Saturday, December 31, 2011 The End of 2011


With all the Hanukkah posts on Facebook last week I had to make me some deep fried latkes. Twice. And as DDelicious as they were, it's time for me to put away the deep fryer and focus on finding my waist line.

You've heard this before. Last year. And I wrote an article for this month's Alternative Control on the issue. I'm fat, that's my issue.

But, I am determined to lose some weight and get back into some of my old clothes. How will I do this? Eat better, move more. That's it.

Over the last few days I've begun the process. GoLean high fiber cereal has 18 grams of fiber in a serving. Fiber is key, and back in my skinny days high fiber cereal was the cornerstone of my diet. I could eat anything I wanted, as long as I ended the day with a big bowl of high fiber everything would come out okay, if you catch my drift. But, these days that trick no longer works. I'm assuming my digestive tract is too old to perform the way it used to. And, in my defence, I move way less now than I used to. I used to have to learn choreography and execute it, now my musical theatre days are over and I spend all that time sitting on the couch instead of moving to the music.

I've been making soup for lunch with my homemade stock. Add a little high fiber pasta (Smart Taste in the purple box) a little broccoli, maybe some beets or purple cabbage. It's filling, low fat (if there's any fat at all, the veggie stock I make is fat-free) and packed with the veggies and fiber my body needs.

I played around with a stuffed manicotti recipe a few times in the past couple weeks. I had a ton of ricotta cheese that I needed to use before it went to waste. Since there's obviously fat in the cheese, I wanted to try to leave it out of the rest of the prep. The pasta was cooked for about 7 minutes in boiling water. I mixed about 1 1/2 cups of the cheese with one egg and one thawed cube of basil. The basil was actually pureed with olive oil and frozen in an ice cube tray, so there is some additional fat in the recipe, but it's a good fat.

While the pasta cooked I sauteed another cube of basil (more olive oil) with some broccoli, carrots, onion, garlic and stock cubes. This time it was ham stock, but you can use veggie stock. I let it cook for a while to let the carrots get soft. Then I thickened the whole pan with a little cornstarch in water.

I assembled the whole thing in a casserole dish. One layer of raw baby spinach on the bottom of the dish, then pipe the cheese mixture into the manicotti (you can use a cake decorating bag or a ziplock) and arrange them on top of the spinach. Top with more baby spinach and then pour the sauced veggies on top of it all. Put the lid on and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

It was really fantastic. Almost like pesto and primavera had a baby. A great way to get some veggies in me without the usual fat from sauteing. I'll continue to perfect the recipe and experiment with lots of different veggies and fillings. Someone suggested cottage cheese instead of ricotta, and I'd like to try using a vegan egg (1 tablespoon milled flax seed with 3 tablespoons water) to add more fiber to the recipe. We'll see what happens.

I've cut the extra calories from some of my favorite side veggies as well. I usually saute my purple cabbage in butter before I braise it in red wine vinegar and water until tender. I left the butter out the other night with no discernible difference. And my mashed sweet potatoes were just scrumptious, even without the added milk and butter. I used the cooking liquid instead to get them to the right consistency. Just as tasty. I'll save a lot of calories if I prep all my food this way. Plus, the leftovers will end up in the next days soup. More veggies in my tummy and less in the trash. Good all around.

As I head into the new year I'll be writing down everything I eat. The last two days I didn't do too badly. A soft boiled egg on plain toast is just about 150 calories and it fills you up. All I have to do is get my neighbor to stop bringing me candy and it should all work out.

By keeping track I hope to get back on track. I'll be a hot Headbanging Hostess by Spring! Boo yeah!

Have a wonderful New Year, everyone! Be safe! Rock on!

-HH

PS - My Headbanging empire is ever expanding (like my ass). Check out The Mercurial! You'll love it! \m/

Sunday, December 18, 2011 All Good Gardens Must Come To An End

Alas, it is true. I took down the tomato plants the other day. My lack of attention had caused about half of the fruit to freeze and start to rot on the vine. I was able to save only a few, and they'll end up in the stockpot one day. Two of my pepper plants are still going. The peppers they're sprouting are quite small so I figured on giving them as much time as the weather will allow. Their leaves are nestled together and they're covered with a sheet. We'll see how they do.

The rosemary and catnip are covered as well. I'm hoping the rosemary can last through the winter into next season. It seems I buy a new seedling every year and it never really has the chance to grow. They are related to the evergreen, surely they're meant for more than one season.

The broccoli I grew never sprouted anything but leaves, yet I still don't have the heart to take them down. Eventually I will have to.

This garden is so intertwined with my beloved bunny. Nutmeg fueled the garden with his adorable little poops, and the garden in-turn fueled him with it's basil and catnip and oregano and lettuce and spinach and carrots... It was as close to a self-sustaining farm as you're gonna get in a second floor condo.

But now that Nutmeg's gone I think it's time for a change. I need to continue with the culinary herbs, but the large vegetable plants will have to go. I need the room... For a PUPPY!!!

Once in a while the Universe sends you a sign. When everything seems to fall into place, sometimes decisions are made for you, as if your rabbit is dictating your life from beyond the Rainbow Bridge.

When Nutmeg died we were devastated. It was sudden, too soon, I wasn't ready. I never could be. That little bundle of fluff had brought us so much joy - I thought I had to get another rabbit. My husband wanted another one from his line; one we knew would be healthy, raised with love and overflowing with personality. But, alas, that was not meant to be. The breeder had stopped breeding rabbits.

As time went on we slowly realized that no bunny could ever fill Nutmeg's shoes. He was that extraordinary. It would be unfair to expect ANY rabbit to live up to the legend of Nutmeg. And our minds slowly wandered towards thoughts of dogs. We looked at breeds and pondered our choices.

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, a beautiful breed popped out of a book. Rusty color with blue eyes and a pink nose. If I were to choose a dog by its looks alone, this would be it. We lived with the thought for a number of weeks, although I was still yearning for some bunny love, I was coming to terms with the fact that we'd soon be dog owners.

Then we got an e-mail from Nutmeg's breeder. She did have two adult rabbits left for adoption. I forwarded the e-mail to my husband, hoping he'd cave and let me have a bunny. He said "I'm looking at the Havanese."

He was smart enough to scroll to the bottom of the e-mail, where there was a link to the breeders new business, breeding Havanese.

They were adorable. Fluffy little puppies, splashed with color and brimming with that adorable puppy energy. It took about 24 hours to get used to the idea.

We're going to be Havanese parents.

I contacted the breeder and she put us on the list. I cannot tell you how happy it makes me that we'll be getting a dog related to Nutmeg. Waiting to pick up that puppy will be the longest months of my life...

But back to the garden! All those vegetable plants will have to make way for a puppy play area! I'll have to get rid of all those icing buckets from back in the day (like, at least 5 years ago back in the day). I'll have to find some smaller planters, or get rid of them all together. Anyone need some dirt? I'll have buckets of it to give away, slightly exhausted soil, but still with some bunny love for your plants.

I'm hoping to get a bench out there so we can sit. Other than that, and the grill and the wire shelving that I'll keep some smaller plants on, the porch will transition from farm to yard and our new baby will have a place to lay in the sun, smell the fresh air and bark at my neighbor when he pees out the window.

Who could ask for anything more?

If anyone has suggestions for planters I'll take them. I have an entire winter to decide what will happen out there. And if anyone has any dog biscuit recipes, I'm sure The Headbanging Havanese will be appreciative \m/

Rock on!

-HH

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 Tree Trimming Party Featuring Good King Wenceslas by Demented Dream States

Thursday, December 8, 2011 Lovin' the Dutch Oven


I love this thing.

My neighbor gave it to me a few months ago when she thought she was moving. She hasn't moved. And she's not getting it back.

I didn't even know how to use it, really. I had to ask on Facebook, I wasn't sure if the enameled bottom would stick to my stove top. It doesn't. It's brilliant.

I've done a couple beef roasts in it so far. This week I made a chicken. Whole freakin' thing, right in the pot. So far we've had two meals - tonight it's fajitas with the rest of the chicken.

Starting with the pot on the stove top I seasoned the whole chicken with Penzys Northwoods Seasoning. Then I put it in the hot pan with some olive oil breast side down. After a few minutes I struggled with some tongs to flip it over. None of this was probably necessary, cooking it breast down would have been just fine. As you can see in the picture I ripped off a hunk of skin when I flipped it. The quality of the meat was unaffected. I also threw in about 6 or 7 ham stock cubes. I let it go for about 2 hours at 300 and then threw in some sliced onions and chunks of peeled sweet potato for one more hour of cooking.

Absolute perfection. The chicken was falling off the bone, one smooth move and my husband had the whole breast off in one beautiful hunk. The knife slid into the sweet potatoes like a hot knife in warm butter. I sauteed some spinach in butter and garlic - for some reason it smelled like lobster to me, but I went with it. We quickly ate ourselves into comas.

