Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rain, rain, go away...

This is not the fantastic California weather that I am accustomed to. Here it is, the last day of May; it is raining and the skies refuse to show even a wisp of blue. Now, I know I’ve professed my love of the rain in the past, but (at the risk of sounding spoiled) this is just too much. We’ve been almost entirely cheated out of spring and summer is just around the corner. I am ready for sunshine, icy blended beverages and flip flop tan lines on my feet, damn it!

I can’t help but think that this gloomy weather is taking its toll on me. Today seems to have brought with it quite a down-in-the-dumps feeling. Something that I’ve always loved doing is watching the rainfall, but sitting here on the couch in front of the biggest rain-viewing window in the house, with both cats and the dog snuggled against me, I wonder if doing this doesn’t perpetuate my melancholy mood just a little. Getting up and doing something, anything, would probably boost my spirits, but I’m transfixed. Through the slightly open window I can hear the rain falling and I get lost in thought, watching the trees blow in the breeze and the garden getting soaked. Is it productive thought? Honestly, I couldn’t even tell you what I was thinking about. Perhaps “lost in thought” doesn’t describe it accurately…it’s more like “in a trance”.

I snap out of it and take a sip of my coffee. Having just opened a new bag the flavor cannot be beat. Fresh, robust and rich…it’s the perfect cup. I sit here and notice just how ridiculously cute this pile of animals is, huddled together for extra warmth, completely nonplussed by my mood or the weather, breathing the even and slow breaths that come with deep sleep. I see our tiny herb and vegetable garden that is thriving, promising a bounty of juicy tomatoes and spicy peppers. I think about how lucky we are that my complaints are of these late-season showers and not of the tornadoes that have wreaked havoc across the country. Then I get a call from Andy who has me laughing by the time I get off the phone, and smiling long after I’ve hung up.

So because of these reasons, and countless others, this mood cannot be here to stay. All I need to do is remember that.

In a nod to the (hopefully) warm and sunshiny days ahead, this salad salutes summer and the fresh produce that goes with it.

These radishes come from my dad’s garden…they popped up quickly, showing off their bright green tops and deep red bulbs in spite of all this dreary gray weather, insisting on flourishing anyway. While I can’t take credit for the peas or corn, I am proud to say that the herbs come from our very own backyard. After several years of talking about it, we finally planted a small edible garden. I really couldn’t be happier with it (and I may even say hi to each plant in an annoying baby voice when I go outside to fawn over them). Plug your ears if you’re a neighbor.

Corn, Radish and Pea Salad with Basil-Mint Vinaigrette

2 cups fresh raw corn (from 3 ears)
1 cup fresh shelled peas
8 radishes, sliced
2 scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 tablespoon chopped mint
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Combine corn, peas, radishes and scallions in a large bowl.

In another bowl, whisk together herbs, oil, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper. Pour over salad and toss.

Simple, fresh and flavorful, this salad is a perfect complement to barbecue dishes and would be most welcome at any picnic. It’s a snap to throw together, especially if you can step outside and pick your ingredients from your own garden. And speaking of, I have to sing the praises of these radishes. I have never tasted a radish as tender as these that we pulled from the dirt, rinsed off and ate immediately. There is definitely something to be said for homegrown vegetables.

Well, I guess all I had to do was remind myself of a few good things and talk about my garden to get myself out of my gloomy mood. I’m feeling much better, and it looks like the rain may have stopped for now. But it’s still looking like a chicken soup kind of night…

As always, thanks for listening.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pets, Eggs and Me

During my childhood, we had many different pets. Of course the standard types were represented; there were innumerous cats and one small but very loud and lively dog. As a pre-teen, I chose a hamster as the pet I wanted to call my own, which only ensured that my mom and I would have a weekly battle regarding the cleanliness of the cage (and probably my room, too). My sister brought home a King snake that she named Elvis (har har), which my dad had to feed because of the “ick” factor of the live mouse situation. There was also a rabbit that chewed on all the bookshelves in the living room, a gigantic fish called Big Hex, a trillion guppies, and two ducks named Bonzo and Quackers.

