Sunday, December 20, 2015

Mason Jar Gifts For & From Guys

Last year, as I was putting together a few last-minute things for the holidays, these happened:



Yes, I jumped aboard the Mason jar gift trend train, whipped up a batch of just-add-water microwave mug cake mix, added some festive fabric and ribbon and a cute little instruction card, and just like that, three gifts done.  For women.

And that’s where I paused.  For women.  It is so easy to do this sort of thing for women.  We love cake that happens in 40 seconds.  We love cute.  We love the little glass Universe of infinite possibility that is the Mason jar gift.

So I said to my best friend, who happened to be nearby and happens to be a guy, “We should do stuff like this for guys.  Guys like stuff in containers, right?  We should do Mason jar gifts for them.”

And so, in this, the season of giving, we give to you a few ideas for simple, meaningful, from-the-heart Mason jar gifts for the guys in your life.




The holidays are a wonderful time to spoil the people in your life.  Just because they might have something every day, that doesn’t mean they won’t appreciate you splurging a bit and letting them enjoy it in a new way.




The holidays can also be hectic for everyone.  A gift that makes everyday chores easier is, ultimately, the gift of extra time with family & friends.


Try to keep your friends’ specific interests in mind when selecting the contents of your jar.




Are they into a healthy and active lifestyle?  Perhaps they’d appreciate something to balance all the treats that appear during the holidays.




Or perhaps something that will allow them to indulge even more.




A nod to someone’s specific pop culture interests is always
a thoughtful gift idea.




As is something that helps them enjoy a favorite hobby even more.




Do you have one of those friends who is always so enviably organized?
Help him stay that way!




Or help him stay closer to the things he loves.




Or help him find them.




Skip the expensive colognes and grooming gift packs that all too often just gather dust on bathroom shelves, give them something
you know they’ll use!



Nothing says “Happy Holidays” like gifts from the kitchen!




Who doesn’t love a sweet treat?  Especially one fresh from the oven.




Or one that takes you back to your childhood.




But perhaps not everyone on your list has a sweet tooth.
Consider a selection of savory gifts as well.




And don’t limit yourself to just Mason jars!
Any sturdy container can serve as an attractive base for your gift,
especially when a few thematic extras are included.





If you’re at a loss for ideas, just remember, your friends are your friends for a reason; you probably have a lot in common.  So you won’t go far wrong giving them something you would enjoy having yourself!


(All photos by Jerry Seeger.  For a more descriptively guy-friendly version of this list, check out his post here.)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Bourbon & Butterscotch Zombie Slayer Bundt

This is my fourth year observing National Bundt Cake Day by baking an original recipe cake, and as there has been in the three years prior, there is a near & dear emotional tie to the cake I’ve chosen.

The first year saw my Tiramisu Bundt, a farewell baking as one of the last things I made in the tiny apartment kitchen that was home for almost fifteen years before we bought a house.  The second year gave me the Avenging Dark Chocolate Bacon Scourge Bundt of Doom, vengeance for a wrong done to a dear friend by a food blogger during the previous NBCD festivities, and also to vent some of my frustration at the 2012-13 NHL lockout.  Last year, I honored through Bundt a precious girl who I only knew for a short time but who will live in my heart forever, Chiquita the Pitbull.

This year, I had no idea what I wanted to bake, so I put out a call on my Facebook page for suggestions, requests, etc.  And while I deeply appreciate every single person who takes the time out of their Internet life to stop by my page (seriously, you gals & guys all rock), I was particularly grateful that the first person who chimed in with a request was my dear friend Paul who, in addition to all his other amazing qualities as a human being, adopted Chiquita and gave her the best, most loving home she could have ever hoped for during the last stage of her not-always-easy life.

Paul requested a Bundtification of butterscotch pudding.  I added bourbon because I like bourbon and it goes well with butterscotch.  And I dubbed the end result the Zombie Slayer because this is Paul’s cover photo on his Facebook profile, a responsibility he takes quite seriously.

  
Paul, my friend, this is for you.  Because I love you even if you are a Red Wings fan.


THE ZOMBIE SLAYER BUNDT

The Players


FOR THE PUDDING FILLING

1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1 vanilla bean
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tbsp bourbon

1- In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, cornstarch and salt together with a fork until they’re well blended.  The cornstarch makes it really easy to spot & remove your brown sugar rocks, so do that.  You don’t want rocky pudding.

