So.. You Want to Audition for MasterChef…

Every year, I receive a batch of emails right around this time – people who are considering, or who have already signed up to audition for MasterChef. Very excited people, full of big dreams, just looking for whatever tips I may have.

The TL;DR? Don’t.

Let me elaborate, but first a bit of disclaimer / pertinent info:

1. It’s been just over 3 years since I auditioned for MasterChef, and just over 2 and a half since I was out there. My PERSONAL experience is not super recent. In fact, after our season they made big changes to format, etc.

2. I am Canadian, but I was on MasterChef USA, so my direct experiences with the process are from the American version. I hear MasterChef Canada was a bit better, not as sadistic, and had some of the process differ a bit, so your mileage may vary based on country.

3. In going through the process, if selected, you will sign something in the neighbourhood of 80 pages of contract… This is not an exaggeration. Much of that contract has to do with confidentiality, and that is why not many people publicly speak about their experience. On the surface, it’s a “scary” contract, especially to those who only skimmed it.

Being the stickler for details that I am, I read it several times, and had a thorough understanding of it. This came in handy when they accidentally(?) nullified my contract while I was in LA. Their counsel is not only aware of the fact that I am not held under a contract, but they are aware of the fact that *I* am aware of this. This appears to be why I’m the only one not getting threats of lawsuits for speaking out, or, hey, using the word “MasterChef” on social media. (They’re currently trying to get past contestants to remove all references to having been on MasterChef from all personal social media accounts.) So, if you’re wondering why I’m speaking out, or why others aren’t… it’s just that I have a lot more freedom than everyone else.

I have SO so many thoughts on this subject, I should apologize in advance for this blog being disjointed. I’m sure it will be all over the place, by the time I’m done.

First of all, I have written a LOT about the experience. I would first recommend going back through the MasterChef tag on my blog, here

In particular, I’d like to draw your attention to these entries:

This one and This one

Additionally, see THIS post on Facebook for some VERY important information on the experience.

Now that we’re all caught up on issues like sexual harassment, physical assault, psychological torture, abuse of mental illness, etc, let’s talk about auditioning for this.

People go on MasterChef for one of three reasons:

1. Because they want to chase their dreams of cooking for a living.

2. Because they want to be famous, and not necessarily for cooking. Serial reality show auditions, etc.

3. Just for the hell of it / adventure.

#1 are THE MOST NAIVE, going in. We think MasterChef will put us in front of people who will hire, who will buy cookbooks. People who are as passionate about food and cooking as we are, and who can help us launch a career.

#2 is more aware of the fact that this show isn’t really about cooking, and is basically just another stupid reality show for people who watch *reality TV* to turn off their brains over for an hour a week. People who buy into manufactured drama, manufactured villains, manufactured sob stories, etc. People who watch and cheer for who they’re told to, hate on the people their told to, and then forget about when the season is over… on to another stupid manufactured show.

#3 … if you’re able to check your empathy at the door, it COULD be an interesting life experience. Sociologically, it’s a fascinating experience – especially watching what people are willing to do to other humans. Whether for forced “competition”, or as a career (the producers, etc)… fascinating.

As one of the type #1s, I tend to think that the people who come to me looking for audition advice are also of that type, so they are who I’m addressing with this entry. #2s are probably already loaded down with advice, and #3s… well, I wasn’t able to check my own empathy at the door, so I guess I’d be recommending looking for other life experiences. Hell, even other reality shows! I have friends who have been on other reality shows who were treated FAR better.

So, my fellow #1s…

If accepted to be on the show, you will give up many months of your life for it, for what could end up being 2 seconds – or NO time on screen.

As an aside, my timeline went as follows: I auditioned in October, went through many rounds of waiting, got the mostly final word late December, was still signing more paperwork early January, got the wardrobe requirements on January 18th (which caused an emergency shopping trip, as I had NOTHING that fit the requirements!), and flew out a couple days later. I was there for about a week, and was not allowed to even admit I was on the show until May. We weren’t even allowed to say a word about it when the commercials came out, and CLEARLY showed us on it, with many people being very identifiable.

Even from the first audition, as you progress, you will sit and wait and stress and hope that you’re accepted, with a big portion of your life on hold through the process. You will spend a fortune, cancel plans, and sit and wait.. and then sneak around, have to lie to people, put your life on even more strict hold and go out there, and hope you’re part of the storyline they’ve planned.

This is all while being subjected to cult indoctrination techniques to mold you into the emotional dramabombs they’re looking for.

Then, for people who are unlucky enough to not be cut right away, you get to hope they don’t edit you in an awful way. You know you’re there as a puppet for whatever story they’re trying to tell, but have no idea what part you’re going to play.

THEN you get to go home and keep your mouth shut for several months, life still on hold, while the producers decide what sentences they’ll edit together for maximum drama / “character”.

THEN the show airs, and the dutiful viewers heap their vitriol all over the internet, really driving home the point that we are THE most disgusting species on the whole planet. I’m not kidding, watching the comments on the show, the way people talked about my friends… it’s incredibly jarring.

It’s not fun to read pages and pages of disgusting comments and actual physical threats and wishes of harm on people you know… especially when you know that the “hatred” is based on a highly edited creation of a person, and not ACTUALLY your friend. Complete strangers online telling people that they wish that their house would burn down with them and their kid in it (yes, actually specified “and your kid”), over watchign a reality show. It’s sick.

… and then most of the #1s decide not to pursue a career in food. Literally every season.

…. and even years later, you get to see how the damage ripples its way through the friends you met while out there. You get to watch how long it takes the destroyed self esteem to even START to come back, the longstanding effects of intentionally exacerbated mental health issues, etc. You get to see lives ruined.

You get to hear about people who went through the same thing KILLING THEMSELVES as a result of the psychological torture they went through. The second place contestant the year before my season killed himself during a highly publicized drawn out breakdown, in which he invoked Gordon Ramsey’s name. From what I saw of how those with mental illness were treated out there, there is NO room for doubt in my mind – Josh’s blood is on the hands of those producers.

Take a moment and think about that. A young, bright, talented man with a bright future and many people who loved him is no longer here. No more future… All because America wants bigger, uglier breakdowns, and the producers are more than happy to do whatever it takes to provide them. It’s beyond disgusting.

RIP, Josh. 🙁

I digress.

If, even knowing all of that, you’re thinking to yourself “I’m different! I know this stuff now, and I can deal with it. It’s worth it for the OPPORTUNITY!”…

Congrats, you’re in the exact same mindset I was when I went in there. I knew 99% of what I’d be facing, at least on paper. Knowing it and experiencing it are VASTLY different things, however.

I was willing to put up with whatever it took. It was a relatively short amount of time, I told myself. If I could just get to the 16th position and make use of the social media tools that position would give me, I’d be able to sell more books, and pay down my tornado loan.

I knew enough to know I didn’t want to win – I didn’t even want to come very close to it, as the closer you come, the deeper they have their hooks into you. For the winners, they basically own you. (This could be a whole separate post – there are 80 pages of contract for a reason!)

The thing is, my idea of the “opportunity” was based on erroneous information. As I hadn’t even heard of the show prior to being asked to audition (well after the previous season had ended), I hadn’t watched how the audience reacted to the show. I didn’t have a good feel for that whole aspect of it… and these were the people I would be relying on for those potential book sales. These are the people that #1s rely on for a lot of this dream food career, whether book sales, or establishing themselves as a public food personality, or whatever.

Here’s the deal, though: By and large, MasterChef viewers aren’t necessarily the people who buy cookbooks. They’re not people that will follow your career and support you as you progress, they’re reality show fans. They tune in, get their drama fix, and move on to the next show once it’s over. There are exceptions, sure… but not enough to make the sacrifices worth it.

For a show that has millions and millions of viewers, it didn’t even result in that many followers for anyone – a thousand or two at most, and that’s for the higher up finalists. I’d check my numbers, but all their Twitter accounts from my season have been suspended – it’s not even a following that you’re really able to capitalize on, after the fact.

For those looking to become a food personality, a celebrity chef, have their own show, etc… not only is the audience not right to support this in any great numbers, but it’s a REALLY bad investment of not only your time, but your brand. Even your potential for a brand. Even if you look past all of the months where you’re in limbo, there’s the matter of having NO control over how you’re edited. For those chosen to be the villain, it can be a VERY long road to make it past that.

When you’re looking to make something of yourself, you really don’t need that kind of baggage to clean up after.

If you manage to get far in the show, you will need to ask their permission to do ANYTHING – post a blog entry, make a youtube video. If you do an interview with the media, they will have one of their representatives on the phone with you, monitoring what you can and can’t say. If you want to compete on another show, or if another network, through some miracle, wants to give you a show, they need the permission of MasterChef / Shine America – for years after the fact. This makes it difficult to build something for yourself.

If you WIN, you may be thinking things are different – you get money and a book, after all. Well… not so fast. From what I’m told, the money is all you get FOR the book. I’ve heard from more than a couple reliable sources that you do NOT earn royalties on the prize book, should you win. After taxes, you’re left with far less prize money… and you’re expected to cover all the cost of not only developing that book, but promoting it. Travel. Food for TV appearances – it eats the prize money away FAST. It’s not the big win that you go in thinking it is.

MasterChef owns any recipe you make on the show. MasterChef owns a chunk of earnings on any creative endevour you take on after the show. Write a book? 15% of your income goes to them. Open a restaurant? Same deal. It’s why not many past contestants have done much – the food industry has very tight margins as it is.

Going on MasterChef isn’t even a great way to gain employment. Actual chefs, restaurant owners, etc – they realize it’s reality TV, and says absolutely nothing about anyone’s actual ability to cook. They know about things like the “the judges are not required to actually taste your food in order to critique/judge it” clauses in the contracts. They know about the culinary team on the show being able to swap out dishes when the person chosen to proceed botches something. They KNOW.

There is a huge shortage of cooks out there right now anyway. You’re far better offing to stage for pretty much any restaurant. You’ll probably get further that way, than “You should hire me, because I was on a reality show!”. By and large, competing on a reality show isn’t seen as impressive to anyone but reality show fans… There’s a reason that my time on MasterChef isn’t even mentioned on my Kickstarter campaigns. It just really doesn’t have the clout with the food industry, that the show would like you to believe.

There are two benefits to MasterChef:

1. The friends you’ll make.

Because of the conditions you’re subjected to, you’ll likely forge really tight bonds with people. Most of us did – it’s just psychology.

2. Life Changes.

For a lot of people that go on the show, it’s this big leap. They’ve had this dream of cooking, and getting accepted to the show has them ready to make that change in life. There’s this realization you come to – consciously or not – that for you to have done something THAT out-there, you’re ready for a change. That something in your life needs to change.

This has manifested in all kinds of ways, over the seasons. Some people got divorced, others made other changes in their family. Some people quit a job that had been dragging them down. Some made BIG moves across the country. Some started businesses – even totally unrelated to food. A few went to culinary school.

It IS a life changing experience.

