Weight Loss

Sorry, no snazzy title today!

I have lost some weight since the beginning of the school year. I didn’t follow any diet plan or eat grapefruit or take pills or anything. I used simple math–calories in, calories out. I know that it is not quite this simple, because fiber calories are better than fat calories. But I also used common sense. An entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey is about 1000 calories. Obviously, you can’t go through life eating one of those + 500 additional calories and say, “Hey! I’m only taking in 1500 calories a day!!1!!!11!!” I mean, you could, but that would be stupid.

How much weight have I lost? I have no idea. I don’t do scales. I can tell you though that I was up to a size 16+ and just bought a size 10 dress and a size 8* dress this past weekend. Having said that, I should add that I was thisclose to fitting into size 8 shorts, but then couldn’t even get a leg in size 12 shorts. So who knows? Then I found a pair of size 14 shorts that fit perfectly…but my old size 14 shorts from last summer are about 3 inches too big for me. So again, who knows?

How did I do this? First, I planned my meals. Until the weather got cold, I ate a whole wheat muffin, 1 T of peanut butter and a dab of jelly for breakfast every morning. When the weather got cold, I switched to oatmeal with fruit (blueberries, bananas, raspberries) on top. For lunch, I had a whole wheat wrap & 1 T of peanut butter for lunch, a banana, and a 1 oz. bag of chips. For my snack, I had a protein bar. When I got home from school, I might have had a salad or one of those 100 calorie snack bags. (Okay, those aren’t the healthiest, but they make a good after school pick me up). Once the weather got cold, I started having vegetable soup with the banana and chips. Dinner was the only wild card, but I still used common sense, trying to keep it to < 800 calories. I only drank coffee & water, most days. I also exercised 4-5 times per week. I did Jillian Michaels workouts 3-4 times per week and pilates on the other days.

I kept track of calories burned & calories eaten. This was pretty easy to do given my “set” eating schedule. I used this website to help me figure out how many calories I was eating. When I made my own recipes, I used this website to help me figure everything out. When it comes to burning calories, I used this website.

Here are three things that I learned. Your mileage probably will vary:

1) It’s really all about calories. A wise friend of mine who works for Weight Watchers told me that you can lose weight just by cutting calories. If you have the willpower–and don’t consume beer like I do–you can probably get by with just ingesting 1500-1800 calories per day and be okay. I tried to lose weight for over a year with very little success. I just concentrated on exercising and never gave a thought to caloric intake. BIG MISTAKE. You HAVE to limit your calories. It makes all the difference. And speaking of calories….

2)…Many many MANY things have more calories than you think. I got into the habit of checking restaurant websites prior to eating there. For instance, I visited the Big Boy website prior to lunching there, and ended up with a reasonably calorie lunch. But one day, I decided to get my lunch at Einstein Bros. Bagels. I figured–shit, I’m getting a salad and a bagel, who gives a shit? I got my food and came back to school to eat. I thought there was a lot of cheese, so I picked around most of it. I skipped the nuts and only had half the dressing. I ate all of the lettuce and the whole salt bagel that came free with the salad. Good thing I modified this because it turns out that this salad has almost 900 calories in it (when you eat all the dressing, cheese and nuts). The bagel has 350 calories. Now, common sense should tell you that cheese has lots of calories but 900 calories for a fucking salad?!?! I could have a few beers for the same amount of calories. So the warning is–check your calories carefully. Food has more calories than you think & you never burn as many calories as you think. Speaking of burning calories….

3)…Do not confuse burning calories with a workout. Walking burns calories. So does shitting, screwing, breathing, smoking, talking on the phone and playing chess with Grandpa. But none of these things constitute a workout. A workout is when you get your heart rate up to its maximum level for a sustained period of time. To wit, walking for an hour will burn about 150 calories for a person of my weight. But cardio interval training will burn about 550 calories in 40 minutes. See the difference? Most people don’t walk an hour; they walk maybe half that with their dog and think it’s a workout. It’s not. Walking around the block with your dog is better than sitting on your ass watching TV, but it will burn less than 100 calories. When you then consume a 500 calorie Dairy Queen sundae, you have done more harm than good.

