Dad is Great!

Up until about a year ago, my life was all about my kids. I was a 24/7 stay at home mom. I didn’t have much of a life outside my house.

Then all at once I became really busy. I started a blog and a business. Suddenly I had so much to do I had no time to think about how everything was changing.

I like that I have my own life now, but I feel like I’ve completely lost control of my family. My husband used to be a weekend dad who worked until late at night or go out of town several times a month. Now that I’m working more he has stepped up and taken a bigger role in the parenting.

He’s a great dad, but let’s just say he has a different style.

When I went to Blogher in Chicago this summer my husband had the kids for less than 48 hours. I think they spent 24 of those 48 hours playing Wii and they managed to eat at In n Out or Islands several times.

Since then, it’s been “Dad is great. Give us the chocolate cake.”

Not that I’m competing, but how can I compete with that? I only let them play Wii for a couple of hours on Saturday and I won’t let them go to McDonald’s and I don’t even want them to eat beef more than once a week.

My husband has been spending so much time with the kids on the weekend that if I go to get in the car with them the boys look at me and say, “Are you coming?” And then look a little disappointed when I say yes. Because it usually means no In-N-Out chased by ice cream or cookies at Diddy Riese. (My husband can’t have gluten so he HAS to eat there because he can get a lettuce wrap hamburger and gluten-free fries.)

In my attempt to be the cool parent for the Veteran’s Day school holiday I told them right up front that if they went with me to the Science Center I would get them McDonald’s. Yes, McDonalds. I already had a humiliating experience with a preschool parent last year about giving my kids McDonalds, so I was clearly aware that this was not a good idea.

We ran into a friend and her kids there and when she saw me she looked flabbergasted at my choice of toxins. “What are you doing?” This is wrong on so many levels, she said. She was so right and I knew it.

I really wanted to have a super fun day with the boys. I wanted them to say “Mom is great.”

Which leads me to Saturday. I got tickets to the Premiere of “Planet 51.” This would be super cool and the kids would love it. Or so I thought. When I asked the 5-year-old if he wanted to go he didn’t even have to think about it. “No,” he said. “I don’t want to miss soccer.”

In that moment I realized that someone has to be the enforcer. Someone has to make sure the kids eat fruits and vegetable and learn skills other than using a virtual light saber.

If I had thought about my kids and what was best for them and not what makes me look like fun mom, I never would have suggested it. He made a commitment to being on the team and it was his responsibility to go to all of the games.

Ugghh. Whether I’m trying to be the Enforcer or the Cool Mom, I can’t win.

On another note, The 4-year-old and I did end up going to the Planet 51 premiere Saturday. We hovered on the edge of the red carpet (which was actually green for the movie) and partook in the voluminous free junk food. My son loved the movie and I thought it was cute. I wasn’t crazy about a homophobic joke and a reference to plastic surgery. But other than that, it was good.

The Day of the Pumpkins

Halloween did not turn out how I planned (few things ever do, really).
For the past three years I’ve hosted a trick or treating party at my house. It started after a friend asked if she could come out with us because the porch lights are all off in her neighborhood on Halloween. So I decided to invite everyone we know and make it a party.

The first year I made turkey chili and gluten-free cornbread and put out some apples. There wasn’t nearly enough food so the second year I added vegetarian chili with butternut squash, spinach, and black beans. This year, Halloween was on a Saturday so I decided to go all out and replace the butternut squash with Ruth Reichl’s pumpkin soup cooked in the pumpkin.

I heard her on Fresh Air talking about how impressive and easy this soup can be and I had to try it. (if you have time and an iPod, download this interview. It’s not just about food, she also talks about her latest book.) I was at Trader Joe’s right before they closed one night last week and saw a Fairytale cooking pumpkin for $6.99. It was the last one and it was enormous. I don’t know anything about pumpkins but I recognize a deal when I see one. Anywhere else it would have been sold by the pound and at 27.5 pounds this was a major score. Blinded by the deal and empowered with superhuman strength I managed to get it into the cart, into my car and into my house.

Holy crap, this was a big mother of a pumpkin that barely fit into the oven. I found a version of the recipe online and went back to the store for all of the heart-stopping ingredients – half and half, English cheddar, gluten-free bread.

