Cookbooks for the Hard-to-Shop-For


photo courtesy of The Three Stooges Cookbook

You’re down to the last few on the holiday shopping list, and this is when it gets tough.
It’s the eccentric family member, the fussy friend, the complicated relationship. Fortunately, there’s a cookbook out there for everyone.

for that special (or not so special) someone
There’s the intimate Eating in Bed Cookbook and the series Cooking in the Nude, although the volume titled Cooking in the Nude: For Barbecue Buffs seems particularly ill-advised. Looking for less romance and more action? Try the unabashedly pragmatic Cook to Bang, subtitled The Lay Cook’s Guide to Getting Laid.

for the quirkily focused
If it’s edible, no doubt there’s a cookbook singularly devoted to it. There’s the Eat-a-bug Cookbook (33 ways to cook grasshoppers, ants, water bugs, spiders, and centipedes) and a few volumes for hardcore fans of Twinkies. The Testicle Cookbook is the English language translation of a Serbian best-seller focused on the beloved, local delicacy. The Natural Harvest cookbook is even harder to swallow. The back-of-the-jacket blurb says it all: Once you overcome any initial hesitation, you will be surprised to learn how wonderful semen is in the kitchen. Semen is an exciting ingredient that can give every dish you make an interesting twist. If you are a passionate cook and are not afraid to experiment with new ingredients – you will love this cook book!

for the celebrity watcher
There’s no dancing but they can cook with stars like Coolio, Regis Philbin, Gwyneth Paltrow, and two of the Real Housewives from the Bravo TV franchise have cookbooks. Notably, both of those have ‘skinny’ in the book title.

for the political junkie (or your strange bedfellows)
Policy wonks can choose to Dine Liberally with the Democrats, Eat Like a Republican, or go bipartisan with Politics and Pot Roast.

for those you want off of next year’s list
Try a copy of Cooking to Kill: The Poison Cook-book, or Dorothea Puente’s Cooking With a Serial KillerCharged with killing nine of her elderly boarding house residents and facing a life sentence, Puente’s recipe collection was published as proof of her innocence. Her defense attorney claimed that Puente would never have fed her boarders so lavishly if she was only going to kill them.

for everyone else
There’s a one-size-fits-all cookbook for the Christmas season billed as ‘The Ultimate Program For Eating Well, Feeling Great, And Living Longer’: What Would Jesus Eat?  


Posted in Christmas, funny, recipes | Leave a comment

Nothing Says Merry Christmas Like Custom, Edible, and Anatomically Correct


Your name on a Christmas stocking is so old school.
Custom gifts that use digital imaging and 3D printing will put a contemporary spin on personalized holiday gift-giving. 



Choc-Edge will render your face (or Santa’s) in dark, milk, or white chocolate. Just send in a photo; custom molds start at $80.




Parker’s Crazy Cookies turns your likeness into a caricature of fresh-baked goodness. The design process costs $25 for an initial proof and three revisions, and then you can order all the cookies you need for your holiday cookie swap.



A 3D scanner maps you from head to toe to create a detailed silicone candy mold that renders you as a gummy mini-me .



Fondant doppelgänger cake toppers aren’t just for June weddings. Like Butter creates plenty of custom, edible sculptures (starting at $60) in the days leading up to December 25th.



Send in a photo and Chocolate Dreams will re-create it in chocolate. They’ve made a subspecialty of so-called exotic designs that they claim are ‘not for the fainthearted.’

Posted in chocolate, Christmas, shopping | Leave a comment

As Seen On TV: Gifts that make a lump of coal look good

Remember when fruitcake used to be the worst food gift for holiday giving?

hamdogger rollnpour eggstractor

Now we have the HamDogger, and the Roll ‘n Pour, and the Eggstractor.

Holiday time ’tis the season for kitchen gadget infomercials.
The airwaves fill with long-winded, fast-talking pitchmen hawking the latest gizmo that no home should be without. They come on late at night when your guard is down and the logic of a push-button butter dispenser seems less dubious than it would at 3pm.

Resist the urge!
Especially when they tempt you with a two-fer offer. Your holiday shopping may be too long, and when you shop on TV that second one can be had for nothing more than the cost of shipping and handling, but deep down you know that a matched set of Rotato Express electric peelers is not the answer. It only doubles the chances of things ending badly on Christmas Day.



According to the ad for the amazing new Pancake Puff™ Pan, simply use your favorite pancake batter, pour and flip.’ Amazing.




Better Bagger? Actually, I’ve always considered my hands to be pretty good baggers. 



I’m holding out for the Fat Repellant.






Robostir promises to be ‘like a third hand in the kitchen.’ No mention of the contraption’s plastic feet that fall off in the pot.





