Friday, December 30, 2011

I'm a book hoarder.

I freelance from home with two toddlers underfoot, which doesn't leave a ton of time for reading. But I love reading. And as much as I love reading -- maybe even more -- I love buying books. When I was little, my dad used to take me on a weekly pilgrimage to Waldenbooks where I'd drop $3 on the latest Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High, or Sleepover Friends book. That obsession hasn't slowed down, and it doesn't help that I have a book swap about a mile from my house where I can get just about anything for under five bucks. The result: I have over 100 books I haven't read. Seriously. I wish I were exaggerating, but I'm not. And I wish I could read them all at once, but I can't.

So I decided to start picking through them slowly. Actually I decided to do a "52 Project" and read a book a week, but hahahahaha do you remember when I said I had two toddlers? So, yeah, I'm just going to read when I get the chance and hope for the best. Check the "reading" tab whenever you need book recommendations, although I'm hardly objective -- for example, I deduct one bajillion points if a child or dog dies in the book. (Boooo, The Imperfectionists! Boo!) And feel free to leave your own review in the comments, because I love talking nerdy about books.

And I'm going to try to avoid buying any more books in the meantime.

I'm ready. Bossypants is ready. Here we go.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

RECIPE: Baked Broccoli. It's nothing short of magical.

I saw a recipe for oven-baked broccoli, and my first thought was, "Wow. That sounds like a way to make raw broccoli even more dry and bland." But then I kept seeing more and more recipes for it, so I finally decided there must be some truth to it. (Not that trendy foods can't be gross -- I'm talking to you, alfafa sprouts/foie gras/wheatgrass shakes.)

So this weekend, we tried it. And it...was....AMAZING! Okay, that's a strong word. Usually, the biggest compliment I can muster up for a vegetable recipe is "edible" or "tolerable." But these were straight-up delicious.

You'll need:

  • raw broccoli
  • 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • salt, pepper, and garlic to taste*
  • lemon juice (or a lemon if you're feelin' fancy)
  • parmesan

Chop the broccoli into bite-size florets. Toss them with a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic. Lay them on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake at 425 degrees until the tips of the "trees" start turning golden-brown. For us, that was 10 minutes, but our oven cooks with the power of 1,000 suns. Then take it out, squeeze some lemon juice over it, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

How delicious is it? Um, my hubby walked out of the room and I snuck a few florets while he wasn't looking. Yeah -- I STOLE BROCCOLI. Usually (much like a 3-year-old), I save my veggies for last, eat five bites, announce that I'm full, and scrape the leftovers onto his plate. So for me to sneak broccoli because I didn't want to share -- that's huge. I want to make this every night. And maybe for breakfast too.

Sorry, buffalo chicken -- you're only the second-tastiest thing on my plate tonight.

* Just shake it until it looks about right. As usual, I subbed Papa Joe's salt for all three.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

RECIPE: Swedish Apple Pie Recipe

Yikes, I haven't posted in a week -- my mashed potato coma was followed by Black Friday madness, Cyber Monday impulse shopping, and then a day or two of sheer laziness. But, I'm back. And I have a pie recipe as a sort of peace offering for being a bad, bad blogger.

We went to my in-laws' house for Thanksgiving, and they asked if I'd bring a cherry pie. I don't know how to make one of those, so I offered to make an apple pie instead. But if you want to get technical, I don't know how to make that either, so I decided to make a Swedish apple pie.

I don't think it's actually Swedish, but that's not important.

It's super-easy, and that is important.

You'll need:

  • 5-6 medium-sized apples (I like Rome apples)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter (melted)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease the bottom of a pie plate.  Chop the apples into thin slices and fill the pie dish until it's about level with the top. (Nope, there's no crust on the bottom. Have faith!)
Mix 1/4 cup sugar and 2 Tbsp. of cinnamon in a bowl, then pour evenly over the apples. Then mix the egg, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, and the melted butter in a bowl and pour the mixture evenly over the apples. Some will fill in the cracks, the rest will sit on top. Bake for 45 minutes or until the top turns light golden and a little bit crispy to the touch.

Everyone polished it off and my brother-in-law nominated it as my new signature dish. Woohoo! Win.

Plus it's apples. So don't feel like you have to wait until the holidays. It's practically health food!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

ROOST: Why I'm Thankful for My Messy Life...

I have a bad habit of stressing out about the rooms I haven’t cleaned, the projects I haven’t started, and the clutter I can’t control. But I’m still thankful for all those things I stress about on a daily basis. In the spirit on Thanksgiving, here’s why I’m thankful for my messes:

I’m thankful for the heap of dirty laundry on the bathroom floor, the footie pajamas piled up on the dry sink in the living room in lieu of real decorations, the baskets of hand-me-downs that I keep meaning to organize, and the lost socks collecting dust bunnies under my bed. It’s nice to know my kids and I have clothes to keep us warm.

