Reality: Where Optimistic Expectations Die Horrific Deaths

Expectations rarely line up with reality. I know that. I vividly remember being in my early 20’s watching Rachael Ray whip up a 30-minute meal on TV and naively heading to the bookstore to get her cookbook so I too could eat a healthy dinner in half an hour’s time. I had visions of myself looking regal as I stirred my pot of delicious healthy food and sipped wine in a pristine white apron while I fielded compliments from my eager dinner guests.

Reality looked more like me in grease splattered pajamas sweating and frustrated as my 30 minute meal entered its second hour of cooking and prep time before you even added in the sink full of dirty dishes I had frantically produced trying to correct mistake after mistake. The only “guests” were the people from the apartment next door that came to check on me when they heard the smoke detector wail after I forgot about the stuff in the oven as I ruined the stuff on top of the stove as fast as I could. I felt like I was trying to steer a drowning ship and I looked like I was deranged and possibly in need of medical attention.

I just didn’t have the requisite skills to pull together a dinner in 30 minutes. But I kept at it because I knew I COULD do better. I just needed some patience with myself, some knife skills, and a lot of practice and now I can get a dinner on the table in 30 minutes (or I could before I got pregnant).

And this kind of expectation/reality disconnect isn’t limited to just forays in the kitchen. No, I can fail to meet my own expectations in any room of the house, even in the great outdoors. Let’s just say that the out of breath, sweat soaked, wheezing, limping woman with dirt on her face was not the vision I expected to encounter in the reflection of my car window after my first mountain hike.

And when I first suspected that I might be pregnant, I told myself that I wasn’t going to be one of those crazy people that spends a fortune peeing on sticks 3 times a day waiting for that second pink line to show up. But sure enough, I took over 20 pregnancy tests in a single month and found myself sympathizing with neighborhood dogs that have to stop on their walks to pee on every single mailbox post. I couldn’t even finish waiting for the tests to show a positive or negative before I was already chugging down water in preparation for my next opportunity to pee on a stick. And when the second pink line showed up, I was elated but I still tested over and over again for the next few days just to watch it get darker. I totally turned into a pee-on-a-stick addict despite my expectations and desires NOT to do that.

I went into this expecting it to be hard. I expected it to be uncomfortable and painful and include unpleasant side effects. I expected back pain, hip pain, nausea, vomiting. I expected to be exhausted and moody. But once again, reality has reared up and shown me that I’m just not as creative as I thought I was. For things that had NEVER occurred to me as possibilities have reared their heads in this pregnancy. And I KNOW that pregnancy is hard on every woman that goes through it. The hormones alone are brutal but the discomfort, pain, swelling, hunger, nausea…well, it just isn’t easy on anyone 100% of the time. There are fairy tales about women that do crazy stuff while they’re pregnant like clean and do laundry or go to work and act like it isn’t a HUGE feat just to put on pants, but I’m not sure these women are real. I think they may be urban legends. However, surely pregnancy isn’t as hard as mine is on everyone or the human race would have died a long time ago. Because this pregnancy has been miserable. I want this baby so badly but I have to say that it’s a good thing I am terrible at predicting the future because had I KNOWN….had I realized that my body was this ill-equipped to gestate, I don’t know if I could have knowingly put myself (or my husband) through this.

18 weeks

18 weeks pregnant

I am not just dealing with your normal pregnancy issues of hip and back pain, heartburn, and irritability. I have an autoimmune disease. For those of you not familiar with the workings of an autoimmune disease, they go through periods called “flares”. These flares are where your disease basically turns into the biological version of a paranoid schizophrenic. It suddenly views something in your body (usually a piece you are using and need like say a liver or a kidney) and it becomes CONVINCED that this vital organ is a horrific deadly pathogen that will kill you immediately if the immune system does not murder it. No amount of negotiation will turn off the disease’s paranoia, there’s no hostage negotiation or reasoning with the autoimmune disease. And as long as it has it in it’s little autoimmune consciousness that the offending organ must die, it will continue an outright assault on this piece of your body that you would like to continue to utilize and if other organs or bones or whatever get in its way, they have to be murdered too. Eventually, one of two things happens. Either the autoimmune assassin realizes it’s mistake and calls off the attack or it continues until it kills the offending organ. The treatment for such a “flare” is to suppress the immune system with drugs until it’s too weak to continue to do damage until it snaps out of assassin mode. And it can attack things other than organs. For example, it can attack bones and joints and cause arthritis and inflammation. It can attack bodily systems like the endochrine system and cause your metabolism to go haywire. But whatever it chooses to attack, it’s usually highly unpleasant, often painful, and really inconvenient.

21.5 weeks

21 weeks pregnant


Pregnancy automatically causes a woman’s immune system to sort of back off to protect the baby. Well, my autoimmune system viewed this reduction in defenses as an act of war and instead of attacking the baby, it’s decided the only solution is to kill the host (me) apparently. At least that’s how it feels. I’m in agony. Between joint inflammation, IBS, and too many other symptoms to list here, I feel like I am being murdered by my own body. And I don’t want to make this blog all about how hard my pregnancy is but I felt the need to explain it in writing to some extent even though I’m not going into colorful details about every symptom so that if ANY of you hear me ever utter the words “I’d like to have another baby,” you can all remind me how my body tried to kill me while I was gestating the first one.

Pregnancy is hard. Pregnancy with an autoimmune disease that wants to kill you is harder. My expectation was that pregnancy would be tough. My reality is that pregnancy is horrifically brutal and painful. Don’t get me wrong, I desperately did and still do want this baby. We’ve named her and bonded with her and are so excited to get to meet her in just 9 more weeks but getting her here has been an uphill battle every single step of the way.

25 weeks

25 weeks pregnant

So, as I read expectant mother message boards and articles on parenting and nursing, I’m trying REALLY hard to temper my expectations. I’ve already decided that since I’m having a C-section, the only parental goal I’m going to have for maternity leave is to keep the baby alive…by whatever means necessary. I’m not going to be that mom that has a clean house and wears clean clothes every single day of the week. I’m not going to be the new mother whipping up a batch of homemade soup while wearing my infant in a sling humming lullabies and savoring my mastery of 1950’s housewifery while the washer and dryer plow through another load of laundry. My goals are as follows:

  1. Hygiene: Try not to stink
  2. Housekeeping: Keep a clear path from the bathroom to the bed
  3. Parenting: Keep the baby fed and diapered.

That’s it. That’s what I’m going to count as a win. And if I do a load of laundry or clean up the kitchen or make a hot meal in the 12 weeks between delivery and returning to work, I’m going to give myself permission to celebrate it like I finished an Ironman. If I manage to leave the house to grocery shop or anything like that, I will expect a ticker tape parade upon my return to the house.

