Friday, December 31, 2010

Not like everyone else

So, right now while everyone else is getting all, "In 2010 I did this stupid thing and in 2011 I will stop doing that stupid thing and instead I will lose 10 pounds and adopt a hundred stray puppies", I'm going to tell you what I've been cooking because that is more interesting to all of us. I'd think.

Though adopting a hundred puppies sounds pretty fun. For, like, half an hour until they all start pooping and being herded into the back room by the ferocious Rocket as a late afternoon snack.

She's a beast. That hasn't changed. And, as far as I can tell, she has no designs on cleaning up her act in 2011. She's not a resolution-maker and neither am I, so let's talk about food.

Y'all - I've been cooking.

Because I've had some time off of work and one of the things I like to do when I'm not grinding over a computer is to grind over my stove. Which sounds sort of lewd and nasty and, let's face it, sometimes it is.

In the case of the recent weeks though, it's been Please Tell Me You'll Make This Again Soon good, so we've been able to look past any intermittent lewdness.

Firstly, I finally tried out these Food Loops that my MiL gave me one million years ago and damnit if they're not awesome for holding a chicken together for a swift roasting.


Good chicken.
So, there's that. I made a roast chicken - big whoop. But, now I know how the Food Loop thingees work and I'm sure that'll come in handy since I bought as many of these "Dinner for Two" chickens from our local organic farm as I could fit in my freezer and so some roasting will be happening for a while. Yay.

Then, with another handy device I never thought I'd use in the kitchen, I made some pretty awesome turkey meatballs and bok choy that is great when you eat it right away, but as with most turkey, turns into inedible barftastic crap on the reheat.

I never thought I'd be an iPad haver, but thanks to winning a work contest, I am. So far, I haven't draped soup over it, so that's something.

First night - SUPER GOOD. Second night - SUPER GROSS. Stupid turkey.

People - I do not do reheated turkey in almost  any form. Really, now - that is nasty.

Then, without any new props whatsoever (though I did use my pasta maker which I LOVE STILL VERY MUCH) I burned through our ever-growing crowd of butternut squash by creating enough fucking ravioli filling to fill a hot air balloon.

This represents approximately 2% of the ravioli filling.

Really, Sunset Recipe Makers of the Giant Butternut Squash Ravioli, if I were to try to create enough pasta to wrap around all this damn filling, my poor pasta maker would give me the finger and march off for more relaxing accommodations.

However, the filling is very good and since I now have two tons of it, I will make this ravioli again and again and a hundred times again until it's gone. Sometime in 2021, I predict.

Once I got through the trauma of stowing a wheelbarrow load of ravioli filling, I decided I needed some quality time with my Le Creuset casserole dish.

My friends, it is hard to explain how much I adore all my Le Creuset cookware, but by far the most challenging to articulate with all of its emotion and drama is this particular casserole. It's good for everything and I use it as much as possible even though it weighs a butt load and is, right now, threatening to render useless my cabinet's lazy susan.

No matter! We soldier on.

First - with Boeuf Bourguignon.

Did you know this dish had bacon in it because it does. See, right there.

I kind of always wanted to make this dish, but knew that it would take all muther effing day and I never had the right dish to make it. So, a while back when Bubba and I were driving home from a trip that sent us past a Le Creuset outlet store, I shrieked and he stopped and I bought this dish and have never looked back.

This smelled RULLY GOOD.

Totally worth it. As were the skillet, honey pot and whatever else I grabbed in my spree through the store while Bubba circled the parking lot.

One of the side steps to keep you occupied while the stew is in the oven: caramelizing pearl onions. Fun.

So, the other day, when I had most of the day to spend staring at and dealing with beef (HA. Yes, I'm laughing, too), I decided I'd tackle this dish and the final product, while perfectly good and fabulous as advertised, lost a bit of its luster because it had the Crockpot Factor working against it.

Imagine this stewing in your oven. FOR THREE HOURS. It's a bit much.