I’m thankful for the frozen-veggie avalanche that falls out of the freezer every time I open it. It’s annoying, and some veggies hurt worse than other at the speed of gravity (eff you, frozen spinach blocks!), but it’s a lot easier than wondering where our next meal is coming from.

I’m thankful to have friends who don’t care if my house is cluttered and dusty with occasional spiders. Or I’m thankful to have friends who pretend not to care—either way, it’s appreciated.

I’m thankful that my to-do list is so freaking long that it takes up three Stickies on my desktop and gives me a minor panic attack every time I look at it. It means people are still hiring me to do things I love doing.

I’m thankful to have a husband who won’t nominate me for What Not to Wear, no matter how many times I beg him to, because he doesn’t think my situation is dire enough. That’s a pretty sweet compliment, especially on days when I’m still wearing pajama pants at 4 p.m.

I’m thankful that our walls have been gouged by Tonka trucks, our floors are sticky with juice, and our computer screens are covered in chocolate handprints. If my biggest worry is how to get Mr. Potato Head parts out of the VCR, I’m a lucky parent. I’m thankful that my kids are healthy enough to cause mayhem.

Life is good.
And last, I’m thankful that calories don’t count on Thanksgiving! Proven fact.

Happy Turkey Day! ☺

Monday, November 21, 2011

LIST: 7 Reasons I think this Video is B.S.

There's a decent chance you've already seen this video, since it's racked up a quarter-million views in the past four days. But I'm calling fraud on it. Watch it and see what you think:

Look, as the mom of two toddler boys, I've walked in on my share of messes. And it's because I've walked in on my share of messes that I can spot several red flags in this video:
  1. In real-toddler-world, all five pounds of flour would be in a big pile in the middle of the kitchen. Once a toddler discovers something that can be spilled, the world stands still until every last drop has been dumped on the floor. I've watched my one-year-old sit at the kitchen table and shake juice out of a leak-proof sippy cup for upwards of ten minutes. I've found him in a mountain of wipes, but I've never found a trail of wipes throughout the house. Toddlers tend to keep their messes confined to their current location, a.k.a. the location where mom currently isn't.
  2. I don't see two kids running with a bag of flour, period. A toddler with a five-pound bag of flour is like me with a 20-pound bag -- not gonna happen unless you're talking about this kid. There's flour on the couch -- that's over their heads. Could you hold a 20-pound bag of flour in one hand and casually toss flour over your head with another? On that note...
  3. What's with the weird spots of flour on the picture frame? I've spilled a lot of flour, and I can safely say that flour doesn't clump when it hits glass. Unless, say, you're a fame-hungry youtube mom going for maximum shock value, so you spritz a little water on the glass first. Just sayin'.
  4. The TV has a light dusting on the edge. Very thoughtful of her kids to leave the most expensive thing in the room relatively unscathed. My kids, in contrast, have a magnetic pull to the most valuable thing in the room, which is why they'll draw on my computer monitor with a Sharpie when there's a blank notebook right in front of them.
  5. When I notice my kids have been unusually quiet, I don't grab the video camera just in case they've decided to antique my living room furniture. 
  6. If I ever stepped out of the bathroom and saw a trail of flour in the hallway, I wouldn't mutter, "Oh...oh, boy." It'd be more like, "GET IN TIME OUT RIGHT NOW! HOW DID YOU EVEN FIND THE FLOUR?! IT'S ON THE TOP SHELF OF THE CABINET! HOW THE FREAK LONG WAS I IN THE BATHROOM? DO THEY EVEN MAKE A VACUUM THAT CAN FIX THIS?!?!?" But, I guess you can't just hand your boys a bag of flour, help them powder the room, and then yell at them -- that would confuse them. Just sayin' again.
  7. She disabled comments. Go figure.
So, what do you think -- real or fake?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

RECIPE: Slutty Brownies = the perfect storm of desserts!

I want to tell you about the best brownies in the whole wide world.

Brownies + Oreos + chocolate chip cookies = wheeeeee sugar WHEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

I think I have vertigo.

Disclaimer: This isn't my recipe. In fact, let me start by explaining how I create the recipes I post on here. I have no cooking skills, so I can't just "throw a few things together" in the kitchen because the outcome will usually be surprising in a really bad way. So instead, I start by Googling whatever I feel like eating ("mexican pork slow cooker") and then skim a bunch of recipes to find ingredients I recognize ("corn!"). There's usually a bit of follow-up Googling ("substitute for dill?" or "can you mix basil and cilantro?") and eventually, I come up with a list of ingredients that will, most likely, taste okay when put together. My husband gets the lucky job of lab-testing the meals ("Welcome home, honey, I put jelly in the meatloaf!") and then the ones that don't suck (in my final and overriding opinion) wind up on here.

When three or four days go by without a recipe, you should really feel bad for my husband. Send him a lasagna or something.