In other words, for the first time in my life, I’m going to give myself permission to suck at everything. I’m going to give myself permission to let my husband take care of me (which he’s already doing since it’s really hard for me to get around). It’s going to be that first 30 minute meals recipe all over again. I wasn’t automatically good at cooking just because my apartment had a kitchen and I’m not going to expect myself to be good at mothering just because I came equipped with a uterus and breasts. I’m not going to care about how awkward I am trying to figure it out. I’m going to laugh at my mistakes and maybe (probably) cry too and not apologize for that. If you come to visit my messy house and meet the baby, I’m going to have to insist that you just be amazed we’re alive and accept that everyone else probably had to move a load of laundry to sit down also.

I have complete faith that hubby and I will figure it all out and find a groove but I’m not giving us a deadline or expecting it to be easy. We’re just going to do the best we can and give ourselves permission to learn. We aren’t going to aim for perfection, we’re just going to aim for progress.

Before I sign off, I have an awesome story for you. Since I’m having a C-section, I wanted to get my mind around what I should expect birth to be like. So, one evening after work, I went online and began hunting for videos of C-sections. As I expected, most of them were videos taken by excited dads sitting next behind the curtain next to their wife’s head as the doctor performs the magic trick behind the curtain to free the child from mom’s abdominal cavity while she anxiously looks at her husband waiting for the announcement that her child is born. Being that I’m pregnant, these videos made me cry…watching those mothers anxiety and fear and relief and joy all in such a short time frame had my hormone saturated brain swimming in the same emotions.

And as YouTube does, after each video was a “related videos” list encouraging me to continue to watch these moments that birthed babies and new parents. Eventually, I came to one that had a close up view of an iodine-covered belly entitled something along the lines of “<feminine sounding name I can’t remember> C Section” displayed. I nervously clicked on it thinking that THIS video would be showing the actual surgery. And having worked in EMS, I’m not really squeamish watching medical procedures happening to other people. I don’t get squeamish until my own blood is flowing or my own nerves are sending pain signals. Then it’s all over.

The video started and the doctor quickly begins. I am watching with rapt fascination at what I’m seeing which I will refrain from describing for those of you that are squeamish. And as the doctor goes to reach in for the baby and pull it out, I feel myself holding my breath. This is it, this is the moment a child is born. This is the most amazing moment. Tears gather in my eyes for what I’m going to witness and the doctor pulls the baby free and my brain cannot process the discrepancy between the expectation of the perfect little human form I was anticipating and the sight in front of my eyes. I actually screamed a little, yelled “What the hell is wrong with that baby?!?!” I dropped the ipad on the bed but continued to watch in horror as my brain slowly caught up to my eyes. You see, the “baby” was not a human baby at all, but one of the canine persuasion. Because the video had been so zoomed in on the shaved belly of a dog, I hadn’t realized that this was a veterinary surgery and not a human surgery. About the time the doctor went in to get puppy number two, my brain caught up and my horror subsided into hysterical laughter. The kind of choking, can’t stop, hysterical laughter that might make some pregnant women pee themselves. Not that I’m admitting to peeing myself, I’m just letting you know that I was laughing THAT HARD.

But, this video is just one more example of how reality and expectations often don’t line up, and sometimes the best thing you can do is laugh until you need clean panties. I hope I can find reasons to laugh at myself as a fumble through parenting a newborn for the first time. If I can do that while keeping baby alive, I’m going to consider it a successful job and pat myself on the back. Bonus points if I don’t stink too bad and can find clean clothes.

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Produce Graveyard

My house is where produce goes to die.

It wasn’t always like this. It used to be a place where produce was approached with excitement and every fruit or veggie was like an episode of Chopped waiting to happen. I reveled in the opportunity to make veggies even more appetizing. After all, the best part of a veggie is that it can serve as a vessel for a myriad of other things I like eating including salt, butter, sauces, and of course cheese. A large part of my produce preferences are based on what condiment they can ferry into my salivating face hole.

When I say “I loved baked potatoes,” what I’m really saying is “I love butter, cheese, bacon, and sour cream”. When I rave about broccoli, I’m salivating over the garlic butter and parmesan cheese I’m going to toss them in after I roast them. And when I act gaga over salad, it’s totally the unethical amounts of cheese and salad dressing that I’m lusting after. Sure, I’ll ACT like I was craving the vegetables but you know the truth. I can Paula Deen a vegetable into a cardiologists nightmare faster than you can say Butternut Squash.

Many of you may recall my quest to marry food and laziness by registering for a garden box delivery. Well, it’s time to report the results. It was a raging success and a horrific failure at the same time.

First let’s cover the raging success. The day our first garden box was delivered ended up being a horrible day for a box delivery. A serious of unfortunate events that day wore me slam out and hubs was recovering from surgery so the day it came, I literally just kicked it inside the door and left it…FOR THREE DAYS. Yes, a box of fresh produce (including lettuce) sat in our house for three days completely unattended. When I finally got around to opening it, it was with great trepidation. I almost expected to find myself face to face with a box of gooey vegetable bits partially decomposed into a broth of sadness. Instead I found like 2 or 3 leaves of lettuce had to be tossed and everything else was fine. The zucchinis were free of stab wounds or mold (and we all know how fast zucchini can mold). The lettuce was still crisp. The entire box was impressively well-preserved considering its total lack of attention.

The raging failure we encountered was my own. Instead of having the energy to Paula Deen everything into cardiac arrest worthy dishes, we were so simultaneously incapacitated and exhausted that we allowed more than I’m totally comfortable admitting go bad. We did manage to use some of it but situations being what they were, not nearly enough to not feel totally guilty for the waste. For that failure, I feel awful.

There was an eggplant dish and a few snacks of fruit but I probably would have done the world a better service by just having the box shipped directly to those starving kids on the other side of the globe that my mom warned me about whenever I didn’t finish my string beans. While my guilt cannot be assuaged, I can assure you that the situation isn’t entirely my fault. My pregnancy has triggered a flare of my autoimmune disease so severe that I’m actually now  banned from standing or walking any more than necessary. Each day has become an endless battle against inflammation in my hip joints and I can be heard coming from quite a long ways away now between the chorus of ouches accompanied by the constant popping of my hip and knee joints. As a result, hubs has been responsible for feeding me of late and the fact that me and the baby are still alive and well proves that he’s doing a pretty good job of it even if he refuses to procure banana milkshakes for me every single day of the week in the name of preventing gestational diabetes (I’ve been getting about one a week which is plenty but baby totally wants more of them).

However, after the baby is born, I do want to give the garden box another go. Once I can get back to my weekend cooking and creativity without tears of excruciating pain, I think the garden box is an excellent way to get a good variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that are locally sourced. In the mean time, someone sent me a list of some meals you can put into freezer bags and freeze until you need them and then dump into a crock pot and we’ll be compiling some of those for use after the baby is born. I’m open to more such freezer/crock pot meals you might have tried also. Please comment and share your ideas so hubs and I can put this plan into action. If my autoimmune disease continues to eat my hips, I may end up on bed rest so we should probably get these plans into action sooner rather than later.

