Sunday, September 30, 2007


As this beautiful fall weekend draws toward a close, I am considering pie. It's Brooklyn Nester's fault; she's been on a pie kick lately, and she is just baking pies right and left. I have news for you, BB: overindulging in pie can be dangerous! She quickly discovered how to make a good crust, which is 3/4 of the battle of pie. It's not easy to learn that perfect balance where you have just enough water in the crust to make the dough cling together when you're just doing it by the book! You go, girl!

At any rate, apple pie is perfect for fall and I have an apple pie recipe that I really love. I love it because it's easy to make, and delicious to eat. I usually use Granny Smith apples, but you can also use Cameos or Cortlands or mix in some Fujis with your Granny Smiths.

Apple Crumb Pie

1 (9 inch) unbaked pie shell

4 Granny Smith or other tart apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
slight pinch ground cloves

3/4 c flour
1/2 c light brown sugar
1/3 c (5 1/3 Tbsps) cold butter

In large bowl, combine apples, with sugar, flour, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Place in pie shell.

For topping, in a bowl combine the flour, sugar and butter with a pastry cutter until it resembles coarse corn meal. Sprinkle crumb topping over filling.

Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Place on foil on cookie sheet and put sheet on rack below pie to catch drips.

Easy. Fabulous. Fall.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

'Cause you got to have friends....

My friend Brad from Kansas just did the sweetest thing for me. We were talking the other day about the fact that there are some things that you just can't find in New York and sometimes that's a real pain in the ass. For instance, I can't get Guittard chocolate chips in New York. They are without question the best chocolate chips of all brands. But no store carries them around here. So I have to have my mom send them to me from Atlanta. But she can only ship them in the fall or winter because of the heat.

At any rate, one of the things I miss from previous lives in other places is, of all things, a dishcloth. Handi Wipes Heavy Wipes are the best dishcloths ever. You think I'm crazy with this domestic talk. Maybe, but I have an appreciation for things that make life easier. And these do. They are lightweight (their name is a misnomer), they dry quickly, and they don't get mildewy-stinky because they dry so quickly. You can't buy them in New York. When I was discussing this with Brad, he was also telling me about a neat new microfiber dishtowel that kmart sells. I was interested, but all the kmarts around here have closed, so I couldn't get those either.

Today, when I came home, there was a package on the steps. A package that had Brad's handwriting on it. And I was puzzled...what could Brad have sent me? It felt like clothing, but I didn't think he would send me clothes. To my surprise, when I opened the package, there were six packages of Heavy Wipes in there! Six packages with three cloths each in them! I'll have dishcloths until I retire! PLUS, there was a package of the dish towels he had told me about! Woo-hoo! I was thrilled. Plus, there was a cute card..."Girlfriend, we cleaned kmart out!"

Love you, Brad. That was really sweet, and made my week...and it has been a really shitty week! But now it's all better. Love to Bob, too.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Can I just say?

I was feeling particularly down last week, so Jess took me for a drive because I was looking for something bad...something good, but bad for me...and so when we stopped at 7-11, I was intrigued as I passed this flavor in the case:

Now, I am not a Willie Nelson fan, and I don't exactly know how the hell he got hooked up with a peach cobbler (though I can understand why he would appeal to Ben & Jerry's) but lemme tell ya, this stuff was good! It really tastes like a good peach cobbler with ice cream! I'm shocked. Yes, they have some good flavors. Up to now, Cherry Garcia was my favorite flavor. But hmmm......I am now having to reconsider.

You were wondering, weren't you?

I haven't blogged in a couple of weeks because I have been absolutely buried at work. Going in at 7:30 - 7:45 every morning and coming home about 7:00 every evening, I have had little time for myself, let along blogging. I have wanted to blog, but just haven't been able to bring myself to do it. One of my big projects, an 8-page magazine-style layout that I wound up having to conceptualize, write, and design myself, I got completed on Friday, so I was happy to have that finished, but the next two weeks are going to be hell as I have to finish my marketing plan and budget for 2008, and once that is over, we then have a large event that runs at the end of the month that I am involved in.

When this month is over, I will need a vacation. Thank god I will have one - albeit short - when we visit Portland, OR at the beginning of next month. I am so ready for it. We have friends who live there whom we will visit, and it will just be some take-it-easy time for us. Then we can look forward to November, when we fly to San Diego and visit the area for a week. Now that I am really looking forward to. I love La Jolla and I am also really excited about getting to visit Catalina Island.

But anyway, speaking of take-it-easy time...we were invited to a Saturday afternoon get-together with some friends who were in Southampton for the weekend, and I really needed the break. I was thrilled just to be able to go. Our friend Jeff came out Friday night from the city, and went with us on Saturday. Thanks to Jess, I got to totally relax all the way out there and back because he did all the driving (thanks, hon!). He usually does the driving, but sometimes I help...sometimes. I was glad I didn't have to this time. I needed the down time. I still need it!

