The oldest of four children, I learned to help in the kitchen at a very early age. When mom baked cookies, I not only got to lick the beaters. I also got to help scoop out the dough and plop it onto the cookie sheets—and, of course, to add decorations with colored sugar.

I quickly became mom’s sous chef, chopping up vegetables, stirring the pots on the stove, and gathering supplies from the pantry for her. I ultimately became the dessert cook. I was excellent at ice cream sundaes and knew more variations for preparing JELL-O than most people knew existed.

Junior Girl Scout Cooking BadgeEventually she even trusted me to cook a meal myself. I remember preparing a dinner of Kraft Mac & Cheese with diced Treet when I was 11 or 12 for my Girl Scout Cook Badge. We’d spent the day at the beach. While mom was getting my younger brother and sister out of swimwear and into PJs, I stood in the kitchen, carefully measuring and cutting and waiting. It took far longer than I ever imagined for that water to boil.

Over the years, I’ve tried hundreds of recipes. When I was teaching at Virginia Tech, the students I tutored were addicted to my Chocolate Fudge Brownies. When I lived in Austin, I addicted people to my Simple Gumbo and my Chocolate Nut Bars. In Champaign, my Monster Cookies and Halloween Treat Mix always brought co-workers to my desk.

Now that I’ve moved home to Blacksburg to help care for my mother, I prepare dinner most nights for whoever shows up. With 10 of us in the immediate areas, some evenings there is quite a full house (especially if Mom and I are collaborating on Veal Parmigiana). And of course, there’s turkey for Thanksgiving, ham for Christmas, and special meals for each person’s birthday.

This blog is my place to share all these recipes that we have tried and loved over the years. Some are family traditions, passed down from my great grandmothers. Others are rather traditional meals that I’m sure every family makes. Some are simple cooking hacks or variations on packaged foods. A fair few are special recipes that I’ve created on my own. All are foodstuffs that my family loves. I hope you’ll find something here that you love as well.

Oh, and when not cooking, I work as an educational consultant and writer. You can read more about that part of my life at Pedablogical.

Contact Information

You can email me at tengrrl at tengrrl dot com. Send postal mail to Traci Gardner, P.O. Box 11836, Blacksburg, VA 24062-1836.

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