THE SUPER COOKIE BOWL

The Super Bowl’s over, the puppies and kitties fell asleep in their bowls. Now it’s time to quiet the trash talk, restore familial relations and dive into the most delicious head-to-head competition – The Cookie Bowl! This match brings together a historic franchise against first-year rookies: Girl Scout Thin Mint (GSTM) cookies and Oreo Thins Mint Creme (OTMC)!

Thin Mints fans offer robust sentimental flavor, history, and loyalty. Every year, since 1951, fans line up to celebrate Thin Mints sale season opening day. If rationed properly, they just tossed the last box tucked deep in their freezer from the previous year. If not, true fans wait patiently because the cookies’ scarcity increases its fans’ fervor! Also – no reasonable substitute existed until now.

Oreo, although a 104 year-old brand, developed a thinner cookie with new flavors last year in 2015. Some missed their mark but mint cream hit the bullseye. Though a younger cookie, they came to compete. Change makes some people uncomfortable. How will this translate to their performance today?

TASTE
GSTM – Flavorwise, or as a result of years of conditioning, this mint flavor seems most authentic surrounding the chocolatey tasting cookie.
OTMC – The outside Oreo cookie sandwiches a sweeter mint creme center.

TEXTURE
GSTM – Smooth stiffer chocolate mint surrounds crumbly wafer.
OTMC – Feels like an inside out GSTM with the thin crispy exterior but a soft, smooth center.

VALUE
GSTM – The boxes cost $5 but the sleeves shrank in the last few years
OTMC – The boxes cost $2.50 but their boxes shrank a bit too, from what I recall. However since more of these cookies fit, compared to standard or larger ones, per box, the value feels satisfactory.

True, other chocolate mint cookies exist, though not in the same league. Our three-thumb review actually favors the Oreo Thins Mint Creme on flavor, texture and value!

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Still, when Girl Scout cookie sales are on (like right now!) my sentinental flavor fave remains: Thin Mints. However, now the rest of the year won’t be so bleak.

What cookies should be in the Cookie Bowl next year? Please nominate your favorite brands or copycat recipes to compete for the title. 

For more #ThreeThumbReviews, follow me on yelp (click above)!

BRAINSTORMING TO BECOME A BIG-TIME BLOGGER (OVER BREAKFAST)

While trying a new recipe, hoping for our first Pinterest Proven Project, an idea hit me about changes to make to become a Big-Time Blogger!  When I say “idea,” I mean tupperware, jammed into my highest shelf leaped at my forehead and splashed into the crockpot – soaking before cleaning.

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My creative closet of “ideas”!

My first thought wasn’t home organization, remodeling or brighter home lighting.  I realized the rarity that I’d been afforded uninterrupted brainstorming on a weekend morning with my kids at home. More time means more assembly and prep time for recipes, and blog posts! What granted me this luxury to make Breakfast Crack Casserole?

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Bottom of skillet – Roll of biscuits

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One trick: Butter in skillet while heating oven means nothing stuck!

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BEFORE: Dump it all in skillet – EASY!

1) MORE SLEEPOVERS

One naturally assumes that 2 kids + any friends = CHAOS.  Ironically, it works the opposite! When friends occupy my kids, my mind doesn’t constantly flip through the Masterful Mom rolodex of ideas to entertain, mitigate, or heal them. Without whining and bickering streaming from their mouths, creativity floods my brain’s bandwidth. Plus, with more tasting buds around, the “proven” rank increases in value.

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2)  FULL TRANSPARENCY

For the steady flow of friends, waivers, disclaimers and photo releases must reiterate to parents that when I’m suddenly free to blog, their child could appear in a post!  Parents must clarify – real/nick/no names, full/no face shots? One must disclose potential food allergies and sign extra forms for high-action posts.

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3) PROHIBIT PRIVACY PIRACY

When creating or writing, part of the joy comes from finding your boundaries and bounding through them. However, my kids show me I’m pushing it, hence the wacky or straight face photos.  Though they’re down for repeat adventures, they get fed up when I can’t get the photo right the first time. Obviously certain rooms provide rewarding respite.

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OK, really SNL Kristen Wiig, a great influencer of fun faces.

4) GRATEFUL GOALS

Some of my goals include: More social media followers than followees; Pushing positivity; Invitation to getaway; Writing my future. Yet, I’m grateful anytime I get a new idea, don’t burn a new meal, or share a great experience with my kids. Don’t forget to celebrate each little accomplishment and when I say “celebrate,” I mean dance in the endzone!

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AFTER – Where’s my sriracha?!

With Breakfast Crack casserole fueling the kids, they’re off and running! I try to keep up big time!

