Foodie Resolutions

It’s that time of year, folks, when we look back at the year that was (and wonder where it went so quickly!) and contemplate the year ahead (and what we’re going to do differently). As much as I dislike the word “resolutions”–it sounds so official and ominous and unyielding–it is what most people call their intentions (my preferred word, leaves some necessary wiggle room) that they set. Do you have any that are food-related?

No, no, no, I don’t mean the usual big-d-Diet ones. I mean little-d-diet ones, the everyday practices that we have, the getting out of ruts or starting new habits. Whether we live to eat or eat to live, food is a necessary part of our daily lives so it makes perfect sense that there might be some food-related intentions to be made for the start of the next decade.

If you want to eat healthier in the new year, instead of declaring an all-out war on carbs or fats, why not try a more subtle shift like these:

  • I intend to eat more vegetables. If you’re more of a meat and potatoes type, try mashed cauliflower instead of the usual spuds, bake sticks of turnips or rutabagas drizzled with olive oil instead of fries, or even creamed spinach on the side of your grilled or broiled steak or chicken.
  • I intend to watch my portion sizes. Pick up a deck of playing cards and place it next to your plate at home–that’s the size your portion of meat should be. Does it look very small on your usual plates, making you feel deprived? Buy smaller plates! It’s true, we eat with our eyes just as much as our mouths, and seeing a full plate of practically any size will increase your satisfaction with a meal.

Perhaps you already eat healthily but your usual meals have gotten a bit predictable. Maybe you want to try new things but don’t know where to start. All it takes is an idea:

  • I intend to try a new recipe every week. Too drastic a shift in our eating habits can be upsetting on several fronts. Immersion works well for languages, but I think a more gradual introduction to new ingredients, cuisines or cooking techniques is a kinder way to expand ones horizons; knowing that the familiar is waiting around the corner allows us to experiment more easily.
  • I intend to buy a new spice and learn how to use it. One of the most fascinating things in food, I think, is how different the same basic ingredients taste when a new spice or seasoning is employed. I recently picked up Ian Hemphill’s Spice and Herb Bible and am amazed at how thorough a reference it is, including helpful tips about which spices easily combine, what quantities to use with what sort of foods and what each is best suited for.

Or, maybe, it’s the food budget that needs an overhaul:

  • I intend to eat out less. While I’m all for supporting local restaurants whenever possible, let’s face it: eating out costs more than cooking at home and, when you are out more nights than in, your food budget can be way out of proportion. This means fast food and take-out, too. Not only will you be doing your wallet a favor, but your waistline may show the difference as well. And when you do go out, pay attention to those portions and bring half of it (or more!) home for future meals.
  • I intend to make shopping lists each time I go to the grocery store. There’s just something about having a list in-hand (yes, you have to bring it with you, not leave it on the counter) that curbs the impulse to toss stuff willy-nilly into the cart. It may mean a bit of pre-planning about your menu for the week, but I’m always astonished at how much I spend when I go shopping sans-list compared to with one, not to mention what I invariably forget and have to go back for during the week!
  • I intend to shop locally. While not always the case, many times a farmer’s market can yield better prices on fresh produce simply because the farms are down the road and require less transportation costs instead of several states (or countries!) away. Similar deals can be found with local meat markets that do their own butchering and therefore fewer middle-man costs. Even if the prices are the same, you may feel better for supporting the local economy in a more direct way than shopping for everything at the larger chains or big-box stores.

Whatever you intend for 2010, keep in mind that it should be to add something to your life. By keeping a positive spin on things and concentrating on meeting small milestones on a frequent basis you’ll have a higher sucess rate and be able to look back on the coming year with a smile.

Since Cocktails Don’t Travel Well…

The Internet and all it’s various uses mean that those on your gifting list may not always been in the same town (or even country) as you. While it’d be great to share a holiday cocktail with friends far and near, sometimes you might have to settle for the next best thing: cocktail-related gifts. And since I’m also an avid reader, books on the subject are a favorite of mine. Here’s a short list of some I’ve plucked from my own shelf that might just strike a cord with someone on your list.

Swell Holiday by Cynthia Rowley and Ilene Rosenzweig

Remember when Target started to carry all their chic home furnishings with a nod to the 50s and 60s (the good parts)? Cynthia and Ilene are the women behind the Swell line of books and products and their Swell Holiday book is a nice slim volume with all sorts of neat tips, ideas and recipes (both food and drinks!) for entertaining during the winter holidays. Some gems include using Rice Krispies treats and marshmallow fluff to built your “gingerbread” dream home, substitute glow sticks for electric lights in the tree and coming up with just about anything other than a basket for a themed basket-like gift!

