An Ode to my Mommy

Happy National Chocolate Chip Day!

When I think of chocolate chips, I automatically think of my mom’s chocolate chip cookies.  They’re gooey, not too sweet little cakes of perfection.  They’re the best – I’ll fight you on that one.

My mom very graciously sent me her cookie recipe so that Maggie and I could attempt to make them together.  I’ve built these cookies up to almost a mythical level in my head so I’m praying to the cookie gods that I can do them justice.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I made chocolate chip cookies… or cookies in general.  We’re a brownie household, but exclusively the Betty Crocker box kind.  *Insert more prayers*

Before I tell you about the baking, I need to tell you about my mom.  Like her cookies, she’s the best.  If you were to look up the definition of a Midwestern mom you would find a picture of my mom in her garden or in her kitchen or at the local Lutheran church.  She’s giving and thoughtful – unconditionally loving of her children even when we are at our worst.  She is the loudest person in the audience at all of my aerial shows and is the first person to tell me how proud she is of me anytime I do anything.  When I texted her asking for the recipe she told me how proud she is of me for cooking and baking – even when I’m just doing the minimum in life she is cheering me on.  She’s a hugger, she makes friends with strangers everywhere we go, and she is the queen of accidentally funny comments.

I have a learned a lot of lessons from my mom over the years – like what it means to love and what it means to forgive; how to work hard and how to persevere.  I learned what strength means from my mom – she worked hard all day, came home and cooked, then spent her weekends baking with us or working in her garden or being heavily involved in our church.  She was at every band concert, track meet or school performance.  And she did it with so much gratitude and happiness.  That’s not to say that my mom isn’t also the master of relaxation – my childhood is as full of memories of her lounging at the lake as it is of her working.  I think of her sunbathing on the dock while I did hula-hoop tricks or went fishing with my brother.  I think of her laughing with my dad – she is the master of never taking herself too seriously.

But when I think of my mom and my childhood, what I most think of is the kitchen.  I think of her taking out her metal recipe box (an old butter container I think?) and pulling out a slightly stained card.  She made all our birthday cakes, graduation cakes, confirmation cakes, baptism cakes… if it called for a cake, cookies or bars she made it.  I think of her making angel food cake – just for the hell of it – and making cookies to pack in my dads lunch.

My mom is probably the reason that food is my love language.

So that brings us to the cookies – Grandma Jan’s Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies.

(She doesn’t call them that, she’s far too modest.)

Like all the recipes my mom has shared with me, there’s that perfect amount of vagueness and specificity to her cookie recipe. It calls for shortening but she uses butter. Should the butter be salted or unsalted?  Cold or room temperature?  No idea.  At the same time, it calls for exactly 2 cups and 2 Tbsp flour that *must* be sifted.  No explanations, just do what Jan says.

We started by agreeing that she probably means unsalted butter since there’s added salt later on in the recipe, but went ahead and used the cold butter instead of softening it.  In hindsight, the fact that the original recipe calls for shortening should have been a giveaway to soften the butter but I despise softening butter.  We don’t own a microwave (*see dirty hippie comment from previous posts*) so I soften it by either letting it sit out for a day or heating it on the stove.  It never turns out quite right.  Despite this fact, we are going to keep living the microwave-free lifestyle.

We also realized that I don’t know what most baking terms mean, and that in this case Nailed It wasn’t helpful.  The recipe says to ‘cream’ ingredients then ‘fold’ in eggs… but what does that mean!?  What number setting on the side of Peggy should I set it to?!  I need specifics mother!


At this point the dough looked nothing like a remember from my childhood…but I still had hope for us to pull it together.  Maggie has been begging to bake something that requires sifting flour and boy was she in luck today!  Maybe it’s just not something bakers do anymore, but every recipe of my mom’s requires sifting flour.  Maybe that’s what the secret ingredient really is…

We also sifted the baking soda and salt then threw in a few handfuls of chocolate chips because, like I said earlier, the recipe was incredibly vague.  When it had all been combined I was pleasantly surprised: it not only looked like the dough I remember from growing up, it tasted like it too!  After trying to decide whether or not to grease the pan (we decided to go with parchment paper), I popped them in the oven.. then realized that the recipe does not say how long to bake them.

Why mom!?

Now that I think about it though, I don’t remember my mom ever using a timer in the kitchen – she just used her kitchen witchcraft and knew when they were done.  Maybe I just haven’t fully come into my kitchen powers yet.

I think I baked them for about 10 minutes, maybe 12 because I was distracted by watching Bon Appetit… By some miracle, or maybe with some prayers from my mom the cookie goddess, they turned out exactly how I remember!  I know some people like their cookies thin or crispy or both, but I grew up eating slightly fluffy biscuity cookies.  They’re perfect.

Maggie gave them a 9/10… declaring that the taste was great but they were a little chunky.  The Hays in her likes thin, crispy cookies…

So here they are: Grandma Jan’s Perfect Cookies.

I love you Mommy.

Wtf Does Bulgogi Even Mean

Happy National “Eat What You Want” Day!

I’ve actually been looking forward to this day for a few days.  No baking, no whipping of anything, just anything I wanted to make.

If I really were going to “Eat What I Want” I’d be eating the teaser menu at Tongue and Cheek and having a Bloody Mary-infused vodka martini.. I’ve been having dreams about this place since March.  Honestly, I dream about the food and drinks from Tongue and Cheek all year long, but the inability to have them has only intensified it.

