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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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Snicker at me. Please.

7 Mar

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I made these cookies for my improv group who wigged out on how much they liked them. These are hefty cookies, and thank god I kept a few at home because the group ate them up. One group member stated that they are like a cookie form of cinnamon toast crunch. I say that is true, but they are even better. Although now I want to crumble them into a bowl with milk.

I am going to ply you with more comedy whiz-nit for a minute, but stay tuned for some thoughts on Snickerdoodles, as a thing, below.

My improv team of which I speak and I strive to make people laugh a lot, at least once a week. I am always doing comedy. I can tell you confidently that whether it is a sitcom or Shakespeare, comedy is harder. Than anything. Why did I hate it when people laughed at me as a kid? It’s all I want now.

I intend to inspire a wee bit of laughter and/or tears this weekend:
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I am rather terrified, as my story may be too serious for this crowd? It is sort of sad and funny. Screw it. It’s gonna be great. Come see the show! Even if I suck, the Hello Giggles shows at UCB always rock. Tickets here. Woot!

Now for what I had to say about Snickerdoodles. I noticed in the last year or two lots of people making any old recipe, adding cinnamon and calling it a Snickerdoodle-flavored. Someone even wrote on their blog that the only difference between Snickerdoodles and sugar cookies was the cinnamon. WRONG! SO WRONG! A Snickerdoodle has a very, very specific taste that comes largely from the introduction of an acid, usually in the form of cream of tartar. So there.

I like a good good biting flavor in a cookie. And a good biting wit.

That was lame. Oh, well. Make cookies, come see me and laugh, and all shall be well my pretties.

Snickerdoodles adapted from Baking Illustrated
2 1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. Sugar
3/4 c. unsalted butter
1/4 c. shortening
2 eggs
3 Tbsp. Sugar mixed with Tbsp. Cinnamon

Heat yer oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking trays with parchment. Parchment is perfection. Whisk the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Cream the butter, sugar and shortening at medium speed until well combined. Add the eggy-weggs and beat until mixed in. Add the dry ingredients and beat in at low speed. Take big tablespoons of dough and make 1 1/2 ing balls. Roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Put them quite far apart on the tray. These be big cookies. Bake 8-10 minutes rotating halfway. Cool for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to totally cool.

Birds! St. Louis! Go go go! And a Mess

24 Oct

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I wished for something red to make for you guys, as I am cheering on my Redbirds in the World Series. I wished for something to use up meringues from the column I was writing for Hello Giggles. I wanted something easily gobble-able whilst on my couch screaming for Beltran.

I am running between the aforementioned Giggles, auditions, my third short film to shoot this month, improv shows, improv practice, a new scene study class, and a new assignment from Blackboard Eats.

This is good. I have no brainpower left.

And I apologize or rattling off my to do lists here. I’ll get back to the food.

I made food representative of my mind-state which is A MESS!

Voila, mofos. The Eton Mess.

This meringue recipe was intended for shells to make pavlovas, but I imagine you could just dollop it out for cookies too.

ps yes, I used reddi-whip. I am pretty sure real whipped cream would make this superlative.

Messy Bird Food adapted from a pavlova recipe by America’s Test Kitchen’s Baking Illustrated
For meringues:
• two egg whites
• 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
• ½ cup sugar
• ¼ tsp. almond extract
• ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
For the rest of dessert:
*whipped cream to your liking
*strawberries, also to your liking
*sugar, if you find it necessary but the meringues and whipped cream will probably do it.
Heat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. If you have a whisk attachment for your mixer, now’s the time to use it. If you are beating these egg whites by hand, I’m sorry. Your arm is going to be sore when you are done. Beat the egg whites at medium-low speed until they are foamy. Add the cream of tartar and increase speed to medium-high. Beat until thick and billow-y like newly lathered shaving cream. Slowly sprinkle in ¼ cup sugar, vanilla and almond extracts. Beat just until incorporated. Turn off mixer. Use whisk to fold in the rest of the sugar. Scoop it out in ¼ cup amounts onto the parchment (you should get six) and use a big spoon to create hollows that you will be putting filling in. I had to do a bit of cheating, spooning extra around the edges to create a basin in the middle. Do what you gotta do. Bake about 1 ½ hours, or until dry and sturdy exteriors. Turn the oven off but leave the shells in for several hours to get dried. If you store these in an airtight container they will keep for about two weeks.
Mash about half the berries. If you think they need sweetening do it now. Some recipes I found for Eton Mess called for layering the elements, others called for folding them all together. I layered. Then I could fold together bite by fluffy bite.

