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Sugar Bowl Mix: February 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Breakfast cookies: Best school day breakfast

School day breakfasts are tough. As a child I used to mix my own glass of chocolate milk with Nestle Quick and off I'd go. I've never liked cereal. That made sleepovers difficult because my friends' parents always wanted me to eat cereal. Or worse, hot cereal. There's nothing worse than porridge for breakfast. So I'm somewhat sympathetic to my girls who suffer from the same school day breakfast aversion I do.

I like to play it straight when it comes to food. Sneaking spinach into brownies isn't going to make your kids spinach lovers. But, a few years ago Tim discovered this recipe for breakfast cookies in Missy Chase Lapine's The Sneaky Chef. (Some people argue Jessica Seinfeld stole the idea for Deceptively Delicious from this book.)

These cookies are chock full of morning goodness: protein; whole grain; fiber; and because I'm me, a few chocolate chips. There's nothing sneaky about these cookies. Sometimes the girls help make them. They know what's in them.

Cereal never looked this good, people.

1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup multi grain cereal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsweetened, natural cocoa
1 egg
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup chocolate chips (dried cherries or raisins also work)

Pulse the oatmeal and the multi grain cereal in the blender until it resembles flour.

Mix the refined oatmeal and cereal with the wheat germ, the two flours, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

At this point, I must confess, I made a mistake. I added cocoa instead of cinnamon. Can you see why?

It turned out to be a fortuitous mistake. The cocoa added to the flavor.

Mix the egg, sugar, oil, vanilla, and ricotta cheese together.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just moistened. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet by the tablespoon. Flatten cookies slightly.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.


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Friday, February 25, 2011

The parents are on sale!

I'm participating in the new meme "Capture The Everyday" over at Adventuroo. This week's prompt is "something you can't live without."

I have many things I feel like I can't live without: chocolate, warm sweaters, Los Angeles weather, books, to name only a few. This week I was struck by how much I enjoy those funny, unexpected type of moments I have with the girls. Now, I'd be lying if I said I had wonderfully funny moments every single day. Motherhood isn't that kind of journey for me.

But moments like the following, that really make laugh out loud, are the moments that make the journey worthwhile, that almost seem like moments I couldn't live without. These are the moments I want to remember in thirty years.

The girls had a friend over on Monday. They set up an elaborate store in the family room.

I played "The Shopper" and they gave me change from their piggy banks to use as money. They informed me as I entered the store that certain items were on sale.

Katie guided me through the toy section where I picked out a stuffed animal and a fairy. Their friend walked me through the food and dishes section, where I bought a plate and a teapot.

Caroline showed me the junk and "different things" sections where I found this:

"Those are my parents." She told me. "When they were a lot younger," she added. "They're letting me sell them."

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 Capture the Everyday from Adventuroo

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Boxing champ The Executioner takes a jab from my daughter

Tim and Katie take a Mixed Martial Arts class together on Saturdays. 

So when they ran into former Undisputed World Middleweight Champion, Bernard Hopkins, also known as The Executioner, on Sunday, Tim told him Katie was in MMA training.

"Put your fist up! Gimme a punch," The Executioner said to Katie.

She hesitated. 

The Executioner's a pretty big guy. 

Especially if you're six.

"You're not scared, are ya?" 

"No!" She countered. 

Then she threw a punch. Right into The Executioner's chin.

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This post is participating in Wordless Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Mom and A Lot of Loves.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Why I dread three day weekends

I used to anticipate three day weekends. An extra day to sleep in. Short road trips. Lounging by the pool. Exploring new hikes. Going to a late movie on a Sunday.

But now I dread three day weekends. Three day weekends have become something I tackle. Because by the third day my girls are ready to take each other out in an official screaming match that wakes the coyotes from their daytime sleep. And probably the owls, the bobcats and the mountain lions, too.

The screaming is always preceded by a who-can-annoy-the-other-the-most competition.

In our house Katie usually wins. She is a master at irritating her sister and getting her own way.

