What a crock of guac…

Guac
5462486_aa4165f948_m_1

From today’s LA Times:

"The guacamole sold by Kraft Foods Inc., one of the bestselling avocado
dips in the nation, includes modified food starch, hefty amounts of
coconut and soybean oils, and a dose of food coloring. The dip contains
precious little avocado, but many customers mistake it for wholly
guacamole."

"On Wednesday, a Los Angeles woman sued the Northfield, Ill.-based food
company, alleging that it committed fraud by calling its dip
"guacamole." Her lawyer says suits against other purveyors of "fake
guacamole" could be filed soon."

Precious little avocado?

How about less than 2%?

Of course it’s all right there on the label, and if we remember that our eyes are connected to our brains we’d know that all we have to do is turn over the container to see that we’re eating a bucket of salted refrigerated slime.

However, it’s still freaky. And this is the reason why there is nothing better than slicing into a real, ripe, moist avocado and applying a little elbow grease yourself. And if none are available you wait. It’s that simple.

I fully expect  Lisa and Melissa to understand me on this one!

Less than 2%?????????

Drunk The Halls

Header_1
Cork_wreath

I am married to the craftiest man on earth. He can prepare anything in the kitchen, decorate as if his life depended on it, coordinate classically (even covered in tattoos, I might add), walk in 6 inch acrylic heels (I cannot) and paint a face like nobody’s business. There’s really not much he can’t do, so when he mentioned an idea he saw for holiday wreaths using wine corks I knew I was in for a special treat. Tacky? Yes. Ingenious? Absolutely. Luckily for him I drink wine on a daily basis so there’s no shortage of corks here! Next I hope he builds a greenhouse for me in the backyard with all the bottles I’ve emptied enjoyed–or at least a pretty little scaled down Taj Mahal that extends from our backyard in LA County to the bottom tip of the Baja Peninsula.

All you need are:
a wino husband
lots of corks (he used 151)
a gluegun
toothpicks
wreath frame, found in craft stores

Put on some Jimmy Smith or Vince Guaraldi, skewer corks with toothpicks and dab the end with glue and insert into wreath frame. Stand back, admire, and realize that you are now out of corks and must immediately replenish your supply.

Cheers!

I’ll Fry Away, Oh Glory!

Ill_fry_away

Fryer

Oh, heaven help me.

Aside from the occasional pan frying, loading up a vat of hot oil and submerging food till it’s golden and crunchy is a feat better left for the professionals. In my experience it’s always been too messy, too greasy, and that smell of friedness always makes me queasy after about an hour.

That is, unless, you own a fryer.

This past Friday, that busiest day of the American shopping year, we braved the crowds and hostile consumers to take advantage of a local cookware store’s 10% off promotion. Get there early, shop like a madman, and you too can get a discount! So we did. Aside from a few small kitchen trinkets we were financially reserved, but Adam had his eye on something I tried to pretend I didn’t want.

And as luck would have it, I gave in. Twist my arm, will ya?

It’s not that I don’t go absolutely nuts over fried foods. I do, I really do. I can’t think of anything I’ve ever tasted that didn’t taste better fried–and that includes candy bars, pickles, quail, venison, gizzards, tempura veggies, Khai Luuk Kheuy, twinkies, foie gras, pie, I could go on. But if there’s ever a moment where I try to exercise any type of physical restraint (which isn’t very often, I assure you) it’s with those foods that are fried. I don’t need to explain why, we all know that frying isn’t the healthiest way to prepare food. But damnit if it’s not one of the most pleasurable ways!

Even though the researchers are out on the topic of exactly how bad it is for you, I still must limit the amount of fried foods I eat, opting for portion control and baking things that might otherwise be fried. And most of the time I’m happy, save for a few moments where I crave that crunch and grease.

And this past weekend it was definitely Fried Fest 2006.

