Month: December 2011
It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m hosting!…but I’m also cheap. I’m not as young as I used to be, but I still like to have a good time. This year to stretch the food spread and the booze budget I will be making Champagne Jello shooters.
This is a no-brainer: Jello is made of one part boiling water to one part cold water. Simply replace the cold water with chilled white wine, champagne, or other bubbly. Yes, you can also use vodka, but using champagne is far less Frat Boy esque. That being said I did once try watermelon jello made with coconut rum and, other than being so sweet that your could only keep down one sample of it, it was very tasty. You can get some decent tasting super cheap champagne nowadays (I assume the grapes are from the Champagne region of New Jersey, but it works, none the less). You can also use white wine or prosecco; red wine would be just too intense if using a flavored jello, which I am.
And, yes, you can use sugar free jello. But the fact of the matter is that if you’re drinking so much one night that you’re doing jello shots, than the last thing you’re really doing is calorie counting. And even the regular jello has only, like, 8 calories per serving. It’s just nil, so get over it.
So, jello shooters. Why the hell not? Let’s do this.
You will need:
*Jello/Gelatin. If using red wine you can use unflavored gelatin, which has no flavor, but smells like a wet dog when you add water. Tonight I will be using Lime jello to go with a spumante champagne, and strawberry flavored to go with a pink blush I picked up…because sometimes I’m girlier than other times.
*Boiling water. Follow the directions on the box. I purchased two of the larger sized boxes of jello; they call for 2 cups boiling water per flavor and that’s what I’m using.
*Chilled Champagne/Wine/Booze. A 750ml bottle will yield 3.5-4 cups of chilled liquid for jello. And it must be cold. You use equal parts cold drink as you use boiling water, exactly as specified on the boxed jello directions.
*Mini serve cups. I’m using paper dixie cups, but I would have really preferred something plastic or wax coated, which these are not. Not good for have a congealed liquid sitting in them for hours, but they will work just fine.
*A tray to hold all your mini serve cups. I’m using a pyrex baking pan and a cookie sheet.
*A fridge. Duh.
Boil water. Boil more than two cups; you never know how much will evaporate. While you’re waiting for your water to boil, pack your glass baking dish or cookie sheet with mini cups. Having them edge to edge means that if you get a little sloppy when pouring the mixture into the cups to chill, the drips will wind up IN the surrounding cups rather than around their bases.
Once boiling, measure 2 cups of water (if using the large size jello box or if making a double batch of the regular size packages. Again, follow the directions on the box.), preferably into a glass, pour spout measuring cup. Pour the the water into a heat proof bowl and stir with a non-stick spatula until the jello is completely dissolved. Don’t use a wooden spoon for this unless you want a permanently jello-dyed wooden kitchen utensil as a constant reminder of your clASSy jello shots.
When you go to open your bottle of champagne, wrap a towel around the cork so it doesn’t fly off, and slowly, gently pull. Sometimes it won’t even make that huge popping sound, but you’re guaranteed not to waste a drop of champagne this way or hurt an innocent bystander.
Once the jello has been dissolved in the boiling water let it cool for just a minute or two. Then measure equal parts champagne to your boiling water, in my case 2 cups. The measure is after the foam has subsided, so measure it out slowly. Again, a glass measuring cup with a pour spout is best for this and you can pick those up cheap any where if you don’t already have one.
Pour the champagne into the bowl with the hot water and dissolved jello and gently mix. Gently! Then pour slowly into dixie cups. They will foam up quite a bit so fill them each only about 1/2-2/3 of the way full and move onto the next cup until the foam settles. You can top them off later if you’d like.
Once your cups are full or you’re out of boozetastic jello mixture, refridgerate for at least 4 hours or over night.
I thought that the champagne bubbles would become transfixed in the jello making an almost Pop Rocks-like sensation when you’d suck one back. It doesn’t, not completely…so, sorry to – wait for it – burst your bubble.
