Meatless Monday: Dan’s Pancakes

Dan doesn’t cook much. Unless breakfast foods are involved — then, he volunteers his time and talent. That means Sunday brunches and brinner are his specialties.

Each year, when we go to Cook Forest, Dan and I are usually in charge of Sunday breakfast. Dan makes made-to-order pancakes and eggs, plus real sausage and bacon (I generally contribute fruit salad and vegetarian protein options). (Oh, and I make the coffee.)

Dan loves serving these pancakes so much, he can make the recipe from memory.

Dan’s Pancakes
(adapted from the Bisquick box)

2 cups Bisquick mix
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs

Coat griddle with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Surface is ready when water drops flung onto the griddle hiss.

Stir together all ingredients until blended. Dan uses an electric mixer, which probably helps with the fluff factor.

Pour batter, about a 1/4 cup for each pancake, onto griddle. I don’t know how Dan judges when to turn them. I’ve used the bubble factor (when the face-up surface is covered with popped bubbles), and I’ve read to “cook until edges are dry.” Flip pancakes, and cook until golden. Serve with your favorite topping. We like maple syrup, or butter and jam (that’s a personal fav of mine), or honey.

These pancakes are the airiest, fluffiest, melt-in-your-mouthiest pancakes ever. Dan makes them with strawberries, blueberries, bananas, or chocolate chips. This past weekend, he even made bacon pancakes (per request)! He usually adds the fruit (or chips or bacon) right before he flips the ‘cakes over. Instead of lemon juice, he’s also used vanilla extract — very yummy.

What do you like for brinner?

Random Thoughts: The Extended Family Edition

I may have mentioned this before, but: I come from a large family, on both sides. My father’s family is larger — he is one of seven children, six of whom are still alive. They married and had children (I have 17 first cousins), and most of their children have married and/or have had children.

Most of us live in Pittsburgh. And when there’s an event (First Holy Communion, high school graduation), we get to have a party.

Sunday, my family of 5 went to a party to celebrate a first communion. It was quite an afternoon.

Generally, the clan gets together about once a year at Seven Springs. Which means last time many of these people saw Michael he was an infant.

Most of them exclaimed over how much he’s grown. He now is walking, has hair, and is eating real food (quite a bit of it, actually). My Aunt N is especially in love with M, and she couldn’t believe how “her baby” is getting so big.

M took it all in stride. He was, surprisingly, not too clingy, and Dan and I couldn’t help bragging on him a little. He really is a happy, charming, pleasant little man, and he proved us true to our word on Sunday.


Flora brought BB to the party, where apparently he found a friend.

Flora also brought a couple of books.

This was me at nearly every family event. Sitting off to the side with a book. I always said my hellos, and was quiet and polite, and when I could, I slipped away to another world. And then said my thank yous and good-byes.

I don’t think it’s a bad way to be.


Kate, on the other hand, was the life of the party.

Here are comments my middle child elicited from others on Sunday:

“She’s certainly very outgoing!”
“She has a lot of energy, doesn’t she?”
“She’s got a delightful personality.”
“She’s so full of life.”

And, over and over again, from various people: “I love Kate!” Said enthusiastically and with much affection.

Let’s understand, that I, too, love Kate — and Michael and Flora — and would willingly lay down my life for them.

But I wonder if some of the comments I get about Kate stem from admiration for Dan and me for resisting the urge to duct tape her to the nearest piece of furniture after the fifteenth time we’ve peeled her off of someone, or are said with the knowledge that the person expressing his or her love and affection is relieved that she isn’t going home with them.

Either way, I probably shouldn’t fret. After all, one of the most beautiful things about coming from a large family is learning to love and accept all kinds of different personalities, from the loud and physically affectionate to the quiet bookworms.


As a side note: I shouldn’t have worried about entertaining BB. The journal that the kids filled out was full of prosaic activities that they did with the bear: shopping, reading, watching a movie, going to church. I didn’t see him on a Kennywood ride anywhere.

We went to the park and the library, baked cupcakes and took him to a family event. Flora ended her journal entry on Sunday with, “BB had a lot of fun.” And you know what? I think he did.

Meatless Monday: MOAR CUPCAKES!

I simply cannot leave well enough alone. For a non-baker, I certainly feel the urge to frequently mess with my cupcake recipe.

I *had* to make cupcakes because when I was picking up prescriptions for pinkeye (SIX CASES OF PINKEYE IN MY HOUSE THIS YEAR SO FAR! The less said on that the better), Kate smuggled “funfetti” frosting into the Target shopping cart. What else could I do? It’s one of the things we did with Flora’s classroom mascot (known as BB). More on that later in the week.

Also for the record: Store bought frosting is way too sweet. Make buttercream frosting. It tastes so much better, and it really is quite easy.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Chips
rpm version

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
9 level tablespoons of baking cocoa

11 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons of Nutella
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with paper liners (BB helped with this step).

