Slow Cooker Diaries – St. Patrick’s Day Style

Scenes from a Chinese-Irish-Italian Kitchen. For St Pattys Day we go all out:

Final Meal: Corned Beef & Cabbage with vegetables, and a slice of Irish Soda Bread

Corned beef and cabbage and other root vegetables. Slow cooker goodness. The beef was a fancy sort that did not come with “seasonings” so I mixed up my own, a combination of mustard seed, fennel seeds, crushed bay leaves, cumin, etc etc. The Irish Soda Bread, baked the night before, is courtesy of a mix this time (Sticky Fingers Bakeries). It came with caraway seeds and raisins. Didn’t expect the raisins, which was ok by me, only not a big hit with the husband and child.

And for dessert. Hadn’t been here for a while, so figured we’d drop in for some Irish fun:

Pot o’ gold at the end of that rainbow

Guinness Stout, a special that shows up just a couple times a year

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. See, even the Chinese can make it sorta Irish-y


Paleo, Schmaleo

So, let me take a second to explain to you this no-grains thing. I’ve elected to do the “Paleo/Lifestyle” Challenge that is taking place at my Crossfit gym. Trying it for one month. Unfortunately the challenge kicked off when I was in Chicago for work (and New York), and not to mention Kiddo’s birthday. For a quick review of what the Paleo Diet (aka Caveman Diet) is, I refer you to this handy infographic courtesy of and Pinteresters everywhere.

Anyway, day one of the challenge I was sitting in the Chicago office with some fellow travellers and on a whim, I announced we’d be having lunch at the Billy Goat Tavern. The one made famous from an old SNL skit with John Belushi. C’mon. I’m never in Chicago and here I am blocks from the place (ok, an $8 cab ride but still, we did walk back so it’s pretty close). I won’t go into the details of the Billy Goat, but just know that if you’re trying to stay Paleo, it’s not the ideal place to go (“Um, can I have just the burger, no bun” isn’t going to cut it here).

No Pepsi, COKE!

Dinners that week include pasta with friends, seafood (and beer) with more friends, noodles with co-workers, more beer, and a little ice cream with brother. So, in all, not a great first week to be doing this. So, there was that.

Whatev. I came home from this business trip on a Friday, and on Saturday was the little one’s fourth birthday. FOUR. I can’t very well call her the toddler anymore.

The last three years we have made cupcakes, so of course cupcakes were in order. I found a paleo cupcake recipe and decided to go all in. Coconut flour, cocoa powder, honey were the main ingrediets, and they turned out surprisingly delicious.

via chattycha on flickr

Robot cupcakes, paleo-style

Even the husband had one (maybe two). They were actually more brownie-like in consistency, but I wasn’t being picky here. The frosting, not so much. My timing was off after I mixed coconut oil with the chocolate and so it just turned back into, well, a chunk of chocolate. So, I gave the kid a piece of the chunk of chocolate to enjoy with the cupcake/brownie.

I find if there is chocolate in there somewhere it doesn’t seem to matter what form it is in. It’s all good.

PS: Earlier this week all of us crossfitters taking  part in this challenge had to report in on how they were doing (we are tracking via a point system where basically the more strict your paleo diet is, the more points you accrue). It should come to no surprise to anyone that I am in LAST place! I might as well sit down and enjoy a Paczki.


Robot Cupcake Series

I bought these robot cupcake molds at a kitchen sale at the market this summer. Figured they would get stuck in a drawer forever. But then I started researching the “single cupcake” recipe and suddenly these little silicone cupcake molds were a terrific buy! There is a strange art to making a small batch of cupcakes. Two small cupcakes seem to be the perfect amount for this family. The husband isn’t a cupcake fan, and I’m not terribly interested in baking (and, then, eating) a dozen or more. Also provides you a perfect opportunity to fool around and test some things without wasting a ton of ingredients. So without further ado, the results of this month’s experiemnts.

Test 1 (of 3):

Err … not so much. I used this recipe as a starter. I tried to make chocolate by adding cocoa powder, but it was a total experiment. Since I had coconut milk (or drink, as the carton called it. What was it really? Don’t know, just tossed it in).This one didn’t rise and tasted meh. Kid seemed to think it tasted just fine.


Test 2:

Better, but still a bit odd. This time I tried cocoa powder again, and also included some greek yogurt. The yogurt made for a creamier texture and at least the batter rose as expected. But still not the greatest tasting. I might need to do more cocoa and more sugar to get the taste that I’m looking for. Again, kid ate it up. If it looks like a cupcake and smells like a cupckae it must be a cupcake, according to her.


Test 3:

Jackpot! I ditched the cocoa powder and went with this recipe. No chocolate, but super vanilla. I went for broken and also made a little cream cheese frosting for the top (what’s a cupcake without frosting?)

