Bloody Hell, It’s About Damn Time!

31 01 2009
That goddamn duck is trying to eat my football cupcake!

That goddamn duck is trying to eat my football cupcake!

‘Memba how I said a post or two ago how I couldn’t find a goddamn decent yellow cupcake recipe? If you don’t, WHY NOT? YOU LISTEN WHEN I TALK! But if SO, then OMG, let me give you this friggin’ recipe. My good friend The Crazy Greek gave me a birthin’ day present on Big Easy’s second birthday, ’cause she’s rad like that. The present was first and foremost a one hour massage gift certificate (fuck yeah!) and second (and hindmost? No, that doesn’t work.) was the totally rad baking book Cupcakes! by Elinor Klivans. She has approximately one metric butt-ton of new cupcake recipes I want to try. BUT, most importantly, the first friggin’ recipe in the book is for Easy Mix Yellow Cupcakes. I rolled my eyes and said, “Pshaw” because I’d been done wrong by so many others in the past. Then I took a closer look at the recipe – it has no butter. “Say WHA?!? She crazy!” is what you must be thinking right now. But I assure you, I am not, sirs and madames. This shit is THE BOMB (are the kids still saying that nowadays?). They are perfectly textured and perfectly flavored (like Duncan Hines, but bettah) and are a perfect accompaniment to pretty much any type of topping. I went with my tried and true cream cheese frosting. On a whim, I thought I’d try Ms. Klivans’ recipe. SCORE. It was gooood. And made enough to frost the dozen with mah fancy frostin’ machine! Note I frosted them in yellow. This is because I’m having people over to watch the Superbowl and one of them (er, one of my guests AND one of the teams playing!) is from Pittsburgh. Full disclosure: I hate football and could lead a happy life if it never entered my consciousness again. But, I really like my buddy and thought I would humor her. However, were it the Stanley Cup finals (you know, the tournament in which an actual sport is played wherein there isn’t stopping and starting every 1.4 seconds?), never in my house is allowed the dreaded yellow and black for the Penguins. I hate that team. But tomorrow is an excuse to watch stupid commercials, eat dip, and enjoy the Motherfucking Boss! So…go Superbowl!

Easy-Mix Yellow Cupcakes

  • 1 1/4 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 lg. egg
  • 1 lg. egg yolk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola or corn oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a cupcake pan with 12 liners.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the egg & yolk and sugar together on medium speed until thickened and lightened to a cream color, about 2 minutes.
  4. On low speed, mix in the oil and vanilla til well-blended. Mix in sour cream til no white streaks remain.
  5. Mix in flour mixture until incorporated and batter is smooth.
  6. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into each of the liners and bake for about 23 minutes.
  7. Remove immediately from pan on to a cooling rack.
  8. Slap some frosting on there and shove into gaping maw.

Cream Cheese Frosting (makes 3 cups, enough for 12 cupcakes)

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter at room temp.
  • 6 oz cream cheese at room temp.
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  1. In a large bow, beat butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until smooth and thoroughly blended, about 1 minute.
  2. Add powdered sugar slooooooowly, mixing until smooth.
  3. Mix for an additional minute or two longer to make it even more awesome.
  4. Add in food coloring or whatevs, slap it on som cupcakes, and shove into your GAPING MAW ALREADY.

Netherland by Joseph O’Neill

29 01 2009

netherlandI’m a sucker for end of the year book lists.  I love them – I print them out and save them and use them for my wishlist at the library and on Amazon.  Every once in a while, I end up with a book that is a giant ball of disappointment and suck (I’m looking at you Atmospheric Disturbances). Most of the books go unread, stuck on a wishlist because I can’t remember why I put it there in the first place.  Then there are the books that make me happy that I know how to read.  I’m putting Netherland by Joseph O’Neill in this last category.

If I had just picked up this book randomly in the library and read the jacket description, I’d probably never check it out.  In a New York City made phantasmagorical by the events of 9/11, Hans – a banker originally from the Netherlands – finds himself marooned among the strange occupants of the Chelsea Hotel after his English wife and son return to London.  Alone and untethered, feeling lost in the country he had come to regard as home, Hans stumbles upon the vibrant New York subculture of cricket, where he revisits his lost childhood and, thanks to a friendship with a charismatic and charming Trinidadian named ChuckRamkissoon, begins to reconnect with his life and his adopted country. Sweet Baby James, that sounds like absolutely nothing I want to read; it actually almost makes me want to punch something.  But, oh, how wrong I would be.

