In Case I Ever Get Famous And Suddenly Die…

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Okay, after seeing this BuzzFeed article on drunken authors and their favorite drinks I took it upon myself to do some research and found some inconsistencies and promptly became sad. I mean, they created some of the great works of our time and no one ever noticed what they drank? Not even the bartender? What a cruel and thoughtless world. I then realized that if I were ever to write a novel and suddenly keel over, this could happen to me. No one would be able to correctly name my poison.

Something needs to be done about this. I cannot bear to have any discrepancies. Truth be told, I’m a fickle Libra so brace yourself because we are going to cover all of the things! In true BuzzFeed fashion, I decided to make a list-format doo-dad for you, complete with nonsensical images. I’d give you a smattering of boozy famous quotes for good measure, but it appears some nice person already took care of that here. Yay! Less work for me!

Lady Sensory’s Last Booze and Testament:

Vodka:

Katy Perry John Mayer

My memories of vodka were not this pretty. Photo: Columbia/Sony Music

Once upon a time, the Grey Goose gimlet and I were best friends. Then one night, I rode a mechanical bull three times with a regional sales director. It got to the point where they had to tip the bull and shake us off.  I was conveniently wearing low-rise jeans at the time, so half of my rear end was hanging out. I like to think of it as visual karaoke…the worst karaoke you could ever imagine.  As a result, I just say no to vodka.

Scotch:

Scotchy, scotch, scotch! Photo: www.drinkinginamerica.com

Scotchy, scotch, scotch!
Photo: http://www.drinkinginamerica.com

Yes, I had a run on scotch shortly out of graduate school. I like to think that my nights of sipping single malt eventually led me to laser hair removal but sadly, that’s probably just genetics. I don’t drink it anymore and for no reason other than simply growing out of that phase. In fact, I avoid most brown liquor with the exception of an occasional hot beverage (Jameson in Irish Coffee or bourbon in hot apple cider).

Tequila:

I meant to do that. Photo: www.thenewsburner.com

I meant to do that.
Photo: http://www.thenewsburner.com

Remember how tequila made PeeWee Herman dance on a bar and knock over about 30 motorcycles? Let’s not even go there.

Champagne:

Don't act like naps haven't happened to you.

Don’t act like naps haven’t happened to you. Photo: http://www.funnyzela.com

Being a wine lover, I actually like champagne. Unfortunately, it doesn’t like me and I wind up taking naps in obscure places…or falling out of a chair in painting class.

So now that we’ve covered the avoidance list, here are a few of my favorite things:

Rum:

Dark 'n Stormy made with Gosling's and Barritt's...and a flamingo!

Dark ‘n Stormy made with Gosling’s and Barritt’s…and a flamingo!

In my college days, it was good old Captain Morgan Spiced Rum. I’ve since traveled to Bermuda a couple of times and my favorite is presently Gosling’s Black Seal. This is best served in a Dark & Stormy or Rum Swizzle, but it’s just fine for sipping on its own. Other rum friends include Appleton, Cruzan, and some Cuban stuff I tried in Aruba. I wish I could recall the name because it was delicious, but it would never make it past customs.

Gin:

Hendrick's Gin - photo directly from their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/hendricksgin so it will be easy for you to find it!

Hendrick’s Gin – photo directly from their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/hendricksgin

Gin has proven to be a strong favorite in recent years, with Hendrick’s topping the list. It’s good in a tonic, but I prefer it in a dry martini with olives instead of cucumbers. But if you give me both, hey, I’m not going to complain.

Liqueur:

St. Germain Cocktail

St. Germain Cocktail

There are quite a few that I enjoy but none compare to my beloved St. Germain, a liqueur made from elderflowers. It pairs very well with the aforementioned Hendrick’s gin and my favorite white wine, mentioned below.

