need to unload: second best thing to therapy

would you like some cheese with that whine?

Monday, August 09, 2010

retiring already?

i probably won't be writing here much any more. all i think about is food (hello, gluttony) so feel free to follow my new thoughts at


Friday, October 09, 2009

armadillo madness: second wedding cake of the year

so i swear this is what my sister's bff dreamed of for her wedding:
the armadillo groom's cake from "steel magnolias."

allie bringing her 'dillo a-game. none of us had ever worked with fondant before.

finished final cake. 'dillo body is red velvet cake, but all the appendanges are straight fondant (which tastes like sugary play-doh, btw) on top of a two-layer red velvet cake slathered with swiss meringue buttercream frosting.

practice 'dillo makes googly eyes are the final 'dillo. practice 'dillo may still be sitting in meghan's classroom.

celebrate our brilliance. 3 teachers (or rather, 2 teachers and 1 burnout) with no cake making experience brings the AWESOME.

'dillo at the wedding. i packed it in a packing box. ghetto.

terrible right? but dr. tiff was thrilled.

happy end product. roadkill 'dillo = happy bride.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

the great cupcake event

my friend meg and i thought it (and ourselves) brilliant to offer to make our teacherfriend allie's wedding cake, namely in the form of many, many cupcakes. meg was in charge of all things coconut and chocolate, while i was the boss of all things vanilla and guava, in step with the wedding's california-mex cuisine theme.

here is our story.
Align Center

we sourced local and organic ingredients when possible,
in deference to the bride's food politics.

much local ingredient.

much beating and blending.
i bow to the majesty of professional stand mixers.

samuel really wanted a piece of the action.
yes, that is me clamping his arm down with my armpit.

i have made this recipe many times, but when i needed magnolia to be clutch ... holey, misshapen failures, you mock me!

more sunken fail! look, the camera can't even focus on it, it's so ugly.

i threw up a hail mary to the frosting gods to cover my foodgressions. i forgot to buy piping bags, so i used a gallon ziplock and taped the tip to the edge. ghetto fab, woot.

vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and clear sanding crystals.
i should've consulted with meghan to see how close to the edge she was going to pipe, but because i was terrified of multiple cupcake pileups during transport, they were more like centered blobs of icing.

guava cupcakes with guava whipped cream frosting
they are a lot pinker than they appear here. strauss makes an incredibly rich heavy cream. sierra nevada (no relation to the beer) makes a local cream cheese that gives the frosting some definition. no, the guava was not local. thank you, brazil.

holy blurry. this is how you know it was late at night -- crappy home lighting. this is the power of multiplication at work. one of meg's student's parents is a professional caterer. she hooked us up (thank gigi!) with real bakery boxes. they were absurdly heavy to carry.

coconut cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and coconut flakes.
meg found organic, fair trade stuff that was actually good.
this is ina garten's recipe from barefoot contessa.

chocolate cupcakes with chocolate meringue frosting.
i think meghan found the cake recipe is from the cake bible. her cupcakes were like the julia robertses to my eric robertses. i wish i had taken a picture of her first attempts at piping, because believe me when i tell you she's come a looooooong way. but her final product was tha BUSINESS, so shoutouts to her.

and finally, heartiest congratulations to friend allie and new hubs danielamador:
and no, of course i didn't remember to take pictures of the bride and groom. could it be because we actually missed her walking down the aisle in a mad rush to get the cupcakes plated and displayed? ah well. a case of all's well that ends well, i suppose.

the end.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

keeping it real

Littlebaby has become quite the riot. Since he started walking, he's taken full advantages of its freedoms and getting into all kinds of trouble (ie, falling down the stairs, banging and bloodying his teeth on the bedpost). i'm guessing this is par for the course with babies, and maybe boys in particular, but what do i know? Despite the occasional Category 5 tantrum, he's mostly quite mellow, and when he turns that big goofy, Mad-TV grin on me, I just have to smile back and then throw him down to wrestle him. And then stuff him with Gulpi Chalaw from Kabul.

One thing that I feel pretty paranoid about is how I gauge my kid's development, physically and intellectually. In my line of work, you get lots of parents who must insist that their child is "bright" or "gifted" and that it's really the teacher's fault for not "teaching to my child's learning style." I have heard a parent respond snappishly and defensively with "Well, ___ IS advanced." Whoa. Sorry.

It all kind of makes me want to die a lot, but now that I have a kid of my own, I find myself wondering if Sam is indeed "bright" or "gifted"? Or is he "average?" "Slightly above average?" And should it matter? I get totally invested when his gym kids teacher says he's bright. So does that mean that I am going to turn into the crazy mom who enrolls him in Kumon in 6 months? Starts building his resume at 4 years? Try to get ahead of the next Ivy-desired trend so he can get into Harvard (which btw, should Sam or any other sibling ever get into ... it is an offer I simply cannot refuse. Um, not that their choice/opinion matters)? Where does it stop? How do I stop from letting it start?

Case in point. Sam, probably from my mom, started pointing to pictures of cats and tigers and calling them "mao-maos," the Chinese word for cat. It's pretty cute. I felt pretty proud of his linguistic schools (hollaaaaaa, Noam Chomsky!) And then to sort of rein myself in, I reminded myself that it sounds a whole lot like "mum mum" (Chinese baby onomotapaeic word for food), "meh-meh" which he uses for milk, and on the very rare occasion "ma-ma" which he uses to manipulate me into doing something for him. So maybe it doesn't mean anything. But he used it with such regularity to cats, that I let myself believe he IS talking about cats. More proud. Then he started expanding his use of mao-mao. It now includes most four-legged and furry creatures. The puppy laminated on the floor of Safeway in front of the dog food? Mao-mao. Which I rationalize ... well, it COULD look like a cat. Right?

