December 20, 2012

Literally Literary: THE OBVIOUS GAME by Rita Arens

"Literally Literary" is a feature in which I write about books, reading and more books. My hope is the post title will provide a subtle hint that I am posting about BOOKS. For those of you where the topic of books results in narcoleptic fits thereby causing you to faceplant onto your keyboard, this will allow you to just click away from the horror that is the written word. Also, I simply adore the word "literally", it is literally my favorite adverb. Bonus points if pronounced with a Rob Lowe/Parks n' Recreation affectation.

Special Note: All posts contain non-affiliate links - I do not have an Amazonian Fancy Pants Affiliate Thingie.

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Several years ago, my friend Rita Arens put a request out for someone to read a draft of her novel.  I happily accepted and I read the draft.  After I read it, we had a nice conversation about that draft.  Eventually, that initial draft became something else and Rita found a publisher. That "something else" is her young adult novel, THE OBVIOUS GAME, which will be released February 7th!!

I can't wait to read the THE OBVIOUS GAME  -- Rita has said THE OBVIOUS GAME is quite different than the draft I read, which will make even more exciting for me to read so I can compare and contrast.

Also,  Rita has written a post about the cover reveal and has included an excerpt.

Congratulations, Rita!!!



There is a Rafflecopter giveaway for a copy of the book open to US, UK and Canada residents. Good luck!

December 14, 2012

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude: Balls and Nuts

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I am not an expert, but I do enjoy talking about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.  Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

Recipe Index can be found here. 
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The other day, Manoj was sharing a sweet memory of eating a cashew fruit and I was all, " Huh?  What??" and then he Googled some images and THEN, I was all, "What the FUCK??"  

Gentle Reader......seriously.  Are you with me on this?


My brain?  KABOOM.


I never knew that a cashew was some weird, ballsack-looking thing descending from a FRUIT.  Come to think of it, I guess I have never had to bust out a nutcracker to help out with a bowl of cashews, either.  Huh.  

What is the weirdest "food discovery" you've ever come across??

Speaking of weird foods, Manoj sent me a link about a pudding that his mother used to make and since Manoj NEVER sends me links about foods from his childhood, I hopped right on that link.   And was promptly deflated.   It was a link for Tender Coconut Pudding which made me think that I would have tiptoe around the coconut's feelings or something.  Manoj tried to explain that it was an "immature" coconut which only brought up visions of coconuts shouting "Stop with the judging!"  Anyway!  We are going to hunt through some Asian stores in hopes of finding this so-called "tender coconut." (Apparently, it is a soft coconut that has not hardened its shell yet.  It's a SOFT BALL OF COCONUT, if you will....) 

Next up?  Is my Grandma's Weird Cheeseball.  I love, LOVE this cheeseball and it is one of my favorite Christmas traditions.  


A load of cheese with a bonus gingerbread house photobomb. WIN.


I call this cheeseball "weird" because what makes it special (I think) is the bleu cheese.  It gives it a particular bite, to be sure.

Grandma's Cheese Ball


Ingredients:
8 oz brick grated cheddar cheese
2 oz blue cheese
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup dry minced onion
1/4 cup parsley flakes


(Note: Grind/chop up an extra cup of pecans for the last step.)

Preparation:1. Let cheeses sit at room temperature and then simply mix together (I smush it all up with my bare hands.)  

2. Add onion, pecans, parsley and mix. Shape into 2 balls and roll into the extra nuts. Lay the balls onto a piece of cling wrap. Wrap tightly and it will be good for at least a few days. However, make this at least one day before serving to let all the spices meld together.

Note: Instead of the dry minced onion, I used My Garlic Seasoning mix ( it's riff on Tastefully Simple's Garlic Garlic seasoning)

December 10, 2012

If you think about it, The Nutcracker is the Ultimate Drag Show On Earth

In the past week, my children have seen an excessive number of folks in costume.  At Handel's Messiah at the Kauffman Center, we saw men in fancy, tailed tuxedos and ladies wearing gorgeous gowns with glittering jewels.  At the Bass Pro shop, we saw an elderly man dressed up in a red suit and my children sat on his lap like little beggar urchins.  We also saw a myriad of Bass Pro employees decked out as elves.  At The Nutcracker at the Kauffman Center, we saw girls dressed as boys, a man dressed as Mother Gigogne and a variety of folks dressed as toy soldiers,vermin mice, flowers and of course, a Nutcracker.

Totally a poser.

