Month: May 2012

Easy Fire-Free S’Mores

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In Austin we have the very weird problem of summer actually not being the season for S’mores. I love me some s’mores. All gooey, chocolatey, crunchy, sugary, and delicious. The thing is that here it gets entirely too hot to stand outside, have a fire toast a few ‘mallows, and throw together a s’more. Your chocolate will be melted by the heat of the sun, the flies will be all over you, and most of the time there’s a burn ban against fire pits anyway. Yes, we Austinites have 2 days of cooler days a year, Flash Not-Summer, where we can actually toast marshmallows for s’mores. Our seasons are as follows: Pre-Summer (January – February), Summer (March – October), Slightly Lesser Summer (November – December 29th), and, of course, Flash Not-Summer (December 30-31).

So, what to do? You can always microwave yourself one, but the chocolate is still hard as a rock and the graham cracker gets tough.

The simple answer: use your microwave for a simple ganache and make magic by swapping out the marshmallows for Fluff.

On a cookie sheet lined with wax paper I placed 14 graham cracker halves. I like a good amount of fluff, so in the center of each cracker I dropped s heaping tablespoon of the white stuff, allowing it to settle and spreading with a butter knife prayed with non-stick spray where needed. In a microwave-safe bowl I poured the contents of a bag of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chips with 5-6 tablespoons of butter.

I microwaved the mixture in spurts for no more than 12 seconds at a time, stirring at each break. Once the chocolate was melted, I dropped a spoonful, about a level tablespoon, onto the fluff. I placed a graham cracker 1/8th onto the top of each so that the eater would have a place to hold with their fingertips without getting all gooey. Then I placed them in the fridge for 30 minutes to setup a bit.

I was tempted to add strawberry slices to a few and peanut butter to a couple. You could really do so many toppings that would stick perfectly to the fluff, even bananas with a little peanut butter on top for an Elvis inspired treat.

More than anything, though, I recommend these for any time you need an easy chocolate fix or a dessert you can make with your kids. You can keep leftovers in tupperware on the counter for about 3 days or in the fridge for about 5 until the graham starts softening.

What the Hell Did I Just Watch: Dark Shadows Film Review

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Last night I reeeeeeally didn’t want to cook. Whenever I don’t want to cook on a week day I use it as an excuse to go to the Alamo Drafthouse. In Austin, and now numerous other cities, to go to the Alamo means getting dinner and a movie all at once for a reasonable price without having to put up with other peoples’ crappy, crappy children.

There are a number of movies coming out this summer that I’m very excited about.

MIB III. Oh, fuck yeah, I’m gonna see this!…at some point.

Moonrise Kingdom. Can. Not. Wait. I’m currently stalking tickets for this because, even though today is its opening, it is no where to be found in the Austin area.

Prometheus. I don’t have to explain this.

Frankenstein starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller. This is only available on June 6th and 7th. I’m still searching for a theater that will feature this incredible piece.

And those are just the movies coming out between today and June 8th.

Yeah, I mean, the MIB III is a little shameful, but everything else I am truly excited for. Which is why I allowed myself of seeing Dark Shadows last night: to promote Tim Burton’s career. This is a review of said film.

Photo Credit SomeLikeItRetro

Dark Shadows is the tale of Victoria Winters and the Collins family set in the small sea side town of Collinsport, Maine. Once a wealthy shipping and canning family, the Collins have fallen from their former glory in the eighteenth century to the town outcasts in the 1970’s. The very few remaining Collins still reside in the original mansion of two hundred rooms though only Elizabeth Collins Stockard, the matriarch without husband, her dishonest, slimey brother Roger Collins, Elizabeth’s daughter Carolyn, and Roger’s son David are all of the Collins name that remain. Also living in the home are two caretakers who provide minimal comic relief and Dr. Julia Hoffman, a psychiatrist hired to aid David work through the tragic death of his mother whom he believes is still living. Victoria Winters, an assumed name she adapted in an effort to forget her horrifying past and build a new future, is drawn to the Collins family through outside powers to accept a governess position for David. The story is entertaining, though flawed, and blatantly left open-ended; a sequel, however, is highly doubtful.

