Saturday, December 20, 2008

Raw, adjective: 10. not diluted, as alcoholic spirits: raw whiskey.



Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: freeeeeezing
Mood: rosy
Music: old-skool Indigo Girls

Yeah, so I'm sitting here listening to the "Best of" Indigo Girls and it feels like the aural equivalent of wrapping up in a big ratty cozy old blanket and curling up by the tree drinking hot chocolate with serious amounts of marshmallows melting in it.  While wearing sweatpants.  In front of a fireplace.  I'd forgotten how comfortable and tight their harmonies are.  I could wail along to these chestnuts on perpetual repeat.

Tried to hook it up with a somewhat-holiday-inspired recipe today, since it's really the last Saturday before Christmas.  And after doing a little research, I managed a melange of a few recipes that I think will sufficiently echo the feeling of the season.  So, pour yourself a hot brandy and let's make a

CHERRY EGGNOG BUNDT CAKE

Mmm, yes.  I'm not so much for eggnog, but you know, when in Rome; and it's definitely that time of year.  So I picked some up yesterday, figured out how to throw in some extra rum and spices and whatnot, and added some fruit flavor to the recipe.  It's somewhat cobbled together, but it's in the oven by now and everything's looking fine, so we'll go with it.

INGREDIENTS

1 (18 ounce) box yellow cake mix
1 box instant vanilla pudding 
1/2 cup vegetable oil 
2 eggs 
1 1/2 cups eggnog 
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons rum extract
1 can cherry pie filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour your bundt pan.  Combine dry cake mix with required oil, eggs, eggnog, nutmeg, and rum extract.  Mix for several minutes; pour half of the batter into the greased pan, top with a layer of cherry pie filling, and cover with remaining batter.  Bake for approx. 1 hour; remove and cool on a wire rack before turning out to cool completely.

I baked this in the spiral heritage pan, so am just going to make an eggnog glaze to emphasize the shape.  Your glaze looks like this:

2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon rum extract
3 tablespoons eggnog

Just combine in a medium bowl and drizzle on top of cooled cake.  Sprinkle with a little more confectioner's sugar for a snowy feel. I sprinkled a handful of chopped dates and dried cherries on top for effect, and added a few sprigs of lunaria and eucalyptus, as well.

And there's yer holiday cake.  Cheers.

Recipe courtesy (in part) this cooking message board.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air

Odds and ends for you on a chilly Thursday morning.  

Bartended last night and it was a veritable testosterone wonderland.  All tall strapping dudes at the bar buzzing with holiday brews, with two very happy chicks slinging drinks in the middle of the cacophony.  I couldn't believe my good luck.  Would that every night was like the last.  I think it was the fresh mistletoe that I wrangled from our doorway and brought along with me to christen the bar after it served us well at our holiday party the evening before.

Ice skating action is in the stars for today, and I feel like an 8-year-old kid strapping on the skates for the first time.  They've got an ice rink set up in Union Square this year (in addition to the usual one that graces Justin Herman Plaza), and my, how things have changed from the days when you used to just go skate on the bumpy frozen-over lake on the edge of town.  Check out this site, where you can buy tickets, reserve skates, and get your own chunk of time all before you even leave the house:  Union Square Ice Rink.  Hello, convenience.

Love it.  And only $12.  I'll be there every day through the new year.  Did any of yous college types take the ice skating curriculum offered at the University of Delaware when you were there?  So, UDel had this major ice-skating training facility, where Olympians like Oksana Baioul used to train.  And as a result, they offered excellent beginners' courses (for college credit, no less!).  In lieu of taking something intelligent and theoretical, I did some killer coursework in how to fall gracefully on the ice, and how to stick my leg 45 degrees in the air while skating.  Money well spent, fer sure.

That's the extent of this mid-winter, pre-solstice round-up.  Holiday season in the air.  Cocktail party's come and gone, chocolates fully stocked on every countertop, Christmas cards arrived from the printer and ready to go out in the mail.  I'll take it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.


Just read a review of this new book this morning, and I'm totally charmed by its conceit.

In the throes of a mid-life crisis, this guy, Jasper Rees, decided to pick up his old French horn 22 years after abandoning it, with the goal of performing a Mozart concerto at a public festival.  In the process, he did all kinds of research on this notoriously-difficult instrument; his book sounds like a veritable love song to the French horn, albeit one rife with the frustration that's often a part of any good love affair.

[This strikes me as brilliant, btw.  Why do we leave instrument-learning to 10-year-olds, who quickly abandon them when they realize they'll get more chicks playing on the soccer team than hauling a trombone around??  Are we so afraid of looking a fool as a beginner again at a late age?  And why don't we tell those kids that trombone will be a chick-magnet in 10 years if they just stick out the band-nerd phase?]

Maybe it's because I've been flirting with the idea of doing the same thing with my old silver trumpet, but I just loved reading about this book; something about the condensed musical goal, this very tangible little mid-life adventure that has nothing to do with red Ferraris or 22-year-old trophy girlfriends, is so endearing.  Lately lurking in the back of my mind has been a similar urge to wail on the old horn again and wear some sequins and pearls and front a little jazz combo, singing "Just In Time" between toots on the trumpet.  One of those things I want to check off my list before getting wrinkly and decrepit, fer sure.  (Um, let me know if you know any standing bass players looking for a chick to stand up front and look cute.)

Anyway - here's the link to the Chron review.  Check it out.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Raw, noun: 13. unrefined sugar, oil, etc.



Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: coooold
Mood: sugary
Music: Nina Simone

So suddenly it's bundt cake Saturday, and bundts are the last thing I've thought of this week.  After a rather intense one, I needed something fast, easy, and preferably smack in front of my face.  Luckily, the little sis read my mind, because she intuitively sent a quick and rich recipe yesterday just in time for me to scramble to come up with a bundt.  Thanks, Mari.

