Pinterest and The Potato Substitute.

Pinterest has all of these freakin’ crazy ideas about food substitutions that will make you look just like the well-toned scantily-clad ab-crunching extremely photoshopped girls that are unfortunately plastered on way too many pins.

“Broccoli so good it tastes like steak!”

“Baked Zucchini sticks that are better than French fries!”

“Whipped Eggplant that you will swear is butter!”

“Tofu Smoothies that will make you think you’re drinking a fruity drink with an umbrella poolside in Aruba while weighing 95 pounds and in a string bikini next to your husband who looks like he just jumped off the GQ magazine! And wait – you two are going for a ride on dolphins immediately after finishing your Tofu Delight, and you still have two weeks of this vacation left and a million dollars of spending money!”

I often find Pinterest to be delusional to the point of needing a straight jacket, if they made one for websites.

But one dish that I will vouch for – with a few caveats – is Mashed Cauliflower.

Mashed Cauliflower: How to avoid the putrid pitfalls and {maybe} get your kids to eat it.

It really is [nearly] as good as mashed potatoes.

HOWEVER.

There are some very important rules that must be adhered to if you truly want this dish to make you smile rather than gag.

Rule Number One. When boiling the cauliflower, it will smell like an eighth grade boy’s gym bag after being trapped in his locker for an entire semester. If you don’t want to have your stomach turned before you even eat it, you must start boiling the cauliflower and think happy thoughts with a rose jammed up your nose. Or drive ten miles away.

The smell is so strong, in fact, that…

Chris was showering during my dinner prep the last time I made this dish. He was toweling off and caught a whiff. “Is my towel mildewed?” … he sat there for a minute and then caught another whiff. “I swear I just got this towel out of the closet! How can it have turned already??” … a few seconds later he caught a third whiff. “Oh I know what is going on! I bet Rachel’s boiling cauliflower downstairs.”

In its native form, the steam rising off of this vegetable could be used as a weapon in The Hunger Games.

Mashed Cauliflower: How to avoid the putrid pitfalls and {maybe} get your kids to eat it.

Rule Number Two. You must beat the smell back within an inch of its life by stripping the vegetable of its nutritional purity through the process of pelting it with butter, sour cream, and generous amounts of sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Mashed Cauliflower: How to avoid the putrid pitfalls and {maybe} get your kids to eat it.

Because we all know that even whipped sewer water can taste good if properly buttered.

Rule Number Three. This dish must be eaten piping hot. The longer the mashed cauliflower has to sit, the more of its natural musk molecules defeat the Butter Overlords and take back control. So do not plate this dish until you have your spoon in your hand and blessings are prayed.

Rule Number Four. DO NOT, under any circumstances, allow your children to see that this dish was made with cauliflower or that it is associated in any way with the rotting garbage odors that they smelled a few minutes ago. THIS DISH IS TO BE CALLED MASHED POTATOES, nothing more, nothing less. If they’re not familiar with such, then tell them “It’s like the insides of French Fries!”, and that may be just the key you need.

Rule Number Five. Your children still may cry twice and gag three times upon the tasting of this meal. This is no reflection on your ability to turn a putrid-smelling vegetable into a southern tradition. This is only due to the fact that you’ve allowed your children to eat far too many boxed pancakes, chicken and fries, and Lunchables.

(On second thought, Rule Number Five may only apply to me. I’m sure the rest of you have your children trained to eat Spinach and Beet Soufflé three nights a week.)

(My children, on the other hand, find me unqualified to boil water. My three-year-old told me on Saturday, “Don’t forget to spray the pan when you make cinnamon rolls. Remember that time you almost forgot and I had to tell you? That was SO. FUNNY.”)

(I bet The Pioneer Woman never gets such cheekiness when she makes cinnamon rolls.)

Rule Number Six. The odor returns in a different form about an hour after this dish is consumed. Don’t eat this side if you plan on having the Queen of England over for dessert.

Rule Number Seven. If you have leftovers and plan on reheating this dish, simply unplug your microwave, take it to the farthest point of your driveway, run an extension cord, replug your microwave, and proceed to reheat your Mashed Cauliflower. You’ll lose neighbors over it, but at least you won’t singe the entire family’s nose hairs and foul the carpets.

I’m certain that you’re asking yourself by now, “is this a recipe post?” and the answer is that I’m not sure. But if, after all this, you still want to attempt Mashed Cauliflower (which I find absolutely delicious and just as good as mashed potatoes as long as the above seven steps are executed correctly,) here’s what I do:

1. Cut up one head of Cauliflower into large chunks. Cover in water, douse with large amounts of sea salt, and boil until soft – about 10 minutes.

