Month: November 2011

Holidays come and go, but Pop Bytes never sleep.

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Let’s do this, shall we?

The Star Trek sequel is going to be in 3D on May 17th 2013. Yep, 1.5 years away. I personally couldn’t care less for 3D. All my friends who were blown away by Avatar, bought the movie, watched it at home in 2D and discovered the actual movie has a pretty lame plot and story line. Is it necessary? I don’t think so. Will I be seeing both 3D Hobbit and 3D Star Trek sequel? You bet your ass.

There are always great Time Lord gifts floating around on the interwebs. But if you’re really stuck with what to get your Doctor Who fanatic for this holiday season you can find a short list on Blastr. Personally, my favorite Doctor Who gift, other than a personal, driveable Dalec, is the Adipose plush doll. You might remember these adorable, wonky toothed beings as human fat. 1. I would have totally taken that pill; not everyone died. And 2. ADORABLE!

I will go see Tin Tin, but I’d be far more interested if it had less to do with Unicorns and more to do with Taun Tauns.

If you’re like me, then you love Wes Anderson. Here’s every commercial he’s made. My favorite is still the original. “Those are my birds…”

This Flight of the Concords rumor has been going around for years, just like the Arrested Development movie rumor. But now the Arrested Development film is Actually happening! So maybe there’s some true hope for Flights of the Concords. If you need a Concord fix until this is substantiated I highly recommend Gentleman Broncos. It is fantastic.

MTV Geek has posted a list of ten things about the Muppets you probably didn’t know. I’m actually pretty impressed by this.

Speaking of muppets, somebody ranked the top 25 Muppets. I’m a little appalled by this. It’s kind of like ranking your children. Besides, Sir Didymus should be number one and he’s not even on there.

What would a day be without Lego news? Not a day I’d want to experience. Walyou has a posting of my two favorite things combined into one: Lego Celebrities.

A teen told her Governor that he sucked over Twitter and he, as well as her school, is demanding an apology. Get over yourself. Yes, students need to be more politically aware, and perhaps the way she voiced her concerns were not the best, but I let Governor Perry know he’s an ass quite regularly through Twitter due to his corrupt policies and political history. It’s the way it works now. If the big bad governor can’t handle a single punk kid telling him her views, whether or not they had any basis, then he has no place being in politics.

And, finally, the world’s gummiest idiot just got stupider. Miley Cyrus had a Bob Marley birthday cake at her recent celebration and referred to herself as a stoner. Hey, Pumpkin, cry out for attention a little louder, huh? You have a Bob Marley cake ’cause you smoke pot? Not what he was about. Way to mock his Rastafarian faith. It was always my experience in high school that the moron who talked about it the most, did it the least. Also, really? Bob Marley?! I assume that you listen to his music because you, an extremely sheltered and privileged white girl, can relate to his songs. Sure. FYI: No one thinks you’re bad, no one thinks you can’t be tamed, and most importantly, no body cares. I hate that I had to bring you up here. Gross.

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November Style Tip

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11/23/2011.

Style tip: Never be ashamed to wear a hat. It will take attention away from your crappy hair and horrible outfit, and force people to look at your chubby, chubby face. Doing so will make them uncomfortable, they’ll leave relatively quickly, and then you get to have less time making small talk with somebody you hate. All thanks to a hat.

 

And this happened:

 

Thanksgiving Nov. 24, 2011

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I don’t do hectic holidays. I only spend time with people I like, which is a very, very limited list, and I don’t put on pants unless I absolutely have to. So when it comes to Thanksgiving, I have two goals: eat a ton of junk and have a freakin’ good time. I want to be as relaxed as Sammie. Nothing gets to him. He sleeps, eats, and ruins all my nicest crap. He is one cool customer.

