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Archive for July, 2011

So, misfits, one of my cool and interesting friends recently ordered a quarter of a grass-fed cow and had it custom-butchered for her.  There’ll be a post coming up on how you can do this yourself, but what’s important for you to know now is that we’ve been talking a lot about beef.

I mean, like, a lot.  When you’re emailing at 2 AM about the kidney that fell out of your friend’s lump of beef fat, you know shit just got real.

So a slab of chuck steak from a frolicsome grass-fed cow is a thing of wonder and magic and unicorn tails and glitter rainbows a la My Little Fucking Pony and stuff, right?  I mean, seriously, a Care Bear would probably shiv another Care Bear to get his hands on one.

And not just Grumpy, either, ‘kay?  Even one of the nauseatingly happy-go-lucky always-on-ecstasy Care Bears would shiv another Care Bear for one.  And speaking of Grumpy, I feel that he was largely misunderstood, don’t you?

But I digress.

Okay, but sometimes you want a hamburger, right?  And you’re all, oh, the sad packages of grass-fed ground beef are always so leeeeeeaaaaann.  Why are they always so leeeeeaaaaannnn?  Can’t they make it less leeaaaaannnn?  And when will they find a way to fix the speech impediment that causes me to say “leeeeaaaaaannnn” like that?

Well, I can’t help you with the second problem, misfits.  Some problems are just too big for your Bad Mama Genny to solve on her own.

List A: Problems That Are Too Big for Your Bad Mama Genny to Solve on Her Own:
1-World hunger
2-Unequal distribution of wealth
3-Automatic flush toilets
4-Speech impediments that make you say “leeeeaaaaaannnn”

List B: Problems That Are NOT Too Big for Your Bad Mama Genny to Solve on Her Own:
1-Dry, flavorless grass-fed hamburgers
2-All problems not mentioned in List A

Well, it’s true, grass-fed beef IS lean.  Leaner than most of us are accustomed to.  The burger seems dry.  Not fall-apart tender enough.  Not flavorful enough.  But you know what?

The man wants you to eat flavorless hamburgers.

That’s right.  While you thought you were sticking it to the man when you purchased grass-fed hamburger meat, you didn’t realize that the man is a crafty bugger who dipped his dirty paws into the organic movement and figured out that he could still exercise power over you by grinding the same old cuts of beef into hamburger and selling it to you AT A CONSIDERABLE MARKUP WHAT WHAT.

My point being, of course, that you have to stay one step ahead of the man at all times.  You have to find new and better ways to stick it to him.

Finding new and better ways to stick it to people.  Pretty much the meaning of life.

Screw that flavorless beef!  Go grind your own!

What we’re going to do is macerate chunks of lean beef and animal fat together to create well-marbled hamburger mix that will be so good it will make you and everyone you love die.

Roll out the motherfucking mass graves, misfits!  It’s time for us all to eat hamburgers and die!

Gather:
1 lb. of lean grass-fed beef (round roast is an incredibly flavorful but very lean cut–it’s perfect for this)
1/4 cup solid at room-temp animal fat (lard and beef tallow are both great for this, but even bacon fat and butter would work–this time I’m using butter)

Do:
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Cut the meat into 2-inch chunks.  Cut the fat into half-inch chunks.  Line up your chunks (heh heh…your chunks) on the cookie sheet and pop it all into the freezer.  Chill it until the outsides of the meat chunks are very firm, but not frozen through–45 minutes should be good.

Now you’ll want a food processor, ‘kay?  Pile in alternating chunks of meat and fat, only filling the food processor one-third to one-half of the way to capacity.  If your processor is small, you’ll wanna do this in batches to give the meat plenty of room to move around and macerate evenly.  Overpacking the processor will result in a bottom level of beefy goo and a top level of unground beef.

Eww…bottom levels of beefy goo.

Put the top on and pulse the food processor several times.  Don’t let it go too far–you don’t need a ground mixture that’s as fine as what they sell in the store and you certainly don’t want it any finer.  Go too far and it loses its steak-yness.

