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Friday, January 29, 2016

Screw Up Some Recipes

It can be incredibly daunting to try new things, including recipes, because there is an excellent chance that your results won't be perfect on your first attempt. I've had to learn this the hard way, trying out ideas and recipes for this show. We eat them whether or not they come out perfectly, unless they're just inedible. Sometimes they look like real "Pinterest fails." That's okay. Every attempt gets me closer to something I'm proud to share and I would never use a recipe on the show if I didn't think it was really good. That ugly duckling stage is a necessary part of the journey, so don't be afraid to mess up! You're not failing, you're doing research and development!

Test Kitsch-en

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Make Someone's Day!

Yesterday may have been about the haters, but today is about the love! We were fortunate to receive a couple of really nice messages from folks yesterday, telling us how much they like the show, and it made our day! It got me thinking about how we don't really know what's going on with other people. We might just assume that they know their show (or business or cooking or books or whatever they do) is great, so we don't say anything. However, they could be having a bad day, or they may just feel unnoticed and unappreciated, and a kind word from you could be all it takes to completely shift their day from grim to great!  So, if you really love someone's work, don't hold back! Let them know and I'll bet you get some real appreciation in return!

And don't forget to reward yourself for your kindness with a little something special, like a lovely libation! Here's a pretty blue one for you to try - click to make the image larger!

  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

You Can't Please Everyone

One of the biggest challenges I've faced on my journey to creating my Velveteen Lounge Kitsch-en media empire is knowing that not everyone adores me. Shocking, right? It's in my DNA to be nice to people and I always approach any new person in my life wanting to have a fabulous relationship, whether personal or professional, but sometimes it just wasn't meant to be. Sometimes folks hate you on sight. Sometimes there are professional rivalries, imagined slights or you just resemble someone's abusive boss or cheating wife. There's not much you can do about other people and what they think. All you can do is be kind, be yourself, do the work you want to do and live your life in a way that makes you proud. If someone doesn't like you or what you represent, that's their problem!

At Vidcon last year I attended many panels featuring creators of wildly successful food and lifestyle shows on YouTube and some of their stories were shocking. The abuse and vitriol that even the most popular ones endure is pretty amazing to someone like me, who wants to love everyone. But I took a valuable piece of advice away from more than one panel, which is that you're no one without haters. If you don't have haters, it means you're not putting yourself out there in the world. So thank a hater! Their asinine comments are evidence that your message is being heard!

Here's a little cocktail to enjoy as you build your business, life or just navigate the crazies who are determined to hate everything:


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Don't Obsess, Just Drink!

My friend Jennifer shared a great article by wine expert Ryan Opaz (click here to read it), the gist of which is that wine should be enjoyed, not a source of shame for imbibers who aren't sure whether or not they're drinking the right wine or a wine that's "good enough." All I can say is "Amen!" I've been privy to a depressing number of discussions on liquor, beer, food and the like which seem to devolve into arguments about whether or not a particular product is worthy and become, rather than a chance to share information on new products or something that someone tried and particularly liked, more of a competition over who has the most educated palate and is therefore more of an "expert" on cocktails (or beer or coffee or artisanal bread). It reminds me of teenagers raging that any band that isn't among their favorites "sucks." However, what's cute, if asinine, in a kid is just mean and sad in an adult. By all means, folks should drink whatever makes them happy! But if someone likes Yellow Tail wine or Myers's rum, they should be able to drink it in peace, without shaming from the peanut gallery. It's so refreshing to see an expert who agrees. Thank you, Ryan Opaz!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Power Outage? Fondue Party!

Hopefully you’re not about to be impacted by the blizzard the east coast has been promised this weekend but, if you are, fondue is a good way to have a hot meal if the power goes out!  At its most basic, fondue is simply melted cheese, chocolate or hot oil into which you dip bites of food for cooking. Keep garlic cloves, white wine (or broth, for a non-alcoholic version) and shredded cheese on hand, along with bread for dipping (slightly stale bread works best) and you will eat like a king!  For the most basic of cheese fondues, all you do is rub the bottom of your fondue pot with a clove or two of garlic, add wine (or broth) and bring to a simmer, then add your cheese a handful at a time and stir until it’s melted! Adding about a tablespoon of cornstarch that has been combined with an equal amount of water or liquor will help to smooth it out and of course you can add any spices, liqueurs (kirsch is popular) and cheese loving foods you like! One of my favorite recipes involves adding lump crabmeat. Cooked shrimp would also be great.  Use your imagination, keep the appropriate fuel for your fondue pot on hand and stay safe if you find yourself surrounded by the fluffy white stuff!