I don’t remember the circumstance of why Bonzo and Quackers came to live with us, but they roamed free in the back yard and frolicked in the kiddie pool. Our neighbor took to plucking the snails out of his yard and bringing them over for the ducks, served up on a Frisbee platter. They were living the high life, except for when my dad would steal gather up Quackers’ eggs. I don’t think she appreciated that too much. I believe the story goes that he had to nab them when she wasn’t paying attention or catch her wrath. But he loved those duck eggs and I remember being appalled by it. First, how awfully mean of him to take Quackers’ eggs. What’s wrong with having a back yard overrun by ducks? (I should mention that we did not live on a farm.) Second, duck eggs? Gross. My six-year-old brain couldn’t comprehend eating any kind of egg other than the “regular” kind.

Actually, I've had a bit of a rocky relationship with eggs in general. There was a period in my partying days when it seemed like anytime I was even the slightest bit hung-over, someone in the house would make eggs. The smell of eggs has a way of making my already upset stomach even angrier. Needless to say, I didn’t eat a lot of omelets in those days.

Then there’s the other slight problem: I cannot cook eggs. Scrambled, I can fake my way through…but fried or poached? Forget it. I have never been able to fry an egg without breaking the yolk or turning the entire thing to rubber.  This is a well-known fact in my family, and both my dad and Andy snickered and had hilarious things to say when I informed them that I needed to come up with an egg dish for the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program and Eggland’s Best. Normally they handle all egg-making duties, but I was determined to do this on my own. And I’m not going to lie…my scrambled eggs did look a little funny, but they tasted just fine.

Scrambled Egg Breakfast Tostadas with Caramelized Onions and Herbed Goat Cheese

8 corn tortillas, fried in canola oil until slightly crispy, then salted (see note)

Herbed goat cheese:
4 ounces goat cheese (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh herbs (I used thyme, rosemary and chives)

Caramelized onions:
2 cups thinly sliced red onion
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Scrambled eggs:
4 eggs
1/2 cup diced tomato
1/4 cup grated gruyere cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

chopped herbs and red pepper flakes, to garnish (optional)

In a medium saucepan, combine onions, bell pepper, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Turn heat on low and let mixture caramelize for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and reserve. (This can be done the day before. Refrigerate and reheat when needed.)

Start with this...

and end up with this.

Combine goat cheese and minced herbs together in a small bowl. Reserve.

In a large bowl, beat eggs and whisk in cream, tomato, gruyere, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Melt butter in a non-stick pan and pour egg mixture in. Cook eggs to desired doneness.

To serve, spread about 1 tablespoon herbed goat cheese onto a tortilla. Top with scrambled eggs and caramelized onion mixture. Garnish with chopped herbs and red pepper flakes.

(Note: I make 8 homemade tortillas by combining 1 cup maseca, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup plus 1-2 tablespoons of water. Press on tortilla press, then cook on a hot, dry pan. Fry to desired crispness.)

So, even though my scrambled eggs weren’t picture perfect, the dish as a whole was. The combination of the deep, rich flavor of the caramelized onions, the freshness of the herbs and the tang of the goat cheese was just right. If every egg dish tasted like this, we could be very good friends.

(As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received a coupon for a carton of Eggland’s Best Eggs.)

Monday, May 23, 2011


Not much compares to opening the mailbox and seeing a hand-addressed letter peeking out between the bills, junk mail and advertisements. In this day of email, text messages and instant communication, receiving items like this are becoming more rare. It is much more likely that the card waiting in your mailbox is from a ninety-year-old family member than from one of your friends. Don’t get me wrong…the card from said ninety-year-old thrills me, but there is nothing like hearing from an old friend.

This year for my birthday, I received not one but two real-live birthday cards in the mail. As you can guess, I was giddy. As I walked back to the house, anxious to tear them open, I recognized the handwriting on each of them. Named on the return addresses were two of my oldest and closest friends. Memories of conversations, vacations and good times instantly filled my head.

Now here’s the funny part: These oldest and closet friends are not friends that I see daily, weekly, or even monthly. In fact, months may go by and I’ve realized we haven’t talked in all that time. But then you do, and it’s as if you haven’t skipped a beat. All your inside jokes are still hilarious, you laugh loudly and heartily, and you remember just why you’ve remained friends all these years. They know your secrets and your history. You can confide in them knowing they will never judge you, but that they will be honest and tell you what they think, even if it might be something you don’t want to hear. These are the friends you can count on for anything, anytime.

