Need an excuse to party? This list will help you find a reason to celebrate every day of the year! This list will continue to be updated, so check back often! Know of a special geeky day we missed? Let us know in the comments!
2 Isaac Asimov’s Birthday
3 J.R.R. Tolkien’s Birthday
17 Ben Franklin’s Birthday
25 Macintosh Computer Day
11 National Inventors’ Day
12 Darwin Day
4 National Grammar Day
8 Ralph Baer’s Birthday
11 Douglas Adam’s Birthday
14 Pi Day, Albert Einstein’s Birthday
26 Leonard Nemoy’s Birthday
31 World Backup Day
12 Yuri’s Night
23 William Shakespeare’s Birthday
25 DNA Day
27 Morse Code Day
4 Star Wars Day
11 Twilight Zone Day
13 Stephen Colbert’s Birthday
14 George Lucas’s Birthday
10 Ballpoint Pen Day
5 Newton’s Principal Day
6 Take Your Webmaster to Lunch Day
11 Laser Day
13 Embrace Your Geekness Day
20 Moon Day
26 SysAdmin Day
27 Gary Gygax’s Birthday
29 Wil Wheaton’s Birthday
12 IBM PC Day
22 Ray Bradbury‘s Birthday
7 Google Commemoration Day
22 Hobbit Day
3 Techie Appreciation Day
23 Mole Day
26 Back To The Future Day
7 Marie Curie‘s Birthday
30 Computer Security Day
5 Day of the Ninja, Walt Disney’s Birthday
28 Stan Lee’s Birthday
Yesterday, 250,000 people received a gift of “miracle berries” from Cards Against Humanity during their 10 Days or Whatever of Kwanzaa. Being a miracle berry fan for a good amount of years (yes, I’m pulling the Hipster card on miracle berries), I’m thrilled that others are being introduced to this fun activity.
First of all: What are miracle berries? Miracle berries (Synsepalum dulcificum) are a berry native to Africa. The berries coat your taste buds, blocking certain taste receptors (like sour and bitter), making anything you consume taste sweeter than it would without the berry. The effect lasts up to an hour. (I find it lasts around 30 minutes on average.) What you received in the mail is not the berry itself–it’s the berry plus cornstarch, made into a tablet.
While the people who manufacture/sell the berry tablets may tell you this can serve as a daily supplement and a way to live a healthier lifestyle (your vegetables taste sweet and you don’t want to eat as much candy!), I think these are best used for tasting parties. Invite your friends over and have everyone bring a sour or bitter item that they’d like to try on the berries. Then, pop the pill (this sounds way worse than it is), and get tasting! We’ve found that as soon as people try one thing, they start to ravage the spread, wanting to know what everything tastes like. Once the spread is gone, they’ll move onto your pantry and fridge. You’ve been warned.
Below are some of my favorite items to try with miracle berries. These have been tested and approved–they’re musts at your party! But a word of warning: A lot of these foods are acidic or harsh on the stomach, but they won’t taste that way. Although it will be tasty, you’ll still be consuming larger amounts of lemons, limes, vinegar, and other sour/bitter items than you’re used to. Use moderation and keep some Tums/Alka Seltzer nearby!
- Limes and Lemons (These are just amazing, Particularly limes. It’s my go-to favorite with miracle berries.)
- Balsamic Vinegar (It’s sweet and not harsh at all. But that doesn’t mean you should chug large amounts! Read the disclaimer in the paragraph above!)
- Guinness (Tastes like a chocolate shake. Any Porter/Stout will be ridiculously good.)
- Cream Cheese (Tastes like cheesecake.)
- Strawberries (It’s like you dipped them in sugar, but you DIDN’T! Magic.)
The following is a list of other suggested foods to try from various sources, including Cards Against Humanity, Amazon, and blogs/forum posts. I can’t vouch for the deliciousness of all of these, but it’s at least a starting off point for your tasting party!