What a wonderful bit of news to wake to: An out of print Blade Runner sketch book, 100 pages of original designs, is now online for free. Ridley Scott, as well as numerous other artist, worked on the design for this cult classic film. I love Blade Runner, and almost as much as I love Blade Runner do I love movies that I can instantly tell were inspired by it. The music, the horrible choice to end the theatrical version with the opening scene of the Shining, never being able to tell if Decker is himself a Replicant. I love it all.
Find the full sketch book here. [Issuu]
Once in a very rare while I will go out. I will go out and feel so good about going out that I will actually put on makeup. This is something I do maybe six times a year; the fact of the matter is that I need to wear makeup more often, but me putting on makeup is like a four year old learning to color in within the lines for the first time: it’s just not pretty.
Anyway, on these rare occasions, if I’m feeling good enough to slap on some face crud, then odds are I’m going to be drinking. One super fashion tip I’ve learned over the years is…
Take your makeup off before going to bed.
This seems like a super mega no-brainer, but – especially after a few drinks – taking your makeup off can be nigh impossible. This stuff is made of super greasy, anti-tear, no-run, staining, Infini-last, out-last, mega-last formulas now. And we put these uber chemicals on our faces. No matter how hard I would try at the end of the night to scrub the makeup off I would still wake up missing most of my eye lashes and staring at a face etched of lipstick and eyeshadow looking back at me from my pillow case.
So here’s what I’ve learned – And this is especially useful for nights like New Year’s Eve:
These little babies are all of $3 at your local Target or grocery stare and they are well worth it. I walk <stumble> into my door, head to bed, and wipe my face with one of these bad boys before gently falling asleep <or possibly passing out>. I wake up and Makeup-Face is on a small wipe on my night stand, my pillow case is clean, and my eye lashes intact. Any bags under my eyes are not there from makeup residue, I’ll tell you that.
Speaking of which, need to get rid of those bags or to hide your crankiness?
Other tip: Aviators.
The Sunglasses style, I mean. I love my aviators. They’ll never go out of style; haven’t ever AND they look good on everyone. Short hair, long hair, fat face, long face, thin or fat. Look great. They were my one big splurge of this year and they weren’t even costly. We’re talking $45-50.
They are Fossil White aviators and they are the reason I often wear contacts. Love them.
Here’s what they look like.
And here’s what they look like with my husband.
Check out Find the Bad Kitty for the newest addition in photos and feel free to follow me on Twitter,
This isn’t exactly a Christmas or New Year’s tale, but it has all the feeling and warmth of a family holiday dinner, so I choose to share it with you now.
I was once the absolute definitive example of a New York-Italian child. I grew up just outside the Big Apple with an extended family that rivaled the population of Rhode Island. My dark frizzy hair could blot out the sun and that was just what was on my head. As I lacked a Long Island (or Long Islant) accent and a plastic cover on my mother’s couch, I was just shy of a Guidette. If you’re thinking of MTV’s Jersey Shore be aware: those people are a representation of Jerseyites, not Italian Americans. As a youth, I spent an inordinate amount of time with my cousins, aunts, uncles, and Nonni and Popi. Due to the whole Catholic thing, there were a lot of family members to hang with; hundreds, maybe even millions. It was kind of like an Olive Garden commercial, only significantly less campy and far more tan.
My grandparents were from hardy stock; they came here separately from their small towns in Italy to a world they struggled to understand for the rest of their lives. My grandmother came from a teenie tiny village in which a woman who wandered the streets and spoke with the dead was revered and laundry day was a neighborhood affair in the local river. When Nonni came here, to Massachusetts specifically, she was put to work as a waitress in a family restaurant. She didn’t speak English, she liked people about as much as I do, and had left everyone she knew behind. Eventually my grandfather, who had come to America to find his fortune in New York, the unexciting stereotype, found my grandmother (I can only assume in personal ads in a 1930’s version of Craigslist) and put in a bid to marry her. When I asked Nonni about romance when I was a nosy teenager she looked at me in this “stupid American” sort of way and grunted a “Yeah”…or it could have been “nah”. I could never really decipher her grunts. When I asked my mother or aunts and uncles about it, they thought for a moment and then nodded slowly:
“Sure, there must have been some kind of romance. Pop would drive all the way from New York to Mass to see her in a time when cars maxed out at, like, forty miles per hour.”