Perhaps in a perfect world, you would stay in touch more regularly with these good friends. But with busy schedules, jobs and families, it doesn’t always work out that way. Excuse the cliché, but life really does get in the way. And for me, because of that, it makes having friends like this that much more important.

When I read those birthday cards, I welled up, filled with gratitude for having these two friends. There would be so many times in my life would have been so very different without them. They are a part of me. They are a part of my past. And they are most certainly a part of my future.

Share this cake with a good friend. Eat, talk, laugh and reconnect. Be glad you have them.

Pretty in Pink Cake
(Strawberry and Cherimoya Cake)

8 ounces flour
4 ounces sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 cup slivered toasted almonds
4 ounces milk
2 eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup cherimoya puree, seeds removed*
1/2 cup diced strawberries

1/2 cup cherimoya puree, seeds removed*
1 cup diced strawberries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes, until a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Meanwhile, put all glaze ingredients into a blender. Blend until completely pureed. Pour glaze through a sieve into a saucepan. Heat to a simmer and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.

When cake comes out of the oven, let cool about 5 minutes. Remove from loaf pan and transfer onto wire rack. Drizzle top and sides with glaze. (Glaze will soak in to cake as it sits.) When serving, drizzle with extra sauce.

*Note: Cherimoya seeds are toxic if broken open, so be sure to carefully remove all seeds from flesh.

As I’ve said about a hundred times, my ability to create baked goods without using a recipe is sub-par. I’m just not good at it. The cake I made prior to this is now named “Awful Cake” in my recipe notebook. So you can imagine my surprise when this little beauty came out of the oven looking like an actual cake. And better yet, tasted like a cake. And even better still, tasted really good!

This cake is so moist and has a very delicate flavor. The cherimoya gives it an overall hint of tropical fruit, to me almost like papaya. The almonds sprinkled throughout give it a little crunch and the strawberries a tart sweetness. Topped with a pretty pink glaze, this cake won my heart.

Now after all this talk, I think I have some phone calls to make…or maybe some cards to get in the mail…

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A twirl of the fork

For someone who doesn’t love pasta, posting two pasta dishes in a row seems a bit odd. What can I say? I’ve been craving dishes like these: hearty bowls of steaming pasta that are full of huge flavors…yes, more comfort food. And they’ve been hitting the spot like nothing else could.

Normally, by the time I get to the bottom of a bowl of spaghetti, I’m bored with it. For me, pasta dishes need to have that extra something special to really stand out. Enter bacon and blue cheese. Both ingredients have a strong presence, ready to boost the flavor of any dish they go into. And boost they did.

I don’t usually give myself big pats on the back when it comes to cooking. I’m my own harshest critic and feel like a dish could always be tweaked this way or that way to make it just a little bit better. But it was all I could do not to get up from the table and dance around the room when I was eating this. I may have even exclaimed a few happy expletives, but I’ll leave those to your imagination.

Without further ado, let me introduce, in my opinion, the best pasta dish to come out of my kitchen. I know the name is a bit lengthy, but really, I couldn’t name it what Andy suggested which was “Pure Goodness,” although it would have been completely accurate.

Angel Hair Pasta with White Wine Cream Sauce, Shrimp, Bacon and Blue Cheese

Serves 4

4 strips of bacon, cut into lardoons
1/3 cup chopped shallots
1 clove garlic, minced
16 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
6 ounces angel hair pasta
blue cheese crumbles, to taste
4-6 large basil leaves, chopped

In a heavy saucepan, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Pour out all but about 2 tablespoons of bacon fat from the pan. Add shallots to bacon fat, cooking over medium heat until softened and browning slightly, then add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Place shrimp in pan in a single layer and cook for 1-2 minutes per side, depending on size of shrimp. When almost cooked through, remove from pan and reserve.

To the shallots, add wine, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce for 5 minutes. Pour in cream and return to a simmer. Reduce 8 more minutes. Whisk cubes of butter into sauce, a few at a time, incorporating it before adding more. Repeat until all butter is incorporated into sauce. Allow sauce to simmer to desired thickness. When ready to serve, add shrimp back into sauce and heat through to finish cooking.