The thing is.. . you don’t ACTUALLY need to go on a crummy reality show as some sort of modern day spirit walk to figure yourself out. If you’re reading this, if you’re here because you want to audition… there’s a good chance that you’re at that place in your life now. A place where you need to make changes.

It is FAR healthier for you to acknowledge that fact for what it is NOW, than to have it as a consolation prize “a ha!” moment after going through that experience.

Want a cookbook? Start developing recipes. Start writing. Start building your social media following, start engaging people.

Want to be a food personality? Start making Youtube videos. Put out quality, entertaining content. Build a following, engage people… on your own terms.

Either way, be YOU.

Look at it this way:

Hypothetically, you audition. You spend the next few months preparing, then some time away in LA, then more tight-lipped time when you get back. You spend the season of the show doing MC related stuff, and MAYBE you free up some time to work on your own stuff when it’s over… assuming you have permission to. It’s August 21 now, it’ll be almost a year from now when the show ends.

…. That’s a LONG time to not be working on your career, for YOU. A long time to gamble on the uncertainty surrounding how you’ll be portrayed. A long time to give up your life to be a small part (even the winners!) of a product that benefits the production company, first and foremost – and to the detriment of all others involved.

Or, you could skip the audition, and spend that same year working on your own career. You could be building a foundation for whatever you want to do, free of the encumbrances that reality tv participation will put on you. Building YOUR following, creating content… owning that content.

If you’re coming to me for advice – and remember, I was cast as the “High IQ Aspie” – I will always point out that the second option is not only more logical, it’s more efficient and rewarding.

The choice is yours, though… and I wish you all the best of luck in whatever you choose to do!

Bananas Foster Pavlova

Just flew back from an INSANE trip to Dallas this past week. Stayed with friends, enjoyed great company, great food, … Vanilla Ice, Ninja Turtles.. drunkenly prank calling some of my MasterChef “prison buddies” with Matt Orsini (remember him from my videos?).. and more. Truly epic trip.

One thing that I was particularly looking forward to, was meeting Ben Starr for the first time. As you may recall, Ben was my “Haymitch”, as I prepared for my brief stint on MasterChef. I realized this week that it’s been almost a year and a half since first contact!

After I arrived in Dallas, we planned to meet up on our second last night in Dallas – he would have my husband and I over for dinner, along with John – one of our friends that we were staying with. I was honestly kind of nervous – meeting people always makes me nervous, but Ben was even beyond that – someone I owed a good chunk of my sanity to, over the whole course of the past year and a half.

I don’t *ever* get star struck, but apparently I DO get “Starr” struck!

So, with a few hours to go before dinner, I texted him to once again ask if there was anything I could bring, hoping that I could get my mind off of “Man, I wonder what this whole thing would have been like, if I’d never contacted him”. I offered to bring dessert, and he accepted. Yes! Distraction!

Relief soon turned to stress, as I realized that I was in a kitchen that was not my own, with no real access to grocery stores, not a whole lot in the way of available ingredients, and only a few hours to go. Yay for speaking before thinking things out, eh?

We’d purchased the stuff to make a bananas foster bread pudding the following day – erring on the side of too much in the way of ingredients, as I hadn’t created the recipe yet. I quickly worked things out and could tell I had enough to make a bit of bananas foster… and I could easily make a pavlova. Done and done – and Pavlova IS my favourite dessert ever, afterall. Less than 10 minutes later, the pavlova was in the oven, and the wonderful aroma of bananas foster was wafting off the stovetop.

The hour+ drive to his house, I was so nervous. Would I say something stupid? What if I got really emotional about the last year and a half and just bawled on sight? What if he really hated my dessert?

Then, he answered the door in his underwear. I’d actually been so nervous I didn’t even notice, til he pointed it out. We laughed, and my social tension disappeared!

His business partner – from his underground dining venture, “Frank” – Jennie was there. They were both all kinds of awesome. Later on, Ben’s partner Christian arrived, and HE was all kinds of awesome. The whole evening was unbelievably awesome, and yes – I know I’m overusing awesome. IT WAS AWESOME. So much laughter. Such great food! An illicit absinthe collection, a chicken on the table… good times!

Anyway, I could yap all day about that evening (Did I mention that we had an AWESOME TIME?)… but I’m here to share a recipe!

So, here’s the bananas foster pav. Contrary to my early worries, it went over VERY well with the others!

This recipe is a bit different from a normal pavlova, in that I swap out half of the white sugar, for brown. This changes the texture – the inside of the meringue ends up almost cakey! It’s delicious, and is naturally gluten-free. Also, as has been road-tested… it’s a great recipe to pull out as a last minute sure-to-impress dessert!

Ok, I’m going to go get some sleep now…

Bananas Foster Pavlova

4 large egg whites
1/2 cup super fine / castor sugar *
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp Vanilla extract
2 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp Cornstarch

Bananas Foster:
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup amber rum
1 tsp cinnamon
4-5 bananas

Whipped Cream:
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup (loose, not packed!) brown sugar
1/4 cup amber rum

1/2 cup toasted pecans

Get ready: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Remove eggs from fridge and allow to warm to room temp (about 5 minutes). Line a baking (cookie) sheet with parchment paper, and set aside. Fit your electric mixer with the whisk attachment.

In your mixer bowl, beat egg whites together with salt until glossy peaks form. Slowly add in the sugars, and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Turn off mixer, remove bowl.

Sprinkle vanilla, vinegar, and cornstarch over meringue, gently fold in till combined.

Heap meringue onto the center of your baking sheet. Use a spatula to spread the meringue out to approximately an 8-9″ circle. I like to have my meringue a fairly even depth throughout – some like a mound, some like it to be a little concave. If you want to get really fancy, put the meringue into a pastry bag and pipe it out as a mass of swirls that form your 8″ circle! It’s really up to you!

Put the baking sheet into your oven, and turn the temperature down to 250 degrees. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Once your timer goes off, turn the oven off and let the meringue cool in the oven for several hours. The baking of the meringue can be done the day before, if needed!


Make your Bananas Foster topping:

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, and rum, stirring until well combined. Add banana slices, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until desired texture. Remove from heat, allow to cool to room temperature.

Just before serving, whip the heavy cream, along with the brown sugar. Once it’s just about thick enough, turn the speed down and add the rum. Once rum is fully combined, turn up the speed and whip until it reaches a good, thick texture.

Mound the whipped cream on your pavlova, and top with bananas foster and toasted pecans. Serve immediately!

Serves 4-6. (Or 2 Pavlova fanatics!)

* Super fine / castor sugar is granulated sugar with a much finer grain size than regular granulated sugar. It is NOT powdered / icing sugar! Super fine sugar is usually sold near the sugar in the baking aisle, in small boxes – sometimes resembling milk cartons. If you aren’t able to find actual super fine sugar, you can process regular granulated sugar in your food processor until fine. Measure AFTER you process!

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

Catching up… and Apple Cinnamon Caramel Popcorn Recipe!

Wow, as it really been 3 weeks since I last posted? Do I really still have Halloween stuff up as the featured content? I’ll get right on that.. Yikes. My apologies! It’s been an insane month. Lemme tell you a bit about it, and punctuate it with a really easy, tasty recipe.

First off, as that last blog entry was posted, I was away in Chicago at a convention. It was WeeM, Chicago Mensa’s Halloween gathering. A great time, on its own… but it’s also the anniversary of my husband and I dating, AND I usually get hired to go and bake a bunch of delicious goodies for the event.

This year was a bit different. Still great on it’s own, but with the added benefit of being able to hang out with a couple of my Chicago based “prison buddies” from my reality show adventure – Duckie & Rim. It was so great to be able to catch up with them – they’re both wonderful people, and it had been a while since I’d seen anyone from that whole experience!

Back on the subject of cooking for WeeM, after a one year hiatus on the baking front, they had me back…with a twist. For the first time ever, they hired me to make SAVORIES! Yes! The whole “just a baker” thing has always been a minor sore point for me, so I welcomed the chance to flex some additional culinary muscle.

I kept the menu fairly simple, aiming to appeal to a wide range of tastes. For the savory part of the spread, I included almost 300 of my famous Mushroom Turnovers, and a couple gallons of Jalapeno Artichoke “Backfire” Dip, both of which went over insanely well.

Just for the event, I made “beet salad” tarts – buttery pastry mini tarts filled with a creamy goat cheese/ricotta mousse, topped with pickled beets, pears, walnuts, and ribbons of fresh basil… they were the first thing to go!

The most “controversial” item on my menu, funny enough… was a gorgeous veggie tray with my Ginger-Wasabi Dip. A couple well meaning individuals raised an eyebrow at the suggestion, telling me that Mensans would NOT touch the veggies. Well, I’m happy to say that my veggie tray was picked clean by the end of the night! Mission accomplished!

It was also the 4th year that I helped organize and judge our “Iron Chef: Hospitality Suite” competition, which is always a great time. It was the first time participating since MasterChef. I promise, I was nice to all our competitors!

As soon as we returned from Chicago, I had two big events to get ready for! On November 1, my latest sewing manual – “Spandex Simplified: Sewing for Superheroes” came out .. and the next day, our friends Michelle and Peter got married!

Because Peter was a complete rockstar for us in the aftermath of the tornado, they were a big exception to my “No more wedding cake, ever!” rule. 🙂 So, I made them a little topsy turvy cake:

Throughout all of this, I’ve been working on administering and promoting our ongoing Kickstarter campaign, “Beyond Flour: A New Kind of Gluten-Free Cookbook“. It’s been a wild experience! The book reached its first goal about halfway through the campaign, and we’re working on stretch goals now! 402 backers, as I write this… amazing. So grateful for all of the support from those of you who have backed, shared links, etc – thank you!

If all of THAT wasn’t enough, I decided – about a week ago, with less than 1 month until the deadline – that I would be dressing my husband up for the premiere of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I’ve been feeling kinda overlooked / underrated in the local costuming “game”, and decided that I would do a replica of the craziest elf costume in the movie – Thranduil. I KNOW!

The costume is coming along wonderfully, though – the coat has over 166 pieces of fabric in it, alone! – and I can’t wait to show you photos of the finished garment. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at the jewelry I made for it:

So… yeah. It’s been a very FULL few weeks. Add a crappy, miserable, STUBBORN cold on top of all that? That’s my excuse for not blogging all this time. Forgive me? I have a recipe!

Caramel corn is great on its own, but I love it even more when it’s loaded with other goodies too – in this case, crisp dried apple slices, the warmth of cinnamon, and nuts!

We used walnut pieces, as that’s what we had on hand.. but this recipe is also great with almonds, pecans, or cashews.

Apple-Cinnamon Caramel Popcorn

20-24 cups popped popcorn (2/3 – 3/4 cup unpopped)
3 cups freeze dried apple slices, broken up
2 cups nuts – pecans, walnuts, or cashews (optional)
1 cup butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2+ tsp cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 200F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Place the popcorn in a large stockpot – how we do it – or divide it between the two cookie sheets. Stir in the apple pieces and nuts, if using. (If using cookie sheets, divide the apples and nuts between the two before stiring well). Set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt, whisking until well combined. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 5 minutes, remove from heat.