“Really?”, I beamed. “He’d drive all the way to see her? How often?”
“Like… twice,” Pop replied. I don’t think he was kidding.
Nonni and Pop bought this big old, drab farmhouse, as intimidating and large as an old Victorian with none of the flare, built in 1905. Sure, a passerby might say it was painted white, but I’m sure my grandparents never even considered the color. It was as if the house could have been a vibrant rainbow of light and excitement from the color spectrum, but as soon as my super focused, hardworking grandparents moved in, the house suddenly had no time for the nonsense of color. The upstairs consisted of three bedrooms, one bathroom, a sitting room, small kitchen, and an undersized dining/living area for a family of seven. It was set up like a glorified shotgun or railcar apartment: long and narrow, with all its rooms off an even narrower hallway. The house was separated into two apartments by previous owners in the 1930’s, one upstairs and one downstairs. The downstairs apartment had been restructured and updated so many times that it was unrecognizable from its upstairs counterpart. To add excitement to the downstairs apartment, I will also add that a lady died in it. But I was also conceived in it, so, based on the properties of Algebra, any ghosts get cancelled out. When I was old enough to rent that space, I would have friends over and bring them traipsing through my grandparents home upstairs because the difference was like stepping back in time. My grandfather preferred it that way, right up until his passing at 97 years old this past summer. He died almost a year to the day my grandmother died. And he planned it that way.
Photo credit Joey Tarzia
By the time I was old enough to have memory Pop had gotten rid of the pool in the backyard and had turned the chlorine sodden ground into a garden. This was in Stamford, Connecticut, mind you. The suburb-turned-city just outside of New York City. He was as apt to find squirrels in his garden as beer cans and lord knows what other kind of trash. It wasn’t a farm; it was a lot not a half mile from the center of a very bustling and cramped metropolis. The house was on Cold Spring Road, which, by the time I was born, was four lanes wide with a median divider and a speed limit of 45 miles per hour, but you’d think it was Mach ten. There was a big old garage in back of the house that looked like it would collapse at any moment and dry salami hanging from its ceiling pretty much all the time. Lots of spiders, rusted tools, jars with nails and twine, and a big, blue Cadillac.
My grandfather’s success was due to the fact that he owned a liquor store. The Package Store. Kind of like calling the local market the Milk and Fruit House. One day my grandmother was working, leaning on the bar with her arms folded. In walked a man who took out a knife and stuck it straight through the meaty part of her forearm, right down to the wooden counter. And then obbed the joint. That was before I was born. I guess that’s learning the hard way that your family shop has become part of the bad neighborhood.
The issues that really killed me about my grandparents moving to America were the little things, the traditions they viewed as necessities that they didn’t drop, but were no longer really needed. For example, my grandfather would eat anything he caught, which was all fine and good for the wilds and majestic beauty of Italy, but that didn’t change when he moved to Stamford. It didn’t matter if it was a gopher with two tails and a nervous twitch from heroin withdrawal: if Pop found it in the garden it was dinner. As kids we had all seen him kill animals. And the killing wasn’t ever in a cruel or lustful manner… though I distinctly remember him holding a vendetta toward the same rabbit was eating his garden, because he didn’t see it as eating for survival, but just to piss him off. It was with a morbid, but entirely childlike curiosity that I watched him step on the back of a lettuce-eating groundhog and drive a shovel into the back of its neck. More humane I suppose then the drowning pool (a 50 gallon drum he kept at the garden gate) and less buckshot then a gun. In fact, I don’t remember ever seeing my grandfather with a gun, as he seemed more of a finder-feeder then hunter. He acted this way because that’s what he was taught, it’s what it father did, and his own grandfather. He wasn’t wasteful, he wasn’t cruel, and he loved providing for his family more than he loved the sun.
