I’ve been cooking like a demon for three days for no reason except I have some free time. Black bean soup, two kinds of quick bread and mango-coconut sorbet are currently populating my freezer. I feel so accomplished and grown-up when I put ready to eat food in the freezer. It’s like putting money in the bank. If I have a busy day, or want to stay late at the beach, we don’t have to resort to hot dogs or pancakes for dinner.

I have wanted to make my own mustard for a while and finally remembered to order mustard seed in bulk so I can experiment. My all time favorite book for preparing any kind of preserves, pickles or condiments is The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard, a pair of professional home economists. Reading the book is as comforting as having your Aunts in the kitchen with you.

The recipes are usually as reliably good as your Aunts’ recipes, too, but I’m having trouble with the mustard. My first batch turned out as thick as old glue. It is very tasty, so I’ll probably mix it with some mayo to make it spreadable.The dijon mustard that I was trying to make called for 3/4 cup of dry white wine. I bought a bottle of cheap sparkling wine, thinking I would have plenty left after my husband and I drank a few glasses. Oops, not quite enough. I made up the difference with white wine vinegar. That was my only divergence from the recipe, and it doesn’t seem enough to change the texture, only the taste. I’ll try again tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Some other delicious food coming out of my kitchen is granola, without seeds, for my mom, and hummus. I used to buy hummus. Then, I had some at a Lebanese restaurant, fresh and lemony and tastier than anything you can purchase. This recipe is fantastic, if you’re interested. I don’t bother with the yogurt or almonds, or with the bread part of the recipe. It’s well worth the effort to make your own.

One last food observation. My favorite dinner is salmon, salad and fruit. I have come to realize that I feel happier after I eat this particular meal. It’s not the ‘oh, yeah, cake!’ kind of happiness that comes from sugar and fat. I experience a deeper feeling of well-being. I think there is something about those foods that actually improves my mood. Weird, but true. I keep making the meal, in hopes that my pre-teen will experience an improved mood, too. Again, wish me luck.