Now I know that many people have lost weight by just walking and doing no other exercise. And that is awesome–hell, I wish I could! But I have to believe that a) they weren’t eating many calories and/or b) they were walking for hours at a time. I also don’t buy the “walk for 15 minutes four times a day” racket. Again, it is better than sitting on your butt, but it is still not a workout. Again, your heart rate must be ramped up for a sustained period of time. Of course you will burn more calories than you do by just talking on the phone, but unless you make other changes, you will not see results.

I know this will irritate some people, but I say it still. I say it because I went through it…I tried walking for 15 minutes three or four times a day. I tried walking for an hour. And it simply didn’t work. The only thing that has worked for me are circuit training workouts that push my heart rate up for long periods of time. If you can lose weight just by walking–God bless you! I am endlessly jealous.

I should add that NONE of this was easy for me. Many people have said to me, at various points in life, that I am one of those people who “looks at food and gains weight”. I find that saying very insulting, btw, and will usually respond by saying, “Why do you say that?” This puts the person out on Front Street for saying something so asinine. Nevertheless, there is some truth to that statement in that weight does not “fall” off of me. I am not one of those people who loses like 8 pounds of water weight in a week. I am not one of those people who loses a lot of weight in a short time…it is pound by pound, day by day. If you see me on a weekly basis, you likely will not notice the difference because, as I said, the weight does not “melt” off of me. It comes off slowly, begrudgingly, angrily. I still have about 30 pounds to go, and I actually am not looking forward to my goal weight simply because I have absolutely no idea how to maintain weight. I mean, I do, but I am not sure how successful I will be at maintaining a healthy weight. I guess we will see.

*Okay, it is stretchy material, but still.

The “Can I Substitute This for That?” Flourless Chocolate Cake

Last October, my friend Joel, his wife Sally, my husband Jeff & I* put on a wonderful five course beer/wine dinner. We each made different courses and paired beer and wine with them. You could read about this adventure if the MF’ing Internet hadn’t eaten my late, lamented blog “Drink Beer Think Beer”. (I have bounced back nicely but really, I have Internet Trust issues now and will never be the same). Suffice it to say that we had an awesome time.

One of the courses that I made was dessert. I made a flourless chocolate cake that I had brought to Passovers past and always got a good reaction from. We paired it with Jeff’s homemade raspberry porter beer and it brought a beer–er, tear to your eye! Joel asked if I would bring the cake to his Seder and I said that of course I would. No beer on Passover, but we could still have the cake, darnit!!

This cake recipe is from the blog of my friend & fellow lady food blogger Noelle but OF COURSE I had to fuck something up, so here is my saga.

I was shopping at Hiller’s and standing in the chocolate/baking aisle. My shopping list said “chocolate for Passover cake” but, in my infinite wisdom, I had neglected to say what kind of chocolate and how much. I could have used these recent inventions that you might have heard of, called Cell Phones**, but I had left mine in the car so I couldn’t call Jeff. So I stood there for a minute and then picked up one 4 oz bar of unsweetened chocolate and one 4 oz bar of bittersweet chocolate. This turned out to be semi-smart because when I got home and checked the recipe, it called for 7 oz. of bittersweet. Well, I had the 7 oz part covered, but only 1/2 of it was bittersweet. Despite my Internet Trust issues, I went to the Internet and asked it if I could substitute unsweetened chocolate for bittersweet chocolate. You can, and I did. You just need to put 1/2 oz of unsweetened chocolate for every 1 oz of bittersweet + 1 T of sugar for every 1 oz bittersweet that you are replacing.

That there above probably makes absolutely no sense, so let me put it another way (this is called differentiated instruction, for those not in the education field) and let’s involve the whole class in this endeavor, shall we?

The recipe called for 7 oz of bittersweet, so I put in my 4 oz of bittersweet.
Okay, so 7 minus 4 is….good job! 3. I like how you answered that so quickly! I still owed it 3 oz.
So now I had to put 1/2 oz unsweetened for every 1 oz bittersweet…we have how many ounces left? 3! Super! Now remember how I always tell you that you really do use math in real life? (You don’t remember cuz you’re not in my class? Just go with it, people!) Here we go. 1/2 of 3 is…don’t use your fingers, you can do this. 1.5! Good job! I like how Jessica helped Mary there…nice. Stop biting your nails, you know that drives me nuts (I have a kid who does that and it does drive me nuts). So how many ounces of unsweetened do we need? 1.5! Right on.

