November 20, 2011
November 16, 2011
First, in the tradition of giving thanks, I would like to thank the genius of food-processing, as well the modern conveniences of freezers.
Second, I'd like to share my two favorite tomato sauce recipes. First my own, and the latter from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (think: Julia Child for Italian Cuisine). With either one of these, it is completely acceptable to eat with a spoon, forgoing pasta altogether.
Hearty Tomato Sauce
the kind that takes a while to cook, kind of like a veggie bolognese with bacon
1/2 lb good bacon or pancetta, cubed
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
3 - 5 cloves garlic, minced
(optional: 2 small green peppers, chopped)
15 - 20 small to medium sized tomatoes, blanched, peeled, de-seeded and roughly chopped (you can substitute 2 quarts whole tomatoes canned...and you can even forgo the peeling/de-seeding part to make it easier if you either want to use a food mill as you put the tomatoes in OR if you don't mind a few seeds in your teeth)
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 tsp oregano
(optional: 1 tsp crushed red pepper)
1 Tbl brown sugar
3 Tbl tomato paste
In a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat, render the fat off the bacon in just a little bit of olive oil (approx 7 minutes). Add the onions, carrots, celery, green pepper and a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute until just tender. Add the tomatoes, basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper (if using...and why wouldn't you?). Bring to just barely a boil, cover part way, turn the heat down to low and simmer slowly for an hour. Check the flavor, and add more salt, pepper (and other spices you're in to) if needed. Add the brown sugar and tomato paste, and let simmer for another 1/2 hour or so. Eat right away, or let cool and freeze for future use.
...and now for a simple, delicious sauce that is easy to make...
It might seem cliche to say "Here is what I am thankful for" this time of year, but I can't help it. I have caught myself multiple times recently in the middle of feeling grateful for something. The other day I was thinking about the Post Office and how thankful I was for them, what a feat the whole system really is, their reliability and for mail in general. I paused and thought "hey wait, that is how I'm supposed to be thinking right now!" Perhaps it's subconscious messaging from the radio, Facebook, the calendar, or advertisements. But maybe it's because this time year it's easy to honestly feel thankful. It’s getting colder, we’re spending more time inside, it’s darker, we’re winding down the year and reflecting on what it has given us. It’s almost like an acceptance speech. The previous three seasons have been the work, the joys, the pains, the awards show. And now we’re holing up to enjoy it and find out who has won. Well, like a game in a Kindergarten class, we’re all winners, and now it’s our turn at the podium to say Thank You to those people/items/events/conveniences (like the Post Office) that have gotten us to this point.
Today I’d like to thank Thanksgiving.
Thank You, Thanksgiving, for deeply-engrained traditions like Shirley’s zucchini bread, and walks in the woods while wearing sweatpants because those are the only pants that fit. Thank you for mid-afternoon naps in my parents bed, because that is the only bed big enough for my tryptophan-induced sleepiness. Thank You for bringing my conservative family to the same table as my liberal family (and thank you for at least trying to curb the conversations about politics).
Thank you for Mahar vs. Athol, and all the other intense High School football rivalries that take place on Thanksgiving morning, where die-hards and alumni stand freezing on the side-lines, reuniting, cheering, and holding hot chocolate in their hands to stay warm (yet it’s too hot to drink). And when I've chosen to (and I thank the Hupperts for this!, Thank You for the Turkey Trot, and all the other cleverly named Thanksgiving Day races.
Thank You to all those professional football players and announcers who play or announce, year after year, so my family can have something to gather around in sports camaraderie, as we sit by a fire together. And as loud as it can be at times,Thank You for giving the uninterrupted time for my family to play rousing games of Gin, Spite and Malice, Dominos and Yahtzee.
Thank You for being the one holiday where you aren’t bombarded with media telling you to buy anything that will last more than 24 hours in the fridge (unless you’re the type of family where the leftover pie makes it to Saturday). Thank You for making it acceptable to put treasures from outside, like pine cones, gords, bittersweet, winterberry and moss on the table and call it decoration.
Thank you, Thanksgiving, for lending yourself to a healthy dose of humor and shenanigans, including cartoon turkeys, giant inflatable things at parades, Punkin' Chunkin', and people asking children how to cook your turkey (and then video tape it or put it on TV). Thank You for always providing a new blooper that we add to the long list of holiday stories we tell (did I even tell you about the time Amelia tried to make a key lime pie?)
Perhaps most of all, Thank You for being so focused on food (what a joy!). And as much as I love garlic, Thank You for being so focused on food without a single clove of garlic being broken open (it's interesting, really). Thank You for making turkeys need so long to cook, so my mother has to stay up later and wake up earlier than normal to baste, the sounds of which (that I hear from the couch, on which we must sleep to accommodate family guests) give me such comfort, and the knowledge of what pleasures await in that oven permeate my dreams). Thank you for mashed potatoes, dark meat, crispy skin, jellied-cranberries, brussel sprouts, peas, stuffing and three pieces of pie (one of each).