Go Cardinals!

Oh, the Joy…

25 Sep

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…of browned butter chocolate chip cookies.

They are grand. They are the creation of a blogger far more successful than I, Joy the Baker.

I feel like I have been hovering around a lot of success recently. It’s pretty neat. My fwife’s husband Eric Lundgren’s book, The Facades just came out and is getting a lot of attention. Rightfully so, I started reading it and am thrilled to find out that he is an amazing writer. Joel won the pie contest. A friend got a kick-ass new agent and manager. Another friend got a pilot. I’m also enjoying the recently published second cookbook by Greg Henry of Sippity Sup. I know we just met the once, Greg, but can I call you at least a blogger chum?

All these things happening around me.

It makes me happy. I have felt oddly calm recently. I can’t help but feeling like my time will come. Or should I say I will bring it to me?

The thing is, it occurred to me that I do not want to be the person who knows a lot of people. I would like to be A Person To Know. Not so much for my ego but because I love what I do and would like to do it better and more. I want to make my parents proud. And a little for the ego. I’ll be honest.

I feel like I make progress. I chip away, and year by year my auditions get to be of a higher caliber. I finally booked a national commercial this summer. Once in a blue moon I get paid to write. And so on. But I have soooooo much more to accomplish. Sometimes I feel like I have reasons beyond my control for why it takes so long.

It is all well and good to have legit excuses, but that does not change the fact that I am where I am, and I want to be better.

I don’t know why I am rambling like this and where I am going with it.

I should eat a cookie.

By the way, go on and get Joy’s cookbook. She deserves her success.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from Joy the Baker’s eponymous cookbook
1 cup + 1 Tbsp. butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. molasses
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 1/4 cups flour
Put 9 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan and heat over medium. It will sizzle and burble as it melts but fret not. Just swirl the pan periodically. Keep a close watch and as soon as it gets a nice caramel color take off the heat and pour into a bowl so it stops cooking. Those little bubbly browned bits on the bottom of the pan are delicious, be sure to scrape them out too. Let cool a bit.
In another bowl cream the other 8 Tbsp. of butter with the white sugar. Beat in vanilla and molasses. Beat in browned butter and brown sugar, then the egg and yolk. In another bowl whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda and then stir into rest, bit by bit. Then add in chocolate chips. Cover with plastic then out in the fridge about 30 or more minutes.
Preheat oven to 375. Grease a cookie sheet (I like to use the leftover butter on the wrapper of the butter I used). Make balls of dough and put on the sheet. You’ll probably need a couple sheets but I recommend baking them one at a time. Cook about 6 minutes, then rotate sheet front to back. Cook about another five, then check regularly until the are nicely browned but still soft. Cool five minutes on the heet before trying to remove them to rack to cool more. Or if hot chocolate is your thing (I only like it cold. Yeah, I know.) dig in.

STL I <3 U

10 Jul

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TOTES forgive me for, like, my cray use of stuff like <3's, but I just luv my hometown-you can find a beginner’s guide to my fave StL places here.
But I also went to new places this time and the new places convinced me of one thang.
I luv StL even mo because it is ON the craft cocktail thang.
2 many ccktls explain y I’ve devolved 2 so many abbr. words.

Okay, time lapse, I am better now. Bear with me and this post, for there is a drink for you at the end of the road.