This book is about all of those things, that really is an accurate description.  However, the way O’Neill weaves it all together, and the way he structures his sentences, is nothing short of divine.  There were paragraphs I would read over and over – not because I was trying to understand them, but because the way each word was placed, the flow and sound and texture, made me all kinds of happy.  Now, this isn’t a happy book – not by a long shot – but it isn’t oppressive, either.  O’Neill perfectly captures the isolation and depression that comes when a relationship falls apart, but there is also joy – the passages about cricket almost made me want to learn more about the game [almost].  This book may not suit everyone, and if it doesn’t grab you by page 30, you probably won’t like it at all.  As for me, I’m putting Joseph O’Neill’s other books on my wishlist – and I know I’ll remember why they are there.

Jesus Is Just Alright With Me

27 01 2009

buddy-jesus1I’ve been very slow to finish the book I’m currently reading (which is absolutely wonderful), mainly because I’ve been spending most of my time drinking or recovering from drinking.  When someone is moving across the country, you have to pack in as much happy drunk time as possible.  So – my reading has suffered.  Instead of a normal little book review, this is more just an essay on fictional accounts of the life and times of Jesus.  Now – I’m not into the Jesus (mainly because I’m a Jew), but, for some reason, I love reading novels about Jesus.  It combines my love of historical fiction with my fascination of that time period in general.  And, let’s face it, Jesus is a rockstar.  And just like my dad can’t help but read every new John Lennon biography, I can’t help but read a Jesus book.  [And I’m not talking about Christian Fiction – nothing along the lines of The Left Behind horribleness.  These books would all fall very neatly into the secular category.]

The best of this weird little sub-genre take the Jesus most people know from the Christian Bible, and attempt to flesh the man out.  Most tell the story from a different view point, integrating information from other sources – archaeological discoveries, the Gnostic Gospels, the Dead Sea Scrolls, etc – into the known stories, giving different explanations for the miracles and philosophies of Jesus.  There are some really great serious novels that I’d recommend – Mary, Called Magdelene by Margaret George and Testament: A Novel by Nino Ricci.  I haven’t read either of these in years, but they’ve stuck with me – so that says something.

What kicked this off in my brainspace are two books I’ve recently read – The Fire Gospel by Michael Faber and Lamb: The Gospel According To Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore.  Now, these are two very different authors with two very different books – and two very different results.  Lamb is awesome – laugh out loud funny, intelligent and thoughtful; The Fire Gospel really misses the mark.  Michael Faber’s novel focuses on the discovering of a new testament and the havoc that results from its publication.  And I really wanted this to be good – I like Michael Faber, this is a good concept – but OMG all the characters suck.  You know, if I were to find some scrolls that gave a whole new ending to the Jesus story, and I wanted to publish them, I would probably expect some people to not react very well.  And by some people – I mean the MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF CHRISTIANS IN THE WORLD.  Lamb doesn’t really mess with the Jesus story as it is in the Bible – he creates a story for the almost 20 year gap in the gospels, building the foundations for Jesus’ teachings.  It is irreverant without being disrespectful, which is a difficult balance to maintain.

All in all, if you happen to share this same fascination for Jesusfiction, or if you randomly want to start reading some Jesus books – start here.  If you have absolutely no interest or love for ol’ JC, you should still probably read Lamb, it’s really friggin’ funny.  Or, pick up something else by Christopher Moore, A Dirty Job, mayhaps?  Or, you know, don’t – and remain sad and humorless – it’s your life, I’m not going to tell you how to live it.

Peanut Butter Cupcakes with OMG Peanut Butter Buttercream. And Other Repetitive Things.

26 01 2009
Happiness! And yes, those ARE awesome robot cupcake liners. Thanks, Kroger!

Happiness! And yes, those ARE awesome robot cupcake liners. Thanks, Kroger!

