Holiday cheer, Christmas at the Misathropics and, indexing!

I warn ya, this one is all over the place, folks!

TD was in charge of the holiday cards this year.  And, he did an awesome job that left little doubt about who designed it. TD may have abandoned his former heterosexual life partner, Albert Pujols; but, the dude still loves him some Cardinals. And yes, I’m pretty sure he actually purchased the image.  Right TD?  Right?

Opting for the popular flat card version, TD even ventured into the holiday letter genre.  Hell really has frozen over.

I motion that TD is in charge of holiday cards going forward.  All in favor?

When all members of your immediate family live out-of-state, the holidays are generally all-or-nothing.  And, because we were lucky enough to spend time with both families in the last six months, this was a “nothing” year.  Which means we were left to our own devices.  Said devices resulted in the following.

Device #1:  Super tacky ghetto tree

Sometimes, good intentions go horribly,  wrong.  See, doing a Christmas tree in our house always presents a challenge.  We have one of those typical South Bay/Beach Cities “tall and skinny” townhouses.  So, while the tree would look best in the dining/sitting room on the first floor, we spend the vast majority of our “down-time” in the third floor loft (where there isn’t room for a tree).  The last couple of years I  bought and subsequently killed (not on purpose) rosemary bushes meant to serve as tree proxies.  Since I’m definitely anti-herb violence,  this year, I bought what I thought would be a really cool spirally-copper-tree deal.

For years I’ve been collecting hand-glown glass ball ornaments from an artist who sells (his? her?) work at a little gallery in Bozeman Montana called Altitude.  Some were given as gifts and others TD and I collected on our trips to Montana.  When it became clear that I’d probably never have enough balls to decorate a whole tree, I took a class in glass blowing and made some of my own (mine aren’t even in the same league…in fact, they aren’t even playing the same sport as the professionally made ones…mine aren’t even really round).  In addition to giving TD hours of comedic material about his wife, balls, and blowing,  the results also help fill-out the collection.  Anyhow, on their own, the glass balls displayed on the copper spiral looked really nice.  But then, I added lights.  And of course, Penelope, the peacock tree topper had to be added along with a scarf I picked up in Lijiang China as the tree skirt.  The result: Liberace called and wants his Christmas tree back.  TD and I even made up a song for it.

Device #2: A shot for Santa

We’re just those kind of people.  And, well, we may or may not have been drinking martinis on Christmas Eve.  Obviously Santa needed it because all we found Christmas morning is what you see in the photo.

Device #3: Ceremonial Holiday PJs

Yes, I mean ceremonial.  Not traditional.  To be worn only on Christmas morning as part of the hallowed act of opening gifts.

Device #4: Christmas Donuts

Ceremonial PJs and a tacky tree create optimal conditions for a Christmas donut or two.

Device #5: Sherlock Holmes

Not pictured here, but, despite what the critics are saying, TD and I agree that the second one was a particularly enjoyable mid-Christmas afternoon break.  Of course, Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. could be in a remake of Gigli and I’d enjoy it.  What?

Device #6:  A Christmas Story inspired dinner

Here is the short of it.  We had dinner reservations at a fairly decent seafood/chop house.  We waited very patiently for 20 minutes after being seated with nary a drink order, while wait staff, bussers and probably a manager or two walked by the table several times.  Neither one of us were really in the mood to deal with it, so we walked.

Turning up on our street we noticed that a certain Mexican restaurant of dubious distinction happened to be open.  Now, we’ve lived in our neighborhood for five years, have eaten there twice. Our conclusion was that it’s got to be a front for some sort of illegal activity because it’s always packed but the food is crap.  However, very recently not one (hi JP!) but two people explained that you don’t really go there to eat.  You go there for the margaritas…sort of like El Coyote on Beverly.  We interpreted the confluence of this new information with the fact that it was actually abierto on Christmas night and enjoyed a fantastic (well, at least it was fantastic after a couple of drinks) meal with an awesome waiter.

While this isn’t what Christmas looks like for us every year, all in all, not too shabby.

Oh…and what did I get you for the holidays you ask? I updated the  INDEX!

And, a hint for next week.  Happy New Year!!!

I’m pretty sure this is what Marie Antoinette was talking about

This recipe has been haunting me since I bought Dorie Greenspan’s Baking, from my home to yours.  You see, it graces the book’s cover.  And so, every time I pull out the volume, there is it, daring me to find an excuse to make it.  And so, I did, and I did.

Not really one of those cakes you can throw together on a whim, what this recipe calls for in patience makes up for in specialness.  Chocolate-studded devil’s food cake surrounded in layers of pillowy, sticky marshmallow fluff.

Sold yet?

How about now?

I have to admit, that’s all you are going to get in the photo department.  I made this cake the week of Thanksgiving for company and because of all the other plates I happened to be spinning at the time, made the cake late one night and then the frosting the next night.  And we all know about my kitchen in lighting.

But, you’ll have to trust me when I tell you how much fun the frosting is to make and what a delight it was to work with in decorating.  One piece of advice: read through the entire recipe a couple of times before diving in.  It took me a couple of passes to actually conceptualize where Ms. Greenspan was going with the recipe.