In the mean time, I’m going to continue to try to get used to letting hubs wait on me but it really isn’t easy. I always feel guilty asking him to make anything for dinner more complicated than a peanut butter sandwich. He’s totally willing to take care of me but I just can’t seem to let go of my own hang-ups about not being able to do for myself. Being pregnant is hard. Being pregnant with an autoimmune disease trying to eat your joints is harder. But getting over my own mental hang-ups about having to have someone wait on me, that’s actually proving to be the hardest. I’m just so used to being self-sufficient. Please help me cope in my time of need. Send banana milkshakes…for the baby.


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Where Laziness Meets Meal Planning

Since my blog stats have proven that I’m one of the world’s most trusted authorities on colonoscopy prep and medically sanctioned anal probes, I feel more motivated to try to write other things people might one day find useful. This motivation is mostly because I don’t really want my most lasting legacy to involve butt holes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really happy that my colonoscopy post has helped SO MANY of you feel more at ease about taking care of your hineys, but I am about so much more than just posterior glamour shots. Ironically, by including the word colonoscopy in this post, I am creating a situation where my blog will just become more closely related to butts thanks to the mighty algorithms of our search engine overlords. It’s a slippery slope.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to discuss my newest effort to marry two of my life passions: food and laziness. You see, I’ve never been a very energetic person. While most people seem to dislike lazy people, having a lazy friend can totally have some benefits. For example, at crowded parties, your lazy friend will instinctively find locations for sitting so when your heels start to kill you, she’s already staked out a cushy spot and if you bring her food, she might be willing to share with you. Yes, it can be a beautiful symbiotic relationship.  Since I became pregnant, my usual low energy level has been supplanted by something that probably looks a little more akin to catatonia. Plus since I have a condition that causes chronic pain and cannot take my regular medications, any and all efforts to overcome catatonia in the interest of productivity are usually severely punished. I made homemade ravioli the other weekend and spent the next four days seriously considering re-outfitting the kitchen with wheelchair height counters.  It wasn’t pretty but the ravioli were divine.

One of my biggest laziness problems is that I haven’t felt like cooking large meals. I used to cook several large meals on weekends that sustained me throughout the week on leftovers.  But that required some serious energy. I’d get up on Sunday, make a plan, make a grocery list, shop, chop, bake, broil, sauté, and put together enough food to make the week survivable without any extra grocery store trips or major cooking during the work week when time becomes my most precious commodity. However, with the current pregnancy and no meds situation, it hasn’t been sustainable.  If it wasn’t for hubs, the baby and I would have starved to death by now.

When I considered trying to do the meal thing with a newborn, I honestly feared for our lives a little. Sleep deprivation and low blood sugar would certainly turn our house into an episode of the Walking Dead within weeks. I needed a winning lottery ticket so we can have a personal chef. And just in case Lady Luck turns out to be a heartless hussy that hates babies and doesn’t care if we starve to death or not, I needed a viable backup plan.

The first problem is that when you have a limited amount of standy-uppy time before your back and hips start making you wonder if maybe you could make a rascal scooter look sexy, by the time you’re finished acquiring ingredients by grocery store death match (no, I don’t think that’s too melodramatic for what goes down in my suburban grocery store), there’s no more time left in which to cook because you’re busy writhing in pain and crying over how you’ll keep your family from starving if this keeps up.

When I lived in Virginia, I frequently used a grocery store delivery service because I hated lugging my groceries up to my top floor apartment and while laziness can be expensive, to those of us that are REALLY lazy, it can be worth it.

However, my area in an Atlanta suburb doesn’t have the same grocery store delivery options. Plus, the one thing that was seriously lacking when I used the service in VA was the produce selection. I found that whenever I ordered fresh produce, it was pretty much always disappointing. Bruised fruits, wilty lettuce, and zucchini that had somehow sustained what appeared to be multiple stab wounds turned me off to using the service for highly perishable produce and I resorted to using it mostly for meats, dairy, and household consumables. That served me well as I didn’t mind swinging by the store or a produce stand for produce only as needed.

I was lamenting the fact that grocery delivery isn’t readily available in my area and my search engine overlords heard my plea and sent me sidebar ads for produce boxes (if only Lady Luck was so responsive). I’ve heard of such services, where you pay a fee and a magical box of produce shows up on a regular basis. I did some research and found a service near me that sources most of their products from this area of the country. I like the idea of buying as much locally grown produce as I can. Produce they don’t have local suppliers for may come from further away but they always tell you where your produce is coming from and give you the option to make substitutions if you feel really passionate about preventing produce jet lag and buying local.

You get an email a week before your delivery and you can make any substitutions you want to your basket. You can even set preferences to eliminate foods you don’t like from ever being included in your basket. While there were several local services I could choose from, I chose one that I found a groupon for so I could try it out at half price to be sure their zucchini aren’t prone to the same kinds of violence the grocery delivery service in VA’s produce fell victim to. Plus, this service also allows you to add all kinds of other non-produce items including herbs and spices, free range eggs and poultry, grass fed beef, fresh pork, dairy, and nuts. They even have spreads, jellies, and prepared foods as well as meal kits. These all can be added to your basket but they do cost extra…some of them cost a lot extra. I liked the idea of getting my weekly basket choices and having the option to add the other groceries to it we need. And even though I’m not opposed to purchasing produce that isn’t grown locally if a local option isn’t available, I appreciate knowing where my food is grown. I don’t see us using them for all our meat and dairy needs as the prices are still a little high for that but when we’re sleep-deprived and taking care of an infant, it might just be worth the extra money ….especially if they ever consider adding diapers to their deliveries.

Our first box comes Friday and I got the email yesterday with the contents giving me an entire week to ponder and plan. This is perfect because we have plenty of time to figure out and obtain whatever we need to round out the produce into complete meals and add anything else to the box we want. And while this still requires some planning, starting with the produce actually makes meal planning seem a lot easier for me than just starting from scratch. Trying to pull a dinner from thin air with no direction is significantly more difficult for me to plan than it is to figure out what meal would be easiest to highlight and work in the ingredients we’re expecting. It’s actually been surprisingly easy to come up with a plan and only took about half of the time I usually spend planning for a weeks worth of meals.

We selected the small box but there is a smaller box option (tiny box) as well as two larger box options. Price depends on the size box you choose but this one is $38 without any promotional discounts (and I had a groupon for half price). I have high hopes.

