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inexact but fine

  • Nov. 23rd, 2011 at 11:27 AM
Sometimes you don't need to be exact. Just trust the eye and something good might happen. Today it is the day before Thanksgiving and you might be organized this year and ta-da look at you cooking so you don't have to spend tomorrow cooking like a chef on meth. But you aren't so organized that you have this carefully written schedule where you know exactly when those green beans are going to be put to good use.
You are the person who remembers where their keys are but not their shoes. Let's make something that suits that temperament. You want to peel and chop (into small pieces) a parsnip and yam of reasonable size. You can easily double this and if you prefer one root vegetable more than the other you can make it yam heavy or parsnip heavy. If you are cooking for an enormous crowd you can buy all of the parsnips and yams that are available but let's imagine that you are only cooking for four people. A parsnip and a yam will suit you if you are having a few other sides on this most holy of days. (it is holy in my mind. For great quantities of butter will be consumed and there is finally enough to pie to eat)
Put the chopped up parsnip and yam in a dish, (you might require two dishes if your vegetables turn out to be large but I trust that you know how to handle it when life gives you these situations.) dot with some butter. How much butter? How much do you like butter? Put that in the oven at around 375F and roast things until they are soft. It might take an hour, it might not. How is your oven these days? On occasion I might add a bit more butter while it is cooking. My version of "a bit of butter" might differ from yours.
Once everything is soft and roasted (check with a fork, there should be little resistance. Like me alone in a room with Tom Hardy.) take it out of the oven and put those gorgeous parsnips and yams int to a large bowl and mash them. I mean really mash them. We aren't delicate creatures who faint because their corsets are too tight. We are peasant stock. We can mash for days on end. You don't want to use the food processor because it will make everything heavy. While you mash you can add a bit of cardamom, a bit more butter if you feel that you are lacking it in your life, a dash of salt, and a bit of maple syrup to bring out more sweetness. I usually add about a 1/4 cup of maple syrup if you truly need something exact to go by. Are you still mashing? Good. It needs more mashing. Once you are sick and tired of mashing you can put it in an oven-safe dish and either eat all of it right away or put it in the fridge and warm it the following day.
You can serve this to someone who had their wisdom teeth out the day before Thanksgiving, to small children who are don't have a lot of teeth, and to people with good taste.

what the family holds

  • Aug. 23rd, 2011 at 3:55 PM
This is a dessert straight out of Minnesota. My Grandmother had a cousin named Ruth who still lived where my Grandma had grown up. Ruth had some recipes that were truly great (that she shared with the family) and some other recipes that would leave Grandma uttering the infamously subtle comment, "well that's different." I think the snickers bar salad earned that. As for the fantastic recipes there was Cherries in the Snow. My Mother remembers eating it on a visit to the old country (which is what we refer to Minnesota, in our family) when she was a child. It was a revelation. It was perfection. It was the desserts to end all her desserts in her mind. Grandma got the recipe from Ruth and after that it became my Mother's birthday request. I recall being about three and Cherries in the Snow was produced. I have faint memories of thinking it was pretty amazing. Eventually I learned to make it and have since produced it a few times for my Mom; thus earning "favorite child" status for the day.

As for the recipe itself it is one of those things that falls under the heading of no-bake desserts. You take a packet of graham crackers and mash them into oblivion (an excuse to break out the rolling pin and work out any aggression) and combine the crumbs (in a bowl) with a 1/3 a cup of melted butter. I will admit sometimes the cracker crumbs decide to not cooperate so one melts down a full stick (1/2 cup) of butter. You also add 1/4 cup of sugar. You take this wet sandy-like concoction and spread it into the bottom of an 8x8 pan. Pressing with your fingers if you are a heathen like myself. The more civilized of us can use the bottom of a measuring cup. Once it is spread nice and neat you put that in the fridge for an hour so it can firm up. As you put this in the fridge, take out an 8 oz package of cream cheese. It needs to soften a bit. In the mean time you get get on the party line and listen to the good gossip about who needs an operation for what or the real reason why Elna's hair is still so mysteriously red. Or you can look at twitter. My Mom refers to twitter as being the modern party line.