But when I stumbled across this recipe, I knew it was solid gold. I ran out to the store at 10:00 at night to get the ingredients. I didn't need to tweak, substitute, or simplify anything. So, I can't lay any claim to this recipe -- all I can do is bow down to The Londoner for sharing her stroke of culinary genius with the interwebs. I think she's my new girl crush, but that could just be the sugar high talking.

She calls them Slutty Brownies -- if that term makes you cringe, try to look past it, because these brownies will make you lose your moral compass.

Click here for the full recipe from The Londoner.

Short version: Line the bottom of a greased 9x13 baking pan with cookie dough batter (I used Betty Crocker bagged mix and added an extra Tbsp of water and an extra Tbsp of applesauce to the batter, like the recipe suggests). Then a layer of Oreos. Then pour brownie batter over that, and cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. It comes out looking like this:

Unbutton your pants because you're going to want to eat, like, five.

Friday, November 18, 2011

RECIPE: Pumpkin French Toast

I came across this recipe for pumpkin pie-inspired French toast on Babycenter and immediately made a beeline for the kitchen to try it. (So what if I'd just just finished breakfast ten minutes before that? There's always room for pumpkin!)

I had to substitute a couple of spices for the pumpkin pie spice, like the recipe suggested. And I left out the cloves, because I don't have them in stock either. I also had to substitute crappy wheat bread for the brioche, because what the heck is brioche? If you'd asked me two days ago, I would have guessed it was a cheese. Anyway, Stroehmann wheat worked fine. I prefer thin-sliced bread for French toast anyway -- less bread, more egg and sugar and yumminess.

You'll need:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 8 slices of bread (well...I cooked four and gave up)

Whisk everything but the bread together. Dip the bread in the goo, then drop it on a preheated skillet on medium (or medium-low-ish) heat and cook until golden. Then drizzle it with maple syrup and be glad it's fall, because fall really has the best foods of any season.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

RECIPE: $3 "Sweetloaf" Meatloaf Recipe

Okay, who has $3 to spare and wants to settle a bet between me and my husband?

I thought this meatloaf was crazy delicious, and the fact that it took me less that five minutes to prep made it a big fat win. My husband's verdict was that it's "not Italian." Oh, I'm sorry, he just read the post and told me to change it to "not good." Anyway, I know I can't out-meatloaf my mother-in-law, but I still think this is a fantastic dinner. And fast. And did I mention cheap? And delicious?

Now, full disclosure, the ingredient list is going to require a leap of faith.

You'll need:
  • 1/8 cup yellow or brown mustard
  • 1/8 cup grape jelly
  • 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 lb. ground turkey

It's an inexact science -- I just filled a 1/4-cup measuring cup with half mustard, half jelly. Then all you have to do is mash everything together, squish it into a loaf shape, rub some olive oil on the bottom of a casserole dish, and plop it in there. Cover it and cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. 

And then report back and tell me who's right :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

RECIPE: Bootleg Olive Garden San Remo Seafood Dip

Hubby and I used to eat at Olive Garden a few times a month, and I can sum up the reason in four words: San Remo Seafood Dip. Anyone remember that dip? It was the stuff that dreams were made of. It was my desert-island food. It was crabby, garlicky deliciousness. We didn't even need a menu when we went in -- we ordered the same thing every time.

And then one night, we ordered it, and the waiter came to our table with...spinach artichoke dip. Whoa whoa whoa, WTF!??! Don't get me wrong, I love spinach artichoke dip -- but I can make spinach artichoke dip at home. I couldn't recreate San Remo dip. I had tried. It cost me $18 in supplies and tasted like the airplane-food version of the dip.

"Excuse me," I said. "We ordered the San Remo dip."

"Oh," said the waiter. "That's not on the menu anymore."

I'm not sure why he thought spinach-artichoke dip was an adequate substitute for The Best Food in the Whole Wide World -- and such an adequate substitute that he didn't even need to notify me -- but whatever. I couldn't worry about his crappy waiting (waitering?) skills, because I was too busy wrapping my head around the fact that I'd never eat San Remo dip again

That was 10 years ago. I'm still not over it. So the other day, I went on a search for a copycat recipe. And unlike the crap-stew version I found last time, this recipe actually looked like it might do the trick. I tweaked it a little but....IT WORKED!!! And the stars and planets realigned, and now I can drive past Olive Garden without the usual cursing and fist-shaking. 

Oh San Remo, I have missed you so!

  • 1 can shrimp
  • 1 can white crab
  • 2 oz cream cheese, cubed
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. Papa Joe's salt
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. horseradish
  • 1/3 cup + 1/4 cup grated romano, asiago, or parmesan
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1 cup marinara

Heat olive oil and flour in 2-qt. saucepan. Add the liquids from the canned seafood, the cream cheese, salt, garlic, and horseradish. Stir until smooth. If it looks like hot vomit, that means you're doing it right!

Add romano and seafood. Stir until heated. Add half and half. Simmer 10-15 minutes. The texture will start to improve, and it will actually begin to look and smell like something you might willingly put in your mouth.

