How To Train Your Dragon Day

My kiddos are really weird about movies.  They have a few they like to watch (over and over and over) but have a very hard time watching something new.  The most successful method we have to get them to watch a new movie is to sit down and watch it ourselves. About a year ago, my partner and I put on How To Train Your Dragon, which I had never seen and which he loves.  The kids, predictably, didn’t want to watch and spent the first ten minutes in the hallway, “peeking” at it.  Then they were coaxed over to the sofa to watch with us.  Again, not unexpectedly, they loved it and were eager to watch it again, over and over.  They were excited for both sequels and even went so far as to join us at an actual movie theater (a rare occurrence) to watch the third.

As we were planning our summer, the kids came up with the idea of “How To Train Your Dragon Day.”  The first rainy day of the summer, we would watch all three movies, in a row, complete with dragon snacks.  I admit, I maybe thought of the dragon snacks- google is a wonderful thing.

A few days ago, our time had come.  It was a dark, pouring, gray day.  It was time for How To Train Your Dragon Day.  Now, I will freely admit two things:  one, none of these snacks are even remotely good for you.  They are stomachache inducing, heartburn causing, leave you feeling slightly sick to your stomach-ing snacks.  Two, only one of these snacks was our own idea which struck us in the grocery store while we were looking for- but couldn’t find- cheese balls.  By the way, cheese balls?  Super hard to find around me.  Who knew?  Also hard to find?  Bugles.

At any rate, I give you our dragon snacks.

First we needed dragon food.  And what do the dragons eat?  Fish!

For the savory side, we used a combination of goldfish crackers (plain, cheddar, pretzel) . HipstamaticPhoto-585589048.636815

On the sweeter side, we used fudge brownie goldfish crackers and Swedish fish.


We decided we needed dragon fireballs.  That consisted of cheese balls (so hard to find here!) with red and orange m&ms and (our own idea because we saw them at the grocery store) pretzel bites covered in orange cheese sauce.  (I have to say, the cheese sauce was pretty salty and gross, but the kids liked it!)


So the first round of snacks were a hit.


Another savory snack that works with this theme is bugles.  You can call them dragon claws and serve them as is.  My kids don’t like them (yes, there’s some junk food that even my kids won’t eat!) so we didn’t serve them this time.


For the second round, I made viking helmets.  Both were from sweet items and both simply required some assembly.

One kind of helmet was made from oreo cookies and bugles- a weird combo to be sure.  To assemble, I melted a little bit of white chocolate and used a toothpick to get it on the bottom edges of the bugle.  HipstamaticPhoto-585590112.798194

Then I pressed it into the oreo, sort of between the cookies.


Repeat on the other side and viola, you have a viking helmet.


Sort of.


The second viking helmet was made up of cupcakes, brownie bites, and white chocolate.

I used mini-cupcakes but in retrospect, regular would have been better.  I had to scrape off the frosting from the cupcake, saving it on the side of the plate.  Then I experimented with the brownie bites (mine came frosted which I used like glue to keep it on the cupcake)- I used one as is and another cut in half.


Place one brownie bite on top of the cupcake.  Then add white chocolate viking horns, using frosting and gentle pressure to get them to stick.


I made the white chocolate horns by melting some white chocolate wafers in the microwave (heat at 50% power for 30 seconds, stir, and heat an additional 30 seconds at 50% power if needed).  I poured the white chocolate out onto parchment paper and spread it out to make a thin layer.  After it hardened up a bit, but while it was still somewhat pliable, I used a knife to cut horn shapes out.  I let it harden a bit more and then separated the shapes from the layer.


Freehand means that they weren’t uniform.  Not even close.


But they still seemed to work!

Happy How To Train Your Dragon Day!




At The Last Minute…..

….I pulled together a pretty quick and easy Halloween dinner.  (it’s become something of a tradition around here.  Click here to see past meals.)

This year I browsed the internet and found some pretty easy ideas from a number of places.  Without further ado, here we go!