Stir in vanilla and cinnamon, whisking until well combined. (You don’t want clumps of cinnamon!). Add baking soda, stir well to combine – caramel will foam up a little.

Pour caramel over popcorn mixture, CAREFULLY stir to coat evenly – Hot sugar is nasty to get burned with! If you mixed it in a pot, divide the caramel corn between the two cookie sheets.

Bake for 1 hour, stirring well every 15 minutes. At the 30 minute mark, I like to switch pan positions in the oven – the one that was on the bottom goes on the top.

Once the hour is up, remove from the oven, break up large chunks of popcorn, and allow to cool. Serve immediately, or transfer to airtight containers for storage.


Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

The MasterChef “Snafu”

Rather than recapping last week’s episode, I’d like to take a few minutes to update you all on what has been going on the past week.

As you may recall, a few weeks ago I prefaced one of my recaps with a short statement about how some of my friends were treated on MasterChef – including 2 assaults, a horrible case of sexual harassment, and 2 people considering suicide upon return.

I wrote that blurb just hours after being told that one of the happiest, sweetest, sunniest people from the cast had seriously considered suicide upon return. I have no words for how angry that made me (Not at the person, at the show). I’d known of the mistreatment most of us went through, and I knew of some of the extreme abuse that some went through, as I mentioned… but the idea that this beautiful ray of light could have been snuffed out over it all? It was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.

It confirmed to me that I would never be able to write positively about the show, or the people directly involved in creating the incidents I mentioned. That put me in a bit of a dilemma – I’d already promised several people that I would continue recapping til the end of the season, and I’m not one to break promises.

As I have maintained this blog to be positive and upbeat, I felt that the best compromise I could do – and the best honour I could do to my readers as WELL as my friends that had been hurt – would be to post a disclaimer about it.

This past Thursday night I received a news alert that a blog had written a story about my “accusations’, one that was fairly sensationalistic. Then, Jezebel wrote something… And the shit hit the fan.

On Friday night, one of Shine America’s lawyers called me to talk about the articles. I assured him that I had not spoken to any media, and he told me that he was concerned about what I had said in my blog. He said that he hadn’t heard of any of it before, and that they all wanted to make sure that everyone was having a good time on the show – he expressed what sounded like sincere concern for the women I had mentioned. He said he wanted to investigate, and “make things right”.

So I told him everything. I gave him names, full details of the big incidents, overall details about some of the smaller stuff (women being told to flirt with the judges, etc), and which episodes he could find the ON CAMERA EVIDENCE of what I was talking about. (Not aired, but I knew the footage had been filmed of one assault, and the worst sexual harassment incident). I wouldn’t give him the name of those who had considered suicide, but assured him that they seemed to be out of the woods, and with a BIG support system. He was so “concerned” about them, that he called back later that night – well after hours – to discuss them again, and to ask for them to contact the show psychologist. Once again, he told me that he took my concerns seriously, and would investigate.

Imagine my shock the next afternoon – just a few short waking hours later – when the show released the following statement:

“Contestants on MASTERCHEF are treated with the utmost respect and professionalism and we care tremendously about their well being. The recent comments posted about the treatment of contestants are completely without merit.”

… then more news outlets picked up the story. I spent the weekend fielding calls and messages from contestants who were furious with the statement: LOADS of issues with both “utmost respect and professionalism” and “we care”.

For my part, I’m pissed off that I got played like that. I honestly thought that supplying names, incidents, etc to someone who claimed to want to investigate and “make it right” could help – not much could be done about what has already happened, I know… but apologies to those hurt would go a long way to healing some wounds. Also, for them to take it seriously would mean a better time for women in coming seasons. (From what I’ve heard from past contestants, things were bad, getting worse each year, but there wasn’t ANYTHING like what I mentioned – aside from the suicidal thoughts/depression.)

Had the show released a statement that said they were taking the allegations seriously and would investigate it, that would have been fine. Instead, they outright dismissed everything and slapped MANY more people in the face, than I even gave them information about. For every serious case I mentioned, there were many others who had issue with the lack of food and water, or had individual concerns.

Since the story broke, I’ve been called a “retard” by one male contestant, a “bimbo” by some random commenter on my blog, I’ve been lied about to the media by the same show that has me gagged from talking to the media myself. I’ve had my honour questioned many times, I’ve had my weight and appearance ridiculed, and I’ve been called “bitter for not getting an apron”.

Actually, before I move on, let me address that last point.

I think I’ve been pretty clear on previous entries that I am very happy that I did not get an apron. Despite the months of hard work I’d put into training and preparing for the show, the cost that was involved, and the fact that I am THE most competitive person I know… the very first thing I said to my husband on the day of auditions (after a week in LA without him) was “GET ME OUT OF HERE”. I didn’t even want to bake my cake, and I sure as hell didn’t want the apron at that point. One of my fellow contestants says that if she’d gotten an apron, she probably would have hung herself with it – I’m not too far off from that sentiment, and probably would have been RIGHT there with her after another week!


I am EXHAUSTED from all of the drama these past few days. I didn’t ask for this, I was merely trying to provide context to my readers, and to support my friends. Never in a million years did I expect it to blow up this way, and leave me even MORE disappointed with the show. I certainly didn’t expect to be on the receiving end of a ton of abuse for it.

The thing is, I stand by what I said. I will always stand by what I said, as it is the truth. Not only could I NOT make this stuff up, but I have absolutely no motivation to. I wasn’t sexually harassed, I wasn’t personally assaulted. While I was subjected to poor treatment, it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t more or less shake off by now. By and large, these were ills committed against OTHER PEOPLE.

… but I know about it. These are people who I care about, who didn’t deserve it. I want to be able to look myself in the mirror at the end of the day… and for me, that means acknowledging what happened. It means standing up for people who have less of a voice than I do. In my view, for me to continue recapping the show and pretending that those things didn’t happen would be dishonourable.

I may not have gone looking for a fight, but it seems that one has been dropped on my doorstep.

While I really wish that Shine America had been sincere about investigating and making it right – and while I REALLY wish they hadn’t minimized what everyone went through by using terms like “utmost respect”, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. The show now has all of the details of the incidents I mentioned, and that’s a weight off my chest. I can’t control what they do – or DON’T do – with the information, but they can no longer claim ignorance in any honest way.

Something key about me – I don’t suffer bullies. I won’t tolerate anyone bullying my friends, and I’m not easily bullied myself. All of this hate about my looks, weight, or supposed bitterness… the comments like “retard” and “bimbo” – they don’t change anything. I won’t be bullied into submission, and I won’t be reading comments on those articles – so, hate away if you feel the need to.

Going in to MasterChef, I was pretty solid in my belief that reality tv was the bane of society, and a contributing factor in so many of today’s problems. (Entitlement mentality, lack of responsibility for one’s actions, fame by any means necessary, etc). I’d wrongly summarized the main problem as “reality TV is dumbing society down”… in so many ways.

While I still believe that now, after coming back from MasterChef I’ve evolved my view a bit. The dumbing down of society isn’t the most dangerous and horrifying side effect of the reality TV culture… it’s what it’s training people to be like. Reality TV actively trains society to lack empathy for each other. It encourages dehumanization and “othering” of people, and really detaches the viewer from seeing actual people as being worthy of any sort of respect or common courtesy.

I’m so incredibly sick of being surrounded by hatred everywhere – racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia…. I see a lot of that as being at least influenced – if not rooted – in how people are being trained to lack empathy for their fellow humans.

There are so many instances of wrongs being committed against people for the entertainment of others. In the case of reality TV, some sign up for it (Fear Factor?)… but the contestants on MasterChef signed up for a cooking competition. Regardless of the fact that the show devolved into smutty reality TV doesn’t change the intentions or views of those who signed up, and it doesn’t excuse what we went through.

Enough is enough.

I’ve always had a problem with how self centered society is becoming, and the lack of empathy people have for their fellow person. I would be remiss if I were to take the easy way out, delete everything, and pretend it never happened. I have more honour than that.

I will be standing my ground, and continuing to support my friends in their silent (contracts!) ordeal. While I would love it if more people came forward, I understand why doing so would be scary and too much drama – I think we’ve all had our fill of drama.

MasterChef Recap: Season 4, Episodes 7 & 8

Having watched these two episodes last week, I’m not super in the mood to watch them again to recap them, so let’s start with a “too long, did not read” version: The entire two hours were spent with two apparent goals: getting rid of ONE contestant, and fawning all over Luca.

I’m way too ADD for this crap…

Anyway. the first episode had the contestants cooking for 101 firemen, as their team challenge. Immediately, I’m happy to see that Bethy Rossos is getting more face time. For as interesting as she is, the show has done pretty much NOTHING with her.

I mean, this girl is an archer, hunts her own meat, just MADE a gorgeous wooden bow. She’s Greek, is always posting amazing looking Greek food (The show makes a big deal of the Italian cooks each year, but not a lot is said about other backgrounds!), and she was the host of a show called “Adrenaline Hunter” that just won an Emmy. But hey, let’s just ignore her in favor of a bunch of name calling and forced drama.

Then we have a bunch of fluff about how awesome Walmart is. Yay for product placement? I’m pretty sure that my MasterChef roomie – Alexandra – is still traumatized by being forced to carry a big Walmart logo bag in the opening scenes of the audition rounds!

First person chosen is Lynn. If I recall correctly, this isn’t the first time, and for good reason. Absolutely everything Lynn has posted online looks ridiculously amazing, and what little we’ve been shown of his stuff on the show is much of the same. I have NO idea why they’ve shown so little of him. Does America really prefer watching the judges prance around, and the focus on BS drama… over actual cooking? I’m really disappointed. Lynn is a culinary *Artist*.

“Banqueting is like the medical school of restaurants” – Wow, Joey. I honestly don’t even know where to START with that ridiculousness.


I find it weird MasterChef professes to encourage professional food dreams – and makes comments like Joey’s – but actively discourages contestants from acting as they would in pro kitchen.

In restaurants – and in medical school, for that matter! – people wear gloves. People tie their hair back, and people wear hair nets (or surgical caps, if we’re continuing the med school analogy!). Whether restaurants or med school, people realize that physical or biological contamination is a huge issue, and one that must actively be avoided.

In MasterChef, we see long hair worn loose, sometimes dipped in the food. We see people touching their hair or face, and then going right back to preparing food, without even washing their hands. While this is certainly not unique to this challenge – or this season – it’s an interesting contrast to all of the talk about how these firemen are America’s heroes, should be treated with respect, etc. Prepare them an amazing meal, but don’t tie your hair back! Got it…

This challenge makes me think of Mark Famiano, one of the 100 finalists – Cleveland Fireman. TOTAL sweetheart! Check out his audition video, here

So one plate’s missing sauce, Joe grabs the plate to go yell at the contestants, and one of the most hilariously disgusting MasterChef moments ever happens:

As Joe Bastianich yells “DO I SPEAKING ENGLISH!?”, he spits all over a bunch of steaks to be served to the firemen.