2. Drain, put into food processor with 4 tbsp of Butter, about 1/3 c. of sour cream, and extreme amounts of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Blend until your kid’s ears bleed from the noise.

3. Keep sealed in the blender until you lop it onto your kid’s plates.

4. And never forget. It’s MASHED POTATOES.

What Pinterest Food Hacks have you found that are actually edible?

How to Make Lego Candy.

How to Make Lego Candy

The only toy Noah likes that doesn’t have wheels are Legos.

And, if we’re being honest, he really only likes those because they can have wheels. And even better, he can remove and replace those wheels over. And over. And over.

All day long.

Every day.

For the rest of his life, if his Father’s hobbies are any indication.

So for his birthday (Noah’s, not his Father’s), he wanted a Lego party. I knew with it being a week before Christmas I wasn’t going to be able to pull off anything spectacular, but I already had Lego molds from our Jell-O Legos, so I knew I had to make something with them.

(Yes, it was Ali’s birthday last week. And yes, Noah’s was last year. What can I say – the Birthday-Christmas-Birthday season tramples me with the force of a thousand Llamas.)

And it was so simple that it really doesn’t deserve its own blog post – other than the fact that they were so dang pretty.

How to Make Lego Candy

In a Lego kind of way.

How to Make Lego Candy

Here’s all you need to make these for yourself:

1. Lego molds. The Lego Brand molds are the easiest to work with, as their dots aren’t as high (and therefore let go of the candy easier) than the off-brand ones -I have both and much prefer the Lego Brand.

2. Melting Candy in Lego-ish colors. I used Wilton, but any melting candies would work.

3. Eager Children to cause confusion and delay with their drooling ecstasy.

How to Make Lego Candy

How to Make Lego Candy

How to Make Lego Candy

Here’s what you do:

1. Melt the candies carefully according to the package directions – I’ve burnt many a bag of Wilton Melting Candies, and they’re completely unsalvageable.

2. Pour them into the molds and slap the mold repeatedly and firmly on the countertop. It will make your counters look like Murphy Brown’s Painter-boyfriend’s overalls, but it’s worth it.

How to Make Lego Candy

If you don’t slap, the candy won’t get into the Lego holes. And if the candy doesn’t get into the Lego holes, you won’t have perfect Legos. Notice the dark green Legos above – those are your consequences for not slapping thoroughly, people.

So pretend you’re drowning something and slap until the bubbles quit coming.

3. Refrigerate for about ten minutes, then carefully remove from the molds, pulling apart the sides before pushing on the bottom of the molds to encourage the Legos to stay whole.

4. Give them to your husband to build and serve creatively.

How to Make Lego Candy

They pair especially nicely with Lego Head Cake Pops, but I always recommend sub-contracting that kind of labor out to the professionals.

Lego Head Cake PopsCake Pops by the lovely and talented Jamie’s Rabbits. Lego Cake Pop Stand by my husband. Duh.

Noah was thrilled with all of the above.

Lego Birthday Party

…although he found the Cake Pops pretty, but not worth trying, thereby helping him continue to earn his membership into the Picky Eater’s Club. Which is totally okay because they were really for his Father.

Lego Cake Pops

He did, however, take great joy in being sung to by everyone in the room.

Lego Cake Pops

Then tried (and failed) to dimple his candles out.

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Oh – and he also insists that a stack of presents taller than the recipient is also a required accessory for all Lego Birthday Parties…

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 So there you have it. All the ingredients for success. At least for one day of the year.

(Pan)Cake Balls: The Breakfast/Dessert Mash-Up.

(Pan)Cake Balls - Cake Balls made out of pancakes with Nutella and Cream Cheese Icing recipe variations.

About six months ago, he asked for “Burnt Butter Pancake Cake Pops” for his next Birthday. Something that, as far as I can tell, did not exist – but he’s a dreamer. I laughed at him and reminded him what happened the last time I attempted cake pops.

I’m pretty sure that his Utopian vision included me and His Cake Pop Fairy Godmother Jamie working together in coordinating, brightly colored aprons. Me making his beloved pancakes, then flipping them across the kitchen where Jamie would magically transform them into her lovely cake pops.

But between his request and birthday, Jamie fired cake pop making from her life. Which meant that it was solely on me to make his fantasies come true.

So I decided to attempt it alone, but only with the compromise of ditching the sticks – after all, they were where most of my angst originated last time. But a man can’t whine about getting (Pan)Cake Balls when he asked for (Pan)Cake Pops – that would not end well.