- BBQ sauce
- Bitter chocolate
- Cottage Cheese
- Granny Smith apples
- Pickles (or anything pickled)
- Salt and Vinegar chips
- Sour Candies (warheads, sour patch kids)
- Sour Cream
- Stinky cheese (bleu cheese and goat cheese, specifically)
- Tabasco (or other hot sauces)
- Tonic water
What are your fave foods to have with miracle berries? Let me know in the comments! Didn’t receive the berries from Cards Against Humanity, but still want to try it? You can find them on Amazon!
I have a growing collection of cupcakes pans, and while I often will grab the first one I see, sometimes I want to be more specific with the pans I use. If I’m baking cupcakes for others (and especially if it’s for a special event), I want to make sure the cupcakes are all evenly baked and the best they can possibly be. I’ve wanted to test the differences in my pans for a while, and I was recently given the opportunity to test the KitchenAid Professional grade muffin pans. It was the perfect chance! I could finally tell what was best: dark non-stick pans, shiny pans, or a more designer brand, like the KitchenAid Pro.
Now, I tried to be as scientific as possible, but there are a LOT of variables when cooking cupcakes. I used a basic vanilla cupcake mix I’ve made before, I used white cupcake liners so I could see the results more easily, and I tried to fill all of the cups as evenly as I could. However, one of the cake pans got a bit warmer than the others based on where they were sitting on the stove, and their location in the oven could have also affected the results (although my oven heats pretty evenly). I would have to repeat this test a couple more times to make sure things were truly accurate. Now that that’s all out of the way: on to the results!
Straight out of the oven and onto the cooling rack. I placed a few cupcakes from each pan here. On the left, we have the KitchenAid Pro. In the middle, we have the light colored shiny pan. And on the right is the darker nonstick pan. (The KitchenAid Pro is also a dark nonstick model.) You can see that overall, they look very similar. The cupcakes all turned out the same color, and all rose relatively the same. But when you look closer, you can see some minor differences. The shiny pan cupcakes (in the middle) did not rise as evenly as the nonstick pans on either side of them. They also have more browning/discoloration around the sides and bottoms. The nonstick pan cupcakes (particularly the KitchenAid Pro ones on the left) are more even. The cupcakes are all around the same size and same color.
Again, we’ve got KitchenAid on the left, shiny in the middle, and nonstick on the right. You can see that the cupcakes from the shiny pan were a tiny bit lighter on the top/sides…
…Yet, the bottom was not the lightest. The KitchenAid cupcakes had the most even coloring, with only a bit of browning on the bottom. The other two pans were significantly darker.
Overall, there wasn’t a huge difference. Once these are frosted and put into a box, no one’s going to be able to tell which ones were from which pans. They all tasted the same. (I tasted all three for you, dear readers. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.) The real difference is in the subtleties. If you’re a professional baker or making cupcakes for someone with a refined cupcake palette, you may want to get the KitchenAid Pro pans. (Plus, overall, they feel and perform very well. They’re easy to clean, and they look and feel very nice. And I feel fancy using something from their professional-grade line!) If you don’t bake cupcakes often and would rather get something a bit cheaper, I’d still make sure you get a dark, nonstick pan. The cupcakes looked a bit better than the shiny pans, and the pans overall hold up better and look nicer than the shiny ones.
Do you have a cupcake pan preference? Have you tried the KitchenAid professional-grade pans? Any great cupcake baking tips? Let me know in the comments!
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting Cary Elwes while he was in town promoting his new book, “As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride.” In between observing the Princess Bride costumes at the EMP and picking up Westley’s sword for the first time in 27 years(!), he answered a few questions for us.
If your character was a cocktail, what would that cocktail recipe be?
Well, there is a wine out there that has been licensed through Act 3 Communications, which is Norman Lear’s company, and so you can actually purchase wine that has Westley and Buttercup on one of them, and Vizzini on the other one, so there are wines available–without Iocane powder in them. You’ll have to go to the Princess Bride website, and you can find them there! (It looks like the wine may no longer be available, but you can see the bottles here.)