To be honest I just left it in the pot. Let it cool on the counter for about 1/2 hour and then put the whole thing in the fridge. This might not always be safe. Remember the whole temperature thing - 40-140 is the danger zone. You don't want it there for more than 4 hours total (put simply). You need the food to cool quickly, but you also don't want to put a big hot thing in your fridge, you may spoil everything else. I felt the leftover portion was small enough that it would cool quickly. A huge pot of sauce, for example, may remain hot in the center. That can cause bacteria to grow.

Always use your noggin.

Yesterday, when we reheated it, I put it in the oven at 350 for an hour and then dropped it to 250 until we were ready to eat, about 1 hour later.

See what I mean about this thing? It's low-tech, set-it-and-forget-it.

I bet chili in a dutch oven kicks-ass! Stay tuned!

-HH

Tuesday, December 6, 2011 Nailing Down The Menu


Looks like it's another one of those times when I have no idea how many people are coming. Whateve's.

I've seriously considered several menu options, and I'm not set on too much right now. I'm definitely making some version of the Pulled Pork Corn Cake Muffin we had at The Big E. Other than that I'm not too sure. I bought some Apple Butter and Pumpkin Butter in the grange building at The Big E, so maybe I'll make dessert pizzas with those and some nuts and ricotta cheese.

I'm thinking of making small batches of potato chips for our guests. We've done that before, seasoning the batches differently with Old Bay or rosemary. My deep fryer, while a fun toy, really has no capacity for serving a large amount of guests. I'm guessing people will be coming in at scattered times, hopefully the little fryer can keep up.

I've got an AWESOME song by a kick-ass band for the video - Good King Wenceslas by Demented Dream States \m/ I'm very excited to be back in the video making biz for the moment.

This'll probably be the last video for 2011. I've made way less videos this year than I did in 2010. We'll see if I get back in the groove in 2012. Between school, the re-emergence of my playwriting career and the passing of our little bunny 2011 was a tough year for dinner parties. Next year I'm hoping to go ahead with my scaled down dinner party plans. I'm also looking to branch out into private cooking lessons...and maybe more. Stay tuned!

-HH

Monday, December 5, 2011 It's Not A Christmas Tree (pronounced a la Ahnold in Total Recall)


This coming Sunday we will be trimming a tree for the first time in quite a few years. My relationship with Christmas as an adult has been touch-and-go to say the least; come-and-go and yes-and-no say more on the subject. I spent many years working on and performing in the annual Christmas Show at the Spinning Wheel Inn, so I was in the Christmas spirit all those years. When you start singing carols in October that's going to happen. But we haven't had a tree since I stopped doing the show 5 years ago.

As a kid I loved Christmas! And my atheist parents celebrated gladly. We'd trim the tree and hang our stockings and watch all the Christmas specials. When I was young it was all about Santa, but then I learned the story of the nativity through both osmosis and by going to church with my friend Michele when I'd slept over on Saturday night. But I never believed it, and I guess this is where my conflicted relationship with Christmas began. It's always been a sticking point, I guess you can say. A soft spot.

There's a special look you get from some people when you tell them you're atheist. You can tell right away they'll never really connect with you again, you're an immediate outsider. All those things about you they liked immediately have no value.

And sometimes you get the questions. "How did we get here?" "What happens to you when you die?" "How do you have morals if you don't believe in God?"

I'm back at recess in the school yard; back on the phone when they'd call and harass me. Seriously. Junior high crap. From adults.

This is all partly the subject of the new play I'm working on, Showers of Happiness. So writing this is helping me write that. But the focus here is my tree trimming party, so back to that...

I'm being very conscious of not calling it a Christmas tree, because I'm not celebrating the birth of Christ. I am celebrating the ancient Pagan Winter Solstice, the tradition of getting together with family and friends and decorating a tree.

I know. It's a whole thing. It's an attack on Christmas and the Christians are feeling persecuted. My Catholic therapist and I touched on the subject, quickly saw we had a difference of opinion and changed the subject before it all went south. She was upset the White House was trying to call the Christmas tree a Holiday tree. (There goes Obama trying to please everyone again, I don't mind when it's me he's trying to please.) Pagans were decorating trees long before Christianity began. December 25 is not the day Jesus was born. I really don't know what else to say on the subject.

So, I'm not attacking Christianity by not saying Christmas tree, I'm being honest. My tree is not a Christmas tree. You may have all the Christmas trees you want; you may call them what you want. But don't give me the stink eye because I choose to honor the origination of the holiday, in the ancient Pagan traditions that my ancestors surely passed down through the generations to my atheist parents.

Happy Holidays \m/

-HH

PS - Check out my #UnoccupyTheMall article on Alternative Control \m/

Thursday, December 1, 2011 Knitting Again?


I opened my knitting cabinet for the first time in two years the other day. I couldn't believe how much yarn I had in there. I wasn't even sure what I'd bought some of it for - bright orange and lavender? They don't go together, do they?

I've been a beginning knitter for at least 8 years. Dishtowels are my specialty, but I've also managed a few baby sweaters and a re-usable shopping bag or two. Now, after years of use, my dishtowels are all falling apart so it's time to knit me some new ones :)

As you can see I've re purposed my Saugatuck Craft Butchery bag. Double green, yo! We went there the day after Small Business Saturday and got some ground beef for chili dogs. Incredible stuff, it's not even the same color as grocery store meat. If you haven't been yet you're missing out. Go. I'm serious. Stop reading this.


In other news I'm writing a new play titled Showers of Happiness. Right now I'm about 50 pages in, but it's off to a solid start. I also have an #UnoccupyTheMall article coming out on Alternative Control soon. And I've been asked by The Mercurial to share some of my blog content with their site. It seems the Headbanging Hostess empire is expanding at a rate similar to my waistline.

The next big event here in Headbanging Hostessland will be our tree trimming party. I spent 50 bucks on pipe cleaners, felt, pom poms, popsicle sticks and other glittery whatnot's so our friends can create the ornaments for our tree. The menu hasn't been decided but we're running for 6 hours so it should be a challenge. Plus, I want mostly finger foods...so we'll see what happens.

What are you planning for the holidays?

-HH

KinkSlip is now Paula G Reality \m/

Remember KinkSlip from the Dinner on a Stick Night video? The one we shared with CTBites that got a ton of views and introduced a bunch of people to the sounds of Waking Elliot, The Midnightmares and KinkSlip, which is now...

Paula G Reality

Check out their video!




And check out their Kickstarter campaign - help them out and get a CD!

Local music CD's make great stocking stuffers! #UnoccupyTheMall

-HH

Friday, November 18, 2011 Preparing For The Next Storm

We've had quite a problem with power outages in Connecticut these past few months. First Irene and then that blasted Nor'easter; some people had had to live without power for 3 or more weeks! I consider myself lucky, we only lost power for a day because of Irene. The freak winter storm had no effect on us, thank goodness. But even still, that one day without power provided us with a challenge; and while I could have done another day or two, we were happy to stop eating grilled hot dogs.

So here are a few tips and ideas to get you through the next power outage - it can't be far away with the REAL winter weather still to come. Plan ahead, bundle up and tell CL&P to go screw when they want a rate hike.

There are plenty of things we can eat without refrigeration or cooking. Fresh fruits, breads, cereal (dry cereal won't kill you), cookies, crackers, candy, nuts, dried fruits - you get my point. Why not have a few boxes of extra cereal in the cupboard? Buy things on sale and then stash them away.

Own a grill! We have a little grill that uses disposable propane tanks. That thing was a dream to own that day we didn't have power. My husband boiled water for my tea on it, we grilled hot dogs and mini-potatoes. We felt pretty civilized for two people without power. Definitely a great investment. Don't use it indoors!

As soon as the power goes out (or before if you somehow know it's going to happen) take all the perishables you can out of the fridge and put them in the freezer. Hot dogs? In the freezer. Milk? In the freezer. Yogurt? In the freezer. Things like butter and hard cheeses can stay in the fridge for a while. Number one the fridge isn't going to INSTANTLY heat up and spoil everything. Number two those things are best eaten at room temp anyway. Use your judgement as best you can. Remember the temperature danger zone is 40-140. Don't open the fridge every 10 minutes like you usually do :)

Maybe this idea is hitting me because it's almost Thanksgiving, but why not have a frozen turkey on stand-by? Or a frozen ham or a chicken? Take it out of the freezer and pop it in the fridge - it frees up room for your hot dogs, milk and yogurt and while it's thawing it will keep the temp of your fridge down.

Keep some thermometers handy - you never want to prepare food for your family that has spent a good amount of time in the temperature danger zone (40-140), but with a little planning and smart thinking you can have a few days of real meals during a power outage. And what else are you gonna do? You can't watch television!

