Recipe Challenge

Aileen learns to make a new recipe every week. Most recipes are ones she’s been meaning to make for years, but never got around to. Join in by making the one Aileen makes, or dig in to your own personal catalog of aspirational recipes.

Lemon Bars Box Mix

Lemon Bars Box Mix

This box mix is actually a time saver since making lemon bars from scratch can take up a good portion of your day. That being said, while this box mix is good, they are not as good as lemon bars made from scratch. Contessa Garten has a lemon bar recipe that is so good it will make you want to lie down and scream. 

I made her recipe once and of course I messed up. I put the base in a pan that was too small so I had to then put the lemon custard in a different pan. When I served the lemon bars it was more a shortbread cookie with a lump of lemon curd sitting on top of it. And it was still delicious. Contessa Garten’s recipes are such that if you misstep you can usually still end up with something worth eating.

I handed a serving of the messy ‘lemon bar’ to a friend of mine who took one look at the misshapen mess and said, “Aren’t these supposed to be more attached?” When I offered to give it to someone else, he tucked it close into his chest like a football or a newborn and said, “No, no, this is perfect.”

That’s what I thought.

Trader Joe's Frozen Food

Pivot: Frozen Food From Trader Joe’s

Okay. I tried. But the frozen food from Trader Joe’s is pretty underwhelming so time to pivot. There are a few winners and I will be sharing those with you over the next few months rather than trying new things.

I don’t like trying new things. I don’t like going out of my comfort zone. I like my comfort zone. I once called it my comfort cabana, which makes sense since I have been carefully constructing it for the past 46 years. 

Over the past 8 years most of my life has altered so completely I still can’t believe I’ve lived within a 10 mile radius the entire time. It seems as if I should be living on a different planet. Okay, at least a different county.

I don’t like trying new things and moving to a new place is all kinds of trying new things. New supermarkets, unfamiliar libraries, figuring out the backstreets that go through when traffic gets backed up…I get that old choking feeling just thinking about it. Most of the changes happened without any input from moi. People generally don’t check in with me before they die or cheat on me. 

Where am I going with this? I have no idea. I am going to help Older Son move this weekend. I have a new bookcase being delivered soon. I will own 4 bookcases. I like old, odd bookcases (except for the new one I had to buy to hold my very own 20 volume OED, nerd brag). 

I am trying to right my ship but probably won’t know to what degree I have succeeded until I have to jump ship and swim to a new one. 

That’s what all this has felt like! I’ve been jumping from burning ship to burning ship and sometimes I fall in the water but luckily the fires have kept the sharks at bay long enough for me to get myself and the kids onto a new ship.

Here’s hoping I become radically less dramatic in the next few months. And that I stop using business jargon terms like pivot when talking about trader joe’s frozen food. 

Box Mix Coffee Cake

Box Mix Coffee Cake

Hello fellow humans! Bet you thought I was gone for good but the internet is not that lucky because here I am! This week we need to talk about Trader Joe’s coffee cake box mix.  Read more

Poolside Cosmos

Oh my fellow humans! These Poolside Cosmos are gooooooooooood. I made them at my cousin’s house and we were out in her backyard swimming so I put them over ice in plastic wine glasses rather than fancy martini glasses. Read more

Frozen Foods From Trader Joes

Ever peer into the frozen food case at all those boxes of food and think, “I wonder if that is any good?” And then you keep going because it’s expensive or you feel guilty? I do it all the time at Trader Joe’s but no more! To go along with making a bunch of box mix bakery goods, I am going to pick up, heat up and consume all the frozen foods I have been eyeing in the frozen food section at Trader Joe’s.  Read more

Blondies Box Mix

I’ve had a BRILLIANT idea. I was at Trader Joe’s buying ingredients to make a cake from scratch for the recipe challenge and I saw, below where I was trying to figure out if I could use agave syrup instead of corn syrup, three shelves of box mixes. There were scones and cakes and quick breads. I shoved the ingredients for the cake back onto the shelf and picked out 7 box mixes I thought I would enjoy making and then eating. When I am done making all the box mixes I will decide which ones were good and which ones were meh and then I will pick a winner! Read more


Some recipe challenges are easier than others. Making a cake from scratch is good because at the end, there is cake. But the kitchen is a disaster and I have to wash a bunch of dishes and I’ve burned my mouth because I didn’t wait long enough to let the cake cool. Making dinner items is good but dinner is dinner. And then there is getting to make really good margaritas at 11:30AM on a Tuesday and calling it work. Read more

Not This Week: Part Two

It’s highly unlikely I’m going to get anything made this week. We went to a conference last week and yesterday I realized I failed to register Six for his next jujitsu class and so I feel tired and upset with myself. Some people go into the kitchen and cook to feel better. I go into the kitchen to get chips and then I watch TV or read to feel better. Read more

Turkey Noodle Thing

I’m going back to booze and cakes. These last 3 recipes have been a bit of a bust. The ground turkey noodle thing is really a homemade hamburger helper. It’s good and I will include the recipe but I’m out. Read more


I made meatballs, mashed potatoes and cooked carrots. It was a very adult meal, served on a plate and all in their own little piles. This made me realize that most of what I eat is all mashed up in a bowl together. See Bowl of Goodness or all of the pasta dishes I make. Read more