Sunday, January 29, 2012

Research & Development

My original plan for today was a recipe for Limoncello Pound Cake.  I've been developing this recipe for a few weeks now, and I've just about got it down.  Since I needed to make one anyway to bring to a dinner at a friend's house, it just made sense to blog it.  Besides, some people have been asking for the recipe and I could just send them the link. 

However, it was a Sunday morning, and I was having fun snuggling the kitten and being dozy, and my kitchen sink was full of dishes that I'd have to clean up before I could bake (small kitchen).  So I was happily procrastinating online and doing research about Seal and Heidi Klum's separation food blogs and how the popular ones are put together. 

Turns out, it's a good thing I did.  There is a very specific method to this food  blogging madness.  Pictures - people like pictures.  And they like too much information.  I hate to over-explain, because I hate to be spoken down to.  But apparently, in food blogging, there is no such thing as over-explaining and taking way too many pictures of the food preparation process.  And I mean, a LOT of pictures.  

I wasn't planning that many pictures.  Or that many instructions.  It seems I was naive.  

So there is no blog about Limoncello cake today.  That is going to be later this week.  Or maybe never.  Mainly because it took about 3x as long to make the damn cake due to taking the damn pictures.  Oh, adding vanilla?  Take a picture.  Whisking an egg?  Take a picture.  Drinking adding the Limoncello?  Take another picture.  Then poke yourself in the eye with a bamboo skewer....

On the plus side, Red Beard was nice enough to do the dirty dishes that were originally piled in the sink while I ran to Horrible Stinky Wal-Mart for cake boards and a cake box (our Wal-Mart has an awesome cake section now, by the way).   And the cake did turn out beautifully.  It sitting on the counter right now, tucked in it's box, ready to take with us tonight.

Ready for transport!

And I managed to pull some boxes out of Granny's attic and find some new cobalt blue dishes at the Goodwill store (which my mom threatened to steal, and she's now holding my blue platter hostage).  

What I didn't do is manage to wash the dishes from cake making.  As much as I love living in a circa-1939 house, there's no dishwasher.  My kitchen was pristine for about 28 minutes, now it's back to normal. 

Yay!  More dish washing by hand!
I cleaned off the counter just enough to make lunch for Red Beard (he gets cranky hangry if I don't feed him).
Salami & Cheese, Sourdough, Lettuce-Tomato-Onion, AND Roasted Peppers & Pepperoncini.  Can you say SPOILED?!
I also watched part of Gladiator ...

... and played fetch with Wonder Kitten and his new fish toy ...

... and did NOT put any laundry in ...

... and what do you know?!  By the time I was done NOT doing any dishes or laundry or anything productive, it was time to clean up to go to dinner (because it's a good idea to shower before going to dinner at a friend's house, no one like the stinky kid in class)!  Nope, no Cake Blog today!  Procrastinating on a Sunday is fun!  

 Though it is NOT fun to try and take a shower when you haven't put the towels in the dryer. Shit.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Introducing the Wonder Kitten

It all began as a way to make Red Beard crazy.  

Red Beard is a little dog obsessed (this was before we got the Crazy Pup).  He kept looking up dogs to adopt or puppies to buy, constantly.  It was all, "look how cute" and "he'd love our yard" and "oooh, read this abuse story, maybe we could go meet him".

No don't get me wrong, I love dogs and I DID want a dog  However, I didn't really like the idea of him getting a dog and I got ... well ..... part ownership of the same dog, plus all the work that goes with it.  

I'm a girl, and the youngest, and fairly spoiled - I wanted a pet tooooo (insert whiny voice here).  Though puppies are completely awesome ... and more than enough work for 2 people .... but I just love making him crazy.  Anyway, regardless of how my twisted brain got there, I got my Irish up.  

And I started doing searches of my own ... for BUNNIES.  Because he said that I could NOT, under any circumstances, ever have a house bunny.

Oh really.

It wasn't hard to find 893 bunnies up for adoption, and after he'd been forced to look at 807 pictures of fluffy bunnies, he was starting to lose patience.  His ears were getting red and everything.  

So when I mentioned wanting a cat for Christmas, he was all relieved and agreed instantly!  How smart am I?!