Devil’s Food White-Out Cake

adapted ever so slightly from Baking from my kitchen to yours, Dorie Greenspan

Cake Ingredients

  • 1  1/2 C all purpose flour
  • 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 (10 TBS) unsalted, room temp butter
  • 1/2 C packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temp
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 C buttermilk at room temp
  • 1/2 C boiling water
  • 4 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate, chopped or 2/3 C mini chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 2, 8X2 inch round cake pans (use regular flour or cocoa).  Line each with parchment, place pans on baking sheet.
  2. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  3. Using a stand mixer with paddle or a hand mixer, beat butter until soft and creamy.  Add sugars and beat an additional 3 minutes.
  4. Add-in eggs one-at-a-time, beating 1 minute in between.  Beat-in vanilla.
  5. Reduce speed and add-in cooled chocolate.
  6. Alternating with the buttermilk, add-in dry ingredients in 3-parts, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
  7. Working on low-speed, mix-in the water.  Scrape-down the bowl and fold in the chocolate.  Divide the batter evenly into pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
  8. Bake 25-30 minutes rotating pans halfway through until an inserted toothpick comes up clean.
  9. Cool on racks for 5 minutes.  Run a knife around the perimeter of pans and unmold.  Cakes can be stored if wrapped-airtight in the freezer up to 2 months.


  • 1/2 C eggs whites (about 4 large)
  • 1 C sugar
  • 3/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 C water
  • 1 TBS vanilla extract


  1. Put the sugar, cream of tartar and water in a small saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer. Stir to combine.
  2. Bring mixture to boil over medium high heat, cover the pan and boil for 3 minutes.  Uncover and allow the syrup to boil until it reaches 242 degrees F on the candy thermometer.
  3. While the syrup is cooking, place egg whites in a clean, dry bowl.  Begin beating when the syrup reaches 235 degrees on the thermometer using the whisk attachment.  If the egg whites form peaks before the syrup gets to 242 degrees, reduce speed to low.
  4. With the mixer at medium speed, stand back and carefully pour in the hot syrup.  It is likely to spatter, don’t try to scrape them into the whites.
  5. Add-in vanilla and continue beating until mixture reaches room temp, about 5-7 minutes.  The result is a smooth, shiny frosting.
  6. To assemble, place first layer on plate or stand.  Slip parchment under the edges to keep the plate clean.
  7. Using an off-set spatula, cover the bottom layer of cake with a thick layer of frosting–about equal to the height of the cake.  Add the second layer and then working with a generous amount of frosting, frost the entire cake.  Decorate as desired.
  8. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Because of how soft this frosting is, left-over cake (as if) should be stored in the fridge.

When life gives you leftover candied orange peel, make blondies!

Okay, okay, I stole this idea from one of the 20 million holiday catalogs we’ve gotten since August.  Having both candied orange peel and almonds in the house, I decided to see if I could come up with a recipe.

I started by toasting about a cup of almonds.  I used blanched because that’s what I had but I don’t see any problem with using skins.

Then, I couldn’t find my camera.  So a bunch of stuff happened that didn’t get captured digitally.  Here is the short of it though: I melted together butter and white chocolate.  Incorporated the usual suspects: eggs, sugar, flour and a healthy does of vanilla (no silly, not in that order).  Finally, I folded-in the toasted almonds and orange peel.  Into the oven.  And.

This is what came out.  The orange peel sort of melts into blondie and the result is a sweet/zesty/nutty treat.  Sort of like me.

Once cut, I packaged them up and took them to a cookie decorating party.


Glee Christmas on Pandora, because I’m perfectly confident with my manhood.

Candied Orange Peel and Toasted Almond Blondies


  • 2 C sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 C (16 TBS) unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces white chocolate, chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 TBS vanilla
  • 2 C flour
  • 1 C chopped candied orange peel
  • 1 C roasted and chopped almonds


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9X13 inch pan with parchment and butter or spray the pan and parchment.
  2. In a heavy saucepan, melt butter and white chocolate over low heat, whisking until combined.  Take off heat and set aside.  Butter and chocolate will want to separate.  That’s okay, just give it a good whisk before adding to the batter.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and salt.  Add-in eggs one-at-a-time.  Then whisk in vanilla.
  4. Fold-in butter and chocolate.
  5. Fold-in flour until just combined.
  6. Fold-in orange peel and almonds.
  7. Bake for about 40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick come-out clean but with a few crumbs stuck to it.
  8. Let cool completely, cut and enjoy.

Straight Outta Compton

I know that Thanksgiving was so last month.  But, I also know many people step and repeat for Christmas so I thought I’d share links and whatnot to the recipes we used this year.

Let’s start with the turkey.  Ours came straight outta Compton.  No really, it did.  TD is generally in charge of the bird.  And, as you’ve seen in this blog, he does it a little differently every year.  Highlights have included the baducky and last year’s slow cooked turkey breast.  For years the guy has been talking about frying a turkey.  Luckily for our neighbors and home owner’s insurance premiums, the voice of reason has always won out.  Until we realized that someone else could make our fried Thanksgiving turkey.

Minimal research revealed that the place to buy fried turkey in Los Angeles is a little shop called Loreto’s Fried Turkey Restaurant (just in case you were confused about what they sell).  The fact that it is located in Compton was just the icing on the cake.  See, it meant that TD and his partner in crime for the day didn’t really have to give up the requisite element of danger that comes with procuring a friend turkey.

And let me tell you, that turkey was fantastic.

Surprisingly so.  Juicy, flavorful and made in someone else’s kitchen.  All the things that a Thanksgiving turkey generally is not.

While there is absolutely no denying that the Compton turkey was the star of the show, I think the sides made excellent supporting stars.

This year I made my favorite sourdough and artichoke stuffing from Sunset Magazine.  My version swaps-out white mushrooms for cremini and I like to add a little sweet Italian turkey sausage to the mix.

Simple buttermilk mashed potatoes.

Honeyed carrots for color.

Grilled brussels sprouts. Just par-boil your sprouts, then marinate in a vinegar based sauce (I like to use balsamic).  When ready, grill in a grill pan.  Easy as that.

A giant Russian Grandmother’s Apple Pie

And of course no Thanksgiving in the Misanthropic Household would be complete with out a Chocolate Sees Turkey or two.

Let the holidays begin!


N.W.A. of course.