Food

Pastries with a side of ineffective discipline

You know I had to unpublish that post, right? It violated all kinds of Blog Policy. I hate it when I do that. Also, I have no more indignation in my system and I don't like to be snippy and LET'S TALK ABOUT PASTRIES. 

Every time my in-laws go to Canada - which is a lot, since Phillip's almost entire extended family lives in Richmond, BC aka Hong Kouver - they come home with a giant box of Hong Kong pastries. A whole bunch of buns, some with suspicious fillings, and often a Swiss roll cake and my favorite kind of dim sum, which I can't remember the name of right now, but is like a delicious flaky pastry with BBQ pork inside. This past Sunday they dropped off a bulging bag of bo luo bao ("bowl - lo - bow" if you want the white girl translation). It's a sweet bread bun with a crumbly sugary crust on top that makes a huge mess when you eat it. 

So, Chinese desserts and pastries are not my thing. They are in the Barely Sweet category which means I have no use for them. We ordered a Chinese wedding cake because it was about nine frillion dollars less than other wedding cakes AND it looked pretty, but I didn't want to eat it. Chinese desserts at dim sum are horrifying - this sweet red bean soup, jiggly suspiciously-colored jello squares and other gelatinous items. As a rule, I stay away. 

But I was starving once and I saw someone's half eaten bo luo bao sitting on the counter and obvs I had to shove it in my mouth ASAP and OH NOOOOOOES I now have another enemy in the Lose The Baby Weight battle. Bo luo bao is SO YUMMY! And my in-laws bring me heaps of them on a regular basis! Ostensibly they are for the children (which includes Phillip), but with Phillip out of town this week and my worry (ahem) that the buns might go stale if we don't eat them quickly enough... SIGH. FINE. I HAD SIX FOR BREAKFAST. 

Speaking of breakfast, the fighting got an early start today (who am I kidding - they start fighting over the baby monitor they second they wake up) so they are eating breakfast at two different tables and neither of them is allowed to even look at Emma (an everpresent distraction) until they're finished. 

Yesterday was a loooooong haul of barking at them to stop doing that, stop doing this, what do you think you're doing, you KNOW you're not supposed to do that, seriously what are you doing, I TOLD YOU TO STOP DOING THAT I AM NOT SHOUTING AT YOU FOR MY HEALTH. And it didn't matter what tone of voice I used, how I phrased something, how nice I was, how mean I was, how screamy I got - I received the same Look every time. The Look that means: If I'm just still for a minute and make it LOOK like I'm listening to you, you'll stop bugging us and we can go right back to whatever it was we were doing which is WAAAAAY more important and interesting and meaningful than anything you can possibly say to us. 

It's like they're just biding their time. A little conspiracy against the mad woman whose job it is to feed them fruit snacks and drive them to parks. Two against one. That look drives me around the bend. But I have absolutely no idea what to do about it. None. Time outs? Useless. More yelling? Pointless. Nicely phrased reasoning? HA. Calm? HO HO! The only thing that EVER seems to work with these kids is Giving Them Something Else To Do, but you know, I only have so many Something Else To Dos up my sleeve and also I have a snarffly six-month-old and I SWEAR this is why God gave me a backyard. Let us all pray against rain today.


Seven Quick Thursday Takes

Look at me, breaking the rules!

1. Today was better. Not TONS better, but enough better. Also: Phillip and I discussed the difficulties of waiting to eat until he gets home (around 6:30), not least of which is the fact that Molly starts banging on the refrigerator around 4:45 and it's impossible to cook AND occupy/stave off two needy children from end of nap till late-for-them dinner. (If it were up to me I'd eat at 9 or 9:30, because in my heart of hearts I am a Southern European.) So we came up with a plan and a plan B and I feel a lot less despairing about the whole situation. 

2. What I AM feeling despairing about is my debilitating, crippling, panic-inducing foot disease. Two days I woke up and my foot hurt. Like REALLY HURT. It's the spot on the outside edge of your foot, right below your ankle. What the heck? I have absolutely no clue how I did this or even what it is, but I can't put weight on it, not really, not if I want to KEEP walking. I would blame my first run in two months, but that was two days before the foot disease struck. So I don't know. All it means right now is that I probably shouldn't play volleyball tomorrow night (BOO) and that I probably will lose all ability to walk within the next several months (SUPER BOO.) I will have to take myself and my wheelchair on a walkabout in Australia, get rejected by the walkabout director and crash on a mystical island on my way home. 