Fill every possible container with water. Buy ice. Make sure you have working flashlights and safe places for candles. Make sure your pets are safe. Call your local fire department if you have medication that needs refrigeration! They will help you! You really, really must plan ahead. We've seen enough disasters on television at this point in our history, you need to take the proper steps to see that you are taken care of. Be proactive. Many Connecticut residents were trapped for WEEKS in their homes without power because of downed trees. You need to be prepared if you want to survive.

And, by the way, if it's actually winter when there's a winter storm you might be able to keep your food outside (away from critters, but cold).

And while you're waiting for that to happen...try using less power. F CL&P. In the future I hope they're more proactive about tree removal and trimming. I hope they pay the shirts less and the linemen more. I hope they hire more linemen and less shirts. And I hope the next guy who runs the company is actually from Connecticut and actually gives a crap about us.

Don't depend on the government or the power company to take care of you - because they will fail, and you deserve better.

-HH

BTW - after a few days without power THROW IT ALL OUT!!! Even the ketchup and salad dressing. I mean it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011 My First Saugatuck Craft Butchery Experience


Look at that little bundle of joy. Go ahead, just look at it. I won't judge you.

OMG. Yesterday I had my first Saugatuck Craft Butchery experience. I was looking forward to it since I'd first read the article on CTBites. As most of my Facebook fans know, I'm not one to get excited about restaurant openings. But butcher openings? Give me a place to get some kick-ass ingredients and I'm a happy headbanging camper.

Well let me tell you, they did not disappoint.

As I walked up to the joint there was a nice young woman setting up shop for the day, placing doormats with pink pigs in their proper places. Of course I had to comment and we started talking (the doormats were at Bed, Bath & Beyond) and the conversation organically shifted to the organic meats (get it? Ba-dum-bum). She was super nice in assisting me, it's a good thing I was the only customer there because I had no idea what I wanted. I knew I wanted to use the fancy dutch oven my neighbor gave me, that was about it. I hemmed and hawed over lamb for a bit, I've only really liked it once. I know I need to learn to like it, and the uber-patient young woman helping me explained that pasture raised lamb has a different taste than supermarket lamb, but I was still unsure about it. Thankfully the Owner/Head Butcher who had been busy breaking down a steer with a bunch of other manly-men in burlap hats chimed in with a beef roast and I was sold. A pound-and-a-half, just enough for me and my husband. It was $15.08 - I know that sounds like a lot of money to some people. But just think about it, I supported a local business, a local farmer; I can live with the fact that the animal I ate only had one bad day in his life (straight from the butcher's mouth) and my husband and I had an awesome dinner. That was money well spent!

Check it out! They have tons of stuff, local yogurt, maple syrup, all sorts of dried meats, burgers, chicken wings, local cheeses. They use up every bit of the animal and even have cuts of meat you've never heard of. They visit all the farms as well as the slaughterhouses. It's a top notch operation, people; just go already! I can't come up with any more words to describe the awesomeness. Two Tits-Up for Saugatuck Craft Butchery!

And now, the recipe portion of this programming...


So I get this beautiful, tied-up piece of meat home. I give it a good covering of garlic salt, onion powder, rosemary powder and pepper and let it sit for a while. Just before General Hospital started I put the enameled dutch oven directly on the stove top (Which I wasn't sure I could do. Thank you James and Jane) and I browned the meat in olive oil all around. Then I threw in some of my husbands white wine and some bay leaf, threw on the lid, tossed it into the preheated 300 degree oven and left it for two hours.

When I opened the lid I was horrified. Everything looked scorched, my piece of meat had been replaced with a much smaller piece of meat that looked horribly overdone. I almost cried. I've never used a dutch oven before and I was convinced I'd ruined that beautiful piece of steer. My husband consoled me, assuring me it would be great. He grabbed some stock-cubes from the freezer as I doused it with more wine and tossed in some onion and carrots.

An hour later I took it out of the oven. I took the meat out to rest and put the carrots back on the burner. I tasted it, adjusted the salt, added pepper, rosemary, a shot of maple syrup to take out the bitter; a corn starch slurry thickened it up as it simmered on the stove. I threw some green beans and pine nuts under the broiler for a few minutes. I like them that way, nice and crispy - some people might say they were raw but that just means they've eaten overcooked green beans their whole lives...how sad for them.

The meat rested for about 20 minutes before my husband sliced it. There was no slicing. It was so tender...just look at the picture.




The carrots were covered in a rich brown onion sauce and cooked perfectly, giving way easily to my fork and still bright orange in the middle. The meat was incredible, light as air, almost indescribable. Have you had the Hershey chocolates with the air bubbles? This is the meat equivalent to that. Smooth like ice cream, tender. We dogged it. Wasn't one bite left.

I will be using both the butcher and the dutch oven more often. Rock on! \m/

-HH

Saugatuck Craft Butchery is located at 575 Riverside Ave in Westport, CT - Right of I-95 exit 17

Sunday, November 13, 2011 #OnlyOnCoveRoad Update


Anyone remember the last edition of #onlyoncoveroad. It seems someone in Stamford's city government is a follower of the Headbanging Hostess and they made sure the crosswalk was fixed! Not likely ;) But it was fixed none-the-less.

Somewhat.

First of all, what you see there is not brick. It is stamped into the blacktop and then painted to look like brick. I can't wait to see what happens in February when the plow trucks go by. Should be interesting. Please, blacktop-stamp-people, prove me wrong.

I can't lie, it looks odd to me. Not sure if I like it. It looks out of place in my neighborhood.


PLUS, as you can see here. We've got parking issues. People like to park on what should be the sidewalk. My side of the street has sidewalk down the entire length, the other side it comes and goes. Down the street they just put in a brand new length of sidewalk, right in front of three businesses that have effectively lost their parking. Way to go city! In the meantime the sidewalk on my side of the street, the complete stretch all the way to the beach, is falling apart, cracked, uneven and quite frankly too narrow for the main pedestrian thoroughfare to the beach. But we have these fancy new corners, I guess I shouldn't complain. Unless I get hit by a car parking in the crosswalk.

#OnlyOnCoveRoad

-HH

Saturday, November 12, 2011 Pickled Peppers Rock - Who Knew?


Yesterday, when I woke up at 4AM for no good reason I came out to find this note on my computer. Apparently after I'd gone to bed at 9PM my husband tried the pickled peppers I'd made him the week before. Looks like he liked them.

When he came home from the supermarket a week ago with two huge peppers telling me I was going to pickle them like we'd talked about I really had no idea what he was referring to. We talked about pickled peppers? I had zero recollection of the conversation but I said I'd make them for him. I, of course, turned to the Google to find a recipe. This was the tricky part because I'm not really canning them, I don't have the equipment to do that, so I needed a recipe that didn't rely on that ancient method of food preservation.

It took a while but I found one. I didn't have all of the proper ingredients (ground spices instead of whole) and I also didn't measure a darn thing. But what's new? Here's an approximation of what I did...

Two large green peppers, cored and cut into finger width slices.

Put them into plastic containers, stuffed to the top.

In a sauce pan mix equal parts red wine vinegar and water, enough to cover the peppers in their containers.

Add to that a palm full (palmful?) of salt, a palmful (palm full?) of sugar, 3 chopped garlic cloves, a couple bay leaves, and whole spices (if you have them, I used ground) of peppercorn, cumin and coriander.

Bring all that to a boil and then cover the peppers in their containers, all the way to the top. Put on the lids, push out that last bit of air if you can and put them away in the fridge for a week.

Now, I've gotta say, I had not planned on eating these. They were for my husband and I was happy to make them, but the idea of pickled peppers did nothing for me. Well, let me tell you. I was wrong! He made me try one yesterday. First he made me eat a piece of salami with some sharp provolone. Then he handed me the pickled pepper - begrudgingly I bit into it...WOW! Crunchy, spicy, sour, sweet - it was the best darned pickled thing I've ever eaten! Incredibly tasty, I was won over by these little slices of pickle perfection. I have to insist you try them. Every tray of pepperoni, cheese and crackers that you make from this day forward should be accompanied by these little vinegar dreams.

They'll last a few weeks in the fridge, if we don't eat them all, but we might. I see Italian subs in our future...Mmm...

-HH

Friday, November 11, 2011 Gardener's Pie


I wore myself out yesterday slaving over this Gardener's Pie. I walked down to the supermarket for ingredients (after doing my usual 3 miles for exercise) and walked back switching the overfilled bag from hand to hand asking my elbows to please stay attached.

I bought everything I needed, but I forgot to put some of them in the pie. This is why I'm up at 4AM - I just realized I left out the frozen veggie mix that cost me $3.50! (I was forced to buy fancy organic, the supermarket mixed veggies included Lima beans! Ick! Lima beans!) I also forgot to add the barley I'd planned to add for texture and fiber...whatever. It was damn tasty.