Sift together in a small bowl the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add salt and cocoa.

In large mixing bowl, cream together sugar, brown sugar, Nutella, and butter using an electric hand mixer. Add one egg; mix again. Add second egg and mix. Add milk and vanilla, and mix until you have a lumpy liquid.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, and blend with electric hand mixer until batter is smooth, scraping down the bowl frequently. Fold chocolate chips into the batter.

Fill cupcake liners 1/2 to 2/3 full of batter. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool 10 minutes in pans, then place on wire rack to cool completely.

Frost cupcakes when completely cool.

Project Food Budget: Weeks 28 and 29

Food Budget Piggybank

What’s left this month:

Grocery: $476.67
Costco: $(78.44)
Eating out: $113.69
Beer/wine: $60

I blew the Costco budget again — I think I’ll have to raise it to $300 next month. Although, in my defense, Dan went Costco shopping, and he got things for his office, plus some “off-list” things. Also, he bought individually packaged snacks, which is more expensive. So I think $300 is realistic with some adjustments to how we shop. So far, eating out is good, and so is the beer and wine budget! Whoo hoo!


Thursday: Pizza (from freezer, not from scratch) and salad
Friday: Vegetarian soft tacos
Saturday: Spaghetti and marinara sauce
Sunday: Black beans, tofu, and broccoli over brown rice
Monday: Bella’s house
Tuesday: Brinner
Wednesday: left overs


Let’s see how everyone else did!

* Emily Levenson
* Dairy-Free Cooking
* Test Kitchen Tuesday
* Acquired Tastes
* Fit Flexitarian
* Warm As Pie
* Katy Rank Lev
* My Inner Healthy
* Little Blue Hen
* xox, b
* Project Food Budget 2.0
* Fresh…A New Chapter
* Chandeleah
* Two Eggs Over Easy
* That’s Just Me
* Eat Whole Be Vital
* Four Happy Violets
* Naturally {Un}refined
* Pgh Dad
* yogabeautylife
* What da Health?
* Twice the Twinsanity
* Brandon and on…
* French Press
* Veggie Meal Maker

Advice Needed, Sartorial and Other

This week and weekend have too much going on for me. And it’s not even the busiest time of the year! (That’s usually Christmas time.) And it’s not even the busiest weekend in my near future (that comes in mid-May — stay tuned!).

I had to put out a Twitter poll about what kind of gift basket to donate to my daughter’s school (wine was the clear winner; I’m pairing a red & a white wine with a basket of gourmet foods).

I also had to ask Twitter what “business chic” was. Turns out the upshot is nothing I have in my wardrobe.


Dan and I have an event tomorrow night at a school where he is on the board of directors. That is one of the weirdest non-kid related sentences I have ever had to type. The dress is business chic, which according to my sources is structured dress pieces paired with a blazer and/or good shoes. Like a pencil skirt with a crew neck shirt and good accessories.

I have good accessories, but I don’t have business chic.

I submit to you the two outfits I am considering.

Outfit 1 is this gray dress. It is knee length. I was going to pair it with black tights and ballet flats. (I should probably check tomorrow’s weather to see if tights will be appropriate, eh?) Before you ask: no, I do not have a blazer.

Outfit 2 is a black and white combo. The pants fall about mid-calf. I can pair them with either the aforementioned ballet flats or the shoes that are shown next.

What say you, readers?


The next piece of advice I need stems from the fact that Flora is this week’s star student. She gets to take home her classroom’s mascot at the end of the week. We are supposed to take the mascot — a stuffed bear — with us through the weekend and document the stuff we do with it.

The truth of the matter is our weekends are generally lame, filled with chores and errand running. What can we do with this bear that would be fun but not too crazy? Flora suggested the park, but (again with the weather) I’m not sure that will be a good idea. I wanted to go to the farmers market in Sewickley on Saturday, but how interesting is that to a classroom of 1st graders? Additionally, Flora has gymnastics, and we have a family event to attend. Plus, I feel like I should go to the I Made It! Market Jr. on Saturday (don’t forget to enter!), but with it being 1) downtown and 2) being from 1 to 4 p.m. (gymnastics for F & nap time for M), I have no idea if we’d even make it before it was done.

My life, it is crazy.

Any suggestions? Or should I just throw the bear in our car with the kids and take pictures of our typical weekend?


There was something else, but I completely forget what it is. I have so much happening I can’t even make decisions right now. I’m just going to be grateful that I have a community of people to turn to. How’s that for looking on the bright side?

Meatless Monday: Avocado Egg Salad

I love avocados.

And I love egg salad, but I am less fond of mayonnaise.

I forget where I heard about this combination (probably Twitter, hello), but I looked on some recipe web sites and they are all about the same. Super quick and easy, and rather delicious.