3. I reactivated my Weight Watchers account. I hate telling you this. MOVING ON.

4. I finally decided on a lipstick color I 1) like and 2) would actually wear at times other than Big Fancy Occasions. I'm just not a lipstick kind of girl. I think it makes the rest of me look washed out or sallow or otherwise unattractive. But a friend gave me a lip color palette a while back and I really like this shade that looks so unlikely in the palette. I keep losing it in different purses, but I found it again today and got annoyed having to use a LIP BRUSH for the zillionth time so I decided: today is the day I buy The Real Thing! So I hopped online aaaaand it seems it only comes in the palette with the lip brush. ANNOYING. (Wildberry Jam by Fresh, for those of you who are interested in such details.)

5. Maureen asked for a bread update and I always do what Maureen says. (Seriously. See: cloth diapers, bread book.) Okay, so after the basic "artisan" bread recipe, I moved on to the American-style white sandwich bread recipe since that's what I wanted in the first place: slices for PBJs. Verdict: SCORE. My very first loaf (in a loaf pan) turned out perfect and, bonus, Jack eats it! Win! It's a lot softer and still yummy. (I prefer the crusty artisan loaves, preferably at 9:30 at night with a hunk of cheese and a glass of wine.) It's interesting to note how quickly homemade bread goes hard/stale when the store bought bread is still sitting there all happy and squishy for weeks. Yay chemicals!

6. I'm writing about Bob Duallies and other Things I Think I Absolutely Must Have at Parenting on Thursday. It's one of those posts where it totally makes sense and sounds funny in my head, but probably didn't come out right and THIS is the post that gets me booted from the world of paid blogging gigs. Facebook fan page: pointless!

7. Scheduled for Friday: a mishmash of thoughts about Facebook fan pages. And other stuff concerning the business end of blogging. I wrote it today but wow does it need an editor. And possibly an entirely different writer. Whatever. You've been warned!


Shameless!

If I transcribe any more recipes from this cookbook - Chocolate Chocolate, by Lisa Yockelson - someone is going to sue me. So this is IT! Got it?! 

COCA COLA CAKE

Ingredients:
1/2 C buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 pound unsalted butter cut into large chunks (I always use salted)
1 C Coke
1/4 C unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder
2 C flour
2 C superfine sugar (I used 1 C regular and 1 C superfine after I remembered I actually HAD superfine)
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 13x9 inch pan with that cooking spray stuff.

Whisk buttermilk and baking soda together in a small bowl. In a few minutes the buttermilk will start to swell. (Mine didn't. I think because my baking soda says June 2008 on the box. OOPS.)

Place the butter, Coke and cocoa powder in a large saucepan over moderately high heat and bring to a boil. 

In the meantime sift (HA) the flour with the sugar and salt into your cherry red KitchenAid mixer with the whisk. (I don't get why the whisk. I used it. It was annoying.) Pour the hot Coke mixture into the bowl and mix on moderately low speed until thoroughly combined, about 2 to 3 minutes. Blend in the eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk/baking soda. Mix well. Batter will be thin. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let stand in the pan on a cooling rack for five minutes. 

BUT BEFORE IT COOLS, make your frosting! MMM! Best part!

Ingredients:

3 and 3/4 C plus 2 T (what?) powdered sugar, sifted (HA)
Large pinch of salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled to tepid
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid
1 1/4 tsp vanilla
6 T room temperature Coke

Whisk butter and chocolate until smooth (I just melted them together.) Blend in vanilla. Pour chocolate over powdered sugar, add Coke and beat until combined and smooth. USE IMMEDIATELY. 

No joke people, and this is my favorite part of the cake, where the frosting and cake sort of MELD TOGETHER. CHOCOLATE SWOON. So carefully place dollops of frosting on the hot cake, smooth it over. It will melt down - you want it to do this - and it will set as it cools. 

The book says to let it cool for 3 to 4 hours and then you can sprinkle the top with cocoa powder and pipe rosettes with yet another kind of frosting onto individual squares. YEAH RIGHT. I will just tell you that it tastes awfully yummy cut into giant chunks, stored in the freezer and eaten straight out of the plastic container. CLASSY!

Also, apologies to Holly who I will hopefully get to see this weekend, for throwing the cake out before she arrived and not making another. It was that or develop diabetes, Holly! I'm sorry!


An offer? What offer?

We got an offer today. I can't talk about it. Not because I'm not SUPPOSED to, I just can't, it makes me all twitchy. Let's talk about cookies instead. Specifically, the cookies I've been making for our open houses (and then eating all the leftover cookie dough, no, I'm serious, ALL OF IT.)

From 'Chocolate Chocolate' by Lisa Yockelson. A friend gave me this all-chocolate cookbook for my birthday a few years ago and until just recently I hadn't tried any of the recipes. THEY ARE HARD. And if they aren't hard, they require Fancy or Expensive Ingredients, or they randomly spout things like, "The best texture is achieved by whipping the cream by hand." AS IF. I may enjoy baking, but not THAT much.