Here's a link to the picture set on Facebook.

I like to think it's self-explanatory, but here's a description just in case.

First off I started caramelizing one thinly sliced onion in a pan with a spot of butter and olive oil. Then I ground up 3/4ths of a bag of chips in a food processor with a splash of olive oil. I used reduced fat chips because I was trying to be healthy (ha!) and skipped the melted butter I usually use in this application. I wanted to save the butter for the potatoes.

Lookin' healthy so far, right? ;)

Push the potato chip crumbs into a pie pan forming a crust and bake for 5 minutes or so at 350.

While that's going on and the onions have started to color add a 10 ounce package of chopped up mushrooms to the pan. Stir that up and let it go for a while. If there's not enough moisture in the pan you can go ahead and add a little stock. All told I added about 1 1/2 cups of stock but it all cooked down so much there was just enough left for a good covering of gravy - not too much because you don't want it soupy. Maintaining the crunch of the crust isn't entirely possible, but you don't want to ruin your chances by adding too much liquid - then you're guaranteed mush.

Once that's started you can boil the potatoes - I used two of each and had a little left over. While they were cooking I added some cooked asparagus to the mushroom and onion filling and thickened the gravy with 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch mixed in a spot of water. That's the spot where I forgot the barley, I'll have to try that again some day. I do use barley in my bean chili and it gives a nice texture that somewhat makes up for the fact there's no meat.

I suppose that's also where I missed the veggie mix - but I had plenty of filling for the size pie plate I was using. I carefully spooned most of the mixture into the pie, careful not to disturb the crust, and then used a rubber spatula to spread the rest of the gravy covered goodness evenly in the center of the pie.

Then I mashed the potatoes, keeping some of the water in each. What I should do is boil down the water and keep it for stock, there's still flavor in there, but I'm not that hardcore, yet. A spot of butter in each, a little salt - I loaded a piping bag with the white mash and made stripes at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock and then added another stripe in between, ending up with 8 stripes. Then I went in with the sweet potato mash and did zig-zags in between ending with a nice dollop in the center. Sprinkle with chips, bake for a bit. Make a little extra gravy in the same pan in you want... Outstanding. Even if I forgot a few ingredients. My husband said it was really good for something that didn't have any meat in it. So there. The caramelized onions and mushrooms are just killer and anything you want to add or forget to add to them is going to make your Gardener's Pie uniquely yours - and it'll taste awesome! No lie!

-HH

Monday, November 7, 2011 Mushroom Gravy and Roasted Roots


Yesterday I had a grand vision of a healthy roasted veggie dinner with mushroom gravy. I had homemade stock, I had cauliflower and I had carrots. I skipped my usual 3 mile walk and instead opted for walking to the supermarket, not exactly 3 miles but there's a big hill on the way back that I've convinced myself is good exercise. Down at the market I picked up a couple sweet potatoes, mushrooms and an onion. The mushrooms were baby portobellos - $3.99 for 10 ounces. They had assorted exotic mushrooms, that was leaning towards buying until I saw the price - $4.50 for 4 ounces! 18 bucks a pound! Remind me to get into the mushroom business! I settled on the portobellos and walked up the hill to go home.

Of course, when the dinner prep began I realized the cauliflower was past its prime, as were the carrots I've had in my fridge for a little too long. So out they went. I found a potato that was still good enough to eat and a turnip I'd bought at the Farmers Market - they'd have to do.

First I started on the gravy, caramelizing the sliced onion in butter and olive oil. It takes time caramelizing onions, but they're so worth it. Caramelized onions make everything better, it's just a fact. Once they were in good shape I added the mushrooms I'd sliced, stems and all, and let that get happy for a while. Once the mushrooms started to get their cook on I added 2 cups of my homemade stock. Once that came to a simmer I turned down the heat and let it go...for like an hour. (More than an hour, actually. My husband was down the street watching the Titan game so I was waiting for him to get back.) As the stock reduced the flavors concentrated in the most beautiful way - sweet onion, earthy mushrooms, complex stock. I'm talking 5 star dining here. I added a little more stock here and there as it kept simmering away, desperately waiting for the game to be over. God bless NFL.com - I can predict to the minute when he'll be staggering home (and I can say, I'm sorry your team lost...again).

The veggie prep was pretty straight forward. I left the skin on the white potato but peeled the sweet potato and turnip. They all got chopped into chunks and were tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper. Into the oven at 350 for 45 minutes (or until the Titans lost) and ta-da. Finish the gravy with a little cornstarch slurry to thicken it up, portion out the veg, slather it with mushroom gravy and we had ourselves an awesome roasted dinner - without the meat! And we didn't even miss it!

-HH

Thursday, November 3, 2011 Farmers Market Wrapping Up


Sad but true, the last few weeks of the Farmers Market are here. Sometimes, if the weather cooperates, you can get a couple of weeks in December, too. But given our October Nor'easter I'm not holding out hope.

I had to put my foot down in order to hang onto this beautiful purple cauliflower yesterday. I was wandering around to all the booths, surveying the land as I always do and I came upon the purple treasure at my favorite farmer lady's stand (I don't know her name, how awful am I?). I thanked her for having it and told her I only ate it because it was purple. Another customer at the stand started asking how I prepared it and a whole conversation began between the three of us ladies about cauliflower prep.

Anyway, I had the last purple one, the rest were orange or white. And she tried and tried but I wasn't going to give her the purple one. "The orange ones are good, too!" I exclaimed. "They have different vitamins!"

She still wanted the purple one, but it was obvious I wasn't going to budge. So she gave up and picked up an orange head of cauliflower; something she wasn't going to do before I had arrived and sparked the cauliflower conversation.

There's a lesson in there for me...

And for you - my purple cauliflower prep, along with chicken and white sweet potatoes.


One whole organic 5 pound chicken bought on sale

One handful of Herbs de Dionysus (oregano and rosemary)

One large white sweet potato

One head of purple cauliflower

Penzy's Northwoods Seasoning


Remove chicken innards from still-frozen chicken cavity without freezing your hand. Stuff with herbs and cover chicken with Northwoods Seasoning (washing your hands every 15 seconds so you don't get salmonella on everything). Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. Then add chopped, skinless sweet potato lightly tossed in salt, pepper and olive oil. About 30 minutes later add cauliflower florets also tossed in salt, pepper and olive oil. Stir potatoes while the oven is open. Stir it all again in about 20 minutes to make sure it's all covered in chicken-fat-goodness and continue to cook until the bird is done. About 1 hour 45 minutes to two hours for a bird of that size.




We ate almost all of it, but the leftovers will find themselves in something grand. I'm preparing to teach a Dinner for Two class for Trumbull Adult Ed in February! Start saving your pennies, folks! More info soon, stay tuned!

-HH

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 Unoccupy The Mall This Holiday Season

I've gotta be honest, I've never been a fan of the commercial side of the Holiday Season. Christmas, Hanukkah, it doesn't matter, I hate them all equally. I'm not a fan of shopping, crowds, shopping in crowds...you get the picture. Compounding this is my hatred of trends, fashion, must-haves, marketing, people being sheep...

That's the big one right there. And if ever there were a year to separate yourself from the herd this is it. With all that's going on in the world; the occupy movement, class warfare, evil corporations, however you want to put it - do you want to fund that? Stop and really think about where your money is going. Do you want them to have it? Do they really need that multi-million dollar bonus?

Heck, keep thinking. Was it made in America? Is the company in America? Do they take care of their employees? Do the employees have health insurance or are they scheduled for 34 hours a week so they're not full-time?

Oh yeah, baby, I'm asking you to be uber-socially-aware this Holiday Season. I'm asking you to give up the commercialism and instead take up some homemade activism. Make shit. Make cookies, cakes, ornaments, greeting cards, wrapping paper, gifts. Buy only homemade, handmade, homegrown gifts. Make Etsy your friggin' homepage if you have to. You got me?

Here are a couple of links -

Handmade natural soap by Olive & Oud
Awesome jewlery from The Bitchy Waiter

And you can always visit the band page and buy some local music \m/

Rock on! I'll keep bugging you about this. I promise :)

-HH

Saturday, October 29, 2011 The End Of An Era


I was forced to take down my garden today. Old Man Winter came early to the Connecticut coast and I had to harvest the basil, peppers, tomatoes, carrots and scallions before they were killed by the cold. This is especially bitter-sweet given the connection between the garden and my dearly departed bunny. But Nutmeg should be proud! I've got 14 ounces of basil in the freezer due to his efforts, plus a fair amount of peppers and green tomatoes. The peppers are due to be roasted and pureed before hitting the freezer and the tomatoes are going to become a green tomato marmalade. The carrots are already in the freezer for stock (along with all the basil stems) and the carrot tops are on display in a champagne glass. The scallions are in the fridge, their use is yet to be determined.