Meanwhile, boil pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain and reserve.

Spoon sauce over pasta and shrimp. Top with bacon, blue cheese and basil.

(For those who aren’t blue cheese fans, this is just as good without it.)

Seriously, just go make this. You’ll be glad you did. It’s so rich (a cup of cream and half a stick of butter tends to do that to a dish!) and the flavors are just fantastic together. When you get a bite of shrimp, bacon and basil, it is a truly wonderful thing. I could sing the praises of this one all day long, but you’d probably get tired after another paragraph…

I was asked to create a recipe as part of Smart & Final’s month-long campaign to promote their First Street brand. I was thrilled to be given bacon and blue cheese as the two First Street ingredients to use in my dish. These are dream ingredients to me and I had tons of ideas on how to use them. Perhaps those dishes will make an appearance another time.


If you’d like to enter to win a First Street VIP bag of groceries and a $50 Smart & Final gift card, just go “like” their Facebook page and register to win. They’re giving away bags every week through the end of May.

This post has been compensated by Collective Bias. All opinions are my own.

Friday, May 13, 2011


There are certain food-related events that will be with you your whole life. These memories have a way of sticking with you so that days, months, or even years later you can still close your eyes and almost feel what you felt and taste what you tasted all that time ago. I can easily transport myself to Tahiti by recalling our breakfast on the private deck of our over-water bungalow, enjoying a cheese plate and a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. (I try not to think about the outrageous markup on said bottle. Ouch.) Cheese has never tasted creamier or richer.

I have many remembrances like these of meals that I have shared with Andy. Perhaps they were days on which something significant happened, or maybe it was just a regular day made memorable all the same…a perfect spot in time that you wish you could stay in forever. These are the easiest to recall because they are the most recent.

Childhood memories are farther and fewer between. I’m not sure my annual birthday dinner of choice at Coco’s Diner when I was 7-12 years old qualifies as culinary bliss. (The things you’ll do for an ice cream sundae!) I do think back fondly on favorite dishes that came from my parent’s kitchen: my mom’s porcupine meatballs with rice poking out of them or my dad’s breakfasts of snowman-shaped pancakes topped with peanut butter and syrup. But hands-down, the event that I can most vividly remember is my mom taking me to my grandma’s house after kindergarten and eating grilled cheese sandwiches while watching “The Flying Nun.” I always requested that my drink come in the “wrinkle glass”, named by me for it’s curvy lines. Nothing particularly special happened on these days…just me, my sandwich cut into four triangles and Sally Field…but it is still so present in my mind. Maybe it’s because I don’t have tons of memories of my grandma and I cling with all my might to those that I do have. Whatever the reason, I love that one of my best food recollections is of a grilled cheese sandwich. Comfort food at its finest.

So yesterday, when I was feeling a bit down in the dumps, the only thing that sounded good to me was comfort food. We are not huge pasta nuts in this house, but suddenly pasta was all I could think about…something rich and creamy. After a rough day of being unproductive and moping around, I got into the kitchen and cooked. When the dish was in the oven, I felt ten times better. And after eating it, well, let’s just say that I had forgotten all about my bad day.

I’ve recently become a member of the #sfsmarties, a group of bloggers who work with Smart & Final on promotional campaigns, providing feedback and using their products. This week, I was asked to create a recipe using one of their sale items. I happily accepted the challenge and was pleased to see one of the products was Farmer John Smoked Sausage (3 pounds on sale for $5.99). With as much bacon as we’ve been eating lately, sausage would be a nice change, and the possibilities for using it in recipes are endless. But I already knew that I would make a comforting meal of cheesy pasta.

This dish is perfect for a weeknight meal, on the table in under an hour.

Baked Three-Cheese Pasta with Spicy Sausage and Peas

Serves 6

Prep time: 30 minutes; Cook time: 20 minutes

2 Farmer John Smoked Sausages (Hot Louisiana), diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
4 ounces goat cheese
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup grated gruyere cheese
8 ounces dried penne pasta
1 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon bread crumbs
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add sausages and cook until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove sausages and let drain on a paper towel. Reserve.