See, I get this way with crockpot dinners when I have to be in the presence of the crockpotting dinner all the live long day. So, you know, every time I come and go from the house and kitchen and pass by the front of the house or an open window, the smell of the crockpotting food is seeping into my nostrils going, "Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeef Steeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew" or, in this case, "Beouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuf Bourguignoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon" and by the end of the day I want to be really far away from the smell.

And I really don't want to eat the smell because it feels like I've been eating it all day. With my nose.

At this point, I felt full even though I hadn't eaten anything since oatmeal at 9am. It was 5pm.

I know. It sounds really crazy but it's a fact and I refer to it as the Crockpot Factor and it was totally in effect with this dish. Because the fucker has to simmer in the oven for 3 hours so, you know, everything down to your hair smells like it. Ugh. It's like bathing in beef gravy. Not something I'm wild to do now that I know how grody I'd smell.

You may notice how clean the pot suddenly looks. That is because there is a SURPRISE, "Wash the pot" step stuck in there somewhere. Not my favorite kind of surprise.

However! It is a very tasty good dish and, opposite of the Only Good On Day One turkey meatballs, makes excellent leftovers. Especially if you get the leftovers with the egg noodles. Which I did. Bubba got the leftovers without noodles, so he filthied it up with some cream cheese for a ghetto-strogganoff which he loved.

Looks much better to me NOW than it did at the time. Bubba loved it, though, and that's what matters. Most of the time.

I just really loved on this broccoli and Romesco cauliflower and thought you should see that, too.

Frankly, it looked barfy, but what do I know? I think about bathing in beef gravy.

After all the beefiness, I needed a break. I had planned that break in the form of a Surprise Pizza Night, but then Bubba looked all sad when I told him that the other dish I'd planned (Pioneer Woman's Chicken and Dumplings) was going to be put on hold until I could re-enter the kitchen without getting the meat sweats.

Good cure for meat sweats? Mirepoix. I love to make mirepoix. So *choppy*.

I reflected on this disappointment while I stewed in a hot tub with two of my gal pals and decided that I should probably make good on Dumplins (which is what you call them when you're in our house - drop the G, damn you) before Bubba took the opportunity to leave my ass the next time I had the nerve to ditch him to go make Lady Soup rather than cook up his beloved Dumplins.

Thanks, Kelly. You saved our home.

Plus, as we wandered our noodley relaxed selves around Santa Cruz after our hot tubification, we visited a nice French bakery that had a nice baguette that I knew would go real nice with Chicken and Dumplins and so I bought it and prepared to make amends. Nice.

I amend with chicken. It seemed only right.

I was getting all set to spend another million years in the kitchen making something I'd probably have to enjoy only as leftovers since I thought FOR SURE it was going to have the Crockpot Factor, but it actually was super fast.

And because I'm a fucking rebel, I included a parsnip because it makes chicken soup, Right. Trust me on this.

I think it took under an hour for the whole thing, including the part where I bought the bread, and it all goes in one pot which I love. I love the pot and I love the one-potness. It's a win-win.

That looks win-ish, doesn't it? It was.

Did you get any of that?

Peeky peeky...

And this dish, well, I'll save you any suspense, it was good. It was so good that Bubba stood up, pointed to his empty bowl and declared that I must make it again. SOON. DUMPLINS. I LIKE DUMPLINS.

I, too, liked the dumplins.

He's wordy like that. And I'm glad. Because I was sort of afraid that there was going to be some sort of controversy over the being-ness of the dumplins akin to the retarded bitchfest in the comments on Pioneer Woman's recipe, but thankfully my husband is not a clucking southern hen with the time and inclination to argue the unique characteristics that make up a True Dumpling.


And, really, I don't know how authentic their dumplings could be since all of them call them "Dumplings" which is obviously wrong. WRONG I TELL YOU.

And now, I too, am a clucking hen. Sad. Though I guess we knew it'd come to this if I talked about food too long.

So, that's where I'll leave you. I made a lot of food over the last week and a half and now I'm about to take a blackberry crisp out of the oven to haul over to a neighbor's for a little New Year's Eve Get Drunk and Then Let the Dog Lead the Way Home fest.