Now we also need 1 T of sugar for every oz of bittersweet that we are replacing. How many ounces of bittersweet should we have used? 3, so…how many tablespoons….? 3! Yes sir! Awesome. Hold up the number of fingers there…there you go. Sweet.

To recap, I put in the 4 oz of bittersweet, 1.5 oz of unsweetened & 3 T sugar and it turned out AWESOME!!! Even better than the 7 oz of bittersweet, if I do say so myself!

(The pictures that I took didn’t come out, so please close your eyes and imagine the most beautiful chocolate flourless cake you’ve ever seen)

7 oz of bittersweet chocolate (one way or the other!)
7 oz of butter
1 c of sugar
4 eggs, separated

1. Melt the butter & chocolate over low heat. Be careful and stir it so it doesn’t burn.
2. In your stand mixer, mix up 1/2 the sugar and the egg whites. As it mixes, add the rest of the sugar.
3. Once the chocolate is melted and has cooled, add the egg yolks. STIR because you don’t want the eggs to cook (they shouldn’t if you cooled properly, but I’ve seen it happen).
4. Now you need to mix the chocolate and the sugar/eggs. Take a dollop of the chocolate and put it into the stand mixer. Add a dollop at a time until everything is mixed up.
5. Pour batter into a greased 8″ cake pan and bake for about 40 minutes at 375. The cake will puff up a bit and then kind of cave in. This is nothing to be alarmed about.
6. Sprinkle fresh fruit (I’ve used raspberries and blueberries) and/or powdered sugar or just start eating it with your bare hands.
7. Enjoy!

* That sounds like the name of a bad 70s movie about key parties
**They have movies you can rent and watch at home now too! What will they come up with next!

The “Gotta Use This Stuff Up” Fruit Crumble Recipe…

…or How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Use the Turkey Baster

So! I am a proud member of Locavorious, which is run by my friend and fellow lady food blogger, Rena. My girl loads us up on fruits, which is great ‘cuz I don’t really preserve fruits except in jams. I’ve slacked on the fruits this winter, and therefore have a boatload of frozen goodies living in my freezer. (A wonderful story that I won’t tell right now is about the day that Homeless Dave bike-delivered my freezer from Big George’s to my house). The freezer lives in my basement, near my washer and dryer and whenever I go and do the wash, I see it there, reminding me that I have to use the frozen fruit within.

As it happened, the freezer’s most recent psychic message to me coincided with our Slow Food book club/pot luck. Huzzah! I seized upon the opportunity to feed my friends. I found a recipe for a fruit cobbler in the Joy of Cooking that I inherited from my mom. (I should add that–as far as I know–my mom is alive and well…she was just sick of cooking all of those years and passed it on to me). Please read after the recipe to see how the turkey baster fits into this puzzle.

1) Pit 6 peaches, cutting them in half. Place them in an ungreased 11 x 7 pan. Add 2 c of fresh or frozen berries (I used strawberries).
2) Sprinkle 1/4 c sugar over the fruit.

3) Mix 1 c all-purpose flour, 1 t baking soda, 1/4 t salt.
4) In another bowl, mix 4 T of softened butter, 1/2 c sugar and 1 egg. Add 1/4 c buttermilk (don’t sweat it if you don’t have it–put some lemon juice in the milk and it will be fine).
5) Mix the two mixtures together until smooth. Drop spoonfuls of the batter over the fruit. Leave about 1/2 inch border around the pan, as it will spread.

6) Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.

Mmmm, mmmm! Time for pie crumble. I cut a slice for Jeff so he could eat some with the dinner I thoughtfully got started for him. To my horror, the bottom of the crumble looked like a peach and pink Lake Huron. Shit. I tasted some and it was goo-ood but too Lake-y. You will recall that I am a public school teacher and therefore must be creative. None of the for-profit charter school bullshit for us–we gotta be creative, friends. So I grabbed my turkey baster–which last saw the light of day of Thanksgiving–and went to work. I was able to siphon much of the liquid away, leaving the crumbly top and the yummy fruit. It looked nicer, too. I guess I should have better defrosted the fruit before I used it to bake. Oops.