Good Spirits: Recipes, Revelations, Refreshments, and Romance, Shaken and Served with a Twist by A.J. Rathbun

Since purchasing this book, it’s become the first one I reach for if I start thinking about a drink (or ingredient) and wondering if something like it already exists. Not only does it have plenty of recipes for the home bartender or cocktail enthusiast, almost all of them come with some sort of witty introduction that takes this book from a mere collection of recipes to something you want to curl up on the couch with and read like a novel.

Absolut: Biography of a Bottle by Carl Hamilton

I think it’s safe to say that practically everyone knows the Absolut bottle. In an industry where packaging is generally over the top and exploited for the best possible shelf-recognition, this vodka managed to take something fairly simple and make it into their symbol. More than just the story of the ad campaign, this is the story of a brand building itself and the times it did it in. An interesting read from several standpoints, I picked this up from a bargain bin, I think, and was so glad I did because the story is just amazing.

Merry Kitschmas: The Ultimate Holiday Handbook by Michael D Conway

Traditional Christmas decorations and celebrations got you down? Wanna spice up your holiday or convince those pesky in-laws they don’t ever want to visit again? Following the advice in Merry Kitchsmas can do all that and more besides. My friend gave this to me as more of a joke one year than anything–I’m fairly traditional, after all–but I adore it’s tacky abandon from afar and have considered using some of their techniques in a more subdued fashion more than once.  Featuring all sorts of odd-ball decorations and recipes, many of the cocktails even get the glue gun turned in their direction for the ultimate in deco-gone-wild effects. Even if you never make anything from it, it’s great to have around just for the pictures!

The Official Guide to Christmas in the South: Or, If You Can’t Fry It, Spraypaint It Gold by David C Barnette

While not *technically* a cocktail book, it’s so much fun that I thought I should include it, just to round out the list. Being from the South, I can safely laugh at, confirm and commiserate with some of the anecdotal stories in this book. Featuring great spot illustrations and a definite sense of whimsy (I absolutely love the idea of the “regifting food chain” chart on page 85), it’s a perfect gift for the displaced Southerner on your list.

And, since this IS a cocktial blog, here’s one of the cocktails from Merry Kitchsmas:

The Sugarplum Fairy

2 oz Citrus vodka
1/2 oz Cointreau
1 oz Lemon juice
splash Cranberry juice
Ice
2 tsp sugar (plus extra for rimming the glass)

Blend all ingredients into a “pink icy slush.”

Rim a collins glass with sugar (colored sugar is even better). Pour in the contents of the blender and garnish as decoratively as possible.

The authors suggest hot glueing a ballerina cake pick to a pink swizzle stick and then inserting it into a straw (for stability, I suppose) then wrapping a piece of pink tulle around the bottom third of the glass and securing it with a rubber band to give the glass it’s own tutu.

Just in Time for Holiday Shopping!

Have you noticed the comics shop button over there on the sidebar? Have you clicked it? No? Well, whether you’ve got just a few more folks on your gift list unaccounted for or you haven’t even started, head on over to my eCrater store at

http://randomactscomics.ecrater.com

and see if there’s just the thing you were looking for right at your fingertips! In addition to the Year 1 book and some book-exclusive original art, there’s also handmade jewelry (all one of a kind) and my mini martini glasses. So go take a look!

Speaking of original art, almost all of the strips from Year 1 (May 1, 2007, to April 29, 2008) are available for sale. Since it’s going to take a bit of time to add buy buttons to each of those first 90-plus pieces of art, if there’s something you’re interested in, just email the date to randomactscomics@gmail.com and I’ll get right back to you with price and availability (average is $20–a steal!).

And, finally, if anyone is wondering what *I* want for Christmas, well, I’d love a fully-funded status for What to Feed Your Raiding Party. If you’ve read about the project and thought ‘hey, that sounds cool’ or even ‘I’d buy it’ please consider making a pledge this month towards it becoming a reality. There are plently of pledge levels and each comes with it’s own reward. The most popular seems to be the $30 level which includes getting a recipe named after you (or one of your gaming characters or even after a friend or relative who’d find it really cool to be in a cookbook!) but it’s certainly not the only way to go; $7 gets you a pdf copy of the book, $12 a physical copy and $22 an Artist’s edition–it’s like a discounted pre-order on steroids (but without all those negative side effects).