Originally, I was looking for a Bengal to adopt.  We found one for my mom a few years ago, and did a lot of reading about the breed's "quirks" then (whoever wrote those articles left a ton out, let me tell you).  After living with Boris the Animal since 2007, I was pretty sure I knew a thing or two about the Bengel's insane nature, and it wasn't anything I couldn't handle.  I figured I could do a good deed by adopting, and it wasn't like I would ever even attempt to justify spending $1200 (!!) on a kitten anyways.    

My search led me to Purebreds Plus Cat Rescue.  PPCR is fantastic!  They take in any number of cats, from any number of breeds (including hybrids like Bengals and Chausies), collected from various humane societies and SPCAs, and even cats from breeders that have been closed down for any number of horrible reasons.  Just be warned, going on their website will make you cry.  Most of the cats have a story (a sad story!), and PPCR just loves detailing the medical attention or re-socialization many of these cats needed after they were rescued.   Sniff.

The adoption process was lengthy, involving essay questions and a review of my vet records regarding any previous cats I'd owned.  PPCR volunteers calling ALL of the  references I listed, and spoke with my vet.   At first, I was really surprised, but then I realized - PPCR is run by crazy cat people.  OF COURSE they called my references and spoke with my vet.  They don't let their newly rescued babies go to just ANYONE. 

Despite the very cute Bengals and Siamese and Scottish Fold and Persians that I saw and read about and cried over, there was no doubt which of the little fuzzy wuzzies I was destined to take home:

Pick Me! Pick Me!
Meet Wonder Kitten, a Maine Coon kitten adopted the day after Thanksgiving. Well, really we adopted him officially two weeks sooner, but he had a small flea problem that needed handling before we brought him home. He was around 6 months old and 7 lbs when we got him.  Our vet took one look at his feet and said "You know he's going to grow right? He's going to grow a LOT".  Ummm, yeah.  He has.  In just about 10 weeks he's gained 3 lbs and is the size of a normal run-of-the-mill adult cat.  Except, in Maine Coon terms, he's only about half way there.

We were told repeatedly by his foster mommy that he was a Shy Cat.  Didn't take to strangers quickly, may not like us, blah blah blah. 

Wonder Kitten is NOT shy.  

He wasn't shy when we met him at foster mommy's house (he head butted me and started chewing on my thumb, then climbed in my lap, all in the first 3 minutes ... then emptied my purse and started dragging it around the living room).

He wasn't shy on the drive home from Sacramento (he howled until we let him out of the carrier; then slept in my lap and drooled on me for the next 2 hours).
Shut up in a carrier = Angry Kitty
He wasn't shy when we first got him home (he took a huge poo in his shiny new box, ate a bowl of kibble, and snuggled between us on the bed).

He hasn't been shy any day since.  

In fact, he's nosy and obnoxious and insists on helping me with everything I do.

I think his foster mom doesn't quite know what the word "shy" means.  

That's not to say that foster mommy didn't do a good job - he was a little more behind on his inoculations than I liked, but he didn't have ringworm, ear mites, or kennel cough (all common in multiple-cat environments); he was box trained and super socialized and didn't have more than a couple of neuroses.  Though she did name him Harry Potter ... I'm a fan of the entire H/P enterprise, books and movies both, but that is not an acceptable cat name.  He didn't even like it himself.  

All in all, she did a brilliant job raising him from this:
Poor Little Baby Orphaned Harry Potter
To This:

... shy my ass!

Granted, he's got a few issues:
  • He drowns his toys in his water dish
  • He's addicted to my hair ties, up to and including trying to pull them out of my hair
  • He's a pack rat.  His stash is under our bed.  When things go missing, like slippers or socks or pens, that's where they we find them.
  • He thinks cell phones = chew toys.
  • He's given my dad's Big Scary Hunting Dog an inferiority complex; the Buster Keaton is now in therapy.
  • He's farts when he's excited.
  • He thinks feet are evil and waits until you're sleeping to attack them
  • He loves cough drops and Hershey's kisses and brings them to you in the middle of the night, all slimy.
  • The laptop is the warmest place to sleep in the house.
  • He seems to think he's the most handsome and precious animal ever to grace the earth
And I have to say, I tend to agree with him.
 He's my boy.  And he's beautiful and fearless and playful and talkative and just a little bit crazy, with all of the same authority problems that his new pet parents have.  