I won't be doing any resolution-making any time soon, but I WILL be sharing with you a thing that I've been wanting to do for a lot of years and it now looks like 2011 will be the year.

Get excited, already.

And - almost forgot - Happy New Year and shit.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Just like everyone else.

Apparently I'm in an unoriginal mood today because, despite the blog world stuffed with "This is how our Christmas looked, felt, tasted and sounded", I still feel the need to offer up my own holiday summary.

So, sorry for piling on. If you're bored of holiday wrap-ups, you can skip this post and I won't hate you too intensely. Though you will miss out seeing how Bubba topped himself in the gift-giving department and watching my dog kill a duck.

Yeah. I thought you'd stick around.

As you already know, we don't do Christmas like normal people. This is due to a few things, specifically that we don't celebrate Christmas given that we're a Jew/Heathen household and also because Bubba is the world's most enthusiastic scrooge. If the Boy Scouts had offered a badge for it, he'd still be wearing it to this day, transferring it from one winter coat to another.

But, even non-Christmas havers like ourselves still enjoy an excuse to taunt one another with gifts, eat fattening crap that we can't justify at other times of the year, get drunk, make fun of our neighbors' holiday decorations and then go skiing.

Which is, I'm sure, exactly what everyone else is doing on Christmas.

And even though you've seen these exact pictures from everyone's Look At MY Holiday posts, please enjoy Christmas At My House.

For starters, we do Christmas-like things on Christmas Eve. This is because we always go skiing on Christmas day while you Christmas-Havers are sitting around a big ham wondering who tracked fireplace soot through the living room.

This year, we farted around the house doing whatever came into our pea brains (so, no different from most other days) and then decided it was time for Christmas Tacos. So named because they are eaten near Christmastime not because they're made from reindeer or mistletoe or spiral cut ham. And because it is our routine, we made for the bikes.

Living in California, good taquerias are very close by, and so to justify the eating of these things, we ride our bikes there like we're seven year olds.

I first went to put my bike socks on and then, as I was standing in the garage NOT LOOKING AROUND as I had been instructed for weeks lest I lay eyes upon my gift from Bubba, I went to take down my bike shoes and Bubba said, in his cutesy I'm Trying Not To Laugh way,

"Uh, baby, you don't need your bike shoes."

To which I said, without turning around mind you, "Of course I do. I can't pedal those fucking things without them."

Yes, so I totally didn't get it right then. But, when I turned around to give him the WTF face, he was standing there all proudly with the most awesome Dutchie bike which happened to have MY helmet in the basket.




Yeah, Bubba - in his unyielding desire to always up the ante on gift-giving, had outdone himself to such a degree that I nearly pooed.

He got me a townie bike.

A lime green beauty with bamboo racks and a comfy leather saddle and grips and NOT clip pedals that I could...hold on to your britches...EVEN RIDE IN FLIP-FLOPS.

Holy crap, I nearly pooed again right there.

So, yes. I love her. I've named her Tulip, on the suggestion of my neighbor, since she looks like the Dutchie bikes we saw in Amsterdam but didn't ride because they weren't ours/it was raining/we weren't sober enough.

And, on Tulip, I rode for Christmas Tacos with my beloved.

Then, we rode to BevMo and bought each other booze, per tradition, and then rode home so that we could walk the dog around and leave gifts dangling from our neighbors' doorknobs so perhaps they wouldn't hate us for not having a tree in our window or our house all aflame with blinking bullshit.

Then we opened stockings (which we have and fill thanks to my MiL who provided them so many years back) so that I could have Chapstick until the End of Days and Bubba opened his gift from me.

May there be much wading in the New Year.
After which, Bubba offered up a sacrifice to the puppy gods.

While Jada had a murderous tryst with Duckie, I started getting The Feast together so that when our other non-Christmas-Haver neighbors came over to join us, there'd be more to eat than fudge.


Note the traditional Christmas Challah.
After which we all rode bikes around our town and collectively pointed and laughed at people's interpretation of blinking merriment and only two of us crashed our bikes. I wasn't one of the crashers, but I did drop my camera twice when it bounced out of the front basket of my bike after a particularly enthusiastic speed bump approach, and so there's not much in the way of photographic proof that any of this took place.