Wine:

Yes, I’ve saved the best for last. This one is tricky because I’m an equal opportunity wino and like quite a few. To sum it up as concisely as possible by grape, Sauvignon Blanc is my white of choice (anything from New Zealand to Sancerre) and Pinot Noir is my red of choice (Washington/Oregon and those from the Burgundy region). Honorable mentions should include Riesling (hey, I live near the Finger Lakes, but it absolutely must be dry). And I will drink most any dry red, including dry rosé, but I do not like Merlot or Beaujolais. Also, I’m not a fan of Pinot Grigio and unfortunately, Chardonnay gives me a headache. And we all know friends don’t let friends drink white Zinfandel.

I purposely left craft beer off of this list because I’ve only recently become enamored with it and don’t drink it that often. Like wine, it would be challenging to keep it concise.

So in eighty years, when someone tries to tell you I loved Sex on the Beach, you’ll know they aren’t talking about the drink.  By the way, I also like coffee and drink more of that than anything else. It’s not always about the booze, you know!

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You Say, “Expresso” and I Say, “Shut Up.”

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PrepOkay, I could have chosen a much more inappropriate version for this post title but can we talk about the mispronunciation/misspelling of the word, espresso, for a hot minute? This is not the expressway. This is not the express lane at Walmart. This is not Madonna’s, “Express Yourself.” This is coffee. This is espresso, not expresso. I have a friend who cringes every time she hears this, among other grammatical sins. Typically sipped and enjoyed at Starbucks and preferably other local cafes, those who need it for culinary purposes often use this:

Espresso

This is the only time I use instant coffee. It’s perfectly acceptable for baking and will last you for years. So now that I’ve gone off about the proper spelling and pronunciation of espresso, let’s get back to baking, shall we?

A couple of weeks ago I got blinded by some chocolate packaging in the baking aisle at Wegmans. I had heard of Guittard but could not find any locally (I generally play with Scharffen Berger bittersweet). So this made its way into my cart:

Guittard bittersweet

I was attending a Super Bowl party last night (much like the rest of the nation) and decided brownies would be a fun addition. I generally like my chocolate snacks dark, rich, and slightly bitter. Yeah, you can interpret that sentence any way you like. However, since my friend has three children I figured I should lighten up a bit and make my dessert a little more family friendly. Inspired by memories of eating coffee ice cream with crunchy Heath bar topping as a kid (I swear that’s how I learned to like coffee), I came up with this idea. I even made them easier to say.  No “espresso” in the recipe title below, especially (yes, it’s ‘especially’ and not ‘expecially’) since it only accounts for a small portion of the recipe.

Lady Sensory’s Coffee Toffee Brownies

Adapted from this recipe on CHOW for the chocolate purists (weirdos like me). I beefed up the espresso a bit and added a few extras.

6 oz package of Guittard 70% bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or any brand bittersweet – 60-70% cacao preferred)

1 cup of Heath (or any milk chocolate covered toffee) bars, coarsely chopped

1 stick of unsalted butter, plus an extra tbsp for greasing the pan

2 eggs, beaten, and at room temperature

1 cup vanilla sugar (see how to make this and your own extract here)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp brewed espresso (I used instant but if you have an espresso maker, go ahead and use it!)

1 cup flour

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1/4 tsp finely ground sea salt

1/4 tsp ground Saigon cinnamon

Brownies 2Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 8 ” square pan with butter and line bottom with a greased square of parchment paper (trust me – these get sticky and this will make your life so much easier). In a large saucepan, melt the stick of butter over low heat and combine the dark chocolate chunks until completely melted and smooth. Handy tip: I used my 4.5 qt Le Creuset which doubled as the mixing bowl. Remove from heat immediately and allow to cool. In a smaller bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt.  Once the chocolate/butter mixture is at room temperature whisk in the vanilla sugar, extract and coffee, followed by the beaten eggs. Add the flour mixture, a little at a time, until combined. Add half of the chopped Heath bar chunks and spread into the pan in an even layer. Top with remaining Heath bar chunks. Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pan once. Start checking at 25 minutes. My brownies were done right around the 30 minute mark (an inserted toothpick came out clean). Insert a spatula around the edge of the pan to release some of the toffee sticking to the edges while still warm. Allow to cool for at least an hour, if not more. When cooled, remove from the pan and cut into 16 squares. They look a little strange at first because the toffee melts in the oven. When cooled, the topping becomes a delicious, slightly crunchy texture that will please even the most discerning palates. Dare I say they’re almost as good as that random Prince appearance on New Girl?

