WHEW I’m beat, friends A few days ago I went to the last-ever Pearl and the Beard show, and it was bananas. In good and bad ways, that is. I think I’m getting too old for the standing-room only situation, especially when that room is packed with 600 people who are all rabid fans and think pressing up against you will get them closer to the stage. I mean, I love me some good music, but when the woman behind you gets kicked out for “wanting to just dance for everyone” and ends up instead shoving everyone around her, you kind of lose your taste for the small-venue game. Oh, also, it was pouring that night and I almost slipped into two different piles of garbage while walking down a narrow street to and from the venue. It’s the universe telling me to slow it way down, guys. (The show was still ridiculously fun and I’ll miss that band like hell. But I am outta the game, folks.)
Speaking of being old, let’s talk fancy drinks. We’ve already talked about snacks to keep us going while we’re cooking our respective feasts, now it’s on to the boozy booze, people! I’ve finally perfected the autumnal cocktail of our dreams (our includes all of my of-age drinking buddies. no babies allowed from this point on, sorry ya’ll! Tomorrow’s post will be fun for all ages, promise).
This is a pretty simple twist on an Old Fashioned that incorporates some Thanksgiving favorites. It’s easy and can be easily doubled or tripled if you’ve got guests and you’re feeling generous. I’d highly recommend it as your signature cocktail if your friends are bourbon people. Also, if your friends are bourbon people, have them call me please. We can be homies.
1.5 ounces ounces of bourbon (W.L. Weller is my absolute favorite)
Splash of water
Fresh cranberries for garnish, optional
Place sugar and lemon wedge in a cocktail shaker and muddle with a wooden spoon until lemon fragrance fills the space around you. Add in pumpkin butter, bourbon, water and a few ice cubes and shake until fully mixed. Pour into a tumbler glass and serve with ice and cranberries if desired.
Ok, so, this is POTENT. It’s delicious, but boy is it strong. Drink with caution and make sure you’ve got a designated driver/biker/razor scooter operator nearby to escort you home. Old people priorities, guys.
You know how they always say that television is super healthy for your soul? They say that. Someone does. Well who cares who “someone” is? Readers, meet Television, my new BFFL.
And what, you might ask, am I watching? Well, given that I am uncool and often at least a year behind all of you hippy dippies, I’m on series one of The Great British Bake-Off, which is easily now my all-time favorite cooking-based competition show. Everyone on this show is so damned nice, and I’m amazed/worried over how emotionally attached I’ve become to every single contestant. Perhaps this says more about my current emotional state than it does about the quality of the show, but NO MATTER! You all need to be as obsessed as I am. This is the kind of show that could make a cold old soul like this one melt like buttah. I mean, there’s a freaking seventeen year old who is owning the season so far, and I’m too busy rooting for her to jealously question my own life choices. The show’s got HEART, people!
How was everyone’s Halloween? We ended up, at the very last minute, deciding to go to a friend’s party, which made me realize just how old I’m getting. I pretty much threw a tantrum at the thought of leaving the apartment after 8pm. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have even let the house until close to midnight, and these days I’m griping to my boyfriend about going to a party. That someone was kind enough to invite us to join. I’m a terrible human.
Yup, that’s correct, I pulled out the old three-minute Princess Leia costume and Jimmy decided to be… Luke Skywalker. And then, to prove to all the other guests that he was Luke, I present to you the above. Disturbing on all of the levels, yes. I never promised you a rose garden.
What can I promise you? Panna Cotta! Panna cotta is a sometimes annoying but mostly easy, quick dessert that, when done correctly, can impress your friends/best friends/television. I decided to add booze to mine, because what else would you expect from me?
Rum Stracciatella Panna Cotta (makes 3 to 4 servings)
lightly inspired by
1 cup of half and half
1 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 packet of powdered gelatin (about 2 1/2 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons of water
2 to 3 tablespoons of dark rum, optional
handful of chocolate chips
Place water in a medium-sized bowl, then sprinkle gelatin evenly over water and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
In a medium saucepan, heat heavy cream, half and half and sugar until sugar is dissolved– it needs to be hot, but do not let the mixture come to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and rum. Set aside.
Lightly oil ramekins, tumblers, tea cups, or whatever other heatproof container you’d like to use to serve these. I used all three because I wanted to figure out which would be prettiest, and also I used the tumbler because I was afraid my panna cotta wouldn’t unmold. This is a trust circle guys. It’s important to be honest.
