Saturday, December 17, 2011

Gluten Free No-Bake Rum Balls

This is a recipe I've been toting around with me and playing with for a couple of decades, and while it's a pretty standard no-bake cookie, I've tweaked it so that it's gluten free. Because what the hell is the point of me making a batch of cookies if I can't nom on the dough in the process?

A quick note - I like to make this with rum (specifically, Cruzan coconut rum, because it's amazeballs), but you can use bourbon if you like. You don't need a lot - just a half cup - so just dig around in your pantry and experiment a little. That's how I do most of my cooking at this point.

Also, if you're not a GF eater, no biggie - use  Nilla Wafers instead of trying to hunt down a box of gluten free animal crackers or grahams.

Gluten Free Rum Balls

Here's what you need:


3 cups gluten free animal (or graham) crackers, crushed
• 1 cup pecans , chopped fine

• 1 cup powdered sugar (plus extra for coating the cookies)
• 3 tablespoons light Karo (corn) syrup
• 2 1/3 tablespoons cocoa
• 1/2 cup rum




Put your cookies and pecans in a food processor and chop them until they're grainy. The finer the better.
Add the cocoa (I like Nestle's Dark, myself), the Karo syrup, and the powdered sugar. Blend the heck out of it.
Yo ho ho, bitches!

You'll need a half cup of rum. Again, I prefer Cruzan, but hey, whatever trips your trigger. I've used Malibu, and it works just as well. If you don't love coconut, use straight rum or bourbon.
Blendity blendity blend.

Refrigerate your batter for an hour or so. It's going to be wet and sticky, so firming it up is a good idea.
Is your batter firm? Of course it is, because you listened and stuck it in the fridge.

Dump a little powdered sugar in a bowl.

Roll your dough into little balls.This is a lot easier if you put some powdered sugar on your hands to keep the dough from sticking. Plus when you're done you can lick your fingers clean.

You know, if you're into that sort of thing.

Roll the dough balls in the powdered sugar.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, toss your cookie balls onto it, and back to the fridge it goes! The longer they sit, the firmer they get, and the more manageable they are.

You'll get about 36 of these out of a batch, if you roll them about 1" in diameter. Less if you eat the dough while you work.



Three for me, and one for you!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why I'm Pro-Choice


As our legislators continue to wage their war on our reproductive rights (yes, I’m looking at you, douchey Ohio Republican lawmakers and your vile “Heartbeat Bill”), I frequently feel the need to weigh in on how shitty I think it is that some congressman I’ve never met wants to get all up in my business and tell me what to do (or not do) with my ladyparts. Last time I checked, Roe v. Wade was still part of the law of this country, and that means that women do, at least for now, have the right to terminate a pregnancy. I have always supported, and continued to support, the right of any woman to choose what goes on with her own body. I’d like to share with you why I’m so passionate about this issue.

Now, before I go any further, let me toss out a disclaimer. This post is not about converting you to see my point of view. It’s not about telling anti-choice people why I think they’re misguided or wrong. It’s not about you at all, actually – it’s simply an explanation of my personal views, and where they come from.

Back in 1988, I found myself dealing with an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy. I was nineteen years old, barely making enough money to pay my own rent, and had briefly dated and slept with a guy I decided I was never going to see again because he was batshit crazy. Precautions? Yeah, they were in place. I was on the Pill.

I was also on antibiotics for a sinus infection, which no one bothered to tell me can render the effects of birth control pills null and void. One missed period later, I was faced with the fact that I was pregnant and in no position to raise or support a child.

Did I mention the guy was batshit crazy? Yeah. He was. He was also in the military, which meant the best possible scenario was for him to go somewhere far away where I’d never have to see him again, and that’s exactly what happened. So there I was, alone, poor, and facing the idea of raising a kid alone.

I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t want a kid, and more importantly, I didn’t want to be pregnant in the first place. Sure, I could have had the kid and put it up for adoption, but that’s only a solution for women who don’t want to be mothers, not for women who don’t want a pregnancy. I was on the Pill, but due to a sad lack of information, still found myself in a hell of a bind.

