There was a time when I balanced my checkbook, when I demanded paper statements, when I held 3 or 4 magazine subscriptions.

I love the feel of paper and the idea of paper. I love handwriting and stationary and print. I love reading a newspaper and getting ink on my hands.

But I think I’m over it.

I’m tiring of the stacks of mail and unread magazines on the dining room table. I’m seeking a less complicated space and a simple home that is free of the mess that paper compels me to make. About a year ago I went paperless on almost all of my bills, and many of them are enrolled in automatic deductions (something I vowed I would never do). Then, tonight, I thought I’d try and sort through the stack of magazines.


It’s not so bad – I mean it’s only about a year’s worth. Every once in awhile I go through a purging. Carefully sifting through Food & Wine, I rip out pages of recipes I’d like to try, and they go into a slightly smaller pile tucked between cookbooks I seldom use. I put up a good front of domesticity and culinary prowess, but I’m also a workaholic who admittedly fed herself a dinner of Ritz crackers with peanut butter and beer tonight.

How’s that for full disclosure?

p.s. Want the old copies of Food & Wine? First in Chicago to say “dibs” wins.

Late Night Catechism… and by catechism, I mean pork roast

Old Faithful strikes again….

Working in the arts often means keeping strange hours.  Lately I’ve been getting home from work between 10:30 and 11:30pm.  The typical nightly ritual of nine-to-fivers who come home, eat dinner, watch some TV, and go to bed is pretty much out the window in my house since by the time I get home I’ve already eaten dinner.  If I’m lucky, I have enough energy to drink a beer and fall asleep on the couch to the first 15 minutes of Project Runway on the DVR… Anyway, my co-worker Tony was gloating on Friday about his ingenuity in reshaping the theater schedule to include more home-cooked meals.

Enter, once again, the magical slow cooker

I’m all about multi-tasking, and what better way to multi-task than to cook dinner for tomorrow while you’re sleeping!  So, instead of the aforementioned 15 minutes of Project Runway I threw the typical meat-veg-liquid combination in the slow cooker and this morning I’m greeted by this:

Friday nights just got a little crazier in my house.  I might be doing this often…

Overnight Pork Roast


  • Pork Shoulder (with or without bone)
  • Vegetable of choice (something sturdy like carrots, potatoes, onions, and celery), cut into big chunks
  • Liquid (water or broth)
  • S & P, or, a seasoning mix like Adobo

Loosely place the veggies on the bottom of your slow cooker and rest the meat on top. Rub salt and pepper or spice mix onto the pork shoulder and cover with liquid.  Set cooker on low to cook overnight and grab a beer.

Football food: Pulled Pork and Coleslaw

In my household, football is a big deal.  My coping mechanism has been to come up with meal ideas that celebrate what I consider to be the best part of football season: food, beer, and the occasional social gathering.  I first got the idea of pulled pork in the slow cooker from our friend Mandy Love in Gillette, WY (who’s kids made it for dinner, I might add (that’s how easy this is)).  I paired the sandwiches with a delicious slaw of my own invention.  I’ve tried out this cabbage slaw on three people who “don’t like coleslaw”… and it’s worked every time.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches


  • Pork Roast (approximately 3 lb.)
  • 1-2 C. Chicken Stock (homemade, of course)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Mandy’s Special Sauce*
    • Ketchup
    • Worcestershire Sauce
    • Apple Cider Vinegar
    • Onion powder
    • Ketchup
    • Honey
  • *OR* pre-made BBQ sauce

Put the sliced onion on the bottom of your slow cooker.  Rest the pork roast on top and pour chicken stock over it.  Season with salt and pepper and cook on low for 5-7 hours.

Remove the roast from the cooker and dispose of the liquid and onions.  When cool enough to handle, tear into shreds and return to the cooker.  Add sauce and heat on low or warm setting until ready to serve. Mandy didn’t give me specific quantities for her ingredients, and I have to imagine that this sauce can be made a thousand different ways and still be good.  So play around with it until you find the combination you like.