Except you know that it did because it's my favorite part of our holiday traditions, now made even more efficient with the introduction of bikes. Walking is just too slow when there's this much crap to see and laugh at.

Then we skied.

Beer is also the traditional lunch of Christmas Day.

Oh - and for those who were curious - these were our exact holiday cards this year because it's not just you guys who know Bubba and I as jerk-offs.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I made fudge.

Yeah. That calls forth a lot of jokes. We should all laugh more and I'm here providing a mechanism for doing so. Consider it my gift to you.

My gift to Bubba, however, is the fudge. And before you go getting all gross on me, I'm using fudge in the literal sense rather than the poop sense so don't get all, "I'm calling the authorities" because that's not going to help anyone.

Unless they like fudge! Which, they might.

And, in actuality, the fudge isn't a gift for Bubba, in the Let's Put it Under the Tree and Force Him to Stare at it For Weeks On End kind of way, it's just a thing that I made because it makes him do this with his face and so, it's something of a gift for me because HELLO that is funny.

I like fudge better than Hires. If only by a little.

So, yeah, I made fudge. And what's more - I made the marshmallow creme because WHAT it's missing from all the shelves of all the stores (2) I went to yesterday. Apparently everyone is making fudge? Or else there is some Christmas recipe other than fudge that requires a lot of hideous nutrition-free sugar glue.

I'm not a fan of this marshmallow creme, just on principle, but I'll tell you that I was sort of looking forward to buying it because I've only seen it on grocery store shelves my entire life and wondered, "Who buys that crap?" and here I was going to answer my own question, "Me."


But, sadly, all shelves had been raided of this particular product, and so, I did what all big fakers do when they're faced with the second store shelf to be empty of their Key Ingredient: I faked it by way of common sense, which is usually the worst plan of all because it usually results in disaster because a Key Ingredient, is usually Key to making something taste right.

You know. You've had brownies made with chicken fat instead of oil.

Wait? You haven't? Yeah. Trust me on this one, chicken fat is not a catch-all substitute for vegetable oil. Not that vegetable oil is the key ingredient in brownies, but just go with me here.

OH - and not that *I* subbed chicken fat for oil, I did not, but the damage remains.

Anyway, getting back to my common sense substitution for marshmallow creme - I used marshmallows. Because they're right there sitting next to the empty shelf where my bulbous jar of marshmallow creme should be and if marshmallow creme isn't made from marshmallows, my thinking went, then what IS it made from? Orphaned snowman souls? No. It must be made from melted down marshmallows.

It is not.

An internet search on the subject, "how do I make marshmallow creme from marshmallows" revealed that it's actually made from *some* of the stuff from which marshmallows are made, but not all, and most critically, it doesn't include gelatin, which marshmallows DO. Which explains how they can hold that marshmallow shape.

Perhaps my ass contains gelatin...

Anyway, one dude said (and the One Dudes of the internet are so reliable and always right, are they not?) that you can melt down marshmallows in a double boiler with some corn syrup and get the same effect and since I happen to have a lingering bottle of corn syrup shame in my house even after reading Michael Pollan and Mark Hyman and the SuperFoods book and Food, Inc and Fast Food Nation and all that, I figured this was a good way to get rid of it without having to be wastey by just throwing it out in a fit of I WILL NOT EAT THIS GARBAGE rage.

I save that rage for chard. And rightly so.

But, the One Dude was right, and after a few minutes melting around in the double boiler, the syrup covered marshmallows glooped down into what looked a lot like the creme in those bottom heavy jars. 

Do you think they make the jars look like that so that you get a sneak preview of what your ass will look like once you've taken to stirring it into your coffee? Yeah. These are the places my mind goes when I'm stuck in line at the store. Best not to disturb me.

So, once the marshmallows were successfully melted into a creme state, I went ahead with the fudge recipe I found that seemed the least contrived and most likely to warrant edible results and, wouldn't you know it, it is actually quite good.