Stop and Eat the Flowers

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Gourmet goodies!

Gourmet goodies!

I know what you’re thinking. That title should say “smell the roses.”  But we’re not talking about perfume or roses today. We’re going to talk about my herby/floral friend, lavender. I’ve previously covered lavender as a dessert ingredient here. This topic came up the other night and the highly intelligent convo went something like this:

Me: “I like lavender in food. You know, because I like French stuff.”

Other person: “I don’t like lavender. I don’t want my food to taste like perfume. Or soap. It can’t be the star player in the dish.”

I could probably recollect more of the conversation had we not indulged in so many cocktails, but I appreciate the perspective. Floral extracts (rosewater, orange blossom water, violet, jasmine and even my favorite St. Germain ingredient, elderflower) have the ability to become overwhelming if not balanced properly. And interestingly, the lavender-tinged herbes de Provence that I enjoy so much really didn’t become popular until the mid 1970s. In fact, I didn’t eat anything featuring lavender while visiting the south of France. I only found it in bunches or in soaps and other toiletries at the market.

So, while on holiday in Florida visiting Crazy Bob, his lady friend and I took a shopping jaunt over to Sanibel Island where we discovered the Sanibel Olive Oil Company in Periwinkle Place (online as Florida Olive Oil here). They had such a variety of unique oil and vinegar flavors that we thought our taste buds were going to explode. After several tastings, I purchased Lavender Balsamic and Key West Citrus Balsamic (I’ll be experimenting with the latter in the near future). She picked up the Habanero-Lime and Walberry (a combination of strawberry and walnut). Sadly, I’m not finding the lavender in their online store so I may call when I run out or try a different vendor. However, if you are in the Fort Myers/ Naples area, you could easily head over to Sanibel and visit the shop to sample yourself. The owner is quite the conversationalist and in addition to oil and vinegar, he also carries flavored salts, spices, sauces, and other “foodie” delights.

Among many other adventures, Crazy Bob and I managed to visit the Edison & Ford Winter Estates where I picked up some local saw palmetto honey in the gift shop. Both are used in the recipe below, but you could substitute with your own local honey and the balsamic vinegar of your choice if you aren’t partial to lavender.

Lady Sensory’s No Soap For You Lavender-Balsamic Glazed Chicken

Old-school mustard seed and spice-grinding

Old-school mustard seed and spice-grinding

1 – 1.5 lbs boneless chicken breasts (I picked up an organic pack of three medium-sized breasts)

2 tsp Herbes de Provence

2 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cracked black pepper

2 tsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely minced or pressedChicken

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup lavender balsamic vinegar

2 tsp honey (I used saw palmetto, but use what you have)

With a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, combine and grind the mustard seeds, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper together. Apply to the chicken breasts as a dry rub and pop them back in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes or while you get the rest of your ingredients ready. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Warm oil a large pan (that can transfer from stove to oven) on medium heat. Place garlic in and cook until slightly golden. Put the chicken breasts in the pan and brown on each side until you see the breasts just turning from pink to white (about 7-10 minutes, depending on thickness). Remove the breasts from the pan and place on a plate temporarily. Deglaze your pan with the white wine and vinegar and raise the heat to medium high. You are making a reduction so when the mixture comes to a slight boil,  stir in the honey, and turn off the stove top. Return the chicken to the pan and put in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, flipping once and keeping an eye the glaze to ensure it doesn’t burn. I served these with a side of roasted asparagus, but they would be equally tasty with Brussels sprouts, potatoes, or any side dish of your choice. You’ll find the lavender gives the chicken more of a lemon/herb flavor that is balanced by the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar and honey. Top the chicken and side dish with any remaining glaze and enjoy!

Lavender-balsamic glazed chicken and roasted asparagus

Lavender-balsamic glazed chicken and roasted asparagus

I Am What I Ham

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Meet "Spootch."

Meet “Spootch.”