Calamari_rangoon

Using the excuse that we were “testing” our new fryer, we armed ourselves with a few gallons of oil, a selection of assorted foods, panko and breadcrumbs and got busy. Although our new fryer is a smaller capacity than the big boys, it still heats and maintains the proper heat for frying. If you’ve tried to do this on a stovetop it can be a royal pain in the ass, but with the right gadget it made frying quick and easy (which depending on how you look at it can be a good thing or a very, very, very bad thing!)  Things went into the oil and came out perfectly crunchy, and as I loaded up on chips I told myself that frying at home is better for me because:

1) I can use fresh, healthier oils and omit anything hydrogenated;

2) I can fry quickly based on the right temperature;

3)  Rationalization suits me well, really really well.

After our weekend of experimenting with our new gadget it will go back into the box and be put away so that I’m not tempted to put everything in batter and fry it. Of course that will have to happen later than sooner – I still have panko left!

Tiny_gray_bar_1_2_2_1_1_1_1_1_1_1_7_2

Potato_chips

Pimenton Potato Chips

Smoked Spanish paprika, known as Pimenton, is the essence of Spanish cooking, and thanks to Spain’s current popularity it’s never been easier to find. This stuff, in both the hot and sweet versions, is always used in my kitchen – I’m absolutely crazy about it and will probably carry a few containers with me into my grave. How’s that for a morbid yet fanatical thought?

Adding a bit of salt and sugar to the Pimenton gives these potato chips another dimension, and the secret is frying the potatoes twice.

1 large russet potato, peeled and sliced thin
1 teaspoon Pimenton
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
oil, for frying

Using a mandoline or slicer, slice the potato thinly and dry on a towel. Excess water can cause the oil to splatter. Fry the potato for 3 minutes at 350° F then remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Heat the oil to 375° F and fry the potato slices again for 1 minute. Depending on the thickness you’ll need to keep an eye on them during this crucial step as this is where the crunch comes in. Once cooked, drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with the sugar, salt and Pimenton mixture. Grab a beer and enjoy.

The Big Pink Conundrum

Pink_conundrum
Cover

Ok, now I’ve done it. This Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year and now I’m a mess and I don’t know what to do. Someone remind me – am I eating locally or am I buying for equality? Do I support my local farmer who may not approve of my "lifestyle" or do I support big businesses that have a record of equality for my fellow gay/lesbian/transgendered/bisexual/questioning brothers and sisters?

The source of my confusion? This year the Human Rights Campaign, a bipartisan organization that works to advance equality for all based on sexual orientation and gender expression, has released a guide titled "Buying For Equality: A Guide To Companies And Products That Support Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual And Transgender Equality".
The guide attempts to rate a whole slew of companies based on their record of equality towards gays and lesbians. It’s a valuable resource and has let me know that I should buy my khakis at Banana Republic and not L.L. Bean, to fill my tank with fuel from Shell and not Exxon, and to reach for Tylenol and not Bayer when the statistics begin to give me a headache.

And lest you think this is silly, consider this: In 2005, the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender market was estimated to yield $610 billion worth of buying power. I don’t know about you, but I’m PROUD to be part of a group with so much disposable income! White parties, circuit parties, dinner parties, cocktail parties, fancy electronics and wine tasting with friends in Napa are what we do best, and when a business doesn’t want us we’ll definitely make it known. It’s how we roll.

77

Ok ok, so that’s all fine and dandy (dandy, get it?) but back to the food. Herein lies my dilemma: Do I support the food conglomerates that support me based on the HRC guide even though it goes against eating locally? Is it ok to forfeit fresh, locally grown peas in favor of frozen, political peas that support my rights? Or do I only eat foods grown within a 50-mile radius by farmers who maintain floats in our annual Pride Parades? And if so, are the farmers cute? I mean, like rugged, smooth chested growers in overalls from a Bruce Weber book or downhome, homely Jed Clampett types? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just, well, I don’t particularly need to see that dancing in white wings to a Deborah Cox remix. And is there a group or website out there for gay foodie bloggers who eat locally but also want to support their cause? And what if some are vegan womyn? Do we need another logo for that?