For the last 10-12 years I’ve been doing Thanksgiving on my own. I don’t do turkey. It’s dry. It makes you sleepy. And if you cook the stuffing on the inside of the bird, one could contest that the bready delight is, in fact, a health hazard. I make prime rib. It’s awesome and delicious. And you get to make Yorkshire Pudding instead of stuffing, which is a million times better. Don’t know what Yorkshire Pudding is? You take the drippings, the liquified fatty fat fat-fat, from a prime rib and you heat it to 500 bagillion degrees. Then you pour a mixture of flours, eggs, and milk in the searing hot heart stopping grease and it sizzles up to make a thinish, soft bread. It’s awesome. And is absolutely awful for you. I normally eat the left overs for breakfast the next morning. Totally cold. Ahhh, yeah.

I invite any of my friends and all of my family to join. Normally, my parents have to host on Thanksgiving for other parts of my family so they’re always out. It also doesn’t help that I live 1800 miles from them (not an exaggeration). This year we had our friends Tim, Angie, Nick & Tania, over along with N&T’s two kids, Nicco (5 months old and slept the entire time, except for the 5 minutes that Chip made her cry) and Dexter (a super awesome, laid back, and independent 2 year old). How many toddlers do you know that can both recite the alphabet and ask for prosciutto? He’s awesome.

And the food was a breeze. On top of the prime rib, Chip made ice cream to go with Tania’s amazing salted caramel almond brittle tart, which I would have taken a picture of, but we inhaled it at the speed of light, and I made my family’s greens recipe for a side.

First the good stuff. We made 2 batches of ice cream: Madagascar Vanilla bean and Coffee Vanilla bean. Two batches are roughly equal to two quarts and take EIGHT egg yolks per batch, for a total of SIXTEEN egg yolks. 1 cup each of brown and white sugar gets whipped with 8 egg yolks. You just cream them together until you think your arm is going to fall off. In a sauce pan over medium heat mix 3 cups of half & half, 1 cup of heavy cream, and the inside of a vanilla bean to 170 – 175 degrees, stirring constantly. It’s best to do this with two people. My attention span is nil and this is quite the process.

Then you temper the egg and sugar mixture into the warm milk. Slowly – SLOWLY – add a little milk to the eggs and stir. Little more milk, little more stirring. Once the eggs are warmed enough so that they won’t cook if added to the milk mixture, completely combine the two. Again, over medium heat and stirring constantly, bring the egg-sugar-milk mixture to 170 – 175 degrees. Then remove it from heat and strain through a sieve into tupperware. This makes for velvety smooth ice cream. Once the strained mixture has cooled, place it in the fridge to be thrown into an ice cream machine on another day. For our coffee flavor, we mixed a couple of tablespoons of decaf instant espresso into about 3 tablespoons of hot water, which we then added to the milk mixture. Yes, we could have just added the instant espresso to the hot milk mixture, but we wanted a little bit more control over it and wanted to make sure the crystals dissolved completely. So, that’s pretty much it. Toss the custard mixture into an ice cream maker (we have a Cuisinart), let it go for 20 minutes, and then throw it into the freezer. On Thanksgiving we had fresh home made ice cream and french toast for breakfast. Perfect.

Not for nothing, but the above picture is Chip. I am an Italian American lady, so I am certainly not without hair – the darkest, thickest fur you’ll ever see on a being that is neither man nor Sasquatch – but that hairy hand there is Chip’s.

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Sure, we roasted potatoes and had the Yorkshire Pudding, but the side that took actual work was Greens. My whole life I’ve only ever called this dish “Greens”. “You want some greens?” “What’s for dinner? Pasta and greens?” “I have the world’s worst gas – it must be from the greens!” Greens are easy, delicious, and make great leftovers. You take one or two clean bunches of swiss chard and a bunch of escarole and roughly chop them. I couldn’t find escarole any where so I finally settled for a bunch of endive leaves, which the checkout lady ironically rang up as escarole.

Toss the chopped leaves into a big stock pot that has been filled with 3 inches of water, one potato that’s been cubed, and 2 tablespoons of salt. Add a can of Cannellini beans to the top and cover.