My thoughtful friends Jay and Sylvia surprised me last week with a bundt-o-ganza holiday package, bursting with glazes and mixes and a bundt thermometer (!) and, most excitingly, a little gadget called the Tunnel of Bundt.  (Yes, my life is pathetic.  You don't need to say it first.)  It's actually this metal insert that you bake with the cake, and once removed, it leaves a "tunnel" in the cake which you then fill with something rich and delicious like custard or pudding or ice cream or what-have-you.

So I knew I wanted to break that little puppy in, but I needed a quick recipe to make it happen, so I combined a few things and whipped up this chocolate overdose.  It should succeed in making anyone who eats it immediately diabetic.  (Great, Rach, just what you're going for.)  In the meantime, it was fast, easy and it looks kind of cute all wrapped up with a bow.  So without further adieu, let's make a

CHOCOLATE CHIP TUNNEL OF FUDGE BUNDT

Yes, I said "tunnel of fudge."  It's not officially fudge; it's more like frosting with chocolate chips and edible glitter, but whatever.  It'll work.

INGREDIENTS

1 box yellow cake mix
1 box instant vanilla pudding
1 box instant chocolate pudding
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups water
4 eggs
1 bag chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour your pan.  Mix cake mix, pudding, oil and water for two minutes.  Add eggs and mix for one more minute. Fold in chocolate chips by hand. Bake for 1 hour; cool for 10 minutes in pan and then remove.

Mine didn't need to bake that long; it was done in about 45 minutes.  It also overflowed the pan because of the Tunnel of Bundt insert, which resulted in burning cake on the bottom of the oven.  Nice.

Anyway, so I removed the cake and did all the cooling and inverting and whatnot, blah blah blah.  It's a little fragile because of the insert, but it worked fairly well (make sure to grease it, as well), and after the cake cooled I filled the tunnel with the above-mentioned combination of frosting, chocolate chips, and edible glitter.  Ridiculous.

Frosted the finished product with a whipped milk chocolate frosting, sprinkled a few mini chocolate chips on top, and wrapped it up with a red holiday bow that I had sitting around the house.  And that's that.  Easy.  Cute.  Sugar bomb.  What more could you want?

Recipe courtesy my sista.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.


Dishy stuff from the folks over at Newsweek, and just in time for the holidays.  You can bet your britches that the "Christian" conservatives have got their panties in a bunch.

We can usually count on these mainstream mags like Time and Newsweek putting out a satisfactorily-bland religiously-themed issue around the holidays.  Slap a pretty picture of the Virgin Mary on the cover, write some inoffensive crap about how Jesus was maybe really born in the summertime, the issue sells reliably, and the writers get some time off for the holidays.  This year, not so much.

You've gotta give Newsweek serious credit for having the balls to publish this piece, and on the cover, no less, knowing it'd be popping up on subscribers' coffee tables across the country.  Lisa Miller's straightforward piece (no pun intended) arguing that the Bible in fact supports gay marriage is about as rational and non-inflammatory as you can get when discussing this topic; she so ably discredits claims at biblical literalism and moves right on to the real heart of the issue that you hardly even realize she's written off the vast majority of Prop 8 supporters whose faith is misguidedly and blindly rooted in a backwards belief in biblical literalism.

Of course this has set off a media firestorm.  And you've gotta know that Newsweek anticipated that, too.  What I love is that Miller makes the same arguments here in this mainstream rag - the same one that millions of people will walk by and ruffle through while they wait in line at the grocery store and the gas station - that tons of progressive theologians have been making for years, while those supposedly inflammatory arguments sit collecting dust on bookshelves in obscure libraries and bookstores where the only people who actually read them are dorks like me and people who already believe biblical literalism is bunk.  So here's Miller putting it in easy-to-read layperson's terms on the cover of a mainstream national magazine.  Killer pulpit.  I love it.  Bring it.  Any way you can.  Period.

Read the article.  I appreciate its ultimate emphasis on inclusion - "The practice of inclusion, even in defiance of social convention, the reaching out to outcasts, the emphasis on togetherness and community over and against chaos, depravity, indifference—all these biblical values argue for gay marriage," - which of course strikes at the heart of the hateful exclusionary motives behind conservatives' fight against gay marriage.  Miller does well to point out the parallels between this current issue and the civil rights and race-based exclusionary arguments of the past.

People want to love each other, in the context of a societally-approved institution.  That's it.  Really not so difficult to understand, or affirm.  I'll be interested to watch the firestorm continue to develop.  This issue is not going away anytime soon.  (And thanks to MLS for sending.)

Our Mutual Joy (Newsweek)
A Religious Reaction to Gay Marriage (Newsweek blog collection of responses from The Crazies)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Raw, adjective: 10. not diluted, as alcoholic spirits: raw whiskey.


Yup - it's officially cocktail season.

The Chron and the NYT seem to agree, as they keep running cheesily superficial (albeit interesting) articles on cocktail action.  More interesting to me is this piece about the increasingly hot champagne cocktail.

This is true.  Definitely the way to go right now.  Beyond the basic champagne cocktail (sugar cube, bitters, and bubbly with a lemon twist), which is pretty much classically stylish, that is.  You've got creative ways to run with it, interesting liqueurs, fresh juices, local bubblies.  Check out the stash of recipes they include.  We've been making the one with elderflower and ruby red grapefruit (ahem, that would be "The Raquel") for awhile now.  But I could really go for the one with pomegranate and Cointreau, too.

The NYT made its attempt to hit up the seasonal cocktail buzz with last week's round-up of the supposed 8 types of bartenders.  Now, I don't know about all that - reads to me like a desperate attempt to shape a trend piece out of, well, not much - but the various regional shout-outs are interesting, and the comments about general bartending trends right now do hold a few nuggets of truth.