Saturday rolled around and I started making the turkey chili in the morning. I changed my normal recipe around a little bit and added a can of roasted tomatoes and green chili (also TJ’s). Then I cut up and toasted the gluten-free bread for the soup. The house smelled delightful as I got ready to go on a long run. This day is turning out great, I thought, expressing a level of positive enthusiasm uncharacteristic for me.

“Mommy,” I looked over at my 5-year-old and his eyes were glossy and red. I touched his forehead and he was warm. His temperature wasn’t quite 100. Maybe he’ll bounce back, I thought.

I gave my husband specific instructions on what to do. “Look at me and listen to what I’m telling you. In 30 minutes take his temperature. If it gets up to 102, give him Motrin. In 30 minutes, a half hour, take his temperature.” I gave him the thermometer and told him what time it was.
Thirty minutes into my run I had this horrible feeling that my son’s temperature had gone up and he was really sick. I was at the point in the run where it would take me as long to get back if I turned around as it would to keep going. A stressful half-hour later I was home.

“How is he? Did you take his temperature?”


“How is he? Did you take his temperature?”

“No, you just left.”

“An hour ago!!” I took his temperature and it was 102. He looked miserable. “How has he been doing? Did he say that anything hurt?”

“No….. He threw up.”

“What???” Why wasn’t that the first thing you said to me when I walked in the door? We need to call everyone and tell them not to come over.

My poor little pumpkin was so sick he was going to miss Halloween, the holiday he’s been talking about since Christmas. How could I tell him he was going to miss the greatest day a 5-year-old can imagine – dressing up like a Star Wars character and getting free candy just because you ask?

Turns out I didn’t need to right away. Once he got a little Motrin in him, he was asleep for hours in the afternoon, just enough time to start making my pumpkin soup. I thought about skipping it, but how could I let the world’s biggest pumpkin go to waste?

I gutted the pumpkin and layered the toasted gluten-free bread with the cheese. Then I poured in a mixture of eggs and half and half. I planned to use one-half chicken stock and one-half half and half, but I picked up the wrong stock container at the store and this one had barley malt (gluten) so it was out. This was going to be one rich pumpkin.

Speaking of pumpkins, my youngest still wanted to party and go trick or treating and one of the party guests offered to have everyone over to her house. So I sent the husband, the boy, and the chili (which was fantastic thanks to the green chilis) to her house. The soup wasn’t ready when they left, so it was all for me (and only me – cream of pumpkin soup and vomiting children don’t mix).

The soup took about an hour longer than I thought it would. It wasn’t even really soup. It turned out more like a cheesy pumpkin appetizer. It was delicious, but even I can’t eat an entire pumpkin shaped trough of cream by myself and still be able to tend to my son.

It looks like we’ll be eating the pumpkin in some form or another for the rest of the year. That one pumpkin yielded enough soup for 10, plus enough pumpkin on the outer wall for at least 3 pies. Plus I’m going to use the pumpkin seeds to make mole. Pretty good for $6.99.

Now, I’m back to tending to the sick child. With a bowl of Pumpkin cheese mush.

Mar Vista Farmers' Market

Dress the kids in costume and come on over to the Mar Vista Farmers’ Market for the Halloween Festival. You can enjoy some gluten-free goodies while you watch the costume contest and family dance jam (i don’t know what this, but it sounds quite exciting). The market, on Grandview and Venice, starts at 9am and ends at 2. I’ll see you there!

Butternut Squash, Carmelized Pears, And One Unhappy 4-year-old

I felt so guilty about not cooking for the family last week, (I did give my mom helpful direction when I was sick/recovering from dental surgery, but being annoying doesn’t count as actual cooking) that I prepared a huge meal tonight.

I had the 4-year-old put on his apron and help empty the seeds out of the butternut squash that I then roasted with olive oil, butter, and salt and pepper. Once that was in the oven, I cooked salmon and mashed potatoes for the husband and I, and pasta and chicken for the boys. I’m ashamed to admit that I’m one of those parents I swore I would never be and I cook two meals – a bland one for the kids and something I hope is slightly more interesting for the adults.

The dessert was for everyone and the 5-year was delighted to help because it involved sugar. I took Bosc pears and cut them in half and had the boys rub butter on the inside. Then they smeared a little brown sugar on the pear and I sprinkled a touch of cinnamon. I popped them in the oven with the squash and it made the house smell like Fall. The whole thing took forever and the pears started to get dry but were still hard. I poured a little apple juice on the pears (thank you Giada De Laurentiis and the Food Network website) and they came out perfect.

