Archive for the ‘How To’ Category

Internet, I am so sick of all food and have no idea what to cook and yet I STILL feel obligated to feed my family.

Yes, I have been here before. But this rut ravine crevasse feels especially deep and wide and insurmountable.

Let’s list all the things that are contributing to these dark feelings:

  1. My grill is broken, so none of my summery “throw some meat and veg on the grill” options are available to me
  2. My in-laws are here, which means I feel (self-applied, only) extra pressure to cook Things That Are Special
  3. I have still not gotten accustomed to our summer schedule, so I feel off-kilter in general
  4. It’s hot and I don’t have any extra energy for cooking
  5. I used up every last store of Cooking Enthusiasm in June, when I baked two cakes and countless cupcakes and hosted my in-laws for multiple Special Meals

First, I tried to make meal planning more interesting by adding two or three Brand New Recipes to the weekly list of dinners. But that requires research and energy, and I am fresh out of both. Okay, I am not “fresh out” of research. I am fresh out of PATIENCE for research. DESIRE to research. And patience and desire for this line of sentencing.

Next, we have been eating lot of meals outside the home, which takes all the planning and cooking weight off of me. But eating out all the time is expensive and time consuming. And I tend not to make the healthiest choices when I go out to eat (if I’m going to spend money on a meal, it better be tasty and fancier than a SALAD is my line of thinking).

Finally, I have turned to cooking super easy things, like Crockpot BBQ Pork or Tacos or Burritos. But my husband is growing weary of all of those things, and they aren’t really the lightest fare, either. I love to eat foods that are smothered in cheese and sour cream, but there’s only so much of that you can eat before you start to feel like YOU are smothered in cheese and sour cream.

How in the world do you climb out of such a deep and overwhelming food chasm?

Probably what I need most is some fresh ideas. Which is difficult to ask for because a) I have a HUGE list of recipes I haven’t tried and b) I am super picky and so 90% of recipes people suggest never sound that great. Really makes you want to help me, doesn’t it?

What are your go-to meals, when you want something easy and delicious? Bonus points if you would serve it to guests.

(Where does this come from, this need to do Something Special for guests? If a food is good enough to serve to my family, why doesn’t that make it good enough to serve to other people? And yet there are MANY things that my husband and I eat all the time – and LOVE! – that I have never thought twice about serving to others. Some of them are pretty spicy, so maybe that’s part of it… we like a spice level that wouldn’t be comfortable to many other people. Some of them seem… plain, I guess? Like the Crockpot BBQ Pork, which is just a pork tenderloin and an onion dumped into the crock pot with some BBQ sauce [and sriracha]. I usually eat it with a baked potato and some green beans. I LOVE it. But I wouldn’t consider serving it to friends because… I don’t know! It seems too homely somehow? It seems like a B-Team Meal, and when you have people over, it seems like you should be serving them only A-Team foods? It’s too easy to make, and you should put in Real Effort when you entertain? I have no idea. Is this Foods-Suitable-for-Guests thing unique to me and my husband?)

In exchange, I will give you my FAVORITE recipe of late. It is so good. So good that I refrain from making it too often, lest I get sick of it.

(And I cook the chicken in the oven – 425F for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is 165F – so it doesn’t matter that our grill is broken.)

It’s called Honey Chipotle Chicken Bowls from How Sweet Eats but I think of it as a big, delicious salad. I use lots of mixed greens for the base, and I cut some fresh corn and bell peppers and carrots and avocado and add those to the salad. And then I top everything with a mixture of the lime dressing the recipe recommends and a generous drizzle of the cooked marinade from the chicken.  I was really suspicious of putting quinoa on a salad, but it adds a very pleasant texture that I love. We served this to my in-laws recently, and they loved it.

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When I gave up sugar last month, I struggled a lot with the liquid portion of the restriction. I’d been drinking black tea with sweetened creamer for the past billion years, and it turns out that black tea with milk or half-and-half is NOT the same.

My friend had mentioned that she’d started drinking matcha… and it seems to be really trendy right now… and I have liked it in the past, so I decided to start drinking it too.

Matcha latte

My mug has seen better days.

Matcha is a Japanese green tea powder that you mix with hot water and – for a latte – frothed milk. I think it has a very mild, pleasant grassy flavor. It doesn’t remind me much of the green tea you make with tea bags, but I suppose they must have related flavor profiles because matcha is just powdered green tea leaves.

Starbucks sells a matcha latte. And it is delicious. But I will let you know that the matcha is sweetened. (That’s why a grande at Starbucks is 240 calories, and my homemade version is 75 calories and that’s because I use whole milk.) You can buy sweetened matcha, but you can also buy regular matcha. My computer does not recognize matcha as a word, so there is a LOT of red underlining happening right now.