Rub olive oil on a casserole dish. Pour the marinara in the bottom. Pour the mixture on top, and top with 1/4 cup of romano. By now, it will look yummy and smell like MAGIC!

Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes. I was so excited that I sat in front of the oven and watched it cook, but that's not a necessary step unless you, too, have been suffering withdrawal since 2002-ish. Let cool for a few minutes before serving. Yum.

So, have you ever had a favorite dish taken off the menu? While we're on the subject, I'm also a little sore with Applebees for 86ing their french dip sandwich. And if Dunkin Donuts ever takes away the butternut donut, there will be mutiny.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

RECIPE: Elvis PB-Chocolate-Banana Bread

I don't have a thing for Elvis or anything. I just impulse-bought some almond flour at Trader Joe's, and needed a reason to use it. For some reason, the second I set foot inside a Trader Joe's, I lose my ability to evaluate my needs. I'm like, "What's tapenade? Looks like something I need. What do you use polenta for? Whatever, it's $2.99." Full disclosure, I just had to go to the kitchen and double-check the tube of polenta to make sure that's what it was called. But I bought it, and now we have it.

Anyway, I based this on a recipe for peanut butter blondies. I substituted some ingredients, threw it in a pan, and figured I'd see what came out. The verdict: Bread! It's the consistency of a banana bread or pumpkin bread.

It's also the perfect thing to make when you find yourself stuck with a banana that looks like this.


You'll need:
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
one mashed overripe banana
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup chocolate chips (I used the Nestle minis)

Combine everything in one bowl using a hand mixer.

Grease an 8x8 pan. (For greasing, I like to use a sandwich bag as a glove and grease with Country Crock.)

Pour the batter into the pan and cook at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Let them cool in the pan, then slice and serve.

When I told my husband what I made, he said, "Why'd you do that?" Um, because it's delicious? But after I forced him to eat one, he ate two more and then demanded that I take the rest to our neighbors before he polished off the pan. They're that good.

P.S. You can sub regular flour for the almond flour and regular peanut butter for the almond butter. Again, I'm usually working with whatever random stuff I was tricked into buying by Trader Joe's black magic. Also, my husband suggests substituting peanut butter chips for the chocolate, or just leaving it chipless.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

RECIPE: Chicken with Cucumber Salsa

I'm still recovering from the epic moussaka adventure, so as a sort of kitchen detox, I'm following up with the easiest recipe ever. Seriously. THIS IS SO EASY. And it's a great way to use up random leftover veggies.

Yum, right?

The cucumber salsa recipe comes from my friend Erika, the blogger behind Honey I Shrunk My Butt.

The chicken recipe is my own creation. If you can call it that. I mean, my two-year-old could probably come up with this if I left him alone in the kitchen for five minutes. (Okay, that's not true. If I left him alone in the kitchen for five minutes, he'd most likely eat a whole box of Triscuits and dump out every piece of paper in the recycling bin.)

You'll need:

  • boneless chicken
  • a cup of salsa (any kind)
  • half a cucumber
  • half a red pepper
  • 1/4 of a red onion
  • some corn
  • 1/2 Tbsp. cilantro
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipotle seasoning blend

Put a pound of chicken in a crock pot with half a jar of salsa. (I used Newman's Own pineapple salsa, but any salsa is fine. I'm thinking salsa verde would be phenomenal.) Cook on high for 2-3 hours. That's it.

Dice the cucumber. Dice the red pepper. Dice the onion. (Shout-out to the Pampered Chef Food Chopper, by the way. It seriously might be my favorite kitchen tool. And my kids think it's a toy, so I can actually persuade them to help me cook!) I used about half a bag of Steamfresh corn. Mix it all together in a bowl with the cilantro and seasoning blend.

When the chicken's done, put it on a plate and dump the salsa on top, or wrap everything up in a flour tortilla. That's it. Super-healthy, beyond easy, and the cucumber is a refreshing twist on pico de gallo. This is totally getting added to regular rotation at our house.

Monday, October 31, 2011

RECIPE: Adventures in Paleo Cooking (a.k.a. A Really Complicated Wheat-Free Moussaka Recipe)

This is what happens when I let my husband come grocery shopping with me. Actually, he didn't even come inside -- he waited in the van with our boys while I grabbed a few staples. But when I got back to the car, he was like, "Oh, I just found this awesome recipe on Mark's Daily Apple*, and can you maybe go back in and buy all this stuff?" Then he handed me his phone with the recipe loaded on the screen and sent me off in search of kale, dill, eggplants, onions, Greek yogurt, and a bunch of other crap I wouldn't normally buy.

I wound up replacing the kale with collard greens, because they looked much less scary. I decided to use parsley instead of dill, because I didn't feel like spending $4 on dill leaves. I got the eggplants and onions, forgot the Greek yogurt, and went on my way. So, there are a few substitutions in my recipe, thanks to a combination of forgetfulness and a Beavis-and-Butthead-esque rebellion against using anything called dill weed in my food.