But alas, I’ll keep dreaming for a little while longer and settle for something home made instead. So rather than a glowing, gushing rant about how much I love their food – here’s a little taste of what a normal night of cooking at our house looks like.

We subscribe to one of those weird meal kit things – Green Chef is the one we use.  I originally signed up because I was given a gift card as a Teacher Christmas gift.  I thought we’d use the two weeks that we were gifted and then reminisce fondly about that time we were fancy people who used meal kits.  That was four months ago…

Is it the quality of food that keeps us ordering it?  Maybe, we’ve only had one instance where the recipes weren’t that great and only one squashed pepper mishap.  Perhaps it’s the variety of recipes that meet any dietary need?  Also possible, I like that there are plant-based options that appeal to me and meat-heavy options that appeal to the rest of the house.  But I’ll be honest and tell you that I wish I had a little more freedom in what recipes/meals I can pick each week.  If it were just me at home I’d live on vegan meal kits and chips and salsa, but the little folks and Ryan are good ol’ fashioned meat eating Americans.  Actually, I predict an angsty vegetarian phase of Maggie’s life coming up at any point… maybe I can sway her to my side.  So all that being said, I wish I could pick and choose from all the options in each of their menus vs just having to choose three out of seven options.  There’s usually at least one or two options that sound good, but then there’s usually one to two options from each menu that sound good.

So here’s what keeps us coming back: the convenience.  Nothing takes more than 30-35 minutes (including any and all mishaps that I have) and at the end of a long day I know exactly what we are going to have for dinner.  The servings are big enough that a two person kit makes enough food for at least Ryan, Nick and I or Ryan and I plus leftovers for my lunch. Maggie doesn’t like most things right now so she poo-poos all meal kits… she’ll nibble a little of the items if I plate it just right.  It usually ends with box mac and cheese. Fuck it.  My point is, after a long Monday where I have consoled sobbing toddlers, probably been peed on at some point and had to talk at least two children into not eating rocks.. it’s nice to come home and not think too hard about dinner.

Which brings us to tonight.  On the menu: Thai Spiced Bulgogi.

Wtf is that?

There’s an important thing to note here: I pick the meals each week.  I chose this.  I looked at all the options, saw something called Bulgogi and thought “Yeah.. we’re cultured as fuck.  Let’s eat that…”  Because that’s part of the appeal of these meal kits also: they make me feel fancy and cultured when really I’m still just your average small town lady who has to google big culinary words.  But when I see a recipe option that I can’t pronounce or has a foreign country’s name in it, you bet your ass I’m going to pick it.  I can tell you for sure that in an upcoming delivery we will be having a Korean dish, another Thai dish and something called a pistou.  I don’t know what that means but I’ll google it when the time comes. Cultured AF.

Here’s what Bulgogi means: Fire meat.  It’s a Korean-style dish made of thin, marinated slices of beef or pork – or in the case of this kit: portobello mushrooms.  Now we know.

The instructions for the meal kits are usually straight forward, but every once in a while they ask you to do something that just seems excessive.  For instance, “Scrape the gills from the mushrooms”…

No. I’m not going to do that.  Why would I do that?  Are they inedible? No, they are not.  They taste like mushroom.  I happen to love mushrooms so I’m in no way turned off by the mushroom gills.  I’m also not about to wash the mushrooms with a little brush, that’s silly.  Sure, if a mushroom looks absurdly dirty I’ll give it a little wipe but I grew up in a house where a little dirt never killed anyone.

There’s also a recurring theme of chopping nuts into smaller pieces and tonight was no exception.  I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to chop nuts into tiny pieces but, unless you break out the food processor for a small amount of nuts, it makes a mess.  It’s a pain in the ass, I cannot figure out a good way to do it without just being furious.

I’ve learned a trick though: you can just smash them with a meat hammer.  They come in a tiny little plastic bag, you can pound the crap out of them and there’s no mess.  It’s my favorite tip to share with people.. and by people I mean Ryan.  I remind him of how clever I think I am every time I use the meat hammer for something other than meat.

99% of the time the meal kits come with all the ingredients you need – minus cooking oil, salt and pepper.  Occasionally you need to add butter from your own pantry but that’s not a big deal.  Tonight, however, the recipe asked me to add 3 TBSP of tamari or soy sauce.

Wtf is tamari?!  I don’t own that! Luckily, and shockingly, we own soy sauce so it worked out fine but I was a little annoyed by Green Chef assuming I have soy sauce or tamari on hand at all times.  There’s a good chance most people at least have soy sauce in the refrigerator right now, but we have a small refrigerator so we have to be selective about what condiments get to exist in there.  We have at least four different kinds of salad dressing – we only use the Ceasar – and two bottles of the same brand of BBQ sauce… if I hadn’t recently used up our jar of vegan mayo there wouldn’t have been space for soy sauce.

I still don’t know what tamari is… I never got around to googling it.

When all the sauteing, thin slicing and smashing was finished, this meal was delicious.  I added garlic powder and cayenne pepper that were not a part of the kit (that also weren’t called for in the recipe..) because I think everything is better with garlic and cayenne.  It wasn’t quite my dream Tongue in Cheek meal but it was a decently fancy meal for a Monday night.

Ryan and Maggie enjoyed a Totino’s Party Pizza – it’s their “Eat What You Want” meal 🙂

And now, please enjoy the highlights from tonight’s cooking:

A Meditation of Pasta

Happy National Shrimp Day!

*I should warn you now, I’m feeling very zen and nostalgic tonight…*

Being that today is Saturday – and also that it’s rainy and cold outside – I decided to fully commit to this day and whip up two different recipes.  I was also super pumped that it wasn’t a baking day.. I can only fail at baking so many times before I need a cooking win.