Here are a couple of fun fondue recipes from 1969's The Fondue Cookbook, compiled and edited by Beth Merriman, along with a little info about heaters for fondue pots. Bon appetit!








Thursday, January 21, 2016

Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner

We don't eat much meat around here, partly because it can be really expensive for anything that's decent quality. A couple of times recently I've roasted a whole chicken, since, pound for pound, it's a good deal and we can use it in meals for days. Today I'm trying it in the crock pot. There are hundreds of crock pot chicken recipes online, but I don't think you even really need one. All you do is wash and pat dry the chicken (be sure to remove the giblets!), place herbs, onions, a lemon or anything else you like inside the chicken, season inside and out however you like (definitely salt and pepper, along with anything else that sounds good to you),  add a little liquid to the pot (I used chicken broth, since we have a ton from the last chicken), then finally the chicken. Mine is five pounds, so I'm cooking for five hours on the high setting. I'm also trying a tip I saw on several sites, which involved making a "rack" for the chicken out of balls of foil - just wad up pieces of foil into balls, place in the bottom of the pot and set the chicken on them. It's supposed to keep it from burning on the bottom.

I also made a "gravy" I'm very happy with, since it tastes great and I absolutely cheated while making it. Most gravy recipes involve about 37 steps and they don't result in a better gravy than mine. I've named it Cheating Gravy and I plan to make it often!

Cheating Gravy

The giblets from one chicken
About 2 TBSP bourbon
About 1/2 cup chicken broth
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and red pepper flakes to taste
About 2 TBSP flour

Combine all ingredients except the flour and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove the giblets and chop, then add back the liver and heart if you like (it's fine if you leave them out). Return to a simmer. Combine flour with enough cold water to make a paste, add to the pot and stir until it thickens (this happens quickly). Voila - cheating gravy!


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Lovely Smile And A Lovely Libation

It seemed as though the whole world was cranky today, or at least the whole of NYC. From the woman who berated a man for blowing his nose on my morning train to the gal who was snippy to me on the PATH train to the dozens of folks whose faces seem to have frozen into scowls in this bone chilling cold, most of the city was in a bad mood. Most, that is, except for a woman on the B train who actually smiled at me! It took me a moment to process the fact that she was, in fact, not crazy - just friendly. That simple facial motion melted so much of the morning's deep freeze (and I don't mean the air temperature). I was struck by the power of a simple smile. They say it takes more muscles to frown than to smile, so take the lazy way and smile! You'll certainly look better and you'll definitely stand out!

Of course, a lovely libation also makes the day seem brighter! Like many folks, I am no fan of cold weather, especially when it's accompanied by heavy winds, but I'm about to administer my favorite antidote: bourbon! Try this the next time you get home after a bitterly cold day. It thaws you right out!



Cozy Fire
2 oz bourbon
1/2 oz elderflower liqueur
1/2 oz pomegranate juice
1/4 oz fresh lime juice

Isn't that better?


Monday, January 18, 2016

Teen-Time Chocolate Nut Bars

Or, in our case, Teen-Time Chocolate Bars, since I didn't have nuts.

Craving cookies, I found myself flipping through 1963's Betty Crocker's Cooky Book and there it was! Not only did I have most of the ingredients, how could I resist making something called Teen-Time Chocolate Nut Bars? It's straight out of "The Brady Bunch" - Alice probably served them after school! I'm pleased to report that they are yummy, whether or not you're a teen. And, as a bonus, grownups can enjoy them with a lovely libation! Cheers!




Sunday, January 17, 2016

Crackerquariums!

The next time you're looking for an effortless appetizer that is nevertheless impressive looking, make Crackerquariums! All you do is combine cream cheese with your favorite spices (or use any premade white spread), add blue food color, spread on crackers, top with a goldfish cracker and coral and seagrass made from pimentos, yellow banana peppers and spinach leaves. They couldn't be easier to prepare and they're a real conversation starter!