Eggs are like the Law and Order franchise of the infomercial world with their own programming block. There are the tubular creations of the Rollie Eggmaster; the Egg Genie that magically combines water and eggs to create boiled eggs (in just minutes!); and the Clever Cracker and Clever Scrambler, two separate devices that are available in a combo pack. Who knew so many cooks are stumped by eggs?




If a little cake is a cupcake, wouldn’t that make this… cake?






Tough call: cake pop baker or pie pop maker?



Let’s let the fortune cookie maker decide.  fortunecookie





Posted in Christmas, Entertainment, gadgets | 1 Comment

Christmas Eve: When the Chosen People Choose Hot and Sour Soup


This year is 5773 according to the Jewish calendar, but Chinese history only dates back to 4707.
It makes you wonder what the Jews were eating for that first thousand years.

The streets are empty, the storefronts are shuttered, and everyone else they know is in church or sitting down to a holiday meal.
Chinese food for Christmas makes perfect sense.

Jews have a well-known affinity for Chinese food. While it’s impossible to pinpoint the moment when the first Jewish immigrant put down his borscht and picked up an egg roll, in the early 20th century, the tradition fanned out from its Lower East Side New York beginnings and took hold in urban immigrant enclaves around the country. Chinatowns sprouted everywhere the Jews went— Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto; Chinese restaurants were always close by, inexpensive, and stayed open on Sundays and holidays.

But is it kosher?
A lot of Jews grew up with the notion of Chinese food as ‘safe traif.’ Sure, there’s pork and shellfish in there, but it’s hidden in a tangle of wonton wrappers and mu shu vegetables. Don’t look too deeply—at the plate or into your secular Jewish heart— and it’s easy to ignore. And since nearly all Chinese food is dairy-free, there’s a free pass on the prohibition against mixing milk and meat .

The love goes both ways.
Yes, there are Chinese people who like Jewish food, but they complain that they’re hungry again in two weeks.


Posted in Christmas, funny | Leave a comment

The 5 Worst Food Gifts This Holiday Season

Remember when fruitcake used to be the worst food gift for holiday giving?
Not any more.
These 5 gifts make a lump of coal look good.


Hot Can’s Christmas dinner in a can is a festive meal that eliminates the hassle of cooking. It’s a turkey casserole with all the trimmings conveniently packed in a self-heating can—no potatoes to peel or gravy to stir, you don’t even need a microwave oven. When December 25th arrives, simply take off the rubber cap, pierce the outer jacket with the included key, open the can, and wait 12 minutes for the meal to heat up. Once holiday season has passed, you can hit up the Hot Can website for some Beanz and Balls.


Did you think the fragrance world hit bottom with Brad Pitt’s misguided Chanel campaign? Think again. You can smell like a delivery boy courtesy of Pizza Hut Perfume, found on Pizza Hut’s Facebook page. The company press release touts the olfactory delights of oregano and greasy cardboard boxes with “top notes of freshly baked, hand-tossed dough.”



It’s the horrifying realism that lands the bacon scarf on the list. Extra points for dubbing it Fou-lard, a play on the French words for crazy (fou), bacon (lard) and scarf (foulard). The trompe l’oeil of silk crepe de chine will have you reaching for the lettuce and tomato.


If you’re loving the chicken and waffles trend, you know the combination is all about the delicate balance of contrasting flavors and textures—crunchy, juicy, spicy, crispy, fluffy, sweet, and salty, plus a hit of sticky maple. Take away the textures, as Torani has done with its Chicken ‘n Waffles Syrup, and you’re left with a hot mess of sweet, meat, and grease. If you’re not a fan, you already know.


The Cooler Fun Wine Rack (get it?) brings nursing bra convenience to holiday imbibing. Just the thing for the flat-chested party girl on your list, the innovative drink-dispensing bra has a secret polyurathane bladder flask that holds 750ml of a favorite beverage. The attached tube allows the young lady to dispense into cups or discreetly drink directly from the straw-like end. Her bust is inflated two full cup sizes when filled, and while she’ll look less remarkable by the end of the evening, after 750 ml (1½ pints) who’s going to care?



And the also rans:

Frito-Lay’s new line of caffeinated Cracker Jacks. No prize inside?!


The Fifty Shades of Chicken Cookbook. Who can be bothered with all that trussing?





The Vino2Go Sippy Wine Cup. Cause I’m just not that classy.



The Mr. Gugu and Miss Go Hamburger Sweater. I think it speaks for itself.

Posted in Christmas, diversions, funny | 1 Comment

Eggnog and Other Raw Egg Cocktails

image via Editer


Do you gag at the thought of downing a raw egg?
Salmonella scares and Rocky movies have given them a bad name, but there’s a world of raw egg cocktails out there, and one of them, eggnog, has come into its season.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of a well-crafted Pisco Sour or a true eggnog you probably wonder why anyone would bother adding uncooked goo to perfectly good liquor. I’ll tell you why.

