Thursday, December 31, 2009

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry, For Tomorrow We Diet

Food confession: I don't really diet. Ever. My weight stabilized when I decided to take all foods off the "bad girl" list and to focus on healthy eating. Which means I eat pretty much whatever I want, just not as much or as often as I might like.

That said, I think I found the four pounds of butter I used over the holidays. I'm sitting on it. Between the baked goods and the candy dish at work that it has been my job to keep full since Halloween, my pants are feeling the strain.

It looks like I'll be drawing more healthy foods and fewer treats for a while. Which is actually a good thing, because a tofu stir-fry has got to be easier to draw than that bundt cake was. That was a pain in the Snickers holder.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What's On Your Plate?

There is a lot of talk in the media about how the oceans will be depleted of everything except jellyfish by 2025 - which we all know is complete bull because the media also tell us that according to the Mayan Long Count Calendar, the world is scheduled to end in 2012.

Keeping up with what we are supposed to be eating while we wait for the jellyfish to take over or the world to end (whichever comes first) gets very confusing. Websites devoted to sustainable seafood promote eating wild caught seafood in one species and farmed in another.

As it turns out, wild salmon is considered to be a better choice than farmed salmon. But for me, it's very simple. When I eat farmed salmon, I think "this is good." When I eat wild salmon, I ask the chef to marry me.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Christmas bundt cake. Isn't everybody making one?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Cookies (With Bonus Recipe)!

I woke up yesterday to dire predictions on television of the "snowstorm of the decade" and "like the Millenium Bug but, you know, actually something to worry about," and I decided to move cookie making day to Saturday instead of Sunday. I spent the morning literally running around my aparment and up and down stairs (and I don't use the word literally the way other people use it when they mean figuratively, I mean real, actual sprinting to and fro and breaking a sweat), but by the time my nieces and nephew arrived at 1 p.m. I was ready, the oven was fired up, and baking was already in progress.

We baked dozens of cookies, we had pizza, we ate cookie dough, we sampled the finished cookies, and we took breaks to dance to an "Ultimate 80s" CD. In short, a good time was had by all. I got in bed last night at 8:30, slept 11 hours, and woke up to 15 inches of snow.

The Peppermint Pinwheels are originally a Martha Stewart recipe that I've modified over the years because they never really turned out properly but they tasted good. I decided to try rolling them into pinwheels after I saw Paula Deen making something similar, and Starbucks' Peppermint Crunch Bar gave me the idea to top them with candy cane bits. Which is proof that I never let a good idea go unstolen.

The Red Velvet Cookies were really pretty, dead easy, and delicious, so I'm including the recipe. It's from Gooseberry Patch Christmas Cookies, and it was contributed by Kathy Barnes from Elizabethton, TN:

Red Velvet Christmas Cookies

18.5 oz. package red velvet cake mix
1/2 c. oil
2 Tbsp. water
2 eggs
12 oz. package white chocolate chips
Non-stick vegetable spray (for cookie sheets)

Combine all ingredients except the white chocolate chips; mix until everything is fully incorporated. Stir in the white chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets sprayed with non-stick vegetable spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Let cool slightly on baking sheets, then remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes 3 dozen.

May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Good Goddess

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Avocado and rice? Did she learn nothing from the Orange-Balsamic Glazed Chicken disaster? Wasn't that just like a week ago?" And on one hand, you're probably right. For a few days I did scurry back, tail between my legs, to my tried-and-true recipes.

But on the other hand, you can put rice in quesadillas, right? And guacamole is terrific with quesadillas. So when I saw Claire Robinson making Goddess Rice on Five Ingredient Fix, it didn't seem like that big a stretch. Plus no chicken would be harmed in the experiment.

Goddess Rice is delish: creamy, tangy - really very good. I served it as a bed for a stir-fry (which did not need a sauce), but it would be equally good alongside some grilled chicken and the dressing would make a tasty dip for fresh vegetables.