I know there are countless stories of women who wrestled for weeks, even months, with the choice to end a pregnancy. I wasn’t one of them. I decided almost immediately that I needed to terminate this pregnancy. I booked an appointment at the local clinic, had my preliminary appointment to make sure I was indeed pregnant (I was not quite six weeks along), and scheduled my procedure for the very next day. I borrowed $250 from a good friend – because that’s what it cost back then – and within a few hours, I was no longer pregnant.

The abortion itself was not as traumatic as people make it out to be. I had all the information made available to me, and it was, quite simply a medical procedure that caused some minor physical discomfort. I went home, napped for a full day, and resumed my life, child-free once more. And you know what?

I have never, ever regretted that decision. I went on to have a full and productive life. I went to school, met the man who would eventually become the father of my oldest child, divorced him, and had an interesting string of career changes. I met my current husband, who has the patience of a saint and with whom I have twins, and carved out a niche for myself as a writer. Sure, I could have given birth to that unexpected child back in 1988, but that wasn’t what I wanted or needed at that time, and my life would have turned out very differently had I done so.

So, am I pro-choice because I had an abortion? No, I’m pro-choice because somewhere out there is a nineteen-year-old with a shitty job and an asshole crazy boyfriend who just saw a little plus sign on the pee stick, and because she should have the same right to choose that I did back in 1988. She shouldn’t be forced to carry a pregnancy to term, any more than I was. And according to the laws of this land, she does still have the right to choose what to do with her own body.

I’m pro-choice because if we can be outraged about countries like China that tell women they can only have two children, then we have no right to turn around and tell women they MUST have children. An unwanted pregnancy is an unwanted pregnancy, and no amount of bullying by anti-choice activists is going to change that. No posters or slideshows of aborted fetuses is going to make a woman love a child she never wanted to have in the first place.

My oldest daughter is nineteen – the same age I was when I chose to terminate a pregnancy – and she’s amazing. Her brother and sister just turned twelve, and they make me laugh every day. These are the children I chose to have, the ones I chose to give birth to, and they mean so much more to me than the one I opted not to carry back in 1988.

You don’t have to agree with me, and I’m not even going to try to change your mind if you don’t. All I know is that for me, at that time in my life, I made the right decision. And if I can accept my choice, then it doesn’t matter if anyone else likes it or not.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Easy Peppermint Bark

I love candy - who doesn't? - but I don't love making it, because I have what is politely known as a Very Short Attention Span. Especially around the holidays, when I'm trying to do nine million other things, I just do not have time to stand around a pot of goopy sugar making sure that it forms a ball at the correct temperature.

Hence, the awesomeness of Peppermint Bark. You can whip this together with little to no work, and I make it using stuff I have in my pantry already. And of course, it's gluten free. Dig in, and nom nom nom to your heart's content.

Here's what you'll need:

1 pound white chocolate
A dozen candy canes
Some Baker's chocolate

Also have some parchment paper on hand.

Melt the white chocolate in your microwave. A quick note here: White chocolate can and WILL burn if you don't stop periodically to stir it. You know, like if you get distracted updating your Facebook page or sending naughty texts to your ... you know what, never mind. Just go stir your chocolate. Four to five minutes ought to do it. Stir halfway through!


Put your candy canes in a Zippy bag. Why? Because you're going to demolish the heck out of them with a hammer. This is actually really good therapy during the holidays. Trust.
Oh yeah - put a cutting board underneath the Zippy Bag. Otherwise your kitchen counters will get effed up, and you'll have to remodel your entire kitchen.
12 candy canes + hammer = 1 Cup little peppermint chunkers
OK, remember that white chocolate we melted, in between dirty text messages and Facebook updates? Stir about 3/4 of the peppermint chunks into the chocolate.

Blendity blendity blend.
Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper, and dump your white chocolate peppermint blend. Smear it around so it goes all the way to the corners. Take that last 1/4 Cup of peppermint chunks and sprinkle it on the top. Now go stick the whole thing in the freezer for about half an hour. This way it firms up nice and fast.
Melt some of your baking chocolate (about 2 squares ought to do it) and use the tines of a fork to drizzle it all over the top of your nice firm white chocolate peppermint.

