Monday, November 28, 2011

Off-The-Cuff Cooking: Garlic!

I hope everyone survived the Holiday. Not just the eating, but the horrific shopping there after. I myself, did not partake of the shopping, only the eating.

Dinner at Mom's was wonderful this year. The stuffing was perfect, nice and moist the way I like it. I made sure to bring home lots of left-overs. They're all gone now. But on to the cooking! This year, it was my job to bring a light appetizer to Thanksgiving Dinner. Mom didn't want everyone to fill up on my treats and then not be hungry for dinner.

I agonized over this for quite some time. I wanted to do something with pumpkin, but I also didn't want it to be the sweet pumpkin that everyone was expecting for as a pie for dessert. So I decided on a savory pumpkin idea. One decision down! Now I had to figure out how to present it. Here I journeyed without the aid of a recipe, or any logical thought what so ever.

I mixed my pumpkin puree with Rosemary, Thyme, Garlic, and Lemon Zest. I don't have any actual measurements to provide you for this. I just "Dashed and Shook" till I thought it looked like the right amount. After all of this, it was still mixing up rather thin and watery. So I added about a cup of Sour Cream to the mixture to give it a tang and thicken it up.

My choice for the "Vessel of conveyance" were Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. They make a nice crust without over powering what you put on top of them. I refrigerated the pumpkin mixture to give it a chance to rest while I got the crescent rolls ready. I spread them out in a 13x9 rimmed pan. I squeezed together all of the seams and the spread my pumpkin mixture on top. Into a 350 degree over they went for about 20 minutes.

The day before, I had discovered a box of freshly harvested garlic in our kitchen at work with a sign which read, "Please find me a good home". Well, I couldn't think of any better home than mine for a few bulbs of fresh garlic, so I grabbed about 5 of them. Once home I grabbed 2 of bulbs, slit the tops of them off to expose the pungent cloves below, drizzled on some Olive Oil and then roasted them in the oven for about 30 minutes. I can't tell you how wonderful my house smelled!

So, once my treats came out of the oven, were cooled, and then cut into bite-sized pieces…I added a thin slice of roasted garlic to the top of each one. Of course, being who I am, I tried to match the size of the garlic slice to the size of the pumpkin treat slice. Here they are once they got to my Moms house.

Yummy Roasted Garlic & Savory Pumpkin Bites
They were quite popular. A few folks were wary of the garlic. Once I told them it was roasted garlic, those fears went right out the window. I had cut the treats to the perfect size to simply pop them in your mouth. Therefore, all of the flavors combine perfectly in your mouth. You're not just getting a bite of garlic or pumpkin. I'm still warming up the leftovers! Yummy!!!

The Hubby got in on the fresh garlic too. He has a version of roasted green beans that made perfect use of the spoils from work.

Fresh out of the oven and smelling wonderful!
He combines the fresh green beans with whole cloves of the garlic, olive oil, fresh red onion, salt, and pepper. Then they are roasted in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes. He stirs them every now and then as well. We served them with some stuffed chicken breasts and they were delicious! They made spectacular left-overs too.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Craftaculosity: Baskets for Charity

Ask almost anyone I know and they will tell you that I am not the most charitable person to walk the face of the Earth. They wouldn't be lying either. I don't give money to the homeless, I refuse to donate canned goods, and I will never "Adopt-A-Family".  There are however a few causes I feel passionately about. I am a sucker for HIV/AIDS charities and I will always support the local Humane Society. My other passion is that supporting these causes doesn't have to come in the form of a check. I have chosen to use my many talents to help the organizations I choose to assist and in doing so have raised more money for these charities than I would ever have written a personal check for.

I've taken all of my favorite things (alcohol, shopping, and artistic arrangement/graphic design) and combined them in such a way that they make money for charities. I encourage everyone reading this blog to do the same. It's easy to write a measly check to an organization. Why not take a little time and combine what you love into something that can help the charity you love.

I make Cocktail Configuration Collaborations(Yep, that's what I'm calling them and I'm stickin with it!). The 2 most recent were for a Humane Society Benefit at our local Gay Bar. I assembled 2 pet themed baskets around 2 pet themed cocktails. Each basket contained everything (including the glassware) needed to create each cocktail. And if you didn't want to make that cocktail the recipient could have kept the glassware and booze and mixed whatever they wanted.

The Black Cat. Aren't those little ears precious?

The Love Birds. Look close the basket is made of newspaper (think about it)
I'm not going to post the recipes for these cocktails here since I didn't come up with them. But for a small outpouring of cash on my part (each basket maybe cost me $30 and Tod provided me the feathers and some furry fabric "Thanks Tod!") they were raffled to raise $300 bucks for the local Humane Society. I never would have written that check! 