And I am a serious proponent of steaky-ness.

At this point, take it out of the food processor, transfer it to a bowl, and add any seasonings.

I keep things simple.  A little salt and pepper, some finely minced garlic, a dash or three of Worcestershire sauce.  But the important thing to remember is this: mix it gently, with your hands.  Don’t pack the meat together.  Just kinda…toss it together.  Then form patties–again, handle her gently.  Your meat mass needs to be treated like a lady.

Your meat mass needs to be treated like a lady.  Yes, I just said that.

4 patties per pound is pretty customary–3 patties per pound if you’re feeling like a fucking benefactress.  I’ll be honest here:

I usually feel like a fucking benefactress.  We don’t eat meat often enough or in large enough quantities for me to be a miser when we’re making hamburgers.

Now toss ’em onto an oh-shit-that’s-hot grill or griddle, and sear away.  I think 3 to 4 minutes per side is plenty, but I still like ’em to be a little bloody in the middle.  DON’T press your burgers down with the spatula–this takes the fatty juices out of the burger, where you want them, and redistributes them to a sad, sad land outside of your burger.

For the sake of today’s post, let’s assume that any place that isn’t inside your burger is a sad, sad land.

If you’re planning to cheese, cheese early, like a minute and a half before the second side is done cooking.  Then choose a righteous burger bun.  Preferably something crusty on the outside with plenty of character.  Even a sea salt ciabatta would be nice.  Now do it up the way your Bad Mama Genny Does It Up.  Take the burger out and let it rest for three minutes.  Warm the bun, spread the bottom half with mayo (sorry, mayo haters…actually, I’m sorry I’m NOT sorry), and apply burger.  The better the burger, the less dressing up you’ll need, perhaps even just a slice of onion, a disc of tomato, and a bit more mayo on the top bun.

Top buns and bottom buns, misfits.  A delicate distinction.

So go wild if you like.  I’ve been known to toss some mushrooms, onions, and a bit of red wine into the burger pan and go to town making a WAY DELICIOSO topping.  Then again, I’ve been known to do a lot of things.

Bug I digress.

What dresses your burgers, misfits?  Build me your ideal hamburger from bottom bun to top bun, and don’t leave out a single detail!

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Hang onto your fishnets, misfits–it’s time for another installment of “Ask Bad Mama Genny!”  And today’s episode is likely to pull at the heartstrings of all you sweet-toothed yet lactarded gals and fellas out there.  Read on for Michelle’s query:

Caramel! I miss it as a lactard, have you found any suitable alternatives; or even better, a way to make the real thing?
Thanks a million!
Michelle

Caramel is a tough one, misfits.

Hey, hey, hey, come back here!   I didn’t say it was “impossible,” misfits!  I said it was “a tough one,” okay?  Thereby causing you to realize the enormity of the task I have undertaken and increasing my glory tenfold when you watch me do it BECAUSE OH HELLZ YES I DID DO IT.

So as we’ve discussed in the past, I am lactose-intolerant.  This does not mean that I no longer live like A Rock Star.   Not living like A Rock Star is totally not an option for me.  Therefore I need caramel.  Everybody knows that rock stars and caramel go together like gin and tonic water which IS REALLY FUCKING WELL.

Me=Rock Star.

Stop laughing.

In any case, Your Bad Mama Genny does not possess the inner fortitude to give up things like ice cream and cream soups and caramel.  Simple as that.

But, uh, let’s be frank here: I also LITERALLY do not possess the inner fortitude to eat them.  So I find ways around it.  Coconut ice cream.  Almond milk.  Hallucinogenic substances.  You know, the usual.  I tweak my recipes until they’re just as satisfying as the original, and YOU, yes, YOU reap the benefits.