These are the recipes I riffed off of. Just because my results weren’t great doen’st mean the recipes as written aren’t successful. One pattern I’ve noticed, and maybe it’s due to the cupcake mods, is that I need to bake them for far longer than the instructions suggest. But constant checking means at least they’re not burnt:



We’ve been reading this book lately, Pinkalicious. It’s about a girl who eats too many pink cupcakes and turns pink. She loves it until she eats one too many then turns red, then needs to eat a lot of green stuff to turn back to normal. I’m not a huge fan of this book. For one, her parents let her eat like a gazillion cupcakes, then she sneaks in more cupcakes, and she snubs the green veggies. Anyway, my toddler is enjoying it meaning we read it a few times a day. Well, all that talk about cupcakes, you’re bound to start craving cupcakes. I debated between baking from scratch and heading to Trophy and decided baking would be a more interesting activity but did opt to get some help from Duncan. We did the frosting ourselves, though. I finally had a good, smooth result for my American buttercream frosting. Room temperature butter, my friends! Simple details.


We enjoyed it. Lily was eager to dig in and showed a lot of restraint for a 3-year old. At last after dinner we had a cupcake (I had made a lot of minis and a few regular sized ones … L had a mini) … As soon as she finished it she yelled “More More More” (from the book) … Ugh!

But the cupcakes were tasty! Duncan Hines Devil’s Food Cake (because that’s how i roll) with pink buttercream frosting. Some dinosaur sprinkles, too. A nice end to a sort of stressful long weekend.

New Easter tradition?

Trophy Cupcakes took a page from the Easter Candy syndicate. They create these scrumptious cupcakes that are only available once a year: Easter weekend. What’s so special about a Hi-Hat? Well, have you ever tried a chocolate cupcake topped with chocolate-covered fresh marshmallow?

hi-hat from trophy via chattycha on flickr

Well unfortunately you’ll have to wait till next year.

Last year the Trophy gals at the Bravern tried to convince me I needed to put in an order but I just wasn’t into it. And I did have a twinge of regret. So this year, upon noticing their mention on their FB page that orders were filling up, I decided something had to be done. I put in an order for 2 Hi-Hats, that I picked up on Saturday afternoon during the toddler’s nap. What a great surprise she had upon waking up. A treat she shared with her Mom!

I’ll admit it. I got a little giddy when I explained what I was planning with the husband. He just wishes he enjoyed cupcakes as much as I do. The cake itself was moist and not too rich, a perfect complement to the sweet, creamy marshmallow and the decadent chocolate casing. If you notice that one piece is bigger than the other, it’s because I didn’t think it was appropriate for a toddler to have so much sugar. Am I right, or am I right?

I might have mentioned earlier that I had ordered 2 cupcakes. Tonight, after a long day of Easter celebrating, the only thing that could ease my stressed mind was another half of our second Hi-Hat. The other half awaits in the fridge for my little cupcake.

I believe I have found a new Easter tradition for the toddler and me.

Birthday Fun

Some of the fun food/activities during birthday celebration time, then see below for some photo highlights:

  • Blue C Sushi. Now, I know it’s not exactly gourmet stuff, but it is a lot of fun and easy to bring the kid. Of all the things she could have pointed out that went by on the conveyor belt, what caught her eye? The Mighty-O Donuts. Wow. Good thing we were heading to the next item on my list right after lunch…
  • Trophy Cupcakes! I’ve been looking forward to this since my office moved from The Bravern to Lincoln Square. No easy access to Trophy, you see. It was also fortunate that my birthday fell on a Thursday … Chocolate Peanut Butter day. Yay!
  • Shopping. I told the husband that for my birthday I wanted to go shopping. By myself. So yesterday I hopped the bus to downtown and spent a quality few hours with my debit and credit cards. Nordstrom Rack was my main destination, but also toured the Gap, Old Navy, Pacific Place, among others. My main goal was to try on a bunch of pants to figure out what size I am. And what I learned it it all depends on where you go. Great. It was really enjoyable to walk in and out of stores, to try on clothes without having an entourage (i.e. family) waiting for you. Bliss!
  • Zoo! After shopping I took the little one to the Zoo. We mainly just hung out at the Family Farm and we finially got around to checking out the “habitat discovery loop”. Carousel, too. The only drawback to the Carousel was that I took her twice. That’s $4. Which meant four fewer dollars for …
  • Red Mill Burgers. We haven’t been to RM for a while (used to go more frequently when we lived in Ballard, and/or before we had the kid). Sorta forgot that they are a checks/cash only establishment. So I had them ring up 2 burgers, and was there anything leftover I’d buy some fries. Nope. Had we just sprung for one carousel trip instead of two … but how can I not splurge for the little girl? Definitely made the right decision.
  • Cake from Metropolitan Market. No picture. Because I ate it too quickly. Since I came home fries-less, the husband went hunting for something more at the store and came home with (among other things) a slice of chocolate mousse cake. Since I opted out of baking a cake this weekend, this slice definitely hit the spot. Even if it did give me a sugar headache immediately afterwards.