Boil away for 10 minutes, then add a bag of spinach; I used a bag of baby leaf spinach you can find with the rest of the salad mixes in your grocery store.Continue boiling for another 5 minutes. Then chuck every thing into a strainer and sprinkle with salt. Put the stock pot back over medium to medium high heat and add 1/2 cup olive oil, 3-4 cloves of garlic roughly chopped, and red pepper flakes to your heat tolerance. Saute for 3-5 minutes. You’re infusing the oil, but you don’t want to brown the garlic.

After a few minutes add the greens, beans, and potatoes back to the stock pot and stir. Continue cooking for an additional 3-5 minutes and then remove from heat. The greens should be fairly moist. Feel free to add olive oil as needed if you feel they’re too dry. Add 1/4-1/2 shredded Parmesan cheese and stir. Finally, add 1/4-1/2 cup of bread crumbs, stir, and call it a day. You’re done. Those greens are good right now; they’ll be even better tomorrow. You want serious awesomeness? Take some chiabatta, a chicken cutlet and provolone. Make a sandwich and before you put the top piece of bread on, add a scoop of greens. Crazy good.

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Friday, November 25th

I got up, got out, and got all my Christmas shopping done. I even got my father is birthday gift. He was born on Christmas day and his name is Chris. Reeeeeal original there, Grandma. When I say that I got up, got out, and shopped what I mean is this: I went to the gym at 9am, went home, and went to Amazon.com. Speaking of which, their site was SO NOT PREPARED for their own Black Friday deals. It was crashing for hours. I was shocked. So, in that sense, my shopping spree was a little annoying. Not so annoying that I had to put on pants, look at people, or mace anyone, but slightly annoying. On Thanksgiving day, I had had ice cream for breakfast, prosciutto and melon for lunch, and was so tired of cooking that by the time the roast came out of the oven, I couldn’t even stomach it. I pretty much just munched away on steamed broccolini in fresh lemon juice. Even still, I managed to eat enough that on Friday I didn’t really want to eat anything. I had a lot of coffee, put Christmas lights up on my house for the first time ever, went to play with dogs at the new Austin Animal Shelter, and enjoyed a quiet house. To commemorate a calm evening in a clean house after a successful holiday, Chip and I decided to let loose, get loaded, and watch a ton of BBC& TNG over homemade pizza.

The man child rarely strays from his old standby of pepperoni. I, however, like to change it up. I like experimenting with sweet sauteed onions, sharp cheeses, and smokey chicken or bacon. Sometimes I bake a crust with just olive oil, parm, and garlic. Then I top it with salad lightly tossed in honey and lemon juice and add slices of pear and crumbled blue cheese. I like little to no sauce on my pizza, good cheeses, and different levels of flavors.

Man. It sounds like I eat super pretentious pizza, huh? Well, what are ya gonna do?

If you’re interested in making pizza at home here’s the best tip you will ever get: Buy dough from your favorite pizza place. Seriously. I haven’t walked into a place yet that wouldn’t sell me their dough without question for $3 or $5. In Austin I’ve purchased it from Mellow Mushroom, Central Market, and Home Slice, but really, if you want awesome pizza in the capital of Texas just eat in at Home Slice or Red House. Home Slice is by far my favorite, awesome pies and great staff, but Red House not only has great slices, but also the best fried calamari I’ve had since the last time I ate in NYC. Lots of tentacles, my favorite.

Anyway, I thawed some dough, I stretched it out, and I started prepping it. I do not use a roller. You can cheater, if you really want to quitter , but it’s really not that hard to delicately stretch it using your fists and I find the dough just bakes better so stop being a baby and use your hands. I prep my dough by rubbing olive oil over its surface, add garlic, parm, and a sprinkle of kosher salt and cook on the lowest rack of a 450-500 degree oven for 5-10 minutes, just until parts of the bottom become golden brown. Then I add the toppings. For the pizza last night I sprinkled mozz and provolone cheese of Chip’s side with a smattering of pepperoni. On my side I did mozz, smoked Gouda, provolone, blue cheese, sauteed red onion, and bacon, with most of the fat removed.