You mentioned earlier that you hear a lot about Princess Bride weddings. Can you share some of the stories and tips you’ve heard about the Ultimate Princess Bride Wedding?
Sure, well, I’ve seen a number of photographs over the years, and people have these menus that they make and very stylized things that they’ve decided to serve their guests, and obviously, folks mimicking these dresses (pointing to Buttercup’s wedding dress in the EMP), and clergymen, and offering peanuts to folks, it’s great fun. It’s a celebration. Of Twue Wuv. (Check out my Princess Bride Wedding Pinterest Board for some great pics and ideas!)
I hear you mention some fun times out partying and drinking with everyone off set and after hours in your book. I was wondering if you had a specific story in mind you’d like to share?
Yeah, sure. Well Andre, poor guy, was in a lot of pain, he had terrible back problems, not only from carrying all the weight around, but from wrestling over the years, and the only way he could deal with the pain that he had was to drink, so, when we wrapped the movie, after the New York premiere, he took me out drinking. And that was quite an event–but you have to read the book to check it out. It’s quite funny.
You heard the man, read the book! (And lucky for you, Amazon can get you a copy before Christmas!) I can’t wait to read it–after hearing him chat just shortly about some of the behind the scenes stories, I need to know more!
Are you a Princess Bride fan? Will you be picking up the book?
Bookworms and writers can be intimidating to shop for: their impeccable taste usually makes them your go-to for book recommendations. I’d suggest staying away from specific books (unless you get your hands on a first edition of their favorite title), and instead focus on gifts that celebrate their love of the written word. Here are some gift ideas they’re sure to love!
Paddywax creates beautiful (and great smelling) candles inspired by classic authors. This Charles Dickens candle (with tangerine, juniper, and clove) is perfect for Christmas! $23.
Gourmet Grammarian Plate Set
Correct your grammar while you dine with this fun plate set! Perfect for teachers, writers, editors, and anyone who wants people to write good. $49.99.
Library Card Tote
Carry your books with this cute tote, created to look like a library card. When you purchase this tote bag, a book will be donated to a community in need! $20.
Storiarts creates a variety of gorgeous infinity scarves featuring text of classic books. I particularly love the Secret Garden scarf–the color and the classic illustrations amongst the text is just beautiful! $42.
Banned Books Pouch
Show off your rebellious side with this pouch. It lists famous banned books, and it’s a great spot to store pencils, pens, or reading glasses! When you purchase this pouch, a book will be donated to a community in need! $12.
Literary Tea Blends
Purchase some loose leaf tea blends inspired by literary characters–perfect to cozy up with while reading! From $13. You can also enter to WIN the collection shown above: Four tea blends inspired by the houses of Hogwarts, along with a tea cup and tea filters! ($60 value.) Enter below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I had the pleasure of joining the Dungeons and Dragons podcast to chat about some fun gift ideas for the holidays. You can listen to the podcast and check out some of my suggestions here. Want some more gift ideas for your dungeon master, adventuring party, or a friend who loves RPGs? Any of these are guaranteed to be a critical hit!
Why give a boring bottle of wine when you can give a bottle of mead? The honey wine will be more in-game appropriate. Sip some IRL while your characters sip some in the tavern! I particularly enjoy the meads from Northwest Mountain Winery. They have a sweet mead made from raspberry honey, and a “fire-breathing mead” made with jalepenos that’ll be perfect for the Dragonborns in your party. $20.
Gain Charisma just by wearing this underwear! The cheeky panty has a rhinestone D20 on it. $15.
Eye of the Beholder Dice Bag
Store your dice in style with this Beholder dice bag, designed by Scott Kurtz. The eye stalks are poseable and act as drawstrings. I mean, how ridiculously amazing is this? $20.
