Tag Archives: Effin

Unwelcome spiders cramp my style

I hate spiders. It’s the real deal, a full blown, in your gut loathing. I think that I have major arachnophobia. Major. To the point, where I become paralyzed with fear at the mere sight of a spider.

Once in my early 20s when I lived alone, I stayed up all night because there was a spider on the ceiling of my bedroom and I was too afraid to kill it. Okay, I know that there are some of you out there that would be really disappointed that I would even think to kill a spider, but with 100 percent certainty, I can assure you that I am so gripped with fear of these arachnids that there is no way in hell that I could consider catching it in a glass jar only to release it into nature. I’m sorry. I just couldn’t. My husband could, I cannot.

I’ve lived with this fear my entire life. Not sure where it came from or how it started, but it remains my monster in the closet.

Imagine my difficulty living in a small mountain town, which seems to breed spiders (small, and large). I come across them almost daily in my home. I go away for a weekend and my first question to my husband is “how many spiders did you see this weekend?” Typical response 4, 5. Found one in bed, urinated on one in the toilet. It’s enough to drive a sane woman, such as myself, to jump the rails onto the crazy train.

Sing it with me Ozzy, “I’m going off the rails down at crazy train…”

This brings me to my latest sighting. Last night, just before climbing into bed, I went to the bathroom, glanced into the bathtub and there it was. It had to have been 4-6 inches in length. The bulbous body stuck out like a sprained thumb. Naturally I screamed. Much like the screams you hear from slasher movie victims being chased through the dark forest by crazed killers wearing masks, wielding chainsaws, or hatchets as weapons. No joke – it was a blood curdling scream. Now mind you, my husband had no response to my scream. He figures by now what’s caused it, and for some reason, I think secretly he wants to teach me a lesson. The lesson? Take care of your own problems (spider problems that is)? I’m not sure, but I wasn’t happy being ignored. You can believe that.

I turned on the faucet water and desperately started throwing water into the tub, much like you would say if you were in a leaking boat, trying to keep the water from sinking you into the sea. As I said, we live in the mountains. The water comes out ICE COLD. I braved frost bite to conquer that creature.

For a moment I thought of taking a picture of the spider before it’s death…you know, for proof. But I thought it being camera shy, it might reach out with one if its arachnid legs, snatch the camera out of my hands, and smash it to the ground. Not a good idea — still paying for this smartphone.

The beast slowly drowned…..30 minutes slowly (Um, it really felt like 30 minutes) and washed down the drain. But, not before it conveniently reached its goal of terrorizing me in my quest for sleep. I silently laid in bed (after I put my cold hands on my husbands back! Take that!) wondering when it was going to come up from the bathtub drain, stronger AND bigger from it’s watering, sneak into our bedroom and choke me to death with all eight of its stringy legs. Plus every time I adjusted in bed I thought every touch of the sheet was a spider crawling into bed with me.

spider

By the way, I googled the spider I found in the bathtub: Hobo Spider, originating in Europe, living wherever people live in Oregon. Not really aggressive (I disagree completely. Don’t think for a minute that he would not have killed me if he had the chance).

The point? Like I should talk about overcoming fears and blah blah blah…. No, there’s no point other than I hate spiders and next time my Effin Husband Better Damn Well Pay Attention.

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News From The Test Kitchen: Cronuts

The other day I was minding my own business, considering my Test Kitchen ideas. I wondered if those on my Hotel California Email about the Test Kitchen were now getting politely annoyed and were about to have one of those things when I show up and everyone is sitting around staring at me awkwardly when someone says “we need to talk.” You know, one of those kind of things. Ugh.

But to my surprise, an unlikely participant on the Email chain– my son’s wife-to-be who is just too nice to tell me to bang off, but doesn’t respond much to the banter — chimed in with an idea for the next Test Kitchen.

“Cronuts. Google it. Embrace it,” she wrote.

I had no friggin idea what it was. I figured it was like the Acai berry or some such thing that mucky mucks were now making. I wasn’t that interested. But I love soon-to-be-daughter-in-law so I did as she asked and Googled it, while the email chain went its merry way without me.

Shocker alert: The Cronut is without a doubt the very best idea that has surfaced in the test kitchen since Italian Wool Shearing, and that doesn’t really count because it was not.. I swear it… NOT conducted in the kitchen.

At first I hated the idea because of this guy:

http://dominiqueansel.com/cronut-101/

What a freakin snob this guy is. $5 bucks and a waiting list. Trademarked the name, gets all in a hubabaloo over others making it and rumor has it is vying for a new show called “Cronut Nazi” starring Jerry Seinfeld (ok, I’ll confess, I made that last one up).