So, with the Holiday's coming up and every charitable organization imaginable coming out of the woodwork to beg for your money, maybe it's time to think outside the checkbook as to what talents of yours can provide an even bigger return to your favorite charity.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hawaii in My House

The Hubby is a miracle-worker where plants are concerned. I've never had the patience for gardening or growing anything. Heck, I couldn't even grow mint and that's technically a weed! So, a few years ago, I don't know what possessed me to bring plant clippings back from one of my business trips to Hawaii…but I did! 

This summer one of the plants did very well outside, producing all kinds of blooms and growing to a respectable 4ft height. It's "Brother" wasn't doing so well. He only made it to about 18 inches tall and we were resigned to the fact that we may never see blooms from him. He proved us wrong!

The Hubby moved the plant into the bedroom in order to winter it over, hoping to give it a chance to show us it's stuff next summer. Well who knew that our bedroom mimics the tropics of Hawaii? Once in the bedroom it thrived and just the other day produced it's first blooms. Poor thing must have no idea it's sitting in Maryland. I imagine that's going to be a rude awakening for the plant.

So, thanks to The Hubby we have a little bit of Hawaii in our bedroom. It's a good thing too, I know I'll never be traveling back to the actual location. It's just not worth the travel time…if you ask me!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NY NY It's a Hell of a…Sink?

For the past 3 days I have been in The Big Apple for work. Nothing exciting to report in regards to the trip…it was a one day affair, "Set it up, tear it down" sort of thing. What was rather nice is the hotel I was staying in. The Hotel Gansevoort Park Avenue (yes, you have to specify, because there are 2 of them. I went to the wrong one first. It's in the Meatpacking District and also very nice and a lot closer to all of the stuff I wanted to do while I was there, but I'm not bitter…much) is an amazing boutique hotel.

"Boutique", that's a fashionable way of saying the rooms are spectacularly decorated, but pretty darn small and a tiny 2 ounce bottle of Rum is gonna cost you $10. (But I needz my rum!)

Of course it also means you are treated to a certain level of opulence. Here is what my (small) room looked like.

Don't be fooled, I could barely walk between the chair and the bed.
You also tend to get a nice selection of toiletries. No Bath & Bodyworks stuff here!

Not to mention how delightfully they are displayed.
On to the sink…(I didn't forget the title of the post)

TOTALLY OUT OF PROPORTION! I couldn't comfortably walk around my room, but I could fit both of my legs into the sink (go on, try wiping that visual image out of your head). What is up with that? I mean, that could be a baby coffin for all I know! Despite being that huge, it was still possible to splash water out of it while rinsing your face.

It's a true testament to the fact that the designer didn't "live" in the space before submitting it. No one needs a sink that large! Just wasted space…they could have put in a smaller sink and thereby given the bedroom more space. Why does no one consult me on such matters? The world (or at least this hotel) would be a better place if they did!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cafe Tu Tu Tango

I was recently in Orlando, FL for work and had the opportunity to eat at my favorite restaurant there…and drag my coworkers along with me. Cafe Tu Tu Tango is nestled in between all of the tourist traps on International Drive in Orlando. I was sure that it too was a chain of 100's of restaurants all over the country, but NO! It is a one of a kind gem, just the sort of restaurants I enjoy finding.

Yes, it's all bright colors!
The thing that makes Cafe Tu Tu Tango amazing isn't just the food. They bring in local artists who not only sell their completed wares, but create them right there. The night we were there 2 painters we at their easels and a jewelry designer was in the house. In addition, every piece of art in the restaurant is for sale. I saw some amazing pottery I would have loved to get if I'd had a way to get it home safely. Eating and shopping, 2 of my favorite past-times under one roof!

The food is  best described as Tapas. It's small plates, but is not your usual Spanish Tapas. In addition to the regular menu (which I highly suggest you peruse) the chef creates weekly specials that are out of this world delicious.

My dinner, I forgot to take a pic of my dessert.
I had the Southwest Chicken Flat Bread and the Pork Medallions. One of my coworkers got the short ribs and another got the Black Bean Soup, which I have had and can tell you is out of this world amazing. She liked it so much she ordered a second cup! For dessert I got the Cheesecake Pops. They take incredibly rich cheesecake, cut it into triangles and dip it in chocolate, then chill it and stick it on a lollipop stick. Every bite is a cold lesson in decadence.

So, if you find yourself in Orlando having a Disney or Universal lobotomy. Take the time to stray from the parks and seek out this little gem of a restaurant. They don't take reservations, but I requested "Preferred Seating" through OpenTable and the 5 of us were seated within 5 minutes of arriving at the restaurant.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sir-Mix-A-Lush: The Poison Apple

The Halloween Party may have been a bust, but the Official Party Cocktail was not! I had to drink something while I agonized over canceling the party…didn't I?

