Wednesday, February 29, 2012

See America Right Playlist

This week's playlist is the perfect accompaniment to your next Winter Feast. Folk rock, story songs and sweet grooves will carry you through a cozy meal with your favorite friends. Here's the link to download it on iTunes.

Listen to this mix as you're sipping whiskey-spiked apple cider, or eating peanut butter popcorn by the handful. It's also great for listening to as you walk the streets of your neighborhood listening to the gravel crunch and looking for signs of spring. There's still a chill, but the thaw is coming, I promise.

Here's the track list:

1. I Won't Be Left/Tegan & Sara
2. Six O'Clock News/Kathleen Edwards
3. Antichrist Television Blues/Arcade Fire
4. Let's Build a Home/The White Stripes
5. What Makes You Think You're the One/Fleetwood Mac
6. The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth/Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
7. Belong/The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
8. What So Never the Dance, Parts 1 & 2/Houseguests
9. Red Right Hand/Nick Cave
10. Best of Jill Hives/Guided by Voices
11. Just a Man with a Job/The Rakes
12. I Will Dare/The Replacements
13. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea/Neutral Milk Hotel
14. The President's Dead/Okkervil River
15. I'm Her Man (Sweet Baby Jesus)/Two Gallants
16. He Doesn't Know Why/Fleet Foxes

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ricotta Pancakes

Everyone should have a good pancake recipe.  Isn't that written in the Bible somewhere?  I think it is.  Or am I thinking of the Ladies Home Journal?  

 Well.  Everyone should have a good pancake recipe.  If not to serve at a big party (I mean, a pancake party is certainly possible, and definitely not discouraged, it's just, you know, a lot of flipping), at least for the morning after.  With the addition of rich and creamy ricotta cheese, this version is a little extra special, though if you don't have ricotta on hand you can just replace the cheese with milk or, even better, buttermilk.  Not that you'd really want to replace it.  Good ricotta is a godly thing, after all.  (Yes, that was another fake Bible reference.  But we're talking about ricotta, and pancakes.  So am I really wrong?)

Here's to light, fluffy, syrup-filled and lazy mornings, Bashionistas!

Ricotta Pancakes

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • optional: chocolate chips, fresh blueberries, sliced strawberries or sliced bananas

In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In another bowl, gently whisk together the wet team: eggs, milk, ricotta and melted butter.

Add the wet team to the dry team, and stir gently with a whisk or wooden spoon, just until the batter comes together. The batter will look lumpy and under mixed - this is good. Over mixed batter makes flat, heavy pancakes.

Heat some butter in a skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot, spoon 1/2 cup batter into the skillet and, if you're using them, sprinkle a few chocolate chips, berries or bananas on top. Cook for about 2 or 3 minutes, until little bubbles begin to form on the surface. Flip the pancake and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.

Serve with extra butter and maple syrup. And maybe some bacon.

Makes about 12 pancakes.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Please Get This Drunk Girl Off My Living Room Floor

Dear Bashionista,

I have a friend who has a tendency to overindulge and almost always has to sleep it off at the party - usually somewhere appropriate, like a bed. Sometimes on the couch in the middle of the party. Sometimes flat out in the middle in the floor. It was endearing and cute at first but it's getting awkward trying to make excuses for her, and frankly kind of annoying finding her passed out in the bed I was planning on sleeping in. Plus, I'm starting to think she has a problem.

What do I do?

Patrick A.

Dear Patrick,

As someone who once decided to take a little wine nap in the middle of the floor at a writing-conference after-party, I am going to give you a decidedly biased answer: your friend isn't hurting anybody, and she may not even be hurting herself. Sleeping it off when you've had too many is infinitely better than driving home because you've had too many, and annoying as it may be to step over her inert body, she's a less annoying drunk than someone stumbling around knocking over your valuables, or someone in a rolling blackout who mistakes your sofa for the bathroom.

That being said, her annoying behavior *is* hurting her chances of ever being invited back to your house. Here are a few options you have for getting a grip on the situation:

1) Dilute the problem

Sometimes people get drunk not because they are hell-bent on destruction, but because they are incredibly thirsty and someone forgot to buy any mixers. As a host, you want to make sure that your guests have the tools they need to pace themselves. Session beers (in other words, beers with lower alcohol content) were invented for this purpose. You also want to make sure that there are plenty of mixers *and* plenty to munch on; drinking on an empty stomach can turn anyone into a lightweight.