But now? Now I swear mao-mao is arbitrary. The refrigerator? Mao-mao. Me? Mao-mao. Blanket, chair, computer? Mao-mao. Maybe he is just average after all. And I'm okay with that, right? He's not behind or anything?

I suspect this is going to be an on-going battle for myself, especially since I'm a guidance counselor constantly gauging who should be going to what type of college. I want to be a normal, balanced mom and just happy that my kid is healthy and engaging. He is a pretty nice little guy to everyone (flaps his arm at most people and cars going by). I want to celebrate his achievements, and push him a little to stretch himself without getting all spectrumy -- leaning too far into the YOU MUST BECOME AN INTERNATIONAL MATHLETE camp or the LET'S CELEBRATE YOUR 12TH PLACE FINISH ELABORATELY camp. There has to be some middle ground. Isn't there?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

letter to my kid

dear littlebaby,

i am supposed to be keeping this memory book for you -- you know, keeping track of your milestones and all. i did ... one entry. and there is a tuft of hair in a plastic baggy from your first haircut. but since then, you have learned all manners of tricks and i haven't recorded a single one of your firsts. i love watching you snuggle your stuffed animals and anything fluffy, whether it's a pair of your pants or a blanket. i love watching you feed yourself, and choose blueberries over beets, or figure out how to spit back out just the corn kernel you don't want. i love watching you smile when you toddle and bobble across the room. it kills me that you know how to manipulate your grandparents to take you outside, feed you more food, or buy toys on cue. watching you wave like a braves fan, or dance with only your head, is hysterical to me.

but i am forgetting things already, and you're not even a year old yet. like how you would make smallmouth -- just a little pintip of a mouth -- when you were first born. how you were the laziest latcher ever. or how you were a man on the patch when we took away your pacifier one day. or how you used to suck two fingers because you couldn't figure out how to separate your thumb from the rest of the bunch.

i'm sure we'll be making tons more memories, and the milestones will (hopefully) be fewer and farther between so i can remember them. but i just want you to know how much your daddy and i *heart* you and how much joy you bring us. and what i love most about you is that you -- in the heart of your character -- are much the same since you were born. you are good natured and ready to smile. you are generous with other people, and incredibly tolerant of people pawing at you and grabbing you in unseemly places. you're pretty easy going but you are passionate about the things you enjoy -- food, bugging us to do what you want us to do, playing as hard as you can -- and i love all these things about you. you are a fantastic baby and little person and we are trying to soak up all the love you give us while you still like us because you rock. i love you so much!

stay cool, littlebaby.

love, your mama

Monday, January 19, 2009

Taro Swirl Bread

i feel accomplished. i made something chinese. woot! the problem with this recipe was that it was in metric, which made me hate america today. so these are approximate measurements with the help of smittenkitchen's converter and hideyo's dimensional analysis.

judgment: it was delicious, but rich. you will die of carbs on one slice. make sure to have it with tea!

Taro Swirl Bread
1 loaf

adapted from

For the yam paste:
12 oz taro
150 mL water
1/4-1/3 c sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
1/3 c flour + 40 mL water

For the bread dough:
2.5 heaping c flour
1/8 c milk powder
1/8 c sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp active yeast
1 egg
2 Tb butter
170-180 mL warm water

To make yam paste:
1. Mix flour and 40 mL water until a smooth paste forms. Set aside.
2. Steam chopped taro chunks until soft throughout. Blend with 150 mL water until smooth.
3. Mix taro blend with flour mixture in nonstick pan over medium low heat until well blended. Add sugar in 3 separate dumps.
4. Cook mixture for 1 hour, or until it makes a superthick paste that does not easily fall off the spoon.
5. Let cool and then wrap in plastic wrap in a 5"x7" rectangle and refrigerate for at least 1 hr or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

To make the bread:
1. Mix all dry ingredients in stand mixer.
2. Add egg and warm water. Mix until blended. Switch to dough hook.
3. Mix on medium speed until a smooth and elastic ball of dough forms. It should pull away easily from the sides. Add more water or flour as needed.
4. Add butter last and mix until incorporated, about 10 minutes. You can knead by hand a little more if the dough doesn't feel elastic enough.
5. Form a round and place in lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rise for 1.5-2 hrs in warm, draft-free place.

To assemble bread:
1. Gentle deflate dough and roll out into 10x18 rectangle.
2. Place yam paste square in center of dough and gather edges of dough around the paste. It should cover the paste completely.
3. Roll it out into a 10x18 rectangle. Fold into thirds and roll out again. Repeat this a second and third time (depending on how many swirls you want). Leave the dough to rest 10 minutes between rolls.
4. Roll out into a longer skinny rectangle (slightly larger than the size of your lightly oiled oaf pan. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, score the dough down the center, leaving it attached on one end.
5. To shape, twist each log in opposite directions, being careful not to let the filling squish out. Wrap the twisted logs around each other and place into lightly oiled loaf pan, tucking the unattached end underneath the loaf. Cover and let rise for another 1-1.5 hours.

Once the loaf has doubled in size, bake at 375F for 30-35 minutes. Spraying the top with baking spray, or doing a milk or egg wash will help the loaf develop its color.

Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes and then pop it out onto a cooling rack so it doesn't get soggy.

It gets sticky so eat it fast!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

i want one!

vertical garden from smith & hawken anyone? this would ROCK, except for the part where i could totally see sam pulling out my seedlings and eating dirt.