Thursday, February 24, 2011

Therapy Dog

I've been racking my brain for something to brighten up my mom's spirits, which have sunk to all new lows lately.   Then it hit me:  Blackjack.   Not only does he love mom like crazy, but, after a rocky start to their relationship, she adores him, too.  

In the beginning, she was concerned.

Us:  Grandma!  Grandma!  Guess what?  We're getting a puppy!
Mom (clearly disapproving):  A puppy?  Really?
Us:  Yeah! And he's super cute and we love him!!!
Mom:  Hmm.
Us:  Wait 'til you meet him!  He's a Bernese Mountain Dog, and he's 11 weeks old and he's got the hugest paws and he's going to be over 100 pounds when he grows up!
Mom:   Did you say 100 pounds?  Sharon, what on earth...?
Us:  But he's only about 22 pounds right now.  He's got a TON of energy.  We're bringing him home in a few days.  Yay!!!
Mom:  I'm going to be at my apartment.   Don't call me, I'll call you.

Then she was terrified.

The door to the house opens.  The puppy bounds up, tripping adorably all over himself on the hardwood floors, tongue hanging out, smiling for all he's worth at the unexpected pleasure of meeting someone new.  Mom immediately grabs the wall and holds on for dear life.

Me:  Mom!  He's not going to bite you!
Mom:  I'm an old lady.  If I fall and break my hip, I'm done for.  Nice doggie.  Go away now.

Relations improved slowly.

Blackjack comes running to the car when I bring Mom over to visit.  She smiles at his ridiculous enthusiasm over seeing her again.   But she still holds onto the door handle, white knuckled, until I take him inside.

Blackjack perfects the art of looking meaningfully at Mom when she's making breakfast for the kids.  She pretends not to see him as he takes up all the space on the rug so she literally has to step over him to get to the sink.  Somehow, he winds up with a pile of scrambled eggs in his bowl.

Blackjack lays his head down on his front paws and puts on the big weepy eyes.  Mom relents and stops scolding him for eating the cat's food that she just put into the dish.  I'm about to throw him outside when she intervenes, saying something about him being a growing boy and not being able to help it.

I come into the kitchen and find Mom having a long, detailed discussion with Blackjack about the appalling behavior of a guest star on The View.  He listens attentively, hoping she will be disturbed enough to drop a roast chicken.

Leaning over Mom's bed yesterday, I asked her if she'd like me to bring him to see her*.    Her answer came in a barely audible whisper.

Mom:  No.  No Blackjack.
Me:  Are you sure?
Mom:  I'm sure. There are certain people in my life that I love too much to see anymore.  He's one of them.

[She pauses, closes her eyes, and continues]
I just don't want him to see me like this.  

As has happened so many times before with my mother, I am at a loss for words on that one.

Luckily, there was someone else at my house who had no such scruples about letting the dog make her feel better.

*Besides being a great dog generally, he's a certified therapy animal.  His 115 lbs. of goofiness has been to hospitals and nursing homes all over town, with remarkable healing effect.

Turning sour into sweet

When you have to miss a multi-family trip where (and I quote here from the caption to a photo in my email of smiling people taking a break for beer and burgers on top of a mountain amidst 5 feet of fresh powder) "It was the best snow we ever skied on!" in order to be with a despairing dying person and gangly teenager with congestion, you could be forgiven for having a slightly sour attitude.

OK, me.  It was me with the attitude.

But it was also me with a tree full of lemons, my sister and my niece here from Michigan, and unbelievable seats for the NBA All Star Game*.


Our harvest, picked right from the garden

Ready for squeezing.   Fresh lemonade in February.  They may never go back to Michigan.

Hey!  How about if we make homemade lemonade ice cubes to go into our homemade lemonade? 

Good call.

Popsicles are also a very good idea

And these?  Sheer "life gives you lemons" genius!

Glazed Lemon Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from the oh-so-thorough but always useful Baking Illustrated.  Just about the perfect lemon cookie.  I will be making these by the dozen until my lemon tree goes bare.   Not only do they taste great, but the dough is made in the food processor, so it couldn't be easier, and you can keep it in the fridge or freezer and just slice and bake a few anytime you need a "sour attitude" adjustment.