I’m throwing in the pink towel, grabbing a cocktail, cranking up some Jennifer Holliday and putting my pink dollars where they should be.

Just as soon as I figure out where.

It’s Called Turkey Fatigue

Turkey

Bbq_thursday_1

As the blogosphere fills up with turkey tips, pumpkin pie preferences and stuffing suggestions, I feel this is a good time to reveal a dirty little secret.

Please, keep  your “ooooooooooohs!’ and “awwwwwwwwwws” to a minimum when I tell you this:

I am not going to celebrate Thanksgiving.

No no no, It’s not that I’m a curmudgeon of the highest order, some Scrooge who doesn’t believe in giving thanks or celebrating, it’s not that at all. It’s just that by the time November 23rd rolls around, I’ve already celebrated the beloved Turkey day.

Twice.

I blame my job. In summer when everyone else is swimming and slathering on the tanning butter, I’m buttering and tasting and glazing and torching turkeys for holiday promotions. During July I’ll sit down to a picture-perfect table with flowers, fresh rolls, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie and one big giant, slightly undercooked turkey, and if I need a few different looks I’ll do it all few more times. By the time November rolls around I’m tired of talking turkey and my mind is thinking of Spring, testing recipes and decorating everything in shades of happy bright pastels.

Of course, my Fauxgiving contains none of what the holiday is about – sharing a meal with loved ones, giving thanks for our health and being truly thankful for being alive. To compensate for this I’ll have a holiday dinner in early December, but you better believe there are no turkeys–heritage, natural, conventional, or otherwise. And you know what? For that I definitely give thanks.

So when you are enjoying your turkey, stuffing and all those delicious sides, I’ll be eating bbq with my man and curling up on the couch watching movies all day long. And that’s how I like it!

I wish everyone a very happy, healthy and delicious Thanksgiving!

Now pass the popcorn!

Granda Dottie

Grandma

With all attention focused on the Big Day this Thursday I wanted to bring this gem to your attention. It’s from Emily Smith, a student from Austin, Texas, and her submission to NPR’s “This I Believe’.  I heard it on my drive to work this morning and it conjured up memories of family, history, recipes, and how food truly connects us to past and present.  Crank up the speakers and click on the “listen” button, and if you can’t I’ve included it here.

Here’s to Emily, a great story, and to Grandma Dottie!


"I have gone through 10 pounds of flour in three months. I know that’s not normal, but I believe baking is an expression of love — not only for the person being baked for, but also for the person who taught me how to bake, for the person who gave me the recipe, for the past and tradition.

Grandma Dottie lives on in her recipes that I continue to bake. Her molasses cookies are so good they need to be shared with the world. The batter is sticky and has to be refrigerated for four hours. It turns the whole thing into more of a production, but it’s impossible to roll the dough into balls when it’s that sticky. I know; I’ve tried.

So I wait — just like my grandmother waited four hours — while the dough chills. Then I roll the dough into balls, roll the dough balls in sugar and smash them with a fork twice, creating a criss-cross pattern, and put them in the oven. I look at the cookies instead of relying on the timer. I’m beginning to bake with my senses and my memory instead of with the recipe.

My Grandma Dottie abbreviated everything in her recipes so it took me a while to figure it out. Is the batter the right color? The right consistency? Does it smell right? My dad’s job is to compare my reproductions to the originals of his childhood. If they turn out the same, they’re more than cookies — and that’s what I’m trying to do. I like to watch my father’s face when he remembers his mother.

