Sunday, October 8, 2017

Ina Garten's Cheese Straws {For Mom}

I started my cooking blog almost ten years ago and my mom was with me, tasting and testing recipes, every step of the way. Rightly so, because she was the reason I loved cooking to start with. She had me working beside her in the kitchen as soon as I was able to stand. My short legs were no match for the counter, so for years she kept my little stool by the kitchen counter so I could sprinkle salt and pepper, roll dough, and cut with my plastic knife. 

When I was a bit older and could reach the counter on my own, I can remember asking question after question. "Mom, can we add this spice? Can we add that spice?" She would always say, "We can add whatever we want because it's our kitchen and we make the rules." Cooking was art and the kitchen was our studio.

Like many women of her generation, my mom was never really one to follow a recipe. She never set a timer or made a recipe the same way twice. In fact, she was this way in all aspects of life, not just in the kitchen. She always said, "I like to walk my own path" and boy oh boy was she right about that. On the other hand, I've always been one to follow the rules and so we would banter back and forth, all in fun. She would tell me to loosen up and not be so straight and I would suggest that she set a timer or write her recipes down so that I would know how to duplicate them in the future. We would always meet somewhere in the middle. A perfect balance.  

Over the years we cooked side by side, sharing recipe after recipe. When my husband and kids snarled their nose at some of the dishes I made, because they were too fancy or had ingredients they didn't like, mom was always there. She was never picky and always gave compliments on everything that came out of my kitchen. My biggest fan. My best recipe taster, always encouraging me to try everything. On an off chance that she didn't like a dish, she always had kind and constructive feedback and we would always laugh and joke and talk about how our failures were always our biggest lessons.

A few weeks ago my mom, who was so full of life, lost her battle with cancer. She was only 64. I am so sad that our time was cut short, but am beyond thankful for all the time that we did have. I know that we lived it well, together. There are no words to express how very much I will miss her, and all of our kitchen adventures. My last promise to her was that I would be okay, and one of the best ways I can think to honor that promise, is to keep writing this blog. So keep cooking I must.

I chose this recipe because mom and I both loved cheese and anything bready.  I can see her now using Ina's recipe as a guideline and telling me that she was going to use more cheese and seasoning than the recipe called for because she liked to be a rebel. So more cheese and more seasoning it is, because I know that would make mom smile. I also decided that I didn't want to season the straws with thyme so I swapped out the thyme for Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Oh, and I didn't thaw the puff pastry overnight in the fridge either.  I thawed it right on the counter, last minute. How's that for being a rebel?

The results were delicious and we all enjoyed them. The only problem is that we have leftovers and that, my friends, is going to take some time to get used to.

Cheese Straws
Adapted from Food Network
by Ina Garten
Makes 22 to 24 cheese straws

2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry (such as Pepperidge farm), defrosted overnight in the fridge
1 extra-large egg
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan*
1 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese*
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves*
1 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper, to taste

*Note: Feel free to swap out the cheese and the seasoning in order to suit your taste buds. I used Parmesan and Gruyere because they're my favorites. However, I swapped the fresh thyme for Italian seasoning on one batch and red pepper flakes for the other. Half of the fun in this recipe is making different versions every time.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Roll out each sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured board until it is 10 x 12 inches. Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the surface of the pastry. Sprinkle each sheet evenly with 1/4 cup of the Parmesan and 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, 1/2 teaspoon of the thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper, to taste. With the rolling pin, lightly press the flavorings into the puff pastry. Cut each sheet crosswise with a floured knife or pizza wheel into 11 or 12 strips. Twist each strip and lay on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and puffed. Turn each straw and bake for another 2 minutes. Don't over bake or the cheese will burn. Cool and serve and room temperature.


  1. What a lovely and poignant remembrance of cooking together and life lessons in mom's kitchen. Your mom is putting her marks here in the cheese straws. She lives on! Carry on with the good work, Kim.

  2. Kim, I can feel the love and closeness you both shared in each sentence. Your cheese straws looks really good, I'm sure your mom would be smiling with approval with the changes you've made. Her love of cooking lives on in you!

  3. I can't think of a better tribute to your mother than this one, and to keep this blog going. Wow, 64 is way to young to go and I am sorry to have read about her dying. Hugs to you, my friend.

    The cheese straws look so good, I will have to try these! Very excited to cooking from Ina's recipes now.

  4. Beautiful post Kim. I loved learning more about your mom in the kitchen and in life. She will definitely live on in your memories, in you, your kids and in your cooking. Hugs.

    The cheese straws look perfect--I like the changes you made and extra cheese and seasoning are never a bad idea. ;-)

  5. Oh Kim, I'm so so sorry for your loss. Although we all know we will lose our parents someday, it always feels too soon. Thinking of you!

  6. This recipe is also available in her Barefoot in Paris cookbook, I had my eye on it too. Thank you for sharing your story, I enjoyed it. I have walked in your shoes as I lost my Mom 9 years ago. We also spent much time in the kitchen together. Wishing you peace as you walk through this time in your life.

  7. What a lovely story of your Mom. I look forward to trying out the recipe.


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