So let’s talk caramel–technically speaking, caramel can just be, well, caramel, as in caramelized sugar.  Sugar plus heat equals caramel.  But right now you’re all, Oh, Bad Mama Genny, that is SO NOT what Michelle meant.  And I so know you’re right.  What Michelle meant is that gooey, creamy stuff you could eat out of a jar with a spoon–that stuff you drizzle on ice cream, over cakes, or all over yourselves for a bizarre photo shoot that will probably surface in Sweden someday.

I canz handle that challenge, my wittle misfittles.

So onto the dang quesadillas! (Please tell me you got that reference.)

I mean, the dang caramel!

Dairy-Free, Vegan Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar or evaporated cane juice
3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract (seriously, misfits, vanilla bean paste is my MSG–use it, and use it liberally)
2 T. vegan Earth Balance spread–or butter, if you can tolerate it (I can) and don’t have a problem with dairy on principle
1 dash sea salt
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 Tablespoons cold water

Directions:
Put sugars and Earth Balance in a medium saucepan over low heat.  Meanwhile, set the coconut milk in a small saucepan over low heat to get steamy.  Now cook the sugars and butter, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until it’s smooth and melty and sugars have dissolved (about 5 minutes).  Now toss in the vanilla bean paste or extract and stir quickly to incorporate–be careful, the mixture may froth up at this point.  Now slowly add the steaming coconut milk while stirring.  When it’s incorporated, mix the cornstarch with the cold water in a small bowl.  Add it to the caramel mixture while stirring, and let the mixture bubble until thickened, about 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes.  Then transfer it to a jar or airtight container and OM NOM NOM NOM NOM start over again.

Enjoy, Michelle!

And for all of you lactarded misfits looking for a lil’ more non-dairy love, check out a few other recipes I’ve posted for your nomming pleasure:

Dairy-free, Soy-free, Vegan Macaroni & Cheese

Dairy-free Creamy Spinach Artichoke Dip

Swedish Meatballs with Dairy-free “Sour Cream” and Mushroom Sauce

(Remember, misfits, you can submit your own question for your Bad Mama Genny to answer by clicking right here.)

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Photo by Greyson Orlando

If you follow me on Twitter, by now you know that our garden apartment flooded this weekend.  Badly.  The Boy and I lost about a third of our possessions, but we’re both acutely aware of how much worse it could have been if the plumber hadn’t made it out when he did.  The garden is suffering, too–last week’s intense heat followed by this week’s deluges and heavy rains have meant damage and calcium problems.  We’re knee-deep in homestead recovery efforts, but at this very moment I’d like to think about the one bright spot in my weekend.  Actually, it was more like hundreds of bright spots…

And they were all a gift from The Boy.

On Friday evening he came home from work clutching a brown paper bag in his fist and wearing a grin as big as his face.  And when I unrolled the bag and peeked inside…

Ladybugs!  HUNDREDS of them.

I was, honestly, bowled over by the romance of his soul.

So why was I so thrilled with my bag full of insects?  Well, ladybugs are beneficial bugs–they’re carnivores, and they’re pretty much non-discriminating about it.  They’ll eat any bad guys they can possibly find with no picky whining and no asking for ketchup.  In fact, I once read that a single ladybug can eat over 5,000 aphids in its lifetime.  If you’re anything like me, that little fact alone was enough to sell you on adding ladybuggers to your garden because HELLO THOSE FUCKING APHIDS NEARLY DECIMATED THE NIGHTSHADES AND THEY SHALL PAY FOR THEIR TRANSGRESSIONS.  But if you’re looking for another cute fact, I gotses one!

Did you know that ladybugs bleed from their knees when they feel threatened?

Aww, that’s the CUTEST!

Okay, now for a fact that isn’t so cute: cannibalism.  Did you know ladybugs are capable of cannibalism when they’re out of other bugs?

What a Bummer.

Well, that won’t happen at this homestead, that’s for sure.  Between the cabbage moths and the aphids and all the assorted THINGS, my ladybugs should be set for quite some time.

Now haven’t I made you want to release ladybuggers into your gardens?  Don’t you misfits think you need littler misfits?  Don’t you want the newest and cutest garden accessory around?  The one that comes in polka-dots?