Now. I have to warn you that this recipe takes forever. It was the perfect project for, say, Halloween night when both of us were in the kitchen and trying to distract ourselves from hoovering the entire bowl of candy in the living room. (Have you tried Peanut Butter Snickers yet? They're like whoa.)

The recipe is kind of overwhelming anyway, so I'm going to break it down into three parts: cooking, mixing, and assembly.

You'll need:

  • one skillet, two pots, two bowls, a 2-qt. casserole dish, and a blender
  • olive oil
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 2 smallish eggplants
  • 1 bunch of collard greens (about 1/2 lb.)
  • 28 oz. can of peeled whole tomatoes
  • 1/2 of a red onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1 Tbsp. parsley flakes
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used regular since I forgot the Greek)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/8  tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup parmesan

Are you exhausted yet? Me too! But hang in there. I swear it's worth it.


1. Peel the eggplants and slice them into 1/4" slices. Put the slices in Bowl A and cover them liberally with sea salt. Don't worry. You'll be washing the salt off later. It's just there to suck the moisture out, which keeps it from tasting bitter.

2. Boil some water in Pot #1, then add the leafy parts of the collard greens. Boil those for 3-5 minutes.

3. In the skillet, brown the turkey with olive oil, onion, garlic, cinnamon, and allspice. When it's done, dump it into Pot #2 and set it aside.

4. Look at the bowl of eggplant -- you should see little drops of water on the eggplant. That means the salt did its job. Rinse all the eggplant, then cook it in the skillet until it's slightly brown. Once it's all cooked, put it back in the bowl for now.

 5. Hey, this might be a good time to preheat the oven to 350 degrees.


1. Drain the can of tomatoes, drain the boiled collard greens, and put them both in a blender along with the parsley. Puree everything together. Dump this puree into Pot #2 with the turkey. Simmer on low for 10 minutes.

2. In a bowl, combine the yogurt, sour cream, eggs, and nutmeg. Whisk 'em until they're creamy.


1. Lightly grease the casserole dish with olive oil. Line the bottom with a layer of eggplant. Make sure you can't see the bottom of the dish -- it's okay if there's some overlap.

2. Pour the meat-and-tomato mixture over top.

3. Cover the meat-and-tomato mixture with another layer of eggplant. Again, make sure you can't see the meat layer beneath it.

4. Pour the egg-and-yogurt mixture over the whole shebang. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top.

5. Cook uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Peek to see if the top is golden yet -- if not, leave it in there for another 10-15 minutes. When the top is golden, it's ready! Take it out and let it cool for 10 minutes.

Golden crispy nom-noms!

If you're keeping track, this whole process will probably take a solid hour and a half. This is less of a recipe and more of a team-building effort/epic kitchen adventure/way to kill time. But HOLY CRAP IT'S DELICIOUS! I'm a carbaholic and I didn't miss the usual layer of potatoes one single bit. If I had a personal chef, I would force him or her to cook this once a week. Maybe twice.

Let me know if you get the motivation to try this! :)

P.S. I'm pretty sure this is gluten-free.

* No, he isn't actually hyperlinked when he talks. But now that he has a smartphone, he might as well be.

ROOST: Alicia Silverstone says her 5-month-old is potty-trained -- um, for real?

Okay, I just came across this post on Babycenter -- Alicia Silverstone has been all over Twitter bragging that her five-month-old poops on the potty. Yeah, her five-month-old. Apparently she's a proponent of "elimination communication," which is a fancy way of saying you watch for your kid's potty signals and dangle him over the potty. Yay, one diaper saved!

Possibly mid-potty-dash.

Hey, if Batgirl wants to spend her day scrutinizing her infant's facial expressions -- "is he pooping or just staring at a cracker crumb?" -- that's totally her choice. But I can't help but think it's a total misnomer to suggest that the baby is potty-trained. The parents are the ones watching for signals, making the mad potty dash, and wiping up afterwards. Until a kid is old enough to at least utter the word "potty" -- or, I don't know, crawl -- the parent is the one who's potty-trained.

I'll stick with diapers. I have enough to worry about without anyone pooping on the floor because I missed a scrunchy-face. What about you -- have you tried, or would you try, EC-ing?

Monday, October 24, 2011

ROOST: Maybe this will make me productive.

I'm a serious procrastinator. I have items on my Stickies to-do list that are so old, I've had to transfer them across THREE computers -- no joke.

Sometimes I'll look at an item on there and not even remember what I'm supposed to do. The other day, I noticed a note that said "Jenn conf." Um? I know six Jennifers, four of whom I might actually need to do something with or for. Did I have a conference? Did I need to confirm something? Finally, I remembered that I needed to send my hubby's cousin a confirmation card. Woohoo, my memory serves me again! Well, except that the card is still sitting on my desk, unwritten. I'll do it tomorrow. It's on the Stickies.

