Thursday, May 19, 2016

Surviving Vegan Week

Chances are, you saw the word "vegan" in the title of this post, and you're already scoffing. I grew up in rural PA, so I assume some of you are already feeling that your food choices are being judged. This isn't a post about health, because I'm not a doctor. I don't know if being vegan will make you immortal, or if it will save the rainforest. Rest assured, I have no interest in condemning you to a life of legumes.

Earlier this month, I decided to try being vegan for one week. Just to try it. Just to see if I could live that way as so many of my friends and family have insisted they could never do. You know what I discovered? Are you still with me? 

It's kind 

I know. Bear with me. 

If you are someone who really likes to cook, someone who enjoys trying new techniques and experimenting with new ingredients to create your own unique dishes...vegan cooking can be a really interesting challenge. If you hate cooking and are vegan, please comment because I have no idea how you do it. If you can somehow NOT think about all the stuff you can't have, and instead think of all the cool stuff you've never tried, you'll be fine. If you're thinking "waah but vegan food is gross" that's fine too. I'll eat all the salmonella free cookie dough myself. Go...Idk, never eat apples again out of spite, or something.  

I survived vegan week, and I liked it. In fact, vegan week has more or less progressed into a vegan month. There have been struggles, though. Oh my, yes. Quitting cheese is no joke. For me, quitting cheese was harder than quitting cigarettes. Vegan mac and cheese will probably never cut it for me. (I'm sorry, full time vegans. Nooch, while ok tasting and full of essential B vitamins, does NOT taste like parmesan. It just doesn't. ) BUT... no more random tummy pains! Hooray!

Here are the vegan products that will be welcome in my kitchen regardless of whether or not the change is permanent.

Tofutti is not as sharp as cream cheese. It is still spreadable and tasty as hell. It's got way less fat too, if that's a thing you care about. Is it really "better than cream cheese?" Probably not. It's still pretty damn good, though.

This shit. THIS SHIT IS DELICIOUS. No, it's not better for you. Eat it anyway. What, does regular ice cream have a gun to your head? Did a dairy farmer help you hide a body or something? Did you know that if a coconut falls on your head it could kill you? Coconuts are a menace and they must be stopped.

Gluten is your friend, guys! Unless you're allergic, then I'm sorry I brought it up.  My attempt at homemade seitan was...meh. "Seitan" is the stuff they make tofurkey with to give it that "almost meat" texture. It's basically witchcraft. I really really like adding this to bread dough. The bread turns out extra poofy with an added protein boost. It's cheating, but who cares? I buy it on amazon. The comments are hilarious. "Do you sell a gluten free version of this?" Hahaha no they don't. It's gluten! It's literally flour that's had all the other stuff stripped away. A gluten free version would be a bag of air, silly goose!

Dear Mayonnaise, I know we haven't always been the best of friends. I tolerate you on sandwiches, but usually I'm happier without you. We can still talk, but unless you have sriracha in you, I'm gonna be spending more time with vegenaise. It's basically sweetened vinegar with the texture of greek yogurt. It's not mayo. It holds it's own, and I respect that.

"How do you find the vegan at a dinner party? Don't worry they'll tell you. HA!" It's true, but the real reason it's true is because if you're going to someone's home for dinner, you HAVE to mention it eventually. Either you can let them know in advance and potentially annoy them, or you can bring your own food and potentially annoy them. You can't win. Also, (and I apologize to my friends and family in advance) people are straight up MEAN when you don't eat meat. This was true when I was a vegetarian in highschool, and it was true during my vegan week. People you love and respect will make passive aggressive, or just plain aggressive remarks. They will treat you like you're from another planet. I've heard it said that vegans are pretentious, but honestly I haven't met enough to know if it's true or not. I grew up in central Pennsylvania where people love their guns, their illegal fireworks, and their meat.

All in all, trying the vegan diet was a good experience for me. I eat more veggies now. I can skip the cheese, usually. My cooking has improved. I'm pretty sure I didn't save any cows, but I learned some stuff about where my food comes from, and that's a good thing, right?

*Side note- There is a surprising list of junk food that just happens to be vegan. Some of it still haunts my dreams. Duncan Hines cream cheese frosting is vegan?? WHAT THE HELL IS IN IT THEN?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Stuff My Dad Likes (An Important Article on Dad Consumerism) - Pt 1: Coffee

As my father patiently waits for the foam of his guinness to settle into a frothy crown, he imparts this bit of wisdom.