Yesterday, Team Chaos and I had plans with their honorary aunts, LuAnn and Celeste (aka Average Jane) to see Babes in Toyland (Celeste's Real-Life niece had a starring role!)  We decided before the play that we would have lunch at Hamburger Mary's.  I knew nothing about Hamburger Mary's other than I've heard people rave about their hamburgers.   Upon entering the restaurant, I knew immediately that There Was Something About Mary........  something special......something royal  Slowly, I began to clue in when I spied a lady wearing a lovely bouffant hairstyle and a June Cleaveresque dress while belting out a song....... in deep, husky tones.

Apparently, Mary's is renowned for drag shows and we had just walked into their Sunday Drag Brunch.

Gentle Reader, it was time to queue up some Keanu Reeves.

Don't get me wrong, I love me a good drag show but they can get fairly ribald and I did have my precious progeny with me, after all.  Regardless, we decided to give it a try and we quickly figured out it was to be a tame drag show and that there were other kids in attendance.

And?  That was it.  We had a GREAT meal while watching some fabulous ladies strut their stuff. I let the kids enjoy the show first, then I clued Arun in as to what was going on.  His eyes got HUGE and while he asked several "how" questions that were quite logical, he never asked "why".  Because he didn't care.

Anjali?  Baby girl was too busy enjoying the music.

video


I did feel that a quick email to Arun's teacher was necessary:
Kymberly,
Um, Arun is quite excited about telling you he went to a drag show this weekend. Rest assured, it was just a Sunday brunch at Hamburger Mary's. We don't take our children to bars (not yet, anyway. Missie B's? You're on notice :-) 
Peace out,
Kelli
Honestly, I am quite happy with how everything has worked out the past week.  I am teaching my kiddos that no one, absolutely NO ONE, is hurt or troubled or endangered by someone expressing themselves musically and artistically.  Even when those performances are in a variety of ways that we may not necessarily understand, but nonetheless can still appreciate.

Food coma!

To be fair, I probably should feel a little guilty about all of the trans-fats they consumed in a single meal.

December 7, 2012

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude: Links, ahoy!

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I am not an expert, but I do enjoy talking about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.  Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

Recipe Index can be found here. 
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For awhile now, Lag Liv has been raving about her beef bourguignon.  Recently, Manoj and I decided that we would let beef back in our house once in awhile (we eat beef occasionally in restaurants, but rarely cook it at home).  This meant that I could finally attempt Lag Liv's beef bourguignon.  OH MY.  It was so, so, so good.  And rich and filling and satisfying.  I knew Manoj would be hesitant about it, but I quadrupled the chili powder and a star was born (yes, I quadrupled the measurement -- 1 teaspoon of Indian Store Chili Powder was plenty to put that dish on fire like we need it.)
*****

Recently, I came across this article of 27 Foods You Should Never Buy.  The article is comprised mostly of convenience foods and mostly, I agree with it.  I will still buy some convenience foods because they either keep me from cruising a drive-thru (talking about you Larabars.) or it is a special treat that we particularly enjoy (Seagram's Sparkling Orange Seltzer.  Nope, it is not sugar-laden or even sweetened at all.  It's just carbonated water with a hint of orange, but my kids drink the hell out of it.)
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Last month, 100 Days of Real Food did a review of 8 cookbooks which would make nice Christmas gifts! (and I still cannot stop lusting after The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making!)
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I also enjoyed Casual Kitchen's The "Don't Buy" List for the Low-Budget Kitchen.  This one is definitely worth reading for the comments.  While Daniel's list is usual for some folks, it really depends on what you cook on a regular basis.  For example, several folks in the comments mentioned not need a stand mixer and I would agree.  Other commenters argued for the honor of cast iron skillets everywhere. I would never use a cast iron skillet and I would only use a stand mixer during Christmas time (for the dough feature when I make Romanian kifli).  For me, a stand mixer is a waste of money and precious storage space. I have a hand mixer that has a dough hook and I LOVE it.  However, I know others who swear by their stand mixers and say they use it all the time.  It's all relative, I suppose.
*******

Stephanie over at Completely Irrelevant referenced a fruitcake recipe.  I love fruitcake but only good ones which do not have that glow-in-the-dark fruit that appears to have been grown near a nuclear plant.  However, good fruitcakes are SO expensive, they usually don't make the budget.  Stephanie's recipe looks absolutely delicious and I highly recommend you read her post before heading over to the actual recipe she references.  She has made some changes that make this fruitcake easier to make and more cost-effective.  I have bought most of the ingredients and have added it to the baking list (yes, my baking list which now includes Romanian kifli,  peppermint bark, Christmas Crack and OH MY ZEUS.... Me?  Making sweets?  I don't know who I am anymore.)
*****

Speaking of baking, it seems I was in the market for an apron.  I never knew how badly I wanted an apron until I saw one at our elementary school's holiday mart where this dorktastic, Christmas-themed apron whispered my name.