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WTF: Warm, though furry! Safe to come out now?!

LIFE LESSON – EMERGENCY ALERT TACTICS

I’m sitting here waiting for input on an assignment and to make sure I am in front of the computer when it arrives. Because it’s after midnight, I am implementing my emergency alert tactics!  Now I’m one of the most caffeinated people I know but even caffeine has its limits when confronted with PMS, Daylight Savings switches, or in this case – allergies.

So what’s a girl to do when she must remain alert (besides the obvious blogging)?

Fold loads of laundry while watching…

Back-to-back Bluth get-togethers!

Bag up all my daughter’s stuffed animals,
you don’t want to know why.
WTF? Where’re the Fuzzies?

Bake banana bread with chocolate chips
Trader Joes – Simple!

What emergency alert tactics do you implement? I could use a few more for tomorrow night because with each passing day, the ones you use lose their power so one must introduce new alert tactics!

 

 

 

WEEKLY WRITING CHALLENGE: COFFEE MUGS – From Mundane to Meaningful

My reputation precedes me. Around these parts I’m known as the Most Caffeinated Gal in the West.  Triple lattes in the morning then a Grande booster around 3pm would get me through the day.  Although I’ve lowered my octane, settling for drip coffee, my simple goal remains… to stay awake longer than my kids!

So today, a child-free weekend morning, rather than settle for whatever jet fuel comes in a paper cup, I allowed myself the luxury of a slower start. I foggily shuffled my feet towards the coffee machine, aiming to boost myself enough to swim this afternoon after tackling school financial aid, creating a writing desk, and sifting through the house preparing for a garage sale.  Besides the pool, the rest wasn’t very inspiring but when I’m fully caffeinated, I just jet around til it’s done!

About 12 years into my 13 year marriage, we bought ourselves some beautiful dishes. I’ll admit I pushed the agenda with these. It was a beautiful parting gift.

I opened my cabinet to grab for a mug and lowered my reach from my top-shelf matching jewel-toned mugs, to the more colorful selection of mugs on the well-used every-day shelf.  As the coffee brewed, I glanced through the shelf to see if any could retire to the garage sale box.

Just Grab One, they all hold coffee just as well…

First, I saved my favorites, chosen initially because they hold the most coffee. Today, as I searched the darker parts of my cabinet, my vision grew clearer and I realized the treasures it held.  I picked up each mug, wrapped my hand around the cup, weaved my fingers through the handle, and felt the weight of the memories that each one held.

First couple – elegant but don’t take themselves too seriously while perfectly complementing each other!

Some came from friends and family providing the warmth of snuggling up with them for great conversation – even when they aren’t there.

Best gift from a warm friend, two mugs and hot chocolate! Although the partner shattered long ago, this one connects me to her in between long stretches of actually seeing her!

Others sent a shot of inspiration – far more effective than espresso shots.

This gift from my sister has grown more valuable with every relaxing and reflective read!

A few mugs represented life highlights and unique experiences.

Recalling on my fondest memories playing in Imagineering and my character experience while reading the new Pixar book! For a Diznoid, it doesn’t get any better.

Some reminded me of the joy from favorite adventures.

What a sisterly bonding day was spent at ellen! Visiting Graceland on my first “business trip”! No work trip has matched that fun level yet…

Even my children agree that ice-cold milk, insulated with a heart-warming shot of nostalgia, tastes better out of the glossy mug than out of their child-proof plastic cups.

Lovely reminders of my son’s childhood sporting adventures and my daughter’s sense of fun and adventure – Arrrgh!

I am so grateful this morning for the side of sentiment served with my morning coffee.  I vow to relish more than just the rich blend of coffee, but the rich memories!

SERVER DETECTED SPAM MUSUBI

I’m half-Korean. People don’t quite know where to place me. My skin is too dark to be white (You can’t spell Caucasian without Asian…), my green-ish eyes aren’t Asian, my Hungarian cooking scrambles their brains. Honestly, not being brought up Asian, and turned off by some stereotypes for Asian women, I identified with American Indians, because I used to fantasize about riding my horse all day in the sun over the open plains, or got a kick out of people who ask if I’m Hawaiian. Sure, I can go for that!

Today, I’m embracing my Hawaiian roots and in the effort of finding PB&J substitutes for the kids’ lunches, I’m attempting Spam Musubi!

ExSPAMple A: less messy, easier to eat in cut rolls
NOTE: I prefer thicker Spam – 8 slices/can.
The right one is 10 slices/can.

Simple as it sounds, it terrified me some. Most of the terror came from shopping for the ingredients.