My husband is a big coffee drinker – an afficianado, shall we say. He has all sorts of fancy coffee makers, and he does pour over coffee and drip coffee and cold brew and some other kind of coffee with a totally different kind of coffee thingamabob. He grinds his own beans. You know. It’s a big process. And on weekends he enjoys getting out one of his fancy coffee makers and making The Perfect Cup. It’s almost ceremonial, I say as an onlooker to these strange-to-me coffee rituals. It seems to center him and give him immense satisfaction by making coffee exactly the way he likes it.

Well, I do not enjoy the ritual part of making tea. I enjoy the drinking part. I drink tea because I like drinking it. I like having a warm cup of milky tea next to me while I write. It’s a good way to start the day. But I want the making part to be QUICK. And EASY.

Years ago, my husband got me an electric tea kettle that makes the boiling water part of tea making very easy. It has all these options for water temperature, including for different types of tea. One of the temperature options is “Green” (175 degrees F) so you just press a button and you’re on your way. Holy cappuccino that is one expensive tea kettle! Well, I use it every single day. But there are a lot of less expensive options. And I suppose you could always resort to an ACTUAL tea kettle on the stove, or the microwave. There’s no one right answer here, folks!

Matcha tea kettle

I love you, electric tea kettle.

So the water is the easy part. Matcha, as I have learned, is a little fussy. First of all, it’s pretty expensive. I got a little jar of it (1.5 oz, or 30 cups of tea) from my supermarket for a whopping $19.95. That’s a little crazy to me, considering I can buy a box of 20 tea bags for $2.50. You can get it more cheaply at Trader Joe’s or from Amazon. This is the kind I’m going to try once my first batch is gone (4 oz of matcha powder), but you can get a 30 g “starter package” of a different brand of matcha for $9.95.

Matcha powder

I have not seen any of the benefits listed on this package, but I do like the taste! 

Even making the matcha is a little fussy. If you get the powder, it’s not like making regular tea, where you steep your tea bag in some hot water and then poof! you have a cup of tea. No. With matcha, you’re supposed to buy a little special wooden whisk and whisk the powder in until it’s frothy. I firmly resist the idea that I need Extra Accessories.

Well. There’s no way around it. You have to whisk the matcha in anyway, so I got a little whisk like this:

Matcha whisk

The instructions for mine say you have to let it sit in cold water for a few minutes before using it. And after you do that, you have to inspect it for splinters! I was already predisposed not to like this thing. It’s not doing much to recommend itself.

(It comes with the little scoop, which I have never used. I use a teaspoon.)

But I refused to get a matcha bowl, even though some of them are quite pretty, because that is too fussy for my particular needs. I just want to whisk my matcha powder in my mug, okay? TOO MANY STEPS.

Matcha bowl

Very pretty. And maybe I am supposed to use this as a drinking vessel and not just a mixing vessel? In which case, maybe it has some utility? But I have a mug that I am very partial to! 

And perhaps I am being too stubborn. Because I cannot use the little whisk to save my life. Every time I try, I slosh green water all over my counters. Instead, I use a plain old kitchen whisk and whisk the water and the powder vigorously for awhile until I think all the powder has dissolved. (Sometimes I miscalculate.)

My favorite part of the matcha is the latte part. I did some research (read: I googled and read one article) about the different ways to get your milk to froth, and tried what I had on hand, which is my hand mixer. It did a wonderful job of getting whole milk to froth into a nice thick foam. But it’s a little cumbersome, and I have to lug it out from under a counter, and then find the beaters, and then wash them. So I got a milk frother instead:

Matcha milk frother

It does a great job, but it’s a little hard to hold; I find that my hand cramps a little trying to press the button while holding it. (And you have to hold it at a 45 degree angle and lift and lower, lift and lower until your milk is properly frothed.)

If you haven’t ever frothed milk before, it’s very fun. A half a cup of whole milk (which I heat in the microwave for 30 seconds, first) fluffs up nicely to two cups of froth.

Even though frothing the milk takes a little extra time – maybe three minutes, total – and it takes an extra dish (I froth it in a two-cup Pyrex measuring cup), I enjoy it so much I am willing to deal with a little extra fuss. And now I can make Chai lattes, too!

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We use a lot of citrus around here – I like lemony flavored dinners and limey flavored drinks – but our current juicer wasn’t really cutting it for me.


