She loves being reminded of friends when cooking

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KENTS HILL – Emily Pulsifer dates her first solo cooking venture back to a batch of chocolate chip cookies she made when she was 7.

“Where the recipe called for one teaspoon of baking soda, I saw one cup. They were dreadful. I was discouraged and mortified by the wasted chocolate chips,” she said.

But Pulsifer’s mother, Helen Davidson of Hebron, is a great cook and, Pulsifer said, “I started absorbing her culinary wisdom, along with her amazing food. … Where most people see nearly empty cupboards, she sees the ingredients for an amazing meal.”

When Pulsifer was 11, her parents started a small dairy farm in Hebron. “I was squeamish about mucking out stalls and wrestling big Holsteins, so I moved into the kitchen to cook breakfast and dinner while my sister and parents milked. I started with easy stuff and got more adventurous every year.”

In college, Pulsifer worked for a caterer in Atlanta who had a contract with some of the performance venues in the city. She did some cooking and helped serve the food to such performers as Winona Judd, James Taylor and Sting. “Some of the stars were absolutely lovely. Others were … less than lovely,” she said.

Today, Pulsifer lives and works at Kents Hill School, a preparatory school for 215 children. She is the librarian, cross country coach and college counselor. She lives on campus with her husband, Andrew, and their sons Liam, 8, and Zachary, 5. She makes bread at least once a week for her family. The boys’ favorite foods include homemade pizza, chocolate chip banana muffins, black witch cake and “eggs-in-a-basket,” (an egg fried in a piece of oatmeal bread).

“I love thinking about what to make during the day and then puttering around the kitchen in the evenings. After a crummy day at work, a few hours of cooking can resurrect me,” Pulsifer said.

She loves to read cookbooks in bookstores and at friends’ houses. “You can learn so much about someone from their cookbook collection,” said Pulsifer, who likes to get recipes from her friends – “I find they’re usually our favorite dishes and I love being reminded of my friends as I cook.”

Pulsifer would love to return to cooking full time someday. When she isn’t cooking or working at school, she likes to run, read and write.

Banana chocolate-chip muffins

Ingredients:

1½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

3 ripe bananas, smashed

¾ cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

1/3 cup oil

1 cup chocolate chips (or nuts)

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/8 cup flour

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon butter

Method:

Mix 1½ cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine banana, sugar, egg and oil. Stir banana mush into flour mixture till just moistened; fold in chocolate chips. Fill greased muffin cups two-thirds full. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, 1/8 cup flour, cinnamon and butter; sprinkle over muffin batter, pressing crumbs in lightly. Bake at 375 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes. Makes about 12 muffins.

Emily’s note: This is from my friend Ellen.

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Baby bella risotto

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup onion, chopped

¼ cup carrots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ red, orange or yellow pepper, chopped

1 large package baby bella mushrooms, sliced thin

6 cups vegetable or chicken broth

½ teaspoon salt

1½ cups rice (basmati or other white rice)

2 tablespoons butter

¼ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

3 cups baby spinach

Parsley, chopped

Parmesan cheese

Method:

Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and carrot; cook until onions are transparent (4 to 5 minutes). Add garlic and pepper; cook another 1 to 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and cover pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, till mushrooms are limp (4 to 5 minutes). While the mushroom mixture is cooking, heat broth in a separate saucepan and keep hot, but not boiling. When mushrooms are limp, add salt and rice; stir until rice is mixed with vegetables. Slowly add the broth, one ladle-full at a time, to the rice-vegetable mixture. Each time the broth boils off, add more broth; stir often. Continue adding broth until rice is cooked (20 minutes). Stir in butter and Parmesan cheese. Just before serving, stir in spinach. Serve in bowls with parsley and Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. About 6 servings.

Black witch cake

Dry ingredients:

1¾ cups flour

2 cups sugar

¾ cup cocoa

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:

2 eggs

1 cup strong black coffee (with or without caffeine)

1 cup milk plus 1 tablespoon vinegar

¼ cup oil

¼ cup applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add wet ingredients. Beat two minutes on medium speed. (Batter will be so thin you’ll ask, “How could this possibly bake into a cake?”)

Pour into a greased and floured 9- by 13-inch pan (bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes) or two 9-inch layer pans (bake 30 to 35 minutes) – or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans. Cool completely and frost with buttercream frosting.

Emily’s note: A recipe passed to me from my friend Andrea.

Buttercream frosting

Ingredients:

5 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup cocoa

1 teaspoon vanilla

6 tablespoons half-and-half

3 cups confectioners’ sugar, approximately

Method:

Soften butter in mixing bowl. Add cocoa, vanilla and half-and-half; beat till smooth. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar until it is easy to spread.

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