Saturday, December 26, 2009

Projects for Giving: Edible Gifts Finale!

We've got a few of these already packed gift boxes left, if you're local and would like to grab some up... let me know.  I'll let them go for $15 per box. 

Boxes purchased at

A small booklet with recipes and suggestions for how to use the items included in the gift box.
I guess, my first cookbook.  Perhaps someday a collector's item??


Graphics by Andreas Adamec, thread bound paper bag books by Scrapbook Supply Outlet on ebay


(tins and jars in this posting purchased from , recycled paper tissue, and recycled paper ribbon all purchased at )

BeeBee's Gourmet  Honey Mustard with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Garlic

Christmas has passed now, and the new year is soon upon us!!  The Pyrate, the Austrian, and the Butterfly all wish you a happy New Year and all the best to you and yours!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Delicious Stuffed Dates

 Stay with me... this is not a meal.  They are appetizers.  
You eat one, then move on to the vegetable tray!

I'm gonna make this a quicky because Christmas Eve dinner prep is at full throttle in the moment.  But I was asked to post a couple of hor d'oevresThese are so darn good you can't lose!  And pretty simple.  Evefy time I've made them, the response has been the same!  People pass by, curious, pick one up, bite into it, and first reaction is a slight wince of surprise as they don't expect this fusion of sweet, pungent, and savory.  Then the eyes close, the moan begins, the head shakes, and they won't be able to get to you fast enough to tell you how delicious they are.   You won't want to have more than enough for one or two per guest.  They are very rich, and sweet, and salty... You don't want people to overdo it and lose their appetite for dinner.  Once you've tried this my way, try it with dried prunes. 

(about 30 dates)
Make a slit in them on one side and remove the seed from each.
Mix together 4 oz of goat cheese with 4 oz of blue cheese
Then with a teaspoon stuff the cheese inside the dates.
Wrap each date in a small piece of bacon.  (i prefer to use vegetarian fed 100% natural uncured bacon...)
Pop these in the oven for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees farenheit.
(or until bacon is crisp and browned)
Serve hot!

How to Brine a Turkey (the best turkey I ever had!)

I'm gonna skip my usual recipe format and just write this one out freestyle.  I should tell you that the first time I tried this, it was with a 22 lb Turkey and I use instructions from the Nigella Lawson cookbook called Feast.   The process of brining is not necessarily about seasoning as much as it is about locking in moisture.  You leave the turkey in the brine for a number of hours, then remove it, wash it off thoroughly, and then continue to regular cooking. 


The first time I did this, after the brine, I stuffed garlic cloves and rosemary under the skin,  and stuffed oranges, apples, lemons, and pears into the cavity, gave it a bit of fresh ground pepper, brushed the skin with a bit of olive oil and popped it in the oven to bake!  When we sliced into that turkey, it was soooo juicy!  The juiciest turkey I've ever had.  The Austrian, who doesn't really like turkey because it's relatively dry and fatless, was converted!  And at the end of dinner there was nothing left but a skeleton.  

There's something about the combination of salt, sugar, maple and vinegar that transforms the turkey, causing it to form a seal that holds in the juices and you almost cannot go wrong.
Make a note of your time schedule.  Proper brining takes about 1 hour per pound of turkey, so figure in how many hours you need to brine your turkey, then start it exactly that amount of time prior to the time you need to get it in the oven to roast.  You'll need to know how long you need to cook your turkey according to how big it is. 

I'm using two 12 pound turkeys this year.  No real reason other than the fact that the only 22 pounders I could find were injected  with salt water.  That is a big no no!!  There is a distinct difference between a salt water brine for a few hours and salt water injected into the turkey meat during processing.  First of all the injection of water into the turkey is deceptive because it makes the turkey look like it's more meat than it is.  that water will cook away in the oven, and the per pound price you paid for the turkey is by the weight including all that salt water, which is dense and heavy.   So I don't ever suggest buying a turkey that has been treated this way.  Buy organic, free range, 100% natural, vegetarian fed turkey.   You can get these everywhere and the price is not so much different that you will feel any pain. 
Alright, so that's out of the way.   Gather the following:
3 oranges
2 lemons
2 large brown onions cut in quarters, skins left on
3 large twigs of rosemary
1 bunch of sage
1 bunch of time
handful of juniper berries
couple tablespoons whole mustard seeds
handful of peppercorns
couple tablespoons caraway seeds
couple tablespoons fennel seeds
3 cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons of cloves
5 bay leaves
1 lb of plain table salt
1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of pure maple syrup
2 cups of apple cider vinegar

Alright, so now you have your spices and other ingredients, you need to decide where you will store your turkey.   Last time, I used a 13 gallon galvonized container with a lid, and kept the turkey in its brine in our garage because this time of year it stays around 35 degrees.  This year I used an ice chest cooler because the weather is not as cold as in years gone by. 
If the weather is cold enough you can put your turkey in an covered container outside in the cold while it is brining.    If not, you'll want to to the cooler chest concept like I did here.
Put a clean large garbage bag into your container. 
Place your turkey in the bag, breast up.
Drop in your oranges, lemons rosemary twigs, sage, thyme, and onions.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients and mix with enough hot water to dissolve the salt and sugar. 
Pour this mixture over the turkey.
Then add enough cold water to the bag to cover the turkey completely. 

Layer the entire thing with ice, so that your turkeys stay cold.  (only needed for the cooler chest method)


Draw up the bag and twist down, letting as much air out as possible.


Place in a cool temperature 40 degrees or lower.
The turkey needs at least 1 hour of brining per pound.  You can, however leave it for up to 24 hours in the brine.  Half way through the time, turn your bird over.
When it's time to remove it, discard all of the spices and herbs and rinse/wash your turkey thoroughly under cold water for about 4 minutes.
Proceed as you wish to season, stuff, cook etc...