So we had the swingin’ second birthday party on Saturday, and it was quite a success. Except people came on time, which never happens so I didn’t have the chicken ready until late, but WHATEVER. QUIT JUDGING ME. As I mentioned before, I made 3 different types of cupcakes (nearly 6 dozen for those who are counting). I’m going to be honest – the vanilla ones? With the vanilla cream cheese frosting? I didn’t really like them. ATK done steered me wrong! Damn you, ATK! Damn you and your bowties! (Note: the cream cheese frosting was delish.) Luckily, everyone raved about the other 2 kinds. This little gem I found on Natalie’s Bake & Destroy site. She mentions something about them being a household favorite, and the frosting making her roll around on the floor with glee. SHE IS NOT LYING PEOPLE. These cupcakes are amazing. I even fucked up and forgot to put the chocolate chips in (maybe because I had a few glasses of champers. QUIT JUDGING ME.) and they still tasted amazing, thanks in no small part to the Peanut Butter Buttercream, which is light, fluffy, sweet, and, uh, peanut buttery. Oh, and even if you are normally opposed to chunky peanut butter, which I totally am, you HAVE TO use it here (in the cupcakes, not the frosting). I am usually not only opposed to just peanuts, but any sort of nuts in my food [snicker]. Trust, the chunky PB is, like Salt ‘n’ Pepa, Very Necessary. So go and enjoy these tasty little nuggets of goodness, please. And if you have a really good yellow cupcake recipe, let me know. So far I’ve tried Billy’s Vanilla Vanilla (not impressed with the texture) and America’s Test Kitchen’s Easy Yellow Cupcakes and both of them made my soul cry a little.

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  1. In a small bowl, mix together flour cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
  2. In a bowl, beat together granulated and brown sugars and butter until well combined. Add peanut butter, beating until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla until mixture is smooth. Alternately beat in flour mixture and milk, making three additions of flour mixture and two of milk, beating until until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips.
  3. Scoop batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Let cool completely on a rack.
Makes 1 dozen, but when doubled, oddly, makes more than 2 dozen. It makes about 27. I don’t get it either.
Peanut Butter Buttercream

*2 cups confectioner’s sugar
* 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
* pinch salt
* 1/2 creamy peanut butter
* 2 Tbs milk

Beat together sugar, butter and salt until creamy. Add peanut butter, beating well. Add milk and beat until smooth and creamy.

Black & White Cupcakes. Like Joe Piscopo & Eddie Murphy as Frank Sinatra & Stevie Wonder. But Different.

22 01 2009
img_1528So my kid turns 2 this weekend. And he still lives at home, mooching off of me like some schlub. Get a job, you ne’er-do-well! KIDDING. Sort of. Anyway, in addition to still having problems wrapping my mind around my little (giant) sweet (inadvertently violent) Bean, I’ve also decided to have a party for him. And by “for him,” I mean “for us,” so that we may day-drink with our friends and family (who can forget the show-stopping freestyle rap my mother did after 2 glasses of wine at his first birthday? Quite the wordsmith she is!) and celebrate that my kid is giant and old and probably should get a damn job. What a lazy bum! Kidding! Sort of. I wanted to make cupcakes, and since we’re expecting quite a few people, I wanted to make easy cupcakes. I’ll post the other 2 recipes later this week (Easy Yellow cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and Chocolate Peanut Butter cupcakes with peanut butter buttercream). But here’s my thing: I HATE FROSTING CUPCAKES. I love the end result, and I even have a fancy Wilton froster dealie, but I hate doing it. HATE. IT. So instead of making more cream cheese frosting than would fit into my fridge, I’m going to halve that recipe and whip up the super-easy PB buttercream and make El do it when she comes to my house! Oh, and also make these delicious little morsels I found courtesy of the lovely Jennifer at Bake or Break. The best part is that I don’t have to frost them! That is actually just a small bonus, because they are SOOOO FRIGGIN’ DELICIOUS. So go ahead and make them. You will be a better person because of it. I AM NOT LYING TO YOU. I would never lie to you. Not even a smidgen.
Black and White Cupcakes
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup miniature chocolate chips
  • 1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.

Beat cream cheese, egg, and 1/3 cup sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Stir in the chocolate chips. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, 1 cup sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center, and add water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Mix just until blended.

Fill each muffin cup one-third full with the chocolate batter. Top with a spoonful of cream cheese mixture, until cups are about two-thirds full. Bake 22 to 28 minutes, until the tops spring back lightly when touched.

Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Jennifer says that this makes 24 cupcakes, but I call bullshit. It makes from 18-21.  Just so ya know.