And for Kelly, well, I don’t have anything for you, but I promise if you are ever at my house I’ll make the mocktail of your dreams.
After chilling with my parents and some corn in the cob, I started the partay-ing segment of Friday night at Basso, a new gastropub. In true St. Louis fashion it took all of five minutes for me to run into a ghost from the past. The creator of the “Philharmic” drink, Phil, and I worked at a restaurant together when I was in college. I had been in the mood for wine but the cocktail list was too dang interesting. Why have grapes when you could get a Criminale, made with bourbon, pistachio, pear, lemon and cinnamon? Between the three of us we sampled quite a few things. Almost all of them were a bit more sweet than I’d have liked, but were still tasty, if not quite balanced. That is balanced for those of us with bitter tastes in beverages.
I managed to avoid getting into the booze all day Saturday, which began by heading to The St. Louis Art Museum which is magically amazing and free.

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The SLAM has an Ahhhh-mazing new modern wing that was opening that very day. Again, in StL fashion I bumped into another old ghost, my high school art teacher who now works at the museum and was a part of the creation of the new wing. Ahhhh, Rothko:

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I began to reminisce about how my high school had neither a football team nor cheerleaders, but a killer chess team and my father informed me that St. Louis is actually considered the chess capital if the world.

The more you know.

After SLAM we traversed Forest Park aka one of the top ten urban parks in the world to the zoo (also free) to see the new sea lion exhibit. Such cute sea kittens.

Back home it was Clue-playing time with the rentz. I am always Miss Scarlett. Don’t even TRY to be her, she’s mine. I do get bossy sometimes. Seeing as I am queen.

I lost the game.

On with cocktails! One of my most highly anticipated activities was a date with my fwife (definition here) at Taste by Niche where I wanted to try every single one of Ted Kilgore’s cocktails. Taste is getting quite known, and rightfully so. Eleonor learned what Cynar was and I learned to pronounce it. Chee-NAHR. Not SIGH-nar.
Whoops-a-daisy.

Lemme tell you. I need to figure out the Old Flame. My beverage (please pronounce that bev-ehr-RAUGE in your head) included cognac, rye, cocchi rose, dolin dry, solerno blood orange, and absinthe. I had to look up some of those. I would need to buy most of those. But it might just be worth it. It was enough, more cocktails there and I’d have been under the bar, and I wanted my wits about me to enjoy my fwife night.

And yet after some pizaa dinner at the solid Central Table Food Hall, ince back at home we decides to continue the cocktail madness and I raided my parents’ liqueur supply to make a dessert drink. Actually, my mom had requested I make something to use up the vanilla vodka in the freezer so I HAD to oblige.

The recipe awaits your thirsty tongue at the end of this post.

We also made chocolate chip cookies (actually I ate the dough, Eleanor went for the cookies). From the only recipe you really need.

Like, in life. For-evah.

Sunday day included the best damn cup of coffee in the world with my fwife and two of my best damn friends in the world. Meshuggah I have been faithful to you since the wee coffee-swilling age of 13, and I always will, at least when I visit St. Louis.

Next up, a movie with the rents’. I thoroughly endorse Whedon’s version of Much Ado. Much fun.

More Clue. I love that game. Lost one, won one.

Dinner and more cocktail madness came with Andrew, another of the best friends in St. Louis (I have about 3, plus the fwife, I hope that is ok-I realize it is several “bests” but it doesn’t seem too excessive). Andrew is also the fearless leader if the taiko group I used to play with. I miss being in the band.

On with the cocktail madness. Sanctuaria had an out of this world program. I can’t even begin to discuss the merits if the Manhanzerac and all the other delights we drank. Come to think of it, the Old Flame I drank at Taste had elements of a Manhattan-Sazerac mash-up, but also mashed with an Old Pal. I need to figure out my own perfect mash-up of said beverages.

And I want to go back to Sanctuaria. And I want the book. Matt Seiter done good.

Whilst you await my own Manhattan-erac-a’-pal, please accept a very sweet beverage.