Despite the numerous videos of me failing at baking, I can actually cook.  I haven’t learned to whip stiff peaks in the last four years, but I did (slowly) become a somewhat confident cook.  In the words of Maggie “Daddy is the baker and Mommy is the chef!”

I went into the day planning to make a buttery shrimp pasta, but after (over excitedly) talking to my co-teachers about my plans for the weekend they suggested that I try a classic shrimp boil. I fucking love a shrimp boil.  It’s all of my favorite foods in one pan – corn, potatoes, sausage.. I don’t love shrimp but they look so pretty when you nestle them in a bed of other amazing ingredients.  I was sold – and that’s how I came to the grand idea of making two dinners.

I started by preparing the dough for home made pasta.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.. “Home made pasta dough?  You’ve yet to make a dough that didn’t turn out terribly?!  This isn’t going to go well…”

I’m going to tell you something shocking: I’m really fucking good at making pasta from scratch.  I cannot for the life of me figure out why or how I’m good at this, but it comes out near perfect every time.  There is nothing about my willy-nilly approach to cooking that should lend itself well to making pasta dough, but without fail – the dough comes out beautiful.  I’m not even pulling from childhood memories when I make this dough – I’ve never witnessed any of my family members make pasta from scratch.  Only once in my life have I witnessed the beauty of someone rolling out pasta dough and it was from across a street and through a window as I stood on a cobble stone street in Italy.  I think in another life I was a little old Italian grandmother; lovingly rolling out pasta dough and creating dinners from a recipe that could never be written down.  The kind of recipes that are passed down for generations, written vaguely on a notecard – that have no measurements – it’s just described in feelings and textures.  I have a deep longing to pass those kind of things down to my grandchildren some day, is that weird?  For some people a family heirloom is a necklace or a piece of furniture – for me, it’s recipes shared verbally while we work together in the kitchen.   When my children and grandchildren remember me someday, I want it first to be with tastes and smells.  When I think of my Grandma Heldberg, I think of fresh blueberry muffins and butter – warm from the oven.  I think of cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving.  That’s what I want.

So the dough was made – somewhat from a trusted Betty Crocker recipe and somewhat from sight and feel.  I added more water when the dough seemed too stiff, then a pinch more flour when it felt too sticky.  I let it rest for the length that it took me to finish the book I had been currently devouring – none of it was very precise and yet when the time came to roll it into sheets it was perfect.  Firm but not dry (dirty), malleable but not sticky (also dirty).  Perfection.

When I bought my house, I also invested in several kitchen gadgets because I was feeling like a grown up for the first time in a long time.  Among those items was the mostly useless immersion blender, a heavy cutting board that I love, and Peggy.  My Kitchenaid stand mixer.  She’s stainless steel, voluptuous and gorgeous.  There’s something about owning a Kitchenaid that makes me feel like peak adult.  Owning a home? Whatever.  Good credit? Okay.  Kitchenaid mixer?!  Fuck yeah, now I’m a grown up…

Now here’s where I need to confess something: for the first 9 months that I owned Peggy, I think I used her once? Maybe twice if I’m being generous to myself.  I was cooking nightly, but I was working 42.5 hours a week at my school then training 10 hours a week as an aerialist (plus being a mom and partner to Ryan!).  I didn’t have time to use all the cool kitchen things I impulse shopped (like a grown up!)

Enter COVID-19.  We spent the first two weeks in March in self-isolation while we waited for test results from someone we were in contact with – and in doing so, we rekindled our romance with Peggy.  We cracked open all the accessories that I bought (a year ago) including the pasta rolling attachment and the pasta extruder.  We made mountains of pasta, kneaded loaf after loaf of bread, and Ryan even made whipped cream.  A love affair was born.

Fast forward to tonight, 8 weeks later.  (If I’m being honest, it feels like a lifetime ago, but it’s only been a few months.. this is our new normal.)  After I finished my book I decided it was time to roll out the dough and start dinner.  This is another one of those times when my loosey-goosey approach to cooking should create a disaster but somehow doesn’t.  I’ve read a lot of recipes and articles about rolling out pasta dough and they all stressed the importance of having the mixer at just the right speed; feeding the dough through in just the right way; folding it X amount of times and what not…. I immediately disregarded all of what I read.  I cut my rested dough into four pieces (with my fancy bench scraper that I bought while quaratine shopping), then I fed sort of mushed it into an oval before I fed it into the pasta roller on the widest setting.  I’ve read that you should roll the dough into an oval of a specific shape before rolling it out but fuck it, just mush it.  I’ve also read that you should go through each setting on the pasta roller a few times but I ignored that… Peggy and I seem to be doing just fine skipping settings and going through the roller as we like.  We get each other, Peggy and I, we’ve got a good thing going.

This part, the pasta rolling, is essentially meditating for me.  I stand quietly next to the mixer – listening and feeling the dough to ensure it’s coming out the right texture.  I don’t think about anything else, it’s just me and Peggy against the world.  Then comes the pasta cutting attachment and it’s the same feeling – just the soft whir of the mixer and my hands guiding the dough.  It’s cathartic.  There’s a lot of noise in my daily life – toddlers, my own children, music, cooking shows on TV – tuning out over pasta dough is my version of therapy right now.