Bring on the puppies.

Update:  Apparently, issue #45 is that the Wonder Kitten likes trail mix.  Unfortunately, as evidenced by the mess I just had to clean up in my laundry room,  trail mix DOES NOT LIKE HIM BACK.  Cats shouldn't eat dried cranberries and almonds.  Bad messy things will happen.  (gag)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Definition of a Food Pusher

Food pushing is a complex and wonderful art in which a person does everything in their power to get everyone else to eat until they burst.  Not in an evil, trying-to-transform-their-friends-into-Jabba-the-Hut, let's-all-get-really-fat-sort-of-a-way; it's more in a good hostess, make everyone comfortable, have-another-cocktail way.   Common questions include:
  • Have you eaten enough?
  • Do you want to taste this?
  • No really, it's great, you should taste it!
  • Do you want more of anything?
  • Do you want half of my burger/sandwich/steak?
  • You're not driving, right, so more wine?
  • Dessert, right?
  • What do you mean you're too full for dessert?
It seems that there is a need and compulsion shared by the women in my family to make sure everyone around them is well-fed.   Even if it means we won't eat, or eat as much as we'd like, it's okay - so long as everyone else is busting their buttons.    Thank God the men in our family are all eaters with really awesome metabolisms. 

Granted, it helps tremendously with portion control.  It's hard to feel guilty about a bar burger at Louis Basque Corner when I know I'm giving half of it and most of my garlic fries to Red Beard.  One burger and his own order of fries doesn't fill him up.  Red Beard needs his own burgers and fries, PLUS a side salad, PLUS an order of zucchinni sticks, PLUS half of my own burger and fried before he's full.  And then only for a couple of hours before he's digging in freezer for shrimp corndogs

Red Beard took a little bit of time to get used to this.  When we were first dating, he was taken aback by my constant pushing.  We'd go out to dinner and I'd keep harping at him to "try this, it's really good!" and there was a constant stream of "I'm full.  Do you want this?" be it a doughnut or half a burger, or pretty much anything that wasn't going to gross him out (like my super runny eggs, squished between my pancakes; Red Beard gets a little wobbly at the sight of runny eggs).

I'm sure he thought that is was just a standard Girl Thing - pretending to be full or not hungry or that I didn't need to consume food ever.  Which I get, I know many females of all ages who like to give the impression that they exist on the dew of a single ginko leaf and the energy of the universe (brownie points to anyone who knows the movie!)

Perhaps if my 501's weren't so amply filled, I could get away with that, but come on!  Of course I eat - most of the females I know eat, and eat well, and cook well, and don't care who knows it. In my case, I just can't be trusted not to force feed people; and the places Red Beard and I tend to frequent give really large portions so giving half away really didn't leave me feeling deprived.  

And I really did not care much about eating when he and I were first dating (so much so that 20+ lbs just melted right off) because I was too busy being all pink and shiny and floaty and annoying, because dating him was that much fun that I couldn't be bothered with food .. but that's a story for another time.  

It's kind of a match made in heaven:  I cook a lot, and try to force feed him like a prized goose with an oversized liver (foi gras, anyone?) and he's 6ft5 with the metabolism of a ferret.  I highly recommend to my fellow food pushers (you know who you are!) that you try to find this combination.  Because I, for one, would have little patience trying to cook regularly for a bacon-free vegan with a metabolism as slow as molasses in January like mine.  

I don't have a picture that really fits today's topic, so instead here's a picture of my poor Starbucks that closed.  Another of the few perks of our location in Horrible Sparks was this Starbucks, with the drive-through, that was on my way to work and only 5 blocks from my house.  Sniff.  I miss you! If it weren't for the Starbucks that shared a parking lot with my office, and the 456 other Starbucks locations on my drive, I'd need a xanax and probably die of caffeine deprivation.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pizza Pizza!!

