Archive | October, 2014

Jurassic Pie Party complete with Dinosaur-Sized Wine

29 Oct

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Do you ever have a lot of things just sort of serendipitously collide at the right time?
I did not have a lot of these things happen but for name-related reasons I was absurdly pleased to receive wine from Modern House Wines to try. One of them was a GIANT bottle called, quite cheekily, “Go Big”. The name pleased me because I got this wine right before the next installment of Pie Party I was throwing with my friends Alice and Joel: Jurassic Pie.

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Dinosaurs are big. So was this wine. It was meant to be! More about the vino in a bit but…this party. You guyssssss, this party!

This was a Jurassic Pie Party, so-themed because I had dinosaur cookie cutters I really wanted to use. I decided that gingerbread dinosaurs would be exceptional parading across a pumpkin pie. I was so very right. Jungle-ish attire was suggested-I only rummaged up some leopard print but that’s okay.

We were also going to have a velociraptor dance contest. Somehow large amounts of pie(s), gingerbread cookies, Manhattans, and wine got in the way of that. But I’m sure there would have been some priceless velociraptor action if we actually got around to it.

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This was the infamous high-brow/low-brow dual crusted Frito-crusted pie, partially responsible for lack of ability to dance.

I had cookie cutters for a t-rex, a velociraptor, a triceratops, a brontosaurus, a pterodactyl and my personal favorite, the stegosaurus. Since the upscale frito-crusted pie I’ve been perfecting is sort of tex-mex we re-christened the t-rex as a T-Mex. He listens to Ice-T. This pie was demolished rapidly, and the pumpkin pies and apple tart fell almost as fast.

Joel and I were pitting a couple of different pumpkin pies against each other. His was a classic condensed milk recipe and mine involved evaporated milk and sugar. We ended up agreeing one wasn’t necessarily better than the other because they are two different breeds of pie. Mine had a lot more spices and his was a bit lighter, I thought, and tasted more purely of pumpkin. So it all depends what you are after.

The biggest winner(s) of the night though were the gingerbread cookies. I usually have good luck with Baking Illustrated and seeing as their classic gingerbread is my favorite gingerbread, I figured they would not let me down in the gingerbread cookie department. Good lord did they not.

Another important thing learned was that if you want to give your stegosaurus candy corn spikes then you need to freeze the candy corn before baking so it does not melt and spread.

The dealio on the vino. They are made for Target. Oprah likes them. I like that vintner behind them, Alexis Swanson Traina is female. That is rare, being as the booze-world in general seems to be largely a boys club. That may just be my perspective, I dunno, but if you have proof that the ratio of women vintners to male is equal, I would like to see it.

These wines are the wine equivalent of shopping at Target: Too easily done and you will end up consuming more than you planned. All of which is to say I enjoyed the wine. Really, very pleasant wines. Juicy. Not very dinosaur-y. But that is okay. Sometimes it is about size.

The normally-sized bottle I received is called Help is Here: light bodied, some spice, berries, makes me think of eating fluffy gingerbread on a hill. Enjoyable. Mildly vegetal in a good way. Smooth. Sweet.

Both pair well with these wondrous cookies. This recipe makes a decent amount of them but they were devoured practically before the party started. Dinosaurs are not as filling as one would think.

Gingerbread Cookies adapted from Baking Illustrated from the folks behind America’s Test Kitchen
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (measured by stirring the flour then dipping the measuring cup in then leveling the top)
3/4 cup light brown sugar (the book say to use dark but light is all I had)
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened but still cool, sliced up
3/4 cup molasses (pro tip:grease your measuring cup first and it will m=be much easier to get all the molasses out)
2 Tbsp. milk (I used almond)
In a food processor, process the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt just to blend. Strew the butter pats over and process until it looks sandy, around 15 seconds. With machine running, pour in the molasses and milk slowly and process until evenly moistened and forming mass.
Scrape it out and divide in two. Roll out each part between two sheets of parchment paper to 1/4 of an inch (I did some thinner to make them crisp enough to stand up) then put them on a sheet in the freezer for about 15 minutes until firmed up.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line baking sheets with parchment. Take out your first section of dough. Remove top parchment paper then replace. Flip it over and flip and discard that parchment. Cut yer cookies and bake ten-ish minutes give or take. They will be set and if you stick a finger in one the impression will remain. But DO NOT over bake. Molasses is horrible when burnt.Let them cool on the sheet a couple of minutes then carefully transfer to racks. They will firm up more as they cool. Repeat over and over with the rest of the dough. Every time I rerolled scraps I had to stick them in the freezer again for a while so this is a process but it is worth it. I cooked these one sheet a a time. If you want to decorate with candy corn freeze the candy corn first or you will have a sugary melty mess. It will still taste good, if you are into straight up sugar which obviously I am since I like candy corn, but it will not retain the shape. So freeze it up. Bake it up. Do the dinosaur.