Hot Buttered Rum Cider

num num num.... on a cold winter's night....

Nothing says cozy like the sweet and salty warmth of hot buttered rum... except maybe the sweet and spicy warmth of mulled hot apple cider.   If you like both of these, then you'll love the two flavors together combined for the ultimate winter treat!  This is not for the children.  Put the children away, and take a moment for the grown-ups and enjoy this blissfully. 

THE PLAYERS: (your grocery list for serving 4)
Apple Cider  find this in your local grocery next to the apple juice. Nutmeg I keep hole nutmeg on hand in my pantry because it stays flavorful longer than ground nutmeg.  I like to grate it myself just before it will be used so that the flavor is most impactful.  you'll need about 1 teaspoon of ground or fresh grated nutmeg for the butter batter.  Cinnamon Ground:  you need two teaspoons of ground ginger for the butter batter. Sticks: you need a stick for each glass, and 3 sticks for mulling the cider.  whole cinnamon sticks or bark can be found in every normal grocery.  however, i like to use the cinnamon bark from the Indian grocer.  It's not curled and looks like big slivers of bark from a tree... which is what real cinnamon should look like.  if you go to countries that traditionally grow cinnamon and use it widely in their foods, you'll only find this kind of cinnamon, not the neatly curled sticks you find widely here.  at any rate, you'll have a satisfactory result either way.  i'm just trying to practice the art of consuming closer to the source when i can, which means less processing.   Whole Star Anise also found in the spice section.  don't substitute the ground anise.  look for the star anise.  it actually looks like little stars. Dark Rum any dark rum will do, however i suggest you use the best rum you can afford and the darker the better.   Butter  1 stick of salted butter set out ahead of time so that it's at room temperature.  it will make enough butter batter for making the 4 serving recipe here, with more left to store in the fridge for later use when you get that feeling again in a few days... Demerara or Turbinado sugar.  you'll need 3 tablespoons for the butter batter.  Orange Peel you'll need to cut 3 inch long strips of orange peel from one orange being careful not to take too much of the white pith underneath.  You'll need one strip for each cup serving. 

Put your cider on.  I use a metal teapot and put the cider in with 3 sticks of cinnamon and 3 star anise  stars.  Keep the fire down low.  Do not allow to boil.  You want this to steep, not cook.  Allow to simmer over low heat for at least half an hour then it's ready to use.

 Make your butter batter:
In a plastic bowl with a lid, mix 3 tablespoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon of grated nutmeg.  Mix well with a spoon. 

To serve:  
Place one orange strip and one cinnamon stick in each cup.
Place 1/2 teaspoon of the butter batter in each cup.
Pour hot mulled cider over the butter batter in each cup up to 2/3 of the cup.
Add rum to take up the last third of the cup. 
Butter batter will melt and float to the top. 
Give each person a spoon and allow them to stir their own. 


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Favorite Butter Cookies

My Favorite Butter Cookies... with assorted embellishments.

Similar in texture and flavor to English shortbreads, my favorite Butter Cookies will elicit plenty of oohs, aahs, and mmms out of their lucky consumers.  Don't be foolish enough to think one batch is enough.  This recipe will only make about 4 dozen cookies, but you can expect that people will take a cookie every time they pass them by... so make sure you have enough for about 5 or 6 cookies per guest at your holiday party.  When I made them yesterday, I made enough for 15 dozen cookies.
They're refrigerator cookies, so you make the dough ahead, then chill it before cutting them and baking.  As you can see, I've decorated mine with a variety of decorative sugar crystals and sprinkles that I bought over the last couple of years from a cake decorator supply store nearby.  You will be amazed at what they have.  I found beautiful prismatic silver sugar crystals, white snow flake sprinkles, multi-colored metallic dragees, and sugar in every color under the rainbow.  Most of what I used you can purchase in a local cake decorator supply store in your local town.  Just google "cake decorating supplies insert your home town here".    A good tip is to know that a little goes a long way with such decorations.  So you don't have to buy a bunch for the sake of making sure you have enough.  You buy according to how much variety you want.
You can make your dough up to 3 months in advance and store the "logs" in airtight freezer bags in the freezer.  They thaw enough to decorate and cut in about an hour.  So you can take these out anytime for a homemade version of instant cookies.  You can be your own Pilsbury maker!  (These taste better any way you cut it!)   You can also use these for cutout cookies by rolling the dough out on a well floured board to avoid sticking.  When I do cutout cookies, I use the glass table in our kitchen or the granite counter top, clearing a huge space, flouring it well,  and rolling out all of the dough at once if possible, then cutting out shapes with the 50 some-odd cookie cutters I have inherited from various relatives over the years.  For this holiday,  however, I've simply done this the easy way and made rolls of dough, chilled them, rolled them in decorative stuff, then sliced them into coin-like discs for baking.

THE PLAYERS: (your grocery list)
Unsalted Butter  1 cup  brought to room temperature (so that it's soft) Demerara Sugar 1 cup   Egg 1 brown egg... organic, from free range, vegetarian fed chickens Egg Yolk 1 egg yolk (these extra yolks will add some moisture and denseness to the cookie) Vanilla Extract 1 teaspoon Vanilla Bean you'll be making a slit with a knife down the length of the bean and then scraping the tiny grainy sticky seeds into your wet ingredients.  Sea Salt I add 1 teaspoon since we use unsalted butter, and the salt compliments the sweet and the fat well in this cookie.  you may use 1/2 teaspoon if you prefer... Unbleached All-Purpose Flour 2 1/2 cups.  I never buy bleached flour anymore.  I don't know what the point is with that... it's a leftover from the era of Wonder Bread and Twinkies.   Chopped Nuts, Shredded Coconut, Sprinkles, Colored Sugar, etc... for decorating.