The squash was the best part of the meal, but the boys said repeatedly, “Noooooo. I’m not eating that.” I even offered them a quarter just to try it. They are long past falling for that trick so I took the squash (that already had olive oil and butter) and sautéed it with more olive oil, garlic, and spinach and it was amazing!!

I served the pears warm with ice cream and was able to get one of the boys to eat them. I kept telling the 4-year-old that it’s a pear, one of his favorites, with sugar, his favorite thing in the whole world. He put his hand over his mouth and mumbled, “I just want ice cream.”

This week I’m going to try cooking only one family meal and the kids will have to eat it…right? Or they’ll throw a fit, cry, and tell me they’re starving, but can’t possibly eat my dinner. We’ll see how it goes.

The "Spooktacular Got Chocolate Milk Halloween Event" I went to

I’ve never been on a studio lot before, so I was thrilled to be invited to the “Got Milk” Halloween party at Paramount Studios. And I could bring my kids, an extra coup because it happened on Tuesday, the day we struggle for activities because my kindergartener gets out early.

We braved the off and on rain (which in L.A. people treat like a hurricane) to get to Paramount. After driving in the wrong gate (why did you go the wrong way mom? Why mom? Why?) we checked in. I quickly changed my boys from mild mannered school children into Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader then we walked past the giant fake sky to find the party.<

And what a party it was. A giant spider made of balloons was fastened to the entrance. Fall trees that looked like they came right out of When Harry Met Sally graced in the inside of the tent, which was decorated with hay barrels and pumpkin balloons. The kids trick or treated down a street lined with brownstones (soundstages inside, I think), which were done up like Martha Stewart designed them herself. There were kids in costume and mom bloggers everywhere. Oh, and Angie Harmon.

Which brings me to why we were there. Angie Harmon is the new Got Milk? Mom and her new ad was pretty cute. It’s a shot by Annie Liebowitz (I hope they paid her lots of money! Get your pictures back, woman) of Harmon with her three girls. I was a little worried about my boys ability to listen quietly long enough for the presentation.

Angie Harmon (who is stunningly beautiful by the way) started talking just as my older boy droped his white chocolate covered brownie-on-a-stick on the floor covered with hay. He looked at me and his lip started quivering and he said “Mommy! Mommy!” Hold it together, I told him. Hold it together while the famous

lady is talking. Tears started welling in his eyes. Finally, I told him I would get him another one and he wiped his tears away and nodded that he would be ok.

After the presentation we took pictures, ate junk food, and stocked up on milk products. Chocolate milk is the official (according to the Got Milk? campaign) drink of Halloween. The only disappointing thing was that my son picked up a four pack of Nestle 100 calorie chocolate milk with no sugar added (they drank and loved the sugar chocolate milk minutes after we arrived). Instead of sugar it had sucralose and acesulfame potassium, artificial sweeteners that I don’t let my 4 and 5 year old consume. It was gluten-free, the bottle said, but why would it have gluten in it anyway? (Don’t get me started on the wheat starch in the Trader Joe’s Halloween Gummy Candy.)

All in all it was a really fun day and my kids were asking to go back tomorrow. And to add to my brush with Hollywood I did see another semi-famous person walking to his car. I don’t know who it was, but I’ve seen him do a guest spot on Entourage. You see famous people at Starbucks here in Los Angeles, but for some reason it was pretty exciting to see one at a studio. I’m a dork.

Vons/Pavilions "No-Cook" Cook-Off Challenge

Sometimes this mom blogger gig is pretty cool. Yesterday, I was a contestant in a “no-cook” cookoff sponsored by Vons.

Eleven LA and LA adjacent mom bloggers competed to make a family meal for 4 for $25. We had 10 minutes to shop and 25 minutes to make our no cook meals. I ran around the store in much-too-high-high-heeled-boots like a crazy person on a game show. It was a blast. I chose to make a gluten-free mango/avocado salsa with shredded rotisserie chicken over a bed of brown rice.

Unfortunately, it sounded better than it tasted. When I made it at home, I tried the salsa a thousand times until it came out perfect. I also mixed the chicken with the salsa. Because of time constraints (but mostly because I wasn’t thinking) I didn’t test out the salsa enough and it was a little bland. I also forgot to coat the chicken in the salsa and the chicken was dry.