(I watched my cousin do this at our little family reunion this summer. But she is an Actual Pastry Chef, ie: a PROFESSIONAL. So, WHATEVER cookbook!) 

ANYWAY. One of my resolutions this year was to bake more often, which is why I have gained ninety-seven pounds since January. Mostly due to these cookies.

Soft Chocolate Chunk Cookies

3 cups bleached all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 pound plus 5 tablespoons (2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons!) unsalted butter, softened (I used salted)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 T vanilla (YES, TABLESPOONS)
13 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks (I used a bag of Ghirardelli bittersweet chips)

Sift flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper. (HA.)

Cream the butter in the large bowl of freestanding electric mixer on moderately low speed for 3 minutes. Add granulated sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Add light brown sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Blend in the vanilla extract. 

On low speed, blend in the sifted (or unsifted!) ingredients in 3 additions, beating until the flour particles are absorbed. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl frequently to keep the dough even-textured. Blend in the chocolate chunks. 

Chill the dough for at least an hour. (This is a great time to snack on it.) 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place heaping 2 T size mounds of dough, spacing about 3 inches apart. Keep them high and plump. (Plump!)

Bake for 16 minutes or until set and light and golden on top. Mine are a little flatter than I think they should be, but let me assure you that this doesn't adversely affect the taste in any way.

Of course, mine don't always make it to the Baked stage. 

And okay okay, the Pertinent Details are: 1) we got an offer from the couple I wrote about on Saturday (and as far as I can tell, my assumptions about them are TRUE!) 2) it's $15K under the asking price 3) other than that it's a fairly decent offer and 4) we counter offered and expect to hear back tomorrow (Tuesday) hopefully. I am assuming we will counter that offer, if we get one, as well. So. It's not exciting YET.

In the meantime I have buried St. Joseph in the garden box. 


Seven Quick Things I Am Loving

I'm not big into the review blog thing, but if I WAS, this is what I'd be saying*: 

1. Kabocha squash, otherwise known as Japanese pumpkin, otherwise known as UGLY.

Kabocha
Roast this thing, peel off the skin and EAT. It already tastes like pumpkin pie, only better, because I don't LIKE pumpkin pie and I LOVE this squash. Of course, I mashed it with butter AND maple syrup and my kids still wouldn't touch it, but that's okay, I turned it into a soup and now I am orange. YUM.

2. Hungry Monkey, by Matthew Amster-Burton. I don't know if it's because it's written by a man, or because he is SO chill about feeding kids, or because it's hilarious, or because he's local, or because he's a FOOD CRITIC and his kid doesn't eat her vegetables either, but I cried Actual Tears Of Relief while reading. Perhaps you have met me and my Spirals of How-To-Feed-My-Kids Shame? But really, even if you aren't in charge of a two-year-old who subsists on cheese, I think this is a fun read, just stories about a stay-at-home dad and his daughter, recipes included. 

3. Danonino yogurts. 

DSCN4692
Jack and Molly enjoying their chicken fries (thx Amanda!), frozen peas and Danonino!

When we lived here, we got to take two free space available flights a year. Something like that. I forget what the official term for that was, but it roughly translates to "We, the United States Government, are very sorry for sticking you out in the Middlest of All Nowheres, so here, take these free flights back to Civilization." Anyway. So we would fly to a navy base in Spain where we had some friends from the last place we lived. I have all these chunks of memories from our trips to Spain and one of them is what I call "little yogurts". I LOVED my little yogurts. Our friend in Spain had them for her kids and we'd just squeeze the yogurt out and lick it up. When we moved to the next base I was beyond excited to find the little yogurts in the one grocery store in town and even when I came home from college I would make my mother buy me the little yogurts. Which are for BABIES. 

And now? They sell the little yogurts in the Safeway up the street. AND? My kids EAT THEM. (Because they taste like dessert. But they aren't dessert. They are YOGURT. Yogurt = health food!)

4. Orville Redenbacher Kettle Corn 100 calorie packs. Um, when I started this it wasn't all about food. Promise. Ummm, anyway, I am in love with these because they are just the RIGHT amount of popcorn. And even though they are disgustingly fat-free, the "kettle" part of the corn makes it taste like something. AND it takes me a while to eat it all, so I'm not sitting there watching Glee and being all, "Dude, that snack went by too fast and now I need ANOTHER one." You know what I mean? 