If you know you've got friends coming who tend to overdo it, you may want to mix up a really tasty non-alcoholic beverage - like rainbow punch or mulled cider. People can still opt to spike it, but even if they don't, they won't feel like they're missing out on all the fun.

2) Create a crash pad

In a perfect world, all of your guests will remain upright and articulate until the party is over. But be prepared for things to go awry. Have a quiet space in your house that is free of coats, be it your bed, your spare bed, an air mattress, or a loveseat tucked away somewhere. If you notice someone getting the nods in the middle of the party, kindly ask if they'd like to take a power nap in the other room. Annoying as it may be to kick them out of bed at the end of the night, you're doing the right thing.

3) Perform an intervention

Let's say you've thrown three parties and every time without fail your friend is passed out before the clock strikes twelve. You're starting to suspect that this isn't an isolated problem. If you care about your friend, you may want to try talking to her. Pick a time when you can talk to her one on one in a non-party situation - perhaps brunch the next day when she finally crawls out of bed. Let her know that you're a little bit concerned about how much she's drinking and want to know if she's ok. Let her do most of the talking. It's possible that she's going through a tough time, and it's also possible that in her mind drinking herself to sleep is a perfectly normal way to spend a Saturday night. If she knows that people are starting to worry, that may be a good signal for her to tone it down the next time.

If she does have a more serious drinking problem, it's not for you to fix it. But if you encourage her to get help if she needs it, and let her know that you care, then at least you'll know you've done what you can.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Throw Down: Winter Feast

Let's face it - the last bit of winter is usually the toughest. After the thrill or the angst of your particular Valentine's Day has past, February has a face only a mother could love. Cold, crusty, and painted in a dreary palette, it's no wonder she has a tough time getting a date.

You know who's great at commiserating with you about your Seasonal Affective Disorder? All of your awesome friends. Instead of hiding out under the covers by your lonesome, switch on that light therapy box your mom got you and start planning a feast to beat those blues. Take advantage of your friends' desire to nest, set your table by candlelight, and warm yourself in front of your oven as a four-course meal simmers to perfection.

Click here for a playlist of fun dinner music, and click here for a minute-by-minute cooking plan. You will be able to cook and plate a sumptuous feast singlehandedly if you give yourself enough time beforehand. If it seems overwhelming, feel free to delegate to a few of your besties, and this meal will be a snap.

The Menu

Designing the perfect menu is tricky. You want food to appear piping hot, but you want to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible while your guests are sitting at the table. This plan will allow you to do most of the cooking ahead of time, and then simply throw together or gently warm before eating. You also want to help your guests pace themselves so they savor every bite, from the first marinated olive to the last crumb of peanut butter popcorn. I like to print out little menues so people know what's in store, and I also like to plate the dishes myself - for portion control as much as for presentation.

The following menu was tailored for one friend who's trying to go easy on the lactose, another friend who can't eat gluten, and a third who's allergic to shellfish. I had no trouble ditching the gluten and the seafloor scavengers, and I was able to make all of the dairy optional. Spoiler alert: plenty of butter was harmed in the making of this meal - but luckily, many lactose-intolerants can handle butter, my friend included.

I should also mention one last dietary restriction; one guest was several months pregnant and avoiding alcohol. While there was plenty of wine and a fully stocked bar for people to indulge in, I made sure to have some really special drinky-drinks sans alcohol, so my friend wouldn't feel any less festive.

First course: Citrus-Marinated Olives and Sweet-Potato Fries
Paired with: Warm Apple Cider with Whiskey & Whipped Cream

There are a few advantages to starting a meal this way. We served this appetizer course informally in the living room. The Olives can sit there looking resplendent, ready to greet your first guests as they walk in the door, and the Apple Cider can sit quite happily in a slow cooker, even if you have some late arrivals. Letting your guests ladle their own cider and add Whiskey & Whipped Cream to taste gives them something to do while you quickly pop the fries in the oven. People will be warm and cozy in record time.