Avocado Egg Salad

4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and cut in 4 pieces
1/2 an avocado
1 stalk of celery, diced
2 tablespoons red onion, finely diced
Salt and pepper to taste.

Toss it all in a bowl and mash up the eggs and avocado. I eat mine on whole wheat crackers, but I suppose you could make a sandwich out of it, too!

What’s the latest food combination you wanted to try?

Thinking Aloud: Women-on-Women Action

Subtitle: Don’t Say Mommy Wars

I listened to a podcast today talking about the dust up between Mrs. Mitt Romney and Democratic pundit Hilary Rosen regarding the (taken out of context) comment Rosen made about Romney not having worked a day in her life.

And they kept using the media spin phrase “mommy wars”.

I hate that phrase. It’s so condescending and reductionist. As if women who are parents who make decisions for their families are merely “mommies”.

I have worked at home as a mom, I have been a stay-at-home mom, and now I work outside the home. (And inside the home.)

Women — for the purposes of this half of today’s post, women who are mothers — make decisions, sometimes very difficult decisions, about what is best for them, their families, their children, their marriages (or like relationships). Men usually participate in this decision making.

Women also judge other women — wrongly, I might add, but it happens. It’s a reflex, I think sometimes we do it without even thinking about it. Speaking for myself, when I find myself judging another woman, whether on her looks or about a decision that she is making (a decision that probably has nothing to do with me), I bite that internal tongue and try to get back to my own business.

In my opinion, after having read further what Rosen said and reading some stories, listening to some news about it, I really don’t think Rosen was going after stay-at-home moms. Some commentators and most of the media in general went after her for that, for re-igniting the “mommy wars”.

No. I think Rosen was (rightly) pointing out that Mitt Romney says he listens to his wife about issues that women are concerned about, and Mrs. Romney, who has raised five children, all boys, probably isn’t the best source to turn to for what women are actually worried about when it comes to the economy. Especially given the Romneys’ tax bracket.

Did Rosen phrase her misgivings disdainfully and clumsily? She sure did.

But I think she’s got a point.


However, Mom-101 really says it so much better than I could.


In other news about women and the damage they do to each other, Ashley Judd lashed out about public speculation because she dared to show up outside of her home looking less than perfect. One commentary likened her reaction to taking a stand on Mean Girls, but I don’t think that’s it.

To quote from a commentator on that Slate post: “People obviously have been taught that the female body is open to public scrutiny and public discourse.” When did this start? When did it become acceptable? And I don’t mean for the Ashley Judds and other celebrities of the world. While I respect Judd for speaking out about “body snarking” (another dumb media phrase), she’s put herself in the public eye and to a certain extent she makes a living off of the way she looks.

We need to find a new language to talk about girls and women. We need to stop talking about how “pretty” girls are and ask them what book they are reading or what their favorite subject in school is (and not be surprised if their answer is science or math). Yes, Judd has chosen to pursue a career where her appearance is under scutiny, and, yeah, that sucks when she is criticized for looking “puffy”. But it’s ridiculous that the body judgement is extended to smart, famous, and/or powerful women (for example, Hillary Clinton) and other women in the public eye who are NOT basing a career on their looks, and utterly destructive when it trickles down to women and girls who are living their lives completely outside of the public eye. It’s dumb that a size 8 is “fat”.

I really, passionately, 100% believe what I am writing here. Reducing women who are parents to “mommy”, and girls and women to their looks is destructive. We need to change the dialogue, make it less about us and them, and more about how everyone is a person, an individual, and deserves respect. You don’t have to go around agreeing with everyone. But civility will go a long way, and emphasizing just about anything over how a person looks and/or whether she decides to work outside of the home will move women forward in this country.

Random Thoughts: The Worried Edition

I worry. Right now, I worry most about Flora. She seems to not want to go to school every day. After nearly a week off because of Easter, she asked if she could stay home on Thursday.

I worry that I haven’t had the time to check in with her about what that’s about. I worry about the brown bags under her eyes, and why she doesn’t seem to be sleeping well. I worry that I’m not giving her enough to eat during the day, or that she’s just not eating what I do give her. I worry that our chronically chaotic mornings are part of the problem. I worry about her tendency to fall apart at the smallest thing.

I worry a bit about Michael. I don’t think he’s getting enough sleep during the day. He barely lasts until 7 p.m. during the week, and he is a clingy mess starting about 6:30 p.m. He gets a lot of calming baths. I worry about the fact that I haven’t started weaning him from his evening bottle.

While I could come up with something to worry about with Kate, the fact that I can’t think of something off the top of my head is actually very reassuring.