No rocky pudding

2- Split & scrape your vanilla bean into the brown sugar mix.  I once heard a rumor about some woman who waited to start working with her vanilla bean until her dairy was already on the stove and rapidly coming to a boil.  Her vanilla bean was just a smidge dry and decided to be stubborn, and things got really hectic really quickly.  So don’t be like that woman I once heard that rumor about when she was making this cake that I just made up today, okay?

3- Once your vanilla bean is added to your brown sugar mixture like a sane person would do it, add 1/4 cup of the milk to the bowl and stir until you have a loose paste.

4- Pour the remaining milk and the heavy cream into a large saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  While it’s heating is a good time to separate your eggs, beat the yolks in a small bowl, and stash the whites in the fridge for that superhealthy breakfast you’re going to have tomorrow to compensate for all the cake you’re going to eat tonight.

5- When the milk/cream mix is boiling, add the brown sugar mix, return to a boil and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.

6- Remove the milk mixture from heat.  Quickly stir about half a cup of the milk mixture into the egg yolks to temper them, add the yolks to the saucepan, stir well, return to heat and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.

7- Remove from heat.  Add the bourbon and butter and stir until the butter is melted.  Pour into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for about an hour to cool it down before you start making the cake, it needs some time to thicken or it will slop all over the place while you’re trying to get it in a nice neat circle atop your cake batter.

8- Don’t even pretend you’re not going to lick the spoon.  And the saucepan.

mmm, pudding...

FOR THE CAKE

2 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cayenne
1 tsp Chinese Five Spice
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk, at room temp
1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp bourbon

1- Preheat oven to 325, and prep Bundt pan by either greasing & flouring or nonstick-spraying, depending on how lazy you feel.

2- Combine milk and heavy cream in a measuring cup and set aside. 

3- Combine flour, salt, baking powder, cayenne, and Chinese Five Spice in a medium bowl with a fork or whisk until well blended, and set those aside too.  Set them near the dairy so nobody gets lonely.  Lonely ingredients are sad ingredients, and sad ingredients make sad cake.  Nobody wants that.  Do you want that?  No.  Nobody does.

4- Break out the mixer.  In a large bowl, beat the butter on medium until smooth.  Add the sugar about 1/4 cup at a time and, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary, beat for about 5 minutes until it’s nice and fluffy.

FLUFFY!

5- Still mixing on medium, add the eggs one at a time, beat for about 30 seconds after each, then add the vanilla and bourbon and beat for another minute until everything is combined and smooth and delicious-looking.

6- Drop the mixer speed down to low.  Retrieve your dairy and dry ingredients from wherever you set them aside.  Nod and smile as they share all the wonderful topics of conversation they covered whilst on their set-asideage.  Assure them it’s all very wonderful but the time has come for them to become part of a larger whole.  Starting and ending with the dry mixture, alternate adding dry & dairy to the mixing bowl, beating only until blended after every addition, scraping the sides of the bowl and beaters as necessary.


FOR THE PUTTING-ALL-TOGETHER OF IT

1- Retrieve your pudding from the fridge.  It likely won’t be completely firm, but as long as it’s partially set, it will be fine for the purposes of filling the cake.  Pour it into a gallon-size plastic bag and close the top.  Have your kitchen shears or clean food-safe scissors handy, you’re going to have to work a bit quickly very soon.

mmm, pudding again...

2- Retrieve your prepared Bundt pan, and spoon slightly more than half of the cake batter into it.

3- Here’s where it gets interesting and you’re going to have to move faster than you have been (she says, after living the joys of pausing throughout this process to take pictures; I reeeally don’t recommend that.).  Using a tablespoon, create a trench for the pudding in the center of the batter.  You’re going to have to push the batter up the sides of the pan a bit to accomplish this, and all that wonderful non-stickery we opened the cake-making part of the recipe with is going to work against you as the batter tries to slide back down the side of the pan almost as soon as you’ve pushed it up, so as soon as you have a discernible trench, grab your plastic bag of pudding, smoosh the pudding away from one corner, cut that corner open, and pipe the pudding into the trench as quickly and neatly as you can.

4- You’re NOT going to fit all of the pudding into the cake.  You’re going to have extra pudding.   Probably about a cup.  Oh no.  Extra pudding.  You can cry about that later.

5- Once you have filled your cake trench with pudding, top the pudding with batter carefully by spooning batter around first the outside edge of the pan, then the center, blending it over the top of the pudding and making sure the edges of the pan are sealed while pressing down as little as possible.  Pressing down will cause the pudding to splort out of the nice little cake trench you put so much time and effort into making.  Don’t let pudding splort undo all the good you have done today.

