Tag Archives: holiday

This Week on the Dormont-Brookline Patch: Neighborhood Options for Local Sweethearts on Valentine’s Day

I really need to get out of the habit of writing event or holiday – specific posts, but this week’s article on the Dormont-Brookline Patch focuses on neighborhood establishments that are offering a little something special for Valentine’s Day. If you live in the South Hills area and need a place to take your loved one on February 14th, definitely check out my article. It could be the difference between life AND death. Or, you know, it could just steer you to my favorite gyro restaurant in town, It’s Greek to Me on Brookline Boulevard. Either way…

As for my V-Day plans, I’ll be hanging with my partner and all will be swell. I don’t really go in for Valentine’s Day. It’s not a single-person bitterness thing, cause I’ve had plenty of relationships during the “holiday,” it’s just a sense of pointlessness that is too overpowering for me to enjoy the manufactured nature of the celebrations. Say what you will about the “commercialism” of Christmas, that time of year still seems to mean something more than what is given and received. That time of year has so much meaning to so many different people of the world, it seems ridiculous to dismiss it based off of American capitalist tendencies.

Whereas Valentine’s Day, although it is sweet that we have a day dedicated to the celebration of courtly love, is not even a traditional Christian holiday anymore. Why? Cause in 1969, the Roman Catholic Church presented the question: Who was St. Valentine, and why do we have a big ass holiday to honor him? And when they couldn’t come up with a good enough response (“…. he was… a martyr…?”), they decided that while it was all well and good that people were going to continue to celebrate the holiday, they would no longer honor it as an official church-sanctioned occasion. Good riddance, I say.

Still, I find the holiday a little unsettling in how it encourages people to save open expressions of love for a specific day of the year. Not that all who celebrate V-Day do that. As a matter of fact, most of the couples I know who do something special on February 14th are the kind of couples who are openly and expressively in love with one another. They don’t need the day to tell them to appreciate and celebrate their love, but they take it anyway, cause why the hell not?

But a holiday that at best is unnecessary and at worst a commercial waste of time, money, and intellect is not a holiday for me. Maybe I’m completely missing the full picture.

Anyone out there doing something special for Valentine’s Day?

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Christmas Time is a Hungry Time

Deck the halls with a ton of food!

My mother has a bad habit of letting me know about family events way too late, so I miss out on a fair amount of family gatherings. Due to short notice, I was regretfully absent from the extended family’s Christmas gathering/cousin’s baby shower the weekend before Christmas. But because my mother was recuperating from surgery through this past weekend, I got a bunch of time in with my immediate family (including my aunt, who is like a second parent to me).

What did we do for three days straight? Chatted, played some games, watched some TV. But mostly we ate. We ate and ate and ate. We munched on snacks through games, we had sandwiches, we had dinner, we had leftovers, we had dessert. We ate till we were full, then as soon as we were a little less full, we ate something else. No wonder people gain weight over the holidays. What are you doing other than sitting around and putting stuff into your body?

Maybe it was the overwhelming amount of eating done on Saturday, but I stayed away from the Christmas pictures until later this week, when I was of clear enough in mind and appetite to handle the food porn. But seriously, next year? Let’s just stick to vegetables.

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Good Morning! And Merry Post-Christmas!

Everyone have a good Christmas? Get lots of presents? Eat lots of food? Spend quality time with your loving family?

Good. Now get back to work.

Is there anything worse than returning to work after a holiday? Especially Christmas, with its focus on family and traditions and planning, cooking, and eating big meals, then the inevitable clean-up and after-dinner games and (at least in some families) bitter arguments.

I, for one, find Christmas nearly as exhausting as going to work (although with more cookies). You hardly get any time to yourself. You’re constantly bombarded by family rituals and traditions, and what’s more, say you get a few hours to yourself Christmas night (maybe your family is in a catatonic state, watching 27/7 Penguins Capitals), there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go. Well, except maybe a Chinese restaurant.



Anyway, several days and nights away from my home ended up making me a little…cranky. Within three hours of returning to my apartment, I felt enormously better. There’s just something comforting in the retreat from a family environment. Does this make me anti-Christmas? I hope not. I love Christmas. I just like when it’s over too.