Weekenders: DeFuniak Springs 8

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For some strange reason they seem to roll up the sidewalks around noon on Saturdays–I guess there’s not a whole lot of tourist traffic? Walking into the Little Big Store was just, wow, floor to ceiling STUFF! And it was really an old-fashioned general store feel with small farm implements, foodstuffs, kitchen stuff, toys, old fashioned candy a small drugstore section, toys… just so much stuff. We did a complete walk through of the jam-packed space before I started grabbing things I HAD to have. We’re still got some of the saltwater taffy and candy sticks!

Weekenders: DeFuniak Springs 5

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Attempts at justification aside, I didn’t buy the basket. But I still want one. And before I paint an unfair picture of the Winery, it’s a nice little store with a tasting bar as well as the retail area and their Blackberry wine is to DIE for. Seriously.

Cruise Holiday 8

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This trip so easily could have been called ‘Shopping My Way Through Central America.’ Seriously, the only way I was under the customs allowances is because Todd took responsibility for some of my booze (well, you’re only allowed 2L per person… not exactly a lot to work with!). But, it was fun and I love  everything I brought home, including that t-shirt with it little dancing lizards (which is still in the plastic blag it was packaged in).

25 Things, 14-15

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It took me 15 minutes to purchase 9 pairs of shoes and various accessories. After brunch it took us an hour or more and 3 stores to find one pair of shoes for Todd. So take that, stereotypes, lol! Actually, because it was a liquidation sale (her store was damaged in a floor and it just wasn’t cost-effective to repair it to reopen) there was a lot of choice but limited size selections so, pretty much anything in my size that I was even remoted interested in went into the stack and then I weeded them down. I only put back 2 pairs, I think.

Which leads us to:

15. I own 73 pairs of shoes. Even I’m shocked! I knew I’d probably passed 60 but I didn’t realize by THAT much! I suppose that’s all there is to say about that…

Vulkon 4

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Oh those tempting vendors! They are ruthless! Though, really, this guy was very sweet about things and was fun to chat with, so I didn’t mind him tempting me with decks. I brought both of them home, by the way, increasing my small collection by two really fun sets. Well, the Dali set is more deep than fun, but you know what I mean!

Vegas, Baby, Vegas 2

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The official hotel for the meet-up was the Tropicana, one of the older hotels on the Strip but comfortable enough. People were scattered all over the place, though, with some taking advantage of timeshares, nearby family or just other hotels. Did you know February is the one of the busiest months for conventions in Las Vegas? Yeah, neither did we until the plans had already started :)

Vegas is one big optical illusion. Because of the exaggerated size of the hotels and signs you look down the street, see your destination only on the next “block” and decide to hoof it. Very quickly you realize that a block on the Vegas strip is nothing like anywhere else in the country. The Excalibur faced us and was where we met for dinner that first night, but even crossing the street requires 2 flights of stairs and a foot bridge!

Hence, tired tootsies came up early that afternoon. Another reason for the shopping trip? When the guys dropped us (me, Juli and ‘Hawk’) at the shoe store to go find more manly windows to shop we got to find out the details on Hawk & Bat’s big night out. What, us, gossip? Pshh. ;-)

(note to Bat: no worries, nothing scandalous was revealed)

Rings on Her Fingers, Page 9

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I loved that dress, it was very Gone with the Wind. Thankfully I did get all but the small deposit back on it.

Now, at the time I wasn’t really aware of this, but there is actual etiquette on what gets done with the ring in a broken engagement. If the girl breaks it off she has to give it back but, generally speaking, when the guy breaks it off she gets to keep it! It’s sorta like a consolation prize or forfeiture of deposit. Exceptions are generally made for family heirlooms and the like (or if the ring was REALLY freaking expensive… although it’s more than a little gauche for her to know how much he spent but, then again, those sorts of rings require insurance riders so…). Anyway, by rights I should have kept the ring the first time around, much less the second, so I was a fool for giving it back.

And, for the record, he did ask me to marry him again. And again. And again. It was a long Winter. Then he went into the Navy and things got a little weird (more so than usual). The Navy didn’t work out for him so much. Let’s just say it’s not a good idea to write threatening letters on Naval academy stationery to a girl whose known to be a pack-rat and then list her roommates as character witnesses when you need that security clearance. I’m just sayin’!