On Thanksgiving our dryer broke when all of our kitchen towels were in the washer. And, ironically, it’s been raining for the first time in months. I’m explaining this because between the vodka&coke’s and the lack of napkins during cooking, I improvised my own wipe cloth, much to the amusement to Chip.

Listen: They are large and in the way of everything, so when I’ve been drinking and don’t have kitchen towels, my set o’ twins become nature’s napkins. I don’t know why I didn’t use the paper towels you can see over my shoulder. Ask Three Olives Vodka. All that matters is that dinner the night after Thanksgiving was great. An excellent evening all around.

We even broke the tree out of it’s exile for the last two years in the garage (we didn’t decorate last year), much to the enjoyment of the brat cats. I really don’t remember the tree being so pathetic…Oh, well.

Tuesday Pop Bytes

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I got Pop Bytes comin’ out the wazoo today!

* Don’t want to make a regular turkey for Thanksgiving this year? Try making Meat Cupcakes!…On second thought, don’t.

* DOCTOR WHO CHRISTMAS SPECIAL TRAILER!

 

* A doll sold by Toys R Us giggles and coos and calls you a Crazy Bitch.

* New Arrested Development is super confirmed. They’ll be comin’ at ya through Netflix Streaming in 2013. It’s going to be quite the year for movies and TV! Personally, I think to commemorate this, Ben and Jerry’s should come out with a flavor called “The Money’s in the Banana Stand”. It would be banana ice cream, with little chocolate dollars/coins, and peanuts! When it comes to food, especially fatty foods, I can kinda be a genius some times.

* The Walking Dead does not share accurate information about the Morning After Pill. Please tell me the American Public isn’t so dim that it would take medical advice from zombies. Talk to your doctor.

* Remember that thing I mentioned last week about Lucas Arts reserving some domain names? Well, here’s why they did that.

* Good news: The first Hobbit trailer is upon us. The bad news: You may have to go see the Sherlock Holmes sequel in order to see it. Speaking of Holmes, when are more Sherlock (the BBC series) going to come out?! Here’s a bit of cool trivia that excites me: The Hobbit trailer will be seen with the Sherlock Holmes movies, yeah? Well, Bilbo Baggins and the voice of Smaug in the film Hobbit are Watson and Sherlock, respectively, in the BBC series Sherlock!!! Awesome, right? I know. It’s badass.

* Need nerdy ornaments for your tree? My personal collection far out strips this little list from Blastr, but theirs is still a collection worth noting.

* Aren’t Engagement photos lame? Yeah, they are. But not these. Nope. These are Star Wars inspired engagement photos. The exact thing needed to prove to your family that you’re mature enough to get married. Awesome.

* NPR has put together the ultimate Thanksgiving playlist, for those who are itchy to pull the trigger the Holiday music gun, but know their family will kill them. I might be talking about me.

*Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should know by now that Neil Gaiman was on the Simpsons this past Sunday. I love Neil Gaiman. I’ve been reading his work since I was 14 years old, back when my parents had to limit the number of comic books I could buy each week. Remember: I did have a part time job at that age. And I realized something recently about Mr. Gaiman: he is wicked hot. He is definitely my older man crush. So, when I say I love him….

* Someone decided they wanted to know what it would sound like to play every Beatles song ever at the same time. Hidden message from the Devil? Maybe. Hipster nonsense? A bit more like it.

* I don’t know if there really is a hidden alien in every single South Park episode, but it’s a study I’m willing to take on.

* Finally, don’t get divorced. Just sell your spouse on Craigslist like this batshit crazy genius woman did.

Celebrating Life in Death, in the Worst Way Possible

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Let me tell you how my grandfather died.

