Archive for ‘Food Bites’

December 21st, 2011

5 Last-Minute, Mostly Handmade, Gifts For Under $10

by Venomous Kate

Are you avoiding your phone, turning down invitations, and refusing to answer the door rather than get caught without a gift for someone at the last minute? If you’re willing to shell out for overnight shipping, it’s not too late to shop from my list of 10 Types of Great Gifts for Under $20.

But maybe, like so many of us, you’re in the giving spirit but so strapped for money you feel you can’t afford anything nice? Don’t fret. Here are five last-minute, mostly handmade gifts you can put together for under $10 a piece, and I’m not talking crap that someone will throw away, either!

1. A luxurious spa set for your lady friends.

Whip up some Gingerbread Body Scrub with a few spices from your kitchen, a neutral oil (olive oil works!) and some brown sugar for under $1. In another bowl, shake the same spices together with 1 lb. of Epsom salts ($1.50). Put both in pretty containers, print or write a nice tag, and put them in a box or basket with a loofah ($3) and a pretty ivory-colored pillar candle ($3) from Wal-mart. Voila, a treat for the senses and skin!

2. An art set for creative kids.

Pick up crayons ($0.50), watercolor paints ($1.00), and a ream of blank paper ($3.90) from the dollar store. While you’re there, grab five or six packets of unsweetened Kool-Aid or similar drink mix ($0.10 each). Make a batch of Kool-Aid Playdough and package it in small containers which you can get at the dollar store for $0.50, or well-scrubbed jars. (I save jars from pimientos and marinated artichoke hearts all year for this.) Put them all together in a box or basket and present it to the little artist to keep him/her entertained for hours.

3. Goodies for Guys.

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Guess what? The way to making him happy on Christmas starts there, too! If you’ve got a guy you need an inexpensive gift for, it’s as simple as finding a large container (oatmeal containers are perfect for this) or picking one up from the store. Make a batch of microwave fudge and some microwave peanut brittle. (Note: if he or anyone in his household has a peanut allergy, make the brittle with some other kind of nut like cashews, or even shelled sunflower seeds!) Alternate layers of them in the container, separating each with some wax paper, and put a label on it that declares it’s all his, because if there’s one thing guys like more than goodies it’s not having to share them!

4. Cocoa for Co-Eds.

College kids are a hungry lot, but many of their dorms don’t allow any kind of cooking more complicated than using a microwave. Know how many would turn down a box filled with yummy things to suit those midnight munchies? None! So whip up a batch of homemade cocoa mix (ingredients cost $4.70) and put it in a pretty jar. In a second jar, combine a box of angel food cake mix with a box of chocolate cake mix ($2.75), then attach a printed card telling them how to make Cake in a Cup by adding 1/3 cup of the cake mix and 3 tbsp. of water in a large coffee mug sprayed with Pam and microwave it for 90 seconds. Bonus points if you throw in a pretty mug for them to use, too!

5. Pamper The Parents.

Oh, sure, everyone knows how tough it is for couples to take time off from their roles as parents and reconnect with each other. And, of course, we all make noises about how important that is, but unless the couple has family living nearby or a reliable babysitter (do those even exist?), it’s just a lot of empty talk. So imagine how much the pair would appreciate if you gave them a $25 gift voucher (that’ll only set you back $10) from Restaurant.com to a nearby dining spot AND you insisted on watching their kids while they went out for a nice dinner together… alone. As a mom who hasn’t had a Date Night with my husband in almost two years now, trust me, a gift like that is worth its weight in diamonds. Really!

 
 

November 13th, 2011

Want to try something fresh? (Fruit and veg delivery!)

by Venomous Kate

If you live in Colorado, New Jersey, Michigan, Chicago, or the greater Kansas City area and would like to try home-delivery of non-GMO, organic fruits and vegetables, I’ve got a 50%-off promo code for your first delivery.* Leave a comment below using a valid email address. I only have five (5) promo codes to share per month, so don’t delay!

*No, I don’t get diddly squat out of this.

February 3rd, 2011

Feds Pick On “The Plain People” Over Raw Milk

by Venomous Kate

Home cheese making in the cheese cave Since I began trying my hand at home cheese making last month, I’ve found reason to scream at least once a week about the Fed’s ban on raw milk.

For one thing, using store-bought (pasteurized) milk means I have to add calcium chloride to reintroduce calcium to the milk (yes, really) so it can form the curd which is the basis of any cheese. Now, getting away from chemical additives in my food was one of the things that led me to home cheesemaking (along baking bread from scratch, making my own pasta, etc.) So it ticks me off that the government is basically forcing me to either buy food with additives, or use additives if I want to make my own food. That’s seriously overstepping some boundaries, if you ask me.

