Crazed In the Kitchen   

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Today I Ate Paste But It’s Totally Fine Because It Was BROWNIE Paste (With A RECIPE!!)

I have a serious weakness for chocolate. I love it. It is up there with my husband and kids on the List of Things I Love. I love it more than any other candy. I love it more than my husband loves his iPad.
I even love it more than he loves the big, empty box our TV came in that’s been sitting in our garage for three years.


The problem is that I have NO self control around chocolate. None whatsoever. If it is in the house, I WILL eat it. Possibly all in one sitting. Which is ok if it’s a little bit of chocolate, but not so great if it’s, you know, a couple dozen chocolate chip cookies. Because I will eat myself sick on chocolate. And, apparently, I never learn.

By the way, do you shop at Trader Joes? Have you seen these?
Go here: for more awesome Trader Joe's stuff.
THE DEVIL’S HANDIWORK, I TELL YOU! My poor boys love these but I refuse to buy them because the last time I did I ate pretty much all of them. Not kidding. I think my boys got around 10 each…and then they were gone. I mumbled something about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and my brother-in-law stealing them, but we all know the truth here. Mommy has a problem.

Anyway, one of the chocolate things that I love is, duh, brownies. But I rarely eat them because I believed that to eat A brownie, one had to make A PAN of brownies. And if I make A PAN of brownies, then I will eat A PAN of brownies. That is altogether too many brownies, so…no brownies for me, mostly.  

Until… (cue choir of angels) … Pinterest.

One night on Pinterest I discovered something that apparently everyone else already knows: You can make a single serving of brownie in a coffee mug, in your microwave. WHAT ELSE ARE YOU HIDING FROM ME, PINTEREST???

So I tried a few recipes, changed up some stuff here and there, and, lo and behold, I now introduce to you the very first Crazed in the Kitchen Recipe Post!!! What I am about to share with you will Blow. Your. Mind. And your diet, but, whatever, right?

So here’s what you need to make one awesome microwave mug brownie:
·      2 tablespoons of melted butter
·      2 tablespoons of milk
·      ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
·      1 dash salt (this makes me SO nervous—I never know what a “dash” is, so good luck with that)
·      2 tablespoons granulated sugar
·      2 tablespoons Hershey’s Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder
·      2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Alrighty, then.
(OK, I feel like under the laws of full chocolate disclosure that I should tell you some things here. First of all, I am hard-core with chocolate—especially dark chocolate. I used dark cocoa powder instead of the regular stuff, and I halved the sugar from the original recipe. This recipe definitely
produces a less-sweet, dark chocolate brownie. So if you prefer sweet, milk chocolate, you might want to use regular cocoa powder and go up to 4 tablespoons of sugar. Also, you’re a sissy.)

So, mix up the butter, milk, vanilla, and salt in a mug. Fancy baker types will have a whisk or something for this task; I use a fork. Add the cocoa powder, fork well. Add the sugar, fork it up. Add the flour…fork it again.

Now here’s where I’m revolutionizing the microwave mug brownie world. Most recipes will tell you to microwave your concoction for 60 seconds, let it cool, then enjoy. But as I looked lovingly into my mug of gooey heaven, I realized something.

This recipe is salmonella-free. No eggs! NO NEED TO COOK IT!!!

So the next step is to just get a spoon and eat it. It’s kind of thick and sticky, so throw a little ice cream in there to loosen it up, if you want. Or milk even, I guess, but that’s kind of boring. I’m not gonna lie—I even tasted it without the flour, and it’s pretty good. I might leave the flour out next time and just call it Brownie Paste.
Possibly the worst photo ever posted on any blog, ever. You're welcome.

And by “next time,” I mean of course, “at the next commercial break in The Bachelorette.”


Monday, June 2, 2014

The Best Baby Toy On Earth--Just Ask My 6-Year-Old

Last week marked my little girl’s first birthday. A very, very special day, indeed. But, that day was also Thursday. Which means in addition to celebrating her first full trip around the sun, we also had Kindergarten drop-off. And preschool drop-off. And the weekly emergency trip to the store for more milk and bananas. And preschool pick-up. And…you get the idea. It was her birthday, but mostly it was an ordinary day.

I was feeling kind of bad about having so many mundane tasks to do on such a special day, so I decided to take my little darling to the toy store to buy her a new toy. She’s our third child, so she has never really had a new toy. Don’t get me wrong, she has LOTS of toys, but they have all been used by her brothers before her and many have seen better days. It’s ok—she doesn’t know that the fancy “Ball Popping Machine” she loves isn’t supposed to pop out ping pong balls and the toy lemon from the play kitchen. She doesn’t care. But still, I wanted her to have a new toy of her very own.