For dinner tonight, I force fed Red Beard a pizza.  A wonderfully yummy, beautifully crusted pizza, half Blind Hawaiian with bell peppers and half pepperoni pizza from one my absolute favorite pizzerias in the Biggest Little City - The Blind Onion.  Seriously, one of the few (very few) things about having to live in Horrible Sparks that is a "pro" is being thisclose to the Blind Onion in Victorian Square.  

In my defense, I cooked all sorts of homemade fantastic cheesy delights  this last weekend.  But work kicked my ass yesterday and today and my brain is now mush.  If  I tried to chop an onion I'd probably lose a finger.  

Last night, my wonderful mom came to Red Beard's rescue and had us up for buffalo steaks with roasty potatoes and wine-soaked drunken mushrooms (thank God, or else he'd have had to made do with ramen noodles and stale Doritos).  

Tonight, PIZZA TIME!  Which happens to coincide with... COCKTAIL TIME! Orange juice is healthy, right, even with the vodka in it?

I'm sure there are plenty of folks in Sparks who would love to know why I find it horrible over here in the north east section of our valley, but I'm in my happy place and I don't feel like dredging it up.  Suffice it to say, Sparks has some major bad juju for me.  Yes, I use words like "juju".

I also have this curled up against the back of my neck while I sit on the couch:

Wonder Kitten to the rescue!
So much nicer than slaving over a hot stove.  Fireplace, kitten, pizza, cocktail, Red Beard, and a fluffy blanket.  Best way ever to wind down after a craperrific work day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Happy New Year (sort of)!

Here it is, January 17, 2012.  Sure, I meant to start this a little sooner, like, say, January FIRST, but what can I say, I'm a procrastinator. 

I wasn't sure, at first, if blogging was for me.  I like reading other people's blogs, and I don't mind writing, but it seems like a lot of responsibility - it's letting strangers into your life.  But where food is concerned, it seems like sharing is just right and good and proper - it's FOOD!  More food = less hangry people.  Hangry people are mean (I live and am related to several). 

Instead, let's eat, drink, and be merry!

To start off, a things to keep in mind:
  • Food isn't rocket science - in many cases there are many ways to do things.  That being said, I tend to double-check my food facts pretty well before I get all bossy about how things should be done.  And in addition, I've done all of this enough times to know what works.  Food information, I can usually be trusted.  However .... (see below) 
  • I'm really opinionated; and sometimes my non-food opinions aren't all that well-researched and informed.  Agree or disagree, that's all great.  I can take it.  Just don't get personal and don't go on full attack.
  • I cook a lot.  Sometimes if works, sometimes it doesn't, I'm going to talk about all of it.  I love food (as the size of my 501's will attest to); eating food, talking about food, cooking food, planning on cooking food, reading about food ... even the blogs I like are centered around food.  
  • We also eat take-out a lot.  I have a 90+ year old granny that I take care of, a full time job, Red Beard (more on him in time), multiple pets, etc etc.  Cooking every night isn't going to happen.
  • Speaking of pets, I'm barely three steps away from being a crazy cat lady.  I have a cat, a dog, and a parrot, plus I have partial custody of another cat and a dog, and I have numerous fairy godpets.  When we aren't talking about food, we'll probably be talking about the furry kids.
  • The only thing saving me from actually becoming a crazy cat lady, with a lifetime membership to the kitten of the month club, is Red Beard.  He's awesome and wonderful and I love him a lot.  He's also super cute.  He makes me spaghetti and pancakes and surprises me with bottle of Three Olives Vodka.  He'll be coming up a lot too.  Is it weird I mentioned the pets before I talked about the love of my life?
  • I mention cocktails pretty often, and cook with a lot of booze (and bacon and cheese too).  I'm no where near checking into the Betty, I'm just Irish.  We're a very intemperate race. 
  • While we're on the subject, I'm also Italian.  My Italian side cooks better.  My Irish side is more fun!  
Be prepared for recipes, home improvement projects, movie reviews, diatribes over the latest episode of Chopped or Top Chef, bitching and moaning about my constant battle to fit into my jeans properly, pet stories, adventures with the kiddos (I have 16 nieces & nephews by marriage, plus 3 nieces of my own), and just how damn lucky I am that Red Beard puts up with all my quirkiness.

Cheers to a shiny bright 2012!

I also have Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate & Absolut Citron & Circo Amaretto ... all tasty!