Thursday, March 28, 2013

VEGAN MARSHMALLOW PEEPS! A journey...





Vegan Marshmallow Peeps!

I love marshmallows and every Easter I look forward to Peeps.

For the last few years I have had one project in my kitchen that I simply couldn’t wrap my head around and was slightly obsessed over.  I spent hours doing internet research and trying different recipes/techniques to make the seemingly non-existent VEGAN-MARSHMALLOW-PEEP!

Firstly, I am not vegan.  But regular marshmallows were too easy and I went the vegan route because I wanted the challenge.  Well, at least that was the initial reason for the animal-free versions…  But in the true spirit of life’s surprises, I ended up falling in love with a wonderfully amazing and beautiful vegan man after my divorce who truly swept me off my feet in a way that I have never expierienced.  And now, I love treating him with extra special vegan meals that are so far from traditional vegan fare that they’re completely out of his realm of craving (like Shepherd’s Pie, French Onion Soup, Cassoulet, and his personal favorite - Mac and Cheese!)  But, back to today's challenge - PEEPS!

I had a couple surprises while attempting to finish this project.  Last night, we had finished the marshmallows and were preparing for the most fun part of the Peep - the decorating!  I got out the food coloring and start to dye the sugar.  Starting with the red - it hit me…  Oh crap! Red food coloring is made by crushing up little red bugs!  Defnitely not vegan!  When I asked my man to google if this particular brand uses bugs or chemicals, we made the biggest non-vegan discovery of all - while food coloring is generally not vegan even without the use of the little yellow and blue bugs we imagined as couterparts to their red brethren - it’s all tested on animals, and not in a nice way.  To add to the animal cruelty, food coloring has been proven to be toxic to children.  CHILDREN, the primary consumers of food coloring!  AND it has been linked to hyperactivity in kids, among a host of other issues (our food system is so fucked up).  It was all so bad, even my non-vegan ass didn’t want to mess with it!

To my dismay, I had succeeded after having spent the last two years trying to make peeps vegan, and now what?  No food coloring?  Well, we went on with the project. I made him a peep with regular non-dyed organic sugar and he loved it!  We decided to just go ahead and make regular marshmallows and cut them into fun shapes as if they were peeps.  And I did learn that they make vegan food coloring. So, I will include in my recipe the full peep recipe, but the pictures of mine, just won’t be colorful. 

A NOTE BEFORE YOU START!

Because I've tried so many things so many different techniques, here are a couple things that I have learned:

1)    You must have a stand-up mixer (ie. Kitchen Aid)
2)    You must pre-order Genutine Vegetarian Gelatin 
3)    You must accept defeat at least once. Don’t plan on succeeding the first time.
4)    Have a friend in the kitchen with you!
5)    Be prepared for a seriously messy and sticky clean up.
6)    Be patient.
7)    Xanthum Gum works just as good as Guar Gum and is easier to find.
8) Agar Agar is not strong enough to make a marshmallow.



There's a couple things from that recipe that I changed, so here's what I did:

INGREDIENTS:
5T soy protein isolate 90% (available at many health food stores- it’s in the muscle building section)
2t Baking Powder
1/4t guar gum or xanthum gum
3/4C cold water

Sugar Syrup
1.5C raw sugar
1C light corn syrup
1/2C water
2t vanilla extract

Genutine is a commercial product made primarily of carrageenan with locust bean gum and sucrose (according to their web site).  It has absolutely no animal products in it.  I had to do some googling to find it, but it is at www.le-sanctuaire.com.

To make the fluff, mix the dry ingredients together first in a stand-up mixer. Add the water and whip with a whisk for 10 minutes until you get stiff peaks and an increase in volume. The volume will not increase dramatically and fill the bowl as you might expect. However, you will see some increase and you should get stiff peaks.


To make the sugar syrup, mix the Genutine with the raw sugar in a saucepan. Then add the water and whisk quickly. You should have a thick mixture. Add the corn syrup.  Heat and stir on the stove.  Use a candy thermometer and cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 230 degrees. By this time, it should be thick and gloppy.  The mixture will begin to gel as one large mass and you will be able to catch sight of the bottom of your pan as you stir.  Hurry up and stop cooking!


