Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Slumdog Millionaire Bars

My kids are both about to head into finals week.
Lots of tests.
In a show of solidarity, I decided to take a test myself.

Sample question on my test:

These shortbread bars contain which of the following ingredients?
A:  Coconut and dried apricots
B:  Curry Powder
C:  Three kinds of chocolate
D:  All of the above

The correct answer is D. All of the above.

Surprisingly, the combination, from an original recipe by Emily of  fiveandspice, is sensational. Not to mention that the name alone makes you want to crank the music and start Bollywood dancing with your true love in a train station.

Frankly, I have no idea what the kids are so stressed out about.
My test went great.  In fact, I gave myself an A+.
Jai ho!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Carpool Wars: Cease Fire!


Anchor:  There has been a startling development in the long-running South of the Boulevard Carpool War hostilities.  For more details, we go live to our reporter on the ground.  Are you there?

Field Reporter:  Indeed, I'm here in Encino, where we have learned that a cease fire has been declared by the warring Carpool Moms.  The impetus for this radical shift in the tenor of the dispute was, I am told by my sources, bacon.

Anchor:  Would that be Kevin Bacon? I had heard that both John Kerry and Hillary Clinton have Bacon Numbers of 2 . Given his relatively close connection to those diplomats, is it possible he was involved?

Reporter:  They are not ruling that out, but for the moment, it appears that regular, smoked bacon is responsible.

Anchor:  Can you give us some background here?  How did things reach this critical juncture?

Reporter:  If you will recall, during the most recent skirmish over the braising title, the combatants vowed to take up their oven mitts again, waistlines and livers be damned. Ensnared by the spatula-wielding women and the promise of yet another outstanding meal, innocent children and husbands chose to remain in the thick of the conflict as well. It certainly seemed that there was no end in sight to this dire situation.  In fact, the stakes were raised even higher when it was suggested by a bystander that the next confrontation be focused, not on a particular dish, like bolognese, steak, or tacos, the type of meal, or even a proscribed preparation method, but on just one, single ingredient.  That ingredient? Bacon.

Anchor:   There is precedent for this on the Food Network, I believe, but that battle is massively edited for television, and they have trained staff with them in the arena. These brave women probably had no idea of the danger they were setting themselves up for.

Reporter:  That's exactly right. The whole plan was fraught with peril.  But, as we know, bacon does exert an uncanny power over the human brain.  Experts now believe that just the idea of a bacon-based meal somehow created a unity of purpose in the minds of these former enemies. Instead of pitting their bacon creations against each other, in an unprecedented step, they agreed to collaborate on the dinner.

Anchor: What about the coveted "taste" prize? This is one of the most divisive issues of the whole campaign, is it not?

Reporter:  Stunningly, that was thrown out completely. There was no vote. I repeat, there was no vote, rigged or otherwise. They just happily stuffed themselves and went home.  I spoke with one of the diners on condition of anonymity, and she said it was a tremendous relief not to feel disloyal for voting against her mother, and also that the bacon potato things were really good. Apparently, the new mantra here at Carpool headquarters is, "Everybody wins when dinner is full of bacon."

Anchor:  Incredible. How long can this cease fire possibly hold?

Reporter:  I have it on good authority that Carpool Wars, as we know it, is no more, but that we can expect many more Carpool Truce dinners in the months and years to come.

Anchor:  I think I speak for all of us when I say, "Phew." Thank you.  We'll be following this story closely, very closely, in case they have leftovers, and will bring you updates as we have them.


Carpool Wars:  The Bacon Accords

We did, indeed, come together and lay our Le Crueset cookware down for greater glory of an entire meal honoring bacon.  It was a moment for the ages.

The appetizer course was Christy D.'s drool-worthy and addictive Bacon Wrapped Potato Bites with Spicy Sour Cream Dip.  Recipe from The Kitchn.

Christy F.'s tender, smoky bacon-braised chicken dish.   Find the recipe from Fine Cooking here.

Christy D's spectacular BLT salad with Feta, Candied Bacon and Cherry Tomatoes. 

My Mac & Cheese with Bacon, after two teenagers had been through and helped themselves.  

And yes, there was bacon dessert.

Maple Bacon Sugar Cookies 

And the over-the-top Vanilla Ice Cream Sundaes with Pecan Bacon Crunch* and Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce.

Peace out.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Big Easy Balls*

Thinking of having some souvenir t-shirts made up.  Let me know what size you want.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Nothing Cookie Cutter About It

I was an Industrial Engineering major* in college.  In a nutshell, we're all about process.  We break down tasks, analyze steps, and figure out the most efficient way to consistently produce things.