Because we’re Texan, my mother needs a pecan pie for it to really be Thanksgiving. Pecan pie is mostly corn syrup, a few eggs and pecans. It doesn’t look appetizing. But amazing things happen in the oven. The filling caramelizes and turns a dark brown. I baked my mom a pecan pie. I made the crust and everything—and even she doesn’t do that. The recipe I used yields a stiffer filling. It’s not the gooey pecan pie I grew up with. So I was worried at first that I’d done something wrong. But my mother said it was the best pecan pie she’d ever had.

And right then and there my pecan pie recipe, the one that I’d found in the cookbook my grandmother gave me, became the new family recipe. So, this Thanksgiving it’s my job to make the pie. For me, it’s a symbol of becoming an adult, and the pecan pie becomes my contribution to our family tradition.

I believe that as long as I keep baking, my grandmother hasn’t really gone. I believe baking is the best way for me to express love for my people in the present and honor the people of my past, all in one batch."
Tiny_gray_bar_1_2_2_1_1_1_1_1_1_1_7_1


Online: NPR This I Believe

Soapboxes & Shopping Lists

Soapboxes

Unlike many other common people, I derive great pleasure from buying my
food only at local area farmer’s markets.  I buy sustainable fruits and
vegetables that have not traveled more than 18.382 miles, artisan
handmade cheeses (doesn’t always have to be farmstead but it couldn’t
hurt), handcrafted sausages and humanely, compassionately raised beef
and poultry. And then I immediately drive home and post my pictures and
write about my experiences, joining the select few that have the income
and means to buy themselves  an unattainable culinary superiority.

And boy, it feels sooooooooo good.

I’m
only kidding, people! That was my attempt at good old-fashioned
sarcasm, but you’d be correct if you sense a bit of my annoyance with
the type of person who truly believes this way – even if they’d never
admit to it. Truth be told, shopping for food is indeed a political
act, a powerful choice we have as consumers to put our money where our
mouths are, literally, and practice what we preach. I applaud that. I
just don’t applaud the holier-than-thou attitude that sometimes
accompanies it.

More often than not, those great big bright
boxes of artificial light and canned music known as conventional grocery stores are the only real choices for food purchases. Those on
fixed budgets or those who are geographically challenged don’t have the
access – or knowledge – that many of us have (you West Coasters know
what I’m talking about), and it breaks my heart to hear or read how
some of us place value judgments on an entire group of people based on
their shopping patterns. No, I’m not pushing supermarkets, but I’m not
condemning them, either.

So the person who prompted this entry,
I applaud your decision to shop and eat locally- we’re more alike than
you think. But please remember that not everyone has the opportunity
and income to eat as well and you and I do, and we should never ever
fault them for that.

Tiny_gray_bar_1_2_2_1_1_1_1_1_1_1_7

List

Now that I’m off my soapbox I’d like to lighten things up a bit with The Grocery Lists Collection, a site that posts found shopping lists. It’s like kitchen voyeurism, seeing the things people need – or don’t need (who makes a list for things they don’t need?).  Check it out, it’s pretty damn amusing. 

Dancing With The Stars

Header

Group_shot_final

Alright, I admit there was no dancing involved, but it sure was a night filled with stars. I had the immense pleasure of meeting the one and only Keiko of Nordljus, a site that is held in super high esteem in the blog world.  Keiko’s photography and aesthetic is a thing of beauty,  and her site is a constant source of awe and inspiration to me.

So what was the occasion? It just so happened that Keiko and her husband Matthew were in Los Angeles working on a very nifty project before heading to San Francisco for a few days. Keiko emailed me along with Kevin of Acme Instant Food and we met for dinner and had a fabulous time.

Kevin’s site is the highlight of my day, a mixture of culinary bravery and inventiveness that will not only make you smile but you’ll probably end up chuckling in front of your computer.  I admire the fact that he will throw caution to the wind and get in the kitchen and experiment. I’ve wanted  to meet Kevin for some time, his passion for food and talent for engaging writing has made me a fan since he started his blog.