Halloween Pumpkins


Sweet potatoes, butter, salt


Wash your sweet potatoes.  Prick them all over with a fork and place them in a baking dish.  Bake in the oven at 400 degrees until a fork inserted into them goes through easily (about an hour). Take them out and let them cool.  I sliced mine open lengthwise to help speed that up.  Once they’ve cooled, scoop out the insides and mash in a bowl with some butter and salt.  IMG_7133Using your hands, form small, pumpkin shapes out of the sweet potato.

IMG_7134Add something green (I used broccoli stems) as a stem.  Step back and look how cute…

IMG_7135Jack O Lanterns


White rice, orange or carrot juice, olives or nori, salt, cheddar cheese


Combine the rice (I used abrorio because it was the only white rice I had.  Apparently we’ve become a quinoa and brown rice family) with the correct amount of liquid in a pan or rice cooker.  I used one cup of rice and two cups of liquid.  Some of the liquid should be the carrot juice (I used carrot orange because I couldn’t bear to spend $7 on a gallon of carrot juice when I knew we wouldn’t use it and the small bottles were a carrot orange mix.  I think all carrot would be brighter.)– if you don’t mind the taste of carrots, go for all carrot juice for the liquid.  Cook the rice and then set it aside to cool.

IMG_7124I mixed in about a half a cup of shredded cheddar cheese with mine, along with some salt  While it’s cooling, cut face shapes out of your olives or your nori.

IMG_7128With damp hands, form pumpkin balls out of the rice.  Then place your face shapes on top. Add a green something for a stem– again, I used broccoli stems.

IMG_7132Creepy Forrest




Wash your broccoli and slice into tree sizes.

IMG_7125Cook any way you like (I generally steam or boil) until crisp tender– that is, still bright green and crispy.  I stood mine up in some of the extra rice and convinced the kids that they were giants eating tiny trees.  Hey, whatever works, right?

IMG_7136Mummy Dogs


crescent roll dough or puff pastry

hot dogs



Roll out your dough so that it is thin (not so thin that you see through it but somewhere between a 1/4 and 1/8 inch).

IMG_7120Slice it into ribbons.

IMG_7121Prick your hot dog a few times.  Wrap the dough ribbons around the hot dog, making sure to connect them to each other at the ends.  Set aside one square or roll.

IMG_7122Repeat until all hot dogs are covered, placing them on a baking sheet once wrapped.

IMG_7123Use the leftover pieces that you set aside to make the hat/head bandages.

IMG_7126Bake according to dough package directions (mine was 350 degrees, about 8-10 minutes).  Let them cool and then add eyes using a dab of mustard.  I used a toothpick to place my eyes.

IMG_7138Happy Halloween!!!


Changing The Conversation

There’s been a lot of buzz in my social media world lately (Facebook, Twitter, Blogs I follow) about how we change the conversation in terms of weight, body image and beauty for women.  It’s something I’m interested in personally and professionally, for both me and my daughter.  I have a long history of a love-hate relationship to my body which shifts depending on how much I weigh, how much I’m working out and- to be honest- how much my partner at the time finds me attractive.

This is not what I want for my daughter.  Or my son, for that matter.

So I work hard to encourage healthy eating habits, lots of physical activity that’s fun and modeling positive body talk.  We call ourselves strong and healthy and avoid adjectives like “pretty” and “small”.  I encourage balanced eating, reminding my two that cookies are a sometimes food (to quote Cookie Monster) and trying not to make anything forbidden.  I try to model eating vegetables and whole grains and not so much sugar.  But I feel that dessert is important.  So we eat it.  Sometimes it’s ice cream, sometimes it’s strawberries.  Recently, we’ve been eating these.

photo 4The secret of these?  Only 2/3 of a cup of sugar and….  black beans.  Really.  No lie.  And they’re tasty.  Fudgy, moist, a little bit dense.  Very good.

So while I may not succeed in changing my body quickly or in helping my kids to avoid all body insecurity, at least I can feel ok about giving them these brownies as dessert.  In moderation.