So off we went to Toys R Us to buy her a present. First we went to the stuffed animal section and meowed at all the animals. Baby Girl has exactly one “word,” and it’s the sound she makes whenever she sees our cat. So here’s how our animal-related conversations go:

Me: Look, Baby Girl! The neighbor’s cat!
Baby Girl: Meow!

Me: Oooh! There’s Grandpa’s dog, Buster!
Baby Girl: Meow!

Me: Oh my! Look at that picture of a big cow! What does a cow say, Baby Girl?
Baby Girl: Meow!

Oh, who am I kidding. That’s how ALL of our conversations go these days.

Me: Does Baby Girl want yogurt for lunch?
Baby Girl: Meow!

Me: Where do your shoes go, Baby Girl?
Baby Girl: (pointing at her feet) Meow!

Me: Where’s your big brother?
Baby Girl: (pointing at a brother) Meow!

We’re hoping to add a “mama” or “dada” within the next few months, but for now we all just answer to “meow.”

Anyway, when we moved on to the toddler toys, there was one that immediately caught my eye. It looked like fun, and the box said it was good for kids from 6 months to 3 years old, so I figured she’d get years and years of fun out of it. Plus, it featured little plastic balls like the ones that used to be in the “Ball Popping Machine” before we lost them all, so maybe we’d be killing two birds with that one stone.
Not as ominous as it sounds.

(By the way, my husband HATES that we call that toy the “Ball Popping Machine.” He cringes every time we say it. Friends of ours who have the same toy call it the “Ball Blowing Machine,” which I guess is much more appealing. We probably should have thought of that back when we named it the “Ball Popping Machine.”)

(OK, I just looked it up and the official name of the toy is the “Playskool Busy Ball Popper.” So, thanks for that, Playskool. It’s actually a great toy and you can buy one on Amazon HERE or you can look elsewhere, but please please for your own sake DO NOT go and google “ball popping machine” to find one. Trust me on this one.)

So. I bought the new toy, now known as the “Ball Twirling Machine,” got it set up at home and, as expected, Baby Girl loved it. It made me really happy to see her get such joy out of her new toy. Her new toy, that was just for her. Because no one else in the family is between 6 months and 3 years old, so no one else will even want to share it. And she’ll get hours of fun from it, with no interruptions from her 4- and 6-year-old older brothers, who are TOO OLD FOR IT.


Best. Toy. Ever.
Nope. Not even close. Baby Girl’s older brothers came home from school, took one look at the new “Ball Twirling Machine,” and fell in love. They have spent HOURS playing with this toy together. They have played with it as it’s designed and they have invented complicated games for it using their matchbox cars, their Star Wars guys, even the “Ball Popping Machine.” Poor Miss Baby Girl has tried to get in on the action a few times, only to be shooed away.

The good news is, she’s easy going. She’s happy to watch while she plays with her talking octopus doll that only speaks in jibberish now or the toy we call the “Drunk Letter Machine” because it no longer knows a C from a Q. Plus, karma comes around full circle every morning when the boys head off to school for a few hours and Baby Girl has her run of the place: She likes to sneak into their bedroom to hug and kiss and meow at all of their precious lovies. And sometimes even play with her new toy.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Once Again, I Owned Daylight Savings Time

This is not a humble brag post. You know humble brags? When someone wants to brag but doesn’t want to seem like they’re bragging? They’re all over facebook.


Anyway, this is not that. This is just a brag. A straight-up, to-the-point post about how awesome I am. I’m not even going to pretend to try to be humble right now. I’m about to brag your ears off. Get ready.

Here it is:


I wrote last fall about that jerk Fall Back, who brought me so much pleasure in my youth but then turned on me when I had kids. I spent the last few years feeling bitter about the end of our great relationship, but then I found a way to get revenge…and it felt great.

Things were a bit different last month with Spring Forward. There’s been no love lost between me and Spring Forward over the years. I have pretty much always hated Spring Forward. Every year since I learned to love sleep (so for a LONG TIME now), I have railed against it. To me, Spring Forward is like that mean girl in high school who you *know* you should just ignore but who manages to get under your skin Every. Single. Time. She knows she’s doing it, and she loves that she bothers you, and she loves the fact that you can’t just let it go.

(OK, I may be personalizing this whole Daylight Savings thing a bit too much. Or I have some issues leftover from adolescence to work through….)

But this year, I did it. I just let it go. That mean girl Spring Forward came knocking with some mean stuff to say and instead of getting all riled up, I was mature. I was calm. What did I do? I flat-out ignored her.