Meanwhile, boil water for pasta. When boiling, add penne and cook for 11 minutes, until al dente. Drain and reserve.

In the same pot you cooked the sausage, add shallots and cook until softened, about 1-2 minutes. (If pot is too dry, add a little extra olive oil.) Then add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.

Pour in chicken broth and scrape brown bits off bottom of pot with a wooden spoon. Bring chicken broth to a simmer and reduce for about 5 minutes. Next, add cream and reduce for 5 minutes. Crumble goat cheese into sauce and whisk to incorporate. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper (if using). Remove from heat.

Add pasta, sausage, peas and gruyere cheese into sauce. Stir together to combine.

In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.

Divide pasta mixture into 6 individual oven-safe dishes (or one large). Sprinkle the top of the pasta with bread crumb mixture, then dot with cubed butter.

Bake for 20 minutes, until tops are browned and crusty.

Hello, comfort food! This pasta dish is exactly what I was craving. It’s crusty on top, cheesy and creamy underneath, and has a little kick from the hot sausage and cayenne pepper. And perhaps my favorite part of the whole thing is the way the peas give a little pop when you bite into them. Like I said, this pasta turned my grumpy mood into a much happier one. Make this when you need a pick-me-up.

This post has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks…

“Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd…”

I’ve been singing this song for days since I made this recipe. I think I speak for the entire household when I say that I wish I would stop. One cat meows loudly when I sing it, (more off-key than on), and the other cat (who is mostly deaf) is the envy of humans and animals alike. When I got stuck at the line, ‘Let me root, root, root for the home team, if they don’t win it’s a _____,” Andy begrudgingly called out “shame” from the other room, in a tone that suggested his hope that if I could just get to the end of the song I might stop. If only it were that easy…take it from the top!

As iconic as “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” is, to me the real soundtrack of a baseball game is right outside our door. Living near a park we can clearly hear the cheers, the chants, and the pop of the ball coming off the bat while little leaguers battle it out. These are the sounds of summer. Sounds that make you wish you were out there again, getting dirty sliding into home plate and singing silly rhymes like, “California oranges, Texas cactus, we think your team needs a little practice!” The din of coaches coaching, parents clapping, and kids yelling is so constant it almost seems too quiet when the sun sets and it becomes too dark to play. Only when I’m in an exceedingly grumpy mood do I lament the skill of the pitcher and/or catcher for not being able to keep the ball from whacking loudly into the backstop EVERY FIVE SECONDS. And then Andy reminds me that they are probably about seven years old and not professional players. (Excuses, excuses.)

So when Foodbuzz put out a call for baseball-themed recipes to help spread the word about the Stain Games campaign that benefits Save the Children and promotes healthier lifestyles for those children living in poverty, I wanted to get involved. Thinking about all the squeals of delight that come wafting over our fence every night made me think about how very fortunate these kids are. They are happy and healthy, having fun, and aren’t worrying where their next meal will come from. There are many who are not as lucky and who stand to gain a lot from this campaign.

No food reminds me of baseball more than Cracker Jack caramel popcorn. Even if you didn’t love the popcorn, you loved the prize inside. However, I am very sorry to report that upon excitedly opening the prize, Andy proclaimed it “the lamest ever,” which I would have to agree with. Either our memories of these great prizes are wrong or the prizes have changed…I’m leaning towards the latter. In any case, Cracker Jacks proved to be the perfect choice for this dish, regardless of how lackluster the piece of paper prize was.

Peanut and Crack Jack Crusted Chicken with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

Makes 8 pieces

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders (about 12 ounces)
1/4 cup roasted, salted peanuts
1 1-ounce box Cracker Jack popcorn
canola oil

Peanut Sauce:
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Put peanuts and Cracker Jacks into a food processor and process until ground to a fine crumb. Transfer to a flat dish.

Pound out the chicken tenders slightly to an even thickness. Slice each piece of chicken into two long strips. Coat chicken lightly with canola oil, then dip each piece into peanut mixture, pressing firmly to adhere on both sides.

Place chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 13-14 minutes, until chicken is cooked through, flipping once halfway through. (These could also be barbecued by laying a piece of foil down on the grill so the coating doesn’t fall off.)