Now for the filling. Cream cheese and whipped cream. Everyone looks up and pays attention, "oh hey can I lick the beaters?" "well I HAVE to make it first." You will take your softened cream cheese and mix it together with 2/3 of a cup of sugar. Some like things a little sweeter and others like it less sweet. You can always start by adding 1/3 a cup and see how you feel. These are personal things. Put that to one side and then whip up a cup of cream. You will want stiff peaks but as always you want to avoid over-beating and risking the possibility of making butter. I have done that. It isn't a bad thing to find that you have made butter. As mistakes go that is a pretty delightful one. But then you have to wash the bowl, start over and you will still have people asking you when they can lick the beaters. SOOON. If you haven't accidentally made butter and actually lucked out with whipped cream you will fold that into the sweetened cream cheese mixture. Huzzah. You will spread that on top of the graham cracker crust all the way to the edges. Now for the topping. Remember that this is a dessert that evokes a certain era so you don't need to source an obscure variety of cherries and make a sauce that once made Alice Waters quiver. You take a good quality can of cherry pie filling, maybe add a little lemon juice if you need a touch more tartness to it and then spread it on top of the cream cheese/whipped cream filling. Make sure you leave a bit of a border all around so that you do right by the title of the dessert. It should be a slightly electric effect. The bright neon-like glow of the cherries against the stark whiteness of the filling. Pop that back in the fridge for another hour so that things set just so. Let people lick spoons and bowls. Have yourself a drink. Then it is time for dessert. It is rich and smooth and you too will be transported to Minnesota circa 1960.

through submission there is freedom

  • Aug. 10th, 2011 at 7:48 PM
There was a character on Sesame Street when I was a kid called, Don Music. He was a composer/musician who would get stuck trying to write a song and he would have a complete and utter breakdown about it. He would be convinced that he would NEVER EVER get it right. He would add to the dramatics by banging his head on the keyboard of his piano. I sometimes joke that living with one of my kids is a bit like living with Don Music. The truth of the matter is that in the first ten years that I cooked, I was Don Music. I was a rather wound-up kid. Mother would say, "Sweet lord you were a perfectionist." If I didn't get something right I would offer up a scene that would make Sarah Bernhardt seem like she was William Hurt in terms of emoting. There would be a great flow of tears, gnashing of teeth and rending of oven mitts. Often things would end up saved in some fashion or another. Often it was after my Mother had talked me down from the walls. "CALM DOWN DAMMIT. The cake is uneven, it isn't poisonous. For Christ's sake if you keep this up I won't let you near the stove ever again."

I started playing in the kitchen at a very young age. I was about five or so when I first learned to cook scrambled eggs. I am honest that I was a picky eater (not unlike many children) and I had a whole host of food phobias. I will admit that to this day chopped up raw onions on/in anything kind of ruin a dish for me. I can handle it with more grace now. We do not need to discuss the battles I had with my Mother regarding Beef Stroganoff. (It was one of the few instances where I broke the woman's will and she stopped serving it because of what would ensue. On my end it was a texture issue. It would make me gag.) Half of the appeal of cooking was having control. I could control what was being served. I could have all things I preferred to eat. Like any perfectionist I was keen on control. I think one of the hardest parts was learning that to follow directions. I had to follow the rules of chemistry if I wanted a certain desired effect. Once one understands things like ratios, why certain ingredients play well or don't play well with each other -you can venture off the path a bit and maybe create something a little different or unusual. I will freely say that it took me a number of years to given in to the fact that I needed to follow the recipe if I wanted to get it right. I wanted dishes to just appear lovely and perfect on the first go. Often that didn't happen. I had to learned to pause, to pay attention and to listen. It was a struggle. Over time I began to see what was going on. Again I have my Mother to thank for this. She would point out what worked and what I might change next time. She gave gentle lessons in math and science. I wasn't an enthusiastic student of math and some science in school but I think I gained a great deal from her. Yes I may have failed math classes in high school but somehow I am able to apply all kinds of things to dinner. Over time I would learn to forgive myself a little more if something wasn't as I had anticipated (and really that took until I was twenty) and it was then I truly began to learn how to cook.