Proof that I am way too Americanized and have passed that along to my kids.

To me, reading this stuff is about as easy as reading QR barcodes

Tough to decipher, simple to assemble.

I brainlessly cooked 2 cups of rice in the cooker – push one button!

One button – done!

I sliced the spam experimenting with width of the meat in the finished product.

Heated some Sesame Oil in the cast iron skillet,

Sesame Oil – LOVE IT to season anything.

added some teriyaki and browned it.

Spam became popular in WWII as a meat ration and became popular in Hawaii.

How brown you want it is up to you. Most of the color is from the cooking teriyaki sauce, not from burning.

The most complicated part is assembly, but thanks to my great friend, I have a sushi/musubi mold! Sometimes it’s all about the gear and then you feel like a pro musubi maker!

Acrylic box open on both ends with a press. May be called sushi or musubi maker. What’s your gadget fave?

It’s all a matter of layering:

Rice – fill the maker near ½ full

Press Hard – don’t want it to fall apart

Rice Seasoning – seaweed and sesame seeds (no fish flakes) – your preference how much you want to use. Doesn’t dominate flavor, it’s an accent flavor.

Try it on plain rice too!

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Perfect fit! No additional cutting at all!

Rice Seasoning – next time, I’m going to try wasabi on this 2nd layer instead of double rice seasoning

WTF: Way to flavor!  It’s like glitter on food, seriously!

Rice – fill in the blanks and press hard!

Very Simple, Very Easy — Chef Tell

Wrapped up in a pretty seaweed wrapper. This brand was the perfect size for my musubi maker. Wet fingers with some water to “glue” the sheets together if the steam from the rice doesn’t seal it.

This Nori (dried seaweed) was so easy to work with!

It was so easy and turned out so beautiful thanks to the press that I almost felt like I cheated!

Almost like I try to cheat and get a local discount when visiting Hawaii, but the locals can see right through me and know I’m not Hawaiian. Maybe next time I’ll come armed with my Spam musubi and they’ll reconsider.

ExSPAMpleB – Less rice and seaweed, harder to eat.
Green Lightsaber chopsticks ensured I’d get 2 thumbs up from my kids who were too busy with friends to rate me.

COME IN, I’LL THROW SOMETHING TOGETHER

When you’re working on an idea that you’re not ready to share with everyone, does it put up walls preventing other creativity?  Maybe that’s just me.  So sorry I’ve been absent and thank you for still being here!  To make it up to you, I made you a cake!

I’ve been praying for a potluck to bake this for, but promptly forgot to when I received an invite!  Fortunately, someone else shared my wavelength and brought this yummy cake! It’s super appropriate this week paired with loads of laundry and wall-to-wall paperwork from two school desks covering my floor.  This dessert is called DUMP CAKE!  I’ll give you the easy steps while explaining what makes it the best!

BUY: Yellow or White cake mix, 2 cans of fruit (or mix in frozen/fresh) and 1 1/2 sticks of butter – you heard me…

I first heard about Dump Cake from a friend that I’d lost touch with 16 years ago!  Every time I saw her style car, I longed for her personalized penguin plates. Facebook successfully reunited us and while we occupy opposite ends of the country, we can still share recipes!

Mmm, love the red! Tonight, the role of peaches will be played by crushed pineapple. Mix them together in the baking dish.

The first recipe she shared with me was healthy veggie soup over a cup of pasta for lunch! This would go really well with Dump Cake because it is far from healthy.

Sprinkle whole bag of cake on top of your fruit mixture. Use a fork to smooth – if you are OCD like me.

I first tasted this cake from a new friend found this Spring!  What made this year’s baseball and softball season’s awesome were the amount that my kids’ ability and love for the game flourished and the amazing families!

For fun, Lauren dumped chocolate chips on her side and I dumped pecans and some cinnamon on mine.

This crew was so much fun we had several get-togethers!  The most recent found us at the beach complete with an epic water balloon fight – remember, the coaches taught these kids to throw hard and accurately!

Take stick and a half of butter and cut into thinner pats and distribute evenly on top of cake powdered mix.

When researching Dump Cake recipes, I chuckled and thought “Well, if that don’t take the rag off the bush!” it’s The Pioneer Woman’s recipe!

Cook for 45-60 minutes at 350 degrees. See the cherries and pineapple under the cake layer? My new friend’s had peaches!

I love this woman!  She traded in corporate success for cowboys!  I’m so excited to finally try one of her recipes.

Remove from the oven when the top is light brown and crispy. The left side is browner on mine because of the nuts.

When I’m wandering and find common threads along the way, it’s heartwarming on so many levels. The synergy of celebrating the old and new, baking a recipe from a creative cowgirl – with  my daughter – lassoed it all up with a pretty little bow!

