Oh, Canada! (Or How to Make a Bacon Old Fashioned)

While Americans are getting ready to celebrate our independence on Thursday by launching explosives into the sky and burning the tips of our fingers off with sparklers, our neighbors to the north are already celebrating their independence today. July 1 is Canada Day, and as such I’d like to take a moment to recognize all of the wonderful things the neighbors to the north have given me like maple syrup, malt bread, and Carly Rae Jepson.

Actually, it also gave me my mother and her fabulous family, as well the opportunity to make an ill-advised Fendi purchase at the Duty Free in Windsor while legally intoxicated at 19 years of age.

photo-376

#drunkendutyfreepurchase #ididdumbstuffincollege #toomanyloonies #istillwearit #rationalizationsrule

In addition to marveling that I’m still wearing that watch five fifteen years later, I’ve also been reflecting on the many differences between my homeland and that of my mum today.

Without getting too bogged down in philosophy or ideology, I think it’s sort of like this: America is like the older sister who had to break in her strict English parents so that her little sister had it easier when her time came to rebel. We had to sneak out of our bedroom late at night to see a boy throw a temper tantrum in the Boston Harbor over the tax on tea so our parents were prepared when our younger sister nicely, politely, with her hands folded asked, “May I please be excused from the table?” 100 years later.

At the risk of sounding like an American a$$hole, I’d like to say…

You’re welcome, Canada.

I really love you. I do. So today I honour you by putting an unnecessary “u” in that word, and by pouring the maple syrup my grandmother purchased in Ottawa into my bacon-infused bourbon to make a bacon old fashioned.

Bacon Old Fashioned from Dogs Dishes and Decor

Behold, there’s bacon in my bourbon.

If you want to make your own, you can find the recipe here. In a vain attempt to make it a little healthier and slightly more Paleo-friendly, you could cut back a bit on the maple syrup and use reduced sodium bacon. Or you could say, “Screw it. I’m just going to put all kinds of unhealthy stuff in my body right now for fun. And not stressing about it will be better for me than any attempt to make it healthy.” #sothere

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sip my unhealthy concoction, crank up the Call Me Maybe, and scour the internet for a malt bread recipe, ‘cuz you just can’t find that junk here and it’s made of amazing. I’d pay Fendi-level Loonies for it….

Oh, and just in case bourbon’s not your bag and you’re looking for another way to get your maple syrup on, check out this recipe for flourless maple cookies on Things My Belly Likes. They’re gluten free and #iwanttomakethem.

Bloody Mary’s in the Land of Badgers (Or How to Make the Best Bloody Mary)

My senior year of college, my roommate, Becky, and I went to Madison for the Michigan vs.Wisconsin football game. I made many more trips to Madison after that one, but having Becky by my side for that wild weekend is one of my favorite college memories.

Barry White tunes, tasty Bloody Mary’s, late night burritos, and beating the Badgers were basically the highlights of the trip. To this day, I can’t listen to What Am I Going to Do With You – or drink a Bloody Mary – without thinking of the fall of 1999.

The Bloody Mary at State Street Brats is particularly fabulous, and it was a staple that weekend. They garnish the cocktail with a dill pickle, and as a result I am convinced a pickle is a prerequisite for a Bloody Mary.

My love of pickles is well documented, by the way. Becky will tell you. I used to roam the halls of our sorority looking for someone who wanted to order a sub sandwich just so I could have a pickle delivered to Pi Phi. She’ll also tell you lots of other things about living with me – like how I used to make her dance to the Beastie Boys in our bathrobes, how we’d read each other’s course packs aloud so we didn’t have to do our own reading, or how I’d use a pile of clothing on the floor as a pillow during all nighters so I wouldn’t fall asleep.

She could also tell you other things that are not fit to print. This is a family kind of blog.

Or something.

Let’s just let this poor boy sleep in blissful ignorance. He doesn’t need to know I used to dance on furniture. K?