Back to the freezer for another half hour!
Lift the solid wall of peppermint awesomeness out of the pan with the parchment paper, and break it up into little bite-sized pieces.

Store it in an airtight container, or just eat the whole damn thing in one sitting. Don't call me if you go into a sugar coma.
Looks so pretty and festive! Bite me, Martha Stewart!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Figuring Out What Counts

Stop stressing and just have fun instead.
This morning, a friend of mine posted on Facebook that she and her fiancĂ© had just done their budget for the month, and they’re not going to be able to give anyone Christmas gifts – not even each other. She’s had a rough year due to some health issues, and I know things are hard right now. But it made me sad, because I hate that our society has turned the holiday season into something so stressful that people feel obligated to give others presents.

Now, a brief disclaimer – I’m a tree-huggin’ dirt worshiper, but I do recognize that no matter what you celebrate – whether it’s Yule/Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Festivus – you should never feel pressured to the point of despair. If this is supposed to be a season of joy, why make yourself sick over it?

A few years ago, my family decided to take a very low-key approach to the holidays. This was due, in part, to having a pair of twin birthdays the second week of December. Coming just a couple of weeks before Christmas, it just became overwhelming. The stress – birthday party, birthday presents times two, Christmas decorating, gift shopping, holiday parties, OMG WE FORGOT A TREE – it all became too much. So we just stopped. It’s not that I don’t care about the holidays, it’s just that if it makes you miserable, you’re missing the whole point of the celebration.

So, in the interest of both saving money and keeping ourselves from having a nervous breakdown, here are some tips on how to survive the holidays. Some of this is from my article over at About.com, How to Have aLow Stress Yule.
  
Quit Worrying About Presents:

Your friends don’t care if you buy them something. They love you no matter what. So, if you can’t afford to give them presents, do something else. Let everyone know how much you value their friendship and company by holding an informal potluck dinner sometime in December. Everyone brings a dish to share, and NO ONE brings presents. Or better yet, do an upcycled gift exchange, where everyone brings one wrapped re-gift to exchange. I did this one year and ended up with a pair of monkeys having sex in a snow globe while “Love Me Tender” played in the background, and someone else got a Chia Head that looked like Engelbert Humperdinck. Put “It’s a Wonderful Life” in the DVD player, eat some noms, and hang out for some good times with people who love you.

You really feel like you need to give someone a present? Get in the kitchen and whip up some cookies, pies, breads, or candies. Dig out that sewing machine and stitch up some handmade goodies. They will be appreciated far more than that Sex Monkey Snow Globe, believe me.

Set Limits:

Are you in charge of the community coat drive, the local toy roundup, and getting your entire PTO's fundraiser up and running? Step back. Be willing to say "No" when someone asks you to commit more time and energy than you have to give. We all want to help others at this time of year, but if you take on more than you really are capable of, you'll become resentful and angry - and that's no way to spend the holidays. Learning to say "No" might be the best gift you can give yourself this year.

Ditch The Decorations:

Do you and your significant other fight for three weeks about who’s going to hang the lights, and what day the tree goes up? Quit worrying about it. I have one friend who puts up FOUR trees in her house each year, and it’s a source of endless amusement to me and endless stress to her. I didn’t have a tree at all last year because I took the kids to visit my parents, and this year, we may just skip it altogether. After all, it’s just going to get tossed out a few days after the holidays are over, and it’s one more thing for the dog to eat and barf up later. I think I’ll just hang a wreath, put out a few vintage woodland Santas and a Yule Log, and call it a day.

Figure Out What The Holidays Mean to You:

If you’re a Pagan like me, this time of year represents the return of the sun – it’s a time of hope and renewal. It’s not supposed to be a time when I’m freaking out about whether or not I bought Just the Right Gift for someone I only see once in a blue moon. It’s a time to think about giving to others, not because I *have* to, but because it’s a nice thing to do. And that giving can include gifts, or my time and energy. It’s why my kids and I take a day to go pick out toys for the local fire department’s holiday toy drive. And yeah, it’s totally self-centered, I do it because it makes me feel good.