"There are few things in life that are so completely and utterly satisfying. How often do you buy something that you are 100% happy with?" 

He's talking about this thermos.

Dad gave me my first Genuine Brand travel thermos as a gift when I got accepted into Art School.

(Have you seen this movie? It is PAINFULLY accurate.)

"Take this. You'll need it." He said, knowing that he'd just handed me the key to academic success.

(Shown above: Academic Success.)

That mug went everywhere with me. It fit snugly into my messenger bag along with Contemporary Art History notes and palette knives. My three hundred dollar book on the Northern Renaissance was never in danger of becoming soggy, because my thermos never once spilled its contents. My thermos was often streaked with color, traces of the glorious struggle between painter and substrate. It could easily be wiped clean. I never had to experience the awful surprise of tepid coffee, because my thermos laughed at the very idea of room temperature. My thermos saw every lecture. Once, I knocked it from my tiny college sized desk and time stood still. People gasped, but thermos remained loyal to me, and not a drop escaped.

Now that I'm out of school and something of a homebody, this is my mug of choice. The International Endurance Stainless Steel Double Walled Beer Mug.

Pretty sexy, huh? If you're wondering "who cares, it's just a mug," SHUT UP BECAUSE YOU'RE WRONG. This mug will ruin all others. No, you can't microwave it, but it doesn't matter because your hot coffees and teas will stay that way for hours. Your cold drinks will thank you too. See how it says "beer" in the title? That's because this mug is a goddamn miracle. You may as well throw the others out, because they are worthless by comparison. Others will attempt to use your mug. Tell them to piss off and buy their own. Then finish your coffee, because you're grumpy without it.

To go with my mug, I've often been the lucky recipient of this:

Mystic Monk coffee beans are grown, dried and roasted by Carmelite Monks in Wyoming. I might not be religious, but I find it impossible not to be completely charmed by the idea of robed little Gregor Mendels living humbly, contemplating their faith, and making coffee. (Yeah Gregor Mendel was an Augustinian monk, not Carmelite. Humor me.) It may just be good marketing on their end, but whether or not the picture they paint is accurate...

Try the Cowboy Blend. Throw some of this in while you're at it.

If that's not pure Dad wisdom, then I don't know what is.

Link bomb:

Stainless Steel Mug

Mystic Monk Coffee

Thermos Travel Mug

St Brendan's Irish Cream

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Make Your Own Damn Hot Sauce- by Steve Wynne

Christopher Hitchens once wrote, “Alcohol makes other people less tedious, and food less bland, and can help provide what the Greeks called entheos, or the slight buzz of inspiration when reading or writing.” The late Mr. Hitchens had many quotes both contestable and controversial, but when it came to booze, Hitch knew what was up. That inspiration the Greeks spoke of so long ago can seize one at nearly any moment while imbibing, as it struck me one December night in 2013. Christmas had just passed, and one article that had been gifted to my wife had been a Magic Bullet blender. Is it a blender, specifically? Or is it different and stylized enough that it has its own category? I don't know. Don't mind me. 
We had been drinking Troegs Javahead in our kitchen when entheos beat me about the head with its inspiration stick. See, the wife and I had been trying our hand at making hot sauces throughout the year with little to marginal success. Very spotty, but mostly forgettable attempts at making a substitute to sriracha so we wouldn't have to run out to the store and buy a new bottled every week. Seriously, we go through a lot of that shit. We're spicy people, the wife and I. However, on this auspicious evening, we found ourselves hostage to a moment when opportunity, preparation, improvisation, and drive all met at a crossroads together, and collectively decided to carjack the first motorist who happened along and get the hell out of dodge.
Call it teamwork, fate, luck, what have you. But something caught my eye, and I felt inspiration strike and in a craft brew fueled flurry, I had whipped up a hot sauce from a few things we just happened to have in our kitchen that you probably have too. 
Prepare yourself for the best goddamned hot sauce you will ever make; Banana Orange Habanero hot sauce.
I say 'make', because I don't think most people make hot sauce, and if you only make this one, well, by default, it will be the best hot sauce you ever make. You could buy another hot sauce you like better, and it won't match the criteria I've just laid out. I could waste more time justifying my claim like some kind of Russel Brand FX bumper, but I've never found him funny at all and this paragraph is the most redundant thing I've written in my entire adult life. Isn't that funny? Not really, no. Not at all. But seriously, this hot sauce is awesome, and I'm gonna tell you how to make it.
We went through a couple names, but the one that's stuck with us was 'Angry Mugshot', usually just shortened to 'Mugshot'. There's an inside story there, but that's not important. Its stupidly easy to make, and you've probably got everything you need to make it in your kitchen right now.