In usual Burton form, Dark Shadows is visually appealing, colorful, feeds your inner child. Johnny Depp, coming into his own as a deeply true character actor, transforms into a creepy, bloodthirsty, and honest Barnabus Collins with an excellent post-Britain/New Colonies accent that never falters. Just as well done was Johnny Lee Miller, perfect as the philandering, sleazy uncle, Helena Bonham Carter, playing a psychiatrist and her hangovers as an art form, Bella Heathcote acting both the delicate and beautiful Victoria Winters and Josette, and Eva Green perfectly portraying the vengeful Angelique, and all flawlessly hiding their own native accents from England, Australia, and France.

Photo Credit INeedMyFix.com

With the exception of Chloe Moretz (something I never thought I’d have to say about her) the acting was fantastic and, in fact, my favorite was Michelle Pfieffer – her acting through looks alone could kill. I always expect Johnny Depp’s characters to become how he personally portrays them, the way Santa Claus has become what Coca Cola has dictated, something done so well that it is that which is committed to memory above any prior notions. Eva Green is evil, vengeful, and immensely seductive as the witch Angelique, the scorned lover of Barabus, who is hell bent on ruin all Collins family members until the end of time. Gulliver McGrath as David Collins was fleetingly wonderful, simply not in the film enough, where as Moretz’s overly dramatic and poorly timed teenage angst was rubbed in our faces far too much. In fact, without revealing any spoilers, I will go so far to say that her entire character could have been scratched from the script without having any impact on the story.

The story starts off at a rapid pace. We learn quickly that Barnabus is easily swayed by pretty flesh though his heart is not. Once in the ’70’s, the roles of those living in the Collins Manor are played so thickly that their actions become a bit predictable all too soon. Some bits are over played (we get it, an eighteenth century vampire attempting to reconcile disco is super silly, the sex scene is hysterical, but does it have to go on for so long?), but other characters that have depth and mystery about them, such as Victoria and David are barely touched upon. The actors did the best they could with the script they were given, with the exception of Moretz, who, again, wasn’t really necessary to the story at all.

Photo credit BlogOfDarkShadows.com

Unfortunately, good acting is not enough, nor is a performance by Alice Cooper and excellent costuming. Dark Shadows does not need to be seen in theaters. It simply doesn’t. It’s entertaining if you’re a fan of Buton’s work and worth seeing at home once it’s streaming through Netflix, but it lacks the heart breaking beauty of Sweeney Todd or the larger than life characters of Beetlejuice or Peewee’s Big Adventure that are simply art in a theater. The laughs are primarily small chuckles and some characters that are very interesting are barely seen making the veiwer come away wanting more, but not in the form of a sequel. That being said, I am deeply interested in his Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, also due out this year, and will not hesitate to see it when it arrives at my local Alamo Drafthouse.

Scared into Love

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This isn’t a story about being scared to love. This is quite the opposite.

On a bit of a whim last summer my husband and I decided to join a couple of friends on a trip to New Orleans. I made Will, the planner, promise that the hotel would be nice and clean, and everything else I couldn’t give a damn about. I had decided to visit my folks alone for few days before the trip and flew into to NOLA after my husband and friends had been there for a couple of days. It was raining when I arrived and, as Austin was experiencing a record drought, it was the first time I had seen a drizzle in months.

As I moved through the airport I smiled at the gas lamps and live musicians. I was used to stray guitarists and full bands within airports from living in Austin, but the internal gas lamps had the exact romantic affect on me that they were supposed to incur. I was tired from traveling, but ready to be out and about in a new place.

Will and I are not people who waste time; we dropped off my things at the airport and immediately went right back out to explore. I find the best way to become intimate with a strange city is to walk it’s streets. We wandered through rich areas and poor areas, as well as the French Quarter. Our hotel was a single block from Du Monde’s and I’d stay there again in a heartbeat, even knowing the amount of children that died within its walls.

We walked down cobblestone, by 200 year old homes and areas that had been ravaged by Katrina. Eventually, we found ourselves in a cemetery, all white marble and above the earth. If it’s one thing New Orleans knows well, it’s that buried bodies float. Many of the tombs were beautiful, a handful ornate, a few were vandalized, and some forgotten. I’m not particularly melancholy, but the cemeteries of Louisiana embody a sullen beauty that New England doesn’t quite get to. Spanish moss and bright stone rather than dark earth and old rock.

We passed through Bourbon Street without incident; I appreciate the architecture and I love a good drink, but I can do without wading through puddles of vomit at 10am. We went to the aquarium and even the zoo. There were hat shops, and usual tourist crap vendors, flowers for sale, and plenty of sidewalk performers and artists. Most of all, though, you could smell how old the city was. I felt her past through each cell of my body and the more I explored the more she sunk into my bones. She had been beaten, diseased, dishonored, and raped, and still New Orleans holds her head high, unembarrassed and rather proud by what has made her.