Egg whites transform a humdrum cocktail into a frothy showstopper. A brisk workout in a cocktail shaker creates volume, silkiness, and a beautiful foam topping. It’s like a soufflé in a glass. And while egg whites alone are relatively flavorless, shaken together with the other ingredients the egg whites act as an emulsifier melding the separate components into a whole drink that is truly more than the sum of its parts.

While egg whites add a certain je ne sais quoi to cocktails, all texture without discernible taste, whole eggs or egg yolks announce themselves with a vividly eggy flavor. Whole egg cocktails are less soufflé, more flan. They’re rich and dense, creamy even when there’s no added cream. These are not warm weather refreshers, but they taste just right on a cold winter night.

The rumors of their health risks have been greatly exaggerated.
Salmonella is a truly nasty bacterium, but it’s a lot less common than you probably think. The FDA estimates that only 1 of every 20,000 eggs contains the bacteria, so the odds are 99.995% that your eggnog is safe. At this rate a typical egg eater will run into a contaminated egg once every 84 years. Of course some people can’t take a chance even with those odds. Children, the elderly, pregnant and nursing women, and anyone with a weak immune system should look for egg cocktails made with egg substitutes or liquid egg products which are required by law to be pasteurized. And no, the alcohol in cocktails is not going to kill Salmonella.

Now’s the time to try a raw egg drink.
Trendy cocktail revivalists have fervently embraced the raw egg cocktail in both old-timey drinks and new mixologist concoctions. And from now through New Years Day you’ll probably come across some eggnog somewhere.

Chow has a nice round-up of old and new raw egg cocktail recipes, including their unspeakably decadent and boozy eggnog.

Who’d have thought—I came across not one but two blogs dedicated to eggnog: the photos and recipes Eggnog Blogand the all-things-eggnog Eggnogaholic with eggnog-themed cartoons, shopping, jokes, and poetry.


Posted in beer + wine + spirits, Christmas, food safety | Leave a comment

Kids, Don’t Try This at Home: Heston’s Christmas

Heston Blumenthal celebrates Christmas 2009 with a meal of dormouse via BBC2


Famously experimental, endlessly inventive, internationally celebrated chef Heston Blumenthal is a man in love with Christmas.

For the uninitiated, much of Blumenthal’s infamy comes from his fondness for bizarre ingredients, unusual mixing of flavors, and outlandish presentations. Signature dishes at his London restaurant Fat Duck include snail porridge and sardine-on-toast sorbet. His sweet and savory bacon-and-egg ice cream is credited with setting off America’s bacon craze.

Blumenthal endorses the notion of dining as an immersive, multi-sensory experience. He’s papered his dining room with rolls of lickable wallpaper tasting of tomato soup and shrimp cocktail, and sets the table with oak moss on a bed of dry ice to waft a woodsy aroma in anticipation of earthy dishes like truffle toast and foie gras. A seafood-themed dinner included five kinds of edible seaweed, trout-flavored candy, brewed-shrimp beer, and a table side iPod playing the sounds of crashing waves and distant seagulls.

And then there’s Christmas.
He’s traveled to the Middle East in the footsteps of the three wise men to cook with gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and to Siberia to milk a reindeer for holiday ice cream; he’s  filled a town plaza with a six foot high flaming plum pudding; but until this year he’s never served Christmas dinner at Fat Duck. Blumenthal is kicking off the new tradition with plenty of his trademark sensory magic.

The centerpiece of the meal is going to be an edible Christmas tree festooned with lollipops of salmon, salad, and mulled wine and draped with edible tinsel crafted from jellied turkey. Edible ornaments will crack open to reveal contents like prawns and pig’s head terrine, and drifting snow will taste of Roquefort cheese. Something Blumenthal won’t be including are his infamous white chocolate-dipped dormouse lollipops that received a sensational public drubbing during a 2009 nationally-televised Christmas special.

If all this sounds like so much flash and gimmickry, remember that Blumenthal is considered one of the world’s greatest living chefs and his restaurant has been consistently awarded three Michelin stars. The Queen has bestowed him with the Order of the British Empire and his own coat of arms, and he’s been recognized for his contributions to the science of gastronomy with numerous honorary degrees. He’s playful, but his cooking is mighty serious.

Alas, no leftover turkey for sandwiches the next day.


Posted in Christmas, restaurants, Science/Technology | Leave a comment

Gingerbread Houses 2012

image via Petit Plat


What’s up with gingerbread houses in 2012? Plenty, it seems.
Gingerbread houses have gone green and sustainable, mid-century modern, and gluten-free. They’re big enough to walk through and small enough to dangle on the rim of a mug of cocoa. And we’ve finally had enough of gingerbread houses made of cupcakes.

Here’s a sampling of what’s online this holiday season:

Learn how to make a gingerbread house with a YouTube cooking lesson.

