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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Things My Kids Say

The other day, I had to take Alexis for a checkup to her favorite doctor.  Alexis is so taken with this doctor, that she insists on being called by this doctor's name, acquires all sorts of toy medical kits, and administers "check ups" to all sorts of willing, and not so much, family members.   She goes through the whole routine, checking blood pressure, temperature, reflexes, applying the toy bandaid, giving a toy shot, and then declaring that the "patient" is well.

This time, our appointment was late in the afternoon and the doctor was running late.   Very late.  Fifty minutes into the wait and Alexis suggesting multiple times to me that we should "sneak out" of the room and go search for the doctor, the doctor finally came in.  There were hugs (imposed by Alexis on the doctor) and recitals of Frozen and offers to show just how well Alexis can twirl on the spinning chair.   And all seemed to be finally well.   At night, as I was putting Alexis to sleep and exclaimed to her:  "Hasn't this been a wonderful day?," Alexis replied:  "The part of waiting for the doctor wasn't wonderful at all!"  She then thought for a little, made big eyes and blurted:   "I thought she was dead and the nurses had to make her great again, so she could come see me!"

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Carrot Cake Oatmeal

I get into breakfast ruts for weeks at a time and then change it up, until it's time for another change.  It's been a while since I've cooked oatmeal, despite all of its wonderful qualities and so I decided to go back to it, having been inspired by this Biggest Loser recipe.

To make it, you will need to bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add 1 cup of steel cut oatmeal. Boil for a minute, take it off the heat, cover up and let sit overnight.

My favorite brand of steel cut oatmeal is John McCann Irish oatmeal
Here is what it will look like in the morning.

This will save you 30 minutes of active cooking and stirring time.

In the morning, shred 1 granny smith apple (or any other variety) and 2 medium carrots.

1 shredded apple and 2 shredded carrots

Melt 1 tsp of butter on a skillet
Add the shredded apple and carrots and cook for about 3-5 minutes on medium heat
Turn the heat under the oatmeal, add the cooked apple and carrots and add 0.4 cups raisins and 0.4 cups walnuts.  Cook for another couple of minutes
Serve with a sprinkle of nutmeg and 1 tsp of condensed milk or honey

Even the kids ate it.  Okay, I also had to add some chocolate chips to the finished product in their bowls and ask them pretty-please.  But Bill ate his portion voluntarily, honest.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Swedish Meatloaf

This recipe also came from the Primal Cravings cookbook.  I like making meatloaves because they are easy, they cook themselves, and Bill has an unlimited capacity for eating them for days on end.  A couple of grades ago, Emily declared in one of her school's writings that meatloaf is "the most yucky food," probably because of her issues with all the minced cooked veggies I was adding to them.   So when I saw this recipe, that included no vegetables, I thought it might restore peace during meatloaf dinners at our table.  And it did.  I also got extra points for the cherry sauce.

For the meatloaf

1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1/2 yellow onion, grated
1 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp fresh nutmeg, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sweet & sour cherry jam

1  12-ounce bag frozen cherries
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup been stock
1/2 tsp fresh nutmeg, grated


1.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.   Place all the meatloaf ingredients in a large bowl, and mix to combine thoroughly by hand.
3.   Shape the mixture into a loaf, and plop it into a standard loaf pan.
4.   Bake until cooked through, about 45 minutes to an hour.
5.   Meanwhile, combine the jam ingredients into a small sauce pot.  Bring to a simmer and let cook until the liquids have reduced by about a third.  Use a fork or potato masher to smash up the cherries.  (I used the Vitamix.)
6.   Serve the meatloaf topped with the cherry jam.

The meat came from Sprouts.  The beef is grass-fed and organic and I only paid about $17 for a 2-pound package.  I haven't been able to find grass-fed organic beef for such a low price anywhere else. 

Ingredients for the sweet & sour cherry jam 
Cooking away, with some nutmeg on top

Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies

I've been flirting with Paleo for some time now.   I eat Paleo when it suits me, that is until I see something with sugar.   I then forget about my cavewoman aspirations and all the ancestral eating wisdom and dive right in.  So I was excited to try this cookie recipe from the Primal Cravings cookbook.

Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies
The book they came from


12 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/3 tsp salt
2 tbsp finely ground coffee
3/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips


1.   Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with a silicone pat or parchment paper.
2.   Whisk together salt, coffee grounds, tapioca flour, coconut flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda in a large bowl.   Set aside
3.   Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 2 minutes, until fluffy.  Then beat in the egg and egg yolk, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
4.   Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add the dry ingredients until combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips
5.   Drop by rounded tablespoon (I used an ice cream scoop) at least 2 inches apart on baking sheet.
6.   Bake for 12 to 15 minutes (it took me about 20 minutes, actually).  Cool on sheet before removing.

Yes, this recipe requires all sorts of specialty ingredients, which I was able to source from the Sprouts market.  Apparently, if you visit it at 7:30 in the morning on a Sunday, you have a decent chance of being only the fourth car in the parking lot, which will allow you to browse the less-well-known aisles without being run over by the other shoppers.  (I am really waiting for the local enthusiasm for this new market to quiet down a bit.  Until then, no sleeping in for me on Sundays.  (Just (almost) kidding)).
The dry ingredients.  The kids really complained about the coffee, but each ate a cookie anyway.  I think the coffee grounds can be skipped or diminished, with similar results. 
The coconut sugar has an amazing smell and taste.  Alexis became a huge fan at first lick.
Mixing the wet ingredients.  
Don't forget to employ some child labor.
After all, kids love working for cookies.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Daddy-Daughters Dance

Tonight, Alexis has finally gotten her wish -- a corsage, her Daddy for a date to a dance, and a dinner complete with chocolate fountain.  Since I wasn't invited, I just got everyone ready and out the door.  I hope they have a wonderful time.

