Category Archives: cooking screw-ups

Majesty, Monsters, and Mexico

At the dinner table, Dumples is without her favorite condiment. She says to her father, “Could I please have some more ketchup, Your Majesty?”

“Excuse me,” I interjected. “Did you just call him Your Majesty?” She nods. “So what does that make me?”

Without missing a beat, my favorite four-year-old replies, “You’re The Boss.”

Can’t argue with that logic.

Ketchup makes the rounds and Chicken tells a story from first grade land. A classmate is moving away. “She had to move,” Chicken tells us, jabbing her fork in the air for emphasis.

“Do you know where she moved?” Your Majesty asked.

“Ummm. Yeah. She moved to Mexico,” Chicken replied, almost stabbing herself in the face with her fork.

“Mexico?!?” I said. “Really? Why did she move to Mexico?” Because when you live in Minnesota and you’re fleeing the country, you go to Canada. It’s right there.

Chicken shrugged and applied six-going-on-seven-year-old logic. “Probably there were no houses to buy in Minnesota.”

Dumples and I are attending a parent-child class every Monday night in March. She receives undivided attention from me while she does (mostly) the same stuff she does at home — paints, builds, puzzles, asks a lot of questions, sings, points at other kids who are doing interesting things, etc.

The last fifteen minutes of the class is separation time. That means she eats Scooby Snacks while the grown-ups go into another room and talk about love, logic, and chore charts.

I came to collect her afterward. We were the last to leave, and her teacher said, “Did you tell your Mom what kind of cookie you want her to make you?”

Apparently, the snack time convo fell under the topic of “What’s your favorite kind of cookie?” and the teacher’s answer of “monster cookie” was making Dumples drool.

The teacher told me, “I guess you’ll be making monster cookies now.”

We walked out the door but not out of earshot when Dumples announced, “I know you won’t make monster cookies, Mom. Because you can’t cook!”

I heard the giggles behind me. But it’s true. The Boss can’t cook. Your Majesty is in charge of the monster cookies, the ketchup allotments, eye injuries, and any plans for our future exile. In other words, he’s King of the Castle.


From the Bottom of the Clearance Bin

Dear Wilton Brands LLC:

If you are attempting to cater your gingerbread-decorating-kit toward people who would not know how to make the things from scratch (me), you have failed delightfully.

The box clearly shows an EASY, FUN project. And the bottom of the box reveals that we bought this thing on deep discount from the clearance bin.

Erma created herself (right) and her sister (left). Those little candy balls might not be edible. They almost broke my filling clear off.



My two favorite men in gingerbread form: my father and my husband. I ate my dad’s foot tonight and it was hard as a rock.

But for two dollars, it was still a fine art project for a stuck-inside day.






An Open Letter to My Friend Marie

Dear Marie,

Thank you for creating yet another (delicious) box of microwaveable food for me to consume on my lunch break. It was, in fact (delicious).

Here’s the thing. I followed your instructions diligently until I got to step 3.

Thermometer Required

Marie, I’m at work. I don’t have a food thermometer. Frankly, I don’t have one at home either. See? I don’t cook. I microwave stuff. Because it’s easier. It’s supposed to be easier, Marie.

I feel like a small part of you already knew this about me (the laziness and the non-cooking).

Broccoli Cheddar Alfredo Goop

You had to print “for single use only” right on the food container. And then you had to TRANSLATE “for single use only” because someone like me might not realize that single use means it cannot be reused.

And let’s face it: if you have to expressly warn a person that cooked food could be HOT, then you know they aren’t going to know the wattage of their office microwave.

From now on, I would appreciate it very much if you could come to my office with your thermometer and prepare my lunches for me. At $2.50 a pop, I think I have paid for this service.

Your (loyal) customer and (biggest) fan,


Monster Cakes

Let me preface this tale of woe with a question for Pillsbury: do you hate parents? Just wondering.