After a couple of days, we decided to take an evening historical tour of New Orleans’ alleys within the French Quarter. The second stop on our night adventure was our own hotel, where we were informed that dozens of school children burned to death in the areas that were now the rooms we had been sleeping in. We learned about paying a man to duel for you on church grounds and of nuns who smothered hundreds of babies to keep their orphanages from becoming overrun with the unwanted. We listened to tales of Civil War atrocities, of slaves burning themselves rather than being torn from their families. We already knew about Delphine DeLaurie and her bizarre bloodlust, but we were surprised to hear that Nicolas Cage eventually purchased her home…and then had to sell fast when his own money ran out. Needless to say, we went back to our hotel in the evening with a shiver down out spines.

But as I leaned on the hotel balcony late that night, I wasn’t bothered by the remnants of the man who hung himself in the floor below me or the children who had burned around me. I felt the cool air, smelled the river, and tried to stare into the apartment across the way, loved so much by it’s residents that they didn’t bother with window dressings. I thought of what it would be to live in such a place. A city flooded and reflooded, burned and buried. Diseased and destroyed. And so very, very beautiful and beloved. It was a city who made those who cared for it even stronger.

For the first time in my life my body and mind ached to be apart of a place I barely knew.

We weren’t in New Orleans long, and we left feeling incomplete. We drove the trip from Nola to Austin, weaving in and out of plantation areas and stark highway. I’ve enjoyed previous vacations, missed the romance or a pretty sunset, remembered an incredible restaurant or a neat day trip. New Orleans was different. We left New Orleans feeling different.

And I’ve been unable to stop thinking about her since.

Pop fo’ Yo’ Mutha – Prometheus & Moonrise Kingdom clips + More!

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Let’s do this.

* I love the accepted awkwardness that is Zach Gallifianakis. Here he is talking with one of my favorite women in the world, Tina Fey. Open your heart, be one with the Uncomfortable.

*There are never enough Geek periphinalia shops!…Okay, maybe there are, but The Novo Geek strives to make useful geek toolsAs they state, “..no mugs with faces on them!” Need a journal? How about one from the Galactica, with weird corners and all? Going out and need some fancy new accouterments? How about a discrete and classy Star Trek tie? I wouldn’t recommend a red one, though… They only take on a few creative products a month, good design and excellent userability. It’s a fantastic concept and something that I hope continues successfully.

* Cover Browser is a relatively new (to me) site that allows you to flip through over 450,000 comic book covers. May I recommend not doing this at work. It will suck up the rest of your afternoon with awesomeness and totes get you in trouble with the boss.

* Speaking of Comic Books, Comic Book Resources has a list of the highest grossing comic book movies of all time. Good for these movies to make millions upon millions upon millions of dollars!…next to not a single cent of which actually went to the creators of these characters or their families. You make me fucking sick, Hollywood. No, I haven’t seen the Avengers. Thanks for asking.

* Even in the future, people get sick. Fantasy always maintains a bit of reality in the terms of health needs and Blastr has compiled a list of the top nurses that have gotten us all hot and bothered throughout time. Me? Well, Rory Williams can give me a sponge bath any day he wants. [Blastr]

* Artist Agan Harahap has created a photo series imagining what it would have been like if Spiderman was a participant in World War II. Well, obviously it would have ended a lot sooner saving millions of lives, and Hitler would have been captured alive rather than committing suicide like a coward in an underground bunker.  It also would have probably been known as World War Awesome. [Flickr]

* What’s awesome? Star Wars! What’s delicious? Pancakes! What’s deliciously awesome?! STAR WARS PANCAKES!

Photo Credit WalYou

* Simply cannot wait for Wes Anderson’s newest flick, Moonrise Kingdom. An new Making-Of featurette has been released to wet our appetites even more. This will be a great year for movies.

* While we’re doing featurettes, let’s talk the newest release from Prometheus, shall we? Their newest gift to fans shows what’s believed to be the origins of life. Prepared to be surprised. Let’s watch! [Blastr]

Prime Rib like Butter

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For Thanksgiving I always do a Prime Rib Roast. Screw turkey; it’s dry and boring and literally puts people to sleep.