If you’re a Christian, and you’re celebrating the birth of Jesus as the reason for the season, then take some time to think about what message you want to share. Does fighting over who gets the last Kinect at WalMart really say HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABY JESUS? I think probably not.

Take the teachings of your belief system – whatever it may be – and celebrate them. Keeping things minimalist is a good way to remind us what really matters – and what’s all trappings.

Decompress:

When you're feeling overwhelmed in the middle of the season, and you know you still have things that need to get done, take a break. Turn off the phone, shut the door, and go have some Me Time. Take a power nap, go to the gym and beat the shit out of something, or have high-quality recreational sex with someone you find attractive. Doesn’t matter what, just do something OTHER than think about the holidays for a while.

Recognize Burnout:

A big problem many people seem to have is they just fail to realize they're burning themselves out. Stress creeps up on us, and then we tend to justify it by saying, "Well, it's the holidays." Learn to recognize the signs of burnout, and react accordingly. Some signs include:

  • Depleted levels of physical energy
  • Lowered immune system, feeling run-down or ill
  • Lack of interest in things that you normally enjoy
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Negative, pessimistic outlook
  • Anger directed at people who don't deserve it, like kids and sales clerks
If you start seeing these behaviors in yourself, it's time to take a step back and recognize that you're stressing out. Now that you've discovered the problem, take time to fix it, so that you and the people around you can have a happy and healthy season. Don’t be the person who screams at the grocery bagger because he forgot to say MERRY CHRISTMAS, because then you’re not only stressed out, you’re an asshole.

A Final Note:

This is to my friend whose post triggered this whole thing. Listen, sweetie – we all have rough years. Some more than others. But you are loved, very much, and none of us are going to love you LESS just because times are tough. If we did that, we’d be shitty friends. You and your honey can stop worrying about giving people presents. You’ve got each other, and you’ve got all of us. Merry Christmas.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Baked Spaghetti Squash

OK, so if you're eating gluten-free, you've probably figured out right now that traditional spaghetti is off the menu. Sure, you can buy GF pasta, like the brown rice noodles, and they're not bad, but if you're trying to watch your weight or ramp up on your vegetable consumption, the Spaghetti squash presents a really awesome alternative. The first time I served this, my kids didn't really know they were eating a vegetable. The whole point of the Spaghetti squash is that when baked, the strands inside separate like noodles - and you can use it just like pasta.

 Baked Spaghetti Squash
 
This is a Spaghetti squash. A healthy one is plump, pale yellow, and about the size of a large football. If you buy two, you can prepare one to eat, and throw the other one at your children to watch hilarity ensue.

You'll also need half a stick of butter, some garlic, oregano, and Parmesan cheese. Don't use that powdery shit in a can - I don't know what it is, but it's horrible. Get the good stuff.


Cut the squash in half and scrape out the goop and seeds. You can either pitch these, or toss them in your compost bin like I do.

Place your two halves, open side up, in a baking dish.
Slice the butter, and plop it into the middle of your squash halves.
Sprinkle as much oregano as you can stand onto the squash, along with garlic. Lots of garlic. Yummy chopped garlic.

Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil, and bake at 350 for about an hour.
When you take it out of the oven, grate up your Parmesan cheese and sprinkle it on top. Again, go ahead and get the good stuff. It's worth it, and although you may pay a little more for a brick of good Parm, it's a zillion times better than the powdery cheese-flavored Anthrax-like mutation that they sell in those green cans.
Using a fork, scrap the insides out of the squash, pulling it away from the skin. You'll notice that it comes apart in long, pasta-like strands - hence the name, Spaghetti squash. You can serve it like this, with the butter and garlic and oregano and cheese, or toss some of your favorite spaghetti sauce on top of it. Either way, it's pretty much awesomeness.

Delicata Squash with Kale & Beans

Many of you have heard me rave about the awesomeness of Delicata squash, which is a light and tasty fall veggie. The nice thing about the Delicata is that the skin is very thin, and when baked, it's tender -- you don't even have to peel it. Just give it a good washing before you start chopping, and you're good to go.

