Wednesday, December 19, 2012

gluten-free christmas cookies - almond, orange, clove

gluten-free christmas cookies

For me, Christmas cheer means cookies, and I'm not about to leave my gluten-free friends out in the cold. With bright orange, warm clove, and sweet almond, these got the ultimate thumbs-up -- total (joyful) annihilation -- on tree-trimming day.

A basic, chewy snickerdoodle recipe is a lovely start for cookies with no wheat flour -- it's forgiving as ol' St. Nick himself. (Let's hope Krampus isn't around.) If you have a preferred flour other than rice or coconut (even wheat), it'll probably work -- just keep the total flour input at 1 and 1/3 cups.

Gluten-Free Christmas Cookies
Makes 2-3 dozen


1/2 cup almond flour (store-bought or home-ground -- grind first, then measure)
1/2 cup rice flour
1/3 cup coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar (if you don't have this, omit the baking soda and use 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder to substitute for both)
1 orange worth of zest (~1 tbsp)
scant 1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp salt

8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tbsp fresh orange juice


Set our your egg and butter and get out your nonstick baking sheets -- or prep regular ol' ones with parchment paper, a baking mat, or a good coating of butter and a tapped-even sprinkle of flour. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Measure your dry ingredients (zest, almond meal, coconut flour, rice flour, salt, and leavening agent/s) into a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

In a larger bowl, add your butter and sugar. Using an electric beater on medium speed, cream them together for 2 minutes. Add your egg and orange juice and beat for another minute to incorporate them evenly.

Add your dry ingredients to your wet ingredients and mix by hand to combine. It'll be fairly wet and sticky. Drop rounded teaspoons of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between each to allow for spreading.

Bake for 8-10 minutes -- check 'em at 8. When they're done, they'll be golden around the edges and will look dry on top. Also, they'll be more springy than mushy if you poke the top with a finger.

Leave 'em on the baking sheets for a couple minutes to firm up, then remove them to a wire rack until they're cool enough to eat. Or store, I guess. These keep in a sealed container for two or three days, though they'll lose some of their crisp. Try layers of parchment paper between the cookies to preserve crispness.

If you'd like to make the dough ahead, you could seal it up and refrigerate it for up to a week or freeze it for up to 3 months, then bake on demand.

gluten-free christmas cookies

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

a calavera and a girl from a well

Happy Halloween! I had the lovely fortune to be invited to two parties this year where folks are v. serious about their costumes. I reprised La Calavera Catrina for the first party:

Makeup is Ben Nye white and black cake, plus creme pencil for the face details. Dress is a commission, hat is mostly spray paint and hot glue.
La Calavera Catrina, a proper Edwardian lady-skeleton.

Photo by Darrell, the fab party photographer.

I did a new costume for the second party. A bit of backstory here: I adore horror films. Practical-effect creature features and campy-as-hell sex'n'splatter flicks were the ones I grew up watching 'cause that's what was available from Blockbuster -- and I still have fun dissecting the effects shots and Freudian overtones in those sorts of movies. But they don't scare me. My best-favorite horror movies are quiet, tense, slow-build ghost stories because they freak me right the eff out, and I'm permanently impressed by any film that engenders earnest emotion.

I hid my TV for a week after I first watched "The Ring." Which is how, 10 years later, I wound up like this:

Wig is Sepia's Misty, dress is by the best Melissa, makeup is Ben Nye white cake plus a couple Kryolan wheels.
Samara/Sadako from The Ring/Ringu.

Photo by the even-gorgeous-undead Melanie.

I won the party prize for Scariest Costume. I don't even really like looking at this picture 'cause I creep myself out. Thanks, Japan, for creating my nightmares.*

Makeup! Also, this shot scared a very nice person who knew not what he did when he asked for a picture of my costume. All apologies to aptly named gentlefolk.

Photo by one marvelous Matt!

All the makeup took a bit less than 2 hours, including a break to eat a sandwich and putter with a DVD-to-VCR transfer that never quite worked out. The design is by Audivila, whose excellent Samara makeup tutorial I followed every step of the way. Until I got to my limbs, at which point I just slapped on green-grey splotches surrounded by purple-black splotches 'cause my ride came a'knockin'.

I owe a few lunches to my friend Melissa, who made the dress in about four hours, from scratch, with no pattern.

