Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Cerritos Library

When you go to your regular old local library you'll find it's pretty staid. Boring. Ho. Hum. Not all libraries are like this, no sir. The Cerritos Library is one of the most visually fun libraries in Los Angeles.
The best part about this library - it is one of the coolest places for kids. The children's area is themed out with a full scale dinosaur skeleton, a space shuttle, there is even an aquarium that takes up an entire wall. How can you not immerse yourself in books in this environment?

The kids had a blast - running through the mock lighthouse, sitting under the giant fake tree while the sky changed overhead, it was fantastic. The things they saw around the room inspired them to find books to read on the very same subjects. There were also lots of comfy chairs for parents to take a rest and let their kids explore - always a plus.
I just wish it was closer to home. It's far from our house but we had good reason to be there - cupcake delivery! Upstairs they have some fabulous meeting rooms where there was a great big party for a lucky little girl turning one. What could be better than books and cupcakes?

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Mashed Potato started long time ago, with a guy named Sloppy Joe, you'll find this dance is so cool to do, come on baby, gonna teach it to you

I was in the market the other day and I saw Tater Tots in the freezer section. It took me back to elementary school. That crispy outside. The soft, kind of mealy center. The tiny almost marshmallow shape. They just looked so adorable. I picked up the bag and thought, "But...I don't buy processed foods." I try not to anyway. I'm not totally against it, I just try and minimize it.

Then I looked in my cart and remembered that I had already picked up a 5lb bag of potatoes for 99 cents. 99 cents, ya heard?? And I thought, "I can make tater tots....myself!" What the hell is wrong with me? Seriously. I don't know why I think these things but I obviously need a job or something to help quell this creative energy.

So I went home. And I did it.

And you know what? They were great! Sure they weren't totally the same but they tasted good and it was definitely a fun experiment. I'm going to do these again very soon.

Believe me though, I won't be going up and down the store aisles looking at EVERY processed food thinking I can make my own Twinkie or Hostess Cupcakes. Or can I...?

Homemade Tater Tots recipe, here.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Slow and low that is the tempo

This book is amazing. You'd think Thomas Keller's recipes are unattainable, but Ad Hoc at Home is full of warm, comforting - easy to follow recipes. That's saying a lot from the man known as the best chef in America.

Now, when I first got this cookbook, as I do with all of them, I poured over it. Reading every recipe through twice, going back and tagging the pages I wanted to try - this is why I am very select with my cookbooks that I buy. I read them over and over.

The recipe that I decided to attempt first was his tri tip. Now it states clearly right there "don't cook tri tip for too long" so the first thing that came to my mind for the recipe? How can I crock pot this? I know, what a rebel. But frankly the one hour that he gives to cook - well, I just don't have it. One hour before dinner I am doing very important things. Folding the laundry. Prepping recipes. Picking up the kids. Window shopping on the internet. You know, the important stuff.

Anyway, I don't have one hour but I do have 8. So I adapted the 'idea' of his recipe and made it in the crock pot. The world did not end - it came out perfect and flavorful. For the rest of his recipes I won't betray the word of Thomas Keller, I swear. Well, not this week anyway.

p.s. I sacrificed Super Lemon for this. Goodbye Super Lemon. You served us well.

Tri tip - crockpot recipe, here

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More powerful than a locomotive

I went to a kid's party recently (yes, again) and as we left they said we could take the fruits that they picked from the tree in their yard. I said, "Great! I'll take some grapefruit." They said, "Oh, that's not a grapefruit, that's a lemon." JIGGA WHAT.

This was the biggest lemon I've ever seen in my life. It was the size of a small child's head. A small fat child. I took it out of sheer curiosity. If only I had this for Lemon Week!

I didn't plan on using it, afterall abnormally sized fruit usually don't taste that great. So it sat on the counter until the Kid asked if he could 'do something' with it. He always says things like that. It's weird. I said fine - take it. This is what I got back:

Ok, he's right it truly is a Super Lemon, I mean the thing is huge, but now that it's sitting on the counter and has arms and legs and...ok, it's freaking me out. I'm a little put off. I'm going to have to put this thing down, big time...


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Let him have it. It's not wise to upset a Wookiee.

With all this talk of cupcakes, you'd think I'd be shying away from them. Not so much. You just can't beat a good cupcake. Especially one that tastes like a cookie...whaaa??