This is a salad that I like to make ahead of time and let sit overnight - although you can serve it warm, it seems like the flavors blend really well if you let it park in the fridge for a few hours. It's super easy to make, but it looks really pretty so when your friends admire it, you can say, "Oh, well, first I lovingly harvested the Delicata squash and the kale..." when really you probably just bought them at Kroger, which is okay too.

Delicata Squash with Kale & Beans

This is what the Delicata squash looks like in its natural habitat, my backyard. You'll need one of these. You'll also need a can of cannellini beans, a handful of kale, some garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and some salt and pepper.

It's also a good idea to use parchment paper if you have it.
Wash your Delicata squash, cut it in half, and scrape the seeds out of the middle. If you toss them in your compost bin, you'll get rogue Delicatas next year, which is how I ended up with this one.
Slice the halves into pieces about a half inch thick. You can go thinner if you like, but then you'll need to watch them in the oven to make sure they don't burn. If you're someone who typically uses your smoke alarm as an oven timer, go with the thicker cut.
Let's talk about garlic, baby. This is what it should look like. It should not look like little white mouse poops floating in a sea of olive oil. Get yourself some nice big fat garlic cloves, as many as you like, and chunk them up. Use the flat side of your knife to mash them, and then mince.
Toss the squash slices, the garlic, about 1/4 Cup balsamic and about 1/4 C olive oil together in a bowl. Make sure all your squash is coated with the balsamic and oil - otherwise, you get dry squash.
Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet, and spread the squash out into a single layer. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.

Hey! That's a tongue twister! Say it with me: "place a piece of parchment paper" five times, really fast. G'head, I'll wait.
 Rinse and drain your cannellini beans.
Tear up your kale into little pieces, and mix them in with your beans.
As soon as you take the squash out of the oven, dump it in the bowl. The heat from the squash will wilt the kale. Toss everything together. A little more oil and balsamic if you like, as well as a splash of lemon juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gluten Free Cream-Cheese Filled Pumpkin Muffins

Muffins + cream cheese = nom nom nom.
So it's Thanksgiving, and since I've never been allowed to cook a turkey - other family members always insist on doing it - my job is to prepare the side dishes. My instructions this year were simple - bring a green vegetable. Well, I could have made a salad or something, but instead I decided to live it up a little bit - after all, food should be a celebration - and put together two veggies and a dessert. Why the dessert?

Because as much as I love my in-laws, I know there will be four or five different desserts on the table, none of which I can eat. Thanks, gluten intolerance!

So I decided I was going to make some kind of GF Thanksgivingy treat - and do so using only crap in my pantry, because I didn't want to set foot within a two mile radius of my grocery store on the day before Thanksgiving, when hordes of frustrated moms were fighting over the last two cans of cranberry flavored goop and confused dads on their way home from work would be asking me what kind of corn they were supposed to get. Just not in the mood to handle that much drama.

Anyway, I had a box of King Arthur Flour's basic muffin mix, a zillion cans of pumpkin, and some cream cheese. This sounds like dessert to me. If you haven't tried the KAF muffin mix, pick up a box. It's for making a very plain muffin, but it forms a great foundation to throw some extra stuff in. And I'm all about throwing extra stuff in, so you know I was all over this.

Also, I want to apologize in advance for the poor quality of some of the photos in this post - MY camera apparently went to Coshocton this morning in my husband's hunting pack so I had to use my 11-year-old's camera, which seems to lend things an odd yellowish cast, as though I was preparing food using my Jaundiced Liver Disease Glasses. However, I can't complain too much about him taking the camera, because on the off chance he manages to shoot me some dinner while sitting in a tree this morning, I'll then have the luxury of posting Before and After photos of my venison recipes - you know, if "before" means "Bambi's mom frolicking in a forest eating nuts and berries."

OK, so here we go.

Gluten Free Cream Cheese Pumpkin Muffins:

Here's what you'll need:

1 box King Arthur Flour GF Muffin Mix
1 can pumpkin (you'll only use half)
Half a stick butter, melted
3 eggs

1/2 Cup milk
Cinnamon
Sugar
1 8-oz pack cream cheese, softened
1 Cup powdered sugar



The night before, you'll want to go ahead and make the delicious cream cheese filling. Yes, the photo is bad, but trust me, it's tasty. Blend the cream cheese and the powdered sugar together, and then shape it into a log. Wrap it in plastic and toss it in the fridge overnight.