So, anyway, back to Bloody Mary’s.

I experimented with some recipes I found on the Absolut site, and riffed a bit based on what I had in the house. I came up with this version I like. You can find more Bloody Mary recipes here.

Bloody Mary
Makes one small drink

4.5 oz vodka
4.5 oz V-8
1 dash of ketchup
2 dashes of soy sauce
2 dashes of Worcestershire
2-3 dashes of salsa picante
1 dash of olive juice
2 dashes of pickle juice
1 pinch of black pepper
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
1 olive, finely diced
1 jalapeno slice, finely diced

Dill pickle for garnish

Place all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice cubes and shake. Pour the contents into a glass and garnish with a dill pickle.

The ratios are approximate and can be adjusted for personal taste. I add more pickle juice because I’m obsessed with pickles (see above). The ketchup sounds redundant since you’re adding V-8, but it’s not. It adds a hint of sweetness that nicely compliments the spicy and sour elements.

What is your favorite Bloody Mary recipe?

Share links!

Let’s Hear it For New York (Or How to Make a Manhattan)

It’s hard not to think about where you were on September 11, 2001. I had just moved across the country for grad school 22 days earlier, and I was only half awake when I heard the caller on a morning radio show say, “When the second plane hit the tower…”.

I had close friends in Manhattan that day, and I won’t pretend to understand the magnitude of the loss or terror they experienced. I didn’t lose anyone dear to me. I only lost a sense of security, a sense that my country was too powerful to be vulnerable. Yet, still it haunts me.

In the days and months that followed, I will admit I questioned what I was doing so far away from my family. Today I find myself reflecting on that same question and thinking about my friends in New York. Thinking about the time I have spent in that city, and the experiences I’ve had there.

Here I am at a cafe somewhere between midtown and the east village on my 30th birthday. Let’s pretend I just turned 30 this year, K?

I find myself at a crossroads of sorts today. My career has been a wild ride, complete with some truly unexpected turns, and my relationship with Los Angeles has been a tumultuous one at times.

So tonight while I reflect on the past and look ahead to an uncertain future, I will do it while sipping a Manhattan. It seems only right.

If you find yourself in an Empire State of Mind, here are two variations on the Manhattan recipe.

This is a “Perfect” Manhattan, and I’m not saying because I’m an amazing bartender or anything. I’m saying it because that’s what you call the drink when you have equal parts sweet and dry vermouth.

Perfect Manhattan

2 oz whiskey
½ oz sweet vermouth
½ oz dry vermouth
dash of Angostura bitters
orange zest, to garnish

Stir alcohol with ice before straining into a chilled martini glass. Add the garnish and serve. (I must admit I sometimes skip the orange zest because I don’t always have oranges in the house.)

This version? With the cherry? It’s the sweet kind.

Sweet Manhattan

1 ½ oz whiskey
¾ oz sweet vermouth
dash of orange bitters
maraschino cherry, to garnish

Stir alcohol with ice before straining into a chilled martini glass. Add the garnish and serve.

Tonight, I’m going with the Perfect Manhattan, and I just might crank up Sinatra’s New York, New York while I’m making it.

There’s Booze in my Bon Bon! (Or How to Make Spiked Cherry Bon Bons)

This is my friend Tony.

Here we are on Thanksgiving. Giving thanks.

Tony is from Tennessee. And Tony makes moonshine. No, really.

See? Real legit moonshine.

He has a company called Ole Smoky, and they have been featured at the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen and all kinds of other fabulous places. Even though Tony couldn’t come to my birthday party this year, he sent some of his amazing moonshine cherries in his place. (Almost as awesome as having Tony at my party. Almost.)

The cherries are great by themselves and in cocktails, but I was looking at them this week and thought, “I must put these in chocolate.” So that’s sort of the genesis of my spiked cherry bon bons. (I also look at Slurpees and think, “Vodka!”, but that’s just me.)