When the family swelled and grandchildren (my cousins) started popping out left and right, Nonni insisted on having Sunday dinner at their place. It was Nonni, Pop, their five kids and their children’s children, so this cramped dining area for seven miraculously became a table for twenty. Catholics, man. My family was the original Anthony Bordain or Andrew Zimmern, trying exotic foods as character building exercises and larks. Most people have words of wisdom in their heads from their childhood. I merely have the all too constant comment “Eat that. It’ll put hair on your chest.” Delightful.
Every Sunday the same meal: really good homemade bread, home made meat sauce over pasta, ending with salad, fruit, and poker. And the meat was always beef or pork. Always. I was the youngest child of the youngest child and quite possibly the most annoying. Be that as it may, my older cousins and brother were not above using my youthful cuteness as scapegoat extraordinaire. If it’s one thing you learn even before puberty, it’s that youth is fleeting, and younger means cuter and more valuable. That’s why manipulation is one of the first things, almost instinctively, that children seem to catch on to.
Photo credit Joey Tarzia
One Sunday we were all there, huddled around the table, food in bowls and baskets and any other vessel that could be found, mismatched silverware chucked on the table along with glasses, jugs of wine and plates, more limbs and voices then there seemed people on the earth. Somewhere in the house a Yankees game was on, the noise and clamor of twenty people and children akin only to the Whos down in Whoville on Christmas day. Dinner was called and you never had so many people find seats so fast. Spaghetti and sauce got doled out, bread slices were grabbed and we dug in with gusto, the same meal we’d all had a hundred times and never tired of!…except this time something was different.
Something was wrong.
My cousins’ gulping and chewing began to slow as they stared into their plates and bowls, their eyes relaying all our thoughts in unison: Ewwwww. I got nudged by my older brother who is sitting next to our older cousin Cristina, sitting next to older Cathy and even older still Paul.
“You have to tell Mom this is gross.”
They were all looking at me. I gulped, not from food intake, but from fear. To talk ill of Nonni’s food was to be banished or, worse, yelled at. I looked at my mother chewing; I couldn’t tell if she knew. Had she realized something isn’t right? Was she continuing eating only because the sudden dip in food meant her own mother had lost it and she was coming to terms with the demise of the family? Had Nonni gotten so senile that she’s dropped boogers and fingernails into our food? What was happening?!?
“Mom, I don’t like dinner.”
“Katie, you do this all the time. Eat it.”
To be fair, I did not, do this all the time.
“Mom, it tastes funny.”
“Katie, it tastes exactly like it always does! Look, your cousins are eating it!”
I turned to see them beaming at my mother and nodding as if to say ‘Yeah, we have no idea what she’s talking about, and we would never throw her to the wolves.’
My grandmother never sat during these meals. She was forever bringing us water and more food and filling empty plates, the usual Nonni stuff. It was at this time that she brought in the giant sauce pot. I mean, huge. Le Crueset had nothing on this thing. She stood with it, teetering on the corner of the tabletop next to my grandfather, who was sitting in his usual Italian dinner jacket, at the head of the table.
“Do ya wanit now?” Nonni asked Pop.
“No, no! I have enough. Just leave it there!” Pop answered, food bulging from inside his cheek, as he motioned a fist full of bread toward a small empty bowl in front of him.
“Okay,” Nonni replied. She then proceeded to draw a ladle from the pot containing the biggest meatball I had ever seen.
Only it wasn’t a meatball. Though it was an entirely new sight to me, I knew instantly what it was:
There, hairless and cocked slightly in the spoon, staring eyeless right down the table, its lips peeled back and teeth gleaming through drips and globs of tomato and basil, was the head of a rabbit, its face meat and brain cooked ever so slowly out into our pasta sauce.