FWIFE-NIGHT (makes two. duh.)
1 oz. vanilla vodka
1 oz. Kahlua
1 oz. clear creme de cacao
1/2 oz. amaretto
1 oz. half and half
8 raspberries
orange twist
Add everything but 4 raspberries and the orange peel to a mixing glass. Muddle the berries then add ice and stir the shit out of it. Strain into dainty cups. Float raspberries. Run peel around rim, twist, and drop in. These are very sweet, pretty, SMALL drinks. Probably the way that super-sweet dessert drinks should be.
I hear-tell recently that you shouldn’t drop the citrus peel in the drink unless it is one of those classics like a horse’s neck and the spiral peel is important. But I like a peel in my drink, dammit. And the orange of the peel next to the deep red raspberries is so becoming.

Third Annual Pumpkin Week in Spring Day Five: Black and White Pumpkin Cookies

24 May

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It ain’t a good meal if there isn’t dessert at some point. Seriously. I HAVE to have dessert every day. Just like I have to have a bedtime snack. I need a bedtime snack. I’ve practically broken up with a guy because he never had food at home. Sometimes I like my bedtime snack to be followed by it’s own special dessert. Considered breaking up with someone over that too.

Get yer mind out of the gutter Cliffy!

I am en route soon to do my second show with my improv group, Commonwealth at the Neon Venus Theatre, so I best be getting out of the gutter and into the game.

Then when the night is over I shall have rum, and maybe, just maybe, a cookie.

Incidentally, these cookies are not really black and white. They are black and beige (from the cinnamon) and orange. The world ain’t just black and white and has much more than just variants on the color grey.

Crud, I was headed back into the gutter there.

Black and White Pumpkin Cookies adapted oh so slightly from the Joy the Baker Cookbook by Joy Wilson
Cookies:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
1 15 oz. can of pumpkin
1 tsp. vanilla
White Frosting:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Up to 1 tsp. water
Chocolate Frosting:
2 oz. (about 6 Tbsp.) oz. bittersweet chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli)
1 heaping Tbsp. butter
Pinch salt
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
FOR COOKIES:
Heat the oven to 325 F, line a baking sheet or two with nonstick foil.
Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In another bowl whisk your eggs and sugar. Put some muscle into it, you want it to get jut slightly lighter in hue. Then whisk in pumpkin, applesauce and vanilla. Fold in the flour mixture until totally incorporated. Dollop by heating tablespoons onto the sheet and spread to a 2-inch circle. Bake, start checking around ten minutes doing the clean toothpick test. When you stick it in the middle and it comes out clean, take them out if the oven and put pan on a wire rack for ten minutes, then grab a spatula and move cookies to the wire rack to cool.
FOR GLAZES:
Whisk powdered sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and cinnamon, adding water drop by drop if necessary until it is spreadable.
Melt the chocolate and butter. I put my chocolate in the microwave for 2 minutes at 50 percent power, then add butter and stir. Continue to zap at 50% for shorter periods of time, stirring when you stop, until it is melted. Add the salt and corn syrup.
Turn the cookies over so you are putting the frosting on the flat side. Spread on, half and half, then give them some time for the frosting to get firm. Teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony. Then eat.

Balls. Too late.

5 Sep

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Gosh durnit to heck. I made this for a party weeks ago. And put off posting it. Then suddenly everyone has been posting balls and non-cook things and I feel like I am just hopping on the bandwagon. Like when I spent a year waffling things then a couple weeks before my waffle week waffles were everywhere. Fortunately I had this pumpkin waffle entry written way back when I conceived the idea to prove I did it first. I mean good golly, I admit it when I decide to be a joiner.

Does it matter? What matters is that I made balls and they were tasty so screw it. Here they are. And the entry I wrote ages back when I made these:

Averie loved veggies and yoga. Then she decided she liked dessert more.

Smart woman. Whilst still writing under blog title Loves Veggies and Yoga, she crafted these lovely balls.

I had festivities to contribute to that only had one gluten-free attendee but seeing as she was also host, I thought I better cook in that vein. Vane? Vain? Dictionary.com time…vein.

Too hot to cook. Note made now: it is still too hot to cook, doggonit!
So I scrapped any notion of baking the chocolate bars I had made to woo my Midsummer cast and made the dough balls instead, using brown rice flour instead of regular. And they were good. So there. I’ve got balls too.

Go try em here and say hi to Avery for me.