If you don’t have access to Ole Smoky, you can soak maraschino cherries in vodka for 24 hours and use those. I tried both versions and I have to say the moonshine cherry variety was a little more subtle than its vodka soaked friend. I’m not just saying that because I love Tony. (For real.)

So anyway, if you want to make your own spiked cherry bon bons, here’s how you do it.

Spiked Cherry Bon Bons

Serving Size, 12 bon bons
(measurements are approximate)

12 moonshine cherries
12 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
4 C vanilla ice cream
4 tsp shortening

Scoop ice cream with an ice cream scoop. Place a moonshine cherry in the center.

It’s essential to use a pig scooper to remind yourself not to eat all of the bon bons in one sitting.

Fold the ice cream around the cherry, forming a ball with your hands. Place immediately in the freezer. Repeat with remaining cherries.

After the ice cream has sufficiently frozen, melt the chocolate chips over a double boiler adding shortening, as necessary, to thin the mixture until it is suitable for dipping and pouring.

Dip the ice cream balls into the chocolate. If you find that the chocolate is not adhering uniformly, you can drizzle a little more chocolate on those areas later.

Immediately return the bon bon to the freezer and allow the chocolate to harden completely before serving. Repeat with remaining ice cream balls.

This boozy bon bon is all kinds of amazing. Truth.

This would probably work best with a firm ice cream (especially a homemade vanilla like this one).

I used a rather cheap generic vanilla and found that it melted faster than I would have liked. It still tasted amazing, though.

Now, crank up George Jones’ White Lightning, and go out and get you some moonshine. Now. Here’s a list of the places where you can pick some up.

Prince Harry, Pina Coladas, and Other Observations on Vegas. (Or I’m Looking for the Perfect Pina Colada)

Note to self: I need hurricane glasses. Pina Coladas just don’t look right when served in the wrong glassware.

You have probably already heard, but just in case you haven’t, Prince Harry’s blurry bum and bits are prominently featured on TMZ today. I mean, he was in Vegas, so it’s kind of, “Whatever. Leave the poor prince alone!” But it is the royal bum, so it’s breaking news. Or something.

(By the way, if you want to see the blurry pics of the prince, who apparently isn’t all that good at playing pool, here’s the link, but maybe don’t click on it if you’re at work.)

You’re welcome.

So, yeah, that’s all very different than my last trip to the strip. The last time I went to Vegas I had a large pina colada outside of Paris after a day at the pool and then promptly fell asleep snuggling with the dogs while watching TV.

The only available “glassware” for serving Pina Coladas outside of Paris were either this balloon situation or a large plastic Eiffel Tower that hung from my neck. I considered this the lesser of two aesthetic evils.

Clearly, I didn’t do Vegas right. I didn’t step on any burning cigarettes or broken glass while carrying my shoes across the strip at 7 am, I didn’t drop $400 on food in two days, and I didn’t play strip pool with a prince.

I mean, it should hardly even count as a trip to Vegas if about six girls aren’t washing their filthy feet in the spa tub at the same time and at least one person doesn’t play poker until dawn with an off season athlete. (And, no, that is absolutely not a euphemism.) But this was not that kind of trip. Not the kind that leads to dirty feet or royal debauchery, anyway.

After vacillating for weeks about meeting up with friends who were in town for a hockey tournament, I made a game day decision — like booked my room at 10 am and jumped in the car with the dogs at 11 am kind of game day decision. Obviously, I would never bring them for a wild weekend, but this was just a chill, catch up with friends by the pool kind of trip. Totally the kind for dogs. I should probably do a post on bringing dogs to Vegas because there are challenges, but it can be done, and I have the pictures to prove it.

Albus discovers that everything is super sized in Vegas. Even the cats.

Apparently, Albus has caught the scent of margaritas, quesadillas, and sin. This photo was taken moments before he tried to enter Margaritaville of his own volition.