In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar til fluffy and light, then add egg, egg yolk, vanilla, vanilla bean seeds, and salt and mix well.  
Gradually, with the mixer on low speed, add flour and mix until a smooth dough forms and sticks together.
Divide dough in half and shape into 2 logs about 2 inches in diameter.  Wrap in wax paper and if you plan to bake them today, put them in the freezer for about 2 hours or until they are firm to the touch.  

When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375 farenheit. 
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.   

Cut each of the 2 logs in half and roll them in whatever decorations you've chosen.  Use a little pressure while you roll the log if you find that the sugar or sprinkles or dragees are not adhering easily. 
Slice your logs into 1/4 inch slices and place the slices on your prepared baking sheet with at least 1/2 inch space between each cookie. 

Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until surfaces of cookies are dry and you see just a slight bit of golden toasty color appearing around the bottom edge of the cookies.  
Don't over-bake these or they will taste like burnt butter.  Trust me... I had to throw out a whole dozen in my first wave of making these.  Remove when done and cool completely on a wire rack.  Store in airtight containers until used.


Where's My Compton Sweatshirt? (the mother diaries)

sorry to those of you who won't understand the intra-ethnic nuances of this post... and to those who don't know me, i promise you that i will only go gangsta to protect my child.  i promise.   wouldn't you?

SO, the pyrate had a run-in with some fellow african-american boys at his very suburban middle-class neighborhood school last week before break started.   they approached him aggressively and got in his face and wanted to fight him.  for no reason, and despite the fact that they are all about a foot shorter than him, and none quite as fit.

well... a few weeks earlier they were taunting him and saying he "wasn't black".   yeah.   the pyrate is of african, native american, and german decent, and has a private school education the first 6 years of his school career.  he listens the most to bands like deathcab for cutie, rage against the machine, nirvana, and nine inch nails and lately he's stuck on playing leadbelly songs on his guitar... repeatedly.  he's also a science buff, a skater, and a bit of an afro-punk.  this gets him a lot of grief in public school.

 so, anyway, these kids walked up on him.  he had a few choice words (of the intelligent sort... rattled off the names of some very impactful people of african decent that they could not identify and then asked them who wasn't black...) then kept walking.  so last week, they took it further and walked up on him and got in his face. the pyrate says they were close enough that he could feel their breath.   he told them he was not going to fight them and walked away.   they yelled after him a bunch of epithets varying from white boy, b*tch, p***y, and other things.  he kept walking.  these boys are all smaller than him and he could have easily taken out a couple quickly and then scared the others enough to leave him alone, but he walked away... like a shaolin monk.  lol...

later that day, in the gym locker room, they watched and waited as he was changing clothes for gym class, and as he was pulling his gym shirt over his head one of them hit him very hard open handed in the center of his back... hard enough to leave a mark.  the others broke into laughter as he winced then shouted at them to never touch him again.  then he finished changing and walked away... like Dr. King, Jesus or Gandhi would.   he is not traumatized this time because he thinks their motivation is ignorant.  (he's been raised with a strong education about who he is ethnically... so that's much easier for him to deflect emotionally than say... being called gay.)

anyway,  the incidents have been reported, but the proper school authorities were already gone for the day when i was able to report it.  i'm proud of my son.  he's a much more confident and courageous kid than i was at his age... or than he was a few months ago.   we had actually had a good laugh about whether or not he thinks of himself as black.  he raised his 12 year old fist and grinned at me with the biggest nerdy grin.   i said, "say it loud!"  the pyrate said, "i am black and i am proud."  just like that... no conjugations like james brown did it.  like the black nerd scientist, afro-german, punk-pyrate, skater boy that he is.   so all is well.  i plan to be very proactive day one back to school after the break with the proper school authorities.  perhaps a conference with the kids parents, and i will press for middle school version of justice.  so all is well.  no trauma.

excuse me a moment. (but if a muthaf*cka EVER lays a hand on my son again... little wanna-be gangsta suburban fools might get to meet his momma who is
straight outta COMPTON.  the pyrate's people roll DEEP! )  BWaaaaahaaaaaaa!!!    
*Not really, ....but I'm just sayin'....

i am the type to love a good rant when it's appropriate.  i could rant thoroughly about this issue and the surrounding issues of race relations within a culture.  you see this world wide, and not just with african americans.  but there is a very deep seeded culture of tension between different so-call groups of african americans... based on the color of skin, texture of hair, economic status, etc... that dates back to the times of slavery when the slaves were divided depending on whether they worked in the house or in the field.  they were pitted against each other in many very subversive ways.  

it infuriates me when the prejudice goes on in either direction, from either side.  it is all hate and has nothing to do with solving whatever is really bothering those who are hating.    but you would think in this day and age this would be all but just an memory of attitudes of the past.  obvioiusly not, when 12 year olds are taunting each other with such ethnically slanted crap.   then there's the association between so-called affluence and sexual orientation which is completely unrational and makes no sense at all.   we should be teaching our children wisdom and not hatred.  but where are our wise men and women???  when i discover them, i keep them near, use them as role models with my child. 

i have a lot of connection to what the pyrate experienced with these boys.   something similar happened to me as a kid and i didn't shake it until my mid to late twenties.   the trauma can run deep.  children... most children have self images that are still forming in their middle school years.  the behavior of these boys says a lot about the climate of the schools nowadays and of the homes that children come from.  it is dangerous behavior that can scar for life.

so, knowing what i know, i added that last bit in parentheses because parents who teach their kids to hate, to judge, to label, to bully, to insult, to be violent, to be angry, to be anti-social, need to know how the parents of your children's victims feel when they find out your child is committing crimes agains their child.

woe to you and your children.  woe to you, because your child might slip up and behave this way with a kid whose parents are NOT as civilized as i am....  who are not as much of anti-violence hippie as i am...  they might slip up and attack a kid who, unbeknownst to them has also been brought up in hateful violent environments who was taught that to kick some idiot ass if anybody messes with them.  they might slip up and attack a child who is already fragile and injure them in any of a myriad of ways, unfolding an onslaught of charges against your child and you, that will force you to reconsider the error of your ways.

these boys will face any of a series of possible punishments when they return to school in january... the school has a no tolerance policy and have expelled kids for being in a group observing one from the group attacking a victim... and on their record (the kids in the group... spectators who were with the attacker) goes a charge of gang violence because of the group intimidation element.  

so, woe to those parents... and if you're not sure if your children are happy, well adjusted, self-respecting and respectful of others, then maybe you need to get to know your children better, or woe to you as well....

