Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ethylene Gas is Straight Up Bananas

Can we talk about bananas for a hot minute? I have this food pet peeve- we all have them- and one of mine is when bananas get brown spots on them. I hate that. I think they taste disgusting when they're really ripe. Seriously, its gross city and my taste buds are the mayor. I like my bananas with the tiniest hint of green on them, which means I usually get to eat 1 banana before the rest of the bunch gets spots on them and I let them rot and make banana bread.
Sometimes I feel bad for talking smack about bananas (No, I do. I have actually found myself looking at bananas and thinking "I'm sorry guys.") because they actually have this really cool thing they can do that a lot of other fruits can't: they produce ethylene gas. Ethylene gas is this really powerful thing that makes other fruit around it ripen faster. Produce companies (they used to be called "farms") have ripening rooms where they can store fruit to ripen before its shipped to grocery stores. No picking ripe tomatoes from the plants anymore, they just pick them early and stick them in a room pumped full of ethylene gas. Bananas produce so much of it that it can't really be contained- it goes through cardboard boxes, shipping crates, even concrete. It's a super power. Bananas totally deserve to wear a cape for that.
I have this really awesome fruit bowl that I got as a wedding present and I want so badly to be able to store all the fruit together in it with bananas on top, just like some awesome fruit bowl pin up photo of perfection, but I can't. If the bananas sit on top of the onions, the onions get a brown mushy spot on them where the bananas were, or the onion starts to grow shoots faster. Mr. Sweet Potato starts to grow little root mustaches, and the pears might as well just commit fruit suicide. Its like back when you're in elementary school and no one wants to sit next to the kid who farts all the time. (What were his parents feeding him??) Bananas are the farting kid. Out of courtesy, you'll probably want to keep the other kids at a distance. The ethylene gas is just that powerful. But its kind of awesome in a way. If you need to ripen your tomatoes, you can just store them next to some bananas or put them both in a bag together for an afternoon. Its like 7 minutes in ripening heaven. Ethylene gas needs oxygen and room to warm temperatures to do its thing though, so don't go and put a banana and a tomato in a vacuum packed bag from one of those as-seen-on-TV contraptions and stick it in the freezer and expect it to work, dumb ass. Give it some room to breathe. Anyways, consider this my public apology to bananas because they don't really get enough credit for being such hard working little farters. Good job guys.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snoop Dogg Loves His Nog

Dear Tricia, Our milkman dropped off a couple of recipes yesterday using Egg Nog. One recipe is Egg Nog Bread Pudding and the other is Egg Nog French Toast. Do you have any other suggestions (other than adding some good booze) for this seasonal drink?

No, my only suggestion is adding good booze. Just kidding, that's only my gut-reaction suggestion. I'll give you some other ideas too.

In addition to your email, I got a question from a friend wondering what kind of alcohol to add to egg nog for a wow-inducing cocktail. (No, seriously. The instructions were that it had to "wow" someone. I'm not making that up.) While I am not personally a fan of eggnog (thanks Stomach, and your lactose-hating evil ways), I am a fan of coffee. And I know that during the holidays, people freak out over eggnog lattes at Starbucks. It's like, come November, everyone's Facebook statuses suddenly change to "It's Egg Nog Latte time!" "Gingerbread Lattes are the best!!" "I love my sugary, overpriced seasonal coffee beverages!" So my thought was an eggnog latte martini:

3 parts eggnog
1 part espresso vodka

Shake it with ice and strain into a martini glass. Top with a little grated nutmeg.

If you happen to have an espresso machine in your home (lucky), then foam a little bit of milk and put that on top. Then you get an ice cold, yummy martini, complete with hot foam. Why, hello there temperature contrast. Don't mind if I do!

If you're not a fan of boozy drinks, then I do have a couple of ideas for you.

1. Eggnog pudding= its super simple: buy a packet of instant vanilla pudding mix. Follow the recipe on the side of the box that will tell you to add 2 cups of milk to the pudding mix, stir, and chill, except use eggnog instead of milk and add an extra 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg. You can eat it by itself or pour it into a pie crust to make eggnog pudding pie. But make sure you say it like Bill Cosby, otherwise it won't work.