For the cookies:
3/4 c. sugar
2 Tbs.  each fresh lemon zest and fresh lemon juice
1 ¾ c. flour
¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
12 Tbs. (1 ½ sticks) butter, cold, cut into cubes
1 large egg yolk
½ tsp. vanilla extract

For the glaze:
1 Tbs. cream cheese
2 Tbs. juice from 1 lemon
1 ½ c. powdered sugar

2 Tbs. sugar crystals, ground with 1 tsp. lemon zest, for dusting.

Get out your food processor.  Grind sugar and lemon zest in processor until sugar looks damp and zest is thoroughly incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add the flour, baking powder and salt,  then pulse for about 10 short bursts to combine. Scatter in the butter cubes, and pulse until the mixture resembles loose cornmeal.

In a measuring cup or small bowl, beat the yolk, lemon juice and vanilla together to combine. With the machine running, add the juice mixture in a slow stream. Process until mixture begins to form a ball, about 15 seconds longer.

Turn the dough out onto a smooth surface, kneading to work any stray dry bits into the dough with your fingers until smooth. Form into a log about 2 inches in diameter and wrap in wax paper**. Chill until firm and cold, about 45 minutes, or up to a few days. Dough can also be frozen at this point. If frozen, allow to thaw just until cool before proceeding.

Heat oven to 375. Slice dough into 3/8 inch rounds, and bake on Silpat or parchment covered baking sheets just until edges are golden brown, about 12-14 minutes.  Cool on baking rack.

You can store cookies in an airtight container at this point for several days.  I don't recommend glazing them until just before serving.  They are also delicious plain, if you are not a glaze kind of person.  I am.

Make glaze by whisking all ingredients in a medium bowl until completely smooth.  When cookies have cooled completely, dab a bit of glaze onto each cookie, and spread with a knife or the back of your spoon just to the edges.   Sprinkle with lemon sugar, if desired.

* Nuff said.

**  We decided to make our dough log rectangular.  Circles are good, too.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


The phone rings almost very day.  Her voice comes on the line, weak and halting:

"Hi Sharon, this is Mom."
 I go.

She needs diapers.
She'd like some canned pears.
The vanilla ice cream is too sweet there.
She's eating a lot of tuna fish lately.

I order diapers.  I bring the pears.  And the ice cream.  And tuna in water.

"Hi Sharon, this is Mom."
I go.

Her apartment security deposit finally arrived.
She is disappointed.
She thought there might be interest.
She's made a list of how she wants to use the money.

I explain about the interest.  We pay all the bills.  We send some money to my sister.  I balance the checkbook and show her she's solvent, even after paying for everything.  She's elated.

"Hi Sharon, this is Mom."
I go.

She's been called in for jury duty.

I read the summons. We have a good laugh.  I check the box that says Medical Excuse.   It doesn't even begin to explain things, but it's the closest they've got.

"Hi Sharon, this is Mom."
I go.

Her feet are in excruciating pain.
She can't concentrate or do crosswords or finish a TV show.
Her vision is blurry.
She's helpless.
Awful things are happening at night.
The voices are everywhere.
They can stop the mail.
They can do anything.
They hate her.
It's everyone.  It's the mattress company.
She's unforgiven, and that explains it.
She's terrified.
She's adamant.
She wants this to be over.
She is in agony.

I can barely hear or understand her.   I try and I fail.  I don't stop the voices, or the torture, or the terror.   I hold her hand.  I stay until I can't.  I run, fast and far.  I call my sister.  I call the doctor.

"Dr. X, this is Sharon"

He goes.
He gives her something for the foot pain and something stronger for the rest.  He confirms that this is all part of her condition, to be expected as the disease progresses.   They know what to do.  He helps both of us.  We are calmer.  I alert the family.  We are at the beginning of the end.

"Hi Sharon, this is Mom."
I go.

She wants Maria to help her with the suppository.
Maria is much nicer about it.
She spills her water when she tries to drink it.
That's annoying, because she hates changing clothes so often.
It's very tiring.
She would like some turkey, but not that processed kind.
Alicia Keys named her baby "Egypt", and now look what's happened in the world.  Amazing.