Thanksgiving of 2011 I made a roast that I just was not pleased with. It had NO flavor and the cooking method I used was less then desireable. I like my meat medium-rare, which is mostly pink, but warm through. I tried that old method of setting the oven to 500 degrees, cooking for five minutes per pound, and then turning the over off and letting the roast sit in there for 2 hours. Yeah, guess who had to recook her roast two hours later? Not fun. My father uses the Showtime Rotisserie, Ron Popeil’s thing, which Dad just refers to as the “SetItAndForgetIt”, and it does normally do a good job. I, however, do not own one of those. So, last night, on my husband’s 30th birthday, I decided to use a tried and true method: low and slow. Placed in a 200 degree Fahrenheit oven, I cooked the roast until it reached 130 degrees. That’s it.

Time here doesn’t matter. You need a meat thermometer, period. Seriously. You want time, though? Fine. If your roast is room temperature it will probably take about 30 minutes per pound at 200. If it’s not completely room temperature, then it might take 35-40 minutes a pound. Personally, I don’t like to screw around with such an expensive piece of meat, so I bought a $10 meat thermometer and never looked back.

This recipe is about appreciating the cut known as the prime rib for what it is, ultra meaty deliciousness that’s meant to be served rare, with sauces or butters, that melts in your mouth and tastes fabulously of cow.

I didn’t get a bone-in roast only because the dinner was just for Chip and I. I found a prime roast that weighed 3.8 lbs, cost $28, and felt it would be good for us. If we wanted to have a couple of friends over for an impromptu dinner, there would be enough, and at the same time it was the right size to allow for a long, slow cooking. An hour before cooking, I took the roast out of the fridge. In hindsight I should have taken the roast out about three hours prior to cooking, but, thanks to my thermometer, it didn’t really matter. After an hour of sitting out, I put my roasting pan on my stove top and over high heat I seared each side of my roast for about four minutes per side.

Once seared, I let the meat cool for about 10 minutes and then I rubbed kosher salt, black pepper, and crushed garlic on all its sides, but especially on the fat on top. Once seasoned, I placed the rack into the roasting pan and placed the Prime Rib into the rack, fat side up. I placed the meat thermometer into the center at a decent angle so it could be read periodically without having to pull the entire roast from the over. As it roasts fat side up in a rack all that salt, pepper, and garlic would mingle with the liquifying juices and pour down through the meat while slowly cooking. A. Mae. Zing.

Once the roast reached an internal temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit, I let the Prime Rib rest uncovered on a cutting board for 30 minutes. The roast isn’t going to gain much in terms of heat after cooking so slowly, but those juices will be reabsorbed into the meat. I realize that my old, out-dated thermometer in the picture above states that medium meat has a temperature of 160, but I disagree. America’s Test Kitchen recommends removing a rib roast at 130, many chefs I know remove their beef at 123-127, and all of us agree meat done to the point of 160 is dry and over well, let alone mere medium. 130 degrees is more then enough to kill the bacteria we worry about.

Cooking this for so low a temperature and so long a period meant the juices stayed within the meat and that the proteins had extra time to break down. This was the juiciest, tenderest slice of steak I’d ever eaten. Husband and I were both blown away. We’d had filet mignon that was four times the price that wasn’t nearly has delicate and flavorful as this prime rib.

I’m not a fan of horseradish, so with this I made a seasoned butter, using have a stick of room temperature unsalted butter, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 clove of crushed garlic, 1 half a minced shallot, and 1 1/2 tsp dried parsley. The steak really didn’t need it, but it certainly didn’t hurt!

Our meal was served with a salad with bleu cheese, sauteed fennel, and fresh bread. No potatoes necessary! I apologize now for the photo, however; I was more then half way through stuffing my face when I realized I didn’t have a picture of the final product, and my husband had gone back for seconds and unceremoniously hacked away at the meat rather than slicing prettily as I had done for his first serving.

Poached Eggs Easy like Sunday Morn’

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Perfect Poached eggs every time are super easy. Granted, they can be a little messy, there’s no longer a reason to fear making an egg to top your sauteed asparagus or to have with Hollendaise. Me? I eat it a little simpler with a piece of toast and slice of proscuitto.

We’re looking at steps here more then a “recipe”.

Take a skillet – that’s right, leave your pot in the cupboard as it has no place in poaching an egg. I used an 8inch pan. I filled it almost to the bring with water, leaving only about a 1/2 inch around the edge. I placed it on the stove, added 4 Tbsp or so of white vinegar. I do this by eye. Any where from a few tablespoons to a quarter cup is fine, but very necessary. It’s not going to alter the taste of your egg…though it may make your house smell slightly pungent. Then crank that burner up and get that water boiling.