These gorgeous truffles are fun to bite into! Between the pop rocks and the heat from the chili pepper, it’s an adventure in chocolate. Your friend will love the homemade touch! Recipe here.
D20 Mini Cake Pan
This is the gift for RPG lovers and bakers (cough, like a certain Geeky Hostess you may know, cough). It looks like there may be a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, you can make cakes and rolls in the shape of a D20! On sale for $10.
Plush Gelatinous Cube
Snuggle up with this adorable gelatinous cube, made by Weregeek! $19.
Invite your friends to a special holiday game of Dungeons and Dragons by giving them surprise balls with instructions and information (as well as a set of dice!) DIY Instructions here.
Dungeon Mistress Print
This beautiful print is the perfect gift for the Dungeon Mistress in your life. The prints are limited edition and hand-numbered! $25.
RPG Tea Gift Basket
Enjoy a hot cup of tea based on your favorite RPG class with this basket of goodies from Friday Afternoon Tea. The set includes 2 ounces each of the RPG character class blends as well as a Friday-green teacup and a pack of 100 T-Sac filters, wrapped all up in a gorgeous giftable basket! $75.
Win an RPG Tea Gift Basket! Enter below. A winner will be chosen on Thursday, December 18!
Surprise balls are one of the ultimate DIY gifts. Seriously. These gifts are like mini parties in one: your recipient has the joy of unwrapping their gift and getting multiple tiny surprises, while covering themselves with colorful crepe paper! Plus, you look like a wonderful and creative human being, and it only took you a few bucks and a few minutes! Win-win.
The premise is simple: Start with your largest gift in the center and wrap around it with crepe paper streamers. Continue to wrap the streamer around, working it towards a ball-shape, and pause every once in a while to add another small gift. Continue to do this until all gifts are fully wrapped inside of the ball. That’s it!
The fun, though, is coming up with ways to decorate and theme the ball. You can change the color of the streamers throughout by taping two colored streamers together, you can dress up the front with washi tape and stickers, or you can create a replica of a round object and theme the gifts inside appropriately.
Here are some ideas for geeky surprise balls:
The Golden Snitch
Using gold crepe paper, create a surprise ball and add wings to the back. Fill with Harry Potter-themed goodies! These can include:
- Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans
- Gold from Gringotts Bank
- A Time Turner
- Pins, stickers, and other accessories in the recipient’s house colors
- Favorite quotes from the books
The Dungeon Master
Invite your friends to a Dungeons and Dragons game, and give them everything they’ll need to start their adventure! This can include:
- A set of dice
- A miniature
- Riddles or puzzles
- Clues that will help them during the campaign
- “Coupons” they can cash in during the campaign. For instance:
- Redeem this slip of paper for: One re-roll. (Can be given to another player or NPC.)
- Redeem this slip of paper for: One random item from the Trinkets page.
- Redeem this slip of paper for: Advantage or Disadvantage on the roll of your choice. (Can be given to another player or NPC.)
Here are some other fun ideas:
- Put a bunch of stocking stuffers/candies in a surprise ball with black crepe paper streamers–it’ll look like coal!
- Make a pokeball-themed surprise ball with mini Pokemon goodies inside!
- Know a sports fan? Put sports-themed goodies (or a note saying you’ve got tickets to the big game) inside a surprise ball that looks like their sports ball of choice!
What type of surprise ball do you want to make? Let me know in the comments!
I love getting monthly subscription boxes–it’s a fun surprise you get each month in the mail! The amount of subscription services available has grown like crazy over the past couple years; there’s really something for everyone out there. Here are some of my fave subscription box services along with information on one of their previous boxes. Sign someone up for a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year, or start the new year off right by treating yourself once a month!
Description: “Birchbox delivers high-end beauty, grooming, and lifestyle samples once a month, customized just for you.”