5. Nordstrom shoe department sales people. (See? Not ALL about food!) You would laugh, then roll your eyes, then snort, then gape at me all, "Are you SERIOUS?" if I told you about the DRAMA my sister and I have been enduring re: what shoes to wear with our bridesmaid dresses. Attempting to find a shoe that is 1) not ugly 2) silver 3) closed toe-ish 4) available in both our sizes and 5) not in a Paris Hilton price range is IMPOSSIBLE. However! At Nordstrom this weekend I found a pair of shoes that fit four out of the five requirements. I then had a Nordstrom sales girl call every Nordstrom in the Western United States to try and find a pair in my sister's size. No luck! But I was impressed (especially after an interaction with a saleslady in DSW today, HARRUMPH.) I am usually crazy intimidated by Nordstrom employees on account of the fact that they all look like runway models, and also I can't AFFORD anything in Nordstrom, but it was the SALE RACK and they didn't make me feel like an idiot for calling all over to find SALE RACK SHOES. Too bad for my sister, though. Guess she'll be barefoot. 

6. The easy toffee bars I told you guys about long long ago, where you pour melted brown sugar and butter over graham crackers, and then let a bag of chocolate chips melt on top. I made some as an egg-free treat for our get together this Saturday, and passed them around yesterday morning for some mom friends to eat. I am now eating them as I type. Thank goodness I cut them tiny, huh? PLENTY FOR EVERYONE! These are the only cookies I've made for winter celebrating, and they aren't even CHRISTMAS cookies. I am going to be SO out of practice for next year's party. And see how I brought it back to food? MMM FOOD.

7. Potty training. I KNOW. Weird, right? But potty training is turning out to be the one and only parenting trauma that I can endure with an honest-to-God smile. I am not pushing it, worrying about it, stressing, feeling guilty, feeling judged, researching, comparing, ANY of that crap. I am simply putting my kid on the potty and giving him high five after high five. Jack is a Champion Potty User at this point (and never forgets that he is owed a treat) although he is also, still, a champion DIAPER user, and I'm not entirely sure when things are going to switch over. In the meantime, as long as I suggest it, he goes. I can't tell you how awesome it is to have this THING that isn't stressing me out or making me angry in the Jack department. I still can't figure out how to feed him or discipline him or make him pick up his frillion Legos, but potty training is a frustration-free zone. I reserve the right to change this, of course, if he is still potty training NEXT year, but for now? It's really kinda fun. (Don't want to talk about food NOW, do you!)

*I was not compensated in any way by any vegetable, book, processed food product, Nordstrom salesperson, cookie recipe or potty training ideas recommended in this post. The opinions in this post are mine alone, and they are actual factual.

More quick takes here


Seven Tired Takes

1. Of course, on his second day back in the office, Phillip has his late night server update whatever-it-is. Thank goodness this was the best day Jack's had since we came home, because Molly is (I think) teething and refuses to be put down or left to her own devices for any period of time. She wants me to carry her or walk her around all day long, which means I have acquired killer biceps and a strained back.

2. I just got an email from the library saying Envy, the third Luxe novel, is waiting for me. FINALLY. I am out of books, which is very boring. Of course, TV is picking up again. Everyone is twittering about the Office right now, but I can't watch because Phillip isn't home. There are few shows he really wants to see and The Office is one of them. Glee? Project Runway? Not so much.

3. Okay, this is really bugging me. We saw Julie & Julia this weekend (LOVED THIS MOVIE) (HATED THE BOOK) (even Phillip liked it! It's husband friendly!) and Julie/Amy Adams wore her wedding ring on top of her engagement ring. I know that's a dorky thing to notice, but there are all these typing scenes and it's just THERE. You NOTICE. And it BUGS because I wear my engagement ring over my wedding ring, as does pretty much everyone else I know. I should note that my mother does not have an engagement ring and I never paid any attention whatsoever to engagement rings until AFTER I was engaged, so it's entirely possible that I live in a bubble and I have no idea about anything. Also, it makes more SENSE to wear your wedding ring on top. ALSO also, I fully understand that the proper way to wear your wedding/engagement rings is: ANY WAY YOU WANT. But still, I must know: is the majority at least on my side? Seriously, it's been a week now and I'm STILL BUGGED.

4. I tried to get a lot of cleaning done today because we're having a party on Saturday and I'll be gone all day tomorrow. I know I'll have time to clean on Saturday, but I wanted to get the annoying stuff out of the way, like dusting. I also cleaned the kitchen, picked up/organized toys and Swiffered about half the floor. I know those are all things I'll have to do again on Saturday (and, to be honest, I already did them again TODAY) but I thought I'd get a head start. But I just walked into the kitchen after putting the kids down and I can't tell that I cleaned the kitchen floor AT ALL. Honest. There are spots (from the soap spray?) and lines from where I pull the Swiffer back (which was my beef with the Swiffer to begin with) and, well, I know if I got down on my hands and knees with a wet paper towel, I'd wipe off a bunch of grime all over again. So now I need to stop swiffering and go back to my sponge/bucket method, which was better except for the fact that I NEVER DID IT. I hate this, Internet. It gets me so incredibly horribly down. At least with dusting you have a few days before it starts to look awful again. But the floors - I CANNOT KEEP UP. It doesn't even look nice ten minutes after I finish! I've been doing so well keeping my counters clear and clean, but the floors, the toys, the general crazy clutter in my living room, all of that isn't going so well. I started thinking about my housekeeper idea again, but that feels 1) self-indulgent and 2) CRAZY as HELLO we are now paying TUITION BILLS. But on the days when the floors make me cry... I don't know. I want to be self-indulgent and crazy.