Black Bean Brownies aka Chocolate Bean Brownies

(From Mmm…is for Mommy)


1 (19oz) can of black beans

3 eggs

3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil

1/4 cup cocoa powder

2/3 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon instant espresso, instant coffee or ground coffee

1/4 cup chocolate chips

Optional:  M&M’s, colored sprinkles (for topping)


First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Next, open your beans, drain them and give them a good rinse.

photo 1Throw them into the blender with all the other ingredients.  The sugar, for one.

photo 2The eggs, the cocoa powder…. all of it.

photo 3Doesn’t look very pretty from that angle, right?

photo 4That’s a bit better.

Get ready to turn on the blender– don’t forget to put on the top tightly.  Rookie mistake to leave it loose.

photo 5Be careful, as the blender is pretty noisy.

photo 2Let the ingredients blend together.

photo 4Turn it off and check to see if it’s all blended.

photo 5If it’s not, turn it back on and let it go again.

photo 1Still pretty loud, though.

photo 3Pour the batter into a greased (I use cooking spray) 8×8 pan.

photo 1Top with M&M’s, Chocolate Chips, Sprinkles…  whatever strikes your fancy that day.

photo 3Bake for 30-32 minutes.

photo 3We went with all three toppings- chips, M&M’s and sprinkles.  Lots of sprinkles.  It’s a good little hand addition to the “helping”.

photo 2Let them cool before slicing.  I generally get between 12-16 brownies, depending on how I cut them.  They’re good the first and second day but after that, they decline slightly.  Still good, just not quite as much.

If you don’t tell anyone about the beans, they will likely not guess.  At least no one who’s tried them around here has guessed.

1 19oz (540ml) can black beans, well rinsed and drained 3 large eggs 3 tbsp vegetable or canola oil 1/4 cup cocoa powder 2/3 cup white sugar 1 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp salt 1 tsp pure vanilla extract 1 tsp instant espresso 1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips – See more at:
1 19oz (540ml) can black beans, well rinsed and drained 3 large eggs 3 tbsp vegetable or canola oil 1/4 cup cocoa powder 2/3 cup white sugar 1 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp salt 1 tsp pure vanilla extract 1 tsp instant espresso 1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips – See more at:

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Ice Cream

Yesterday was one of those sunny, spring-almost-summer days where the sky is blue, the air is clear and you just want to be outside, in the sun, eating ice cream and hanging out with someone you love.  On our way home, my daughter asked for ice cream and the playground.  We decided we needed portable ice cream and the idea of making cones was born.

I searched around the internet a bit and ended up using this post as my guide.  I used Food Network’s Gale Gand’s recipe but I halved it since there was no way I needed that many cones.  I also burned my fingers a bit and there were a number of cones that went directly into the disposal since it took a few tries to get both the timing/heat of the Panini press/method of rolling just right.

My advice to you is this:  be patient.  Also, be prepared to burn your fingers a little bit.  It’s worth it.

photo 5Ice Cream Cones


1 1/2 cups heavy cream

3/4 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup powdered sugar

3/4 cups flour

1/2 Tablespoon cornstarch


In a small bowl whisk together the sugar, flour and cornstarch.  Set it aside.

photo 1

In a medium bowl, with a whisk or a hand mixer, beat the cream and vanilla, just until it thickens and becomes sort of mousse-like– don’t whip it into whipped cream.

photo 2

Add the dry ingredients to the cream and stir to combine. You’ll end up with something between pancake and cookie batter.   Let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

photo 1

Enlist help with the clean-up.

photo 3

Meanwhile, make a little cone template. I used a file folder on which I had traced the outline of a roll of packing tape and cut it out.  I taped it together into a little cone shape.

Heat up your Panini maker.  I found that the best setting for mine was actually the highest.  Drop about a tablespoon of batter onto the Panini maker and cook for roughly one to two minutes.  The little glob will turn into a sort of oval-ish shape.