This afternoon it was entering her room and demanding to play at the exact moment that Caroline was taking a huge box of coins out of its secret hiding place. The only thing that satisfied Katie was getting a huge handful of coins.

The satisfaction of the coins only lasted a few minutes. After she deposited the coins in a heap on the floor in the family room, she returned to her sister's room. Just in time to see Caroline putting on a new pair of riding boots.

This started the it's-not-fair screaming match.

"That's not fair! Why don't I get new riding boots?" flew from Caroline's room.

"It's not fair. Katie ALWAYS wants to be in my room!" Caroline screamed louder.

"You're the meanest sister EVER."  The pitch was growing shriller by the second.

Growls. Grunts. Katie is a really great growler. A pretty good grunter, too.

"I'm scared! Help me!" Caroline hates it when her sister growls.

More growls. More grunts.

"I'm serious! I need help in here!!"

Foot stamping. Door slamming.

"I have no one to play with!" Katie screamed.

More door slamming. The cat scrambled by.

"FINE! I'll play with you!" Caroline screamed back. "But you can't touch this or that and don't you dare touch....."

"That's actually mine, Caroline! True! I can touch it."

"Mommy! Mommy!"

Do you enjoy long weekends? What do you do with the extra day?

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This post is participating in Tackle it Tuesday at 5 Minutes for Mom.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Strawberry crisp: A taste of summer in winter

I bought a three pack of fresh strawberries at the farmer's market. I was yearning for a bite of summer in winter and these strawberries tasted of warm sun.

After I brought them home I realized we wouldn't be able to eat them all before they started getting mushy. Given my obsession with all things chocolate, dipping them in chocolate was an obvious choice. But a boring choice.

I remembered a simple recipe for strawberry rhubarb crisp in Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. (If you're not a vegetarian you may become one after reading this book). I adapted the recipe so it's not quite as sweet and only has strawberries.

I'm not a fruit pie kind of gal, but give me this crisp with its crunchy topping and bubbling hot strawberries and I'll eat it instead of chocolate.

Now that is quite a feat.

3-4 cups strawberries, halved
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, cut up in small pieces

Lightly butter a 9 inch pie dish. Mix the strawberries with the honey in the pie dish.

Mix the oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and butter together with a fork until crumbly.

Pour onto the strawberries.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the topping is lightly browned and the strawberries are bubbling

Serve warm with a dollop of ice cream. Divine.


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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

He had me at dessert

This post is inspired by Mama Kat’s prompt: A memorable date.

We met at Ago, Robert Deniro’s restaurant in West Hollywood, on April 12th, twelve years ago.

A girlfriend of mine set us up. He was her boyfriend’s roommate.

We had spoken twice already. The first time he called me at work, we chatted for ten minutes and then he hung up.

I called my friend, telling her he must not have liked me because instead of asking me out, he hung up. She told me he was very proper, that he might not have wanted to seem too forward. She assured he would probably call me in a few days to ask me out.

He called two days later. Definitely different than the, “so should we meet for dinner or something?” I was used to.

This was before my life in pink so I wore a gray sweater, gray Bebe pants, and black pumps. I arrived a few minutes late. He was sitting at the bar, drinking a glass of ice water, sporting a blue blazer and khakis – not typical LA gear. My friend had told me he wasn’t a typical LA kind of guy.
“You’ll like that,” she had said.

We both ordered fish. I had a glass of wine. We chatted comfortably, easily, about work, college, where we were from, siblings, Los Angeles. Nothing very memorable or particularly scintillating. 

But the date became memorable and scintillating when he not only accepted the dessert menu, but asked me what I was going to have. He assumed we would both order our own dessert. A first for me on a first date. My dates always passed on dessert, making me feel like I should as well.

A Dessert Man, I remember thinking. How about that. 

He ordered crème brûlée. I ordered chocolate cake. We lingered over our desserts, scraping at the crumbs.

I felt his eyes on me as I led the way out of the restaurant.

I had a method for ending first dates. I always thrust my hand out for a handshake. “Nice to meet you,” I would say. Even if it hadn’t been nice. Most of the time this cut out any potential end-of-first-date-awkwardness.