The people I really like to talk to about food (besides my family, because I am lucky to be related to via blood, marriage or choice to people who love to eat, make things and share it with others) are those who aren't waxing poetic about sourced salt or what is true umami. I like the people who may make dinner but are sometimes a little hesitant about something like polenta or making and frosting a cake from scratch. It is such fun to encourage someone to be a little dangerous in the kitchen. These are the people I am learning more and more from these days. It is kind of a second go-around at education in the kitchen. While I am sporadic in writing things and sharing recipes, I keep thinking about how to explain things to someone else. There is the basic formula/method for creating a dish, there is the science/math and there is the encouragement. Now I am learning how to do it so that someone else doesn't have a meltdown in the kitchen.
From my end I am experiencing a sort of sea-change into something rich and strange.

I come. I go. But I continue to cook and eat.

  • Jun. 14th, 2011 at 10:35 PM
There is a reason one might own so many cookbooks. Because sometimes you have the urge to make something but you may not have certain ingredients. If you hunt through your books you will find the exact thing that works with what lingers in the pantry. Today was one of those days. It was decided that we needed some cake. We always need some cake. So I made a hoosier cake that was adapted from a recipe in the Fannie Farmer Baking book.

You begin by making a cup of strong coffee. I tend to use espresso. I think of that scene in The Freshman where espresso is made and lots of sugar is added and it is implied that to drink this will make you a man. Really it just makes you feel like you are on a speed trip. Maybe this is what the Italians are aiming for? They get up and have that tiny dose of coffee and then race around in their cars, engaging in scandal and then cause the government to fall all before lunch. This is also why every place closes for a few hours in the afternoon. Everyone needs to recover as they begin to come down from the morning espresso frenzy. Then they spend the afternoon reading about the morning scandal and maybe go for a walk to clear their head before dinner. Unfortunately you won't be doing that with your coffee. Though you could, but you would need to make a second cup of coffee that would need to cool -if you still want to make this cake.

Cream together 1/2 a cup of softened butter (and for all that is holy don't try and use cold butter or to microwave it to soften it. Get the butter out when you are making the coffee. While you wait for things to cool down or warm up, you can read about assorted scandals while drinking that cup of coffee. See there is a rhythm to all of this) with 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of brown sugar. You may have to keep your children from taking tastes of the butter and sugar. Add 2 eggs (one at a time) and beat until smooth. In another bowl (because we are going to dirty many dishes today. Just accept this now.) you will whisk together 1/2 cup of cocoa with 1/2 cup of boiling water. What you want to achieve here is a smooth paste. (like you would have if you were making hot chocolate.) Pour that into your butter/sugar/egg mixture and mix until things are dark and chocolatey. Sift in 1 3/4 cups of AP flour and 1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda. You want to just mix this enough so that there aren't any white streaks left. Then you can return to your coffee that has been sitting on the counter looking woeful. Pour that into the thick cake batter along with 1/2 tsp of vanilla. Mix mix mix and it will turn into a fairly thin batter. But that will be all right. You will pour the batter into two 8 or 9 inch pans (which will have been greased/floured and if you are one for details, lined with parchment) and bake at 350F for about 20 or 25 minutes. As with most cakes you will want to do the toothpick test to make sure it is done. This isn't some molten lava cake folks. We aren't going to burn our tongues and then slightly regret dessert. Take the cake out and let it cool on racks before you think about frosting anything.

As you wait you can read some Dante and reflect upon how that Florentine understood humanity and all its foibles and did it so beautifully in the common tongue. Or you can stand around in a slip dress and wear dark glasses and pretend you are in a Fellini film. You are on your own for finding circus freaks to stand around with you. God this coffee is good.

Now it is time to assemble your cake. For the filling you could put in raspberry jam or apricot jam (if you want to pay a sort of homage to sacher tortes.) I had chocolate raspberry jam in the cupboard (thank my mom for the recipe) if you really want chocolate raspberry jam but only have the raspberry, why not melt down an oz of unsweetened chocolate and mix it in with some jam. ta-da. Spread about half a cup on the bottom layer of cake. Then pop the other layer on top.

There is a question of frosting I suppose. In this case I made a chocolate sour cream frosting. Melt down a few ounces of sweetened chocolate (anywhere between 4 and 6 will suffice) in a pan over simmering water. Take that off the heat and add about 1/2 a cup of sour cream. Not light sour cream thank you. We are having cake, not penance. Maybe add 1/2 tsp of vanilla if you are up for it. Or maybe some bourbon. Yes. bourbon. Once you have whisked everything together and it is a silky satin brown you will want to spread that all over the cake. (it should be just this side of warm) Do a crumb layer and then spread the rest over the cake. It will look lovely.

