Have a Furry Valentine’s Day ~

Every year I get my hopes sort of up that Chris is going to have grand plans for Valentine’s Day.  And every year, he does wonderful, gallant things pretty much every day except for Valentines day, because he hates the crowds in restaurants on the evening of.  I’m learning to be totally okay with it, because, frankly, buying me shitty grocery store roses, a box of hermetically sealed chocolate in a gaudy cardboard heart, or lacy lingerie that chafes my nipples and digs into my lady junk isn’t anywhere near as valuable as being a good husband, father, and roommate the other 364 days of the year.

Not that I would turn down some decent chocolate.  I’m not totally crazy.  But it should be from a good chocolatier and not have any dark chocolate or coffee flavors.  Thanks.

So what we usually end up doing is having a quiet dinner at home, fueled by a fair amount of quiet wine from a quiet box.  It’s awesome, and it means I get to design the menu based on my own whim, and also that I get to eat said menu wearing sweatpants. That’s the one thing that dinner out will get you–something other than sweatpants.  But that’s where I draw the line on gratefulness.

And usually I buy myself a bag of conversation hearts and eat only the white ones.  Not because I’m racist, but because they taste minty and delicious.

I sometimes get tired of the same old presentation of a hunk of overpriced red meat, some token green beans, and a starch.  Instead, I try to toss things up and eat vibrant, indulgent flavors without making a big production of dishes that will have to be washed before we start playing video games.

One year, we ate cheese, honey, salumi and pears for dinner.  Seriously.  It was fantastic.

This year, I wanted to try something new, and I wanted to surprise him.  But I had no idea, so I figured I’d do a test run of some different recipes and pick the one I liked the best to prepare for him on Tuesday (the big V).  In order to put my own spin on it, I wrote down a recipe based on ingredients I like, and decided to follow what I had written down and hope for the best.

I wanted to incorporate a rich meat, silky mouthfeel, chocolate, red wine, and something different in the realm of starches.  I just threw things down on the paper, hoping to God that it wouldn’t suck, and that I’d strike culinary gold for being bold and ad-libbing a recipe.

Any concerns that I had about the success of this dish were ameliorated when I pulled this out of the bag of potatoes:

Be My Valentuber

Yeah.  A LOVE POTATO.  It’s like God was trying to tell me that this was the perfect Valentine’s Day meal before I even began making it.

And then I felt really bad when I had to do this:

Arrrrggghhhhhhh!!

But I got over it.  In the name of love and experimentation.  The same way countless women have gotten over various deviant behaviors in order to make their marriages work, even though they don’t necessarily like wearing leather masks or dressing up like life-sized squirrels.

And you know what?  WORTH IT.  This stew was so rich, hearty, healthy, decadent, delicious, and full of beefy love that I would stab a thousand potato hearts in a sort of creepy way.

So I urge you to give this one a shot.  Not just because it’s the first recipe I’ve made up in my own head before even trying to make it.  Not just because it’s a fun and different way to enjoy traditional romancy flavors (chocolate and red wine? Hooooo!).  Not just because it’s stupid easy.  But because the Love Potato has dictated that it must be.

Beef Chuck and Barley Stew
-2-3 lb beef chuck, diced (this is a typical cut for beef stew, and is flavorful and bootylicious without being $$$)
-1 T olive oil
-1/2 large onion, diced
-3 cl garlic, minced
-3 C rich beef stock
-1 C red wine
-2 bay leaves
-1 t dried thyme
-1 t cracked pepper
-3 large russet potatoes, small dice
-4 large carrots, small dice
-1 C pearl barley, rinsed
-2 T cocoa (the richer, the better)
-a bunch of kosher salt
-2 C baby spinach
-1 T butter

–In a heavy-bottomed dutch oven or large pot with a lid, heat oil over medium high heat until shimmering.
–Season beef chuck liberally with salt and pepper, then sear. Go boldly into searing, and try to get a brown crust on each piece of beef.
–Remove beef from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
–In the same pan, saute garlic, and onion until tender
–Deglaze with red wine, and simmer until red wine is reduced by half.
–Add the beef back to the pan, along with thyme, barley, bay leaves, cocoa and stock.  Simmer over medium-low heat, covered, for 1.5 hours or until beef is beginning to become tender.  Check periodically and add more liquid if necessary.
–Add potatoes and carrots, cover again, and simmer for 45 minutes or until potatoes are firm but tender.  The end amount of liquid should be silky and thick-ish.
–Add spinach and butter and stir until wilted.
–Serve with the rest of that red wine, while wearing tacky lingerie that either has holes in prominent places or is made of fruit roll ups and smarties.  Or in sweatpants, if that’s your thing.