Plunk! Into Pop’s bowl. Much like being in a car accident, I only remember forks hitting porcelain plates then silence, a dull hum, everything in slow motion and everyone forgetting that exhibiting shock at dinner is breaking table manners.
My smart ass cousin Joey broke the silence with a nervous chuckle.
“Pop, what is that, raccoon?”
“No,” groaned Pop. “The raccoon’s ova there,” he said this still chewing, not joking, fist apathetically waved, roughly pointed to the bowl of meatballs.
This second wave of shock and nausea was shattered only by my mother, who leaned over and gasped “You’re excused!” At least I think that’s what she said. My memory is determined to tell me she turned to us children and screamed “RUN!”, but I simply don’t think that can be true.
But I do remember quite clearly the Hershey bars we were given for dinner in lieu of Nonni’s cooking that night.
And to this day I just don’t really like Hershey bars.
Catch the newest Absolutely Fabulous special online now! [SheWired]
This leaked episode is the first of three airing in the UK. It’s worth watching just for Bubbles impersonation of Beatrice and that damned ugly fascinator that matched her gums, but the entire run down of the last two years is pretty…wait for it…Fabulous!
Watch it quick before it’s pulled!
Still to be unfound, the newest Sherlock Series 2 trailer continues to elude, and Steven Moffat has been unclear on whether the damn thing did actually air last night after The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe.
In an attempt to make good, Screen Rant has compiled three of the trailers released since August of Series 2 Sherlock. But they’re rather pretentious and boring, aren’t they? Let’s just watch clips.
Oh, alright. One trailer, then.
Tonight’s entree was braised short ribs with a red wine reduction. And because that’s simply not fattening enough, my husband made Yorkshire pudding out of the drippings. A meal so dripping in its own fat that the eaters will have shiny faces by the time the plates are empty.
This recipe takes 3 – 4 hours, so start a while before you want to eat.
3 1/2 pounds short ribs. Debone those suckers and brown ’em.
1 large onion chopped, white, yellow, or sweet. I don’t recommend red.
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Lots of fresh minced garlic. I used 8 or 9 cloves, at least 4 of them rather larger.
3 cups red wine (And one for the chef!…I mean just finish off the bottle by pouring it in a glass and drinking it. Do a little something for you in all this.)
1 cup low sodium beef broth
6 carrots sliced into 2-3 inch pieces
2 – 4 sprigs of Thyme if you got it. I did not.
1 bay leaf
1/2 Tbsp ginger
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
I bought 3 1/2 pounds of short ribs, cut them off the bone, and browned the meat. I chose to debone to cut out a ton of greasy fat I didn’t want to have deal with later. The gelatin in the recipe will retain the bone flavor, however, and makes for a silky, smooth sauce in the end.
Once I browned the meat I poured all, but about a tablespoon of the drippings out of the cast iron pan into a separate bowl for Yorkshire pudding. We’ll get to this later on. It’s best to use a dutch oven for this recipe, but I don’t own one, so I used a regular stock pot. In the stock pot I browned 1 large, chopped onion in that last remaining tablespoon of drippings I mentioned two sentences earlier. I didn’t want the onion to brown too quickly so I sauteed, stirring quite a bit, for 10 minutes or so. Next came the tomato paste, which browned fairly quickly. I added the garlic cloves, stirring until they were just aromatic. At that point I preheated my oven to 300 degrees. I then poured in the red wine over the onion, tomato paste, and garlic and deglazed the pot. I let the red wine simmer away and reduce to about half.
Once the red wine got nice and thick, I added a cup of low sodium beef broth, the bay leaf, ginger, and, finally, the boneless and browned short ribs. Once this mixture was at a simmer, I covered it and slipped it into the preheated oven for 2 hours. While waiting I read most of The World According to Clarkson while Chip put together the LEGO White House.