Once the pasta was cut and safely tucked out of Frazier’s reach, I started on the ingredients for the shrimp boil.  I only ordered a pound of shrimp (I didn’t anticipate my sudden need to make two recipes) so I did my best to make the right portions for each dish.  I also severely under estimated how hard it would be to cut corn cobs in half… Thank God I work out… I also (incorrectly) thought that we had plain chicken sausage in the freezer but it turned out to be apple-gouda chicken sausage…. it was fine, but Nick did mention that it tasted a little weird.  He wasn’t wrong – the flavors didn’t quite mesh like they should.  The recipe also called for Old Bay seasoning but the grocery store was completely sold out of it!  Apparently everyone is cooking southern seafood recipes in their quarantine.  I said a prayer to Kevin Belkin and used my trusty creole seasoning.  I think he would be proud.

With the shrimp boil in the oven, I got water ready for the pasta and started on the garlic butter sauce.  I’ve made enough shrimp pasta sauces in my time that I just pulled from my mind palace and kind of winged it on this one.  I went into it with the intention of making just a garlic butter sauce with shrimp and parsley but, as the cooking process went on, I decided to add some shallots, cream and Parmesan cheese.  I mostly added the shallots because we have an absurd amount of them right now….  During a recent trip to Fresh Thyme, Ryan decided that the thing we really needed in our kitchen during a pandemic was shallots.. so now I’m using them in everything.  Tonight it worked in my favor.

Oh! I also repurposed some leftover buttermilk biscuits (from a can) into garlic bread –  delicious.

Maggie gave the pasta a 9/10 and the garlic bread a 10/10.  Nick ate several pieces of corn and actually finished a serving of pasta!  I’ve quickly learned that at 11, Nick is rarely hungry yet is constantly growing.  It’s confusing and concerning as fuck but the Dr swears it’s normal.

Cheers to a cooking win tonight and a much needed reminder of how much joy cooking brings to my life.  In a recent episode of a BA Test Kitchen show, one of the chefs said something along the lines of “there’s no right way to combine the ingredients” and their companion chef replied “I think you just summed up the joy of cooking”.  I felt that deep in my soul tonight – the simple joy of combining ingredients, tasting, and finding that whatever you decided to throw together was just what it needed to be.

Take some chances tonight.  Trust your instincts.  Willy-nilly it a little.  Life is too short for recipes.

* favorite blooper from tonight: we have been experiencing some lighting issues in the kitchen – aka the main light just flashes like a strobe light and I can’t cook at a disco… Ryan tried to offer a temporary solution tonight, enjoy:

Accidental Scones

Happy National Raspberry Popover Day!

I woke up today feeling like a human being again so I had high hopes for this one.  Like most baked goods though, I’ve never attempted to make popovers of any kind before.  I actually didn’t know what popovers were until I started dating Ryan and we went out to dinner with his parents.  Popovers were not a thing we ate growing up, or if we did at some point I’ve blocked it from my memory.

I’m going to be honest.. I don’t get the hype around popovers.  If it was Kings Hawaiian Day I would understand.  I fucking love those little buttery nuggets.  But what even is a popover?  They’re just puffy muffins right?

I also need to preface this whole experience by saying that I asked Maggie, our 7 year old, to help me make the popovers.  She’s generally not big on helping in the kitchen but I bribed her with the promise of a lemon.  She loves lemons.  Actually both kids do – it’s so weird.  Does anyone else have kids who will just suck on lemons?

Anyway… I forgot that, despite her general dislike for cooking, Maggie loves to watch Nailed It on Netflix…

If you’re unfamiliar with this show, three home cooks/bakers attempt to recreate extravagant baked goods with the hopes of winning a cash prize.  A lot of fondant is used.  It’s essentially three of me just flailing in a kitchen competition.  In Maggie’s ratings of food she often compares things to whether or not they look like they could be on Nailed It.  When I baked a somewhat cute but somewhat scary cat cake for her 7th birthday she declared it a Nailed It cake… and she doesn’t mean the ones they’re trying to replicate…

So with that all being said, please keep in mind that throughout this whole experience a small child was giving me baking tips that she learned from Nailed It…. and I happily took most of her advice because in all honesty she probably has acquired more baking knowledge from that show than I have in my whole life.

On to the popovers!

I used a recipe from Driscolls because a berry producing company seemed trustworthy.  Also it was the first one that Pinterest suggested.  I was doomed from the beginning…

One of the first steps in the recipe was separating eggs.  *long sigh*

After the pudding egg incident, a friend shared with me the technique of passing the egg between your hands to separate the yolk from the whites.  It’s gross, but he wasn’t wrong.  I didn’t love it, but no yolks were lost in the making of these popovers.  There was still the great struggle of the dangly bits, but maybe all egg separations require navigating the gooey egg snot that won’t come off?

Next we zested our citrus fruits and had a nice debate about whether or not Maggie needed to eat a second lemon from the fridge.  The answer was ‘No’.  We also went down a rabbit hole of whether or not sugar is considered a ‘wet’ ingredient or not… I don’t know very much about cooking, but I’m 99% sure I’m right about this one. Sugar is a wet ingredient, right mom?

Here’s where it really went wrong.  The recipe said to mix the ingredients until they were just combined but still lumpy.

That’s too vague for me.  How lumpy is lumpy?  Should it be dough like or just a hot mess of ingredients?  I need pictures in my recipes.  I need step by step guides that show me what something should (or shouldn’t) look like as I cook.  Where are those recipes at?!