 Oh, and just so you are properly warned: this is hot. If you don't care for heat, walk away.

You will Need:

6 medium – large Habanero peppers, seeds and all. (approx. 2.5-3 ounces). Scotch Bonnets will do fine in a pinch.
Banana - approx. 5.5 ounces. Should be one large, or one and a half small to medium.

¼ Cup of Apple Cider Vinegar

1 Mandarin Orange or Clementine

3-4 Garlic cloves, Minced. Approx. half an ounce.

1 Teaspoon of Salt. Kosher's great, coarse works, what have you.
1 Tablespoon of Brown Sugar.

Got all that? Good. Here's the directions.

Step 1. Assemble your ingredients.

Step 2. Throw into a blender, and blend until all chunky bits are gone and you have a nice viscous substance.

Step 3. Enjoy.

That's it. Its that simple; blend it all together, and you've got yourself the Angry Mugshot; a Banana Orange Habanero sauce that goes great on damn near anything. It has a hell of a punch your first bite, largely on account of the 6 whole Habaneros that you literally just blended up, but it has a killer sweetness that sticks around after the initial bang, and I am telling you once again, this hot sauce is awesome. It goes great on burgers, sandwiches, anything pork-related, seafood, and just about anything you could think of. 

I've tried cooking it down before after blending, but its never been as good as it is raw. You might want to let it cure overnight in the fridge in whatever container you're keeping it in before tearing into it, but its not necessary to wait. I've found that it tastes better after cooling for a few hours in the fridge after blending, but its always gonna be great. Just know that it'll be better in the morning.
There you have it, folks. Give it a try. Let us know how you like it, and share this recipe with your spicy friends and spicy family. Its too good to keep to yourself. Thanks for reading, and keep it hot.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Making a Decorative Pillow (Part 1) and How to Make Piping- by Brazen Jester

Before my son was born, my husband’s uncle passed down a rocking chair to me. While it was a lovely rocking chair, it was quite uncomfortable, and I couldn’t exactly imagine rocking a baby to sleep in it. So I set out to make a cushion for it.

Just before he was born, I then realized that there is no point in having a nice chair in a nursery if I can’t prop my feet up, too. So I upcycled a thrift store end table into a nice, cushiony ottoman, which my cats love to sleep on. As you can see, it’s a lovely set, but something was still missing.

The fabric remaining from my two previous projects was calling out to me. Make a pillow, you know you want to.

So, here we are. While this will be going in my son’s nursery, it is by no means for baby... It’s totally, unashamedly, for me. You can use these basic techniques to make a decorative pillow for any room of the house.

First things first, you’ll need sufficient materials for your project, and a plan. I want my finished pillow to be 12”x18”.

I doodle something like this every time I work on something, even when it’s simple. It helps keep me organized, and helps me visualize the finished product.

You can see that I’ve figured in 1/2” seams. On a typical project, I like to work with 1/4” seams, but with something that is going to be experiencing a tad more wear and tear, a larger seam allowance is a good thing.

First off, cut out all of your fabric. If you’re using a patterned fabric like mine, it’s important to take the design into account when cutting, like so:

Yes, I’m a rebel. I use sharpie to mark the lines on my fabric.


You’ll need:
l  Enough material for both the front and back of your pillow
l  Natural Cotton Piping, the length of the total perimeter of your pillow, plus a few extra inches. (I’m using 3/8” width, but you can use whatever size you like)
l  Strips of fabric, about 2” wide, equal to the length of your piping.
l  Matching thread
l  Stuffing

Now that we’ve gathered everything we need, take a break to pay attention to your attention-starved cat.

We’ll start out by making our piping. Now, you could buy finished piping at the fabric store. But why would you? Making your own is great, for two reasons. One, it’s cheaper! I’m all about my projects being more affordable. Two, it will match your project perfectly.