5. Thanks for all the sushi links. Phillip made a practice California roll the other night and if I were into eating fake crab I'd say it looked yummy. Phillip seemed to think it was all right. Have you been to one of those conveyor belt sushi places? I like everything that does not contain fish. Even cooked fish. I don't know. My four-year-old palate is no SURPRISE to you people. But I love pretty much everything else on the conveyor belt. Anything with tofu or eggs or just veggies or (my favorite favorite favorite) TEMPURA VEGGIES. So I have a little box of tempura batter on my counter and we shall see how that turns out. I'll also be making chicken katsu, which I've never made myself, but used to watch my Hawaiian roommate make on a near-daily basis. (Along with spam musabi, which, again, I am not going to eat, but will not judge if YOU do.)

6. And thanks for the wedding links. One of you in particular, I owe a big email all about how my mother cannot stop talking about how you decorated and all of your ideas and maybe WE should do what that BLOG reader did because her wedding was BEAUTIFUL! I think you know who you are! Anyway, I think we have been planning this wedding for all of two weeks? And most of it is done. I KNOW. I mean, there's still a lot of WORK, but all the big decisions? Pretty much scheduled, reserved, DONE. My sister will now give a short polite nod while everyone slow claps in amazement.

7. I should make Phillip a birthday cake, but he doesn't want a chocolate cake and I don't have a good not-chocolate-cake recipe and I cannot bear the thought of beating twelve egg whites into an angel food cake, which doesn't even TASTE like cake and is the WORST vehicle for frosting so what is even the POINT of angel food cake... I digress. I have a bunch of nectarines in the fridge and this appears to be a very easy fruit cobbler recipe. I don't mind experimenting on our guests, and Phillip is one of those annoying people who prefer fruit and vanilla and light and airy over my typical death-by-chocolate preferences. So I think it will work. I'll let you know.

More quick takes here.


Fruits and kitties

This is when I write something terribly profound and moving and inspiring, but I'm actually just killing time before I jet over to a friend's house. This is my newish and preferred mode of socializing these days: weeknight-after bedtime-get togethers. I don't know why it took me so long to figure this out. Maybe because most of the time I'm so tired after the kids go to bed I can't bear the idea of putting on real clothes and leaving the house. But it works really well for us. Phillip doesn't feel deserted in the witching hour with two children and I still get to have some grown up time. He occasionally goes out for his own fun, but I'm married to one of those minimal people-seers. I believe this is part of the male DNA? Maybe once a month, maybe less, Phillip emails The Guys and suggests a movie he knows I will never agree to see, with a detour at IHOP before heading home. Yes, IHOP. We are GOOD TIMES, people.

Anyway. I've got a friend who's suddenly single parenting for a week and heading over to her house to help her finish homemade peach pie is the least I can do, right?

Speaking of peaches, Phillip and I are waiting with Bated Breath for these delectable lumps of scrumptiousness known as Rama (as in the farm, I think, is called Rama) Peaches. A few years ago his old boss told us about these famous peaches, appearing for one weekend only at the U District farmers' market. We bought a flat, of course, and I'm not really one to wax rhapsodic over fruit, but WOWIE. These were amazing peaches. So then we bought some last year, with a weeks' old Molly in tow. I'm following the local farmers' market organization on Twitter (LOVE TWITTER) and they keep advertising where the Rama Peaches will appear each weekend. They have yet to make it to a farmers' market near me, but when they DO, I'm inviting all of you for peach cobbler. Then you will die happy. 

Watermelon is my favorite fruit. Is it even a real fruit? It's more like sugary water. And it's so sugary I've stayed away from it for the last two years because it's got, like, giant red circles and angry faces all around it in my low glycemic cookbook. SIGH. I'm realizing I didn't even eat the watermelon at the family reunion this weekend because it's so ingrained in me: DO NOT EAT THE WATERMELON. But really. Watermelon + Maggie = 4Ever. I recall many a summer in the backyard feasting on watermelon and spitting out the seeds at my brother when my parents weren't looking.