Honestly, at this point the whole cooking experience took a turn for the worst and the best way I can explain it is via video clip.. so please enjoy this hot mess express:

So here they are… the least popped popovers to ever exist.  After tasting them, they’re actually delicious.. they’re not popovers though.  They’re like little dense fruit biscuits.  Scones. They’re fucking round scones.

Back in the Land of Turds

Happy National Chocolate Truffle Day!

I had really high hopes this time around that I would mention poop less…

But it’s day 2 and everything about home made truffle just looks like poop.  I’m sorry.  Maybe next year.

I’ve never made truffles before – I’ve been content to eat them once or twice a year when they happen to be on the office table at work.  They’ve always seemed like one of those impossible recipes that require a level of kitchen witchcraft I don’t possess.

The recipe I found, however, sounded easy.

Maybe a little too easy…

Classic Chocolate Truffles Recipe

After reading through the recipe, I immediately disregarded the first step of chopping the chocolate into small pieces.  In my defense, I was using chocolate chips and chopping them any smaller seemed ridiculous.

Next, the recipe said to heat heavy cream on the stove until just before it boils.

What does that mean?  How do you know when it’s just about to boil?  It all looks like same to me.  Tiny little bubbles were appearing on the edges as I was heating it but did that mean it was boiling?  If I boil it will the whole recipe be a disaster or will it just taste bad?!  It was step two and I was already stressed.

I was also on day two of being sick so I might have been overly dramatic…

At this point I remembered the candy thermometer that I recently purchased during a round of sad quarantine shopping.  Do I frequently make home made candy? No.  Does acquiring new and mostly useless kitchen gear make me feel less like the world is ending? Also no, but I do it anyway.

In my head, when I pulled the thermometer out of the package it was going to have a magic number on it that said “Just about to boil”.  That seemed like something candy makers would want to know.

I was wrong.

It does, however, list several stages of cooking that sounded more and more absurd as I read them: soft ball, hard ball, soft crack, hard crack…

These are all names I would lovingly call Ryan but not in the least bit helpful when it comes to heating up heavy cream.

I put it in the cream anyway. It was $14.99 and I’ll be damned if I don’t get my monies worth!

At a point in which the cream looked simmery but not boiling (technical terms…) I took it off the heat and poured it over the chocolate chips like recipe said and started stirring like crazy.  I’ll be honest, I had very little faith in the semi-hot cream to melt the chocolate chips but hot damn!  They melted!  It took longer than my little noodle arms would have liked but maybe I’ll consider this part of my aerial arm conditioning.

So far, this whole experience was going well.  My ganache, as the fancy recipe called it, was chilling in the refrigerator for the next six hours and I was happily watching Gourmet Makes.

Here’s where things took a turn…

In the beginning of the recipe, the author listed some helpful tips like: chill your cookie sheet before hand so the truffles stay cold.  Use a wooden spoon to mix the chocolate and cream because a wooden spoon won’t absorb the heat from the cream like a stainless steel one would.  Use a trigger release scooper to measure out the truffles…

I own a stupid candy thermometer but I do not own a trigger release scooper.  We were at Fresh Thyme recently and Ryan held up a trigger release scooper.  I promptly said “You can get the pineapple coring tool but not the trigger release scooper” because sometimes I am an idiot who now owns a pineapple coring tool.  Alton Brown would be furious.

I found a tablespoon measuring spoon in the drawer that was very rounded so I thought that would probably work, I would just have to roll them in my hands a little more than a smart person who owns a trigger release scooper.  Everything was fine.

Everything was not fine.  The chocolate came out of the refrigerator as one solid bowl shaped chocolate bar.  No where in the recipe did it say to expect that, it simply skipped from chilling them for 6 hours to scooping them out and placing them on my pre-chilled baking sheet.  What did I do wrong? Did I boil the cream?  I don’t understand!!!

It was still early in the night so I had time to let the chocolate come to room temperature and get a little more malleable.  By malleable I mean that when I scooped lumpy portions into my hands and rolled them around.. they looked like very dark cat poop.  I then rolled the turds in cocoa powder and coconut flakes like a cat burying poop in a litter box.

In the end, they tasted decent.  If you close your eyes and ignore the slightly lumpy, turd like texture then they’re downright delicious.

Let’s see what stupid kitchen thing I don’t own tomorrow….

They Don’t Make Porn on Go Pros

Happy National Chocolate Parfait Day!

I woke up this morning with the kind of pain in my head that cannot be adequately described.  Imagine that scene from Alien (you know the one)… but imagine it coming out of my skull.

Forehead birthing alien aside, I was really pumped for this holiday.  I found a recipe that contained 99% ingredients I already own so I was already feeling like a winner.

The other thing I loved about this recipe was that every step seemed like something I would naturally be inclined to do.  Use a meat hammer in place of a food processor? Obviously.  Whip heavy cream only until it’s mediocre at best?  Fuck yeah, I can do that.  This recipe was made for me.

The first few steps of this recipe were so easy I found myself second guessing if I was actually doing it right.  Just whisk dry ingredients together and add milk? Should the stove be on?  That was seriously it?  I could do this, this was going to the best parfait ever made.

Then came…. the egg yolks.