Not bad for my tiny little container garden on the porch!

Next year I'm thinking of a major scale-down. I'm gonna get rid of the buckets (all from my cake decorating days, over 4 years ago) and replace some of them with reusable shopping bags. No more vegetables - just a few herbs for the kitchen. Although I loved the privacy the tomato plants provided me, I had no place to sit except on top of the grill and that wasn't comfortable. I'd like to get a bench and a grill stand out there so we can sit and eat and watch my neighbors pee out the window and yell at each other just like we're sitting on the couch watching TV.

Quality programming.

Here are a few more pics of the harvest!



The basil leaves I pureed with olive oil and froze in an ice cube tray, the stems get saved for stock.



-HH

Thursday, October 27, 2011 Fun With Banana Bread


I had a bunch of bananas left from Nutmeg's Memorial Dinner and I promised baked goods to the House of Dionysus so I spent most of yesterday in the kitchen whipping up some banana bread. I actually got so wrapped up in it I forgot to go to the Farmer's Market! I know! Crazy!

So first I made regular old banana bread (with too much salt by accident, oops!) and then I made Pumpkin Banana Basil Bread!!! The recipe follows. No matter which one you choose start by creaming the butter and sugar together then add the eggs one at a time, add the fruit and then add all the dry ingredients. Don't over mix! Once it's all incorporated put it into two oiled 4x8 loaf pans and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes - keep an eye on it :)

Dry ingredients

2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 cups mashed banana or 1 cup mashed banana 1 cup pureed pumpkin

The only other ingredients for the Pumpkin Banana Basil would be about 1/3 a cup of pine nuts (1/4 cup in the mix and sprinkle the rest on top) and the basil, which I blended into the sugar in my mini-chopper. I only used a few leaves, you can use more because the flavor wasn't pronounced.

Does that make sense? My brain is fried...

-HH

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 Alternative Control Archives - Pre-Coitus Cooking For Two



This article originally appeared in the February 2011 edition of Alternative Control.







Pre-Coitus Cooking For Two


When cooking a romantic dinner for two it is most important to find balance between the amount of tasty food you consume and your ability to move about the bedroom after consuming said food. Loaded baked potatoes are not likely to lead to the sex Olympics. And as half of a couple, we each have that duty in the spirit of St. Valentine to please our partner in the bedroom, in the kitchen and in the dining room. That’s a lot of pleasing. You’ll need a proper, well-balanced meal with all the tastiest aphrodisiac ingredients to fuel your evening, hopefully well into the next morning.

Start the meal off with some celery and peanut butter. Oh yes, you heard me. Celery has something in it that drives women wild when men secrete it, so munch up boys! And why not pair it with peanut butter? It’s got the vitamins and essential fatty acids that a woman’s body needs. And if some peanut butter happens to fall in her cleavage? Napkins need not apply.

For the main course I’d get some filet mignon and cover it in a mixture of spices. Salt and pepper the meat and then coat it in cocoa seasoned with paprika, cinnamon, chili, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, cayenne and cloves. Get all them anti-oxidants in there doing their thing so you’ll be able to do your thing! Let it sit for a little while before you cook it, let those flavors settle in. While that’s going on whip up a bit of salsa - tomato, onion, garlic, cucumber, green pepper, cilantro. Heck, buy it if you want, but please buy fresh. Most supermarkets have fresh salsa in the produce section. If it’s not in your local market - move.

While you’re at the market pick up a testicle fruit, also known as avocado. You may need to do this a few days before to give it time to ripen (I won’t say soften.) With a sharp knife cut around the entire fruit stem to tip, vertically, top to bottom, you get the idea. Then, with one hand around each half, give it a good twist. One half will come off clean and one will still have the pit attached. Take the clean half, and with a sharp knife, make several lengthwise cuts, the more cuts you make the thinner the slices will be. Then use a spoon to scoop out the slices, scraping along the inside of the skin.

Getting back to your meat, take a non-stick pan and get it hot. If you don’t have a non-stick pan borrow one from your neighbor and don’t give it back like I did. Put a little oil in the pan and make sure it’s hot enough to sear the meat. “Tttttssssssss” is what you want to hear when the meat hits the pan. Don’t cook it too long, just a few minutes on each side – it depends on the size of the meat.

There. I said it.

If you should happen to buy super thick cuts like I did you may have to finish cooking them in the oven. Put them on a cookie sheet and bake at 375°. The internal temp of the cooked meat should be 125° for rare, 145° for medium and if you want it well done I insist you stop reading this article right now.

Plating is the fun part. Place two slices of avocado off to one side of the plate and use salsa to fill in the heart. Then place your perfectly cooked meat in the empty space. Serve with a wink and a smile.

As for dessert…you really don’t need me to tell you what to do. But please, for the love of St. Valentine, don’t use whipped cream from a can. Nor cool whip. Eww.

Thursday, October 13, 2011 Alternative Control Archives - Pimp Your Pumpkin

Alternative Control has recently been upgraded to a fancy new format. Unfortunately this means all the archives are gone to the internetherworld. But I will use it as an opportunity to repost old articles and not write anything new. Ha.

This was last year's pumpkin piece...


Pimp Your Pumpkin

by

The Headbanging Hostess


Ah, yes. Rocktober. I mean, Cocktober. I mean, October! Sorry, too busy thinking about what I’m going to do with my pumpkin to come up with the proper name of this glorious month.

Fall is in the air, homes are intentionally decorated with cobwebs and spiders, supermarket aisles are brimming with bags of individually wrapped portions of chocolate-sugared happiness, and farmers are peddling their pumpkins.

If you’ve never been to Jones Family Farms in Shelton, CT now is the time to go. Up on Pumpkinseed Hill Farm you (obviously) find pumpkins, squash and gourds in every size, shape and color combination imaginable. Turban shaped squash, Cinderella’s Coach in a squash, Blue Pumpkins which are also a squash - why isn’t it Squashseed Hill Farm?

They also have a Corn Maze and a Hay Ride – I skip those due to my allergy to children. But they have a bunch of those boardwalk things where you stick your head in to take a picture. They provide me with hours of fun, for years to come. My husband doesn’t like it so much.

Once you have your pumpkin the fun part is figuring out what-the-fuck you’re going to do with it. Sure, you can carve out some triangular facial features – but why give the neighborhood kids something to imagine smashing? How’s about forgoing the face and using it as a punchbowl? Cut a lid, pull out the seeds and shit, schmear it lightly inside with butter (just so it doesn’t burn), and warm in a 350ยบ oven for 10-15 minutes – it depends on the oven and the pumpkin. The bigger the pumpkin the more drinks you get! Fill it up with Hot Apple Cider you’ve warmed up on the stove with sticks of cinnamon and a couple cloves and finish it off with a generous amount of Spiced Rum.

Boo-Yeah!

Have a Headbanging Halloween!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 Another Edition of Only On Cove Road


So there's this new sidewalk construction thing going on in my neighborhood. Seems the corners are all being brought up to code - what code I don't know. If you look closely you'll notice the crosswalk and the ramp aren't quite meeting up like common sense would dictate. But, let us not forget, this is Stamford. We like to point handicapped parking spaces towards glass front cafes.

-HH

Saturday, October 8, 2011 Chili in a Pumpkin


No doubt about it, I love pumpkin season! Last year I discovered the joy of pumpkins as serving dishes. They keep the food hot, contain it in a beautiful way, they can also be eaten and tossed into the stock pot when you're done!

The other day at the Darien Farmers Market I picked up two perfect little pumpkins. It was my plan to fill them with Chicken Pot Pie but that plan quickly changed and I ended up filling one with some killer chili last night. Mmm, mmm, mmm. DDelicious!! \m/

The chili began with some chunks of beef browning in a large pan. I added some chopped onion along with some chopped black pepper from the garden and let that brown for a bit. Then I added some chopped garlic, a can of tomato sauce and one of my hot peter peppers that's STILL in the freezer from last year's garden. When cooking with these uber-hot peppers I only make a few slices in the flesh, so the food can come into contact with the seeds (where the heat is) but I can later fish the whole thing out to not totally overpower the dish with heat. I also added some chili powder at this point, but you don't really have to add all the seasonings up front. Their flavors will dissipate and change while the dish cooks and cooks, so you can take time to let the meat fall apart before you finish seasoning the chili.

It took hours for the meat to finally give way to a slight pulling of a fork. And the hot pepper, even though I'd taken it out within the first hour of cooking, permeated the dish to such an extent that I had to put both Hershey and Maple Syrup into the chili to soften the sting. I also added cayenne, cumin, cinnamon and oregano along with some frozen sweet corn and a handful of barley to thicken it up.