Unless you bought several yards of fabric, you probably ended up needing to cut multiple strips to get the correct length. That’s totally okay! It only takes a couple of minutes to join them.

Match the ends of two of your strips together, like so:

And sew diagonally from the corners of the short ends of your strips:

Trim off the excess fabric, leaving about a quarter inch. It’s okay if you don’t have pinking shears, a straight cut will work just as well.

Take a moment to iron open the seam.


See how the seam is at an angle, instead of straight up and down? This minimizes the bulk that is created when you are joining multiple layers of fabric. Small details like this will make your finished project look much more professional.

If you’re using dark fabric like I am, take a moment to lint roll away any stray pet hairs or lint.

Now, take your piping, and lay it in the center of your fabric strip. You can pin the length, if you like, but I don’t find it to be entirely necessary.

Fold your fabric over the piping, matching up the edges, and get your sewing machine ready to sew. As you can see, I’ve switched over my standard presser foot for a zipper foot:


Sew along the piping, as close as possible. You don’t need to worry about a lock stitch at either end. Use one hand to feed the piping to the machine. I tend to lead it in from the opposite side of the foot from the needle, to keep my stitches as snug to the edge as possible. It should only take you a couple of minutes to zip along.

Attach the pieces of the front (and back) of your pillow.

Iron your seams open and your fabric flat.

Time to attach our piping! This part is pretty straight-forward. With the right side of the front of your pillow case facing you, pin your piping to the perimeter. Try to keep about a half-inch from the edge. You can measure if you want (I prefer to eye-ball it).

When you reach the corner, bend your piping to fit:

Pin. Make a small cut at the corner almost-but-not-quite up to the stitching of your piping, so that you can spread your fabric flat again. If you were going around a more rounded corner, you could make several of these cuts to accommodate it.

Continue pinning around.

Thanks for reading! That’s it for part 1. Tomorrow, we’ll sew and stuf

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Bastardette's Quick Guide to Bunnies

Bunnies are cute right? With their wiggly little noses.

Their woolly tummies

Their impeccable style

Their beautiful singing voices

And of course, those luxurious tresses.

So majestic.

The truth though? Bunnies REALLY aren't for everyone. They're about as high maintenance as they are cute. Bunnies are a commitment wrapped up in a furry little package. I've had my bun for about 8 years.

Her name is Delicious, because she noms.

 Now, I am by no means an expert or a medical professional, just an enthusiast, but there are some things I'd like to tell you if you're considering bunny companionship. Think of me as that friend you sometimes drink with. You probably didn't ask for my advice, but I'm giving it to you anyway, because that's what "sometimes friends" do.

Most sources will tell you that rabbits live between 5-10 years. According to our bunny doc (let's call him Dr. Fluff n' Stuff) they can live up to 16 years with proper medical treatment. However, proper vet care for bunnies can be hard to come by because they're typically considered "exotic pets", so your average cat and dog vet might not be experienced with rabbits. I got lucky. Dr. Fluff n' Stuff is the goddamn bunny whisperer. Definitely make sure someone in your area practices bunny medicine.

Let's start with the obvious.

No joke. They really do, and the older they get, the more they poop. Luckily, it's alot cleaner than most poops, and you get used to it pretty quickly. Clean their living space regularly, and it it will stay manageable and relatively funk free. Bunnies can be also be litter trained, and they're excellent self groomers. They're smarter than you think! I'm told bunny droppings are good for your garden too!

Point number two: bunnies need mental stimulation. You read that right. Bored bunnies do bad things. You remember that kid you grew up with who had that rabbit that just glared at you and bit you when you tried to pet it? (Everyone knew that kid, right?) Yeah that's what happens when bunnies don't have enough stuff to do. Imagine being stuck in an airplane your entire life without so much as a crossword puzzle. You'd be pretty grumpy by the end of it. You'd be the guy who drinks all the mini vodka bottles. Don't let your bunny be that guy. Let them hop about when you can. Keep an eye on them, and keep your space free of nommables like electrical cords and houseplants. Trust me, the first time you see a "binky" (a sort of happy bunny twisty dance) everything will be worth it. It's the BEST. Unfortunately alot of people think of a pet rabbit as cage animal that you can just feed, and then walk away from.  