Second course: Very Veggie Beet Soup
Paired with: Moscow Mules

This soup recipe comes from the Greens Glorious Greens cookbook by Johnna Albi and Catherine Walthers. I have tried plenty of borsht recipes in my day, but this one is by far the biggest crowd-pleaser. It's loaded with dill and full of rich, earthy flavors - I have never served it without someone demanding the recipe. I love it with sour cream, but you can easily put it on the side and make it optional.

We rounded out this Russian-themed course with Moscow Mules. They're simple to make - just ginger beer, vodka, simple syrup and lime, plus a mint sprig if you want to get fancy - and if you leave out the vodka for the teetotalers, it's still plenty of fun.

Third course: Spinach Risotto with Arugula and Roasted Tomatoes; White Bean & Arugula Salad with Lemon Dill Vinaigrette; and Pork Sausage

The lucky thing about this course is that we cooked everything separately - when it turned out that two people were abstaining from pork, I was able to load them up with plenty of uncontaminated bean salad and risotto. There was plenty of shaved parm people could add to taste to the salad and the risotto - this particular risotto is so amazingly juicy and flavorful that the cheese is really an afterthought. You'll make risotto in the usual way, but while it's cooking you'll be roasting a whole pan of cherry tomatoes in oil - these get swirled in with the arugula at the last minute. Sheer bliss.

Fourth course: Susan's Peanut Butter Popcorn

It's tough to think of sweets that have neither flour nor dairy - happily, peanut butter popcorn does the job. It's gooey-delicious and satisfying - and after a giant meal like this one, one ramikin per person is about all you'll need.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Launch Party Photo Gallery

The Launch party was a huge success! And I am pleased to say that you can read about it here, in the Jamaica Plain Patch.

In addition to food demos, fancy drinks, raffle prizes and many many cupcakes, we had a collaborative art project; I took Fuji Instax pictures of people who then used them to create Valentines to their secret crushes - the people, places or things they wished had been their Valentines last week. Here is a little photo gallery of some of my faves. Enjoy!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Love Playlist

Photo credit: Joanie Tobin

This week we have a guest DJ - Liz Laneri, who is throwing the Launch Party tomorrow, put together an hour-long Love mix. Here's a link to the playlist so you can download it in iTunes.

This mix should provide the perfect ambiance as our guests mingle, nosh on great snacks, sample the punch, and make Valentines to their unrequited loves. It's also the mix you'll want to throw on as you get dressed up for a date night, or when you bring close friends over your house for a festive little after-party.

Here's the track list:

1. Fight Song for True Love/Soltero
2. Love Me Do/The Beatles
3. Crazy Little Thing Called Love/Queen
4. I'm Always in Love/Wilco
5. Forced to Love/Broken Social Scene
6. Love Ain't (featuring Tonedeff)/Cunninlynguists
7. Love Is/Common
8. That's the Way Love Goes/Janet Jackson
9. Love and Do What You Will/Ceo
10. Tainted Love/Soft Cell
11. The Lovecats/The Cure
12. Tripped and Fell in Love/YACHT
13. Modern Love/David Bowie
14. Love Is a Battlefield/Pat Benatar
15. This Modern Love/Bloc Party
16. The Power of Love/Huey Lewis & the News

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Raw Chocolate Pudding

Liz Laneri is the PR genius who is throwing the Launch party for this site on Saturday. She is also a raw food enthusiast - and lately everyone has been clamoring for her raw chocolate pudding recipe:

After spending an incredible week in California over the New Year, I came back to Boston motivated to cleanse (for lack of a better word) my mind and body. Yes, perhaps the combination of Northern California and massage therapy school have turned me into a New Age hippie . . . eh, who are we kidding, I'm still a sarcastic $&*@ at heart.

I decided to do the raw food "diet" for a month. I'm a huge proponent of this kind of cleanse as it doesn't deprive your body of food and nutrients the way other cleanses often do. In fact, it does the opposite; it makes your food more nutritious, since cooking drains away a lot of the natural good stuff in your food. Raw foodism can be a challenge - especially for someone like me who enjoys beer outings with friends. In all honesty, I caved in after three weeks.