Try it. It's easy and yummy. And leftovers even reheat well.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Honor Of Your Presence Is Required

It's nothing personal about the people I work with, it's just that I get the maximum adult dose of shop talk AT THE SHOP.

The salmon was good, though.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I Always Wondered

When you're six years old, the world is full of mysteries. How can Santa get into the house if we don't have a chimney? How do they get the snap, crackle, and pop into Rice Krispies? Where do all these brothers and sisters keep coming from? And why does Grandma always say "NO!" when I ask for a second glass of prune juice?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Reason #4327 Why Courtney Love Is INSANE

Don't eat cheese? That's the only proof I need that she's crazy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Should Have Known Better

The Orange-Balsamic Glazed Chicken Rachael Ray was cooking the other day on 30 Minute Meals looked like a good idea. Something new and different! Everything is already in my kitchen! Ready in half an hour! It's an unusual flavor combination, but that might be good! The sauce makes a glaze for the chicken!

Within moments I was printing the recipe from the Food TV website. I was undeterred by the fact that the only thing missing from the list of seemingly unrelated ingredients was dehydrated yak. I forged ahead. I followed the directions even though I could see the glaring error of making the sauce with the chicken still in the pan. I was tired and hungry, so I ignored the little voice inside my head saying "Mistakes are being made!" The sauce never became anything except sweet balsamic vinegar with the occasional piece of bitter orange rind in it, and the chicken did not patiently wait for me to figure this out. It ended up like the bits of chicken in Lipton Cup-A-Soup, only less appealing.

And the greens? I still don't know what they were. They were from a friend's garden and she had said to cook them like spinach. I didn't realize how much longer they would take to cook, though, and after the chicken cooking fiasco I just served them up and ate them. I felt like a bunnyrabbit working her way through a dandelion patch.

Thank God for Ben & Jerry.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Square Meal

Food confession: I'm not really crazy about turkey. I'll eat it, but I'm not someone who gets all excited about going to the Cracker Barrel to get turkey with all the fixings in the middle of May. In fact, I thought for years that what I really wanted for Thanksgiving was lasagne, garlic bread, and salad.

Because I am an evil genius, last year I mentioned my dream menu to a friend who I happen to know makes incredible lasagne and a new tradition was born. He makes the lasagne, I make the salad, garlic dipping oil for the bread, and dessert. (You'll notice who does most of the work. I told you I'm an evil genius.)

Yeah, I could probably have spent a little more time adding detail to the drawing, but today is a day for eating. Next up: an apple-cranberry galette.

Happy Thanksgiving. Whatever you're doing, whatever is on your menu, I hope it's exactly what you want.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Magically Delicious

The Caffeine Pushers at the Starbucks Cafe at Barnes & Noble are very well trained. If you order a Grande beverage, the suggest the Venti. They don't ask if you want a pastry to go with it, they suggest something specific, like a freshly baked scone or a piece of pumpkin cheesecake. I fall for this about fifty percent of the time, mostly because the Caffeine Pushers are cute guys young enough to be my sons. A little conversation with them - even if it has the tawdry tinge of commerce - makes me forget for a moment that I am middle-aged and cranky.

So it was a matter of time before one of them talked me into trying the Peppermint Crunch Bar. Now I know what you're thinking: It's a blondie! Chocolate and peppermint are a natural pairing! Stop the madness! Normally, I'd be with you on this. I tend to think of a blondie as a brownie's anemic cousin. But this was delish. The overall impression was of a soft, slightly chewy, yummy candy cane.

As a bonus, it was triangular in shape, making it easy to draw. I'm thinking from now on I should only eat foods that are geometrically shaped. Stay tuned for my square Thanksgiving entree.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cinderella's Coach

These are the things I think about when I'm stopped at a traffic light behind a huge SUV plastered with bumper stickers. Now you know.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Winter Health Advisory

It's very important to stock up on these essentials in case illness strikes:

1. Comfy blanky. I like a throw, but a Snuggie would be nice too. Drag the comforter off your bed if you have to.

2. Old-school sitcoms. For my money, The Golden Girls is still the best. Feel free to watch something else if you must, but I can't be held responsible for the results.