Bunny brains have needs, so give them things to play with! When Delicious was a baby, she loved wooden blocks. I'd stack em up, and she'd knock them over. (Side note: If giant bunnies invade our cities and enslave humanity, the destruction will be devastating, but so ADORABLE.) I personally will never waste another dime on commercial bunny toys, because Delicious turns her wiggly nose up at them. She prefers crumpled up paper, cardboard boxes, and toilet paper tubes. My bun is a cheap date. Some bunnies like rattle toys they can toss about.  Most importantly, INTERACT WITH YOUR BUNNY! That's why you want one, right? Ok, so maybe they're not always up for a snuggle, but they sure do love head scratches! They're social creatures! 


Let's talk food. Rabbits eat carrots like humans eat ice cream. Sure we love it, but until someone invents a pill that keeps it from becoming tummy flub, we shouldn't eat it all day every day. (Get ON it, SCIENCE!) Healthy adult bunnies eat lots of fresh hay (timothy hay is popular) plenty of dark leafy greens, and pellets in moderation. The amount depends on the bunny's age, weight and eating habits. Delicious will graze all day like a little lady, while my sister's bun Captain Cosmo will wolf down everything you give him in one sitting. It's cute as hell, but mind the bunny pudge . Carrots and fruits are treats, and are great for training. Obviously, make sure they have clean water. Bunny diets can be pretty complicated, so I STRONGLY recommend following House Rabbit Society for more in depth information. There's no way I can fit every single bit of research on bunny care in this post, so study up! 

Get your rabbit fixed. I'm serious. Get. Them. Fixed. Commitment, remember? I bought Delicious from a pet store when I was a dumb teenager. DON'T DO WHAT I DID. Buy your rabbit from a reputable breeder (especially for special breeds like Angoras- see Why You Should Let Knitting Ruin Your Life), or ADOPT. Then snip 'em or spay 'em. Girl bunnies are at high risk for ovarian cancer, and if they have babies, her and her female decedents can produce up to 1300 BABIES IN A YEAR. Intact boy bunnies spray (ew) and WILL...HUMP...EVERYTHING.  

 I'm about to get serious for a second. If you EVER start to see your rabbit's head tilting, even if it's just at a quirky little angle, TAKE THEM TO A VET ASAP. 

Not good.

Head tilt can be a sign of something very serious. It could be an inner ear infection, which might not seem like a big deal, but for rabbits can be devastating. It could be a nasty brain parasite called EncephalitozoonosisIt could be trauma, stroke, or cancer. It could be a number of things, and they are all bad news. If your bunny develops head tilt, you may see them start to "roll". Head tilt messes up their equilibrium. It's hard to watch. Until your rabbit is diagnosed, stay away from  other rabbits. If it is a parasite, guess what? You could be carrying it around with you.  
Delicious developed a head tilt a few months ago. 

                                                       ^ See that? ^  That's bad news.

Luckily, we'd seen it before in our friend's rabbit, so we knew to look out for it. We got her to Dr. Fluff N' Stuff the very next day and he set us up with antibiotics. This is what a doped up rabbit looks like. 
I call this piece "Sick Bunny Cradled by Tattooed Hunk"

 Three months of weekly vet trips, syringe feedings, and one surgery later, I'm happy to say my bunny finally has a clean bill of health, all thanks to Dr. Fluff N' Stuff and his amazing staff. It was a tough and expensive emotional roller coaster. Her head tilt is now barely noticeable, but her personality has changed a bit. She's no longer fastidious about her cage arrangements, (interior decorating used to be her favorite thing) and she's a much pickier eater. She won't touch pellets, and she'll nibble at hay, but she spends most of her days luxuriating in a bed of leafy greens, looking down at us like the peasants we are. 

                                                        I call this piece "Spoiled Brat." 

Someone once asked me, in regards to my lagomorph friend, "what's the appeal?" I shrugged. To me, the appeal is pretty darn obvious. Just look at this picture of a bunny in a mug!


So how about a recap?
1)Bunnies poop. Alot. All the time. 
2)Bunnies need mental stimulation.
3) Bunnies need timothy hay and fresh veggies. Carrots are a sometimes food. 
4)Adopt if you can, and get your bunny snipped or spayed
5)Head tilt is scary and should be treated immediately. Take it from someone who knows. 
6)Bunnies make great friends if you treat them well, but make sure you know what you're getting into. 

So I hope I didn't scare you away from Bunny adopting, but if I did, then maybe consider a nice goldfish? 


Share. Comment. Enjoy.