But no one (that I could find) had ever attempted such a thing before, so I was left to my own imagination to decide of what, exactly, (Pan)Cake Balls consisted. So I bought a bunch of experimental ingredients and decided to make a few variations, hoping that one came out edible.

My final creations included:

1. Pancakes + Cream Cheese Icing + Butter Pecan Syrup coated with White Chocolate,
2. Pancakes + Nutella + Butter Pecan Syrup coated with White Chocolate,
3. Pancakes + Cream Cheese Icing + Butter Pecan Syrup coated with Semi-Sweet Chocolate, and
4. Pancakes + Nutella + Butter Pecan Syrup coated with Semi-Sweet Chocolate.

I was by far the most shocked member of our family when all of the variations worked, didn’t give me any lip in the process, and came out quite delicious (and only slightly ugly, but a chocolate kind of ugly is not really ugly at all.)

(Pan)Cake Balls - Cake Balls made out of pancakes with Nutella and Cream Cheese Icing recipe variations.

I do not now consider myself an expert in the Dark Art of Cake Pop/Balls (If you want details on making successful cake pops, check out Jamie’s Fantastic Cake Pop Guide), but here’s my recipe, after being slightly scaled down since I accidentally made…um, seventy cake balls.

(Pan)Cake Balls

(Pan)Cake Balls - Cake Balls made out of pancakes with Nutella and Cream Cheese Icing recipe variations.

~ 3 cups Powdered Pancake Mix, or however you like to prepare pancakes (I use Aunt Jemima Original Mix.)
~ 2 1/4 c. Milk (or as needed per your pancake directions)
~ 3 Eggs (or as needed per your pancake directions)
~ Butter. Lots of Butter. (2-3 sticks)
~ 1/2 c. Cream Cheese Icing (I used Pillsbury Creamy Supreme but feel free to be impressive and make your own)
~ 2 tbsp. Butter Pecan Syrup
~ 1/2 c. Nutella, the basis of any good recipe
~ 24 oz. White Chocolate Bark
~ 24 oz. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bark

1. Make pancakes by the box directions. Be sure to cook your pancakes in an insane amount of butter, and let the butter get a little brown on the edges, thereby giving it the husband-pleasing burnt butter flavor.

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(I justify this butter usage by the fact that I’m not slathering butter on the pancakes again before eating them. So it’s all good.)

2. Once you have a pretty stack,

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tear them up and throw them in the food processor,

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blending until you have fine crumbs.

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3. Once you’ve gotten all of your pancakes crumbled,

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get another bowl to divide out specific batches (if you’re planning on making more than one variation.) I put three cups of crumbs into each batch, which made 24-30 cake pops. You should have about two batches’ worth.

Cream Cheese Variation:

4. Add approximately a 1/2 cup of Cream Cheese Icing and 1 tablespoon of Butter Pecan Syrup to the three cups of crumbs. Mix well with a spoon, past the point that you think it’s all mixed in.

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If your batter is too wet to roll into balls, refrigerate for a few minutes.

(Note: the amount of icing mixed into cake balls is a matter of personal preference. (Pan)Cake Balls will be less sweet than Cake Pops. If you want to add more icing to make it sweeter, feel free – you will just have to refrigerate your dough longer to get it ready to ball.)

5. Roll your dough into small balls, then refrigerate again for a few minutes.

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6. While the cake balls are chilling, slowly warm your white chocolate bark. Cover a baking sheet with wax paper or aluminum foil, then roll the cake balls in the chocolate one at a time.

If you want sprinkles (we used ours for color coding), have your kid add them before the chocolate coating dries.

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(Also, if you’re making more than one batch, have your kid write down a sprinkle-color legend.)

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After all balls are coated, refrigerate again until hardened (about 30 minutes), then store refrigerated in a sealed container.

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Nutella Variation:

Repeat the above steps, except substitute 1/2 cup Cream Cheese Icing with 1/2 cup Nutella.

Semi-Sweet Coating Variation:

Coat your Cake Balls with Semi-Sweet Melting Chocolate instead of White Chocolate.

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So that’s it. And yes, my husband was well-pleased.

(Pan)Cake Balls - Cake Balls made out of pancakes with Nutella and Cream Cheese Icing recipe variations.

Oh – in case you wondered which variation is best, I prefer Cream Cheese/White Chocolate, Ali prefers Nutella/Semi-Sweet Chocolate, Noah prefers whatever I give him, Jamie prefers Nutella/White Chocolate, and Chris prefers all of them served on a plate together.

So that clears things up.