Those 2 hours took forever. I took the stock pot out of the oven and set it aside while I bloomed the gelatin. In the 1/4 cup of cold water I sprinkled the gelatin and let sit for 5 minutes or so. Gelatin needs to bloom in cold water for at least five minutes, other wise the consistency won’t be as smooth. While the gelatin was doing it’s thing I removed the short ribs and carrots from the pot, plated them and tented the dish with aluminum foil. I then strained the remainder of the stock pot contents in to a large pyrex measuring up and placed it into the fridge, chucking the solids left in the mesh strainer. I let the fat rise in the pyrex for about 10 minutes. After straining the fat from the liquid I poured the liquid back into the stockpot and heated it over medium high heat until it reduced to about 1 cup, just a few minutes. Removing from heat, I whisked in the gelatin. This is a perfect time to taste the sauce and make sure it has enough salt and pepper to your liking.
While I was making the sauce, Chip was making the Yorkshire pudding from a family 2-2-4 recipe.
2 cups milk
2 cups flour
1/2 – 3/4 cups drippings, what ever you got
a pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Beat together the milk, flour, eggs, and salt. In a 3 quart rectangle glass dish pour the meat drippings and place in the oven. Get those drippings smoking hot – super, sizzling hot, about 8 – 10 minutes. Remove the pan frm the oven and Carefully pour the custard mixture of milk, flour, and eggs into the sizzling hot drippings.
Replace the rectangle dish back into the oven to cook at 450 for another 10 minutes or until it reaches your preferred pudding texture. You can make it as chewing or as crisp as you like. When it’s done it’ll look like…
Once the yorkshire pudding was out of the oven, we de-tented the short ribs and carrots, poured the reduced sauce over the top, added basic mashed potatoes and steamed asparagus to the mix, and sat down to an awesome Christmas dinner.
Amongst the gifts and food and excess, let’s not forget the true meaning of Christmas:
The Doctor Who Special – The Doctor, The Widow, & The Wardrobe.
My husband even made sure I got into the Christmas spirit
with this Super Awesome Mario Bros/Doc Who mash up shirt! And check out the Cyberman bottle stopper!
And tune in later for the newest Sherlock Series 2 trailer, which will air on BBC right after the Doctor Who Special!
Follow me on twitter, @ChicGeekDaily !
After a nice hunk of leftover chocolate cheesecake for breakfast the task at hand for Christmas Day was to prepare dinner: Short Ribs in a red wine reduction. But you’ll hear about that later.
Of course we’d need something to nosh on while cooking the ribs, so I made some prosciutto bites. A combination of sweet pear, with sharp brie, and salty, delicate ham, makes for a snack no one can resist. As a lover of prosciutto, it was not hard for me to play around with combinations until I came up with something just right. A sacrifice of time I was happy to make and it was never hard to find willing taste testers, either.
Kayto’s Prodigal Prosciutto Pear Peaks
1 baguette, sliced into 3-4 inch thick long, 1/2 inch pieces on the diagonal
1 8oz Brie wheel, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 jar Pear preserves
12 oz Boar’s Head Prosciutto Picollo
I go with the Boar’s Head Piccolo here, because it is a very tasty prosciutto at just about half the cost of the prosciutto de parma. And it’s significantly less expensive than the pre-packaged containers of 3-4 oz of Columbus brand prosciutto and far better tasting.
Make sure the brie has been well refrigerated otherwise it’s just a total bitch to get into slices. Once sliced you can leave at room temperature until your bread is toast. Lightly toast the baguette slices on a cookie sheet in the oven under the broiler until they’re just golden brown, about 3 minutes. Take the sliced baguette out of the oven and lay a piece of brie onto each serving of bread. The brie will get warmed, but not super melty. If you want a gooeyer offering, feel free to throw the slices of brie onto the bread for the last minute or so that it’s under the broiler.
On top of the brie smear about 1 – 2 tsp of pear preserves on each. This doesn’t sound like much, but it is very sweet so a little goes a long way. Take a single slice of the prosciutto and tear in half. Fold or curl gently onto the pear preserves.
Then shove the entire thing your mouth before somebody else tries to take it from you. Then lament that you have to make a full tray of them that other people get to eat.