Stir a handful of chocolate chips into your hot cream mixture and stir lightly just until the chocolate melts and leaves a lovely spotty, ribbony pattern. Pour this mixture over your gelatin, and stir until the gelatin completely dissolves. And I mean completely. The first time I made this I didn’t realize my gelatin hadn’t completely dissolved and I was left with a delicious but messy custardy thing that fell apart as soon as I tried to unmold. I was PISSED. Once it’s completely dissolved, pour into your receptacles, and chill for 2 to 4 hours, until set.
Now you can totally leave these in your ramekins/tumblers if you’d like, but if you’re looking to unmold them, run a very thin knife around the edge of your panna cotta, place a plate on top and invert.
No matter how you decide to eat these… oh em gee, ya’ll. It’s a wonder. Believe it or not, the rum does not overpower these and instead gives them a nice caramel-like finish. These are also pretty quick to prepare and make quite a nice treat for your party guests/self. I just had one for breakfast. Ok, no I didn’t. I had two. I had two for breakfast. Like I said, circle of trust.
First off, THANK YOU for all of the birthday wishes, every single one of which warmed my normally cold, deadened heart. The ol’ 2-9 started off with bagels from my favorite shop and ended with a creepy lady tickling my neck at a Brooklyn cocktail bar. I swear all of this is true. Even the stuff about the bagels. As much as I like to complain, I’m very aware of how… interesting life can get.
…But back to the complaining for a second, because that seems to be a point of fascination for many who read this. I wish I could explain what it’s like to go through a blue spell. The thing I understand the least about depression is that not everyone experiences it. Life can seem great to outsiders and you can still feel totally stuck, sunken, sucked of energy. Some people cry a lot. I cry a lot- sometimes over The Office, sometimes because I panic and dry-heave unattractively over what my next move in life will be. Sometimes I freak out over how easy things seem for other people that feel completely impossible for me. You know. Totally normal stuff.
So yes, there’s that old problem that I imagine many of us face– because my imagination is that vast and uninhibited– but that I just can’t seem to get anyone else to talk to me about. I mean have you amazing folks all really figured out how the hell life works?! Am I really that maladjusted that the frightened/suspicious side-eye is now everyone’s resting face around me? How are you all so… so cool?
I guess we can blame my sad spell on the change in weather, or Stamos, but there are other factors that I’ll be brave enough to talk about after this blog post, because they’re difficult emotions and there is some booze in this. I was bored and feeling down and had a can of coconut cream to use up, so here comes some Pina Colada Pie.
Pina Colada Pie (makes one 9-inch pie)
For the graham cracker crust
6 graham cracker sheets, finely ground
1/3 cup of butter, melted and cooled
For the Pina Colada filling
1 14oz can of cream of coconut
1 cup of pineapple chunks
1/2 cup of sugar
1 1/2 cups of shredded coconut
To start, preheat your oven to 350°F and set aside a 9-inch pie plate. For the graham cracker crust, mix together your cracker crumbs and butter in a small bowl, then press evenly into the bottom of your pie plate. Send into the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned.
Set aside to cool while making your filling. For the filling, you’ll need a large, large bowl and the ugliest/baking-est clothes you own, because this is messy.
Mix together your coconut cream and pineapple chunks, then, using a hand mixer or stand mixer on medium, mix in your sugar. Be warned that if you did not heed my earlier advice about the bowl and ugly baking clothes, you will be finding pineapple chunks for a long time in places you did not know your kitchen had. Maybe it’s better to use a blender for this. (I never promised genius-level tricks here guys, just posts about how sad life is and PIE.) Beat in eggs, one at a time, then add in your salt. Fold in shredded coconut until evenly distributed– batter should be runny.
Pour into pie plate and send into the oven until pie is set and the sides are lightly browned, about 45 minutes. Leave to cool, because… SURPRISE! We’re making Rum Meringue! I know! I love you too!
To brown your meringue, set your oven to broil.
3 egg whites
1/3 cup of sugar
3 tablespoons of dark rum
In a very clean, dry bowl using equally clean, dry beaters, whisk egg whites using a mixer on high speed. Beat until soft peaks begin to form, then gradually add in sugar until peaks become stiffer. Beat in rum until fully incorporated, then gently spread evenly on top of pie using a rubber spatula. Carefully place under your broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, until the top is lightly browned.