If Samara had only had a Sassy Gay Dog, everything would've turned out different.
Probably Samara's parents never bought her a puppy because she was evil.

Photo by Melanie again, yes.

The dog in this picture is actually cowering into me, away from people dressed completely innocuously. She's a rescue pup. She wasn't sure about the wig at first, but kept trying to lick all the makeup off my face once she figured out it was me under the wig.

*Though really, I find the American version much scarier than "Ringu." One of the few cases where a budget really helped, I think. However, I do appreciate that they're still making sequels in Japan. 'Cause in the latest, Sadako uploads herself into the cloud. And for the special edition disc set, they made a ridiculous photobook about Sadako taking a holiday.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

recipe: s'mores icebox pie

I'm generally a proponent of making food from nothing more than recipe scraps, raw ingredients, motley kitchen equipment, and your own wits. Some days, that's just not feasible. Perhaps -- just for example, mind -- you spent the night before a potluck luncheon out until four in the morning watching Magic Mike and then, unrelatedly yet thematically, helping an erstwhile Atlantan introduce her new husband to the Clermont Lounge.

Perhaps not. The point here is that we all experience lapses in baking-from-scratch capacity, whatever the cause. For those days, it's good to have a backup plan that will allow you to maintain your reputation as an impressive baker with a minimum of work.

Enter the kitchen blowtorch.

s'mores pie

S'mores Icebox Pie
Idea adapted very, very loosely from Epicurious (more about that below). You'll need a culinary blowtorch -- I love mine. Serves eight to twelve.


a prepared 9-inch graham cracker pie crust
a 5-6 oz. box (or the equivalent weight in smaller boxes) of your favorite stovetop chocolate pudding mix
whole milk OR half & half (however much the pudding box tells you you'll need)
a bag of marshmallows, regular- or mini-sized (you'll use ~5 oz.)

Prepare pudding according to directions on box. If you've got some cocoa powder in the house, toss a couple tablespoons in there for bonus flavor. When it's thickened to your liking, immediately pour pudding into pie crust and smooth surface with the back of a large spoon.

Refrigerate -- uncovered if your fridge isn't stinky, or covered loosely with aluminum foil if it is -- for at least 3 hours, until pudding is more firm than wiggly. I don't recommend covering the pie with the crust package lid -- the crust will get soggy around the edges from condensation.

When everyone's just about ready for dessert, prepare your marshmallows. If you have mini marshmallows, this will consist of opening the bag. If you have larger 'mallows, cut them into rough thirds or smaller -- kitchen shears work best for this. Cut up enough to cover the entire surface of the pie in heaps.

Get your pie out of the fridge. (If you covered it, take care -- lots of condensation will have collected on the cover. Once it's off you can dab any droplets from the pie's surface with a paper towel.) Slice the pie.

Working with one slice at a time, plate the pie. Pile marshmallows on top of the slice at hand, completely covering the surface. Set your blowtorch's gas output to low and hold the torch 4+ inches away from the marshmallows. Roast 'em, rotating the plate to get as much caramelization from as many angles as possible. Blow out any lingering flames. Serve.


You could probably add a tablespoon of whatever booze you like to the pudding during cooking for extra flavor. Whiskey or something orangey would be nice. And I'd be curious to see whether it'd be possible to use a jar of marshmallow fluff in place of the 'mallows.

Now, if you're having the kind of day where you feel like a superhero of baking, you could just go ahead and make the aforementioned Chocolate S'more Pie from Epicurious. I did that one Thanksgiving and it was fairly spectacular(ly messy):

The marshmallow layer is browned under the broiler -- which the chocolate layer can stand up to 'cause it's a very thick baked custard.

Photos by Maria Melee. At the moment, I was up to my elbows in molten marshmallow.

If you try anything different, let me know how it comes out!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

thank you, Mr. Bradbury

There are a handful of authors whose storytelling and use of the English language made me want to be a writer, back when I was a kid. First it was the humor of Louis Sachar, Roald Dahl, and Norton Juster, the atmosphere of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Madeleine L'Engle. Later I would pick up Douglas Adams, Tom Stoppard, and Oscar Wilde; Peter S. Beagle, Grace Paley, and Kurt Vonnegut. But right in the middle, in those formative years when brains and bones ache from growth, was Ray Bradbury.