The voice was raspy.  I think it was a smoker.

And now I am going to dig out my pearls because you can bet your sweet bippy, I will be needing them.

December 3, 2012

Unreserved

This post is dedicated to Pseudodad.  He inspires me in nefarious doings. And possibly to hiring a lawyer someday.

The other day in my "Jolly" post I mentioned that I would be sending out Christmas cards (yes, that same post which appears to be written by an overachieving, pretentious asshole. Someone suspiciously like me.) 

Anyway! I love, love sending out Christmas cards.  I now send out about 60, which puts me into ordering that elusive 3rd box of 25.  Since I have extra cards lying? laying? sitting around, I will be doing a massive card exchange this year with my fellow gori in arms from the Facebook posse to which I belong (the group I lovingly refer to as "Brown Boys and the White Girls Who Love Them".  Because I am classy like that.)

And then, Pseudodad mentions sending cards out to various politicians and since I am a sheep (It is a running theme in my blog and life), inspiration began to guide me and my favorite Sharpie.  Which should frighten my husband (the inspiration.  Not the Sharpie.)

Years ago, I wrote about my feelings on an anti-immigrant law that smacked of racism in my "Raging Arizona" post.  Imagine my dismay when I found out that a fellow Kansan, Kris Kobach, not only helped write Arizona's law, but is also trying to get it here in MY STATE.  Ugh.

So, I thought Kobach might appreciate a bit of holiday cheer from a constituent.

I just like to fake sincerity!  Faking sincerity is my favorite!

I included a handwritten letter on whimsical, Santa-themed stationary to lighten the mood.

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

No, Manoj is not particularly amused with my snarky letter.  But hey, I AM a registered Republican and I find it difficult to believe that Mr. Kobach would not want to hear from his constituents on this most auspicious of holidays:
Dear Mr. KobachMy children would like to wish you and yours a Happy Holiday!
Their mother is going to ask Santa for his assurance that your racist policies will not make their way from Arizona to Kansas. The very same policies which seek to disenfranchise hard-working immigrants such as my husband.  
May those policies never see a Kansan sunrise.
Sincerely,Kelli Oliver George
Someone seriously needs to be put on the Naughty List.

November 30, 2012

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude: I'm Melting!

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I am not an expert, but I do enjoy talking about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.  Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

Recipe Index can be found here. 
**********      

Yesterday, I mentioned that I was hoping to make peppermint bark this year.  In 2005, at Average Jane's annual cookie exchange, she broke out a container of peppermint bark made by her step-mom Jerry.   I don't think I had ever had peppermint bark before or perhaps, it was because I had never had amazingly AWESOME peppermint bark before.  It was a perfect mix of regular chocolate and white chocolate....a hint of creamy....the tiniest bit crunchy......with just the right amount of peppermint, without it being cloying,.  Whatever the case may be, I never, ever forgot that peppermint bark and when I asked Celeste for the recipe the following year, she dutifully shared.  She also casually made an off-hand comment that Williams-Sonoma made something similar in quality.

Enter the next few years......  yes, I have bought Williams-Sonoma peppermint bark and yes, it is awesome but at $26.75 a POUND, I felt like such a righteous ass spending such money on it. I don't even pay that much for my preciously stinky cheese.   This year, I am no longer in the mood to fork over the greens (Sidenote: If you have not seen the Hater's Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog, get thee over there, STAT.  Seriously, why are you still here, reading MY drivel?)

You're still here?   Anyway!  All of these years, I have been frightened by Jerry's peppermint bark recipe. It smacks of baking and I envision an Armageddon of chocolate running in rivers throughout my kitchen, taking children and pets as hostages in its wake.    Gentle Reader, THIS is one of the many, many reasons why I am not a serious food blogger.  I am intimidated by MELTED CHOCOLATE.  However, I am determined I can conquer my molten confectionery nightmares.

THIS year, I am melting some goddamned chocolate.


Jerry's AMAZING Layered Peppermint Crunch Bark

17 oz. good-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Baker's), finely chopped
30 red-and-white-striped hard peppermint candies, coarsely crushed (about 6 oz.)

7 oz. bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons whipping cream
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract

Turn large baking sheet bottom side up. Cover securely with foil. Mark 12 x 9 inch rectangle on foil. Stir white chocolate in metal bowl set over saucepan of barely simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water) until chocolate is melted and smooth and candy thermometer registers 110 degrees Fahrenheit (chocolate will feel warm to touch). Remove from over water. Pour 2/3 cup melted white chocolate onto rectangle on foil. Using icing spatula, spread chocolate to fill rectangle. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup crushed peppermints. Chill until set, about 15 minutes.