Here’s where my recipe differs from theirs:

He suggests adding the syrup to the fluff while the mixer is on, and I tried that, but all that happened was that the syrup attached itself to my mixer and got into the mechanism and not the fluff. I had to throw out the whole batch, and pull very sticky syrup out of my mixer. 

Here’s what worked best for me…

When the syurp is ready you must act FAST!! Pull the head of your mixer up so that the whisk is not in the fluff. Dump the syurp in as fast as humanly possible, put the whisk down and turn the machine up to high as fast as you possibly can!!!! Then, add the vanilla and just let it mix on high for the next 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes you will have a very thick and sticky mixture…  A MARSHMALLOW!!  Place the goo in a pre-prepared pan that is lined with confectioner sugar and a little corn starch.  Make sure the goo is on the sheet flat and as evenly as possible. You are about to make cut-outs of the marshmallow, so you want a nice flat surface for the best peeps possible.  Cover the pan with wax paper. Wait about an hour for the marshmallow to set and cool.

After an hour (or longer), carefully peel the wax paper off and get ready for the fun part!

Prepare your sugar: You want to find the finest ground white sugar you can get. Then put the sugar in to bowls, and add a couple drops of your VEGAN food coloring. Stir the sugar and it should all turn the color. Do this with as many colors as you want! And have fun mixing the colors!

Get out your favorite cookie cutters and start cutting out marshmallow shapes. I used a bunch…rabbit, chick, star, heart, crown, flowers, mushroom, dog bone, and of course I made a dirty on too!! ;)


As you cut out the marshmallow, it’ll be super sticky. This is great for the peep (but not for your hand).  Carefully remove the marshmallow from the cookie cuter and roll it in your desired sugar. This will make the marshmallow less sticky!

Enjoy your colorful, and delicious VEGAN marshmallow peeps!

You’ll end up with a bunch of extra marshmallow that can’t be cut into fun shapes…so what I did was filled a bowl with confectioner sugar and a little corn starch, and I made ugly marshmallows that are perfect for hot cocoa or just snacking!










Monday, March 25, 2013

A Note on Rejection for the Burlesque Community




I feel that this may be a subject that quite a few of us in the Burlesque community are dealing with. I’ve been hearing a lot of rumblings about performers being disappointed about not getting booked in certain shows, and the recent notifications for BHOF seem to reveal it as an ongoing  theme in our community…

I have been performing in the burlesque community for the last ten years, the most recent seven of which I have made my living solely on performing.  I have been flown all over the world to perform, perform 4-5 nights a week (on average), make a comfortable living, and know that I am good at what I do.  I enjoy every success that comes my way and I feel proud of what I have accomplished…  And, as a part of this process, I experience rejection on a regular basis. 

Yesterday, I was notified that I was not accepted into the Burlesque Hall of Fame, again.  In the grand scheme of my career this should not be as big of a let-down as it happened to actually be. I have enjoyed many successes because people enjoy my performances, and my ultimate goal is not to win a crown, but to continue on a path to keep growing as an artist/entertainer/passionate stripper!

So, why does it bother me (and us) so much? What is it about this particular event that we all seem to fret over so much? I had to really stop and think about it. And something came over me yesterday after the notification. First, it was disappointment and a feeling of “what am I doing wrong?” and then it hit me…  And with it, a feeling of inspiration and utter relief washed over me. I am clearly not doing anything wrong - my career is proof of this! It’s not about winning one competition (or even getting in, for that matter) it’s about winning at my CAREER! My career is not one show. It’s a decade of shows, and hopefully another decade to follow that one!