When I talk about the raw food diet, people usually say one or all of the following things:
  • You must always be hungry
  • Are you just eating salads all the time?
  • How can you live without cheese?!
The reality is there are a plethora of delicious meals you can make - they just take a while to not cook. Just because it's raw, doesn't mean it doesn't take time! Chopping, cleaning and dehydrating raw food into amazing meals can take longer than you think. Not to fret, though! I have an incredibly simple raw dessert that will satisfy your chocolate craving.

My friend, Andrea Parros, co-owner of The Owl House in Rochester, NY, gave me a raw chocolate pudding recipe to try. Since I have difficulties following directions and don't do the measuring thing, I altered it to fit my taste buds. So here's my version. Feel free to adjust it to your liking as well!

Raw Chocolate Pudding
  • 1-2 avocados
  • 1 banana (optional)
  • 1 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1/3 cup coconut water (or coconut milk)
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar (add more if you want it to be sweeter)
  • cacao*
  • coconut meat to sprinkle on top (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
Mix the ingredients in a food processor, and it's ready to eat! Cut up strawberries or other fruit to dip and share with friends. Or eat it solo with a spoon while watching your favorite tear-jerker.

*Every time I make this, as I'm pouring in the cacao, I can't help but giggle to myself as I think of Portlandia's Cacao bit. Watch it here!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

One Party to Rule Them All

imageDear Bashionista,

My friends and I are huge fans of Lord of the Rings, and we are totally psyched that they are in production on The Hobbit. I'm thinking of throwing a party when the movie premieres. This should give us, oh . . . 10 months to plan.

If you were going to throw a Middle Earth party, what would you do?

Tom K.

Dear Tom,

Before you plan this party, you need to figure out what level of fandom we're talking about here. How many of your friends have seen Lord of the Rings? How many of them have seen all the movies enough times to quote along with the characters? How many of them collect LOTR merchandise on eBay, edit Tolkien-related wikipedia entries, and are not embarassed to own elf ears? You need to choose the party that's right for them.

If you're trying to cater to casual fans or win over newbies, you may want to pick your favorite film of the trilogy and have a little viewing party with fun snacks that appear in the films - more on that in a minute.

If your friends love costume parties and would be comfortable geeking out over LOTR trivia, then you might want to step things up a bit. Buy a pair of elf ears and take pictures of each guest wearing them. Serve exclusively Middle Earth food, and play all 3 1/2 hours of the official soundtracks. Screen the movies silently in the background. Cover your bathroom in beefcake shots of Viggo Mortensen and Orlando Bloom.

If your friends are not so much into dressing up, but they are die-hard fans, then an all-day movie marathon might be the way to go. Limit the party to people who can comfortably sit in your living room - we are talking about many many hours of viewing time! Provide Middle Earth snacks, and take a nice break between each movie for a main-course dish. At the end of the night, if anyone's still standing, consider playing Small World - one of my favorite fantasy strategy games - or even the Lord of the Rings Board Game.

The Menu

If you are interested in learning all about the imaginary food in the books, you are gonna love this article on wikipedia. But if you want to cut to the chase, some fine Lord of the Ringers over at this site have compiled a slew of actual recipes for food that's all the rage among hobbits these days.

Personally, the recipes that jumped out at me are: Mrs. Maggot's Cottage Pie; Po-Tay-To Onion Soup; Elven Lembas Bread Recipe; Blackberry Tarts from Bree; and Ring Cookies & Sauron's Eyes (if I'm not mistaken, "chocolate shot" is Scottish for "chocolate sprinkles."

Have fun with this! And let me know how your party turns out. Who knows? Maybe we'll turn you into a feature story.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Throw Down: Launch Party

The official Launch Party for is happening this Saturday! My friend, Liz Laneri, has generously offered to host it at a local art gallery in Jamaica Plain. Interested in snagging yourself an invite? Click right here to like our Fan page on Facebook and we'll send you the details.

Throwing this party together has been a lot of fun, and I can't wait for y'all to see it! Walking into the party should feel like walking through the pages of this site.

Guests who arrive in red will be entered into a drawing to win some signature door prizes, which I have been hard at work making. There will also be some very cool party packages that we'll be raffling off.

The recipes for the food will be lifted straight from this site. We'll also have a cupcake competition - winner to be announced on Monday! - and a cooking demo. Come, stuff your face, and learn something useful at the same time.