I smile. I read her letters and emails from friends and cards from her relatives.  I talk about the kids and we remember things that happened that were good.  I tell her I will bring turkey.  And some straws.

I go.
"Hi Mom, this is Sharon."

No answer.  She's sleeping soundly.
I'll come back.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

How to lose weight at a bake sale

The math works like this:

Cal(cont) - Cal(cons) = Cal(credit)

Where Cal(cont) is the total calories in the baked goods that you contribute to the bake sale, Cal(cons) is the total calories in the baked goods that you purchase and consume from the bake sale.   Cal(credit) is thus your relative caloric savings, which can either be retained as weight loss, or spent on a really nice lunch afterward.

Based on this math, and the recipe below that I brought to the bake sale on Friday, I should now look like Kate Moss*.

Baked Bars
From the oh so tasty (and aptly named) book, Baked.  These things are almost 100% pure concentrated sugar, saved from being coma-inducing by the buttery salty crust, the use of semi-sweet chocolate, and the scattering of tart dried cherries here and there.   Each bite is chewy and creamy, decadent and addictive, and just the thing to hand out to any annoyingly thin people you know.

For the crust:
2 c. (about 6 oz.) sweetened shredded coconut
2 1/2 c. finely ground graham crackers (about 20 crackers)
1 c. (2 sticks) butter, melted

For the bars:
1 1/3 c. walnut halves, toasted and chopped
2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. butterscotch chips
3/4 c. dried cherries
2 cans (14 oz. each) sweetened condensed milk

Preheat the oven to 300.   Prepare a 9x13 baking pan by buttering the bottom and sides, or spraying with cooking spray.  Set that pan aside.

Toast the coconut by spreading out on a separate parchment covered baking sheet, baking for 7 minutes, tossing, then baking for 3 minutes more.  It should be very light golden brown on the tips when you're done.

Put the toasted coconut, the graham cracker crumbs, and the melted butter in a large bowl and mix with your hands or a wooden spoon until well combined.

Turn the mixture out into the prepared 9x13 pan, and press evenly over the bottom and about 1/2 an inch up the sides.

Refrigerate the crust for 15 minutes, then bake at 300 for 10 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool crust completely.

Increase the oven temperature to 325.  Spread the chopped walnuts on the bottom of the crust.  Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the walnuts, then the butterscotch chips, and finally the cherries.   Slowly pour the sweetened condensed milk over the rest of the filling.    Allow to settle, and shake gently if you need to evenly distribute the condensed milk.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly all over.   Set pan on a wire rack and cool completely.   Cut into squares and serve!

* Unfortunately, the corollary formula:  Cal(cons) + Cal(leftover scraps) >= Cal(credit), applied in my particular case.   Undaunted, I'm going to keep trying this "bake myself relatively skinnier" approach, as it's much more pleasant that actually eating less.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Foodie Girls Lunch Brigade - Episode 23

"If you can't be an athlete, be an athletic supporter!" - Eve Arden, as Principal McGee in Grease, 1978

"If you can't be a restaurant, be a restaurant supporter!" - The FGs, as hungry people, during Dine LA Restaurant Week, 2011

Episode 23 - We're Impressed with Fraiche

As the midwest and the Eastern seaboard were blanketed with record snowfall last week, four FG's gathered on a sunlit sidewalk terrace in the heart of Culver City's expanding restaurant row.    The hostess had kindly pointed out that the heat lamps were on in case we were worried about catching a chill.  To be honest, we were concerned, what with the slight breeze and the temperature only in the high sixties*.   Fortunately, our corner table was bright and toasty and well-situated at the edge of the patio.

Fraiche, at nearly three years old, is almost the grande dame of the foodie stops in this rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.   It was an early entrant into the market-fresh, California brasserie style of restaurant that is now, fortunately, running rampant around the city, and quickly became known for it's no-nonsense, artfully prepared Mediterranean food at reasonable prices.    Many, many people love this place, but I had never tried it**.   So when I noticed their Dine LA lunch menu, I knew this was just the thing for the FGs.