3. Tea. I like it like I like my men: hot and sweet.

4. Chocolate. If I have no appetite for chocolate, I don't need a first-aid kit, I need last rites.

5. Cat. Optional but highly recommended. A dog would be good too. The point is, a warm body to snuggle up with, who doesn't care that you haven't brushed your hair or your teeth.

6. Foodtoons. Hey, you've got nothing else to do. Hook a sister up with a few comments before you take a nap.

Liberal application of all items is recommended until patient improves. And if you want to take an extra day off and continue with the regimen - just to be on the safe side - it will be our little secret.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Block Island Brownie

Obviously, this happy dancing chocolate chip "brownie bite" I had at Juice & Java on Block Island was delicious. It was just what I needed for a fuel stop in between singing showtunes with my friend Leppy, the Juice & Java caffeine pusher, and some random guy who came in for coffee, and checking my email at the library across the street to continue an important discussion with my mother about the relative merits of the 1950s production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella versus the one from the 1970s (also, how much we heart Julie Andrews). As you do.

I drew it on the beach at the very northern tip of Block Island - as far as the seagulls would let us go, anyway. We declined to shoo them away from the very end of the beach because seagulls have crappy personalities.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Going Green

Something about a person cleaning out bottles and jars from expensive, imported food to have “green d├ęcor” and then wearing her $90 organic cotton T-shirt to a yoga class that she drives to in a 36-feet-per-gallon Humvee just bugs me.

Also, I think Martha Stewart might be the Antichrist. But that's a subject for another day.

Friday, November 6, 2009

By Request

Team Maria consists of a friend of mine and the voices in his head. I'm not privy to the workings of his Inner Multitude, but they all seem to agree that loud music is good, flannel is appropriate attire for all occasions, and bribing your friends with food is an excellent way to ensure their continued support.

So here you go, Team Maria... you didn't mean the real thing, did you?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Liver & Onions

My mom is a terrific cook. Now that I’ve got that disclaimer off my chest, can we talk about the most dreaded meal of my childhood – liver and onions? Mom and I differ in our recollections of how often this was served, so the truth must lie somewhere between every Thursday (which is what I remember) and almost never (which is what she claims).

It was a child’s worst food nightmare: strong-tasting, bitter liver with equally strong tasting onions in a sauce that had picked up the flavor of both. One of the great things about being an adult is that I can confidently say I will never eat liver and onions again. If they serve it to me some day in the Old Folks Home, I will refuse to eat it. Then I’ll haul myself up by my walker and yell “I’m revolting!” Which, by that point, will most likely be true on a lot of levels.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Mmmmmmm, dinosaur. My favorite.

*** It has been brought to my attention since I posted this drawing that people are not getting it. One person even suggested I was trying to post quantity and not quality (his name shall remain anonymous, but it rhymes with Dude Who Works Across The Hall Who Is Dead To Me Now).

There is a logic:

1. Vegan is a DIET, yet I keep seeing ads for (expensive) vegan shoes
2. Nobody would eat shoes, especially if they are not made of leather
3. If vegan shoes are made from plastic, are they really vegan if they are essentially made of melted dinosaur?

Welcome to my brain - basically a haunted house: a lot of empty rooms and cobwebs, with scary things that go bump in the night.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I recently heard about some people who bought a dozen baby chicks last spring and were raising them with a view to butchering and having chicken in the freezer all winter. I like a bargain as much as the next gal, but this is a plan that would never work for me. I’d buy a dozen baby chicks, and I’d end up naming them and singing songs to them while I fed them. The next year, I’d have 30 chickens – the original dozen and their offspring – and the year after that I’d have 75, and so on until I am arrested for keeping too many chickens within the city limits.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Like I always say: nothing says Halloween like happy dancing candy corn.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Friday is my night to relax in front of the TV in my pajamas. Lately, I’ve been watching Project Runway episodes that I DVR on Thursdays. I love me some Project Runway. Models of the Runway, not so much - but it’s like a half-hour of bonus Project Runway footage. So I watch.