Our box next week will include:

3 Braeburn Apples

5  Bananas

1 Cucumber

1 Fancy Eggplant

1 Head of Romaine

1.25 lbs of Mandarins

2 Mangos

1 Yellow Onion

3 Peaches

0.75 lbs of Jalapeno Peppers (was supposed to be red kale but I substituted for Jalapenos)

1.5 lbs of gold potatoes

and 2 Zucchini (was supposed to be 2 sweet potatoes but I substituted for zucchini)

I’m pretty excited to get my box. I think I have a few recipes ready to go and I’m really hoping that being able to cook without having to start with a major grocery store run will help make my energy last long enough to make my plans come to fruition. Some of the items will just be for snacks but I do have some loose plans in my mind:

Eggplant and Chorizo stir fry atop a bed of mashed potato with a jalapeno sour cream will use up the eggplant, onion, potatoes, and some of the jalapenos. We’ll need to buy chorizo, garlic (added to the produce box as an extra), and sour cream. We’ll also need milk and butter for the potatoes but these are two ingredients we always keep on hand. Everything else is in the pantry and the produce box.

Since we went to an Asian fusion restaurant a few weeks ago, I’ve been craving some marinated cucumbers so that cuke is destined for that and we even have sesame seeds in the pantry, I already checked. This kind of salad is great for packing in lunches. We have all the ingredients we need for this already in the pantry.

I’m dying for some zucchini bread and our garden just hasn’t produced any yet because of the extreme heat we’ve been having. Everything we need is in the pantry.

I’m thinking of doing a peach or a peach and mango chutney to use up some of the fruit and whatever jalapenos don’t make it into the eggplant dish. Plus any leftover chutney can be a great ingredient to have around the house to add flavor to a meal on the fly or even just put it on toast with some cream cheese for breakfast or a sweet and peppery snack. I’m leaning toward a chicken roulade stuffed with brie and the chutney. I’ll serve it over rice with a side salad using the mandarins and romaine. The only thing we’ll need is Chicken breasts, brie, ginger (added to the produce box), a red pepper (added to the produce box), and another onion (added a second one to the produce box as the one already in the box is destined for the eggplant dish).

And the mandarins and romaine are definitely destined for that side salad. We have most of what we need in the pantry, with the exception of scallions (added to the produce box).

That just leaves apples, bananas, and mangos which we mostly just eat as snacks and lunch side dishes.

I added the rest of the required veggies we need (fresh ginger, garlic, scallions, 1 onion and 1 red pepper) to the produce box for only $5.27 extra. The poultry and dairy we’ll buy from our local grocery store.

We’ll round out the week by adding a spaghetti dinner and maybe a meal out for dinner or a quick grilled dinner one night. I’m extremely hopeful that this produce box, my illustrious meal plans, and my poor rickety body can stand up to implementation. The box arrives in 6 days. Which is unfortunate because I am hungry right now and having scoped out the fridge and pantry a few hours ago, I know that finding a meal down there would be like the world’s most tragic episode of Chopped. One of us is going to have to don pants and go retrieve edibles.

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A Year Later….

Dear Friends,
It’s been over a year since I updated this blog and yet I’m still pulling in just under 50 views a day. The tenacity with which some of you stalk me is just heartwarming. Thank you.
I find it fascinating that my most popular blog isn’t about my exquisite cooking or my ability to make desserts that will get you drunk, instead it’s about butts. All of you are afraid of having your hind quarters violated by the medical equivalent of a selfie stick…apparently. If only fear of selfie sticks was so rampant. I’m okay with that because I trust that after reading my comprehensive colonoscopy column, I’ve put your worst fears at ease and all of you with unmolested hind quarters ran out and scheduled a close up viewing of your rear end and I’m going to give myself credit for saving you from dying of colon cancer (and also from pooping into a bag through your abdomen) and so you’re welcome.
I know my delinquency has probably been intolerable for like the two of you that check this for new content and not just to figure out how to survive medically sanctioned anal probing. To you two (Hi mom and dad!) I have to say that I at least have REALLY good excuses.
You see, over the last 12 months I….
1. Fell in love…well, re-fell in love with someone I once loved a long time ago. It was more  of a swan dive with wild abandon this time. And it has been amazing.
2. Got married after a very very very short courtship (see comment re: swan dive in #1 above).
I got wifed.

I got wifed.

3. Inherited a child as a result of an emergency situation. We had fully expected to adopt this child and went into it with 100% commitment to her. And this occurred only a month after our wedding.
4. Became parents of a 7 year old girl (as a result of #3) via the “into the fire” method of learning to do things.
5. Lost our little girl because of situations that are beyond our control and honestly I don’t feel at liberty to talk about on this blog. Just suffice it to say that minds were changed and hearts were broken and we’re all trying to heal as best we can. If there had been anything we could have done within our power to retain custody of her, she’d still be here with us. But we are blessed to know where she is and to know she’s healthy and thriving and to be permitted some communication with her.  We miss her ferociously and my heart still aches when I think of her.
6. Found out we’ll be welcoming a baby in January of 2016 if this baby doesn’t take after me and shows up on time. My due date is Jan. 31 so if the baby does take after me, we’ll have to push the welcoming to February some time.
We went to Build-A-Bear for what ended up being one expensive pregnancy announcement. I console myself by telling myself how the baby will love these bears as keepsakes but the cats are really attached to them and I fear they have already laid claim to them making the most expensive baby announcement into the most expensive cat toys ever. They also steal the baby bear and hide it. I'm not sure how to take that.

We went to Build-A-Bear for what ended up being one expensive pregnancy announcement. I console myself by telling myself how the baby will love these bears as keepsakes but the cats are really attached to them and I fear they have already laid claim to them making an expensive baby announcement into the most expensive cat toys ever. They also steal the baby bear and hide it. I’m not sure how to take that.

So, I’ve been busy. We’ve been busy. And with a baby on the way, there’s not going to be any letting up and so I’m not going to make any promises. I may or may not be able to keep up with this blogging endeavor as a newly-wed, working-mother of an infant. I’d like to. But I know once I’m pulling night duty on the diaper changing station and offering up my jiggly bits to the nutrition of my child at his or her whim, my wants may become less cerebral and sarcastic and begin to lean to the more basic of human needs…like uninterrupted sleep and meals that other people cook. I may lose my sense of humor or forget my blog password (don’t laugh, it’s happened).
One thing is for sure, I can’t wait to be a parent again. Being a mom, whether by fostering, adopting, birthing…it changes you. And losing that motherhood can’t change you back. Having a baby won’t erase the bond we formed with the child we began to raise and won’t replace her and won’t even fill the void that remains in our hearts for her. But for me, becoming a mother again feels like the fulfillment of a purpose for which I am overdue.
So, thanks for checking in still. And even bigger thanks to those of you that leave comments when you’re here. I like knowing that you’re taking care of your colo-rectal health even if you aren’t interested in Lego dramas and cookies with anger management issues.
Much Love,
Mrs. LilPyroGirl

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Extracting the Truth: Adventures in Vanilla

Disclaimer:  I’ve said it before, but I will say it again.  No one pays me or gives me anything to say nice stuff about any product.  But, in the interest of full disclosure, I did receive some of the products in this blog post as a prize from a company.  The company is Rodelle and I won the 2013 Rodelle Challenge for my funniest baking story.  I submitted my Passive Aggressive Gingerbread blog entry and was selected as a grand prize winner which included a new Kitchenaid Stand Mixer (which I have promised to my mother) and a years supply of Rodelle products.  So, the Rodelle Vanillas I tested  and discussed below were not purchased but were given to me as part of my contest winnings.  See the end of this post for a link to Rodelle’s web page.  I don’t receive any additional ad revenue or other benefit from including a link to their website.  I just thought you might like to check them out since I did include several of their products in my taste test.