Friache DineLA Lunch Menu - $22 per person

Choice of Appetizers

Heirloom Beet Gazpacho
Goat Cheese Mousse / Balsamic
Arugula Salad
Chorizo / Manchego / Dates / Marcona Almonds
Baby Beets
House Made Ricotta / Orange / Pistachio

Choice of Entrees

Seared Scottish Salmon
Farro / Black rice / Tangerine / Arugula
Gnochetti Sardi
Wild Mushrooms Bolognese / Pecorino Romano
Vialone Nano Risotto
Porcini / Arugula / Pine Nuts

Choice of Desserts

Chocolate Pot de Creme
Candied Hazelnut / Creme Fraiche
Caramel Budino
Vanilla Mascarpone / Sea Salt
Pistachio Creme Brulee
Rosemary Cookies

The place was nearly empty when we sat down just before noon, and while we all intended to have the prix fixe lunch, it was hard not to salivate over the regular lunch menu.   FG16 pointed out the best part:  "You gotta love a menu where the desserts are in the center column!"  And, where are there more dessert options than there are salads.   We agree; we are inclined love this place on that basis alone.

Eventually***, we put in our order:  two beet salads, two arugula salads, one salmon, two risottos, and one gnochetti.  And of course, one of each dessert, with an extra caramel budino.   We sat back, very pleased with how we'd handled that, and began swapping stories about Ireland (FG16 had been, FG14 was going soon), the burgers at the other table (should we have ordered that?), and reality TV (it's fake).

When the first course arrived, we stopped talking****.  This food was gorgeous!

F14 and F16 had the baby beet salad.  I don't even like beets, and I was wild about this salad.  The housemade ricotta was marvelous...silky and rounded and just a touch salty.  The mix of this with the sweet, tender beets and the tangy!
The arugula salad that FG15 and I had tasted just as good as it looks.  The crunch of the almonds, combined with a bright, lemony dressing, peppery greens, bits of salty chorizo and cheese and the sweet surprise of dates, made this one of my favorite salads in recent memory.  I could have gone home happy after this.  But then, the second courses, too, were wonderful.

FG14's salmon was perfectly seared, nearly rare on the inside, just how she likes it.  The faro was also done right, with a nice toothsome bite and the zing of the tangerines offsetting the richness of the fish.   The plate was so beautiful we almost didn't want to eat it.  But we got over that pretty fast. 
Did you know..."bolognese" does not automatically mean "meat sauce"?  We were surprised, too, as this version was 100% vegetarian, made with a bevy of wild mushrooms in a robust tomato sauce.   It was earthy, rich, and satisfying, but didn't send us into raptures.
The risotto, on the other hand, did.   The rice was creamy and light at the same time, the porcini mushrooms adding depth and heartiness, with just a hint of bitterness from the greens.   The cheese and pine nuts were definitely there but did not overwhelm the dish, as so often happens with risotto.  All the flavors just sang.  Fantastic!!!

A couple next to us, just ordering, sought our advice on their options.  We were quick to endorse their choice of the beet salad and the risotto.  The restaurant had slowly filled, and we became aware that we were having what could be construed as the FG's first "power lunch".   People were stopping by to pay respects to an Oscar-nominated producer, then nodding to other vaguely recognizable faces in the crowd.   The formerly tranquil terrace was buzzing and hopping with studio types enjoying the weather, each other's company, and the excellent food.  Getting into the spirit of the thing, we decided to do a little negotiating with ourselves over who got to eat which dessert first.

The pistachio creme brulee was an off-putting shade of bright green, and was far too sweet.  The first true dud of the day.  We did love the little rosemary shortbread cookies that came on the side.  To make something like them at home, click here.
The best part of the pot de creme was the garnish of caramelized hazelnuts.  The chocolate custard itself was under-flavored and a little runny.   Not worth the calories.  We recommend you pass this by in favor of...
This.  Caramel budino, also known as heaven on a spoon.  With a sprinkling of salt for good measure.  Good thing we ordered two, huh?

Overall, the meal was one of our favorites, and a true bargain at $22 for all three courses.  DineLA definitely came through for the FGs, and we will definitely come back to Fraiche.

FG Final Verdict?  Fraiche is ON the list!
Pricing Information:  The regular menu prices are right in range for a "nice" lunch place:  Starters $8-10, salads & sandwiches $10-15, desserts $8-12.
FG Value Rating:  The dineLA menu was a steal!