My potluck friends said it was delicious and Jeff liked it too. So you see, fret not when you have a dessert that looks like it came from the bottom of the Huron River…grab your baster and have at it. Or just better defrost your fruit in the first place like a normal person…I guess that would work, too 🙂

The “Holy Shit! The Cupcakes Imploded!” Blondies Recipe

For those who are kind enough to read this blog, but don’t actually know me may not know that I am a special education teacher in a large, urban district about 30 miles to the east. My caseload is supposed to max out at 9 but I have 12 this year and all 12 are “mainstreamed” into general education classes, with me and my aides providing support for them. This sounds much, much easier than it is. I have a few kids on my caseload who were born addicted to drugs (“crack babies”, if you will) and I can tell you right now–that messes you up. Being born addicted to crack creates innumerable problems later on in life, but it does not affect your ability to be a sweet and normal kid. I have a set of twins on my caseload who fall into this category–sweet, sweet, loving, adorable, give me hugs every time they see me kids. They ain’t getting a lot from home so we do what we can at school. I baked something for them a few years ago (when I had them the first time) and they remembered it ever since. So, I like to bake for them when I can.

Their 11th birthday was earlier this month. The night before their birthday, I had to tell them “Ms. Smith has plans! Will bake the next night!” which really meant, “Ms. Smith goin to the brewpub and drinkin’, boys!” but of course I couldn’t say that. I did bake something the next night and that is where the trouble began.

I decided to make chocolate cupcakes. I used a standard recipe, mixed everything up and poured it into the little cupcake holders. I had enough batter such that I could even make a small cake in a small cake pan. I put them in the oven, set the timer and went about my business.

Just before the timer dinged, I decided to check on my masterpieces. There was, to put it mildly, a bit of a problem. The cupcakes and cake had burst up and then quickly sucked themselves back into themselves. I realize that now would be a great time for a picture but I was so distressed that photographing this disaster was the furthest thing from my mind. So please, if you will, use your imagination. There was cupcake batter caked all over the pan but the actual cupcakes themselves had deflated and were actually concave. The cake had done the same thing. It was like some giant hand reached under the oven and pulled everything down into the Hell of Baking Disasters. I thought I was going to cry.

You see, I am one of those people who only sees humor in things after the dust has settled. Some people would have laughed merrily, photographed it and la-da-da’ed away. I am not that person. Upon seeing a disaster, I immediately go into “Ms. Fix It” mode. Thus, I threw the cupcake pan in the sink and immediately went looking for a new recipe. There was no way in hell I was going to school the next day without something home baked for those kids. I recruited Jeff to help me and we set about trying to make this right.

There were a few problems though. I was out of chocolate (I had some chocolate chips that I used for the original cupcakes but that was it), I only had one egg left, and the brown sugar was almost gone. This lets a lot of recipes out, I found. Luckily, I have the most awesome cookbook in the world, Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters. As usual, these girls helped me out.

I found a recipe for something called Frosted Pan Hermits which is a fancy way of saying “blondies”. The recipe only called for one egg. It called for raisins but Jeff found some dried cherries so we used those. Neither chocolate nor brown sugar was required, so we were good there. Jeff made sure I had calmed down and then skedaddled back to the safety of his recliner. I measured and mixed and spread in the pan. Then I just had to wait to see the unseen hand from hell would return.

While I waited, I asked The Internet whatever might have happened to my cupcakes?? It turned out that I probably used too much baking powder. You see, baking powder creates some sort of chemical reaction that sets off gas or something that causes the baked good to rise but if you use too much it rises too fast and too quickly and then it sucks back into itself. All in the house that Jack built. I am such a spazz that I could easily see myself putting in too much baking powder and causing the disaster. I accepted this as the explanation and, upon reflection, realized that perhaps this is why baking powder tins come with that handy little thing that lets you level off the teaspoon. The Clabber Girls are smart, they are.

The blondies came out delightfully with nary an implosion to be found. I gave them to the twins and also to a friend of mine who had a birthday party that weekend. All parties reported back positively (although, to be far, the twins will shovel down school cafeteria food so take that with a grain of salt) and my baking self esteem had been restored. THEN, I could laugh about it. It was pretty funny, after all.

