Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 - year of the balls and so much more

Wow, what a year it's been. The winter darkness and cold had started to creep into my psyche lately, making me feel like I'm in a funk. Looking back at the year and even at the recent holiday, however, has reminded me how lucky I am, and what a great life I have! A supportive family, fantastic friends, the Best Boyfriend Ever™, great food, interesting adventures... SO LUCKY. See? It's good to do these kinds of lists every year... I believe Oprah calls it a gratitude journal. 
I am grateful for BALLS. 2012 was the Year of the Balls. So many balls, so little time! Food in spherical form is good for many reasons: easy to eat, fun to eat, unlimited possibilities, versatile (can be appetizers or part of a main dish or even dessert!) Seriously, balls are a well-rounded food category. :p Here are all the balls I made and/or ate this year. 

Year of the Balls

Non-Ball Adventure Posts
Speaking of well-rounded, this blog has been about more than just balls this year. I have had some talented guest posters, made some sexy-ass food and had some fun and informative adventures this year. Some of the highlights:

Sexy Food Posts
The following dishes will get you laid:

Welp, that was a glimpse of what was... bring it, 2013! I am ready for you! Happy New Year, everybody! Thanks for reading.

Previous New Years Posts:

(this is not to say other years weren't good... I just didn't write recaps...)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

holiday gift balls

Balls make great gifts, duh! While the possibilities are endless, I went with these two ball recipes, Bourbon Balls with Eggnog Coating from Farmgirl Gourmet and Peanut Butter Pretzel Candies from Martha Stewart (Martha never lets me down!)

Since these aren't my recipes, I will send you to the websites where I got them instead of posting the recipes here (though I will probably add them here in a few weeks, because I've been burned before... sometimes links disappear and I lose the recipe forever! Saddest story ever told.)

Farmgirl Gourmet's Bourbon Balls
She uses vanilla wafers, but I subbed that for Biscoff cookies, because, ALWAYS SUB BISCOFF COOKIES WHEREVER YOU CAN. Love the heck outta those mofos. This required adding a few drops more of Bourbon. Darn the luck. These are fantastic... bourbony to be sure, they will warm your belly and soul. I found the eggnog melting chips at Micheal's craft store. If you can't find them, I bet white chocolate chips would be almost as good, or if you like butterscotch (I do not), try those.

Martha Stewart's Peanut Butter Pretzel Candy
Followed the recipe exactly. SO GOOD.

Previous Year of the Balls posts:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Making Piece with Beth Howard at the American Gothic House

A couple months ago I wrote about Ham Balls. I wrote about Ham Balls because they were in a book about pie, Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie, which I also wrote about in said post. I'm pretty sure I mentioned my excitement about the fact that a group of us who read the book were going to take a pie class from the author, Beth Howard. To add to our fervor, Beth lives, and teaches, in the America Gothic house! We're talking THE house that's in the background of Grant Wood's super-famous iconic painting. Whoa.

We made a day trip out to Eldon, Iowa, an 8-hour round trip from St. Louis. It was more than worth it for the experience of meeting Beth, spending time in a famous house, bonding with friends, and learning to make fantastic apple pie. Kelly detailed how we made the pies on her blog Sounding My Barbaric Gulp, here. Kimberly also wrote about the pie and the trip on her blog Rhubarb and Honey, here

Seeing as both these ladies did a thorough job detailing the class, I will just highlight some of the lessons I learned from Beth, and from the experience in general. With the help of photos from the immensely talented Corey Woodruff, who came along as our personal chauffeur and photographer for the trip. (2 posts in a row with photography by this dude makes my blog look real good... no pressure for my future posts. jeeeez. ;))

Lesson 1: Butter is delicious (but save it for the pie crust.) 

Lesson 2: Your hands are the best tool for mixing the fats into the flour. Butterfingers. Literally! (but don't over mix! Almond-size lumps, not pea-size!)

Lesson 3: FLOUR MITTENS to make your best pie-making tools non-stick.

Lesson 4: Pie is not perfection. Have fun!

Lesson 5: Make dough discs, not war.

Lesson 6: Your dough should be super soft. You might to make out with it, but don't... you'll overwork it (if you know how to make out properly, that is.)


Lesson 8: Get a dough scraper. One of only 3 tools you actually need to make apple pie (others are rolling pin and paring knife.)