Man, this blawg is going downhill. Not that it was ever really going uphill, but you'd think I'd shoot for something more interesting than these random String Of Consciousness paragraphs. How about tomorrow: tomorrow I will write Something of Substance. HA. Suggestions? Perhaps a manifesto on my favorite vegetable, the French Fry?

I finally sent an email about Molly's birthday party today. (SORRY MOM.) I think that means I need to make a cake. I want to make a Hello Kitty cake. Not because Molly loves Hello Kitty, but because *I* love Hello Kitty and what if wait till Molly can ask for a Hello Kitty cake but it turns out she's one of those girls who'd rather die than be seen anywhere near a Sanrio store and threatens to boycott her own party if I make a Hello Kitty cake? My heart will break into a zillion tiny pieces. UNFORTUNATELY: the future pastry chef is out of town this weekend and therefore is unavailable for tending to 1) the inevitable disaster of a cake and 2) her sister's inevitable breakdown over the disaster of the cake. Anything other than a box cake in a 9x13 glass dish is unwise.

And you know what I want to do when the playgroupers come over? Make these. AMBITIOUS MUCH? It's like I'm TRYING to give myself a panic attack before our Disney trip. No really. When I am going to make the CAKE let alone the CAKE POPS?


Feeding your family, at least, the ones who are willing to eat

Jack is being weird. I mean, he's always been a Sensitive Little Thing, but his prima donna tendencies are increasing big time. We thought this had to do with taking away his full time maid/playmate/defender of annoying behavior aka Las Vegas Trip Grandma, but that was over two weeks ago. He hasn't had a meltdown of the sort we suffered en route to Lucy's birthday party the day after we got home (did I even TELL you about that? OMG) but he's been twice as ornery, picky and all around irritable as he was before. He's also stopped eating, which prompted me to chalk it up to teeth. But then, eating has never been Jack's bag anyway. He is uninterested in anything that is not a Simple Carbohydrate (the more sugar the better!) and I three-times-daily opt for What He Will Eat over What Is Nutritious. I know, I know, but I CANNOT DEAL.

We even had to have him CRY IT OUT the other night. The boy is TWO AND ALMOST A HALF. He has been sleeping through the night like a good boy for quite a while now, so this Instant Freak Out we're receiving when we deign to put him in his bed at night is unacceptable. And because Molly is sharing his room, we're sort of at his mercy. He stands up in bed and starts "Eh! Eh! Eh!" and if we don't do anything about it he just gets louder and more upset until we have two kids who shouldn't be awake. He wants to be held, or for me/Phillip to sit in the chair while he peacefully drifts off in his crib. Well, no. That is not okay. And the first night he did this I was on my own, I'd had a long crappy day and I finally had to throw him into my bedroom and shut the door on his howls so I could dial back the The Rage. (And oh, that is a post for another day, a nice sunny fictional day when I am not scared of The Comments.)

The next night we put Molly in the pack and play downstairs (poor Molly) and decided he would cry. Fine. And we left him there and the crying moved into that realm of "Do you think he's going to throw up?" and then we heard a big THUMP. We ran into his room and found him on the floor - the first time he has EVER found his way out of the crib, and, we think, so he could retrieve the blanket he threw out in one of his Fits of Sleep Is For Sissies. He sobbed and shrieked and Phillip asked him if he wanted a drink of water and, poof! A sweet little voice said, "Yes pweez." So we KNEW the crying wasn't REAL crying it was MANIPULATIVE and PISSED OFF crying and ooooh we were furious. We ordered him back to his cell after the drink of water and he was quiet, but we think only because the fall out of his crib stunned him as much as it stunned us.

It could still be teeth. He has big empty spots way back in his gums. I know those aren't supposed to be empty forever. I imagine it's not a fun time, having hard pointy things erupting through a tender spot. It could also be Two. It's probably a combination thereof. Either way it's not going well, and I'm starting to feel guilty for being so over the moon with my almost-one-year-old and so consistently frustrated with my almost two-and-a-half-year-old.

But I did not sit down to tell you all that. Look how distracted I get. Actually I really just wanted to know what you are eating for dinner tonight. 

I'm always embarrassed to tell people what we eat, because most of my friends are actually decent cooks who like to eat vegetables and buy quality stuff. Most of what we eat in my house comes out of giant bags in the Costco freezer section. I top whatever that is with cheese and call it good. (Well, actually, we usually just buy giant bags of chicken and fish at Costco and then sit uncertainly in front of allrecipes.com trying to figure out what to do with the chicken and fish.)