I followed this plan with Dessert Man. As the valet pulled my car around I stuck my hand out. But he didn’t say the standard, “I’ll call you,” or “let’s do this again,” or “see ya!”

Instead, he said: “I really enjoyed meeting you and I’d like to see you again. I’m going out of town this weekend, can I call you next week when I’m back?”

A man who actually says what he wants, I thought. How about that.

I was giddy as I drove away from my first date with Dessert Man. I knew I’d see him again. And that we’d order dessert again.

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Postscript: Check out Dessert Man’s recipes for Crack Pie and Macadamia Nut and White Chocolate Cookies. The Crack Pie recipe is Sugar Bowl Mix’s most popular post ever.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What's around the corner?

A few days ago I walked up this fire trail, my favorite hike. When I reached this point I stopped and took a picture because the moment seemed worthy of  a digital capture. Even though I've walked this path so many times, I found myself wondering what I would encounter around the corner.

Would I find something dangerous? Scary? Beautiful? Unexpected? Comforting? Inspiring?

Just beyond the curve I discovered some shade under a walnut tree. A place to rest from the warm February sun.

I continued climbing, the insistent call of birds following me all the way up.

At the summit I paused to enjoy the view that stretches across green canyons, out to the valley floor before it stops at the mountains whose peaks reach up to open skies.

Then I started back down the trail.

I'm rounding a corner in my life right now and I'm looking forward to getting to the top so I can enjoy the glorious view.

Do you like to hike? What kind of thoughts does nature inspire for you?

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This post is participating in Wordless Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Mom.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Tackling traffic school

I'm excited to be posting at Our Mommyhood today. Please head over, check out my post, and leave a comment! 

I finished tackling traffic school tonight. The punishment that California doles out when you've been lucky enough to get pulled over by a motorcycle cop with a beer belly, bushy mustache, and yucky-too-tight-pants.

Here are a few not useful things I took away from traffic school:

The purpose of the windshield is to protect the driver from the environment
Fentonyl is a designer drug
Cocaine is a white powder that one inhales
Crack can be smoked
A green painted curb indicates temporary parking
The horn should be used as a warning device not as a way to draw attention to oneself or express road rage
A drivers license typically expires 5 years after being issued
You may not park your vehicle in the middle of an intersection or in the middle of a crosswalk
You must make a complete stop at a red light
A Do Not Enter sign means you may not drive onto that street

The drug breakdown was SO helpful. Being reminded that cocaine is a white powder will make me a much safer driver. I'm so glad I learned the proper way a horn should be used and extra so glad the Do Not Enter sign was clarified. That one really messes me up. And, bummer, guess I can't use my favorite parking spot in the middle of the Hollywood and Vine intersection.

Have you ever had to do traffic school? What did you take away from it? (If anything).

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This post is participating in Tackle it Tuesday at 5 Minutes for Mom

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chocolate chip and M&M cookies in a heart

I'm a little Valentined out today. I spent five hours making Valentine cards with the girls. They each had to make twenty-seven homemade cards. I cut out a zillion hearts. Okay, maybe more like two hundred.

Every year around the end of January I start saying to the girls: "Let's get started on the Valentine cards." Never happens.

But I'm not sure we've ever left every single homemade card until the day before. Not a good idea.

Luckily, I made these M&M and chocolate chip cookies a few days ago, before I was Valentined out. This is My Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe from Alice Medrich's Chewy, Gooey, Crispy cookie cookbook (again).

When she bit into her first cookie, Caroline said it was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. And she hadn't even looked at the title of the cookbook.

The crunch of pink, red and white M&Ms throughout make these the ultimate Valentine cookie.

Get the recipe here.

And please let me know how they turn out if you try them. I love hearing back from my readers!

Happy Valentine's Day!

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

My old valentine bag

I'm participating in Mama Kat's workshop. My prompt: a photo that captures a special Valentine.

