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Well, here we are, seventeen weeks into my 33rd year and boy was it a doozy.  The Caramel Cider Martini that i pre-tested in an earlier post was a smashing success at book club last night. SMASHING, I tell you. 

Here’s the recipe/instructions:

Drizzle caramel on the inside of a glass. I used Smucker’s squeeze bottle of ice cream topping caramel, because I’m lazy. Feel free to make your own.  Put some ice in a cocktail shaker and pour in equal parts vanilla vodka and fresh apple cider. If you aren’t a lush, you can do one part vodka to two parts cider. Shake vigorously and pour into your glass. Top with a small pinch of cinnamon. Voila! Perfection. *Be warned, this does not taste like a potent cocktail, but it is. And, you’re welcome. And yes, I am a genius. Thanks for noticing.

We followed that up with some Butternut Squash and Apple Soup out of the October 1994 issue of Gourmet Magazine. I served the soup in a large bowl with sourdough rolls from Panera (OMG I LOVE PANERA), homemade roasted pumpkin seeds, 0% fat Greek yogurt and homemade bacon bits for accoutrement. I tweak this recipe every time I make it by using a 2-3 lb squash, 4 cups of broth, 3 apples and 86ing the bay leaf. It is awesome and so much easier to make now that I have an amazing stick blender (thanks to G for that awesome gift, and to very good friend and fellow member of the Gay/Straight Alliance Lauren Gilstrap for suggesting he buy it for me). This soup is one of my Fall/Winter staples.

Good friend and fellow book clubber Mandy Nichols made some delicious “crack dip.” You’ll have to ask her for the recipe, but from memory it contained things like black beans, corn, bell pepper, avocado, tomato, onion, guacamole seasoning, etc. It was delish. We at that with blue corn chips, a.k.a. “bat wings” (keeping it Halloween-y people).

Rounding out the night I served Grave “Cakes.” Most of you know this dessert as dirt pudding, but if you make it in cupcake wrappers and put a mini rectangular candy bar in each one they sure do look like graves. Throw in a few gummy slugs at the bottom of the pan and you have Grave Cake!

So, there is your super yummy update on Week 17 – one new made up recipe and one tried and true. All of this food was washed down with a bit of catching up, some lively debate/discussion sparked by a challenging book and some good old fashioned gossip.

The real kicker on the night? Going out to light the jack-o-lanterns and finding that nature had helped my spooky cause by sending some slugs to crawl on my pumpkins and one lone cockroach to nap in the eye of a skull. GROSS!!!

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{October 26, 2010}   On Taking One for the Team

Not only will I try new recipes and occasionally create a new recipe in my efforts for this project, but I will, when necessary, quite happily take one for the team.  What do I mean by that? Let me tell you…

My amazing book club will be hosted at my house this week. I’m planning a Halloween themed night. So, later this week you may look forward to seeing recipes for pumpkin soup in bread cauldrons, grave “cake,” and caramel cider-tinis. What this means to  you is that I had to taste test martini recipes last night. That’s right. Had to. (See, taking one for the team.)

You’ll see how it all turned out on Friday.



It’s not that I didn’t cook anything last week. And it’s not that I didn’t have time to write about it. It’s that nothing was spectacular and I was lazy.  So, last week I made a new chicken cutlet recipe and cooked up some polenta cakes, but neither of them were particularly groundbreaking. I also roasted two sets of pumpkin seeds (one salty, one cumin/paprika/salty). But anyone can do that.  Ugh. This cold weather is so uninspiring.  I’ll do better this week. Even if it is dark and rainy outside.



{October 12, 2010}   It’s guys like you, Mickey

Not everything can be explained.  Some things just are. Take my slight obsession with Mickey Rourke, for example. There is no explaining it. It just is. There is something about him that I find irresistible. Then, now and at every stage in between I am drawn to him, attracted to him, intrigued by him. Something about him just touches me.

Most people find this strange. A few even think it’s gross. It was a little odd to me at first, but then I decided, what the hell? I am who I am and I like what I like. No harm, no foul. Just embrace it.

So, there’s my quirky little not-so-secret. Tell me something strange or unexplainable about you…It’s refreshing to be open and honest about yourself. You should try it. And while you think about it, enjoy this little ditty, which I dedicate to Mickey Rourke.

 



You thought I’d forgotten. I hadn’t. I’ve just been busy.

Sometime last week (or maybe even the week before, I am s.l.a.c.k.) I went fabric shopping on a whim before book club. It was an auspicious day – Joann’s was having a sale! I found two red and white based, old-fashioned fabrics that will make a glorious apron for just $3 a yard. And then I saw it. Blue and white based San Francisco fabric. It was kismet. I had just been thinking earlier that day that I should make an apron for good friend Lauren who married her lovely wife Melissa in San Francisco. I needed that fabric. Needed it. And at $3 a yard, I got it. And then some.