Thank You, Thanksgiving. What a joy.
November 11, 2011
- Breakfast - Liberte yogurt (Coconut, and Apple Crumble are my favorites. And kind of local because it's from Montreal)
- Lunch - leftovers from Sunday
- Dinner - Butternut Squash Bisque, and wild mushroom and onion saute
- Snacks - Red Hen 7 Grain bread and goat cheese
- Breakfast - yogurt
- Lunch - chicken rice soup from Park Row cafe in Waterbury (Ry had tuna)
- Dinner - tuna casserole
- Snacks - olives and more 7 grain bread with goat cheese
***Also made a quiche, with tomatoes, ham, leeks and goat cheese***
- Breakfast - quiche
- Lunch - leftovers
- Dinner - Taco Tuesday on Wednesday, for Kate and Don
- Snacks - carrot sticks and hummus
- Breakfast - quiche
- Lunch - quiche
- Dinner - stovetop chicken and onions, garlic toast, and wild rice on a bed of arugula (with a white wine sauce that Ry made by accidentally pouring in way too much wine, and sprinkling with way too much salt - but it was delish). Wow, this dish sounds really fancy!
- Snacks - olives, goat cheese and 7 grain!
- Breakfast - yogurt and an apple
- Lunch - splurged on a chicken salad sandwich
- Dinner - lemon dill salmon, cabbage slaw and leftover rice
- Snacks - hummus and pita
This weekend I hope to make...
...pierogis, from an old friend's blog! We both have a surplus of sauerkraut, and I love her method of alleviating that.
...whole wheat pumpkin pancakes
...slow-cooked ribs, to feed Ry as he comes in from hunting on opening weekend.
November 9, 2011
We now have three cats! Percy and Lula were just joined by a seven-week old kitten, who we named Taco. I must say, the process to name this kitten gave me a little sigh of relief about my concerns with child naming. We were dead set on Dr. Huxtable for a name, because it was funny, because we love the Cosby show, because there are lots of nickname potentials, and because we like weird cat names. (Although, Ry wasn't all that weird when naming Percy and Lula ten years ago). But...he just wasn't a Dr. And he just didn't scream "I'm a fuzzy, little Bill Cosby!"
-1 1/2 tsp paprika
-1 1/2 tsp cumin
-1/2 tsp turmeric (to achieve that taco kit orange)
-salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a deep cast iron pan, and add 1/2 of the chopped onions, garlic, crushed red pepper and green pepper. Cook til onion and peppers are just tender. Add the protein and all the spices. When the meat is a few minutes away from being done, add the rest of the onions (for crunch). Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
-1 c shredded cheddar
-salsa - we like homemade, or Herdez Medium, available in the international aisle of the supermarket
-shredded lettuce or cabbage
-if we have it, minced cilantro, avocado, lime juice, jalapenos or full on guacamole
Crush the shells or chips between your hands, and put on a plate. Mound all the fixin's want on top of the shells and mix on the plate -- OR -- get a medium sized mixing bowl, put all the fixin's in there and pour out over the crushed shells. Eat, enjoy, get seconds.
November 4, 2011
Even though I can move past the Kardashian wedding debacle (I promise - this will be the last time I mention that name. If I'm lying, Ry will literally disown me), I still need a little comfort, which this evening I will take in the form of the best, richest Squash Bisque recipe I've ever known.
It doesn't come from a book! Like most "best" recipes, it comes from nostalgia, and a person whom I admire, and who doesn't even know it -- Rexine, a family friend who is simply amazing.
She baked carrot cake cupcakes for our wedding with cream cheese frosting, and gave us a Daisy butter churn! But, of course, I admire her more for her strength, positivity, creativity, thoughtfulness and hard work. She has been in my life seemingly forever, and was my boss for a summer when I worked landscaping. I dare say she is responsible for first planting the seed within me for cooking, entertaining and gardening. That's significant.
My best memories of Rexine are of when our families would get together at their house before Christmas for a long, indulgant evening of posh food, elegant table-settings, warm, cozy fires, A Christmas Story, games and laughter. The night always ended late, with us kids falling asleep to Christmas movies on their couch, having to be moved to the car to head home. Her husband and my Dad's best friend passed away in 2005, and it was a huge loss, that I never expected to feel (and tear up about) to this day. And so those holiday parties are sealed in the past, with only a few elements that can be brought back today. This Squash Bisque is one of them. Thank you, Rexine.