Old man Johnny died before he should have, yellowed and translucent skinned, in a bed of Stromboli, butter, and excess that had taken on the form of leukemia and other ills. It’s frustrating to see someone leave who wouldn’t have to go if they ate better and took better care of themselves. No, it’s not fair to have to go through life constantly restricting your eating and craving foods you shouldn’t have, but it’s not nice to die that way either. Did this make my grandfather a bad guy? Not in the least. It just made him gone too soon.

I never really knew my grandfather, and that’s not from a lack of spending time with him. My brother and I spent plenty of our childhood days in his care, though his guardian duties ceased when he got into a car:

“I don’t care what you have to grab hold of, but don’t you let Grampa get you in the car.”

“Why, Dad? Is he a bad driver or something?”

“You know how bad the Nazi’s were to people? Well, that’s how bad Grampa is behind the wheel.”

If it’s two things we knew as kids it’s that Nazi’s were bad and my grandfather was a death trap on the road. I look forward to the day I get to warn my own kids about my father’s driving. If he’s still around.

            It wasn’t a lack of trying on my grandfather’s part that I didn’t really know him. I just didn’t get him. I was my grandmother’s girl, the only granddaughter, and Gramps was a real man’s man. Tattoos of anchors and other unrecognizable servicemen symbols lay distorted and blue on his forearms, a stint in World War II under his belt, and a temper that his grandkids rarely saw. When I asked him how he met my grandmother he told me he accidently blew up her house while flying over England and had to rebuild it. Close enough, I’m sure. I couldn’t even begin to get into the subconscious metaphors posed in that short little twisting of the truths, but they’re there. Trust me. He loved is grandsons, and there’s no doubt in my mind he loved me to. I don’t think there was ever a time I looked at him and he wasn’t smiling back at me. I loved getting sick as a kid because I got to spend the day at grandma’s & grandpa’s. That meant huge slices of country bread lightly toasted with so much butter on one side that it soaked straight through the paper towel it was delivered on, as well as giving my cheeks a glossy shine. And the Price Is Right was always on TV, turned up to a million decibels. I don’t think my grand folks were hard of hearing, but if they became so I blame people who insist upon looking to the audience for answers. My grandfather would just watch me watch the show and get a kick out it. I wouldn’t even know what the Price is Right was if not for him, because he loved the show, too, but he liked his grandkids happy even more.

            So there. I’m mad he was sick, I’m mad I wasn’t there, and I’m mad he didn’t stay a little longer. Though, I can’t promise I would have had any more patience for him if he had. Death does that to you. Nothing acts as a better “I told you so” then death.

I see a lot of my grandfather in me. I see more of him in my own dad each day. This scares me more then anything else. I need my own father to not go through what his dad went through. I need my dad to play with my kids, to not be allowed to drive them around town, and to watch them watch the Price Is Right, without getting sick, without dying before he’s supposed to. I don’t know how to get that through to him.

So, my grandfather died. Just like that. We all saw it coming a long ways off and knew the signs and it happened in what seemed like 7 seconds. That was it. I should really get around to visiting them, but I’m busy with work and school, maybe he should diet, why does he keep buying silly things, the family is arguing again, and Grandpa’s dead. Just like that. There always needs to be a little dark in light, that’s what makes the light parts the best. In fact, the best part of grandpa’s death was disposal of his ashes.

Grandpa was cremated. A hulking man of war time, indulgence, and chest hair incinerated to the softest gray powder. If you’re on the fence on what to do with your body after death this may help you make up your mind. I for one am all for corpse compost, but that’s a different story.

We probably would have gotten around to scattering Grandpa sooner if it wasn’t for his demise bringing to evidence Grandma’s newly developed Alzheimer’s. It was a nauseating one-two punch, but when you knew these people it kind of made sense.