The pumpkin took a little time to prepare. I sliced the top straight off. No reason to open it like a Jack-o-Lantern, the lid wasn't going back (it actually went into the freezer for stock) and I scraped out the seeds, washed them, sprayed them with salt and oil and roasted them in the 350 degree oven. The pumpkin was also sprayed with oil on the inside and seasoned with salt and pepper before being baked in the same 350 degree oven for almost 30 minutes. It took a while for it to become fork tender, but it did, and I promptly filled it up with the waiting chili and topped it with cheese. I threw it back in for about five minutes to melt the cheese and Ta-friggin'-Da!



Outstanding dinner. There something yummy about chili made with chunks of meat instead of ground beef, we actually went back and filled the pumpkin again for seconds. And being able to scoop out chunks of pumpkin along with the chili made for an interesting flavor fight in my mouth - spicy and sweet, chunky and toothy, chili and pumpkin. Outstanding.

Seriously. Serve dinner in a pumpkin. Stew, chili, mac-n-cheese, mashed potatoes, hot apple cider. Use your imagination and the possibilities are endless!

You can thank me later.

-HH

Sunday, October 2, 2011 Only on Cove Road

I've considered starting a blog about my street. Once in a while I'll post something with the hashtag #onlyoncoveroad, this amuses me and maybe 4 other people. But people who are personal friends of mine know all about my neighbor who pees out the window every Spring and that same neighbors wife who loudly skypes her Eastern European relatives in a room with a wooden floor so I can clearly hear everything they say in a language I can't understand. They also know about the naked woman who was walking down the street crying early one morning while everyone just stood there and watched, no one brought her a blanket. The drivers were only annoyed by the traffic, not concerned for the naked crying woman walking down the middle of Cove Road. I called 911 and the police came and cuffed her... Only on Cove Road.

Today as I was headed out on my power walking/jogging to Volbeat exercise I witnessed a man exiting the convenience store. He was probably in his late 20's early 30's, casually dressed in a hip-hop basketball kinda way. He was walking around the front of his truck to get the the drivers side. It was a nice truck, big American pick-up truck. Orange in color, nice and clean, well maintained. And as he walks around the front of his truck, with his purchase in one hand, he puts his free hand to his face, closes off a nostril and blows his nose right out onto the pavement.

Only on Cove Road.

I mean, he was just in a convenience store. Couldn't he have bought tissues?

Ick.

Now, in an effort to tie this blogpost up in a little bow, I must report to you that all my exercise has paid off. I might not have lost a ton of weight, but I did whip myself into shape - especially my legs. The review of Boy Wonder? calls me sexy and even refers to my "well-filled shirt." Ha! Makes me laugh...they also got my name wrong which makes me laugh even more.

-HH

Monday, September 26, 2011 Enjoying the Garden and its Bounty


For some reason this year most of my herbs didn't make it. I have basil, thank goodness, so I made a fantastic pesto using my rainbow tomatoes from the garden, some toasted almonds and both my green and purple basil. The result was super flavorful spread on a pizza and topped with sauteed mushrooms and sliced baby eggplants.

I'm very happy with my rainbow cherry tomato plants. I started them from seed in May right in my bedroom and now they're over 6 feet tall. I have them tied up to the plastic netting the squirrels forced me to install, so I sometimes have to thread the tomato blossoms back towards me or the tomatoes will develop beyond my reach. I can just see me with my husband down in the parking lot trying to catch tiny tomatoes as they ripen. I can't say we could LIVE on the amount of tomatoes I've grown, but we've topped many a hot dog with tomato and basil from the garden. And that is quite tasty!

The peppers are growing like wildfire now. The first few had blossom end rot, but I added some Epsom salt to the soil and it seemed to do the trick. Right now I have over a dozen out there on my four plants that I also started from seed in May.

I'm already planning next years garden. I'm getting rid of most of the buckets and I'm going to try growing in reusable shopping bags. I'm hoping that'll free up some room out there for seating. It's pretty tight out there now with all the plants and the grill and that iron lamb my neighbor gave me... Don't ask.

How's your garden doing?

-HH

Thursday, September 22, 2011 Please Don't Call Me A Foodie!

OMG! Someone called me a foodie on Facebook today and I almost lost my shit. It was one of those times when you start to type a response and then you delete it and try again, only to delete it and try again and so forth.

From the Urban Dictionary "Foodie - A douchebag who likes food."

Wikipedia uses less colorful language, but right off the bat I can see the term doesn't apply to me. Food and drink? I don't drink. I drink Diet Sprite, that's it. Wine, beer, cocktails - I have zero interest in any of it. And THAT is a big part of dining out - which is also a big part of being a foodie.

I don't eat out that much. You will never find me waiting in line for the new hip burger joint, or for a celebrity chef, or for pretty much anything foodies would line up for. I don't play that way. I ain't a sheep. And I'm not insulting people who are sheep...well, yes I am.

If everyone were jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge...?

This whole Headbanging Hostess thing is about so much more than food. It goes way beyond that. It's about relationships, friends, family, community, sharing, creating, exploring, learning, making mistakes, making connections and making something new - something that only I can make.

So, please, don't lump me in with everybody else - I deserve better.

-HH

Saturday, September 17, 2011 Food Safety at Home

By now you've probably heard people are dying from cantaloupe. I feel just awful for the poor farmers who have been growing cantaloupes for generations. And, of course, I feel bad for those sickened and the families of those who've died. But one must wonder if a little common sense scrubbing would have prevented the illness from occurring. To be honest, I don't know - I'm just asking the question. In my sanitation class we learned about these things, but the average American probably has little knowledge of food safety. Way to go school system - who else can you blame?

But let's not play the blame game for now - let's get some knowledge into your head.

Cantaloupe is a TCS food - Time and Temperature Controlled for Safety. Click the link for the list and information.

Simply put the temperature danger zone is 40-140 (I know the link says 41-135, but 40-140 is easy to remember). TCS food should not be in that zone for more than 4 hours over the course if its life - and I'm gonna cut that number in half and declare two hours is enough.

This means you don't cut up lettuce and tomatoes for your grill party and let them sit out until your guests arrive. Same goes for melon - slice it up, cover it with plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge until you're going to serve it. This may mean preparing smaller plates of it so you can refresh the supply - NEVER mix the old with the new because cross-contamination can occur.

ALWAYS wash the outside of the melon before you cut it. As it is produce should be washed with water that is slightly warmer than the produce itself (this from the Federal Government) but melons are grown on the ground, so get that sponge out and scrub that baby with hot soapy water. You don't want to contaminate the flesh with the knife - seeing as how it just sliced through the rind. Get it?

Wash everything, of course. Who knows what bird flew overhead and pooped on your produce, better to be safe than sorry.

I'll leave you with one more bit of information - I don't want you to overload - and I promise to continue on this topic. I don't want any of my peeps dying from food poisoning.

Garlic is grown in the ground, where all sorts of pathogens like to live, like botulism - never take garlic and throw it in a bottle with some oil and give it out as presents. Commercial garlic oil is treated with an enzyme that prevents the bacteria from growing - homemade obviously is not. Don't risk it. If you want to do it for yourself that may be okay, but use it within a week and keep it in the fridge. And, to be honest, I may not even risk the week. Food poisoning is serious business - go with the commercially bottled oil.

Stay tuned for more. If you have any specific questions leave me a comment and I will get you an answer!

-HH

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 It's That Time of Year Again (Again)


I'm sure I've used that title before, but who cares? The bottom line is it's time to get your ass to the Farmers Market. Berries in every color, beets, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes (the tomatoes in the picture are a product of my garden, I'm so proud), apples, peaches, plums, grapes...you get my drift.

Darien Farmers Market is 11-6 on Wednesdays in the Mechanic Street parking lot behind the firehouse on the Post Road. That's my usual market.

High Ridge Shopping Center has a Farmers Market on both Wednesdays and Sundays 10-4. I hadn't been there yet this season until today, they have a handful of vendors but I dislike the parking lot location. Now that Borders is gone maybe they can move to market to their lot. I know I'm a bit of a worry wart when it comes to customer safety, but as it is inches and luck are the only things seperating the moving vehicles from the people shopping. I'm just saying...so one day I'll be able to link back to this and say "I told you so!"

The Stamford Museum & Nature Center has a Farmers Market from 10-2 on Fridays. I have never been but I've heard good things. Admission to the market is free, but it's 10 bucks if you want to visit the nature center. A little steep if you ask me, but it's a very nice place with a farm and trails for hiking. My husband and I went with a picnic lunch recently and really enjoyed it. If you should happen to take a city bus up there you get into the place for free - not that I'm advocating parking at the A&P and hopping a ride for the last few blocks. But, like I said, admission to the market is free. And now that I've throughly confused you...

I have chicken marinating in Amaretto in the fridge. I'm working on a food piece for next month's Alternative Control. Almond Joy Chicken, in honor of Halloween... we'll see how it turns out.