So anyway, all of this TMZ talk of Vegas was really making me want a pina colada and some vintage booty music tonight, so I cranked up some bad 90s jams like Yolanda, Tootsee Roll, and Fatboy and pulled out the blender.

I mixed up a batch of pina coladas, and I have to admit it wasn’t life changing. I mean, it was pretty good and it wasn’t as cloyingly sweet as the crappy made from a mix kind, but I think I wanted more pineapple punch. Next time I’ll probably use fresh pineapple instead of the canned version in juice. I may even freeze the pineapple before mixing it and cut down on the ice so the drink will have a little more sweet pineappley pizzazz.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering: 68% of the TMZ audience? Now thinks Prince Harry is awesome.

(And, yes, I had to vote to find that out. I might have even voted twice. Don’t judge me. After all, I did hear about the royal debacle from NPR in the first place.)

Pina Colada

2/3 C light rum
2/3 C pineapple
2/3 C cream of coconut
3 C crushed ice

Add the rum, pineapple and cream of coconut and blend thoroughly. Add the crushed ice and blend completely.

To achieve a more uniform slushy consistency, I put the cocktail in my ice cream maker and let it do its magic for about ten minutes. That made it an awesome consistency.

If you have any other suggestions to improve upon the pina colada recipe, please hook me up. I need to find my perfect Prince Charming Pina Colada.

Gin, Grapefruit, and Gedrick (Or How to Make a Spiked Gin and Grapefruit Shake)

Sometimes when I’ve been spending too much time staring at my fat arm in the mirror and listening to The National, I realize I’m being a fragile, self-absorbed fool of the most neurotic order. When this happens, or when I have just generally lost the will to live, I put on Iron Eagle and cheer myself up. It took about 25 years and hundreds of viewings to figure out why I love the movie. Sure, it has a killer soundtrack, and massive explosions, and, yes, I have been in love with Jason Gedrick since I was nine, but it goes well beyond that.

I love Jason Gedrick so much that I watched Luck on HBO even though I had absolutely no idea what was happening on the show. Ever. (Photo courtesy of IMdB)

What I love about Iron Eagle is that it’s a story about a young man (played by Gedrick) who refuses to sit idly by when his father, a US air force pilot, has been sentenced to die in a foreign land. Instead of accepting that his own country has left his father to die at the hands of the enemy, Doug figures out how to basically invade the country by himself with the help of his friends. Sure, it’s wildly unrealistic, but so is the entire premise of Pretty Woman and people like that movie. (I am NOT one of those people. It’s OK if you are. We can still be internet friends.)

Doug is resourceful, courageous, and absolutely dogged. Sure, he’s a reckless driver and he’s a bit cocky and all that, but he also manages to make feathered hair look sexy somehow, so there is that. AND he has this total “I did it my way” Sinatra-sort of attitude that I have always identified with. (I recently realized it’s because I am a bit of a rebel myself.)

I feel compelled to digress for a moment and explain that I’m not one of those “Ra Ra, America! Let’s Go Blow Up the Middle East” kind of people. In fact, I’m rather peaceable and kind – except when I’m picking up family members up from the airport. Then I think the devil takes hold of me or something and I end screaming, swearing, and honking like a New York City cab driver. I am not proud of this, but we all have our faults. I digress….

So, anyway, there’s a great moment in the movie after Doug’s wingman, Chappy, has crashed into the Mediterranean and he’s heading into hostile territory without any air support. Alone and facing a cruel enemy, he plays the tape Chappy made for him in case of emergency. Chappy’s voice says, “Right now you’re probably filled with all the doubts in the world, but I’m going to tell you something. God doesn’t give people things he doesn’t want ‘em to use. And he gave you the touch. It’s a power you have inside you down there deep where you keep your guts, boy. It’s all you need to blast your way in and get back what they took from you. Your dad’s just sittin’ there waitin’ for a miracle, and if you fly your heart out, you can give him one. It’s up to you.”

This shit absolutely speaks to my soul. For real.