Stir bittersweet chocolate, cream and peppermint extract in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until just melted and smooth. Cool to barely lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Pour bittersweet chocolate mixture in long lines over white chocolate rectangle. Using icing spatula, spread bittersweet chocolate in even layer. Refrigerate chocolate until very cold and firm, about 25 minutes.

Rewarm remaining white chocolate in bowl set over barely simmering water to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Working quickly, pour white chocolate over firm bittersweet chocolate layer; spread to cover. Immediately sprinkle with remaining crushed peppermints. Refrigerate just until firm, about 20 minutes.

Lift foil with bark onto work surface; trim edges. Cut bark crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips. Using metal spatula, slide bark off foil and onto work surface. Cut each strip crosswise into 3 sections and each section diagonally into 2 triangles. (Can be made 2 weeks ahead. Chill in airtight container.) Let stand 15 minutes at room temperature before serving.

*Jerry says to make sure each layer is as thin as possible for best results.

Note: I will update this post with pictures and/or other notes.  Hopefully, the pictures will not involve a crime scene.

November 29, 2012

Jolly

This year, I am going to totally make the Christmas Season my bitch.   For me, the season is all about activities, not shopping.

First off, is decorating -- I am lagging a bit behind Pseudodad, who tried to lay a guilt-laden decorating smackdown on me, but I am working on it:

Folks, don't bother trying to out-decorate your gay neighbors.

Each year, I try to come up with a fun list of activities for the holidays.  I am not much of a shopper anyway and I really do not want my kid's holiday memories to consist of me dragging them through various stores.   And I have a hard time with crowds (I am already dreading the Nutcracker crowd).  Therefore, most of the activities are low-key or involve us just sitting at home and doing things together.  Our dining room is already a mess of paper and holiday-themed stickers.  I don't expect to clear off the table until Christmas morning, right before hosting dinner.  

Anyway, this year's Christmas Bucket List includes the following:
  1. Decorating a gingerbread house which may or may not include a glue gun.  In the past, I would make this whole venture SO stressful as I attempted to make it the Best Ever Gingerbread House Ever.  Now?  I let Team Chaos be in charge.  The house will most certainly end up sporting with half of the candy provided as The Team will inevitably sneak pieces down their greedy gullets as they decorate while I pretend to not notice.  Yes, it will be hideous, but I have learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Gingerbread Bomb. 
  2. Reading books -- we have so, so many delicious holiday books.  What are YOUR favorite holiday books?  (I was thinking of writing a separate Literally Literary post for this -- should I?)
  3. The Festival of Christmas Trees that is happening this week in Lawrence, KS -- a yearly tradition with my mom and sister Jill.
  4. The Holiday Luminary Walk at the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.  We love the Arboretum and I always forget about the Luminary Walk -- THIS is the year I finally remembered with enough time to schedule it in.
  5. The Gingerbread Festival that is happening this weekend in Lawrence, KS.  I love, LOVE Gingerbread houses.  Another activity I tend to forget about until the date has already passed.
  6. An after school visit to the Bass Pro Santa.  We used to visit the Crown Center Santa, but with my kiddos in school now, there is no way in hell I am braving Crown Center on a weekend.
  7. A few special night-time neighborhood drives to see holiday lights in our pajamas with lukewarm cocoa.  We will be sure to thumb our noses at Pseudodad and his husband as we peel the tires out of our driveway.
  8. A visit to the Union Station to ride the Holiday Spirit and to view the model trains (again, after school to avoid the weekend crowds.  Shudder)  (Sidenote: Imagine my shock when I Googled "holiday spirit at the Union Station" and one of MY videos popped up as the #2 result.  Whoa.)
  9. A flurry of Romanian/Hungarian Kifli making that will take up a full day.  I am definitely making Christmas Crack and I may add some Peppermint Bark to the tradition.  I have a stellar recipe from Average Jane that is just as good (and certainly less expensive!) than the one you can buy at Williams Sonoma.
  10. Attending Average Jane's cookie exchange -- a tradition I look forward to every year.  Tucking in with some cheeseball concoctions and mulled apple cider with some of my favorite friends is definitely one of the highlights of the holiday season for me.
  11. Taking Anjali to see Handel's Messiah at the Kauffman Center this Saturday with my step-mom, sister Maureen and brother-in-law Brian.  I bought these tickets months ago, I am SO PUMPED.  This event was impossible to get tickets to last year because it sold out in August (yes, AUGUST.)  
  12. Taking Anjali to see The Nutcracker at the Kauffman Center next week (yes, Arun bowed out of both the Messiah and The Nutcracker this year.  He's already expressing a little regret, so I hope Manoj makes the most of Daddy/Son time with him.)
  13. Taking my babies to see Toys in Babeland, errr.... Babes in Toyland which is put on by the Blue Springs City Theatre.  (This past summer, we saw Willy Wonka put on by the BSCT and I was really impressed with the quality of the production.)
  14. Decorating gingerbread cookies.  I usually just buy a tub of dough, but I am thinking of venturing into homemade versions.  Ideas?  This recipe looks good, maybe less spicy though.  I was thinking I could make a big batch, then we could make a few cookies here and there. (Sidenote: My Norpro pastry mat gets a helluva lot of use this time of year.)
  15. Movie viewing!!  Need I say more?
  16. Christmas cards!
  17. Snowflakes!!  Next to making paper flowers, I love, love making snowflakes.
What are your favorite activities during the holiday season?   What am I missing here?