Frosted Pan Hermits:
1.5 cups of flour plus 2 T for later (I used Westwind Milling’s unbleached all-purpose)
1/2 t salt
1/4 t cloves
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 c plus 2 T butter
1 egg
1/2 c milk
1 c raisins (I used dried cherries that I got from By The Pound)
1 c chopped walnuts (didn’t have them, didn’t use them)

Spray a 9×13 baking pan with whatever magic spray you use. Combine 1.5 cups of flour, TWO TEASPOONS NO MORE NO LESS of baking powder, the salt, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Cream the butter and brown sugar in your KitchenAid mixer. Add the egg. Add the dry ingredients alternatively with the milk. Mix the remaining 2 T of flour with the raisins (cherries) and add to the batter.

Pour into pan and spread out evenly. Bake 25-30 minutes.

If you wish to top off with the frosting (I did, since I have confectioners sugar I need to get rid of), you can do so fairly easily:
Mix 2/3 c confectioners sugar, 1/8 t salt, 1.5 t butter, 1 t vanilla, 2-3 T milk to moisten. Mix it up until it is of frosting consistency. Spread onto the blondies when they are warm and spread evenly. Some of it will kind of drip into the blondies, making for a lovely, gooey experience.

Do you fondue?

When I was a kid, my family never fondued. I’m sure that my parents must have had a fondue pot somewhere in the house–after all, they got married in 1969 and had me in 1972 and Jesus Christ people! It was the 70s! (They also never had key parties either and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. Did I mention it was the 70s?!?!!)

Fortunately for me, I went to college in the early 90s, when all things from the 1970s were all the rage (except, sadly, key parties). A few of my sorority sisters and I were all into the 1970s–disco, the Hustle and fondue. None of us had fondue pots, but we thought it sounded cool. I hung onto the idea of fondue during my 20s and, when I got married in 2000, registered for a fondue pot from what was then Hudsons. One of my disco loving sorority sisters bought it for me and I vowed to make use of it. I haven’t used it every month, but it’s gotten quite a bit of use. This past weekend, I trotted the fondue pot out again and used it for a lady food blogger event.

Some of the lady food bloggers and I went to Victoria‘s house, armed with our fondue pots. My friends Jeannette and Tricia had the awesome 70s fondue pots–goldenrod (which is slightly lighter than harvest gold, in case you were wondering) and avocado green, respectively. Mine is plain black, but it does its job with the heart and soul of a burnt orange pot. (I do wish I had a burnt orange pot, btw, as it would complete the 70s Trifecta).

At Victoria’s house, we met up with Victoria’s neighbor Shayne and our fellow food blogger Amy. We spent a few minutes getting the fondues pot set up, initially going with this set up:

Above you see Victoria’s beef broth fondue pot & Jeannette’s hot oil fondue pot. There is also a delicious spread of dips that Jeannette brought, including champagne-mustard, peanut sauce and some sort of ginger thing. Victoria put out a lovely spread of veggies and beef and Jeannette brought along a lovely spread of meats.

There is my fondue pot, in all its glory. I made pizza fondue (my canned tomato sauce, Penzey’s pizza spices, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses). I put some green peppers (frozen, from my garden!) on top at some point (not sure if they are in this picture since I just see code right now and not the picture and sadly, the code is silent as to whether my peppers are in the picture or not).

Cheese!!! Cheese fondue!!! Compliments of Tricia.

We tried this “fondue station” approach for a minute and then realized that it would work much better at the table, so here we go:

There was beer (I brought along New Holland’s Sun Cap and Bell’s Batch 9000. Amy kindly brought along Dragon’s Milk which was about the most awesome beer I’ve had recently. Yow!) and wine and we were all, “OMG! I’m so full!!! I can’t eat another bite!!” until….

Holy shit! Amy brought a chocolate fondue with these crispy ginger things, coconut marshmallows, biscuits, apples, pears, bananas, pretzels…holy shit! I don’t even care for chocolate but I was guzzling it like I was Ernest Hemingway set loose in a Key West bar after a 2 day dry spell.

It was a great night and as always, it left me anxious for the next food blogger get together (rumored to be some time in early May). While we couldn’t quite reenact the 70s (no spouses/significant others, so no key parties), it was an awesome event! And here is a picture that I know has the peppers on top of my pizza fondue masterpiece:

There it go!