For a Jewish family with young children in the Midwest, the “holidays” time of year brings a lot of togetherness. Possibly more than a person would actually wish for.

I imagine that Christmas celebrators spend their long weekends and days off from work and school doing Christmas time celebratory stuff — shopping, tree decorating, present wrapping, list making, Christmas movie watching, cookie icing, neighborhood competition lighting, Santa mall line waiting, figgy pudding making, holly hanging.

You get the gist. Clearly, I know about Christmas only from National Lampoon’s Christmas vacation and television advertisements.

So for the four or five of us within the Christmas Society who don’t celebrate it, “the holidays” can be kind of…boring. Especially with little kids.

We have this awesome amount of time off…to sit and stare at one another. Before Christmas, going ANYWHERE is out of the question. Every place is crowded with other people who are also out looking for something to do. And baby, it’s cold outside. Not just a little cold either, but what my mother has diagnosed as “bone chill cold.” (She is not a doctor, but she plays one in real life.)

With a four-year-old and a two-year-old at home, a lot of fun can be made with, say, items we have around the house: junk mail, cardboard boxes, yarn, a pen that no longer writes. There are other favorite games, too, including but not limited to: banging on the piano as loudly as you can to see if the thing is actually breakable or not; the all-time whiniest “I wanted that toy,” game; and the chase-each-other-around-the-house-shrieking-and-with-no-seeming-end game.

All of these activities do end in one of two ways: tears or hunger. It is inevitable. We need distractions.

I came up with Monster Cakes for our Saturday project. I have a cake mold that makes four mountains. We could decorate them to look like monsters and then eat them. I didn’t even find this on Pinterest, can you believe it? (Shhh.) I mean, how can this idea go wrong? (Shhh.)

The girls and I went to the store on Saturday morning and picked out frosting and cake mix.



We came home and made the cake. The girls licked out the bowl, and while we waited for 20 minutes for the cake to bake, they played variations of the above-mentioned assortment of games while intermittently watching Christmas episodes of their favorite PBS shows.

Erma asked me approximately 2,743 times when we could make our monster cakes.

Ben bundled the girls until they looked like little round doughmen and took them outside sledding. This gave me time for the monster cake preparation. Mostly, it gave me time to try to dig the mountains out of the molds.

The girls returned, unpeeled their layers of clothing, all the while shouting things like, “MONSTER CAKES!” and “MOOOONSTER CAKES!” and “MONSTER CAAAAKES!”

I put out the decorations the children had selected at the grocery store that morning.


They had a blast turning their frosted mounds into monsters.


Funfetti. Who’s idea was that? Also known as “rainbow chips.” Also also known as “DO-NOT-DUMP-THAT-ON-THE—-$%#*&%(*%!!”


After the oath reciting had been exhausted, it was time for the next part of monster cakery:


Vacuuming and de-funfetti-ing the larger part of our dining area.


The monster cakes were…monstrous. Before the kids made themselves sick, we gave the finished products to the birds. I am pretty sure birds LOVE Funfetti. A little white doughman told me so.


How to Chill, Frost, and Eat Your Own Cake Balls

When I saw waterless shampoo for sale at the grocery store this weekend, my first inclination was to realize that we have invented everything. There cannot be anything left to invent. Then I realize that in a few months I’ll probably see an advertisement for a waterless shower system. There is no end in sight.

Because where was the satsuma five years ago? It was quietly resting behind those clementines, which are now advertised on commercial television. And they are truly delicious. You’re so yummy in my tummy, oh my darlin’ clementines.

It’s the little things that rock my world.

Like cake pops.


Just when you thought that cupcakes, mini cupcakes, layer cakes, sheet cakes, tiered cakes, ice cream cakes, and cookie cakes were the best we could do, somebody put on his or her thinking cap and begged the question, “How can we make cake baking exponentially more complicated?” Then the light bulb went off and: cake pops!

