Fancypants salt

Trust me, this is nicer than our mid-moving shot.I’ve been idly wondering what the deal was with Himalayan Pink Salt for a while… we even made these Himalayan Salt Slabs our default wedding gift for certain friends for a while. But I’d never actually tried the stuff, largely because I only saw it sold in a coarse grain that seemed like it’d be annoying for actually seasoning cooked food.

But THEN, we got the weirdest wedding gift yet — some friends of my stepmother in law gifted us a gadget (or rather, a pair of gadgets) that we’d never even heard of before — these Cuisinart rechargeable salt and pepper mills. And now I had an excuse to try out some of that much-hyped coarse-grained Himalayan salt, plus some gray moist rich and mineral-flavored Celtic sea salt that was sold in the next bulk bin over.

The results? Um, first, I realized after loading up the mill that I’m probably not supposed to put somewhat moist salt into this electrical gadget. But I tried it, and my pink-and-grey cocktail is both delightful looking and delicious. (I wish I’d bought peppercorns too — I thought we had extra and we don’t! — but I think I’m going to contrast the blended salt with an all-black peppercorn selection, instead of the four-color mix we’ve been buying from Trader Joe’s. I have a feeling I’ll like the flavor better.)

Aaaanyway. We’ve now been welcomed into the world of salt snobbery and insanely unnecessary kitchen gadgetry — a bit late, sure, but there you have it! Guess I’ll go read up on the deets of my fancy pink salt now.

Gadgets galore

Every year for Christmas, one side of Grant’s family tends to shower me with culinary-related gizmos and gadgets. (His other side showers me with beauty gifts! All in all, I’m a lucky girl.) This year’s haul included a few notably different items, so it seemed an injustice to fail to mention them here.

The most bizarre-looking treat was the fusionbrands iceorb, a vertical ice cube tray/chiller/ice bucket all in one. The thing, as you can see, looks a bit like an alien space ship. Looking forward to testing it out, though — and it seems like these cubes would be released from the silicone a bit easier than more detailed silicone ice molds, which I always find trying.

And my very favorite kitchen item, pictured below, was a stack of personalized baked goody bags. Kind of an awesome way to (sorta) subtly get credit where it’s due, like when I bring cookies or muffins in to the office, heh heh. RECOGNIZE MY BAKING PROWESS! (And give me a raise!)

The rest of the haul included a cookie dough dropper, a champagne cork puller-outer, a powdered sugar sifter for decorating, a few soda can savers with little plastic caps to contain the carbonation, a jar of Penzey natural wasabi, a test-tube-encased vanilla bean, a set of holiday-themed molded sugar frosting toppers, a big snowflake cookie cutter, two strawberry-shaped Jell-O molds, a special little wooden tool to open our awkward oven door, a set of recipe cards, a Colts insulated cup (OK, that’s really Grant‘s, as are the soda things), and various themed wine stoppers and openers (namely, Christmas and LOVE with mega heart action).

Merry Deathmas!

My dear husband is sometimes bashful about the discrepancy between his normal, everyday, hipster-geek-gamer-developer closet, and his going home, visiting family wardrobe. (For example, he’ll take out his signature brushed steel and orange enamel hoop earrings when we dine with my father.) But his moms are used to his vast array of different skull shirts by now.

So I was pretty damn tickled when, as we sat down to fancy Christmas dinner chez his more formal stepmother, this was the butter dish that confronted us. (I’m actually pretty disappointed that I’m the one who noticed this and called it out, instead of letting him or someone else pipe up when they saw Skully McCenterpiece! Sigh, curse my knee-jerk enthusiasm.)

So you can imagine I was also tickled when, at brunch a few days later, this was the platter of Christmas Butter that awaited us. (Turns out the story is that they were left over from Halloween — don’t worry, stored in an air-tight container and all that.)

New uses for old cognac bottles

Another good DIY trick! I sometimes use Courvoisier to spike sangria, mulled wine and whipping cream, and I almost always buy the mini-bottles since they’re so cheap and I don’t use much. These are one of the few mini-bottled alcohols that still come in glass instead of cheap crappy plastic, and I’ve been compulsively hanging onto my empties for a few months without really knowing why.

Courvoisier minis -- about $6 USDBut I got a great idea — they’re perfect for small batches of fresh salad dressing. (I love making my own dressing at home, but it doesn’t have much of a shelf life so I prefer to make tiny quantities.) I don’t love sticking it in an unslightly Tupperware, because it doesn’t pour smoothly. And I don’t like having my Pyrex measuring cups occupied by dressing, in case I need them for cooking.