Will I always take turns worrying about the kids? Will Kate be my primary worry next week, next year? How do I deal with this? Do I just take it one kid at a time? How can I sit down one-on-one with Flora to talk about what she needs from me, especially when I have two other children clamoring at me? (Flora doesn’t clamor, she clams up.)

What do I do?


BTW: Other people are hosting giveaways for I Made It! Market Jr. The incomparable @scarletfire is giving away a turtle nightlight from Very Merry Glass (and you will be competing with me for it because it is too cute) and the lovely @soulfulleoness is giving away a roll-up crayon pouch from Gillie Beans Boutique! (Again, very cute.) And don’t forget to enter my giveaway here. The competition is heating up!

And Now for Something Completely Different

Updated to add: We have a winner! Comment 12 came up on the number generator. The winner has 24 hours to respond to myself or Beth via email (I am emailing contact info to her to claim her prize. Thanks, everyone, for commenting, and don’t forget about the Market tomorrow in Bakery Square!

By that I mean: I’m doing a giveaway!

I have been partnered with Grace in Abundance, an etsy business created by Beth Trax. Beth is the mother of two who says she started Grace in Abundance as a hobby.

“I wanted to try my hand at creating an etsy shop, sell some baby burp cloths, quilts, blankets… I had always stitched/created/quilted for fun, and loved fabric.” She says she needed a creative outlet, and Grace in Abundance, named for her daughter, became the way she was able to fulfill that creative urge. “Grace continually inspires me to do what makes me happy!” Beth adds.

Beth will be a featured artist at the I Made It! Market Jr. on April 21 in Bakery Square downtown. She is joining 30 other artists of handmade items for kids and babies. You can see more at her Facebook page.

Beth and I will be giving away a personalized set of a onesie, a blanket, and four burp cloths. If the winner wants, Beth will throw in a bib.

How to win: Leave a comment on this post. For an additional entry, tweet about it and leave a mention of your tweet here. I’ll be choosing a winner through on Friday April 20.

Wanna see the cuteness?


Burp cloths:


Beth can make a set for a boy, a girl, or create something gender neutral. She will work with the winner to customize.

You can see more of Beth’s sweet-looking goods at her etsy shop as well.

Thanks for playing!


BTW: Other people are hosting giveaways for I Made It! Market Jr. The incomparable @scarletfire is giving away a turtle nightlight from Very Merry Glass (and you will be competing with me for it because it is too cute) and the lovely @soulfulleoness is giving away a roll-up crayon pouch from Gillie Beans Boutique! (Again, very cute.)

Meatless Monday: Brussels Sprouts

Don’t run away!

I have to say here: I did not grow up eating overcooked vegetables. My mother tended to steam vegetables, or roast them along-side meat. She did not boil vegetables into gray slime. So I have always had an appreciation for vegetables.

However, my mother also always knew her limits. If you are an adult of a certain age, you may have been subjected as a kid to the rather infamous meal of liver and onions. Once as a child, I asked my mom, who often ordered liver and onions when we dined out, why she never cooked liver and onions at home.

This is what she told me: “When I was first married, I wasn’t a stellar cook. But it was important to me that I learn how. So I followed a lot of recipes, and tried to make your dad meals I thought he would like. One night, I decided to cook liver and onions.” She stopped and shook her head. “Dawn, it was so bad, the dog wouldn’t eat it.” She doesn’t mention if the vegetable she served with that meal was Brussels sprouts, but I know that we seldom had them as kids.

As an adult, I have generally liked sprouts, but I’ve really only had them steamed with butter, or butter and lemon.

Then Dan and I went to Toast! (Which, just, if you have any special event in your life — or even if you don’t — just go. It’s stellar. Dan and I usually need an excuse to dine out at a nice restaurant, but if you just enjoy a good meal out with tasty wines, Toast! is a fantastic choice.)

My appetizer was roasted Brussels sprouts with lemon zest and truffle oil. They were crisp and delicious. (They are usually prepared with bacon, which I’m sure adds a whole new layer.) Since Dan liked them, I decided I was going to try to make them some time. Dan comes from a household where vegetables were cooked within an inch of their lives; I refer to this as Irish cooking (please note: I am half Irish). He thought cooked spinach was supposed to be gray.

I served Brussels sprouts Saturday night with the meal my mother made, and they were a hit. My father, another product of Irish cooking, tried them, although he didn’t exactly have many. Dan thought they were great — could’ve been more crisp. My mom and I loved them.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 tablespoons honey
Olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Whisk together honey, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Spread Brussels sprouts on a foil-lined, non-stick sprayed cookie sheet. Drizzle the honey-vinegar over the sprouts, and toss them to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt and ground pepper.

Roast sprouts between 20 and 30 minutes, until outer leaves start to get crispy and black.

Did you mother cook vegetables well, or too well done?

Please stay tuned! I have a special post and a giveaway (! I know!) coming up on Wednesday.