Crackerquariums!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Drink 'Em While You Can

Among the many ways we've been enlightened by the news this week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has recently announced that one drink a day for women is considered "excessive" (click here if you don't believe me). They even consider what most of us would call "one drink" more than one drink in some cases! Now, while I myself am against excessive drinking, my definition of such is a little different from theirs. If your lovely libations are negatively impacting your life or your health, that's excessive. If cocktails give you the urge to hop into the car and go for a ride, that's just a terrible idea, period. If a little drinkie (or five) makes you cranky or violent, by all means, put down the bottle! But let's stop vilifying one of life's little pleasures which, when enjoyed by responsible adults, can make a bad day better and make a celebration just a little more celebratory. Fun fact: We could all stop now and never touch a drop again and we're all goners, anyway. No one lives forever, so I want to enjoy my life while I still can.

Or, to quote a friend from the past, "Don't drink and drive - just drink!" It's later than you think.

They probably lived to be 80, unless mobsters got them first.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Corn And Black Beans: Is There Anything You Can't Do?

In much the same way that roasting a chicken and using it in dishes all week is a great way to save time and money, this easy combination of corn and black beans can serve as a base for dishes to last for days! All you do is combine one can of rinsed black beans and an equal amount of corn (I used frozen). Toss in some minced onion and salt, along with the juice of half a lime, and in about 30 seconds you're done!

This combination made its first appearance this week in an easy appetizer that is always popular at parties. Add a little spoonful each to Tostitos Scoops chips, top with hot sauce or salsa if you like. That's it! So simple and they disappear quickly!

Other uses for this magical mixture: combine with chicken or veggie broth (and a little beer or tequila if you're feeling frisky) and add a few tortilla chips for a delicious soup, add to your favorite chili recipe, tacos or melt with cheese in quesadillas, mix with eggs and milk for a fabulous frittata, toss with some olive oil and garlic and serve with pasta, blend with cream cheese or mashed avocado and spices for a yummy sandwich spread - the options are endless! Best of all, you'd be hard pressed to find a less expensive meal option. Pick up some corn and black beans the next time you're at the supermarket and don't worry about meals for a few days - you've got it covered!




Monday, January 11, 2016

Don't Settle For Boring: Customize Your Belongings!

The renovation of our powder room, which almost killed us in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, was largely completed before the holidays, but we're still putting on some finishing touches. Yesterday we added vintage shelf paper to the front of this boring, utilitarian cabinet from IKEA. We bought it knowing that we'd never leave it white. I found the paper on Etsy and we finally got around to affixing it with spray adhesive. Now I love it! You don't ever have to settle for leaving furniture (or clothing or shoes or anything else) the way you find it. Customize it! Find the right adhesive for your project, whether it's for fabric or rhinestones or food safe or heavy duty, and make it uniquely yours!

Customized cabinet - just add shelf paper!



Friday, January 8, 2016

It's Friday! Let's Catch Up Over Lovely Libations!

Are you as ready for happy hour this week as I am? Click here for this week's happy hour video, with a recipe for an easy highball that you can also enjoy for brunch!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9hKwrcRJq8
Today I've been wearing my costume designer hat and made this dress for the episode that will go online January 19:

It's a marshmallow world in the winter!
The test kitchen has been busy as well. We'll enjoy the experiments with our happy hour libations this evening!

There's lots more going on, which I'll be able to share soon! 2016 promises to be a crazy year, made crazier by my determination to push outside of my comfort zone as often as possible, personally and on behalf of the show. I'm ready for the challenges!

And, speaking of challenges, be sure to let us know, either here, on YouTube or your favorite social media platform, if you have an idea for a recipe or episode you'd like to see us tackle! We'd love to hear from you!  

Monday, January 4, 2016

Happy New Year!

I hope 2016 is treating you well so far!

I love the feeling of a clean slate that a new year brings. Resolutions aren't particularly my thing, although I do love to set goals! We have some pretty ambitious ones for the show this year, including producing three new music videos and getting our YouTube channel to 10,000 subscribers.  It's not just vanity on our parts. YouTube has an arcane algorithm which ranks channels on watch time and subscriber numbers. If they deem either of those numbers low, you fall in their rankings and it becomes that much harder for viewers to discover your channel. And when that happens it becomes a vicious cycle. Our watch time is excellent (a high percentage of viewers stick around to the end of our episodes), but our subscriber count could be higher. More subscribers means more opportunities for us to spread the love of kitsch and cocktails throughout the universe! So please subscribe to our channel if you haven't already. Click here to go to our channel - the "subscribe" button is red and on the right. And please share with anyone you know who loves cocktails, cooking, kitsch, retro culture or just laughing at the antics of a couple of goofballs. We're so grateful for your support!

Happy New Year to YOU!

Please click the link above to subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/VelveteenLounge