So, Gramps got cremated and came back to us in a biodegradable urn, as specified. The urn was bright anything-but-manly-man teal, not as specified. It was big, one size fits most, I guess, and looked like the largest Easter egg you could ever imagine. Only there was death inside of it instead of candy and sunshine. And, aside from being a remote yet possible consideration for new age art, no one wanted it in their house. Aunt Lisa didn’t want it, too many emotions, my parents didn’t want it, too sad, and Grandma, too many memories (both there and missing), didn’t want it. The only thing to do was to scatter Grampa’s ashes or bury the urn itself.

It was months before I got a call from my father resolving this. He said that he’d come up with a plan and the family had agreed to it and he’d like me to be there. Absolutely, not a problem, way to go, Dad, for taking charge. People say something about “it’s the thought that counts”, “the best laid plans of mice and men”, etc. None of those people had a grandpa to scatter.

So the our little clan piled into various vehicles, my parents, my aunt and uncle, my cousins, my brother, my boyfriend and I, and we drove North. We headed to this park about an hour or so from our home. Once we arrived at our destination my grandmother chose to stay in the car. This particular area happens to be a beautiful place and we had all been many times growing up to enjoy the beautiful grounds, waterfalls, hiking trails, sunlight glinting through the bows of the trees. You can all but hear mother nature humming contentedly to herself, and it’s all very, very public.

            It was a Sunday and people were enjoying this day same as we, with their loved ones, and smiles, and nature. Well, not exactly same as we, what with the human remains in my dad’s backpack and all, but pretty close. The waterfall, as always, was beautiful and thunderous, but completely surrounded by people and we wanted privacy, due to the emotions we were all about to share. We also didn’t know if what we were about to do was exactly considered legal.

By the time we found a nice shady spot away from people, the river spewed forth by the falls had become a stream, but nervousness has a way of making people stupid, and we felt it was good enough. My father’s trepidation made him tiptoe to the center of the brook, set down the backpack, and remove my grandfather’s ultramarine cocoon.  We all watched, quietly, thoughtfully, sadly as he gently placed the urn into the water and waited. And waited. There, in the shallows, the urn, my grandfather, was stuck in a misjudged mere two inches of water and mud. Any reverence we were feeling as a group began to fade into nausea and panic. And not a sadness induced nausea either, a full blown uh-oh nausea with a side of fear. Our drawn mouths gained the company of our furrowed brows. In short, we went from saying “Goodbye” to all, but sceaming “Oh, shit.” Luckily, my father is the captain of our hoard and knew precisely what to do.

As if reading our newly turned Neanderthal minds, Dad picked up a stick and proceeded to poke Grandpa. I don’t know if you know, we certainly didn’t, that biodegradable urns actual crumble in water. Especially when poked with a stick.

The urn broke into many large, bright pieces, obviously not natural to the surrounding wood. A portion of Grandpa got caught in a breeze and swirled over the stream. By that point we were far more appalled then reverent and it seemed we all thought the same thing: Hold your breath, lest you choke on some hunk of Grandpa! The rest of his dust drifted in chunks down through what little current there was or sunk lazily to be mixed with the rest of the mud.

And we all just stood there. There was once a man who died, was burned, remains packed up in a hideous oblong vessel and was totally fumbled by his family.  It became intimately clear to us, no longer tearful, but embarrassed, that we all had botched this man’s entire afterlife. And if he could have watched us all on this day I think my Grandpa would have roared with laughter.

I don’t think my grandfather had ever had so much fun. I’m not one for the after life and God and metaphysics, but I think, on that day, when the ashes of my grandfather floated down stream, in broad daylight, in a public place, much to the horror of his loved ones, that it was better then any episode of the Price Is Right.

I learned many things from this experience, but one lesson sticks out in particular. I know that most people have the feeling on more then one occasion that they don’t want to be seen with their family, that they simply don’t want to be associated to their kin.

Those people got nothing on me.

True Thai Taught in the slums & Perfect ChocoChunk Cookies

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I don’t hide the fact that I truly enjoy food. It’s part of the reason I have an all American waistline. I believe that what and how people eat can be very indicative clues to their culture and lifestyle. Two of my friends were recently able to go to different parts of Thailand. Part of their trip was a culinary experience and, after some digging around on the internet, they found a woman who would teach them to cook real Thai food in a very honest setting while in the slums of Bangkok. They brought these recipes back to the states with them and cooked them for us last night.