I can’t separate egg yolks.  I have tried.  I’ve tried passing them back and forth between the shells like my mom does.  I’ve tried using the fancy egg separator I mysteriously own.  It never goes well.  I cannot properly sum up just how badly I struggled with this task, so please enjoy this moment:

Here’s what the problem was: I got it stuck in my head that I absolutely needed to get any gross dangly bits off of the yolks.  Could I have just let the yolk rest in it’s little holster over the bowl until the dangler fell off?  Absolutely.  Am I known for my patience? No, not at all.  So being the impatient, and also oblivious, person that I am I thought I could just nudge it like it was a tiny poop and it would just fall off.  Turns out egg whites and turd danglers do not have the same consistency.  Other important thing I learned: a scoop with holes in it is not a good vessel for retrieving things. At this point in losing the yolk I could have just abandoned it and started with a fresh egg.  That seems both logical and sane, two things I am also not known for.  What I am known for though, is my stubbornness when I think I’m “sticking it” to someone.  Like an egg yolk.  I really put that egg yolk in it’s place.

With the yolks wrangled, it was time to face my arch nemesis: whipped cream.

In the past four years I have adamantly avoided any and all recipes that call for whipping anything into stiff peaks.  Oh you want an angel food cake for your birthday?  Too bad, you’re getting pie.  I can make pie.

I briefly debated just buying store bought whipped cream but, again, the part of me that constantly needs to prove a point won out.  I was going to show this whipped cream who’s boss.  I separated egg yolks, I could whip some stupid heavy cream into submission.  The recipe even said to use an immersion blender, which I already own like a fucking grown up.

It didn’t go well.

I don’t know what kind of immersion blender this recipe thinks I own, but mine does not whip things.  It gets really hot and smells like burning and then just sorts of gurgles things around.  Are there other attachments for immersion blenders?  Is there some secret technique I’m missing?

Maggie and Ryan happened to be in the middle of FaceTiming his mom as I was attempting this step and she offered some helpful advice: use powdered sugar instead of regular sugar.

Now here’s the thing: the recipe called for regular sugar, I’m not crazy.  It said “add one tablespoon of sugar” so I did.  Why would it tell me to do that!? No matter how much I mushed the blender stick around it never became whipped cream.  After what felt like an eternity (but was really probably only 5 minutes) I had a bubbly glob of sugar cream.  Oh, with vanilla in it.  I went rogue and through some in.

At this point I consulted an expert.  A.k.a Ryan.  I’m not one to call him an expert on most kitchen things, but the man can make whipped cream.  For my birthday this year he made the most delicious french silk pie from scratch – complete with stiff peaked whipped cream.  It was a dream.  He deemed the immersion blender worthless (and also possibly broken) and decided we should just start over with a fresh batch and hand whip it.

That sounded terrible.  I have noodle arms that are not built for hand whisking anything.  Did he not recall the months of me trying to hand whip things in the kitchen only to be handed a plate of mostly liquid at the end?  Does he not remember my slow descent into madness after trying to make stiff peaks by hand?!  Is he trying to ruin my life?

I tried it.  I whipped for approximately 15 seconds and then I promptly handed the bowl to Ryan.  He made glorious whipped cream.  Thanks bookie.

After chilling all the ingredients for about an hour (the recipe said to wait 3 hours but it was 8:30 and I needed to go to bed) we enjoyed our parfaits.  I assembled them lovingly: homemade pudding, graham crackers that were supposed to have been chocolate and also be mixed with butter but I forgot that step, then more pudding, more graham crackers and finally whipped cream.  Maggie has taken to rating everything I cook on a scale of 1-10 and had this to say:

“I give it a 10/10.  I mean, the whipped cream could have more flavor and I don’t like the graham crackers.  I’d like them if they were more shredded instead of just… this… but the pudding is good.  Next time I’ll help you shred the crackers.”

She takes after her dad.

I’m trying something new this time around btw: I’m going to try and take more videos of the experiences.  I missed a lot of the best moments last time around because I couldn’t take photos AND cook at the same time so this is my solution.  I clipped all the highlights from National Chocolate Parfait Day into a little video, enjoy!

Let’s Try This Again…


Well… that went swimmingly…

You might be thinking, “What the hell happened?!”

But in all honesty, if you’re reading this then you are probably related to me, live with me or have known me for years – in which case you know why the project stalled.

If, by some small miraculous chance, you are a stranger I will simply say this: Life happened.  It was messy, it was hard, but it’s currently being rebuilt.

So why pick this back up?

Why not.

Right now our lives feel like a never ending dream – like we are watching some crazy thriller movie that never ends.  Personally, I need something to laugh at, even if it’s just laughing at myself.  I need an outlet that wakes me up from the dream for a few moments and reminds me to find joy again.

So here we are: four years later.  We are in a new house with a bigger kitchen, I’ve accumulated a few more kitchen gadgets that I have no idea how to use, and maybe.. just maybe… I’ve learned how to make stiff peaks out of heavy cream.

Wish us luck… I’m going to need it…

Everything Looks Like Shit


I’m beginning to notice a trend…

Maybe it’s because I’m a 12 year old boy on the inside, perhaps it’s because much of our conversations at home revolve around if I’ve pooped today, how it came out, and whether or not I cried over it (the answers today are yes, explosively and I cried with both joy and pain) – whatever the reason, there is a pattern emerging in our house of using terms for poop to describe things.

Mostly to describe food.

Today’s unfortunate victim: the vegan spaghetti puttanesca I made in honor of National Spaghetti Day. I was one step into the recipe when Ryan came downstairs and declared it “diarrhea water”….

So that’s how we kicked off this food holiday…

I had every intention of making basic, normal spaghetti and meatballs tonight, but once I got home I just couldn’t bring myself to roll little balls of cow while trying to hide the gluten free noodles from Ryan’s line of sight.

And I forgot to buy spaghetti sauce. 