Holiday Greetings from Florida. Over here to the left is my new friend, “Spootch,” that I found at the Coconut Point Art Festival (along with those nifty chopsticks made by the same artist). This was my favorite booth and purchase from the show and I’m super excited to put my Spootch to use in the home kitchen upon my return.

It’s New Year’s Eve and we’re about to head down to the beach so this will be a quick post.  I am not a big ham person but we had it for Christmas dinner. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you the last time I bought ham from the deli since it gets so slimy. However, I do enjoy a nice cooked ham, and particularly because I know what to do with the leftovers. In addition to making lovely breakfast sammies, you can totally make the best split pea soup ever. So I took over the kitchen to make this:

Lady Sensory’s Don’t Pea on My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining Soup

See what I did there? I love me some quality Judge Judy quotes. You will need:

1 16 oz bag of dried split peas

7 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed (This is a lot of garlic, but it tastes delicious. So if you aren’t cool with that, reduce to your desired level.)

1 large Vidalia onion, finely chopped

About 6 ribs of celery, finely chopped

3/4 bag of baby carrots, chopped

1 ham bone (used the leftover Christmas ham, but you can get one from a butcher)

1 – 1 1/2 cups cooked ham, cut into bite size chunks (again, Christmas leftovers)

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp Herbes de Provence

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Cracked black pepper, to taste*

6-8 cups of water

1-2 tbsp olive oil

*You can add salt if you like but there was more than enough in the ham and the bone so I did not add any.

Split Pea Soup

As I mentioned, this was a kitchen takeover. I think the pot I used was roughly 4-5 quarts (it’s similar in size to my 4.5 pot). So, warm the olive oil in a heavy stock pot or fancy pot over low heat.  Add the onion and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes), add the garlic and continue to cook until slightly golden (another 5 minutes). Add the celery and carrots and com for about 5 more minutes and then add all of your dried herbs: the bay leaves, crushed red pepper, black pepper and Herbes de Provence and cook for about a minute or two. Now add the ham bone and dried split peas (you don’t have to soak them) and cook for a minute or two. Raise the heat to high and begin to add the water, 1 cup at a time, until bone is submerged and water is about an inch and a half from the top of the pot (so it doesn’t overflow). Add the chopped ham and cook until boiling. Skim foam and fat off the top (this is a personal preference and it won’t compromise the flavor). Reduce the heat to low and cook for 1 hr – 1.5 hrs (until peas have softened and soup has thickened). Serve and enjoy with a nice crusty baguette or roll and some dry white wine. We enjoyed trying three different kinds while waiting for the soup to cook – an Italian dry white blend, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a Sancerre. Oops!

May your New Year’s Eve be fun, safe, and filled with similar wine indiscretions!

It’s A Wrap

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Crazy Rhubarb Lady ornament

Crazy Rhubarb Lady ornament

Well, December has flown by so I thought I’d provide a quick summary of this month’s funny and crafty holiday highlights.  For starters, I ended up making a Crazy Rhubarb Lady  Christmas ornament with corresponding packaging for my friend’s annual ornament exchange. Previous ornaments can be enjoyed here and here.  Needless to say, Barb (I think we should call her ‘Barb’ since we don’t know her real name) was well received and her attendance at the party resulted in playing her video on the big screen so that everyone would get the joke. Truth be told, I was going to make a Sweet Brown ornament but changed my mind at the last minute. Perhaps next year Sweet Brown will roast chestnuts over an open “fahhhhhre.”

The Breakfast with Krampus festivities were a big success.  I partook in season’s beatings and crafts with Krampus. I also picked up a fun sticker book filled with a variety of vintage Krampus images.  It appears there will be another event next year and I am super excited to attend all over again. I even made the naughty list! I’m so proud!

Season's Beatings

Season’s Beatings!

Finally, I’ve continued to knit like a grandma on a bender. I even brought some yarn to parties to keep my hands out of the hors d’oeuvres while waiting to play Cards Against Humanity. There are just too many tasty and tempting things hanging around this time of year. It also makes for good conversation at said parties and while traveling so I’m just going with it.  I’m looking forward to learning some new knitting tricks after the holidays.