* Because we're spoiled that way here in February.  Go ahead, mock away.
** Two reasons.  First, it is in Culver City, which is a schlep from my house.   Second, if I ever do go to Culver City, I proceed immediately to Honey's Kettle Fried Chicken for a combo meal.  I can't help it.  Even after eating this delicious lunch, I dragged the rest of the group down the street to visit Honey's, and FG15 walked out with a family pack for dinner that night.  It's not just me!!
***  The word "Eventually" here should be your clue as a reader that our waitress' pace verged on the glacial.  She had also perfected the fine art of avoiding looking our way whenever we needed something like bread or our check.  Fortunately we were not in a huge rush.
**** For like a minute.  It is a FG lunch, after all, and animated conversation is a big part of what makes these meals so much fun.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Let the chips fall where they may

Like most of the country this afternoon, we were serving an assortment of traditional snack foods.   Doritos.  Guacamole.

Potato chips (Ruffled and BBQ).   Even some relatively healthy red grapes and low-fat Chex Mix.

But unlike 99% of the country, we also had this:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip.

Cookie Dough Dip
Discovered via How Sweet It Is.  According to the group of enormous teenage boys at my house who were scarfing it down, "This is NICE!!!"

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
1/3 c. brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. vanilla
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. powdered sugar

Add ins:
For chocolate chip cookie dough - 1/2 c. mini chocolate chips
For snickerdoodle cookie dough - 2 Tbs. cinnamon
For peanut butter chocolate chip cookie dough - 1/4 c. peanut butter and 1/2 c. mini chocolate chips
For double chocolate cookie dough - 1/4 c. cocoa powder and 1/2 c. mini chocolate chips

In small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, then whisk in the brown sugar, stirring until smooth and combined.   Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla.

Using an electric or stand mixer, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar together until light and fluffy, at least 2 minutes.   Gradually pour in the cooled brown sugar/butter/vanilla mixture.

If using cinnamon, peanut butter, or cocoa powder, go ahead and blend those in with the mixer now.  If using chocolate chips, fold those in by hand.

Can be refrigerated until needed, but bring to room temperature before serving.  Serve with animal crackers, graham crackers, Oreos, apples, pretzels, or just a spoon.  The dip should be creamy and very soft, but will taste just like your favorite cookie dough.    NICE!!!

Almond Joy

In my inbox the week before my daughter's Ancient China Culmination:

To:  Sharon
Re:  Class Culmination Breakfast Pastry

...can you make one?

From:  Sharon
Re:  Class Culmination Breakfast Pastry

Does it have to be a Chinese breakfast pastry?  If so, I am stumped.

To:  Sharon
Re:  Class Culmination Breakfast Pastry

Um, yeah.  Maybe breakfast dumplings?


Maybe not.

Awesome Almond Torte
This can easily be passed off as a Chinese Breakfast Pastry in a pinch

From a recipe provided by the 101 Coffeeshop to the LA Times many years ago.  This cake is melt-in-your-mouth tender, just sweet enough, and redolent of almonds in the best possible way.  One of my very favorite cakes to make.  And to eat.

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 (7 oz.) tube of almond paste, grated or cut into small pieces (about 1 cup total)
3 eggs
1/4 tsp. amaretto
1/2 tsp. Triple Sec
1 tps. baking powder
pinch of salt
1 c. flour
powdered sugar, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350.  Using extra butter or non-stick baking spray, grease a 9 inch round baking pan.   Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.  Gradually add almond paste, beating until completely mixed in, with no visible lumps.   Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Mix in amaretto and Triple Sec.  Mix baking powder, salt and flour together in a smaller bowl, then add to the butter mixture at low speed, just until combined.

Pour into prepared pan, and bake until lightly browned and cake center springs back when touched, about 35-40 minutes.   Cool in pan for about 10-15 minutes on a baking rack, then invert onto cake rack to cool completely.    The cake may sink a bit in the center as it cools.   That's OK.  This is not a glamorous looking cake, it is scrumptious tasting cake.  All will be forgiven when you bite into it.

When completely cool, dust with powdered sugar and serve in wedges.

Friday, February 4, 2011

My Little Soup Seller

The class had been studying Ancient China for several months:   Inventions*, dynasties, trade routes, language, religion, money, food, customs, art, geography...the works.  