Stages of Awesome

6- Put the cake into that nice preheated oven and bake for 60 minutes.  When it’s done, it will look like this, and smell even better.  Dear eight pound six ounce newborn baby Jesus does this smell good.  Just… stand there and inhale for a minute.

Smells. So. Good.

7- Allow the cake to cool in the pan on a cooling rack for about 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a cake plate.

8- Realize that you really needed a more substantial pudding trench and slightly less pudding in it because the top of your cake has gotten saturated with pudding and disintegrated in the turning-out process.  Drop a few F-bombs, slam a few utensils, realize there’s nothing you can do about it now.

ADVERSITY!

Or is there…?

We have a saying in my family: When faced with adversity, kill it with fire.


FOR THE KILLING OF ADVERSITY WITH FIRE

2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp ground cayenne
1 tsp Chinese Five Spice
Fire

1- In a small bowl, blend all ingredients except fire with a pastry blender or fork until you have a coarse crumble.

Prepared to kill it with fire

2- Arrange the crumble atop your aesthetically-questionable but still awesome-smelling and going-to-be-great-tasting cake, adding a bit extra to the most pudding-hampered and structurally weakest areas.

3- Torch the shit out of it until it totally looks like this is what you planned all along, the flour is toasted, and you have brûléed enough sugar to reestablish sufficient structural integrity on the top of your cake to support a light layer of glaze.

Fuck you, adversity.

4- Let that all cool off a bit while you make the glaze.


FOR THE GLAZE

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp powdered sugar
3 tbsp bourbon

1- In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.

2- Add the powdered sugar, increase heat to medium-high and stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture just starts to bubble.

3- Add the bourbon one tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly and allowing the mixture to get back up to bubbling temp after each before adding the next, and while NOT leaning over the saucepan at such an angle that you get a blast of bourbon fumes right up your nose when you add each tablespoon.  Unless you’re into that sort of thing, in which case absolutely do that.  When all the bourbon has been added, continue the bubbling and stirring until the mixture has thickened slightly.

4- Remove from heat and continue stirring until the bubbling has stopped, and then for about a minute more.

5- Drizzle glaze over the top of your rebuilt cake.  Let cool before serving.