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Egg Creams and a GIVEAWAY here-what?!

4 Oct

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I’m actually not lying to you when I say it’s the best. I don’t know why I said “actually” as I never lie. Hence the lack of product endorsement on my blog.

But there is a stevia product out there that is the best. Actually it is the only one I find tolerable. Which could mean that it is still crap, except that it is not. It’s good.

I am speaking to you of NuNaturals products. Stevia is not an artificial sweetener. It is real. In fact it is so sweet that you can only use teensy tiny bits of it to sweeten things-hence why it is calorie free. The one problem I have with all the other stevia sweeteners is that they are hella bitter. But I first got into NuNaturals when I tried some of their liquid stevia sweetener and found it was just sweet. No bitter. Whee!

Do not mistake me. This is not a total sugar substitute for me. I will never leave sugar completely, but I am a sugar addict so all I’m saying is I want us to have an open relationship.

I confess I get a huge kick out of getting to try new things for free. I promise I won’t share with you any of these things that don’t deserve to be shared. However I gladly would share NuNaturals so imagine my girlish squeal when I opened my email and saw this:

“We have recently introduced some additional new items that I would love for you to try. We are very excited about our NEW INDUSTRY FIRST, STEVIA BASED, ” O ” CALORIE, SUGAR-FREE, DAIRY-FREE, GLUTEN FREE, VEGAN, COCOA SYRUP , SIMPLE SYRUP, & COCOA MINT SYRUP.”

OOOOOHHHH free kitchen toys! Ones I am behind.
Vitamix I am looking at you.

And I get to host a blimey GIVEAWAY!!!! Yes you, you too could try this stuff and MOOOORRRRE! Details at the bottom of the post.

In the meantime I had actually been playing around with the venerable beverage known as an egg cream which has neither eggs nor cream and I had never tried before this year so I couldn’t vouch for “venerable” but I figured why not plug my new syrups into the equation? Ps in this equation 2+3=6

This is NOT a classic NYC diner version. More like a Beverly Hills post-spin class one? Not that I would know. There are a gajillion different versions of an egg cream out there and I had never even had one before so had no gauge. Also I’m using stevia syrup so I gave up on trying for authentic long ago. I just went whole vegan hog and made this a ridiculously LA drink. I used an alt mylk. Which is to say almond milk. The only way this could get more classic LA would be if I garnished with a kale chip, which you are welcome to do, but I wouldn’t.

Here’s my alt drink which surprised me in its tastiness. I found myself craving one days later, which is my marker for if a recipe is worth sharing. You could use regular milk and syrup in this if you like but I don’t know if the proportions would need to be different. Fortunately, this is a drink you can keep adding to until it is mixed to your liking. Much like us LA people alter menu items until no longer recognizable as their original version. But if you do tinker with this and end up drinking a bacon-infused tomato toddy, please don’t tell people it is an egg cream.

Then again, perhaps you could. After all, this is the drink that has NOTHING to do with its name.

Classic Los Angeles Egg Cream
2 Tbsp. nunaturals chocolate syrup
1/4 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
club soda, to taste
Add your milk and syrup to a glass and give them a stir. Top off with as much club soda as you deem fit. Enjoy. Easy peasy.

Okay, the giveaway! Here is what you win:

( 1 ) one bottle of the Cherry Vanilla Stevia Liquid,
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a 50 pkt box of our NuStevia White Stevia Powder packets,
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PLUS a bottle of our NEW COCOA SYRUP
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& a bottle of our NEW SIMPLE SYRUP.
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Each of your 4 winners will receive the complete product selection of all 4 items with the retail value of $ 55.00 , PLUS A FREE BONUS PRODUCT!

And I was advised to tell ya, you can get a discount on the webpage: http://www.nunaturals.com
Here’s how Ron the sugar-free poppa (ironic since he is my sugar papa when it comes to these products and…oh, sugar free…haha I get it) says to get it:

“When they get to our checkout page they should enter the DISCOUNT CODE ; BLG1214 and they will receive – 15% DISCOUNT on their ENTIRE ORDER. ( excluding any other discounts ) This discount remains EFFECTIVE UNTIL DECEMBER 31, 2014. Online ordering customers may also receive FREE SHIPPING to the CONTINENTAL U. S. on all orders exceeding $35.00 after discounts.”

If you try it and dig it you can like em’ up on ye olde Facebook page.

TO ENTER
So here is whatcha do: I am thinking of a number between 0 and 1000. Leave me a comment with what number you think it is. Whoever guesses closest wins. If someone guesses one above and one person guesses one below the higher number wins. If more than one person think of the right number I will put their names in a hat (or bowl or jar that remains to be determined) and draw. I know I am asking you to trust me on this but…why would I lie about stevia?

Contest is open a month until October 24th, midnight PST.