Read up to prepare for your holiday cocktail tippling.


Raw, adjective: 8. brutally harsh or unfair: a raw deal.


Saw Milk last night.  Wow.

All those glowing reviews you've been reading?  Yeah, well, there's a reason for them.  It's stellar.  Compelling.  Heart-wrenching.  Inspirational.  And Sean Penn should definitely be walking home with a Best Actor Academy Award, if there's any justice in the universe.

Beyond the eerily-relevant political topicality of the whole thing, it was entertaining to see some local haunts popping up onscreen now and then.  Gus Van Sant and crew did some nice work in incorporating the real SF into the making of the film.  

Please go see it.  Take Kleenex.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture


Ode to the Velvet Tubetop

We're hosting our annual holiday cocktail party next week, so I got up this morning and started checking projects off my list for the big to-do.  It was quiet, other than the unfortunate alto wailing upstairs, and I sat at the kitchen table and did a little mending before dropping a few things off at the dry cleaner's in preparation for the party.

Debussy's Clair de Lune - one of my all-time favorites, despite the fact that after seeing "Ocean's Eleven" I'll always associate it with Carl Reiner and the Bellagio fountains - came on, and I sat there threading my needle, and realized that in my constant effort to find true-blue real earthy forms of moving meditation, I'd forgotten about sewing.  How fucking calming is that.  I realize now why the old matrons in antebellum movies are happy to sit on the veranda and mend socks.  Because, damn, is it zen.  

So the needle went in and out and up and down and I thought about time passing and how funny it is on a Monday morning in early December how much life can look like the past and how little it can, all at once.  I've got this regular holiday get-up, see; it's this sort of vaguely-catsuit-ish little velvet number that I bought for a formal in 2000 - yes, that would be 8 years ago, and MFord, you were there, if you remember - and I've worn it ever since, once a year, really, for some holiday function or another, as there's really no other appropriate occasion for a ridiculous black velvet piece with some boning in the corset and a tight skirt and a little black feather ruffle around the hem.  (Yeah, I told you it was campy.)  It's so Julie Newmar, I can't even tell you, especially when you throw on a wide black belt (or red, like one year) and some black pumps.

Like Sasquatch, like Nessie, the black velvet tubetop dress sneaks out once a year for its token annual appearance, and then it gets thrown back into the closet to be trotted out again the next December.  And for having seen as much champagne and brie and pine needles as it has, it's holding up remarkably well, other than the little feathery trim that needed to be sewed on again this morning.  Not bad for having survived quite a few holiday parties, a wedding or two, one Halloween, and exactly one choreographed performance of "Oops, I Did It Again."  

So this morning I just sat there, Debussy on repeat, needle up and down, up and down, and felt so sentimental about this stupid little velvet thing.  It could tell a lot of stories, this little black dress.  (Thankfully, it can't.)  But here it comes out of the dusty corner of the closet again, and it'll do its duty again this year, and in spite of all the transience that is simply being alive, and in spite of the skin and the cells and the muscles underneath that will change across the years, it's still this consistent thread drawing itself across time, beginning with that first hasty purchase in preparation for a surprise Britney Spears performance.  And how often can you really say that about something?

Do you have things like that?  Frivolous, insignificant; cheesy or campy or definitely not in good taste, but endearing and enduring, consistent across the changing houses and hombres and hairstyles?  There's something to be said for it.  A secret little relationship you've got with this trifling little thing that's quietly witnessed so many moments of your life.

I may not be able to squeeze into this sucker when I'm 60, and it'll probably be hopelessly out of fashion then anyway, but I'll be damned if I don't go down trying.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.



Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: Christmas-y
Mood: cozy
Music: Ellington

And it's an Ellington kind of morning, in every way.  There's a saucy, sauntering version of "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" swinging on the stereo right now, and the light's still weak.  I dig it.  And am feeling pretty ready to get the buried old trumpet out of the closet, mute that sucker and get my lip back.  Ellington was such a badass.

Thought we'd do a little December-y recipe this morning, something a little lighter and more simple than last week's heavily-frosted German Chocolate cake.  And I wanted to try out the Bavarian mold again.  So, inspired by thoughts of sugar plums, I did a little digging for an appropriate recipe, and though I did eventually find a sweet little plum recipe, it gradually morphed into something else equally fruity and particularly seasonal.  So let's go ahead and make what I hope is a delicious

GINGER PEAR BUNDT CAKE

Mmm, yeah.  The cake is nearly ready to pull out of the oven and I'm liking the way the ginger makes the house smell like gingerbread cookies and Christmastime.  It's a good combination of fruit and spice.  This is certainly not your frou-frou Martha Stewart version with fresh-cut pears and a hunk of ginger that you bought in Chinatown at dawn.  Erm, no.  This is more like, what can I make half-asleep that will taste good and not be high-maintenance and sit on my countertop ready to be made with minimum drama?  Also known as: lazy.  So that's what you're getting.

INGREDIENTS

1 (18.25 ounce) package moist yellow cake mix
1 small package instant vanilla pudding 
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 (4 ounce) jars organic pear baby food
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour your Bundt pan.  Combine the cake mix, pudding, vegetable oil, eggs, pear baby food, and spices. Mix for 2 minutes.  Stir in raisins and pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. 

I didn't expect it to really take an hour to bake, but so far, it's been about 50 minutes.  I think instead of sprinkling it with confectioner's sugar as recommended I'm going to make a little brown sugar/ginger glaze for the top.  

Combine 1/3 cup brown sugar, 2 T melted butter, 1/4 tsp ginger, and a little water and stir on the burner just until it liquifies.  Drizzle the glaze over the cake as it cools.  And you're all set.

I had a few rosehips yet on their last legs (this is it already with the rosehips, I promise), so I stuffed a little bouquet in the center of the cake and placed a few dried peony petals around the outside to finish it.  Must. Be. Pretty.