The girls' corsages came from Trapp and Company

Who wants to go to the dance?   ME!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

A rose from Bill
Today was wonderful and full of flowers and chocolate, just as it should have been.  It started with the Swetheart Nespresso and chocolate hearts.

Nespresso lungo capsules + unsweetened almond milk foam
Heart-shaped chocolate from The Fresh Market
Heart-shaped stensil + dusting of raw cacao

Bill surprised me with this bouquet from Trapp and Company, which in my opinion is the best place in KC for flowers.  Flower arrangements from Trapp have graced many events of my life, including my bridesmaids' luncheon (thank you, Memphis Marilyn!), and they are always impeccable.   This one is no exception.   And the color of the roses is very similar to my bridal bouquet.  (Yes, it's been a few years and I still remember).

I even made it this afternoon to some of Alexis's school Valentine's Day party, where tons of sugar was had by all.   And if that wasn't enough, Alexis and Emily also received another sweet surprise from us and from Bill's parents.  The heart-shaped fudge that they got from us and the giant heart-shaped lollipops from the grandparents came from Laura Little's Candy, another KC institution.

I hope your day was great, as well!


Monday, February 10, 2014

Russian Cheesecake

With all eyes on Sochi, I thought this would be a good time to share one of my favorite Russian recipes.  Although I love and occasionally make borscht and pelmeni (Russian meat dumplings), this cheesecake, which Russians call "zapekanka," is easy to make and lists sugar as an ingredient, so, naturally, it wins.  This is a dish that Russian and Ukrainian kids eat a lot growing up.  It is also Emily's favorite breakfast.  This recipe is rather versatile and can be varied according to tastes and what you have on hand.  The only special item that you would need is Russian farmer's cheese, "tvorog," which can be found at a Russian or European foods store.  (Ricotta can be substituted for tvorog (they are similar), although then I do not guarantee the Russian-ness of this recipe.)

Here is the basic recipe.


  • 2 containers of tvorog
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup cream of wheat or oat flour (you can make your own by processing rolled oats in a coffee grinder or a Vitamix)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or more or less, depending on your taste)
  • 2/3 cup chocolate chips (optional; you can also add raisins instead of the chocolate chips or layer apple slices on the bottom of the pan)
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract (optional)
  • zest of 1 orange (optional)
  • Berries to serve (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Add to a mixing bowl tvorog, eggs, cream of wheat, sugar, and vanilla and process until well-combined.  Add chocolate chips (or your other add-ons) and mix to incorporate.
  • Pour the mixture into an 8 x 8 inch pan (you can grease it with butter, but I usually skip this step).
  • Bake for about 40-45 minutes (it will still be soft in the center, but will become set once it cools off).

Tvorog (Russian farmer's cheese)

I like the simple ingredients, the 4 grams of protein per 2 tbsp content, and the probiotics


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Disney Cruise Casual Dining

I haven't found a better way to vacation with small children than taking Disney cruises.  They are truly fantastic and we always end up having the best week.  There is so much to do on the ship for adults and for the kids, the service is impeccable, especially if you go concierge, and the warm ocean breeze and tropical islands are such a welcome change from all the snow and cold in KC.

Rainbow over the concierge deck in the Bahamas
The food on Disney cruises is in a class of its own.  There are three main dining restaurants on each ship and there is a variety of casual dining options (although it's a challenge to get hungry in between regular meals).  On the last cruise, which we took on Disney's newest ship, Disney Fantasy, we had every breakfast (and sometimes lunch) at the Cabanas.

Since it was difficult to pick between a classic lox breakfast and the wonderful muesli they make onboard, I usually ended up having two breakfasts each morning.  The girls have simpler tastes, so it was all about bacon, hash browns, Mickey waffles and doughnuts.

Alexis almost enjoying the ocean breeze on the Cabanas' deck

Yes, that is a fresh chocolate glazed doughnut on Emily's plate, which I'd never let her eat in KC

Mickey waffle
Dining inside the Cabanas.  Love the Mickey-shaped partitions on the plate.
For the daytime, there are smoothies from the Frozone and ice cream treats from Eye Scream.

Alexis is airborne from excitement

There is also 24-hour room service, which our kids overuse when it comes to ordering ice cream Mickey bars.

Alexis enjoying her Mickey bar for dessert at Animator's Palate
Since our girls enjoy a party lifestyle all seven nights on the ship, late at night they get hungry for burgers from the Tow Mater Grill.

Late-night cartoon watching in bed.  
One night of the cruise is pirate night, when everyone dresses up in pirate costumes, there is a Pirates in the Caribbean show on the upper deck and the fireworks in the night ocean sky, all of which culminates in a midnight buffet, where any respectable pirate would, of course, get a turkey drumstick.

That's Paris-Brest desert on Bill's plate.  And a taco.  Not sure if the Pirates of the Caribbean ate those.

The day at Castaway Cay, you can choose to eat a barbecue lunch on the island (or go to any restaurant on the ship).

Then there is also a cocktail hour at the concierge lounge, where you can get all sorts of treats and enjoy them on the concierge deck.

That's my set up of tea and passion fruit smoothie.
Somehow you then still need to get hungry for dinner, which is followed by a Broadway show, after which you somehow always end up at the Tow Mater grill to only wake up in the morning and repeat the cycle.  Seven days later, the crew rolls you off the ship and a couple of hours later, faced with the food options at the Orlando airport you begin planning your next Disney cruise.