If it’s not obvious from the above list, I’m taking a break from the usual SBD (sort of) while birthday week celebrations go on. It’s the year of the rabbit! I’m a rabbit! So take a guess as to how old I turned on Thursday. Does the littlest one understand birthdays? Not sure, though I don’t think so. We aren’t exactly the “happy birthday to you” song kind of family. I do wonder if she understands that she gets a tasty cupcake when someone’s birthday comes along. (though she often calls the banana muffins I’ve been making “cupcakes”, so maybe not).

birthday cupcakes via chattycha on flickr


Chocolate Peanut Butter to the left, Red Velvet on your right. The toddler picked out the “Samoa” for herself, but I’ve had the Samoa and I didn’t want her bouncing off the walls. So I chose the domesticated Red Velvet for her. She didn’t put up much of a fight:

now that's yum! via chattycha on flickr

Here are a few other pics from the birthday festivities:

A Red Mill Burger (just a cheeseburger), which I split with the toddler. That I only had $10 cash on hand (RMB takes cash or checks only) made the decision to forego fries, onion rings and a shake pretty simple:

Cheeseburger from Red Mill via chattycha on flickr

My birthday beer. Courtesy of the husband:

monty python ale via chattycha on flickr

I originally planned to make Chocolate Guiness Cake. Bought the ingredients and everything. Then yesterday had a change of heart and decided I really didn’t want an entire cake hanging around the kitchen while I return to those SBD times. I told my husband my decision and then said something like, “So you can have that Guiness that’s in the fridge.” He just looked at me as if to say, “Duh”. Ha ha. But, he did find this fun beer for me. Better enjoy it before the weekend festivities are over.

BTW, check out in the background of the beer pic, to the far right, a glimpse of the cute Chuck Taylors I got for L at the Rack. They’re velcro and they are awesome! She’ll have to grow into them but I’m super excited. Why is it I’m buying the toddler stuff on my birthday? Because it makes me feel gooood!

Lily’s Birthday Cupcakes

She turned 2 so quickly. My is time flying. I took the day off work and we had a wonderful day together as a family. Breakfast at Sunflour Cafe. A trip to the zoo, where the weather was kind and the animals were out.

happy birthday gorilla via chattycha on flickr

A nice long nap, followed by dinner and of course the obligatory cupcakes. I am including a pic of the cupcake without frosting, as the end result was kind of unimpressive.

mini cupcakes for mini me via chattycha on flickr

Remind me not to use that icing again.

Cupcakes I have loved

Trophy Cupcakes - Halloween Cupcakes

Trophy Cupcakes - Halloween Cupcakes

Happy Halloween - Mummy Cupcake

Trophy Cupcakes - It's a Mummy

Espresso, Mocha and Latte specials

Trophy Cupcakes - Espresso, Mocha and Latte specials

Trophy Cupcakes - Fall

Trophy Cupcakes - Fall

Trophy Cupcakes - Summer

Trophy Cupcakes - Summer

Trophy Cupcake Goodness

Trophy Cupcake - It ain't a party unless someone brings the CCs

I’ve got more cupcake pics … i feel like i take them all the time. Just gotta find them!

Trophy Cupcakes keeps me sane at work. It’s sad, but I’ve basically memorized their menu. The boss brought in a dozen cupcakes for a meeting yesterday. Someone asked what kinds they were and with barely a glance I quickly blurted out, “Pineapple Upside Down; Red Velvet; Samoas; Chocolate Vanilla”. People stared. “What??” I said. I hung my head a little bit sheepishly. Then had a chocolate vanilla. Yum.

You say it’s your birthday!

While L’s actual birthday was last week, I will never forget that my water broke the night of the AFC/NFC Championship games, which happened to be tonight. Haven’t decided who I’ll be rooting for in the Super Bowl, but I will try to remind the husband that I called these two teams as meeting in the Super Bowl back around week 5 or so. Seriously. No, really. I did. Maybe it wasn’t too difficult a call to make considering both teams were so frikkin hot, but I did and that’s what’s important. But, I digress.

Due to scheduling, we did a little celebratin’ yesterday, when Grandma was in town. Sheva, a gal I know from work who does photography on the side, came over and took pics of the family. I made cupcakes for the little girl. I made it easy on myself by purchasing Dr. Oetker brand organic cake and icing mix (chocolate/chocolate, as requested by the husband), then just whipped up a little bit of icing to decorate. Used some handy decorating tools that the MIL gave me for Christmas. Thus the fancy-schmancy leaf tips and star tips and somewhat neat handwriting using the round tip. Thanks, Grandma, for playing with the little monkey while I baked and frosted.

happy birthday

Happy Birthday, little monkey!