I thought no way. EFFin Artist don’t do elitist bullslather. (Note to self, add that to the list: Effin Artist don’t do list: Selfies, ESP, and Elitist Bullslather… to be cont., because Effin Artist does do LISTS… We love love lists– read about them in fact in about oh…22 hours at effinartists.com. Commercial now over!).

ANYWAY, I was about to reject the idea out of hand UNTIL… I thought about the neanderthal ideas from the male readership of this email chain to the idea of Cronuts.

For those not on the email chain, let me derisively fill you in on this memorable input:

“I’m thinking that it is New Years and time for thinking healthy. Instead of the Cronut, how about quinoa!”

“Oohh the cronut sounds amazing but so does quinoa and since I gained 900lbs over the 2 holidays maybe you should stuff the cronut with quinoa so I dont feel guilty for eating it.”

“Now that is the originality worthy of an EFFin artist. Bravo.”

Quinoa and a Cronut? Bravo??? Seriously?!?! Guys… go back to the link above, read it, consider the absurdity of that idea and go lie down. For shame! It’s safe to say I know two people who WON’T be winning this week’s sweepstakes package. I mean, quinoa has all the artistry of a Beanie Baby. Just because people get all trendy with it doesn’t make it neato. It’s rice man. Really, that’s about it. Rice. Or Risotto for bad cooks. Sigh.. I can’t believe I’m explaining this. I must move on. It’s as arty as selfies when you get right down to it. (Add to the list: Quinoa)

AND that’s when I opened to the idea because once I delved a bit further, I realized EVERYONE is going to want to win this week’s sweepstakes because these things are — holy CRONUTS batman — incredible looking. I haven’t tasted them, but what’s not to love… a doughnut, a croissant, sugar, cream, frosting all gently elevating with yeast-like perfection together. Amazeballs!

cronuts

SO I’m in. Let the research begin. The Test Kitchen is going to make Cronuts.

This led me to my new favorite WEBromance, a perfect cooking show type website minus all the snooty tooty rich and phooey. It’s called Sorted. And if you still don’t know what a Cronut is you have to watch this video right here:

Folks, lets face it… you already know the answer to that question you are thinking… yes… this will be on the test. And if you have ANY hope of winning the sweepstakes package of the week, you will, YOU WILL have to pass the test. Should I pause here whilst you all double back and watch my new favorite webromance video???

I thought so. go ahead. I’ll wait…………..

Send me your favorite line from the video for extra credit. Mine was… no cheating, you tell me first…. Done yet?…. (fingers drumming…)

DIGRESSION: EFFin Artist isn’t surprised much. The time my nephew jumped in with the Jailhouse Ramen Sandwich in his dorm room maybe. My sister-in-law the Long Island Medium… that was cool. But as I waited for you all to go back and watch that truly wonderful video, I was SHOCKED when a new email arrived from said sister-in-law. And guess what she said:

“However, I … have gained the requisite 900 lbs. over the holidays, so, since I still consider this time zone to be the holidays, I say Cronut first then quinoa. Or, how about a quinoa Cronut!  Now, that would’ve something!!!!!”

(Effin Artist shakes his head… )

No dear… it wouldn’t be something. Stop with all the exclamation points. This dumb idea would be Lobster Tail drenched in Hotdog Chili Mac. You need to go sit over there with the boys this time dear and next time, THINK… think before you email. Once its out there, you can’t take it back. The gun can’t be unfired, the bell can’t be unrung, the lipstick can’t be wiped off the pig.

Sigh. She was my star student, or at least I thought. She’s an artist no less…a  REAL one, not an imposter like me. I .,.. i… I just sometimes wonder why I bother…

My dear daughter-in-law-to-be who came up with this idea, you can come right up here and sit at the front of class where the sister-in-law formerly known as Artist just vacated. CONCLUDE DIGRESSION:

SO now my brain is in overload. The snooty french guy with the Cronut trademark (CRONUT. CRONUT. CRONUT. CRONUT. CRONUT.  there I said, I’m posting it, and I’m making it, so take that frenchy. Sue me!? Yeah right, get in line. Good luck with that!)… Ooops… sorry… Deep breath… As I was saying, the snooty guy (Note to self: I had a lovely French blogger drop by the other day, and she was not at all snooty. So please be nice to the French. I’d hate to piss of one of my five readers) listed all the flavors he’s made.