At any rate, my contribution was to take a side dish (it was a barbeque, so I made my famous cole slaw) and I opted to make a dessert of Key Lime Pie. So Friday night I made the cole slaw and Jeff and I got into the freezer and took out a 3/4 gallon bag of margaritas that I had frozen several weeks ago when it was leftover from a 2-gallon batch I made for a party at our house. Since it was alcohol, it didn't really freeze in the freezer, it stayed slushy...that was, until we opened it, and when the air hit the liquid, it became very thick and hard to get out of the bag neatly!

We prevailed, and we drank the frozen concoction, but let me tell you, it was strong, because we were drinking the lime juice and tequila mixture that you would normally serve over ice, or blended with ice, but just straight up because it was ice. Let me just say that it makes for an ass-kicking when you do that. I doubt that I will try that again soon! I definitely had a hangover Saturday morning.

I made the pie Saturday morning, and then we were off to the Hamptons. The house we went to was beautiful, set on a very nice large lot, with an in-ground pool and immaculate landscaping. And how relaxing! Five bedrooms, four-and-a-half bathrooms, a beautiful living room with a fireplace, and a great TV room upstairs in a loft. It was just a terrific place, and beautifully decorated. I really get into beautiful homes.

So did, I take any pictures? No, sorry, I had good intentions and then left my camera on the table. And my pie looked so nice! Jess brought his camera, though, so I thought we might have some pictures...but neither of us was really in the photographic we only have four pictures. Oh, well.

So here is an horrible picture of me eating grilled chicken wings at the table by the pool. I shouldn't even post this. I hate this picture.

Me again, making some margaritas in the blender.

And here is Jeff, enjoying a Corona by the pool. The landscaping was so nice around the pool, and I loved the large Japanese maple in the background.

And here is a picture of the pool itself. It was beautiful, but we didn't get in because it was too cold (65 degrees) and our friends hadn't started the heater soon enough for it to be warm enough to play in...but that was okay, because during my inspection of the pool (I have this thing about looking over the pool thoroughly before I play in it), I spotted what appeared to be a rodent in the bottom of the deep end...and sure enough, it was a drowned rat. That's okay, I didn't need to swim anyway. I wouldn't have stepped foot in the pool before it was shocked, and even then, I would have to think about it...

Sunday, September 02, 2007


I loves me some good salsa. My favorite off-the-shelf brand is Green Mountain Gringo, because it has a very fresh taste and uses a good amount of cilantro, which I love. But it is not easy to find the mild version here, you can only find medium, roasted garlic, or hot. I like my salsa spicy but not too hot, and the medium GMG, while good, isn't as flavorful as the mild. It's not made the same way as the mild, because it doesn't just taste like a hotter version of the mild.

At any rate, someone I know from a gardening forum that I visit from time to time is a very good cook. And she does a lot of home canning. A lot. No, she's not from New York. Most New Yorkers (and probably residents of many other states) would think her crazy to invest such time in food. But not me, because I have tried recipes she has posted, and they are quite good.

So when I started my tomatoes this year, I did so with the intention of making her salsa. Yes, making it. From homegrown tomatoes.

Unfortunately, my tomatoes didn't completely agree with me. They didn't produce as many tomatoes as I would need to make a batch of salsa. And because of their strange shape and the way they grow (they aren't perfectly globe-shaped), the individual tomatoes don't yield as much "meat" as I had hoped.

So a couple of weekends ago, our friend Jeff and I went to the farm stand and bought the tomatoes I needed to finish out the batch. And while the farm stand tomatoes weren't quite as good as mine, they were infinitely tastier than the store-bought horrors that pass for tomatoes. We bought onions. We bought cilantro. Green and red peppers. Three jalapeños. A long hot finger pepper. A serrano pepper. A hot red chili pepper.

The process of making the salsa was a bit arduous. First, you have to wash off all the tomatoes (enough to make a cups when chopped, seeded and drained); then you must throw them into boiling water and boil them until the skins split so that they can be easily peeled. Then the tomatoes must be cut in half sideways, so that the seed pockets are fully revealed, and the seeds and surrounding gelatinous juice pockets cleaned out. Only then can the tomatoes be chopped to a medium dice. Then the hot peppers must be split and seeded. As Jeff discovered under my tutelage, gloves are a wise choice when working with hot peppers. They were so strong that they made us cough. Onions had to be chopped, as did bell peppers.

It was such a long affair that we stopped in the middle of it all to make dinner. When we finished with dinner, we got back to work.

Once you boil the mixture, you have to can it. Canning can be done a couple of different ways, but involves a ballet of sterilized hot jars being filled with a mixture that has just come to a boil, carefully handled to put on the lids and rings. It's a delicate task not to scald yourself. The jars are then lowered into a boiling water bath or pressure cooker and boiled for a specified "processing" time. At the end of processing time, the jars are lifted from the cauldron and put on a rack to await the "pop" of the vacuum seal being formed as the jars cool. And once they are cooled, you have to have a relatively cool, dark place to store them.