Keiko is as adorable and sweet  as anyone you could ever meet, and her husband Matthew is a pure joy. Did I mention how super stylish they were?  Plus his name totally rocks, but that’s just my opinion. If these two are ever in your neck of the woods then you must make every attempt  to meet them.  I’m still floating high on Cloud 9.

Hot Cocktails

Nov_6_header

Hot_cocktails_1

Looking at the the temperature outside you’d hardly know it was anywhere close to the holidays. It’s 93 degrees at this exact moment and the last thing anyone can think of is being home for the holidays, gorged with cranberry sauce and having visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads. Maybe swimtrunks and hotdogs, perhaps. But even this late season heatwave hasn’t stopped me from thinking about my upcoming holiday gatherings, which inevitably involve cranking up the AC so that we can pretend it’s actually chilly as we huddle over the fondue pot swirling chunks of new potatoes, cornichon and bread in savory, melted cheese.

Because our holiday parties tend to revolve around themes and menus of yesterday (I blame my house, it’s terribly 1950s to the extreme, and no, I wouldn’t change a thing), I wanted to experiment with a category of drinks that are probably better suited to Patagonia rather than Sunny Southern California: hot cocktails. Regardless of the outside temperature though, sipping a hot cocktail accomplishes two things: it warms your hands and tummy and makes you incredibly drunk. What’s not to enjoy about that? Besides, we can all sit around sipping cider or cocoa all the time, can we?

Here are 4 hot cocktails that will definitely be featured at my next shindig, no matter what the weather’s like. The suntan lotion, however, will be strictly optional.

Hot Frenchman
Would you care for a Hot Frenchman? Yesterday I enjoyed the tastiest Hot Frenchman. Why, I’d love a Hot Frenchman! Ok, I’ll stop. But I can’t stop chuckling over the title of this drink. It reminds me of this guy I met once who, wait. Nevermind. I’m married and this is a family blog. Anyway, this is nothing more than a warm basic sangria, in which case it would be a Hot Spaniard? That reminds me that once in Sitges a few years ago… oh Matt, be quiet.

4 oz red wine
3/4 oz orange liqueur like Grand Marnier or Triple Sec
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 oz orange juice
1/4 oz lemon juice
1 twist orange peel
1 twist lemon peel

Heat well in a heat-resistant glass or cup. Stir, add twists of lemon and orange peel, and serve. Ooh la la!

Bumbo
Like many cocktails, there are endless variations on recipes. I like this one because I like to pretend I have a sore throat and the heat and alcohol will heal me and make me feel better. Go with it.

2 oz gold rum
1 oz lime juice
1 tsp caster sugar
2 oz hot water

Add to heatproof cup and allow the sugar to dissolve. Dust with nutmeg.

Hot Buttered Rum
This is the most basic of recipes for a hot buttered rum. Personally, I find that adding 3 lbs of butter and a gallon of vanilla ice cream to my cup makes it just a little bit richer. Just a little bit.

1 oz light rum
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp butter
4 cloves

Add the sugar, butter and cloves to a coffee mug. Pour the rum, and stir well. Fill with boiling water. Stir again, and serve. Repeat seven times.

Rum Hot Toddy
The history of the Hot Toddy goes back several hundreds of years. It probably began in the Bible because they didn’t have ice makers so they all drank their cocktails hot, hence "HOT" Toddy. Get it? Good. I’ll have another.

1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup spiced rum
4 tablespoons honey
3 cups boiling water
4 cinnamon sticks
4 lemon slices

Spread sugar on small plate. Dip rims of mugs into cold water. Dip moistened rims of mugs into sugar. Mix rum and honey in 4-cup measuring cup. Add 3 cups boiling water; stir to blend. Divide hot toddy among prepared mugs. Garnish with cinnamon sticks and lemon slices and serve.

A very special thanks to my husband Adam for letting me light the fireplace for photos when it was so hot outside and then from stopping the dogs from eating cooled charred embers afterwards. Why on earth they do that is beyond me.