Of courses you do!  I mean, come on.  I can make you weirder yet.

So here are My Almighty Ladybug Tips and Hints:

*Get ’em from a reputable, preferably local nursery.  You want to make sure that you’re not introducing an invasive species that could compete with local ladybugs.  And buying from a reputable source helps to ensure that you’re not getting weak or diseased bugs.

*Newly released ladybugs are often cranky and parched from their travels.  Remember how cranky and parched YOU feel after a 7 hour flight in a tiny seat in a tiny, airless cabin with too many cranky and parched strangers?  Yeah, it’s like that.  So release ladybugs after a rain, or water the earth well before releasing them.  Of course if you’re like me and you just had a flood you would laugh at this advice and go AHAHA LISTEN LADY WATER ISN’T EXACTLY MY PROBLEM MMMKAAAAAY?  But.  I.  Digress.

*Diversify your ladybugs’ dietary portfolio.  That’s right–if your garden doesn’t seem hospitable, your ladybugs just may peek under the fence at the neighboring yards, turn to you in frustration with their little ladybug “hands” on their little ladybug “hips,” put on their best Eric Cartman voice, and screech, “Screw you guys!  I’m going home!”  That is, someone else’s home.  Dammit.  So when you’re releasing them, resist the urge to dump the bag in one place.  Instead, sprinkle them throughout the garden.  Same goes for containers–distribute them as evenly as possible.

*Release your ladybugs when it’s starting to get dark out.  That makes them less likely to be all, oh, hey, let’s run as far away from here as possible, even if that means leaving the yard and blowing this loser’s investment.  Yeah.

*Cold air makes them slower and calmer–hence, releasing them becomes easier if you chill them in the fridge for a wee bit before letting them roam free.

*If some of your ladies don’t want to leave their bag, turn it upside down and tap gently.  If they still won’t leave, why not place the bag on an area of moist ground and just walk away?  Come back in the morning–once you’re out of the picture and your bugginses have had a chance to review their options, I’m sure they’ll come to the conclusion that OH, HEY, LEAVES AND INSECTS AND WATER ARE PREFERABLE TO THIS DARK, DANK, BARREN HELL BAG.  But that’s just a hunch.

*Check your hair, body, and clothes for stowaway ladies before heading back inside.  If nothing else, the process of picking off the clingers just may have you giggling in delight all by your lonesome, and if there’s one thing we urban homesteaders need, it’s YET ANOTHER REASON THE NEIGHBORS THINK WE’RE STRANGE AND/OR DANGEROUS.

Well, whaddya think?  Anyone ’bout to head out for some ladybugs?  Done it before? Think they’re weird?  Think they’re cute?  Wanna dress up like them?  Wanna marry them?

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Whoah, Nelly!  That’s what greeted me this morning when I went out to check on my band of hoochies.

Well, hello, there, cucurbit, are you a squash or are you just happy to see me?

Turns out it’s a squash.

To show you just how impressively ginormous this container-grown yellow squash is, allow me to present Exhibit B:

Yup–bigger than a big-arse STBX Americano.  But you know, even big-arse squashes like to feel dainty sometimes.  Like to feel…delicate.  Even–dare I say–pretty.

Misfits, when a prize squash asks to borrow one of your tutus and raid your jewelry box…well, you don’t say no.

You’re welcome!

Happy weekend, misfits!  But tell me…is black her color?  Or would fuschia do a better job of bringing out her natural vegetative glow?

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Oh, for Delilah’s sake, misfits, my garden is like the set of “16 and Pregnant” right now.

It’s an epidemic!  Babies having babies!

And you know what?  The little sluts want more!

Okay, now that’s just ASKING for it.

That last photo is Blondkopfchen tomatoes–little yellow pear tomatoes.  The name, literally translated, is “Little Blonde Girl.”  (In bed!)  That pretty much says it all, now doesn’t it?

So how do I feel about having a veritable brothel on my little plot of earth?  I’m not gonna lie–I’m pretty freaking proud.