According to Bubba it's "Awesome! And there's walnuts! And no fucking peppermint or almond flavor! I fucking hate it when people mess up perfectly good fudge with all that shit. It should be just fudge and walnuts. And not, like, WHOLE walnuts, but pieces of walnuts and none of that walnut dust on top because what's the point in that?"

Yeah. He has opinions about fudge. Opinions of which I was blissfully unawares until I had the gall to bring home fudge from a recent cookie swap party that had crushed candy canes on top and one kind that had almond flavor in them.

I know. I'm a monster.

But it did reveal a hidden secret in my lover's soul, the fact that he loved fudge but had never mentioned it because I never offered to make it because I don't really love fudge at all.

I know. It seems wrong to not love fudge. On paper, the stuff seems like something I'd like: it's chocolate, it has walnuts...but no, not really into it. It's too sweet or something. Like someone cut up a big block of chocolate frosting and called it something else. Like, I don't know, FUDGE.

Still, this stuff came out pretty good, to the point where I even like it (though it is painfully sweet) and now I will be adding it to the list of things to which Bubba introduced me even though he should have let me go on in my life unscathed by empty delicious calories.

Other things on this list include Cinnabon rolls, smoked meats (particularly brisket), all Indian food, Bs and Gs, fried chicken, pork chops and gravy.

Yeah. My doctor would probably agree that I'd been better off without inner yearning for those things, but it's too late now.

I will be the death of you. Enjoy.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Last minute gifts for everyone,

Even given the crimes against my eyeballs happening on my street, I'm still giving my neighbors their holiday love.

Love in the form of tea, bread and cookies - not like real whore love. Nasties.

Because I'm a Big Man like that.

I can look past the blinking dinner plate-sized snowflakes hanging from your spindly Japanese maple long enough to hang festive cookies and tea from your doorknob.

I give you this and then, as a thank you, you let me pummel your lawn Santa.

Of course, I may kick your half-deflated Santa on Jesus' Motorcycle on my way down your driveway, but you won't know because you'll be too distracted by the ginger snaps and Divine Twine. That's my thinking anyway.

And, allow me to say this, if you didn't want people kicking at your decorations, you shouldn't leave them so close to the sidewalk where errant toes could just FLY OUT OF NOWHERE and punt them right in the fake gas tank.

You know what I'm saying.

So, yeah - this year I'm doing much the same as I've done in years past except that in addition to the lovely breads some of my neighbors will receive, others will get ginger snaps and all will get a bag of tea (which I will not call a Tea Bag, for obvious reasons) and this bag of tea will be serving as the gift tag because...

A. I'm super creative and that is a fun new twist on the boring conventional gift tag
B. I'm super lazy and the thought of procuring gift tags is way beyond my realm of interest or ability right now
C. I'm super cool and that's what super cool people do

Any of these answers suit me fine, but A. would be an overstatement of my creativity, B. makes me sound like a horse's ass and C. is completely impossible and therefore not really an option at all.

Don't lie. You like this idea and want to steal it for your own.

And, just in case I don't get back to the blog between now and when the snow stops flying in Tahoe, here is my gift to you - a festive holiday rant about a few neighbors who, if they lived near me, would not only get a kick to the junk with my pointed boots, but also would not receive cookies, and instead a nice steaming gift from Jada beneath their plastic and electrified white Christmas tree.

Though it'd be hard to decide just *where* to point the dog's ass, now wouldn't it?

Someone tell me what Raggedy Andy and a panda have to do with Christmas, please.

Home Depot and NASCAR in the same scene? This IS Bethlehem! Wait, no, it's a trailer park.

Apparently Tom Hanks has been ousted from his position on the North Pole Express because Santa is a cheap whore.

And here we have FOUR fucking Santas in one Christmas scene because otherwise some kid might not be emotionally maimed by this holiday after missing the first three.

"I can work up a dump in 2 seconds flat, so don't provoke me."

And as a gift to me, because I AM part of *everyone* after all, I got myself  a new pair of goggles after Tahoe spiked my ass and broke my old ones.

Guess I should just be glad that these goggles can absorb the impact of a human meteor meeting the earth at cartwheeling light speed.