If this is still too abstract, think IKEA**.

The last one is from If Ikea made instructions for everything on 

Unfortunately, when it comes to kids, there's no black and white, cookie cutter manual. 




17. (!!!)

There's nothing useful in the box, and customer service is zero help.

But I do have an optimized process for these. 

 Hint: involves cookie cutters.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

When the yard gives you carrots, make Tandoori chicken

The carrot crop came in, big time, this weekend.
The guinea pigs were beside themselves.

Everyone else was kind of frightened by the wild and crazy bunch.
I decided to ease the crew into the fresh and yummy carrot spirit by making our chicken dinner orange, too.
I put one teensy, tamed, grated, barely-discernable carrot into a non-threatening green salad*.

On the side.

Monday, May 13, 2013

And an Ice Cream Cake from Mom

I received some amazing gifts for Mother's Day:

I slept in, got some exercise, then read the paper and this excellent post.

Elena gave me roses.

My daughter gave me a gorgeous bowl she made in her ceramics class.

My sister and niece sent me gourmet Fig Balsamic Vinegar* and Basil Olive Oil

My husband got me a new toilet seat (not pictured), and made me pay for lunch.  
But he did clean up the entire kitchen after I made my own Mother's Day dinner. (recipe soon)

Then, right in the middle of everything, I got the idea for this cake from Mom***.  

It was nice, after a day as a mom, to have a small moment to feel like a daughter again.  Happy Mother's Day, all around.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cheesy Pennies Exposed: A penny's worth of thoughts from a son, whose opinion cannot be stifled any longer.

For the first time in this blog’s history the person writing this message is not Sharon Graves. Today, in honor of Mother’s day, I, Jasper Pike, have decided to write a guest post on Cheesy Pennies to pay homage to my mom’s favorite pastime. 

Before I begin I have get this off my chest, the insight you have been getting from this publication* has been very one sided. Every conversation, every embarrassing childhood story, every foodie girl outing has been told from one viewpoint and that’s it. I am here to solve this tragedy. For those of you questioning the use of a harsh word like tragedy, try to imagine politics only being covered by FOX news. I’ll give you a second to think about it.

Now, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of “Best season of The Daily Show ever,” right? Wrong, well no, that may in fact be the case, but the beauty of media and journalism is that we get to see every side of any issue we care about. If a person really wanted to they could research the arguments for and against combining Vanilla and Chocolate soft serve ice cream into a swirl.** But what if you wanted an opposing viewpoint on my Mom’s post about me getting my drivers license? It would’ve been unavailable, because it doesn't exist. I am writing to end my mother’s Kim Jong Un-esque monopolization of journalistic freedom within the Pike household.

Now that is taken care of, lets go through a basic post on Cheesy Pennies.

She usually starts with a story, probably involving a member of the family or a friend that lead her to think:

“Boy, my Facebook friends sure need to spend 10 minutes reading this story” or something along those lines, I don’t know exactly what she’s thinking, I’m not a psychic after all.

She adds jokes a lot of the time, usually the jokes are at the expense of her or other members of my family. The jokes at her own expense are often harmless; she pokes fun at her age, her stubbornness, and other things of that nature. The most important thing is that my mom usually comes out of the story unscathed, in other words the reader’s opinion of her stays the same or gets better after finishing the story. On the other hand, after reading multiple posts you could be inclined to think that my sister and I are rambling idiots who talk about our grandmothers ashes being spread on the freeway. Even though most of you know my family pretty well, I am going to give you a quick intro to my family, from my point of view.
The Family: Mom is the short one in the middle
My family is very unique, we tend to be very light-hearted around each other. We poke fun at my sister’s habit of saying “guys” when she's only talking to one other person, or how I may or may not have hit a curb on my first driving test. My sister and I sometimes get to respond, but oftentimes we are silenced and the joking is left to the parents, for better or worse. I could go on, but family isn't the point of mother's day, satire is!

Okay, so that’s the family story time part of the blog. From what I understand the next section ties the story to the recipe at the end. Now, I don’t claim to be any sort of culinary expert, but I can make a really good Trader Joe’s Frozen Fettuccine Alfredo with chicken.