Also, if I ran a brothel, it would be the awesomest brothel in town, full of fishnetty goodness and lots of good times spent sitting around eating chocolate truffles and laughing with all our teeth showing.  We’d all stick together, like in that music video for “Love is a Battlefield,” and we’d dutifully share tutus with one another.  And if someone crossed one of us, we’d make an example of him.  Like those hookers did to Neil Patrick Harris in that second Harold and Kumar movie.

But I digress.

Oh, yeah, and those soon to be enormous tomatoes?  All grown in containers.  This is as close as Your Bad Mama Genny gets to a religious experience.  Check out my bitchin’ soil recipe for fab tomatoes.

So how does your garden grow right now?  (In bed!)

Are your plants whorin’ it up as ambitiously as mine, or are they regular prudes, with nary a bloom in sight?

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It's tinted because it's natural, bitches!

Misfits, your Bad Mama Genny can only suppress the Bad in her for so long.  And you knew it was only a matter of time before we revisited the propensity toward moonshining that I seem to have inherited.  So, dollfaces, get your doll-like game faces on because we’re makin’ gin!

Okay, but let’s back the moped up for a moment.  We’re doing all this without a still, because we’re not actually distilling our own hard liquor–that’s still illegal.  Jimmy Carter can only do so much.  Instead, we’re taking a cheap bottle of vodka, steeping it with aromatics, and using this process by Jeffrey Morgenthaler to filter the bejeezus out of it.  Thereby turning it into gin.

I know you’ll appreciate this recipe because you’re thrifty little misfits, yes you are!  After all, we needses our monies for important things.  Like fishnets.  And remote-control helicopters.  And more cheap alcohol.

The Boy and I deviated from Morgenthaler’s ingredients and instructions a bit, but I can’t tell you how I did it because it’s my secret and proprietary blend of 11 herbs and spices.

Wait–I’m not the Colonel!  I forgot.  Sometimes I forget and think I’m the Colonel.

So I’m totally telling you how we did it.  ‘Cause sharin’ recipes is just how I roll.  But feel free to do things in your own slammin’ way, kewpie dolls.  We used some different spices in different amounts, added a lavender infusion (can’t wait to try a lavender and lemongrass blend), chose booze strength differently, and blah blah blah.  If you’d like to do this Jeffrey’s way, see his post.

If you’d like to do this the Bad Mama Genny way…

hold tight, take a swig, crank up the Brian Eno, and for the sake of all that is good in this world, do NOT use a coaster, mmkay?

Okay!  Ingredients!

1 750mL bottle 80-proof vodka (don’t bother with anything too fancy until you’ve tweaked the recipe to your liking)
3 Tablespoons dried juniper berries
1 1/2 Tablespoons dried lavender flowers
5 teaspoons whole coriander, crushed lightly with the side of a chef’s knife
1 teaspoon dried orange peel
1 teaspoon dried lemon peel
1 small cinnamon stick, lightly crushed (I used the handle of a coffee scoop…you could also use a hammer, a rubber mallet, a heavy can, an obese domestic animal, etc.)
2 whole cardamom pods, crushed lightly with the side of a chef’s knife
A pitcher-style water filter system, with a brand, spanking new filter that’s been rinsed and prepped for use per the manufacturer’s instructions (this isn’t really an ingredient.  You will not be consuming the water filter.  This time.)

Directions!

Okay, so toss all those badass spices and flowers and stuff into a french press.  A jar works fine, too, it’ll just require an extra straining step with some cheesecloth later on.  French Press makes this easier.  French Press lets me be what I am.  Which is lazy.

Now you’re going to pour in the vodka…

Ooh, pretty.

And it’ll look like this.

Okay, so that was easy, right?  Well, not so fast, because the hardest part is coming.  THE WAITING.

Oh, god, the WAITING!  For about 10 days (Morgenthaler recommended a week, I believe in overkill).  You’ll live.  So just pass the time while your booze sits in a dark, room temperature place.  We used our fermentation room.