If you can't decide, then these are for you. I first saw them in the Martha Stewart Cupcake book and they sounded great as is, but I wanted to add something...more.
Before the Kid got over his chocolate allergy I was on the hunt for any kind of good substitution. I found it in the form of Hershey's Cinnamon Chips. Who knew? I'd seen peanut butter chips, butterscotch, but never cinnamon. They are small and pack a BIG bite. Oddly enough the only place I could find them was Alberston's. Weird.

They were perfect for these cupcakes and blended nicely with the batter and the chocolate chips. Even Chewbacca approves.

Cookie Cupcakes recipe, here.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

She's a brick and I'm drowning slowly

I had some business to take care of in Glendale and since the Kid was off school and O.G. was bored senseless, we all went on a field trip.

I stopped by the Local Collection at the Glendale Galleria to restock and take a look at my display. There are some amazing artists there, it's nice to be in such great company.

Of course since the Kid was with me we HAD to stop at the LEGO store. It's one of only two in Los Angeles (the other at Downtown Disney) and it's so much fun. There are areas to create your own toys, lots of amazing models and an entire wall of colored LEGOs.

I am as much of a LEGO freak as the Kid, so it was hard for me not to say, "YES, I THINK WE DO NEED THE $400 DEATH STAR!" O.G. was a good sport, we spent a long time in there and she feigned interest in the tiny models.

As the Kid looked for a way to spend his birthday gift card, I was drooling over the FLW Falling Water, but at $99, I just had to pass and cry myself to sleep over it. The Kid kept continually bringing over boxes that said, "3000+ pieces." Yikes. Sorry Kid, my brain and my living room would never survive.

Instead he settled on a Buzz Lightyear spaceship, I'd rather he had waited for the cool new Toy Story stuff they debuted at this year's Toy Fair, but you can't really tell a Kid to wait when YOU were the one who dragged them to the toy store.

It was around lunch time so we headed up the street to Portos. I regularly go to Porto's location in Burbank, but this Glendale one is pretty good too size wise. They also have a party store upstairs with some crazy pinatas.

O.G. got the soup (of all things) and I stayed with the potato balls. Two for lunch and a dozen to take home and keep in my freezer. While this Glendale location is nice, it still suffers from bad parking, much like the Burbank Porto's.
Our adventure came to a close and we headed away from the heat (ugh) and back to our lovely beach weather. Any day that ends in potato balls is a good day. GlenDALLLE!

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

L.A. Cupcake Challenge

For a full recap and my dissent into sugar coma, go here.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Rainbow connection

I've been hosting a lot of playdates recently, mostly because the Kid does better one and one and for the Baby, his friends are all getting ready to split for kindergarten so their time together is short.

When the kids come over it's all about play time - so I try to make up a fun snack that they can eat quickly and have fun with - but then go right back to playing Legos.

A while ago the I had the boys write down all the foods they could think of - according to color. It was a fun exercise, and I saved the list just for a use like this. Of course I ended leaving out a lot of them from the tray because lord knows the kids aren't going to touch purple eggplant during a playdate. I mean, I was wishin' with the spinach as it was. (No one touched it.)

The kids who came over thought it was so much fun, and they tried a lot of new things they wouldn't have otherwise!

Rainbow Snack Tray how-to, here.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ray: I tried to think of the most harmless thing. Something that would never ever possibly destroy us. Mr. Stay-Puft.

Well, the week of vacay is almost over and the Kid and I have been keeping ourselves busy. Nothing fancy - errands, art projects, just passing the time.

I had recently seen an episode of the Best Thing I Ever Ate, and Tyler Florence was going OFF about this S'mores Pie. It looked amazing. The Kid LOVES marshmallow and I thought making a pie together might be fun. I wondered if I could make my own at home, but after looking up the recipe, there's no way I was going to work with hot sugar and a candy thermometer with the Kid.

For inspiration I used ideas from Anna's recipe for Marshmallow Pie that I saw on Cookie Madness and just changed it up to make it sorta...s'mores like. Hey I'm home with a kid, I am all about creativity here. The bittersweet chocolate cut the sweetness but oh lordy did it come out rich and sooo good.

As the vacation winds down, I'm gonna miss having the Kid to pal around with - on the other hand I will be glad to not have to play Spider-man Uno for hours on end.

S'mores Pie recipe, here.

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These are a few of my favorite things

If someone asked you, 'What is your favorite food?' what would you say? It always takes me a minute to answer this. What do I feel like eating at that moment? You mean if it was my last meal? Does dessert count?