Now it’s time to get back to work, both my cubicle work (meh) and writin’n’postin on this here blog. This week, expect photos of the family Christmas feast (a table shared by both an enormous amount of baked ham and a vegan roast) later on this week. Also, I received the incredible Veganomicon as one of my presents this year, so I will be trying out a few of the Isa and Terry recipes (Ooh, Chili Cornmeal Crusted Tofu…) and sharing the results. Also, I hope to bang out a few more entries in the Vegan A to Z series.

And I’m really really hoping to try the new restaurant out toward Robinson, The Loving Hut, which is an international vegan chain that also might be a cult. Let’s shake off this post-Christmas, pre-New Year’s malaise with some soy shrimp and brainwashing. Hail, Seitan!

5 Christmas Songs That I Actually Like and Their Potential Recipe Counterparts

I love Christmas, but I hate a lot of Christmas music. This happens to a lot of people. If you work in retail for long enough, you start to hate Christmas music, and long after you’ve moved on to new employment, the beginning strains of most holiday music makes you go numb with terror. At least that’s been my experience.

Still, I’m not a total Scrooge, even where Christmas music is concerned. There are at least a dozen Christmas and holiday-related songs that I actively like. What’s more, this time of the year when I’ve set about doing my baking and entertaining and drinking, I like to have some seasonal tunes in the background, infusing the experience with holiday cheer and sentiment and all that softy goo.

In the spirit of Christmas (and because I am desperately trying to kill some time at work on this, the last day before my holiday), here’s five Christmas (or non-specified “holiday”) songs that are allowed in my house.  And because this is, after all, a food blog, I’ve matched each ditty with a compatible recipe. (I promise, these recipe-song match ups were done in a very scientific, not-at-all-arbitrary process. )

– “Christmas All Over Again” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Recipe: A weirdly comforting, weirdly upbeat song about the routines of the annual holiday (“Long-distance relatives, haven’t seen’em in a long, long time/Yeah I kind of missed ’em, I just don’t wanna kiss ’em, no/It’s Christmas all over again”) deserves a traditional, but quality comfort offering.  Gingerbread Cookies with Royal Icing from Conor & Bella’s on-going series using recipes from The Joy of Vegan Baking (a personal favorite) should do the trick. Just like the song, they’re a little gem in the dressing of something routine and expected.

– “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues, ft. Kristy McColl

Recipe – My favorite Christmas songs are both celebratory on the season and a little sour or a little melancholy. For people who have never heard this song, I describe it as thus, “It’s about being hopeful and hopeless and drunk and in love during Christmastime.” Get drunk and hurl insults at your beloved by visiting Delicious Noise for Monica’s seasonal offering, the Godfather cocktail.

– “Christmas in Hollis” by Run DMC

Recipe –  I don’t want to take the holidays too seriously, and this song really helps. Many people don’t realize that they know this song until they hear it. And because it gets a shout out early on in the song (“It’s Christmastime in Hollis, Queens/Mom’s cookin’ chicken and collard greens“), why don’t you try out Food’n’More‘s recipe for Collard Greens Southern Style?

– “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight)” by the Ramones

Recipe – I know that plenty of people have peaceful, joyful Christmastimes, but holiday gatherings with my extended family often meant fighting. Play this song to honor the spirit of both fighting and trying not to fight during Christmas, then throw back some holiday brews (cause beer encourages peaceful behavior, right?). Need some suggestions? Check out Mike’s on-going “12 Beers of Christmas” over at Burghertime.

– “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses

Recipe – I’ve already posted this song here, but it bears a repeat, cause this is my favorite Christmas song. An upbeat number that’s still a little melancholy, a lot joyful, and even a little romantic. Plus it’s got a great sax line! As far as a recipe to match, look no further than Amanda‘s Ugly Christmas Sweater Cookies. Perfect song and for people who hate that they love the holidays. (People like me.)

Got a favorite Christmas tune? Share it with me in the comments! (But so help me if you pick “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney…)

Good Morning, Cookie 2: Electric Boogaloo

Peppermint Snowball Cookies from Mamma Town

Haven’t done your holiday baking yet? You’ve got five days to mix up that batter, roll out the dough, set that oven, and cut out that cookie. If you’re waiting for decent recipes, you only have yourself to blame. Everyone’s got cookie fever right now:

Epicurious is having full-on holiday fever. If you’re stuck for ideas, their 25 Days of Christmas Cookies is definitely a good starting place. Sparkly lemon sandwich cookies, florentines, shortbread, gingerbread, every variety of cookie for the holiday season. And if anyone tries the brownie thins recipe, let me know how it works out.