Here’s the scene:

So, the point of all of my rambling is to say that I’ve had a lot of time lately to think about what my “touch” is — or what my skills are — and how I can apply them to my next endeavor. I’m in the process of piecing all of that together at the moment. For now I’m just going to tell you how to make a spiked gin and grapefruit shake before I get too philosophical because one of my skills just might be bartending. (Kidding.)

These shakes are probably not a good idea if you’ve been staring at your fat arm, but maybe after a few of them you’ll forget you have arms at all.

If you are going to make them, I suggest putting on your happy movie and turning off The National because it’s probably a bad idea to drink away your sorrows… or at least that’s what the American Psychological Association would say.

Gin and Grapefruit Spiked Shake

1 ½ C vanilla ice cream
4 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice (from half of one grapefruit)
3 oz gin

Pour the contents into the blender and blend. You can make this a few hours ahead and put it in the freezer because the alcohol will prevent the shake from freezing completely.

The recipe is based on a pin from Better Homes and Gardens. Enjoy!

This Gin and Grapefruit Spiked Shake is almost as yummy as Jason Gedrick.

ALMOST….

Do you have a happy movie?

Too Tired to Write Up a Real Recipe (Or How to Make a Mojito)

Today my apartment and I are recovering from a midsized dinner party. This basically means my dishwasher and I are working overtime to remove the remnants of pork carnitas from the plates while listening to Patsy Cline and fantasizing about naps.

I promise I’ll post the recipes for the salsa verde, the slow cooker cola carnitas, and the guacamole next week, but I’m just not ready to do it now. See, I was so busy mixing drinks, frosting cupcakes, making rice, and talking and whatnot that I totally forgot to photograph the food I served. (Oops!) I’m going to repeat the menu for another dinner party on Friday (different dinner guests, obviously), so I’ll have a second shot at a food photo shoot then.

So anyway, today I’m going to tell you how I made the mojitos — partly because I’m just too tired to get into anything more elaborate and partly because a few of my friends asked for the recipe. If you’re wondering why I’m so particularly tired today it’s probably because I didn’t go to bed until well after midnight and then a certain impetuous puppy woke me up at 6 am to take him out…. He has no regard for my exhaustion because he sleeps all day long. Well, that is when he’s not trying to crawl into the lap of an unsuspecting dinner guest, pretending he’s a 65-pound lap dog. (I digress.)

Back to the mojitos. Mojitos are possibly my favorite thing ever, but they can go so terribly wrong that I rarely order them in restaurants and I NEVER order them in Vegas because I swear they make them with Sprite there. This is why I had to figure out how to make them on my own. (Note: the proper method does not involve Sprite. Lemons do not belong anywhere near a mojito. Ever.)

There are two ways I make them, and I outline them both below. I personally prefer the powdered sugar method, but that’s just me. I think the slight grittiness of the sugar helps to release the juice from the mint during the muddling process, and the increased surface area (compared with regular sugar) aids in the proper absorption into the drink. Enough with the chemistry lesson, though, and on with the drinking. The recipe is below.

Mojito Recipe

10 large mint leaves
2 T of powdered sugar (or 2 T of simple syrup)
2 ounces of fresh lime juice (from one medium lime)
8 ounces of soda water (1 cup)
3 ounces of white rum

Tear the mint leaves in half. Place them in the bottom of a sturdy glass or a cocktail shaker. Add either 2 T of simple syrup or 2 T of powdered sugar. Using a muddler (or the end of a wooden spoon), muddle/smash the mint leaves to release the flavor.

Squeeze the fresh lime juice into the glass. Add rum. Pour in soda water. Place ice cubes in a serving glass, and pour the contents of the cocktail shaker (or mixing glass) into the serving glass.

Drink. Smile. Repeat.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

*Simple Syrup Recipe

1 C water

1 C sugar

Pour the sugar and water into a saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar dissolves. Cool.