Cats vs Crustacean

At a crab feed this past Friday, my aunt and I pocketed some extra crab to take home to Shawn and the Guster. I was a little concerned about them getting the meat out of the legs. Do cats eat crab in the wild? I bet they’re pretty hard to catch. I know Gus would run in fear from those intense claws.

When we got back we tortured Gus by making him wear the bib for a photo!

The next day when Shawn and Gus were both around, we videotaped giving them some hunks of crab. They didn’t give us a lot of a material, but I saw a blog the other day that posted a video of a cat grabbing its owner’s arm a million times. If that can go viral, maybe two cats nom nom noming (did I use that right?) on some crab will also be popular? Who knows. Continue Reading

Homemade Gift Idea: Brandied Cherries

I’m a big fan of the homemade gifts. Last year I gave my boyfriend’s mom a crocheted fish-shaped pot holder (she acted like she loved it!) and the other three members of Will’s family personalized crocheted beer cozies. That raised a lot of eyebrows, and I imagine they haven’t gotten much use this past year, but my heart was in the right place. Even they would admit that!

This year Will and I have been inspired by our new found love of all thing cocktails, my new interest in canning, and our desire to keep presents as inexpensive as possible. This year, our family is receiving one of our first batch of brandied cherries.

Our love affair with Maraschino cherries started last year when we learned that the red swollen sugary cherries that we grew up with in our Shirley Temples are not the traditional Maraschino cherries. No, Maraschino cherries are cherries that are soaked in Maraschino liquor, an Italian aperitif flavored with the ground seeds of cherries from Marasca. The ones we have been served are soaked in tons of preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and red dye. During the high tide of the Temperance movement, anti-alcohol enthusiasts campaigned to have the original, liquor-soaked cherries banned. They won, and ever since the original cherries have been lost to American culture. We managed to find a bottle at a high-end grocery store near our house, and fell in love.

But at a price tag of $16 a bottle, we instantly recognized the need to find a more affordable solution. Why not make them ourselves?

We followed this recipe from the Gourmet Foodie Blog. Or, rather, we tried to. Embarking on this journey in December meant that we didn’t have access to affordable fresh cherries, and had to use dried ones. It also meant that even though the cherries would be presented on Christmas, they wouldn’t be ready for consumption until March. But they’ll be better for all that time spent steeping in yummy brandy and Maraschino.

Our first try yielded disappointing results.

Our first time we canned with our friends Anthony and Nicole. Without the proper equipment and any previous experience, we unfortunately sealed the jars (accomplished by boiling the jars for 12 minutes, a process that allows the lid to create a food-safe seal with the jar) on their side. In three out of four, the brandy escaped during the sealing process, and we were left with nothing but cherries and sugar in a sealed jar. But at least we got the seals correctly created. Apparently, that can be a challenge when canning.

A couple weeks later we tried again. This time we knew not to let the jars fall on their sides during the boiling process.

The resulting jars of brandied cherries looked good, but had a layer of sugar that did not mix with the brandy. Next time, we will use simple syrup (sugar dissolved in water).

Happy with these results (and out of cherries and jars!) I finished the gift off with a scrap of my torn skinny jeans and our Lushes in Love label. Not only are these a great Christmas gift, but they are also a celebration of our new cocktail blog, Lushes in Love. When we get back from Christmas we’re going to populate that site with content and go live!

I estimate that each jar cost us a mere $3 in materials, despite our using a dash of the expensive Maraschino liquor and a high end brandy. We surmised that all you need is a dash of Maraschino liquor to make the entire batch have its delicious taste. We have noticed that any drink we make with Maraschino liquor tastes just like Maraschino liquor.

A Great Winter Salad

I posted on Facebook awhile ago wondering what the winter salad is. I eat a lot of salads (one a day keeps me sane!). When the weather turns cold, I shy away from lettuce and other raw veggies. They take a lot of energy to digest, and when I’m using my energy warming myself up, the last thing I want is to sacrifice some of it to superfluous digestion.

Some friends came through with some great suggestions: whole grain salads with barley, garlic, orange zest, olive oil, and pickled veggies, roasted veggies tossed with herbs and balasamic, and green salads full of fennel citrus and red onion. Yum!!

I have more experimenting ahead of me, but I want to share this awesome recipe my aunt Liz suggested: Tassajara Warm Red Cabbage Salad.

Composed of sauteed red onion, cabbage, raisins, feta and slightly sweet toasted sunflower seeds, this warm salad is sweet, savory, crunchy and warm. I nervously made it for the first time and brought it to a Thanksgiving potluck the other week. I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be–I’ve met many people afraid of cabbage and raisins (I was once myself!). I was shocked by what a hit this salad was! I had even been hoping to take some home with me, but alas, no luck.

I make it in the Cuisinart and last night I whipped it up a second time in literally twenty minutes. That’s pretty quick for me — I’m a slow cook. My aunt recommends making extra sunflower seeds (they store well and are great for snacking) and adding more raisins, balsamic and feta than the recipe suggests. I agree!

Tupperware’s Stuffables containers are AWESOME for storing dishes like this. At first glance, my dish wasn’t going to fit in the container:

But thankfully, the flexible lid accommodates!!