I have a lot of vanilla.  First of all, everyone should have a fairly decent amount of vanilla because…yum.  And you put vanilla in all kinds of things, even if they aren’t specifically “vanilla.”  For example, when was the last time you made a chocolate recipe that didn’t call for a splash of vanilla extract?  And vanilla is so versatile.  It goes with everything.  It’s the baking equivalent of the little black dress.  You can dress it up, dress it down, go from wedding to funeral, it’s perfectly vanilla.  It’s a blank canvas perfect for featuring your favorite fruits and spices.  But it’s also simple and clean and can stand up on its own and hold down the show when you want it to.  It’s vanilla.

The contestants lined up to face off in the battle of the vanilla extracts!

The contestants lined up to face off in the battle of the vanilla extracts!

I came into a LOT of vanilla.  Someone took advantage of a trip to a big box store with a friend who has a membership to such a place to buy the economy size bottle of the grocery store grade vanilla extract some time ago during an overzealous baking streak.  But then I became aware of high quality vanilla extracts and purchased one from one of those hoity toity kitchen stores in the mall that I cannot get enough of.  And then a friend brought me back a GIANT bottle of vanilla from Mexico.  And finally, I won this contest and Rodelle sent me vanilla beans and vanilla paste and vanilla extract and vanilla flavor and so one day recently, I gathered up all my vanilla and looked to see what my inventory included and I realized that I we had a serious vanilla epidemic going on here.

While a vanilla epidemic isn’t a bad thing, I felt odd having so many choices and not knowing which I liked best.  I mean, I’d much rather have a vanilla epidemic than a flu epidemic to contend with.  After all, a vanilla epidemic includes delicious desserts.  Since you are supposed to starve the flu, there aren’t any snacks and so that is why a vanilla epidemic is better.  It’s like winning the epidemic lottery.  But even with such a fun epidemic brewing in my pantry, I knew I had to think fast and start finding delicious ways to use up this vanilla.  But before I started gifting desserts and extracts to my favorite baker friends, I wanted to do a taste test.  I wanted to compare them in a blind taste test to see if I had a favorite or if I could even tell the difference.  I pretend I have a good palate for the benefit of my giant ego but the truth is that I couldn’t be sure that I could reliably tell the difference between toilet water and high quality vanilla.  In the interest of not causing one of those less desirable epidemics, I didn’t include toilet water in the blind taste test though so we’ll just assume that my palate is at least that good.  But I did test all my vanillas and the results might surprise you.  They surprised me.

The contestants are (from left to right in the photo above):

Contestant #1:  La Vencedora Pure Vanilla purchased in Texas by my dear friend Jackie as a gift for pet sitting.  If you saw what her cats did to her carpet on the last trip she went on, you’d agree that I should have bought her a bottle of something instead of the other way around….and it probably should have been tequila.  Also, if you’re going to purchase vanilla from Mexico, you need to look to be sure it is free of coumarin which is known to cause liver or kidney failure sometimes in high concentrations.

Check to ensure Mexican vanillas are coumarin free.

Check to ensure Mexican vanillas are coumarin free.


Contestant #2 is McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract purchased at a big box type grocery store.  In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve clearly had that bottle for a while so it may not have been as fresh as the other bottles.

Contestant #3 is Rodelle Organic Vanilla Extract won as part of the 2013 Rodelle Challenge.

Contestant #4 is Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla purchased at William Sonoma.

Contestant #5 is Rodelle Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract won as part of the 2013 Rodelle Challenge.

Contestant #6 is Rodelle Vanilla Flavor won as part of the 2013 Rodelle Challenge.

Now, in testing vanilla, I needed a simple recipe that really let the vanilla shine on its own.  I couldn’t risk it being overshadowed by richer flavors.  I decided on an old standby simple recipe for vanilla pudding.  I divided the recipe into six parts and then put a teaspoon of vanilla in each one which is more vanilla extract than the recipe would have called for but since the entire point was to taste the vanilla, I was okay with this excess of deliciousness.  In order to hide the results from myself so I wouldn’t be swayed by knowing which was which, I went to great lengths to ensure my methodology resulted in a study that was blind even to me. I won’t go into too many details but suffice it to say that it may have involved a couple cocktails and apparently it worked.  By the time I finished, I couldn’t remember which vanilla I put where and was relieved I had decided to make myself a cheat sheet before we started.

Now, here’s the thing.  For the purposes of results, I had to choose one I liked best and one I liked least.  And we used up every spoon in the house trying to taste test without double dipping and then turned them over and used spoon handles.  The amount of vanilla pudding consumed in this house in just a few minutes was honestly….epic.  But I have to be honest.  Even the one I deemed “least likable” was delicious.  I mean, the differences were slight and subtle and I didn’t taste any that I didn’t like.  It was like trying to choose between Bradley Cooper and and Ryan Gosling.  I’d be pretty happy to be tasting staring at either one of them.  Of the vanillas I tested,  there was not a Steve Buscemi in the bunch.  And, I was pleased to find out that some of them were remarkably easy to discern from others while some were so similar that it was very hard to pick out which was which.

The truth was that it ended up being a bit of a tie.  The vanilla that had the most distinctive taste and was the most easily detected was the La Vencedora Pure Vanilla from Mexico.  It had a distinctively different flavor that the Madagascar vanillas and I was very surprised to discover that the difference was clear.  However, neither roommate nor I could decide if we liked it better or worse than the others.  It was just different and still delicious.  It was definitely a winner for both being delicious and being different.  I decided to “tie” it with the two vanillas we decided were the best.  And so, tied for first place with La Vencedora are (please insert appropriate drumroll here by beating on your desk or a nearby friend):

A tie between Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla and Rodelle Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract.  In fact, the truth is that Joanne and I tasted like a million times and couldn’t tell them apart AT ALL before we ran out of pudding.

The winners were impossible to tell apart.

The winners were impossible to tell apart.