(Oh, and in keeping with last week's somewhat creepy German Chocolate martini, I found another alcoholic version of this cake: the Ginger-Pear Martini.  Holy syrup.)

Recipe courtesy (in part) divinerecipes.com

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture


I got all soft and smiley this morning reading Christoph Niemann's twee little art blog on the NYT.  Check it out.

It's a memoir of his coffee history, created on paper napkins and drizzled out in pen and coffee stains.  Totally charming.  Read the blurbs underneath and appreciate his quiet yet funny voice.  Even better, read the many, many comments that follow, all from various readers throwing in stories of their own coffee amor.

I found this while sipping on my own morning brew, reading the news in the shadow of the twinkling white lights on the Christmas tree and listening to the radiator spew hot water to my left.  A pretty great December morning.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Raw, adjective: 5. crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste: raw humor.

Oh, wow.  This is hilarious.

Check out this latest video from Funny or Die, "Prop 8 - The Musical," featuring Jack Black as Jesus Christ, John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph, Margaret Cho and Neil Patrick Harris.  It nails every aspect of the local community theater production, right down to the overzealous piano player and the hackneyed choreography.  And the lyrics are so smart, you'll want to watch it twice to catch them all.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

You've gotta love the way this emphasizes the cynical spin on the whole issue; i.e., not the fact that the passage of Prop 8 represents a denial of civil rights, but that it effectively eliminates the huge local economic windfall that would come from expanding the wedding industry to include a new chunk of eligible betrotheds eager to throw down for some china plates and lavender streamers.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.


Saw this article in the NYT last week, and after a weekend heavy with stuffing and feta cheese and bundt cakes, it was the first thing I thought of on waking this morning.  Now all I want is a nice counterbalance of greens and veggies and simplicity.  (This whole "season structured around consumption" thing doesn't do much for me.)

So I revisited this short recipe for fennel and celery salad, and it looks super easy, refreshing, and incredibly healthy.  I mean, even I can make this, painlessly, and with no cooking involved.  Read the quick article (including excellent suggestions for additions and alternatives) and take a few minutes to watch the accompanying (and surprisingly funny) video.  You might learn a little something about a gadget called a mandoline.

(Also, did you know fennel is on the list of WH Foods?)

Fennel (WH Foods)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Raw, Idiom: b. Informal. in the nude; naked: sunbathing in the raw


This is so smart.

In this season of economic downturn, Planned Parenthood of Indiana is offering holiday vouchers as gifts.  What a great idea!  When people are struggling to meet their basic needs and health insurance especially is at a premium, what better and more practical gift than to provide a gift certificate for birth control, or an annual check-up, or whatever else you're feeling like snagging from the Planned Parenthood around the corner.

Now that is the kind of gift I can get behind.  How thoughtful.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Raw, noun: 13. unrefined sugar, oil, etc.


Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: grey
Mood: coconutty
Music: Mascagni

The City's so quiet this holiday weekend, it's amazing.  No wannabe-American Idol singers upstairs, no barbecue-ing dudes below.  The two cute little girls from the Chinese family downstairs playing badminton with Gramps outside on the sidewalk yesterday were the only signs of life thus far.

Managed to avoid entirely the Union Square shopping hordes yesterday.  If I hadn't known it was Black Friday, the day would have gone completely unnoticed.  Did you see that ridiculous fake field goal attempt in yesterday's NU-CU game?  Erghh.  Those boys were doing everything they possibly could to lose that game.  A nailbiter, fer sure.  I was bartending and happened to bond with another old-school Nebraska dude (emphasis on the old).  I think I may have a future with a 40-something named Randall should I choose.  Erm.  Yeah.

Anyway, bundts!  Ok.  To be honest, this weekend I'm baking 3 cakes in 4 days, and I'm a little concerned about bundt burn-out.  Between Thanksgiving and my good buddy's birthday today, I'm spending a lot of early mornings in the kitchen.  So I wanted a recipe that was, frankly, easy and mindless, something delicious that would look good without taking a lot of thought or effort.  And I thought I found that in this simple

GERMAN CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE

But little did I know there was such a wide world of German Chocolate action out there!  Do a quick Google Image search and your jaw will drop at the vast expanse of possibilities.  Then go here, for instance, for an LA Times story on the world of German Chocolate, or go here for the alcoholic version (a "German Chocolate caketini," the typing of which makes me twitch a little bit involuntarily).  Apparently my lazy mentality isn't going to cut it.  I already made this recipe on Thursday for Thanksgiving, but today, inspired by these beauties, I'm going to try to fancy it up a bit.  

We'll be employing the new Bavarian-style mold today.  Unfortunately, with the frosting you won't see much of it, but oh well - there will be other weeks.  Let's get going on this with some 

INGREDIENTS

1 (18.25 ounce) box German chocolate cake mix
1 box chocolate instant pudding
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups water
4 eggs
1 teas. vanilla
1/2 jar Milky Way ice cream topping (or caramel, etc.)
coconut pecan frosting
chocolate frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a Bundt pan.  Combine first six ingredients and beat for 2 minutes.  Pour into prepared Bundt pan and swirl Milky Way ice cream topping through batter.  Bake for 50 to 55 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes and then turn out onto wire rack.

The original simple recipe I found didn't include vanilla, so I threw that in and added more pudding than it called for, too.  I found a ridiculous squeezable caramel topping that I just swirled onto the batter before throwing it in the oven.  (Where was this sticky-sweet action when we were kids?!)

Settled on the simple coconut pecan frosting, and picked up some chocolate, as well.  Thursday I cut the cake in half and layered it with the coconut pecan, but it was kind of a hot mess, and weirdly-shaped when I tried to reassemble it, so today we'll just slather it on top, cover the sides with chocolate, and call it good.

