Last week’s blog, “A Mental Health Break,” wiped me out. After writing it I felt drained, sad, and dirty. Remembering the pain, humiliation, and the chaos of being “raised” by a severely mentally ill parent brought me to a place I have learned to skillfully avoid. That said, the outpouring I received from friends and strangers who wanted to share their experiences with mental illness was humbling. There is much need for those either suffering with mental illness themselves or that of a loved one. Like I said last week, NAMI New Orleans can help. Please utilize this resource. I wish it has been there when I was a child.

Of the many anomalies to have come from my odd childhood was a well-established curiosity for cooking by the time I was six. No one was paying much attention to what I was doing, and the kitchen was a fun laboratory. I had a thing for onion rings (still do) and, while the home pantry was not particularly well stocked, onions, flour, and cooking oil were usually on hand. I must have cooked a thousand batches of them, all terrible, as I watched “The French Chef” with Julia Child on PBS after school.

In 1975, more age-appropriate recipes came to me by way of my best friend’s mom. Her kids had a copy of “I Cooked It!” a small spiral-bound children’s cookbook compiled by the Newman Parents Association in 1975 and sold all over town as a fundraiser. She gave me a copy, too.

“I Cooked It!” The Best Children’s Cookbook Ever

I made every single recipe in that book numerous times and now use a rubber band to keep classics like Mystery Breakfast, the Grandma Sandwich, Hong Kong Ham Helper, Zoller Lemon Squares, and my very favorite Peanut Butter Balls No. 1 (aka Peanut Butter Play Dough) from falling out.

My daughter, Cecilia, came to love my tattered, stained old book and we cooked our way through it together, Peanut Butter Balls No. 1 holding fast as the now family favorite.

Try this fun, if not so healthy, recipe with a child in your life.

Peanut Butter Balls No. 1 (aka Peanut Butter Playdough)

Makes about 28.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup

  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

  • 2/3 cup nonfat dry milk granules

Directions

  • Combine all ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Roll small pieces into one-inch balls. Store, refrigerated, in an air-tight container

For a more adult activity consider the NOWFE Vintner’s Dinner at Palm & Pine featuring wines from Second Line Wines next Wednesday (June 8) evening.

Chris Agan, winemaker from Second Line Wines, will be on hand for the dinner, which will start at 7 p.m. and costs $160 per person, inclusive.  You can make reservations here.

Here’s the Menu

SHRIMP & CRAB AGUACHILE Peach & Smoked Habanero Chile Water, Avocado Buttermilk, El Kimchi, Mwai Tostada

Albariño, Second Line Wines “L’Acadiane” 2021, Sonoma Valley, Los Carneros AVA

STICKY GRILLED RIB TIPS Steen’s Salsa Negra Glaze, Green Tomato Chow Chow, Crushed Peanuts

Syrah, Second Line Wines “Serenity” 2018, Napa Valley, Coombsville AVA

CORNBREAD STUFFED QUAIL Shalonda’s Cornbread, Blackberry Lacquer, Maggie’s Mushrooms, Pickles

Cabernet Sauvignon, Second Line Wines “Big Chief” 2019, Napa Valley, St Helena AVA

CORN & GOAT MILK PANNA COTTA Blueberries, Sweet Corn

Cabernet Franc, Second Line Wines “Celebration” 2018, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll AVA