I (like all of you) submitted a piece that I was proud of. I trust in my art. A host of judges may, or may not, be into what I’m feeling and am inspired by this particular year. Or they were seeking more than my vision was offering. But as long as I stay true to myself, I can continue to make meaningful and inspired work that I enjoy making and sharing. I feel absolute euphoria when I’m onstage. And I would be honored to share that feeling onstage at BHOF, in a theater filled with my peers from all over the world. But it simply isn’t my time, or the judges were into something different. I have faith in my art and I have passion for my art. My rejection wasn’t personal. None of the rejections were personal.

I always dreamed of being a dancer. I spent most of my life in dance studios and ultimately in a performing arts conservatory college for dance. I spent literally 8 hours a day in the dance studio studying technique, choreography, the ins and outs of the body and how our muscles work, over-and-over. In all of those classes I was constantly picked apart. My teachers told me DAILY that something I was doing was wrong, and to “fix it.” It is a hard thing to hear at first, but after a while, like anything you get used to it. I knew that my teachers weren’t “out to get” me - they wanted me to be the best I could be. And how was I going to be the best if I didn’t know what I was doing wrong? It was positive criticism. And it wasn’t necessarily always told to me in a nice way. I think this is true for all arts educations. You are constantly being critiqued and told what to do to make it better. All so that you can leave school and go to audition after audition and compete against hundreds of other dancers for ONE job.

Yesterday, I realized that rejection in the burlesque community might be a similar thing to the rejection and criticism in the arts education. I never took it personally when a choreographer didn’t pick me out of the sea of other dancers in an audition. I got disappointed, but I understood that maybe my body wasn’t the one that was going to see THEIR vision out. The same goes if I don’t get hired for a Burlesque show that I really want to be in, I may not do work that that specific producer wants for THEIR show. But, as long as I am working toward MY vision and getting stronger and working hard at what I love, then I am on the right path.

The jobs and acceptance letters will come when my vision happens to fit the producers or judges. I would be doing myself, as an artist, a disservice to not focus on my vision because I think that it might not be what they’re looking for. Just being the best you you can be is all you need to do. Keep making work that you LOVE and everything else will follow. The cheer of the audience after every show you do, large or small is more important than anything else! Relish in the sea of love from your next audience, and be proud that you have brought joy to them. That’s what is truly important!

A group of judges are not responsible for your feelings of worth. YOU are responsible. Your feeling when you’re onstage is responsible. Your undeniable passion for your audience is responsible. The joy that being onstage gives you is responsible. It comes from within you! If you are working toward someone else’s’ vision (be it a beautiful one or not), it’s still someone else’s’ vision and may not be yours! Why would you work toward someone else’s vision? If what YOU do fits then that’s awesome!! If not, you should never change who you are as a performer to fit in. (this goes for ANY job) Just be your amazing self and enjoy everything that that brings you!

We are soul strippers, strippers forever, and forever growing!




Thursday, August 16, 2012

Nancy Reagan made me a Stripper



“I want to be just like her when I grow up!” Was my thought about the girl with the punk rock fringe haircut sitting at the table in the front of the Assembly Room at Piney Branch Elementary School. She was brought in by the DARE program to give a talk about the dangers of Drugs and Alcohol and scare all of us 5th graders away from the idea of doing drugs. You know the program…it was the one that Nancy Reagan started in the 80s to keep kids from doing drugs. The one where they brought cops into the schools with trays full of drugs and showed us how they were ingested, what they did, and what they looked like…and even what household items that you can get high off of and why you shouldn’t do it. When all we heard was….”wow, you can get high off that?!”

My elementary school called an assembly this day, and we all groaned. Everyone hated assembly’s because it usually meant that we had to listen to some boring old person drone on about something so boring we couldn’t bear to keep our eyes open. Even though we hated them, there still was something exciting about getting to leave regular class for a bit though. This assembly was the same as all the rest. A woman was introduced to us, “This is Leslie, and she’s going to talk to you about her life.” I looked at the front of the cafeteria, which also doubled as the theater for school plays, so it had a large stage in the front with the kitchen in the back. Leslie was sitting at a table in front of the stage. On the table there were pamphlets for D.A.R.E. I knew at that moment we were going to have a lecture about drugs.