Items in August 2014 Box:
- Acure Organics Brightening Facial Scrub (Full Size $14.99)
- Atelier Orange Sanguine Cologne Absolue (Full Size $65-105)
- LAQA & Co. Sheer Lip Lube Pencil (Full Size $18)
- Marcelle BB Cream Golden Glow (Full Size $27)
- Supergoop! Forever Young Hand Cream (Full Size $11-29.50)
Notes: Birchbox is the only monthly subscription box that I’ve consistently paid for. The contents of the boxes can be hit-or-miss, but I’ve found that even things I don’t think I’ll love end up being terrific once I’ve tried it. The only problem? I’ve gotten hooked on some higher-end products and ultimately ended up buying full-size versions. (I love anything from Beauty Protector and Eyeko now, and had to have No. 4’s Volumizing Shampoo after trying it.) Luckily, reviewing the sample products you receive in your box gets you points which turn into Birchbox.com store credit. If you review each item each month, your box ends up paying for itself. This is great for anyone who loves to try new makeup/hair trends, pamper themselves, or just learn more about grooming products in general. Get it here.
Description: “A box of board games every month.”
Items in May 2016 Box:
- Burger Boss (with Board Game Bento exclusive “Settlers of Kitchan” order card ($50)
- Foodfighters ($20.99)
- Foodfighters: Grain Faction expansion ($16.75)
- Sushi Go! ($14.99)
- Gingerbread Kaiju
- Geeky Hostess Recipe Cards
Notes: Board Game Bento is like a game night delivered to your door each month. If you have friends that enjoy playing games and are up for trying new ones often, this is the box for you. The value is great: the box is $50 a month, and the May 2016 box had over $100 worth of games in it. (Plus, they had the excellent taste to work with me on creating special recipes for each game!) The games included in this box are award winners, new games, and games that are hard to get in the US, and they look like they’d all be great for families. I would highly recommend this. Get it here.
Description: “Japanese candy surprises in your mailbox twice a month. Free shipping even to United States.”
Items in August 28 2014 Box:
- Chocolate CalorieMate
- Baby Star Yakisoba Snack
- Soft Ramune Balls
- WakuWaku Zukan Gummies
Notes: If you like Japanese culture or (like me) you just love candy, this is a great box to try. For $25, you receive 2 shipments each month. The shipments include some interested Japanese candies and snacks, and shortly after the package is sent, you receive an email with information on the candy and some info and fun pics from the shipper about his time in Japan. It’s like you have an awesome pen pal who doesn’t expect you to send anything back! Get it here.
Price: $50/month (Use code “GEEKYHOSTESS” to save 10% off your order!)
Description: “Carnivore Club is the world’s first curated cured meat of the month club featuring artisans from around the world. Each month our members receive an impressive faux-wood box filled with 4-6 handcrafted cured meats from top artisans.”
Items in March 2016 Box:
- Del Duca Prosciutto
- Sliced Chorizo
- Sliced Sopressata
- Sliced Capocollo
- Whole Hard Salami
- Whole Hot Sopressata
Notes: If you’re a meat lover or someone who likes to entertain often, this box is a must. I was incredibly impressed with the variety of cured meats, and love that they’re all vacuum sealed and relatively shelf stable. This means throughout the month I’ll always have some nice meats to pair with crackers and some cheese for impromptu parties and gatherings. Plus, the presentation of the box is beautiful and the guide the box comes with will make you sound like an expert on the supplier and meats you’re sampling. You can subscribe or gift the boxes, making this your go-to gift for co-workers, clients, your wedding party, your siblings, yourself…anyone who loves meat. They’ll love you for it. Get it here.
Price: $49.99/season (Get $10 off with code TT10.)
Description: “Over $200 in Beauty, Wellness, Fitness and Fashion Finds for only $49.99 per season!”