Stitch & Sip

Stitch & Sip

I’ve additionally been creative in the kitchen so stay tuned for some new recipes in the very near future! In the meantime, I’ll be staying out of the cold weather for a little while longer.

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Random Black Friday Thoughts

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Today for Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN) I’m supposed to tell you what I want for Christmas this year. That answer is fairly obvious and also hella-boring. Let’s just say that this week’s employment alerts for “public relations” have included being the general manager of a Kentucky Fried Chicken. Have I ever told you about the time my mother found a snail in their coleslaw? It was certainly not finger-lickin’ good. Let’s not go there. Instead, I’m going to provide you with random thoughts that have occurred to me between fits of sneezes today. Yes, somehow I am the proud recipient of a head cold that commenced this morning at 5 AM. I did not ask Santa for that.

First random thought: I’d like to alert you to someone’s 40th birthday. A very talented and creative buddy of mine, Joe Mayernik, created this post about his Black Friday Birthday on his blog. Basically he wants to you submit a photo on social media and tag it with #Mayernik40. The resulting photos will be made into a poster to commemorate his milestone day. It’s a really clever idea and it’s been fun seeing what other people have posted today.

Other random thoughts include another amazing live tweet session documenting an irate American traveler trying to get home for Thanksgiving, complete with note passing and slapping. It’s hilarious. Then we had some shoppers wreaking havoc in Walmart  and apparently there was also shooting at a Kohl’s department store in Chicago last night. Is it really worth it, people? Has anyone been out to experience this? I’ve honestly never done it and after seeing some of the footage, I’m still not interested. I prefer my retail therapy to take place in a calm, relaxed environment.

The last random thought for today is that I need to clean up my eating habits for the next few weeks. The timing is not ideal with all of the holiday parties but November was chock full o’ bad choices and I’m feeling like crap on a stick. So you can expect some healthier recipes in the coming weeks and I’ll be choosing water more often than wine. Hopefully this will keep me from filling out a Santa costume!

Santa

A Bigger, Blacker Friday

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CAH PackagingToday is Thanksgiving and the recommended Blog Every Day in November (#BEDN) topic is the great outdoors. Since we’ve had our first official snowfall here (yuck!), it’s highly likely that my time spent outside will be limited to driving to and from my friends’ new home to celebrate Friendsgiving. So, I’ve picked another topic to discuss.

What’s this post title all about, you ask? Well, our group has a habit of playing the game, Cards Against Humanity. So, this is merely a play on words combining the traditional post-Thanksgiving Black Friday shopping day here in the U.S. with a couple of the cards that say, “A big, black dick” and “A bigger, blacker dick.”  One of our hosts just got the latest edition of cards, appropriately named, “Bigger, Blacker Box.” If you haven’t played, I caution you to only play with people who aren’t easily offended and those who share the same depraved sense of humor. It’s basically like playing Apples to Apples infused with all things inappropriate and politically incorrect. Actually, if you’re interested you can print your own set by visiting here.

Speaking of Black Friday, what is the deal with all these petitions people are posting online to save Thanksgiving? Apparently some of the larger retailers are open on Thanksgiving day for their sales. I am sympathetic here, and that’s because I worked in retail and I know how crazy people can get during a sale. However, I also worked in healthcare for many years and had to cover holidays despite that I wasn’t in a vital life-saving role. Seriously – I even had to be there when I was a sales and marketing director. I did find it kind of ridiculous, but Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July were actually the holidays I would bid on because you could easily be taken in somewhere after your shift was over. So if you are off today, be grateful. It’s not always a given!

As far as today’s Friendsgiving goes, we have folks with an assortment of diets and tastes coming to this gathering so I will be bringing this oldie but goodie. Nope, it’s not vegan, fat-free, nor gluten-free, but it’s pretty damn delicious. As for hitting the sales today or getting up early and shopping tomorrow? No, thank you. I will be passing on that insanity. If anything at all, I’ll partake from the comfort of home via “the internets.”

I hope your turkey day is filled with magnificent F-words like family, friends, food, and fun. What? You thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you?  Be thankful! We haven’t busted out the cards just yet!