Way to respect your heroes, Joey.

So Bime’s team loses, and he does NOT want to save himself. I respect that, the show does not (obviously), so they make him “safe”. He further displays commendable sportsmanship by “saving” the person who he actually felt performed the best, rather than playing strategy to benefit himself. Good on you for showing some honour, Bime! There is NOT enough of this on this show, in popular media, or in society.

The pressure test is making Eggs Benedict, and it’s just a boiling pot of bizarre at this point. For some reason, Gordon carries on about how the Hollandaise sauce should be made first. Um. No.

Is he deliberately misleading contestants, or is he not a logistics person? I have no idea. Poach the egg first, shock it & hold it in cold water to stop the cooking process, and reheat it in some hot water right before serving. The Hollandaise should be made as close to serving time as possible, or it’s far more likely to break. At BEST, it’ll cool to a much thicker texture – which would be fine AFTER plating, given the logistics of judging… but you don’t want to spoon congealed sauce over your egg.

Bottom line: Always start with the most time-stable element!

One thing that’s really tiresome about this show is the forced “suspense” that’s supposed to enable “shockers”. If a team is being shown as being strong, blah blah.. they’re going to lose. Beth gets some face time talking about how she makes Eggs Benedict all the time? She’s going to fail miserably.

The show does a good job of keeping things inversely proportionate (The bigger the brag, the uglier the fail), but I’m not sure that’s something to be commended. It’s weird that they’re so threatening about spoilers and such, but spoil everything themselves – whether showing the results of last week’s challenge before the audition episode even aired, or by making it patently obvious what’s going to happen with challenges, before people are even finished cooking.

Loads of attention is given to Krissi botching her sauce. LOADS.

As is their pattern, Beth screws up royally, Krissi comes out on top, and Bri – the vegetarian who says she’s never poached an egg – also comes out on top. Yawn. It would be nice if they weren’t so heavy handed with it all, and employed even a little bit of subtlety.

As a preview of the ridiculousness to come in the second episode of the night, Ramsay declares the remaining 4 people to be leaving the kitchen for another elimination challenge.

Second episode starts, and they’re in Vegas for the first of two challenges.

They have them cooking burgers in a “real” restaurant, Gordon Ramsay’s Burgr (I hate that spelling, it pains me to type it and see the little red “you misspelled this!” indicator!)

Once again, reality tv apparently is exempt from common food preparation ordinances, and we’re treated to more bare hands, loose hair, face touching, etc. So freaking gross. I’m disappointed that the judges didn’t put their foot down, even if producers wanted contestants to wear their hair down. Also, seriously – how would wearing gloves take away from anything? So gross. I’m in the process of planning a trip to Vegas this fall, after seeing this… I know where I will NOT be eating. I wonder how the diners feel about this episode of MasterChef, watching the utter lack of food prep hygiene… especially in an expensive restaurant (It’s a burger joint, but apparently the average entree is $25 = expensive).

I have to laugh at Gordo saying “welcome to my world”. I would love to know when he last worked in a kitchen, he has something like 20 shows!

Blah blah, I can’t handle watching this again – I value my few remaining brain cells too much – so I’m going from memory on the rest of this.

This episode was hard to watch, because it was mostly a whole lot of Gordon screaming at the contestants. So much for the “This show is positive and encouraging” and “The softer side of Gordon Ramsay”. Blech!

Interestingly enough, while cooking burgers… there is NO mention of how awesome Walmart’s beef is. 🙂

Luca and Kathy lose the burger challenge… so they have THEM do *another* challenge: butter poached lobster.

One thing that stuck out to me when the challenge was announced was the lead up to it. The judges (probably Ramsay, IIRC) carried on about how this was one of the most expensive, luxurious ingredients in the world. Um.. No.

There are SO many food items that are far more rare, exotic, luxurious, etc. Hell, in one of the past seasons, contestants were each given – EACH – a $500 truffle to work with. I can’t even imagine…

Lobster? Lobster is great, and yeah, a little on the spendier side. You know, when you compare it to Walmart steak, anyway. You can usually find a decent lobster tail for $10-15, even here in landlocked Minnesota.

Also, fun fact: Lobster has a history of being referred to as “poor man’s chicken” on the east coast of Canada. Yes. For those on the coast, lobster was so plentiful and easy, that’s how it was seen. Actually, Googling it just now, this wasn’t just in Canada – in America, lobsters were apparently fed to prisoners, slaves, and servants all the time, because it was so cheap.

Anyway, especially after the “Everyone gets a $500 truffle!” thing, I have to wonder how disappointed Kathy and Luca were when the “most luxurious, expensive ingredient” was… Large ocean bugs. (Don’t get me wrong, I love pretty much every manner of sea crustacean!)

Luca wins, after a long spate of mediocre performances.

As they focus on Kathy’s exit, we’re treated to all sorts of fluff about her journey, about how far she’s come, and what a fighter she is. WTF? They’ve shown pretty much nothing about her “journey” or her, no one sitting at home has any idea who she is, what she’s cooked, what she can do, etc. Wouldn’t it be great if the show focused more on the contestants, so people could actually get more invested in them? So that stuff like this actually makes sense to the viewing audience?

As a fun “behind the scenes” fact… man, the show was awful to Kathy when we all first arrived. Apparently she showed up with bright orange hair, and production marched her over to a salon and made her dye it the colour you see on the show. If THAT wasn’t bad enough (she was NOT happy about it!), they decided to change her entire look. The spunky, flashy little Brooklyn BRONX diva look that we met in the first few days – fitted jeans, spangly earrings, metallic embossed flashy shirt, etc… was replaced by a plain purple t shirt, HUGE baggy jeans, and hiking boots. It was beyond bizarre… and signaled to me that she would be going far in the competition, before we even “auditioned”.

At the time, she seemed kinda pissed that I was allowed to keep my bright turquoise hair! (Had they insisted I change it, I would have walked. I’m sure they knew that.)

I haven’t been in contact with Kathy at all in a long time, after some weird Facebook drama. Regardless of what went down, I wish they’d shown more of her personality, background, and food, and I wish her all the best. The show really did her a disservice, on several levels.

The weird thing is, the show is doing itself a disservice. They whole point – for them – is to end up with a best selling cookbook… so why are they actively turning off their potential buyers with all the forced drama, and preventing people from getting invested in the FOOD aspect of the show at all? SO WEIRD.

MasterChef Recap: Season 4, Episodes 5 & 6

Oh, the best laid plans. I thought for SURE I was done with doing the recaps… but I went and told my fellow “contestants”. Peer pressure!

So, I’ll continue doing the recaps for now. A bit of a disclaimer:

I like to keep things positive on this blog…. but I also like to keep things real. MasterChef was a big part of my life this year – 6 months, full time.. and then some! – but I don’t have a ton of positive things to say about it, aside from all of the awesome friends I made. If I can’t be positive, at least I can be honest… and honestly, there is a good chance that my recaps will devolve into “Joe is a moron. The end” by the finale. Hey, the show wanted me for my lack of filter, right? LOL!

So… If you’re adverse to negativity and drama, you may wanna skip my recaps of a trashy reality show that treated my friends like crap! 🙂

Ok. Here we go.

As the show starts, I have two thoughts, and both are about Krissi Biasiello.

1. WHO is Krissi gonna fight tonight?

2. I’m starting to hate Krissi a little because she’s one of those *PRETTY* chunky chicks. Makes pasty, puffy, blotchy me a bit jealous. I won’t hate her too much, though: She may BE one of those pretty ones, but she don’t routinely bleat about it. LOL!

This episode features the first team challenge of the year. Much like with the display of lamb on the previous set of episodes, I feel a bit of a twinge. Though I don’t usually play well with others, it would have been cool to be able to do a team challenge. I am SUCH a logistics freak… but I guess things going smoothly don’t make for good TV. LOL!


Opening montage of the contestants on a bus, driving through LA. Gotta say, I do NOT miss being driven through LA.

Joe’s shoes look so stupid with his suit and overall demeanor.

The contestants are told they’re cooking lunch for over 300 elementary kids. They have 1:45 to cook it, and 90 minutes to serve.

Ramsay is doing his faux Shatner thing again. Is this supposed to be suspenseful or dramatic or something? I know I’m not Fox’s target market for ANYTHING, much less reality TV, but… bleh.

Jordan and Jessie are team captains this week, and alternate picking their teams. (and I’m SO glad I got to avoid the rehash of always getting picked last in school, LOL!)

As they are picking, I notice once again that every one of the women have their long hair down. Where this is preparing food for the public, I really hope they’re made to wear hair nets. You’d think food prep regulations would apply at this point, right?

Hrm, apparently not.

Right away, Jessie’s Red Team is talking about how kids don’t want green vegetables, so they choose corn. Sigh.

First off, I hate that the show is encouraging and/or perpetuating BS about kids hating veggies. Kids hate veggies when they’re told to hate veggies. Maybe stop all the crap about “Oooh, they’re picking GREEN BEANS, the kids will HATE THAT!”, and kids will love green veggies like normal human beings.

My favorite veggie as a kid was Brussels Sprouts. Never had anyone filling my head with “Not supposed to like that!” nonsense.

Secondly, corn is a grain… NOT a vegetable. (And hey, shameless plug here… my newest cookbook, Sweet Corn Spectacular comes out in just 3 weeks! Preorder now!)

They decide on Chicken Teriyaki.

The Blue Team goes for spaghetti and meatballs.

Gordon starts carrying on about how Chicken Teriyaki is a bad choice, because it’s brown and kids will hate it. Joey Coattails agrees, saying that between spag and meatballs, and chicken Teriyaki “no doubt in his mind, he’s going for the spaghetti and meatballs”.

Well, duh. Joey doesn’t go for anything that’s not Italian.

Also, let’s be serious. If your kids turn up their nose at chicken teriyaki, odds are good that you’re either a bad cook, or a bad parent as it relates to food.

Joe and Graham go to the red team and tell them that they’re cooking the chicken wrong.

I’m really distracted by everyone’s hair down. Gordon and Graham are chefs, and Joey Coattails owns restaurants. I’m blown away that NONE of them put their foot down and have the contestants practice proper food prep hygiene. Guess I know a few restaurants I won’t be eating at… ew.

So the kids go running and screaming at the competitors.

The announcer mentions that the teams have 1 hour to serve. What happened to the 90 minutes mentioned earlier? Does Fox think that there are 90 minutes in an hour now? (I wouldn’t be surprised…)

Lots of footage of the kids giving opinions of the food.

Man, this episode could be soooo suspenseful if the show hadn’t spoilered the winners way back even before the cast list was announced. What genius decided to show challenge results coverage?

Having seen the Red Team victorious in that commercial, I find all of the crap about chicken teriyaki is WAY over the top. There is not subtlty or nuance in reality TV, huh? “They’re going to lose! They’re going to lose! OMG THEY WON WHO SAW THAT COMING!?”. Lame.