Lesson 9: Trim your crust, but leave about an inch to roll under and crimp with (scissors work best, but if you are going for minimal tools, a sharp pairing knife will do.)

Lesson 10: Roll with it! (but not too vigorously)

Lesson 11: Flour is sneaky.

Lesson 12: paring knives have a-peel.

Lesson 13: Pay attention to your teacher, not your instagram photos. ( I got yelled at right after taking this because we were at an important part of the pie-making lesson. Sorry, Beth! It's a nifty photo though...)

Lesson 14: Granny Smith apples. Always.

Lesson 15: If you are too serious about adding sugar to your pie, you might miss your teacher throwing the goat.

Lesson 16: If you like it then you shoulda put a butter on it.

Lesson 17: Be proud! you made pie, and pie makes the world a better place!

Lesson 18: When an author signs a book to you, it makes you automatic friends for life. Right?!? 

Lesson 19: When given the chance, get your photo taken as the American Gothic couple. (There is a visitor center with costumes and instructions for where to stand to replicate the painting.)

Lesson 20: Make sure you have proper flatware. Iowa has the best pie forks!

Lesson 21: When trying to pose for a "serious" photo, use that trick you learned in Pilates class for balancing: you find a focal point and stare at it.

Lesson 22: Don't point a camera at Iron Stef and tell her not to laugh. It will not be pretty. This is scientifically proven.

Lesson 23: "Fuck the Recipe!" was the battle-cry, started by Beth, of the day. And look how pretty my pie turned out (can you see my balls embellishment?) Simply: pie should not be stressful or fussy. (you can find Beth's pie "recipe" here.)

Lesson 24: If they make light switch covers with your house on them, you best use them in your house, 'cuz that doesn't happen for everybody.

Lesson 25: Label your pie box. (Beth labeled mine for me. My reputation preceded me.)

Seriously, this was an awesome day, and I now totally have an appreciation for pie. More so, I have an appreciation for all the things that pie can teach. Lessons about not being too fussy, sharing, thinking about your ingredients and tools, enjoying the time you have with friends and family... the world is a better place with people like Beth and her lessons. And her sexy pies, of course! 

Friday, December 07, 2012

Iron Stef Approved Gifts: Non-Cookbook Food Books

Last week I posted a gift guide list of my favorite cookbooks. But not all books about food are cookbooks. I am so food obsessed that most everything I read is food-related. Here are some of my favorite books (novels and non-fiction both) that are filled with scrumptious prose and knowledge.

Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie
I wrote about this book and it's ham balls here a few months ago. I recently went to meet the author, Beth Howard, and learn to make apple pie from her! At The American Gothic House!! I have a post in the works, but please check out my friend Kelly's post about the experience.

Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More (Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Blogs,)

The author Diane Jacob was a guest speaker/teacher at this year's Food Media Forum! This is an essential book for anyone interested in any kind of food writing.

The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection

Ya'll know I love me some Ruhlman.

Kitchen Confidential Updated Edition: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (P.S.)
What can I say. I am Tony OBSESSED. I have even read his novels. Check out all his books, including:
A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines

The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook (P.S.)

The Art of Eating
I'm in the middle of this tome right now. MFK Fisher is one of the best food writers of all time. This has 5 of her books in one. I love her wit and style. The range of subjects is really interesting, too!

Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany
About working in Mario Batali's kitchen and other culinary jobs. A really good and fun read.

By Julia Child, Alex Prud'Homme: My Life in France

How to Cook a Tart
A fun novel to get your trashy novel fix in... but well-written!

Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America
I love memoirs, I love bento boxes.

A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition
Classic. If Julia's life story doesn't make you want to move to Paris, Hemmingway will.

The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine
This book about hunting, foraging and cooking is ahead of it's time! This stuff has gotten trendy and keeps on getting more popular.

The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice (P.S.)
This book will make you a sushi expert. It is packed with info, yet easy to read. I need to read it again, because I know I forgot some of the awesome knowledge Trevor Corson dropped. I wrote about him and the book in this post. Also check out his Lobster book. Superb!
The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean (P.S.)

Crescent: A Novel
Another Novel, about love, Middle Eastern food and... well what else is there.

Previous Gift Guides:
St. Louis Local Gifts