While waiting for the water to start rolling, crack your egg into a small handled mug. This makes it easier to slide that little baby into the water without the whites freaking out and flying away.

Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat. You heard me. Turn. It. Off. Get the lips of the mug with your egg in it as close to the water as safely possible and gently pour the egg into the water. Cover and set your timer for 4 minutes. Once that timer goes off, remove your egg from the water with a slotted spoon and strain on a paper towel or stop the cooking by placing it in an ice bath. Once ready to eat, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a little dried parsley.

You can do up to 4 eggs in the pan at once if need be, but remember to adjust your water for displacement. When I remove my egg, I strain it on a paper towel for a minute before making a plate and digging in. You can adjust the doneness of your egg by cooking as little as three minutes to as many as five. You can also halt the cooking by removing your poached egg from the hot water and dropping it into an ice bath, which you can keep in your fridge for future eating for up to 5 days. Whether served on a steak, over sauteed or steamed veggies, or just a la cart like my breakfast, there’s always room for a poached egg. And, just in case you were wondering, a poached egg is a mere two points on Weight Watchers. So go ahead, eat four.

Freakin’ delicious – and classy, too!

On Being 30

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This isn’t for you. It’s for me.

This is me, prior to turning 30.

Now I am 30.

I am female.

I like my hair, which is almost black with some gray and a single pink streak.

I live in Austin, Texas.

I like to think one day I will move away and work for America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Country.

I do not believe this is actually true.

I am not thin. The opposite of thin. What’s the word? Fat? Yes: I am fat. That’s not self-deprecating, merely true.

I am self-deprecating.

I never thought I’d have 2 degrees at 26.

I never thought I’d be a home owner at 27.

I have two (2) cats, which I blame on other people.

When my boyfriend exits a room and the cats look longingly after him, I like to tell them “Daddy’s gone for cigarettes and he’s never coming back.”

I do not smoke.

I have two (2) degrees, a BA in history and an MA in Secondary Ed.

I am an Executive Admin. I tell people I administer Executives.

I feel I have no direction.

I have been to Canada and Mexico.

I want to fit in.

I do not have cable, but I watch an incredible amount of television.

I have a very good sense of humor; it is very easy to not take things seriously.

Many times my joking makes people uncomfortable, which deeply amuses me.

I may make people laugh, but no one makes me laugh harder than my loves.

I enjoy cooking and writing.

I have been told that as a child I cried a lot. I do not cry as an adult.

I have had no less than twelve (12) bad hair cuts.

I have had no more than seven (7) good haircuts.

I am rough-and-tumble, and wonder what it’s like to be delicate, in a slightly envious way.

I own no less than eight (8) black t-shirts.

I get off topic quite regularly. Generally because I don’t care about the current topic.

I am horrified by the change in women’s rights that has occurred in 2012 alone.

I have zero children. I have been pregnant once.

I swear like a sailor. I don’t mean to.

I claim to hate people in general. This is not entirely inaccurate.

I hate people who turn down education.

I think baby ostriches are fucking adorable.I think adult ones are crazy as shit and would probably die due to provocation if ever I encountered one. Like ex-dinosaurs, those things.

I like Star Wars. Entirely too much.

I like Star Trek. Entirely to0 much.

I like to play games. I periodically cheated at Monopoly as I child, though I now care only for playing and not ever winning.

I like jazz more than I’ve ever let on.

I am stupidly opinionated. I even dislike me half the time.

I can poach an egg like a fucking champ.

I want constantly. It’s horrible and by far one of the traits I dislike most about myself.

I have never known my father without a mustache. I tell people that baby “pinky” mice live underneath it, the mustache being their protective shelter.

When I was a child my mother had braces, as did my brother.

I have never had braces.

I worry constantly. At night the worries become anxiety.

I amazed and entertained by the fact that some American’s bleach their anuses.

I find writing, especially poor writing, to be the most self-indulgent crap that’s swirling around the interwebs. (I’m looking a you, current post.)

I truly love joy. I find it exciting, and easily the best part of life and laughing.

I am immensely fortunate because, if nothing else, my boyfriend “gets” me. He truly does.

I am 30. And that’s just fine with me. For now.

This is me today. Not much has changed.