Not-from-the-Grocery-Store Cabbage Slaw


  • 1 small head cabbage (red, green, napa, no matter), cut in small strips (chiffonade)
  • Big glob of mayo, light mayo, or Miracle Whip
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Add-ins: my favorites include shredded carrots, diced tart apple (like granny smith or macintosh), walnuts, dried cranberries, and grapes (sliced in half).  Pickled beets are also a great treat in this recipe.

Fluff cabbage in a bowl and mix in mayo and salt and pepper.  The amounts of these ingredients is kind of up to you, but I suggest not going too heavy on the mayo… that’s what makes it taste like it’s from the grocery store.  Just enough that the cabbage isn’t dry.  Fold in the other ingredients and enjoy, or chill and eat later once the flavors have combined.  Eat as a side, or mix in some protein like leftover chicken or pork and take it for lunch in place of a sandwich!

Piece de resistance: Dragon’s Milk Stout brownies

We tried this coveted beer a few days after Christmas, and, to be honest, Dragon’s Milk was just too much for me.  Not wanting to waste a reputed and expensive bottle of beer, I found this Milk Stout brownie recipe and adapted it to the ingredients in the cupboard and my own taste.

Not for the feint of heart, or the calorie counter, this decadent, sinful brownie was the perfect end to our New Year’s Eve beer tasting fiasco, paired beautifully with both Stone Imperial Russian Stout AND New Glarus Raspberry Tart.  It also marks the end of this delicious week on the blog.  Enjoy!

Dragon’s Milk Stout Brownies


1 C. All-purpose flour

3/4 C. unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 tsp. salt

6 TB softened butter

8 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate

4 eggs

1 C. granulated sugar

10 oz. flat Dragon’s Milk or other Milk Stout beer

1 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 375 deg-F.  Grease a 9 x 13 inch cake pan and set aside

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, and salt. Set aside

Melt butter and baking chocolate together in a double boiler over low heat, stirring constantly until completely melted.  You can use a regular pot, just monitor very carefully to make sure the mixture doesn’t burn. to the bottom of the pan.  Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, combine eggs and sugar in stand mixer bowl (or use electric hand mixer) and beat on med-high setting until fluffy.  Add melted chocolate mixture* to eggs and continue to beat until combined.

Slowly integrate flour mixture, and then add milk stout beer.  Batter will appear to be runny; that’s ok.  Pour semi-sweet chips into batter bowl and then pour entire batter into the baking pan*.

Bake 25-30 until toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean.  Cool completely before slicing and serving.  If desired, dust with confectioner’s sugar to make them extra pretty.

* DON’T LICK THE SPOON  Remember, the stuff in the pot on the stove is UNsweetened chocolate with pure butter; it does not taste good.  The complete brownie batter does taste good, but has 4 raw eggs in it.  Just wait until they come out of the oven.


Peanut Brittle – sans HFCS

Remind me to try this again when I invest in a candy thermometer…

Considering my milk pitcher temperature-reader-thing only goes up to 220-deg, this was a lot of guess work and turned out fairly well.  Candy is not the easiest thing to make, but you can’t taste an amber ale without peanut brittle (as we’ve come to find out).  The thing is, the stuff from the grocery store is really expensive and has gross ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated peanut oil.  This was the recipe I used, and, apart from being a little sticky it turned out pretty darn good.

Homemade Peanut Brittle


1 C. sugar

1/2 C. light corn syrup

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 C. water

1 C. peanuts

2 TB butter, softened

1 tsp. baking soda


Grease a cookie sheet and set aside.

Over medium heat, bring sugar, corn syrup, salt and water to a boil.  Stir until sugar is dissolved and add peanuts.  Stir frequently and continue to heat until candy thermometer reads 300 deg-F.

Remove from heat and immediately stir in butter and baking soda.  Then, immediately pour out onto greased baking sheet.

Pull the mixture with two forks into a rectangle and let cool completely.  Then snap into pieces, and call a dentist.