Graham refers to corn as a veggie. Sigh.

The last kid who walks through the red team’s table is subjected to waving and whooping… poor kid.

Footage of the blue team talking about who’s going home.

Jordan’s given the opportunity to “save” three people from the pressure test. He saves Howard and James, is told that he can save himself for the third option. So… he does. Of course.

I hate it when team captains do this. From what is shown, it’s his “leadership” and lack of logistics that ended them up there. Krissi declares it to be a “bitch move”, and I agree. Competitions should have more sportsmanship and honour… even if it’s a “competition”, in quotes! 🙂

So, the 6 remaining people have to make cheesecake.

They have only 90 minutes to make, bake, chill, AND garnish a cheesecake. Ridiculous.

Gordon declares that the CRUST is the secret to a great cheesecake, saying that “when your base is solid, your mixture is solid”.

Um. WTF?

Dear Gordo… your cheesecake batter is completely separate from your crust. Your crust has no real influence on how cohesive your batter is, I have NO idea what the hell you’re getting on with…

Also, the real key to a successful cheesecake is to take your time mixing it GENTLY, and cook it at a low temperature for a long time. Period. You know… something that they don’t actually allow the contestants enough time for!

Adriana is cooking mango cubes and guava paste together, ingredients from the “limited pantry” provided to top the cheesecakes.

After some footage of drama, the judges start talking condescendingly about how Adriana “just used canned guava paste… come on!”.

Given that they’d shown her cooking a topping of mangoes AND guava paste, I’m not sure how they justify the “just” in there. Also, guava paste is a specialty item. A delicacy! What is it even doing in the “limited” pantry, if they’re going to carry on like she’s slathering her cheesecake in Velveeta?

… also, seriously, they apparently let Howard get an apron on a canned peach cobbler. Guava paste > canned peaches.

Joe’s thoughts on cheesecake – especially given the parameters of competition – are BEYOND stupid. “DDDUUUUUHHHH I’m from New York, I expect cheesecake to be 6″ tall, even though we don’t give you the TIME for it”. Dumbass.


They like Krissi’s cake, after the peanut gallery trashes her (including what seems to be a snotty comment on her weight, from Jordan).

John presents an interesting looking pineapple cake. Joe uses his fingers to shove a piece in his maw (It’s cheesecake, you neanderthal. Use a damn fork!), then makes some weird comments about how the pineapple topping is a *contrasting* texture for the cheesecake, and he doesn’t like that.

Joe, you ignorant slut.

What are you even doing “judging” a cooking show? ALL decent cooking features contrasts of all types, including texture. The whole POINT of cheesecake topping is to provide a stark contrast to the cheesecake itself – in color, texture, acidity, sweetness, etc. Moron.

Kathy presents a cheesecake with a berry compote, nails it.

Eddie makes a vanilla bean cheesecake with mixed berry compote. Judges give him some flak about not draining his compote first, but overall they like it.

Savannah made a salted caramel cheesecake that doesn’t look like a cheesecake. It looks GOOD, but just not like cheesecake.

The judges rip on Adriana’s guava cheesecake with mango and coconut – which looks INSANE, btw … I would eat the shit out of that! – Gordo starts carrying on about canned guava paste again.

Adriana goes home. Ridiculous.

Ok, on to the second episode of the night.

Mystery Box Challenge time. Contestants are told that someone will be cooking alongside them, blah blah. It’s Ramsay, who goes on to showboat and drink tea for half the challenge. Meh.

The contestants have cod… oooh I love cod. Anyway, they have a bunch of Asian ingredients with it.


Well, sort of. A ponytail is a start.

Ramsay goes and has a tea, etc, before BIG DRAMA starts cooking, and then all the focus is on what he’s doing. Description about what he’s doing, etc. Forget the contestants.

One thing I dislike about this show is that it’s all basically a circle jerk for the judges. MasterChef Australia, for example, is WAY more about the competitors.

Joey Coattails seriously made fun of Gordo’s regionally appropriate pronunciation of “basil”. EXPRESSO, Joey!

Gordo’s dish is presented with a great flourish, and Joey invites the contestants to taste “how a real Master Chef does it”.

“Master Chef” is actually a professional designation, attained through a specific accredited program and intensive testing. There are very few actual Master Chefs in the world (Pretty sure it’s under 100!). I can’t find any reference anywhere to Gordon Ramsay ACTUALLY being a Master Chef.

Hrm.. I wonder if I can just adopt “Doctor” as a label. I mean, because training and earning a professional designation apparently means nothing anymore. “Doctor Overlord Marie”? “Overlord Doctor Marie”? Which works better? And where do I fit in “Czar of Cakes” with that? LOL!

Howard apparently plated raw fish. I don’t even get why he’s still in the competition. Nothing he’s made so far has stood out in any positive sense, and nothing he’s done gives any indication that he knows how to cook at ALL. I mean.. AT ALL…

… and, aside from the odd snark at Krissi, he’s not really there as a big personality player.

I have to wonder if all of the behind-the-scenes drama he had going with another contestant is going to end up coming out as a plot point. I’m not sure if I’m looking forward to that (Schadenfreude!), or dreading it. The show will step into irreparable trashiness if they go there…


The contestants all present their meals.

It’s almost too bad that Lynn Chyi is so reserved and drama free on the show. He gets like NO face time, and all his food looks *beyond* gorgeous.

Wouldn’t it be great if the show focused on the FOOD, rather than the judges and/or BS drama?

Luca wins the challenge, is given the choice between decorated cookies, cupcakes, and ca… WAIT A MINUTE. Are they using a freaking FUNFETTI CAKE as the demonstration?



… Why would you DO that? I mean, I get throwing together a box mix in the interest of saving a few minutes for something that likely won’t be eaten, but why wouldn’t they use a plain flavor, not easily-identifiable FUNFETTI.

Man, they really are going for trashy this year!

(Note: I don’t judge people who like Funfetti. We all have guilty pleasures… but this is GORDON RAMSAY presenting the cake on a “competition” show!)

Luca picks cupcakes. I am bored.

He’s also given the advantage of handicapping one of the others for the challenge.

Luca takes Jordan’s mixer, as punishment for his earlier bitch move. I’ll admit, he’s kind of adorable about it.

I can’t believe how much drama is being forced over Jordan not having a mixer to work with. What a bunch of wusses we’ve become. All KINDS of cakes and pastries were made LONG before stand mixers (or electricity, for that matter) were even invented.

Gordon gives Kathy some hassle over her putting stuff on the bottom of her cupcakes. “Why complicate them?” he asks. “Why not?” is her answer. I like it!

Graham makes some comment about how Bethy has flour and sugar “all over her face”. If he honestly thinks that having flour on her face is somehow indicative of not knowing cupcakes, he’s never been in a bakery… and DEFINITELY never been around a baking competition.

Luca is called downstairs.

Howard is first to present. Says he has “Tahitian Vanilla Bean Cupcake”… except that there’s no bean, he just used extract. Um…?

So guava paste is bad, but calling cupcakes “vanilla bean cupcakes” when only using EXTRACT is Ok? Oh boy…

No mention is made of the fact this his cupcakes look like crap, and have barely any frosting on them. There is a MINIMUM frosting to cake ratio that should be attained, he missed it by a mile.

Malcolm’s cupcakes looked delicious until they were cut into. Also, one of these years, MasterChef will cast people who know how to pronounce “Mascarpone cheese”.

Bime’s cupcakes pretty good, decent frosting ratio.

I’m laughing at Joey Coattails being so offended at Kathy putting stuff on the bottom of her cupcakes.

For someone who is “SOOOOOO NYC!”, I’m shocked that he doesn’t seem to realize that what Kathy did is actually quite popular, even trendy. I mean, NYC is pretty much the cupcake capital of the WORLD. You’d think a food “expert” would be familiar with such cupcakes.

Bethy made three types of cupcakes, including Bananas Foster, Raspberry Lime, and an Almond Chocolate cupcake with Hazelnut Liqueur.

You know I love me some Bananas Foster cake… (and I have recipes for a few variations in both Evil Cake Overlord and The Spirited Baker!)

Anyway, her cupcakes look really good!

Jessie’s cupcakes look good, if small and irregular.

Jordan presents his cupcakes, which look good. He says “marscarpone”. LOL. Top home cooks in America!

Luca is invited to taste Jordan’s cupcakes, and he looks SO excited. He takes a bite, loves it. Seriously, he looks like someone needs to hand him a towel.

He asks if he can keep it, which is adorable for about a second… then my husband yells “HE IS PROBABLY STARVING!” right next to me.

Good point!

Looooong drawn out “deliberation” and elimination drama.

Bime and Bethy are selected as the two winners / team captains for next episode.

Malcolm goes home.


MasterChef Guest Post – Dahlia Abram’s Orange Mango Banana Poppy Seed Bread (Gluten Free)

Today’s guest post comes from another one of my fellow MasterChef survivors competitors, Dahlia Abrams.

Dahlia is one of the people THAT I didn’t really meet in LA, but have come to know since returning to the real world. You may have heard me mention her on one of my Youtube videos… probably this one, with Matt Orsini. Basically, they’d cooked similar dishes back to back, she got an apron, he did not… so my new baby sister – Christine Kim – and I made a pact right then and there. We HAD to get aprons (you know, because we hadn’t been focused on that before, right?), just so we could somehow “take Dahlia out”.

Christine and I went home the next day, no aprons! LOL, so much for THAT plan, huh?

I still feel a little guilty for the pact… I hadn’t met Dahlia, and had nothing against her personally. I’d JUST found out that Matt had gone home – no goodbyes! – while I was required to go shopping. Trauma and grief will do weird things to a person, LOL!

Luckily, Dahlia seems to be a forgiving person… so here is her guest post! Enjoy!

PS: Be sure to check Dahlia out on her blog – Detroit Tokyo, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

I’ve always loved food but really started cooking three years ago. My passion for it has since grown into an all consuming one. Cooking is my meditation, creative outlet, and the way I express my love for those I share it with. I started my blog two years ago to share that love with you!

“Health food”… Sounds like dirty words. Let’s add “diet” to the list too. When we talk about food, why can’t we just talk about food? As with everything, food is about balance. Balance of flavors and textures surely but also balance in nutrition for balance in your body.

My philosophy on food is strongly influenced by a digestive disorder I suffer from. I do have to mind what I eat but I never want to feel like I’m missing out on what I love. So, I don’t! I do not have Celiac, nor a wheat allergy. Limiting my wheat intake, however, has been beneficial. It could be for you, too! I’ve found brown rice flour to be a great substitute.

Yes, this recipe is gluten free. Yes, this recipe is low-fat. Yes, it is all natural. If those terms put you or those you’re sharing food with off, I’d just advise you to try it for yourself and see how delicious and satisfying healthful eating can be.