And yes, I'm well aware that this looks like something from the Food Network Sex Toy Collection. Stop judging me.

OK, so now your Cream Cheese Log is firmed up in the fridge. Go ahead and mix together your eggs, your melted butter, and your half can of pumpkin.











Add the muffin mix and blend it till all the dry stuff is mixed in, and then gradually pour in the milk. Blendity blendity blend. At this point, it should be a lovely orangey pumpkiny color.







Grease up some muffin tins. This recipe will give you a good 16 large muffins. You know, if you can try not to eat the batter, in which case, you might get five muffins instead. Use a scooper to fill each tin about halfway. The batter is thick, so make sure you smear it around and cover the bottom of the muffin cup.


Go get your Food Network Sex Toy Cream Cheese Log out of the fridge. Cut it into 16 equal chunks. Drop a chunk onto the center of each muffin cup, right in the middle of the batter.
Use the rest of the batter to fill the rest of the muffins up. Make sure you cover up all the cream cheese, or Very Bad Things can happen in your oven. Bad things of Vesuvian proportions.

Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon and sugar over the top of your muffins, and bake at 350 for 22 - 25 minutes or so.




Let your muffins cool for about ten minutes before you try to eat them. Seriously - do you KNOW what happens to cream cheese when you bake it into a muffin at 350 degrees? It reaches temperatures only rivaled by volcanic lava, Allentown steel mill production lines, and the sun.

DO NOT BITE.

Trust us, my precious. Trust us.
Once your muffins have cooled enough not to burn the hell out of your lips, tongue, and esophagus, dig in. They're super tasty, and your non-gluten-free eater friends will be asking you for the recipe. Send 'em on ovah.

Getting Thrifty

Yep, someone on my list is getting a jelly mold shaped like a lobster for Christmas. Is it you? Read my latest post over at An Army of Ermas:

Getting Thrifty

I’m not a very good shopper. My friends tell me I shop like a guy – I know what I want, I walk in, I buy it, and I leave. Shopping is a “Wham-bam-thank-you-Kohl’s” experience for me – other than cute shoes and pretty lingerie, there aren’t many things I really dig shopping for.
And yet, I love the thrift store. My thrift store – and by “my,” I mean, the one I go to because it’s convenient and huge and full of good stuff that nobody wants anymore – is housed in a former K-Mart, so it’s basically several acres of stuff. It’s in no particular order, although the women’s stuff is one side, the men’s on the other, and allegedly it’s all arranged by size. There are no fitting rooms, so everything is a crap shoot, unless I plan ahead and wear a ... Read Full Post

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Get Your Bad Austen On, Baby

Bad Austen is finally out, and features not one, but TWO ridiculously silly stories by me - Foolishness and Folly, as well as The Perilous Plot at Pemberley, in which Georgianna Darcy gets the Scooby Doo treatment. I only wish I was kidding.

As if that wasn't fabulous enough, there's also a disco-delicious tale, Willoughby's Boogie Nights, by the awesomesauce Stacey Isbell Graham.
 
Bad Austen: The Worst Stories Jane Never Wrote
Edited by Peter Archer and Jennifer Lawler
ISBN 978-1-4405-1185-1


Barnes & Noble: Bad Austen - the Worst Stories Jane Never Wrote





What? You want MORE Austen action? No worries - you can still download my Austen-inspired short story, The Scandalous Miss Lydia Bennet, for just 99¢.

The Scandalous Miss Lydia Bennet
a Short Story by Patti Wigington
ISBN 978-1-4657-4018-2

Smashwords: The Scandalous Miss Lydia Bennet 

or

Barnes & Noble: The Scandalous Miss Lydia Bennet (nookbook)








And just because I'm feeling Jane-alicious today, you should totally go watch the Jane Austen Fight Club video.

We are, after all, no longer "good society."