Items in Summer 2014 Box:
- Sonya Dakar Flash Facial ($95)
- pur~lisse pur~protect SPF 30($55)
- Thursday Friday Away Mini Clutch/Makeup Bag ($35)
- Balanced Guru No Frizz Oil ($25)
- FabFitFun Water Infuser BPA-free Water Bottle ($15)
- Zoya Nail Polish ($9)
- KISSTIXX Lip Balm ($5.99)
- POPchips ($1.29)
- Skintimate Shave Gel ($1.99)
- Always Xtra Protection Long Daily Liners ($1.50)
- Slimfast “Have Your Cake…” Meal Bar ($1)
Notes: FabFitFun is like a MEGA subscription box. It’s a bit more expensive ($50), you only get it 4 times a year, and it’s FULL of stuff. The products vary quite a bit: this one had higher end beauty products along with items you could find at your grocery store. It was a fun chance to try some new things (I ended up really liking the Flash Facial and KISSSTIXX lip balm, for instance), but it would be tough to guarantee you’ll love everything in the box. (I wouldn’t normally spend $35 on the clutch that was in the box.) However, for the price, the box is definitely a good deal. Get it here.
Price: $48.99/quarter (Other options available)
Description: “Try & discover drinks you otherwise wouldn’t and save a fortune compared to buying full bottles.”
Items in Star Spangled Bourbon Box:
- Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon (45 ml)
- Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon 12 YO (45 ml)
- Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon (45 ml)
- Booker’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon (45ml)
- Willett Pot Still Reserve (45 ml)
Notes: If anyone is ever looking for a gift idea for me, one of these tasting kits is it. A Flaviar kit comes with 5 glass test-tube-like bottles that hold 45 ml each of a different spirit. The tasting kit comes complete with instructions on holding a tasting (it comes with enough for 3 people), trivia and important info on the spirits you’re about to taste, tasting notes, and even a link to a soundtrack to play while tasting. It’s a mini, delicious party in a box. You can select and purchase tasting kits whenever, or you can sign up to have them sent quarterly or monthly. (P.S. This makes a fantastic host/hostess gift, and you may even be invited to try it out with them!) Get it here.
Description: “Each My Maven Box includes over $40 worth of new beauty innovations and/or limited-run nail colors. We create at least five new boxes every month—one for each Style Profile, plus monthly exclusives. If you have a fully customizable subscription, you can personalize your box by picking exactly what you want.”
Items in September 2014 Box:
- “Erin” Nail Polish (Oyster grey creme)
- “Mary Lee” Nail Polish (Oxblood satin)
- Plush Pout Lip Crayon in Magenta Plum
- Two candies
Notes: Julep Maven boxes allow you to choose from a collection of new nail colors and beauty products. Their products are quality and exclusive to the Julep brand. (And I love it because it started in Seattle!) I only get this every few months, because I quickly got more nail polish than I knew what to do with. Each box also comes with an extra treat (past boxes have included candy, flower seeds, rings, hair accessories, etc.) and a cute card with an inspirational quote on it. Get it here.
Price: $30/month (Use code “geekyhostess” for $10 off a new subscription or gift subscription)
Description: “The subscription for food lovers and home cooks who want to stay inspired: a curated food, art, and music experience designed to inspire creativity in the kitchen and encourage you to try something new every week.”
Items in the “Farm to Table” Box:
- Fall Soup & Salad Recipes by Andrea Bernis
- We Got The Beet Postcard by Andrea Bernis
- Organic Whole Grain Emmer Farro by Bluebird Grain Farms
- Portland Farmland Honey by Bee Local Artisan Neighborhood Honey
- 3.5″ Pairing Knife by Tovolo
- Flour Sack Towel
- Music Downloads
Notes: A Kitchen Box is the ultimate gift for a home cook. Each box has a theme (mine was “Farm to Table”) and includes recipes, art, songs, and ingredients to help you create meals in that theme at home. They also include a favorite tool of theirs (my box included a fantastic pairing knife) and a flour sack towel each month. The contents of the box were beautiful and thoughtfully curated, and left me inspired to cook. Plus, with each box purchase, $1 is donated to RVOO Orphanages of Kenya, to help change the life of a child. Get it here.