November 9, 2012

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude: Liquid Courage

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I am not an expert, but I do enjoy talking about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.  Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

Recipe Index can be found here. 
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Remember the tea kettle - it is always up to its neck in hot water, yet it still sings!  
~Author Unknown


A teacup from my Great-Grandmother Courtney's set.

For years, I have drunk herbal teas.  Rooibos is my favorite and I am still clinging to the last bits of a vanilla, lemongrass and rooibos mix that I cannot replace since my regular tea shop went out of the business.  In the past, I have never encountered a hot cup of black tea that I liked.  Oh sure, I've been brewing black loose leaf tea for years, but that was for my Chai-Spiced Iced Tea or to make a milky, Indian chai..... not for hot "White People" tea.  My past experiences have been that hot, black tea was bitter and gross.  Of course, upon reflection, I am remembering the tea I had tried was in bags and came without milk or sugar.

Teacup and teapot, both from the Brits shop in Lawrence, KS.  
The other side of that cup says "It's like no cheese I've ever tasted"  which makes this the BEST CUP EVER. Obviously.

However, I had a weird epiphany yesterday.  Why not try hot black tea with the loose leaves?  So, as a quick experiment, I boiled some water in my water kettle and measured out 2 teaspoons of loose leaf for my 16oz pot.  When the kettle whistled, I poured it over the loose leaves and let it steep for 5 minutes.  Then, I splashed some milk and a bit of sugar in and....... WOW.  That was AWESOME.     Milky....smooth.  And most certainly, not bitter.

Of course, I immediately went out to Facebook to share this life-changing discovery.  My friends made recommendation and I now have a variety of other teas to try (I cannot WAIT for my next trip to Brits).  Also, hands down, the best response to my revelation came from the lovely, yet highly sarcastic Faiqa:
I'm a little taken aback by your update. It would be like reading, "So, I took a spoonful of peanut butter and then, you're not going to believe this, but then I put *jelly* on the bread and it was FANTASTIC."
Yes, I will still drink coffee and maybe, this will just be a short-time fad.  Except, I really don't think so.  In the meantime, I am going to try drinking only tea for the next week.  And the very best part of this tea thing is that unlike coffee, I can have tea in the afternoon, or even  in the evening.  

So.... I guess I am a tea drinker now.   Maybe.  Probably.

Huh.

Bonus Tea Quote: 
Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cozy, doesn't try it on.  
~Billy Connolly

I will never again look at a tea cozy the same.

November 8, 2012

O'er the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.


Arun's Presidential ballot from school with a bonus photobomb from Lucy.

Arun came home from school and proudly declared that he had voted.  When I asked him for whom he had voted, he replied, "I voted for Romney because Obama already had a turn."

Spoken like a 1st grader, eh?

I did gently explain why I was voting for Obama and I went out of my way to NOT make him feel bad.  Sure, I am crass online, but I do have standards with my own children, limited they may be.   However, I had to deliver the harsh truth to Arun that many of the policies that some Republicans support are in direct contrast to the needs of immigrants such his own father and to the needs of the LGBT community such as our neighbors and other loved ones.  Some of them are downright racist.

Someday, I will explain to him why I had to leave the Republican party. I will explain to him that I used to vote Republican until the party morphed into something unrecognizable and ultimately, unconscionable for me.  I will explain to him why I am a Libertarian and why that means that I have to switch back and forth between the Democratic and Republican parties, even when I am not completely comfortable with either choice.  And perhaps by then, the Republican party will have brought it back to something closer with which I grew up.  Something that I can believe in again.

Yes, I will explain all of this to him.  Someday.

In the meantime, I just want him to be my sweet 7 year old little boy with his simplistic worldview that includes taking turns.

November 2, 2012

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude: Keepin' It Real With Frosting

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I am not an expert, but I do enjoy talking about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.  Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

Recipe Index can be found here. 
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As claimed in the past, I am not much of a baker.  It really, really stresses me out and as such, I normally buy cupcakes for birthday parties.  Hands down, these Super Mario Brothers' cupcakes from Tabby's Treats that we bought for Arun's 5th birthday remain my favorite. They were awesome to look at and they were simply delicious (the original post is here.)