They carved their own abaci and did calculations on command.   They celebrated the newborn Year of the Rabbit with a Golden Dragon parade through every room in the school.  Their own classroom filled with wooden carts, paper lanterns, fortune sticks, instruments, and a Buddhist temple, complete with an improvised gong made from an upside-down mixing bowl.

The study culminated with a full recreation of a 17th century Chinese marketplace, with each child playing a role in a market stall they built and staffed for the day.  They hosted parents, staff, and all the other classes.  Some sold herbs and performed healing touch rituals.  Some would pray for you, or sell you silk. Tea and goldfish, paintings and vegetables could be had.   A musician plied the crowd, as did an acrobat and a match vendor.

My own daughter, transformed for the purposes of this re-enactment, is an orphaned rural farmer eking out a living with her brother.  They travel 10 miles by foot to the market.  She is the Soup Seller.

A few days beforehand, she was the Soup Maker:

Her:  Mom, I need to make some soup.
Me:  OK.  What kind of soup?
Her: (wrinkling up her face)  Old Chinese vegan vegetable soup.
Me:  Ugh.  Who wants a soup made out of old Chinese vegans?
Her:  Very funny.
Me:  So it's the Chinese vegetables that are old?
Her:  MOM!
Me:  Sorry.

She hands me a printout of the recipe, and we gather the supplies.   She conscientiously follows every step, doing it all herself.    Dices tomato.   Sets aside.  Asks if she can use my garlic chopper.  Grates the ginger.   Measures each ingredient.   Makes extra, so she has enough for this test batch, as well as a duplicate set for the "day of the culmination" batch.  Double checks the broth amount.   Adjusts the burners.  Simmers.  Covers.  Allows to cool.  Takes my suggestion to package up the broth and greens separately to do the final step at school.     In the morning, she lets me help her cart the crock pot to the classroom door, then shoos me away so I can't peek.

The following day, we join the other parents strolling through their former classroom, now a packed marketplace full of the sights and sounds of ancient China.  We clutch paper cups of Chinese coins, bargaining for spices and radishes and generally marveling at what our kids have created.   At last, I come to the soup stall.

Me:  One Old Chinese vegan vegetable soup, please!
Her:  Coming right up.  But you have to pay first!

It was worth every penny.

Hpak Gad Keng (Mustard Leaf Soup)
This soup is surprisingly great, just like our day at the marketplace.   It's robust, deeply flavorful, and satisfying, full of that now-celebrated "umami" taste.   And the crisp-tender mustard greens give it a freshness that is the exact opposite of what you'd expect from an Old Chinese vegan vegetable soup.

1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/4 c. chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. minced ginger
1 tomato, diced
1/8 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. Thai black bean sauce
1 Tbs. soy sauce
6 c. vegetable stock (we used "Better than Bouillon" brand.  Highly recommended!)
3 c. chopped fresh mustard greens

Heat oil over medium heat in a stock pot.  Add onions, garlic and ginger and saute until translucent, 3-4 minutes.   Add tomato and simmer until soft.    Add turmeric, black bean sauce, and soy sauce.  Saute for 2 more minutes, then add the vegetable stock.    Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.   Raise heat back to medium, and when soup is vigorously simmering, add mustard greens.  Cook for 2 minutes, until green stems are crisp-tender.  Serve immediately.

* Our thanks for the gunpowder, the matches, kites, and the fireworks.  And of course, the flamethrower.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Somebody out there hates me

Yesterday was the very first day of my self-imposed plan to eat (a little!) healthier.   It's a simple plan, really.  Cut out fried foods.  Have fruit for breakfast.  Stop when I'm full.  Skip dessert whenever possible.

No big deal, right?

In my inbox.

This Chewy Brownie Bundt Cake from How Sweet it Is ... 
...these Brownie Shortbread Bars from Blue Eyed Bakers... 
And this.   Oreo-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies from Buns in My Oven.   

Photos and torture courtesy of Jessica, Abby & Katy, and Karly, respectively.  I did allow myself to bookmark each of these recipes (for the historical record, you understand) and to drool for many minutes while I choked down my kale salad and cried.