Bursting with excitement I blab all about my fabric find to Lauren who says, “I love aprons. I’ve even bought a few, but I never wear them, and now I don’t even have a cute place to hang one. You’re a crafty gal, Bethie, I’m sure you can come up with a fantastical use for said fabric.” Hrm. Stumped. What am I going to make out of three yards of fabric? Not a clue. Not one. Really.

That weekend I head out to Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party with fun friend Jessica. We had a lovely afternoon tea, which was only slightly marred by the overly heavy sweet to savory ration on our tea board. Chocolate overload much? I wanted pimento cheese and chicken salad, drat!! On the way to the car this cute little kitsch shop caught my eye. What’s that in the window? Why, it’s art by high school chum and painter extraordinaire Tim Boyd. We had to go in. After looking at (and coveting) several pieces of Tim’s whimsical, yet satirical work Lady Fate whacked me across the face with a hand made potholder. That’s right. A potholder. And just when I was wondering what to make with all that San Francisco fabric that Lauren and Melissa might like and use. Ta-freaking-da. I expect we’ll be using said items at the next meeting of the Gay-Straight Alliance.

So in addition to experimenting with aprons, I’m going to experiment with pot holders and place mats. I already know how I’m going to do it. All I need is some interfacing, some cotton batting, some edging ribbon and a quilting needle. Oh, and did I mention this lamp? (if you don’t get that reference, we’re probably not going to make it as friends)

I have a plan. I am inspired. Autobots, roll out.



Sometimes, feeling uninspired leads to inspiration. What? That doesn’t make sense, you say. Well, sit back and let’s see if I can’t explain it.

I woke up Saturday morning exhausted and with a bit of a headache. Wait. Rewind. Friday night good friends Laura Taylor, Barb Abrams and I took fun-time gal Carrie Bissey out for her bachelorette party. And boy did we do it up right…mostly. Carrie wore a tiara and a “Miss Bachelorette” sash, we drank from anatomically correct straws, there was a light flashing anatomical shot glass and many, many vodka drinks consumed at a plethora of bars. The bride-to-be received copious felicitations on her impending marriage from strangers and we almost, almost made it to an all male revue.

Now, where was I? Ah, yes. It’s Saturday morning and I woke up exhausted with a bit of a headache (now you understand, eh?). G was off taking the SAT and it was my job to come up with and prepare a dazzling dessert for our semi-regular meeting of the Gay-Straight Alliance (i.e. we had dinner with super amazing, couldn’t live without them friends Lauren and Melissa, which we called the Gay-Straight Alliance as it was pride weekend). Lauren had given me a suggested recipe earlier in the week (a lovely apple and pear phyllo dough tart) and I’ll be honest – I really didn’t feel equal to it in my post-vodka haze. I knew she was planning a wonderful fall themed meal consisting of the best white sangria that has ever crossed my lips and some oh-my-god-this-is-so-freaking-good pumpkin and chicken sausage lasagna. I knew I needed to make something fall…and delicious.

I pulled out my accordion file and flipped through both the dessert and baking sections. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Nothing looked good. I was totally uninspired. Ugh. What was I going to do? Nothing. I was going to take some more Advil and nap on the couch. Yeah, that’ll help. About an hour later G comes home from the SAT, ready to relax and nap himself (poor thing, only had about 3 hours sleep between work and the test) and reminds me that we have an unwatched episode of chopped on the DVR. We pop that on and lounge on the couch with the hell blanket (no, really, it’s that warm) and about halfway through I hit pause and say: I’m going to make a fresh apple crisp with orange scented cranberries. We’ll got to the store as soon as we finish chopped. Eureka! Inspiration had struck. I spent the rest of the episode carefully constructing the recipe (that’s right, this week’s new recipe is new cause I made it!).

It turned out to be the perfect accoutrement to Lauren’s fabulous dinner and we had a wonderful time. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Warm Apple Crumble with Orange Scented Cranberries

Crumble Filling

1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup orange juice
6-7 granny smith apples
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/3 cup sugar

Crumble Topping

1/2 package old fashioned butter cookies, crushed
1/3 cup brown sugar, crumbled
1 2 oz bag pecan pieces
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 stick butter, room temperature

Directions

Place cranberries and orange juice into a microwave safe bowl.

Microwave on high for one minute and set aside.

Peal, core and thinly slice apples.

Combine apples, cranberry mixture, spices and sugar in a bowl, mixing well.

Set aside for one to two hours to allow apples to relinquish juices.

Combine first four topping ingredients in a bowl.

Using your hands, work in the soften butter.

Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350.

After the apples are fully macerated, pour them into a baking dish and flatten with a wooden spoon.

Press topping onto filling.

Bake for 30-45 minutes until bubbly.

Serve with one small scoop of Tahitian vanilla bean gelato.