Voilà la solution! Mini Courvoisier bottles are tiny and pourable and cute on the table, and I get to re-use something that would otherwise be junk. And now I finally have a reason for having hoarded all the little bottles like some kind of glass-loving treasure freak.

This would be kind of a cheap post without a recipe, though, wouldn’t it? Normally I’m terrible about writing such things down, and this is no exception, so all quantities are completely and totally invented on the spot, but I’m pretty sure they’re not far off. Enjoy!

Honey Mustard Dressing

1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp dry white wine
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp milk, kefir or yogurt (depending on how thick you want your dressing to be)
2 tsp honey
splash soy sauce — about 1/2 tsp — optional
1 tsp nutritional/brewer’s yeast — optional
salt, pepper and garlic to taste — optional

Combine, shake vigorously, and enjoy!

mayonnaise!

So in the past week or so, there have been a couple of notable occurrences in my house that I feel are worth mentioning.?? A couple months ago, we became the proud owners of a Snackmaster toasted sandwich maker.?? Yum – grilled cheese, the easy way.?? So there you have it – so we started toasting a lot of things.?? We’d put almost any sandwich-like concoction into the Snackmaster to see if it could be improved upon.?? Well not really, only variations on “grilled cheese”, but still… some experimentation occurred.?? Most things were only good if they didn’t stray too far from the “grilled cheese” ideal – but I digress.?? So the other day I’m chatting with my roommate while she’s making herself a sandwich.?? She interrupts some sentence I’m blathering on about to say, “Don’t look at the mayonnaise.”?? I was kind of surprised and taken aback, but of course I watch as she squirts some mayonnaise onto her bread.?? Then she proceeds to make the sandwich, without spreading around the mayonnaise.?? I’m like, “Don’t you maybe want to spread that on the bread first?”?? And she’s like, “I told you not to look at the mayonnaise.”?? Crap.?? She knows me too well.?? So I’m like, “O-kay… where was I…. no, seriously Jen, aren’t you going to spread your mayonnaise?”?? She just laughs and we keep chatting.?? Finally her sandwich is done, and she places it in the hot Snackmaster to grill.?? Very shortly thereafter (too short a time for the cheese to have melted), a sizzling but more liquid than the usual cheese-sizzling noise erupts from the Snackmaster.?? I’m like, “Oh my God, that’s MAYONNAISE! THAT SOUND IS YOUR MAYONNAISE SIZZLING! MAKE IT STOP!”?? And there was genuine PANIC in my voice.?? She doubles over laughing really lound, and points out the GENUINE PANIC, at which we both crack up, because WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME???? She insists it’s just cheese sizzling, and also that I ought to consider shutting the fuck up since she TOLD me not to look at the mayonnaise in the first place.?? I kid you not, the thought of sizzling mayonnaise caused me to YELP in horror.?? WTF??? I mean, I’ve never liked mayonnaise, but still… WTF?

So THEN, the other night, she’s in her room on her bed reading, and I’m standing in her doorway chatting as we’re both about to go to bed, and she has pajamas on with socks… and she starts to slip her socks so they’re only half-on her feet and the other half is flopping over the edge of her toes.?? And I’m like, YOUR SOCKS ARE COMING OFF!!!!!!! MAKE IT STOP!!!! Again, genuine panic here, people.?? WTF!? I was seriously SO bothered by this.?? And she cracks up and yells “MAYONNAISE” because that has become a regular inside joke around the house now, for when Ginnie gets so riled up about some simple little OCD matter and full-on FREAKS out and?? yelps with genuine crazed panic in her voice.?? I was actually THAT BOTHERED by half-on socks, because I just hate the way it feels when my own socks start to slip off…

But seriously.?? What the hell is wrong with me??? I’d make an incredible fascist dictator.?? I’d impose all sorts of irrational rules and regulations that the people would be beheaded for not following.

I’d also make a really amazing assistant to that zany detective, Adrian Monk.?? I’m even blond!?? But I’m not a single mom.?? So I guess that one’s out.?? But seriously – I used to love that show, and I thought it was just because it was witty and funny and well-done…. now I’m concerned it’s because I deeply identify with the main character.?? WHO HAS ACUTE OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER.?? Holy hell, it’s been a weird coupla weeks.??