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!


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!


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!


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!


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/


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 we'll see what happens.

What are you planning for the holidays?


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