Orange Mango Banana Poppy Seed Bread

3-4 small bananas – very ripe, mashed but not pulverized
1 egg
1/2 cup 0% plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup orange mango juice
1 tbsp orange zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups brown rice flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp poppy seeds

2 tbsp orange mango juice
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Yield: 1 loaf/3 mini loaves/12 muffins

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare muffin tin with liners and/or loaf pan(s) with cooking spray.

Place bananas in a large mixing bowl and mash, but don’t pulverize. Add egg, yogurt, sugar, agave, juices, zest, and vanilla. Mix to incorporate. In a separate mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add half of dry ingredients to wet and mix until just combined. Add remaining dry ingredients and repeat. Gently fold in poppy seeds, be careful not to over-mix!

Pour batter into prepared tins/pans and fill 2/3. Place in middle rack of oven and bake:

– For 1 large loaf, bake 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

– For mini loaves, bake 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

– For muffins, bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Remove from oven and transfer to cooling rack. As they cool, combine juice and sifted powdered sugar. Whisk until smooth. Drizzle or spread onto tops of cooled bread(s)/muffins.

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

How to Make Weeping Angel Costumes – Costuming Tutorial

So, it’s been about a week and a half since we won “Best in Show” at the BritCon costume contest (Woo hoo! First time we’ve entered a con masquerade!) probably time to post the “How We Did It” post that I was promising that weekend.

First off, this is a pretty in depth post, with a TON of photos and info. If you have some experience in sewing and whatnot, it should be easy enough to follow. I don’t have the space or time to do up an actual step by step for the whole thing – these costumes took a TON of time to make! We’ve been picking away at it since I returned from MasterChef, and actually did NOT manage to have them completed in time for BritCon! (They’ll be ready for Convergence, though… we are SUPER excited!). To be fair, we were also busy with business, MasterChef, and still rebuilding our kitchen.

While these took a lot of time to make – and we probably killed a few million brain cells, breathing in all the spray paint fumes on account of crappy weather outside! – these were TOTALLY worth it. Even at a super tiny convention like BritCon, we had a *BLAST*!

We arrived early and costumed up on the Saturday, and had a ton of fun scaring the hell out of the groggy, just-woke-up people in the hallways. We had many photos taken, which was a weird experience – I hate getting my picture taken, but didn’t mind it at all when completely obscured by a costume.

Photo Courtesy of Ben Huset

Also, when it comes time for Convergence, we’re looking forward to the BEST photo bombing opportunities ever. Muahahhaa!!

Anyway, let’s get going..


We tackled the masks first, as they were the most intimidating part. I’d never made a mask before! Not even the wings scared us, as that was just… geometry and physics. I may know how to sculpt cake, but I’d never done anything with plaster casting OR paper clay before, so… yeah. Nervous!

First, I used plaster cast on Porter’s face to create the base of the mask, twice. Luckily, our faces are close enough in size/shape that both masks are quite comfortable!

To prepare, I clipped his hair back and covered his face in vaseline. I did – I think? – about 3 layers of cast material over the whole face, with a couple extra layers around the nose area. Also, as the face would be elongated in the chin area to allow for the “scream”, I wadded up a ball of plaster and applied it to the underside of the chin, securing it down with looong strips of plaster coming up on either side of the face.

After drying, I used paper clay to sculpt the face. This was just freehand, while looking at a printout from a pic I found online.

After drying, I painted with a base coat of grey acrylic, added shadows to the insides of wrinkles, etc and highlights to the tops of ridges, etc.

Once all of that was dry, I sprayed the masks liberally with granite texture spray, and allowed it to cure well. Once this was all dry, we cut some narrow, small slits in each mask – one set at the temples, another set near the back of the jaw bone, and threaded regular elastic through. While we hadn’t gotten around to painting the elastic in time for Britcon (As EVERY well-meaning critic managed to point out!), we will have them finished by Convergence 🙂

The hair really makes it, eh?
The eyes were a little bit of drama. Our original idea was to get a couple pairs of cheap sunglasses from the dollar store, cover with some black or grey pantihose, and spray with texture. Well, then we realized that our masks were SO perfectly fitting, that the edges of the lenses would be annoying at best.

What we finally came up with worked perfectly: Comfortable, easy, looked great AND allowed for pretty decent vision!

I bought a pair of opaque black tights, and cut 4 squares out of it. Without stretching them, I sprayed them liberally with texture and allowed it to dry fully. Once dry, I stretched them out a bit.

I ran a thick line of hot glue around the inside of each eye hole, and applied a square to the inside of each mask, textured side facing out. Once that dried, I piped another line of glue to the outside of the mask, just on the inside of the eye holes – think “eyeliner”. I carefully pressed the fabric into the new line of glue from behind the mask. This made it look more natural, not so sunken in…. and also gave us a bit of room so our eyelashes weren’t hitting up against the eye part constantly!


First I bought two cheap costume wigs, used a stitch ripper to remove all of the hair.

I took 3 balls of yarn – grey, white, and black, just in case any showed through – and cut them into LONG lengths… about twice as long as I wanted, so I could sew a seam up the middle.

I cut a piece of non stretch fabric about 1/2 the length of the center seam of the wig, and stitched the yarn to it with a very tight zigzag – yarn centered over the fabric, which was only about 1/2-3/4″ wide

From there, I sewed that piece down to the top part of the wig cap

From there, I styled both of the wigs… Porter was a VERY patient model!

First, I pulled enough hair forward to make a double twist down each side of the face. Just behind that second, I affixed a “headband” that I’d made from a tube of light blue spandex.

I’ll be honest, I had NO idea what I was doing, so I just sort of pulled and twisted everything until it looked passable. Hair is NOT my forte!

As I was going, I used LONG lengths of yarn and a yarn needle to sew everything into place. Twists and braids were secured not only to themselves, but down to the wig cap as well. The goal was that the style would NOT move, once I tied everything off and took the wig off his head.

When I came to the end of styling, I twisted any remaining ends of yard under and sewed them into place.

I stuffed the wig caps with newspaper to hold it to a head shape, and painted it with grey acrylic paint. It took several coats – and several days to dry – as I made sure to SOAK it. I wanted the paint to sort of act as a glue, as well.

Once the wigs were completely dry, I sprayed them liberally with granite texture spray paint.


Ok, the dresses are something that could use a lot of photos/diagrams to explain. Of course, I didn’t think to take pics as I went… so, hopefully words are enough.

First off, we decided how big of a hoop we wanted for the hem, and settled on 30″ diameter. We used lengths of 9 gauge wire for form two rings, one each.

Once that was done, I set about designing and making the dresses, which have three main parts – A liner, an outer skirt, and an outer bodice.


This was a floor length, fairly fitted liner. Gores were added to either side of the bottom, as well as to the center back seam – this was to add enough fullness to the bottom of the lining hem, that it would easily fit around the hoop. The center back seam of the top was left wide open (but finished!) from just below the neckline, to the waistline. This was to allow for access to the wing apparatus.

Outer Skirt:

This was made from 2 lengths of 60″ wide fabric, cut long enough to be waist – floor, plus a couple inches for hem, plus a few more inches to allow for it to “pool” a bit around the hem. Additionally, long pockets were sewn near the top of each side seam – long enough to easily conceal wallets, water bottles, etc.

Outer Bodice:

This took a fair amount of planning – we wanted to completely conceal the wing apparatus, while still allowing convenient enough access to easily get the wings on and off.

The outer bodice was made of 6 parts – a front yoke, a back yoke, front main bodice (the gathered section), two back main bodice parts, and a “flap” for the back, to further conceal the apparatus.

The front main bodice was gathered and sewn to the front yoke. Easy!

The back bodice.. let me see if I can describe this well. The flap was finished along both long edges. It was sewn, right side down, to the center of the back yoke piece. The two main back bodice pieces were finished on what would be the center back, and sewn down over the flap seam, overlapping by about two inches, and the rest of the top edge of the main piece was gathered and stitched down along the bottom of the yoke edge.

When the seam is flipped open, the flap covers the open center back.. which isn’t all THAT open, on account of the overlap.

On the bottom of the main back bodice piece, the two pieces are overlapped in the same manner that they are up top, and stitched down. From there, the side seams are sewn, and all horizontal seams (shoulders, bottom edges of yoke) are reinforced with bias tape to completely enclose the seam. Then, the bottom edge of the bodice is gathered.

Dress Assembly:

– With the right sides together, I sewed the neck seam. Flipped it right side out and also sewed around the seam from the outside – this made it lay more flat, and reinforced it.

– I serged the liner to the outer bodice at the arm holes, flipped the edges and stitched them down to finish the edge.

– I sewed the outer bodice to the outer skirt, gathering the skirt a bit as I went. I was aiming for a fair amount bigger than waist size, to allow for a drawstring later. Make sure that the side seams match up, as well as the center back and center front. I finished this seam off by enclosing it in bias tape as well.

– Add a LONG drawstring, finishing in the center back of the waist. It’s accessed from the center back of the bodice, and the ends are tucked in after being tightly tied around the waist. With the time and expense of these costumes, I wanted them to be able to fit through ANY weight fluctuations we may go through!

– Making sure everything is lining up, I pinned the bottom edge of the outer skirt to the bottom edge of the liner, matching up side seams, center back, and center front. There was more outer skirt than inner, so I gathered it – evenly – to fit as I sewing the two pieces together around the entire bottom edge.

– To finish this off, I flipped the bottom edge towards the underside of the dress, and VERY carefully sewed the whole bottom edge around one of the hoops. This is tedious, but not super difficult. Once the entire hoop is enclosed, evenly distribute the fabric mass along the edge of the hoop. Done!

Once the dresses were completely finished, in terms of the sewing… we had to paint them. This used a TON of granite texture spray paint, but it made a HUGE difference.

We aimed to get it in between the folds as much as we could, but the variance in coverage looked amazing – like shadows, etc.


With our Aspie sensory/texture issues, one thing was sure – we would NOT be able to handle makeup or other skin paint. Ugh!

So, I made a very customized set of bodysuits to suit our needs. It was a full, relatively tight spandex shirt, with full sleeves, attached gloves, and a hood that covered most of the face. I picked a lightly textured grey nylon lycra for this.

You can’t see it here, but there is a strip of velcro up the back of the neck/head to make it easier to get into, while still maintaining a very fitted profile once done up.

One feature I built is was that the gloves were only attached on the top and sides of the wrists, but not on the underside. The glove part under the wrist had a flap of fabric attached that tucked in under the wrist of the sleeve, so you couldn’t really see that it was an opening. This was to make washroom trips, etc a lot easier!

Once the suit was completely sewn and I was happy with the fit, I had to make it look more realistic.

I traced both of our hands and arms, and made stretch forms out of cardboard.

Once the stretch forms were placed inside the sleeves/gloves, I used superglue to attach a set of fake nails to the gloves. I had fit the nails to our hands beforehand, to make them proportionate to our actual hands.

Once the glue dried, I coated them with some matte white nail polish. If I had my time back, I would have used black or grey – I just didn’t have any on hand, and was feeling lazy! This is what it looked like after one coat of texture spray. (One a subsequent coat of spray, I pulled the wrist flay out and sprayed it as well – really helped it blend in!)

