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
3 tbs. turbinado or regular sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Mix all dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla in a small bowl. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir, just to combine. You can let the batter rest for about a half hour (but who the heck does that when there are pancakes to be eaten!).
Pour about 1/4 c. batter for each pancake onto hot griddle. The pancakes are ready to flip when there you start to see lots of tiny bubbles.
Flip pancakes and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute or until evenly browned.
Just a sprinkle of cinnamon and these pancakes reminded me of cool autumn days when the summer heat is just starting to fade and the leaves on the trees are speckled with hues of red and gold. The pancakes were thin but surprisingly delicate. I can’t wait to try this recipe again in September served with cinnamon maple cream and baked apple slices.
Happy Father’s Day to my two Dads. If I didn’t live 800 miles away, you might actually have gotten to taste these special dishes. For now, please stare at the screen and drool accordingly. Then rest up because it’s almost Mandatory Cleaning Friday!