The problem with Models of the Runway is that even though they are all stuck in a house together, there is generally very little conflict. The girls are all a lot nicer than I expected a bunch of hungry models to be. I get cranky if I get low on ice cream, let alone if I was subsisting on yogurt and carrot sticks like they do.

If I was living in a house with a group of gals, I’d be organizing big, family-style dinners. I’d be the one saying “Who wants to roll a bunch of meatballs? I’ll make a sauce. Somebody get the garlic bread ready to go into the oven.” Next thing you know, we’d be Plus Size Models of the Runway. Which, I assure you, is the only reason I’ve never been asked to model for Project Runway.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Blast From The Past

According to Something From The Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America, those strange recipes you see in vintage magazines for things like half a doughnut with jam and cottage cheese were brainchildren of the packaged food industry's test kitchens. Most American homemakers weren't buying, but apparently my family was the exception. My grandmother's pot roast recipe included packaged onion soup mix and ketchup; her kale soup required beef bouillon cubes. I'm pretty sure those aren't the same recipes her mother brought from the Azores in the early part of the 20th century. Gram adapted them to modern times. She was hip that way.

Also hip, I guess, was her Jell-O salad. It was a star player at every holiday meal of my childhood. My required "no thank you helping" sat on my plate in a scary pink-and-purple lump. I found it cloyingly sweet - and I was a kid who could eat Twinkies until my eyes bubbled. I was suspicious of the slippery fruits lurking in its murky depths.

Years later, Sophia Petrillo on The Golden Girls summed up my childhood feelings: "I hate Jell-O Salad. If God had meant peaches to be suspended in midair, he'd have filled them with helium."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Bit of Heaven On Earth

Highly recommended: Starbucks’ Red Velvet Cupcake. Seriously, these should be kept on hand in ambulances because one bite will renew your will to live no matter what has happened to you. Yes, even if your hair stylist gives you Bangs of Doom. Again.

A Semi-Homemade Casserole

This is what I cooked for dinner with my niece Katie -who is a vegetarian -and my great-niece Elizabeth. It’s based on a recipe I got from Dixie Peach, but I substituted black beans for the ground beef in her recipe and added taco seasoning to give the beans a little zip. It was a rousing success. Also, as you can see, the zucchini is happy because it was not overcooked. (Are you listening, Toads On The Whatsit?)

Rosemary Chicken??

This is what I had for dinner at another fancy-schmancy event at a restaurant that shall remain anonymous, but its name rhymes with Toads on the Whatsit. Sort of. As you can see, this is not the best meal I ever had. I can’t decide if this falls into the category of Crimes Against Herbs or Crimes Against Chicken. I can’t blame the rosemary for not bringing any flavor to the party, and the poor chicken breast never had a chance.

Steamship Round

This is my first foray into Culinary “Art.” I drew it about a month ago, and I’ve grow so much as an artist since then. I was trying to explain to my friend, via email, what a Steamship Round of Beef is. I think it’s disgusting, personally, and I call it “Cow Butt Suspended From The Ceiling” – which I admit is not as pithy and catchy as “Steamship Round,” but it has the advantage of being more descriptive.

I’d been to a fancy-schmancy dinner that had a Steamship Round carving station at the end of the buffet line. I could not get across the sheer cave-man quality of a cow’s hindquarters dangling on a chain and being carved in front of people who were practically knocking each other over to get to it. I don’t know why my friend has never seen a Steamship Round before. I understand that he’s from the midwest where the customs and foodways are probably different, but still. He was in the Navy – and a submarine is a ship, right?

So I drew him a picture, and holy cow, it turns out that some of those old sayings are true – a picture really is worth a thousand words.