But if there's one thing that can cure my procrastination, it's a time crunch -- maybe because I've been working on crazy deadlines for the past 12 years. Which could explain my newfound obsession with this site, which I read about in Tim Ferriss' Four-Hour Workweek (awesome book!) about three years ago and, um, have been meaning to check out ever since.

The site is, and it's nothing fancy -- you type in a time limit, it counts down and beeps when time's up. It's really loud. A few minutes ago, I did a demo for hubby. I set it for 30 seconds, started clicking around the web and managed to get so distracted that when the timer went off -- again, 30 whopping seconds later -- I jumped out of my chair.

But anyway. I've found two fun ways to use it:

1) to limit my FB stalking. I set it for 10 minutes, and when it beeps, I log off. Haha, just kidding. I reset it for another ten minutes. But just like the snooze button on my alarm clock, it eventually guilts me into getting up and doing something productive.

2) racing myself. I've been picking annoying tasks on my to-do list and saying, "Can I get this done in 5 minutes?" Some things I can do in five minutes: follow up on old invoices, check my wireless statement, make a pork roast.

Who knows what boring things I'll accomplish tomorrow!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

RECIPE: Breast cancer awareness never tasted so good!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and I'm kind of a breast cancer bandwagoneer this year -- my sister, always the trendy one, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the beginning of October. She's doing well (and rocked a tiara in pre-op and recovery) and her "cancer afterparty" gave me an excuse to go buck-wild baking pink-themed cupcakes.

Don't worry, I resisted the urge to make boob-themed cupcakes.

The easy-peasy rating on these is through the roof, by the way. I've never attempted to bake a cupcake from scratch, and I wasn't about to experiment at a time like this -- the woman just got out of surgery and deserves nothing less than the expertise of Ms. Betty Crocker! So you can bake all of these with a few supplies from Target.

By the way, I gave my hubby a batch to sell at a BCA bake sale, and they sold like hotcakes. Wait, I guess it's a bad analogy to compare one baked good to another. They sold like SUPER DELICIOUS CUPCAKES!

CUPCAKE #1: Yellow cake mix, vanilla icing with a few drops of red food coloring, and pink sugar sprinkles.

Sidenote, I applied the icing in a spiral pattern using these nifty cupcake decorators my mom found at Christmas Tree Shop. Getting the icing into the plastic baggie is a two-man job, or a really messy one-man job. But several people asked if I made the icing from scratch, and I give all the credit to the fancy application :) 

CUPCAKE #2: LEMONADE CUPCAKES! Lemon cake mix, vanilla icing with a few drops of yellow food coloring, and pink sugar sprinkles mixed with a dash of Kool-Aid pink lemonade powder mix. When I say a dash, I mean a dash. Kool-Aid mix is potent stuff! I only used a pinch and it still gave the icing a Sour-Patch-Kid quality. 

Speaking of potent, those pink sugar sprinkles left their mark...

CUPCAKE #3: White cake mix with a few drops of red food coloring in the batter, white icing, pink sprinkles. These were the biggest hit of the three. Not gonna lie -- I had two for breakfast the next morning. 

One last note, I use Reynolds foil cupcake liners and I DON'T put them in cupcake tins -- I drop them right on a cookie sheet. I always cook for the shortest amount of time listed on the box for cupcakes -- they finish cooking a little while they're cooling on the tray.

P.S. If you want to contribute to breast cancer awareness without spending a penny, click here -- every click goes towards giving mammograms to women in need. (Fees from the site's advertisers pay for the mammograms.) It's an easy way to contribute and for our family, regular mammograms kept crappy news from being really, really, totally super-crappy news. So, click!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

ROOST: Sometimes I feel like Nick Jr. is patronizing me.

I'm not even going to call this a confession. It's just a fact: We watch a lot of TV around here.

I know the two-hour rule, but I don't really care. It's not like we veg out on the couch with a trough of soda and cake. Sometimes we pay attention, sometimes it's just background noise -- but it's usually on. Let's just say I owe a huge debt of carbon-footprint karma.

I know this is supposedly causing some combination of obesity, ADD, diabetes, and brain rot. But I grew up watching Sesame Street, Mister Rogers, and Wheel of Fortune...and Cheers, Married with Children, Newhart, Tracey Ullman, 90210, and ABC's entire TGIF lineup. I watched a lot of TV. Scientifically speaking, I should have grown into a big blob of stupidity, but I actually was smart. The kind of smart that makes you uncool.

So, as someone who feels super-unapologetic about my own TV viewing, I always feel like Nick is pinching my cheeks and saying "there, there" when I hear their show intros. You know the ones: "Blah-blah encourages social development, multilingualism, good hygiene practices, and a thorough grasp of chaos theory." Really? Because I thought it was a show about singing animals.

