Crazed In the Kitchen: February 2014   

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.