For another thing, the raw milk ban means our already cash-strapped government is spending big bucks prosecuting something rather minor. How minor? According to Boing-Boing, despite a thriving underground and black market among foodies (and just about anyone who owns their own cattle), raw milk is responsible for two — yes, just two — deaths in the last ten years.

Oh, and did I mention that these statistics are of such great concern to the Feds that they’re raiding Amish and Mennonite farms, guns drawn and voices screaming, like they were meth labs?

Honestly, it’s enough to make me give serious thought to packing up the Venomous Household and moving where we can enjoy unpasteurized cheese in peace and quiet. I hear France is lovely, now that hardly anyone still smokes. And at least I could get some decent Brie there.

Speaking of Brie… mine didn’t turn out. I’d love to blame the pasteurized milk for that, but the blame goes to my cat. Next time, I’ll remember not to leave the cheese press unattended while I shower. As they’d say in France (where they get to eat unpasteurized cheese to their hearts’ content), C’est la Brie.

Or something like that.

January 22nd, 2011

Just Another Day At The Venomous Homestead

by Venomous Kate


It’s Saturday, and as usual that means I’m tinkering in the kitchen. This Saturday, thanks to some weather-related damage, tinkering in my kitchen requires stepping around a contractor hired to stop the 14-foot tall mirrors over my fireplace from peeling away from the wall and crashing down on us. (Let me just tell you, it was terrifying to see those mirrors start shaking the other day!)

Today’s cooking started with making baked donuts for breakfast, because VH and the Big-Eyed Boy are crazy about them. The contractor liked them, too. Up next: homemade cheddar crackers followed by whole wheat sandwich bread for next week’s boxed lunches, then whole wheat fettuccine (using my new CucinaPro 150 Imperia Pasta Machine which I’m absolutely crazy about!) for tonight’s chicken alfredo, and some whole wheat bagels to go with the cream cheese I made yesterday. Oh, and while all that’s going I’m also making brie.

That’s right: I’m making brie.

See, for Christmas, VH bought me a book on making homemade cheese. It goes nicely with my latest foray into making homemade sausage and, well, what else does one serve on top of homemade crackers, right?

Now, the contractor, having polished off four of my baked donuts followed by a handful of freshly made crackers, was just floored when he learned I’m making cheese from scratch. A divorced guy who shares a house with two other divorced guys, his kitchen skills apparently run the gamut from pressing buttons on a microwave to pressing buttons on a phone. From what he said of his ex-wife, she was similarly skilled in the kitchen. That someone makes cheese (or donuts or crackers or bagels or bread) from scratch was, to him, nothing short of mind-boggling.

All of which is to say that the mirrors above my fireplace are now stable, the cracks they’d made in my wall have been beautifully repaired, the bill was less than half of what we expected AND he’s offered to come back next week to help VH pull up the cracked porcelain tile floor in the kitchen that I’ve been complaining about for the past, oh, 5 years. Of course, he’ll be coming Saturday afternoon because, as he put it, there’s no sense interrupting next week’s cooking session.

Somehow, I suspect he’s going to show up with an empty Tupperware container or two.

May 21st, 2010

Bless The Beasts And The Grillin’

by Venomous Kate

In the past two weeks we’ve gone only three days without rain. Naturally, they weren’t even in a row! To make matters worse, this soaking followed one of the most miserable winters I’ve ever lived through — and considering that winter is my favorite season, that’s saying a lot. I’m tired of being cooped up indoors, though. Tired of gray days. Tired of the floors, the walls and the air feeling damp unless I’m running the heater full blast. (I’m tired of running the heater, too.) Also, I’m sick of cooking dinner each night.

Back in October, when autumn’s lower temps made hot foods appealing again, I rather looked forward to spending all day with a pot of chili or soup simmering on the stove, to bread dough rising on the counter and the house full of smells no scented candle could hope to imitate. That was seven months ago, though. Seven months of soups, stews and casseroles, of trying to find yet another way to cook skinless chicken breasts, of supervising my son’s homework at the kitchen table while I chopped, diced, sliced and minced. I am tired of cooking dinner, I tell you!

So now that the weather forecast finally — finally! — calls for sunny skies, warm temps and an opportunity to dry out (the house, not me), I’m on strike. If God intended women to cook dinner every single night of the year he wouldn’t have invented the Weber grill. But, since He did, it’s time for my husband to get in touch with his inner primitive man (as if he’s ever lost touch with that, right?) and get grilling.