I lost my first copy (my parents' copy) of The Illustrated Man loaning it out to someone -- which is fine, books are owned the way cats are owned: at their own will. But it looked like this:

The stories in it were creepy and quiet and sad and joyful. Its characters and scenes were alive, as surely as the illustrated man's tattoos, given breath and motion by Bradbury's distillation of the language. I have always interacted with the world best through writing, and the patterns in his words expanded my idea of what writing could be. Reading that book at that age was a paradigm shift.

I based my youth around writing because of shifts like that, and realized in college, somewhere around my eighth writing workshop in four years, that I enjoy editing far more. I'm skiving off gainful freelance editing employment right now to write this post. I do what I do because of writers like Bradbury.

I'm not a fan of everything he ever wrote, and being from the Internet myself, I'm slightly personally offended by some of the cantankerous things he said about computers and digital communication. But the world is a more wondrous place for his having been in it.

Thank you, Mr. Bradbury.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Town Brookhaven bites

I'm over in the Brookhavenish part of town, which means I've been eyeing the TOWN development warily since construction started (and stopped, and started again). It seems, in lots of ways, like a lint trap for everything I dislike about this part of town -- namely traffic and dude-bros of various ages & levels of entitlement -- but it contains food and also beverages, so I've been exploring parts of it over the past couple months. Some initial impressions:

The movie theater, CineBistro (an swankish version of the dinner-and-a-movie concept) has nice seats, good snacks, and behind-the-times mixed drinks. Try the popcorn calamari -- a mix of well-seasoned popcorn and tender, deep-fried squidbits, the perfect answer to salt cravings and more-than-just-carbs-level hunger during an action flick. Skip the cocktails -- the mojitos are the only ones that don't rely on commercial sour mix, and mine came with wilted mint and stale limes. I'm hoping that they'll improve and expand their drink menu in the future (it's neither difficult nor expensive to squeeze fresh citrus, and it makes a Universe of flavor difference). In the meanwhile, the beer list is short but competent, and I'll be sticking with that. If you're planning on eating, do make sure you arrive at least 30 minutes before showtime to place your order at the bar. And don't bring the kids: This theater is 21 and up.

There Bar is one of the small pubs that's cropped up in Towncenter, and it's my new favorite neighborhood hangout for its casual, friendly atmosphere and small menu of consistently tasty pub fare. The chef, Ryan Hickey, formerly worked for Concentrics' Trois and Bocado, and he's brought those joints' senses of whimsy (and sensibilities about sausage) along with him. If you're carnivorous, ask your server about what meats are in the grinder when you go -- the kitchen's been sourcing a variety of game meats for their burgers and sausage dishes. I haven't had a dish I didn't like, so try what strikes your fancy -- but do go for the garlic rosemary fries on the side. Fresh cut and smothered in raw minced garlic, rosemary, and parsley, they're completely worth the calories.

As of early May 2012, you can still expect occasional hiccups in stock and service, and the cocktails are inconsistent at best: classic Moscow Mules have been perfect, but Manhattans came way watered down, and the house creations have been the over-sweet, syrup-thick sorts of things you'd expect in a frat-house kitchen, not a self-proclaimed "upscale dive bar." They have some great local beers on draft and in bottles, though, that are perfect with pub food. There is also the most reasonably priced non-fast-casual joint in the development -- you get plenty of food for the cost. (For more current information than their website offers, check There's Facebook page.)

The owners of Cafe at Pharr (who I desperately wish would redesign their logo to something that reminds me less of Mellow Mushroom) opened an offshoot called Baci that's serving the usual sandwich & salad suspects during lunch hours and delightful plays on Italian/American/Asian bistro cuisine at dinner. Try the mussels of the day (ours came in a red wine/fresh tomato/herb sauce that sounds iffy but was absolutely drinkable). The beet salad and burger were also excellent -- the latter involved thin double patties, near-magically cooked to temperature, and is my new city favorite of its kind (previously an honor bestowed upon Bocado's). The staff seems to be family, and be prepared for them to treat you like honored guests in their own home: impeccably polite and a bit familiar.

Next time: Noche, Old Blinde Dog, and the Olive Bistro. Let me know what you think if you've been!