The wonderful thing about this cake is the variety of flavors and textures. The cake itself is moist and very sweet and there is the tartness of the raspberry filling and the balance of sweet and sour from the soft frosting. The flavor is a little more sophisticated. This isn't confetti cupcakes and recollections of a favorite reality show.

This is a cake where you recall a heady weekend in someone's schloss (especially if you use apricot jam) sometime between the wars. You were only going as the guest of a friend of a friend but you stayed far longer than you thought as you became acquainted with a gentleman. He had rumors swirling about him being some a Russian duke who had to leave his country and of being a cad who was likely the bastard child of some minor noble from some backwater in Swabia. You didn't really care because the cake was good and he was entertaining. It was likely having that cake with him on a picnic that sealed the deal to become his mistress. Of course you could only stay for awhile because life got in the way and you had to return to work in the bookshop. That is the cake you are having.

cake for you

I won't judge.

  • Mar. 24th, 2011 at 11:09 PM
Pound cake is sincere and loyal. Like Jimmy Stewart. You mention pound cake and people will say, "Don't mind if I do." It can be familiar but still surprising. Let's bake and eat a cardamom citrus pound cake.
I should mention that this isn't a pedantic pound cake that requires a pound of every ingredient -though I suspect it would be pretty amazing.
Cream together 1 cup of softened butter with 1 1/3 cup sugar. Crack 5 eggs (room temp. so that they mix well) and mix them into the creamed mixture one at a time. So much mixing you say. Sincerity and loyalty don't come just like that. It has to be earned. And stop complaining. There's going to be cake. Then stir in 1/2 tsp vanilla, the zest of one orange and the juice of one lemon. If you want to really go wild (and I know you do,) you can use a meyer lemon. Then you bore your family and friends repeatedly over an evening of cake by pointing out that there is meyer lemon in the cake. As if you had searched foreign climes to find a rare and exquisite piece of citrus to make your cake a true thing of glory vs. going to the grocery store and seeing them on sale. I digress.
In a separate bowl whisk together 2 cups of flour, 1/2 tsp of salt and 2 tsps of ground cardamom. YAY spice. Now you will add the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and do this in thirds. (giving everything a good stir in between each addition.) It will be a thick batter. Pour into a buttered/floured loaf pan. 9x5 will work for you. You can even get some delightfully shaped bundt pan and make your pound cake truly exciting.
Bake in an oven at 325F for about an hour. It should be golden and do a quick toothpick test to make sure it comes out clean. Remove that and let it sit for an hour.
It will smell nice and won't be too sweet. It will be something nice with a bit of ice cream or fruit. You could always toast two pieces of pound cake and then spread nutella and marshmallow fluff and call it a sandwich. You could also take those toasted slices of cake and put a slab of ice cream between them (maybe something like vanilla bean) and then pour butterscotch or caramel sauce on top and eat it with a fork and knife. Because sometimes you have to take a perfectly nice little cake and do wanton things with it..

fill it up and enjoy

  • Mar. 8th, 2011 at 12:49 PM
It is Fat Tuesday. As I come from the Catholic tradition it is about tearing into a steak and other lovely things before 40 days of reflection and tuna noodle casseroles on Fridays. As children our other option was fish sticks. Something about dreary cold windy friday nights and fish sticks would make me envy other religions. My husband being English associates Fat Tuesday with pancakes. So typically our meal on this day involves a nice steak and several pancakes for dessert.
Of course not everyone is a carnivore and some aren't drawn by sweet pancakes.
This is where stuffed savory pancakes can satisfy a slightly different palate.

You start off by making the pancakes. Whisk together 3/4 of a cup of flour, a pinch of salt, 2 eggs and 1 1/2 cups of milk and about 1 Tbs of melted butter. It should be a fairly thin batter and obviously you want to avoid lumps. You can make this in a blender. Let it sit for about an hour or two so that things will get good and comfortable with each other. You can make this a day ahead if you feel organized.
Cook up the pancakes in a frying pan over medium heat. (grease your pan before hand) Obviously it is a bit of a trick to quickly spread the batter across the pan. It helps to pour the batter to one side of the pan and quickly swish things about and maybe use a spatula to guide the batter along. The term dog pancake is appropriate for your first couple of tries. But you should get there. Let them cook a few seconds (and you will watch it as things firm up) and then flip them over and finish cooking. This isn't one of those things where you can wander off and read some Tolstoi. Make a nice neat stack of pancakes and cover them. Have a drink. Think about what you are giving up for Lent. Think about what it would mean for your family if you gave up tea or coffee.