Yes, yes, I’ve read the stories about grilled foods and carcinogens, too. I’m shocked and saddened, I tell you. Just think of all the billions of people eating flame-cooked meat over the past 790,000 years or so, dying of BBQ-induced cancer and foolishly attributing their demise to plagues, wars and rival tribes’ fondness for bashing clubs against skulls!

Anyway, as a plump, martini-swilling middle-aged woman who’s still had no luck giving up cigarettes, who am I to turn down a perfectly medium rare steak for health reasons? Besides, didn’t Benjamin Franklin — who lived to be 84 despite eating flame-broiled meat — say that “beef is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy”? What? He said ‘beer’? Are you sure???

As luck would have it, the steak marinade I wanted to share with you — and the entire reason I wrote this post — combines both. Consider it proof that VK loves you and wants you to be happy. I know I am, now that I don’t have to cook dinner every night since it’s grilling weather at long last!

Steak Marinade

Ingredients

  • 4 steaks
  • 1/4 c. beer
  • 2 tbsp. teriyaki sauce
  • 2 heaping tbps. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 garlic cloved, pureed/minced

Directions:

  1. Put everything but the steaks in a large Ziplock bag.
  2. Drink whatever’s left in your bottle or can of beer.
  3. Mix the stuff together.
  4. Add steaks and, removing as much air as possible, seal the bag. Now, shake it up.
  5. Place steaks in fridge to marinate at least 1 hour but no more than 8 hours. Turn several times to ensure marinade soaks into both sides.
  6. When ready to grill, remove steaks from marinade and pour the juice into a pan.
  7. Bring liquid marinade to boil then remove from heat.
  8. While grilling, baste steaks with the liquid marinade at least once per side.
  9. Discard remaining marinade. Eat steak. Drink more beer… or, in my case, a martini.
February 3rd, 2010

I Want A New Drink

by Venomous Kate

I need to find a new signature drink. Martinis are so passé, not to mention I can’t make a decent one and therefore have to rely on the skills of others. Suggestions?

Some caveats:
(1) No “shot” type drinks. Only sippers!

(2) I want something simple, as in: open bottle, pour, enjoy.

(3) If it costs more than $25, VH will “accidentally” forget to buy it. Even if it’s a sure-fire Get Lucky drink.

(4) Don’t suggest red wine (it gives me headaches) or tequila (I give other people headaches).

(5) Nothing too sweet. Yep, I’m STILL dieting. (Down 27 pounds now, thanks for asking.)

That said – heh – what do you suggest?

March 15th, 2009

Happy Eat An Animal For PETA Day!

by Venomous Kate

In honor of the 7th annual Eat an Animal for PETA Day, we at the Venomous Household will be having roasted loin of veal with foie gras and a cherry-grape red sauce.

Why, yes, I did have to plan ahead by ordering the roast from the butcher and the foie gras shipped overnight from Amazon.

But, hey, it’s worth it to get not one but two — count ‘em, TWO — burrs under PETA’s saddle.

November 3rd, 2008

At Least I Won’t Serve Frozen Turkey

by Venomous Kate

Saturday night we had some neighbors over for dinner and, considering the time of year, it’s not surprising that the subject of deep-fried turkey came up. Now, despite my Southern roots, I have to admit that I’ve never tasted such a thing. Oh, I’ve heard of them. These days, everyone seems interested in coming up with ways to do something strange on Thanksgiving, whether it’s deep-frying the thing or serving turducken. I’m not a fan of change, though: there’s something almost sacred about a perfectly roasted Norman Rockwell-kind of turkey and I’m reluctant to try anything else come Thanksgiving.

Still, I was curious but wouldn’t know where to begin (aside from not doing it in the garage). Fortunately, the folks at Yumm.com have provided an excellent primer on how to deep-fry a turkey.

If you haven’t visited Yumm before, it’s worth the click. Billing themselves as the “yummy corner of the web”, they focus on fast, easy and (sometimes) healthy recipes. Plus, they provide video how-to guides on everything from making Adam Sandler’s memorable sandwich in Spanglish to carving that deep-fried turkey once it’s ready.

Me? I’m going to stick with the old tried and true sugar-brined and roasting method. It’s worked for me for 11+ years, ever since VH and I celebrated our first Thanksgiving together. But I am thinking about giving deep-fried Twinkies a shot.

Mmm… Twinkies.