Here it is:

Old juicer

I searched Amazon, Sur la Table, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Target, and couldn’t find this for sale anywhere, so maybe I’m not alone in thinking this could be improved upon.

I mean, it’s FINE, but it tends to get seeds in the food and it requires some elbow grease to extract juice, so it’s not PERFECT.

So the last time my husband and I were at Sur la Table (for a hot! date!), I asked if we could look at the juicers and see if there were any better options.

I was thinking of something like this, where you can use gravity to aid in the juice extraction process.

Glass juicer

Glass Citrus Juicer, $12.00 (photo from Sur la Table)

But instead, during the course of our hot! date!, we got to see THIS juicer in action.

Juicer 2

And lo! it was amazing!

So even though it was $14.99, we bought it. And it is my new favorite thing EVER.

It’s SO easy to use.

But! It is also non-intuitive to use!

If I had bought it on sight rather than after seeing a demonstration, I would never have guessed how to use it properly. And the website is no help. There are multiple photos, including a somewhat disturbing one of juice falling from the juicer, but not ONE showing how you put the fruit into the juicer.

I would have put the cut lemon or lime into the bowl of the juicer with the rind nestled down in the little bowl all snug, and the pulp facing up. So that when I squeezed the arms of the juicer together, they all fit together in a nice nested fashion, and that the emptied-of-juice lemon ended up looking like a little empty bowl at the end.


Instead, you put the lemon in round side UP, and pulp side DOWN. Like so!

Juicer 4

I do know this is a lime and not a lemon. Also, it’s not a FULL lime. There are limits to what I will do for a post.

At the end, you have an inside-out lemon. And lots of delicious juice.

A real live chef showed us this method, so I am choosing to believe that this is The Best and Proper Way to use it. Although I haven’t tried it the other way. So perhaps it works equally well if you put the lemon in round side down.

It is – and I am not being compensated at ALL for this opinion (call me, Sur la Table) – FULLY worth the $14.99. In fact, I plan to buy one for each family member at Christmas. Okay, I also now see that there is a very similar version on Amazon for $8.95. Whatever. I don’t regret a thing.

Perhaps you do not use lemons and limes as frequently as I do. I still recommend this tool because it is AWESOME.

Juicer 1

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I love pizza but I hate tomatoes.

It’s a pizza paradox.


Pizza, delicious pizza.

Yes, yes, I know there are white pizzas and green pizzas – and I do love me some pesto, don’t get me wrong – but my True Love is traditional pizza with red sauce. I like it not only as a pizza base layer upon which all other toppings rest, but also as a dipping sauce for my fully-cooked pizza.

But. The sauce must be completely smooth. COMPLETELY. SMOOTH.

If I get a single tomato seed in my teeth, the entire pizza-eating experience is RUINED.

So my pizza preference is to make my own. And I have perfected my pizza-making methods, including my pizza sauce. And now, dear internet, I share it with you. You know, if you care about smooth sauce.

For the tomato lovers out there: my husband could eat chopped up tomatoes (HORK) on his pizza and still enjoy himself, and he also enjoys my sauce.

First you get your ingredients.

My favorite pizza has mozzarella, pepperoni, and mushrooms. Sometimes I throw on some sliced onions or green peppers, if I’m feeling fancy.

So, you know, assemble whatever you like to throw on your own pizza.

Then you’ve got to make your crust.

I don’t care to make my own dough, so I buy it pre-made. My local grocery store carries a brand called Papa Sals that I really love. I’ve compared it against the pizza dough that my local Italian bakery sells, and it’s got everything I like: it makes a nice crisp crust with a good chew and a nice mild flavor. It’s very easy to knead into a pizza shape. And, most importantly, it last a LONG time. I tend to make little pizzas for lunch, using an eighth of a crust per pizza, and the dough lasts an entire week. (And what dough I have leftover, I roll up in baking-spray sprayed cling wrap and freeze.)


Papa Sal’s, best pre-made pizza dough on earth. Or at least best available in my local grocery store.

(Disclaimer-y deviation from the post at hand: I was in line at the grocery store once, buying my Papa Sal’s dough, when a fellow shopper asked me how long it lasted. I told her a week and the grocery store checker frowned and said, “Oh, I wouldn’t do that” as though I was suggesting the woman lick the inside of a trash can lid or something. And to be fair, I am no food scientist. And also the dough does get limp and weepy at some point. So I guess even though I have eaten week-old dough and I am still here, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing it yourself.)

Getting back to the sauce.

It’s the easiest recipe ever. Takes 10 minutes, tops.

There are four, maybe five ingredients:


You have no idea how much money I spend on Penzey’s and Hunt’s every year. So. Good.