However, this year, Arun begged and begged for me to bake cupcakes at home.  And..... so I did.  I used a box cake mix but really wanted to try my hand at making the frosting from scratch.  Turns out?  Frosting from scratch is ridiculously easy and the result is creamy and amazing. AMAZING, I tell you.  I let Team Chaos lick the beaters and after the first lick, they were hugging my legs exclaiming "Thank you, Mama for making this.  THANK YOU!!!!"

Alrighty then.  Frosting from scratch it is.

How did I make it?  I just used the simple recipe on the back of the box of the confectioner's sugar.  In fact, I still have it memorized -- take 1 pound of confectioner's sugar, a stick of butter, 1/4 cup of milk and a teaspoon of vanilla.  Then beat it with a mixer.  I just have a handheld - there's nothing fancy going on here, folks. 

And that was IT.  In less than 5 minutes, I had frosting from scratch.  Hand to Zeus, I will never, ever buy the canned stuff again.

I will probably do a few more of these "Keepin' It Real" posts.  For example,  I am adamant about finding a recipe for ranch dressing spices so that I can stop buying the Hidden Valley Ranch packets (they are so expensive and filled with tons of ingredients I cannot even pronounce).  I use those packets for roasting all sorts of veggies and it seems self-defeating to sprinkle that stuff on a healthy, fresh veggie, right?

And now, I am asking YOU for help.  What do YOU swear by when it comes to making things from scratch?  Challenge me!  I am up for it.



October 16, 2012

Lucky Seven

7 years ago, a wee, mysterious being appeared in our lives.  At first glance, he appeared to be a forest sprite.

We quickly discovered he had the voice of a banshee, the appetite of a zombie and the sleeping habits of a vampire.

With a firm, decided grasp, he rapidly took over our hearts.

And our household.

And our pocketbook.

However, in his household account of debt to us, he is firmly in the black.

And perhaps, Manoj and I are the ones in the red.

October 12, 2012

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude: Cheater, Cheater Pumpkin Eater

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I am not an expert, but I do enjoy talking about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.  Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

Recipe Index can be found here. 
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After a really weird week of where nothing has gone right, I have a FUN day planned for us.  Team Chaos is out of school and I am letting them choose what they would like to do.  Thus far, they are choosing to hang out in their pajamas.   Since I am nursing a cold (and I have TWO 5ks this week that I will now probably have to walk.  Sigh.), I am totally on board with a Pajama Day Plan.

In the meantime, in lieu of a real post, I would like to share a few food-related links.

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Courtesy of a recipe from Dad Cooks Dinner, I made slow-cooker chicken stock and my world?  Has been officially rocked.  HARD. I had bought a rotisserie chicken on Wednesday for dinner and when we were done with it, I stuck it in the refrigerator.  Yesterday morning, I threw the carcass in the slow cooker, chopped up a bunch of green onions, minced FOUR cloves of garlic and threw in some dried parsley for good measure.  I covered the whole mess with water and let it cook cook on low for 8 hours.  It was SO easy and the stock smells AMAZING.  I feel silly buying canned stock all of these years.  The rotisserie chicken cost $6 AND I made over 4 cups of stock from it.  I poured the stock in baggies and stuffed them in the freezer (I am going to invest in some freezer jars, though)  Chicken stock in the slow-cooker - what a great idea!

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I have been in a cooking rut lately -- I pulled up the All Recipes Dinner Spinner app on my Kindle Fire and this Spicy Garlic Lime Chicken popped up.  And it was a WINNER.  I had a few tenderloins left, so I am chopping those up for the Curried Chicken Divan I am making tonight. 

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I am still playing around with my slow-cooker and cannot wait to dig into some of these slow-cooker recipes courtesy of Receipe 4 Living.

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Budget Bytes posted a round-up of pumpkin recipes and asked for more suggestions in the comments.  Of course, I could not resist linking to my own pumpkin curry recipe since it is my life's mission to expose people to the wonder of curried pumpkin.

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As I was digging through food blogs while on the hunt for new dinner ideas, I stumbled across US Masala.  Holy cow -- this site should come standard with an appetite suppressant.  Each recipe comes with lovely photography and simply stated instructions -- in particular, I cannot WAIT to try the Garlic Masala Baked Potato Wedges.  Enter this site at your own risk on an empty stomach.  You have been warned.