2. I love the eggnog French toast idea, and just wanted to share with you all how freaking easy it is. Instead of dipping your bread in egg, just dip it in a bowl of eggnog. There's already eggs in the eggnog (what a brilliantly obvious statement) so you'll still get delicious, crusty pieces of breakfast heaven. Add some rum to your syrup to top it with and find a comfortable spot to take a nap on in your post-breakfast nog coma.

3. If you have an ice cream maker, dump that stuff in the ice cream maker and turn it on. Done. No, seriously, a basic ice cream recipe consists of cream, milk, eggs, and sugar. Guess what eggnog is made out of? Nope, you're wrong. It's not made out of holiday magic and sparkles, it's made out of cream, milk, eggs and sugar. Put it in an ice cream maker, turn it on, and when it's frozen, put a spoon in it and put the spoon in your mouth. Crazy good, right?

By the way, if you want a fancy coffee drink without the hooch, try adding some eggnog to your coffee instead of milk. It'll save you $4 that you would have spent at Starbucks, and then you can save up your money to buy me a Mr. T cookie jar or a Christmas sweater featuring a snowman wearing gold chains like Snoop Dogg's. Street cred, yo.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

And Christmas Cookie Season Begins...

Dear Tricia, Any tips on how to ensure our Christmas Sugar Cookie decorating event, Thanksgiving weekend, ends with soft delicious cookies and not me in tears with a floor covered in cookie crumbs? I'm just not a fan of hard cookies. Help?

Well, first of all, I apologize for being late. My full time job is an event specialist for a catering company and I am in the middle of Christmas party madness and Hanukkah hell. I love my job very much, but I just wanted to clarify that, although I wanted to answer your question on time, my schedule hasn't allowed it. (It was either blog or have a pre-bedtime martini and, if you regularly read my blogs, you'll know that the martini will always win in my world.)

So, let's talk decorating cookies. Harder cookies are ideal for decorating because the icing doesn't pull any crumbs off them and make a mess. But I understand your love of soft cookies (when I first started this blog, I think I got "how do I make soft cookies?" from about a dozen different people), so here's my favorite recipe for softer sugar cookies:

1 cup margarine
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sour cream
4 cups flour

Preheat your oven to 350. No, seriously. Go preheat your oven. Get it hot before you start baking. Don't be dumb.
Mix the baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour together. Set aside.
Cream the margarine and the sugar until just combined. Do not beat the shit out of the butter and sugar. You're going to mess up the recipe if you cream them until they're white and fluffy. Go read this blog entry. Then continue.
Add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl in between each addition.
Add the sour cream.
Add the flour.

When you roll out the cookies, make sure you put them back in the refrigerator to get them cold again before you bake them. The freezer is even better. Then bake them, depending on how bad ass your oven is, for about 15 minutes or so, or just until the edges start to brown.

Now I'm sure you're wondering why I said to use margarine instead of butter, because if you know me, you know I love butter and think that margarine is weird and creepy. Without going into the science of what exactly makes margarine weird and creepy, let me just tell you that when its cold, butter is hard and margarine still magically remains soft. Let that be your visual of why your cookies will be softer and save me the trouble of grossing you out and turning you off of margarine forever. Margarine = soft cookies. Plus, you've got sour cream in there too and the extra fat will help keep them soft.
These cookies may get some crumbs in your icing, but you asked for soft cookies, so that's what you get. I always try and deliver.

And if you ever want traditional sugar cookies that are ideal for decorating, the "My Cookies are Vulgar and Offensive" blog will give you the best recipe, courtesy of my Aunt Mary. Plus, there's a picture of some hilarious cookie cutters of people doing it that I'm dying to use. And by the way, does anyone know where I can buy this Mr. T cookie jar?? If someone can find that for me I'll be eternally indebted to you and will be able to say "I pity da fool" with more street credit. Cookie jars= street cred, right?

On a side note, I'm on this signature cocktail kick with all of my holiday parties and I have to recommend the delicious champagne flute full of heaven better known as The Poinsettia. It's half cranberry, half champagne, and all awesome. You're welcome.