  • Hunt’s tomato sauce: I usually get two of the 8 oz cans because my grocery store doesn’t carry the larger size in the low-salt variety. Why low-salt? Well, I prefer it anyway, but also the seasoning for the sauce has salt in it.


  • Water: I fill up each tomato sauce can about halfway with water and swirl it around. So let’s say 8 oz of water to be specific about it.


  • Penzey’s pizza seasoning: This is a combo of fennel and oregano and basil and other things that combine into sweet sweet pizza goodness.


  • Sugar: I put in maybe a teaspoon? I’d err on the side of less sugar. I have over-sugared my pizza sauce before and it is Not Pleasant.


  • Cayenne pepper: totally optional, but if you like spice, it adds a really nice extra heat to your pizza.

Combine all these ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring it to a simmer. I turn it to medium and then go collect my pizza ingredients and usually by the time I’ve peeled and washed a mushroom or two, the sauce is beginning to bubble. Then turn it down and let it gently simmer for about five minutes, just long enough so that the sauce is warmed through. Seriously. That’s it.


This is the sauce in a pot as I am stirring in the seasonings. That odd silver pole in the middle is the handle of a spoon. What? I never purported to be a photographer.

You might want to taste test it, just to make sure you’ve got the right balance of seasonings. I find the best way to taste the sauce is to dip a slice of pepperoni in it. And then maybe another slice, just to make sure. Yum. Pepperoni. But any pizza topping should do the trick. Or I guess you could, like, use a spoon or something. To each her own.

While the sauce is simmering, I usually throw my crust into the oven — at 425 degrees — for a few minutes, just to help with the crispening process. Technical term. If I’m making a teeny just-for-me pizza, I do three minutes; if I’m doing a big for-the-whole-family pizza, I give it five minutes.

Then once your crust comes out, you slather it with the sauce you just made. Add your cheese and pepperoni and whatever else floats your pizza boat. And toss the whole thing in the oven for about twelve minutes (for a small pizza) to twenty minutes (for a big one), or until the cheese is all melty and your pepperonis are nice and crisp.

(Pro tip: I like to pre-bake my ingredients. I put sliced veggies on their own tray to dry out in a hot oven for a few minutes, which helps prevent a soggy pizza. And sometimes I’ll put the pepperoni on the raw crust when I pre-bake it for three to five minutes. That way it gets nice and crispy when I cook it for real.)

This recipe makes enough sauce for your pizza and dipping sauce and more to refrigerate. I have left mine in the fridge for… a long time. A few weeks, I’d say. But again, your results may vary and I am not recommending that you do or not do anything.

Except I do recommend that you eat pizza. Pizza is delicious.


Completely. Smooth. Smooooooooooth.

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Our trip to visit my parents is coming up, and with it four very long flights on an airplane. Carla has a tablet for just this kind of occasion (also for going out to restaurants when her parents cannot stand the thought of cooking/washing dishes), and so I am on the lookout for some new apps. Is it apps? Suddenly that’s making me think of appetizers. Or aps? It’s not apse, I know that. (Although I still couldn’t tell you which is the apse and which is the transept or how they are related except by “church.”)

Carla’s favorite apps include:

Toca Pet Doctor (My husband and I recently got into a nearly-heated discussion about why it’s “pet doctor” instead of “vet.” My husband’s explanation is that the “healing” has nothing whatsoever to do with veterinary medicine. My retort is that nor does it have anything to do with any sort of “doctoring.”)

Toca Pet Doctor.jpg

(Image from Tocaboca.com)


Toca Hair Salon

Toca Hair Salon

(Image from appsplayground.com)


Sago mini Ocean Swimmer

Sago Ocean Swimmer

(Image from googleplay.com)


Sago mini Road Trip

Sago Road Trip

(Image from itunes.com)


Dr. Panda Restaurant

DrPanda Restaurant

(Image from smartappsforkids.com)


Dr. Panda Airport – I love this one because it requires simple counting and number/letter recognition, as well as understanding of matching concepts. Plus it’s fun.

DrPanda Airport

(Image from topbestappsforkids.com)


Sago mini Toolbox

Sago Toolbox

(Image from gabdar.com)

We also have Sago mini Monsters, but I don’t know if she’s ever played it. It seems a little simplistic. And we have Toca Boo, which Carla likes in concept (scaring people while dressed as a ghost), but is a little advanced for her, so she gets bored quickly.And there was a Sago mini Friends app we had on our ancient second-gen iPad, which Carla loved as well.

We are always on the lookout for fun apps for Carla. Especially if they are free or very low-cost. Any apps that your toddler loves?