I’m hindsight, it’s probably for the best that I went with a vegan, gluten free recipe – the shitstorm known as “Ginas burning butt” has been a good reminder that eating whatever I want, whenever I want, will end with more fingers in my ass. And I’d like to never relive THAT experience!  

Around the same time Ryan pointed out the unfortunate color of the vegetable stock… I also realized I was largely ignoring the *actual* recipe and had basically started in reverse….

I also realized that I didn’t have most of the vegetables the recipe suggested using, so I opted to grab everything from the refrigerator that was starting to get a little wrinkly…

It included one sad zucchini who was definitely on the verge of becoming a zombie, one 1/2 onion that had been in the refrigerator longer than I can remember, a red pepper that looked like an angry grandpa and a dusty can of diced tomatoes.

What could possibly go wrong?!

Oh, and some chopped basil that I through on top because I’m wild and crazy like that! The original recipe called for chickpeas, which I forgot to buy, so I threw in a package of great northern beans inside. They’re both white-ish beige colored, they’re both a type of bean – same damn thing in my book!

After combining all the ingredients in the pan (only 1 of which was actually in the recipe), i put the noodles on top – because the recipe said to cook them all together.

Actually, the recipe said to put the noodles in first…. which I did not do… 

It seemed like being completely submerged in the broth was an important part of cooking the noodles – and mine were just sad hovering on top of chunky diarrhea water – so I smushed them around a little in the hopes of getting them wet.

At this point I was hangry and thought “fuck it, those noodles are damp!” and put the lid on.

15 minutes later I had a soupy brown concoction that could best be described as “new and improved shit stew! Now with noodles”

Being that I was hangry, a little wine drunk and very tired… I ate 90% of it in one sitting then remembered that I didn’t take a picture of it…

So, imagine a plate of lumpy, yet still not quite solid poop with zucchini chunks in it and undigested noodles.

It was fucking delicious. The best tasting pile of crap I’ve made in a while. 

After dinner, I entered into the time-suck known as “Nicky needed help with his Rubik’s cube”. There were YouTube videos, there was a lot of me saying “Shhhh, mommy is working on this, you can have it back in a minute” and “stupid cross middle pieces! It’s rigged! It’s all fake!” Meanwhile, Ryan stood to the side saying “it’s all just ‘left turn, right turn, right turn’ and you just repeat that kind of shit. Just repeat the same shit over and over again and you’ll get it.”

There’s fucking code words involved, and according to this stupid YouTube guy, it’s really simple and should take about 15 minutes the first time.


You’re supposed to solve the inner-cross pieces first – which took the internet man 3 minutes. THIS TOOK ME AN HOUR!!!!!

Another hour later, I had gotten this far:

This is the point in which I gave up and accepted my fate as “not a Rubik’s cube master”. 

Fuck you Rubik’s cube. I hate you. 

Burning Butts


Happy National Baking Soda Day!

What the hell am I supposed to do with this?!

I spent a lot of time debating how to celebrate this holiday – I could have made a volcano with the kids, I could have baked basically anything, I could have licked some baking soda to see what happens….

Then I woke up, had the usual morning bathroom battle where my body can’t decide if it’s better to clean out the whole system or hoard the poop like its gold bars, and made a fun new discovery.

I have a hemmroid. A classy, super sexy inflammation in my butt that causes pain and sometimes bleeding when (if ever) I poop.

Since I recently watched “A Little Bit of Heaven” – (the Kate Hudson colon cancer movie) – I immediately panicked and decided I also have colon cancer and should obviously just lay on the bathroom floor and cry…

Which I did….

Then -like all good crazy people – I googled “Blood in stool burning poop” and found a more rational explanation….

Just a good old fashioned hemmroid from trying so damn hard to poop! 

While down the google rabbit hole, I also stumbled on an at-home treatment: baking soda bath!!!!

So I thought, “fuck everything else, I’m celebrating this day by laying in a giant bowl of hot water and baking soda so my burning ass can feel better”.

Side note: I keep our baking soda in an old jam jar because I can’t seem to open those stupid boxes with exploding them…

The article I found suggested 4-5 tablespoons per bath, so I guessed and just threw fistfuls in until the water looked cloudy and “healy”. If this magic bath didn’t make my butt feel better, nothing would!

Because Mag was napping and I was feeling sad about everything (literally, everything.) I decided to class up this bath with Netflix.

Yep. Could have cleaned the bathroom, could have done ANYTHING productive, instead I propped our tiny TV on a step stool and watched Netflix documentaries about healthy eating. 

Oh yeah, and I did this ^, because no one can feel sad while wearing a panda mask. Seriously, it’s a fucking scary mask – but it makes me laugh every time!

An hour later, I think my butt felt better… it also could have been the wine I consumed while stewing in pot of baking soda and tears. 

When I shared my morning with Ryan, he reminded me that we have hemmroid cream and wipes in the cabinet – leftover from my post-birthing Maggie hemmroids…

Anyway… happy stupid baking soda day. May none of your assholes burn.

Freedom Soup


Happy National Pepper Pot day!!!

Some food shit happened between thanksgiving and now, but I’ve decided to say “fuck it” and just start again. Too much time has elapsed, too much wine has been drank, and my brain can’t handle thinking back that far. 


Today is Pepper Pot day. When I looked this up I can across several options: Jamaican, Guyanese, Creole, Philadelphia-style…

I’m really only familiar with one of those places, so I opted for the ‘merican version.

Apparently this version comes with historical significance also.