I give you…The Poisoned Apple! I'd be lying if I told you the inspiration didn't come from my new favorite TV show Once Upon a Time.

On The Rocks. Creepy apple, huh?

I love how the apple "Bleeds" into the drink
It's really simple to make. The garnish is the hardest part and best if prepared a day early. I found some VERY firm Gala Apples at the grocery store. Using my mandolin I sliced them VERY thinly making sure to preserve the apple shape in the slices. I laid the slices evenly in a container I could seal and fit in my fridge and then covered them in pomegranate juice (VERY RED). Into the fridge they went for a day. The next day I drained off most of the juice, leaving just a little in the bottom for the apples to "drink up.

Now for the cocktail itself…

The Poisoned Apple (On The Rocks Version)
          2oz   Absolut Orient Apple Vodka
          2oz   Spiced Apple Cider
                   Ginger Ale

          Fill a Rocks Glass with ice and pour in the vodka and apple cider. 
          Top with ginger ale and stir.
          Garnish with one of "Poisoned" apples by sliding it down the edge 
          of the glass.

The Poisoned Apple (Up Version)
          Same ingredients

          Chill a martini glass. In a cocktail shaker with ice, add the vodka
          and the apple cider. Shake vigorously. Strain into martini glass
          Garnish by floating the "Poisoned" apple on top. Top off the 
          cocktail with ginger ale. This really makes the apple "bleed".

Now if you don't have any of the Oriental Apple Vodka, first I would ask, "Why the hell don't you?" and then I would suggest using unflavored vodka and increasing the spiced cider by and ounce or so. Also, if you can't find spiced apple cider, you can spice your own. I had to. I bought regular everyday apple cider (we have some wonderful orchards around here where I can get it fresh) and you can get mulling spices in tea bag form. I simply dunked the tea bags into the cider jug for a day and BAM! spiced apple cider! Who knew it could be so easy?

The cocktail itself (even without the "Poisoned" apple) is a delightful fall sipper. I plan to also try it as a warm drink by heating up the apple cider and then adding the vodka to it. YUM!!!

Enjoy, and let me know what you think of it.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Halloween Party That Wasn't

Many of you may know that much of the East Coast was blanketed with snow over Halloween weekend. We didn't miss out on it here in Maryland, that's for sure! My Halloween Party (Dress the F*ck Up! was the theme) was scheduled for Saturday. 

Come Friday, once it seemed certain that we were going to get the snow they were calling for, I almost canceled it. Instead I opted for a "Wait and see" approach. Well, we woke up on Saturday to 5 inches of snow already on the ground and more on the way. So, I was forced to do something I have almost never done…send out a cancelation email. I think most people took it for granted that the party wasn't happening. I didn't want to risk anyone trying to get here in the snow. Also, the snow brought down one of the trees at the end of my street so it would have been more difficult to get here.

With the party canceled, The Hubby and I didn't want to waste our costumes. So Tod came over and picked us up in his Durango and we ventured out to The Lodge for their yearly Halloween event. No one does Halloween like the Gays! It's our High Holiday. It was fun, and I was surprised by the huge crowd of people who braved the weather and many fallen trees to get there.

Come Sunday, the snow was mostly gone and here I was, sitting at home with a house full of Party Food. So I called my folks and some other friends and had them over to eat. About 10 people showed up in costume…bless their hearts!

So here is the food spread from the evening. 

Ghoulish, No?

Aside from the usual chips and dips (yes, that is Salsa in the skull…BRAINS!), The Hubby made his Creepy Spider Cookies (Chow Mien Noodles covered in chocolate and butterscotch chips). There are Boogers on a Stick standing up in the glasses (Pretzel sticks dipped in colored Cheese Whiz). I also made my Frequently Requested Meatballs (Meatballs in an Alfredo/Sun-Dried Tomato sauce) and my Puke Dip (Ground Beef, Rotel Tomatoes, and Velveeta Cheese all melted up).

I had a few other ideas for the menu, but once the snow hit I scrapped them. They were a little more high maintenance and so now I'll just save them for next years party. Make sure you're on the guest list!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ok Married Couples

I am curious. How do you handle your finances. I don't need details. I certainly don't want actual figures. But I'm curious…as an unmarried gay male in a long term live-in relationship…how do you do it? Is everything split 50/50? Is there a joint account for bills? Is there a separate saving for home/vacation/fun?

For the longest time I've handled everything financial in regards to our relationship. That's changed now and we have different accounts. So I'm hoping you can give me some insight as to how you handle it.

Leave your experiences and tips/hints/tricks in the comments. Thanks!