So!  Ten days later and this is what you have.

Mmm…floating stuffs and things.  Push the plunger down on your French Press (or strain the mixture into a jar through a cheesecloth-lined sieve)…

Give it a good sniff.  Smells like gin, right?!  Awesome!  Now here comes the water filter part.  Pour your booze-o-hol into the top of the pitcher (It should be mentioned that you will not want to use this filter for water ever again.  But that’s okay, every urban homestead needs a dedicated booze filter.)

It will filter once and look something like this.

Now wash out your French Press or jar and pour the booze back into it.

Rinse out your filter’s pitcher bowl thingy to remove sediment, and filter the booze a SECOND time–it’ll look something like this:

Now pour it back into the French Press or jar (feeling deja vu yet?).  At this point, a mischievous looking tiki cup may or may not appear next to your booze, depending on how Bad you’ve been in your misfittish life.

Apparently, I’ve been pretty Bad.

Now rinse the pitcher again, filter your magic juice a THIRD time, and continue to repeat the pitcher-rinsing and filtering until you’ve filtered it FIVE TIMES.

You now have gin.  TAH-DAH!!!!

Bottle it with snark.

Now collect another, different tiki cup and fill it with ice.  Do not ask yourself, “Self, why do I have such a number and variety of tiki cups?”  The answer is irrelevant, as one should not question the universe’s benevolence in such an impudent manner.

Have The Boy (ooh, a The Boy sighting!) cut up some lemon slices.

Observe the packaged elderflowers in the background.  They will be used to make elderflower champagne, for which you will soon be gifted with a recipe.  (I’ll also be teaching people how to make it, in person, at The Creative Connection event in St. Paul in September!  Sign up for my classes on pickling and fermenting!  Liberate the misfit inside of you!)

Okay, the monorail in my head just derailed.  Must need more gin.  So have somebody cut up lemon slices for you, and collect some sparkling beverage of sorts.  Mix some gin with the sparkly stuff, pour over ice, and garnish with lemon.

Ignore the sloppy-looking stuffed animals in the background.  They are totally trashed and we are trying to get them into a good rehab program, but these things can be slow-going, and you can’t rush the process of recovery.

Also, you don’t have to spring for SanPel.  It’s all Walgreens had on the Saturday night we decided to finish our gin.  I’m pretty sure this is not the kind of “emergency” the good people at Walgreens envisioned when they decided to go 24-hours.

Q: It’s 11:30 P.M.  Do you know where YOUR Bad Mama Genny is?

A: Making moonshine.  Yeah, that sounds about right.

The Boy: “Wait for the garnish!!  The garnish!!!  YOU CAN’T TAKE PHOTOS UNTIL I’VE PROPERLY GARNISHED.”

Zee Boy, he iz zee artiste.

So in sum:

MmmmmmmmmYESYESYESYESYES!  Our gin turned out DELICIOUS, cardamom-forward, floral from the lavender, and steeped with the exotic perfume of juniper berries.  And if you’re wondering how to use the extra juniper berries, why not save them and make a slab of homemade bacon?  I’ll post the recipe here in the near future, so stay tuned.

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Thanks for entering last week’s contest, misfits!  The winner, decided by a random number generator, is oona b, who had this to say about garden soundtracks:

“I like to listen to Tribe Called Quest, anything but the wretched autotune music my daughter insists on playing 24-7!”

Ah, yes.  The autotuner.  Crappyness at its finest, misfits!

And it should be noted that Ms. oona b had improved her chances of winning by following me on Twitter and leaving a comment to that effect–just more proof that following me on Twitter may pay off in ways unrelated to a shiny new straitjacket!

Eh?  EH?

Some of your comments made me laugh so hard I just about busted a run in my fishnets.  And you know what?  It would have been worth it (and you KNOW how I feel about runs in my fishnets, dahlings.)  So thanks a ton, and stay tuned for more Big Bad Fun!

 

 

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