Add a few extra dollops of chocolate on top, and cut a few sprigs of rosehips and eucalyptus from the arrangement in your living room.  And voila.

Recipe courtesy (in part) www.divinerecipes.com

Friday, November 28, 2008

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture

Wow, am I glad I'm not standing in line somewhere right now waiting to buy a Tickle-Me-Elmo.



10. take a yoga class
9. read a book
8. sing
7. go for a walk
6. make a cake (or waffles, or dinner)
5. go to a cafe and people-watch
4. read the newspaper
3. plant a garden
2. volunteer somewhere
1. play an instrument

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Raw, adjective: 5. crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste





        Do you like my pilgrim outfit for today?

        It goes well with bundts.

                        ~

        Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.


Once again YJ has pulled through with another perfectly appropriate little reminder before tomorrow's gorging hits.  Take a few minutes to read this article before you sit down to the dinner table; it draws some smart parallels between eating and yoga that I really, really dig.

The holidays are understandably maybe not the best time to make big changes to your diet, but there are a few bits of smart advice here that might make the difference between you feeling ready for a turkey trot after dinner or passing out on the sofa to the drone of college football.  Hale Sofia Schatz hits on some of the biggies for a more content bod: eat fruits alone, lay off on the heavy proteins, avoid the refined shit, and don't mix grains with fruits, especially.

It sounds like a pain in the ass, yeah, but there's some ancient wisdom here in terms of the general systemic health (and happiness) of the body as related to its core, the digestive system.  Seriously.  Your mental and emotional and spiritual states are so related to what you put in your body.  Enjoy tomorrow, eat a lot of delicious shit, but keep in mind that you might feel a lot better Friday morning if you follow a few of these basic guidelines in keeping your digestive fires burning.

Raw, idiom: 14a. in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.


Yesterday I picked up an armful of eucalyptus on my way out of the grocery.  I've been on a eucalyptus kick for a few weeks now; the unique foresty scent really fills up your home, and it's a broad and strong enough green that it fills out a vase nicely, too.  But I wanted something to arrange with it, something holiday-ish and unique, so I wandered outside to the flowers on the porch in search of hypericum.  Instead, I found myself face-to-face with rosehips.

Did you know rosehips look almost identical to holly berries?  At least, to this relatively untrained eye they do.  Before last night, I'd never seen rosehips in their natural state; I'd only read of them often on the back of my tea bags, or seen them listed in ingredients for herbal tinctures.  So here you go.  Rosehips.

Turns out they're wildly healthy and really useful for things like syrups, wines, jellies and jams.  And of course, great for steeping your own tea.  These puppies are apparently rich with Vitamin C, iron, and antioxidants.  Who knew?!  

There's a very adorably provincial website here called Backwoods Home Magazine that's got a charming little article on rosehips, including how to pick them, what they're good for nutritionally, and a recipe for a killer rosehip pancake/waffle syrup.  Delish.

Raw, adjective: 5. crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste





            Get ready.  I have a new bundt.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.


SO somewhere in the midst of all the turkey-stuffing and the pie-making and the champagne-drinking and the Jackman-watching and the buying-nothing this week, there's a little something about thanks-giving going on.  And even though we usually take a few obligatory moments to acknowledge what we're grateful for (blue nail polish made the list for me for several years in a row in the late 90's; now, it's usually more like plants and babies and my own juicer), that brief moment of consciousness is quickly eclipsed by the initial dive into the sliced tofurkey.

Philip Moffitt, always reliable for some sage wisdom, has an old piece on gratitude that was highlighted in my YJ newsletter the other day.  And it's worth your time.  The thing is, it's not this cheesy Pollyanna shit about being grateful for mashed potatoes or whatever, but it's about the deeply serious tradition of mindfulness and the gravity and calm of gratitude in the midst of suffering.  Read this blurb:
Let me be clear: The practice of gratitude is not in any way a denial of life's difficulties. We live in troubling times, and no doubt you've experienced many challenges, uncertainties, and disappointments in your own life. Nor does the practice of gratitude deny the Buddha's teaching on death: Death is certain; your death is certain; the time of death is unknown; the time of your death is unknown. Rather, gratitude practice is useful because it turns the mind in such a way that it enables you to live into life or, more accurately, to die into life. Having access to the joy and wonderment of life is the antidote to feelings of scarcity and loss. It allows you to meet life's difficulties with an open heart. The understanding you gain from practicing gratitude frees you from being lost or identified with either the negative or the positive aspects of life, letting you simply meet life in each moment as it rises.
Whew.  Yeah.  You can see that this is pretty wrapped-up in Buddhist notions of mindfulness -similar to Pema Chodron's notion of pause practice that I mentioned a few months ago - and it's certainly not something that should be resigned to one day a year and bracketed by turkey and cranberry sauce.  Moffitt's article hits on the shift in consciousness that is being mindfully grateful, the actual practice of changing the way you see the world such that you understand the depth and complexity of everyday events and don't get so caught up in the miniature dramas of daily life that you lose sight of the bigger picture (ergh, pet peeve).  Like, you bitch about the fact that your feet hurt from being on them at work for 8 hours, but you forget how great it is that a) you have a job, especially in this economy, and b) your legs work to use them, and c) you even have legs in the first place.  Um, yeah.  Talk about a perspective shift.

But this does take practice; it doesn't happen overnight.  And you've gotta do it consciously, enlisting the variety of wisdom traditions Moffitt highlights in this brief essay: Thoreau and the Transcendentalists, Rumi, the Bible, all of it.

Read the piece.  It's a good mindset to slip into at the beginning of this Thanksgiving week.  And might keep you from getting lost in family drama when Aunt Hilda asks you for the fortieth time when you're going to have another kid, or when the pumpkin pie you pull out of the oven slips out of your hand and plops all over the floor, or when you can't find an open liquor store on Thanksgiving to save your life.  It's all perspective, my friends.  All of it.