October 5, 2012

My Kid's Homework Ate Today's Food Post

For the most part, the homework situation here has been reasonable.  Anjali's homework consists of practicing her writing and Arun's homework involves math and reading.  Subjects they both need to work on anyway.  We don't need to do homework every single night, but it averages to about 30-60 minutes when we do have it.  

Last night, Arun started working on his homework while I was cooking dinner, helping Anjali with HER homework and serving as the resident Bellhop for the cats and dogs and their relentless, soul-crushing need to go in and out and in and out of our goddamned house. (Foreshadowing: There are many, many more curse words coming your way, Gentle Reader.)

And then, Arun showed me this:


THREE FUCKING TICKETS
THREE FUCKING RIDES
ONE STUPID FUCKING LITTLE GIRL

Oh, and a chart of some sort that looked like something drawn by a carnie who had too much time on his hands (and too many blunts in his pocket).

Yes, for some reason, this threw me for a permuted loop.  I mean, not to brag, but I do hold both a Bachelor's and a Master's Degree in Accounting.  And according to the State of Missouri, I am fit to practice accounting as a licensed CPA (trust me, I am just as surprised by this as you are.)  While the onions on the stove burned, the rice boiled over and the eggplant dried up, I managed to scribble out a start of the pattern.  Then, I decided to leave the rest for Manoj.

This is a good place to point out that my baby daddy is not only an Indian Institute of Technology grad, but also a Dartmouth dork.  And since we are all about fulfilling stereotypes around here, Manoj is an engineer and scary with math and numbers. Yes, the same man who constantly loses his keys, laptop and shoes INSIDE OUR HOUSE possesses a frightening recall of facts and figures.

When Manoj walked in the door, I thrust the paper in his face.  He took a look and shook his head.  Yes, he figured it out, eventually, but agreed that the lack of directions seemed a bit much for a 1st grader.

Since Manoj was the one to actually figure it out, he is now endlessly mocking me about the fact that I struggled with our 1st grader's homework while steadfastly denying that he also struggled with it initially.

And now I am off to Google to search for creative poisoning methods.


September 26, 2012

Literally Literary: The Good Kind of Streaking

"Literally Literary" is a feature in which I write about books, reading and more books. My hope is the post title will provide a subtle hint that I am posting about BOOKS. For those of you where the topic of books results in narcoleptic fits thereby causing you to faceplant onto your keyboard, this will allow you to just click away from the horror that is the written word. Also, I simply adore the word "literally", it is literally my favorite adverb. Bonus points if pronounced with a Rob Lowe/Parks n' Recreation affectation.

Special Note: All posts contain non-affiliate links - I do not have an Amazonian Fancy Pants Affiliate Thingie.

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Over the past few months, I have been ranting and raving about what a spectacular reading streak I have been on.  A streak that has lasted MONTHS.  I thought I would do a recap post when the streak ended, but at this point, there is no end in sight.  I am currently reading Wally Lamb's "She's Come Undone" (SO GOOD, Lamp reminds me of John Irving and has made the list of authors of whom I must read their entire library).  

Next on the list is JK Rowling's "A Casual Vacancy" (dropping TOMORROW.  Or rather MIDNIGHT, if I happen to be suffering from insomnia, yet again.)  and then, Laura Moriarty's "The Chaperone" (I chose the cover for this book as the image for the post --  I love that image and it reminds me of my great-grandmother.  She was a concert pianist and would have been touring around the same time period.)  

Also, I am asking YOU what has been melting your literary butter lately so that you can help my streak continue.  Can you help a reader out?

No spoilers are in any of my blatherings.  Pinkie swear.

Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn
A weird, creepy book that starts out as a mystery, then turns into psychological thriller about halfway through.  At one point, I was walking around the house while reading.  I also had to hastily explain to my hungry children  what a "mystery" was while absently pointing in the general direction of the pantry where the Larabars live.

The Blood of Flowers” by Anita Amirrezvani
This is set in 17th century Persia and features a 14 year old girl whose future prospects are turned upside down when her father dies.  Her mother and her go to live with her uncle, who is a carpet maker.  The girl learns the trade along the way but struggles because of the limited opportunities for women in that time period.  I loved, loved this character and by the end of the book, it became a page-turner for me because I simply had to know what became of her.  Also, the author was quite talented in presenting the story in a richly-drawn environment.

Salvage the Bones” by Jesmyn Ward
With this being the winner of the 2011 National Book Award, I am wondering why more folks have not heard of this one.  This one is set in Mississippi and opens just a few days before Katrina comes bearing down.  It is not about Katrina, per se, but it does give you a perspective on the folks living there.  It also helped me understand what it must be like to be presented with an utter lack of choices - not just regarding the lack of Katrina evacuations, but also their lives in general


Where the Line Bleeds” by Jesmyn Ward
Another one by Ward.  Twin brothers are graduating from high school -- college is not an option and even the hope of finding a job is a slim one.  One of them does find a job, but the other one is left at loose ends and struggles.  Overall, I really like how Ward weaves a story and she is an author I have my eye on from now on.  If she is writing something, then it is important enough for me to read because I want to hear what she has to say.