All's well that ends well

~~~
NOTES FOR NEXT TIME

All was far from lost here.  This actually tasted really good even if it did in fact end up looking more like a slain zombie than a tribute to the zombie slayer.  So, to perfect it next time:

1- You know your oven has been acting up.  You need to fix that ASAP.

2- The extra spices in the “killing adversity with fire” stage of preparation worked really well to balance the sweetness of all the butterscotch and bourbon.  Since we do not plan on repeating that step in future bakings, double the amount of cayenne & Chinese Five Spice in the batter to compensate.

3- Less pudding.  I really hate it when I have to put words like “less” in front of words like “pudding” but that’s just how it has to be.  I tried to put too much pudding in the cake and I paid dearly for my gluttonous greed.  Cutting the recipe by 2/3 will probably net the right amount of pudding.  Or make the full amount and have a lot of extra pudding.  Oh no.  Extra pudding.  Sadness now.

The End :)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Dear Elitist Snob Cosplay Enthusiasts…

A few days ago, I read this article on BuzzFeed, about a young woman who knows virtually nothing about such things being walked around New York Comic Con and asked to name various characters that were being depicted with varying degrees of accuracy and success.

Her answers were all hilariously, good-spiritedly, entirely wrong.  Which is cool.  If it’s not your thing, it’s not your thing.  But she was a good sport about it.

The same, however, can’t be said for the commenters on the article who called her “uneducated”, asked if she’d been living under a rock, wondered if she’d ever had a childhood, all sorts of variations on that same assholic theme.

What bothers me the most about that reaction is that the cosplayers I know, the ones who actually make the costumes and post the photos and bring the characters to life for these conventions, would never react that way to this young woman’s ignorance of their craft.  Granted, I don’t know every cosplayer in the world, but the ones I do know are genuinely nice, friendly, helpful, supportive people who get that their thing isn’t everyone’s thing.

So, because I’m fighting a cold and it’s making me grumpy and considerably less forgiving than usual, I’m issuing a little challenge to the judgmental elitist cosplay fans who are convinced that lack of knowledge of their particular interest makes someone a complete moron.

The following are photos of women who will be immediately recognizable to most pinup & burlesque enthusiasts.  Can you name them all?  Can you?  CAN YOU?!

#1

#2

#3

#4

#5

#6

#7

#8

#9

#10

#11

#12

#13

#14

#15


WTF really?  You can’t?  Is it because you’re an uneducated rock-under-dwelling Amish who never had an adolescence?

Or is it maybe just because this isn’t your thing, and that’s perfectly okay?


ANSWERS WILL BE POSTED HERE ON 10/15

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Tits Aren’t Your Husband’s Problem

A few days ago, this article showed up in a Facebook friend’s newsfeed.


Go ahead and give it a read, we’ll wait.

...

Back?  Okay then.  We’ll begin at the beginning, and go on ‘til we come to the end, then stop.

First off, “I can’t believe I used the word boobs in the title of this post”?  Yes, you can.  You can believe it quite easily and completely because it was a deliberate attempt to drive traffic to your blog.  I know this because it’s the same reason I used the word “tits” in the title of my blog post.  The Internet has scienced this thoroughly and concluded that posts with titles that contain any alternate word for “breasts” receive approximately 317% more views than all other posts.  You know that as well as I do, so please stop dissimulating like a nine-year-old who just dropped her first f-bomb on the playground.  We don’t write blog posts so no one will read them.  Own your words.  Oh, and FYI, “boobs” in that context belongs in quotes, not italics.

Second, stretch khakis should not be a sin.  I don’t know about your ass, but mine is pretty big.  I need stretch pants.  They are the only pants that fit me properly and still allow me to move.  And “hot” never needs to be spelled with a double T.  In any context.  Ever.

But enough with the nitpickery, and on to the real topic at hand.

Your first concern is whether or not your husband is looking at the bodies of other women.  Well, allow me to put that concern to rest for good and all by assuring you that yes, he absolutely is.

Your next concern is whether or not he is sometimes comparing you to these other women, and I can give you the same assurance.  Yes, he absolutely is.

Now, before anyone goes too far down the “holy shitstacks what a heartless twat throwing this woman’s insecurities back in her face like that I’m not reading any more of this cruel fuckery” path, please read just a bit more to see if I can’t redeem myself by letting you in on a little secret.

You know who else is looking at other women, and even occasionally comparing his life partner to them?  Brad Pitt.

Yes.  Not even Angelina Jolie, arguably one of the most beautiful creatures the universe has ever seen fit to create, is an exception to this very simple rule.  The rule is, everybody looks.  Which, by the way, also means that Brad Pitt isn’t an exception either, because Angelina Jolie is looking too.

Everybody looks.  So when you make statements like “my husband was in solitary confinement from social media for two days to protect his eyes and heart” what you’re really saying is “my husband took drastic action in the hope of making me believe something completely unrealistic, which is that he would never ever as long as we both shall live ever look at another woman with anything even vaguely resembling a lustful thought in his head”.  Which is, in a word, bullshit.

You say you’re “fighting for your marriage”.  May I suggest, as one human being to another, that you fight for a marriage built on realism and truth rather than escapist techniques and impossibilities?

My guy and I have been together for going on seven years now.  He looks at photographs of beautiful women all the time.  Of course, part of that is because he’s a photographer, but while he could just as easily pick up lighting ideas and various other stylistic whatnotteries from photos of things other than beautiful women, most of the time he doesn’t.  Because in addition to being a photographer, he’s a guy who likes looking at beautiful women.