“There is only one flavor of Cronut every month. Here are the flavors we’ve had: May – Rose Vanilla; June – Lemon Maple; July –  Blackberry Lime; August – Coconut; September –  Fig Mascarpone; October- Apple Creme Fraiche; November – Salted Dulce de Leche; December -Valrhona Chocolate Champagne. January 2014 will feature Peanut Butter Rum Caramel.”

Salted Dulce de Leche? My god! I owe him a slow clap because I can see why folks are lined up for these. Some great creations on that list. But, me being me, I have to create my OWN version that he hasn’t done yet. That will be aces! This is no small test kitchen here. This is GIANT TEST KITCHEN! Game on! This is SURVIVOR Test Kitchen!

Step up your game folks. The Cronut Test Kitchen Starts Sunday right after the 49ers make the Packers into a snowball and splat ’em.

I will test you on everything… so if you are not still reading… right down to HERE… you can go sit with the neanderthals and the artist this week. Believe it. Don’t be voted out of the kitchen. Just… don’t.

To unsubscribe… I got nothing for you. you can deal with it. I’m just not in the mood! And remember Jimmy Dugan… there’s no crying in baseball (or Effin Artistry either).

News From the Test Kitchen: Peanut Butter

If I made resolutions, which I don’t  (see resolutions, suck) I would have resolved to back off the whole sugary addiction I’ve been nursing under the guise of holiday cheer since, oh… November 1.

I mean, I got a serious problem here. I love coffee and love chocolate. Love for me quickly can teeter into obsession.

So the test kitchen this week backed off of sugar and sought a purer ingredient, with far more healthy possibilities: Peanut Butter.

I’ve always thought homemade peanut butter should be one of those things I do because it’s expensive and I eat a lot of it. Yes, yes, I know, peanut butter is full of fat, but the whole low-fat thing is such a fraud I eat it likely because of the reaction it gets. Eat healthy food. Be active. You’ll be fine. That’s my diet plan anyway. Peanut butter fits in nicely. By the way, you are welcome to join me in a winter work-out schedule that I love: outside, active, all-body, and beneficial — commercial over, back to the show:

So I made peanut butter and as soon as I made it I wondered what the hell took me so long.

I researched and read and watched a video on you tube and soon I discovered that the people touting how easy it was to make still took longer to explain it than to make it. If it’s so easy why do you need a video and a long recipe and all that noise, I wondered? Truth is you don’t. I edited out the noise for you. Here’s the simple, to the point facts about how to make peanut butter:

Get some peanuts. Bang the bejeesus out of them. Done.

Got it?

Really, that’s it. If you have a food processor just turn it on for about six minutes and you’ll end up with peanut butter. Being the test kitchen, I of course bumbled around a bit and modified a bit and came up with “my” recipe, which is this:

Get some peanuts. Bang the beejesus out of them. Open the food processor and dump in a glug of grapeseed oil, a splash of vanilla, a smoosh of cinnamon and some salt and bang the beejesus out of them some more. Done.

So there you have it. Peanut Butter, home made. If you buy the not-so-fancy bulk peanuts at a normal, not fancy dancy store you likely end up paying about half the jar of a quality peanut butter. And that doesn’t suck (see Peanut Butter, doesn’t suck).

I even put mine through a taste test with my two other favorite peanut butters. It was a blind taste test (actually, that’s not true at all… I was looking at the jars the whole time) and wouldn’t you know it, I WON!

Who did you really think would win with me as the only judge and the whole blind taste test thing a baldface lie?

Go ahead. Bang some peanuts. You’ll like them.

Today, I’m finishing the test kitchen week with four peanut butter recipes:

1) Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy bars

2) High energy pre-run energy bars

3) Chinese noodles and vegetables

4) Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake (the addiction lives!)

Putting that Peanut Butter in action today!

Effin Artist out.

To unsubscribe to these emails take your complaint letter and instead of mailing it to me, slip it in your food processors after you’re done with the peanuts and give it a whirl. I suspect that one just might work.

The Eagles: Artistry endures long after the lifestyle fades

At the end of a three-hour documentary about one of America’s most enduring rock bands, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown, who knows a thing or two about enduring by the way, says the Eagles don’t care about legacy. They remain in the moment, still creating the best art they can.

eaglesJerryBrown

It’s a well-crafted moment,  a book end to the legacy of the Eagles. The song “Take it to the Limit” plays, a song they wrote to say they had an artistic obligation to keep stretching, to never arrive, but to find a new limit, over and over.