Yep, I just pretended like Spring Forward wasn’t even happening. Didn’t set the clocks forward on Saturday night, or on Sunday morning for that matter. We did our thing Sunday like nothing was different. Played outside, watched TV, ate chicken nuggets, er quinoa and kale salad for dinner (is that a thing?), and put the kids to bed. Then my husband and I set the clocks forward, watched tv for an hour, and went to bed.

Of course, it wasn’t quite as exciting as Fall Back, when we found ourselves with an extra hour of kid-free time in the evening. That felt like a victory, like something that deserved a little celebration.

But Spring Forward? It was more like…meh. Whatevs. Talk to the hand, or whatever the kids are saying these days. I mean, we were probably going to go to bed early anyway. So, you know, we just did that. And the next morning? Nothing different really happened. I’ve said before that my kids are like roosters: up at the crack of dawn and noisy about it. So, they got up early. Like always. And they were a bit cranky at bedtime. Like always. Lots of noisy with periods of cranky? Pretty much a regular day for us.

So. Nice try, Spring Forward. I got you beat, and I’m telling everyone who will listen. (And, quite frankly, a few people who I think were trying hard not to listen. Oh well.)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Wholly Half-Assed Valentines Day Cookies

It’s important to start holiday traditions early, when your children are young. That way, they’ll have years and years of memories to talk about with each other and their therapists. So, while I’d like to say that we have established some warm and fuzzy holiday traditions for our family, the truth is there’s really only one constant…

We ALWAYS half-ass it. Every holiday, every time.

Like, you won’t see any fun or scary Halloween decorations on our house in October. Last year I finally got my butt to Target and bought a few signs that say “BOO!” which you *might* see if we remember to turn the porch light on.

And, until recently, the only Christmas tree we had was a pathetic two-foot tall fake plant that we set on a table and surrounded with garbage. This year we had a full-size fake tree, which was great because Santa got lazy about wrapping some of the baby’s presents and this happened:
C'mon, Santa. Get your sh*t together.
And St. Patrick’s Day? My kids barely know that it exists.

Needless to say, Valentines Day has been mostly a non-event around here. I always buy little cards for the boys to give out at school, but that’s it. No heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast, no trail of paper hearts leading from their bedroom door to the kitchen, no “Love Tree” with heart-shaped leaves bearing messages of love from me to them. All of those things sound pretty awesome, actually, but…come on. WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT STUFF??

So, I felt like Mother of the Freaking Year last week when I decided we should make heart-shaped cookies for Valentines Day, using an easy recipe I found on—where else?—Pinterest.

And let me just say that “recipe” is really stretching the meaning of that word. If you do this right, there is almost no work involved. No mixing, no measuring, no sifting.

(No flavor, either, which is an unfortunate and somewhat important detail that I’ll tell you more about later.)

So how do you make these only sort-of ok cookies? It’s easy!! Just use the leftover pie crust scraps from your annual heart-shaped chocolate Valentines Day pie! Or, if you’re an “efficient” baker like me, use the leftover premade frozen pie crust from the two-pack you bought at Christmas that has been taking up space in your freezer since then. Use cookie cutters to cut out hearts, brush the “cookies” with melted butter, and sprinkle with colored sugar or other fun Valentines-themed decorations.
Hearts and...caterpillars?
We used green sugar, obviously.

Bake them a little too long at 350 degrees, then chisel them off the cookie sheet and let them cool. If you’re angling for a hot Pinterest-worthy photo, use some store-bought white icing to trace your kids’ initials on two of the cookies, then snap a fuzzy pic with your phone. Serve them to your kids, and watch their faces fall in disappointment as you all realize that these are NOT COOKIES, they are over-cooked pieces of crappy pie crust sprinkled with green chemicals. Put them in a zip-lock bag on the counter for a week, then throw them away because no one will eat them.

So. It seems that we have managed to continue our tradition of celebrating holidays in the most half-assed fashion. The good news, I guess, is that my kids are still probably too young to remember this disaster, so I’ll get another chance next year. In the meantime, I’ll just start pinning some fun St. Patrick’s Day ideas…
Never going to happen. (credit:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chocolate, Coffee, and Wine: Breakfast of Champions?

Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I have a serious taste for chocolate. Like, SERIOUS. I will eat chocolate in pretty much any form. To be honest, I have never seen the point of fruity candies. Skittles? You can have them. Give me M&Ms, Twix, or—even better—a bar of pure dark chocolate.

So you can just imagine my reaction when an email from Kallari Chocolate landed in my inbox inviting me to sample and review some high-end dark chocolate bars.