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Projects for Giving: Ginger-Infused Honey (How To Make)

 A jarful of Ginger-Infused Honey makes a yummy gift!

This infused honey recipe is part of our holiday gift projects for this year.  We also made gourmet mustards and rosemary lemon sea salt.   Preparation for all three project can be found here

We ordered our honey from a bee farm here in California.  We found it online by googling "bulk organic honey".   You can find links to the shops we ordered from in the post for preparations linked above.
This is another simple project that doesn't require rocket science skills nor do you have to be a professional chef to make this gourmet quality goody that your friends and loved ones will totally appreciate.  It can be used to sweeten teas, mixed with hot water alone and drank as a tea, added as the sweetener in a pound cake recipe, eaten on toast, used as a glaze for roasted meats, added to morrocan sauce recipes, added to tomato sauce for a yummy bbq sauce.  It's great by the spoonful as a sore throat soother too!!!  We bought three 1 gallon buckets of honey for $60 total.  Enough to make thirty-two 12 ounce jars of infused honey.  We bought organically grown ginger at our local farmers market.   In total I spent about $120 including the ginger, the honey, and the jars.   That's about $3.75/jar of infused honey.  A jar of  non-organic, ginger honey in the Korean market costs around $7 for 8oz jar.  

Again, it couldn't be simpler!!!   Buy your honey.  Buy your fresh ginger root.  You'll need about 3 inches of root for every 12 oz of honey you intend to make.
Peel the ginger, cut it into 1/2 inch pieces and mix into your honey.  Close the jar and don't open again for at least 1 week before opening to use.  Store in the refrigerator up to1 month after opening.

Projects for Giving: Rosemary Lemon Sea Salt (How To Make)

So easy to make, Rosemary Lemon Salt 

This is part of our holiday gift project series.  This year's theme is edible gifts.  We made gourmet mustard, rosemary lemon sea salt,   and ginger-infused honey.   You can find the post on how to prepare in advance for these three projects here.

You cannot find a more simple project than making rosemary salt.  Try to make this extra special by getting organic ingredients whenever possible.  We got our salt from a spice merchant online, for a fraction of what it would have cost to buy organic sea salt in the store.  Our ingredients cost under $35 to make 18 pounds of this delicious seasoning that can be used a myriad of ways!   I paid about $20 for small metal tins with hinged lids to hold my little treasures.  It would cost more than $500 to purchase that much gourmet salt at retail prices.  My 18 pounds makes about thirty-six 8 oz tins.  A 4 oz tin of gourmet salt costs anywhere from $8 and more in specialty shops and gourmet stores.   The lemons came from the farmer's market and the rosemary... *smiles* we harvested from our very own garden, from a bush I planted 4 years ago.  So the rosemary cost us nothing!  All you need is 2 parts regular grain organic sea salt to 1 part course granule organic sea salt, for each cup of salt, add 1/4 cup of fresh rosemary leaves, and 3 tablespoons of fresh grated lemon zest.

In a food processor grind your rosemary into a fine meal, then mix together with lemon zest and salt.
Spread the mixture thinly onto cookie sheets and dry in the oven for 2 hours on 140 degrees fahrenheit.   The zest and the rosemary should crumble between your fingers if it is properly dried.  Store your salt in a cool place indefinitely.  However, it will be most flavorful if used within 6 months. 

Projects for Giving: Gourmet Mustard How To Make

Honey Mustard with Garlic and Sun-dried Tomatoes,  Beer and Honey Mustard with Tarragon and Orange Zest

THIS JUST IN:  Gourmet foods don't require expensive ingredients, nor do they have to be imported from some far away land.  You don't have to buy them in Gelson's, Bristol Farms, or Whole Foods.  You don't have to go to your city's version of Beverly Hills and pay exorbitant prices in pretentious boutiques.  From my perspective, quality gourmet foods are made using preparation and cooking techniques that are time-honored, often old world, and often handmade in smaller quantities than mass manufactured foods.   Usually they are made with ingredients acquired with special care and usually the ingredients are organic, straight from the source, when possible locally grown to the maker of the food.  Guess what that means?   You can make your own gourmet foods fresh, organic, more intensely flavored and tasting like the ingredients instead of the machines and chemicals used in mass preparations.    

In our house we made homemade gourmet mustard, rosemary lemon salt, and ginger-infused honey to give as presents this holiday season.   See my previous post regarding preparations for these items here

In this post, I'll explain how we made two delicious mustards that I can't get enough of!! 

I will post photos of the actual packaging at a later date, along with the pages from the recipe book that will be included with the gifts when we give them.   We made everything ourselves at home from scratch with organic ingredients purchased from their source when possible, none of the ingredients were purchased in retail stores except the beer and even that was from a microbrewery.  The mustard powder and whole mustard seeds were bought online from a spice merchant.  The vinegar came from a source online as well that promised its product was organic.   The honey came from a bee farm I found online as well.  Purchasing ingredients in this way, from the source and in bulk was a cost savings that will blow you away.   

I made fifty 8 oz jars of mustard, including all the ingredients for under $75, including the cost of the jars which were bought online from a specialty bottle company.   In actual hands on preparation time, I may have spent a total of 2 hours total to make the mustard, over the course of two days.  First soaking the seeds, then the next day grinding them and mixing in the other ingredients.  After that, it is simply the passage of time that makes the flavors in the mustard come together over the course of about 10 days.