No wonder they are still so EFFin good.

The documentary enraptured me with equal parts fascination with greatness, a touch of voyeurism to see the gossip behind the greatness, and the perspective gained through hindsight.

The first part of the documentary is the runaway train. As they reach the heights of greatness and all that comes with it, you know the inevitable destruction that led to their split is coming. It taints everything, like a sepia tone on a color photo. Still you laugh at quotes like these:

“There were always girls,” — Glenn Frey

“Sex and drugs. I am not at a loss for words on either subject,” Frey said in the mid 1970s.

Henley, looking back from a perch of thirty years of hindsight says,

” The creative impulse comes from the dark side of the personality. So we worked it hard.”

The dark creativity reached its peak with Hotel California, a truly inspired work of artistic greatness. That song more than any other of its era will transcend time. The hype turned it into a “Paul is Dead” conspiracy. Overwrought Evangelicals said the band was satanic — you remember that? When every good band worshipped Satan… geez oh please — and folks dug and dug for hidden meaning. But the lyrics and the dueling guitar tracks rose above the din to musical greatness, capturing the southern California of my youth.

hotel calif

“It’s a song about a journey from innocence to experience. That’s it.” — Don Henley on Hotel California.

The insanity followed, including the album “The Long Run,” which took years to make and splintered the band. Joe Walsh’s antics and addictions couldn’t lighten the mood, but they made for good press. One particular night Walsh and John Belushi took over Chicago.  The final tally: ruined seat cushions in the most elegant restaurant in town, a whole lot coke and $28,000 in damages to a hotel room.

The split came in one moment after a decade of music. They just left a concert and went away.

The final hour was “part two,” chronicling the reunion of the band in 1994. Both Frey and Henley proved their chops with plenty of solo success. The band members married, had kids, dried out — except Walsh. He kept partying. Of booze and cocaine and the high-life, Walsh said,

“In the early years it worked. Then you chase it. I ended up in bad shape. I had hit bottom.”

Only Frey ordering Walsh to get clean prior to the band’s reunion gave him the inner drive to get into rehab and see it through. He got out of rehab, and the Eagles were back.

What was amazing is Walsh had to go back out on stage, this time, for the first time, sober. The Eagles, the band itself, was enough to keep Walsh clean.

“Joe was pretty dark that first year,” Frey said. “But then he came out of it. He played better than he ever had before.”

The band had families. They had perspective. It all came back together and worked. It still works today. Some of these new songs are just as good. The lyrics are poetic commentary. Walsh’s song about getting clean is elegant truth telling, “to my best friend Vodka…”

So forty years later, the Eagles are still going. Still living the dream.

Henley said, “It’s a fine line between the American Dream and the American nightmare.”

In some ways the Eagles lived both. But their artistry endures.

Who rivals the Eagles as the best American rock band? Reply below.

Testing this week is like nectar of the gods

I have to admit, caramel intimidated me a bit when this week started. It seemed temperamental… exactly the opposite of why I do this nonsense.

The first batch of caramel was …. well … something other than caramel. It was gooey and tasted ok but looked white and slid around so I just made it into a sauce and served it at Thanksgiving in an apple crisp where it was good, but hidden.

So I knew what I was up against… Not to mention, expectations were high. Folks came hard after the caramel sweepstakes mailing to be sent out at week’s end (for those playing along from home, EffinArtists.com sends out a mailing each week to whoever bribes us the best…errr…. is the lucky winner of a surprise package of whatever we make for our test kitchen). Apparently, their confidence in me was, well, incongruent to use a term I learned way, way back before failing out of grad school.

Anyway, I do not shy away from a challenge. If caramel was going to mean mug me, then it was on. “Let do this!” I shouted as I walked into the test kitchen.

2013-12-13 15.30.36

I’m not even done yet, but as you can see from above, I made that caramel my … uh.. never mind. Let’s just say park bench and try not to lose our PG rating.

A few days into this project and I’ve given those worries the beat down. This stuff so far is bomb.com! Check out this gooey, gooey goodness…

2013-12-12 19.24.21

I can honestly say these cookies are so good I decided to make a list of top five best all-time cookies. These are on the list, which is still under development. I’ve lost at least an hour to pondering it, recalling cookies from days gone by. That was a good hour though.. ummm…

The bottom line is this stuff has game. To my lovely family vying for the surprise package at week’s end, here’s the translation: You need to step it up. I want a visit. Especially on Jan. 1-5 for someone to go snowboarding with me. So call me and make plans, then get in your car and head north. That’s the trump card this week.