Winter’s Bone” by Daniel Woodrell
This book is another dark one and shows that poverty is not limited to race.  It is set in southern Missouri and  features a strong, lead female character whose family is involved in the meth business.  Her father goes missing while out on bond and if the girl doesn't find him in time, her house will be taken by the bondsmen.  I probably related to this book more than both of Wards' for the simple fact that I am white and while I am not poor, I have lived in small communities where there is poverty.  It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized that some of my best friends in grade school were poverty-stricken.

Sharp Objects” by Gillian Flynn
This was Flynn's first book and my least favorite of her three.  I still enjoyed this book, although some of became a little silly and contrived.  However, it was a fun, eerie romp that reminded me of the twisted deliciousness that was VC Andrews (remember Flowers in the Attic?)

Dark Places" by Gillian Flynn
This was actually my favorite of the three Flynn reads.  It wasn't as gripping or addictive as "Gone Girl", but this one really spoke to me.  It was heart wrenching to see a family ripped apart by bad choices and poverty.

The Five People You Meet In Heaven” by Mitch Albom
I read this in one sitting -- it is a short read, but it is one that will leave you thinking.  I don't even believe in the concept of Heaven and Hell, but I was easily able to get on board with the story structure that Albom presented.

Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Piccoult
Honestly,  I think Piccoult is a bit of a hack.  I have read a few of her books but her consistent, formulaic writing turned me off.  However, "Nineteen Minutes" came highly recommended by a friend, so I picked it up.  And then, I could hardly put it down.  Yikes.  Yes, it is her usual Plots Ripped From the Headlines modus operandi but this one is about bullying.  Overall, I really appreciated how she presented the story from about six different viewpoints.  I wish she had written from the bullys' perspectives (at least from ONE of them), but I still appreciated how she constructed this storyline, even going back from the beginning in Kindergarten and showing us the progression of the bullying.

The floor is yours, Gentle Reader.  What have YOU been reading?


September 21, 2012

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
Jack the Tripper

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I am not an expert, but I do enjoy talking about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.  Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

Recipe Index can be found here. 
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Awhile back, Anjali and I were at the Asian store here in Olathe and I spied a jackfruit!  Manoj has always spoken of these as being his very favorite fruit in the whole wide world and how his grandma had a jackfruit tree and wow, it is the best fruit ever, OH.MY.GOD.  I have always wondered about this mysterious fruit that somehow trumped the mango (because in MY book, a fresh ASIAN mango is hard to beat.  And hard to find in America.  Grrr....)

Anyway! I lugged the thing home and Manoj immediately pronounced him vastly under-ripe.  It was going to be awhile.  I spent the next two weeks carefully rotating him.  And stubbing my toe on him so often that I dubbed him "Jack the Tripper".   And explaining to anyone who visited that no, it was not a durian, the famous stinky fruit (And also listed in the post I once wrote about Freaky Foods)

I also began to harbor an imagined kinship with Daenerys Targaryen as I pondered what in the FUCK was inside that thing.

We named him Jack.

And then we put him to work.  He was going to be staying awhile and rent don't come cheap, y'all.

Ah, so sweet -- Arun is bonding with Jack.  This reminds me of my pet pigs, Mickey and Judy.  I wonder whatever happened to them?

 Go the f*ck to sleep, Jack

 Miss H says, "I'm gonna love him and pet him and squeeze him and call him Jack George"

The anticipation!  Arya and Scout sniff suspiciously at what appears to be an egg. An egg that could very well contain another Chihuahua.

Manoj slathered his hands and forearms with coconut oil -- Jack was a sappy, sticky mess.  Think banana sap on steroids!

Hey there, good lookin'!

A single "pod" which had a hunka-chunka seed in the middle the size of a walnut.

Verdict?  It had a texture that was slightly rubbery.  It was not overly sweet, which was surprising to me.  The taste was very mild and fruity. It was not overly cloying and it had a milky finish.  It tasted as if a banana, a mango and a cantaloupe had just conducted a lusty, torrid Ménage à trois  and Jack was the prickly progeny of that lovefest.

Would I buy one again?  Yes.  For one, I was recovering from a cold so my sense of smell was completely off, so I would like to try this again.  Also, this is Manoj's favorite fruit and one of the few things he talks about wistfully from India.  I would gladly spend a few weeks stubbing my toe on a daily basis just to see him happy like that.

And now, I do know Jack.