Crap I Love (and Don’t Need) Right Now: Sustainability, Bitters, & Blaak

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I love stuff – it’s the most American thing about me! Here’s what I want right now:

I’m all for local and sustainable, but I’m also all for meat. Ethically, I love leather goods and would hate anything get needlessly disposed of, so I really eat steak to reduce waste. And that’s why I love this reusable, washable, canvas lunch bag: It’s got a of a butcher’s pig diagram. Give more meaning to your ham & swiss sammie while doing something good for the planet!

Available through Etsy store GirlsCanTell

Bitter Old Man! A guaranteed way to literally charm the pants off me is to make fantastic cocktails, and Bitters, Old Mengives everyone a leg up. With flavors like Roasted Macadamia and recipes named things like “Gangsta Lee’n”, Bitters makes every foodie home body the booze connoisseur.  I can’t wait to get my hands on some Krangostura, named for the Ninja Turtle antagonist. With hints of clove, mace, molasses, and orange and lemon peels, I’m looking forward to a bit of gin, ice, and maybe – maybe – a splash of club soda and slice of cucumber. Remember: Just a little dab ‘il do ya. Sweet, sweet sip of the close of summer.

Flavors available at BittersOldMen.com

 It’s Coming! (What’s coming?) Blaak! (…What?) BLAAK! Beekman 1802, aka the Fabulous Beekman Boys, are the fine purveyors of Blaak, a once yearly cheese coated in ash and aged in a cave for four months. A semi-hard cheese mixed of both sheep’s and cow’s milk, Blaak’s unique, but mild flavor has earned quite the fan base. While I got on the waiting list a couple of weeks ago, it was announced yesterday that the waiting list had reached close to 1000 people, so be sure to get on it quick if you want your own hunk of tangy heaven. At $48 this cheese isn’t cheap, but it comes as an entire 2lb. wheel, so it can easily be shared amongst a couple friends. There’s a number of things on their site that I can’t wait to get my hands on, and I already know their whipped Rosemary honey will be a stocking stuffer for some of my dearest loved ones.

Blaak Cheese and other fine products available at Beekman1802.com

Putting the Ass in Class: Champagne Jello Shots

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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.

Then enjoy!

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.