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.