Selfless Gratitude (Yoga Journal)

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air


It's been awhile, but once again it's time for another installment of that semi-regular series, Cool Hippie Shit You Should Really Know About.   Today, we have

PAPAYA! ART

Those of you who find my handwriting in your mailboxes from time to time might recognize this image at left.  It belongs to the beautiful artwork of a homegrown company called PaPaYa!, and their work is sold at the Whole Foods up the street from me.  That means that usually when I'm weaving my way from the produce section towards the kombucha aisle, I make the obligatory stop to twirl the card spinner and load up on a good ten or twenty bucks' worth of beautiful cards to pop in the mail at whim.

Happily, it's the kind of cozy grey day here perfect for discovering things one might not otherwise have a moment or two to stumble upon.  Which is how I ended up finding - imagine that! - PaPaYa!'s website this afternoon.  A veritable treasure trove of glittery art and jewel-toned visuals, it's really worth your time, and your money, too.  Especially in this economic moment, it feels good to support well-intentioned small companies like this one.  Dig in.

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.


Ok, so I know this will out me as a closet softie, but I cannot wait to see Baz Luhrmann's new epic, "Australia."  What with the big opening Wednesday, the press has hit a premium, and all these shots of a bescruffed Hugh Jackman driving cattle along epic horizons are leaving me pretty much in a perpetual state of swoon.

Some of you know about my, erm, "thing" for Mr. Hugh.  Dreamboat central.  Have been enamored since catching him (twice) as Curly in the West End revival of Oklahoma! back in 1999.  Dude can sing.  And swagger.   It was clear then that he was in for a hot career.  And he hasn't disappointed.

Anyway, so in spite of the fact that Nicole Kidman and her chilly demeanor do little for me, I'm really looking forward to this film.  War, romance, period costumes, killer scenery, excellent accents, and the aforementioned Mr. Jackman.  You can count on seeing me at the theater Thursday night trying to fight off the food coma from the afternoon's feast. 

The Chron ran a quick interview with Jackman in yesterday's Datebook.  It's a good tease before the film opens later this week.  Enjoy, and please control the drool.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture


People!

Buy Nothing Day is this Friday!  I know you've been counting down since last year.

I won't be shutting up about this after today, but let's at least plant the idea in your mind as you go about your business this week.  Why don't we start off today with a simple link to the main campaign headquarters (courtesy of Adbusters), where you can find all you possibly want to know about how to best create a traffic-blocking shopping cart conga line at Wal-Mart this Friday.

Then, read the cover article on the economic crisis from the latest issue of Adbusters: "One week before Buy Nothing Day focuses the attention of activists around the world on the perils of overconsumption, groundbreaking economist, Herman Daly, zeroes in on the root cause of our financial meltdown."  No words spared here, friends.  They call it like they see it.

The Crisis (Adbusters)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Raw, adjective: 10. not diluted, as alcoholic spirits: raw whiskey.



Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: sunny
Mood: sleepy
Music: Imogen Heap

Good moooo-rning.  I just pulled the cake out of the oven, and the house is smelling killer, like a fresh lemon-scented Windex just cleaned the whole place, except it's not cleaning supplies, it's cake, and you can eat it, and that lemon zest isn't fake chemicals but is instead real-life-lemon-peel.  Excellent.

It's officially bourbon season now.  I'm not much of a bourbon person, never have been, but something about the chill in the air come late November into January combined with the holidays and the idea that if I were living somewhere else a little drier and further north I'd be rocking the heavy winter coat and slipping on ice whenever I went outside makes me want to drink a nice warm bourbon now and then.  Maybe a little Maker's and ginger, perhaps.  A cozy snuggle with some whiskey or even scotch if I'm feeling really ambitious.   

The urge always passes once the holidays are over and January's resolutions hit, but in the meantime, it's nice to indulge.  So this morning we're making a recipe with a nod to the onset of bourbon season, combined with one of my favorite fresh flavors.  Let's get on with it and make a 

LEMON BOURBON BUNDT CAKE

I found this recipe from someplace called the "whisky guild," which strikes me as hilarious unto itself, but anyway.  I tweaked it a bit, adding a few things there and changing some others up, so here's the recipe I ended up with:

INGREDIENTS

1 package lemon cake mix
2 small packages instant lemon pudding
4 eggs
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup Bourbon
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour bundt pan. Stir cake mix and pudding mix in large bowl to blend. Beat in eggs, then milk, 1/4 cup whiskey, oil and lemon peel. Mix nuts into batter. Transfer to prepared pan. Bake cake 45 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool with cake in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire cooling rack.

I had walnuts on hand here already, so I substituted those for the pecans called for.  We've got a massive CostCo-sized bottle of Jack Daniels that, natch, has sat untouched in our liquor cabinet probably since last year's holiday cocktail soiree, so I figured this would be a good way to make a small dent in it.  

You don't really need an icing for this one. I made a simply whiskey glaze and drizzled that on top of the warm cake. Just melt 1/4 cup unsalted butter, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup whiskey in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat until the butter melts, the sugar dissolves, and the whiskey bubbles through, about 5 minutes. Then just spoon it over the cake.

I was surprised by the amount of glaze that little recipe made.  Was a little worried that the cake would be swimming in bourbon, but since there's not a ton in the batter itself, the glaze will do good things for the flavor, methinks.

On the way home from the post office while the cake cooled, I stopped off to visit the orchid man around the corner.  Usually I just stand and ogle his $16 stems, but today he hooked me up with a little handful of sweet dainty white flowers.  He doesn't speak much English, so I don't know what they're called, but they're delicate and their scent reminds me a little of freesia.  And IMHO, they make all the difference in turning an otherwise-blah-looking finish into a nice sweet aesthetic.