And then there was the rice. I used frozen O Organics rice, which tastes great thawed, unlike the bags of cooked rice that need to be microwaved to taste good. I tried to thaw the bag of rice by wrapping it in a towel and placing the hot rotisserie chicken container over the bag. The rice was still a little cold.

Anyhoo, I met some really cool mom bloggers and left with a bag of fabulous prizes. My favorite item was the zester that I will use in my role as owner/baker at Yvonne’s Gluten-Free Goodies. I really needed a zester, rubber spatula (I broke my last one) and bowls.

The reason for the event was to get the word out about their new everyday low prices at Vons and Pavilions. It was nice to see that prices are coming down and they’re carrying more organic items.

Almost forgot to mention the winning blogger, Erin Shachory, who made a chicken chipotle salad that was spicy and delicious, and a beautiful fig crostini.

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls

I’ve been experimenting with Cinnamon Rolls (these I made in a muffin pan) for Sunday’s Mar Vista Farmers’ Market. They came out quite decadent. I know because I ate one while it was still warm. I must learn to sample a few bites, not eat an entire giant roll of cinnamony goodness in the middle of the day when I plan on trying out a few more recipes this evening.

I think I’d better get a long run in before I pick the kids up from school. When I perfect this recipe (hopefully before Sunday), I’ll post it.

Easy Chocolate Frosting

I needed to whip up something quick for a labor day bbq today (actually starts in a few minutes so I better be quick) and came up with gluten-free vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting. I didn’t want to use the mixer for a second time (I didn’t want to WASH the mixer for a second time) so for the frosting, I melted Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips with a couple of tablespoons of vegan butter. After it cooled, I added a little vanilla, and a few tablespoons of powdered sugar. It turned out sinfully chocolatey and delightful.

Star Wars Cake – The Force Was Not With Me

I did not know this, but kids don’t like lemon curd. My husband knew this and told me I should absolutely not put it in our son’s Star Wars birthday cake.

I had such high hopes for the cake, too. I make natural, mostly organic gluten-free cakes and I normally don’t use food coloring of any kind. But I really wanted the cake to look like outer space in a galaxy far, far away. I consulted with the owner of N.Y Cake West in West LA and we decided on black food coloring with bright yellow frosting (from a can!) for the stars.

It was not easy to make white frosting black. I thought it would be okay to use food coloring as long as I just used a little, but just a little food coloring made the cake gray. A little more and it was purple. A little more and it was a darker shade of purple. Finally, after an unacceptable amount of food coloring, it was black.

I added the stars and a glob of white frosting in one corner (to represent the ice planet Hoth) and wrote Happy Birthday. I can’t fashion Star Wars characters out of marzipan like my ex sister-in-law said I should have, so I vigorously cleaned my kids’ Star Wars figurines. I placed them on top of the cake to look like Jedi Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader were having a light saber duel with C3PO and R2-D2 watching. And I stuck a snow-suit-wearing Luke into the white frosting so it looked like he’d just climbed out of his snow speeder. I’m not an artist, but I was pretty happy with myself.

And it seemed to me to taste really good. I planned to heed my husband’s warning about not using the lemon curd, but I couldn’t make my own raspberry filling because I was out of cornstarch. I stared at my Trader Joe’s jar of lemon curd and thought how good it would taste with the vanilla cake.

My husband’s words came back to me. He said that even though the cake and frosting were vanilla, it’s colored black and people might think it’s chocolate. Psychologically the lemon filling didn’t work. “And kids don’t like lemon curd.” Ridiculous! Who doesn’t like lemon curd?

All children. “I don’t like this!” my son said throwing down his fork. Then another kid threw down his fork. And another. Of course I forgot, on the hottest day of the year, to buy ice cream for the cake. One kid said he wanted a popsicle and a bunch of them went running into the house to get one (we didn’t have those either). They settled for piñata candy.

Brown Rice Pasta with Gluten-Free Meatballs

Here is my lame just-got-home-from-blogher meal that I made last night for the family. I wanted to make Rick Bayless’ Chamoy-Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Mango Salsa, but I couldn’t get it together. Instead I threw together brown rice pasta, vodka sauce, and frozen spinach – all from Trader Joe’s and Adelle’s Sundried Tomato and Parmesan Meatballs (they’re gluten-free unlike a lot of meatballs). It was pretty good for last minute.