Now to face the filling. Rummage through your freezer and look for that bag of spinach you have. You bought it one day when you were thinking, "yes I will use that." You haven't. Usually the ice cream sits on top of it. Get that out and thaw it. You can do this a couple of ways. Let it sit in the fridge for awhile or pour it all in a sieve and pour hot water on it and it should do the trick. You will do the latter since you weren't organized and you were looking at pictures of famous people making poor fashion choices. Squeeze out the excess water from the spinach and set that aside. Next you will thinly slice a couple of small-ish spring onions and saute those in a pan with a bit of olive oil and salt. You don't want them brown but they should be wilted. Add the spinach and cook it until the water (and you will be amazed by how much water spinach will hold onto.) evaporates. Remove from the heat and let it cool. Stir in some ricotta cheese. How much? Let's say one container's worth. (around 9 oz) Taste things and add seasoning as needed. Get out your pancakes and carefully spoon in some of the filling and roll up to the best of your ability. Place each filled pancake in an oven-proof dish. They should be nice and snug. Pour a bit of milk over everything and then sprinkle a healthy dose of parmesan cheese on top. If you want a slightly more gooey experience you can use fontina. But don't break your back trying to find some other cheese. Bake all of this in an oven at 475F for about 20 minutes or until things seem nice and golden. It should be creamy and rather lovely. I would suggest serving this with a salad of roasted peppers & bread crumbs.

Mr. Jenner who often finds vegetarian food unsatisfying found this to be quite filling. Go forth and meditate upon your sins...tomorrow.

inexact and kind of dirty

  • Feb. 1st, 2011 at 7:42 PM
I like to eat risotto now and then. I even like to make it. There are a lot of thoughts on how risotto should be made. I am not inclined to get all Elizabeth David-like about risotto. She made a clear point that what many people (mostly the English) considered risotto was not really risotto. The thing is if you go all over Italy there would be emotional discussions about how to make the dish. Like most food in Italy it can vary from region to region, village to village and house-hold to house-hold. That is the beauty of the stuff. It is very personal. Though David did kind of have a point. There is some stuff done with short-grain rice that really isn't risotto. There is that habit of tossing in a million things into it and saying, "look it is Italian." It is kind of like the difference between a simple omelette with herbs and butter and a Denver omelette. Not that a Denver omelette doesn't have its place (though between you and me, I don't consider it much of an omelette. It is more like someone is trying to stuff a ton of stuff into an egg-made hand-bag.) but it is a slightly different... approach.

The risotto I made tonight isn't on par with the stuff I have had in Italy. That stuff is like having sex with the actor Tom Hardy. The kind of sex that accidentally lands a person in the hospital because someone may have gotten a concussion and no one is entirely sure what their name is anymore and you may have seen the virgin Mary at one point. Yeah risotto can be that good. I like to think of this inexact risotto recipe I use as being like a pretty good make-out session with Rufus Sewell. A make-out session with your clothes on. You will enjoy it and want to go back for some more. Though I don't know if the risotto will have sex eyes. With practice though it will become pretty hot time. The risotto I mean. Though I bet stuff would become pretty darn interesting with Sewell.

