July 23, 2024


Than a Food Fitter

Friday Thoughts – Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

8 min read


I wasn’t sure I’d get this post up in time for it to still be a “friday” post! #life #summer #sendhelp (Although “Saturday thoughts” has a nice ring to it, too.) 🙂 But I pulled it together in between summer tennis tournaments, being foreman over kids’ summer chores around the house (gah, worst job ever, I need a raise), and staying afloat with general life stuff.

Lots of randomness today as always!

Don’t forget to comment with any and all of YOUR thoughts – whether they relate to anything I said or not! (Just a reminder, none of the products I recommend below are sponsored – I’ve bought them all myself and am recommending them because I love them.) 💗

Baking Steel

Have you used a baking steel??

I’ve had an ancient pizza stone since the dawn of time – we use the old, beloved thing for our homemade pizza. While I’ve heard a lot about baking steels for pizza, I never took the plunge.

homemade pizza on wooden pizza peel

A few months ago we were at my SIL’s house for homemade pizza, and she was baking them on a baking steel. It was awesome seeing a baking steel in action! The pizza crust was AMAZING baked on that thing.

Fast forward and my SIL, Angela, surprised me with money to buy a baking steel for my birthday! Apparently my face pressed against her oven each time a pizza baked in her oven gave me away as to my intensity surrounding the baking steel. 😉

I ended up buying a 3/8-inch thick baking steel from 222Steel (same place she got hers), and while I’m slightly concerned I’m going to pull a muscle from lifting the crazy-heavy piece of baking steel each time we use it, it has been so fun, and honestly, we’re eating way better homemade pizza because of it.

metal baking steel

I’d love to hear your experience if you bake with a baking steel!

Skin Stuff

I’m hesitant to change up my skin care routine because I’m not getting any younger, my skin is more sensitive as I get older, and also: I’m lazy.

I use countertime from BeautyCounter (and have for years) for most of my skin care needs. I also use this face wash at night and this facial sunscreen aff. link when I need it. (Makeup is a whole other story we can get into another time.)

Recently, I added this much-talked about essential oil “bae” routine from The Daily Essential Co. I’ve been using jojobae in the morning and skinbae at night and I am absolutely loving the way my skin feels -softer, more resiliently moisturized, and just overall healthier.

jojobae essential ois

These both have a strong-ish essential oil fragrance – so I can see some people not loving the smell, however we use essential oils occasionally around here, so the smell is actually nice and comforting to me and not off-putting.

Anyway, I’ve been really, really happy I’ve added them into my quick morning and evening routine!

Cooking for 250+ At Camp

Many of you know I was in charge of all the food for a church girl’s camp for five days the second week of June, and I’m happy to report: IT IS OVER. And: WE SURVIVED!


I’m putting together a massive post with tons and tons of details, printables, menus, budget, what worked, what didn’t. That shall come soon!

In the meantime, I thought I’d give a few quick highlights (I mentioned a few of these on Instagram, but I am including a few more as well):

  • I printed out huge versions of the menu and daily timeline instructions so that my awesome committee didn’t have to rely on me for delegating each task. We taped these to the walls of the rustic mountain kitchen and it was an amazing help. I created them in Photoshop and printed them as engineering blueprints at Staples (for just a couple dollars each), but I’m working on a printable/editable version for my big, huge blog post coming soon to a blog near you. 🙂
thursday menu plan for girls camp
  • one of the committee members, Jill, brought this cute little chopper aff. link with her to camp. And aside from being cute, it saved our bacon on several occasions when we needed to chop up toppings (and a lot of them). I’ll never chop tomatoes, strawberries, onions or any other variety of other ingredients for 270 people without this thing in my life. I don’t own one personally, but I probably need to change that. Spoiler alert: just ordered one.
  • Jill also convinced us to dress up each night in a themed (very simple!) costume. It was a last minute idea (literally the night before we were supposed to leave), so we didn’t necessarily plan the meals with a specific theme, but she made it work. This was entirely outside of my creative wheelhouse. I was confident planning the food. Costumes? Not so much. So she took the reigns and brought us all a variety of props to use…and the girls LOVED it. They thought it was so fun and hilarious. Lesson learned: Mel, be more fun. Also, invest in a muumuu.
  • My committee and I baked and froze all of the desserts ahead of time, and I would like this to be an official PSA that baking, frosting, sprinkling, and freezing sugar cookies works brilliantly. We made over 300 of these swig sugar cookies (swapping baking powder for the cream of tartar) and once thawed, they were as fresh-tasting as the day they were made (and to say they were a hit would be a complete understatement). I also made a gluten-free version for our GF girls swapping gluten-free flour for the all-purpose flour and making sure the sprinkles were gluten-free.
  • I also made nine sheet pans of this s’mores cookie recipe (transforming it into a bar cookie). Tripling the batch and splitting it between two half sheet pans worked very well.