But this Weight Watchers thing has really broadened the scope of what I can make for dinner. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to try it out - I didn't want my family to be on the low carb diet forever. I also wanted to test it as a way to maintain the weight I've lost (although I started losing again, provided I don't eat anywhere outside of my own house, and this is yet ANOTHER post in and of itself, I am so CONFLICTED) but anyway. I still don't know what is acceptable to eat for lunch, but dinner time is so much easier. That Cooking Light subscription is finally doing me some good.

However! I'm still stuck in a Dinner Rut, mostly because a lot of these new recipes are intimidating. Or I am picky. Or I don't have a slow cooker. Or I don't want to spend an hour in the kitchen. It was funny that I was just sitting down to brainstorm our weekly menu (see: last week's menu, and the week before that, and the week before that) when Liz got online asking me what dinners *I* was going to make. Apparently I am not the only one in a rut. Maybe you are too?

So here's something I make almost once a week, because it's quick, easy, everyone likes it (EVEN JACK) and makes enough for Phillip to take to work the next day:

Cook up some low-carb penne pasta. (I like the Dreamfields brand. In a black box.)

Saute 1 diced onion and 1 clove chopped garlic. Add 1 (15oz?) can diced tomatoes, 1T basil, 1/4t oregano, 3/4t sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to boil, boil until pretty much all the liquid from the tomatoes evaporates. Stir in 1/2C cream and 1T butter. Simmer 5 min. Pour over pasta.

We usually eat that with some kind of sausage on the side and a salad. Sometimes I add bacon because bacon makes everything better. (Now the WW people are horrified, but the low carbers will like it!) And now that I'm looking at the recipe, I realize I almost always forget to add the sugar and the butter. And I almost always leave out the onion because I am four. Oh, and this makes enough sauce for about half a box of pasta. I usually boil the whole thing and keep the rest in the fridge for kid dinners/lunches later on in the week.

Okay, I shared my boring but easy weeknight dinner, now share yours. Bonus points for no cheese. OH CHEESE, HOW I MISS YOU.


A Delicious Seven Takes

1.
I'm nervous about what Easter is going to do to Hot By Thirty. I can easily drown out the voice that shrieks, "LOOK! BREAD!" but I am a slave to the voice that trills, "A SOLID CHOCOLATE EASTER BUNNY? DON'T MIND IF I DO!" No seriously. I have ALREADY eaten Jack's Easter candy- I broke into it specifically to snarf it down during naptime. Most days I don't have solid chocolate Easter bunnies in my house, you know, so Easter just might kill me. I'm going to be just like those dorks on the Biggest Loser who ate 15 cupcakes for a stupid so-not-worth-it prize. Seriously, what a bunch of IDIOTS.


2.
That said, let's discuss exactly what we are doing for Easter. Which is going to my parents' house and feasting on turkey and broccoli casserole and weird jello salads and sweet potatoes etc. And now a whole bunch of you look confused because, um, isn't that THANKSGIVING FOOD? Why yes, yes it is. Apparently my mother decided to have Thanksgiving for Easter, since my brother was deployed for his favorite holiday.

3.
Maybe Hot By Thirty won't be so doomed- I don't really like Thanksgiving dinner.

4.
Except! I volunteered to make some treats for the Easter Vigil reception, which means I am going to get my sweet fix on a whole two days early. I mean, can YOU resist cookie dough? I was going to make Easter bunny sugar cookies, but then I realized I have to frost them and I HATE frosting sugar cookies (the first two or three are fun, but after that SHOOT ME) and Future Pastry Chef Sister is not available to talk me down from my powdered sugar ledge. So now I'm thinking some other kind of cookie (lemon bars!) (oatmeal raisin!) (HELP) that I don't have to decorate.

5.
Which reminded me of the cookie my family used to eat every Easter when my grandma was still doing stuff in the kitchen. They're called ginette and made out of Italian sawdust. You either love them or hate them- plain dry cookies with a dollop of pastel-colored frosting. I happen to love them, but it's true that you need an entire pot of coffee to wash down each cookie.

6.
GINETTE- MAGGIE'S GRANDMA'S RECIPE

Beat 5 eggs. When foamy, gradually add 1 cup sugar.
Add: 1 stick melted butter, 1/2 cup canned milk, 2 tbsp vanilla
Then add: 5 cups flour (WAS NOT KIDDING ABOUT THE COFFEE, PEOPLE) and 5 tbsp baking poswer

Knead a few minutes. Shape into small doughnuts. (Warning: this was hard. It made me ALMOST swear never to eat them again. Unless someone else made them, of course.)

Place close together on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 6 minutes.

GINETTE FROSTING

Powdered sugar, canned milk, vanilla, butter. Of course I have no measurements for any of those things, so, you know, mix and add till desired consistency. Which should be frosting-ish.

I found another recipe here. It's similar. I bet mine is better. If you like Italian sawdust.