We chose Vanilla ice cream over home made whipped cream. The fruit wasn’t overly sweet – perfect for hot summer nights!

Greatest gift ever!  Enjoy!

Lauren: Loved 1st bite, Carson: Eh, it’s ok! I liked it, but it’s rich!  Overall A+ factoring in the simplicity! My kids: Please leave us alone, it’s movie night!

12. HAVE A RAINBOW MEAL

Today being Cinco de Mayo, we threw a family fiesta! Trying to figure out a Mexican menu that both kids would eat challenged me. One kid eats quesadillas, the other hates melted cheese. One loves spicy food, the other gets easily burned. I settled on Chicken Fajitas.

Loving the colors everywhere I turn!

I immediately thought how colorful and beautiful it would be and since I already used up half of the spectrum just in the peppers we’d use, (and perhaps slightly inspired by the Rainbow Cake from King’s Hawaiian we ate today) I announced that we would make our Rainbow Meal!

My kids’ simultaneously demanded to know how many colors would be vegetables. I promised not all of them. It’s not hard to think of food in any color of the rainbow. They’d suggested that we go for Skittles, but I overrode that one. Seeing as how it was 6:30pm before I got this bright idea, I improvised on some things since I didn’t have all day for prep time.

APPETIZER:
BLUE corn chips (although they look purple, the bag said blue so I’m standing by that), served with GREEN and RED spotted guacamole, and YELLOW virgin margaritas!

Virgin Margaritas: Lemonade, OJ, Fresh Lime Juice over Lime ice cubes!

My kids loved drinking out of fancy cups! My son loved the lime ice cubes and had four margaritas – I’m a little concerned by the implication.

Fiesta! Maybe this will be a new tradition!

He loved the guacamole. My daughter tasted a shmear and thought it was ok but better than she thought.

The best green alternative she had.

MAIN COURSE:
Chicken Fajitas with ORANGE, RED and GREEN peppers, YELLOW Sweet Corn mash, RED Spanish rice and one bite of PURPLE cabbage.

Pretty colors but the high quantity of veggies made them uncomfortable.

Sadly, we were full from multiple margaritas and the appetizer but the kids and I ate a bite of all required food colors– since I threatened to double the veggie intake if it waited til tomorrow.

WTF – Wow, the FLAVORS!

I can’t share recipes, but I’ll share brands. I used TGIFriday’s Frozen Fajitas since the grocer didn’t have fresh pre-marinated chicken. I added orange peppers to the rest (thus explaining the huge size, I’m not patient enough to cut things into slivers). The corn mash was El Torito brand sold in stores, the rice was Zatarain’s (with “fresh” canned tomatoes).

Let me know if you cook a RAINBOW!

Ah, now to make clean up more enjoyable.

EAT THIS, OR THAT

Ever come across foods that stymie you while imagining someone stumbling upon it and deciding that it was edible? Let’s start with A – Artichokes. Think of early humans tip-toeing through brambly fields, coming across the plants containing these stiff-leaves and vibrant flowers, then weighing the benefit of eating it.

These space-age looking plants are edible?!
Photo by lindalieberman.com

If one tried to eat it raw, I imagine that it’d be really rough for our digestive systems. Each leaf boasts a sharp, or even spiky, tip warning you that there ain’t no food here to enjoy. Once picking and scraping the minimally substantial leaves – “He loves me, he loves me not” – one gets to the choke – aptly named for its thistly centerpiece. If you cndured the booby-trapped layers of the artichoke, and separate and discarded the thistle, then you get to the heart of gold.

Why do people eat the leaves? It’s all about DIPPING SAUCE! Who doesn’t love any excuse to dive up to your knuckles in garlic butter or a creamy hollandaise sauce? I don’t eat mayonnaise often, but throw in horseradish and I’m licking my fingers! Even better – stuffed Artichokes with breadcrumbs and cheese, or salami bits wedged in each leaf! My kids have so much fun eating them that they forget artichokes are a vegetable!

If you’re Asian, like me, spontaneous calculation occurs without warning. One rationalizes that the fiber of the leaves, coupled with the energy exerted to tear this thing to pieces, must burn more calories than are in the dipping sauces. Time wise, artichokes take longer, thereby yielding higher quantity dinner conversations with low risk of talking with one’s mouth full.

This site has a very similar recipe if you prefer exact measurements – not eyeballing it.

