Archive for September, 2011

September 27, 2011

Baking Up a Vagina Wedding Cake

by Jen Wanous

Getting the request to make a vagina wedding cake came as no big shocker to me. I knew I could deliver, you see, I have had many a vagina-centric experience from performing in the Vagina Monologues to being in the room for three births. The fact that it was a wedding cake made perfect sense to me, with New York’s recent passing of the Marriage Equality bill, why not pay homage to the Yoni goddess for a sacred queer occasion. The request to have a gay man coming out of the vagina, on top of the wedding cake, that kind of threw me for a sec—but heck, we all have a little (or a lot) of gay man trapped inside of us!

It was the culminating evolution of my life thus far, with some baking thrown in!

My first stop was at the cake-decorating store. I held up various shades of pink food coloring, wondering which color would be the most realistic. There are so many variations; choosing one color was not easy. I thought to ask the sales person for his opinion but stopped myself and decided on peach and pink. A tub of frosting, some edible silver gems and the glittery pink “disco dust” were absolute musts!

Like any smart gal, I tapped my resources and enlisted the help of my girlfriend, Annie. Her previous experience as a middle school art teacher came in quite handy! I plopped down a large, naturally tan colored brick of marzipan in front of her. She whittled away with her nimble artist hands and before I knew it, she had quite a realistic shape to use for the wedding cake topper.

Madonna helped me burn the midnight oil as I baked deeper and deeper into the night. Who else could be such a beacon of pure pussy power?

Transporting this cake to the event was nerve-racking. I called a taxi to get us from my apartment to the show. My friend held the cake in her lap and I tried to carry on casual conversation as I winced at every tap of the breaks. We arrived to the Stonewall Inn, vagina cake intact.

The fantastical nuptials that spawned such a creation was a faux-queen wedding of course! (By the way, faux queens are female-to-female drag queens.) The creators of the annual Golden Girls party hosted an event to raise funds for a discriminatory tax placed on same-sex married couples. As part of the performance, there was a real, officiated wedding on stage where the brides dove into my dessert and shared their first bites as a married couple.

Many thanks to Kelsy Chauvin for her photos from the event.

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September 13, 2011

Unveiling the Mystery Behind Gluten-Free

by Jen Wanous

Is it just me or has every other person you’ve met lately gone gluten-free? Tons of people seem to be giving up bread and pasta and it’s not just because they want to go cut out the carbs. Their lives appear to be sincerely changed by this dietary modification. Improved digestion and more energy are just some of the many benefits cited by hoards of gluten-free converts. But before we all hop on board the gluten-free train, let’s back up for a second to cover some of the basics.

What is gluten?  Gluten is the common name for the proteins found in ALL forms of wheat. Gluten brings structure, elasticity and a chewy texture to products. This includes  wheat, spelt, rye and barley.

What is Celiac Disease?  CD is an autoimmune disease that attacks normal tissues when gluten is eaten. The angry immune system response is to attack the tiny finger-like villi that line your small intestine, which are responsible for nutrition absorption. When villi get stomped out by a gluten-intolerant immune system, the body loses its ability to absorb critical nutrients.

How do you know if you should get tested for CD? If you are having adverse gastrointestinal symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating and/or low energy, then it’s time to ask your doctor to do a blood test for Celiac Disease. (You have to be eating gluten for four weeks prior to the test for the results to be accurate.)

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, one in 133 people have Celiac Disease and 97% do not know it.

What is Gluten Sensitivity or Gluten Intolerance?  It is the less severe sister to CD. It means that your body has adverse reactions when gluten is introduced, more like a food allergy. It is not as destructive as CD because there is no immune system attack on your intestine wall. Symptoms pass as the gluten leaves the digestive system.

What to do if you suspect you are Gluten Sensitive or Intolerant?   Read up on where gluten lurks and take out all forms of gluten in your diet for two to four weeks. Carefully note how you feel. If you see improvements, then you best get on board the Gluten Free train!

Obviously, when planning a gluten-free diet, you have to be vigilant with all the processed products you eat. Just because something says it is “wheat free” doesn’t always mean that it is gluten-free because it might have spelt, rye or barley. Things can get tricky because gluten pops up in unexpected products such as soy sauce, ice cream, ketchup, supplements and beer, just to name a few. However, if you keep things simple and plan ahead, these lifestyle and diet modifications will not seem quite so daunting. Below is a recipe I made in school for a chocolate brownie. Gooey and rich, you and your friends will want more of this treat.

Click here for a link to the Celiac Foundation, it has a ton of resources.

Here is a link to the Gluten Free Girl, for some great recipes.

Gluten-Free Goodness Brownies Topped with Sea Salt

Makes 12+ servings

Ingredients:

3 cups walnuts

Hearty pinch of salt

24 dates, pitted and chopped

2/3 cup unsweetened cacao powder

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

6 tablespoons agave or maple syrup

Coarse sea salt for topping

Procedure:

1. In a food processor add the salt and walnuts until finely ground. Add the dates, cacao powder, vanilla and syrup until well combine (about 1 min).

2. Press mixture into a pan and refrigerate until chilled. Top each piece with a pinch of course sea salt. Cover with plastic wrap to store.

This recipe is adapted from Raw Food Made Easy by Jenny Cornbleet.

September 6, 2011

How To Beef Up Your Kitchen Stock!

by Jen Wanous

I found an immersion blender on the street just now when I was taking my pup Jaxson for his evening stroll. There are few things better than finding a bargain and what can be a better bargain than free!? One of the many reasons why I love New York! Of course, I steer clear of any plush material that might harbor any slumber party bugs, but by and large, there are some good finds out there.  A friend once told me that I was “crafty” as I plucked a couple of basil leaves from her plant for dinner, though I read her subtext loud and clear. Fickle, frugal, or just plain cheap, call it what you will, I’m one resourceful lady who makes the best out of what I have.

I took my new found emersion blender (and ice cube trays!) home and dunked them all in warm soapy water. It got me thinking about how I have equipped my kitchen. Half of my kitchen is outfitted with odd and ends that I’ve acquired from California to Florida. I cherish my grandmother’s stainless steel pots that I use daily. My homemade hummus would not be nearly as good without the aid of my mini food processor, found on the corner of Sterling and Vanderbilt. And then there’s the white Pyrex bowl with an asterisk blue border that reminds me of one my mom used to have in her kitchen. I built my collection with found and acquired items alike and some coveted big-ticket items that make for one highly functional (yet tiny NYC) kitchen.

My friends Robin and Ben were just over and they said they needed to better equip their kitchen. “We have one good thing in all our kitchen stuff, like one good knife and one good pan.” That’s a great place to start! Here are some other tips on how to beef up your kitchen stock.

1. Have one good (very) sharp knife. You can take your knife to a sharpener or get this device that will help you keep it sharp. If you’re feeling ambitious, watch this on how to sharpen your own knife.

2. Get things that are multi purposed. Try not to get equipment that serves one function like a bread machine or an egg slicer. Your kitchen is too small for those random things. Instead, build out the basics and use them creatively!

3. Make a wish list for your birthday or holidays. This way you can stock up on some fancy items like a blender or that sharp knife (see above).

4. Have a zester! I love my Microplane. I add lemon or orange zest to things from cobbler to pasta. You can also use it for fresh ground nutmeg (adds that sophisticated touch to your food). I travel with mine and am always afraid security will confiscate it. :)

5. Read up on how-to. Cookbooks come in many varieties. Two of my favorites include the Joy of Cooking and Supper Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson. (Also, check out her blog here.)

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