And there's your finished cake.  A nice twist on the usual lemon recipe.  Doesn't hard liquor make everything better?

Recipe courtesy www.whiskyguild.com

(And for those of you to whom this means anything, this cake - what with the lemon zest and the bourbon - is in honor of our boy Tom F., who's leaving us too soon.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air: a raw, foggy day at the beach.


Two quickies for you this morning, a little food-for-thought on an early Friday when the heater's humming and the coffee pot's brewing:

The NYT has declared that hats are "back."  Well, duh.  I could've told you that.  The best purchases I've ever made have been my collection of cloches.  I'm besotted.  I kind of hope everyone else fails to catch the train, though.  I don't like sharing my sartorial obsessions.

And Mark Morford, one of my favorite regular Chron columnists, has a good column this morning questioning the conventional wisdom that it's better to buy than to rent.  Now, obviously, part of that is probably due to the fact that he's a city dweller in a city where you've gotta rake in millions in order to buy something bigger than a postage stamp, but at the same time, I think he's got a point.  We've heard so much about homes being the failsafe investment, and in these last few years, I think we're realizing that might not be so true after all.  But beyond the economic factors, I think Morford's onto something else here, too; something about fluidity and dynamism and flexibility and not being tied down, something about the more secure (read: fearful?) aspects of the American dream.  There's something to be said for the kind of freedom and ability to wander sans-mortgage.

Have a great Friday.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.


The Times tells me there's another Woolf literary adaptation for the theater onstage right now.  Little good that does me, given that it's running at Lincoln Center and only through the end of the week, so I suppose I'll have to be content with reading Ben Brantley's review.  

As conflicted as I was about Berkeley Rep's attempt to bring To the Lighthouse's stream-of-consciousness beauty to the stage, I still claim intrigue at these adaptations.  By all accounts, it sounds like this newest version of The Waves actually somewhat succeeds.

Brantley writes that "the world that is so magically summoned in this improbable page-to-stage translation of 'The Waves,' Virginia Woolf’s most challenging novel, is one of fragmentation and flux, of impenetrable solidity and ghostly transparency, of simultaneous bloom and decay."

You know that shit is good when even the review leaves you breathless.  As I get older and see with more ambiguous eyes the ways in which relationships and the natural trajectory of life and aging inhabit exceedingly fluid and dynamic grey spaces, my appreciation for Woolf's complex and moving prose increases.  Even more amazing is her prescience; The Waves was published in 1931, and yet all of these themes that reviewers mention - fluidity, "moments of being," the construction of identity and the fundamental interrelationality of the self - emerged in the kinds of process theologies and queer theologies that were only elucidated in the 1960s and beyond.  I guess that's part of what always drew me to theology in the first place: the ways in which its reflections on "being" and "meaning" take on such poetic and literary qualities, in ways that philosophy or science or even sociology never quite can.

Woolf was so remarkably ahead of her time.  I can't help but wonder if that brilliance was part of what made it so hard for her to be alive.

Read the review, see the show if you're in the neighborhood, and check out the preview piece that was published in the NYT last week while you're at it. 

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.


Tao Te Ching, Chapter 56

Those who know don't talk.
Those who talk don't know.

Close your mouth,
block off your senses,
blunt your sharpness,
untie your knots,
soften your glare,
settle your dust.
This is the primal identity.

Be like the Tao.
It can't be approached or withdrawn from,
benefited or harmed,
honored or brought into disgrace.
It gives itself up continually
This is why it endures.

~  Translated by Stephen Mitchell

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.


Quickie interview with Jim Wallis in this morning's Chron.  You know Wallis as a progressive voice in the Christian media, and as such, he's an interesting dude to check in with after the election.

Wallis makes some good points about social justice and the youth vote as related to abortion and gay rights issues.  He also brings up the fact that it might just be good for the conservatives to be forced to re-group; in so doing, they'll have to redefine their platform outside of the meat-and-potatoes abortion and gay issues that have been corralling the party of late.

Wish he'd have been a little more forthcoming in endorsing Obama, but you've gotta take what you can get, and if this guy continues to get airtime in speaking views that contradict with most mainstream Christians', I won't complain.

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.


As we try to restructure our mental lives sans election drama, post-mortems keep popping up here and there in the media.  I'm not so much one for contrived "grand narratives" attempting to explain huge social shifts evidenced by the events of the last few years, but I found this piece from New York Magazine to be a fairly concise but on-point round-up of the gender politics involved in the Hillary-Sarah phenomena of the '08 election.  

The article is called "The 'Bitch' and the 'Ditz'," which pretty much sums up its key points.  Read it for a decent collection of conventional wisdom in the fallout from 18 million cracks being made in the glass ceiling.

I still don't believe Hillary was ever electable, but I'm intrigued by these latest buzzings about her being offered the Secretary of State position.  We'll see what happens after Obama's people finish vetting Bill, but in the meantime, it seems like a decent opportunity for this elder stateswoman to make her own way.  

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Raw, noun: 13. unrefined sugar, oil, etc.




Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: summery (!)
Mood: thoughtful
Music: silence...

It's been a bit of a wild week here.  I'm working toward a huge writing deadline (that actually came and went a day or two ago), and playing catch-up has meant living in front of my laptop when I am not stretching into Trikonasana or shaking martinis.  No time for any other reading or writing that doesn't involve some combination of the words "late-capitalism," "soteriology," "shunyata," and "erotic celibacy."  Um, yeah.  Erghh.

So the bundt distraction this morning has been a welcome respite.  I'll return the nose to the grindstone as soon as the cake cools, but for the time being, baking has been a refreshing change.  