Brushing Teeth

Speaking of apps, I was thinking that it would be SO GREAT if there were an app that was connected digitally to a child’s toothbrush. The image on the screen would be of a mouth with lots of gunk on the teeth. And the child would be able to remove the gunk by brushing his/her own teeth. AND the gunk would come off only after two minutes of brushing. HOW COOL WOULD THAT BE?

Because brushing teeth is becoming a HUGE power play around here. My husband and I have exhausted our collective creativity on the subject. For a while, Carla liked being A Big Girl and brushing her teeth. For a short while, she liked me or her father to brush her teeth for her. For a short while, she would “compete” with one of us to see who could brush their teeth most quickly. For a shorter while, she accepted the dentist’s recommendation that we be the ones to brush her teeth. There were a few days when she would enthusiastically “teach” her baby doll or one of her stuffed animals to brush their teeth by watching her. Of course, my husband or I had to narrate the entire time. There were a few days when she thought it was hilarious for me to brush her teeth while she had her thumb in her mouth. Then two thumbs. Once in a while, she will brush her teeth to a toothbrushing song or video on YouTube. Lately, I have been allowing her to watch Elmo videos while I brush her teeth.

Every day, it’s something new. You never know whether she’ll be game for whatever stupid game you’ve dreamed up or you’ll end up feeling like a teakettle about to boil over.

It’s a NIGHTMARISH ORDEAL, is what I’m saying.

HOW in the WIDE WIDE WORLD do you get a stubborn, control-enthusiast toddler to brush her teeth?


Eating (again)

Last night for dinner, Carla had two tablespoons of peanut butter and 12 slices of pepperoni.

I mean.

She can’t SURVIVE like this, right? How is she surviving?

As usual, I served her a meal that had a variety of things. AND, the variety was things that she LIKES and has eaten with gusto in the past. (Read: no guarantee she will ever eat again.) I gave her fish sticks (with plenty of ketchup), cheesy noodles, and cheesy broccoli. But no. She put a tiny bite of fish stick into her mouth and then spat it out. “I don’t LIKE it,” she said, beseechingly. SIGH.

She asked for rice off of my plate, then didn’t eat it.

We THREATENED. She has presents to open from the party this weekend, and we said she MUST eat three fish sticks in order to open them. Nope. Nothing more than the teeny little taste that came right back out.

So. Peanut butter and pepperoni it is.

She used to be GREAT about yogurt. And I felt fine with giving her a (whole milk, full fat) yogurt anytime, anywhere. But now she is finicky and not interested. Oh! That DOES remind me that she and I made some yogurt “popsicles” that I should try and get her to eat.

Breakfast used to be a fair guarantee that she’d eat: a pancake or two, a French toast stick or two, plus some fruit, plus an applesauce pouch, plus a yogurt pouch. Lately? She’ll eat a handful of berries, a bite of a starch… and some Cheez Its.

This morning she had twelve Frosted Mini Wheats (she’s very into counting things; there were 20 to begin with, and it took about 890 minutes to eat the twelve and then we were late) and about a half cup of blackberries and raspberries. And an applesauce pouch in the car.

And that’s the other thing. Meals drag. On. For. Ever. I wake her up at 7:00, and we’re “eating” by 7:15… but it takes until 8:30 to be done. And even then, it’s only by setting timers and urging her to KEEP EATING FTLOG and then we have to be finished even if she’s not done. Dinner time is a series of ups and downs and “I need water” and “I need a spoon” “no a different spoon” “no a BIG GIRL spoon” and “I have to go potty” until we strap her into her booster seat. And then it’s eating nothing and trying small bites and arguing and wheedling and negotiating until finally I set the timer for bath time. And then she wants something else! That she doesn’t eat! And something else! And something else! Until I am ready to throw in the towel and all the bedsheets and a canopy besides.

I know – I know – that EATING is one of the few ways she can exert control over her universe. But it is driving me mad. MAD.

And also nervous. Because how is she surviving? She eats less than a bird.

Do I just… continue along this path – offering good food, then when she refuses it, give her an alternate option? (And please keep in mind that I asked her what she wanted for dinner – between two options – and she chose fish sticks so it’s not like I haven’t tried THAT tack.) I cannot put her to bed hungry. I know it’s an option, and it’s one that we’ve tried. But it just doesn’t work for us.


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Dear Reader –

If you pay rent or a mortgage in an apartment or home; or if you are living in an apartment or home and perhaps SHOULD be paying rent or helping with the mortgage; or if you are visiting an apartment or home, you will you be very interested to discover the following breakthrough techniques for enjoying your time in the kitchen.