My mother-in-law gave me a cake pop kit for my birthday. It contained: a top pan, a bottom pan, two plastic orange pan clips, eighteen white plastic sticks, an instruction book, and three postcard advertisements for turning your jewelry into cash.

Also, the box contained pictures of absolutely adorable, impossible cake pops that my children obviously assumed we would emulate with 100% success.

Here is how to make cake pops (not plagiarized even 1% from the as-seen-on-TV cake pop kit instruction booklet):

  1. Make a cake mix by substituting basically every ingredient that is added to the cake mix with something else. You will use up all your regular household baking items.
  2. Make a mess by pouring cake batter into tiny round spheres in a pan. This is in addition to the gigantic mess the children have made  adding ingredients and stirring the cake batter creation, but does not include the mess of two small children competitively licking out a mixing bowl.cakepops5
  3. Wash hands. Wash faces. In some cases, wash earlobes and elbows. Or maybe that’s just the cases of my own children, because they are very special about making messes.
  4. Debate whether you should cook the cake mix per the instructions on the cake mix box or the cake pop instruction booklet. Never decide. Just spin the oven dial and let the fun begin!
  5. Approximately twenty-six-and-a-half minutes later, stick a toothpick in. They’re done.
  6. Well, the top half is light colored and the bottom half of each ball is more like a golden brown. Is that how they’re supposed to look? Also, some of them have nipples.
  7. Chill your balls in the fridge.
  8. Now for the fun part. See all that stuff above? That was a piece of cake compared to the next seventeen hundred steps. Get ready.
  9. Melt chocolate in a bowl. Dip the plastic sticks in the boiling lava hot chocolate; insert into cake balls.
  10. Wash hands. Wash floor.
  11. Chill your balls in the refrigerator for ten minutes.
  12. Take out every baking ingredient left in the kitchen and spread on newspapered kitchen table.
  13. Allow child to go hog wild using melted candy topping goop, melted chocolate goop, melted caramel goop, assortment of sprinkles, writing icers, marshmallows, etc., to decorate the cake balls. cakepops3
  14. Wash hands. Wash face. Wash neck. Forget it. Just get into the bath tub already.
  15. Chill your balls in the fridge again.
  16. Tentatively try a cake pop. It immediately falls off the plastic stick and rolls onto the floor (and then my poor cake ball…rolls out of the door).
  17. Pick it up and eat it. cakepops
  18. Eat a half dozen more in similar fashion, as the things are like eating candy-coated donut holes. You pop and you just can’t stop.
  19. More washing.
  20. Really, you’re not even close to clean yet.
  21. You know what? Get back in the bath tub. This is obscene.
  22. Cake balls!

Loves eating frosted balls!

If my mother-in-law read this blog, I would swear that she only bought me this cake balls kit to enhance my blog-writing skills. But since she doesn’t, I will say she just got it for me because she loves me.


There is basically nothing left that you need to buy anymore. Thanks to Pinterest, you can hop onto the internet and create your own shampoo, dog food, ugly sweaters, cake pops, laundry detergent, toilet paper. And it will not even cost you three times as much as the products shipped over from China and available at seventeen of your closest stores.

I googled “how to make your house smell like cinnamon.” If only the post I am writing would have come up first, then I would have bought the Made from China cinnamon pine cones sold at a craft store near me for $5 a bag.

Instead, I boiled some cinnamon sticks in water for a few hours, dipped some pine cones into the cinnawater (after removing from the stove first), and let them dry on a rack before placing them in a pretty green bowl. (I even baked the pine cones in the oven first, just as Pinterest told me to.)


Moldy pinecones make a great holiday gift…for the neighbor who hosts the 3 a.m. parties; the boss who makes you work too much overtime; or that guy who just cut you off in traffic and then had the audacity to give YOU a dirty look like it was YOUR fault YOU got cut off in traffic. … What was I saying?

On Saturday, I decided that the pine cones were just not cinnamony enough, so I set about another batch of boiling cinnamon sticks. Just before I rolled the pine cones in the cinnamon water again, I noticed something. Namely, mold.