Bundt Cake Bliss tells me that Nordic Ware at some point decreed that today, November 15th - of all days, even a Saturday this year! - is National Bundt Day.  Yeah.  Do with that what you will.  Make sure to mark your calendars for this very important annual holiday.  Start shopping for the bundt pans you're going to give me in observance next year.  In the meantime, we'll celebrate with a rather unusual recipe, one I've crafted a bit on my own with the help of a recipe I found online.  It's been four months already that we've been rolling with this little bundt experiment, and nearly 20 cakes in, I think I'm starting to get the hang of this.

So let's pull out the spice rack and bake a 

CARDAMOM SPICE BUNDT WITH DRIED CHERRIES AND PISTACHIOS

Mmm, some of my favorite things.  The cherries and pistachios in this recipe made it an automatic winner, and considering that I've got a $16 bottle of cardamom sitting in my spice cabinet waiting to be loved, I figured I'd take advantage of the opportunity to learn a little more about this native Indian spice.  I found a recipe and tweaked it a bit for the sake of convenience, since time is of the essence this week.  

INGREDIENTS

1 box yellow cake mix
2 small boxes instant vanilla pudding
1/2 c vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 c sour cream
1 teas cardamom
1/4 teas cinnamon
1 1/2 teas vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
1/2 cup dried cherries
Confectioner's sugar for serving

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Grease and flour bundt pan, making sure to tap out excess flour.  In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding, oil, eggs, sour cream, cardamom, cinnamon and vanilla.  Blend well for several minutes at a medium speed.  Stir the cherries and pistachios into the batter in the bowl, then spoon into the cake pan. Smooth the top of the cake with a spatula if necessary.  Place the cake in the preheated oven and bake for about 45 to 50 minutes, or until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool the cake in its pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack, remove from pan, and continue to cool.

Not super difficult, but a sweet-smelling batter (nice and thick, too), some interesting spices, and a nice balance of fruit and nut.  The cake's got about 10 minutes left in the oven yet, and the cardamom scent is swirling nicely, so I think things will turn out just fine.  

No icing on this one; I think it's almost more appropriate as a simple breakfast coffee cake, so we'll hold off on the thick frosting this week.  I may just drizzle it with confectioner's sugar and a few dried cherries and pistachios to seal the deal.

That's about it, really.  Enjoy the flavors, and read up a little on cardamom - supposedly great for digestion, colds, coffee and chai flavoring, and even as an aphrodisiac.  Sweet.

Recipe courtesy (in part) about.com

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.


You saw this article in the Times yesterday, right?  The one about how the South is increasingly politically obsolete in the wake of last week's election?

There's some interesting shit going down here.  Not only is the traditional "Southern strategy" showing its irrelevance, but the race factor involved in why certain parts of the South turned so red can't be denied.  Read to the end of the piece for some alarming quotations from people who had no problem being named discussing their fear of "outbreaks" from "aggressive" blacks in the wake of Obama's election.  !!!

Unbelievable.  Further convinces me that the Republican party is increasingly a refuge for anti-choice, anti-diversity, Christofascist reactionaries.  No wonder McCain lost.  You simply can't win as a representative of a party so rooted in backwards social values unless you claim them 100%.  And the addition of the token Palin didn't do enough to reel those voters in, in spite of their racist fears of the supposedly Muslim-affiliated Obama.

Sigh.  

(Can you tell I'm not quite over the election yet?  There's a politics-shaped void in my morning reading these days; strange after so many years' devotion to the outcome of this particular race.  But let's not even discuss the recent Palin interviews splashed all over the media.  We will definitely be hearing more from her, whether we want to or not.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.



(Belated) Bundt Cake Saturday!

Morning: actually, it's afternoon
Mood: mellow
Music: the cars on the street down below my bay window

Ok, so it's a few days overdue, but whatever.  The Obama afterglow still shines.  And since this recipe was all about encouraging All Things Blue in honor of election night (and Jinny's birthday) last Tuesday, the lingering periwinkle vibes still apply.  And hopefully will continue to do so for the next four years.

So in honor of the new Prez and the several election parties that were graced by my champagne-addled presence last week, I give you a  

BLUEBERRY CREAM BUNDT CAKE

I've never really baked with blueberries, and most recipes tend toward the cobbler or pie variety.   So here's a twist.  Because your other options for "blue" cakes are pretty, well, bizarro, tending toward strange children's renditions of Cookie Monster and relying upon eerily vibrant food coloring action.

INGREDIENTS

1 package yellow cake mix
2 small packages cheesecake pudding
1/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups blueberries lightly coated with flour to keep them from sinking to the bottom

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan.  In a large bowl, stir together cake mix, pudding and sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in eggs, cream cheese, oil and vanilla. Beat on low speed until blended. Scrape bowl, and beat 4 minutes on medium speed. Stir in blueberries. Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

The original recipe I found for this didn't include pudding, but the last several months have taught me it's a key ingredient for a moist cake.  So in the first version that I made, I added cheesecake pudding; in the second, vanilla.  Both worked well.  I'd probably choose cheesecake the next time I make it, though.

Given the cream cheese in the cake batter, I assumed that only cream cheese frosting would be appropriate.  The first cake - for Jinny's birthday party that night - I sprinkled with edible blue, red, and silver glitter.  The second - the one pictured here that I took along to a shindig - I decorated with deep red Gerber daisies.  I really loved the striking contrast, and felt a little like Martha Stewart.  The red was the closest thing to a McCain solidarity shout-out that I came all week.  Gotta feel a little bit sorry for the old loser.

Feedback on this recipe seemed particularly positive.  That might've had something to do with the fact that most people who ate it were already feeling pretty giddy about the results of the election (also something about cocktails laced with blue curacao), but whatevs.  I'll take it.

Definitely a recipe to keep in your files for future use.  It's equally good as a summery treat and a morning breakfast cake served warm with coffee.  And the beautiful blue swirls accompanying the berries in the finished cake lend their own pretty aesthetic touch.

So here's to blue: states, presidents, and cocktails!

Recipe courtesy divinerecipes.com