Once the nails were completely dry, I used granite texture spray paint to paint/texture the entire hood, arms, and shoulders, as well as the upper part of the chest and back.


The wings were the big stress for us this whole time. We’d looked online and didn’t see anything that looked at all comfortable, so we decided to – I’m sorry! – wing it.

After studying “Blink”, making notes of wing length/height/etc proportions, we figured out approximately the size we’d want, and I sketched it out on rosin paper

With my custom rosin paper pattern, my husband cut 8 wing pieces out from 1/2″ foam insulation. Each wing would have one front foam piece, and one back piece.

We cut feathers from sill plate insulation, glued them down with foam adhesive, and then sapled them down for good measure.

We designed our wing apparatus to be based on a 3/4″ thick piece of hard wood. 4 holes were drilled on the top edge, going straight down about 6″ deep. Each wing was designed to have 4 ends of wire sticking out: two would be bent to rest in these top holes, and two would slip into these black plastic cable straps that we positioned on the outside of the wood piece, and screwed them down.

Porter took great care to make sure both sides of each apparatus were symmetrical, and that the wires that would come out of the wings were in the appropriate places – you may be able to see the diagram we had drawn out on the pink rosin paper in the photo above.

With a diagram ready, Porter had to bend 9 guage galvanized wire to form the wing supports. (2 pairs of pliers will help get some sharp corners on bending the wire, but your hands will still be sore!)

Each wing ended up with 2 separate wire pieces – one upper piece to go in the top of the wood, and one lower piece to rest in the black cable tie things.

Once everything was bent and fit – and we were SURE everything would go where it was supposed to, it was time to assemble it all.

The wire was stapled down to one side of the foam wings with 1″ narrow crown staples, angled downward into the foam. After MUCH frustration with staples pulling right out, we started using two staples at each staple point, facing in opposite directions. Problem solved!

Once the wire was completely stapled down, the wings were glued together with foam insulation adhesive and weighted down to dry (we used leftover bathroom tiles as weights). It took quite a bit of adhesive – 4 normal size tubes for two sets of wings.

I don’t have a photo for the next step: We filled any spaces between the front/back of each wing with caulking, allowed it to dry, then hand carved all the edges to be rounded.

Once the wings were completely dry, I painted them. First, I coated them with a grey colored spray primer, then with a generous coating of granite texture paint.

Once the texture paint was dry, I felt that it was sort of flat looking, so I mixed some VERY thin, watery darkk/ light grey acrylic paint, and sponged on some shadows and highlights. (Sorry for the cell phone pic – it doesn’t do it justice!)

Back to the apparatus: We bought some strapping, and attached it to the back (outside) of the apparatus using Gorilla Glue and staples, each end sewn to adjustable strap fasteners.

Note: be careful where you staple! If you staple into your drilled holes, you’ll have to ream them in order to get the wires in later – we learned the hard way!

Note 2: We failed to account for the fact that Porter does NOT have boobs to hold the “X” of the strapping in place, so his straps end up crossing up in front of his neck and showing above the neckline of the dress – not cool. We’ll be fixing this before Convergence!

Once the glue dried on the wooden part, we had to try it all out – PERFECT! Again, I think the hair really makes the picture… (Also: this was before we’d finished painting the wings!)

To get the whole thing on, here’s what we do, in order:

– Bodysuit (leaving our hands poking out of the wrist holes)

– Apparatus

– Dress

– Wings: Flip the back flap up and over a shoulder, pull the back bodice panels aside to expose the apparatus. Slide the wings in, adjust the back bodice panels to conceal the apparatus, and flip the flap back down – the bottom edge tucks into the waist.

– Mask

– Wig

DONE! They’re super easy to get in and out of, so… mission accomplished! Also, with the wings as light as they are, and the way we designed the apparatus, these are not difficult to wear at all. My only problem was overheating, but that’s just because I don’t sweat properly. Porter was able to wear his for hours, no problem!


We wanted to have some fun with the costumes, so we decided that we NEEDED a baby. We went to a thrift shop to find a baby doll… and found a really beat up looking one that was about the right size.

After washing the doll, I tied the hair back with elastic – as much as I could, it was a bit short to work with – and painted the whole thing with grey acrylic paint.

Once the acrylic dried, I gave the doll a generous coat of granite spray. Then I decided that it needed a diaper, so I made one from scraps, sewed it right on, and had to spray THAT!

The finished baby. We named her “Damiana”, after one of my MasterChef buddies – Professional Wrestler, Damian Legion.

So, that was it! It took a LOOOONG time, and we probably breathed in way more fumes than is at ALL healthy, but I think the final product was worth it all!

Here are some great photos taken at Britcon, all courtesy of Ben Huset:

Oh, and if you’re in the market for an awesome costume, but not willing/able to put the work in? I’m officially available for hire. Click here to go to my new costuming website! (Note: I’ll make anything, doesn’t have to be spandex!)

MasterChef Recap: Season 4, Episodes 3 & 4.

So, this time I’m almost a week late with the MasterChef recaps. To be quite honest, it was really starting to look like I wouldn’t be doing it, and I’m still not convinced that I’ll bother, going forward.

The longer I’m back from LA, the more I hear about things that happened to my friends… the more disgusted I am with everything. On one hand, I feel like I would be doing a disservice to my friends – and those I didn’t even meet – by NOT giving them some exposure, after we all uprooted our lives for ~6+ months for this.

On the other hand… two of my MasterChef friends have had suicidal thoughts since coming back, as a result of the treatment out there. One friend was sexually harassed by the judges to the point that she had her lawyers get her edited out of the show completely. (As part of it, one of the judges told her that the only way he’d have an appreciation for her is if he was looking at her naked body!). Two of my friends were physically assaulted – one by production, one by a judge.

Of the incidents I mention, there is no crossover – these are all unique individuals. They’re not alone, either – I know of a few other women who were treated in a sexist, degrading manner by the judges… and all of these incidents that I mention are just the ones that I KNOW of. Many have been dealing with depression as a result of the experience.

I knew that MasterChef contestants can be in a bad way when they come home, and I knew that the show has sent many from previous seasons – even those who have “placed” high – into depression, and even ruined a few lives… I guess it’s just harder for me to tolerate in specifics – it’s easier to wave off an abstract idea, without any context. Also: without knowing those involved. These aren’t mentally unbalanced people, or drama queens – these are real, everyday people. Good people. For this reason, I have very little desire to give MasterChef any real coverage, going forward. I’m beyond disgusted…. I’m livid.

Add to it the fact that it sounds like they’re going to full on, super trashy reality TV this season? Blargh. This article actually had me envisioning the show turning into a “Scary Movie”-esque parody of reality TV, it’s all so over the top.

Still, this past set of two episodes gave us the first – and last – brief glimpses of some of these people. So… here we go.

First, we have brief glimpses/introductions of people. Nancy Fillipelli, A swimwear model, Malcolm Green, and Bri, an actress.

They show a quick montage of people, and then Howard. Howard makes a peach cobbler, get an apron. I’ll admit, this one still stings a little – Apparently he used canned peaches and frozen blackberries. Awesome.

Then we have a very brief montage of rejections.

We have Paulina, who manages one of the most gorgeous food blogs I’ve ever seen, Potato Chips are Not Dinner. Fun fact: Joey the Ignorant told Paulina that her traditional Phillipino dish was “bad Chinese food”. WTF.

There’s Mark Famiano, a TOTAL sweetheart firefighter from Cleveland. Liyah with her “babies – stuffed animals – and we see Grace Chen for all of two seconds.

Carl “Pen” Wippert presented the judges with white chocolate spaghetti with strawberry puree and lemon cake “garlic bread” <- complete with finger quotes. LOVE this guy, and you should too - check out his website and Facebook page – he has a cookbook (“Gourmet for Everybody”) coming out VERY soon!

Jonny B uses a beer bottle as a rolling pin to extract lobster meat from the shell, to put on his caramel and coconut “crackerjack”. I’m still not sure how I feel about that dish. Unique, weird, and… I THINK I’d be interested in trying it? I dig salty and sweet, not so sure about seafood and caramel though. Anyway, he gets an apron after some big fake judge dramatics and “suspense”.

At this point, just 10 minutes into the show… they’re done with the audition round. SO many people, stories, and elaborate set ups were not even mentioned, much less shown. So many other people having months of upheaval condensed down to even a second or two. What is the point of having a second 2 hour episode, and only spending 10 minutes on the auditions?

So then we go to the next round of eliminations. The 40 people with aprons are assembled – equally spaced out among the “Fight Club” space – and told they’ll be competing to stay, asked to follow the judges out to another area

Brian Baum tells us that he has adrenaline coursing through his veins. I promptly get Phat Bass stuck in my head.

Nancy Fillipelli isn’t thinking about going home, she “IS” home.

They go to this other area, and they show individual faces. Let me go all “Romper Room” for a minute..

I see Seonkyoung, Mark Oberle – a trapeze artist!, and Gabriella.. I see Steve Smith (who doesn’t seem to have a MasterChef page for some reason?) and Dean Karadimas, who is QUITE the character, btw. There is Seymira Salamy, and Kevin Tindell, who I just adore! I see Dahlia Abrams (and you can tell on her face, she thinks she’ll be told to kill the poor lamb that Ramsay just presented.. does NOT look happy with it!). I see Duckie and Bime … and then a flood of sheep run into the area, apparently relieving themselves all over the contestants.

Cause, you know, that’s a great thing to do to people about to cook, and in an area they’re about to cook in.

They’re told they won’t be killing any of the lambs, and a HUGE display of every possible cut of lamb is revealed.

I’ll admit, I shed a tear at this point. I am SO glad that I went home when I did – and I manage to feel even happier about that with every new story I hear – but man… challenges would have been so much fun. Forget TV, forget the competition even… I’d love to be able to walk into a pantry / meat department like THAT, have my pick of it all, no worries about budget, and just make whatever I want. What a dream!

Ramsay makes some bizarre comment about how the contestants will be like lambs to the slaughter if they make a mistake. The hyperbole in this show is epic… and not in a good way.

So they start the 60 minutes, the contestants go running, James talks about getting shoved down, and Seymi laughs – she was a rugby player, by the way. 🙂

Some coverage of contestants picking ingredients, with judges yapping.

I want to eat whatever Gabriella Aronja is making. I have no idea what she just said. It was in Spanish, and I bet it’s amazing. There are roasted peppers involved.. yum!

I digress.

Malcolm is making a lamb sampler plate, Joe makes a snotty comment about how it sounds like he’s not confident enough to make one dish. Because, you know, I’m sure none of Joe’s restaurants sell anything with more than one preparation of an ingredient, and because such a dish has NEVER gone over well in past seasons, right?


Beth cooks her lamb on hay. Was kinda surprised to hear they had hay as an ingredient, seems kinda random.

Luca is stuffing a lamb loin with sweetbreads and goat cheese.