In school the Baby was supposed to write down and draw his favorite food. Without a moment's hesitation his answer was RIBS. This boy was a born carnivore.

He truly does love ribs and asks me to make it for dinner all the time. It's not the cheapest of things to buy but when you consider how much it costs when you go out to a restaurant to get ribs, making them at home is fairly easy and can be really flavorful.

I've made ribs with dry rub, on the grill, in the crock pot, but I wanted to come up with something saucy and in the oven, so I could just let it cook and not worry about it for a few hours. The ribs came out perfect, soft, fall of the bone delicious. The Baby ate 'em up.

Now let's talk about our favorite animals. Well - for the Baby it's quite obviously an easy tie between the Bald Eagle and the Stag Beetle...who's with me? What. The Hell. Don't most normal kids choose Cat or Bear? Where does he come up with this stuff?

BBQ Ribs for the oven recipe, here.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Girl power

The Kid is off school all week. ALL. WEEK. Good lord. When I was a kid it seemed like we never had vacation!!

I could have thrown him in daycare for the week but I wanted to spend some one on one time with him. He's growing up fast and soon he won't want to be with me. Well, unless he's a full on momma's boy which is a very good possibility...

Unfortunately, before we can go on adventures, I've had some things I've needed to finish for the week and so he has occupied himself by drawing pictures for me.

Girl Superheroes! Batgirl! Wonder Woman! Supergirl!

I am incapable of tolerating noise when I'm working on things, so having the Kid just drawing has been perfect. Nice and QUIET. That is until I pick up the Baby from daycare...

Now I need to plan what to do with the rest of the week...!

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

There's a party in my tummy

Er...that's weird. I just noticed that this month is the SEVENTH year I've been writing this blog. That is crazy...and longer than I've had kids. Hard to believe.

Now that I do have kids my weekends are full, busy, jam packed - no rest for the weak - and by that I mean full of kids parties. You know kids parties, where your kids go around and have fun while you have to make awkward small talk with people you have nothing in common with except that you are both friends with the host. Good times.

I went to a party recently and brought along a little something. Not to take away from the party food - it was just a little treat because I know the host LOVES mochi, and seeing as how I am the Mochi Queen lately (mochi donuts, mochi meatballs...), I wanted to make up something special...and the best way to do that is to add CHOCOLATE.

So I made Chocolate MOCHI Brownies - sure, basically just brownies but by adding mochiko flour it gives it a nice chew and a hefty texture. They were a HIT. I wasn't sure if people would appreciate the mochi-add in but everyone seemed to like them! I guess this will be my new go-to to bring to parties.

Consider it...MOCHI QUEEN APPROVED. Ok, maybe I do have a lot of time on my hands.

Chocolate Mochi Brownies recipe, here.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

I've been baking all week and now that Valentine's Day is approaching I can finally rest. This is one of the best holidays ever because you can just gorge yourself on sweets. Try doing that on Groundhog's Day.

Me? I'm going to celebrate on February 15th - cause that's when alllll the candy goes 50% off, you got that right. I'll be eating half price peanut butter filled hearts til the cows come home.

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Got my hand in my pocket and my finger's on the trigger, my posse's gettin' big and my posse's gettin' bigger

Yes indeedy, breakfast for dinner again - the kids can't get enough! I try and change things up so the boredom (for me) doesn't set in.

I missed Nutella Day since I was in the middle of 'Lemon Week,' but everyday can be Nutella Day, am I right? So I made Nutella pancakes. Not in the way you'd think, just mixing it into the batter - jigga please. I want my Nutella straight up.

So I made these with a big pocket of Nutella right in the middle. SURPRISE! A good surprise, not like when the Baby yelled SURPRISE and I turned around and he was totally naked. That kind of surprise needs to stop before puberty or I'll have to buy him a trenchcoat.

Nutella Pancakes recipe, here.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

And I think it's gonna be a long, long time

Did you know that it's my secret dream to own a sweet shop? I often sketch pictures of how I'd like it to look (cause I'm a dork) large glass canisters filled with candies in a rainbow of colors, lined up for display. I think it's the colors that I'm attracted too. It's the same glazed over look that I get when I'm standing in front of a wall of pens. I just love the colors.

Recently I met SnarkyDork up in Burbank where we headed to Rocket Fizz. It's a nondescript shop from the street, but once you are in there, WOW - every soda known to man. But forget the soda, let me tell you about the candy...