I promised you an extra recipe this week to make up for not posting a recipe last week. However, I can’t take all of the credit. I was supposed to pick out a recipe last night to make for G tonight. Sounds simple, right? But you see, it so happens that there were a horde of miniature, pitchfork-wielding gnomes inside my uterus last night trying to force their way out of my body. Needless to say, I could do no more than lie on the couch and moan while watching reruns of NCIS all night (DiNozzo! Thwap!!!!).

I was no better this morning. The reprehensible midgets had disappeared at some point during the night, but the routine (but fixed today I hope) high-pitched squeal from my neighbors pipes kept me up all morning; so I was pretty much a walking zombie. This meant that G was left with the task of choosing a recipe from the binder, procuring the ingredients and co-cooking with me tonight.

He chose Maple-Mustard Pork Chops with Winter Squash Puree from Cooking Light.I served as sous chef and side dish maker for the evening and it turned out 50/50. The Winter Squash Puree recipe was a disaster. Why would anyone use frozen butternut squash puree anyway? It tasted like warm, stale water. Ew. Gross. However, the pork chops and resultant sauce were tasty. And it sure looked pretty. Because of said prettiness I am providing you with a photo from my phone of our actual food, instead of the usual stylized stock photo from the magazine.



I’m a little behind in my cooking. I apologize. Last week was crazy to the insane at work. However, I plan to make two new recipes this week to compensate. Sound like a fair deal? Good.

It’s fall and for some reason I was feeling slightly Germanesque. Don’t ask me why. I lived in Germany for a year and that’s reason enough for me. Geoff worked a morning shift and I had the day to myself to organize the house a bit, walk on the treadmill while watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, color my hair and grocery shop. Now, what was I going to make for dinner? To the accordion file I went and out came Chicken Schnitzel with Mustard Sauce. See. German.

I tweaked by using 0% yogurt and panko crumbs instead of grinding up white bread. I served it up with some quickly blanched sugar snap peas and simple baked potatoes (with yogurt substituting for sour cream). It was super simple to make and tasted great and ended up being enough food for two full meals for each of us. We’re even saving the mustard yogurt to use on sandwiches later in the week. Yay!



{October 2, 2010}   I’m a gonna get fit

I don’t like to exercise. It’s boring. You get sweaty. It’s hard. Ugh.

However, I used to like it 15 or so years ago. I used to be an exercise queen. For a year or so in college I was up at 5 am, heading straight to the gym to lift weights, walk on the treadmill and do sit-ups for an hour and a half before work five days a week. Of course, I was also 21. Twenty-one year-olds have part-time jobs and go to classes and party and do homework and have already fit, slim bodies and plenty of energy.

Now, I’ a very out of shape 33 year-old who has not exercised regularly in years. You can imagine what that’s done to my body. I’ve tried things – hot yoga (injured myself), the apartment gym (smells bad and there are strangers there), tennis (i was the suck) and nothing stuck. I really want to change that.

So, last weekend I traded my mom a love seat for her sun room for a treadmill for mine. It faces the television. I have tennis shoes and exercise pants and a goal weight that I am keeping to myself. I started today. And I’m trying to do it right. I’m going to start by walking for a set (low at first) time limit and each week will increase the time limit and/or tempo. Slow and steady is my goal. Once I get into a rhythm I’d like to add yoga tapes into the mix. I used to like doing yoga at home.

We’ll see how it goes.



{October 1, 2010}   Happy Hallowhat?

Traditionally I am a scrooge about all things Fall/Winter related. You see, Fall/Winter are cold times. I hate cold times. Note: Anything under 75 degrees is cold to me. So, when most of you are excitedly pointing out nature’s signals that fall is coming (the slight orange tinge to a leaf, a crispness to the morning air), I’m grumbling under my breath about how Fall is really just Winter’s harbinger and oh my god am I already dreading the winter. Ugh.

The exception to my general cold-weather Grinchyness (yeah, I made that up, love it) are Holidays! Halloween in particular. Don’t get me wrong, I love the cooking and baking and homemade gift making that fills up my time in November/December, but Halloween is where it’s at. That’s right. For Halloween I’ll even toy with grammar.

So, what makes Halloween better than all of the other Fall/Winter Holidays? It’s pure fun. No stress over finding the right gift. No required awkward family gatherings. No modern religious overtones. Just candy and glitter and costumes and decorations and pumpkins and apple cider and haunted houses and ghosts and revelry and parties and did I mention candy? I couldn’t be more excited. I’m already writing with my Halloween pencil. I already have plans for at least one pumpkin carving day. I already have apple cider in my fridge. I have already ordered my Halloween costume. I already have a dinner date to eat pumpkin lasagna with awesome friends. I already have a Halloween image as my desktop background. I am ready to decorate my house tomorrow. Halloween, it’s on. I love you and this year I’m going to do you right.

Boo!



et cetera