Needless to say, all the courses were beyond wonderful. The evening started with roasted silk worm larvae in sesame oil and cilantro. I can tell you that they tasted a bit like roasted tomatoes with the texture of steamed edamame. I can tell you this because that is what I was told. I’ve eaten crickets before and enjoyed them, but I could not bring myself to eat worm larvae. It was poor of me to at least not try it and I should have.

Next up was Pomelo salad. A pomelo, also known as a “Citrus Maxima”, is a giant grapefruit. Friggin’ huge. And delicious. Thai Pomelo salad is a dish normally called Yam Som – O; it’s fresh, flavorful, and filling on it’s own. The salad was made of pomelo, shrimp, coconut flakes, shallots, hot peppers, cilantro, and garlic with a dressing of lime juice, coconut milk and a dash of fish sauce. It was fantastic, the shrimp perfectly done, and the pomelo adding both sweetness and a bit of tartness that made the entire dish spicy and, yet, refreshing.

The third course in our evening was easily one of the tastiest things I’ve eaten all year. It was, to put it simply, amazing. The levels of flavor were such that I rarely, if ever, had experienced them before. It was a soup called Tom Kha: creamy coconut soup, with thin, small mushrooms that acted more like noodles, lemon grass, perfectly tender shrimp, and hot chili oil. This soup cleared your sinuses, but not in an unwelcoming way; I’m generally a coward when it comes to heat, but I could have eaten this until the cows came home. It was so flavorful that the spiciness was only secondary, though it helped that I had a beer to quell some of the heat. I wish I could have a big, heaping bowl of this soup right now and I’m not even hungry. It’s something that I know I will search for whenever I visit Thai restaurants in the future.

The main entree of the evening was classic pad thai, served with sugar, as it is the usual accompaniment to this dish in Thailand. Also, everything was eaten with forks and spoons, as it is not customary to eat these meals with chopsticks. Needless to say, dinner was fantastic.

Dessert was vanilla ice cream with fresh blended mango poured over the top. I don’t have a picture of that because I inhaled it. We ended the evening with excellent conversation and the Vice Guide to North Korea. I highly recommend watching it. It is on Netflix Streaming as well, so you have no excuse to miss out. Hey, have you watched Troll Hunter yet? I’m thinking of watching it again…

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Cookies Make a Baker a Better Person

So, I’m super picky about chocolate chip cookies. Often times I found recipes result in bland, merely sugary sweet crackers, and, all too commonly, these baked treats seem to come out of the oven flatter than Kate Moss’s chest. A few months ago I decided I’d had enough. I wanted to make a cookie that was just as delicious to look at as it was to eat, something fluffy and chewy, and just all around awesome. This led me to the America’s Test Kitchen recipe for chocolate chip cookies. I have yet to find any cookie recipe that even comes close to matching the quality of this one and every batch earns me accolades as a chef to those munching away on them.

First thing: This ain’t no TollHouse guide. Take everything you’ve ever learned about baking cookies and chuck it out the window. Fire it out of a canon into the sun, because it’s that worthless. Then preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

In a big bowl mix together 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1 3/4 cups flour. Then put it in the corner and forget about it for a while. Now comes the fun part: Take 10 tablespoons unsalted butter and melt it in a sauce pan. Melt it and then start swirling the pan, over heat, until the butter is browned and nutty smelling. You want your house to smell AMAZING? Bake these cookies. Just like the look and taste, even the aroma goes above and beyond in mouth watering goodness.

You then take this gorgeous, transformed butter and pour it over – you guessed it – more butter. In a heat proof bowl, mix the melted 10 tbsp butter with 4 more cold tbsp unsalted butter. Stir or swirl until everything is melted. Add 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar to the butter. Have you figured it out yet? The base of this cookie batter is a caramel! I know, your mind is blown. Take a minute. Regroup. Then let’s get back to baking.