– Miss Yunks over at Foodies at Work gets creative with her cookie swap recipe, combining a Martha Stewart and Joy of Baking recipe for Peppermint Meringues with Chocolate Ganache Filling. It seems she had a little trouble getting it all to work properly, but they ended up looking delightful and very Christmas-y. Plus added cookie porn from a Boston blogger cookie swap! (Those salted caramel thumbprint cookies look divine…)

– Need more peppermint? Mamma Town has you covered with a recipe for Peppermint Snowball Cookies. These cookies look like little sacks of peppermint chunks bursting open. (Seems like all I’m doing these days is crushing peppermint candy. I’m gonna need to get a grinder just to have on hand for candy fragments.) Because this recipe offers easy options for vegan substitutes, it’s definitely on my “Nice” list.

– If you crave the cookie, but not the crazy sweetness, check out Les Saveurs for their Spicy Gingerbread Cookies. With their dark, rich color starkly contrasting with the little dots of white icing, these classy cookies are perfect for a seasonal gathering of unspecified nature, a very modern way to celebrate the holidays. Or if you want to sit around your house in flannel pajamas eating cookies. I suggest combining the two and having a holiday pajamas and cookies party.

Peppernuts, Pfeffernusse, Pepernoten – by any name, these cookies are still crunchy, tasty, and utterly unique to a holiday cookie spread. Sarah gives us a neat and tidy little recipe for the traditional cookie (a favorite of the Pennsylvania Dutch). Remember, kids, if it’s not chock full of black pepper, it’s not proper pfeffernusse!

Good Morning, Delicious-Looking Inedibles!

I am a huge fan of the site Regretsy, but I will admit to liking a lot of things April Winchell would probably define as “whimsical fuckery.” Sometimes you just can’t shake the twee out, no matter how much hip hop and rap you start listening to. (Besides, the Wu-Tang are more than a little whimsical themselves, albeit not exactly in a cutesy way.)

Occasionally, my friend Mo and I send links to different sellers’ items. While browsing at a seller link she sent me today, I saw an intriguing picture:

Pumpkin Pie Felt Food from BeckyM

That is adorable AND delicious-looking. Seeing BeckyM’s store made me wonder, what other food-related wonders awaited me on Etsy? The following are a few of the many, many delectable treats to be found. Still looking for a unique gift for a food enthusiast in your life? Check these out!

(Note: None of these count the actual edibles on Etsy, of which there are many. We’ll cover that another time.)

Waffles with Syrup Soap by AJSweetSoap

 

S'mores Earrings by Artwonders

Taco Purse by KermitsTiesEtc

Lemon Frosted Cupcake Soap by FrostedCrossbones

Mini Milk and Cookies Necklace by Kawaiidesune

Herbs Magnets from Papermenagerie

Good Morning, Peanut Butter Cookies!

It’s a busy morning in a busy season. Who doesn’t need a cookie?

The peanut butter cookie is a wonderful double agent of the cookie world. One one side of craving, you have the need for saltiness, for crunch, for savory. On the other side, you have a craving for sweetness, sugar, morsels melting on the tip of your tongue. The peanut butter cookie plays both sides. It’s the perfect combination of cravings, all delivered in one handheld little edible package.

The above pictured – and I’m just now realizing that the picture is blurry – is a batch of peanut butter cookies made from the recipe in Alicia Simpson’s terrific Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food. In my experience, nearly every peanut butter cookie recipe has a secret ingredient. Alicia’s is unsweetened applesauce, and it works really well for the texture.

My minor complaint is that these cookies aren’t super peanut buttery, but it could also be the unsweetened organic peanut butter that I used in the recipe. Although it’s not high cuisine by any means, the standard Jiff or Skippy work better in peanut butter cookies, at least if you want a good heavy dose of peanutty flavor. Alicia’s are pretty healthy, all things considered (yes, even with the refined sugar).  

The other problem with this cookie is strictly my own fault: NO. GRID. Why grid your peanut butter cookies? Several theories abound, most of them false. (No, grid-ing your PB cookie isn’t going to make it any better tasting, nor does it keep the cookie from spreading or being as greasy or whatever.) The only genuinely plausible reason I can come up with is that by now, the grid on the cookie universally means “This is a peanut butter cookie” thereby forewarning any possible snackers with nut allergies.

Still, it just doesn’t feel right when the cookies aren’t properly grid-ed. What do you all think?