Place your mold in the middle of your dough.  Wrap the dough around and make sure that it overlaps so that you don’t end up with a little hole in the bottom of your cone.

photo 4You have to work quickly because the cone will be very hot.  As it cools it will stick itself together and that will happen within 30 seconds.

photo 5Let it sit on the mold for a minute or two while it cools.

photo 2Even with the smaller recipe, I ended up with a number of small cones.  They were delicious.

photo 4And we got our portable ice cream for the playground.  Yum.

Happy Halloween 2012

Around here we’re recovering from Hurricane Sandy.  We were lucky- we didn’t lose power, no trees came down and our basement is only mildly damp.  Others weren’t so lucky- I have friends both near and far without power and with no hope of it returning for some time to come.  Wherever you are, I hope that you are safe, dry and ready to celebrate Halloween.

For some scary food ideas, try these posts from my Halloweens past:

Halloween: Eyeball Cupcakes, Ghastly Ghosts (potatoes), Green Gruel with Eyeballs, Mummified Meatloaf

Scary Dinner: Carrot Fingers, Frankenpeppers, Tarantula Cookies

Halloweeeen: Ghastly Ghosts (cookies)

Scary Dinner 2:  Blood Soup with Eyeballs, Pumpkin Grilled Cheese, Spiderweb Eggs, Worms In Dirt

Halloween Snacks:  Vampire Apples, Cheezy Monsters, Owl Cupcakes


Halloween Snacks

If you’ve been reading along here or if you’ve browsed the recipe index (which is totally due for updating….one of these days), you’ll know that I love the food part of Halloween.  For the last few years I’ve tried to make a “scary” dinner each Halloween.  You can see what I’ve made before by clicking here, here, here, and here (included there are ghastly ghosts, mummy meatloaf and eyeball cupcakes, among other things).  This year, because I suddenly have both less time in the kitchen and a somewhat picky eater around, I went for less of a dinner theme and more of a snack kind of thing.

The recipes I used can be found via Dinner: A Love Story blog (my new favorite) and Hungry Happenings.  You’ll also note that this is the most processed I get in my cooking.  While most of the time I bake from scratch, this year I opted for both cake mix and pre-made frosting.  Hey, it’s a once-a-year kind of thing.

Vampire Apples


apple, peanut butter (optional), slivered almonds


Slice your apple into lip shaped wedges.  I used an apple corer/slicer and then cut those wedges in half.

Spread a little bit of peanut butter across the bottom apple (or you could use cream cheese or nothing, up to you- I was hoping to get a little bit of protein into the toddler).

Shove a few silvered almonds into the other half of the apple, to look like teeth.

Put this half on top of the peanut butter half.  Repeat.

Cheezy Monsters


8 oz cream cheese

8 oz shredded cheese (I used a taco cheese mix)

1/2 cup bacon bits

more shredded cheddar cheese

a few slices of white cheese

food markers or black olives

Thin pretzel sticks


Mix together the cream cheese, shredded taco cheese and bacon bits.  I used the food processor because I’m lazy like that.

Make sure it’s all combined well.

Let it sit while you prepare the rest.  Slice eyeball shapes from your white cheese.  You could use a fondant cutter but I used a corer of some kind- not sure if it was meant for apples or strawberries or what- it was Grandma’s- but it worked perfectly for this.  I then colored in the eyeball with a food marker.  You could also use thin slices of olives, I think.

I see you….

Break the pretzel sticks into halves or thirds.

Pour your shredded cheese onto a plate.  Using your hands, scoop out small amounts of the cream cheese mixture and roll into balls.  Drop them into the shredded cheese and press gently so the cheese will stick.

Place on a platter. Dab a little bit of the cream cheese mixture from the bowl onto the tip of the pretzel stick.  This will be the glue for the eyes.

Place an eyeball on the stick – gently!

Stick this into the cheese ball.  Repeat as many times as you like- some of mine had one eye, some had two and one had three.

I struggled with the mouths.  In the end, I tried an almond sliver, colored with a food marker, a pretzel stick, a piece of green olive and cheese colored with a marker.  The original post used black olive slices.