In a medium sauce-pan over medium heat, you will warm/melt 1 Tbs of olive oil with 1 tbs of butter and then saute a small finely chopped onion and 1-2 cloves of minced garlic. You will want to saute this for a couple of minutes and over time the onions/garlic should become slightly soft. Then you will add 1/2 a cup of arborio rice. Spend the time/money and get the proper stuff. You will stir things about so that the rice is coated in the fat and it should slowly become sort of golden-ish but not. Now you will slowly pour in about 1/2 a cup of warm chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you aren't into eating meat) and you will stir and stir until the rice absorbs the liquid. (You are going to stir in a total of a cup and a half of stock) And no you may not stop stirring. You should have flirted with the milkman earlier. There is no time for that nonsense. If you have small children around you begging for attention or complaining that someone hit them or they are bored you can put on a television show for them. You can defend yourself in therapy later on by pointing out that you were making risotto. You have stirring to do. As you stir it wouldn't hurt to reduce the heat a little bit and continue adding a bit of stock. Maybe a quarter cup here and there and oh the stirring goes on. Maybe put on some music while you stir or an audio book. Learn to speak Swahili! You will have the time as you will be stirring. And I will be honest with you this may take about half an hour or so. What you want to achieve is something that is creamy (because of all of that starch being put to good work) and the rice to have a slight bite. Not so much that you are picking your teeth but you don't want to feel like you are eating sad dreary porridge. A balance!
You can add some seasoning and a bit of parmesan at the end if you would like. Tonight I took some artichoke hearts (about 1 cup's worth or 12 hearts) and sauteed them in a bit of olive oil and salt and then added the juice of half of a lemon. I stirred that into the risotto at the very end along with a bit of truffle salt. I plated it and garnished with a bit of pecorino. It was savory and tart and creamy and absolutely beautiful. This recipe should make enough for two adults and a couple of ungrateful small children who will likely ignore their small portion. They will be put out that there isn't macaroni and cheese. You can take solace in the fact that they want your home-made macaroni and cheese but you are still mildly irritated that they don't appreciate your effort. But that is life and they are going to bed soon.

creamy risotto

fleeting thoughts like the clouds in the nog

  • Dec. 13th, 2010 at 11:59 PM
One of my earliest memories involves egg nog. I recall waking up because I heard my parents talking and I came out into the kitchen area and found them sitting about and having egg nog. I recognized the buttery yellow carton that Darigold eggnog came in. I might not have been able to read but I knew that carton was special. I have such a fondness for that stuff when I spy it in the grocery store every holiday season with its recipe on the back for "egg nog french toast". (Which is brilliantly simple)
Some like to cut theirs with milk but I like mine full strength. Just a small glass. My toes wiggle and I can't help but smile.
Equally it is fun to make egg nog. It is a bit thinner than store-bought but it has its own special appeal and you can control the sweetness or spice. When I was a kid I went to a Christmas party at the public library and there was an egg nog that was barely sweetened but had a healthy dose of freshly grated nutmeg that was enticing. It was like tasting the spice for the first time but softened with the milkiness of the beverage.

I have been reading a book about the period immediately following the Great War and there is a section of the book that talks about a hospital that was created to help rebuild the faces of men who had been horribly injured. The doctors were doing some amazing work in the early field of reconstructive surgery and it would take a long time to do the work and to recover. Often the men in various stages of healing couldn't really eat or drink much (as it was painful) but one thing many could ingest was egg nog. It was high in calories and provided protein. The hospital had its own farm with chickens and cows to make this drink. It reminded me of something my Mother mentioned. When she had braces as a kid -it was pretty painful when they would tighten things and it made eating a bother. My Grandmother would make my Mom some egg nog. Her recipe involved whipped egg whites so it was rather frothy.

Eggnog of solace

Beat six egg yolks together with 1/3 cup of sugar. (some like more, some like less but you can always add a bit more) Whisk in 1 cup of milk and 1 1/2 cups of cream. Ideally you want to use whole milk and considering what you are making the idea of going light just seems a bit silly. It is also Christmas. You want the full experience. I won't judge you too harshly. Then add 1/4 cup of bourbon *hic* and 2 Tbs of brandy. Again you can add more if you feel that you really need to relax all those muscles. After all Aunt Madge is likely bringing her yams & marshmallows and you have to get it down somehow. (you can always omit the alcohol but let's not) Put that in the fridge to chill for a bit. (at least an hour or so) This will allow the alcohol to kill anything that wants to kill you and allows some of the flavors to mingle with each other like they are at an office Christmas party. Like the one in The Apartment. When you want to serve this you will take your six egg whites and whip them up until they form stiff peaks. As if you were going to make meringue. Gently fold these beautiful clouds into the nog. You don't want to crush them. It isn't like you are Mommie Dearest trying to ruin their hopes and dreams. They should float gently on the surface and just ever so slightly begin to melt into the nog. Just like you will after a couple of drinks. Sprinkle Nutmeg on top for a garnish. Or if you want to do something a little different why not sprinkle some cardamom on top. It will be spicy and citrusy but not overwhelm the rest of the nog. This should make about six servings if you are in the mood to share.