In fact, upon reading these techniques and putting them into action during your next visit to a kitchen, you should not be surprised to discover a positive, grateful atmosphere; an environment free of nagging or heavy sighs or teary shouting. You may even find yourself on the receiving end of some blush-worthy praise!

That’s what I call Real Kitchen Fun!

Let’s get started!


Lesson One: Clearing the Table

But beloved author! you may be thinking. My host’s/my table does not reside in the kitchen! Shouldn’t this be a more appropriate entry in your Guide to Proper Dining Room Behavior?

No, dear reader! You are sorely mistaken! But you have come to the right place. I will help ensure that you will never face such an embarrassing misunderstanding ever again!

In fact, clearing the table is the first step to Fun with Kitchen Cleaning.

When you have finished dining in an apartment/house – no matter where you choose to dine – it is often helpful to offer to clear the table.

Point A:

If you are a guest, ask first. The hostess may prefer to clear the table on her own – either to spare you the inconvenience, since you are a treasured guest, OR to spare herself the inconvenience of having guests balance picked-over plates willy nilly all across her counters.

If you reside in the apartment/house, you may have free rein to clear the table in the manner specific to your parent/spouse/partner/roommate. This may require some attentiveness before you attempt your first table-clearing. But you can speed the learning process along by asking your parent/spouse/partner/roommate what s/he would prefer.

Once you have been given the all clear on clearing all, don’t forget to clear the entire table! (That means napkins, glasses, salt and pepper shakers, placemats, that bit of gristle you put on the side of your plate, the empty Diet Sprite can, et al.)

Point B:

In some cases, it may be appropriate to simply stack the cleared dishes near the sink. The nearer the better! But careful! Refrain from creating precarious skyscrapers out of bowls topped with plates topped with glasses topped with soup tureens.

In other cases, it may be appropriate to clear the plates further.

To find out which case applies to you, just ask!

If you are given the go-ahead to do further clearing, follow these handy tips:

– Big food items should probably go in the rubbish bin.

– Make sure you determine whether the sink has a garbage disposal before clearing any plates into the sink.

– Make sure you clear food waste into the side of the sink with the garbage disposal.

– It may be tempting to simply dump and go, but proper procedure requires that you make sure the sink is clear of all food particles before declaring yourself done with clearing.

Fun Fact: Just because you have cleared the table doesn’t mean you are done! There is more kitchen fun to be had!


Lesson Two: Unloading the Dishwasher

***Only applicable if you or your host possess a dishwasher.***

It can be tricky to determine whether the dishes in the dishwasher are clean or dirty. Your best course of action is to open the dishwasher and look!

Some clues as to whether the dishes are clean:

– The plastic storage containers on the top shelf are beaded with water – inside and out.

– The overturned coffee mugs contain a small lip of water.

– The dishwasher “clean” light is on.

Fun Fact: You can unload the dishwasher at any time!

If you have determined that the dishes are dirty, feel free to add any dishes you may have set near the sink to the dishwasher.

(Suggestion for guests: It may be best for you to ask before completing the remainder of this lesson.)

If the dishwasher is full, you can add soap to the dispenser and run it!

If you have determined that the dishes are clean, now it’s time to unload! Hahaha – removing the one glass you need to drink from and then leaving the kitchen is a hilarious prank! But seriously. Now you can unload the dishwasher.

First, wash your hands! Some people choose to skip this step, but I strongly urge you to complete it before proceeding. Because putting your dirty hands all over clean dishes seems counterproductive, no?

Important Note: “I don’t know where this goes” is not an appropriate comment if you are residing in the house. Hint: Look through cupboards until you find the likely habitat of the plate you’re holding!

Once you have finished unloading the dishwasher, now’s your chance to initiate…


Lesson Three: Loading the Dishwasher

Now we’re in for some serious kitchen fun!

Put dirty dishes – which have been cleared of all large food particles – into the dishwasher!

Heavy items – dishwasher-safe pots, pans, plates, and bowls – go on the bottom shelf. Lighter and more fragile items – Tupperware containers, coffee mugs, drinking glasses – go on the top. Some people like to put their cutlery facing down; others like it to face up. No matter which type of person your parent/spouse/partner/roommate/host is, you’ll want to put the knives into the cutlery basket sharp end down.

One of the mysterious joys of the dishwasher is that it holds much more than you think it might! Experiment with moving items around in different arrangements to fit the most dishes – while still making sure the water will reach them – possible.