*Cue Barry White music*

Yeah.  Tell me you wouldn’t eat that.  Even if it meant forgoing the typical restaurant rush and thorn stab wounds from those horrid roses.  Even if it meant wearing a squirrel suit to dinner.

Because that’s really what love is all about.  Potatoes and squirrels and stew and compromises.  But probably not squirrel stew.  This is your LIFE we’re talking about.  Not an episode of Swamp People.

The Sperminator ~

Congratulations on your big Colorado (And Minnesota, and another state that I can’t remember) wins last night, Rick Santorum!  I especially appreciated the dinner time robocall about how as a Christian I have to be pro-life and pro-hetero-marriage.  Because I was confused about my responsibilities as a believer in Christ.  Now I’m equally confused because I’m pro-choice and believe everyone should have the right to marry another consenting adult whom they love.  So…does that change my religion?

I have shied away from writing a post about Rick Santorum because I didn’t want to get mired down in dirty jokes about semen and butts.  Butt now (HAR!) Ricky has started his own campaign to raise money called…wait for it…”Conservatives Unite Moneybomb.”  C.U.M.  I cannot believe this is actually happening.  The only thing I can think is that he honestly is so clueless that he isn’t aware that he’s just further equated himself with salty he-smoothie, because with the number of Mr Roger’s-style sweater vests he wears, you know with CERTAINTY that he isn’t exactly down with the lingo of love.

Sweater vests aren’t even in the lexicon of love.  Seriously.  Try to say “sweater vest” while maintaining arousal.  It’s impossible.  Your erotic body parts immediately weld into a plastic smooth place like a Ken/Barbie doll.  It’s the Margaret Thatcher Naked on a Cold Day of wardrobe choices.

I am going to take the high road, though, and ignore the association with love mustard.  I’m going to talk about the tISSUES THAT MATTER.

Like, for example, the fact that Rick Santorum strongly supports keeping troops in Afghanistan and the surrounding areas, even though he couldn’t be bothered to serve as a semen seaman in his own majesty’s Navy!

Or the fact that he’s not even really a viable candidate option, despite the results of recent cockasses caucuses.

Or the fact that he has said that contraception is “a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

Or the fact that be blames liberalism in semenaries seminaries for the Catholic sex abuse scandals.  You know…because liberals always support the molestation of altar boys?  I know I sure do!

But the real money shot for me is that he has asked, and I quote, “If hunger is a problem in America, then why do we have an obesity problem among the people who say we have a hunger problem?” in response to questions about why he wants to get rid of food stamps altogether.

Because everyone knows that only “fat people” are poor, and poor people are always fat. There are absolutely no children in America who are hungry and depend on food stamps and school lunches for any kind of nutrition whatsoever.

What a dick. Seriously.

In honor of my IMMEASURABLE wealth, I’ll be making the Rick Santorum’s No More Poor “Fat” people dinner.  It costs next to nothing to prepare, and will ensure that the obese/poor in our nation can’t ask for handouts.

It won’t contain a cream sauce, because honestly that’s more than I can bear at this point.  And cream sauces make you fat, unless you eat them with your butt (right, Rick?)

And it does contain glorious eggs, which is awesome because Ricky believes that every egg should have a right to life, and birth control should be illegal, and as such, all of the frantic teenage humping in our country should lead directly and inevitably to new episodes of Teen Mom. Which is a show I love because it makes me feel better about my own life choices.

Mmmmmm…VALUES

Warm Lentil Salad (adapted from the Gourmet recipe by Ruth Reichl)
-1 C green lentils
-3 slices bacon, diced into lardons
-1 onion, small dice
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
-1/4 C white balsamic vinegar (more to taste)
-2 T dijon mustard
-salt and pepper to taste
-eggs, cooked any way you like them, but definitely cooked because any egg that doesn’t make it to your plate is an abomination to your faith.  Or something.

–In a large pot of boiling water, cook lentils until tender, but not mushy (about 25 minutes)
–Meanwhile, saute bacon until fat renders and remove from pan
–In the bacon fat, saute onion, garlic, and carrots until tender.
–Drain lentils and add lentils and bacon to the vegetable mixture
–Stir in mustard, vinegar, and seasonings.  Taste.  You want a sweet, semi-acidic “dressing” to permeate the salad.  Add more vinegar as necessary.
–Serve warm or room temperature, topped with eggs

Can you just SMELL the sanctimony?  Wait..no…that’s bacon vinaigrette.

This makes a cheap and fantastic weeknight dinner, Sunday brunch, protein-packed snack, and/or late night gorge.  And it’s accessible and cheap as can be to prepare.  You could add kale or spinach to punch it up even further, but you don’t necessarily need to, as this dish isn’t exactly hurting for nutritional value.