This one was a little different though, Leslie wasn’t an expert, or a cop, or a scientist… she was an actual ex-junkie. And she was there to tell us first hand how bad drugs are. She told us about how she started out just trying drugs occasionally and then…it lead to her running away from home, and fending for herself on the streets. To survive…she had to work as a stripper. (Cue the dramatic music). I stared at her, in awe. She was so beautiful, cool, and when she was 15 she was on her own and working at a strip club and trying lots of drugs.  I could tell that all the other kids in the room seemed either horrified at her story, or incredibly bored. I seemed to ignore the stories about her overdose and life on the streets, and all I heard is that she was a stripper…and she was beautiful! I couldn’t wait to be a punk like her, try drugs, and most of all to be a stripper.

My mind was obsessed with the idea for a long time. My Barbie’s were strippers for a least a month. But I kept my scandalous dream a secret. I didn’t even tell my best friend! I just waited. I knew the day would come, I just had to be patient.  

As an adult I think about this and think how strange. That a 10-year-old girl would have that kind of reaction to what was obviously a scary story. I just thought that stripping sounded amazing. And you forget when you’re all grown up, how mature you can think as a kid. I knew I couldn’t be a stripper at that moment because I was too young, I also knew that I couldn’t tell anyone. There’s no way that my parents would understand that their 10 year old daughter had dreams of being a stripper when she grew up. They would have brushed it off to some weird thing that their little girl said, or found it disturbing and I would have gotten a lecture about it. When in reality, I knew that someday I would be a stripper, and that there wouldn’t be anything wrong with that. I knew at 10 years old that you didn’t have to be a junkie to be a stripper.

This was the exact moment that I decided to be a stripper. And 20 years later, after spending countless years thinking about it and dreaming about it, when the time was right I did it. I just want to say, thanks to Nancy Reagan for making me the best stripper I could be! I owe it all to you.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Domestic Roots



My mother is a domestic hero. She cooked 3 meals a day for us, cleaned the house perfectly, played with us, encouraged creativity in us, and wouldn’t let us watch a lot of TV. We ate healthy whole meals that were always home cooked. All this with very little help from my father. That’s not to say that my dad was a dead beat, because he wasn’t at all. He just had no idea how to cook, or clean. He did the man stuff. He worked, made sure the yard and the house looked nice, took us all camping and taught me how to paint the house, fill up the car with gas, check the oil…. you know, man stuff. My family was pretty cookie-cutter when it came to gender roles. My Dad was well into his 60s when he learned how to run the DISHWASHER!

So, naturally I picked up both of those traits. I don’t think my mom would have wanted me to be a wife like her. She wanted me to be more independent and free spirited in a way that she never had the chance to be – although the fact that my mom has a recipe for pot brownies, and was the voice of “Miss Midnight” an erotic radio show that my parents did together in college, makes me think that she was way more free spirited than she thinks!

I wanted to be just like my mom…. and my dad. I wanted to be the housewife in the apron with the amazing recipe for Lemon Meringue Pie, but while the pie was cooking I wanted to be able to fix the car. I was on track for that but sadly I wasn’t allowed to take auto shop in high school like I wanted to. I’m still a little bitter about that, and don’t understand how the Pom Squad was ok, but auto shop was a no-no.

I always wanted to know how to cook. And every chance I had I would help my mom in the kitchen. She would let me add all the ingredients when baking, help her stir the pot, drop the dough in the oil when we made fresh doughnuts…I couldn’t get enough time in the kitchen!

I remember the first time I ever got to cook a meal. My mom had just returned home from the hospital and was home recovering in bed, unable to cook. My brother was in college and my Dad…well, he was less capable of cooking than his 8 year old daughter. I’m pretty sure I begged to do it too! I’m sure there was a little humoring the child going on too…but I didn’t care! I got to cook!