Who says bribes don’t work?

Pumpkin Empenada- It’s the hard that makes it great

This week’s exploration of all things pumpkin presented a terrific challenge in the test kitchen last night. The challenge of taking what is basically a dessert idea of pumpkin empenada (really it’s a pumpkin turnover) and making it into a main course that is savory, not sweet, seemed like a great idea…. right up until I started making it. but just thirty minutes in and I cringe to admit, I was intimidated. So much so that even as we sat down to eat, I had more than a half a bowl of filling that I wasn’t even sure if I would save. Throwing out anything pretty much causes my inner coding to crackle neurotically like an over-juiced overhead power line. I use the chicken gizzards and hearts in my meat sauce, turkey gizzards in my stuffing… I’m basically a permanent hock to jowl kind of guy (just ask my wife’s hocks and jowls… poor dear is a saint with what she puts up with!) in everything I do.

So to think I’d throw a massive bowl.. OUT… well, I’m simply ashamed to admit it. But my commitment to disclosure is not the same as the Obama administration, so I readily begin this post with this full omission: I began to doubt if I would even write about this strange project. Talk about breaking the very code of Effin Artist… sigh… my inner talk must be quieted: Repeat after me: “I am the acorn that becomes the oak…”

Empenada 1

Anyway, it begun chopping into the organically grown orange globe. I used Painted Hills beef and farmer’s market vegies, so this one was pretty local and small footprint and all that good stuff. But just one big slice with my knife and I suddenly realized why the grocery stores are largely out of pumpkin BEFORE thanksgiving. It’s EFFin hard to chop up and prepare a fresh pumpkin! But then I recalled the wise sage, Jimmy Dugan from A League of Their Own, (we know he’s wise: he told us. Remember this: “Avoid the clap…. HEY, that’s good advice!”) who said, “Of course it’s hard. If it was easy everybody would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great!” Still, that whole can opener thing seemed kind of appealing in this moment, but I powered through. The old “forcer” demon within in me, that I’ve worked so hard to banish through yoga, peace and love, reared up from the depths and proved effective.

pumpkin2

As the pumpkin steamed, I made the crust. I took a Bon Appetit recipe and cut the sugar in half. I added some cinnamon to bolster its flavor a bit. There’s only so much you can do with dough. As it did its thing in the fridge, I focused on the filling.

The filling started very promising. I put my own EFFin Artist meat rub on a small piece of flat iron steak. I grilled it up and chopped it fine, then put it in a bowl with cilantro and sun-dried tomatoes. This I seasoned with a bit garlic (always the garlic… always the garlic). It looked great, I was hungry and I thought, “screw the pumpkin.” But the spirit of Jimmy Dugan urged me on.

Soon I was mashing and pureeing and thrashing about with my pumpkins. I tossed in the meat and tomatoes, and started working the spices a bit, a little at a time: cinnamon, a small amount of brown sugar, cumin. I reached for the coriander and nabbed CURRY, which I noticed just a moment too late. When that signature smell rose, my spirit sunk in like a captive in Ursula’s Sea Garden in the The Little Mermaid. At this point I got weak-kneed. That damn curry would ruin me. I tasted.

“Son of a…” sigh. I added a little more brown sugar to mask it.

Now it was decision time. Leave the filling a little gritty, with chunks of stuff in it or make it a puree. I just couldn’t decide. I thought maybe the rustic chunky-ness would work, but eventually opted for a puree. A healthy splash of heavy cream and some serious wrist curls with the immersion blender chewed my creation into baby puke.

With a sagging spirit I rolled out eight dough balls and filled them with the puree. I brushed the tops with egg whites and put them in the oven. As they cooked I made simple vegetable medley, seasoned with plenty of chili powder and other spices. I broke out a jar of EFFin Artist salsa, thinking I’d need it to mask the damn curry or even make the empenada palatable.

Here’s the final result:

pumpkin3

So, after all that…

These were EFFIN AMAZING! I gotta tell you, I’ve never been so surprised. The complexities of flavors danced on the tongue. The vegetables were spicy and delicious. We could barely detect the curry. We didn’t even need our own salsa, which is a first. The four extras went into the fridge, the bowl of filling went into the freezer and I can’t wait to have lunch so I can have more (in fact, It’s long over due for lunch. I’m out. Gotta eat!)

If you are feeling adventuresome drop me a note and I’ll send you my recipe (I don’t really get into the whole recipe thing like food blogs, but what the heck. This one I’m proud of.) Just don’t use curry!