I ate them before I remembered to take a pic. Oops.
“HECK YEAH!” is approximately what I said. (There may have been some additional not-so-family-friendly words said in there, too. Also, whooping and hollering and dancing around. I’ve been known to do worse for chocolate.)

My very practical husband encouraged me to reread the email to make sure I was clear on what the deal entailed. I did and, sure enough, it boiled down to this:
They send me chocolate. I eat the chocolate. I write about the chocolate.

Emphasis on the I EAT THE CHOCOLATE part.

As I waited for my chocolate to arrive, I called up the Kallari Chocolate website and poked around. And, holy hot cocoa, about 5 minutes in I realized that I am actually a chocolate amateur. There was so much I didn’t know that I didn’t know about chocolate!

For one, Kallari says there is an art to tasting chocolate. You can read about the whole process here, but the basic idea is that instead of chowing down like I usually do, you should really let the chocolate melt in your mouth in order to fully enjoy its flavor.

I’m not really a willpower kind of person so this melt-in-your-mouth stuff was not easy for me, but once I got my chocolate samples I gave it a try. I have to say, it really made a difference. I tried the Kallari 70%, 75%, and 85% cacao bars and they were all sooooo good. (Though I should say, the 85% cacao bar is really dark and not very sweet, so that may be only for us hardcore dark chocolate lovers.) The 75% cacao bar was my favorite. And eating it square by square, letting each square melt in my mouth, meant that I felt like I was eating a lot of chocolate, even though I only ate about 1/3 of the bar. (At that time. I ate the whole bar—all three bars, actually—within a few days. Willpower, remember?)

Um, Ok. If you insist.
Before all the chocolate was gone, I remembered that Kallari is planning to make chocolate chips using their chocolate. So I checked out some of their recipes, thinking maybe I would try to bake cookies or scones or something using chopped-up chocolate bars. But, as often happens, I got
distracted by wine. I wasn’t actually drinking any, believe it or not, but the Kallari website suggests wine pairings for their various chocolates. Obviously, this was a revelation to me. Were they saying that the chocolate-eating experience might be improved by…wait for it…DRINKING WINE??


The bad news was that it was only 10 am, so I made a mental note to try the chocolate-wine pairing later* and moved on to a more appropriate recipe—chocolate mixed with coffee. It was good—REALLY good—but for me, I’d rather eat the chocolate on its own or in a recipe that highlights it more.

(OK, cookies. I’d rather eat it in cookies. I’d always rather eat cookies.)

But, I didn’t end up chopping up the chocolate and baking it into cookies because I ate it all before I got around to it. So I can’t tell you how awesome Kallari chocolate chips will be from first-hand experience, but I CAN tell you that I’m pretty sure they’ll be awesome because this chocolate is so good. Like, ruined-Hersheys-forever-for-me good. Like, I-might-make-a-special-trip-to-Whole-Foods-to-buy-more good. (Find locations where Kallari chocolate is sold here.)

Do it! Do it!
So. My recommendation? Kallari chocolate is really good. I’d buy it to eat or bake with for that reason alone, but you should also know that it’s organic and produced, distributed, and owned by a Kichwa indigenous cooperative in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Read more about their story here, then go get some.

And, go ahead. Eat it for breakfast. I won’t tell anyone.

*As for the whole pairing-wine-with-chocolate deal? Check out their recommendations here. I had Chardonnay on hand, so I just went with that with the 70% cacao chocolate. It was great, but I am by no means a wine expert. Basically, wine + chocolate = delicious snack, in my book.

(This is a sponsored post. I was given three Kallari Chocolate bars to review. All opinions are my own. If you would like me to review your product, send me three Kallari Chocolate bars and I will consider it.)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman--What Does Addiction "Look" Like?

Like a lot of people, I was shocked to learn that Philip Seymour Hoffman died of an apparent drug overdose yesterday. I had no idea that he had struggled with addiction—relapsing last year after staying clean for over two decades. Because Hoffman had somehow managed to achieve and maintain both critical acclaim and a (relatively) low public profile, his was a celebrity death that many of us never saw coming.
Photo credit:

So, I spent some time yesterday thinking about Hoffman and why his addiction and death surprised me so much. Other public figures have succumbed to addiction and, while their deaths felt tragic and unnecessary, they weren’t this much of a shock to me. I guess I think first of Amy Winehouse. She was inarguably an incredibly talented singer who had achieved great commercial success and critical acclaim. But her struggles with substance abuse were as well-known as her beehive and eyeliner. I was sad to hear of her overdose death, but I was not shocked.  

So what was it about Hoffman’s death that left me standing frozen, mouth agape, staring in shock at a tiny TV at the gym?