This mustard can be used for many purposes.... on sandwiches, in marinades, salad dressings, and so many more things... You will find that a jar of this as a gift is appreciated in a way that something impersonal, bought in a store will never be.   The flavor is so much finer... such mustard would fetch more than $10 a jar in a fine gourmet shop.  Making this was a pleasure.  The experience of tasting it was fine.  Somehow finer than if we'd bought it in a store.  The aroma perfumed my house for a few days until the mustard was sealed in jars.   I can't wait for you to make your own.  You don't have to make enough for 50 jars.  A jar will only keep for about 1 month in your refrigerator so, make what you'll use and then give the rest away.
You can be creative with the ingredients as well.  This is a simple thing, not really a recipe at all.  You will simply use equal parts mustard flour (mustard powder) and whole yellow or brown mustard seeds.  You'll need to soak your mustard seeds in the liquid of choice for at least a day or two before combining with the other ingredients.  We used apple cider vinegar and beer to soak one batch, and white wine and apple cider vinegar for the other. 
For 8 oz of mustard you will need 3 tablespoons of mustard seeds, 3 tablespoons of mustard flour, 3/4 cup of combined liquid (beer, water, vinegar, wine...), and any additional ingredients you want to use to create the flavor you desire.  If you decide to add honey to your mixture, subtract 1/3 of the other liquid, but don't add the honey to the soaking phase of the process.  Add it at the end when you add all the other ingredients before grinding.
After soaking the seeds for two days in the liquid, we added the mustard powder, and the other ingredients.  We added dried organic tarragon, organic honey,  and fresh grated orange zest to the beer mustard.  We added fresh finely minced garlic, honey, and sun-dried tomatoes to the other.  I decided to make the beer tarragon mustard a bit smoother and the garlic sun-dried tomato one more course.  To do this we varied the amount of the mixture that we put through the food processor to grind it smooth.  For the course one we processed 1/2 of the mixture in the processor for 5 minutes.   For the smoother one we processed 3/4 of the mixture in the processor for 10 minutes.   With gourmet mustard you want a bit of  whole seed to be present.   You can see from the closeups above, the difference in texture between the course ground and the smoother.  The courser will be spicier.   
It will taste better with time, so don't worry if the flavor is a bit harsh when you first taste it. Once you've gotten the consistency you like, store your mustard away for about 10 days then check the flavor.  At this point, taste it to see if you want to add more salt, more honey, etc... then store your mustard in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a month.


Me. Live.

It will be a while before I'm on stage again.  I've got a lot going on.  Here's one last show for the year and then I'll be focusing on the new!  So, if you're in Los Angeles this holiday season, don't miss this show!!!   I'll be performing most of your favorites from the Love and Light Volume One cd.  The band will feature actor/activist  Donn Swaby on guitar, P-funk All-Star drummer Karoly Kiss , bassist to the stars Les King, and extraordinary rock violinist Jennifer "Spags" Spingola.   I'm telling you, don't miss this show!!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

You Must Change

Last year I remember having a phone conversation with a girlfriend about getting married and she asked me sadly what my secret was for finding a good man.  I was startled by the question.  It's my second marriage.  I don't necessarily consider a second try to be evidence of having the "magic words" for anything.   If anything, the failure of my first marriage made me a lot less romantic in my perspective on the institution and that's not a bad thing.  I don't believe there's some secret method nor do I believe there is a guarantee things will work out.  I'm not even sure if there is one clear and concise definition for what a so-called "good man" is.   I believe, (and I can think of many who will scoff at this... but before you do, remember your own secret shortcomings and imagine how you'd perceive them in another person), I believe all people are good men at their core.  Bad behavior is a symptom of some sort of pathology.  All the time.

If you've had a relatively good life, and still you behave badly, there is still the condition of being human.  The very fact that we are confined to our flesh can incite bad behavior in mankind.  There will always be a part of us that seeks to transcend our flesh, even if we are not conscious of what the true source of longing is.

That is the level of compassion I try to uphold in all of my relationships.  Conversely, I also exercise the  power of faith and expect people to be on their best behavior.  I expect it.  If they don't live up to my expectations, I address it then.   But everyone starts out being expected to do what's right because sometimes that's all a person needs is for someone to believe they can.  At the same time, I practice (hello) being on my best behavior as well.  Because if I treat me well, isn't that the best example to be set???

Here's an example.  I am messy.  My car is often dirty and has, at any given moment a wide variety of miscellaneous clutter in it.  Because of that, people who ride in my car don't feel any reservations about leaving their empty bottles, paper trash, or other miscellaneous stuff in my car.  I don't like it, and it may not be right, but what can I expect when they are simply doing in Rome as the Romans do?

That said, I don't believe in putting my energy into other people's behavior because I can't control it.   If I have a "secret", perhaps that is it.  But that's no secret at all!  For sure it's not fail-proof, nor is it going to prevent disappointment 100% of the time.   Sometimes the one behaving badly, or making bad choices, is me.  *smile* Imagine that.... The idea that they might be doing something to create their circumstances doesn't even occur to most people.  And we've been taught to not blame ourselves... to "not be so hard on ourselves".  There's a big difference between forgiving myself for a bad choice, learning from that for future purposes, and allowing the neurosis of self pity and woe to take over as a distraction from what's really going on.  When we feel pain, failure, or disappointment, it's almost as if the idea that it might be our own fault is scarier than the idea that we might repeatedly self-inflict said pain on ourselves. This is, for sure, bad behavior, albeit self-inflicted, it is still bad behavior. 

There's an old saying that "You cannot change people.  You can only change your reactions to them."   This goes back to the old bible scripture that says, "Lord give me the strength to change the things I can and the serenity to accept the things I cannot."   Both change and acceptance are all about YOU.