Price: $13.37 plus $6 shipping/month (Save $3 with code GEEKYHOSTESS)
Description: “Get a box full of fun and unexpected gamer gear every month – valued at over $40(USD)!”
Items in August 2014 Box:
- TMNT Full Figure
- Funko POP! Groot Exclusive
- TMNT Mask Glasses
- Sonic Air Freshener
- Shoe Lightning Bolts
- Deadpool Magnet
- Monthly Loot Crate Pin
- Bonus Digital Loot
Notes: Loot Crate, if you couldn’t gather, is for geeks and gamers. It focuses on a variety of fandoms new and old, with collectibles, t-shirts, toys, digital content, and more in each box. I often find one or two things I like in each box, and end up with other goodies I hang onto for gift giving opportunities. This was one of my fave boxes: I love the Groot exclusive, the TMNT glasses, and shoe lightning bolts specifically. This is great if you’re a collector or love toys. It would also be great for a family with a few geeky kids (and maybe a geeky grown-up or two): you can all split the contents each month (or keep the toys as prizes to reward good behavior). Get it here.
Price: $10 plus $2 shipping/month
Description: “A subscription of 8-10 delicious, all natural or organic, surprise snacks delivered monthly.”
Items in September 2014 Box:
- Simply So Sweet Chili Tortilla Chips
- Lemon Rosemary Seasoning
- Hemp Rules Roasted Hemp Seeds
- Green Superfood
- 5 Spice Caramels
- Maruso Ghost Soy Sauce
- Rich Chocolate Cookie Thins
- Churro Kettle Corn
Notes: If you’re looking for new yummy and healthy snack ideas each month, this box is a must. For only $10, you get 8-10 different items in the box, and Love with Food donates a meal to a hungry child in the US. I like that you get a mix of pre-made snacks and ingredients to use in your next meal–it adds a bit of adventure to a variety of eating occasions throughout the month! Value-wise, I think this is one of the best subscription boxes out there. Get it here.
Price: $75 plus $10 shipping/month
Description: “Mantry (the modern man’s pantry) is a food-of-the-month club that helps you discover American Artisan Food and what to do with it.”
Items in August 2014 Box:
- Three Jerks Jerky Chipotle Adobo Jerky
- We Rub You Korean BBQ Marinade
- Olo Foods Olo’s Chipotle
- Grey Ghost Bakery Cinnamon Pecan Cookies
- Steven Smith Teamaker Big Hibiscus
- Maya Kaimal Butter Masala
Notes: If you are serious about good, artisan food, then Mantry’s for you. The price point’s a bit steep for me, since I can be picky and am not guaranteed to love everything each month, but if you have some extra income or really want to try the best of the best, then subscribe. The crate it comes in each month is a huge added value: I now use my crate to hold important papers/things on the side of my desk.The Mantry I received was inspired by food trucks around the country. The Big Hibiscus tea is one of my new faves, and Mr. Geek and I both loved making the Butter Masala chicken. We’ve had this box for a couple months and still haven’t tried everything in it: it’s awesome that many of the items can be saved for a while, so you’re not pressured to use them immediately. Finally, although it’s called “Mantry,” it’s definitely not just for men. Any food lover will have a blast going through the contents and putting together some new recipes. Get it here.
Do you have a fave subscription box I haven’t included? Let me know in the comments!
Truffles are one of my go-to treats for the holidays. They’re a delicious treat that would be considered a bit of a luxury when bought from a chocolate shop. Once you get the hang of the recipe, it’s a lot of fun to create custom flavor and presentation combos to suit the recipient. These fireball truffles were created for a Dungeons and Dragons lover. The truffle, named after a popular spell from D&D, has a hint of spice and a bit of a kick from the Pop Rocks. Use them to butter up a new DM or make them for everyone in your adventuring party!