-HH

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 Originality at an All Time Low

This isn't really about food, I suppose it could be, but it's more about music. And not the crap you hear on the radio - if I hear one more driving beat I'm gonna drive off a cliff. I'm talking about leaving the house to see a band in the neighborhood.

Over the weekend we did that twice, believe it or not. One show we actually left the house at 10PM! WTF? That's my bedtime! But the word on the street indicated the venue was looking to discontinue hosting local original music and was planning to replace it with cover bands.

Don't get me wrong, I love covers. I love it when a band takes an established piece of music and puts their own stamp on it. One day, when I get my act together, I'll start my vanity band MetalLand and I'll sing Sugarland songs to double bass and electric guitar distortion. But these bands simply play the music the same way you hear it on the radio. Like a wedding band. But who the hell leaves the house at 10PM to see a wedding band?

So we all showed up in force to see Pink Missile and Arcane Malevolence (and Sons of Atlas and Impera which I missed because they played before 10PM). I even drank a few bottled waters to add to the till (and I had to jet out of there at the end of the show because there was no way in hell I was going to use the bathroom there). Anyway, long story short, the bands fucking rocked beyond belief and at the end of the day Pink Missile was asked back but Arcane was not - I guess Baldwin made half-a-dozen too many "bad cover band" jokes and ruffled the feathers of the owners. But, you know what, good for Baldwin - I'm all for speaking your mind!

Two days later was a 9/11 show and fundraiser for Tuesday's Children. We went to see Pink Missile, but a scheduling snafu forced us to watch a Jam Band from New Jersey for close to an hour before Pink Missile was able to take the stage. They were very good, very tight, the keyboard player was amazing - and they played some covers, Santana-kinda-stuff and even some originals, but it all sounded alike after a while. It was good, but it's nothing I haven't heard before. After a while it was dreadfully boring. The crowd liked it - a sign of their intelligence I guess, or their unwillingness to try anything new - they've probably been listening to 95.9 the FOX since they graduated from High School 25+ years ago. And I'm sorry if it sounds like I'm insulting them, but after a while all the sameness was insulting to me!

Who the fuck are you as musicians? You're not Carlos Santana - you're white as the driven snow. This music your playing may be technically correct but it's not telling me a damn thing about you, about your experience - I want to hear the world through your eyes, today in 2011, not in some tired old format that was hip when vinyl was king! YOU BORE ME!!!

Thankfully Pink Missile finally took the stage (and all the FOX fans took off on their bikes) and those of us with the capacity to appreciate original thought were left to Bitty-Bop - all the Mr. Dickhead's were gone.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call a crying shame.

Here's another - the "Original Thought" page on Facebook only has 73 fans.

The terrorists have won.

-HH

Friday, September 9, 2011 Holding Steady at 120

For about two months now I've been on the exercise train. I've gotten better at it, at first I was killing my knees because I wasn't running properly (or jogging, I should say) but I've worked my way up from merely power walking to power walking and running (or jogging, I should say) anywhere from 2-5 miles a day, 4-6 days a week. I've also been doing yoga about once a week thanks to my neighbor who's a yoga instructor at the Y - "She's with me!" she declares as we walk right into the members only club.

Now. Before I started all this exercise I was 120 pounds. And, now that I've been doing all this exercise I weigh...120 pounds.

BUT (there's always a but) I've certainly been building muscle and, since muscle weighs more than fat, I'm guessing I'm on the right track as far as all this fitness is concerned. My calf muscles are mad-crazy developed (for me) they actually touch each other as I sit at the computer - kinda drives me crazy to be honest, but it's a sign that my hard work is working.

I'm seeing all sorts of muscles I haven't seen in a while, or ever. I've got a really funny muscle developing over my knee - I should ask someone about that. And I've gotten my serving muscles back in my arm, probably because I'm power walking and running (or jogging, I should say) with my water bottle in hand. Whatever works!

The best part of this? I'm starting to have happy thoughts - I won't get specific, but the thoughts are a sign to me that my depression is being relieved by the exercise! Meaning, maybe I can stop with the pills soon.

This is good.

I think we'll be joining the Y in the near future and hopefully I'll be able to exercise my way out of depression once and for all. And if I lose some weight in the process good, if not I really don't care. I feel good and I'm looking better everyday!

And, since this is a food blog, I should say I've been eating better - but I'm not really sure I can say that. I've been working at eating more vegetables and whole grains - and I'm no where near perfect on that front. I can and will do better. Maybe one day I'll become the Headbanging Hottie!

-HH

Monday, September 5, 2011 Happy Labor Day!

Ah, yes! Time to celebrate the workers! Have a day off! Unless you work in retail, restaurants, toll booths, fire houses...not everyone gets a day off. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is most important to note that not all workers are celebrated on this day, and because I was scarred for life during my time as a server (and behind the counter) I want to take this opportunity to remind you to be kind to ALL who serve you.

Please. Thank you. Have a nice day. All those little phrases you mother taught you (if she was worth her salt) may have fallen out of our daily vocabularies, but it is up to YOU as a consumer to bring these words back into vogue.

Hello. How are you? If someone should greet you with these words while you're standing at a counter and staring at a menu the proper answer is not "Give me..." or "I want..." The person behind the counter is not going to GIVE YOU anything! And maybe they care about what you want, but I bet they'd rather hear "May I please have..."

A little manners goes a long way. Never forget these poor bastards are making minimum wage. And I bet their boss treats them like they're expendable, most of the customers before you were rude and the customers after you will suck just as much. Why not lead by example and treat them with respect?

Always make the effort. You just might make their day!

So Happy Labor Day! Remember who really runs this country - the people who fucking feed it! All the bankers and CEO's would starve to death if it wasn't for the minimum wage workers from farm to friggin' plate - or Styrofoam clam shell. I'm betting the magical day when wages reflect this reality will never come - so let's try to pay them in smiles. At least their quality of life will increase, if not their paychecks. And I'll take happy over rich any day.

-HH

Check out this article in the New York Times

Friday, September 2, 2011 Dinner Party Classes in Trumbull and Ridgefield!


Check it out, folks! This October I will be teaching Dinner Party classes in Trumbull and Ridgefield, CT. I'll also be teaching a Ten-Minute Playwriting class in Ridgefield.

The Dinner Party classes will not be a cooking class, it's a planning class. Learn how to create and execute one-of-a-kind menus that your friends will be talking about for years to come. Students will learn how to create a meal around a theme and with the tools they already have in their kitchens. You don't need to be a chef, you just need to have a plan!

And the Ten-Minute Playwriting class will explore the form and students will have the opportunity to write their own plays and share their work with the class.

I'm really looking forward to both classes! I can't wait to share my knowledge of both subjects and I really can't wait to see what the students create! That's what it's all about for me, the creation.

Spread the word and sign up with your friends! I hope to see you in class!!!

-HH

Click here for Trumbull Continuing Ed

Click here for Ridgefield Continuing Ed

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 Outdoor Dining and Safety - Common Sense? Not so much.


About two weeks ago we had a pretty bad "accident" in Stamford - a 92 year old guy drove his car into a cafe injuring 10 people. However, I hesitate to call it an accident as it could have been totally avoided.

Never mind the guy is 92 years old, never mind the food ain't that good. I'm going out on a limb here and declaring this an avoidable situation - a FORESEEABLE situation. There's a handicapped parking space pointed right at the glass front cafe!

Common sense ain't so common.

Today I took my ass on an in-depth investigatory walk around town, studying some of the outdoor dining options and their relative safety. I am not an expert, I just have an IQ.

Here's one of downtown's newest hot spots (also reviewed by OmNomCT) Zaza Gastrobar.

As you can see, the customers are somewhat shielded by the heavy duty planters. They seem to be somewhat sturdy, but I bet they can easily be knocked over if a car were to jump the curb on Broad Street. Cars travel at quite a clip in Stamford, with little respect for pedestrians. But I have to give them props for not having any parking spaces pointed towards the diners.

Around the corner I found numerous outdoor eateries. The poor bastards eating at Butterfield 8 have zero protection from the cars pointed towards them. But, I never see anyone eating there anyway, so the odds are in safety's favor.

Diners at Chez Jean-Pierre are right out in the sidewalk and across the street at Capriccio Cafe and Lucky's Burgers the customers are somewhat protected from cars shooting out from Spring Street, but they're mostly left out in the open.

Now I understand the importance of outdoor dining in Stamford. I remember when it wasn't allowed, and I do think it's great for whatever "culture" we have here in Lower Fairfield County. But it's time for a little common sense in the planning and zoning of these eateries. It's good business. You don't want your customers getting injured at your establishment and Stamford doesn't need the negative publicity that stems from the news coverage.

Thn!k about it - I mean, think about it.

-HH

Monday, August 29, 2011 I Survived Hurricane Irene

Of course I don't have any pictures to go along with that snappy title. But I did, indeed, survive - so did my garden :)

It's been a rough couple weeks here, I guess I've fallen into the not-postingadamnthing rut. Can't quite put my finger on why - but I'm on it. I shall do better.