What we wound up with, though, was salsa as can only be made fresh. Delicious, sweet, real tomato flavor that was just wonderful. We were not disappointed...but we were tired. I varied the original recipe a bit (my variations are included below) to my individual taste. However, for safety, you must use the amount of vinegar called for, or more; you cannot use less!

The only thing I did wrong was substitute conventional boiling for pressure cooking. Unfortunately, I only discovered after the fact that you can't make that substitution with this recipe because there isn't a sufficient amount of vinegar (acid) in this recipe to hold the salsa stable at room temp and it will spoil in the jar (eek...botulism!) if not if you do make it, remember that you MUST use a pressure cooker to process it OR you must add more acid...others who have made this have chosen to use an additional 1/3 c. vinegar and 1/3 c. lime juice.

So if you would dare to try the recipe:

Annie's Salsa
8 cups tomatoes, peeled, chopped and drained (seeds and juice removed)
2 1⁄2 cups chopped onion
1 1⁄2 cups chopped green pepper
3 – 5 chopped jalapenos, or combination of jalapenos, serranos, hot finger peppers, banana peppers, and habaneros to your taste
6 large cloves minced garlic
1 1/2 Tbsp. cumin
2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup canning salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup vinegar (see note below)
16 oz. tomato sauce
16 oz tomato paste
Mix all ingredients, bring to a boil at medium heat and boil 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, taking care not to Skim off foam, pour into hot jars, and pressure-cook process at 10 lbs of pressure for 30 minutes for pints. NOTE: If you use the traditional water bath, you MUST use an additional 2/3 c. vinegar or a combination of vinegar, lemon, or lime juices to equal an additional 2/3 c. or it will not be safe to leave unrefrigerated! Process for 20 minutes for pints.

Makes 6 pints.

On Larry Craig...

I don't usually post about politics because most of it is just too enraging to think about these days. But I will post about this, because the whole situation has made my blood boil.

First of all, Larry Craig, "I'm not gay, I never have been gay..." Well that is GREAT for those of us who are; we certainly don't a hypocrite asshole such as yourself identifying with "our side."

Secondly, Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota said that Lounge Room Larry should step down because his conduct was "unbecoming a senator." Pardon me, but where did you come up with that horseshit, Senator? Did you just join the Senate? I'd say it's exactly conduct becoming a senator.

I found the tapes of the conversation with the police officer almost comical:
Larry: "I'm a wide person."
Um, you hardly appear to be a walking advertisement for the Zone Diet.

Larry: "I lowered my pants all the way so they wouldn't slide down, and as I did so, I spread my legs. Did my shoe touch yours?"
Lowering one's pants so that they don't slide...okay, fine; but spreading your legs wide enough to reach the side of the stall and even underneath the stall wall? Were you trying to blow out your pant seams? Or were you merely playing out the move you'd make when the nice burly man in the stall next to you lifted you onto the bathroom counter and had his way with you?

Larry: "There was a piece of toilet paper on the floor behind me..."
And this piece of paper somehow became stuck to the wall on the other side of the stall? That's the only thing that would explain running your hand forward and back on the underside of the stall divider three to four times. And who in the HELL reaches for toilet paper on the floor of any bathroom except their home bathroom, especially in an airport bathroom?! Of course, you know those gay men are very obsessive-compulsive with cleanliness. Oh! But that could mean he IS gay! And you know that couldn't be. Very suspicious, that one.

Larry, disputing cop's version of events: "I reached down with my right hand..."
Cop: "Was the ring on your right hand at any time today?"
Larry, somewhat irritated: "Of course not! Try to get it off, look at it."
Cop: "Okay, then it was your left hand. I saw it with my own eyes."
Busted! And what the hell difference does it make what hand you were reaching with? The fact that you would think it would make a difference to say so makes you look very suspicious, Mr. Larry.

I will say BRAVO to the arresting police sergeant, who played completely by the book and attempted to give Mr. Craig every opportunity to explain himself, but it was clear from the audio that Craig was skipping over things and acting very strangely in his conversation. He was answering questions with questions of his own and then answering them, but badly. The office was the epitome of patience and never lost his cool, and he treated Craig with absolute respect the entire time, with the exception of his last line, which was only exasperation with the lying: "Embarrassing, embarrassing. No wonder why we're going down the tubes." Precisely, Sgt. Karsnia, precisely. You should be promoted. You're too good for bathroom work.

The other thing about this situation that makes me sick is that there are suggestions that the Republican party chose now to leak this news to put Craig in the media spotlight and to take it off Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' departure. Sadly, that sounds about right! All this lying and deceit and cover-up, what a circus...and a hotbed of hypocrisy...yet this is the "chosen party" of fundamentalist Christians?!

So go away, Larry. Stop lying and stop blaming others for your inability to hide your secret desire to hook up with a man. But when you do decide that it's men you like, don't call a press conference. We already "have" Jim McGreevey to wave that flag.

Okay, rant completed.