Dear Sad Little Face,
Don’t be upset. I know it’s not fair. Life just doesn’t go our way sometimes.
It’s not your fault that your mother chose to be allergic to cats. It would have been so lovely to have one. Keeping a kitten suspended in a birdcage over your bed certainly could have worked. It was a very creative idea. Sometimes parents lack vision.
You can’t help that you’re not a morning person. Some people just need a little longer to get going in the early hours. No judgement here. Colour another picture. Eat a few more fruit loops. Take your time.
And listen, I understand your distress over the ants. It must have taken a long time to stockpile them in your closet. An ant collection must be carefully curated. Did you bring them in one at a time? I imagine it would have taken hundreds of trips. If only your mother hadn’t decided to vacuum that day.
When your new baby brother arrived? I don’t blame you for getting so upset. I think telling your parents to “take it back,” was a brilliant move. And pointing out that it was dirty and drooling made perfect sense – they were obsessed with closet cleanliness, after all. Too bad they didn’t listen. Too bad it got so darn big.
Hey, you know what might make you feel better? A sweet treat. How about I make some caramel dumplings? Like the ones your mom used to make. Soft, cakey dumplings floating in an über sweet caramel sauce? It might help you forget that you didn’t get the pony you asked for every year. I could add in some pecans just for you. I know you like little touches like that. Dumplings will warm your belly on a cold fall day, and make you forget your troubles for a spell.
So, chin up, little friend. The world has lots of exciting things in store for you. You will grow up. You will live in a big city. You will write, and win awards for that writing. You will become an editor and teach at a university. You will travel and tell amazing stories. You will make people laugh over and over again. You will be a best friend to many. You will be the pride of your family. Just you wait and see…
Lots of love,
. . .
adapted from a family recipe
For the sauce:
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 1/2 cups water
For the dumplings:
- 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons cold butter
- 1/2 cup milk
You will also need:
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Mise en place – begin by getting organized. Measure out all of your ingredients.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 2-quart casserole dish. If the sides of your dish are very shallow, place a cookie sheet under the casserole dish during baking to prevent splatters on the oven floor.
Begin by making the sauce. Place the brown sugar and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the butter has melted and combined with the sugar, stirring constantly. Add the water and bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Continue to gently boil for 4-5 minutes. The sauce will not thicken. As the sauce is cooking, make the dumplings.
To make the dumplings, in a medium sized bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, flour, and baking powder. Cut in the butter (with a pastry cutter, two knives or a fork) until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add the milk and mix until just combined (avoid over-mixing). It will be a loose batter.*
Pour the sauce into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle the pecans over the sauce. Then drop batter by spoonfuls into the sauce. Bake uncovered for about 20-25 minutes. The sauce will sputter as it’s baking – this is normal. The dumplings will get plump and cake-like as they bake, and turn golden. Use a knife or toothpick to check that the dumplings are cooked throughout. The sauce should be hot and bubbling forth from the dumplings. (Handle with care – avoid getting splattered.)
Best if served immediately. (Though we often re-heat leftovers in the microwave!)
* TIP: Adding the milk the dumpling batter at the last minute will give you a softer, floofier dumpling, as the leavener (baking powder) won’t lose its potency. I wait until the sauce has only 1-2 more minutes of cook time, and then add the milk to my dumpling mixture.