I went into the kitchen and looked around. My mom directed me in the right direction, “There’s chicken in the fridge…” I took the chicken, sliced it into uniform thin pieces. Chopped a few cloves of garlic. Took out the soy sauce, marinated the chicken in garlic and soy sauce. I guess I was making some sort of “Asian” meal. I heated up the pan and added the oil, then added the chicken pieces one by one. Dousing them a second time in soy sauce while they were cooking. I think I must have used at least a half a bottle of Soy Sauce on our chicken. I worked the chicken in pieces turning them over when they seemed cooked enough and transferred them to a plate when they were done.

I was beyond excited as I plated my first meal. Taking extra care to make sure that the meal looked pretty on the plate. I served my pitch black with soy sauce chicken with great pride! The soy sauce had completely permeated the chicken and it was black, not because I burned it, but with an ungodly amount of sodium. If you didn’t know what it was you would probably have taken one look at it and thought it was steak. I can’t remember what I made on the side. It must not have been an original recipe because I certainly would have remembered if it was. But that chicken…I really thought that I had created the greatest chicken recipe ever! And I ate it as if it was. I’m pretty sure my parents were humoring me as they ate theirs, reaching for a couple glasses of water I’m sure.

My mom put me in a cooking class after that.



Thursday, August 2, 2012

Who needs the Shake Weight when you've got Mayo?


Mayonnaise: that deliciously decadent, creamy, fatty, condiment that we all love or love to hate. I for one LOVE mayo! If you’ve ever been out to lunch with me, you know how upset I get when the waiter forgets that my fries were specifically ordered with a side of mayo. How do you enjoy fries without mayo?? I really don’t know, and Ketchup?? Are you kidding me? As if there weren’t a million other things wrong with this country…we have to add Ketchup to the list! Come on…give me the mayo, and not that fake shit…I want the real stuff! Give me all the fat, all the egg, give me all of it. Hold the corn syrup and preservatives; I’m making it myself! And so should you! It’s so easy, and the pay off is HUGE!

So, here’s my entry about one of my favorite things in the world, which combines so many of my OTHER favorite things as well...

Get this…a condiment that makes fries way more delicious than they already are…and it comes with a WORKOUT too!! Holy shit. And hold up…the workout it gives you specifically targets an area that makes you better in bed? That's right…making mayo works out your wrist, which makes you better at giving that special man in your life a bangin’ hand job! Three amazing things in one…A workout, better sex, and something delicious! Ladies, let’s get to whippin’ up some mayo, shall we?

This will make a medium Jar of Mayo, which will keep for a good 2 weeks!



2 egg yolks at room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
dash of salt
dash of white pepper
2 cups oil (a mix of olive oil, walnut, peanut- peanut oil tends to be a bit strong, so be sure to mix it if choosing to use it.) Feel free to use just olive oil, it works great that way!

Instructions:
-Put all ingredients in a metal or glass bowl except the oil. Stir with a wire wisk.

-Then slowly add the oil one drop at a time. (yes, literally one drop at a time!)  Whisking the whole time, DO NOT STOP WHISKING! Keep adding the oil one drop at a time while whisking until the mayo starts to get thicker, and more “mayo-like”. Toward the end, you can add the oil a little faster, but be sure to continuously whisk- this is where the workout comes in!

Once the oil is all in you should have a nice thick consistency of mayo! And that’s it! See…it’s so easy! As long as you add your oil slowly, and never stop whisking you’ll be fine. If you do stop whisking, or add the oil too fast you risk your mayo separating, which you DON’T want!

Your Mayo will last up to 2 weeks in the fridge and trust me…it’ll be better than ANYTHING you’ll buy at the store. You’ll find that you never have to buy it again!

Enjoy! 






Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Stripper Housewife re-emerges!!


The Stripper Housewife re-emerges! No longer a wife, but still very much a stripper with a fascination for all things domestic!


Last November my living situation changed drastically…to say the least! My husband of 5 years and I decided to throw in the towel and accept the hard truth that we were, in fact, going to join the ranks of the 50% of marriages that end in divorce. I kept the apartment and he left. It took about a month to get what he needed out of the apartment, and then…there I was, 1 month later with no husband and a house that looked quite literally like the physical manifestation of what had become of our marriage. Like you might be able to assume…my apartment was a disaster. A constant physical reminder of something that had gone horribly, horribly wrong! Nothing had a place; there were boxes and random items strewn across what had at one time been a cozy little apartment. A big change was in order, and FAST! I knew that to be happy in this new phase of my life, a phase that honestly I was pretty excited about, I needed to physically move!