Brian is describing what he’s doing, gets insulted. Whatever.

Judges discuss James Ladd, saying he’s “way out of his depth”, mentioning his BBQ sauce. Apparently, that sauce was straight up amazing, btw.

In a moment of fake “spontaneity”, the judges “decide” that some people have been ‘showing their true colors’ (you know, mid-cooking time)… and should just be eliminated right now, before they’re even close to running out of time.

What a ridiculous slap in the face. I can’t imagine having had to stay another week, just to be fodder for craptacular forced drama BS like that. So disrespectful!

So with 15 minutes left – a full quarter of the time still remaining – Joey Coattails walks through and eliminates people. Gabriella – oh, her food looks SO good! – is first to go, being told she has “too many technical mistakes”.

James Ladd is next to go, then Brian Baum.

I’m struck by how much time is being spent on drama, and how little is being dedicated to the actual food. We see a few photos, no titles or descriptions of what’s being cooked.

The contestants are divided into two main groups, with a few stragglers. One group goes through to the competition, the other is just cut. Not a word about what anyone’s cooked. Past years, we’ve seen a LOT more about the food, about what was made, thought behind it. This year, it’s like they’re not even pretending that the show is about food, on some levels.

Duckie tells us that the judges are missing out, with her being eliminated. I had her pegged as top two from the minute I met her, so I totally agree. She KNOWS food – you should check out her site, Duckie’s Dine-asty. Don’t go when you’re hungry, though… just amazing stuff. She’s also hilarious, smart AND witty (not the same thing!), and just an all around great person. She actually did my makeup for me right before I cooked during the auditions, and made me look FABULOUS – thanks again, Duckie!

They show Luca’s dish, which doesn’t look appetizing at all.

Malcolm goes up against Seymira, Seymi goes home 🙁

Seymira’s African culture comes through in her cooking, and her dish looks insane. Girl, I would happily snarf your cooking any day.

The elimination is dragged out for far too long. Also, I hate seeing Seymi cry. This chick was a ray of sunshine the entire time I was in LA, love her to pieces.

Then it’s Jonny with a lamb rangoon, vs Brian “Crazy Eyes” with a lamb liver dish that looks very tasty. Gordon insults him, Brian goes home in another looong drawn out elimination.

I’ve got to say, I wish American MasterChef was more like Australian MasterChef: Way more focus on the food, it’s actually kind of educational for the home audience. Also, the judges are far more positive and encouraging.

Nancy up against Bri, Nancy goes home.

Luca goes up against Beth. Beth’s dish is gorgeous, Luca’s… not so much. While many of the cooks here seem to have some grasp on use of color, everything on Luca’s plate seems to be variations on bile yellow. Just… not appetizing at all.

I’m fast forwarding through the drama surrounding the elimination. I may have a short attention span, but really – do people like seeing this stuff drawn out so long, and so… forced?

Also, why does Gordon. Ramsay. Try to. Talk like. William. Shatner?

There is only one Shat. Gordo is not it.

Now we’re on to the second episode from last Wednesday. I’m just going to include my review for it here, rather than start a new one.

It’s a mystery box challenge. Tomato, Bacon, Chocolate, and Potatoes are the main ingredients.

Krissi excitedly yells “BACOOOON!”, and America falls in love with her 🙂

Graham describes “an INCREDIBLE single potato”. It’s a potato. Don’t get me wrong, I am a VERY stereotypical Irish Canadian, I adore potatoes… but the hyperbole bores me so. I’m assuming that Graham has a better grasp on language than Joe the moron does. (I’m still laughing at “Butter is the antithesis of Greece”!)

Gordon has never seen chocolate and potato together, which reminds me – have you guys tried my peppermint patties recipe?

Then we have a little bit of talk about the food, then a whole bunch of manipulated drama.

Just a comment on this: I’ve seen a lot of comments out there online, usually on forums and comments section of news articles, about how the drama between Krissi and Natasha “came out of nowhere”. Keep in mind that at this point, the contestants have been in LA for almost two weeks. That’s a LOT of time to form some opinions about others. Hell, most of us were only there for a week, and THAT was enough time to form some very tight, lifetime friendships. There are two sides to that sword, and not EVERYONE there was awesome to each other.

Bime is up, Joey Coattails says that his dish “smells like a fake” to him, asks where he’s ever had food like this before. Definitely a recurring theme, after accusing Bime of his mofongo being “a ripoff of shrimp scampi, with a little plantain”

Does Joey not eat anything besides Italian? I have a hard time pinpointing whether his BS is racist, classist, or just general ignorance. Maybe a combination? So much stupid…

He tells Bime that he hopes he can “walk the walk”. I’d love to see Joey “walk the walk” – does he even know how to cook? Any time – over ALL of the past seasons – that any of the judges cook, it was not Joe. There WAS a tortellini forming demonstration once, but I remember noticing at the time that the edits were such that it very easily could have been someone else’s hands doing the close ups.

Anyway, Natasha gets on and yaps about how pretty she is.

I’m torn on this. Instinctively… barf.

On the other hand, I was there… and I KNOW how much footage they have of me talking about my IQ, etc – all prompted. I was DREADING them using all of the various “Great! Now say it like ____. Cool, now can you say _____ also?” incarnations of it all, piecing it together and making me look like a mega douche.
So I know there’s a good chance that it’s all VERY manipulated, etc.

The thing is… for each time I had to talk about my IQ, I was cracking jokes and doing my absolute best to make it impossible for them to edit it in a way that made me look like I take it seriously, or am actually hung up on it. With her… she really seems to be genuine about it. So, again… barf. Well, unless she’s acting. She did claim to be a model (??), and tons of these people are model/actors, so… I dunno. I digress.

I’ve already seen this, the night it aired… so this whole recapping thing is tedious. I remember how much of this was all the interpersonal drama and BS, and I just don’t feel like watching it.

Also, I’m really grossed out by the fact that every one of the women have their long hair flowing everywhere. IN A KITCHEN. Having been there, I know they don’t have a TON of control over their appearance, but I wish the show had them tie their hair back.

I still remember being grossed out, on past seasons, by people actively sweating OVER their food. So gross. This show is supposed to be able encouraging/preparing the contestants to pursue their culinary dreams (with a little suspension of disbelief applied, anyway!)… I don’t get why they don’t encourage some adherence to the basic hygiene rules and regulations that they’ll encounter in the real world.

Luca is making pasta. Go figure.

Krissi Biasiello is making langoustine mac and cheese. Smart – Lobster mac and cheese is very trendy, popular, and well received in general.

Howard starts insulting Krissi’s mac and cheese … while he’s pairing langoustines with STRAWBERRIES? WTF?

LOVE Krissi’s responses to him, grinning and giving the finger. She’s so adorable in her snarking back, rather than being straight up angry/obnoxious. It’s like she’s more amused by it than anything – I like that.

They show Bri apologizing to her meat once again. Kind of weird that she’s the token vegetarian, and very little mention is made of the fact that Adriana Guillen is a vegetarian. She was “Mexican Veggie Girl” during the pre-audition time, and is very passionate about promoting tasty and healthy vegetarian recipes. I am seriously the biggest carnivore out there, and even *I* find Adriana’s stuff to look amazing, btw. She has a blog started, HERE.

Blah Blah… Howard made a small amount of a citrus and spinach salad with a little bit of meat on it. I can’t imagine being given such a specialty ingredient and minimizing it in such a way.

Loads more forced drama…

I love the irony of Joe telling anyone that they’re wasting his time.

Lynn’s dish looked amazing.

Blah Blah Blah… Joey acts like a child, Ramsay makes some comment about there being a “cardinal rule” against stuffing langoustine (BS!), more forced drama… whatever.

Lots of skipping ahead.

Sasha goes home for some reason. I can’t stand her, but I was craving cheese grits the next day – not a crappy little salad that looked like a cheap side dish.


I will continue to watch the show until my last friend is eliminated, but then I’m done – with MasterChef, with Fox, and Reality TV in general. This crap is the bane of society and culture, in SO many ways. In today’s society, we need to be encouraging people to have empathy for each other… not training the masses to lack it.

Lots of Book News – A Release, Preorders, AND a Clearance Sale!

The last few weeks have been a crazy flurry of activity, between everything related to being on MasterChef, the second anniversary of the tornado that smashed our house, setting up to get back into Spandex Costuming and Custom Cosplay (to help pay down tornado debt, now that I did NOT win $250k on MasterChef!), and making a mad dash to finish our Weeping Angel costumes in time for a convention.

Actually, on that last subject, let me share a couple photos … they turned out SO well!

Photos courtesy of Ben Huset

… there will be a Weeping Angel costuming tutorial coming, later this week!


Today is the release date of the second edition of The Spirited Baker!

As you may recall from way back when, The Spirited Baker is my first cookbook, and is all about desserts flavored with liqueurs and spirits. This new edition is perfect bound, features some new recipes, a ton of new photos, and is now in full color! These same updates were recently applied to my second cookbook, Evil Cake Overlord, released last month.

No worries about having these new editions rendered obsolete by any coming editions, as there are no plans to issue any FURTHER editions. Now they’re full color and set up through Ingram, and all is good!

For more information on “The Spirited Baker: Intoxicating Desserts & Potent Potables, click here, or click the button below to order now! ($19.99, plus shipping.)

Today is also the start of preorders for my next cookbook, Sweet Corn Spectacular!

I can’t believe that the book release for this one is less than a month away – July 1st! This has been my first time dealing with an outside publisher (Minnesota Historical Society Press), and it’s been a great experience. As a mega Type A person who doesn’t necessarily play well with others… I’ve gotta say, I was dreading working with a publisher. The idea of not being in complete control kind of made my skin crawl… but MHS was so amazing to work with, and we’re all really proud of the final product. TONS of great recipes, including an entire chapter on desserts!

Also, it’s really cool to have a team of minions to work with, for the PR stuff. 🙂

For more information on Sweet Corn Spectacular, click here, or click the button below to preorder now! ($16.95, plus shipping.)

Of course, with new editions of books, I find myself with a limited stock of previous editions to sell off.

First of all, we have some copies of the 1st edition of The Spirited Baker available. These are the original plastic comb version, originally $16.99, now on clearance for $9.99.

Secondly, we have 5 copies of the 1st edition of Evil Cake Overlord available. These are the original plastic comb version, originally $16.99, now on clearance for $9.99. Very rare – there was only one small printing of the edition, as we went to perfect bound for the 2nd edition.

I also have 2 copies of the 2nd edition of Evil Cake Overlord available, originally $16.99, now on clearance for $9.99. These are perfect bound, with black and white photography.

Finally, we are having a “Tornado Season” sale on Twisted: A Minneapolis Tornado Memoir, originally $16.99, on sale for $8.50. It is our sincerest hope that our experiences will help others get through the trauma of a tornado… and give others a better understanding of the enormity of the situation.

… also, as always, my “Spandex Simplified” sewing manuals are available at

That’s about it for book news today… have a great week!