A Conversation with El & Lo In Which Little Sister Almost Kills Us

22 01 2009

Elizabeth: You know…that was the cutest picture I’ve ever seen…I may have to rethink my irrational fear of marmosets.Lauren: What are we going to do if Stephen Baldwin leaves the country???Elizabeth: Go with him.Lauren: Erm…hmm.Elizabeth: You know my motto has always been “Follow Stephen Baldwin.”Lauren: Oh. Uh, no. I didn’t know that.Elizabeth: I made you that “WWSBD” bracelet in 11th grade!Lauren: Oh that’s what that meant. [We’re apparently obsessed with the Baldwin brothers.  Hmmm]Elizabeth: Umm…so I showed my sister the picture of the monkeys, and her reaction was:“Stupid finger monkeys, I want punch them in their stupid finger monkey faces. Punch, punch, punch, stupid finger monkeys.”I may die from laughing.Lauren: I am dying from laughing.Finger monkeys?!Wow.But, to be fair, Elizabeth: There were also punching motions.Lauren: I’m pretty sure her fist would be just the right size to punch the finger monkeys. Like, they wouldn’t be too big. [My sister is very short]

Drink, Drank, Drunk

19 01 2009


El on Friday: Like all good [semi] alcoholics, I have a favorite bar.  It is the best dive bar in the whole world, a biker bar situated across from our county courthouse with a neon sign in the window that reads “Better off here than across the street.”  There are two kinda busted pool tables in the back, a giant POW-MIA flag on the wall and a couple Easy Rider posters.  Drinks are cheap, you can still smoke inside, and chances are something completely nuts will happen by the end of the evening – I once watched people riding around on a swan ice sculpture, I did  tequila shots with my parents there and I may have threatened to assault a bartender once.  The fact that it is a block away from my current apartment makes me want to weep with joy some nights.  And those nights tend to be Fridays, when this gem of a bar has karaoke night.  This past Friday, I was there with Lo and a bunch of other friends simultaneously celebrating an impending birthday and the move of a good friend across the continent.  I drank roughly a gallon of Beam & Cokes, smoked about a pack of cigarettes and Lo and I both sang.  I did Bonnie Tyler’s masterpiece “Total Eclipse of the Heart” with a friend, Lo chose the ever appropriate “Gin & Juice” – we were the awesome.  (Also, those choices baaaaasically sum up our personalities.)  There may have been some intoxicated Beyonce dancing, and a whole lot of wishing the bathroom was about 20 degrees warmer (seriously, it was about 50 degrees in there…not pleasant in any way).  I don’t remember half of the conversations I had, don’t want to think about how much my tab was and my throat is still a little rough feeling – all in all, another wonderful night at my favorite hometown bar.


Lo on Friday: When El told me that our friend C was moving to California to live with a bunch of pharmaceutical-pushing hippies (only some of that statement is true), I wondered aloud if we would have a party or something for her. Well, we did better than a party. We did karaoke. At the best bar ever. I love this bar because I HAVE NEVER BEEN HASSLED THERE. One time, several baby-free years ago, another friend and I were so bloody intoxicated that we were in the middle of the LONGEST GAME OF POOL EVER. And these nice old biker dudes tried to help us finish. Not in a creepy “let-me-cop-a-feel” way, but more in a “holy-shit-if-we-don’t-help-them-end-this-game-we-may-never-get-to-play” sort of way. I think there was another time wherein El and I had to thumbwrestle a lot. But I can’t give you any more details. Anyhoodles, our waitress was awesome and El asked me why her alcohol kept disappearing. I explained it was probably because she kept drinking it. As El said, we both did karaoke (which I normally do not do – I’m more of an observer) and I did Snoop Dogg’e rabblerousing anthem “Gin ‘n’ Juice,” even though I am a Beam ‘n’ Coke sort of gal. I was kind of afraid that I would get cut for my choice, as the karaoke lady explained that no one usually did songs “like that” at that particular bar. But it seemed to please the crowd and I even got a few hi-fives from bearded biker types and this other young kid who always does shitty mid-90s alt-rock hits. It was a fun night back in my hometown, and even though C will be missed, we’ll always have the photos from that night to remind us that, man, we drink a LOT sometimes.

And the saddest picture of all - the Last Call empties.

And the saddest picture of all - the Last Call empties.