Pinterest did not warn me about the mold. I’m no scientist, but someone (Ben) tells me that bathing pine cones in moisture is one of the easiest ways to grow mold. The pine cones need to be sealed with something after the cinnamon oil unless you are TRYING to grow mold.

Next time, I’ll go the cheaper and healthier route. I’ll just buy the cones. My mother would cry if she knew I was considering spending hard-earned childhood pine cone-collecting money to buy more pine cones. But such is life.

  • Cinnamon sticks $5
  • Water: $0
  • Pine cones: $Free from Northwoods in-laws
  • Subtotal: Mold with a side of disgust

Cinnamon cones at craft store:

  • $5, made in China, no hassle

Today Pinterest is teaching me to make cake pop frosting. Surely THIS won’t be a disaster.

Sign You Might Eat a Lot of Cold Cuts



Perfectly Pomanderous

I don’t know what inspired me to google the words “how to make your house smell like cinnamon,” but there are seemingly only two answers:

– A complicated recipe of simmering or boiling various items of dubious availability on a long-term basis

– Making a pomander

Obviously, I needed to make a pomander.

Unlike me, most everybody knows what a promenade is. It’s medieval or renaissancian or crusadish. I think midwives would sell poboys out of their secret apothecary shops before they were burned at the stakes as witches. Mostly, pomegranates were used to keep moths from eating through fine garments, as moths find moldy fruit naturally abhorrent.

Someone tell me how to pronounce the name of this thing.

Back to life/reality. I decided to make a parliament. In fact, I had all the ingredients on hand. How often does that happen?

  • Orange, almost too ripe to eat
  • Toothpick or other poky implement
  • Whole cloves (seemingly unopened)
  • Ground cinnamon (always kept on hand for the daily dose of cinnamon toast)
  • Nutmeg

Some of the recipes also mentioned sandalwood. I suppose it preserves the whole thing from smushing over like a month-old jack-o-lantern, but isn’t sandalwood kind of musky smelling? Not cinnamony at all, in my opinion. And the act of acquiring sandalwood was beyond my mental capacity.

The children and I spent about five or maybe six minutes creating our pimento. I did the toothpick part. And the clove part. The children did the rolling of the spices part.

In case you want to create your own paparazzi and welcome the sweet smell of cinnacitrus into your home (it covers up litter box smell marvelously!), here is what I did (your results may vary):

  1. Poke an orange with a toothpick.
  2. Stick a clove into the orange hole.
  3. Cry when citrus juice enters previously obtained paper cut.
  4. Repeat until orange is well covered with cloves.
  5. Shake cinnamon and nutmeg into a plastic bag; seal clove orange into bag.
  6. Let children roll the thing around for a while.
  7. Keep in cool, dry place near litter box.

I’ll let you know when the pompandcircumstance has molded over. Until then, we’ll be enjoying the aromas near the cat’s bathroom.

Notice that the iPad has to accompany Erma as she checks on the pomander the next day. The stylus felt that the pomander was doing quite well. And in case you’re wondering what Something Erma is Drawing: it’s a cupcake. Pomander hasn’t come up once in all my Draw Something games…don’t know why that is…

Elevenses with Erma

Little girls all dressed up in mummy’s gowns and bangle bracelets, sipping tea like little ladies, daintily nibbling at finger sandwiches and cookies. “Could you please pass the grey poupon?” they would ask each other in British accents.

This is how I envisioned the tea party, when I said to Erma several weeks ago, “We are going to have a tea party, and we’re going to invite all your friends.”

She obliged me.

Thus I spent my afternoons, evenings, and weekends in the hot pursuit of thrift store dress-up garments, recipes for tea sandwiches, and the perfect tea party tablecloth.

The centerpiece was made up of slightly irregular and thus a-great-deal-that-could-not-be-passed-up mint chocolate cake pops.