This place is wall to wall candy. While they have some new trendy stuff, it's the old skool candies that are so fascinating! I saw things I hadn't seen in years. You could spend hours in there just looking up and down the small aisles - and if you can't find something they are more than happy to find it for you!

Along with my root beer purchases, I bought a Whatchamcallit. It's an old Hershey's candy bar, that is still around but hard to find. It was big in the 1980's...and my Grandpa's favorite. I have to tell you seeing it made me a little teary, so I bought one to take to the cemetery. It's silly, but root beer AND candy were my Grandpa's favorite things. I'm sure that diet is why he lived so long.

As I too am a connoisseur of root beer, I know they sell a sampler pack, but I have to tell you - I've already tried them all. Still, that won't stop me from coming back again and again next time I'm in the 'hood.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Hold me now

Valentine's Day is coming and for the kid's school treats I didn't want to give candy since they'll be getting plenty - I also didn't have a lot of money.
I got these packs of pencils for just $1 in the dollar section of Target. I went on the internet and found these images of the kids 3 favorite things: Batman, Star Wars and Transformers, all who just happened to look like they were holding something...Rainbow Darth Vader cake, simply to amuse myself.
Then I cut two little openings and put the pencil in. There's something funny about hearts and pink mixed with 'tough' characters.
It would have been wise to go to Target and just buy Valentines - seeing as how they are as cheap as $2 - but I wanted to do something different. At least this way the kids get the characters they want and people will remember who gave them out. Plus Batman holding a heart pencil is way too funny to not share with people.

*People have been asking for printables of these so here's a pdf, have fun!

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

But give me that bomb beat from Dre,
let me serenade the streets of L.A.

I stopped downtown to see my friend Celia, she lives and works there and has as big a love for downtown as I do.

I went to to her art supply store Raw Materials (which I've written about before) to pick up some pens and then we headed off to try a few bakeries in the Old Bank District. The less said about this the better. If you want to know what I thought, send me an email. Otherwise - let's move on.

Celia loves mochi (who doesn't) and I knew I wanted to make something special. So I whipped up some Mochi Donuts. I can't express how great these came out. A lot of it had to do with the fact that I busted out my deep fryer. This is the best invention known to man. I didn't buy it, it was gifted to me years back and I thought it was the stupidest gift ever, but now I LOVE it, mostly because I don't have to fear being blinded by hot popping oil in my eyeballz.

Nice and hot, rolled in cinnamon sugar, they were amazing. And even though I gave them away hours later, the were still really good and got rave reviews! These are my new favorite thing and now I need to figure out how to open up my own Mochi Donuts store. I think I'll call it MMMNUTZ. Hm. Maybe not.

Mochi Donuts recipe, here.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Lemon Week: Day 5

The Lemon Fairy gifted me a giant bag of lemons - and here it is, the end of Lemon Week!

Oh thank god. I am at the end of my lemon rope. I made it through the week and the lemons are gone! Of course when you think of lemons you think of lemon pie. But I added a little twist and made a lemon ice cream pie.

This is what lemon dreams are made of. Creamy, not too tart and not too sweet. It came out so light you could eat the whole pan. I didn't...though I could have. Must. Share. With. Children. The secret though - is my NILLA WAFER crust. That's what really makes this pie come together.

I invited the Food Librarian over to taste test the pie to make sure it was really good. She loved it but was distracted by learning to play Bakugan. I told her never to darken my doorstep with lemons least until next year!

Goodbye lemons. I shall miss you.

all the Lemon Week recipes:
Lemon Sugar
Lemon muffins
Lemon Chicken Stew
Lemon Berry Slush
Lemon Ice Cream Pie, with Nilla Wafer pie crust.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Lemon Week: Day 4

The Lemon Fairy gifted me a giant bag of lemons. Now what?It's Lemon Week!

The Kid is still on a smoothie kick, maybe he'll work at Jamba Juice someday who knows. Knowing I need to get rid of these lemons he suggested I 'put them in the blender', then he walked away. Rude. Unlike last time where he gave me specific instructions...that was it. 'Do something with it' seems like a really bad recipe, just sayin'.

I decided to make something like a frozen berry lemonade. Very few ingredients, very quick.
He came back just in time to push the buttons. I kept saying 'it's not a toy' but really - it is. A fun toy that smashes things into oblivion.

It turned out to be a nice combination of sweet and tart, a great refreshing drink if I do say so myself. Is Lemon Week over yet?? Good lord. Feels like that time of the (lemon) month. Just one more day...!

Lemon Berry Slush recipe, here.

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