7.
I had an interesting Lent, which I may or may not write about. I don't know. I'm not going to Good Friday mass tonight, which is weird. Should I watch it on TV or something? I'm hoping for a low key, happy baby day. So far so good, and I'll see you ten chocolate-related pounds from now.

When life hands you orange lemons, write a blog post about it

A week or two ago I went downstairs to use the treadmill and caught sight of a package leaning against my glass front door. I assumed Phillip had purchased some sort of electronic box without telling me, but when I picked it up I saw MY name. And then I saw Elizabeth's name. And my day, which had been slowly swirling down the toilet, started to look up.

Inside were the running mixes she promised me (seven CDs, to be precise, and do you know how much running that is? I don't even want to think about it) and jellybeans and a handful of books I'd been wanting to read. And some roundish orange things.

Those are called oranges, you are saying as you read this, and wondering if maybe you should worry about my role as Chief Cheung Nutritionist. But they were shaped kind of funny. And they didn't quite feel like oranges. But they were orange, so I assumed they were some kind of cooler-than-me California oranges. I AM a Pacific Northwesterner, where there is only enough sun to grow, perhaps, one single orange all year. So what do I know?

Then I read Elizabeth's note, wherein she called the enclosed fruit lemons. Lemons? Since when are lemons orange? Has my Pacific Northwest upbringing steered me so completely wrong in the citrus department?

I left them on the counter, not entirely sure what to do with them.

A few days later Future Pastry Chef Sister stopped by. And I remembered I was in charge of bringing Treats to my meeting that night. The stars, it appeared, were aligned. I managed to talk Future Pastry Chef Sister into making lemon bars with me, only we were going to call them "Lemon" Bars because, seriously, they were ORANGE. Lemon-shaped ORANGES.

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Does that look like a lemon to YOU? And does that look like LEMON JUICE?

While FPCS started the crust, I squeezed out the juice. When I had enough for the recipe (which, by the way, is this one, because FPCS and I know the Smitten Kitchen is where God orders his baked goods) I decided I should probably taste it. Just to see. As soon as I'd recovered from the tartness turning my brain inside out, I declared the mysterious citrus the most lemony-tasting orange in the world.

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FPCS said not to post a picture of her because "I always look fat on your blog." EYE. ROLL. Although maybe we should take bets on when the FPC part will MAKE her fat. IF EVER.

FPCS did all the work while I putzed around, musing about lemon-shaped oranges and the thrill of unexpected packages, and entertained the girl who needs constant entertainment.

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If your life-of-the-party hair was beaten into submission by a rhinestoned clippie you'd be sad too.

And then FPCS was all, "Let me show you my smooth FPC skillz" and demonstrated how to cut a piece of parchment paper to size by rubbing the edges with the dull side of a knife. "Oooh!" I exclaimed. "The blog will love this!"

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Except it took as long as tracing and cutting, and we ended up not using it. Oh well. Fun with knives!

I forgot to take a picture of the crust. I know you're crushed. We watched the Real Housewives of New York City while it baked. Those women are not to be believed, people, not at all. And why certain ones of them consented to a second season is BEYOND ME. Oh, here's what it looked like when we poured the lemon mixture on top.

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Raw eggs and "lemon juice" MMMMM.

And this is what it looked like when it came out of the oven.

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FPCS: "That looks... all right." Maggie: "Nothing a little powdered sugar can't fix!"

And, presto:

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NUM NUM NUM.

Funny, the treats always look better when Smitten Kitchen takes the pictures. Possibly the picture quality is not the fault of the treats. Actually, I thought they were quite good. We used the full recipe, with a thicker lemon layer. And even though we cooked them 5-10 minutes longer, they were still sort of soft in the middle, kind of hard to handle. Not too hard to eat. And, dare I say it, RATHER LEMONY.

I still have half the pan in the freezer. I might include them in my Happy New Neighbor Baby delivery, which I think is going to take place on Monday. Gulp.

Anyway! Receiving a Surprise Package so completely made my day that I thought it'd be fun to send my OWN package. To YOU. Or one of you, at least. I have enough, to quote Elizabeth, "random crap from my house" to fill up a flat rate box no problem. Do you want a present? My random crap is your treasure! (I will not be sending mysterious citrus, in case you are curious, and, now that I am thinking about it, doesn't California have some kind of law banning fruit travel? Or something?) ANYWAY. If you think Random Packages of Stuff are cool, leave me a comment and I'll do a DRAWING. Look at me getting all Official!

OOH. And if you leave a comment on my post at Parenting tomorrow, I'll enter you TWICE. Because I LOVE YOU. How's that for bribery?! (Which, incidentally, is what that post is about: what do I use to bribe my husband to get up in the middle of the night with the baby? GO FIND OUT!)