1/2 cup minced onion
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
4 cups chicken stock
As ridiculous as this whole celebrity marriage is/was, and as so polar opposite as this lifestyle is to mine, I can't help but feel a reaction to this display. And I feel disappointment...and rage.
Yes, I DVR the Kardashian show. So I've been following it all, and it's my Sunday night indulgence. Overall I enjoy their shenanigans, family ties, and I think they are funny. (Here's a secret: part of me even thinks that Kourtney and I could be friends). And yes, sometimes they make me mad because of their frivolity - like when all the sisters go to the doctor to get x-rays of Kim's butt to prove to the tabloids that she does not have butt implants. And there are people (probably in their neighborhood) dying because they can't afford to get simple, life-saving procedures because they don't have health insurance. Strike 1.
And something about this wedding lead up made me hopeful for Kim and NBA player Kris Humphries. The 'nuptials' farted in front of each other. They played. They laughed, and bickered, and made up. He, a country-boy from humble beginnings, pushed her to move past her materialism. It almost - just almost - seemed like they were human. For a brief moment, I was able to look past the digusting diarreah of extravagance that they planned for their wedding (she wore an unnecessary 3 Vera Wang dresses - Strike 2), and I hoped that they would make it and buck the trend of celebrity-ism.
But, they didn't make it, and I am so disappointed, and let-down, and ashamed for them. But I'm also livid. What a huge waste of resources in a time of extreme economic turmoil for most of the f-ing planet. If they cut out just one element of their wedding, think of all the good they could have done for one person, or a family, or a community...or a freaking country! The lavishness was disgusting even if their marriage had lasted, but since it was so fleeting, it's even more enraging.
So, I've cancelled the recordings. Unliked them on Facebook. Refuse to buy the People magazine with this story on the cover. I'm just over it - slightly sad to lose my vice, but this was the last straw, and they have made it easy to move on...in my small house...with my one wedding dress that I got ON SALE at David's Bridal hanging in my closet...and with my husband who, during OUR rehearsal, was by my side, holding my hand, supporting me as we both cried tears of joy throughout the whole thing.
November 2, 2011
- The Joy of Cooking, Irma Bombauer -- a true joy! Everything you ever need to know about everything culinary. I got my copy (and so much more culinary inspiration) from the nanny-mamma, when I was a nanny in Seattle, which was the best job I've ever had. I also knew Ry was the "one" when he brought his own copy to the relationship. I knew he had his priorities right, and he got it from his sister and family, which meant his whole family had their priorities right.
- Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1, Julia Child et al -- I rented this from the library no less than 9 times (yes, around the time the Julie and Julia movie came out...), and finally bit the bullet and purchased it for $22 from Half.com. I don't know what took me so long...it's heaven, and a French lesson all in one. If you can only read the first paragraph and the section on cutting an onion, you will still be changed forever.
- Barefoot Contessa: How Easy is That?; Back to Basics; The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook -- Ina Garten is the best. She makes things look so easy, and watching her show is just like curling up in your favorite pajamas with a cup of cocoa. Her recipes are fabulous and glamorous without breaking the bank or breaking a sweat.
- Jamie Oliver: The Naked Chef Takes Off; Ministry of Food -- I first got interested in cooking, cooking shows and good food when I was studying in London and watched my first episode of Jamie Oliver's the Naked Chef. Oh Em Gee. He was CUTE, and British, and had cute little -isms, and loved his wife, and cooked a whole salmon in wet newspaper in a fire on the beaches of Brighton. He followed it up with a Nutella-swirled sweet bread. Seriously? And now he's a good, homegrown, local food advocate the world over. The love affair has never ended.
- Gordon Ramsey: Makes it Easy -- Some more British indulgence; this one a bit more "high end", but the wild mushroom risotto is to die for, and he explains the full English breakfast quite well.
- Nigella Lawson: Feast; Nigella Bites -- Ok, so I might be an Anglophile. Nigella is also British, and also cute as a bug, and also makes cooking approachable. I was also introduced to her when studying abroad in London, when my Health Psych class professor had us watch a documentary on her first husband John Diamond's battle with throat cancer, which he unfortunately lost. So it's more than just admiration for the "queen of food porn", as she sometimes has been called. She also makes a ham cooked in Coca-Cola.
November 1, 2011
- science-geeking out on refractometers for checking his beer gravity
- 15 gallons of beer fermenting in our closets, each a different batch
- pureeing up our own homegrown pumpkins to use in the Punkin' Porter
- how beat up his Carhartt's are after giving them some serious wear and tear these past few months
- his (our!) new chainsaw
- the new gun rack in his truck
- his yeast "farm" in our refrigerators, as he tries to cultivate his own Parcell strain
- the Buffalo Bills