Women who are a lot younger than my 44 years.  Women who are a lot more boobacious than my B cup.  Women who are a lot taller than my 5’ 3”, and a lot blonder and a lot less asstastic and and and and and.  I could go on for a day and a half about all the things I’m not and still not finish the list.  But what I am is the woman he comes home to every day, and falls asleep next to every night.

And would I be surprised if someone told me he was cheating?  No.

I would be shocked.  And demand proof of his supposed crimes against our relationship.  And if you showed me a picture of him shirtless on a bed with a naked woman, and he said “oh yeah, that was a light check, the stand-in flaked” I would accept that without question.  You show me photographic evidence of actual intromission, and I will have questions.  Until then, I trust two things; he’s going to look, and he’s not going to act.

And so am I.

And that is how things work in the real world.

Your husband is going to look at other women, he is sometimes going to compare you to other women, and he is sometimes even going to think about other women while he’s having sex with you.  That’s just how it is.  The difference between a healthy relationship and one that you should probably get the hell out of immediately is that he is occasionally thinking about other women while he’s with you, rather than occasionally thinking about you while he’s with other women.

And you’re going to do the same.  I already know that you, as someone who feigned shock at her own use of the word “boobs” in a post title, will deny this up to and with your dying breath, but you’re not fooling anyone.  But you know what?  Fooling other people isn’t anything you should be worried about.  Fooling yourself, on the other hand, that’s where you start to have a problem.


Oh, and please don’t call me “love” unless you actually know me, or you’re from somewhere in the UK and have the accent to back it up.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Domestic Sluttery: Improv Apricot & I’m-Going-To-Hell Tagine

Among myriad other things I am well aware I should and should not do, I have a terrible horrible no good very bad habit of using pork in recipes that really should not include pork.  I could say it’s not really my fault that the flavor profiles of a lot of these recipes lend themselves spectacularly well to the inclusion of pork.  I could say that Costco tempts me mercilessly with their high-quality low-priced bulk trays of country-style ribs* which freeze beautifully and are an absolute treasure in slow-cooked dishes.  I could say a lot of things.  All of which are to say, yeah, pretty sure I’m going to hell.

Having accepted this eventual doom and the freedom to be found therein, I decided to make Domestic Sluttery’s Slow Cooked Chicken & Apricot Tagine with a couple of big chunks of pork shoulder.


The sweet spicy rich delectable damnation that followed is well worth any pesky eternal hellfire, I assure you.

I made a ton of changes to this recipe, starting with not using my slow cooker** and opting for a stovetop preparation, which worked quite well and had the added benefit of making the whole house smell a lot more delicious than it would have had all this yum been relegated to the sealed confines of a crock pot.

I didn’t have any squash handy (hurry UP already, garden) so I increased the pepper from one red to a whole bunch, i.e. all that were left in the bag from the previous week’s Costco excursion because it was Friday and that’s what I do on Fridays.


I also didn’t have celery, which I don’t keep in the house because I have a mild sensitivity to it, so I substituted celery salt for regular, and the harrisa paste was swapped for half a teaspoon of crushed red pepper in canola oil.

I left my dried apricots whole because I love big chunky stews, and in lieu of the sliced almonds the original recipe suggested be sprinkled over the finished dish at serving, I threw in a cup of whole almonds.  They cooked down to just soft enough to not be annoying but still crunchy enough to add textural wow.

All of this was put in a stew pot, with an extra tomato-canful of water to compensate for stovetop vs. crock pot cooking, and left to become magical.



Which it did.


I intended to make chapati to go with this*** but ever since my excursion at the beginning of the week into the wonderful realm of cooking spaghetti in wine, I have been haunted by the question, “What other starches can I cook in what other alcohol?”  The answer that came to me was, “I can cook brown rice in brandy”.



And by “can” I mean “should”.

And by “I” I mean “everyone”.

I started small since I had no real idea how this would work, just a few tablespoons of brandy in the cooking water with a good dash of salt.  The result was the rice having a nice little bite to it, which was needed to balance the richness of all the pork and apricots and almonds.  Next time, there will be more brandy.****

Unlike the labels of most packaged foods which seem to be written by people who have never actually eaten, this recipe is not kidding when it says it serves 4.  Which comes in really handy on Sunday night, when a weekend of manual labor started at 7:00 on Saturday morning and you barely had the mental acuity necessary to order a pizza online Saturday night and knew you couldn’t get away with that two nights in a row but by the time another dinner was required you would happily have just thrown yourself to a pack of rabid wolves rather than have to figure out and prepare another meal, just throw the leftovers in the microwave and slice some bread to go with it.  Super delish and requiring no significant brain power.









*Which actually aren’t ribs at all, unless they’re farming some bizarre mutant pigs with really oddly-shaped rib cages that finish in their shoulders, which I doubt.  Or which could explain the consistently low prices.  I think I’m going to not think about that anymore now, just in case.

**I was going to use my slow cooker.  But it’s been so long that when I took it out of the cupboard and tried to remember how to take it apart to wash it, I… couldn’t.  It’s either fused permanently as revenge for my neglect, or I’m dumb.  We’ll call that another thing I’m not going to think about anymore now.

***Chapati is my new favorite thing.  It’s naan for people who are too lazy to make naan.  Things for people who are too lazy to make other things very often become my favorite things.

****If this makes no sense to you, I am now sad for your childhood.