I think it was that my impression of Hoffman was that he was one of the few in his field who were not only wildly talented, but also widely respected by fans, critics, and fellow actors alike. He didn’t seem to be in it for the celebrity, the parties, the fancy houses, the vacations, or the babes—and he somehow kept his private life mostly private. I’ve been known to check out celebrity magazines and websites, and I rarely saw him discussed or photographed there. He seemed to be a down-to-earth guy who took his craft very seriously.

In short, he didn’t “look” to me like an addict.

And in realizing that, I realized that along with my shock I was a little ashamed. Because in my mind, I “knew” what addicts look like. I mean, I knew enough to know that they don’t always look like the scruffy, strung-out homeless guy on the corner. But I figured that they were obvious, like Amy Winehouse. And, of course, this isn’t true. Anyone, anywhere could be wrestling with any number of demons and seem—on the outside—to be just “fine.” This goes for celebrities, but also for the rest of us “regular” people too.

So I guess the lesson I’m taking away from all this is to try even harder to be gentle with people. The slow driver ahead of me in the fast lane, the distracted grocery store clerk, the unfriendly receptionist at the pediatrician’s office: It could be that they are all just jerks—but it’s unlikely. And while it’s also unlikely that they are all heroin addicts, it’s quite possible that they are facing some struggle I can’t begin to know. And who knows, maybe the kindness I show them will be paid forward to someone else.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I Used To Be The Best Mom On Earth. For Real.

I used to be the best mom. I’m not kidding—I was the BEST. I knew how to quiet a crying infant, how to get a toddler to sleep through the night, how to teach a preschooler to behave in a restaurant. As I walked through the mall, the grocery store, or the doctor’s office, I watched the poor, unskilled parents I saw and thought about how lucky I was to be such a great parent. I judged parents who were trying to wrangle tantruming toddlers or unruly school-aged kids. I gave out dirty looks like Oprah hands out new cars to those selfish, lazy parents who couldn’t be bothered to raise their kids right. 

But then, something happened that shook my rock-solid parenting self-confidence to the core. My perfect parenting skills slipped, I started losing control, I….

I had kids.

As I stared at my wailing newborn at 2 am on our first night home from the hospital, I realized with a sinking feeling that I actually knew nothing about raising kids. But, I thought to myself, how could this be true? I had 15 years of babysitting under my belt, and I had read pretty much every baby care book published! I was an ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER, for crying out loud, and I watched Supernanny religiously! Those things made me a freaking expert on kids, right? RIGHT???


Unfortunately, there truly is no way to understand parenthood other than by having a kid. And, there really is no way to know for sure what kind of parent you will be until you’re doing it. If you had described Attachment Parenting to me before my first son was born, I would have nodded politely while screaming in my head, “GET A BACKBONE!” Now that I have kids, I’m mostly a believer. Before I had kids, I thought for sure that I would embrace being a working mother. Now, I’m on my third year of child care leave and loving being a stay-at-home mom.

It turns out parenting is just like any other job. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about waiting tables or performing brain surgery: You can Google it, watch videos, read books, but you can’t truly understand it until you do it. Parenting is no different—except that many, many, MANY people who have never done it seem to think they know just how it should be done.

One problem, I think, for most non-parents lies in the whole nature vs. nurture debate. Before I had kids, I put a lot of stock in the nurture side of the argument. Kids will always do as they’re told and as they’re taught, I believed. For example, I really believed that my kids would love vegetables because I would tell them that we were eating a rainbow of different colored foods. How fun! Fast forward a few years and my 4-year-old couldn’t care less about rainbows and only eats veggies that start with the letter C. My 2-year-old, on the other hand, will try pretty much anything. They are human beings that come with personalities of their own, not robots to be programmed. Yes, a child’s upbringing plays a major role in who they are, but a big part of who they are is just…who they are.
How I pictured my hubby...before we had kids

So, to all the non-parents out there, I ask you to give us parents the benefit of the doubt. Please understand that the mother of three ahead of you in line at Target probably did not teach her 3-year-old to chant, “Vagina! Vagina! Beautiful vagina!” at top volume. Yes, she can encourage him to use more appropriate language or she can punish him if he refuses to stop. But the wonderful and awful thing about kids is that only they are truly in control of their voices and bodies. They often make good choices about how to act, but sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they choose mayhem. How you react to their behavior says loads more about you as a parent than how they behave.

Mostly, my childless friends, I ask you to remember what I once overheard another parent say: “The only perfect parents are the ones who have not yet had kids. And the only perfect kids are the ones who have not yet been born.”

This post was first published on the awesome blog Daddy Knows Less. You should go check it out.