As for how the other vanillas performed, I was slightly surprised to find that to my uneducated palate, the McCormick Vanilla just slightly edged out the Rodelle Vanilla Flavor.  Truthfully, I think this is because the extracts just seem to be a little stronger flavor than the vanilla flavor was.  But as I said before, this was like choosing between Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper.  Both are tasty.  But it is nice to know that if one needs to cut costs on some heavy duty baking, a big box store won’t completely ruin the quality of your final product unless you’re serving someone with a Gordon Ramsay attitude and palate to go with it.  However, given the choice, I’d be more likely to order from Rodelle because not only is their product delicious, but it does also come in larger bottles and I’ve had the most wonderful experiences dealing with them.  Plus, their other baking products mean that if I have to order vanilla, I’ll be able to order several other extracts that they have and some of those are honestly considerably more difficult to find in my local grocery stores.

The vanilla that I liked the least was actually Rodelle’s Organic Vanilla.  I found this surprising.  The next day I smelled the organic next to the Madagascar Vanilla and realized that they do actually smell very different and my guess is that it’s a different alcohol they use to extract the vanilla flavor (but again, this is just conjecture).  The smell of the organic smelled more like alcohol to me than the Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla did.  But once again, let me remind you, that this is a choice between super hot rich guy and super hot rich guy.  You won’t go wrong with either of these and if eating organic is really important to you, then I would say that the organic vanilla is definitely worth it.  And, I haven’t seen any organic vanilla extracts in my local market so Rodelle is definitely filling a void here with their Organic Vanilla Extract.

I used different sizes and shapes of glasses to keep track of which vanilla was which during the blind tasting.

I used different sizes and shapes of glasses to keep track of which vanilla was which during the blind tasting.

So, you might wonder what I have been doing with my plethora of vanilla since I still have so much to use up.  Well, I made a few batches of ice cream.  And, I finally made something I’ve wanted to try for a very long time.  I made homemade marshmallows.  And, let me assure you, they were far more successful than I’d even hoped.  they tasted like sweet vanilla pillows of delicious and when roasted, they melt so perfectly that I will have a hard time ever going back to store bought marshmallows again.  If you want to ruin store bought marshmallows forever, I encourage you to head over to one of my favorite blogs, The Smitten Kitchen ( ) because I followed her advice to a tee and I couldn’t have been happier with the results.  Now that I know they’re successful, I plan to try to make my own homemade version of a pinwheel soon.  For those of you that don’t know, a pinwheel has a cake-like chocolate cookie with marshmallow on top and the entire thing is encased in chocolate kind of like a candy bar.  I have to figure out how to melt chocolate so that it will harden again but hopefully we’ll sort this out very soon because pinwheels are one of my favorite desserts and these marshmallows deserve to be part of my favorite desserts.

If you’re stopping in and you have a favorite vanilla recipe that I should try, please do share it.  Even with all the ice cream and marshmallows and pudding around here, we still have A LOT of vanilla.

And finally, if you’d like to order yourself some Rodelle Vanilla (or any of their other products which I’m still taste testing as I go), you can find them at

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State of the Kitchen Address

There is a lot to tell you. So much in fact, that any responsible blogger would break it into multiple posts. But we all know my style is far too reckless to bother with that so, hold onto your butts, I’m going in and you’re coming with me.

– I have to start with the thing that has been occupying most of my brain and heart for weeks now. My very dear cousin, Bonnie was recently diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Bonnie won her battle against breast cancer years ago and so hearing a new diagnosis of cancer really took the entire family down at the knees. It does not seem fair that she should be called upon to fight a battle for her life again ever…let alone so quickly. I admit that I cried some very very angry tears as I learned what this diagnosis meant. This type of leukemia is rare and extremely aggressive. The odds I read online were not comforting and these were confirmed by Bonnie’s doctors. It all sounded very bad. They were the kind of odds you don’t want to hear. But we all vowed to do whatever we could to help and we started praying and asking our friends and their families to pray and we held on to the thin veil of hope and tried to strengthen that hope with our love for Bonnie and our intense prayers for more time with her.


After Bonnie’s first round of chemo, things were looking even more depressing. Bonnie had experienced debilitating side effects from the chemo and when her bone marrow biopsy showed that the chemo had not eradicated the cancer cells, she decided not to continue chemo. I felt devastated. I spent that night staring at the ceiling praying she would have a change of heart. I just couldn’t come to any peace with her decision. Apparently it worked because the next day Bonnie said she’d had a change of heart and would give one more round of chemo a try. But she warned us that the odds hadn’t improved and there were no guarantees.

I tried to temper my excitement because now the odds were even longer. I was afraid the chemo still would not work. But something kept inflating my spirit anyway and I tried to hold my expectations in check. But despite my efforts, I felt like we were on the precipice of a miracle. I had no reason to feel this way and I even prayed that if God intended to take her home soon that he would prepare my heart. After her second round of chemo, I was able to visit her and despite her fatigue, she was very much her happy self and I left the hospital feeling even more hopeful.

Then today as I was driving home from work, I felt my cell phone buzzing and I just knew it was news about Bonnie’s latest bone marrow biopsy. I’d had it on my mind all day. I was stuck in stand-still traffic on my commute home and so I took a risk and checked my cell phone for news as I wasn’t moving and I was right. The bone marrow biopsy was clear. There were no cancer cells. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I felt this rush of emotion so strong I literally screamed with the relief of it. I felt the tears of relief and joy running down my face as I screamed for a second time and then realized that my windows were open and the guys in the car next to me were looking at me like they fully expected my head to spin 360 degrees right before I took out my road rage in some newsworthy fashion.

I yelled, “it’s okay! They’re happy tears!” They looked incredulous so I explained and I was rewarded with enthusiastic rush hour high fives. Best feeling ever. I don’t think I could have felt any more excited if I’d won the lottery and accepted a proposal from Bradley Cooper at the same time. It was like the warm fuzzy feeling of every adorable cat video happening all at once. It was like new car smell, baby belly laughs, toes in the sand and standing up in the sunroof to feel the wind in your hair (don’t do that, it’s dangerous….but you probably did it at least once and so you know the feeling I’m talking about). It felt like my chest couldn’t contain it and I might have to scream again or risk exploding into a pile of confetti and streamers. It felt great.

Even now, I feel like I want to climb on the roof and scream out for joy but we all know how klutzy I am so I’ll settle for this blog and a few very enthusiastic Facebook posts and tweets.

There’s just one thing. One more hurtle to jump. And for this one, we need your help. Bonnie will still need a bone marrow transplant. Siblings have a 25% chance of being a match but both of Bonnie’s siblings have passed away. Extended family doesn’t have a statistically higher chance of being a match than the general population. So, if you are younger than 45 and are medically eligible, please register for the national bone marrow registry using They will mail you a kit and it’s just a cheek swab. You mail it back and that’s it. If you are selected as a potential match for someone, you will be asked to undergo additional testing which would require a blood sample. About 1 in 40 donors might be asked to undergo this additional testing. About 1 in 300 will be selected as a match and about 1 in 500 will actually donate. You can find out if you’re medically eligible and what donating involves on the website. Please consider it and please share it with your friends. You could be the one that ends this fight for her. You could be the one that ends this chapter for all of us that love her. Please consider it.