According to the (definitely reliable) internet, during the Revolutionary war, the Continental army (that’s the good guys, right?)  was camped at Valley Forge. The winter of 1777-1778, was cold and harsh. Conditions were deplorable. Food was often scarce. (…. this may be true of my house right now….)  George Washington asked his army’s chef to prepare a meal for the army, that would both warm them, and boost their moral. The chef found scraps of tripe (ew), small bits of meat and some peppercorn. He mixed this in with some other ingredients, and created Pepper Pot soup, also known as “Philadelphia Pepper Pot soup”. The hot, and somewhat spicy soup, was well received by the troops. It was called “the soup that won the war”.

So, naturally, after learning all this I’ve taken to shouting “we’d be British without this soup!” Followed by “it won the war!! The soup won the fucking war!!” 

Some wine was consumed during the making of this soup…

I walked up to Whole Foods this afternoon to pick up the few supplies and felt weirdly like a badass. If this soup won THE war, think of what else it could do?!?!!!!!!!! 

Maybe it could get my kids to finally clean up Nickys room! Maybe it could cure cancer!!

Or maybe it would just be a weird soup. Fingers crossed!

The recipe I found called for using tripe as the meat. I’ve never really known what tripe is so I googled it before going to Whole Foods…

Don’t do that.

Tripe is defined as:  the first or second stomach of a cow or other ruminant used as food.

No. No no no. 


I’m not cooking that.

A) I didn’t need a reminder that cows have multiple stomachs and are therefore weird and creepy and 

B) No. I’m not eating, cooking, or serving my family cow stomach. First or second, doesn’t matter, not happening.

I made an executive decision that this would be “modern Pepper Pot soup” made with chicken that I already had in the freezer. Done. I win.

For some reason, the first step of the recipe was to boil the meat for approximately 1 minute. Literally. It said to put the meat in a pot with water, turn the heat on high, wait for it to boil, then turn the heat off and let it cool down. 


Why is that necessary?

I mean, I did it… but  I’m not sure why…

It’s hard to see, but there are two sad chicken breasts submerged in that water…. juuuuust hanging out. 

While the chicken did whatever the hell it was supposed to be doing, I chopped up ALL THE PRODUCE. 

That’s 1/2 an onion, 3 leeks, 2 green peppers, 2 stalks of celery, a whole bunch of parsley plus two Fresno peppers I decided to use and a jalapeño that I threw in for fun.

It’s not dinner unless I throw in some ingredients that weren’t called for…

During this time (and after some more wine) I decided that I should use alllllll the produce scraps to make “vegetable stock”… even though I’ve never made vegetable stock and I’m pretty sure it’s not made with green pepper tops and jalapeño pepper stems…

But I kept adding those scraps anyway…

After 20 minutes of boiling, I had 3 cups of yellowish colored water (once I removed the scraps) and I deemed it “vegetable stock-like substance!”

While the boiling was happening, I took a good long look at the amount of parsley I had chopped up…

That’s s lot of fucking parsley.

The recipe called for “1 bunch of parsley”… so I chopped up the 1 bunch of parsley that I bought….

Then decided it was waaaay too much parsley and bagged up 1/2 of it for smoothies.

Executive decisions and what not. 

After making “stock”, chopping things willy-nilly and disregarding the ingredient list, it was time to sauté some bacon pieces. 

I’m not convinced George Washington’s army had bacon lying around but…. everything tastes better with bacon.

The recipe said to cook the bacon until it “turned clear”.


I’ve never seen bacon turn clear. I don’t think that’s a thing. Bacon is bacon colored.

After poking it around in the pan, I declared the bacon “clear-ish” but mostly “beige” and decided I was ready for the next step: adding ALL THE PRODUCE!!!

Look how pretty and colorful that is!!! I was so pumped for this soup at this point!

The recipe said to sauté the vegetables until they were tender (in just the bacon fat) but I was afraid of them burning… so I added a splash of water.

Then I added some white wine because I love wine and I do what I want!

I’m relatively certain no chef has ever said “the wine ruined it!”, so I felt pretty confident about it.

Plus, I had been drinking the wine and was therefore pretending I was Julia Child…

At this point, the recipe suggested that, after adding the chicken, stock and some seasoning, I simmer the soup for 1 1/2 hours.

This would have been a good time to catch up on dishes, maybe fold laundry… take out the garbage…

Instead, I aggressively told my children (not yelling, aggressively talking at) to “just clean the room, just put the toys away. I can hear when you are not cleaning… I hear everything…” for 2 hours. Happy winter break.

Toward the end of the simmering time, I started to cut up the carrots and potatoes that needed to be added.

Because I’m not quite sure how to cut carrots…. this happened…

I can dice any other vegetable, but the damn carrots get me every time.

I managed to finish cutting them up, added the potato, 7 drops of blood and a sliver of finger skin to the pot and let it heat back up to a boil.

While it smelled mostly like cloves, it looked s little like diarrhea. Just a chunky, brownish greenish soup. Shit stew. I was beginning to doubt the magic power of this soup….

30 minutes later, I declared it finished. With some sliced baguette, it didn’t look quite so bad…

I was just wine drunk enough at this point to start shouting “THE FREEDOM SOUP IS READY!!!! FREEDOM!!!!”

Much to Ryan’s delight.

He had this to say about the whole experience:

“I wish you would just make some ramen. Just some regular fucking ramen with those bones in the fucking freezer. I mean, this is pretty okay, the breads good, but you could’ve just made some fucking ramen. I just want ramen.”

Ramen didn’t win the fucking war dear. George Washington didn’t want your damn ramen. Eat the damn Hershey-squirt soup.