I had a phone conversation the other day with someone who was in tears over how she was "being treated" in the relationship she's in... a relationship that she's been in for 4 some-odd years now, (or longer), and in which she's been treated exactly the same way since the very beginning.  Yet she is still calling me in tears and complaining about her partner's bad behavior in great detail, villanizing them as if the whole sum of her misery was due to this person's evil behavior.   I could have endured this if it weren't for the fact that I've been privvy to about a dozen or more of these tear soaked rants from this person in regards to the same relationship.   As I was listening, it was like watching someone stand on hot coals, smoke rising from their feet and they continue to stand there  voluntarily and curse the coals, the idea never occurring to them that they should step to the left or right and stop allowing their feet to be burned.  I told this friend, "Please, I love you, but I really don't want to hear about all the things he does, how wrong he is, or how you don't understand why he's that way.  I don't care about ANY of that!!!  All I care about is what's wrong with you that you stay year after year with someone who inflicts such atrocities on you."   Silence, on the other end of the line... then a proclamation that I was right and she'd had enough.  I've heard that before. That was a week ago.  I'll believe she's done, when she's done.
Why do we do that?   Isn't it common sense that if we are in a relationship with someone whose behavior is hurtful, then we are responsible for our own welfare?  People who behave badly are hurting themselves, and we expect them to be responsible for someone else's well being?  That's irrational, and in my opinion bad behavior of the worst kind.
How can we expect to be honored when we do not honor ourselves?

So what is a good man?  That's the question of the century, right?  Well, I'm going to disappoint a whole lot of sensation mongers and say that for me, a good man is a man who is confident, has faith in the unseen, has healthy love for self and the rest of humanity, practices honesty, is open-minded and doesn't let fear stop him from growing.   All that other stuff that you think matters, only exists collectively in one person if they have these things.  If any one of these is completely non-existent you are setting yourself up for trouble.  That's why it's important when you choose to allow yourself to open up wide and choose a life partner, you need to be very aware and not be too swept away in the excitement that you see something in them that you think you need most which is really about some childhood lack which you cannot reverse and correct with another person.    If they have that one thing and nothing else you will have a rude awakening in the not-to-distant future.  I promise you that.
Some people close their eyes long before that. 
Another friend paid me a visit recently and told me about a situation with a guy she had a crush on but hadn't approached.  A friend of hers told the guy she was interested.  He very sheepishly mumbled something about workplace relationships being awkward, etc...  For me, that hesitation from someone I work with on a daily basis, would have been enough to tell me to move on and that he's not interested.  That's just me.  Hesitation is a red flag.  A guy who is into me doesn't hesitate.  If he's into you and he hesitates, he's in some way insecure about the situation and that's enough.  Next.  Simple as that.  But that's just me...

But this story doesn't end there.  My friend started texting this person a few days later and told him that she wanted to talk to him about something.  He texted her back asking what she needed to speak with him about.  She told him it would be better to talk about it in person and wanted to know if they could get together and talk.  No response.  No reply.  No text back saying "Let me get back to you."  No text saying, "I'm not comfortable with that."  No text saying, "I can't,  I have a girlfriend."  Nothing.  Blank screen.  No response.  She's annoyed by this, all in a dander... going on and on about not understanding why he didn't respond, and how rude that was and blah blah blah, etc.... For me, there would have been no initial text requesting to speak to him.  He'd been tossed the ball.  He'd already been made aware of my interest.  The ball's in his court.  Out of respect for the fact that I don't even know if he's interested, I would leave him the space to decide quietly whether he wanted to test these waters or not. But if I was slippin' and texted him the request, and he basically snubbed it and just walked away from the conversation without a response to the request, that would say to me... A.  he's not interested.  B.  he's at very least a coward with bad communication skills, and possibly even a jerk who is rude.

These two possibilities would have immediately exterminated any further energy being expended in his direction.  Period.  There would not be a conversation about it later with a friend because I'm still trying to figure out what happened or why he didn't respond.  There'd be no need to tell him off.  There'd be no anger as if he'd assaulted or insulted me in some way.  There would be no wish to give him a piece of my mind.  I might have a few choice words for myself for putting dude on the spot.  But I certainly would not be talking myself into excuses for how he might possibly still be interested.   Nope.   Such unprofitable expenditures of energy are bad for ones self esteem.  He doesn't qualify.  That doesn't mean he's a bad person.  It could simply mean he's not exhibiting positive, proactive interest.  But that's irrelevant.  I don't care.  That is a deal breaker.   Period.  Mind, you it also does NOT mean he's NOT a bad person (a.k.a., a person with some issues i don't want anything to do with.)  But that's irrelevant too.  What's important is whether or not I am who I want to be within that relationship.  If the answer is no, there's nothing more to be said.  It's a toxic endeavor. We make deal breakers for the soap opera stuff.  Sometimes we make deal breakers for the material stuff.  Sometimes we make deal breakers about really stupid stuff, all the while allowing some really seriously life-damaging, soul injuring situations to go on unchecked because we want so badly to have something real.

Sound like insanity?  Well why do we behave so irrationally?  I remember in my teens feeling that desperation.  But at some point I realized that the fantasy that someday I was going to meet someone who would sweep me away and make everything alright was... a fantasy.  Fantasies are healthy so long as you keep them in perspective and don't start lying to yourself just to keep the fantasy alive.

Some people endure major atrocities in the name of keeping the fantasy alive.  Thereby almost assuredly killing it dead.  The irony...  It's a shame because if your fantasy is to be in a loving, intimate, wholesome relationship that lasts, and you allow yourself to be stuck pretending like the one you're in will do even though you don't feel loved, you're lonely, and you feel threatened.... you single-handedly rob yourself of the possibility that you will ever have anything even similar to that fantasy. 