Now, because my Mom is such a magnificent cook I often get asked if I have inherited the talent. The conversation goes a little like this,

Friend - I read your mom’s food blog last night, she must be an amazing chef you’re so lucky.
Me (Awkwardly looking at something that is not the person talking to me) – Yeah, she’s really great
Friend – So can you cook like your mom can?
Me – Yeah, I think I’m a pretty good cook
Friend – So what do you make?
Me – You know, grilled cheese, quesadilla, any kind of frozen meal. I mean, I'm a master at following those instructions.

So yeah, I’m basically destined to be the next Chopped Champion.

This leads me to the recipe I’ve decided to share with you today. Its called plain pasta, and you’re going to love my unoriginal, blank, and most importantly edible take on the meal.

So here’s what you do...

The most important part is making sure you put the timer to the exact time the box says, and not to take it out of the pot a second before or after the timer rings. If you do make the mistake of questioning the all-knowing instructions on the box, the pasta will not have reached its desired state.

Now, I know you guys are used to lots of pretty pictures of food and finished plates, but I greatly despise those shots. My reasoning is something I think all people can understand. Imagine this:

I’m sitting down at my desk doing some homework*** when my parents call me up for dinner, hungry and excited I run up to the kitchen ready to eat. I pour myself a drink, wash my hands and sit down at the table. This is where the injustice occurs, I pick up a spoon and just as I start to scoop up some of the food on the table I hear a loud “No!” from across the kitchen. I turn and its my mom, she explains that she needs to take pictures of the food “for the blog” before I can satisfy my hunger. So, hungry and frustrated I sit and wait while my Mom tries out different zooms, angles and lighting just so she can get the perfect picture for her post. Only after the impromptu photoshoot is complete, can I begin serving myself.

Although this post as been more mocking than appreciative****, I just want to take this final paragraph to truly say how much I love my Mom. She is my driver, my bank account, and my personal chef, and she doesn’t even get paid for all that work. My mom, most importantly, has helped me through this devastating Clipper playoff defeat. Seriously Clippers, just fire Del Negro already, I mean…

But back to my point, I will always be grateful for all the things she does for me and my family, even if she keeps me from eating for a few minutes.

*I use the term publication very loosely, Cheesy Pennies should in no way be compared to actual publications such as the New York Times, LA Times, heck even The Piper, Campbell Hall's newspaper that I am proud to work on.
**PRO-Its two ice creams swirled into one, what could be better?
CON-If overkill does exist, swirling two flavors of ice cream into one is probably a textbook example.
***Read: Watching Netflix
****Don’t get me started on how much Mother’s day is severely lacking in mocking.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Cherry Blossom Picnics - A memory for Mother's Day

My birthday is in the springtime, mostly. Sometimes it is a cold, chilly day, or a hot blue one, but more often than not the afternoon is barely but definitely warm. We are in the blue Volvo, braids tight and socks folded down over our matching Mary Jane shoes…the white ones, because summer is coming. Dad is driving, and Mom is quiet but smiling a little, because we are almost there and she has a plan in her mind that is coming true.

The car is parked, somehow (I don’t remember that part), and we are on bicycles. Mine wobbles a bit, and I am trying my best to avoid steering myself into the water, the way the bike wants to go. Dad has the picnic on the back of his bike, keeping an eye on my sister with training wheels scooting along. Mom is walking across the grass in another direction, but she is not lost.

We circle the path, and above us are millions of petals, an impossible shade of pink-white, bursting from gnarled branches in a riotous, splendid show. It’s amazing and yet it is exactly what I expect, because my birthday is when the cherry blossoms come out, every year.

It is crowded here. Tourists are taking pictures, people are walking home from work, other children and parents are playing, and cyclists are passing through. A memorial in marble, usually the main attraction, is the backdrop. And all of us are reflected again in the shiny surface of the basin that we are riding around.

Mom has laid out the scratchy wool blanket. I put my kickstand down and run to see, the dirt from my shoes getting onto the blanket. It’s there. The small, round bowl with the Saran wrap on top, next to the big wooden bowl full of Ruffles (it is always Ruffles) waiting for me to go first. We surround it, us four, but my chip is ready and in there before anyone else’s.

Clam dip. Smooth and cream cheesy and slightly fishy, in an oddly approachable way, and tangy-onion-lemony. My mom’s recipe. My favorite. Made just for me, always, on my birthday.

I’m 48 now. My mother is gone. I make the dip on ordinary days. And yet, at the first taste on my chip (it is almost always Ruffles), I feel my mom loving how happy I am.  I see cherry blossoms, the back of my Dad’s bike ahead of me, and my sister’s small Mary Janes furiously pedaling along under a fluffy pink-white sky.