Ringing in 2012

Your RSS feeds will likely be clogged with a bunch of bloggers’ resolutions today.  Rather than bore you with the typical “lose weight, blog more” goals that I share with all my fellow Americans, I shall ease your hangover with a beautiful photo diary of what my New Year’s Eve looked like.

The theme:

A classy beer tasting party.

The setting:

The fabulously retro party basement that lies beneath my humble abode

The menu:

Classic hors d’oeuvres including a fruit and cheese tray, deviled eggs, creamy Mexican dip, black forest ham crostini, homemade peanut brittle, and Dragon’s Milk Stout brownies (recipes to follow for the rest of the week)

Paired with:

Stone Imperial Russian Stout, Unibroue Maudite (amber Belgian-style ale), New Glarus Moon Man, Stone IPA, and a special New Glarus Raspberry Tart for the midnight toast.

Aside: I’ve had many failures in the kitchen, but this shin-dig (I flatter myself) was a delicious success.

Contributing Crafty Lady Nancy took these photos, and selected and sourced the beer pairings….

Black Forest Ham Crostini
Creamy Mexican Dip
Deviled Eggs
Blue cheese, Camembert, Asian pear and a clementine blossom
Milk Stout Brownies

Puerto Escondido, Mexico: Beach, beer, bugs, best meal

Disclaimer: This trip occurred exactly one year ago.  Since Travelpod does not allow you to export blogs, I shall be bringing them to you in real time, just a year later.

August 11, 2010

view from our Villa

Puerto Escondido is a strange combination of hidden surfer meca, tacky resort town and third world country. As an example, on the dirt road to our luxurious villa is an OXXO selling Diet Coke and t-shirts saying “Puerto Escondido: play all day, party all night,” Hostel Shalom (a seedy camp sight where the likelihood for group sex exceeds the likelihood for flush toilets, and an abandoned VW Beetle out to pasture with three wild horses.

In short, Puerto Escondido is awesome.

Our hotel is situated on a bluff overlooking Carrizalillo Beach and our room is arguably the best view in all of Puerto… the internet connection that we’ve so enjoyed at other spots along our trip has been very non-existent until yesterday, so on my last night in Puerto Escondido I can reflect on our experience here with a little use of alliteration:


There are many beaches here in Puerto, the most famous of which is Playa Zicatella (the home of the reputed “Mexican Pipeline”). We did spend some time on Zicatella watching surfers, but our favorite beach here by far was Playa Marinero. It’s a short walk to the right of the surfer mecca and on open waters (instead of a bay). So there are some nice waves to play in but it’s not as dangerous for swimming as Zicatella. We spent three days on Playa Marinero and now proudly boast bronzed bodies and sand in places we never knew we had.


What’s a day at the beach without a bucket of beer? Corona con limon, por favor. We went to the beach every day except one…. enough said.


It’s the rainy season, people. While this did not cramp our style in terms of beach-going or getting rained out, as a result of the constant humid wetness in the area there are a lot of bugs. Mosquitoes, flies, bees (lots and lots of bees), and bugs I’ve never even seen before. Geckos everywhere- which are neither bugs nor annoying, but deserve a nod. After investing in a handy bottle of “Fly Off”, the only bug spray in all of Oaxaca, our tans are slightly marred by the bug bites all over our legs, arms and shoulders. Maybe this is not interesting, but the mosquitoes in Puerto Escondido bite more than the ones in Chicago, but are far less annoying. The bees sting less, but are far more annoying. Food for thought should you decide to visit during the rainy season…


By FAR the best meal on this trip (and quite possibly of my entire life) was at the Hotel Santa Fe on Playa Zicatella. Refined but unpretentious, our meal was elegantly presented, with amazing service, and the food was damn good. Be sure to have the stuffed avocado for an appetizer. I had the chilies rellenos. Nancy had coconut shrimp. The sun set over the beach. Save room for strawberry pie and coffee. There’s not much else I can say about this except that if you are ever in Puerto Escondido, you MUST eat here.

That leads me to my final B-word this evening:


Total Fitness will be seeing a lot of me upon my return to the US-of-A.-