Tim gave me this Coach bag on Valentine's day eleven years ago. It was our first Valentine's together. We were engaged, trying to figure out a date for our wedding that coming summer. It was a heady time filled with love, hope, excitement and confidence about the future.

Eleven years have taken their toll on the bag. The color is faded, especially around the edges. The leather is worn. It's not as smooth or as supple as it was eleven years ago. Scratches, scars, cover the whole bag. And styles have changed. The backpack is no longer the bag of the moment.

But the inside is surprisingly clean, just some paper bits and gum wrappers floating around. An EpiPen that expired in 2004 lies hidden in the inside pocket. The zippers zip easily, the buckle holds the bag shut efficiently, and the ties tighten around the top of the bag. The bag works.

When I sling the bag onto my back it yields into me with a comfortable familiarity, the straps just the right length.

I think there's still a lot of life left in this old Valentine bag.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

George Clooney, lime green, a purse, and a cat

Have you ever wanted to crawl into a purse and hide?

There have been a few times in my life where I would have liked to do just that. Like the time George Clooney teased me about my funky, lime green, suede shoes. They really were funky. Maybe just a little too funky. But what does George know about style?

For the record, I didn't crawl anywhere and I didn't hide anywhere. No, instead I laughed along and when George apologized later, saying he hoped he hadn't offended me I assured him he had not and laughed it off.

I never wore those shoes to work again.

So I took Cooper to the vet for a check-up last week. He was not happy about this expedition. He suffered through the indignations of being weighed and having his temperature taken by the vet tech and then he was done. He was desperate to get back into his carrier. But it had been a little tricky getting him out and I had wisely locked the carrier door.

We had to wait a few minutes for the vet. Cooper quickly realized no matter how many times he circled the carrier and pulled on the door, it was staying shut. So he looked for something else to crawl into. Something safe. Something stylishly funky.

My favorite purse with the lime green interior was sitting on the chair. Somewhat awkwardly, Cooper maneuvered himself into the purse,  He tangled his legs in the handles in the process, but eventually he got his whole cat-self inside.

Then he hid his head.

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This post is participating in Wordless Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Mom

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Tackling relaxation

Lately, I've had very little time for relaxing, for de-stressing.

I like to read before going to sleep but the books on the bedside table haven't been touched in a long time. But I make sure the girls have time for reading every evening.

Horses are a big passion of mine, but I haven't ridden in two years. I take the girls to their riding lesson every week, though.

When I'm really tired I like to sit down with a blanket around me and read magazines that don't require any brainpower like Martha Stewart Living, something I ordered with my airline miles to prevent them from expiring. But I've got two issues that I haven't yet opened.

Last year I walked my local hiking trail every day. This year I'm in the car driving the girls to school every day.

Baking is relaxing for me and I have been doing that weekly. My Monday recipe posts serve as a deadline for that. I must bake every week. That's the one item I can check off on the list.

Oh and I've been watching American Idol every week. Does that count?

I don't want to sound self-pitying. But there's a pattern in this picture. I need to make a better effort to take care of myself, to carve out some me time, to exercise, to read for pleasure, to get back in the saddle.

The truth is I'm not very good at "relaxing." I like to be productive, get things done - maybe this is why baking is one of my "me" time activities.

So in the interest of keeping this blog post short and simple so I can get started on my book, Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken, I'm not including any pictures.

How do you rejuvenate? Relax? Please give me some tips!

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This post is participating in Tackle it Tuesday at 5 Minutes for Mom.

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

I heart brownies

Baking is a ritual for me. I do it every week. It's relaxing. It's satisfying. It yields results. So I was intrigued with a brownie recipe in Alice Medrich's Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Cookie book called The Steve Ritual Brownies. The ritual part of the recipe involves immersing the pan in an ice bath as soon as it come out of the oven. This ritual stops the baking process, making the brownies gooier.

I was skeptical. I'm pretty much married to my own Best Ever Chocolate Brownie recipe. The Steve Ritual Brownies only calls for 2 eggs and they bake at 400 degrees. A hot oven. Wouldn't these come out flat and hard? Not exactly. But they weren't gooey or chewy. Not bad. But not great.