-Speaking of people that have had to fight for their lives, remember Amazing Anne? Well, I hadn’t been pushing her story quite so much lately because she had some good job possibilities pop up but we recently found out that her best prospect didn’t work out. So, if you are a human and you know other humans anywhere in the world that might possibly know a human that is in the Orlando, FL area, please please please share Anne’s story with them. Anne also survived two different kinds of cancer and I know she’s destined to change the world. Someone just has to need her. It doesn’t matter if the field your friends are in match her “ideal” job or not because she is willing to learn and do anything. We can’t let a job hunt in a tough economy be the thing that breaks her spirit after being so strong facing cancer.

-For those of you that miss my food blogging, I haven’t forgotten about you. I’ve been spending a lot more time knitting lately. If my trading in my spatula for some knitting needles temporarily upsets you, you can blame all the fertile uteruses of my friends. I’ve had a lot of baby gifts to make. But fear not, it’s May and I live in Atlanta. Soon the idea of sitting around covered in yarn will be revolting until the weather starts cooling off again around late October. I may not want to run the oven but maybe we can discuss ice cream recipes.

I already have to report to you my recent findings related to vanilla extract. I promise not to take too terribly long to get that post together.

-Finally, I have to tell you that I’ve found some new, albeit time-consuming fun. I have a toddler cousin named Owen that gets ridiculously excited about large vehicles, especially busses. After suffering a terrible bout of insomnia, I took a stab at drawing him a school bus. I drew this in the app notability on my iPad free hand. I am absurdly proud of it.


I had such a good (and tedious) time drawing Owen a bus, I took a stab at drawing him my favorite vehicle: a fire engine


I’m sure most of you could have done a better job but for being freehand and drawn on an iPad with a stylus by someone with very little artistic ability, I thought they turned out fairly well. And, Owen loves them. I was trying to come up with a little story for him about the bus and fire engine but I’ve just been so darn busy. Do any of you have any favorite kids books featuring busses? Maybe if I don’t find time to make up a story, I could at least maybe read him one via FaceTime one evening or in person next time I visit.

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Your Bologna May Have a Name but My Cookies Have an Attitude Problem

So…I’m having a day.  Actually, I’m on like day 3 of having a day.  It’s the kind of day where I rocket between happy and comfortable to irritable bordering on raging psychopath with a velocity that is making my head spin.  Out of fear that my head might actually start spinning horror movie style, I decided to do something to help curb the potentially catastrophic outbursts brewing in my hormone-saturated brain.  In other words, I feel unnecessarily emotional and I want cookies.  Draw your own conclusions but if you like your face as it’s currently arranged, you should probably not share any of your conclusions with me.  

I found a recipe from Epicurious for salted chocolate chunk cookies.  If there is one thing I do really well, it’s complain that you can’t buy salted M&Ms.  Yes, I know they have the pretzel ones but I don’t like the chunk of pretzel in the middle of my chocolate.  I want salted M&M’s like you get in the sweet and salty trail mix.  In fact the ONLY reason I eat the sweet and salty trail mix is for the salty chocolate candies.  If the company would just sell salted M&M’s, I could get my fix without having to ingest raisins, nuts, and seeds too.  And you can’t just salt M&M’s, the salt won’t stick.  The oils (I’m guessing from the nuts) in the trail mix is what makes it stick to the candy and so can someone work on that for me?  In the mean time, this recipe *might* be an acceptable alternative way to get my salted chocolate fix but it’s just a crutch.  We need a permanent solution and that solution depends on salty M&M’s (plan, not peanut). 

You can find the recipe here or I’ve copied it below for your convenience.    

My first concern was that I haven’t been to the grocery store in weeks.  I haven’t been much in the mood to cook or bake lately so I really haven’t been doing much of it.  And, I hate going to the grocery store when I feel good.  Going to the grocery store today would mean that the first wound-up kid that runs into me with their cart while their oblivious mother is nose-deep in a nutrition label would be liable to end up hog tied and gagged with Hefty Bags and deposited into his mother’s cart where he couldn’t escape.  So, it was imperative that I find a recipe I had the ingredients for already…for the sake of the general public.  

When I opened the refrigerator, I saw we had eggs which was the one ingredient I wasn’t sure we had.  But they were expired.  However, the date on the eggs in your fridge is really just a suggestion.  If you’ve ever raised chickens or bought fresh eggs from a farm, you probably know that there’s one really easy way to tell if an egg is still good and it doesn’t depend on some arbitrary date stamped on a package.  Good eggs sink.  When an egg starts to go bad, gasses are formed inside the shell and so if you drop a bad egg into a glass of water, it will float.  You can check eggs that are past the expiration date, by just dropping them into a glass of water.  Any eggs that bob up and down, hover somewhere above the bottom of the glass, or float should be relegated to only non-edible ventures.  But if it sinks straight to the bottom, you’re good.  Luckily the expiration date on my eggs was yesterday so I was sure they were good but I did the water test just to be sure and they sank as expected.  I will say that older eggs are harder to separate.  The white is thinner in fresher eggs so if you need to separate your eggs, you may want to use fresher ones.  Older eggs are better for boiling because they will peel easier than fresher eggs.  And thus concludes today’s egg-citing lesson on chicken ova.  

I started gathering the rest of the ingredients when I realized we didn’t have enough brown sugar left.  I thought I had a canister somewhere with some more brown sugar in it.  It only took a few minutes of me considering the potential child abuse charges that could result if I gagged a stranger’s child at the grocery store with a Hefty Bag to encourage me to find it.  Luckily I was right, there was enough brown sugar in it to save the day (or at least my cookie craving), but it was hard as a rock.  This turned out to be a silver lining.  I could have microwaved back into cooperation, but given my mood, repeatedly stabbing it with a butter knife until I had a workable substance was far more appealing.  


I had to rough up the brown sugar.

Finally, the recipe calls for chocolate with no more than 72% cacao which seems oddly specific.  What happens between 72 and 73 percent that could possibly render the cookie inedible?  Since the recipe specified that you could use either bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, I used semi-sweet bakers chocolate which is all had on hand but was only only 54% cacao.  I prefer to use higher quality chocolate usually, but sometimes you have to weigh the benefits of remaining out of court against how badly you want good quality chocolate in your cookies.  The less interaction I have with the public today, the better.  