There you have it, poor people.  Stop being unhealthy and start eating delicious, cheap lentils.  America is fixed.  Now lets all put on our romance sweater vests and make some babies! And then do some postcoital gay-bashing.  WHOOOOOOOOOO.

C-love and special sauce ~

Taking a break from politics (although I still have a Santorum post and an Obama post to delight the masses) to share something serious with you.

One of my main problems–in life–is that my desire to eat junk is balanced equally and oppositely against my desire to continue fitting into my current size pants.  Or maybe a smaller kind of pants.  I don’t know. I don’t want to get greedy or anything, but if this “colorful denim jeggings” thing is going to stick around, there is no way that can happen at the same time as I’m eating entire bags of Twizzler Pull n’ Peel.

Or the Heath bar baking bits that I’m currently shoveling into my mouth while I type.

So my options are as follows:

1) Buy bigger pants
2) Spend more time at the gym
3) Deprive myself of the foods I love
4) Figure out a loophole in the system

Number one is expensive and will make me sad. Plus I don’t want my current pants to go all Velveteen Rabbit on me and end up feeling unloved and lost.

Number two is totally unrealistic, given the fact that I already like BFF with our entire gym staff, and spend half my day sending my trainer texts like “Hey! You should Google the self-defense mechanism of sea cucumbers!”

Plus, they’re only willing to parent my child 2 hours per day, and that includes the time I have to spend in the locker room avoiding eye contact with the lady who insists on blow-drying her hair totally naked with her bush on display.

Number three is so far-fetched that it’s basically like saying “Hey! We should build a MOON COLONY this week!”

So…loophole it is!

I have to find ways to enjoy the foods that I’m obsessed with, without getting too big for my pants.  Easier said than done.  How the hell am I going to craft Twizzlers out of beet greens and tofu??

I decided to tackle buffalo wings, given that the Superbowl was yesterday and buffalo wings are toward the very tip-top of my cravings list each day.  Right behind “create a meaningful emotional relationship with Jon Stewart” and “something something world peace.”

SUCCESS!!  This recipe is so stupid-easy that my 17 month old could do it without breaking suction on his sippy cup (those are SO just glorified bottles, people!!)

I’m actually ashamed to call this a recipe, but I’m going to for the sake of sharing the method with you.

Ingredients:
-a whole chicken, roasted or rotisseried to doneness, cooled (I like organic, because I’m a hippie)
-1 C Frank’s Red Hot sauce
-3 T brown sugar
-1 T butter
-6 carrots, shredded
-a bunch of sturdy lettuce leaves (I used romaine because it was cheap)
-Mix 3 T ranch dressing with 3 T buttermilk and put in a squeezy bottle.

–Remove the skin from the chicken, and then pull the meat off of the bones.  Save the bones for stock.
–Place the meat in your food processor with a blade and pulse until the chicken is chopped evenly, but not a paste.  If you don’t have a food processor, you can chop finely with a knife.
–Place in a heavy-bottomed, medium pot over low heat with the hot sauce, butter, and brown sugar.  Stir occasionally until the butter is melted, and the mixture is hot.
–Serve with shredded carrots and lettuce leaves and make into lettuce wraps or lettuce cups.  Drizzle each cup/wrap with buttermilk ranch dressing.

If this doesn’t make your mouth water, then you hate America

OMG.  A perfectly delicious recreation of the buffalo wing experience, only with more meat and sauce, lower calories (by far), no frying smell, no waitresses in slutty orange shorts and titty shirts and more vegetable goodness.

I beg you to try this.  If it makes you feel more authentic to eat them wearing orange shorts and titty shirts, then by all means! It’s good enough to warrant a special “wings outfit” for sure.

My buffalo wing sauce is the best buffalo wing sauce on the planet.  Ever.  So these should be the best low-cal buffalo wings on the planet.  Basically.  Except for the not-wings part.  And they’re still messy in a very satisfying, dripping way.

Problem one: Buffalo Wings

Wrap it up, stuff it in your craw, feel good about yourself for eating healthy

SOLVED.

P.S. You should definitely Google the self-defense mechanism of sea cucumbers.  It’s the exact same self-defense mechanism that human males use to protect themselves from human females.

Toasted

I’m not what you would call “jiggy” with antiquing.  I like shiny new things, clean lines, modern styling, and efficiency.  But my basement?  Is a different story.  My basement transports you directly to Hogwarts, complete with an owlery, a common room, a potions classroom, and a Ravenclaw bedroom.  I? Am a GIANT nerd.  And with all things Harry Potter, you pretty much have to embrace oldness. Embrace the ancient castle feel, with musty old surroundings, antiques gathering dust, stacks of clutter that come together to make a magical whole.  And it made total sense when my mom got me, for Christmas, an item for the basement that I’d been coveting from a local odds n’ ends store.