Once you stir in the sugars, the mixture will look pretty gritty. That’s okay, the magic of adding eggs changes everything. Remember, though: we’re essentially making a caramel, so one egg is okay, 2 yolks are better. To the butter & sugar mixture add one full large egg and one additional yolk, a dash of salt, and vanilla extract. I generally also add a 1/2 tsp of almond extract; I find its flavor helps keep the cookies from seeming too sweet and adds a little something unexpected to a well known snack food without getting too far from the basics. When it comes to the eggs, separate them with your bare hands. Do it. We all have sinks and soap. Use your hands. I bought a fancy egg separator from Crate & Barrel for $4 that is just shit. Doesn’t work at all. It would have been a better use of money to buy lottery scratch-off tickets. See the useless uni-tasker below. Just use your freakin’ hands.

After the addition of the eggs, the directions get a little picky. Whisk the mixture for 30 seconds. Then let it sit for 3 minutes. Do this 2 more times, so that you whisk a total of 3 times, 30 seconds each time. The batter will completely change from dark brown and gritty, to thick, golden, smooth, and shiny. Also, make sure you don’t taste the batter at this point. It tastes just like a gooey, somewhat liquified Werther’s Original candy and you may not be able to stop guzzling it once you start.

Now you can add the caramel mixture to the flour and baking powder. Try to incorporate everything together without over mixing. Limit your stirring with a spatula or wooden spoon for right around a minute. Finally, add 1 1/2 cups of Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips. It really is best to use these. The different in cost between those and any other brand is minimal. They melt much better in the cookies as they’re flatter, thinner, and larger, and have a better flavor. They really make a difference in these cookies.

You may find the batter to be so buttery that it is difficult to get the chocolate chips to stick to it. I find that essentially cutting the chips into the batter and gently folding everything helps embed the chocolate into the batter without over mixing anything. After trying this recipe with regular chocolate chips, I can tell you first hand that the shape of the Ghirardelli stick much butter to the batter. You may have to get pretty handsey in forming these and it really does seem like a lot of chocolate. And there’s a good reason for that: It is a lot of chocolate.

At this point, the original recipe states to divide the batter into sixteen servings to make rather large cookies. I don’t like my cookies that big, so I generally make 20, 8 per cookie sheet, and 4 on the final. They’re still very large cookie, but not crazy in size. I bake them for 5 minutes, then rotate the cookie sheet in the oven and cook for an addition 5 – 7 minutes, just until the edges are barely turning brown. If you can master pulling them out of the oven at the right point, you wind up with a chewy cookie with a bottom that is crunchy due to being caramelized and crisp. It makes for an amazing treat and added punch to an already fantastic treat. And, like a child, I enjoy mine with milk.

Last minute Friday PopExtras!

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The holidays are upon us and, man, Capitalism really wants to drive that home.

* For the 1% geeks in your life, or those rich enough to shop for them, Blastr has released a list of psychotically expensive Holiday gifts. Yes, I am jealous. Thanks for asking.

 

* Target isn’t showing any signs of backing down from their 11pm Thanksgiving Day shift start time for employees. Evil? Yes. But their commercials star one of my favorite comedians: Maria Bamford.

 

* There will be a RIDICULOUS amount of TV marathons on the Boob Tube this coming week. Here’s an entire list!

 

* What the WHAT?! Liam Neeson narrates the War of the World on Broadway in London…and does so as a hologram!

 

* Doctor Who (Matt Smith before I’m bombarded with comments) is gettin’ naked for charity. A nude do-gooder? Sign me up!…to stare. ‘Cause staring is free, right? I have no money.

 

* Finally: someone has caught Leonardo DiCaprio dressed as the Great Gatsby! Classsssssy! And he’s slimmed down. Like a young Alec Baldwin, Leo tends to get a little doughy in his down time.