I think they’re pretty cute, if I do say so myself.  And rather tasty, if you like cheese.  Which I do.

Owl Cupcakes


Cupcakes (any flavor.  I used boxed chocolate)

Chocolate frosting (a buttercream type, if you’re making from scratch)

Oreos (or other chocolate sandwich cookie)

M & M’s – orange and brown (eyes and beak)


Make your cupcakes.

Make sure that someone is around to help you lick the bowl.

Once they’ve baked and cooled, frost them.

Separate your cookies so that you have two with white filling for each cupcake.

Place two cookies on each cupcake to be the eyes.  This would have worked better if I had made the tops of my cupcakes flatter but I didn’t have the time to be nit-picky.

Add one orange M & M between the cookies for a beak.

Dab a tiny bit of frosting on the back of two brown M & M’s – put it right over that “m”.  Place them on top of the white part on each cookie, for eyeballs.

Try not to die because they’re really, really cute.

Tricky Food

It’s funny how the things you thought you’d never be/do eventually come to pass.  I had all these high-minded philosophies about what I would do when *I* had children.  No tv, no desserts, no hiding food in other food (there’s a whole industry based on this with books like this one). We’d have regular bedtimes, along with routines, and our children would be able to fall asleep on their own, in their own beds, in their own rooms.  They would eat what we were eating- no making separate dinners for them.


Not a single one of those things has come to pass.  G. had a bit of ice cream at about five months (thanks OGWO), she regularly watches Curious George on tv and she refuses vegetables.  M. is sleeping in our bed and G. needs one of us to help her fall asleep.

On the other hand, both of my children are happy, content and healthy.  So maybe those things I thought were so key aren’t that important.

Which brings us to this recipe.  In an attempt to get some vegetables into her, I took the hippo’s suggestion and made vegetable pancakes.  Very similar to potato pancakes, which she will eat.  While they were not a rousing success, she did eat one.  And I thought they were good.

Tricky Veggie Pancakes


2 small carrots

1 small zucchini

1 small summer squash

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

3-6 tablespoons flour


Grate your veggies.  I do this in the cuisinart because I am lazy.  Throw them in a bowl and add the eggs, mixing well.  Add the baking powder and about half of the flour.  This is a good time to add salt and pepper though I left out the salt because they were for G.  Mix well.  How much flour you need will depend on how liquidy your batter is. 

Heat some oil in a large pan over medium high heat.  Drop by tablespoonfuls into the oil and fry on each side until golden brown and crispy.

Serve with applesauce, sour cream or greek yogurt.

I liked greek yogurt with mine.

April Fool

In honor of April Fool’s Day, I give you this:

Burgers and fries, right?

Nope!  Cupcakes, brownies and sugar cookies.

Food masquerading as other food.  What better way to trick on April 1st?  (For the record, I despise practical jokes.  They’re usually mean and I just can’t get behind mean.)

Easy to do, especially if you use mixes.  Which I did, at least for the cupcakes and the brownies.  And some of the frosting.  (Thanks to Bakerella for the idea)

Basically, bake the brownies and the cupcakes.  Then cut out rounds from the brownies, slightly smaller than the size of the cupcakes.

Get your frosting ready- you’ll need red, yellow and green. You can purchase said colors or make a basic buttercream and color that.  I did both:

Slice your cupcakes in half and place a brownie round on top of the bottom half.  Frost a bit of yellow and red frosting (mustard and ketchup) on the brownie, near the edge.

Then use the green to represent lettuce- sort of on top of the red and yellow and in a wavy kind of pattern.

Top with the upper half of the cupcake, at a bit of an angle so you can see the colors underneath.

You could get really fancy and put sesame seeds on top of the “buns”- brush with a little bit of water and sprinkle the seeds on top.

Make sugar cookies (I like the Hippo’s recipe) and roll the dough out pretty thin.  Slice it into fries- don’t worry too much about them being even as all fries aren’t. Bake and when you take them out of the oven sprinkle them with sugar (to emulate salt).