And, I have to say, I LOVE chopping up chocolate.  I could probably do it a lot faster in the food processor but I love the feel of my knife going through those big chunks of baker’s chocolate.  I like to pretend I’m cutting through the bones of people that drive slow in the left lane and feel all self-righteous about it and tell themselves that they have every right to drive in the left lane and pat themselves on the back for not allowing other people to speed.  Yes, I realize that sounds morbid and hateful but as I’ve said, I’m having a hateful day.  Just roll with it…unless you drive slow and act self-righteous in the left lane, you people clearly would prefer to monitor everyone else’s rolling with it instead.  Knock yourself out, I’ll just be over here fantasizing about a giant asteroid landing on your car and squashing you into an upholstery stain while you act like the freeway version of a power-hungry elementary school hall-monitor. 


I was violent with the chocolate as well.

Anyway, there is salt in the cookie batter but that’s not that unusual.  Most sweets include a bit of salt.  A pinch of salt can enhance the sweetness of a dish.  I only put in the prescribed amount of salt because the last step in the instructions is to sprinkle flaky sea salt on top of the cookies before baking and I didn’t want the cookies to turn out too salty.  

I read through the reviews and a few people had indicated that they spread out too thin or that they were more well done than they liked and they recommended removing them from the oven before any part of the cookie looks browned.  Those that felt they were overdone had waited until the edges were starting to get a little color before removing.  Since I much prefer soft and chewy cookies, I took their advice a step further and after I shaped and salted the cookies, I put them into the refirgerator for about 10 minutes on the cookie sheets.  I learned when making sugar cookies that re-cooling the dough after it’s been rolled and cut and right before baking helps them keep their shape.  This allows the butter to re-solidify and the result is that the butter doesn’t melt as much before the cookie bakes and so the cookies don’t spread out as much.  And, since the cookies stay a little thicker, it also helps contribute to a more chewy cookie.  If you like your cookies thinner and crisper, you’ll want to skip this step.  For sugar cookies which I want to keep the shape of the cookie cutter, I actually put them in the freezer before baking.  Since these cookies needed to spread some, I just put them into the fridge for about 10 minutes before putting them into the preheated oven.


But while we’re talking about people who review recipes, why has it become so popular for people to write reviews on a recipe that they didn’t follow at all?  I see recipe reviews all the time that say something like, “I was out of ingredients A, B, and C so I substituted these things that aren’t similar at all to ingredients A, B and C and it was terrible so I give this recipe 1 star.”  That’s like going to see Frozen and then telling everyone you hated it because you’re team Jacob.  STOP DOING THAT!  It’s fine to write a review and tell people if you made substitutions that worked or didn’t work, but to criticize a recipe you didn’t follow and tell everyone it was gross because you’re too inept in the kitchen to know that you can’t substitute a banana for a banana pepper is completely asinine and really really annoying to those of us that are trying to glean useful information from the reviews.  It’s right up there with The Weather Channel naming winter storms and people acting self-righteous for driving slow in the left lane.  


Also, these cookies call for  A LOT of chocolate.  Using the full 8 ounces the recipe called for meant that I had to roll the cookies in my hands to get them to “stick” together with so much chocolate.  Maybe it was partly the size of the chunks I had but it seemed like the cookies were little dough and a LOT of chocolate.  Having to roll them out with my hands to get them to stick is another reason I refrigerated them before baking.  


Possible salmonella poisoning never looked so delicious. To all of you that never eat raw cookie dough, you just don’t know what you’re missing.

Finally, I wasn’t sure how much salt was really appropriate for the top of each cookie.  Since I’m not afraid of salmonella from eating raw eggs enough to stop eating raw cookie dough, what I SHOULD have done was take one of my uncooked cookies, and used it to experiment with how much salty deliciousness I could add before I went too far.  I was really afraid of the cookies being way too salty to enjoy.  Plus, I suspect that my salt was too granular and not as “flaky” as the recipe had suggested and as a result, I had a hard time getting the salt to stick to the top of the cookie.  It kind of wanted to roll off the cookie and settle into the low spots on the top of the cookie surface.  


My salt is not ‘flaky’ as the recipe called for.

Plus, I found that as the cookie spread out, it kind of flattened out some, but the top of the cookie doesn’t spread out.  As the cookie gets thinner, it’s the area that was making up the “sides” of the cookie that becomes the top outer edge of the finished cookie.   As a result, the salt kind of stays bunched up in the center of the cookie instead of spreading out along the top.  I wonder if it might have been better if I’d sprinkled with salt while they were first hot out of the oven but I’m not sure the salt would have stuck well.  I think that if I make these again, I’d put a pinch of salt on the top of each cookie using a different method to get it to spread out more evenly.  Instead of just trying to sprinkle it on, I’d pour the salt onto a flat surface (a pinch at a time), spread it out a little with my fingers and then press the cookie dough down onto the salt to get it to spread out a little better and get it to cover the top of the cookie more evenly. I might even spread some along the sides of the cookie (if you think of your pre-baked cookies as a cylinder, spreading a bit of salt along the sides of the cylinder) to get more even coverage across the top of the cookie.


Sweet and salty and fresh from the oven. This is what my dreams are made of. This and salty M&M’s.

Overall, it’s not a bad cookie.  I like it.  It definitely satisfies that salty sweet craving I had and I didn’t have to face the public and possible jail time to make them.  Since cooking and baking is relaxing and soothing, I even feel a little less prone to violence. But I still wouldn’t turn down salted M&M’s if we can work that out.  I’m not ready to trade in the dream yet.  One day, I hope to eat salty chocolates with a hard candy shell without having to pick around nuts and raisins and it will be beautiful.  

However, I didn’t love the cookies as much as I wanted to.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re good.  But they just weren’t quite the yummy cookie I was looking for.  I realized as I ate one that it would probably satisfy my salty sweet craving if it was a chocolate chunk cookie with a salted caramel drizzle on it.  Or maybe I’m just in a mood where I can’t be happy with anything today?  Why don’t you try making them and tell me what you think?



Finally, I know I joke about hurting other people because I’m feeling terrible.  But, truthfully, I am not prone to violence and I have never and never would physically hurt someone except in self-defense.  A few people have received some pretty intense tongue-lashings before, but I assure you that they deserved the full tilt of my ire at the time.  

Salty Chocolate Chunk Cookies (copied from Epicurious)

Bon Appétit  | January 2013

by Alison Roman

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 72% cacao), coarsely chopped
  • Maldon or other flaky sea salt

Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 375°F. Whisk flour, baking powder, kosher salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl; set aside.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, brown sugar, sugar, and powdered sugar until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add egg yolks, egg, and vanilla. Beat, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl, until mixture is pale and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low; slowly add dry ingredients, mixing just to blend. Using a spatula, fold in chocolate.

Spoon rounded tablespoonfuls of cookie dough onto 2 parchment paper-lined baking sheets, spacing 1″ apart. Sprinkle cookies with sea salt.

Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until just golden brown around the edges, 10-12 minutes (the cookies will firm up as they cool). Let cool slightly on baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks; let cool completely. 


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