Meanwhile, heat the sesame oil in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add all remaining ingredients, whisking to incorporate the peanut butter. Let sauce simmer on very low heat until chicken is done. (If sauce gets too thick, whisk in a little more chicken broth.)

Serve with peanut sauce on the side for dipping.

(Note: To make this dish kid-friendly, omit the Sriracha from the sauce.)

This dish was a homerun! (Oh come on, you know I had to…) The Cracker Jack coating caramelizes a bit in the oven and gives each bite a hint of sweetness that is nicely balanced by the saltiness of the peanuts and the spice of the sauce. Make these at home for a quick dinner, at the park for a picnic, or at your next tailgate party…then sit back and enjoy the game.

If you would like to get involved in helping to support this effort, go take a swing at Stain Games. Frigidaire will donate to Save the Children for each hit. Batter up! 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

For Mom

What better day than Mother’s Day to remind Mom how you feel? I remember a long time ago my mom telling me (probably in response to my complaining that “I never got anything”), that my grandma used to say that every day was Kid’s Day. And now, twenty-some years later, I’d have to say I agree. Even at 30, being the “kid” rocks. Grandma definitely spoke the truth…every day really is Kid’s Day, whether you’re 5, 35 or 55. So on one day out of 365, I’d like Mom to know that even if only one of them is called Mother’s Day, I truly think she deserves more.

I talked a little bit about my mom in my last post. I even told you her age, which I’m sure she was thrilled about. But my point was only that for her (advanced) age, she is a very cool mom. She is the mom that all my friends wished they had when we were growing up. She is the mom that really meant it when she said that if you told the truth things would be better. Because of that, we forged a very honest relationship very early on (minus a couple of my miserable teen years, which I’m sure we’d both like to forget). Our relationship has gotten stronger day after day, year after year.

A few random things about my mom:

She will outlast you in Vegas even if she did wake up at four in the morning to get ready to go to the airport. And she will always, ALWAYS, heckle you if you want to take a nap or go to bed.

She screams (or maybe shrieks is a better word) when playing games. Board games, card games, video games…doesn’t matter what the stakes or what the game; shrieking will ensue. And then, after claiming she can’t even see the screen, she will beat you at archery and bowling on the Wii.

She cares. Her heart is huge and she will cry if she hears about an animal in distress or a complete stranger going through tough times. She is sympathetic and empathetic.

She is supportive. Maybe she’s a bit biased, but she has always been my biggest cheerleader. She lifts me up, swears it’s going to get better, and does everything in her power to make sure it does.

In short, my mom is incredible, one of my best friends, and tons of fun. Today and every day, I hope she knows this.

Here is a sweet edible bouquet idea for your mom, made up of chocolate and peanut butter truffle pops and sure to be the best candy she gets all day.

Chocolate Chip Cookie and Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Truffle Pops

Makes 16 pops

4 large soft chocolate chip cookies, divided use
1/4 cup peanut butter cream cheese
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup Wilton’s chocolate candy melts
1/2 cup Wilton’s peanut butter candy melts
1/4 cup roasted, salted peanuts
16 small lollipop sticks

In a food processor, grind 3 cookies into a fine crumb. Add the cream cheese and peanut butter and run until combined and formed into a ball.

Divide mixture into 16 small balls (about 1/2 ounce each) and insert a lollipop stick into  each. Refrigerate several hours until firm.

When ready to dip truffles, separately grind peanuts and remaining cookie in food processor into a fine crumb and place on separate plates. Melt candy melts in separate bowls according to directions.

Carefully dip truffles in one candy melt to coat and one topping of your choice, then refrigerate. (A small foam block easily holds the pops upright.) Truffle pops are ready to serve when coating is set.

(Note - A little confession: I used some Costco cookies that were a bit past their prime. Stale cookies are totally fine here.)

When biting into these truffles, you first crunch through the outer shell of either peanut butter or chocolate, giving you a hint of what’s to come. The peanut butter hits you, then a trace of cream cheese, followed by the decadent richness of the chocolate and it all combines into a creamy, dreamy bite. They are sweet, but not overly so, and the next thing you know you’re reaching for your sixth truffle pop. Just make sure you save a couple for Mom…

And don’t forget to show her some love today (and every other day for that matter).

Happy Mother’s Day!