Pre-hurricane we went to Silverman's Farm in Easton, CT to do some apple and peach picking. For 29 bucks you get a big bag to fill with as much as you can. We walked out of there with 23 pounds of fruit. My friends and neighbors were the real winners in this situation. I gave a pie to my downstairs neighbor, an apple-peach biscuit bake to my next door neighbor and to my rock star friends down the road (plus a half dozen peach muffins that IMO weren't really that good. Sorry you guys, it wasn't my recipe, but it seemed the two I ate were overflowing with baking soda) and, of course, I made two biscuit bakes for my other neighbor and us to share - so it was a bakeitty bonanza here for a couple days. And I STILL have fruit left! Even after a day without electricity!

We lost our power early Sunday morning, just when the storm was "hitting" - I put it in quotes because it wasn't that bad a storm here. It was in other places - East Haven lost about 25 homes. Very sad. I suppose we lucked out with the landing of the storm and the placement of our building.

Our apartment faces west, so the first half of the storm didn't kick any wind and rain our way. I could see it and hear it going down the road - at 2:00 AM I would have sworn there were cars going down the road, but it was just the wind beating the rain down into the pavement that made the sound of wet tires going by.

I slept on and off and as the sun came up and the lights went out and the day went on. I was only concerned about my tomatoes as I'd moved the garden up against the inner wall of my porch. The tomatoes are tied to the netting that protects my garden from evil squirrels so I was unable to move them, I just tied them up as best I could and kept an eye on them.

The back end of the storm was actually pretty windy for us. And because we didn't have power (and it wasn't raining at all) most of the windows were wide open. I tell ya, a few of those wind gusts picked up the building for a moment. I totally felt it move. The tomatoes were getting pushed around a lot, I had to re-tie some of it, and one of my basil plants got bent over so I had to tie that one up, too.

But that's about it. The building across the way lost half a shutter. The beach where I've been exercising (up to 29 miles a week!) is destroyed - not a total loss, but enough damage that I don't think I'll be able to do laps there anymore. And the private part of the beach where I used to lie in the sun has washed away. It'll be interesting to see what the city does about it. Maybe they can use the money they were going to waste on fireworks to fix the park.

Food wise we did well. We stuffed the freezer with ice and perishables, barely opened anything, had the grill for the hot dogs we had left over from the picnic. I made a bruschetta topping with tomatoes and basil from the garden. We reheated pizza and made tea on the grill. I even bought mini-potatoes for the grill but we never got to them. The power came on this morning.

So tonight I'm having the last few apples from Silverman's with brie kept on ice and mini-potatoes on the grill.

Farewell, Hurricane Irene. You will not be missed.

-HH

Friday, August 12, 2011 The Big Bash Busts

Yesterday was our big bash at the beach - I invited over 40 people - we got 8, plus my husband and me. Ten people - with food for 20 plus.

I'm gonna be eating burgers and dogs for a long ass time.

Those of us who were there had a good time, but I am disappointed in the response. As it usually goes some people RSVP and some don't and still show - so we were counting on that when we bought the food. Calls on Facebook for people to show went unanswered.

Pasta salad, potato salad, quickles - I'm afraid I'll be sick of them all by tomorrow.

Just the effort to bring it all down to the beach was overwhelming - my husband is hobbling around as I type.

And I don't want it all to sound like sour grapes, but it kinda is, and it's all playing into a major decision. I know I've cut back on the dinner parties recently, because of the heat, because my bunny is getting old and we don't want him to end up under any one's foot, because people don't show when they say they will and do show when they don't. I'm sure it's not an intentional lack of respect, but the end result is the same - I'm left with too much food, not enough guests and a little pissed off and let down.

So, no more of that!

From now on dinners will be limited to 4 invites. With Dave and I that makes 6 of us in the house, plus the aged bunny. Let's see if that does anything to restore my sanity.

And I'm wondering if Headbanging Hostess nights at the Piedmont are even worth pursuing. If I can't get people to the beach for free food how am I gonna get them to pay for it.

Not a good feeling.

I'm not trying to be a downer, just a realist. Maybe I've seen my headbanging hay day and from now on it's all downhill. I'll keep an open mind and not try to judge it all from one party - but I'm very aware that you can't get BBQ sauce from a stone. Things change, and that's okay, I just need to keep up with the changes and learn to love them, whatever they may be.

I still have some great music to cook to, so I'll be continuing with the videos, they'll just be few and far between.

On an up-note I'll be teaching dinner party classes for Trumbull and Ridgefield adult education in October - more details to follow. The class is called Dinner Parties Made Easy and is focused on menu planning - obviously not guest-getting because I'm apparently lacking in that department.

Yeah, I'm bummin', can you tell?

I'll also be teaching a Ten-Minute Playwriting class in Ridgefield. Catalogues will be mailed at the end of August and information will also be available on-line.

I'm going to try to make this a good day, so off I go.

-HH

PS - Would you go to a Headbanging Hostess night at the Piedmont or another club? 15-20 bucks for food and some entertainment? Please let me know in the comments below.

Friday, August 5, 2011 Healthy Dinner for Women Over 30

I have a friend in the Exercise Science program at NCC. I've been e-mailing her questions about my exercise routine. One question was about breathing and the other about running. I gave myself a good case of bursitis trying to run - turns out I was doing it wrong. Nothing like learning how to run at 38. Actually, let's call it jogging.

Anyhoo.

She invited me to her house for a healthy dinner with a bunch of women over 30 - there'd be a speaker who'd talk about fitness and nutrition - and I thought, "why the F not?"

So I went.

It took me a while to find the house, but as I pulled up I realized this would be no Heavy Metal Sex in the City Broads night. Her front drive was filled with late model SUV's, not a Pink Missile sticker to be seen. But, have no fear, I went on in, happy to see my friend Lisa for the first time in a year and I met the speaker Laura. She was, of course, healthy and fit and well put together. Actually, that described most of the room. I was sorry I'd chosen jeans, as most of the women were wearing dresses - sundresses, I guess. Gosh, when am I gonna get a gay man to help me dress?

There was lots of information piled about regarding Laura's Boot Camp - an exercise regimen that most of the women were participating in. You could tell looking around the room that these women worked out - they looked great. One woman remarked that she's gone from a size six to a zero. Funny, because I've done just the opposite (actually two to six. My Hungarian breeding hips would never allow me to be a size zero).

We all sat down to a BEAUTIFUL dinner that my friend Lisa made - I should have taken pictures. Roast pork loin with grilled nectarines, spinach and feta, fresh fruit, whole grain bread, tuna and chick pea salad. The food was good and healthy - not a piece of chocolate covered bacon in sight.

The conversation turned to healthy eating and fitness - Laura, the speaker, organically turned the conversation to the benefits of clean eating. Now, I don't think I ever heard the term "clean eating" - but I know I did it, back when I was a buck-o-five. Oh, I wasn't perfect - I've always had a sweet tooth - but I used to be happy to call a bowl of fruit, yogurt and cereal a meal. That's healthy. Breakfast pizza with homemade tater tots, pork belly and organic eggs...? Not so much.

One woman shared her story of beating depression with exercise. That impressed me. She said she was on 400 mg of Welbutrin for 10 years and Boot Camp helped her lose it. I've been on 150 mg for over two years. Don't get me wrong, it's changed my life for the better, but I wonder if someday in the future I'd be able to give it up and replace it with fitness.

The same woman told us how her husband beat type 2 Diabetes with healthy eating and Boot Camp. Another powerful realization about how we treat our bodies and what they tell us. If we'd only listen more often.

I'm not listening to my body like I used to. Part of the problem is this layer of fat around my middle makes it hard to hear. The other part is my taste buds! Oh, have they been awakened to the joys of food - now I have a sweet tooth, a fat tooth, a cheese tooth, a pork tooth...you get the picture.

It was a great evening - I hope they'll be doing it again because I'd like to bring some of my peeps. I got a lot of great information and inspiration to stay healthy and keep at it, both eating healthy and staying fit.

If you are interested in Boot Camp you can contact Laura Boniello-Krout at laura@norwalkbootcamp.com or 203-604-9909. Or visit the website.

Lisa also has a blog called A Healthy You - please check it out, lots of great information.

And, while I'm at it, I have to give a plug to the hot Haitian Personal Trainer Eddy St Juste. Great guy and good person in Stamford - if you want one-on-one personal training he's your man. And a great gal and good person Heather who has a healthy and gluten free Facebook page.

I think that covers it, it's time to take my Welbutrin. Yoga later. Cantaloupe and watermelon from Gazy Brothers Farm. I'm on a roll. A hard roll with bacon, egg and cheese... Just kidding... Maybe.

-HH