A lifetime guarantee, flexible lids and it’s even dishwasher safe. Get yours today!

thou shalt not covet another man's (or woman's) party

Last night I went to the best party I have ever been to.  It was an open house thrown by the local, organic catering company Devoted Catering by Aimee Alan.

I hired Devoted for an event I coordinated for the Berkeley Student Cooperative last year.  The food was excellent.  I remember when I was first talking to them being concerned about running out of food. The event coordinator I was working with, Zoe, said, “We have never run out of food.”  I was heartened.  I have since been to another event that they catered which also had excellent food.  When I got the invite for their open house, I responded with a “Hell yes!” and RSVPed for two right away.  Next year I will RSVP for more!

I knew that last night was going to be special when we were greeted by a red carpet stretching the length of the sidewalk and speckled with rose petals.  ROSE PETALS!  Faint red lights lit up the gorgeous space.  I felt like I was walking into a ball. Continue Reading

The Santa Rosa Cocktail!

To celebrate the weekend and the return of Madmen this Sunday, I would like to share my boyfriend Will’s most recent cocktail creation: The Santa Rosa.

The back story:

We watched Madmen as a marathon last winter, having only discovered it when my mother introduced me to it on a family trip.  For a month, we did nothing else but watch Madmen.  We were intrigued by Don’s usual drink: the Old Fashioned, and also by Betty Draper’s Gimlet and the martinis that the Fat Cats on the show have during their decadent three-martini lunches.  Also, the casseroles, but we quickly discovered that casseroles contain a lot of cheese and let that phase go by without too much hubbub.  The cocktail obsession, however, stuck with us, and Will started rapidly acquiring the sundry liquors, elixers and various bitters needed to try anything and everything, with an emphasis on the cocktails from the days of yore.

Will quickly tired of other people’s recipes and started to experiment in mixology, sometimes with disastrous results.  The Santa Rosa is his first cocktail creation that’s ready for prime time (though he also has come up with his own interesting twists on some of the classics!).

Shake or stir the following and serve on ice in an old-fashioned glass.  The garnish of a sprig of cilantro adds a wonderful complexity and tingles your taste buds.

  • 1 1/2 oz bourbon
  • 1 1/2 oz fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1/8 oz Benedictine
  • 1/8 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1/8 oz grenadine
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters if you have the large bottle, 2 dashes if dealing with the small bottle

The 1/8 oz is pretty hard to measure–most recipes would just call it “one dash” to avoid stressing you out. Don’t sweat it if your measure is a little off.

How Will created it:

The Santa Rosa began as a way to get rid of some quickly aging but still good grapefruit.  Bourbon was a natural choice for the liquor pairing because they both have such strong favors.  He considered adding simple syrup to sweeten it (grapefruit is very sour), but dismissed this option as obvious and boring.

Instead he added a little Benedictine–a very strong, complex liqueur. The drink tasted better, but still a little sour and astringent.  Will added Angostura bitters, comme il faut (because that’s what you do). He added grenadine, and the drink was no longer sour, and had a lovely red color.  But still there lingered the astringent bourbon finish!

He thought long and hard about what would make it smoother, and decided that sweet vermouth would be good for that.  He added a little bit, and liked the result… a lot!

Note:  In a pinch, Drambuie could be substituted for Benedictine.  They cost about the same (about $30 a bottle), but Benedictine is hard to find.
Also note:  Many of these ingredients–in fact all of these ingredients, will be consumed at a very slow pace.  You may balk at the initial investment, but we find we get a lot of joy in sharing our varied cocktail menu with guests (and our taste buds!) and you may too.

Longmont, Colorado

A strange sense of obligation brought me here.

My ninety year old grandmother.

I realize today, she has given me much more than my love for swimming and a method for slicing bananas.

It is from her that I inherit my tireless scheming, my devotion to people and my propensity for get rich quick schemes.

I just now realized it.

She once invented a game called “Odds and Evens”. It teaches kids in a visual way about math. It’s great. I played it all the time as a little girl.

When my mother and her sisters cleaned out her garage a few years ago, they found three boxes filled with Odds and Evens. Grandma had produced a ton of them to try and sell them to other local schools.

Can’t you completely see me doing that?!!

Another box was filled with unsold copies of her cookbook, Cooking Under Pressure. It was not about cooking when stressed, rather it detailed recipes utilizing the pressure cooker.

I don’t have a pressure cooker, but I do have plans for…

and also…

not to forget…

and you know what?

If my grandmother accomplished three daughters and two get rich quick schemes,

and if that’s roughly what I get around to…

That’s okay with me.

Susie's Life Lessons December 5, 2005

1. Never try to brew kombucha in a pot that isn’t glass or stainless steel.

2. Sparkling white wine really does sneak up on you.

3. In order to timer record on a Toshiba SBV-393 VCR/DVD, you have to press the button on the remote labeled “Timer Record.”

4. Apple sauce collects mold remarkably quickly.

5. The new trend in frozen cookie dough doesn’t require you to shape the dough into balls yourself. Such a convenience, but at what cost?!!