But, in case you don’t know…I live in New York City! Moving in the city is one of the most difficult things you go through as a New Yorker, and on top of a divorce, searching for a new apartment was not on my list of things to do. So, I decided to move into my apartment one more time. I packed all my things into boxes, moved the boxes to the middle of each room, mopped, cleaned every crevice of the place and started to redefine the rooms of my apartment!

Step one however, involved the burning of white sage…a lot of sage…and I mean LOTS! 

The next step was imagining a whole different lay out to the apartment. The bedroom became the living room, his studio became the bedroom, the dining room became my sewing room, and my studio…became every showgirls dream room…the WALK IN CLOSET!

I dreamed of what I wanted my house to be like. This is the first time I’ve ever lived alone and I want it my way.

So, I decided on:

Minimalist 70s porn star living room
Country craft sewing room
Warm Girly bedroom (which, by the way, is only big enough for a bed!)
My kitchen was already perfect, it just need a little editing and simplifying.

And that’s exactly what I did! For only $1000 I got an entirely new apartment that I am proud to have people come over and visit.

Before I could buy furniture, linens, or anything else I had to paint! All of my things were packed up already so it was the perfect time…the perfect time for a party!! I invited a bunch of friends over, blasted some music, bought a few bottles of champagne, lunch and went to town! We painted the entire apartment in about 5 hours! And check out how much fun it was…I have the pictures to prove it!


Painting tips from Strippers:

1. Never wear pants! Why risk getting your clothes covered in paint when you just paint in your panties. So much easier that way! 

2. Your stripper heels will help you reach those spaces up high...remember they give you an extra 7 inches! Just make sure your friend is there to spot you, and use caution while wearing stripper heels on the step stool! 

3. In case you get tired of painting...practice your booty bouncing while you paint!

4. Champagne 

Once the paint was dry the rest was easy. I had already spent a lot of time in my space envisioning exactly how I wanted it; all I needed to do was buy the things in my head. I bought a couch, a rug, all new linens, a new shower curtain, bath mat, big throw pillows and a bookshelf. That’s all it took. Well, that is after donating a lot of old stuff to local charities. Get rid of everything! There is no reason to hold on to old things that you didn't really like to begin with. The more you get rid of, the more space for positive new things to come into your life. 

It’s all about redefining the space, moving things around, taking down everything off the walls and starting over again.

Assess what you have once you pack it away. See what you can do with it that’s new and different. One example: I realized I had a lot of large mirrors in the house so I turned them into a collage of mirrors on one large wall in my living room. It opens up the space, makes it look bigger, and it’s a pretty attractive design. It also allows me to rehearse in that room without it looking like a “dance studio.”

This was the single most important thing I did at the start of my new life. It defined my mood for the next year and has really been the difference in moving forward and loving my new life! Even if you're not going through a break up, redefining your space from time to time allows you to change the energy in your life and help you jump into a new direction. Change is good, dive head first into it! You really have no choice sometimes! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Shit Happens.


"Shit Happens." The perfect saying for when things in your life don’t go as you’d planned. I planned to get married once. And the Universe had other plans for me. My job is to make the best out of any situation that I’m faced with. And that’s what I plan to do. I loved being a wife. Luckily for me, the things that I loved about being a wife...don’t require a husband! This is an incredible revelation. Everything I do now in my life is because I truly love it. My life is more than ever surrounded by light and love. And my desire is to spread that love wherever I go, and who ever I go there with.

My goal now, is to spread the nurturing nature of wife-dom to you…my friends and readers. I am YOUR housewife! My kitchen is alive again, and I’ll be filling your eyes and senses with all sorts of treasures, treats and tips!

Stay tuned!