But I liked the idea of the ice bath ritual. So I made my own Best Ever Chocolate Brownies and dunked them in a cold ice bath to make them extra gooey. Complete mouth-watering, divine goodness.

My mother-in-law had just sent the girls a valentine's package with baking decorations - perfect for brownies with a little frosting.

To make the brownies follow The Best Ever Chocolate Brownies recipe. As soon as the brownies come out of the oven dunk the pan in an ice bath, like this:

Chocolate Frosting
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/3 cup confectioner sugar
2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Heat the butter and milk together in a saucepan over low heat or in the microwave.

Mix the cocoa powder with the sugar in a mixing bowl.

Add the butter and milk slowly and beat until smooth. Stir in the vanilla.

Spread the frosting on the brownies while they are still warm.


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This post is participating in JDaniel4smom's Virtual Valentine Party

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I was wrong

I'm participating in Mama Kat's writing prompt: A time you were wrong.

The stench was putrid in the room full of fourteen rescue kittens looking for homes. Kitten poop and pee. Too many cats together in too little space with no windows. It was hard to be in there for more than five minutes. But we stayed. A whole thirty minutes. I wanted a snuggly, confident, loud little Meeser. Like the two Siamese cats I'd had for years.

I chose one who snuggled against me and purred.

Katie wanted a crazed but beautiful little girl. Tim and I said no. We didn't want a crazed kitten.

Caroline took to a shy, lanky, blue-eyed baby with stripes on his face, legs and tail. And ears that were too big for his head. He didn't want to be held. He shook in fear the whole time he sat on her lap. He didn't utter a sound the entire time we were there.

I didn't want him.

"Let her have him," Tim said. "She empathizes with his shyness."

We took him.

We named him Cooper.

(We also took the one I wanted. We lost him a few months later.)

To our surprise Cooper didn't hide or shake when we brought him home.

But he nipped and he swatted. Not a lot. But enough that it was annoying.

He didn't melt into me when I picked him up. Instead, he held both his paws out in front of him, as though in defense.

For a while I wondered if he was missing his vocal chords. That was weird. A cat without a voice. When he finally talked it was a high-pitched, small sound. Not really a meow. More of a squeak.

I felt guilty about not liking him more. I even wrote a post about him: The Coopie-McCoops ProblemHe's not a super cat, I said. He's the girls' cat, not mine.

We almost lost him to a long piece of a toy horse harness. A lot of fluids, barium and a night at the vet's helped him pass it. Almost losing him made me appreciate him a little more.

Showing his shaved leg from the IV 
He started sleeping with me. He's snuggly with me at night. I like the feeling of him there. When it's cold he curls up close to my head. When it's hot he stretches out like a cat sausage, all his legs up in the air. He's a sound sleeper. So sound that I've accidentally pushed him off the bed. Twice.

So a year has passed and his creamy body has given way to stripes. He's grown into his ears and paws. He rarely nips. He rarely swats. He's with me all the time. He lets the new kitten snuggle with him. He doesn't scratch the furniture. He doesn't chew on anything. He doesn't jump on the counters or the table or steal food.

This morning Caroline was home sick. Cooper climbed onto her lap and snuggled down for a long snooze. The first time he's ever done that.

I was wrong about Cooper.

The way he looks at me out of those blue eyes. The way he's with me all the time. The way he sleeps with me. The way he's chosen Caroline as his special family member. The way he tolerates Katie when she carries him, his legs dangling. The way he put up with Katie forcing him into a paper cat house she made. The way he's sensitive. The way it's taken him all this time to grow his confidence. All of it.

He's ours to stay. My guilt is gone.

I want Cooper now and if I had to do it over I'd pick him again.

Have you ever been unsure of an animal you've adopted?

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Mama's Losin' It

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011


So similar. So different.

So together. So separate.

Such a team. Such individuals.

Best friends. Worst rivals.

Inspire each other. Infuriate each other.

Always sisters.

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This post is participating in Wordless Wednesday at 5 MInutes for Mom.

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