Assemble and serve- see if you can fool others.

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Pumping iron

Well, the inevitable has happened: my maternity leave is over and my daughter is anemic.

These are not two connected facts, just two inevitabilities. The first because all good things must end and the second because I swore I would never argue about or use food as a weapon with my kids. Now, to be fair, my maternity leave ending isn’t that bad- I’ll have April vacation in just two weeks and then it’ll be May and then June when summer break starts. The kids go to a fantastic home daycare and couldn’t be in better hands. In fact, in some ways, it’s better for them to be there than with me- more attention for them and more things to do, learn and see.

As for the anemia, well, my little girl eats a whole bunch of a variety of foods while at daycare but prefers pasta, yogurt, peanut butter and chicken at home. Since I refuse to argue about it and since she’s a good weight, I haven’t really focused on her food intake. We offer everything but don’t force the issue.

So now I must figure out how to get more iron into her diet. I have a supplement I could give her but I want to try food first. The supplement could make her constipated which would then lead to more medicine and, well, I’d like to avoid medications that aren’t purely necessary. How to entice a picky eater?

Cookies, of course. Cookies with extra iron. No, they don’t have steak or kale as a secret ingredient. They have beans.  The beans are actually meant to replace most of the butter, making these cookies lower in fat than others.  So, not healthy, exactly, but maybe healthier.

And you’d never know from the taste. You might suspect something wasn’t quite right from the texture but it’s not a bad one- just different. Sort of denser, thicker and maybe slightly chewy. They also don’t spread out when they bake, making them sort of rock-like.

Luckily, my girl just noticed the chocolate chips and demanded “moo-wah!”


These are billed as “oatmeal chocolate chip” cookies but they weren’t as oatmeally as I expected. Nonetheless, they were pretty good.


Sneaky Cookies
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup any kind of white bean, plus 2 Tablespoons of liquid (I used garbanzo)
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare cookie sheets with parchment or silpat.
In a blender or food processor, break down the oatmeal so that it is the consistency of flour.  In a small bowl, whisk the flour, oatmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.



Using a food processor or blender, purée the beans and liquid until smooth.


In another bowl, combine the butter, sugar, beans, eggs and vanilla.


Add the flour mixture and beat well. This was really thick so I’d recommend using an electric mixer.


I ended up using my hands. Add the chocolate chips and combine to evenly distribute.


Drop by tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets and bake for 15 minutes. Remember, they won’t spread so maybe smoosh them with your hand first.


Feed to unsuspecting toddlers.



Tomorrow is my little girl’s second birthday.  It’s hard to believe.  You can read all about her first birthday here and my sappy thoughts about her here.

This year’s theme is monkeys.  She has a bit of a Curious George obsession so I thought I’d make her monkey cupcakes to take to daycare and a monkey cake for her actual birthday.  I based them on pictures I found on the internet, particularly this one.

I used this black magic cake recipe and then this recipe for the milk chocolate frosting and  this one for the buttercream.

Wafers cut in half for faces, graham sticks cut in bits for ears.

Graham cracker sticks for ears, nilla wafers for the face and mini-chocolate chips for the eyes.  All very cute.

While making the frosting I got a few shots in- this one, because, really, is there anything more gorgeous than chocolate?

And this one, of the frosting in process:

This one was because the frosting whipped up so pretty.

Here are the monkeys with ears, eyes and faces, waiting for their smiles.

Which I piped on with red buttercream.

I made a large cake using this same design.  Another black magic cake (actually the recipe made one 9 inch cake and 12 cupcakes) and then this vanilla cake.  Same frosting and same buttercream.  Two cupcakes for ears and there you go.

These may not be the most gourmet but I’m happy with them- Super G. looked at them and said “Monkey Cookie!” so I know she’ll be happy with them.

When on earth did I become old enough to have a daughter 729 and a half days old?!?!

Stay tuned for birthday photos and a sappy two year letter to G.

(I also owe Mr. M. a letter but will perhaps save it for a milestone like six months.)