Visit our nation’s official gingerbread White House during the month of December at ObamaFoodorama.

View a time-lapse video of the construction of a life-sized gingerbread house (that’s 600 pounds of powdered sugar you’re watching!).

Peruse the gingerbread house picture gallery or upload a photo of your own creation at the Pinterest board for Gingerbread House Heaven.

Enter a gingerbread house-building contest. A national competition is held annually in Asheville, NC, but there are plenty of local events for both amateur and professional bakers.

Order a gingerbread replica of your home from custom baker Rebecca Russell.

Disneyland always pulls out the stops for its life-size gingerbread house at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. This year’s house is based on the Haunted Mansion from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and features a special-effects laden see-through ghost train that travels around the base of the house while ghosts chase a gingerbread man on a push car.

Choose between an A-frame, a Colonial, or a Saltbox with gingerbread house blueprints from

Shop for kits, pans, and decorating tools at the Wilton Christmas Gingerbread Shop.

Play the online Home Sweet Home and decorate a virtual gingerbread house.

And yes, there’s an app for that.
Download Gingerbread House Maker for Android and Apple gadgets.


Posted in Christmas, cyberculture, diversions | Leave a comment

An Endless Fascination with the Turducken

cartoon via Dr. Fun

By now, the turducken should need no introduction. In the span of a few years, it’s gone from urban legend to regional curiosity to your neighborhood Whole Foods freezer.

You can buy fresh or frozen turduckens; free range, organic, and kosher turduckens; turducken for your pet (canned or dry); and even mock tofu-based turducken for vegans (with apologies, the tofucken).

When plain old turducken just won’t do, there are endless can-you-top-this variations like the fowl de cochon (turducken stuffed pig), the quaducant (quail, duck, and pheasant), and extreme stunts like the turgooponducheasnishuaichuffguihagaga, an unpronounceable and probably inedible beast that marries poultry-stuffed-poultry with beef, pork, lamb, and frog. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the hotchken; known as ‘the poor man’s turducken,’ it consists of a humble chicken stuffed with hotdogs.
[For the record, the largest documented nested bird roast is the rôti sans pareil, or ‘roast without equal‘: 17 successively stuffed birds, from the massive bustard to the tiny garden warbler; the final bird so small that it’s stuffed with just a single olive].

We’ve seen the turducken effect spill over its poultry borders. A cookie is baked inside of a cookie to create the chocoOreochip, a.k.a. the turducken of cookies, and a cream cheese-frosted behemoth known as the cherpumple (cherry, pumpkin and apple pies each baked inside its own tier of a three-layer cake) lays claim to the title of the turducken of desserts.

Then there’s the Twitter hashtag #LiteraryTurducken. In the spirit of the poultry portmanteau, #LiteraryTurducken tweets take a classic book title and stuff two more inside. The days leading up to Thanksgiving saw thousands of clever hybrids like “Go, Dog, Go Tell it on the Brokeback Mountain,” “Barbarians at the Gate of My Little House on the Prairie,” and “The Awkward Age of Innocents Abroad.”
Like Russian nesting dolls rendered in pimply poultry flesh
The mighty Cherpumple



Posted in Christmas, holidays | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Mincemeat Pie: Because you can never have enough desserts with meat in them.

image via SomeeCards


Mystery meat… or is it?
Mincemeat leaves us with more questions than answers.

In theory, mincemeat pie’s got a lot going for it: it’s sweet and savory; your entrée and your dessert all rolled into the one dish. It appears at holiday time amid a veritable minefield of culinary missteps— think bone-dry turkey, mini-marshmallow sweet potatoes, and doorstop fruitcake. Still, nothing receives the seasonal snubbing and drubbing of mincemeat pie. […]

Posted in Christmas, dessert, food knowledge | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Christmas Eve: What’s a Jew to Do?


Twas the night before Christmas and there was hardly a sound,
As Jews jumped in their cars and drove to Chinatown.
Their orders were given to waiters with care,
In hopes that wonton soup soon would be there.

-Nonna Gorilovskaya


Yes, Chinese food. On Christmas Eve, the Chosen People choose to have a little hot and sour.
The streets are empty, the storefronts are shuttered, and everyone else is sitting down to a big family meal.
It makes perfect sense. […]

Posted in Christmas | Tagged , | 3 Comments

The Christmas Carol/The Christmas Dinner: Holiday cheer takes an inflationary hit.


The cost of holiday feasting is the real Christmas Price Index.

Every year, the economists at PNC bank tally the cost of the items in the carol The Twelve Days of Christmas.
The French hens, the swans, the leaping lords, the pipers and the drummers; they add it all up at current prices for a tongue-in-cheek economic index. […]

Posted in Christmas, diversions | Tagged , | 2 Comments
Web Analytics