That's what I know to be true.  In my present relationship, which is the happiest I've ever been in any relationship, I have had to learn to practice loving myself and expecting my lover to love me at that level as well, as if it were a given that he should.  This took some adjusting on my part and on his.  We're still learning.  We had a breakup midway through the time we've been together.  We'd been fighting and fighting and it was horrible.  Nothing was changing.  I was blaming him, and calling myself a victim.  But nothing would change because I was waiting for him to do it, when all the time, it was I who needed to change.  I needed to set a precedent for how I wanted to be loved.  What was happening was not it.  Knowing that was true, and believing that I could have that kind of love, I broke up with the Austrian.  No more fights, no more talking, no more tears, no more feeling sorry for myself, no more being angry with him.  I stepped out of my comfort zone, and took a chance that it would be over between us, even though I hoped that my putting my foot down would be enough to make a difference.  He could have been at a place in his life where he would project onto me all fault, but he didn't and we eventually reunited with a revised version of our relationship.   If things had turned out differently, at least I would have been exercising my faith in what I believe is a healthy and good relationship.

What's really interesting is applying this to every kind of relationship.  You can apply this principal of personal responsibility to any relationship you invest yourself in, be it a person, a job, a creative endeavor, etc...  If you want to be successful, but you stay in a job that makes you miserable and/or forces you to be someone you don't want to be, why are you there?  If you have a powerful passion and gift for something creative but you shun it because you were brought up to not take such things seriously, you are denying your passion, and you are denying all of those who could be benefiting from your gift.   If you want to have close, intimate friendships with a certain kind of interaction, why do you spend exorbitant amounts of time with people who not only don't have the same wishes, they actually don't possess the life skills to foster these wishes.  It's not about being mean and exclusionary.  It's about the kind of energy you invest and what/whom you invest it in. 
If we were all more like this, I believe people would be more motivated to grow, change, be more authentic because the likelihood of someone putting up with their bullshit would be greatly reduced.  They would change for pure social survival purposes.  Think of all the things you don't do because you value your friends, family, lover, children, parents, etc... 

Learning to have the strength to change what you can and the serenity to accept when you can't is the key.  It is changing my life for sure for the better, and I only wish there were someone telling me these things when I was 19.  I would have saved myself an enormous amount of heartache and pain... and energy.  Does it mean being lonely sometimes?  Yes.  Does it mean being broke sometimes?  Yes.  But I would rather be lonely and broke sometimes than miserable in my connections all of the time.  Spend those lean times to improve self, focus on self growth and know that there is no reason to fear.  All things pass...

Young ones reading here, think about it....

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ask Me Anything

Homework assignment for friends, family, and fans:

It is 10:30 pm on Friday.  You have 24 hours to post a question here as a comment on this blog post.  Ask me anything.  I will do my best to answer.  Here's your chance to get to know me better... to ask that one question that's been nagging you forever...
I will post my answers to all questions on Sunday.  Make it good.  Don't be shy!

Honest Scrap Award

A reluctant THANK YOU to my dear Brooklyn friend Miss Moon for nominating me for this Honest Scrap award.  It's been a while since I won anything, so I'll go along, even though it's a TAG CHAIN and...  *sigh* well... let's just say, I am not a fan of tag chains.   But gracious I shall be because, like I said, it's been a while since I won anything.   :)  Thank you Geechee Girl!
So here's the deal, at the end of this is a list of names of folk I've nominated  If your name is there, follow these instructions, if not, well... you've been spared.  lol...

The rules to receiving this award are as follows:

1. Post the award on your blog.
2. Present this award to others whose blogs you find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged you.
3. Tell those people they've been awarded HONEST SCRAP, inform them of these guidelines.
4. Share "Ten Honest things" about yourself.
 1.  I don't handle boredom or stagnance well.
2.  I collect refrigerator magnets. Can you get anymore retro than that?
3.  When I was a kid we had geese instead of dogs that would sound the alarm for intruders.
4.  When we are all in the same room, my guys shield themselves with their hands when they turn their back to me, in defense of their backsides.
5.   Some people bring up violent urges in me of the sort that I would never act upon.
6.  I'm a make-love-not-war kinda girl.  So number 5 is saying a lot "Some People".
7.  I have some things that no one else I know has and I'm willing to share.
8.  I prefer to work at night when the rest of the world is sleeping and the energies in the air are less cluttered.
9.   My biggest challenge these days is with being compassionate even when I am not receiving compassion. 
10.  I've got new music in me... *grins*
 Tag You're It! 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Projects For Giving: Prep for Gourmet Mustard, Rosemary Salt, Ginger Honey Tea

Some of you have asked that I tell you what I'm doing for my holiday giving because you'd like to make along with us some of the things we'll be making.  So here's a brief summary of what we're doing.
I'm doing gourmet gift bags, filled with gourmet mustards, rosemary salt, Korean ginger honey tea, a recipe booklet, and other goodies to be determined... We'll be making around 50 of each item. Leftovers can be used by us, or given to people at other occasions such as a hostess gift when invited for dinner, or for no occasion at all, just to say "I love you!"
So we bought things in bulk.  Spices came from the Monterey Bay Spice Company.
We got our honey in 1 gallon containers from Miller's Honey.
You'll need jars.  I purchased my jars from the Specialty Bottle Co.  I used 8 oz jars for the mustard, 12 oz jars for the ginger honey tea, and I used 8 oz rectangular tins with clear hinged lids for the rosemary salt.

Then there's the packaging.  We've stopped using that cheesy, ink-laden holiday paper you can find in every drug store during this season, and opted for more eco friendly Andreas and I will make labels and tags for our items.  Some will be printed, some handwritten, on cardstock and attached with ribbon.  Other packaging will be recycled paper brown kraft wrapping paper, and recycled paper raffia ribbon that we got at Nashville Wraps.  This company carries a vast assortment of eco-friendly packaging and gift products.  I also get my reuseable green grocery bags here, 10 bags for about $6, and that's what i use instead of traditional gift bags. 

