A little fun with Chopped.

We now have cable for the first time in 9 plus years. (There was a great offer and it’s cheaper than the Internet/Phone only service we previously had.) We’ve watched less than I would have thought. But John and I have fast become fans of the Food Network show Chopped.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what would happen if Chopped met my life.

Welcome contestants…in your baskets today you will find the following: 

Baskets? What baskets? In this challenge you must find your own ingredients. The first ingredient you think about will not fully be defrosted even though you took it out of the freezer the day before. The second ingredient you think of you will not have. The third idea you think of will be something you just had two nights ago.

Your judges will be three children. One will not eat meat because it’s an animal. One refuses all vegetables except baby carrots. These judges all like different things. Some think everything is better with ketchup. One hates ketchup. Nothing is allowed to look weird. All three reserve the right to insist that they hate a food that they ate (and loved) yesterday. And although one judge would be happy if you served her nothing but macaroni and cheese three times a day you actually care about this judge and cannot allow her to do that.

Your challenge…to cook dinner in 30 minutes. You have access to everything available in the kitchen. However, no one has been to the grocery store in a week so good luck finding what you want. It is guaranteed that you will not have at least one ingredient that you think you need.

During this time you will be faced with at least one of the following extra challenges:

*The smallest of the children will go to the bathroom and need help. If you do not go quickly, you will regret it.

*The oldest of the children will call from baseball practice saying that it is ending early and he needs a ride home. You must drop whatever you are doing, even if it is on the stove and go get him.

*At least one child will walk in and ask what you are making. When you tell him, he will say he hates whatever it is.

*At least two and perhaps all three of the children will become embroiled in a battle. You will try to ignore them to “let them work it out themselves” but finally you will hear screams and need to intervene. Points deducted if you end up yelling at them.

*The youngest child will come in and ask for a lollipop. You will tell her no, that it’s almost time for dinner. She will fall to the floor sobbing.

*You will get paged and realize you are on call. You will need to call back and calm the concerned parent of a fussy infant while juggling some tricky part of the dinner. This challenge will occur simultaneously with the battle or lollipop tantrum challenges above.

Your Prize:

Congratulations! The judges have accepted your offerings and you have been selected as the Chopped Family Champion. Your prize? You get to do it again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.


There are a lot of reasons we homeschool.

Recently we’ve added a new one. After reading about the second grader suspended for chewing his Pop-Tart into a gun shape and the 5 year old girl who made a “terrorist threat” against a classmate and the 6 year old suspended for pointing a finger at a classmate and saying “Pow”, I’m quite convinced we’ve made the right decision.

SAM_6740It’s likely they would just end up at home after being expelled anyway.

*In full disclosure the Nerf gun was disarmed and taken apart before spelling and grammar.

**In fuller disclosure it was disarmed because his mother thought it was funny to keep shooting him and his brother if they were goofing off and not doing their work.

**And in the fullest disclosure, the 6 yr old disarmed his mother and took apart the gun, knowing she probably couldn’t figure out how to put it back together again.



David (to John): “Hey! Let’s make a bunch of these and then we can play with them under the table in math class when we’re bored.”

John (glancing at me listening to this conversation): “David, there’s one major flaw with that plan.”

*If you like the video check out You Tube or Khan Academy for more even more mind-blowing hexaflexagon videos and cool math doodling videos by Vi Hart.


Dr. Cupcake


I like the Cake Doctor cookbook. I’m not a huge baker so I like that it is a way to fairly easily make a cake mix cake or cupcake a little more special. I’ve learned some things from the Cake Doctor that work in almost any cake recipe. Real vanilla helps even a simple recipe taste just that little bit better. Beating the cake batter for two whole minutes yields a thicker batter and more cupcakes. I think I used to beat just until well combined out of laziness and fear of “overbeating”. Definitely better to go a little longer.

I played around with a Cake Doctor recipe for Ruth’s recent birthday and ended up with this version of a chocolate chip cupcake that I thought was very good.

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 24 cupcakes

1 box Duncan Hines Butter Golden Recipe Cake Mix
7 Tbsps. butter
1/2 cup water
1 cup low-fat sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients except chocolate chips for about 1 minute with electric beater until blended. Stop and scrape sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Beat for 2 minutes. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into cake liners until about 3/4 full. Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes.

Allow to cool and then frost with cream cheese frosting and garnish with a few chocolate chips.

Cream Cheese Frosting

6 ounces 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1 Tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

Mix all ingredients with electric beater. This frosting is more soft than a version with more butter. I don’t like it with more butter so I make it this way but it’s best to either refrigerate or serve fairly soon after frosting. I made the cupcakes a day ahead (they kept beautifully due to all that butter and sour cream) but made the frosting and frosted them right before taking these to a friend’s house. We ate them several hours later and they were delicious.