Stouts & P-funk

So I’ve been listening to P-Funk a lot lately. As it happens, the first song on the CD that I, ahem, borrowed from my teacher’s aide is “Flashlight”. For some reason, the line that goes, “Most of all, he needs the funk”. For this reason, I’ve been walking around school answering kids’ questions by saying, “Most of all…” and then completing the answer. In this way, I hope to not only answer their question but perhaps enlighten them to the wonders and mysteries of Parliament Funkadelic. We’ll see how it goes.

Since I’m in this mode, I thought I’d reply to the Arbor Brewing Company stout release in this fashion. Spot light!

Most of all…the stout release yesterday was awesome. Four beers were trotted out last night and they were all good.

Most of all…the Faricy Fest is the typical “stout” that is often on the menu at ABC. It has notes of chocolate and espresso, with a bit of a smoky finish. It is 4.5% ABV, according to the menu. If you are not familiar with stouts, this would be a good “gateway” beer.

Most of all…the Blackheath Sweet wasn’t as sweet as I feared it would be. When I heard the friendly bartender describe this as “sweet”, I thought, “Uh oh” because I really don’t care for sweet beers. But it wasn’t…it was more of a semi-sweet finish. This may make absolutely no sense, but think of “sweet” as gooey chocolate brownie–it ain’t like that. It’s more of a laid back sweet taste that kind of whispers to you but doesn’t shout at you. I also read something about how usually these types of stouts are made with lactose but they didn’t do that for their vegan friends. That was sweet (get it? I’m a master).

Most of all…the St. Pat’s was described as the “heavier Faircy”. This would be your next step up the stout ladder, as it were. It was fuller and richer than the Faircy, with more of an alcohol “hit”. This was my second favorite beer of the night. Think of it as Faircy, squared.

Most of all…the Steamroller. This was my absolute favorite beer of the night. It was 11% ABV (!!!) but you’d never know it. It was smooth, easy drinking and had a nice bold taste with a rich mouthfeel. I must confess that I heard it was an imperial stout and feared it would be too much…but it wasn’t. Be careful though as it is, as I said, 11% ABV.

Most of all…you should get your booty down to ABC and enjoy these beers, because…

everybody’s got a little light under the sun!!

The Red Party

Last August, I bought and canned cherries for the specific purpose of making a cherry pie in February. I am one of those (possibly very annoying) people who tends to do what I say I am going to do and conversely, not do what I say I am not going to do. So when I said I was going to make a cherry pie in February, I meant that I was going to make the motherfucking cherry pie in motherfucking February.

But I’ve been watching my calorie intake and figured I shouldn’t eat a whole pie. So I decided to have a dinner party! I rounded up the posse and set a date.

(As an aside, I should say that anyone is welcome to come to these parties. I would rather die than have anyone think I’m excluding them and truly anyone is welcome. Unless I don’t like you. You know who you are :)).

So since I was making cherry pies, I said “well hell I should have a “red” themed party!” (I also asked folks to work on their interpretations of Warrant’s masterpiece, “Cherry Pie” but no one did. Sigh.)

For starters, I had some appetizers:

On the left is a tomato-apple chutney that I canned last summer. I got the recipe from the Ball’s recipe book and I had some reservations. Tomatoes and apples seemed an odd combination. There was also raisins & peppers, which makes it sound even odder. To my delight–OMG! Yum!!! It had the most loveliest flavor. Not too tangy, but with a kick. I put it over cream cheese and mozzarella and served with crackers.

Next you see raspberry from my Locavorious food share over brie cheese. Next to that is my canned bruschetta in a jar from my girl Cindy’s masterpiece blog, Mom’s Kitchen. I served it with sliced baguette and mozzarella.

What I forgot to photograph was my edamame pate with roasted red peppers. I got some edamame from Locavorious and was like, “What the fuck is this?” The same day, my Vegetarian Times magazine (a birthday gift) arrived and, because God smiles on simple girls who don’t know of His glorious creation of edamame, there was a recipe for edamame pate. I made it, but didn’t read it right and didn’t realize you had to take the beans out of the shells. Oops. So after it was all said and done, I had to frantically search the internet to make sure the shells weren’t poisonous (they aren’t). I had 17 people coming over and really didn’t want to kill a bunch of my friends. So they aren’t poisonous, but they aren’t the tastiest things either. The roasted red peppers (also from my frozen food share) looked lovely, but the taste was odd. The pate called for mint and I think that kind of threw it a little. At any rate, it didn’t kill anyone so that was good.