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream,
- 2 12 oz. bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- red Pop Rocks
In a medium-sized saucepan, mix the cream, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon together over medium-low heat. Heat until it starts simmering.
Turn off the stove and start adding 12 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips into the mixture. Stir until the chocolate has melted and everything is smooth and mixed together.
Pour the mixture onto a wax paper lined pie plate or shallow casserole dish. Place in the fridge to chill for 1+ hours or until firm but scoopable.
Remove the plate from the fridge and roll the truffle filling into small balls using a spoon and your hands. Sizing of the balls is up to you, I’d recommend sizing them somewhere between a teaspoon and a tablespoon. Place the balls on a plate covered in wax paper and place back in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Place the other 12 ounces of chocolate in a bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir, then microwave in 10 second intervals while mixing in between until the chocolate is smooth. Microwaving for longer can result in burnt chocolate. Trust me–you don’t want that. (If your chocolate stops melting/mixing and starts looking clumpy/gritty while smelling bad, you’ve burnt it.)
Pull the truffle balls out of the fridge and dip into the melted chocolate. (Use a fork to fish the truffles out of the chocolate so any excess can go through the tines.) Place the dipped chocolates on a wax paper lined plate or cookie sheet.
While the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle red Pop Rocks on the top.
Place back into the fridge until you’re ready to serve!
Blenders are a tough sell in my household. I had to convince Mr. Geek for a while to let us keep one in our small kitchen (counter and storage space are both at a minimum), so when I was asked to review a Ninja Blender DUO with Auto-iQ, I thought it would be a tough sell. Surprisingly, he was down for it. I don’t know if it’s the fact that it’s called “Ninja” or that he heard good things from our friends, but he let me try it. The only (totally reasonable) caveat: We’re not keeping 2 blenders. We’re giving it a try, and keeping the new favorite.
To me, a blender has always been a blender. It does it’s job in a decent fashion, unless I overload the machine or don’t add enough liquid to my smoothies. (Let’s be honest, this happens almost every time I blend something.) I wasn’t expecting anything crazy or different with the Ninja. But I still wanted to compare it. Is it worth the hype and price difference compared to your average blender? The short answer: Yes.
I thought I’d try out the blenders by making “True Love in a Bowl”, a recipe I saw at the Independent Food Bloggers Conference during the Ninja demo. It’s super easy: Just frozen bananas and cocoa powder. You blend them together and it creates a healthy version of soft serve ice cream. You can see the results in the video below:
The bananas in the Cuisinart instantly got stuck on the bottom, and it just sprayed the cocoa power around for a bit until I adjusted everything. After adjusting, the bananas just got stuck again. I started getting scared when the glass container itself started moving. Yikes! The Ninja has a fantastic thing called “Auto-iQ,” where it adjusts the speed and intensity of the blending on its own to blend things thoroughly and consistently. I was able to press the button and walk away and know that eventually it would be blended to my liking. I did go in to adjust the bananas at the same time I did so for the Cuisinart, but it didn’t really need it.
Other noticeable things about the Ninja: Everything about it is really stable. The base suctions to your counter, the lid locks on, and when you turn it on, you’re not afraid anything is going anywhere. While I was afraid I was breaking my Cuisinart, I felt safe with the Ninja. It’s loud, but in a powerful way, not a scary “it shouldn’t be making this much noise” way. The model I received also came with smaller smoothie-sized cups and a food processor, so you’re set for a variety of tasks. Clean-up is easy–you can put everything in the dishwasher, and the base just needs a quick wipe-down.
In case you couldn’t tell, I really liked the Ninja. I’ve been stocking up on smoothie supplies and can’t wait to keep playing with it. If you’re interested in getting the some one I have, you can find it at Amazon.com. (This particular listing doesn’t include the food processor attachment, but has everything else!)
Do you have a Ninja blender? What awesome recipes should I try blending up next?