This is how we eat: BIG

  • Nov. 26th, 2010 at 8:36 AM
We had another entertaining Thanksgiving. Lots of friends and family and big eating. People left slightly in pain from eating too much and with plenty of leftovers. We keep slowly bringing more people to the table each year. I suspect next year we may end up with a kiddie table or something. We will definitely need more chairs.

Anyways here is this year's menu. (it doesn't really change all that much)

Peace-maker stuffing & my Mom's amazing gravy (she does fantastic gravy)
Mr. Jenner's potatoes roasted in goose/duck fat (we never have any leftovers)
Snob's yams
Spoonbread (My brother Mike made this. A new recipe from the Nigella Christmas book. Good with gravy)
cranberry sauce
red hot jello salad
spinach cooked in butter & nutmeg
Creamy peas & pancetta (another Nigella Christmas recipe and a keeper)

Olives & home-made pickles (My mom brought her Nebraska Dills and I put out my bread & butters)

Blackberry pie made by our family friend Kathie
Pumpkin cake with the AMAZING mace buttercream filling made by our friend Danica
Pumpkin Chiffon Fruit pie
Lemon Meringue pie

There was some local cheese my Mom brought but we never got to it as we stuffed ourselves rather silly.

thanksgiving spread

Now to think about baking Christmas cookies!

Now eat up. There is pudding later.

  • Nov. 17th, 2010 at 10:49 PM
Maybe you have someone who is vegan at your table or maybe someone who can't eat gluten and you want to feed them something besides a rice cake and sympathy. Here is a pretty side dish that can also work as a main dish for your restricted dining companions.

Delightful Veg & Mash

Let's chop up some vegetables shall we? Peel/slice about 3 potatoes of varying color/size. Maybe some Finns, a mountain rose and one of those deep purple ones that can stain your cutting board. Peel and slice 2 carrots and a turnip as well. In a large baking dish you will toss together 2 sprigs of thyme, 1 Tbs of oregano and 1 Tbs of parsley. Add your root vegetables and 2-4 cloves of chopped garlic. Some people like a more pronounced garlic flavor, some... not so much. We must be gentle with those sorts. Season with salt and pepper. Toss toss toss. Then you will stir in 3 Tbs of tomato sauce and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Everything should be coated and look somewhat appealing. Pop that in the oven at 350F for about 30 minutes. The kitchen will smell fantastic. Once things have slowly cooked you will remove the dish from the oven and then add more vegetables! 1 half of a red or yellow bell pepper -chopped. You could add green but then I wouldn't touch the dish. Green bell pepper tastes to me like a gym locker room smells. Let that description sit with you awhile. Also add about a cup of artichoke hearts. If you have a bit of squash, why not toss it in there as well. It can provide more color. (make sure it is chopped into bite-sized pieces.) Then add another 1/4 cup of olive oil and maybe another Tbs of tomato sauce. Again you toss with joy and glee because you will make someone a good meal. Put everything back in the oven for another hour or so. The vegetables should be tender and beautifully brown but not wizened.

While you are cooking the vegetables you will be making something else to serve as the bed for this dish.

Cannellini Bean Mash

Fill a pot with water, add 1 cup of dried cannellini beans, 1 onion (peel it please) and a sprinkle of salt. This is one of the few times you can add salt without turning beans into little pebbles. Bring it to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer. It will take about an hour/hour and a half to make the beans tender. Drain the beans (but saving a bit of the bean water for later) and then pulse in a blender or food processor. You can add plain olive oil to the mash (about 1/3 of a cup) OR if you are feeling wild and sexy you could take the olive oil in a pan and add a sprig or two of rosemary and warm up the oil allowing the rosemary to infuse the things. It is pretty delicious and adds a beautiful aroma to everything. But back to the beans, add in 3 cloves of chopped garlic and the juice of a lemon. Plus a bit of salt and pepper to taste. You don't want the mash to be completely smooth. Some do, but a bit of texture is good. Plate that and add your vegetables on top. There is a great deal of flavor to be had here and a nice balance of vegetable and protein so your dining companion won't feel shorted when it comes to dinner. If people are vegetarian you can add a bit of parmesan cheese on top. (also gluten-free)

roasted veg



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November 2011



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