What's not to love?
A few examples:

THE SPIN: Yo Gabba Gabba encourages preschoolers to move their bodies for healthy physical development; to make music to express themselves; and to share and care by supporting social and emotional development.
THE REALITY: Yo Gabba Gabba has Biz Markie and robots. Cherish this half-hour.

THE SPIN: Max and Ruby encourages preschoolers to explore family dynamics and the diversity of the world around them; and to share and care by nurturing social and emotional development.
THE REALITY: Max and Ruby explores what would happen if your parents disappeared and you were inexplicably left in the care of your naggy seven-year-old sister.

THE SPIN: The Fresh Beat Band encourages preschoolers to make music in many different ways; to move their bodies and dance; and to share and care by nurturing social and emotional development.
THE REALITY: Why do they giggle so much? They giggle at everything. It's like they just got back from the dentist.

THE SPIN: Ni-Hao Kai-Lan encourages preschoolers to explore Chinese culture and language; and to share and care by supporting social and emotional development.
THE REALITY: Kai-Lan's friends are a diverse mix of crybabies, whiny crybabies, and short-tempered crybabies. And you'll learn words like "mooncake," which is useless in any language.

Honestly, I don't expect TV to teach my kids social skills, their alphabet, or new languages. Those things are supposed to be my job. I don't want to leave them on the couch and pretend it's preschool. I just want to sit down with my boys now and then, and watch some singing animals.

Monday, October 3, 2011

RECIPE: Slow Cooker Cuban Pork

Okay, fair warning: This is a two-step recipe. I suppose you could just throw everything in the slow cooker, but it's extra-awesome if you marinate it for a few hours, so I recommend going the extra mile on this one. It's worth it.

Here's what I used. Check the bottom of this post for substitutions if you can't get some Papa Joe's in time, or if you want to make it easier.
  • 1-2 lbs. pork loin (I like boneless)
  • 1 Tbsp. Papa Joe's Salt*
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 Tbsp cumin
  • 3 oranges**
  • 2 limes

Step 1: Marinade. Stab the pork with a grilling fork or any other poking device you have lying around. 

Um, I look like I'm slaying vampires, yuck. I hate when meat looks like meat!

Anyway. Once you've gotten the stabbies out of your system, throw the pork in a Ziploc bag with the Papa Joe's salt, oregano, and cumin. And then squeeze the holy crap out of the oranges and limes. (I was in a perfectly good mood when I made this, so I don't know why every step of the recipe seems like a de-stressing exercise.) Put the mix in the fridge for a couple of hours, or overnight. Whatever.

Step 2: Cook. Dump the contents of the Ziploc bag into your slow cooker and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours.

Just a note, feel free to use less of the Papa Joe's. Hubby and I strongly disagreed on whether it tasted salty. So, adjust to taste. 

I think this would be awesome on a sandwich with cheese, honey mustard, and pickles. Or in a quesadilla. Just sayin'!

* Papa Joe's salt is a mix of salts, pepper, and garlic. It's amazing and does magic things to steamed vegetables -- for example, it makes me eat them :)  Sweet serendipity, their HQ is apparently a whopping nine blocks from my house. But if you're not local, you can order it through their website. And if you don't have time to order it, just mix together some sea salt or seasoning salt, ground pepper, and garlic, so the mixture totals a tablespoon. 

** Feel free to use the squeezy lime and/or regular old orange juice. Not sure why I went so gung-ho with the fresh fruit. I'd guesstimate that 2 Tbsp of squeezy lime juice and 1/4 cup of orange juice would do the trick.

Friday, September 30, 2011

RECIPE: Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies

Okay, I have to admit -- for all my shortcut-taking in the kitchen, one place I like to overachieve is the cookie department. I love cookies. Nom nom nom cookies. I don't care if it takes me three hours to bake, because the reward (face full of cookie) is worth it.

On the flip side, I hate being disappointed by cookie recipes. Which is what I've been with every pumpkin cookie recipe to date. And because my obsession with cookies is rivaled by my obsession with pumpkin, I have tried a lot of cookie recipes in an attempt to unite these two amazing tastes in my belly.


This is adapted from Annie's Eats -- very, very closely adapted. Basically, all I did differently was to skip the salt and go a little light on the flour.

You'll need...

  • 3 3/4 cups of flour (I went a little light on each cup)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened (NOT melted!)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar (light's okay too; I just prefer dark)
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (I went heavy because I LOVE cinnamon)
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • a shake or two of allspice

    Hold on one sec...I just have to take a quick bite of the pumpkin...

    ...okay. Yum. Seriously, sprinkle a little brown sugar on it and it's like a tiny pumpkin pie!


    Mix the cookie ingredients together, starting with the dry stuff, then adding the wet stuff. Use a hand mixer on the lowest setting or else you'll get powdered George Washington-style by flour. It's nearly impossible to mix. Your mixer will make sad machine sounds, and the batter will crawl up the little blade thingies, and you'll have to scrape it off, and then it'll just happen again. Stick with it!