More to come on this front. Stay tuned!

Summer Schedules/Bread Making Businesses

Summer schedules are always…interesting. Just when I think I have things figured out, we enter a new summer with new ages of kids (hello, teenagers, you make life fun and “interesting”) and I have to kind of rethink everything.

This summer in our household, my two oldest (18 and 16) are working full-time jobs in a warehouse doing equipment assembly, my third oldest (14) is working a few shifts a week at our small-town ice cream shop, my 13-year old is enjoying a bit of freedom before summer jobs hit him smack in the face in future years (and he also works a bit for us on our property), and my resident 10-year old started her own bread making business.

girl holding sheet pan with two loaves of bread

She’s following in the footsteps of her entrepreneurial brothers – several of them have spent their tween-year summers making, freezing and selling cookie dough.

Two weeks in and I am so impressed with how well she can churn out 10-12 loaves of bread in a day (she sells it 1-2 days a week for $5/loaf)! She’s selling this rosemary bread and this French bread. She already has some loyal customers, and it’s been a great way for her to earn some money toward things she wants to save up for and also to help with some refugee projects (see below).

What do your summer schedules consist of?

Some Volunteering

For the last few months, I’ve been volunteering at a local refugee agency, and I’ve been able to bring my kids along to help to a few events (move in families to new apartments, deliver meals to refugee families staying in temporary lodging, and a few other things). It’s been a really eye-opening, humbling, amazing experience for all of us.

Recently, my kids spent hours making bracelets and beaded animals to pass out to the children of refugee families when we are delivering meals.

boy and girl holding bag of beads

Aside from the joy of giving them out to the cute kids riding their bikes through the hallways of the temporary housing center, it made me remember and realize how fun it is for my kids to have a crafty/creative summertime project going on.

I think we might just keep a small table set up so they can continue making these bead animals, the bracelets, and other crafty crafts we find.

This is the book we use aff. link for the bead animals. Not gonna lie and don’t wanna brag, but I’m really good at making the frog (er, after I had to have my 14-year old show me how to do the arms).

bead animals

We also made the bracelets out of these glass seed beads aff. link (once I googled an easier way to thread them using a needle, we started rocking!).

Do you have any other fun craft projects for us this summer? It’s good for all of us (including the teenage boys!).

Random Recipe Note

You know this stellar strawberry rhubarb pie?

Well, I went to make it for Father’s Day and realized I had forgotten to buy strawberries. Fantastic.

Having already traipsed through the wilderness of our side yard weeds to harvest rhubarb, I was not about to give up.

So I searched high and low through the also-wilderness of my disorganized freezer and found a frozen triple berry blend (from Costco). I subbed the frozen triple berry blend for the strawberries, increased the cornstarch by 2 tablespoons, and went for it.

triple berry rhubarb pie

And it was probably one of the best pies in the history of ever. Moral of the story: maybe, always, forget the strawberries??

The End

Thanks for making it this far! I appreciate each and everyone of you so much. All the things you share with me and all the support you give me day after day, year after year. I LOVE hearing from you.

I love it.

I have lots of recipes to post this summer and some fun video projects to come! But like many of you, I’m also trying to be intentional about the time I have at my disposal. And life gets so very real at times (read: kind of hard). So we’ll see how it all plays out!

I’m actually currently buried in 15-20 pairs of golf pants as we try to figure out the right sizing/type of pants for my son who is preparing to serve a church mission to Brazil (he leaves in August), as well as hanging out with two litters of piglets born on our very faux farm recently.

Time is fleeting. My goal is to sidestep the stress I often feel in certain circumstances and really, truly be grateful for each moment I have with the people I love.

Wishing you a happy, happy summer!

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