We'll be grooving to tunes that can be found in playlists we've posted - join us this Friday for a special Love TheBashionista mix, to whet your appetite for the Launch.

And we'll be doing a collaborative art project, Bashionista style, which we'll be scanning and posting on Monday.

Party on, Comrades! And thank you all for your overwhelming support. This whole enterprise would not be possible without the help of some incredibly talented and generous people - you know who you are, and I would like to give each one of you a big sloppy Valentine's kiss.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Back in Your Head Playlist

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and I thought that I would make you an unconventional playlist. Maybe you'll wake up tomorrow with no idea where the day will take you. Maybe you're in a relationship you're not sure about, or have a lover you want to win back. Perhaps you're single and you'll find yourself on the prowl around midnight at a scuzzy bar ready for action.  Or maybe you're just annoyed that V-Day is even a thing and you just want to rock out and look cool while you're doing it - we've got songs for you, too. Here's the link to download this mix on iTunes.

This mix is just the thing for a cold night in February, whether you're hiding your laundry pile in the expectation of getting lucky, bopping around the kitchen as you throw together a romantic dinner for two, or getting pumped to crack open some chocolate boch by your lonesome and Facebook stalk your secret crush.

Here's the track list:

1. Ootischenia/The Be Good Tanyas
2. Mambo Sun/T. Rex
3. Oxford Comma/Vampire Weekend
4. My Love/The Bird and the Bee
5. Islands/The XX
6. Sleepyhead/Passion Pit
7. Back in Your Head/Tegan and Sara
8. Postcards from Italy/Beirut
9. Love Lost/Temper Trap
10. The Purple Bottle/Animal Collective
11. The Body/The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
12. Foward to Forget/Parenthetical Girls
13. Ragged Wood/Fleet Foxes
14. Lost Coastlines/Okkervil River
15. Do You Remember Rock & Roll Radio?/The Ramones
16. Kick It/Peaches & Iggy Pop

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Buttermilk Biscuits

Cara McAvoy, sous chef at San Francisco's Chiaroscuro traveled to New Orleans recently, and she learned a little something about buttermilk biscuits:
I've never been much of a fan of Southern cooking. Growing up, we'd drive through the Carolinas and sample boiled peanuts or eat alligator meat on a dare - these are not experiences I am dying to repeat.
Then I went to New Orleans.
I got to hang out with my sister and get a feel for the culture and eat a ton of incredible food. What can I say? I'm in love. And hungry for things like buttermilk biscuits.
This recipe is simple, satisfying, and it'll knock your socks off. Even if you're a New Yorker like me.

Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter + additional melted butter
4 Tbsp lard shortening (if you happen to be like me and you save bacon fat....this is why. Substitute some or all of the lard with bacon fat and prepare to be amazed!)
1 cup chilled buttermilk
cinnamon & brown sugar (optional, for topping)

1. Preheat oven to 450F degrees.
2. Sift together all dry ingredients.
3. With your hands, rub fats into flour until the clumps are pea sized or smaller (make sure to do this as fast as possible because you do not want your fats to start melting!).
4. Pour buttermilk over the center of the flour and mix till dough just comes together. DO NOT OVER MIX!
5. Turn out into a flat surface and GENTLY spread out dough to about 1 inch thickness (the less you touch this dough the fluffier and sexier these biscuits will be!).
6. Cut with a ring mold and place on a greased cookie sheet.
7. Take the scraps and gently press together using as little force as possible to form semi round-ish biscuits. These won't look as appetizing but they will taste 100% better than if you try to smoosh them together to be perfect-looking.
8. Bake at 450F for about 15 to 20 minutes or until they are golden brown.
9. Just before serving, brush biscuits with melted butter and sprinkle with salt (or cinnamon, or brown sugar, ect.)
These biscuits can make a simple breakfast of fried eggs and bacon seem like a mini vacation. Make sure to have some good jams and jellies on hand as well!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sharon & Rob's Wedding Photo Gallery

Here's a gallery of photos taken by Sharon & Rob's Wedding Photographer, Kelly Shimoda. Enjoy!

You may now kiss the bride!

Let's all do The Dance Assault!

High jump contest part 1 . . .

and part 2.