I prefer steamed artichokes. Take a pot big enough to hold artichokes and fill it with a few inches of water. Toss in some olive oil, lemon juice and garlic cloves – chopped or not. Meanwhile, cut the point off of each leaf. Put them in, bottoms up, and steam for about 30-45 minutes until leaves are tender. For the sauce, put in palm-size glop of mayo and horseradish to taste, stirring often, until it’s the spice level you prefer.

Please share your amazing artichoke recipes with me as I’m always looking for new ways to eat them.

NEW NEIGHBORS, OLD FAVORITE RECIPE

Remember that old Sesame Street segment with the catchy tune “One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong”? When our awesome upstairs neighbors moved out, the campaign to find a fourth tenant that did go with the others began.

I’ve gushed before over how much I love the combination of folks living in our four-plex. We enjoyed each others company as barbeque buddies, playmates, Twilight groupies, Diznoids, busy parents, Johnny Depp lovers, and sports chauffers. Our differences added flavor to the mix: our ages, histories, marital status, careers, and hobbies. We truly looked forward to hanging out, so the bar was high for prospects.

With a constant parade of lookie-loos, we put on our best manners whenever someone we wanted dropped in. Yesterday’s rainstorm resulted in a higher than expected flow of people and repairs being done. When I saw a car parked in back that night and low lights on upstairs, my initial thoughts pondered the presence of squatters. Then it hit me, someone moved in! I didn’t meet her until this morning and first impressions – we got fortunate again, she’ll fit in great.

To give my children an excuse to meet her themselves, I pulled out our oldest and simplest but favorite recipes! We call it “Cinnamon Cake” although, it’s hardly a prominent flavor.

Buy Yellow Cake mix, any brand – we choose the ones with the most school Box Tops. Follow the directions on the box to bake a sheet cake.

So easy a child can make it!

While the cake bakes, prepare the cinnamon topping. Purchase cinnamon sugar premixed, or mix a teaspoon or so (maybe more) with ½ cup sugar and shake-a shake-a shake-a YAH!

Doing his best Ricky Martin - Shake your cinnamon!

Do the dishes.

Lick them clean!

Immediately after the cake comes from the oven, melt a stick of butter by spreading it on top. Nothing says “Welcome to the neighborhood!” like butter. Relax… you’ll cut this cake into so many pieces that you’ll barely get a pat of butter per slice.

Secret ingredient!

Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on the cake evenly.

Shake it lightly for even coverage, don't dump it on.

Cover the cake thoroughly.

As if magic, the sugar crystals change color!

Notice how it turns a nice golden caramel brown!

More please!

Two thumbs up! Why does that only happen for desserts?!

We left treats for every neighbor!

DOMESTIC GODDESS COMFORT

Sometimes forced “sick days” make sure you enjoy your home – not just bounce in between events.  When Mom’s sick, it puts a damper on the kids’ plans. They took great care of me, but I wanted us to still enjoy our weekend, without anyone’s eyeballs glued to the TV.

At this point, I needed the miracle cold cure, so I browsed my cookbooks found a recipe for Matzo Ball Soup from the ultimate Domestic Goddess, who doubles as a mom so it brought a validating level of comfort to the recipe.

She knows how to celebrate the domestic goddesses

Growing up, whether to bribe the kids to eat soup, or to fill up the men, we always made Hungarian Langos. Soup from scratch is no small undertaking, neither is Langos. Fortunately I’ve found ways to make both easier.

I prepped the soup to for the slow-cooker.  I added garlic for extra cold killing.

Even parsley from my garden!

I used just chicken legs – I don’t cook whole chickens – and left it for 4 hours.

Best invention ever for domestic goddesses!

I made the laziest version of Langos starting with pre-mixed bread.

Keepin’ it simple!

I stuck the tray of rolls in the mildly warm oven to “rise”.  With my grandmother, I would laboriously knead the dough, wait for it to rise, knead it again.  Today I hoped my grandmother watching over me forgave me knowing that even with the abbreviated version, I loved feeling her next to me!

When I cooked the Langos, they cooked a little too hot.  Knowing we’d eat them anyway, I put them in the oven to stay warm and got back to the soup.

A little darker but entirely edible!

I never tasted Matzo Ball soup before, but my son fretted all day because his first experience with them grossed him out. I knew I could make them at least the same if not better, so the bar wasn’t too high. They rolled out nicely

So quick and easy!

and cooked well and we poured magical golden soup over them, lit candles and sat down for our meal.

Skeptic kids become believers!

As usual a unanimous rating evaded us.

Lauren disliked matzo, Carson said “Eh?!”, both loved the soup.

Although I’d been tired before starting, and so tired after I didn’t post about it until this morning, mustering up old traditions and warming the heart of this house with new ones warmed me with much gratitude.

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