I may have mentioned that I have clever friends! People brought with them red wine and red beer! Here is a sampling of the beers:

From left to right, you will see Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja, Voodoo Love Chili, Red’s Rye, Rogue Red, Atwater Cherry Stout, Derailed Black Cherry Ale, Founders’ Cerise and Detroit Dwarf.

More beers are here:

Did I mention I have groovy friends? They brought food too. I made meatloaf…three of them. One had my homemade ketchup on top, one had my homemade chili sauce on top and one had frozen cranberry sauce on top. I also whipped up (get it?) some mashed potatoes and my semi-famous biscuits. Friends brought parsnips (I love those things! Took me forever to try them but they are gooo–oood, as Cousin Eddie would say), maple-bourbon carrots, asparagus, green beans, couscous salad and good things that I am forgetting off the top of my head, so please remind me in the comments.

Did I mention pie? Yes I did make pie!!


Recipes can be found here.

I wasn’t 100% thrilled with my pie…it had too much crust. Fortunately, I had bought some vanilla ice cream to go with it and I think that kind of tempered it. I hope. People ate it, anyway.

So that was the Red Party! I had a great time and it was lovely to see my friends. Even if no one one stood up and made like Warrant….

She’s My Cherry Pie!

Pie has long scared the crap out of me. The whole idea of making a crust is I think what gets me. I sort of got over the fear when I made a chicken pot pie a few months ago, but the idea of a fruit pie still kinda of frightened me. Despite this admittedly odd fear, I canned some sweet cherries last August, with the intent of making a cherry pie in February. I am one of those people who follows up on what I say and it’s February so it’s pie time!

Since I have today off, I decided to make the pies today. Also, I am having a dinner party tomorrow that features the pies so you know, I kind of had no choice 🙂 When I looked in my refrigerator, I noticed that my butter supply was dwindling. I buy it from a local source and it comes in these huge chunks. My chunk was more like a lump. Well, shit. I was (and am) still in my pajamas so there was no going to the store to buy more. I mean, it’s not like I could get dressed and hop in the car. So I thought about it and decided to make the bottom crust out of butter and the top out of Crisco. The recipes are absurdly simple.

I used my favorite cookbook, Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters, for the butter crust. You simply haul out your food processor and put in 2.5 cups of flour. Then you put in 1/3 sugar (my favorite sugar is Pioneer) and throw in some salt. Pulse. Now take your 1 cup (Do you believe that!!! ONE CUP!!) of butter and cut it into little cubes. Toss them into the food processor. Pulse until crumbly. Add 1/4 cup of ice water and pulse until you got yourself some dough. I had to add a little more water.

Now spread some parchment paper on your counter. Martha Stewart taught me this one, btw. Thanks, M. Good lookin’ out. Put a chunk of the dough on the paper and roll it out. My girl M also taught me to kind of roll the dough onto a rolling pin and then unroll it into the greased pie pan. This sounds weird but it is easy to do and it worked, sort of. I patted down the bottom crusts and turned my attention to the cherries I had canned back on August 15th.

I pitted and canned the cherries according to the Ball’s Blue Book and they have waited, patiently, amongst the tomatoes and jams and salsas. Today they were called up the Show and performed very well. I put the two pints into a big pan along with 4T cornstarch (in retrospect, I think that was a bit too much), about 1 T of lemon juice, dash of salt, about 1/3 cup of sugar and some vanilla flavoring. The recipe that I used called for almond flavoring but I have never bought almond flavoring in my life and don’t intend to start now. I heat it up to thicken it, even though the recipe didn’t require me to do this. Like magic though, it thickened up and looked pretty. I let it cool and filled the first pie crust and realized….

….Oh, oh! I didn’t have enough cherries for both pies. I improvise all the time in my classroom and so I put on my Magical Teacher Problem Solver Hat and decided that I could use some of the many blueberries that I have in my freezer. I grabbed the first bag that I saw, which happened to come from my friend Rena’s business called Locavorious. I dumped the whole bag in with the remaining cherries and stirred. It looked so pretty, see?