Fun Fact: A parent/spouse/partner/roommate may have done the same task every day for twenty years, but that does not mean s/he enjoys completing that task. Nor does it mean that YOU cannot complete that task instead! (This guide is blowing your mind, I know it!) When in doubt, remember this: Kitchen fun is for everyone!


Lesson Four: Cooking!

While I advocate cleaning up while you are creating your culinary masterpiece, it is not the only option.

But if you decide NOT to clean as you go, do remember to clean AFTER you have produced your gourmet creation. This may involve cleaning the top of the stove; inside the microwave; various floors; cabinets; and the wall behind the stove.

Fun Fact: If you can imagine a place where grease spatter or sugar particles may have reached, you’ll want to clean it! Be creative – you can even make a game out of trying to track down every last splatter of sauce or crumb of bread.

After slaving over a hot stove, I know that clearing your dishes to the sink feels like quite an accomplishment. You’ll be surprised to know that doing so is leaving the job half done. Instead, you should fully clean your dishes, either by hand-washing them or by running them through the dishwasher.

Important Note: Saying “I made the food, so someone else should do the dishes” is only appropriate when Someone Else has agreed to this arrangement before the cooking commences.

Now, what I have to say next may sound completely counterintuitive (although what is Kitchen Fun without a little hypocrisy?!). But if someone has done you the honor of making you a meal? You can still do ALL of the following:

– Wash the dishes you’ve eaten from!

– Put unused food back into the refrigerator/cupboards! (Using appropriate storage containers, of course!)

– Put away serving dishes!

– Clear the countertops! (More on that in the next lesson…)

If you are a guest, of course, you should check with your host before tackling this kind of kitchen fun. But even the simple act of offering to help can express your gratitude for being fed!


Lesson Five: Countertops

After you have finished baking, cooking, eating, preparing, clearing, or washing is the perfect time to clean the countertops!

Using cleanser or cleansing cloths or whatever else your parent/spouse/partner/roommate/host prefers, simply spray and wipe the counters clean.

Helpful Hint: Instead of brushing counter detritus onto the floor, brush it into your hand and transport it – via your hand – to the trash!

Make sure you get all counters! Yes, even that one!


Lesson Six: Observation

Now, dear reader, this is a master level Kitchen Behavior technique. But I think you are READY to hear it!

Whenever you are in the kitchen, take a look around. If you see something that needs to be done – a heavy pot still bearing remnants of last night’s stew; a pile of plates sitting in the sink; a bowl sitting forlornly on the table – use the previous lessons you’ve learned to take care of it.

Fun Fact: Even if your parent/spouse/partner/roommate/host hasn’t asked you to do anything in the kitchen; hasn’t nagged you repeatedly about doing something in the kitchen; isn’t complaining about doing that very task, day in and day out without help, you can STILL have Kitchen Fun any time you want!

Now You Are Ready to Have Fun in the Kitchen!

I hope you’ve enjoyed these brief lessons, dear reader. They are by no means comprehensive, but I believe they have given you an excellent foundation for immense pleasure and satisfaction every time you set foot in the kitchen.

I have every confidence that you will apply them with ease and grace… and that, in doing so, you will be showered with appreciation and accolades.

If you’ve found these lessons helpful, be on the lookout for my upcoming Guide to Finding Items Your Parent/Spouse/Partner/Roommate SAYS Are in the Fridge/Closet/Cupboard But Have Not Jumped Out to Announce Themselves.

Wishing you great success in the kitchen and in life,

Your Grateful Author

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Step 1: Renounce carbs.


Step 2: Plan week’s meals with husband; discover that pretty much every meal you like includes carbs in some form.

Step 2a: Commence weeping and rending of clothes.

Step 3: Make tacos for dinner.

Step 4: Ignore husband when he asks, “You know taco shells are carbs, right?”

Step 5: Contract raging case of Bagel Craving.

Step 6: Forego a package of Lender’s bagels (what? I LIKE them) for a single bagel from the grocery store bakery.

Step 7: Respond to husband’s question, “Isn’t a bagel pure carbohydrates?” by saying “I’ll show you a carbohydrate… right to the junk!”

Step 8: Decide to eat bagel.

Step 8a: Discover that, unlike Lender’s bagels, this stupid bagel is not pre-cut.

Step 9: Commence cutting bagel in half.

Step 9a: Stab self in middle finger with tip of knife.

Step 9b: Do not look at blood do not look at blood do not look at blood.

Step 9c: Hold bleeding finger under ice cold water; feel grateful for the first time ever that the water is so goddamn cold.

Step 9d: Wrap a bandaid around frozen finger, effectively cutting off circulation.

Step 9e: Inspect knife for errant blood spatter.