    Eff you, batter.

    Once the batter is mixed, stir the ingredients for the coating in a small bowl. Roll the batter into 1" to 1 1/2" balls, then dip the balls* in the coating and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.

    To make sure they cook evenly, you'll want to smush them a little bit. In lieu of getting sticky hands, run a glass under some cold water, then dip it in the coating.

    Now use it to smush the cookies. Ta-da! Love this trick -- I think I like this Annie girl.

    Now bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. 

    Perfection. Not too cakey, not too soft or mushy, not too buttery, just perfect cookie consistency. I'm bringing these to my family reunion tomorrow, so my short-term goal is to not eat the entire batch before we get there. My long-term goal is to not eat the entire batch while we're there, even if it's fair game once it hits the dessert table.

    It took me longer to write this recipe than it usually takes me to prep an entire dinner, but if you ever have an hour of free time -- today's serendipity was a long nap from my two-year-old and an excessively cooperative mood from my one-year-old -- these cookies are worth the trouble.


    RECIPES: Healthy Green-Egg Salad and Angel Eggs

    I'm obsessed with eggs. Seriously -- I could hoover a bowl of egg whites like it was a bowl of ice cream.

    This isn't a hypothetical situation. I've done it.

    My husband is slightly disturbed by my egg consumption, and has expressed concern that my cholesterol reading might someday be around 209374029. So, just in case, I decided to make some slightly healthier variations on my two favorite egg recipes.

    First, egg salad. I loves me an egg salad sammie! The trick is to replace the mayo and mustard with guacamole. It's a healthier fat, it's a fruit, and more importantly, it tastes like amazeballs.

    The second one came from a tip I saw in Shape magazine. It's a twist on deviled eggs, but this time, instead of mayo and mustard, you mix the yolks with hummus. (If you're feeling extra-virtuous, you can ditch the yolks and fill it with straight hummus. But I love the yolks.) I used Cedar's chili pepper hummus and it was phenomenal -- loads of flavor and a bit of a kick. I have big plans to hunt down my favorite hummus in the whole wide world -- Tribe Forty Spice -- and lock myself in the kitchen* with a dozen or so of these. I nicknamed them "angel eggs" because, well, if mayo is the eeeeeevil ingredient in deviled eggs, I think hummus deserves a halo. 

    P.S. If there are any fellow egg-lovers reading this -- we recently switched over to brown eggs, organic eggs, local-chicken-plopped eggs -- but yikes, it's hard to get around the weird color and texture variations! There was a mysterious red spot lurking in one of these eggs. How long will it take me to overcome the mental obstacles of eating eggs that aren't creepily uniform in size, shape, and color?

    *Potential logistical problem: Kitchen has no door. 

    Monday, September 26, 2011

    ROOST: Backyard Science for Toddlers

    Yesterday's weather forecast called for ridiculous apocalyptic amounts of rain. I was okay with that, because "rainy day activities" coincidentally overlap with several of my personal favorite activities such as watching TV, drinking assorted hot beverages, and lying on the futon.

    But it didn't rain, so I put my hot-chocolate-and-Pixar plans on hold and took the boys outside. I'd seen a blog post about fun DIY chemistry projects for kids, and this one was my favorite suggestion of the bunch. By which I mean it seemed like I had a 99% chance of not screwing it up.

    First, I filled a water bottle with plain old vinegar and punched a hole in the cap using a grilling fork. Yep, we're running a high-end laboratory over here. Then I filled four plastic cups with baking soda, 7-8 drops of food coloring, and water.

    Spoiler alert: That's where I screwed up. The first step. When I poured a test drop of vinegar into one of the cups to make sure I wasn't about to drench my children with a technicolor explosion, the baking soda mixture just sparkled like a nice bottle of Perrier.


    I consulted my hubby, the engineer, who told me (in so many words) that baking soda isn't exactly a strong alkaline, which is why I'm allowed to put in in cookies without poisoning anyone. He suggested I dump most of the water out and add more baking soda before administering the vinegar catalyst. He's very useful to have around. 

    So that's what I did. I handed my two-year-old the vinegar bottle, informed him that the usual "no dumping your bottle just for the heck of it" rules were temporarily suspended, and let him have at it.

    He took the job very seriously. He was having so much fun that my one-year-old -- who was busy digging wet leaves out of the trunk of his Little Tykes car -- eventually wandered over and joined in. 

    Although for the most part, my one-year-old was more interested in dunking his hands in the mixture and licking his fingers. And that, my friends, is why food is perfect for toddler science experiments. We'll move on to barium* in a year or two. 

    Total cost of the materials: $2. (I'm not counting the food coloring. We've had the same four bottles for several years now, and they seem to mysteriously regenerate.) And the liquid didn't stain their hands. Win-win!

    * Not a clue what barium is. I passed chemistry by doing lots and lots and lots of extra credit.