I bought tea cups and ordered bakery cookies. We had a photo shoot of Erma all dressed up so that I could make the invitation. We went to the grocery store and “we” picked out deli meats, fancy cheese, and cut fruit.

On the morning of the tea party, I have to admit, Erma was almost as excited as I was. She was a bit underfoot while I was putting together the tea sandwiches and pinwheels, so I sent her to the front window to wait for the guest who was bold enough to accept our invitation. “She’ll be here any minute,” I told her, and by “any,” I meant in the range of half an hour to an hour.

I’m sure our guests will arrive any minute…

I placed my mother’s china on the table, arranged it all just so.

In a whirlwind of less than 20 minutes time, my tea party was over. The girls decided they were done and wanted to put on their bathing suits and play in the sprinklers.

The girls made up a game called “fireworks” in which the sprinklers were fireworks. That’s all I know about that.

I never even got to say, “Would you please pass the grey poupon?”

And now I’ll be eating leftover cold cuts for lunch for the rest of the month.

It turned out, nobody likes tea. I couldn’t even get the girls to try the tea. So the cup of non-caffeinated chocolate raspberry tea sat in the middle of the table like Elijah’s Cup, waiting for the tea fairy to arrive and sample the offering.

Totally, totally worth it.

Also, pinwheels are really, really hard to make with Sara Lee Soft n’ Smooth honey wheat bread. Let that be a lesson to you.


“I think you’re doing this on purpose so you have something to post on your blog,” Ben said to me when I unveiled the latest in my line of Things I Have Made That Do Not Look Edible.

But I swear to you (and that means a lot; I’ll even use a swear word:) guys that I did NOT screw this up on purpose.

In fact, I had every intention of making Passover macaroons as a lovely, memorable event for my daughter as I introduced her to the holiday this year.

The condensed milk was without doubt the BEST part of making macaroons. Next time I’ll simply buy some condensed milk, pour it into a bowl, and call it a day. Or better yet, just eat it over the kitchen sink right out of the can.

My mother never made macaroons. She ALWAYS bought the Manichewitz ones, though, because Publix bothered to care about the small population of Jewish folk who resided in the Tampa area, where I grew up.

Fargo does not care a whit about its Jewish population. I do love Fargo, but come on, man.* We have 250,000 people, and some of them are Jewish. I bet even the non-Jewish population could get behind the chocolate-covered matzo. After all, Fargo prides itself on its chocolate-covered salty snack foods. Are you listening, Hornbachers?

The unleavened goop.

I looked up the recipe, and boy* did it look easy. It practically looked unscrewupable, which should have been my first clue that this would not end well.

The recipe from (i.e., Nestle), in case you would like to ruin your spatula.


  1. Gather every (erm, edible) sticky thing you can find and put it in a mixing bowl.
  2. Scoop goop onto best cookie sheet. Say good-bye to cookie sheet.
  3. Pop into oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Or for 350 minutes at 10 degrees. Pretty sure it doesn’t matter.
  4. Remove goop from cookie sheet. Put cookie sheet in garbage.
  5. Eat it with a spoon.

Fresh out of the oven.

Now that I’ve made and destroyed macaroons, I have come to realize that even though the word “macaroon” sounds a lot like “maccabee” (as in Judah Maccabee; anyone? anyone? buellstein?), macaroons actually have nothing to do the great exodus from Egypt and are only part of Passover because we like to eat junk food even if we have to forgo the leavening.

It looks like a hot mess, but it tasted delicious. Seems after we all had a generous helping (requiring multiple cleanups afterward) that Ben deposited the remainder of the goop into the outside garbage can. The raccoons are in for a treat tonight!

I leave you with one of my favorite Macaroons songs: Seder Plate.

I would never trade this plate, not even for a matzo ball the size of Minnesota…

* Please note careful consideration of only using non-offensive language for referring to slang male gender terms. I did that for you guys.**

** Oops.