So you’re all like “LOL that’s not lightly browned!” Well, fine, but to be fair I’m still a little traumatized from that time I set a S’mores cake on fire. You’ll be better, I know you will.
Anyway, you’re going to want to serve this cake either at room temperature or cold, and then…
Sweet mama. It’s like a pina colada nestled inside of a hug. The rum from the meringue gives it just enough of a boozy treat feeling, and the filling tastes like vacation. Yup, yes, I am sticking to that. Must. Make.
The above very important, very official, bored-certified (because I’m bored, nyuk nyuk, waka waka) chart is currently hanging on the wall of my cubicle. This and the Star Jedi font I use in my email signature have both improved my 9 to 5 experience and certainly solidified my title at work as Strange And Now Also Apparently Frighteningly Nerdy Bitchy Resting Faced Indian Woman Who Sits Near The Exit. So it goes.
Where would you rate yourself on this chart? I think Gonzo, Beaker, Sam the Eagle and the Swedish Chef all have me pretty much covered these days, with a little Statler and Waldorf thrown in for good measure. All the great ones, amiright?! Fine, yes, I am clearly feeling pretty blue today (Sam the Eagle! Sam the Eagle!), and am very obviously trying to avoid talking about why. It could be because I don’t completely know why, and it could also be because all of the many reasons could fill an Encyclopedia Britannica book (probably the “F” one, because… F word) and the Encyclopedia Britannica is very similar to my problems in that it is OLD NEWS, HONEY. I know right, that was such a burn on me. Would we count that as an own-goal, guys?
Sometimes an event that doesn’t have any direct impact on your current life can affect you in profoundly sad, surprising ways. In my case, that event was the sudden death of an old friend whom I had in recent days only communicated with via Facebook. And she was much better about keeping up with me than I was with her, and I feel guilty and stupid and sad and horrified and angry and shocked about how much this has bothered me. It’s not something I have spoken about with anyone, really, except for my sister, who also knew this person and who was also very sad and shocked. The theme of the past half-year or so seems to be loss, with two family members, a beloved professor and this sweet old friend all passing away and me kicking myself for not being better about being there for people. Because, to face facts, I am pretty terrible at keeping up with loved ones, and I know why. I’m shy and introverted and spend a lot of time sad, and spend probably as much time trying to be less shy and less sad, which means a lot of time for unattractive self-involvement and very little time for other people. It’s very, very dumb of me, and I am now in the process of beating myself over this nonsense “I’m going to get myself 100% normal and together and THEN catch up with all of the people I love” mindset, because it is pure garbage. No one has it completely together, even if FOMO-friendly Facebook would lead me to believe otherwise, and the sooner we all open up and actually talk to each other about what is really going on, the better. And damnit, I am going to get better at it.
The other thing I’d like to get better at is baking. You would think that many, many years of it would improve my skills but… well… let’s let the pictures do the walkin’.
So, I spent a few weeks pretty pissed off that I seemed to be in something of a baking-related funk. I mean, sure, everything above tasted pretty good, but it all looked god-awful. My dad’s cake pops were more like cake tumors. The Tatooine on Jimmy’s Star Wars cake looked more like circa-1990s Rockaway Beach after a particularly rough night. It was bad. So bad that I decided to just drown my sorrows in more jelly shots. Yup.
Margarita Jelly Shots
2 packets of unflavored gelatin
1 cup of boiling water
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of lime juice
1 cup of tequila (I used Herradura Silver because yum)
Sea salt, for sprinkling (optional, but totally recommended)
Before you ask, yes, the recipe testing for this was SUPER fun.
Pour water in a large, heatproof bowl and stir in sugar until dissolved. Sprinkle gelatin over water and allow mixture to cool just slightly. Stir in lime juice and tequila and continue to whisk until no gelatinous lumps remain. Pour into molds and refrigerate until set, about two hours.
Sprinkle salt on top of jellies just before shooting.
I realize there are a lot of shots of my boyfriend’s hand lovingly tilting these toward the camera, and that is because I am in LOVE with these jellies. They’re strong as hell, which means NO driving/heavy machinery operating/polka dancing on rooftops after consuming, but they are so, so refreshing and perfect for your summer party, to which you should totally invite me because I will bring these and also attempt to be social and normal. Possibly.