It’s a toaster.  A “Swinger” model toaster, no less, which is pretty cool because the heating element (live coils) is just out in the open, and then you swing the little bread compartment to switch the side of the bread exposed to the heat. 

What’s really remarkable about this toaster is that it was made in the late 1920s, and IT STILL WORKS.  It can still be plugged in, and it can still toast your bread.  And the only possible complication with operating a device from the late 1920s is that it was manufactured before such frivolities such as “safety protocols” and “litigation.”  Also, it’s rusting, which may result in lockjaw.  And the fire cord is covered in nylon, and not necessarily up to fire code, so it’s possible/probably that your house will burn down around your ears and you’ll lose BOTH your precious toaster AND your bread.  And maybe the family dog.  But it won’t matter, because you’ll be so amazed that a toaster from that era still functions at all, let alone safely or well.

A short 7 years after this toaster was born, a sweet baby boy came into the world.  That baby boy was named Ronald Ernest Paul.  Because it was the Great Depression, and last names don’t come cheap, nobody was particularly bothered that the little boy had three first names and no last name.  No big deal.

My sister and I have a larger age gap than Ron Paul and that toaster.  This is a true fact.

But far be it for me to rule him out solely because he’s rusty, lacks basic safety information, and will likely set my country on fire?

Instead, let’s focus on the raw brainpower that he still possesses in his late seventies!  And how he’s not at all doddering!

Ron Paul “True” Facts:
–The world is 4000 years old.
–We should abolish the department of education, leaving bankrupt states like California to educate their children via morse code and paper bag puppets
–Drugs should be legal, but the government shouldn’t hand out flu vaccines
–Global warming is a hoax
–We shouldn’t have laws regulating legal currency
–95% of black men in D.C. are criminals
–Mexicans are animals
–Gay people should stay in the closet forever
–MLKJr Day is “Hate Whitey Day”
–The moon is made of actual cheese

Just kidding on that last one.  But that’s the ONLY one I’m kidding about.

Obviously Ron Paul makes total sense.  So does this dish!  Pasta a la Paul.

Please, don’t be confused.  This isn’t a dish about my ex-boyfriend Paul.  He made more sense than Ron Paul, even when he was trying to explain to me the rationale behind trying to smuggle marijuana into jail (something he actually did, and received a felony for, and then was BAFFLED by).  But at least he understood gay rights.

This dish was a beautiful amalgamation of lots of things that shouldn’t have been so delicious together, but it was so good that I can see EVEN MORE than 7% of the voting population of Florida enjoying it.

-4 cl garlic, sliced thinly
-1 lg onion, large dice
-2 T butter
-1/4 C white wine
-1 C green olives, chopped
-1 preserved lemon rind, chopped
-1 juicy lemon
-1 T honey
-a pinch of saffron powder, or a larger pinch of saffron threads
-2 bone in, skin on chicken breast halves
-salt and pepper to taste

-In a large, heavy skillet, saute garlic and onion in butter until golden brown.
-deglaze with white wine
-add everything except for the chicken and saute for another 2 minutes
-place chicken breasts, skin side down, onto the pan, making a space in your vegetable mixture. 
-add enough water to fill the pan 1/2″, reduce to medium low, and place lid on the pan.
-Cook for approximately 45 minutes, adding water as necessary to maintain a level of 1/2″ liquid in the pan.
-Remove chicken and set aside to rest.
-Cook fettuccine according to package directions, making sure it’s al dente
-Toss pasta with veg mixture and a bit more butter.
-Serve it up!

Yellow is okay.  Brown and black? Criminals and animals.

Who cares that it’s a nonsensical mishmash of cooking styles and flavors?  Who cares that it shouldn’t taste good?  It really, really is fabulous and a great idea and you don’t have to use an ancient toaster to make it, so that at least safes it up a bit.

The preserved lemons have a really deep, interesting flavor that I haven’t had before but loved.  And the saltiness of the olives and musky glory of the saffron kept it jumping in my mouth, bite after bite.

You see, by eliminating all rules, regulations, and common sense, I’ve been able to create an America dish that you’ll be happy to eat, and that your family will love.  The ones that have survived the influenza outbreak, at the very least.

Oh, and if you’re having trouble locating preserved lemons, you can either make your own (I preserved the lemons the wrong way–packed in only salt–and they still turned out fabulous), or visit a Middle Eastern grocery.  Ron Paul is definitely okay with the Middle East.  In fact, Israel “should be the Hong Kong” of the Middle East.  Winning, Dr. Paul.  Winning.

Do you think Ron Paul would like to come live in my basement?  I need a life-size Dobby replica, and he’d be PERFECT.

Dobby the House Elf

Dr. Ron Paul