Step 9e1: Determine that errant is not the word you mean; keep it anyway.

Step 9e2: Poetic license, y’all.

Step 9f: Resume cutting bagel in half. Carefully this time.

Step 10: Place half of bagel in toaster oven.

Step 11: Place other half of bagel back in bagel bag.

Step 12: Put honey in the microwave.

Step 13: Briefly consider asking Twitter if butter that’s been left out on top of the toaster oven for three weeks is okay to eat.

Step 13a: Decide, Naaaahhhhh about asking Twitter. The butter’s fine, man.

Step 14: Hear a pop from the microwave.

Step 15: Open the microwave just as the honey bottle tips over and squirts honey all over the microwave door, the stove, and the floor.

Step 15a: Briefly consider closing the microwave door and moving.

Step 16: Turn on the hot water while mopping up whatever honey has not immediately congealed into a sticky, impossible mess.

Step 16a: Chant new mantra of “at least it’s not sugar” whilst mopping.

Step 17: Run a paper towel under the hot water.

Step 17a: The goddamn water is still ice cold.

Step 17b: BLARGH.

Step 17c: Run paper towel under lukewarm water.

Step 18: Clean up remaining honey mess.

Step 19: Place toasted bagel on plate.

Step 20: Slather with “butter,” if you can call it that.

Step 21: Sprinkle buttered bagel with salt. (YUM.)

Step 22: Squirt honey onto bagel.

Step 22a: Miss bagel entirely and instead squirt the Giant Crevasse of Doom that lies between the counter and the stove.

Step 23: Is this really worth it?

Step 24: Clean up the honey as best as possible.

Step 24a: But obviously you can’t clean anything inside the Giant Crevasse of Doom.

Step 24b: So just leave that alone.

Step 24c: Consider fashioning some sort of “Welcome, Ants!” banner to affix to the honey inside the Crevasse.

Step 24d: Decide, Naaaaaaaahhhhhhh, ants don’t read so good.

Step 25: Sit down.

Step 26: Eat bagel.

Step 27: Endure hours of mild stomach discomfort, possibly related to the “butter” substance smeared all over the bagel.

Step 28: Vow to never eat a carb again.

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Well folks, it is officially summerish around these parts. Which means that the bugs are starting to appear from wherever they’ve hidden throughout the winter.

So I thought I would create a Handy Dandy Guide to Killing Unwelcome Critters of the Insect Variety.

How to Kill a Bug

  1. Spot a bug out of the corner of your eye.
  2. Shriek like a little girl. (You needn’t be little nor a girl for this step.)
  3. Shudder dramatically, as though you are auditioning for a Lifetime Original Movie.
  4. Ensure that the bug is NOT a cockroach. (If a cockroach, abandon plan and sell apartment. Or ask your spouse to kill it.) (And by “ask,” I mean “beg hysterically.”)
  5. Run quickly to the bathroom.
  6. Open the toilet lid.
  7. Grab a handful of toilet paper. A big handful. So as to put a great white distance between your delicate hand and the bug.
  8. Run back to the Bug Spotting Area.
  9. Search for the bug, as it has inevitably moved from its original location.
  10. Approach the bug with great caution, as to prevent it from skittering out of your reach.
  11. Run in place, daintily, while chanting “ew ew ew!”
  12. Position the toilet paper bundle slightly below the bug, to prevent it from falling onto the floor/bed/behind the TV.
  13. Carefully press the remainder of the toilet paper onto the bug.
  14. Make a pinching motion with the toilet paper while pressing the bundle into the wall. (Again with the falling bugs.)
  15. Gingerly pull the bug-filled paper away from the wall. (DO NOT DROP THE BUG.)
  16. Take a very quick peek inside the toilet paper bundle to make sure the bug is there.
  17. Squeal at the sight of the bug. (This step is mandatory whether the bug is squished or wriggling around unscathed.)
  18. Stretch your bug-holding arm waaaaaaaaaay out in front of you; continue to pinch the bundle tightly.
  19. Run to the bathroom.
  20. Drop the bug and toilet paper bundle into the toilet.
  21. Tell the bug you are very sorry for ending its life so unceremoniously. (Even if you are not sorry. At all.)
  22. Flush the toilet.
  23. Use the other bathroom for the remainder of the day. (Note: If no other bathroom exists, inspect the toilet closely for Zombie Bugs for the remainder of the day.)
  24. Return to your normal activities.
  25. Punctuate said normal activities with peripheral visions of phantom bugs.
  26. Shudder occasionally.
  27. Repeat as necessary.

You’re welcome.

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