Everything you'll need (except for any fresh produce ingredients) can also be purchased in my Amazon Store.  Look for the section in my store that's titled Edible Giving.  I've set that up so that you can do one-stop shopping for everything you'll need.

Gourmet Mustard

Basically what we're doing is soaking mustard seeds for a day or so, then adding mustard paste made with the mustard powder (mustard flour) You'll get further instructions for this next week.  For now just collect your ingredients.
You will need to get some yellow or brown (depending on your preference) organic bulk mustard seeds and organic bulk mustard powder (mustard flour).
You'll also need to purchase whatever spices you want to add to it, and the day before you prepare this mustard, purchase whatever fresh herbs, horseradish, etc.  you'd like to mix in. 
If you want to make champagne mustard, you'll need to get some champagne vinegar.  Otherwise you'll need either cider vinegar, wine vinegar, or plain white vinegar.  About 1/4 cup for every cup of mustard you intend to have as end result.   If you want your mustard to be a brighter yellow you'll need a bit of turmeric as well.

Korean Ginger Honey Tea
You only need three things for this.  You need jars for however many you want to make, enough honey for however many jars you want to make, and the day before you're ready to make these, you'll need a generous amount of whole fresh ginger root.  Pretty darn simple.

Lemon Rosemary Salt

... if you thought things couldn't get any simpler, you'll need two things for this.   Lots of fresh organic rosemary, and sea salt.  You'll need both coarse and fine grain sea salts. 

That's pretty much it!!!
Check back in a few days when I've got all my ingredients ready and I'll have photos and instructions for how to make these gifts!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I Gave Up Disposable Dining

About a decade ago, I started to collect depression glass during my phase when I was a new mother, and building my "nest".  There's something about functional nostalgia that I am drawn to.  Perhaps it's because I can remember my grandmother at some point having some of these dishes and I long to connect with her grace and hospitality.  Maybe it's kinda strange for this rock n' roll mom to be so into this stuff, but I decided a long time ago to just be who I am.  Back then I was a huge Martha Stewart fan and Martha had a thing for green depression glass.  I started to look for it at flea markets and on ebay in the beginning of 2000, and have been collecting green, lemon yellow and gold depression glass ever since.  My auntie Anita had a collection as well.  She had some green glass, but mostly milk glass and ruby red.  These dishes are very heavy and fair quite well for parties.  I pull them out whenever we have a lot of people over and my everyday dishes just won't do.  You can bid on pieces individually on ebay anywhere from pennies to a couple of dollars per item.  Sometimes they are sold in sets, sometimes by serving set, and sometimes you'll find a replacement piece such as a lid or a saucer... I don't think I've spent in total more than a couple hundred dollars on my collection.  I have enough to use for parties where I entertain up to a hundred or more people.  You might ask yourself, why I would use these for parties.  As I've said, they are pretty durable, I've only had a couple of them broken over the years. More importantly, to me at least, is the fact that I don't want to use paper or styrofoam plates.   I try to avoid the use of disposable paper and styrofoam whenever I can.  It's unhealthy for our bodies and for our earth and it's definitely more expensive in the long term.   Even for everyday dining, we don't use paper napkins.  Instead I've invested in cloth napkins and collected enough of them over the years to use them for every meal and toss them in with the laundry at the end of the day, to be washed each week with our laundry.  It is, I admit a way of living that takes getting used to.  It means dishes to wash.  But even for parties with a hundred people, we can get away with about 3 loads in the dishwasher, and/or recruiting friends to help wash and dry at the end of the night.  It's not that big of a deal, seriously.  And people appreciate the elegance and sturdiness of real dishes.  I enjoy taking people back to a time when hostesses were more graceful, actually cooked, and made an effort to show their guests that they care enough invest some time in their comfort.  I don't have the patience to be particular about pattern or brand, so long as they are good quality and in the colors that I like, I collect them.  Some people will prefer a uniform set.  But for me mix and match is the way.  I should be said the other kind of collecting takes a lot more time, patience, and willingness to pay higher prices. Antique and vintage dealers know that if you're looking for a particular brand or pattern to match what you're collecting, you'll pay more.  So I just look for certain colors, pattern, and quality of craftsmanship.   It adds a bit of funkiness to an otherwise fancy spread, to use mix match dishes in lovely jewel tone colors.  Perhaps that is the rock n' roll in me that thinks funky belongs with fancy.  Each year I choose a dish type to focus on.  In the last few years I focused on pitchers.  So now I have 6 depression glass pitchers that get used quite a bit for holidays at our house.  I also collect old silver as well.  I keep it stored in vintage flatware chests I found at the flea market, and polish it up for use on holidays when family and friends come through. 
I keep my much vintage dishes in an old pie safe (see below right), the rest in high cabinets, and only take them out when we have company. 
Some of the favorite things in my collection of dinnerware and glassware is my set of hand-painted artist signed blue clayware dishes from Tonalo, Mexico.    I found the set in a flea market many years ago and paid about $80 for something like 100 pieces, including place service for eight (dinner plate, salad plate, tumbler, tea cup/saucer, cocoa mug, soup bowl, small bowl), soup tureen, salad bowl, platter, coffee server, and more.   This is not about pretentiousness.  It's more about grace.  Every time I take them out to serve guests people get this pleased look on their faces like they are getting the royal treatment. Even the guys are flattered. They have no idea I paid less for the entire set of Mexican dishes than I would have paid for the same amount of not-as-impressive dishes purchased in the local Target.  I wouldn't trade them for anything in  a high end department store either.  I mix and match this set with my green depression glass and, as you can see in this picture,  1950's and 60's ceramic pitchers. 
If you love to entertain, investing in vintage will pay for itself.  Over the years the money I've saved on disposable ware alone has more than paid for what I've collected, and who knows how many trees I've saved. 

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