So then I had to make the top crusts. I used the back of the Crisco tin, which requested that I put in 2 cups of flour, 3/4 of chilled Crisco (I had let it sit in the fridge about 20 minutes. Good ’nuff.), and a dash of salt. I also added a palm full of sugar just cuz that’s how I roll. I did the little pulsity-pulse thing in my food processor and added about 1/4 c of cold water and rolled it out like I did before. I had a little more trouble putting the top crust on so it looks a little cockeyed but I am never neat…that’s just not my style.

In case you were wondering, here is what my kitchen looked like:

Geniuses are seldom tidy.

I put the pies in the oven at 400 for 30 minutes; then I lowered the temperature to 350 and baked for about 35 more minutes. The COOLEST THING EVER happened, too. I opened the oven to check on my masterpieces and they were breathing at me. Remember that scene in Poltergeist where the steak starts breathing at Marty, the camera guy? Right before the maggots come out and Marty peels off his face? Like that. It was awesome and I just started at the wonder for a minute.

When I took them out of the oven, they were bubbling and happy:

We’ll see how they taste tomorrow, I guess. Meantime, everyone please bow your heads and sing it with me: “She’s my cherry pie! Cool drink of water such a sweet surprise. Looks so good bring a tear to your eye*, sweet cherry pie!”

In sum, I had a great time making the pies. My dog, who loves licking flour from the floor, also had a great time:

*To really get a tear to the eye, read about what happened to that super hot girl in the video. Her implants leaked and almost killed her and she got some other horrible disease. Another tear–but a tear of laughter–will emerge when you see how badly Janie Lane (the lead singer of Warrant) has aged.

King’s Cake

I was invited to a Mardi Gras party this past weekend. I was pretty excited because I don’t think I’ve ever been invited to a Mardi Gras party before! When my friend David invited me, he mentioned something about needing a King’s Cake. I had no f’in idea what the hell a King’s Cake was but of course that’s never stopped me before! I piped up, “I’ll make it!!!” This led to a flurry of googling for recipes and discussions with Dave regarding the baby to put into the cake. One place in town apparently sold the babies and since I couldn’t make it down there to get the baby, Dave had to get the baby. Then he mailed me the baby. When the baby arrived, I twittered him to thank him for mailing me the baby. This whole conversation makes me sound bat shit crazy BUT I GOT A BABY IN THE MAIL!! It was cool! Actually, he sent me two babies, so all the better.

It’s even creepier looking in person.

For those who don’t know, the baby goes into the cake. Apparently, the person who gets the baby in their slice and doesn’t choke to death on it, gets to make the cake for next year.

There are about a zillion King’s Cake recipes out there, but I went with my favorite website called Southern Food About. I like how they think–they get your attention with Southern Food and then, in case you were wondering, they add “About”. Like Yoda works there or some shit.

They offered me a number of recipes, but I decided on this one. That is some cool shit, isn’t it? VERY labor intensive, I might add. I followed the recipe exactly and here is what it looked like:

I know what you are thinking regarding the icing kind of dripping off the sides and let me just say that a) all you fuckers got dirty minds and b) I know because I was thinking the same thing! But it was good! And isn’t it pretty, with the colored sugars??? I think I did a good job!

Here’s the stinky part…we couldn’t make the party. Long story, but we couldn’t make it so I never got to eat my masterpiece. I assume that no one died of food poisoning though, and no one came to my house with pitchforks to poke me for making the cake, so I presume it’s all good.

Happy belated Mardi Gras! (That means Fat Tuesday in French. I know this because I got an A+ in French in college!)

Hello world!

Once upon a time, I had a food blog.  And it was good.  I also had a beer blog.  And it was good.  But somebody, somewhere, somehow got into my Google account and deleted it and with it, went my blogs.  Somehow, the account came back, but the blogs were gone forever.  So now here we are.

I want this blog to focus on my palate, as it enjoys good food and good beer.  I am not a food snob. I am not a beer snob. I am not any kind of snob.  But I do love to cook, brew, eat and drink.  And that’s what I am going to talk about.